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Kata (, kata), literally meaning form") is a term describing detailed choreographed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs in. Kata is not only used in karate, but also by other disciplines such as jiujitsu, judo and aikido. A kata is a detailed series that includes predetermined techniques in self-defense (in most cases against imaginary attackers). The kata consists of dozens of very different movements and techniques. The main purpose of the kata is to being able to practice these techniques extensively without harming an oppenent. Furthermore, one learns good posture and balance by performing kata as well as developing muscles, tendons etc.

A kata can be performed by an individual, but also in pairs. Often an individual kata is performed in the dojo by a group of students. Furthermore, there are both katas that are performed unarmed and those that are performed with weapons (kobudo kata).

While performing the kata, the posture and the steps are very important. Just as in dancing the dance steps are often depicted with feet, this is also often done in kata. There are also posters on which various katas are extensively drawn, including the essence of the most important movements and techniques.

In most martial arts, kata are a mandatory part of the exams for advancing in the grading system (belt system). The kata are then divided into different levels and are determined by the relevant federation such as the Judo and Jiu-Jitsu Federation Netherlands.

Not everyone agrees on the usefulness of practising kata. The biggest criticism of kata is that it teaches a martial arts practitioner conditioned responses to attacks, whereas in the circumstances of the attack a different defense might have been better. The reaction is driven by automatism, not by assessing the attack and the situation around it. In a self-defense situation, this can go wrong, even being fatal.

One looks at how the teacher shows the movements and imitates them. Someone with sufficient body control, but without any skill in martial arts, can still show excellent kata performance in this way. As an additional exercise for body control, the kata is certainly useful, but it is an illusion, possibly even a dangerous one, if one believes that a good mastery of the kata equals a good mastery of the martial arts. Conversely, practitioners who have mastered the martial art well will generally have sufficient body control to be able to do kata well.