Attending the Kata World Championships Abu Dhabi 2023 means having the chance to see the best specialists in the world. It is also an opportunity to meet personalities from the world of judo, such as the President of the Kodokan, Mr Haruki Uemura, also a member of the IJF Executive committee. When it comes to judo, Mr Uemura, who was also a world and Olympic champion before taking the reins of the Kodokan Institute, has a lot to say and asking him one question necessarily leads to many more. We started with kata and little by little we embraced other dimensions of judo which allow us to understand its full force.

“I am very happy to be here in Abu Dhabi for this kata world championships. I am all the more happy that we have broken a participation record. I see that edition after edition, the level is rising.

It must be understood that the goal of kata is to understand the principles of judo. By practising correct forms, we learn the fundamentals of our sport. This involves learning the notion of distance from your partner, all possible forms of movement, getting off balance and executing techniques, but it is even richer and broader than that.

Kata also allows you to make the link with competition (shiai), where you have to put the principles into practice freely. Nage-no-kata and katame-no-kata are part of what is called randori-no-kata. There is a reason for this. By becoming an expert in these two kata specifically, you learn all the principles underlying judo. Juno-kata, even if it seems to take place in slow motion, is at the heart of the essence of judo. For example, it is impossible to perform a seoi-nage in the juno-kata if you are not positioned correctly.

I have been a competitor myself and when I was young, I only had one goal, to win. I did everything I could to win and honestly, kata didn't interest me much, but over the years I understood their usefulness and their necessity. You know, we forget it a little but all high-level athletes across the planet practise kata, without knowing it. When they do uchi-komi, they follow a kata logic. They learn the forms and the principles and they try to find the best ones. So, isn't the most important point the position of the first foot? In kata it is imposed for a good reason and during uchi-komi, if you practise poorly, you will not be effective.

Here we are at the world championships, but kata is not just about competition. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I really believe that young people should be more interested in kata because they will then be able to better understand what judo is made of. Even for judo competition, knowing your nage-no-kata and katame-no-kata is essential. This teaches the proper use of your body and energy. Behind every detail there is a reason. Nothing is superfluous.

At the Kodokan, we are not only interested in kata. It's all judo that interests us because we want to continue to pass on judo to future generations. It is quite incredible to think that Kano Shihan, when he created judo in 1882, was only around twenty years old. At the very beginning the Kodokan had only a few students and it was easy for Kano Shihan to teach them the principles personally but as the institution developed it became more and more complicated to spread judo. This is also what kata is for. They are a tool for dissemination throughout the world. We will never be able to grasp everything that Kano Jigoro Shihan had in mind but we can be proud of what he transmitted to us. It also does not make us forget that, particularly in the kata, there is still a large part which is given to jujutsu, the version that Kano had studied. He managed to make an incredible synthesis.

In accordance with the spirit of judo, we must respect the sportsmanship and fair-play in a human way. At the beginning, the Kodokan was open to everyone regardless of religion, skin colour or gender. This is still the case today. It is this mutual aid that judo encourages us to apply in everyday life."

We knew it, by speaking with Mr Uemura, we were embarking on a great journey, through the history of judo and its values. Kata is an important part of judo culture. It is the one that is celebrated in Abu Dhabi duringthese days, but it goes well beyond the framework of kata.

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