Author Topic: How important are forms/katas?  (Read 7725 times)

Offline John Bishop

  • Senior Black Belt
  • Black Belt
  • ***
  • Posts: 2605
  • Seek Knowledge, Not Rank
How important are forms/katas?
« on: June 24, 2003, 12:11:59 PM »
I'm sure many of the instructors here have encountered the prospective student who said that "they weren't interested in learning any katas.  They just want to learn self defense".  

And I'm sure many students and instructors don't care for kata, or wonder what the values of kata training is.  

Two questions
1. What is your take on kata training?
2. If you think they are neccessary, how many are    

My own take is that kata is a very neccessary part of martial arts training, even though it's not my favorite part of the training.  
I feel it helps in developing good form, balance, and conditioning.  I think it also helps greatly in learning to fight multiple opponants by developing the ability to quickly change positions and directions while maintaining good stance and balance.  
Also, of importance is the fact that your particular katas are part of the identity of your style.

Your thoughts?
John Bishop  8th Degree-Original Method 
Under Grandmaster Gary Forbach
K.S.D.I. # 478, FMAA

"You watch, once I'm gone, all the snakes will start popping their heads up!"  Sijo Emperado


  • Guest
Re:How important are forms/katas?
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2003, 01:56:02 PM »
     In my opinion forms/kata/pinans {whatever you want to call them} are all vital necessities in the martial arts. As you know it not only builds stamina but improves balance,  coordination, flow, confidence of movement and I believe, character.  
     One beauty of forms is to use your imagination to see the many individual techniques that are incorporat- ed within them.  Each movement has a reason and by breaking the form down into sections, you can begin to realize and see that this is so. Consider the form as an actual multiple attack, break it down.
     My explanation is, when the opponent punches, pushes, pulls, grabs or kicks, I then use the martial art concepts I've learned throughout the years to annalize each movement and be able to counter each one. They are either offensive or defensive movements.
     So the forms are not just pretty to look at, but they are for actual self-defense purposes.  When I teach forms, I break down each movement and explain the the 'why's' behind it, the student has a better  compre- hension of what he is doing, the form now has character and meaning and they don't mind practicing them nor sharing them with other students.
     Also, you can make many techniques or exercises from one single form. Take the first movement {say an upward block} and then follow that up with your own favorite techniques {a kick, a punch, etc.}. Then go on to the next movement of the original form and do the same thing.  You have now customized your own workout, you have now begun to think about the form {and the martial arts psyche in general} as something more other than what it seemed to be, and the whole object of the lesson was to get you thinking.  

Offline Gints Klimanis

  • Moderators
  • Black Belt
  • ****
  • Posts: 1159
    • Gentlemen's Fighting Club
Re:How important are forms/katas?
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2003, 03:00:58 PM »
I generally like kata/dances if the instructor is willing to
go beyond group execution and do individual application
so as to teach by function rather than form.  I've
seen instructors in several systems that correct forms
by sight in the interest of beauty.  I've never
seen a beautiful fight, be it mine or another's.
The beautiful matches are usually demonstrations
or highly restricted point-sparring.

As for mastery of technique and endurance through forms, there are clearly more efficient and concentrated methods.  I see the form as a general purpose combination that should be used as a guide rather
than a training method or a conditioning program.  If you want endurance training, do sprints or heavy bag work.  If you want cardiovascular training, run.  If you want strength training, use dumbells and barbells.  If you want combat timing, fight.   If you want accuracy,
hit heavy bags and targets, or more on to real opponents.  Most form movements actually teach the
incorrect body mechanics because most movements
stop at the imagined target.  For example, a chop
to the neck will need to swing through.  I like to
use the hammer and nail analogy.  The nail will
not be driven into the wood if the hammer action
is reversed (read:  zero velocity) at the head of the
nail.  Carpenters don't hammer this way, and neither
should martial artists.

I do agree that forms help with general body coordination, but most forms have so many techniques that it's difficult to cover any technique with enough repetitions.

"We do not condone the use of a toilet seat as a deadly weapon"
Go Shin Jutsu Kenpo, 3rd Degree Black Belt Prof. Richard Lewis
Bono JKD/Kajukenbo, Prof. John Bono, San Jose, CA
Baltic Dog, Dog Brothers Martial Arts

Offline Mitch Powell

  • Senior Black Belt
  • Brown Belt
  • ***
  • Posts: 820
Re:How important are forms/katas?
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2003, 03:31:54 PM »
Let me start by saying I practice my forms (Palama Sets 1-14) several times a week, if not more. Over the years my forms have become a part of who I am. I have learned to look forward to forms practice, looking at it as a time of self reflection. I seem to learn more about myself and what Kajukenbo is all about everytime I practice them.

Along the lines of what Sigung Bishop said, I feel as if my forms are my link to those who have come before me in Kajukenbo.  Sijo created these forms and he practiced these same movements. I feel like I'm walking in his shoes when I practice; like I get to think the way he did when he was creating our system.

I could not imagine practicing Kajukenbo (Emperado Method) without practicing forms because they have always been a part of the Kajukenbo I was taught. My teachers, Grandmaster Bautista and Grandmaster Shin are both outstanding at forms and teach them with great compasion. I can't help but feel the way I do!

I believe 14 forms are plenty. I think you could spend a lifetime perfecting them. Yes, you could easy add more forms to your style or method, but I think you should perfect them and not just collect forms. When these 14 are perfect, I'll add some more--maybe next lifetime!

Now, on the flip side. I do not believe you need to practice forms to be good at self defense or fighting.  There are a lot of styles that have excellent self defense technicians and fighters that do not have forms.

If you have forms in your style do your best to know all you can about them, and practice them as often as reasonable. If you don't have forms in your style, then they probably look like a waste of time to you.

Sigung Mitch Powell
KSDI, Vallejo
Powell's MMA Academy (KSDI#549)
Grandmaster Mitch Powell (Emperado Method)
(707) 344-1655

Offline Dennis Peterson

  • BlackBelt
  • Yellow Belt
  • **
  • Posts: 75
Re:How important are forms/katas?
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2003, 04:18:25 PM »
All the responses are true and good.  They all reflect the same, "As you know it not only builds stamina but improves balance, coordination, flow, confidence of movement and I believe, character". GM Bautista and the rest ring the same.

I feel that along with character and the rest, forms also serve to help you move the way the system moves.  The forms should reflect the style and system so they should help you in understanding everything else.  Yes there are those styles without forms but they have some kind of drills/shadow boxing.  Could those drills be forms, katas, sets, etc?  How many moves does it take to qualify it a form?  When there is no partner to beat on, then forms are okay with me.  When it is not forms then it is self defense (shadow boxing form style ;D)

Sifu Dennis Peterson
KSDI Vallejo
Peterson' Mixed Martial Arts Academy
Professor Dennis Peterson
Under Grandmaster Mitch Powell
Original Method Kajukenbo/MMA


  • Guest
Re:How important are forms/katas?
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2003, 05:19:21 PM »
I was never a firm believer in forms...that is until I had to start teaching. I never understood nor cared to understand why we did it. I was always given reasons like all the forementioned posts...balance, footwork, stamina, coordination...  But I always thought that there were better excercises to develop that ( I was immature in my training back then ). When I started teaching I started to realize the true values of forms. And what it has helped me with the most is that it has given me a glossary of moves and techniques to refer back to when faced with certain questions or situations. I may have been taught that a certain combination of moves in a form were to be done as if you were defending against this or attacking that, but because of the versatility of each individual movements, the applications become countless. That's what it all comes down to for me...putting it into realistic application. We all know that we're not going to fight lke that (like on karate kid III), but it's just training excercises.
Now when I practice my forms I do it with a passion and understanding of why it was created.
This is just how I view our forms.


Offline kajukenbo Dad

  • White Belt
  • *
  • Posts: 13
  • I'm a llama!
Re:How important are forms/katas?
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2003, 12:35:14 AM »
Every day some one ask do we need them in a street fight...........O how they miss the point of katas....Long live Kata,s and thanks Ram for the post again.

Offline sifutimg

  • Senior Black Belt
  • Blue Belt
  • ***
  • Posts: 341
  • Iron sharpens iron-so another man sharpens another
Re:How important are forms/katas?
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2003, 04:22:15 PM »
I too am a believer in kata/forms training.  Everything everyone has mentioned I agree with in relation to good form, balance, and such.  I would like to add that I believe it is a good way to really hone that mind and body connection.  I find that if I practice my forms consistently and diligently I fight better at tournaments so I have included this in my preparation for them.  When doing kata/forms, you are really extending your mind into your body in a very specific and personal way.  Working towards attaining perfection from toe tip to fingertip.  In a recent post on forms training somewhere on this forum I described what I call the 5 ways of form and if anyone is interested they could peruse the forum to find it.

Another aspect of kata/forms training is that it can help a student understand structure better in relation to hard style forms and fluidity better for soft style forms.  I have had students who have come from both camps where I would take what I would consider an overly hard or soft person and balance them out using hard or soft forms.  Just recently I am using this process with one of my students who exhibits an overly softness to his practice.  He has been working on the hard style katas and his structure as it applies to both technique and sense of position have greatly improved.  He punches and kicks noticeably harder as well as having better strength positionally.  In other words you used to be able to fold him up when on the attack or he would almost do that to himself when moving defensively and now his transitions between movements are lessened and when he achieves his position he can execute stronger counters and offensive techniques.

Aside from all of that, I personally like the artistic-ness of forms as well.

Yours in training always,
Sifu Tim Gagnier
Grandmaster Tim Gagnier
Student of Great Grandmaster Charles Gaylord & Grandmaster Sid Lopez
Chief Instructor Pacific Wind Kajukenbo
Student Forever
Yamhill, Oregon

Offline Sifu Julian

  • Senior Black Belt
  • Yellow Belt
  • ***
  • Posts: 74
  • Civilize the Mind, Make Savage the Body!
    • Chinese Kajukenbo Self-Defense
Re:How important are forms/katas?
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2003, 03:37:01 AM »
1. What is your take on kata training?

Well, I am one of those folks that came from a "no forms" background. Our upline instructor (Sigung Mike Griffin) stopped teaching the forms and went strictly to self-defense based training. So forms were a new thing to me when I started to learn Northern style Wushu 3 years ago.

I have since gone back and am in the process of learning the forms. I still focus the lion's share of class time on self-defense, sparring, and conditioning. I do now see the value of learning the forms to get a feel for the traditional training method and to see the history of Kajukenbo.

Just to be clear---I see the historical value of forms and will teach them, but not as the majority of the curriculum.

2. If you think they are neccessary, how many are enough?

The only required form when I was coming through the ranks was Wing Chun's Sil Lum Tao for 3rd Black Belt. So, I continue to use that but am now going back to include the 8 forms that Prof. Alan Carter and Sigung Doug Washburn teach.

So, to answer the question directly I teach #8 Kajukenbo Forms, Sil Lum Tao, and Wu Bu Quan from Wushu---#10 all total.


Sifu J.
Professor Julian Sims
8th Red Belt/Black Border-Kajukenbo Self-Defense;
4th Red & White Belt-Bushido Kempo;
3rd Black Sash-SDS Jeet Kune Do;
3rd Degree Instructor-Chinese Wushu Assn.;
K.S.D.I. #837
K.O.A.-Sifu Society
O.K.O.-Lifetime #139

Master Douglas Washburn

  • Guest
Re:How important are forms/katas?
« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2003, 11:33:16 PM »
Forms or Kata's are the encyclopedia to your basics.  A student learns posture, focus, direction and purpose in forms.

A students handicap is enhanced by his teachers disabilities.  

No Forms ?  Where's the purpose ?

No Forms ?  Where's the disapline ?

No Forms ?   Where's the foundation ?

No Forms ?   Where's the focus and direction ?

Most, do not want to do the forms because they haven't studied long enough to find the secrets held within them.   For the past 35 years I have not only taught the forms but, NOW, I teach the secrets of the forms.  

A students handicap is enhanced by his teachers disabilities.  


  • Guest
Re:How important are forms/katas?
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2003, 01:29:40 AM »
How many times has my instructor said "Everything comes from the Kata!"?  Countless.  It didn't
dawn on me until green belt.  Until then they were just enjoyable.  Katas are a must both for
practical and traditional reasons.

Offline Rob Poelking

  • Sifu
  • Administrator
  • Brown Belt
  • *****
  • Posts: 675
  • Kajukenbo Forever
    • Anderson Martial Arts
Re:How important are forms/katas?
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2003, 07:00:03 AM »
Here is one experience why I believe Kata should be mandatory. Prof Allen Abad had come to Ohio to teach a seminar. He shared with us a form that he had put together (sadly I have forgotten it since). I don't think we got a lot of application from the form, I don't remember.

At that time I had only been training about a year and was a horrible fighter. Prior to Kajukenbo, I had NO fighting experience.

I had been practising this new form with a great amount of enthusiasm as I did with all my forms. During one fight night we had another blackbelt friend of my sifu training with us. He happens to be a very good fighter. He executed one technique he was fond of (and hits lots of the students with) and out of reaction to his kick, I had ducked in and executed a groin strike.

Whoa! Where did that come from??? It was precisly the same move in the Kata I had been working on.

Steve Muhammed says that we train our muscles to react in a certain fashion, when the time comes to 'get busy' our muscles already know what to do, provided we trained them correctly. I beleive Kata does that for us.
Rob Poelking, Black Belt, Original Method
Black belt under Sigung Ray Anderson

Offline Gints Klimanis

  • Moderators
  • Black Belt
  • ****
  • Posts: 1159
    • Gentlemen's Fighting Club
Re:How important are forms/katas?
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2003, 08:42:26 PM »

(I'm a proponent of forms, but primarily as a teaching rather than training tool.)

While you describe a situation in which you found a technique useful, do you think that you can only learn that technique from a kata?  Kata provide a series of techniques that are generally (that word seems to get me in trouble!) executed in the absence of a target and an uncooperative opponent.    Do you think that you could have been taught that same technique by repeating it 100 times while attacking a human-shaped heavy bag?  

While much is to be gained from training with kata, probably even more is to be gained in free-form kata.
Free-form kata is the execution kata techniques in a random order and orientation.  I believe that free-form kata helps develop a deeper understanding of kata.

"We do not condone the use of a toilet seat as a deadly weapon"
Go Shin Jutsu Kenpo, 3rd Degree Black Belt Prof. Richard Lewis
Bono JKD/Kajukenbo, Prof. John Bono, San Jose, CA
Baltic Dog, Dog Brothers Martial Arts

Offline cirillo

  • Moderators
  • Blue Belt
  • ****
  • Posts: 403
    • Wun Hop Kuen Do
Re:How important are forms/katas?
« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2003, 09:03:45 AM »
The advantage of pre-developed forms over free-form kata is that some of these combinations of movement have been developed over many many years of evolution by outstanding martial artists.  A good form will assist in development of a complex series of techniques that flow well together.  

Free-form kata is very good for developing an individuals continuous movement and training an individual technique on a bag can certainly help to improve the technique.  However, both have significant limitations and should only be relied upon in combination with learning new forms.  I say this because free-form katas are limited by the individual doing the kata.  This person will mostly only use the tools that they have developed or would think of (or naturally do without thinking) themselves.  New forms will force the learning of new combinations and techniques that may not come to mind or body naturally in the martial artist... it adds to their set of tools (a good thing).

Now training an individual technique on a bag is even more limited.  Yes, it does improve the technique and it is definitely necessary to further development, but it can really limit the flow of combinations if trained too much and the bag doesn't fight back.  Obviously, it would be better to train the individual technique on a person who is fighting back (and I am sure you would support doing this), but it would also be better to train the technique in combinations as early as possible.  Now, in the absence of an opponent, I would say kata get closer to this than just training on a bag.  However, combinations can and probably must be trained on a bag in the absence of an opponent, as well.

To address this issue, we take combinations straight out of forms and train them on bags and on opponents.  We also do forms against multiple opponents who are actually fighting back (usually 50% speed, but higher ranks can do it cranked up).  To me, this has more to do with how you train forms and how much emphasis you put on them, rather than whether or not you do them.  Obviously, forms have a critical place in the martial arts since they have been used extensively as a training tool for centuries.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2003, 09:05:39 AM by cirillo »
Sifu Jeffrey D. Cirillo,  7th Degree Black belt in Wun Hop Kuen Do under GM Al Dacascos and 3rd Degree in FaChuan (Blossom Fist) under Sifu Bill Owens with over 35 years experience in the martial arts.
College Station, TX

Offline DACS

  • BlackBelt
  • Yellow Belt
  • **
  • Posts: 53
Re:How important are forms/katas?
« Reply #14 on: August 15, 2003, 01:53:04 AM »
GINTS= So it's much like shadow boxing but using techniques found in our forms?
Ramos Method
Wahiawa Kajukenbo