Katas, Katas, and More Katas!

I love katas. Even if I'm not that great at them, I love training them. They're beautiful and fierce, exciting and intense. All the things I love about karate.

We worked on many katas today. I remember learning Heian Shodan for the first time. I was so frustrated with myself! It seemed like I always turned the wrong way, with the wrong leg leading, no matter how hard I tried to pay attention and get it right. Over the course of training since then, and in watching other people learn this kata for the first time, I've come to realize that I wasn't as much of a dummy as I'd assumed. It's not unusual for people to have trouble learning the early kata. It's all such a completely new experience, and it feels awkward and weird to try and remember all of the moves and direction changes. You're worried about what you look like trying to do the moves, and you're worried you'll never get it right. All that worry just holds you back in the beginning. It prevents you from expressing the spirit in the kata.

Now do not get me wrong: I am in no way, shape or form a whiz at kata. I'm just not. I still get frustrated, and I still make lots and lots of mistakes. I don't feel like I am very graceful, or very agile. And I most definitely still have trouble remembering every kata I have learned. But despite all that, I'm fascinated by kata, and I love doing them, even when I screw them up.

But that said, lately I have had some glimmers of kata genius, where I actually felt like I was just learning kata at a quicker pace. How cool is that? This is what black belt is all about to me. I have all the time in the world to just work on perfecting kata. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon! I've trained enough now that things click and make sense. I can "feel" kata more easily now, and my body has a better sense of what probably comes next in the pattern.

And the best news? There are still plenty of kata to learn. If Sensei Tony gets his way, I'm sure Unsu will be on the menu after black belt test is over. Remember how I said I'm not very graceful or agile? Well, check this kata out. (And keep in mind as you watch -- he placed second for this performance.) So much more to learn!

The kata UNSU performed by former World Champion Luca Valdesi of Italy. He placed second. Visit http://www.karatebyjesse.com for more info, videos and the blog!