Kata is Conflict Resolution!

Betchya didn’t know that!

Our teachers tell us all the time “The Kata is the art”. So I always feel sometimes students feel guilty when they don’t practice their forms/Kata. Without them we don’t get our belt and that’s the only incentive. Most teachers have also heard folks tell them they love Kata, but because of the exercise component. There is so much more to it than a series of movements and cool self defense moves.

While some folks gravitate to some modern arts, wellness clubs or even a college course to learn a “new concept” called conflict resolution, The Asian cultures have been doing it for centuries. Through KATA.

Students practicing Kata

Some of the modern arts that promote this don’t even include kata in their curriculum. This surprises me.

Nothing connects our mind and bodies to seek out that perfect day better than Kata.

I’ll explain what you’ve been missing….

So picture this, you are driving to work to a very challenging job and you say to yourself “Today will be a great day!”. You arrive at work and don’t even get past your coffee break to realize your day is going downhill fast. Usually it’s because of something that’s out of your control.

One the way home from your lousy day, you choose to go workout or take your art class, go running or whatever it is you do for recreation. You picture in your mind what a great evening you are going to have because now YOU are in control of the event or activity you are attending with high hopes of it being PERFECT!

Guess what….you have a bad workout, or your head just wasn’t focused that evening. So you feel you wasted the expense when you could have been doing something else worthwhile.

Sound familiar?

So how do we deal with this?


Kata won’t fix your day or your dance class, but it will help YOU deal with the disappointment and teach you to strive for perfection. So maybe, just maybe…. you’ll get a realization it was you and not your boss or your cheap running shoes that ruined your day.

Kata is so important because it connects you with how you think your day is going to be and how it really plays out. I call it “Reality check training.”

Here’s why,

Which martial art has a teacher with the perfect kata?

NONE! why?

Budo is the strive for perfection knowing that we will NEVER achieve it. So we practice it week after week to give it a try. The old masters used to say “Training ends with death”. The older I get the more I agree with them!

You see, budo is very challenging, so on the way to the dojo we create in our minds, visions of awesomeness only to get humbled each and every time, then that reality check comes. And sometimes we don’t even need our teachers to show us. We can just FEEL it. And that is what kata is, a feeling of your own being. Kata is where you come from and where you are going, It truly is in your own control, regardless of mental or physical challenges.

It differs from a regular workout with short term goals and a personal trainer blowing smoke up your behind for your credit card number.

Your personal reality of expectations consists of your thoughts, goals and dreams. This what you have on the inside

The reality check consists of things like your mean boss or those lousy running shoes. This is what you have on the outside

Rarely does the outside and the inside of us match perfectly in daily life. We live all day with tiny little reality checks.

The current trends of the youth (and the adults) not being able to handle life’s stress could be because they don’t know to deal with life’s reality. We have no teachers and we don’t know how to teach ourselves without help. Counselors these days have very busy waiting rooms..

The “reality check” is caused by a situation in which a person’s vision clashes with new situation perceived by the person. How we train to handle it is up to us. It’s not easy

Student practicing Jo-Staff Kata

Social media’s quick gratification of “Likes”, absent parenting and a quick “good for you!” or a trophy from peers can do more damage then you may think. Kata can help…

Kata is a drill of little “mini reality checks” for a period of time with constant feedback of correction both inside from yourself and outside from your instructor. (There’s that inside and outside thing again).

The more Kata you do in one session, the more tired you get both physically and mentally while dealing with the reality check. One can imagine the heartbreak and pain of kata the more fatigued one becomes.

No Pain no Gain!

One big difference between Kata and a gym workout or a treadmill is Kata is so much more than a stress outlet, it teaches you about your character, not just how far you are willing to run or how many reps you are willing to do. Kata takes practice practice practice with a teacher. If you skip the gym for a month you may have to “start over” at that lower weight or reps again and you’ve lost everything you worked hard for.

Kata stays with you for life…. including the lessons.

Oh and you learn self defense techniques which is what brought you into the dojo to begin with….Right? Think about it.

Kata never stops, when I was a young Bruce Lee fan learning Pinan/Heihan style forms in a Tae Kwan Do school, A down block was a down block. No questions, that was the end of the lesson. Just get stronger for the bigger kicks coming at you. As I got older and developed my kata I was able to understand when an older teacher told me the down block is really a throw while escaping a kick.


Kata grows with us. Ask any Orthopedic Doctor how many non-competitive martial arts injuries they get in their office per week. Then ask them how many football kids limp in the waiting rooms. Yes as we get older Kata means something different to us…

Not only does A Kata performed for a lifetime bring back memories of lessons and teachers but it also teaches it’s own little “reality checks” in the Kata itself, which means we need to reach even deeper to swallow the life lesson!

Iaido Sword Kata practice

Imagine how I felt when I was told I had been practicing a sword Kata wrong for 12 years….


No, I got excited. It was a new lesson and it’s easier and actually enjoyable to absorb because I have been practicing that Kata for 12 years…..incorrectly. Also I was able to apply that lesson to other Kata. It was an eye opening budo experience that I would not have enjoyed if I didn’t practice.

Make sense? It may not, unless you practice Kata.

YOUR Kata will NEVER be as good as you think it can be.

It’s human nature to judge other people based on what they do on the outside which are their actions. In the meantime we judge ourselves based on our insides which are real intentions. (There’s that inside-outside connection again.)

Wait, so Kata teaches us Human Nature?


Every time you practice. Study yourself instead of the students beside you. When you study yourself, you are studying human nature. Most humans behave the same…

And none of us are perfect, right?

Once you figure this out, your lack of perfection no longer matters because your journey to the achieve the perfect kata is gone. Working on making it perfect is the desire and the fun.

How many times have we heard that famous Ralph Waldo Emerson quote “Life is a journey not a destination” He was a pretty smart guy and teacher. He would have been a great Martial Arts teacher.

Pinan Kata

   Kata helps us on this journey making the world at least a place that’s understandable through our own little private checks and balances. It also provides a physical/mental workout and awesome life preserving skills as well. Not to mention the fun, especially with a room full of others yelling and screaming and hitting things….

Give it a shot!

So what happens when that dedicated student does mange to perfect a kata (In his or her eyes) and makes that destination with nothing left to look forward too?

We have more kata….

Now go practice…

Thanks for taking the time to read my post.

Tom, Rhode Island Budo Academy

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Published by The Budo Academy

Instructor at the Budo Academy

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