Do you race through your kata! Why?

A common issue I see with intermediate and advanced karate students is speed simply for speed’s sake. Watching a kata performance is like watching a sprinter on a 50-yard dash. The starting gun goes bang, and they’re off, blasting through their kata at the speed of light (or, as close as they can get to it). And that is truly unfortunate. Speed is very often misunderstood … and misunderstood to the karate practitioner’s detriment.

Power defined …

P = W / ∆T
where P = power, W = work, and ∆T = elapsed time.

Yes! Speed is a factor in power. In physics, power is the ability to do work quickly. However, anyone who has done work knows that working faster than your natural speed leads to mistakes. And, in a life or death situation, mistakes can have drastic consequences.

Force defined …

F = M x A
where F = force, M = mass, and A = acceleration

How much force can you generate in your technique? Speed is not a factor in force. Force equals mass times acceleration. Your technique needs to accelerate through its execution! Where is your room for acceleration if you are already blasting along at full speed?

You should never run a kata any faster than you can run it correctly
~ Sherman Harrill

True speed comes from understanding body mechanics
~ Charlie Taylor

The fastest block in the world does you no good if it is there and gone before the punch arrives.

Once you understand body mechanics and technique, you only have to be half as fast as your attacker.

Also, consider that excessive speed can hide many mistakes, demonstrates clearly that the performer is not ‘living’ the kata, and shows a lack of understanding of timing across techniques and good body mechanics. How are they practicing and understanding the principles of Sanchin or Naihanchi at Mach 1 or 2?

Developing solid technique in kata …

What does kata training do for us? They take a system’s basic techniques (Kihon), which have been honed over time in one-step, two-step, three-step drills, Kumite drills, etc., and teach us how to deploy them in different scenarios, at different angles, from various stances and distances, etc. Kata teaches advanced usage of our chosen system’s basic techniques. We learn to develop power in those techniques through Sanchin (Tanden) or Naihanchi (Koshi).


If you’re practicing a Sanchin-based Okinawan style of karate, are you incorporating the lessons from Sanchin into the techniques of your kata? Are you including the use of the Tanden to help you develop real power in the kata techniques? If someone is blasting through their Seisan Kata at ninety miles an hour, I suspect the timing of the “Tanden tuck,” and cross-body power development is not playing much of a role.


Some Okinawan styles of karate did not include or practice Sanchin Kata. Instead, those systems typically practice some form of Naihanchi kata, often with a different name, such as Tekki (Tekki Shodan, Tekki Nidan, Tekki Sandan). Naihanchi Kata teaches the practitioner to develop power and deliver it through Koshi ( rotation through the hips).

Isshin-ryu Karate’s Father and Mother

Some styles, such as Isshin-ryu, incorporate both (Sanchin and Naihanchi). In fact, according to the founder of Isshin-ryu, Tatsuo Shimabuku, Sanchin is the Father of Isshin-ryu and Naihanchi is the mother. This means Isshin-ryu Karate develops power in a technique through either the Tanden (Sanchin) or Koshi (Naihanchi), or both … meaning you better slow your kata down!

Just food for thought …