Before we begin, if you are not sure as to which Kata I am referring to, then please watch my demonstration on Youtube. From here you will also be able to view the video alternative of this article if would rather watch and listen to what I have to say.
This Kata is probably the most underestimated in all of Karate. It is the first Kata you learn, and therefore the easiest. However, in its simplicity, there is depth. I can safely say, hand on heart, that I do not know every application of the first technique of Kata Kihon. We tried to list them all one day at my instructors club, and without having to think, we got to over 20 individual techniques.
Despite the limitless possibilities within the Kata, most people disregard Kata Kihon purely because it is not as elaborate or elegant like other Katas. It is not like Katas that have big sweeping moves or jumps like Unsu or Kanku Sho. However, a true test of your Karate is in the execution of your basics. I am a believer in that with your years of experience, your basics should get better. Unfortunately for most, it is quite the opposite.
These are the most frequent mistakes that I see people make, including black belts.
Zenkutsu Dachi (Front Stance):
This is probably the first stance that you learn, and so in theory, should not require the time we instructors often put in to remind people to lock out their back leg.
Locking out the back leg will allow you to drive through the technique. Without this particular feature in your stance, it becomes Fudo Dachi or Sochin Dachi, which is the wrong stance. At a Dan grading, this will result in a fail as it is quite clearly not within the Kata.
We are taught by instructors from fairly early on that “if you are not using your fist, keep it on your hip.” However, it is often the case that the fist does not come all of the way back. This is especially noticeable during both of the sequences of three Oi Zukis (Stepping Straight Punches).
The easiest way to counter this (Get it?), is to imagine someone is stood behind you. With every step, elbow them.
This mistake is typically noticeable in juniors, and this is a trick that I use to help get them out of the habit. It will also help to develop the speed and strength of your punch retraction.
Rushing the Kata:
It seems obvious when you say it, but most people will try to add speed rather than strength, and miss out the tension of each technique. This frequently prevents the locking out of the arm and leg, like I mentioned in the last two mistakes. Typically, they are unintentionally cutting corners to make it faster. Would you do that in a race though?
No, you would follow the track, and just train and push yourself harder to go faster. Cutting a corner would be a disqualification, and the same applies to every technique you perform whether it is for a competition, your grading, or just during practice.
The trick is to make each individual move look fast, rather than the whole Kata; this sounds like they are same thing, but I assure you, they are not. Finishing every technique before beginning the next one is key to accomplishing this, otherwise its just a messy blur.
Like the other suggestions, this applies to all of your Katas, but this one takes the performance from average to great.
Without turning your head and looking where you are going, the Kata feels robotic. You should aim to show the application with your performance, and the easiest way to do that is to look before you move.
If someone is attacking you from behind, your spidey senses don’t start tingling, you have to look instead.
Always look first, then step/turn, and then you can attack/block, it is as easy as that.
Step Through the Turn:
Now this applies to two specific points in the Kata, both of which are after the Kiais. What most people will do is take their back leg and sweep it around, until they have completed the 90 degree turn. However, the back foot should slide through underneath your body, and press out into the correct position. By doing this it helps to increase the power of the technique, and allows you to control your balance. It is also more practical when looking into the application of this technique.
When developing your advanced Katas, or beginning to train like a Black Belt rather than a Kyu grade, it is important to establish positive habits in Kata Kihon first. Unless this Kata can be performed well, your basics will fail you in your later Katas. It takes a great deal of effort to perform this Kata well as it is easy to spot mistakes. This is another reason as to why you should develop this one first, as most of the points I have mentioned can easily be turned into good habits and applied to your other Katas.
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