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Graziano's picture
Kata in MMA Matches

Hello to everyone, I have got a question for you. I know the karate is a civilian martial arts for self defense, but I was wondering if Is possibile in your opinion using kata techiniches like takedown, grapping etc take for example gedan badai no like block ecc, on Mma match o similitaries, eventually adapting them on different context?

Anf's picture

There's loads of useful practical stuff in kata / hyung. Iain shows a lot of applications in his videos.

Personally, I like seeing people with vastly greater expertise than myself demonstrating applications, but equally, I like to try to figure them out for myself.

Some people try to look for the exact application the creator of a given form intended. I personally I'm not convinced there is such a thing. I personally think the creator of a given form wanted to condense the principles of their art into the form, in the hope that the student, through relentless practice, finds ways to move that work in many situations.

In the style I practice, 'basic form 1' is taught to absolute beginners. It is very simple, comprising a block, a punch, and a kick, strung together in a very simple sequence. It is widely accepted to be nothing more than a teaching aid to train stances and basic technique. Certainly, if taken literally, it has no practical value at all apart from the obvious physical exercise benefits. Yet it is my favourite form. Why? Because if I take the very same moves but tweak them ever so slightly, I can see hammer fist strikes, entries, various leg sweeps, evasive moves etc, and I keep finding more every time I look. The same is of course true of the more advanced forms, but they tend to be very well covered by the real experts while the beginner ones tend to be overlooked.

Sorry, long answer I know. But the short answer is yes, you can use what you learn in kata for practical self defence. Just probably not so much if you take it too literally.

EDIT: Sorry, I think I misread the question. I'm really not sure if you can apply kata in an MMA match or not. I guess it depends on the rules. Karate was never intended as a sport, although it has been adapted to that purpose. It's original intention is to end a fight in the shortest time possible. There's lots of nasty joint destruction techniques in it. I know very little about MMA other than what I see on TV, which seems to be largely the opposite to Karate, in that it's strength against strength in a slogging/wrestling match while Karate is more about technique that allows a physically less tough person defend themselves against a potentially stronger and larger aggressor.

Wastelander's picture

The techniques of kata show up quite frequently in MMA, particularly when opponents' arms start touching, or they begin clinching. I've actually pointed out a lot of examples over time, but didn't bother to catalog them in one location for review. I did write a short article looking at a sequence from Gekisai that showed up in the UFC, though: http://www.karateobsession.com/2015/08/maryna-moroz-and-gekisai.html

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Hi Graziano

As Westlander said, if you lok closely at the fights you find countles moves which are in the kata.  Reason that some people say it is not from kata, in my opinion is that kata have "sterile" technique and in fight its dirty. When you start pressure testing kata, techniques are looking like those in mma.

We have only two hands and two legs,  so the same concepts will be found in different arts.

Kind regards


Chris R
Chris R's picture

I think it's possible to use some of the techniques and principles for that purpose, but karate training as it is usually done is not suitable for mma. Karate instructors are almost always not fight coaches or experienced fighters, and their instruction won't make you a good sport fighter. Karate training is also inefficient for mma because you waste time doing stuff like kata. But if you were to have a proper fight coach who understood karate, then yes you could adapt certain karate techniques and principles into mma.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Chris R wrote:
Karate training is also inefficient for mma because you waste time doing stuff like kata.

We should all train specifically for our goals. If the aim is winning in MMA, then I agree there is obviously no need for kata. So, in that sense it would be a “waste of time”. However, for karateka it is not a waste of time because it is the core syllabus.  

Some karate-based MMA folks do kata, but that obviously comes from their prior training and it is not something they started doing for MMA purposes.



There is also obviously some commonality in method when it comes to technique (if not tactics and objectives):


I agree with Chris’s central point though. If you want to compete in MMA, then find a good MMA coach and do what they tell you too. There seems to be little point in studying the civilian self-protection methods of kata, and then trying to flip them over. Train for the goal.

All the best,


PASmith's picture

Through Iain's work I now know that kata not only contains techniqes (the outward appearance) but also guidance on combat principles, tactics and strategies. As such while we may not often see technique that is "karate" per se or from a kata (although those are there when you look) you will see principles in action that can be found in kata.

Just off the top of my head things like setting datums, creating frames, off balancing to strike, strike into lock or throw, attacking low/high to set up attacking high/low, minimising space to prevent attacks, moving to an advantageous angle or position, using both hands together, controlling limbs to prevent offense while setting up your own offense, using instinctive "covers" to survive an initial attack and moving into a clinch to smother offense, etc.

There're obviously things in MMA that aren't really in karate or kata that are important (closing distance, feints, set ups, voluntarily taking the fight to the floor, exploiting the rules to your advantage, etc) but nonetheless the more I learn about the breadth and depth of kata the more I see it being expressed (albeit stylisitcally different) in all sorts of other sorts of combat or combat sports.