“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill
“Instead of facing combat in it’s suchness, quite a few systems of martial art accumulate “fanciness” that distorts and cramps their practitioners and distracts them from the actual reality of combat.” Bruce Lee
I am often asked “does Krav Maga have katas (forms)?”. My response is usually “why would it?”.
Before I get into what I think about katas let me give you a little of my background so you know I’m not just yapping about things that I know nothing about. I was a fourth degree black belt in Taekwondo at one point in my life. I knew dozens of katas, knew dozens of “weapon” katas, had made up several “creative” katas and spent hours (and hours) practicing them. Even then I didn’t think much of them.
What is the goal of a kata? If it is just something in your art that you must learn to test for the next belt, something you enjoy doing, something that you win trophies with at a tournament I say more power to ya. If you think it is self defense training…wow, do you need to study up on what self defense really is.
I have been told that katas have many purposes. Some of what I have been told include;
PRACTICE DEFENSES AND STRIKES; Why would I want to do this to the air? If I am blocking/redirecting/defending a combative it would help a lot if someone were actually throwing a combative at me. Imagining an attack will do nothing for my timing, I can’t feel the impact or see what it does to my body, can’t see what the follow up would be because I wouldn’t know where the limb is actually going to go after impact, etc. As far as strikes are concerned throwing them to the air is what we do in warm ups. To perfect these strikes I need to be hitting something. We hit targets, shields, heavy bags ,etc. when we practice and the big rule we have is that anytime we are hitting something we are hitting it as hard as we possibly can. Under stress when I fall back on my training I have always practiced hitting things hard so that is what will come out of me.
PRACTICING COMBINATIONS; Ugh. Most of my forms were a 30 to 40 move combination. The attacker must have only moved in straight lines because that’s about how all of our movements were. Ten blocks and attacks this way, ten that way, etc., etc. One problem with most martial arts is that they are so regimented. IF my move is always practiced “A” through “F” I am going to get in trouble in the real world when the attacker does something different on “C” and derails my attack. I will be lost and freeze because this isn’t what I have engrained in my mind and muscle memory.
TIMING AND FLOW; The flow was always paced in my katas. If I am defending my life I better be going forward with anger, rage, hatred and aggression striking hard and often. Katas are not getting people ready for this. Katas are getting people good at….doing katas. I never hit the ground in a single one of my katas. This is going to be a problem in a real attack as I can pretty much count on being knocked down, slipping, taken to the ground, etc.
FIGHTING MULTIPLE ATTACKERS; This is where I really call shenanigans. Katas are generally done going all four directions like a plus symbol, representing having four different attackers. If this is your training for multiple attackers you are being attacked by slow idiots. If you study violence and see what tactics gang attacks compromise of you would see in a hurry that forms are worthless for this. You are training to keep your back to several attackers and focus on one until they are defeated. Really? Let me know how that works out for ya. If I am hitting the first guy ten times his buddy is smacking me in the back of the head during it if he has even half a brain. Do you know how we practice for multi attackers in Krav Maga? We gear up several people and have them attack us. Kinda lets us know that we better be moving, hit whoever is closest as hard as we can, not let anyone get behind us, stack the attackers, etc., etc.
It always torqued me that at tournaments the ones who always won the Kata trophies were always those who were the most flexible. Kicking straight up was pretty in a kata. In the real world kicking to the head isn’t smart…unless the attacker is lying on the ground. If I kick to the head and miss I will almost always land in a bad position. If I kick to the groin and miss I usually land in a fighting stance. In self defense a good rule is to never kick above the waist. Kick to the groin, knees, etc. Head kicking is high risk/high reward…and that is only if you spent hundreds of hours developing a decent head kick. The fact that most street attacks never let you have enough space to even attempt such a kick should tell us to spend those hundreds of practice hours on something else.
Or, I could be wrong. Go to the 1:25 mark of this vid…maybe doing a kata will make the attacker freeze and watch so you can whoop him!!