I have been reading an interesting topic (thread) on the sportzblitz martial arts forum
This topic has come up previously in a number of formats but one constant is the fors and against the usefulness of kata.
Personally I have nothing against Kata, in fact I am keen practitioner of tai chi, which is a form of kata.
But is Kata or any form of pre set movements without a partner of use for combat training?
In my opinion, yes, but very minimal. Why?
Well to start with you need to work out what are the most important attributes required for combat (or self defence)
These attributes would include;
Distance (appreciation and awareness)
Then if you include grappling which forms an important part of real combat/ self defence you need to include all the little bits that actually makes a technique work. (more on that another day)
Starting with the striking part of combat/ self defence the two most important factors would be timing and distance. In order to actually hit the target you need an appreciation of distance. Then to hit that target (person) effectively you need the correct timing. This is the skill component
When we consider kata, does kata train either of these two attributes. NO.
There is no interaction with another person, so how can that person train 'timing' and 'distance'.
This comes down to the difference between drilling or practicing a technique and the ability to actually do the technique. So really the following applies not just to kata but to any type of drill or practice that does not include a 'resisting' opponent.
It is the unexpected movement of the resisting opponent that assists in developing a persons appreciation and use of timing and distance. If an opponent is moving in and out, changing angles, levels (height) etc, then you need timing and distance to actually hit the target.
Then of course they are likely to be hitting back which makes it even harder to anticipate the correct timing and distance required to hit your opponent.
So after someone can actually physically perform a technique, of what benefit is continued practice?
Obviously continued practice will allow the person to perfect the body mechanics of the technique, but at some point if you want to be able to perform the technique under combat conditions, you have to introduce resisting opponent's.
Any one who has trained with Ray Floro, will clearly see that he teaches you a technique (or concept) you drill it until you can perform it, then you put on the helmet and ‘do’ the technique under sparring conditions. This is when you learn how it all goes together, how to make the technique work.
When we apply this to BJJ, a person learns the technique, using an example of a basic arm bar from mount, once the basics of the physical technique have been mastered, the student is required to ‘do’ the technique with a resisting opponent. Preferably with increasing amounts of resistance, and starting from an isolated position, such as on the mount. But in the end to finally prove that you know a technique you must be able to do it against someone who does not want to let you.
Rarely does the perfect moment come to perform a technique, you have to either make the perfect moment (ie set someone up), or just work with what you have got. It is all the little bits in between, the bits that make the technique work that you only get from the doing of a technique repeatedly with someone who is resisting your efforts.
Again, applying this to the armbbar, if you wait for someone to put their arm and body in the perfect position as happens when drilling, then you could be waiting a while, a long while if your opponent is also skilled. Or in terms of FFS, we can drill the basic knife strike to the head all day, but we still need to get the distance and timing right and again if they opponent is also skilled, you also may need to fake or use some other method to get your opponent to move into the position you want in order to effectively make use of your chosen technique.
You can drill a technique (do kata) for ever, but you only really learn to apply a technique when sparring or fighting as that is when you learn how to overcome or adapt a technique to fit the requirements of a resisting opponent.
So yes, drilling or doing the kata does have its place but it is only a very small place. As soon as you can physically do (perform) the technique, you should move onto the doing (sparring). Any further drilling or kata work is simply wasted time. By all means you can come back and re drill again to re- establish a baseline technique, but again, once you can perform the movements on your own, no further effective learning can take place until you involve resisting opponents.
So how much time should you devote to real practice vs drilling (kata). In my opinion a martial artist should devote at least 60% of their time to training that involves resisting or semi resisting opponents. Anything less than that and it becomes difficult to actually apply the techniques you have practiced.
This is easier with grappling based martial arts, which is probably why arts like BJJ and wrestling have been so successful in NHB type competitions.
Therefore, you can have the best looking kata, punch, arm bar, whatever, but if you cant actually do it against a large variety of resisting opponent's, then it is just a dance, beautiful to watch but useless for real combat and self defence.
As Nike says, "Just do it"