I am sure many of the Martial Arts students were taught Kata(forms) within three or four weeks of joining. But many of us[including me when I joined] usually wonder what use will be a Kata, which is just movements which involve many types of blocks, punches and different kicks. There are around 100 different types of Katas across the various styles of Karate.
What we should notice is that as time passed there were changes in the Katas. These changes are nothing but improvisations which were needed due to effluence of time as the old techniques may be rendered ineffective due to changing times. When we don’t change, our traditional moves are ineffective when others know about it, and it is easy to defend against our moves.
So, now let us get back to what our title means. As I said, Kata is the ‘Essence of Self Defence’. I am sure you are wondering how this can be possible(unless you are an Instructor). Firstly, I would suggest you to check every move you perform. As you advance in your belt grades, there are kicks to the knee, elbow strikes to the face, jumping kicks, hammer strikes to the head, knee strikes to the face and the list goes on. These moves are usually not allowed in tournaments as it can be dangerous. So, these moves are the moves to be used on the street to defend yourself. So, the more you practice your Katas, the better you get at the moves that can help you in a life threatening situation.
I would also suggest learning ‘Bunkai’. Bunkai is nothing but the meaning of every step in the Kata. I am sure your Sensei will teach you, but due to various reasons, if he/she doesn’t, do remind them, because it will be helpful to learn the meaning rather than memorizing the Kata. Bunkai fills color to the process of learning Katas.
P.S: Katas when practiced for more than half an hour without break can be a good cardio workout!