I had some space cleared in my schedule today for some training at home. Not a particularly unusual thing as I train every day, but rather than grabbing a few minutes here and a few minutes there, today I had one of those nice long stretches of unbroken time. With that luxury I knew I could work on my strength with some weights and work on my balance with some kicking exercises, but what I really wanted to do was pick a few forms to use as visualization exercises for the delivery of a number of my techniques. In case anyone wonders why I haven’t mentioned that important training facet impact work, I’m currently between kick bags and I know I’ll be hitting the pads in class tonight.
While thinking about which particular forms I wanted to train I remembered something interesting regarding two books in my little martial arts library. In one of my editions of Funakoshi’s Karate Do Kyohan he gives an approximate start to finish time as if the Kata was to be completed in one go as an unbroken exercise. In another book I own, written in the 1990s, the performance times of three highly ranked UK Karateka were given for the same kata. Although they varied slightly their times were generally half to two thirds of Funakoshi’s times.
Funakoshi’s times were not those of an old man. They were the amount of time that it took, in his opinion, to go through the kata. So why is it common to see modern Karateka go through the forms at a greater speed?
Your focus determines your reality.
Unless you are deliberately moving slowly, when you practice a strike, you do it fast. When you practice blocking another person’s attack, you also have to move fast. But wrestling for control against resistance is something that slows us down, and manipulating limbs in grappling even at full speed is a slower form of movement than striking, as is throwing another person.
The modern fast pace of kata is a result of a different vision of the same movements. The shorter times are a result of more movements being executed as fast as possible, as if each was striking or deflecting a strike. The longer times given by Funakoshi are a reflection of a different emphasis.
Those of you that have watched some of my bunkai on my youtube channel, or read my first book, will know that I see most Uke receiving techniques in kata as strikes or limb manipulations, and that often I see Tsuki techniques as thrusts used to control, not necessarily punches. A number of my kata steps are viewed as leg attacks, as are some of my turns. My kata are close quarter struggles that utlise the movements effectively to escape from habitual acts of violence (haov).
So how fast will I be doing my kata?
How fast I go through a kata will depend upon what I am visualizing. Good Karate allows for multiple applications of the same sequence and the majority of kata are made up of good karate.
There is no set speed for a kata. I’m not going to rush my practice. I’ll go through at a pace where I feel I am accurately practicing my application. That is the luxury of practicing karate at home as well as in the dojo.