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Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture
Teaching Kata

Hi all

In my club i developed a method of teaching kata via story telling. It works great with younger students, elderly and students with learning disabilities.

What interesting ways you developed to teach?

Kind regards


Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Les,

I think this is a very innovative way to teach kata. It reminds me of the process “memory champions” use to remember the order of several pack of playing cards. They make each of the cards represent something memorable / unusual and then create a story / imagine a journey where they see all the memorable objects interacting. Much easier to remember than playing cards!

I’ve never used that process for a full kata, but likening positions to other things can help. For example, as a child I remember one of my instructors describing the weight distribution for cat-stance as being, “like you’re sitting on the edge of a bar stool”. I also say the leg position of shiko-dachi should be like, “a child’s drawing of house” i.e. the shins and an imaginary line from knee to knee form a rectangle, and the thighs form a triangle (roof) on top. I find it a good way to stop them having the shins slope or having the hips too low.

I also used to struggle getting the details of takedown toward the end of Kushanku across to people, and then one day I described it as, “Swing their arm like a baseball bat, step under, and then ring their arm like a church bell”. They all got it immediately and I’ve taught it that way ever since.

I also recall teaching a ground-fighting escape once that involved walking around on the floor. The student was struggling, and I asked them if they liked The Simpsons. They said they did, and I asked them if they could remember Homer’s celebration when Mr Burns demanded he quit a union leader. They laughed, said they did remember, and then did the escape as they should :-) The escape has had the nickname “The Homer” ever since.


I think this can be one of the advantages of the less cryptic “Chinese names” (as we see in the Bubishi). “Like a bird flapping it’s wings”, “Like a demon helping someone take off their shoes”, “Strike the branch of the plum tree so hard the flowers fall off”, etc are more memorable than less poetic labels. Some of Funakoshi’s names are good like this too ie “topple a folding screen”, “spinning top”, etc.

While I’ve never used a story to teach a full kata, I can see the value in helping people learn them. Poetic terminology and descriptions for individual moves are something I use though.

All the best,


Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Thanks Iain,

I really like the Homer description, it puts different perspective on groundwork.