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When is kata taught?

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  • #16
    The dojo where I train has two sites: the original dojo and a satellite dojo in my home town.

    At the original dojo, kata are hardly practiced at all despite that fact that the dojo is full of yudansha.

    However, at the satellite dojo (led by a sandan teacher, instead of the rokudan at the main dojo) we practice kata every week. Class starts at 0900 and for the first half hour of class it's kata. Every week. In comparison: the satellite dojo has zero yudansha, besides the teachers. We are all mudansha.


    • #17
      Just jumping onto what others have said, I've practiced a few different dojo locations across my region and seen it done virtually every way that's been described. That said, the best way is still kata everyday. When you attend seminars, and only a few of the yudansha trust their kata enough to demonstrate with a nanadan-sensei it gets embarassing. When you go to tests in our area it's very easy to see which dojos practice kata correctly or not. I've watched yondan sensei be asked to serve as a partner during a kata exam...only to see the yondan have worse kata than the person testing.
      Any theories as to why this symptom seems unique to Kendo? Or does it? I know that some traditional karate uses kata intensely. Is it perhaps because people cannot immediately "see" a similarity between the motions of the kata and the motions of shinai Kendo? (This is when many sensei will probably say "stop looking and start seeing" or something to that effect.)


      • #18
        In my original dojo, because of time constrains and location restrictions (practice only once a week, only 1.5 hours), I set up kata specific "workshops" that would occur ideally once every month for about 2 hours. We were able to exploit a benefit of being a particular kind of student organization that had access to rooms that were while unsuitable for shinai keiko had high ceilings so could be used for kata practice. Any member was welcomed to come, regardless of their skill level, and when I was organizing things a lot of beginners even those without a uniform came.

        In my current dojo, and I've referenced this in the kata crazy thread, we instituted a change in our practice so that the last 15 minutes of our later, more advanced practice is spent doing kata. While we tend to be a little more conscientious as we get nearer to an exam, we try to do it at least once a week, and ideally after every practice. We practice twice a week in my new dojo, for a total of 2.25 hours a day, split into a 1 hour early class geared towards beginners and a 1.25 hour later class that is aimed towards more advanced players

        We decided to do kata at the end of advanced practice for several different reasons. One was of course to actually keep kata as part of our curriculum, and to prepare for exams. The second reason was to provide an adequate and safe cool down after the more intense practices that we were instituting. This was a concern because our neighborhood dojo has people of many different ages and levels of health, and many have long drives back to their homes after practices. I found that doing kata for 15 minutes or so after more advanced practice is a good way to lower your heart rate in a controlled manner.

        Interestingly, in many of the other places that I've practice kendo, the preference is to do kata before an abbreviated practice. However, measuring my heart rate during those practices and by talking to other members , I found that kendo kata itself is not very good for elevating heart rate at the beginning of practice, so from an exercise point of view its not a very efficient warmup. However, I find that it is much more difficult to focus mentally on kata after an intense shinai practice, and I have to force my mind to keep it from drifting. So from a teaching perspective its not as ideal, but from a practice perspective I think its okay, since it replicates the order of whats done during a shinsa examination.

        Doing kata relatively frequently also has allowed us to do slightly different kinds of kata practices, in that instead of having just practices where one person is intentionally instructing either a partner or a pair, there are some nights where we simply rotate in small groups (ideally a group of 3), and we do as many kata as the most junior person in a pair knows.

        In general the people who show up to our later classes have been in bogu and have attended the early class before, but they represent everything from unranked kyus to yudansha.

        In my mind, and how I represent kata to our members, is that the kata practice at the end of practice serves several important purposes, not just in terms of exam preparation. Its an integral part of the pacing of the evening, especially if everyone was pushed hard for the earlier parts of the evening, and in my mind keeping everyone healthy, allowing people to mentally refocus, calm down, and prepare to go home (sort of like an extended mokuso). Additionally its a place where we can, if need be, go back over some of instructional points that was covered earlier that evening.