How To Do Kata
What was it that made him so special?
A middle aged man going through some Kata, he wasn’t that fast, he wasn’t that sharp, nothing like you would see in the Martial Art movies, absolutely nothing like you would see Kata performed at competitions…… and yet his was so much more…….. Whenever I watched Sensei practising I knew that I was witnessing something very special, something far deeper than just Karate……. It was almost as if the perfect Kata was doing him…… It always struck me as “other worldly”……………
That was it! He was putting nothing in the way of the Kata being perfect, that was the difference! Where others imposed themselves over the Kata, he didn’t! Others tried to do it harder than necessary, or softer than necessary, they would add theatrics to make it “look” better, extra tension, extra breathing and noises……. Sensei put nothing in the way and allowed the Kata to be exactly what it was……. So this was Zen, when the ego became nothing and you became one with the Kata!
I remembered when I was trying to convince some other Karateka that our way was the “proper way” to practise……… Sensei chided me and told me that Buddha had said “don’t go out to do good……… simply refrain from doing harm”……. I could see how that could be applied to Kata practise…….. “Don’t try to do a good Kata……… simply refrain from doing a bad one!”
You could see his mind working with his awareness, when he was not dealing with an imaginary opponent, his awareness was 360 degrees and his mind unfocussed, then you could see his mind focus on the threat, leaving “remaining mind” for the opponents in other directions, as his mind moved, his eyes followed then his body, his feet driving his centre and then his centre driving his technique……..
As his eyes caught up with his mind and focused on the threat, the Ki powering through his “look” was enough to make the bravest man wilt, his physical technique was not fast, powerful or sharply focused, the best word that I could find for it would be “unhindered” with the power being appropriate for the application of the technique. Those of us that had been on the receiving end of these moves understood that were far more effective than the “flashier” versions……..
As he moved from Kamae to Kamae I remembered him saying that a Kamae was not just a body position but an “attitude” it had to be a position with the appropriate “attitude” of Ki……. His moves were seamless as he flowed effortlessly changing “attitude” as if it were the most natural thing in the world………..
He reminded me of and ancient magician performing his rites, invoking and being possessed by various deities, it was as if he had invoked the Master who had devised the Kata and all of those that had spent lifetimes in it’s practise………… It was as if he had raised them from the dead and been empowered and inspired by their knowledge…… I wondered if this was how inspiration came to us when we practised in a traditional system………………… Just as Magical systems and traditions were passed on orally through the generations and each successive generation had to discover the “source” for themselves, so it was with traditional Martial Art schools……………..
It was just amazing how he managed to make it look like it was “nothing”…….. But then I suppose that any skilled operator would also make their work look easy…………. A dancer, a gymnast, a musician, they would all train for years to make the most complex moves look easy and Oriental systems are renowned for appearing “understated” and the effectiveness being “concealed”……..
Sensei finished his Kata and knelt down for a short period of meditation, his back ramrod straight and in a state of deep contemplation, I felt privileged to have known him, trained under his instruction and been able to watch the “source” in action, unhindered by human ego………
There is an old Zen saying “open a small door and penetrate deeply”, with Kata it’s not how high you can grow in the visible realms, but how deep you can burrow in the invisible, how concentrated you can become with the most simple aspects of the art. Total concentration gives you absorption into the movement where you cease to be someone “doing” the Kata and become it.
Our problem is that we often view things from the outside, like what other people will think of us doing the Kata, or whether it is good enough to pass the next grading or whether it would work in self defence application, instead of viewing it simply from the inside and allowing it to do it’s work.
“A beautiful Kata, Sensei…..” I said as he passed.
“Yes…..” he said casually. “You should try it sometime…………..”