Training Warriors for the 21st Century

Training Warriors for the 21st Century
Joong Do Kwan Traditional Taekwondo cross training with Kidokwan Perth

3 Sep 2008

Making Kata Work for You

How do we establish the legitimacy of kata and patterns as a combative exercise, a training syllabus, and grading system?

This is an old and oft repeated lesson returning yet again last night as we focused on our basic katas Chon-ji, Dan-gun, Do-san, and then Won-hyo.

There were the few and regular glaring performance errors - not looking before turning into the technique, dubious height of strikes, stances that weren't quite right, and irregular breath patterns. Here are tips to improve patterns as I'd like them performed by traditional taekwondo students.

1. If kata is to be used as combative training, then students need to a) get to the line prepared to perform each technique with close to maximal effort (kime or muscle focus at the end of each technique), b) use good regular breathing synched with techniques (more on this later), and c) relax down to a basal state of optimimum tension after each strike (not totally relaxed - but have the body ready to go).

2. While hard style systems seem to rigidly follow train tracks, transitions between techniques need the core trunk of the body to be relaxed in order to achieve natural movement. Natural movement optimises speed, helps maintain endurance, and increases spatial awareness. One great indicator that natural movement is not present is when there is a) no head turning before the body faces a different direction, b) the folding for blocks don't seem to provide as much coverage to the side of the body because the practitioner is not reaching over during the fold, and c) the body does not lean forward as the practitioner starts his lunge step forward.

3. Kata should be a complement to sparring by helping students practice good breathing habits. The breathing for martial artists regulates flight or fight responses, initiates any move - defensive or offensive, and helps gap close. Large muscles exhale breath forcefully. Most techniques have a fairly regular exhalation - moderate at first, lighter during, and significant in the end. Kiai techniques have a very light exhalation and then a very significant exhalation at the end with shout.

Check out Dan's The Way of Least Resistance: Main Purpose of Kata.

--
Colin Wee
Traditional Taekwondo Technique Workshop

6 comments:

supergroup7 said...

Wonderful posting!!! Right on the money! Thank you for making readers aware of the ability to pull more value out of their kata training! Fantastic!!

Michele said...

Thank you for this post. I must tell you that I read it more than once. Your tips are applicable across styles. Last week we were focusing on kata and discussed similar items ... looks, rotation of techniques, breathing, preps, relaxation/tension and transitional movement.

Colin Wee said...

When I stand in front of students performing kata, there are many many perspectives that can be used to monitor progress and performance. There is a fine line that can be drawn between combative objectives and stylistic objectives. But to overly focus on micro-details like static posture and strength and stability over combative priorities is something that I think messes around with real skills. Mir - I think you mentioned once upon a time that you tied a belt around your legs to ensure proper distancing. That's great, but you know what happened once you made that a major part of your training ... it then started to inhibit your natural movement in sparring, didn't it? This is an example of a specific physical training messing around with mental application. Check out Training Aids that Wreck Combat Techniques for more on that.

Michele - thanks for the feedback. Yeah, I've found many things true to one martial art can be applied across the board to other styles. If you would like, come up with a post on what you did last week on kata, and I'll link it in from my main post. :-)

Colin

supergroup7 said...

Yes Colin, I did tie a belt (at perfect distance) around my feet to force my legs to keep exact perfect position in every stance of my kata. Do you know what that did though? It threw off some of my kata! We are supposed to end at the same beginning point as where we started. Keeping perfect distance meant that I'd end up past my start point. Kata actually adjusts stances as you perform it so that you can end up at your starting point.

Dan Djurdjevic said...

Hi Colin

I was particularly struck by the following statement:

"One great indicator that natural movement is not present is when there is a) no head turning before the body faces a different direction, b) the folding for blocks don't seem to provide as much coverage to the side of the body because the practitioner is not reaching over during the fold, and c) the body does not lean forward as the practitioner starts his lunge step forward."

Ne'er was a truer and more succinct statement made of identifying the necessary elements of functional kata practice.

Keep up the good work my friend!

Colin Wee said...

Dan

It's difficult to come back to the same kata over and over and over again yet make sure that the practice is kept vibrant and hungry for action.

I am again pleasantly surprised that we're enjoying the overlaps of our different styles!

Good to see you here!

Colin