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tackling kata

I’ve been practicing Shukokai Karate for roughly 3 years now i think, on an unofficial basis i guess you would call it. My main interest has been trying to crack the Bassai katas. As i am a jujitsuka, my Karate instructor thought i would have a different take on kata. Well so far i have learnt the moves for Bassai Sho and Dai and i am now in the progress of deciphering Sho.

My main problem with trying to understand the kata is the principles. I have been looking for information on this with little success. What i mean is that i know what the word “principle” means, but i do not know what principle the kata is demonstrating. how am i supposed to find techniques in the kata when i do not understand what the kata as a whole means? it confuses me even more when i can find no consistent explaniation amoung so called experts on the internet.The kata names also mean different things to a great many people.

In jujitsu, if i want to demonstrate the principle of using the hips to throw, it’s easy, i show variations on hip throw. If i want to show the principle of attacking the legs i can simply demonstrate leg throws and leg locks. So why can no-one explain to me what the principle of Bassai Sho is and some techniques within the kata which show this?

Now it may be that i am not smart enough or i have not trained for long enough to be able to understand this kata, but that does not excuse those “masters” who are out there. I have seen some applications but the bear little to no resemblance to the kata form and so the principle is lost.

So, here is my question, how do i find out what the principles of a kata are and does anyone else have the same difficulty when they try to understand a kata?

I have spent many years training, but only recently taken up Shitoryu Karate under the BSKA.

My previous experience of Iaito and my current new experience of kata tell me that precision is what I am trying to achieve and through that understanding.

I am lucky enough to train with Fred East sensei who can give me clues to the bunkai of the kata I am practicing and I am finding the whole experience fascinating and enlightening.

Shodan, I wish you luck on your path to discovering what the kata mean to you.


Please also see the Karate section in the forum.


Kata is interesting in that each one deals with specific areas of technique. BassaiDai deals with some intersting counter attacks and defences but different to other katas which deal with another line.
Try to think of the bunkai for each kata as a foray into one aspect of technique in slightly differing format, then applied to various diferent attacks.
Another kata will deal with the same attacks maybe but using a different technique. So you practice with each kata a different strategy for any attack.
There may not be a meaning (like a story) as a whole to a kata, why should there be? but the sense of each kata will differ from any other. Otherwise there would be only one kata to learn.

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