From the Budokwai Quarterly Bulletin, October 1952, pp. 14-15. Copyright © 1952, 2005 The Budokwai. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Kata is usually described as formal demonstration -- for want of a more suitable term. Perhaps due to this fact, it is inclined to be regarded as a showman's stunt and its important implications are neglected.
Kata literally means form or pattern. In a sense, it is the grammar of the art and the standard measure of the technical basis. Without it an action might be baseless and a mere jumble of movements or distorted inefficiency, just as a sentence will be a jumble of words without grammar. However, the training in kata is left until one reaches a certain grade, 1st Kyu or Dan, as teaching kata to a beginner is like teaching grammar to one who knows no word; the task for both teacher and pupil would be most difficult and hard, if not impossible, especially for the teacher.
Most of the old jujutsu schools practiced no randori. The training relied entirely on kata. Possibly that was why they declined under the waves of sport enthusiasm which sweep the world today.
In the study and practice of kata, both tori, or the one who applies, and uke or the one who receives, must play their parts most carefully to be exact in timing, the speed of action, and the manner of movement, for the manifestation of the art depends on rhythmic and harmonious unity of opposite movements. A technical fault of either partner or the mistiming of one would spoil the whole.
In practising throws in this form, uke should initiate an action or move to attack. The action, however, should be bodily, for the efficiency of it depends on the usage of the body weight. So, if tori be passive or yielding, uke would be unbalancing himself and the inertia of the action would cause uke to take a self-inflicted downfall. Tori's part is, taking advantage of the situation, to apply a throw, but it should not be so much throwing as more helping uke's movement and his fall.
As a preliminary of training, both uke and tori should practice their own part by themselves, to such an extent that, when partnered, each can perform his part without much help from the other. In this manner, you will learn and feel or sense, exactly what the condition of the opponent and the manner of your own movements should be for certain throws.
There are various sets of kata but any method, throw, lock, or holding can be selected for study and practice. The main principle of randori, or contest, should be to try out the theory you have learned in the form of kata, as the opponent presents you with various openings. In fact, openings are always present, if you only know the ways and are fast enough to take them.
Butsukari or uchikomi means attack and it is the method of practising single movement repeatedly, against a passive partner. The method is chiefly used for throws, not only for training movement but to develop speed of action.
Begin very slowly so as to be able to see that every technical detail is correct, firstly only tsukuri or the preparation for a throw, and increase speed gradually, repeating about 20 times. Then complete the throw. The object being to cultivate the action as a habit automatically, the more you practise the better it will be. Indeed, it is said that, to attain any satisfactory result, each movement should be practised at least 10,000 times. To insure correct action you should see that at the end of tsukuri, the opponent is balanced on the toes or heel of one foot and you yourself on one foot securely.
Those who wish to make quick progress should devote much of their time to this form of training, practising on both sides, right and left. Change places with your partner at regular intervals and help each other, commenting on the effect of your partner's effort.
This form of training can also be used for practising holdings and locks.
One big advantage of butsukari training is, it needs only a small space and a mat is hardly necessary.