What Kata Isn't
Let’s get this straight. Classical martial arts kata are not practice fighting. They are not what fighting is or was. Martial arts kata do not simulate combat conditions. They do not recreate actual combat scenarios. If kata aren’t any of these things, then what are they, and why bother with them?
Kata are pre-arranged training sequences. Kata are training scenarios for learning about essential elements of conflict. I train in both classical and modern Japanese martial arts, and both use a lot of kata. Classical arts tend to focus almost entirely on kata training. Gendai arts like Judo use a combination of formal kata training, randori/sparring, and informal kata.
Kata are not for mimicking combat . Kata are for getting better at combat. They are a training tool for learning the skills necessary for dealing with combat. They are an exceptional tool that has survived hundreds of years of testing and application. As a training tool, they provide a framework for practicing various aspects of combat, not just repeating techniques or practicing in a sparring situation where much of what is effective is not acceptable because of the risk of injury.
Kata is not sparring, and with good reason. All sparring assumes a dueling scenario. 2 people faced off and fighting. Any equipment is equal. There are no surprises, no unexpected changes. There is an assumption of fairness. Kata is not handicapped by any of these of these assumptions. Kata allows a much broader investigation of conflict conditions.