Meaning "way of the sword," kendo is a form of Japanese martial arts in which practitioners spar using bamboo swords (shinai) and protective body armor (bogu). Practitioners earn points for successfully striking an opponent in a defined area, and the practitioner with the most points wins.
Kata, however, is the basis on which kendo is taught. To put it simply, kata consists of fixed patterns involving attacks and counterattacks. It encompasses more than just basic swordsmanship, however. Kendo kata also requires a thorough understanding of attack intervals, body movement, price and sincerity.
Kendo Kata: The BasicsKendo kata is most commonly practiced with shinai. These bamboo practice swords significantly reduce the risk of bodily armor while still allowing practitioners to perform strikes and counterattacks.
Additionally, there are two roles in kendo kata: the student and the teacher. Also known as uchidachi, the teacher is responsible for teaching the student how to correctly perform the kata. The student, or shidachi, is responsible for listening to and obeying the instructions of the teacher.
The 10 Kata
There are 10 Nihon Kendō Kata, which are taught to kendo students. This includes the ippon-me, nihon-me, sanbon-me, yonhon-me, gohon-me, roppon-me, nanahon-me, ippon-me, nihon-me and sanbon-me. Normally, the practitioner must master the first three kata -- ippon-me, nihon-me, sanbon-me -- before he or she can advance to 1-Kyu. Further mastery is necessary for advancement to the Dan grades.
With that said, the modern bokken training Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho introduces several new, other kata. About half of these kata are attack-based moves and half are defensive or counter-based moves.
History of Kata
According to the All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF) -- the world's leading kendo organization -- kata was originally performed for the purpose of preserving the history and techniques of kenjutsu. It was feared that some of the techniques of kenjutsu will become lost with time. Therefore, ryu schools of kendo began teaching students kata. In the late 1880s, kenshi were hired to create a universal set of kata, which continues to be used today. In 1912, the kata were finalized, shortly after which they became integrated into Japan's public school system.
To recap, kata is the collection of strikes and counterattacks taught to practitioners of kendo. There are 10 primary kata, each of which features a specific purpose. Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of kendo kata.