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Black Tiger
Black Tiger's picture
Creating Kata?

Has anyone considered or actually created their own Kata?

I ask because I look at Kata created 50 to 200 years ago and the fighting systems were relevant to the environment of how one was attacked and who and where one was attacked and what with. Did they have their own issues being told you can't create a Kata etc you got to stick to what you've been taught.

What's the difference between Itosu Sensei Creating a Kata and say Abernathy Sensei creating a Kata. Both would have an understanding of Karate, what works what doesn't etc etc. why is that a Master from 50 to 100+ years ago has more credibility that say Me or any of the Guys on Here Like Iain or Tau etc who are extremely experience Martial Artists creating a extremely credible Kata.

These days it predominantly muggers or drunks etc so creating one for today's society is I feel relevant to karate.

But would a Kata created by a modern Karateka be considered as bonefide or would it be dismissed by "haters"

My reasoning behind this is that my Style of Ashihara Karate has Modern Jissen Kata as opposed to Traditional Kata as used by the Origin of his Karate Training which is Kyokushin. I can't comment on Enshin Kata, it looks Similar to Ashihara Kata but has its suttle differences

Kihon Kata 3

And Kihon Kata 2

Now Even Sosai Oyama was known to "create" a kata

Garyu Kata

Now for me several of the Kata tend to be similar so for example the 2 Ashihara Kata have been blended to create a Kihon Dai Kata with a few Techniques added of my own.

I've Done this for Kihon Kata - Reducing it from 3 Kata to 2.

For Kumite Kata - reducing it from 5 Kata to 2

And Jissen Kata from 2 Kata to 1 (although I've used Shoshin Kata 2 & 3 as well as Jissen Kata 1 & 2 to "create" 1 super kata)

Although they are different, Its only the same as making all 3 Naihanchi/Tekki Kata as 1 full Kata or the Pinan/Heian Series as 1 main Kata etc

It works well as its reduces the amount of Kata one needs to learn thus being able to concentrate on Bunkai/Ohyo of the Kata better.

With the Traditional Kata I've left them as they are, but I'm toying with the idea of merging Naihanchi with Niseishi kata, BUT cannot see where or how they could join for a better Bunkai Ohyo

bowlie's picture

I wondered about this as a leson idea to get people to think about the techniques they would use in a real fight. Sort of in the same way as the Hienan series. The students could make their own kata to record their favorite / best moves, and therefore their individual style. I was even wondering about using this as grading criteria. If they can create a kata, then explain why and demostrate that they have made an effective fighting system for them, thats pretty good. The exercise would get people thinking about wich techniques work best for them, and also about the nature of kata as a recording device.

As to why we dont need more kata, well the origionals have everything we need, dont we? violence is timeless really, at least broadly. A drunken thug is the same in 21st C uk and 17th C china

Jason Lester
Jason Lester's picture

Hi Ken,

i have indeed created my own Kata based on my real life fighting experience's, however, i dont teach it and if i did or shared it on youtube etc, i doubt it would gain fame so to speak like the Pinan / Heian's and other Kata. Im happy just to pass it on to my children if they want to study Karate and when ready.

It doesnt matter who creates a Kata today for the mystery behind the Bunkai of ancient Kata will continue to grow, keep Karate-Ka exploring and the passion burning. No body knows the real Bunkai for the Kata's passed down, no one is right or wrong when sharing their ideas.

Fighting is fighting and is no different today as it was hundreds of years ago, so to study a single Kata in depth one could easily defend themselves against modern thugs etc.

The Kata of yesterday will always be in the spotlight  and the real true Bunkai will always remain a mystery till the end of time.

Kind regards,


stephen's picture

Kata isn't a sacred cow, but we do have a cultural legacy in them, and at least they 'point the way'. I enjoy kata just for the aesthetics of them, never mind th e applications too! So for me it's two aspects.

 Kata provides a framework for training outside the dojo. If I'm  at home and wanting to train, I might not have a set goal in mind. If I do a kata then I have a raison d'etre for training, so it's a good way to warm up.

I think that if anyone has something to record and they want to put that  into a kata, then why not?

Maybe people should have their own personal kata, one that evolves over time so today's kata might not look anything like last year's kata.

There's an article here on one person's progress in developing a kata, and his reasons for doing so: http://dandjurdjevic.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/jisui-my-hybrid-internalexternal.html

Th0mas's picture

Hi Stephen

Dan often posts on these forums and it would be interesting if we could open a discussion around his rationale behind creating the kata.

I have skimmed his blog post (unfortunately I don't have time to trawl the huge amount of content Dan can produce) and clearly the amount of effort he has gone to to create his take on gekisai kata is very impressive.

From my brief review, it would seem the rationale for his new kata was to find a way to incorporate Chinese internal MA principles within a more hard style fighting style (like karate) and come up with something that was greater than the sum of its parts. Therefore allowing both sides of the MA world to benefit from that juxtaposition.

What I struggle with is that this is a similar rationale that Asai took to creating the Junro kata's (he noticed how Western karateka were very stiff and lacked fluidity in the way they moved and created a whole bunch of kata to help improve this...). It didn't really work very well..

For me, Dan's Kata seems to focus a little too much on performance over function. Personally I want a kata to have a raft of fighting principles underpinning the form, that deal with a particular senario or common self-protection theme. This is were I feel kata works best. The form of a kata as a process, and the way a practitioner moves, is very personal and is suseptable to change. Whilst the fighting principles are something of an outcome and rely less on a single path to success.

It may be that without a background in the Chinese internal fighting arts you may struggle understand the movement principles demonstrated in Dan's kata.

Anyway I stand to be corrected (I am sure Dan will respond smiley ).

Dan Djurdjevic
Dan Djurdjevic's picture

Hi Thomas.

Essentially this kata is a research kata.  You are right that it prioritises a way of movement - but that is because it is entirely an exploration of particular kinds of movement.  It is not intended to create or introduce techniques per se, but rather to explore one specific aspect of kata.  For this reason, I deliberately chose a very simple kata in terms of technique (gekisai) so as not to distract from the focus of the exercise.

My blog post is very detailed because it describes precisely why I structured each move the way I did.  I wrote it as a "complete record" rather than as something I thought many people would actually read.  Those interested in the intricacies of internal arts movement might wish to delve deeper, but I suspect most karateka/martial artists won't.

Yes, Asai was trying to make his kata movements more "flowing".  But in my respectful opinion, he did not succeed in this regard (he nonetheless achieved a great deal - I am just talking about the "flow" aspect here).  In my view, he did not understand connectivity (flow) fully - at least not in the sense of the internal arts, which prioritise this concept. 

I also understand that Asai, like many others, implemented his theories across all his kata.  Clearly I too could apply some of my conclusions from my research exercise to "change" all my existing karate kata.  But this is not something I would ever contemplate doing.  

For one thing, my research exercise reveals that there are multiple ways of "moving with flow" (ie. what I call "preserving momentum").  My  research was an attempt to analyse the diffferent ways of flowing in some sort of context.  Choosing between these methods of flow is, I've discovered, somewhat arbitrary.  I found myself making such choices in this exercise.  Even though I had reasons for choosing one over another for a particular context, I concede that this was largely a matter of personal taste.  My "interim" forms which focus on taiji, bagua and xingyi seperately reveal variations that ultimately bear almost no resemblance to each other or my "finished product".

Moreover kata/form isn't only about momentum flow.  Changing karate kata to make them "internal" or "Chinese" or "flowing" etc. ignores that they have their own valid and important  attributes/focal points which should not be abandoned by virtue of some "grand theory" (ie. dogma).  This is where "sine wave" and other such "theories" come unstuck, in my view: they make too many sweeping changes on purely ideological grounds.  (What is particularly odd about such ideolgoical "theories" is that they often have very little supporting them - certainly no systematic research.  General Choi's "sine wave" occupies a paragraph of his book.) 

So my research exercise was not about changing kata.  It was about gaining a deeper understanding of flow in movement - how it works, what its function is and how it can be applied to all form - if not in actual kata performance, then in the context of bunkai.  You can only really perform this sort of research by taking an existing external form and seeing what would happen if you applied internal arts "flow dynamics" - hence my "kenkyugata".  Analysing the internal arts (taijiquan, baguazhang or xingyiquan) on their own will only take you part of the way.  You need to compare such arts to something that is nothing like them.

If my research form is useful to some karateka as an adjunct to understand one area of focus (ie. internal arts "flow") then so much the better.  But it is an exercise in focus - not a "new paradigm" a la Asai etc.

chrishanson68's picture

Hi All, 

I've started creating planning notes for creating my own Kata within my master's system of Dai Nisei Kempo.  Our teacher encourages it.  He did it for himself,and passed it down to us, so I want to follow in this path.

Currently, I have categorized it into components, so i'm planning to create the following katas:

1. Kick Kata

2. Punch Kata

3. Block/defence kata

4. Self defence Kata - here I will fuse many of the kata I know into specific themes (e.g., entries, take downs, and grips etc.)

I'm working on one today....extracting from Praying Mantis, and Kempo material I know, along with fine tuning my Kick Kata.



Marc's picture

Black Tiger wrote:

Has anyone considered or actually created their own Kata?

Kenei Mabuni writes that his father Kenwa Mabuni created and a kata especially for women's self-defense. Now you could say that Mabuni was of course a great master, since he is the founder of Shito-Ryu, but he came after Itosu anyway. (The book is "Leere Hand" of which I only have a German translation. The original is in Japanese from 2001 and the title would translate as "Inivitation to Budo Karate".)

In the same book, criticizing the livelessness of competition kata performances, Kenei Mabuni suggests that new katas could be created especially for kata competions. Those kata could contain basic karate moves and demanding athletic moves to display great athletic skill, and such katas could be normalized in detail which would ease the acceptance of karate as on Olympic sport. He hopes that then the original budo katas could be left alone so that they may be revived as the effective fighting systems that they are.

You might also want to take a look at the book "Five Years One Kata" by Bill Burgar. He worked his (own) way through the kata Gojushio-Sho in depth. Based on his own interpretation of this kata as a fighting system he modified the moves to match his personal applications. In the book he explains how he approached it and describes in detail all his applications together with a step by step comparison of the original and of his moves of the kata.

Personally I teach a childrens class (about 8 to 13 yearolds), and a while ago we created our own kata as a project to teach what kata actually is and how they may have come about. What we did was this:

  1. We sat down and I asked the kids what kinds of attack they commonly see or experience in school. I was pretty happy to hear that basically nothing really serious happens in the schools in our neighbourhood. But we collected a few common things that might happen in the schoolyard.
  2. I did my homework and chose possible solutions for the given scenarios. The solutions were all designed to work for kids against kids. So no funky head wrenches or joint breaks.
  3. Within the following weeks we went through the scenarious and the solutions I came up with and tried them out.
  4. After trying out one thing with a partner we then rehearsed the moves we did as a solo form. And then we connected them into a kata sequence.
  5. When our kata project was finished we decided for an appropriate name. Later that year we presented the kata and its applications at a dojo-internal event.

The kids had a lot of fun and I think they learned a good deal about what kata is (and hopefully a bit about how to cope with some of the more common aggressive actions they might face in the schoolyard). If you teach a childrens class I can absolute recommend such a project.

I think that in the end everybody who trains karate for self-defense probably develops their favorite techniques or combinations that work for them. I cannot see anything wrong in putting those in a sequence to memorize them.

On the other hand, I am always fascinated by the richness of the traditional kata we have inherited. I would therefore not want to drop any of those great pieces of martial art. As Funakoshi said: "Perform kata exactly; actual combat is another matter." So I suggest that, if you want to change one of the existing katas for yourself, that's great, but try to keep it as it is for everybody who you teach it to. That way your students can then later on make their own modifications for themselves, but on the same grounds as you did.

Take care, Marc

chrishanson68's picture

Thanks for the share Marc.  You sound like a good teacher.  Are you in the educational field? My guess is yes.  I am an elementary school teacher by trade, and I teach Martial Arts at my school as an extra-curricular program.  With the world of video games and anime, i find nowdays, kids and attention spans are attacked greatly by media and video games....making information readily available in various quick access formats are NOT good for kids in my opinion.  Having said all of this, teaching kata to kids, I find very challenging nowdays.  They simply can't focus at times.

But never the less, it's an ultimate rote learning experience that is so necessary.  Athletes use it, musicians live by this, and practically any performance art needs a "kata" or goal specific drill sequence...call it anyting you like, it needs to be packaged and selectively connected for a meaningful experience for students.

Creating kata is the ulitmate art form i think and must be done for various reasons.  As per your response above, I guess you can have Kata for various purposes: competition and/or budo.

The kata's I'm planning to develop are for my own personal system, a way to extract the key concepts and ideas.  A way to pass it down to my daughter and my students as I age.  I plan to film this eventually....and frankly, I am proud of myself to be able to reach this stage in my art....thought I'd never get there....but it's a neat way also to examine and relearn what you have learned as you are packaging and repackaging the techniques.

All the best!


Marc's picture

chrishanson68 wrote:

Thanks for the share Marc.  You sound like a good teacher.  Are you in the educational field?

Thanks for the nice words, Chris. I'm working mainly as a web-developer but have also held seminars on using computer software and internet media. I am very much into usability, i.e. making it easy for the user/reader/student to accomplish their goals. I started to teach karate only a few years ago.

chrishanson68 wrote:

Creating kata is the ulitmate art form i think and must be done for various reasons.  As per your response above, I guess you can have Kata for various purposes: competition and/or budo.

The kata's I'm planning to develop are for my own personal system, a way to extract the key concepts and ideas.  A way to pass it down to my daughter and my students as I age.  I plan to film this eventually....and frankly, I am proud of myself to be able to reach this stage in my art....thought I'd never get there....but it's a neat way also to examine and relearn what you have learned as you are packaging and repackaging the techniques.

Yes, I think you can certainly create your own katas to package the stuff you learned and made your own. Maybe you even should do that. Kata is certainly one of the best forms of memorizing movements. But you will have to practice it regularly. If you simply want to record your applications, tactics and priciples then video and other permanent media are perhaps better suited for the job. Its like music. Repeatedly rehearsing a song is the best way to memorize it if you want to be able to perform it with confidence, routine and verve, or even improvise over it. But recording it on tape and writing down the notes and even writing comments on how and why you created your musical piece helps a lot if you want to make sure you don't forget your ideas, or if you want to reach a larger or later audience.

So I suggest that if you create your own kata, be sure to record as much as possible about it, i.e. what, why, how, what for, whence and so on. Use video, audio, writing and drawings.

Because, wouldn't it be great, if we had all that from the old masters.

On the other hand, if we indeed had all that, maybe we would not be as creative about bunkai/oyo as we are today. I mean look at the Group Bunkai Analysis on the Opening sequence of Saifa on this forum. If we had a definite application handed down from whoever created Saifa, would we see so many great contributions with different interpretations?

Take care, Marc

Jose Garcia
Jose Garcia's picture

Well, Sorry for I didnt read all the comments yet in this case, but i'll do it later.

I think traditional katas are made by people who had deep knowledge of martial arts, so by the moment they are for me the essential guide to keep learning. But not sacred cows perhaps, specially for advanced karatekas. Hey, Japanesse masters make their own versions still today and change things. And some even create their own karate style, which includes more than a kata!

One of the old black belts in our dojo has brought his little song to karate and told us a little anecdota. The boy is obviously white belt, and the other day when father came home, he found his song practicing. "I have invented a kata!" shouted the boy :D which i really found pretty good thought I didnt tell so because I'm new in the dojo and don't know yet the entire way of thinking of them.

I dont think eveybody is ready to create a Kata. Is not just about connecting moves and then put it a name. But it's like someone here posted, you can practice your favourite movements or the most difficult together in a special order. hey, when we are making new kihon exersices, aren't we making mini-katas? When we are preparing for grade test and have to create some keri-waza or uchi-waza, aren't us or our senseis making new micro-katas?

I also think you can perform i.e. all the Pinan altogether, or Sanchin and Tensho together like Gogen Yamaguchi did at least once. Hey, every karate style has differences on katas. If I been a shito ryu practicioner and then a shotokan one ¿can i try a mix of Tekki and Naihanchi, which are the same but different?

After all, in Shitoryu they have Bassai Dai, Matsumura no Pasai and Tomari no Passai, which are different versions of the same, and Pinan are suppossed to be begginer's versions of Bassai Dai and (i believe) Koshokun or perhaps Kushanku. I think a son of Mabuni even said you don't need to practice any Pinan once you learn the original versions.Well, that different versions of the kata is a different case, like in Uechi Ryu you have three diferent versions of the same kata (begginer, advanced, master).

Anyway, for people like Iain Abernethy, Patrick McCarthy, Taira Sensei, and many more i think it would be allowed to create and pass new katas, the same as many are creating new styles (which is suppossed to be a bigger system than a kata or two), because they have deep knowledge on karate, fight systems, personal defense and bunkai. For me or anyone it would be perhaps ok te create it but no to pass it, at least "like a Kata", perhaps just as a kihon exercise. ;)

JWT's picture

In my Shotokan classes I teach a small number of Shotokan kata, but in my classes I teach two of my own kata to students in my system. They have both been through a number of variations and a prolonged period of analysis and rejection before I reached a point where I was happy with their format and integrity, and I settled on their current formats in October last year.

The initial prompt to codify a number of related tactical principles, movement exercises and combative drills into a single form came from a spate of minor injuries and illnesses that took a few students away from class and a desire to give them an exercise to refine their technique while at home without a partner or equipment. I also wanted to address some failings in movement, stances and stability that I had seen in some of my senior students which I felt came from my not addressing enough in class certain exercises that dominated my personal home practice. I have subsequently found using the two forms more productive in my own training than simply going through the drills that form part of their roots.

Each of the two forms has a different theme and multiple layers of application and redundancy which vary according to the circumstances. The individual techniques are predominantly composed of my interpretations of movements seen in Shuri-te, Tomari-te and Arakaki kata along with related variations and principles from my cross training and personal experience and observations over the years. 

css1971's picture

I certainly don't think kata are sacrosanct, they exist for a purpose and if you really understand how they work then creating or modifying them isn't per se a problem. The problem comes from those who think they do, but don't really.

Forms have been used by many cultures. Even the Scots had sword kata. You can see what remains at any highland games. The english still perform their kata at summer fairs. So the development of forms/kata is commonplace in martial systems. Creating and continuously developing your own personal kata can help train the techniques you are most comfortable using. Particularly in an emergency. It can also help understand how other kata work.


Whether it's worth passing on I'm not so sure, it depends if you think you've found something that isn't available in the existing katas. Have you live tested the techniques extensively on pub or nightclub doors for example? What is the criteria that makes the kata worth passing on?

One of the problems I have with kata within Karate is that it's a one person drill and that leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation when passed on. i,e, it's lossy. Other martial arts often use two people, the attacker and the defender so when passing kata along, the martial techniques and their context is crystal clear, bunkai isn't required. In fact i've come to think of the need for the process of analysis of kata as parasitic rather than beneficial. It's a search for what was known rather than having the answer known allowing further research into the unknown. Or put another way by increasing the number of kata being passed along you are making the search problem worse, not better.

karate10's picture

I started my own Bo Kata not so long ago, but takes time and patients to the max and in depth generalization but its still in process. Recently, in my Kyokushin Karate Organization, they took off Bo No Kata 1,2 and 3 out of their curriculum which I don't like honestly, but I still practice all 3 of their Kata forms at home and even at the dojo which my Shihan encourage me to do so we don't forget it.Some students will say to me that "Its pointless and you're just wasting time", but thats them, but not in my nature.