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Kata, quality control, & mediocrity


In any quality control situation, you strive to remove variability from the system so that the system never varies below some preset control level - but in reducing variability you can also prevent the system from ever varying much above that level.  I wrote on a similar topic a while back. When you reduce variability you reduce the potential for excellence to emerge.
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Kata can be used as a quality control mechanism, assuring that the technical level of the practitioner never gets below a certain level - and that's not a bad thing, but if you spend so much of your time teaching to the test (the central form of the kata) that you don't get to play very much, then you may be precluding the potential for excellence beyond the level of the kata.
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That's okay if you want to believe that the kata is a perfect expression of principle devised by the martial arts demigods and delivered unchanged through the generations to us. But if you think that the kata might have been merely a pretty good expression of principle devised by pretty good practitioners and taught in ever-decreasing fidelity to all their successors, then striving toward the level of excellence represented by kata is just striving toward mediocrity.
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Personally, I think that kata is a vital training tool, but I prefer to have variability with the potential for excellence instead of the security of kata as quality control
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More to come on our ability to achieve precision in kata. Stay tuned...
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮
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