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Emmanuelle-Fumonde-en-demonstration (cropped).jpg
2005 cadet world karate champion [1] Emmanuelle Fumonde performing a kata.
Japanese name
Kanji 1. 型
2. 形
Hiragana かた

Kata is a Japanese word ( or ) meaning "form". It refers to a detailed choreographed pattern of martial arts movements made to be practised alone. It can also be reviewed within groups and in unison when training. It is practised in Japanese martial arts as a way to memorize and perfect the movements being executed. Korean martial arts with Japanese influence (hapkido, Tang Soo Do) use the derived term hyeong (hanja: 形) and also the term pumsae (hanja: 品勢 hangeul: 품새).


Kata are also used in many traditional Japanese arts such as theatre forms like kabuki and schools of tea ceremony ( chadō ), but are most commonly known in the martial arts. Kata are used by most Japanese and Okinawan martial arts, such as iaido, judo, kendo, kenpo, and karate.


Kata originally were teaching and training methods by which successful combat techniques were preserved and passed on. Practising kata allowed a company of persons to engage in a struggle using a systematic approaches, rather by practising in a repetitive manner the learner develops the ability to execute those techniques and movements in a natural, reflex-like manner. Systematic practice does not mean permanently rigid. The goal is to internalize the movements and techniques of a kata so they can be executed and adapted under different circumstances, without thought or hesitation. A novice's actions will look uneven and difficult, while a master's appear simple and smooth. [2]

Kata is a loanword in English, from the 1950s in reference to the judo kata due to Jigoro Kano, and from the 1970s also of karate kata; but the word has come to be used as a generic term for "forms" in martial arts in general, or even figuratively applied to other fields. [3]

Japanese martial arts

In Japanese martial arts practice, kata is often seen as an essential partner to randori training with one complementing the other. However, the actual type and frequency of kata versus randori training varies from art to art. In iaido, solo kata using the Japanese sword (katana) comprises almost all of the training. Whereas in judo, kata training is de-emphasized and usually only prepared for dan grading.

In kenjutsu, paired kata at the beginners level can appear to be stilted. At higher levels serious injury is prevented only by a high sensitivity of both participants to important concepts being taught and trained for. These include timing and distance, with the kata practised at realistic speed. This adjustability of kata training is found in other Japanese arts with roles of attacker and defender often interchanging within the sequence. [4] Many martial arts use kata for public demonstrations and in competitions, awarding points for such aspects of technique as style, balance, timing, and verisimilitude (appearance of being real).

Solo training of kata is the primary form of practice in some martial arts, such as iaido. Iaido2.jpg
Solo training of kata is the primary form of practice in some martial arts, such as iaido .


The most popular image associated with kata is that of a karate practitioner performing a series of punches and kicks in the air. The kata are executed as a specified series of approximately 20 to 70 moves, generally with stepping and turning, while attempting to maintain perfect form. There are perhaps 100 kata across the various forms of karate, each with many minor variations. The number of moves in a kata may be referred to in the name of the kata, e.g., Gojū Shiho, which means "54 steps." The practitioner is generally counselled to visualize the enemy attacks, and his responses, as actually occurring, and karateka are often told to "read" a kata, to explain the imagined events. Kata can contain techniques beyond the superficially obvious ones. The study of the meaning of the movements is referred to as the bunkai, meaning analysis, of the kata. [5]

One explanation of the use of kata is as a reference guide for a set of moves. Not to be used following that "set" pattern but to keep the movements "filed". After learning these kata, this set of learned skills can then be used in a sparring scenario (particularly without points). The main objective here is to try out different combinations of techniques in a safe environment to ultimately find out how to defeat your opponent.

Koshiki-no-kata by Kano(l) and Yamashita(r) Hiki-otoshi.jpg
Koshiki-no-kata by Kano(l) and Yamashita(r)

Recently, with the spread of extreme martial arts, or XMA, a style of kata called CMX kata has formed. These kata are performed in tournaments and include gymnastics related elements, such as backflips, cartwheels, and splits. These kata can also be performed with weapons such as the staff.


Judo has several kata, mostly created in the late 19th century by Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo. The judo kata involve two participants. Judo kata preserve a number of techniques that are not permitted in competition or in randori, including punches, kicks, and the use of the katana and other weapons. The study of kata is usually begun typically at around the green belt level. The most commonly studied judo kata is Nage-no-kata, which consists of fifteen throwing techniques. The Katame-no-kata is composed of pinning techniques, chokes, and joint locks. Kime-no-kata is a long kata consisting of self-defense techniques against both unarmed attacks, and attacks with swords and knives. [6] [7]

Aka with stick (4 Winds) Baton long.jpg
Aka with stick (4 Winds)

Non-Japanese martial arts

While the Japanese term is most well known in the English language, forms are by no means exclusive to Japan. They have been recorded in China as early as the Tang dynasty, and are referred to in Mandarin as taolu .[ citation needed ]

South and Southeast Asian martial arts incorporate both preset and freestyle forms. In silat these are referred to as jurus and tari respectively. Malay folklore credits the introduction of forms to the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. [8]

In Korean martial arts such as taekwondo and Tang Soo Do, the word hyung or hyeong is usually employed, though in some cases other words are used.[ citation needed ] The International Taekwon-Do Federation uses the word tul , while the World Taekwondo Federation uses the word poomsae or simply the English translations "pattern" or "form."[ citation needed ] Taekwondo patterns have multiple variations including Palgwe and the more popular Taeguk forms used by the WTF. Forms are included in certain taekwondo competitions and are a key element of gradings.[ citation needed ]

In Sanskrit, forms are known either as yudhan (combat form) or pentra (tactical deployment).[ citation needed ] Other Asian martial arts refer to forms by various terms specific to their respective languages, such as the Burmese word aka , the Vietnamese quyen and the Kashmiri khawankay.[ citation needed ]

In the Historical European martial arts and their modern reconstructions, there are forms, plays, drills and flourishes.[ citation needed ]

Outside martial arts

More recently kata has come to be used in English in a more general or figurative sense, referring to any basic form, routine, or pattern of behavior that is practised to various levels of mastery. [9]

In Japanese language kata (though written as 方) is a frequently-used suffix meaning “way of doing,” with emphasis on the form and order of the process. Other meanings are “training method” and “formal exercise.” The goal of a painter's practising, for example, is to merge their consciousness with their brush; the potter's with their clay; the garden designer's with the materials of the garden. Once such mastery is achieved, the theory goes, the doing of a thing perfectly is as easy as thinking it. [10]

Kata is a term used by some programmers in the Software Craftsmanship [11] movement. Computer programmers who call themselves "Software Craftsmen" [12] will write 'Kata' [13] - small snippets of code that they write in one sitting, sometimes repeatedly, [14] often daily, in order to build muscle memory and practise their craft. [13]

One of the things that characterize an organization's culture is its kata – its routines of thinking and practice. [15] Edgar Schein suggests an organization's culture helps it cope with its environment, [16] and one meaning of kata is, "a way to keep two things in sync or harmony with one another." A task for leaders and managers is to create and maintain the organizational culture through consistent role modeling, teaching, and coaching, which is in many ways analogous to how kata are taught in the martial arts.

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Judo</i> Modern martial art, combat and Olympic sport

Judo is generally categorized as a modern Japanese martial art, which has since evolved into an Olympic event. The sport was created in 1882 by Jigoro Kano (嘉納治五郎) as a physical, mental, and moral pedagogy in Japan. With its origins coming from jujutsu, judo's most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the objective is to either throw or take down the opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue the opponent with a pin, or force the opponent to submit with a joint lock or a choke. Strikes and thrusts by hands and feet as well as weapons defences are a part of judo, but only in pre-arranged forms and are not allowed in judo competition or free practice. It was also referred to as Kanō Jiu-Jitsu until the introduction to the Olympic event. A judo practitioner is called a "judoka", and the judo uniform is called "judogi".

Karate Japanese martial art

Karate (空手) is a martial art developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom. It developed from the indigenous Ryukyuan martial arts under the influence of Kung Fu, particularly Fujian White Crane. Karate is now predominantly a striking art using punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open-hand techniques such as knife-hands, spear-hands and palm-heel strikes. Historically, and in some modern styles, grappling, throws, joint locks, restraints and vital-point strikes are also taught. A karate practitioner is called a karateka (空手家).

<i>Taekwondo</i> Martial art from Korea

Taekwondo, Tae Kwon Do or Taekwon-Do is a Korean martial art, characterized by punching and kicking techniques, with emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques. The literal translation for tae kwon do is "kicking," "punching," and "the art or way of." It is a martial art that attacks or defends with hands and feet anytime, anywhere without any weapons, and the purpose of physical training is important, but it also has great significance in fostering the right mind through mental armament.

Randori (乱取り) is a term used in Japanese martial arts to describe free-style practice (sparring). The term denotes an exercise in 取り tori, applying technique to a random succession of uke attacks.

<i>Budō</i> Japanese martial arts

Budō (武道) is a Japanese term describing modern Japanese martial arts. Literally translated it means the "Martial Way", and may be thought of as the "Way of War".

Shotokan Karate Shodan Style

Shotokan is a style of karate, developed from various martial arts by Gichin Funakoshi (1868–1957) and his son Gigo (Yoshitaka) Funakoshi (1906–1945). Gichin Funakoshi was born in Okinawa and is widely credited with popularizing "karate do" through a series of public demonstrations, and by promoting the development of university karate clubs, including those at Keio, Waseda, Hitotsubashi (Shodai), Takushoku, Chuo, Gakushuin, and Hosei.

Japanese martial arts Martial arts native to Japan

Japanese martial arts refer to the variety of martial arts native to the country of Japan. At least three Japanese terms are used interchangeably with the English phrase Japanese martial arts.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to martial arts:

Bunkai (分解), literally meaning "analysis" or "disassembly", "is a term used in Japanese martial arts referring to process of analysing kata and extracting fighting techniques from the movements of a 'form' (kata). The extracted fighting techniques are called Oyo."

Kenji Tomiki was a Japanese martial artist who specialized in aikido and judo family of martial arts. He was a pedagogue of martial arts theory. He is the founder of Japan Aikido Association and the competitive aikido style.

Sparring Type of training for combat sports

Sparring is a form of training common to many combat sports. Although the precise form varies, it is essentially relatively 'free-form' fighting, with enough rules, customs, or agreements to minimize injuries. By extension, argumentative debate is sometimes called sparring.

<i>Yoseikan budō</i>

Yoseikan budō (養正館武道) may be classified as a sōgō budō form, but is used here to indicate a martial art into which various martial ways have been integrated. It is probably most widely known for its descent from a pre-war style of aikido; however, it has important connections to judo, karate, western boxing, savate, and a traditional forms of Japanese combat known as gyokushin-ryū jujutsu and Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū.

Tenjin Shinyo-ryu, meaning "Divine True Willow School", can be classified as a traditional school (koryū) of jujutsu. It was founded by Iso Mataemon Ryūkansai Minamoto no Masatari (磯又右衛門柳関斎源正足) in the 1830s. Its syllabus comprises atemi-waza, nage-waza, torae-waza and shime-waza. Once a very popular jujutsu system in Japan, among the famous students who studied the art were Kanō Jigorō, whose modern art of judo was greatly inspired by the Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū and Kitō-ryū.

The Korean terms hyeong, pumsae, poomsae and teul are all used to refer to martial arts forms that are typically used in Korean martial arts such as Taekwondo and Tang Soo Do.

Katame-no-kata Judo form/technique

Katame no Kata is one of the two Randori-no-kata of Kodokan Judo. It is intended as an illustration of the various concepts of katame-waza that exist in judo, and is used both as a training method and as a demonstration of understanding.

Yoseikan Aikido Aikido taught at the Yoseikan Dojo in Shizuoka, Japan

Yoseikan Aikido is the aikido taught at the Yoseikan Dojo in Shizuoka, Japan, under the direction of Minoru Mochizuki.

This martial arts timeline is designed to help describe the history of the martial arts in a linear fashion. Many of the articles for particular styles have discussions of their history. This article is designed to help visualize the development of these arts, to help better understand the progression of the separate styles and illustrate where they interrelate.

Jujutsu Japanese martial art

Jujutsu, also known as jiu-jitsu and ju-jitsu, is a family of Japanese martial arts and a system of close combat that can be used in a defensive or offensive manner to kill or subdue one or more weaponless or armed and armored opponents. A subset of techniques from certain styles of jujutsu was used to develop many modern martial arts and combat sports, such as judo, aikido, sambo, ARB, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and mixed martial arts.

The Randori-no-kata of Kodokan Judo consist of two kata that illustrate the principles behind techniques used in Randori, allowing them to be practiced with maximum efficiency. The randori-no-kata includes nage-no-kata, which teach and demonstrate concepts of nage-waza and katame-no-kata, which are intended to teach concepts of katame-waza.

Atemi Ju-Jitsu, in Japanese: Atemi (当て身) Jujutsu (柔術), also called Pariset Ju-Jitsu, was established in France in the 1940s by the late Judo and Ju-Jitsu legend Bernard Pariset to revive and preserve old martial techniques inherited from Feudal Japan.


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