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Are kata artistic in nature?

I have spent some time studying karate. I have spent time in Okinawa - one year. I have spent time studying what is available regarding things Okinawa and Okinawan - emphasis on finding things karate.

I have spent some time studying the changes that occurred during the late 1800's and especially the early 1900's. The early 1900's were pivitol in the nature of karate practice where it was converted from the fighting system to a health, fitness, and school system of practice losing many important aspects in regards to fighting.

No where in any of this have I come across any inference to kata being of an artistic nature. I have not found any inferences either direct or hidden that say kata are artistic in nature or that a primary aspect is its aesthetic form. I feel kata do not meet these traits directly. I feel kata are not either artistic or aesthetic in its teachings.

I do feel that both the artistic and aesthetic of kata are simply byproducts of learning and applying fundamental principles of all martial systems. This I believe.

The "artistic" of kata was born when it converted from a fighting civil system to a sportive, health and fitness system for the school systems of Okinawa and later Japan. Artistic kata came about as the sporting aspects grew when it was necessary to create scoring systems to differentiate the performance enough to allow for it. It continues to be expanded with each successive generation of sport practitioner.

When I see explanations of adherence to and applying such kata meaning as regarding body alignment, structure, etc. I don't see this as naming it aesthetics. These are fundamental principles not aesthetics. The appearance when viewed by others my seem aesthetically pleasing. It is not aesthetics but the byproduct of applying the fundamental principles of martial systems.

I am trying to emphasize that "naming" things can give false impressions as to what is being taught, being done, and most important being applied in fighting/self-defense/self-protection. If strictly speaking to sport it still does not adequate "name" what is being taught and applied. Even in kata competition they loosely look to its possible application of technique as if in a fight. Just because about 95% of those participating in kata competitions have not experienced fighting or gained any fighting experience/proficiency does not indicate that what is displayed in forms competition and graded as such is actually applicable to fighting.

Kata have many functions for martial systems with emphasis here on karate. It may have some artistic and aesthetic byproducts. It should not be expressed as a major meaning of kata. It is merely a byproduct of other more important principles that make kata and karate work.

I often look to see if the forming of an applied technique fits a some what aesthetic form. I look for this after I look to see if the principles applicable to that technique are present and that it is correct. If some aesthetic form results this is what I note. If it does not then I simply ignore the possible presence or absence of aesthetic form. It is not that important, the principles are far more critical to making things work.

I cannot fault any system or organization for this as the traditional (sport oriented) practice of karate is greatly sportive not combative. It comes to play when folks either promote, teach, or think that what they do is a part of survival in fighting and/or predatory violent encounters.  It is just not that simple!

John Vesia Sensei of "Martial Views" blog posted on kata competitive aspects of theatrics and how that relates to kata function. He inspired this post and you will find his post here meaningful and relevant. http://www.martialviews.com/

"All too often we see great emphasis being placed on ensuring that the limbs etc are in the correct positions whilst none is placed on what the student should be thinking and feeling." - Iain Abernethy Sensei, Bunkai Jutsu

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