The Japanese Sword

In the latter part of the Kamakura era (1192-1333) there were two great sword smiths named Masamune and Muramasa. Goro Masamune, whose works are today considered to be the finest in the country, never forged a sword without first offering up prayers and undergoing the customary purification rites. He surrounded his workshop with holy ropes and in ceremonial dress, he asked for protection from the good spirits.

Whilst forging the blade itself, Masamune maintained a religious intensity and concentration, the blade became the product of this mental physical and spiritual power.

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Calligraphy or the Seventh Martial Art

Most of the masters of the martial arts practise the art of calligraphy which is in itself considered to be the seventh martial art. For is not the ability to make the stroke flow naturally, to let the brush move freely across a thin piece of paper, also a superior struggle of the most testing kind? The spontaneous stroke of the brush is reminiscent of the quick free thrust of the sword or the freedom of the arrow fired effortlessly. Wherever there is distress, worry or swiftness of action.

Calligraphy which is the art of drawing characters with the tip of a brush dipped in ink and requires a profound serenity. Here again, harmony comes from control over breathing and movement. Introduced into Japan from China about 1300 years ago, calligraphy was then the art of transcribing Chinese ideographs (kanji in Japanese). Nowadays both kanji and kana (Chinese ideographs transcribed phonetically) are used.

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kata_beach-practise Kata - seeking perfection

Tips to Help You Improve Your Kata

Kata are also used to grade students, a black belt sometimes has to perform every single kata they have learned to illustrate their mastery before being graded. One single misplaced foot or a loss of balance can make the difference between a good kata and a great kata!

Kata isn’t only to help you perfect the physical motions, in fact, many martial artists perform katas not to improve themselves so much physically as to increase their inner awareness of their own person and how to improve their skill with a purity of mind and body.

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Key Points on Demonstrating Kata

The following are some key principles to strive for when performing kata, whether in class or in front of a large audience.  There are certainly more aspects to consider, but keeping these in mind as you practice will help you perform well whenever you are on the spot.

  1. Take your time. This is your moment to show your best form!
  2. Show every move.
  3. Relax.
  4. Show speed and power. Remember, speed is how quickly you execute each move, not how quickly you go from move to move.
  5. At the end of each move, show the tension, then relax and move on to the next move. Timing between moves should be two seconds (or 1, 1000; 2, 1000).
  6. Breathe.
  7. Don’t rush the Kata!!
  8. Keep moving. If you make a mistake, don’t start over - finish the kata!
  9. Show courtesy

What is Kata

Kata (form) is a Japanese word describing detailed choreographed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs.

Kata are used in many traditional Japanese arts such as theater forms like kabuki and schools of tea ceremony (chad?), but are most commonly known for the presence in the martial arts. Kata are used by most traditional Japanese and Okinawan martial arts, such as Aikido, Iaido, Judo, Jujutsu, Kendo and Karatedo. Other arts such as T'ai Chi Chuan and Taekwondo feature the same kind of training, but use the respective Chinese and Korean words instead.

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