Karate Kata are the Heart of Karate
It was Bruce Lee who tried to kill the karate kata. “What is the purpose of doing forms,” he asked. And, that ultimate favorite, “Boards don’t fight back!”
Unfortunately, Bruce was not right. Forms are fantastic training tools. If they do have shortcomings in them these problems can easily be corrected.
When doing a form, first and foremost, one gets a work out. Do a form a dozen times, maybe ten minutes for an average karate form, and you will be sweating like the proverbial pig. They don’t only advocate body calisthetics, but they are a darn good cardio.
When doing a form one learns countless applications. Some of these techniques, of course, are not for everyone. People have different bodies, after all, and different preferences, and so on.
But with so many techniques to choose from, the wealth of knowledge in a kata is truly astounding. And every move has deviations and permutations and variations. It is a very easy thing, to sort through these techniques, find the ones you like, and adapt them to the imperfect playground of a battlefield.
The real blessing of kata, however, lies not with conditioning or the vast array of potential self defense techniques. The real blessing lies in another, often quite overlooked, phenomena. The real blessing is in a simple word called ‘control.’
A fight is, at heart, the defining example of out of control. A person who has gotten in a fight has lost control. Thus, to win in a fight is to have control.
The point of all this is that when one practices a karate kata, they are practicing controlling themselves. A person who does not train in kata is practicing to not control themselves. Yes, they may win the fight, but they have lost the war of controlling, and ultimately learning the truth about, themselves.
Bruce Lee trained Wing Chun, unfortunately it seems he was never taught the real meanings behind the Wing Chun forms, so he only ever learned the surface techniques. He did go on to learn western martial arts like wrestling which do teach many of the techniques you find kung-fu forms and also in kata. There is an unfortunate habit of secrecy in Chinese derived martial arts and that includes Karate and Tae Kwon Do as well as Kung-fu and most simply don’t know what the contents of their katas, forms or patterns are.
Katas are libraries of self defense techniques, or better said as self defense “drills”. A typical “drill” takes you as the practitioner from a position of weakness to a position of strength, defeating the opponent.
A kata never leaves you with an opponent that can continue to harm you.
I agree , Katas are the real meat of karate , kung Fu ,or taekwondo. you could be in an island, by yourself and katas or patterns as they call them sometimes would keep you sharp as a sword they are the essence of martial arts.