Take ten karate students and have them perform their kata individually and you might like what you see. Take the same ten students and have them perform the kata together, and you’ll notice variations. You’ll see differences in timing and speed, which is fine unless they’re performing team kata for tournament.
However, you shouldn’t see 10 different variations in technique.
Last night I brought this point to my students’ attention, after a botched attempt at Annanko. To be fair, for some it was their first time learning that kata. However I had two or three who were doing some moves differently to the group. I asked those students if they could do the moves again but this time from their most basic stance, yoi dachi. They went ahead and did the moves correctly, which were DIFFERENT to what the had just performed in the kata!
When I asked why there was a difference, puzzled looks washed across their faces.
“I thought it was a different move”, said one of the boys.
From their expressions I could tell they hadn’t yet made the connection between kata and kihon.
I told my students if they ever were unsure about a move in a kata, or a way for them to evaluate themselves, was for them to go to the very basic form of that move, and figure out how they do it. From there they need to carry that notion into their kata practice. That means the basic block/punch/kick/strike/whatever shouldn’t change between the basic form and the kata form.
If your students show variations between basic and kata then perhaps you might like to rework your training methods. As instructors we must teach in a way that keeps techniques consistent between all aspects of karate – basics, kata, bunkai, self defense and even kumite. In other words what you practice in kata and bunkai, should be present in kihon and other self defense application.
That way, what you teach remains consistent throughout the different aspects of your curriculum…
For example, let’s consider a beginner’s class where they might be learning Tai Kyoku Shodan – a simple “I” shape kata common to many karate styles. Taking that kata as the focus or foundation of what the class is learning, then the basics you teach should reflect techniques from that kata – namely, oizuki and gedan barai.
Furthermore any drills or exercises you teach in that class should also incorporate those techniques. Extend that concept to self defense and what you teach in that class should also incorporate those techniques. Everything should overlap and reinforce.
This is a far more congruent way to teach and helps students join the dots faster between the different aspects of karate.