From Kata to Fighting


60242248_2284265311811678_1967447573958492160_o.jpgKata (form) – Karate shadow boxing. The mention of Kata evokes all sorts of emotions in people. From passion to laughter everyone has an opinion ranging from a functional self defence training tool to merely a comical dance performed by kids in pyjamas. Unfortunately over the years this picture of a dance has been painted by an ignorance of Karate teachers. This has led to the display of unrealistic applications for the moves within the forms with a total disregard for anatomy, physiology and common sense. As a result we see demonstrations of techniques out of this world which have no real chance of working

Kata is an essential part of the Karate. Most masters agree that the pure essence of Karate are its forms, but forms that are understood and studied not just copied and mindlessly repeated.

“Like textbooks to a student or tactical exercises to a solider, kata are the most important element of Karate.” Gichin Funakoshi

“In karate, the most important thing is kata. Into the kata of karate are woven every  manner of attack and defense technique. Therefore, kata must be practiced properly, with a  good understanding of their bunkai meaning.”  Kenwa Mabuni

For me kata must be functional, not necessarily looking very crisp with structured timings. The latter attributes are great for sport competition and aesthetics, but when I look at that type of performance I can see that often performers don’t know why they do all of the moves within the given form. It is a very athletic and eye pleasing performance but function is left behind.Kanku_kata

“Never be shackled by the rituals of kata but instead move freely according to the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.”Nakasone 

I value more a kata where I can see that the person executing it knows why he does what he does. The movement may not be so precise but it screams that I’m doing ‘this’ now.

“We must be careful to not overlook the fact that kata, and the body positions that comprises them , are just templates of sort; it is their application in combat which needs to be mastered.” Choki Motobu

At my club beginners don’t start with learning the form pattern, they are introduced to the principles and partner work along side the kata. In my experience it is easier for students to learn a form if they understand what they are doing.


When students grasp the basic concepts then we can focus on technical aspects of a kata and polishing technique. The next step is to introduce partner work with little resistance, so the practitioner can find the right technical pathway to make a technique work. When this is achieved we add another layer whereby the compliance is decreased, but trainees are sticking to the structure of one attack one defence. In this way they have a basis of understanding ingrained for an application of an element of a kata and they can follow closely the kata’s path.

UntitledEvolving on from a low level of resistance we move on to pressure testing where a student will still stay with a given application but wears protective gear and resistance is applied. There is no continuity after the initial attack, students focus on one given attribute and try to make it work under pressure. The next step is full interaction with a live resisting opponent who is allowed to fight back. The “defender” at this stage is still trying to make the chosen application work. The last stage of this learning is a free work where one partner is the attacker and the other is defender. The defender has the kata available to use and can use freely parts of the form depending on the need in the moment.  For example he can choose to start with an opening section moving on to the last part of the kata as circumstances change and follow that with the middle part of the form if necessary.


The final stage is sparring – not the sport style of sparring but starting from a dispute and then one partner decides to attack. The defenders target is to fight back and try to use the kata’s tools to achieve an opportunity to escape or disable the opponent’s ability or will to attack. In this stage we don’t worry about which kata part is used or joined together if it’s effective.


Les Bubka

About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing


Kanku Dai – Opening Sequence

In this clip we are focusing on the opening sequence in Kyokushin version of Kanku Dai kata. This is the first and basic bunkai oyo for these sequence, we are looking on the inside entry. Meaning that opponents arms are on the outside of our body, we are trying to clear the path to place ourselves on the outside and take advantage. After initial movement partner managing to escape and continue attack. Other option for the same sequence is when we end up on the outside, I might record that in the future depending on interest.

Adapting Karate

Big part of my karate is teaching, I teach many different people. Some of them have disabilities, autism or  not so young. In order to provide a quality sessions i have to adapt program to specific needs. Through the years of working with different charities I have developed my own specific way of modifying Karate. I’m happy that there is more recognition for my work and there is an interest in seminars with me.

For those who asked me about teaching more about Taiso project,  I have planned for next year few seminars on the subject. Please have look below on sample clip of how I modify Kata . In this case both ladies have problems with balance making Seienchin Kata very difficult to perform standing.

Kind regards


Tegumi – Karate’s Grappling

Short clip of our Tegumi (grappling) based on techniques found in kata, from Pinan series to Seipai. Throws are not performed correctly due to lack of soft floor. If you like the clip please Like, Share and Subscribe.

To learn and practice this application please seek instruction under the supervision of a qualified Sensei.

Thanks for watching!

Kind regards, Les