Introduction to Katas The word kata means "shape" or "form". A kata is a sequence of blocks, kicks and punches from one or more stances, involving movement forward, backward and to the sides. The number of movements and their sequence are very specific. The balance between offensive and defensive techniques, the stances used and the direction and flow of movement all serve to give each kata its distinctive character. Through the practice of kata, the traditional techniques used for fighting are learned. Balance, coordination, breathing and concentration are also developed. Done properly, kata are an excellent physical exercise and a very effective form of total mind and body conditioning. Through concentration, dedication and practice, a higher level of learning may be achieved, where the kata is so ingrained in the subconscious mind that no conscious attention is needed. This is what the Zen masters call mushin, or "no mind." The conscious, rational thought practice is not used at all - what was once memorized is now spontaneous. Mas Oyama said that one should think of karate as a language, the basic techniques can be thought of as the letters of the alphabet, the kata (forms) will be the equivalent of words and sentences, and the kumite (fighting) will be analogous to conversations. He believed that it was better to master just one kata than to only half-learn many.