Kata can pose interesting training conundrums.
Some kata are very evenly weighted on their use of both sides of the body for the majority of the form, while others can be very singular in their distribution of movement.
In general this does not bother most practitioners; after all for those that follow the line work model of training for their kihon, all seemingly core techniques are trained equally in both sides. The same is also generally true of kumite drills.
So is there any benefit in mirroring kata on occasion? Keeping the same order of techniques but stepping out on the opposite side to normal and continuing in the same vein throughout the whole form?
I believe there is.
Although I prefer to work my kihon through impact training drills with partners rather than line work, my kumite drills are formed directly from my bunkai for the core kata I practice. In theory therefore I am practicing a version of every movement from the kata on both sides. Surely there should be no need therefore for me to mirror my kata?
Reality is quite different.
In initial practice certain movements feel unnatural.
This applies less to common core movements such as Gedan Barai, Shuto Uke etc and more to those little hand and arm transitions or turns that are not always found in line work and yet form such an important part of good application. I can do these movements with a partner, but in solo training they feel forced, less comfortable, and that tells me that more practice is needed. The solo training has given me a form of feedback that my paired training has not: I am weaker on the other side.
The transmission of the kata on one side only does not mean that is the only way to practice it. It is not practical to teach the form on both sides on a regular basis. To do so would result in an undue focus on solo training time that is inappropriate in a combative discipline.
Switching sides in the kata in class is not an attempt to fill time, or to be perverse. It is a worthwhile exercise in highlighting where we are weaker, what we don’t know and what we cannot do. It is something that we should attempt to replicate in our own training rather than solely under the supervision of our instructor.
The mirror not only shows what is there but also reveals what is missing.