Kata means pattern, routine, habits or way of doing things. Kata is about creating a fast “muscle memory” of how to take action instantaneously in a situation without having to go through a slower logical procedure. A Kata is something that you practice over and over striving for perfection. In the book “Managing Flow”, Ikujiro Nonaka describes Kata as a traditional Japanese code of knowledge that describes a process of synthesizing thought and behavior in skillful action; the metacognition of reflection in action. If the Kata itself is relative static, the content of the Kata, as we execute it is modified based on the situation and context in real-time as it happens. Nonaka also describes Kata as different from a routine in that it contains a continuous self-renewal process.
Kata is not to blindly copy some else method, but to improve on it in an evolutionary way. You learn and evolve a Kata through the three stages of the learning cycle Shu (learn), Ha (break) and Ri (create). In the first stage Shu, you learn by following the teacher. You imitate the teacher’s practices, values and thinking. You will only move on to the next stage when you have made the teacher’s Kata your own. In the Ha stage, you break from the teacher’s practices and make modifications based on your own creativity. In the Ri stage, you leave the teacher and you start creating your own unique Kata. As you expand your knowledge into new areas, you will loop back to the Shu stage for those areas in an ever-growing spiral of knowledge.