Is kata in itself contain any value in creating fighters and self-defenders?
This question relates to the core of this community so if a thread like this one already exists please forward me there. I have come to believe that this is a very personal question, so even if this thread exists somewhere else, I'd still love to hear opinions from people who may not have frequented this forum at the time of the other thread's creation.
I remember reading or listening to something by Iain once in which he made an interesting comment about why kata is important. At the risk of straw-manning his claim, I will attempt to paraphrase. If anyone remembers which work I am drawing this from, please speak up. Iain said, essentially, that he acknowledges the value in the training methods employed and perpetuated by the non-traditionalists. Iain chose to remain a traditionalist, who utilizes kata as a core teaching method, because he realizes that he personally needs to feel like his study is grounded in something bigger than himself.
I found this community because I was looking for a way to remain a traditionalist myself without feeling like I was neglecting practical self-defense techniques. Oftentimes, I find myself drawn to kata because it does give me that feeling of grandeur and history so I find Iain comment very agreeable. But I also fancy myself a bit of a pragmatist who tries to ground his feelings in reality--who strips away all those emotional bells and whistles to get at the core of his being. And, without question, I value kata.
We often talk about kata as the vehicle through which past masters were able to record their techniques for future generations. Now that we have such impressive recording technology as the home video, what use does kata hold for that function? Couldn't we take all possible techniques from the kata and teach the techniques without the form?
One argument is that kata allows us to practice the techniques when we don't have training partners. Does anyone actually feel that they improve their skill at certain techniques by practicing the solo forms. Are there certain techniques that are enhanced by the practice of kata and certain ones that are not? Which ones? I find that whether or not the practice of a kata actually feels like the practice of the chosen application serves as a good index for the validity of a particular application.
What other value does kata contain that makes us so interested in preserving it as an effective training technique? This is a big question.