All the fundamental element of karatedo have been put into formal sets of systematized sequences thoroughly developed, codified, and improved by dedicated karatedo Masters through the course of several centuries.
Each set, called a kata, is made up of carefully selected elements which all have a profound meaning both intrinsically, and in their context. Each posture, movement or technique is the most appropriate one under the circumstances, for it has been repeatedly tested over hundreds of years in innumerable occasions of real fighting over matters of life and death. In recent days, these principles have been scientifically rationalized by great karatedo Masters such as Dr. Masayoshi Kori Hisataka (Kudaka in Okinawa), who brought his expertise in the field of anatomy, physics and psychology to the study of karatedo principles.
Kata are truly a microcosm of karatedo for they contain all of the essential principles, techniques and traditions. The salutations with their philosophical implications, the proper postures and stances, body and foot movements, the control and use of breathing, the various techniques, and their timing, the proper mental attitude, the kiai-spirit, and the search for perfection in the execution of each technique are all included in the various katas.
Until very recently, the kata were kept secret. They were never practiced publicly by karatedo Masters who were transmitting their knowledge only to a handful of trusted students through the practice of kata. Kata was then the sole and unique form of karatedo training. This gives a measure of the historical and practical importance of the kata in karatedo studies.
A kata is performed alone against imaginary opponents. Its purpose is to develop every aspect of karatedo: posture, body movements, techniques and mental attitudes. The assiduous practice of kata leads to a deep understanding of the techniques of karatedo. It develops the ability to use these techniques and to respond almost automatically to any kind of attack in any situation. In addition, kata contains all of the various strategies of fighting.