(Disclaimer – I am not an instructor, nor what I would consider an exceptionally talented martial artist. I am just a humble student of karate who wishes to share what he has learned with his fellow karateka in hopes that they too can use it to further improve upon their own training. If this article inspires just one other karateka to attempt what is discussed below, I will consider it a success. All opinions in here are solely those of my own, and any errors within are strictly my own.) Kata training nowadays and the arguments over to train (or not to train) in kata seem to be running rampant. Some claim a kata cannot teach you anything as you can’t use a kata in a “real fight”. Some claim kata teaches you deadly forbidden techniques that were only explained to the top student of a teacher to pass along to his top student. Some believe kata is just for belt promotions and demonstrations. Everyone’s interpretation of what kata is is up for them to decide. However, there is a tool that I’ve had great success with in better understanding my kata and the principles and strategies behind them. This tool is called sectional training. If you watch a kata being performed, you can observe that a kata is really a collection of various fighting combinations put together in an aesthetically pleasing format. A kata is really a number of different sections rather than one long continuous battle with multiple opponents, these sections all together composing the entire kata. To further elaborate, let’s look at Taikyoku Sono Ichi. From your starting position, you turn to the left into a left forward stance, execute a left down block, then step forward into a right forward stance and execute a lead right hand punch. This can be considered a “section” of Taikyoku Sono Ichi as it has a logical ending (e.g. the lead right hand punch). Using this idea, all told Taikyoku Sono Ichi theoretically has 8 different sections (6 sections involving this down block – lunge punch combination and 2 sections of three continuous lunge punches). What do these sections have to do with anything? To explain that, I’ll have to cover the concept of what sectional training actually is. Sectional training is, rather than concentrating on the execution of the entire kata as a whole, working each section of the kata individually. It’s been my experience this type of training tends to be found predominantly in the Okinawan karate schools but almost nonexistent in many Japanese karate schools. There are a number of benefits to approaching your kata training in such a fashion. If you are struggling to learn a new kata, by performing say 10 to 20 repetitions of each section of the kata in order you will be surprised at how quickly you can pick up that new kata. If your kata is mostly sharp but there seems to be the one area you’re having trouble with, combining your regular kata practice with repetitions focused solely on the section you’re having issues with can rectify problems quickly. Once you have a firm grasp of that kata, you can then begin exploring applications of each of the sections from that kata. Going back to our Taikyoku Sono Ichi example, you could structure an entire training session around that first section by having a partner attack you in various ways and seeing how that section can be adapted to responding to your partner’s attacks. This last part is where I especially see value in sectional training, as this is where you can get past the performance of the kata alone and begin exploring into the application and principles behind the kata that you are training. Words can’t explain the benefits alone; I highly encourage you to try this training out for yourself and make your own decisions. Let’s use a theoretical training session to present some ideas on how to incorporate sectional training into your studies. Let’s use a different kata this time, one of my favorites: Gekisai Sho kata. For reference purposes, here is a video demonstrating how Gekisai Sho is performed in my chosen system (Kyokushin). [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoxGOu4bit8"]Gekisai Sho Kyokushinkai kata - YouTube[/ame] I consider the first series of movements (0:10 to 0:16) to be one section. All told in my own observations I feel there are 6 main sections of this kata: 0:10-0:16, 0:17-0:21, 0:22-0:30, 0:31-0:38, 0:39-0:45, and 0:46-0:58. Training at home by myself, I decide that the entire kata could use some work at first (we’ll say I just learned it and am not feeling very confident just yet). I decide to perform 20 repetitions of each section individually, which ends up to be 120 repetitions total. I then perform Gekisai Sho in its entirety a few times and make note of which areas need some work. In this case, I’ll say that the last section is causing me trouble (I’m off balance when moving into the crossed leg stance and transitioning into the knife hand roundhouse block that follows). I decide to polish it up a bit and perform another 20 repetitions of that section. I then go back and perform Gekisai Sho as a whole again and see where else needs work. Utilizing sectional training in this manner, you can quickly iron out flaws and fine tune key areas of your kata. In conclusion, sectional training can be a very valuable tool in further understanding your kata. It has a variety of benefits and can sometimes give you one of those valuable “Aha!” moments where something clicks and your knowledge grows just a little bit more. When you keep in mind that in older karate texts that sometimes the names of kata are referred to as “styles”, you begin to appreciate the theory that each kata is really its own comprehensive fighting system and that there may be more to it than what meets the eye. Good luck in your training, and thanks for reading. A SHORT LIST ON RECOMMENDED READING: (1) Burgar, Bill. “Five Years, One Kata”. Burgar gives advice to those karateka who really want to sink their teeth into one particular kata and unlock the fighting system hidden within. Burgar chose the kata Gojushiho and explains his entire process behind his studies, as well as demonstrating the applications he discovered worked best for him. (2) Kane, Lawrence/Wilder, Kris. “The Way of Kata.” An excellent book for those interested in delving more into their kata studies. (3) Christensen, Loren. “Fighter’s Fact Book.” Christensen is one of my favorite authors, and this book actually has a section devoted to sectional training if you would prefer a much better explanation than the one I attempted to provide here. (4) Abernethy, Iain. “Bunkai-Jutsu.” Abernethy is an excellent author and proponent of kata-based training. His website also provides lots of excellent advice.