‘Katame ’ is a Japanese root meaning to harden or tighten or hold still; to clench the fist, for instance, could be rendered in Japanese by this word. The Katame-no-kata, or form of Katame, is in Judo often referred to as the ‘groundwork’ Kata, but the last one, for instance, begins in a standing position. The Katame-waza or Katame techniques are really the methods of immobilizing the opponent, whether by restricting his movement by a technical hold, or by threat of causing pain or unconsciousness.
It is true that in general it is easier and more appropriate to use the Katame techniques at present permitted in Judo when on the ground. In this connection it may be noted that this same final technique of the Kata, namely Ashi- garami, involves a lock on the knee which would not now be permitted in contest.
The great difficulty with Katame-no-kata is to prevent its becoming ‘dead’ in performance. Uke has to lie still while Tori is taking up his position, and that means that a feeling of unreality begins to pervade the whole thing. This must be prevented at all costs, and while the main responsibility lies on Tori, Uke also has an important part to play.
When you take the part of Tori, you must carefully distinguish the preliminary movements from the execution of the technique. You must make it clear from your movement which is which. Tori comes into position slowly; he makes his preparations carefully, by moving Uke’s arm, for instance, and keeping well balanced the whole time. It must be clear to the audience that this moving into the key position is a quite artificial thing, whose purpose is to show the audience just what is taking place. The audience must be able to see just where the hands come and how the various holds are taken.
When you are ready, you begin the execution of the waza in the same spirit as if it were a real contest. It means in effect that Tori gives a little pounce, and this shows clearly that the hold is now on and Uke is free to try its effectiveness. In the first section (Osaekomi or holds) Tori can help by giving a little Kiai shout, simultaneously abruptly tightening the hold. Uke then makes definite attempts to escape, as given in the text; he should not merely make feeble flapping movements without any spirit.
The escaping attempts by Uke have been definitely specified in the new standardized Kata which is now the definitive form recommended by the all-Japan Judo Association and the Kodokan. Uke should make them all one after another during his attempts, and he should make them look real.
In the first section, Tori puts on the hold in the proper way. When practising Katame-no-kata, Tori should try to get the hold right, light but firm. Then Uke should make real attempts to get out, to try to see whether he can break the hold. In this way Tori can check whether his own position and control are good.
In the Shime-waza (neck-lock) section and the Kansetsu (joint-lock) section, Tori must distinguish between the major movement of holding opponent, and the final minor movement of actually applying the lock. In general we can say that Tori must be in a position to hold the opponent firmly without applying the lock. In theory, unless Tori controls Uke’s movement, he will not be able to get a lock on reliably; so that in practice Tori should sometimes get Uke to struggle to free himself, and see whether he can in fact hold Uke in position, without using the pressure on the neck or the pain on the joint. To make this Kata look good, Tori must show control with his whole body.
On Uke’s side, he must show that his whole body is being used in most of the attempts to escape. As in Nage-no-kata, Uke must guard against giving the impression that he knows from the beginning he is going to lose; Uke must try to give the impression of life and energy. If Uke does this well, the holds and locks look much more impressive to the audience; it becomes clear that they will in fact control even a determined and skilful resistance.
The Mairi signal of defeat should be loud and clear, and the moment it is given both sides stop moving. This is also an important point from the point of view of demonstration effectiveness. During the preparatory movements Tori moves very slowly and Uke is generally motionless; then during the execution of the waza both sides must be full of ‘kiai’ or spirit, which must appear from their posture and movements; when the Mairi signal is given they instantly freeze, and then Tori slowly moves out of the hold. If this alternation of slow formal movement and energetic struggle is well done, the audience’s attention can be captured and firmly held throughout the Kata.
Normally, after the Mairi signal, all Tori has to do is to move quietly out. Very occasionally, it is found that during Uke’s struggles they have moved substantially across the mat. When this happens they are supposed to move back, still keeping in position, so that they end up in the original place on the mats. The only time when this point has to be practised is in the last of the Shime-waza section, when Uke rolls with Tori. Tori frequently rolls right over on to his back, bringing Uke on top of him and applying the lock from underneath. After Uke gives the Mairi signal, Tori must release the pressure of the lock but keep his hands in position; still holding Uke with his hands and feet, he rolls with him back to the original position with Tori on top. This movement needs a good deal of practice before it can be done neatly.
Both sides should memorize carefully the place on the mat from which they begin each section, and be careful to return to exactly the same place at the end of the section.
In this Kata, the connecting movements are enormously important to the look of the thing, and should be practised as much as the individual techniques. Nothing looks worse than hesitation and mistakes in distance and timing.
Tori must give special attention to mastering the method of moving backward and forward in the Kyoshi position, which is the key to the smooth performance of his role. Uke, for his part, must practise the method of lying down and getting up until he can perform them in a smooth unhurried movement and not as an ugly flop. Grace and balance in these apparently minor movements make a great deal of difference to the reception of the Kata by the audience.
Beginners nearly always tend to begin to rush when they get half-way through. In particular, the three Shime-waza from the rear tend to be hurried. Tori must be careful to make a distinct break between them, coming quite upright and withdrawing a couple of inches at the end of each one.
In what follows the new standard Katame-no-kata will be described together with some hints on performance, many of them taken from the classical work on this Kata by Mr. Nagaoka and Mr. Yamashita, both direct pupils of Dr. Kano, and whose book was revised by him. There will also be some descriptions of variations in the Kata, which were formerly permissible and which are now ruled out, as a guide to bringing our British Kata to a standard form. However, after studying this and other Katas for several years under Mr. Nagaoka and other masters, I may add that in practice a good deal of latitude is in fact allowed.