When teaching a beginner we make it as simple as we can. I tend to breakdown each component. First do the leg movements and then add on the arm movements. Practise that and then move on to the next section. The more advanced a student is the quicker they pick up the techniques. When progressing through the grades there should be a definite improvement in the techniques and movements. Just because you learn a new kata doesn’t mean you should forget the previous ones. What you should be thinking is how you can execute them better. I’ve been a black belt for nine years now and I’m always trying to improve my karate. I know the katas so now let’s try to enhance the performance.
So you know the kata but are you good at it?
Just because a kata was good enough when you were a white belt doesn’t mean you will get away with that performance as a green belt. A kata that was awarded four points as a brown belt for the same execution will probably give you three points as a black belt. Now that you’re a black belt start from the beginning and reanalyse what you do. Don’t be complacent; ask yourself if you can do it better. It might be a good idea to check with others to make sure you haven’t changed certain features of the kata such as stances and even the small aspect of where you should be looking.
For those that watch me doing small portions of a kata, I haven’t forgotten it I’m just concentrating on that particular part. There are probably students that wonder why I do basic techniques slowly: I’m checking what I’m doing. There is no need for me to do things as fast as I can. I have nothing to prove. When you try to do things fast they start to go wrong. Practise them slowly and then you naturally become faster. I recently watched a video of myself doing a kata. I wasn’t impressed and my fellow black belts were surprised at my reaction. I’ve gotten into some bad habits. So my suggestion to you all: every time you perform a kata do it as if you were grading for your next belt. If we just walk through a kata we start to get lazy and we don’t have long stances, our punches are too low and we forget to kiai!
There are a few things that I like to see when grading a kata:
- Timing – It’s not a case of just plodding through the techniques. There are quick movements and slow ones, ones that are relaxed and others performed under tension.
- Focal Point – Look at your imaginary attacker. Picture the techniques that you should be blocking. Are you defending or attacking?
- Power – The same techniques you do when practising the basics still apply. ‘Pull for Power’ remember the pull back hand and shoot that punch out. What about the hip work? Just because you have turned to the side to perform a block doesn’t mean you should forget to face forward and then move the hip back. Don’t be lazy!
- Kiai! – There are certain points in a kata where the spirit shout should be heard. Don’t forget them and certainly don’t add them in any place just because you feel like it.