Kata and State

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Kata and State[edit]


State is the full description of a system. It's a concept commonly used in computer science and also in the physical sciences. The concept of state can also be applied to the combatants in a fighting context. The relationship between their body positions, direction, arm, leg positions, movement etc; the configuration of their bodies. Often the state of a system is dynamic and changes from instant to instant and this is certainly true in a fighting context.

High state vs low state[edit]

A system which could be described as high state would be one which required a lot of information to describe the configuration, while a system which required little information to describe it could be described as low state. Taking the example of some marbles in a box, if there were many marbles stacked into the box then the box of marbles could be described as high state because it requires lots of information to describe the relationships between all of the marbles, though if they were neatly and regularly stacked and static this would be fairly easy to do. A low state box of marbles might be a box containing just one marble, there is little state information to record, just the one marble's position in the box.

Dynamic vs static[edit]

All systems are in reality dynamic, though some change very slowly and can be considered static. Other systems change very quickly indeed. The state of the system changes with the components that make it up. State can change not at all, or very quickly. Rocks are examples of systems which change state very slowly and gasses are examples where the state changes very quickly indeed.

Recording state[edit]

Obviously, to record the state of a system, you need a mechanism which can record the current state, and changes of state as they happen. This may not be reasonably possible or even meaningful, for example recording the state of molecules in a gas is unlikely to be a useful endeavour given that they change so very rapidly.


How does kata relate to the concept of state? Well, kata records the dynamic body configuration of one half of a pair of combatants in several drills. Kata is quite clearly therefore a form of information technology for recording the state of the combatants.


Punches are generally the most commonly applied methods used when analysing kata. Looking at a punch, the fastest in the world, in the Guinness Book of Records can punch at 44mph (70km/h) or 20 metres per second. Over the length of an average arm of 2/3 of a metre, the hand has to accelerate from stationary to full speed, so the average speed of the distance is 1/2 this, or 10 metres per second. This gives a punching time of seven hundredths of a second. This being a world record is far faster than an average person can punch. On average a normal person can punch at around 22mph (35km/h) or 10 meters per second, again over the length of an average male arm of around 66cm this would take around 15 hundredths of a second, and this is fairly consistent with boxers who are have been recorded throwing 5 or 6 punches per second.

Striking and State[edit]

Something which changes state 5 or 6 times per second is somewhat problematic to record the state of. Indeed a typical human reaction time is around 1/4 of a second, or around 0.25 seconds which means that if you are within arms length, it is highly likely you can be struck with a punch long before your body could react. In addition the highly fluid nature of striking means there is probably little value in attempting to record the rapidly state of the combatants.


Grappling, is simply grabbing and holding. It's historically rather less applied to kata than punches are. However dues to the nature of grappling, the state of the combatants cannot change as quickly as with striking, a combatant cannot simply un-grapple and retract his arms within 15 hundredths of a second because his opponent will not allow him to. So while striking is extremely fluid with rapidly changing state, grappling is less so.

Grappling and state[edit]

Striking could then be described as stateless, or low state because both combatants can easily and within a fraction of a second "reset" their positions and bodies to how they were before punch and kick attempts. This is not true of grappling techniques, neither combatant can rapidly and easily reset their body configuration and positions, so grappling could be described as stateful or high state.

Appropriateness of kata[edit]

As a recording, practice and memorisation method then kata would seem to be more suited to the recording of grappling methods and techniques than the recording of striking techniques and combinations.