French FR English EN

Learn a kata and never forget it


Learn a Kata

How to learn a Kata forever?

As a karate teacher, I see too often students who learn a Kata and then, a few weeks or a few months later, when we rework, they do not know him anymore.

They must relearn it. And even fairly senior students. There may be some, reading this article that will recognize themselves. I often see brown belt students who, every year, relearn Heian Gedan or Tekki Shodan. They will go faster than others to learn because they have seen it once or several times but often they do not know it anymore. What a waste of time and energy!

They are still in the learning phase. Well, these Karateka there are in the third stage. That is, they are at the stage: "consciously competent". That is to say, they know how to do it, but they did not persevere to get to the stage: "Unconsciously competent". (To review the article detailing the 4 stages of learning, this is here) And as long as you're not at this point, you can not say that you know your Kata. You know how to do it, but if you are two months without practicing it, you have completely forgotten it. The information is not mounted in the long-term memory. You have to force your brain to print the Kata in your head.

This means that even if it's been two or three months since you did not work Heian Shodan, if you're asked to do it, you get there without having to think. Your Kata is in the long-term memory. That's your main goal.
If you are a brown belt for example, when you are going to learn a Kata like Tekki Shodan, what is needed is that once you know it, you have to repeat it until you become: "unconsciously competent". Being and staying in the fourth stage of learning allows you, then, to not have to relearn it.

That's why it's important to think about how you will learn a Kata and how, after that, you will retain it for life.

My method to learn a Kata

You can, for example, start the Kata, do the beginning and then continue until the end. And, when you do not know anymore, you come back and repeat each time. I learned a lot of Katas like that. The problem with this way of doing things is that you always know the beginning very well. Then it's more and more difficult because your brain stiffens because, every time, you are still learning again and again.

You will try to do the opposite to learn a Kata. That is, instead of starting from the beginning, you will start at the end. You will cut your Kata into small pieces of three or four movements that are easy to learn. You will work a bit like Kihon and you will start with the last piece.

Imagine that you have divided your Kata into 5 parts and that you do them 50 times each.
You will start with the last part (N ° 5). Then you will do the penultimate (N ° 4) 50 times too but chaining each time with the following part or parts. (Here, there is only one, the N ° 5).
At this stage, in our case, the part N ° 4 will have been made 50 times and the part N ° 5 revised 100 times (the 50 of the part N ° 5 and the 50 of the set «N ° 4-N ° 5 ")
You do this until part number 1. In the end, the part N ° 5 will have been made 250 times.

Example with Heian Shodan:

Watch the video at the end of the article between 4min28 and 6min17

When you arrive at the beginning of the Kata you will master it better and better and it will be easier and easier.

You can learn a Kata either over several days or in one sitting for two hours, for example. You cut your Kata into modules and you work on it constantly. As soon as you know it completely, you will pass the learning phase and you will be consciously competent. You know your Kata, that's good enough, but you'll have to think about it every time you do it. You may still forget it.

How to avoid this?

You have no choice: you must repeat and revise constantly. Master Funakoshi, in his book: "Karate-do, my way, my life", explains us that he was doing Kata every day. I advise you to take notes or make drawings coming out of the dojo. Try to write down because writing or drawing will do you good in your brain and you will remember better.
You should know that karate techniques generate information at the neuromuscular level that is quite complex. They must be repeated 66 days so that they remain in long-term memory. Work your Kata for about nine weeks.

That does not mean you have to do it ten times. You can do it once. If you can do a little more, that's fine. But you have to do it at least once. Heian Shodan, for example, takes you 45 seconds. Learning a Kata like Heian Godan is pretty much the same. Tekki Shodan, it must be a little less. In the end, it will take you only a minute a day.

You do not have to do it thoroughly. The goal is to remember the ambush and the gestures. You do it for 66 days, and after that you will not need to think even if afterwards you are 15 days without doing it. You will begin to really live it.
Work on the feeling and live your Kata as a fight against yourself and against opponents you imagine. But to be able to live it like a fight, you must not need to think. When you fight against someone, you do not have time to ask questions; you are in the feeling. To learn a Kata, it must be the same.

Aim for the "unconsciously competent" stage

Read or re-read the article on the four stages of learning. You must go to the fourth step ("unconsciously competent"). You must be competent to do the Kata unconsciously. It's like taking a bike even if it's been a year since you got on it, you go up and off you go.

Plus, learn as fast as you can. Work all the movements in a short time and redo them for 66 days. You can then, fairly regularly, show what you are doing to your teacher or Senpai. When you are still in the learning phases, he will tell you if there are movements to correct. And suddenly, you improve and you continue to learn.
If you want to progress, when you arrive at the club, make your Kata in front of the other members of the club. Arrive before class when everyone is there waiting. Put yourself in a corner of the room and do your techniques. With a little luck, a Senpai will come to you and tell you what to fix. You do not have to be afraid. We all started.

Right now, I'm learning a Kata to pass my fourth dan. Of course, as long as I'm not in a phase where I do not know it by heart, I make mistakes and that's normal. So I have to repeat them so that it becomes something natural. Do the same with your katas.

I have prepared a video in which I detail all this.

Tell me in the comments what you think and tell me how you do to learn.

See you soon

Facebook Comments
Guide offered!
"How to succeed your grade passes"


  1. One of the methods that work for me is actually to cut the kata, to perform the technical gestures in slow motion at first, to take the opportunity to correct the postures with the help of a mirror. After having memorized gestures and postures by repetition, execute the kata at normal speed and then repeat it every day as far as possible.

  2. Good evening Bruno!
    In addition to this good method, I would advise when we just went to bed to mentally remake the kata before falling asleep. The memory is fixed during sleep and the kata will be engraved in the brain.
    Cordial greetings.

    • I have the impression that there are two ways to learn kata (among others):
      - in groups, in "following", passively;
      - trying to reproduce mentally or alone on the carpet, actively.

      The first seems to use a bodily memory, one "feels" that B follows A, etc., from the body to the mind. We feel…

      The second seems the opposite: from the mind to the body. We memorize better because there is an effort, but it starts from the "mind" (I do not like this word too much). We know…

      The first in my opinion, the advantage of directing attention to the body, the feeling, and perhaps more accurate gestures, but it is slow (we are on several levels). That's why Me Funakoshi refers to exercise periods of a single kata for a long time. Advantage: the body reacts n times faster than thought ...

      BUT since the weekly duration of exercise on tatamis is short and expensive (high price in certain city or over-occupation by a multitude of martial arts of the municipal halls), the best is to learn by videos and to make in room if you want to save time.

      Once, we know, we must not forget and "do it in his head" to reactivate this memory. I also repeated them before sleeping ...

  3. After each session (club or house) I redo the first 6 as a long kata. If I have patellar tendons inflamed I wait a day or two and I remake slowly very low.
    Sometimes, I redo them with a walkman and mp3:
    (to remind me of the names of the techniques.)
    To not forget them, we can also imagine doing them when we queue at the supermarket checkout.

Leave a comment

tristique at Aenean in évipit elit. Donec lorem