Kata is the backbone of traditional judo. Having said this one must ask the question ‘What is Kata?’
Kata is thought by many to be a set of moves or ‘forms’ performed by martial artists as a form of demonstration. Wikipedia defines Kata as ‘detailed choreographed patterns of movements practised either solo or in pairs’ Neither definition is accurate. The concept of Kata is much broader encompassing most aspects of training.
As you will see if you read the attached article by John Cornish there is no clear definition either in Japan or elsewhere of the term kata. Indeed, the article argues that everything preliminary to actual contest, Shiai, can be treated as kata, whether in a formal way such as Nage-no-kata, or more informally such as uchikomi and even randori.
The idea of treating randori as a form of kata is attractive because just as Nage-no-kata is used to get a better understanding of the various techniques and how best they can be utilised, uchikomi and randori should also be used as part of a player’s learning and development process.
It is quite easy to include uchikomi as an element of kata because you are learning the technique through a repetitive process and with the cooperation of a partner. As a result the use of a cooperative partner means it is not dissimilar to Nage-no-kata or any other kata. The important thing to remember with uchikomi is that it is a building block to develop technique so the number of repetitions is not necessarily the importance but getting the technique right, the kuzushi, the positioning of your body, the accurate completion of the technique. Similarly, if you talk to any top contest player you will find that they use randori as a building block for competition. By this I mean that they will use this practice as a means to help them develop new technique or to improve existing technique. Randori should not be treated simply as a less formal contest. Indeed for higher grade players to gain benefit from randori with a lower grade the benefit to them is very much to use it as a tool to develop their technique rather than proving grade superiority and so it too can be seen as kata.