By Yossi Sheriff

Kata (קאטה), (型 or 形) (literally: "form") is a Japanese word describing detailed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs. Kata, or Katas, (型 or 形 literally: "form"), are a codified, predetermined, physical procedures that are used in many traditional Chinese and Japanese arts, Martial arts in particular. The physical procedures of the Kata string together a sequence of movements that has several usages. The obvious role of the kata as a storehouse of practical know-how is augmented by the kata as a training tool used to help memorising and connecting breathing, cognitive and emotional patterns. Kata are used by most traditional Japanese and Okinawan martial arts, such as Aikido, Iaidō, jōdo, Judo, jujutsu, kendo and karate. Other arts such as T'ai chi ch'uan and Taekwondo feature the same kind of training, but use the respective Chinese and Korean words instead.

Video of several Ninjutsu kata

Kata are an indispensable tool in many eastern disciplines, such as theatre arts like Kabuki and schools of tea ceremony (chadō), but are most commonly known for the pivotal role they have in the Martial arts.

Ancient Kata - fighting forms

Kata in martial arts are predetermined sequences of movement. In ancient Japanese martial arts (Koryu) the sequences, Kata, are practiced, almost always, with one or more opponents. The role of the opponent in the sequence is predetermined and an inherent part of the Kata. The majority of martial arts (those who originated in China or Japan's new age) practice these sequences against an imaginary opponent. Behind many of the Kata lies strategic thinking or fighting strategy of a "no rule" situation, this is the Kata's hidden layer of meaning. This layer may be the insight out of which the Kata evolved, a strategy in Randori, Shiai or Tatakai that is as important as the actual technique of the Kata itself.

Kata in the Takamatzu den

The Kata preserve a multitude of fight scenarios. In Ninjutsu stemming from Category:Takamatsu-den Koryu there are more then four hundred Kata from nine methods or “schools” that formulate the base of our knowledge at Bujinkan and many known variations (Henka), which add up to thousands of forms and techniques.

List of Ninjutsu and Taijutsu kata

koryu kata

Looking at a simple Kata, Sui no Kata for example, one might find: a punch to the throat and then a diagonal jump backward. Behind the actual techniques the strategy is based on an ancient understanding arrived at after many fights – striking and withdrawing is a winning technique. There is also a hidden level of meaning or strategy behind most of the Koryu and martial arts Kata.

Understanding a Kata necessitates many years of practice. Academically understanding a Kata is of little use.