Using Kata as a Mind Building Tool- Part 1

People often say, “Martial arts is about the mind.” But when I ask most martial artists exactly what they mean by that, I usually get some short, etherial answer that doesn’t say much. This post begins a series about how Martial Arts really can build a mind and how you can use a kata practice to build the mind you want.

Using Kata to Upgrade Your Wetware Graphics Card

Any computer geek will tell you that graphics and video takes the largest amount of RAM and storage space in a computer. So if you really want to build your brain’s capacity, then I suggest creating detailed, competent imaginary opponents and backdrops and fight them full on with a smile!

Creating an imaginary opponent that you can physically “touch” in real space and time is quite the mental exercise in my humble opinion.

I try to imagine every detail of my opponent, his or her hair, clothes, body shape, height etc. At first, this is a lot harder than it seems. I hear a lot of students say they find it difficult. Usually, I tell them to take their finger and sketch out a sculpture of an opponent in front of them and then FORCE the mind to see it. And then practice on that imaginary sculpture over and over.

Many start with a stick figure and over months and years, their minds becomes more creative and inserts a lot more details as the practice deepens.

One thing a person can do to build a bridge across the imagination void is to practice kata moves against an actual opponent and then immediately do the same action alone intensely imagining the same opponent in his or her mind with the same visual and tactile details.

Afterward, he or she goes back to practice with the real opponent to notice all the details that the mind left out. Doing this over and over helps deepen the experience and teach the mind to see and touch in pictures and imaginary sensations.

And now I’m going to admit a silly something. I have an imaginary outdoor dojo I work out in.

It protrudes from a cliff over an ocean in my inner world. There is a lighthouse and a house on the hill behind it. Sometimes I close my eyes as I do my forms. I see the screws in the lighthouse door, the stone, the sky and various weather states. I smell the imaginary air. I fight imaginary opponents.

And I have done this for years and yes, some people think me weird for it.


I often do this with eyes closed and I found it very difficult at first.

One thing I did to build my imagination for my kata world was to pattern many of my imaginary worlds exactly upon the real one. Here’s how it was done.

Step 1. I find a place to practice with my eyes closed where I won’t break anything.

Step 2. I REALLY look at the environment and memorize it.

Step 3. I do several forms in that environment – eyes open.

Step 4. Redo the form with my eyes closed while recreating the world exactly in my imagination. At this stage my imaginary world IS the real world.

Or is it? I find it a lot harder to hold my imaginary world and real world in perfect tandem. There are always missing details. And spotting them and flushing them out is where all the fun is!

I sometimes take an object and pick it up and memorize its feel and look, set it aside and do kata while imagining the object as detailed as possible. I then pick it up and note the differences and repeat.

After forty or fifty kata my body is sweaty and my mind is full of wonder. My body/mind often creates sensations that feel very real. I call these “body metaphors” and they are the heart of the imaginary feast.


I find these experiences beautiful. I get to create my own reality in a sense. And for me, I have found that some of the most enjoyable things I have are the dreams of my own head.

Not many people practice kata this way. Hopefully, this humble blog may change that for some.

People often suggest a new workout routine to me. Or they’ll suggest I take some new course to improve my mind.

I just smile and vow to get back to my practice space by our neighborhood pond as fast as possible.

WARNING: The upcoming posts are going to get a lot weirder and a lot more practical.

2 thoughts on “Using Kata as a Mind Building Tool- Part 1

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