As a martial artist, I have a love/hate relationship with katas. In the traditional martial arts, for which I am training, Katas are a necessary evil. The kata is a series of choreographed movements, one advancing on the other, the higher in belt rank you go. I compare katas to dances, except katas have no fun butt wiggling, which therefore makes them evil:) If I'm going to learn all those steps and motions, then there ought to be a least a few butt wiggles in there somewhere dang it!
The fancy definition from Wikipedia is - Kata (型 or 形, literally: "form" ) is a Japanese word describing detailed choreographed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs. Kata are used in many traditional Japanese arts such as theater forms like kabuki and schools of tea ceremony (chadō), but are most commonly known for the presence in the martial arts. Kata are used by most traditional Japanese and Okinawan martial arts, such as aikidō, iaidō, jōdō, jūdō, jūjutsu, kenjutsu, kendō and karate. Other arts such as t'ai chi ch'uan and taekwondo feature the same kind of training, but use the respective Chinese and Korean words instead.
"So, why do we have to learn katas?" I asked the Master of my first martial arts dojo. "I just want to know how to kill and maim a would be attacker in the Walmart parking lot after dark." Several reasons besides killing and maiming were explained to me. Discipline was the first answer given me. Imagine that! I guess my passionate killing and maiming statement led the Master of the dojo to believe I might just need a little discipline and that I might just be a redneck:) Focus was another reason offered up, and last but not least, mushin. Mushin, pronounced mooshin, is when you act with unconscious awareness. You don't think - overhead block, front snap kick, grab, twist, side kick, spear hand, break, etc. You just do it.
Now to get to the point where you just "do it", mushin, takes lots and lots of practice and requires buckets and buckets of sweat. You practice and you practice and try and try, over and over again and you think you are NEVER going to get it and then one day...SHAAZAAAAM! The light bulb goes off. All of the pieces fall into place and you've finally got it. You have finally managed to burn it into your muscle memory and it is mushin to you. And believe me, when this happens, there is usually a little celebration and more than a little butt wiggling going on.
Once you have burned the kata into your muscle memory, then the dancing begins. I mentioned before that I have a love/hate relationship with katas. I hate learning them, but once I do, I love perfecting them. for they truly are like a dance. Katas are discipline. They demand total concentration and focus to master, but once learned they are mushin, unconscious awareness. Katas bring out the best and the worst in us, but to master one, and to be able to move through it like the wind, is a thing of beauty to behold and to achieve.