Elements of Kata Performance
The following elements are essential for the correct execution of Kata.
Demonstrate an understanding of the characteristics and basics of the Kata. Kata must be performed with competence, and must demonstrate a clear understanding of the principles and meaning of each movement. Realize that each Kata has various levels of execution.
Express proper mental concentration, decorum, and character. Preliminary to the movements of Kata concentration your will and mind against the opponent. Always keep in mind both attack and defense.
Correct breathing is crucial to proper physical and mental balance, and the focusing of each technique. Inhale through the nose during preparation and transition, and exhale through the mouth at the moment of execution. Concentrate on pushing down on the diaphragm so that each breath travels into the lower abdominal area. At the moment of inhalation, the shoulders should be completely relaxed, and even at execution point there should be no deliberate tightness in the shoulders.
Using the upper body to breath; raising shoulders; or making loud unnecessary noises are examples of poor breathing. Know when breathing should and should not be audible.
Demonstrate correct weight distribution according to the basics being demonstrated, smooth and even transition between stances, correct tension, and proper footwork. There should be no meaningless foot stomping, or extra movement (telegraphing movements or after-movements). Understand the stable stance (which is to demonstrate the ability to deliver as well as to receive action) with the hips down, shoulders down, elbows in and armpits closed; proper foot position with proper weight distribution on the foot. Ability to control stance is also demonstrated in the transition from one stance to the next. Power and control is demonstrated with the ability to transfer evenly. Rising up after foot placement or a "settling" motion of the hips is a gross error and diminishes level of difficulty.
Movements must be true to the budo system's basics and must not be altered to make it easier to maintain control for appearance sake. The validity of movement can be lost to theatrical value. When performing Kata, improper movements belie the original purpose of Kata which is the physical and spiritual (character) development (perfection).
Differentiate between unnecessary and meaningless movements, and those which are valid. Demonstrate the correct dynamics of Kata. Movements must begin and end in unison, and contain the proper speed and position. Do not alter large or small movements. Small movements exaggerated as large ones detract from the principles of the Kata. The body should move as a unit. Feet and arms are part of the body. All moves should be based on valid applications. There should be no additional or stylized moves which are meaningless. No external cues should be given during the Kata.
Power and Strength
One advantage of kata practice is that each individual can find his own pace and perform to it. There is no standard way to judge what power and strength should be put into what moves. True power and strength is often hidden within the movement. Within the performance there should be a delineation of power and strength as the individual moves from one movement to another.
Kata must be executed with rhythm. Each move must be executed with its intensity and degree of expansion or contraction, inseparable from power and rhythm. Correct rhythm means more than dance-like movements. Use or imagine, opponents as you perform Kata.
Because of individual differences, in mental, physical and spiritual qualities, each individual each individual will do Kata differently. Do not alter rhythm or timing for the sake of synchronization. Achieve maximum performance, (slow/fast; expand/contract) Timing stylized too much does not prove you capability.
The importance of balance cannot be exaggerated. Physical and mental balance is controlled through the center of gravity. Learning a Kata is a process of learning a new system of balances. With continued practice balance will become stable until the entire Kata can perform without breaking balance.
When there is no balance, the performer easily falls under the control of his imaginary attackers and could, in a real life situation, be easily defeated.
Focus of Technique
The focus of technique is indispensable in any technique and the source of its power. Always remember that you are in the midst of enemies, and that you execute each technique to opponents you actually see (whether real or imaginary). Use you physical and mental eyes. When your eyes and spirit are properly set, you can focus your techniques more crisply and with more confidence.
Kata should be as beautiful as ballet and as precise as gymnastics, although it is essentially different in that Kata incorporates the feeling of real fighting situations. Because of this, it is unrealistic and meaningless in Kata to stand on one's toes or bow to an audience in order to create the appearance of gracefulness.
Grace manifests itself by refining the meaning expressed in the Kata's movements, and should not be something artificially added to it. It is impossible for gracefulness to be manifested without practice and training.
Simple and Complex Kata
A simple and easy Kata is important for developing the basics, and should be practiced by all students. An advanced student will see deeper and more subtle meanings in the Kata. By contrast, if a beginner attempts a more complicated Kata it doesn't help the beginner understand the purpose of the Kata any better.
In general a Kata which addresses many different situations is better and more advanced than the one with simple technique and movements. Kata should contain a variety of attacks, and body-shifting movements.
Remaining on guard. This very important element of Kata ultimately signifies a "safe return home," or perfect finish. Zanshin refers to mental and spiritual domination over opponent(s) after the execution of techniques at the end of confrontation. It is important to show this mental attitude at the end of your Kata.
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