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Judo Kata: Practice, Competition, Purpose

By L.C. Jones, M.P. Savage, and W.L. Gatling, Robert W. Smith, M.A., S. Biron Ebell, M.A., Lance Gatling, M.A., M.P.S., Llyr C. Jones, Ph.D., and Michael J. Hanon, Ph.D., Linda Yiannakis, M.S.

Judo Kata: Practice, Competition, Purpose
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Judo Kata: Practice, Competition, Purpose

The practice of judo katas has changed over time as a result of perceived purpose. The chapters in this anthology were written by seven authorities in judo history and practice. Their writings clarify the purpose of kata and thus its mode of practice and their place in competition.

In 1926, a contest occurred in which thirty-seven of the finest judoka in Japan competed before the Emperor Hirohito. The first chapter by Robert W. Smith details the techniques utilized by each master and also compares their skills with today’s judo practitioners.

The next two chapters by Dr. Llyr Jones and Biron Ebell deal with the transmutation of judo over the decades. Both authors give ample support that the original guidelines have evolved into competitive sport resulting in a substantial decline in the number of adults practicing judo. 

Where does kata stand in judo practice today? Dr. Lance Gatling reports on The First Kodokan Judo International Competition (2007). He outlines the background of the competition, the competitors, the motivations for this competition, the historical development of judo katas, and their importance to the correct study of judo. 

Dr. Llyr Jones’ next chapter has two objectives: to explain the purpose of kata in judo, and to critically evaluate the concept of kata championships. To achieve these objectives, Jones offers personal comments, observations from rare Japanese source material, as well as insight into the thinking of world-renowned judo experts.

Linda Yiannakis provides two insightful chapters. Her first chapter presents a conceptual framework for examining principles of judo throwing techniques. The principles are classified as primarily structural, operational, or contextual in nature. In her second chapter, she points out that martial artists are acutely aware of the need to develop a sense of timing for the best possible moment to apply techniques in free play or contest. This chapter examines some critical features of patterns and rhythms in a variety of contexts and provides a few basic exercises for the development of awareness and use of rhythm, patterns, and timing in judo.

Jones, Savage, and Gatling present an in-depth study into Kodokan Goshin-jutsu—a Kodokan judo exercise formally established in 1956 to teach the principles and techniques of self-defense against unarmed and armed attacks, and to meet modern lifestyle needs. Their chapter reviews the place of Goshin-jutsu among the Kodokan katas, and then summarizes the history its creation. A description of the exercise’s structure and technical contents follows, along with an in-depth explanation of its principles and associated teaching and learning challenges. This also includes a review of the most reliable learning texts in Japanese, English and selected other Western languages. 

Kodokan Goshin-jutsu’s performance aspects are considered next. An objective assessment of its practical self-defense effectiveness follows, before finally conclusions are drawn.

The short final chapter by Dr. Jones is on Kodokan judo’s Nage-no-kata (forms of throwing) and Katame-no-kata (forms of control). Their study helps facilitate the development of free practice (randori) skills.

Many look at judo studies as including three dimensions: free-practice, competition, and forms. Kata practice is vital to the other two. If you are involved with judo, this anthology will deepen your purpose and inspiring your practice.

Author Bio:

S. Biron Ebell, M.A. received his Master of Arts degree in Anthropology/Archaeology from the University of Manitoba in 1980. In 2005, he retired from Parks Canada after 20 years service as an archaeologist and heritage interpreter. He has studied Kodokan judo since 1963, and currently practices at the University of Manitoba, studying kata and teaching beginners. He is a 5th dan (godan).

Llyr C. Jones, Ph.D. received his doctorate from the University of Southampton and has a professional background in the defense and national security sectors, where specific assignments have seen him based in Japan and France. A long time student of Kodokan Judo, he is also an independent scholar, multi-published author and past Associated Editor of the Journal of Asian Martial Arts. A former Welsh international judo competitor, Llyr has received instruction from many of the world’s leading judo teachers. He is dan-ranked and holds proficiency certificates in many of the Kodokan kata. Llyr’s current research interests are focused on judo’s historical aspects and its kata.

W. Lance Gatling, M.A., M.P.S. is a retired US Army Northeast Asia political-military affairs officer, weapons systems engineer, and former State Department Foreign Service Officer. An armor / cavalry branch graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point he holds master’s degrees from Western Kentucky University and the US Naval Postgraduate School. Resident in Tokyo for almost 30 years, he has professional level Japanese language skills, and is the head of Nexial Research, Inc., a consulting firm focused on the Japanese and Northeast Asian aerospace and defense markets. Lance holds dan-rankings in Nihon Jujutsu, Kodokan Judo, Shinto Muso Ryu Jodo and Hapkido. He is the only non-Japanese in Japan to earn an All Japan Judo Federation instructor’s license, and also the only such person to be a member of the Judo Division of the Japanese Academy of Martial Arts. In 2014 Lance was the only judoka in Japan certified proficient (that year) in Kime-no-kata by the Kodokan. Since 2015 he has served as the Director / Instructor of the judo program at the US Embassy in Tokyo.Michael J. Hanon, Ph.D.

Martin P. Savage, B.Ed. received his degree from the Queen’s University of Belfast and has been studying Kodokan Judo for nearly 50 years, holding dan-rank. His particular area of interest is kata and he has been especially active in the arena of kata competition. Martin is a ten-time British champion in multiple kata—mainly Kodokan Goshin-jutsu, and from 2005 to 2011 represented Great Britain at various European and World Judo Kata Championships. Particular highlights including the 2005 inaugural European Kata Championships at Burgess Hill, United Kingdom, the 2008 inaugural Kata World Cup in Paris, France and the 2009 inaugural Kata World Championships in Cottonera, Malta. Now resident in France, Martin continues to enthusiastically promote kata—teaching, examining and attending various master classes to further his own knowledge.

Robert W. Smith, M.A. is well-known for his many contributions to the martial arts. His experience in martial arts practice and research, spanning over fifty years, is complemented by well-honed writing skills. Via Media has published eight of his articles in the Journal of Asian Martial Arts, and his fourteenth book, Martial Musings: A Portrayal of Martial Arts in the 20th Century (1999).

Linda Yiannakis, M.S. started martial arts training in 1971 and now holds fifth-degree rankings in both judo and jujutsu. She studied Kodokan judo and Takagi-ryu Kosenjo Bujutsu under Steve Cunningham. Yiannakis currently teaches judo in Albuquerque, and is a senior instructor in Wa Shin Ryu jujutsu at the University of New Mexico. She is a board member of the Institute of Traditional Martial Arts at UNM. Her educational background includes an M.S. in communication development and disorders.

Product Specifications:

Format: 6" x 9" paperback, 176 pages, over197 illustrations.

Books are "print-on-demand". We send orders to an company to print and mail to customers. They usually ship within one to three weeks.


  • The Masters Contest of 1926: An Epiphany in Judo History, by Robert W. Smith, M.A.
  • Competition, Kata, and the Art of Judo, by Llyr C. Jones, Ph.D.
  • Competition Versus Tradition in Kodokan Judo, by S. Biron Ebell, M.A.
  • The First Kodokan Judo International Competition and Its Katas, by W. Lance Gatling, M.A., M.P.S. 
  • The Way of Kata in Kodokan Judo, by Llyr C. Jones, Ph.D., and Michael J. Hanon, Ph.D. 
  • A Taxonomy of Principles Used in Judo Throwing Techniques, by Linda Yiannakis, M.S.
  • Rhythm, Patterns, and Timing in Martial Arts as Exemplified Through Judo, by Linda Yiannakis, M.S.
  • Kodokan Judo’s Self-Defense System: Kodokan Goshin-jutsu, by Llyr C. Jones, Ph.D, Martin P. Savage, B.Ed., and W. Lance Gatling, M.A., M.P.S.
  • The Logic of Kodokan Judo Kata, by Llyr C. Jones, Ph.D.