There are a ton of resources online for learning bits and pieces of Karate, Self Defense, Martial arts in General, maybe one angle of a Kata that has no explanation or just a video with bad audio quality.
In this guide I'll give you tips to improve your Kata and if you like, stick around until the end to sign up for a free membership.
I've compiled 49 of my personal favorite crazy ways to practice kata into one super killer article for you today, which is applicable to all styles of Karate.
If you'd like to learn the Karate Kata from the Karate Kid Movies, you'll love this article. We also have step by step walk throughs of every Kata in our premium memberships. Try a 7 Day Free Trial and get instant access to all of the lessons.
Q: How Can I Practice Kata?
A: Kata can be done virtually anywhere in the world, from your living room to the back yard, a park, the beach or visualized in your mind. Learn the Kata and then try it in your favorite open area, free of clutter.
Q: Is Kata Good Exercise?
A: Kata has the potential to burn huge amounts of calories when done full speed in many repetitions. Practice your Kata full speed for at least 30 min and you'll notice great full body workout results.
Q: What are Kata Techniques?
A: Kata Techniques are another name for Karate Moves. These sequences are put together into a full performance piece that helps you practice Martial Arts on your own. The Japanese word Kata means one person. So Naturally Kata can be designed for one person.
Q: Is Kata a waste of time?
A: For those who only want to be good at Kumite or sparring Kata can seem like a waste of time. However, Kata helps you become well rounded in the martial arts and it has lots of health benefits and stress relieving properties that you may benefit from as well.
Q: How do You Master a Kata?
A: Karate is typically a lifelong journey, but you can master a Kata by practicing it 1000 times. Typically the general consensus is to practice 1000 times, correctly, before trying to teach the Kata to someone else.
Q: Is Kata Useful in Fighting?
A: Yes! If you understand the Bunkai, or the self defense hidden meanings within each kata, you'll be able to use these Karate moves to get yourself out of physical confrontations. There's lots of disarming, grappling, and blocking techniques to help you avoid a fight within Karate Kata.
Q: Can I Learn Kata Online?
A: There are many ways to learn Kata online, from Youtube to Skype. We also offer Online Karate Lessons and Video Tutorials for every Kata on our website Nkkf.org.
These Karate Secrets were meant to be shared. If you want to improve your Kata, try implementing a few of our top secrets into your next training session. Whether you are bored and want to spice things up, or want something outside the box for an extra challenge these are some awesome tricks to improve your Kata performance.
1. It's time for some backwards kata training.
If you've never attempted doing a Kata Backwards from the end to the beginning, you're in for a challenge.
A lot of effort is needed to compel our minds to think logically and develop the kata backwards.
Basically, it's like trying to recite the alphabet in reverse. You should start with the most recent movement and work your way backwards to the beginning of the sequence. Like mirroring the kata, this is more harder than the former.
2. Do the kata on the other side first.
It's a great way to improve your Kata comprehension by using this simple trick.
Changing sides allows you to check if you can complete the entire kata on your first time. Rote memory will want to get you back to your old Kata routine at first, so you may have to slow things down a bit.
Contrary to popular belief, research has shown that doing something opposite to the kata enhances your regular practice by improving neuronal connections in your brain that are associated to its movement pattern (known as the contralateral training effect). So, go the other way!
3. Practice the Kata backwards and opposite side.
Need a new challenge for your Karate Kata training? The ultimate challenge awaits as you try to do the Kata from Z to A with the opposite hand and foot. Wow.
This is the ultimate test. Of course, the idea is to perform it with maximum power and speed.
4. Legs Only.
Only Legs, Please!
When it comes to karate, we rely heavily on our legs. Athletes who don't pay attention to their postures during practice can suffer from leg tiredness during competition.
If you want a genuine challenge, tie your hands behind your back and concentrate solely on your postures and transition speeds. This workout can be done by anyone. Few, on the other hand, possess the kime, speed, and power necessary to pull it off. Pay close attention to the muscles in your lower back and hamstrings.
5. Slow down the fast moves.
Slowing down your Karate moves is a great way to sharpen up the form of them. It's a technique used in ancient Japan ever since Kabuki Theatre.
Your body and mind were built to take the shortest way possible. That is how humans function. Unfortunately, this often leads to automatic habits of 'cheating' your way through difficult parts of kata by relying on momentum gained from quick techniques. This might be the answer.
6. Speed up the slow moves..
Train your brain with this simple workout, by switching up the tempo your brain cells will start firing, letting them get prepared to focus hard and amplify your Kime!
Even slower actions should have a proper line of power transmission and sequential body movement timing, which is exactly what practicing them quickly will teach you.
Slowing down the quick movements and speed up the slow ones. This is the result of combining the two previous exercises. The main takeaway here is the balance and contrast between hard and soft ("go" and "ju" in Japanese).
According to Luca Valdesi, the Italian three-time kata world champion, he does this exercise nearly every time he prepares for the finals?
7. Blind folded or In the Dark
As you complete the kata, keep your eyes closed.
Maybe this is a good place to practice in the dark.
Your postures and spatial awareness will be put to the test in this form of training.
You should be able to remove your blindfold at the end and still be in the same starting position looking the right way. Focusing your attention and awareness on other sensations rises considerably if you turn off your visual sense (i.e balance, proprioception, hearing).
8. Mind Kata, Vizualised movement.
You can stay sharp and not forget your kata while defeating boredom anywhere. Often if we see a result it is easier for us to make it happen. Visualize your success and then strive to make it a reality.
Our brains are shockingly lousy at distinguishing between what happens in actual life and what happens "only" in our heads. Use this to your advantage to practice your kata on the bus, at the grocery store, in the shower, at work, in bed or wherever. However, studies suggest that first-person perspective is more effective than third-person perspective.
9. Visualize the kata and keep track of the timing.
Practice your Kata to the correct traditional cadence. See the breathing patterns and the stances in your mind as you prepare to enter the Tatami.
Then physically perform the kata. It should take the same amount of time. When your mind and body are in total harmony, you are in a state of bliss.
10. Do the kata in regular clothes.
Karate Gi are so old school! While tradition is super important for culture and preservation of the arts, save yourself costly dry cleaning bills while becoming comfortable doing Karate anywhere, any time, wearing anything!
I recommend active wear like jogging clothes or yoga gear.
Shoes, as well. Are your actions becoming increasingly impractical? Why? That's ridiculous. Make sure they're useful.
11. Perform the kata outdoors.
Ah the great outdoors, the wind in your face and the sounds and sights of nature. This could reduce your stress levels and bring a whole new sense of joy to your Karate training. Mas Oyama is famous for Kyokushin Karate and has a noteable history for practicing his Karate in the woods near Mt. Fuji.
The forest. The beach, to be precise. Mountains, to be precise. The desert, to be precise. Choose a beautiful location and connect with Mother Nature's cosmic force. (I sounded exactly like a hippie there.)
12. Run through the kata as quickly as possible.
Speed run! Try not to mess up, forget moves, make mistakes or trip as you blaze through your kata. This is also a great way to get your cardio exercise.
It's all there. There will be no cheating. Each technique must be completed before moving on to the next. Full throttle. This necessitates mental focus and discipline on par with that of a laser. Don't be concerned about your strength or power. It's all about speed these days.
13. Practice the kata as slowly as possible.
On the other side, this is complete mental agony. To make it more motivating, you can compete with a friend. The kata with the slowest time wins. You lose because of mental exhaustion.
14. Surround yourself with partners who will attack you.
Strike, kick, punch, and block with full force into the high impac gear while you complete the kata to ensure your techniques are battle ready.
15. Do real life bunkai.
Because that's why the kata was made in the first place.
16. Wear a weight vest during kata.
Most of your motions, directional shifts, and jumps will gain resistance as a result of this. However, try not to raise your stance (you will certainly want to).
Weights should be worn on the ankles and wrists. This will provide your limbs extra resistance in all actions. Fast motions, however, are not recommended for your joint health.
17. Smaller kata sequence training.
To improve the overall, narrow it down and only practice specific sequences.
18. Single kata move practice.
To improve the overall, narrow it down even further and pinpoint individual strategies.
19. Perform the kata 100 times consecutively.
Simply for the sake of it.
20. Toss 2 dice. Repeat the kata as often as the dice indicate.
Select a different kata. Roll the dice one more. And so on. Rep for a predetermined amount of time.
21. Choose one stance to use during the whole kata.
Neko-ashi dachi (cat posture), zenkutsu-dachi, and kiba dachi are examples. The guidelines and procedures are the same as before; the only difference is the stance.
With one arm tied behind your back, perform the entire kata. You never realize how important "hiki-te" (the withdrawing hand) is until you don't have it.
22. Perform the kata submerged in water.
But not higher than shoulder level. Water adds a distinct form of resistance to kata practice, providing a challenging challenge. It's also beneficial for physical rehabilitation because it relieves joint stress.
23. Perform the kata with full emotion.
You'll inadvertently enter the limbic system (lizard brain) and become enraged. That is when things start to happen. You might shed a tear. That's OK. Nobody is required to see. It's all about learning to ride your emotions and channeling them via the kata to get into the flow. With practice, you'll be able to quickly turn this switch.
24. Put it on ice, literally.
When the chips are down, your body prioritizes balance. You can balance on anything if you can balance on ice, man.
25. Do the kata while a friend holds you up.
He/she is in charge of the lower body motions (steps, stances, and kicks), while you are in charge of the upper body moves (punches, blocks, strikes, salutations etc.) Make an effort to be in rhythm with one another. After that, swap places. Both jobs present unique obstacles.
26. Do your Kihons.
It's a Japanese martial art. Every kata has a handful of popular techniques. You will miraculously improve every single kata you know by practicing these basic techniques (called as "kihon waza"). To me, it appears to be a no-brainer.
27. Perform the kata in front of a crowd.
When performing kata in front of an audience, there is a lot of pressure. That stress, also known as performance anxiety, is processed by your body as a real-life physical threat (cortisol levels rise, palms start to sweat, muscles tense up, adrenaline is released etc.).
28. Record a video of your kata.
Because a mirror can only reveal so much information. And it's possible that your sensei is suffering from repetition blindness. But don't forget to experiment with other angles.
29. Do your kata while listening to music.
Not because you like Justin Bieber, but because the rhythm of certain songs ignites a primordial impulse in our brains. Heavy bass drums are a good choice. Try taiko (Japanese drumming). Whatever gets you moving and floats your boat.
30. Observe another person doing the kata and analyze.
Either in person or on video. Someone who is better than you, preferably. According to research, your brain's mirror neurons will light up as if you were practicing the kata physically. What's the best part? After that, you won't have to wash your gi! (However, you won't really need that strawberry chocolate protein drink after your workout...)
31. Use a high altitude simulation mask or similar device during kata.
There's a reason why so many Olympic champions train in Africa. There are many mountains in that area. High elevations also make breathing more difficult. When breathing becomes difficult, your body must exert more effort. Your VO2 max, lung capacity, and fatigue threshold (as well as mental toughness) will gradually improve. That's fantastic. This is something that well-known MMA fighters do.
32. Lift heavy weights right before performing kata.
Explosive weightlifting (85% RM >) fires up your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which you should take advantage of by doing kata right thereafter. This is referred to as "complex training" in the world of sports science, and it is usually done with plyometric activities.
33. Surround yourself with opponents ready to come at you consecutively.
Only kata techniques can be used to defend yourself. However, keep it simple. Punches, kicks, and blocks at a basic level. A few grabs. Begin slowly and progressively increase the amount of power and speed you use. You are welcome to wear protective gear.
34. Do the kata with a partner who will put all of your strikes, punches and kicks to the test by blocking them; While all of your blocks will be put to the test by striking, punching and kicking at them.
This is a dynamic type of "kote kitae" (training) that also works well with children.
35. Do Half Speed Kata.
Each method should be lightly snapped. This is the most effective way to warm up because it prepares your central nervous system for increased speed and power without putting you at risk of harm. Maintain precise technique, attention, and kime, exactly as you would at full speed.
36. Do it Big. Make extra large motions during the kata.
When things grow severe, we tend to stiffen up and reduce the range of motion of our techniques (ROM). So, to avoid this, practice with extra large motions. When I lived in Okinawa, we did this all the time with the female Japanese national team. Keep your elbows in, armpits in, and shoulders down at all times.
37. Practice without mirrors.
Because we can get caught up in staring at our own attractive faces a little too much at times. (Or am I the only one who thinks this?)
38. Perform the kata with one leg pinned in place.
Only your other (free) leg can be moved. You must still use the proper stances, directions, and methods. Is that clear? When the dojo is crowded, this is ideal.
39. Drunken Monkey. After spinning a few times incredibly fast, do the kata while dizzy.
It's less painful than getting punched in the face, but it has the same effect. This one is also popular with children.
40. No shirt, No shoes, no problem. Without a gi top, perform the kata.
Check every movement with a companion for proper breathing, muscle, and joint alignment. Goju-ryu stylists do this with Sanchin kata, and Shorin-ryu stylists do it with Naihanchin kata. Of course, the general notion applies to all kata. Your friend has the power to push, pull, pat, and even slap you.
41. Perform the kata while a companion keeps timing.
The most important, and difficult, thing to remember is to never consider the next step while you're here. In each technique, be fully present. Simply relax and then "bam!" whenever you hear a count or clap. Counts/claps can be done in a variety of rhythms.
42. Perform the kata in inclement weather.
Heat, cold, rain, hail, sleet, or snow are all possibilities. This will not only put your spirit to the test, but it will also serve as a mental anchor for the rest of your life. As disclosed to me in one of our epic interviews, European and world team kata champion Lucio Maurino was ordered by his guru to perform kata Sochin under the moon in the icy mountains of Italy.
43. Perform the kata both uphill and downhill.
This completely skews your perception and balance, as some motions become harder and slower (uphill), while others appear easier and faster (downhill). It's important to act as if the ground is flat.
44. Do the kata while a companion distracts you with gestures or taunts.
Your companion can say or show anything, but he or she cannot touch you or obstruct your mobility. You've failed if you laugh/smile or lose focus in any manner.
45. Perform the kata while balancing a heavy book on your head.
Maintaining a straight centerline is crucial. Slowly increase your speed and power.
46. While standing on a balance board or balance ball, practice kata.
It's similar to doing the kata on ice, except your lower body is now immobilized (you can't change stances or move around), and you're constantly trying to stay balanced.
47. Perform the entire kata as if your life was on the line.
There will be no second thoughts. There will be no looking back. There will be no retreat. There will be no surrender. There will be no captives. If your gi isn't completely messed up, and your belt isn't strewn across the floor next to a pool of vomit and a pool of sweat, well, old sport, you obviously didn't try hard enough. Please try again. Refocus.
48. On your knees.
Practicing on your knees helps you train your mobility after a take down, but also works out your mind to adapt to new situations. You'll also notice that it takes a lot of different muscle groups to move your body in this fashion. When your kata seemed boring and easy, now it's going to seem extremely difficult!
49. Perform the kata alone with your upper body.
When your lower body is immobilized, you can properly comprehend where power comes from. This is also a great way for beginners to familiarize themselves with the moves of each kata or a way to practice in a room where there is no space for deep stances.
Here's some great kata examples with step by step instruction on how to perform them and the Karate moves behind them! If you enjoy this content, consider signing up for one of our free or premium memberships for more including all the weapons and even Katana.
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About the Author:
Colton Woodard is a 7th Degree Black Belt in Kuniba Kai Karate Do and holds the title of Kyoshi as well. He loves to teach Karate, Kobudo, and Iaido and considers himself a lifetime student in pursuit of self improvement in both Martial Arts and in Character. Colton loves to visit Japan and speaks conversational Japanese and can write quite a few Kanji. He is a Karate competitor and coach and loves to exercise and make new memories with people all over the world.
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