Tuesday, 8 March 2011

When You're Smiling.

I smile too much. Apparently.

I had a conversation with my Shihan recently regarding my kata performance. My Bassai Dai is really coming on now, I have the pattern nailed and I’m improving on the stances all the time. What Shihan was concerned about was the level of intensity I portray in my kata (all of my kata, not just Bassai). Apparently I look like I’m enjoying myself way too much (probably because I am… I LOVE Kata). I’m usually smiling just a little bit too much. Unfortunately I should be looking like I’m about to rip someone’s head off… and the smiling kind of belies that message.

So. I need to work on my intensity.

I’ve been trawling the old WWW looking for some information about improving kata and this sequence seems to crop up again and again:

1. Learn the pattern
2. Perfect the form
3. Understand the bunkai
4. Practice with the utmost seriousness and intensity

I think I’m falling down at number 3 on this list. I’m reminded of SueC’s post about “Speaking Kata”.

The bunkai is where I struggle most when it comes to my kata. Not so much in the earlier ones, but as we get further up the syllabus and the movements are more complex I can’t always “see” the application of particular sections. Without being able to see the Bunkai it’s difficult to imagine your opponent….. which is where I’m falling down between step #3 and step #4, because I think for step #4 you really have to be able to see your imaginary foe when performing your kata. Without envisioning the opponent, you may as well be dancing. Without the bunkai it’s hard to put in the required intensity. You could fake it so some degree I suppose, but I imagine it would come across as somewhat contrived if that were the case.

I am improving in terms of my Bunkai. In fact, it’s occupying a lot of my mental karate time these days (I always find myself taking advantage of those times when my brain isn’t occupied to get in some cerebral karate… going through kata patterns and bunkai in my head). Kendo and I have been working on some bunkai at home too (that’s his favourite part of kata and is really making him grow to like it even though he really didn’t enjoy it at first). It's slow going though.

I guess my progress in speaking kata is somewhere between my Dutch (I know one word that is pretty much useless in every day conversation*) and my French (where I can ask for a beer, a cheese and ham toastie, the toilet, a train station, a room with a shower and interpret directions). In between French and Dutch. In geographically terms my kata is Belgium!! LOL.

For the time being, I’ll concentrate on smiling less, and looking fierce more! Time to invest in a “game face”.


In other karate stuff, I realised I completely forgot to blog about our Kenjutsu seminar…. More on that when I have time.

I’ve also just finished reading this book:

Living the martial way from Amazon.co.uk

A.Maz.Ing! I totally loved it. So much so that I’m considering reading it again (once I’ve prised it out of Kendo’s grubby little hands – no surprise he’s loving it too). More thoughts on that once I’ve gotten my head around all the posts I’ve been thinking about lately. So many karate questions…. So little time!!


*Should you be even the slightest bit curious, the one Dutch word I know is gezellig. See, not much use really.


  1. Becuase I've recently moved from Shotokan to Wado Ryu I've had to relearn my kata - even the very basic ones asthey have different applications. For example in shotokan heian techniques that are taught as strikes are often blocks in the Pinan equivalent. This reminded me tht when I first learnt kata I learnt the bunkai of each move and then the pattern. I think we should all try to go back to this way of learning - what do you think?

  2. As Marie already said Bunkai is my favourite aspect of kata so obviously I agree with you suze. In fact I would go so far as to say I struggle with the kata more when I dont understand its application... I just cant learn patterns by rote.

  3. This made me chuckle Marie - we also have several students who smile their way through kata, sparring and pretty well everything else. There's something slightly sinister about an opponent who's smiling at you just before they try and hit you or throw you to the ground. LOL. I apparently look worried rather than serious so I'm not sure whether that's better or worse than smiling!

    As for kata and bunkai, sometimes I see techniques(bunkai) in the kata and sometimes I see kata in techniques. So for instance if we were being shown an ippon kumite technique I might suddenly think, hey that looks like a move out of Rohai or pinan godan for example. I don't know if I'm supposed to see kata in technique or technique in kata but it's as if technique and kata are starting to fuse together for me. To be honest I think we have to many kata in our system to be able to study the bunkai properly so I'm hoping after I get my black belt I'll have more time to study this more fully. I think it's a life times work though!