Kata (型 or 形) (literally: "form") is a Japanese word describing detailed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs. Karate Kata are executed as a specified series of approximately 4 to 40 moves, with stepping and turning, while attempting to maintain perfect form. The practitioner is counseled to visualize the enemy attacks and their responses. Karateka "read" a kata in order to explain the imagined events. There are perhaps 100 kata across the various forms of karate, each with many minor variations.
Traditionally, kata are taught in stages. Previously learned kata are repeated to show better technique or power as a student acquires knowledge and experience. It is common for students testing to repeat every kata they have learned but at an improved level of quality. The student will perform one new kata and one or two previous ones, to demonstrate how much they have progressed.
The various styles of karate study different kata, or variations of a common core. Some kata may therefore be known by two names, one in Japanese, the other in Okinawan/Chinese. This is because Master Funakoshi renamed many kata to help Karate spread throughout Japan.
The Ten Points of Kata:
All Karateka should study the Ten Points of the Kata and consider these when practicing each Kata
YOI NO KISIN: The spirit of getting ready. Be prepared for your opponent in the Kata.
INYO: The active and the passive. Consider both the offensive and the defensive aspects of the Kata.
CHIKARA NO KYOJAKU: Use of strength. Balance your power in relation to the movements in the Kata.
WAZA NO KANKYU: Speed of movement. The speed of each movement in the Kata.
TAI NO SHINSHUKU: Expansion and contraction. The form of the body in the Kata.
KOKYU: Breathing. Understand breath and posture control in relation to the movements in the Kata.
TYAKUGAN: Targeting. Know the purpose of each movement in the Kata.
KIAI: Shouting. Demonstrate good martial spirit in the Kata.
KEITAI NO HOJI: Positioning. Movement and stance in the Kata.
ZANSHIN: Alertness. Retaining your guard (alertness) for the whole of the Kata, and beyond.
Bunkai (分解), literally meaning "analysis" or "disassembly", is a term used in Japanese martial arts referring to the application of fighting techniques extracted from the moves of a "form" (kata).
Bunkai is usually performed with a partner or a group of partners which execute predefined attacks, and the student performing the kata responds with defenses, counterattacks, or other actions, based on a part of the kata. This allows the student in the middle to understand what the movements in kata are meant to accomplish. It may also illustrate how to improve technique by adjusting distances, time moves properly, and adapt a technique depending on the size of an opponent. Some kata have another layer of application that is taught using an Oyo Bunkai. Different practitioners will learn or discover alternative applications, but the bunkai, like the kata, varies based on the style and the teacher.
A single kata may be broken into anywhere from a few to a few dozen applications, and the same sequence of kata moves may sometimes be interpreted in different ways resulting in several bunkai. Some martial arts require students to perform bunkai for promotion.
Bunkai can be obvious or elusive depending on the technique in question, the moves preceding and following it, and the individual practitioner. There are usually many stages of depth of comprehension of bunkai only reached through the passage of time. The terms toridai and himitsu are used to refer to techniques not readily seen to the casual observer and hidden techniques within kata. For example, in Gōjū-ryū karate, two-man kata training is used to reinforce bunkai and correct technique. If techniques in the kata are not performed correctly they will not be effective in two man training.