Kata judo introduction first part

Kata or formal demonstration is an important part of Judo training. A pre­arranged opportunity is given and then the appropriate technique exe­cuted. Under these ideal conditions, a far greater degree of perfection is required than when a throw is brought off in the flurry of Randori or free practice.

It is now compulsory for students to prepare themselves for examination in the Kata here described before they can take the ist Dan (first Black Belt grade) in the British Judo Association, the official Olympic body in this country. This book is designed to help them; by studying the explanations and pictures, it will be possible to master all the main points and most of the fine points as well.

I introduce each throw with the formal ‘standard’ text, as laid down by the Japanese Convention on Kata held in i960. This text can be taken to be the official version of Kodokan Kata all over the world. Alongside the text are simplified drawings to show the main points. For these I am grateful to Mr. T. Broadbent (ist Dan). It helps to look first at a drawing where only the essential lines are shown; photographs can confuse by too much detail.

The pictures in the strips were taken with a new type of Japanese camera developed for analysis of movement – in general a better picture is obtained than with stills from a cine film. The demonstrations were made specially for this book by Mr. Kisaburo Watanabe (5th Dan), winner of the Asian Games Judo tourney in 1958, former Tokyo champion, and a celebrated Judo stylist, and Mr. John Newman (4th Dan) who trained for four years in the famous Judo centre at Tenri, Japan.

For further study, especially of the thrower’s part, I include some pictures of Mr. Teizo Kawamura (7th Dan); Mr. Kawamura is a noted authority, and fine points can be studied in these pictures. Some other pictures include demonstrations by Mr. Yoshizo Matsumoto, also a leading authority on Kata.

Lastly, to give an idea of the actual movement, on the top right-hand corner and the bottom right-hand corner of this book you will find two typical throws demonstrated in ‘flicker’ fashion. The pictures begin at the end of the book; hold the pages in the left hand and riffle them down, watching the pictures. They are set out in this way so that you will be looking at a flat surface. These are cine film pictures and not all the details are clear, but they are put in to give an idea of two typical techniques as they appear when Kata is demon­strated. Once you have the idea of the rhythm of the movement, you can apply it to the other throws.

Study the text for details, and the pictures for the general “feel” of all the throws. The pictures are not poses but taken at full speed; the occasional loss of clarity is more than compensated by having pictures of what actually happens in real Kata performance.

I have divided the text so that each ‘role5 is presented in its own column; this makes it easier to learn and check the details.


Before the Meiji Restoration (1868), much of the training in Jujutsu schools was by means of Kata. However certain of the main schools, especially Yoshin-ryu but also Kito-ryu, Tenshin-shinyo-ryu and others had begun to emphasize Randori as well, though not a few still concentrated on Kata alone. Some of the Katas were very long; in the Tenshin-shinyo-ryu there were some 120 techniques.

Dr. Kano in his Kodokan Judo laid the stress on Randori, with Kata as an auxiliary, but this does not mean the latter is ignored in his system. His programme was to teach Randori first, giving instruction as appropriate, introducing the pupils naturally to the principles behind the various waza. After some progress had been made, the Kata training was begun. Dr. Kano compared his training method to learning a foreign language: grammar is at the beginning just taught as points come up in conversation or writing, and only later studied formally. (It may be added that Dr. Kano had a good mastery of English; he was also a leading figure in Japanese education, whose level was and is very high indeed. So he had deep knowledge and wide experience of problems of teaching both in and outside the Judo movement.)

He gave great thought to the construction of Katas for his Judo. Mastery of Kata is necessary, but he believed that the traditional Jujutsu Katas, as they stood, had not much value for his training, and he therefore made a new Nage- no-kata (formal demonstration of throwing) of fifteen throws, and later a Katame-no-kata (formal demonstration of holds) of fifteen holding tech­niques. In 1908 Dr. Kano took the chair at a big convention of the all-Japan Butokukai (Knightly Arts Association, a semi-official body to which the police etc. belonged, and which had adopted Kodokan Judo in place of the old Jujutsu styles). The convention met to try to formulate a standard system of Kata. At this meeting, which was attended by seventy of the leading experts, Dr. Kano presented the two Katas as then in use at the Kodokan. The meeting unanimously adopted the Nagenokata as it stood, and the other with two or three amendments. These two Katas were to be called the Katas of Randori, as distinct from Kime-no-kata or Kata of extreme measures.

Dr. Kano recommended a book published in 1924 by two of his chief pupils, Mr. Yamashita and Mr. Nagaoka, both of whom attained the rank of 10th Dan. Among the elaborate discussions of each throw are given numerous variations, and in the present book I mention the most important of them.

In i960 another meeting of prominent Kata authorities was held at the Kodokan under the chairmanship of President Risei Kano (Dr. Kano’s son) to standardize the Kata. In this book I have translated the text, published by the Kodokan, of the conclusions reached at the meeting. This text may now be taken as the standard form of the Kata. I include, however, many variationsformerly permissible (though not now ‘standard’) because some of us learnt them and should now reconsider our practice. Most of the details are taken from the Yamashita-Nagaoka treatise, but I have also consulted the later works – none of them, however, so detailed. I studied for some time under Mr. Nagaoka, and some notes are based on his oral instructions.

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In conclusion let me add one thing. Kata is like handwriting. In writing, there are certain accepted forms of the letters, but a good deal of variation is permissible before one can say that a letter no longer corresponds to what it is supposed to be. Similarly in Kata there is a good deal of leeway in performance. But this leeway must not go too far; beyond a certain point the thing becomes definitely ‘wrong’. It is better to keep to the original as closely as one can, just as a good writer does, but not so rigidly that the performance becomes stilted and lacks flow.

Japanese Words

You need to know the following Japanese words. Joseki is the place of honour in the do jo or training hall; in the absence of any other indication, it is the wall opposite the door. Tori is the thrower and Uke the man thrown. Shizen- hontai is an upright posture with the feet level underneath the shoulders; right Shizentai is a modification of this, with the right foot half a pace forward and the right shoulder above it. Left Shizentai is the same on the other side. In right (or left) Jigotai the feet are wider apart and the knees are bent, the shoul­ders well inside the feet. Often the body is rather bent forward.

Tsugiashi, in which many Kata movements are made, is a method of walking in which one foot moves first and then the other foot is brought a half-step behind it. The rear foot never catches up or passes. Tsuzukiashi is roughly the ordinary method of walking.

Waza means a technique; Tsukuri is the preparatory movement, including both action on opponent and adjusting one’s own position; Kake is the actual execution of the technique. Tsurikomi is the lift-pull which is frequenty used to draw the opponent out of balance. Ukemi is the Judo method of falling, which is the first thing learnt in Judo and which here is taken for granted.

Budo is the collective word for all the knightly arts, including Judo.


For instruction in Kata, I owe a debt of gratitude to my first teachers in London, Mr. Y. Tani and Mr. G. Koizumi (now 8th Dan), to Mr. H. Nagaoka (ioth Dan) and other teachers at the Kodokan. For help with this book, I am grateful to the members and teachers of the Renshuden, especially Mr. Watanabe and Mr. Newman.

Trevor Leggett Renshuden Judo Academy

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