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  • When is kata taught?

    I have a question just out of sheer curiosity and is kind of related to the kata crazy thread in the Waza forum.

    In your dojo, at what stage do beginners get taught kata and which ones? How is it decided when someone will be taught a particular kata? Is it a case of a student asking if they could learn one or the instructor deciding when they're ready or a bit of both?

    In the dojo I attend, I learnt the first and second katas early on, well before I attended my first grading. I didn't learn the third until some months later when I attended a seminar in another city. One thing that caught my notice was that there were two boys who were perhaps in their early teens who weren't in bogu yet knew at least 1-4. That got me wondering what is done in other dojos.

  • #2
    Well, ignoring that I'm in Germany and need them for testing for some Kyus, we have two one hour classes only for kata every week before our Monday and Wednesday trainings. The classes usually work up from 1-7, starting back at one after the beginner class ends (so twice a year). We start off doing all the katas that we know and then focus on the "kata of the day".

    I've heard that it is unusual that kata is such a part of training, but it is nice that one can just show up at the kata class and even if it the first time in 2 months (or ever), you can learn whatever kata is being done that day. I learned 1-5 as a 6th Kyu, though most people only start to come when they have testing in the near future.

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    • #3
      At a small, private dojo I sometimes attended long ago in Japan, Kata was done at the beginning of every Kendo keiko. It was just 1-7 (no "kotachi" or small bokuto) and those who knew all continued to the end, those that didn't tried to follow to where they couldn't, and then stood out and watched.
      I would add that the top sensei was the son of a policeman and that dojo tended to use various ways of teaching and training patterns, similar to what is done in Police dojos. Latecomers to Kendo keiko could have a chance to warm up while watching Kata, and those doing it could warm up via Kata for Kendo.
      For the many, including me for ages, who seem not to get the connection between kata and kendo keiko, having it just before Kendo practice, IMHO is a good idea. Various with-shinai techniques can become clear, and practiced without getting whacked, if done in Kata. Sadly, here, though, kata tends to be done just before a test and only the ones people expect to be tested on.
      MikalMysha's dojo seems to have worked it out just right! Congratulations to the instructor(s).
      Last edited by Tort-Speed; 20th June 2012, 02:33 PM.

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      • #4
        ive only experienced 2 clubs.
        the first club who i was with when i got my shodan left it to a weekend seminar and very briefly a few times before testing.
        my 2nd club which is basically made for elementary kids absolutely zero. the kids dont need it. although i would say its essential to balance out kendo.
        so ive a few teachers taking me under their wings and teaching me after the main practice.
        but this is japan - they concentrate on competitions which are at least monthly and at our club with the majority being kids - my daughters included - they dont need kata. plus its a very very laid back club.

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        • #5
          I think you (the OP) will find that it is case-by-case and alot of the time comes down to who is available to teach (and their level), available time, focus of the instructor/s and the aptitude and commitment of the student etc. Some teachers will place alot of emphasis on the importance of kata, some will only focus on it as their students come up to a grading.

          If it is part of regular practise, attending practise regularly (as opposed to hap-hazardly) will give you more time to soak the kata in while making logical steps to each new part. This will allow teachers to 'teach to a system' as opposed to getting 1 or 2 students up to speed while the others are ready to look at finer details or move on to the next kata, unless of course kata is taught 1 on 1 as opposed to someone being in charge of a group of beginners. So, hard to put a time-frame on it as there are many logistical variables.

          Like Tort-Speed, we also practise kata for about 30 minutes or more at the beginning of our regular routine, I think it works well in that time slot, kinda like a dynamic warmup but also putting emphasis on good technique before we get into uchikomi etc.

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          • #6
            With our beginner's second practice they are already starting the Bokuto Kihon. After that transition to kata is pretty simple for them. I think the concepts behind ZNKR kata are quite deep and while beginners can learn to dance the moves it's not clear to me how beneficial it is to them until they can begin to understand a few other concepts that can be more effectively taught through the Bokuto Kihon.

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            • #7
              As the two dojos I attend practice Kata weekly prior to keiko we tend to get beginners started on kata quite quickly. How quickly? Probably within the first two months or so I suppose.

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              • #8
                At a small, private dojo I sometimes attended long ago in Japan, Kata was done at the beginning of every Kendo keiko. It was just 1-7 (no "kotachi" or small bokuto) and those who knew all continued to the end, those that didn't tried to follow to where they couldn't, and then stood out and watched.
                That is precisely how we used to do it in our dojo so many years ago..
                so for me... it was "day 1 of kendo" ... and every day of kendo, too.

                Of course, this was back in the day when you had to pass both keiko and kata at shinsa.
                Fail either one and you fail the whole damn thing.

                Lesson: learn kata, keep up with it, and don't lose it.

                I will go down in history always arguing against the rule that you can pass keiko and fail kata, and then have a second chance to pass rank by passing only the kata within x-amount of time.

                If kata was less-emphasized in the past, it was de jure.
                Now, it is de facto.

                When everything now hinges on "pass the keiko or you don't even get to do the kata", people will tend to give kata the attention it deserves: afterthought, severe second-billing, last-minute prep, etc.

                That's my opinion.
                Thankfully, some instructors and dojos maintain the old ways.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by rfoxmich View Post
                  With our beginner's second practice they are already starting the Bokuto Kihon. After that transition to kata is pretty simple for them. I think the concepts behind ZNKR kata are quite deep and while beginners can learn to dance the moves it's not clear to me how beneficial it is to them until they can begin to understand a few other concepts that can be more effectively taught through the Bokuto Kihon.
                  I like the bokuto kihon, but we've yet to fully implement into our regimen here.. when bokuto kihon becomes a necessary part of shinsa, then naturally, it will have to become part of the regimen.

                  in any case, i'm not at all disagreeing with what you're saying, ron..

                  sometimes, i get the feeling that some people just have a total distaste for kata...
                  i have felt my kata has been extremely solid since my 1.kyu days... all 7 of them (i didn't learn kodachi until 2.dan)...
                  admittedly, it took until my time between 3.dan and 4.dan for me to look past the hasso and waki and odd footwork (a la sanponme) to start to understand the real, real value of kata... the seme, the real, proper timing, the mental connection with aite, etc.... i.e., things that truly translate quite well into keiko.

                  but i digress...

                  I don't dislike the bokuto kihon... actually, my knowledge of it is extremely limited (even though I know there is plenty of info out there on it)...

                  I almost feel like if there is going to be an overall feeling of "meh" as far as kata and shinsa are concerned, then maybe the powers that be should just nix kata altogether and replace it with bokuto kihon... put REAL emphasis on it and make it a requirement... make it a requirement for all kyu-level testings... no matter how 'ugly' it might look (i mean, jigeiko between 4.kyu candidates is ugly enough, IMO).. make it a requirement so that people are forced to take it seriously...

                  if they're not going to make kata a requirement prior to 1.kyu, it's no wonder kata appears to be treated with such disdain...

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                  • #10
                    I understand that there are concepts to kendo kata that beginners (myself included) won't get at their level, but for me personally I enjoy doing the dance as someone put it.

                    At my dojo anyone going for a kyu grading are expected to know one and two, people going for 2nd and ikkyu are expected to know the third. Shodan candidates are expected to know 1-5. We're also expected to know bokuto kihon to various levels. When I went for 3rd kyu I was asked to do 1-6. Cadidates going for higher grades were expected to know all nine.

                    At the regional champs last year all kyu grades were expected to know kendo kata 1-2 and ikkyu candidates had to know the third. Bokuto kihon wasn't part of the grading at all but the clubs were told to expect it to be in the future.
                    Last edited by Tasha; 21st June 2012, 04:57 AM.

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                    • #11
                      Tango, I had thought that in Japan, anyway, one doesn't re-test for kata only - but maybe that's my misinterpretation since the topic has never come up, at least in my case. I imagined the Kata was confirming one's show of ability in the Shiai part; and that a strong kata could help a borderline-pass shiai-testee pass the entire test.
                      Anyway, definitely concur about the importance of kata: had I realized long before how it relates to wielding a shinai, would likely now
                      be far better with my pitiful suriage efforts, etc., etc.
                      Last edited by Tort-Speed; 21st June 2012, 05:35 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Tasha View Post
                        I have a question just out of sheer curiosity and is kind of related to the kata crazy thread in the Waza forum.

                        In your dojo, at what stage do beginners get taught kata.
                        We start on their very first lesson.

                        Originally posted by Tasha View Post
                        and which ones?
                        We normally start with the bokuto no keiko ones to help them learn the basic strikes and some control. But generally after they can do the first few move them onto the ZNKR ones.

                        Originally posted by Tasha View Post
                        One thing that caught my notice was that there were two boys who were perhaps in their early teens who weren't in bogu yet knew at least 1-4. That got me wondering what is done in other dojos.
                        As a dojo we do a lot of kata. It is quite common for for someone about ikkyu standard to be confident with all 7 of the long sword ZNKR katas. I knew all 10 not long after my ikkyu grading.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Tort-Speed View Post
                          Tango, I had thought that in Japan, anyway, one doesn't re-test for kata only - but maybe that's my misinterpretation since the topic has never come up, at least in my case. I imagined the Kata was confirming one's show of ability in the Shiai part; and that a strong kata could help a borderline-pass shiai-testee pass the entire test.
                          That's the way I remember things being here in the States when I first started kendo (~1994)...

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                          • #14
                            We don't do much Kata at my club, only time we really do a lot of it is before gradings, when there is only a few of us and during the beginners courses that we run once or maybe twice a year and then only for 5/6 weeks for the first half.

                            Other then that, it's armour all the way!

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                            • #15
                              We start very early. We do not have the luxury of having a very highly ranked sensei on a regular basis. It seems to me that the lessons of kata that come through repetition do happen. We do kata at the beginning of each practice for 20 to 30 minutes.

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