This Saturday is our clubs first ever inter-club kata competition. Sensei runs three clubs under the same name and has invited all 160 or so club members to enter the competition. I think 48 of us have accepted the invitation and registered to enter. This is a really good result for our club as generally only a handful of us enter larger regional or national competitions. I am hopeful that as a result of this experience more club members will be encouraged to enter the bigger competitions. It would be great to get a team together and have someone else to go with!
We have been busy the last two weeks preparing for this competition with lots of kata practice, including performing our katas individually in front of the class under competition conditions. This has enabled us to experience what it is like to perform under pressure and learn to control our anxiety.
I find learning new kata one of the most enjoyable aspects of learning karate. It requires total coordination of mind and body. You can't do it properly unless you give it your full attention which means shutting out the outside world and really focusing on what you are doing. In that respect it has a meditational quality to it and allows you be introspective and 'alone' with yourself. This contrasts with other aspects of karate, like kumite or self-defense techniques, where you need to be alert and aware of what is going on around you and cooperative with a partner.
That's not to say you practice your kata in some dream-like state. Far from it. The kata demands you to fight an imaginary opponent and so you need to try and imagine he is really there. Sensei is constantly trying to drill into us that each time we turn in a kata we must turn our head to look first at that 'opponent', then prepare to turn by moving the feet into position ready to turn swiftly straight into the correct stance. At the same time he gets us to prepare the arms ready to do the block as soon as we have turned. So it's a case of 'look', 'prepare', 'turn'. It reminds me of 'signal', 'mirror', 'manoeuvre' in driving! I think it's this attention to detail that turns a kata performance from an aesthetically pleasing 'dance' to a demonstration of an effective fighting form.