Literally speaking, Kata is the “Form” of Karatedo. From the many blocking and attacking techniques, our ancestors extracted the essences of them; then they further refined and compiled them into sequences of prescribed and stylish art forms. These katas are heritage passed on us from our ancestors. Hence, we should practise katas in the spirit of respect and commemoration of our Karatedo ancestors.
Kata makes up a significant part of Karatedo training. In learning katas, students should pay particular attention to the following: correct postures and forms of individual moves and stances, sequence of these moves, transition from one technique to the next, and the way of power delivery – all these elements are vital to the performance of kata. After understanding these basics of the kata, students should comprehend the meaning of each individual moves of it. To polish the performance of a kata, one should also master the correct way of breathing and apply appropriate rhythm to the kata. In this way, performer can vividly bring out the “life” of the kata. To further perfect the performance of kata, students have to repeatedly practise the kata, even up to a thousand times. Only through this long, continuous and arduous practice that students can rectify and refine their forms and movements. To elevate and streamline the performing quality of a kata, excessive strength and unnecessary movements should never be applied to any part of the kata. The movement of the body should follow the correct prescribed path for the kata. In this manner, instant delivery of phenomenal power can be achieved. In addition, impressive performance should be supported by ample spiritual strength; by imagining an opponent fighting with you, you should perform the kata with combative and aggressive look in your eyes, as if you could pierce through your opponent with your sharp look. With such spiritual condition and thunderous force, you could achieve the technique of “Kill in one strike”. Only with this practice manner that one can strengthen our “spirit”, “skill” and “body” through kata training.
Kata can be divided into two main streams: Shuri-te and Naha-te. Shuri-te inherited the kung-fu style from the northern region of China, which is characterized by quick, swift and long-distance linear movements. Moreover, kicking and jumping movements are frequently found in Shuri-te katas. In this way, Shuri-te style is more suitable for long-distance combat. As for Naha-te style, it is a continuation of kung-fu style from the southern region of China. The basic traits of Naha-te style are: firmness, steeliness and forcefulness in strength delivered in circular movements. Moreover, it puts great emphasis on the way of breathing. As such, slow, steady and forceful movements are frequently found in katas under this style. This techniques employed are more useful for short-distance combat.
The leading master of Shuri-te Karate is Sensei Ankoh Itosu (1830-1914); while his counterpart of Naha-te is Sensei Kanryo Higaonna (1852-1915).