This post is a continuation of the kata commentary I wrote a few weeks ago. I hope we continue the good discussion on Reddit, Facebook, and on this blog. Read on and let us know some of your thoughts about kata and its role in martial arts training! – Bill
Kata (forms) may be unique to karate, kung fu, and their offshoots. However, other martial artists practice the principles of their art and the presence necessary for mastery over mind, body, and technique as well. Here are three examples from other styles that are very similar to kata in sprit, if not in appearance.
Focus. Repetition. Visualization of yourself versus your opponent. Shadowboxing, as practiced by pugilists everywhere, is very similar to kata. Though usually used to prepare for a fight, if a boxer were attacked in the street, muscle memory developed through shadowboxing would undoubtedly provide self-defense. Maybe Iron Mike knows a little too much about how to apply his skills to situations outside the ring, but his aggressive style of shadowboxing definitely helped refine the power and explosiveness that defined his career.
Watch as Alvaro Romano and Xande Ribeiro perform movements from Gynastica Natural–a system of exercises devised from jiu-jitsu, yoga, calisthenics, and even from watching animals. They both display so much concentration and grace. This is as close to jiu-jitsu kata as I’ve ever scene. Their movements mimic what you would do when rolling and help develop the habits of body and mind necessary to improve in “the gentle art”. These exercises definitely would help when using jiu-jitsu skills off the mats as well.
Wai Khru/Ram Muay
The Wai Khru dance performed before Muay Thai bouts also reminds me of kata. Meant to honor the traditions and teachers of Muay Thai, the ritual dance definitely takes concentration and effort–especially in front of a wild audience. The Wai Khru is also a warm-up exercise, and, if you watch closely, you can see the fighters incorporating some of their techniques into the dance. Kata is meant to help you perform under pressure; the Wai Khru is a great way to get ready for a fight.
These are just three examples of kata-like exercises practiced by other martial arts. If you know of any others, please share them here!