What does it prove? Well it proves you can do 100 kata repetitions. Simply put. It proves to YOU that you can do that. You prove to yourself that you have the mental and physical discipline to be able to do that. Its not an easy thing, even for seasoned athletes. I know a lot of martial artists and I can honestly say that I have never heard any of them say they do 100 kata as part of their normal training routine. Its a CHALLENGE. One that you can undertake in the company of your dojo brothers and sisters, or by yourself, and come through the other side victorious! One that you are unlikely to ever forget.
It will be a special experience. Like climbing a mountain, it will be a journey. As you progress through 10, 20,30,40 repetitions and onwards you will have an opportunity to think on a lot of things. Initially you will probably be thinking about the kata itself. Making sure you get the moves right, keeping in time with those around you, making good kiai. You might also be thinking about the surface you are moving on – the dojo floor, the grass between your toes, the sand on the beach – thinking about how that feels. Making sure not to slip or trip as you move. After that, maybe around 10-20 repetitions in, you might be thinking how hot and thirsty you are feeling – can’t we stop for a water break, Sensei?!
But then at some point, maybe after 20-30 repetitions, you may stopping worrying about being seen to be correct, about the annoying details around you, about the weary messages from your body, and you may just start to find yourself in a space where the movements are flowing without too much thought, where the body has accepted the sequence and the rhythm and the mind relaxes. This is the state of Mushin, “no mind” – you are in the moment, free of encumbrance, like moving Zen. It may all be worth it just for those moments alone. Much has been written down through the centuries on ‘mushin’. Its one of those concepts that many desire but few experience easily. If you chase it, you rarely find it. But working through 100 repetitions of kata, pushing the mind and body, may present a chance. I wish you good fortune.
But let’s also remember that kata also have their own meaning and history. Whichever kata you choose to perform 100 times, you are performing a sequence of moves that were put together with a very specific use and intention in mind. The intention of saving someone’s life. Kata are the expression of the science of self defense and self preservation. They also the expression of the ‘personal art’ of the author of the kata. Through the kata you may catch a glimpse of what their martial arts training was to them. Kata are distinctive – they all came from someone’s life experience, a compressed, choreography of their favourite moves, the ones they really thought worth preserving and teaching. They are like history capsules, passed down from one generation to the next, because the contents have value. So when you do your chosen kata, again and again, think on how what you do that day echoes the long history that stretches all the way back to the founder.
Looking forward to seeing there on October 25th for the 100 Kata Challenge,
James Pankiewicz is the founder of Challenge Okinawa and The DOJO Bar in Okinawa where he lives. Having been training in various styles of karate and other fighting arts for over 20 years he currently trains in Shorinryu karate, okinawan kobudo and other okinawan styles.