Kata: Literally ‘Form’ or ‘Pattern’;
-> a sequence of steps or movements, repeated over and over again to create ‘muscle memory’. (see: ShuHaRi)
The Japanese term ‘Kata’ originates from martial arts.
It is a training method to internalize a series of movements (a ‘form’) in such a way that the student can apply them ‘in a reflex’ without actually thinking about the form it selves, so he can focus on the effect the form should have.
It is a typical Shu stage of learning: The teacher tells you what and how to do and the student practices until the teacher is satisfied. At that point it is internalized, it has become an automatism.
A typical kata in most martial arts takes about 1 or 2 minutes and consists of 12 to 54 or even more steps. The number of steps has links to the Taoist spirituality where the number of 108 identifies the number of states of mind. A typical kata is a division of 108 steps.
Behind all kata there rule some basic principles that have to be understood to fully benefit the kata, otherwise it could end in a form of gymnastic, a dance (which is not the purpose of a kata).
So when applying a kata in our improvement effort it is not just a matter of putting some steps in a sequence. A kata cannot just be constructed by defining some steps and call them a kata!
A kata is a sublimation of deep understanding and evolution of the process that should be achieved with the kata.
The kata, in most martial arts, is used for its martial purpose. But it can also be used therapeutically. This can be experienced in Taiji (or Tai Chi) were a series of steps, each potentially lethal movements, are performed to cure and shape the body and creating a harmonious energy balance.
The kata in our Lean-effort similarly can have a martial effect (the elimination of a loss) and a therapeutically effect (group-cohesion, better understanding, collective wisdom etc.)