The word kata means “shape” or “form”.
The kanji for kata is composed of the following characters:
Katachi Katachi meaning “Shape”,
Kai Kai meaning “Cut”, and
Tsuchi Tsuchi meaning “Earth” or “Soil”.
Literally translated, kata means “shape which cuts the ground”.
A kata is a sequence of blocks, kicks and punches from one or more stances, involving movement forward, backward and to the sides. The number of movements and their sequence are very specific. The balance between offensive and defensive techniques, the stances used and the direction and flow of movement all serve to give each kata its distinctive character.
Through the practice of kata, the traditional techniques used for fighting are learned. Balance, coordination, breathing and concentration are also developed. Done properly, kata are an excellent physical exercise and a very effective form of total mind and body conditioning. Kata embodies the idea of ren ma, or “always polishing” – with diligent practice, the moves of the kata become further refined and perfected. The attention to detail that is necessary to perfect a kata cultivates self discipline.
Through concentration, dedication and practice, a higher level of learning may be achieved, where the kata is so ingrained in the subconscious mind that no conscious attention is needed. This is what the Zen masters call mushin, or “no mind.” The conscious, rational thought practice is not used at all – what was once memorized is now spontaneous.
The practice of traditional kata is also a way for the karateka to pay respect to the origins and history of Kyokushin Karate and the martial arts in general.