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Dustin
Dustin's picture
Visualization during kata

Hi everyone, During kata practice the most difficult aspect I have with it is actually visualizing what I am doing. I can sit down close my eyes and visualize myself doing the kata and the techniques within, however when physically practicing the kata it is like my body can't keep up with my mind, or I get lost in the flow of the kata. I feel as though I know what I am doing but just going through the motions without any real thought if that makes sense. Is there any advice someone may have for this? Thank you all.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Dustin,

That’s an important element and your experience is not uncommon. Like anything else, if we are struggling with something, we should slow it down.

Do the kata slowly, and deliberately, and visualise what is happening. Do this a few times every time you practise the kata. You can then go back to doing it “normal speed”, without thinking about the visualisation, for a few final runs through the kata. You’ll find that, in time, the visualizing will naturally bleed through to the normal speed practise.

“Visualise” can be a slightly problematic word because it has “vision” as it’s root. In kata, the “visualisation” should not just be what we “see”, but also what we feel. We should have that adrenalized focussed aggression firmly in play. We should feel it in the pit of our stomach. Going through the kata, while "seeing" the enemy, is not enough. We also need to feel like we are in fight. When we get the mindset and emotion right, along with the movement and internally “seeing” the enemy, then kata really starts to do its thing.

One key thing is to ensure that the visualisation is meaningful i.e. based on solid bunkai. Any visualisation that has you surrounded by eight people who take it in turns to “attack” with single oi-zukis along the compass points is worse than worthless. We need to “see” the realism, the angles we are taking relative to the enemy, the effect of the bodyweight shifts (stances), the enemy’s responses and reactions, etc.

If you can get that internal element working, your kata practise will exponentially increase in value and your solo-kata will develop an authenticity that will be visible to those who watch it. The video below discusses these things a little further.

The core answer to your question is to slow down the kata and practise visualisation. This has value in and of itself. When done regularly, over time you will find you can do the kata quicker and still maintain the internal element. Don’t rush it though. The main aim is not that you can whiz though the kata with visualisation in place. The main aim is that the kata contributes toward your skill combatively. Slow and deliberate kata with visualisation will do that. You can then switch to normal speed kata to work your explosiveness and body mechanics. It’s best if it can all be done at once, but not vital.

All the best,

Iain

Dustin
Dustin's picture

Thank you sensei that makes much more sense and simplier than I was making it.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Dustin,

I’m pleased that helped. There’s this old podcast on visualisation generally that you may also find interesting.

https://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/visualisation-training-podcast

This one on the solo practise of kata may also be of some use:

https://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/solo-kata-solo-training-podcast

Thanks for kicking off a thread on this important topic.

All the best,

Iain

Marc
Marc's picture

Slowing down your kata practice certainly is the way to go, so you can process all the images and ideas that go through your mind as you do the moves.

If you already know your applications for the different kata techniques or sequences, then try and visualise the applications one at a time, over and over again.

If instead you are still searching for fitting applications and you don't have a partner at hand you can start by chosing a kata technique and visualising different habitual acts of physical violence and how the technique might be applied against them. Imagine different angles, targets (where you hit them), weapons (which part of your body hits them) and methods (is it a punch, strike, lock, throw, choke, ...). Not every technique works against every kind of attack, and not all techniques are supposed to be used against the same attack (that's why katas have more than one technique).

Also don't rely only on the visual aspect of imagining an application alone, but try to imagine the tactile aspects as well.

I also find that it helps to "play" the role of the opponent: Slowly do the attack and imagine what happens to you (the attacker) when the kata technique is applied to you (by the defender).

And of course what really helps is to try the applications with an actual partner whenever you can. Work through the applications slowly with your partner so you have a chance to sense how the details of each technique affect the opponent. Where exactly do you want to hit? What exactly does the stance do? Have your partner react in a realistic way, e.g. if you hit their jaw from the side they should turn their head accordingly. The more you practice with a partner with attention to detail, the better you will become in visualising your applications. That is because visualisation will become less imagination and more remembering.

Take care,

Marc