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What Is Kata in Japanese Martial Arts?

February 24, 2018

What Is Kata in Japanese Martial Arts?


Kata is a term that frequently appears in the world of traditional Japanese martial arts. It's used in akido, judo, kendo, kempo, karate and many other forms of martial arts. Unless you're a practitioner, though, you might be wondering what the term means. To learn more about kata and what it encompasses, keep reading.

Overview of Kata

In Japanese martial arts, kata refers to choreographed movements, either performed solo or in in pairs. A judo practitioner, for instance, may learn specific grappling moves to take down an opponent. The collection of these moves is essentially a kata.

According to Wikipedia, judo has multiple kata, most of which were created in the late 1800s by Kano Jigoro, who was the founder of judo. In judo, kata requires to participants while exploring many techniques that are otherwise prohibited in traditional judo competitions. This includes punching, kicking and using a katana. Judo practitioners typically begin learning kata at the green level.

In karate, kata often involves punching and kicking in the air. While this may sound simple enough, it's a methodical process that often consists of up 70 individual moves, each of which plays a role in the kata. The practitioner is instructed to visualize his or her opponent while essentially performing the moves as if the opponent were in front of them.

It's important to note that kata isn't a single set of moves. Rather, it refers to any collection of choreographed moves in martial arts. This is why kata is used in so many types of Japanese martial arts, including those mentioned above.

History of Kata

Kata has origins dating back to feudal Japan, during which a series of combat and defense moves were taught to samurai warriors. Back then, however, it was taught for militaristic purposes. Samurai warriors would train by learning kata, improving their skills on the battlefield. Today, kata taught primarily for recreational and competitive martial arts.

Some Japanese martial arts schools host competitions that focus on kata. Practitioners are awarded points based on a variety criteria, including technique, balance, style, timing and more. The practitioner who earns the highest number of points while performing his or her kata wins the competition.

To recap, kata simply refers to any collection of choreographed movements in Japanese martial arts. It's performed in aikido, judo, kendo, kempo, karate and many other martial arts. Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of kata and its role in martial arts.


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