“Kata is only beginning but respect it because it has been created by warrior, don’t get stuck to it. Explore it deeply with or without weapons” -Zoran Mijic
Here is an excellent article by my good friend Zoran Mijic, from Sogobo Dojo. I have also provided some light editing for flow and English localization.
A common point to all martial arts today are the techniques, which in the Japanese language is called “kata.” The word kata can be written two different ways in kanji: 型 and 形. both ways express different aspects, philosophy, techniques, transmission, path and goal, and they are tightly connected with the idea of perfection (Sei Kaku; 正確).
Currently, practitioners of martial arts are debating as to whether the practice of kata makes us rigid, because many of them have heard this from Hatsumi Sensei, but fist we need to understand kata, and it’s purpose, in order to get rid of form (Mugei; 無芸). Soke always demonstrates a technique and then says, “Okay, do it!” and the practitioners do what they have seen, or as they think it should be done. When they demonstrate, they perform the techniques through their own “henka”, and justify it with words like, “Hatsumi sensei has said that form is useless.” Of course, you can do what you want to do, but that is not what Hatsumi sensei wants. Remember that your henka is only a bad excuse for poorly performed techniques. Kata should be practiced consistently All the henka for those kata are described in densho.
In order to be able to understand one form or technique, we can only achieve that if we are able to perform it precisely through taiden (learning through the bodies experience; 体傳) as given to us by our sensei, and after that, from him we may receive kuden (oral transmission; 口伝) for that same technique. The kuden for a technique may sometimes be found in the name of the technique. You need to understand that the taiden of that technique comes first, and sometimes the name of the technique has nothing to do with the kata itself.
Also, don’t confuse the Kenkaku (feeling or sense; 感覚) – which many practitioners of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu use so easily – and that of kuden. Kenkaku exists only to help you understand how one technique should be done. To fight purely based on this feeling is not enough in combat.
Within the martial arts of the Japanese warrior, we have a concept, “初傳わ奥伝也”, which we can translate as “the basic level is the highest level.” The first technique, the basic technique (kihon waza; 基本技) is the highest technique. Within that reason, this is a very important limitation, that is in such a way that during training we only practice what has been shown to us. This is so we can perform the technique precisely and without mistake (Jissen Gata; 実戦型), and after a time, what we want becomes simply unnecessary. What we want to do is simply our wish, and to practice martial arts is to work on removing Kokoro Suki (Weakness in our hearts; 心隙間).
The Japanese word for “heart” is “Kokoro” (心), but it can also be translated as “soul”, “spirit”, or “mind”. However, none of these translation can express properly the depth of the Japanese word “kokoro”. Ninjutsu is an art – jutsu (術), and within that reason our techniques must be perfect, becasue it’s creation is drawn from the blood of the warriors who created it from battle. That battle could be done for a good or bad purpose, and becasue of that, we cannot accept lesser.
Original source: https://www.facebook.com/notes/zoran-mijic/kata/206200159411186