For those who do not know what a kata is, in Karate, forms are called "kata". In other words, katas are extended sequences of techniques and movements that you study and practise. Most katas consist of more than forty single techniques that are joined to form a sequence.
But what is the purpose of katas? Today, quite often - and this is particularly true for kata competitions – katas are presented with focus on large energetic movements, impressive techniques and loud kiais (attacking yell). However, the true purpose of these sequences is the study, comprehension and practise of correct structure and posture, the correct use of the body's muscle chains and the optimal interplay of muscles and connective tissue (fascia); all of that with the goal of first understanding and internalizing the basic principles contained in the kata and later transferring those principles into techniques and movements in free fight (kumite) in order to learn to use those principles both subconsciously and consciously, both intuitively and strategically.
It is import to understand that katas need to be studied on different levels. One level is the study of movements and sequences, the level below is practising techniques, on an even deeper level the kata teaches you control of your body, and finally helps you understand the principles for effective and efficient techniques and making them your own. These different levels are expressed both in the large movements and techniques as well as in the small details of posture and the precise execution of the techniques.
That means, if you study a kata with the sole goal of making it as impressive as possible to spectators, you will merely practise and learn a small part of what the kata has to offer.
In the end, what use is a spectacularly executed kick, if your stance is bad and you can not efficiently transfer the energy and force of the kick to your opponent? How will you be able to fight effectively and strategically if you waste all your energy because you have never learned to efficiently apply force and how to use your energy in the techniques?
So, is it enough then to study katas to become a proficient fighter? Of course, not. Other forms of training, like kumite (free fight), fitness training and mental preparation are equally important. However, used properly, katas are a valuable tool that allows you to raise the level of your techniques and structure and your way of fighting beyond your limits.