Speaking just for myself, one thing my kata does for me (my specific version of kata not generic kata) is help to train my body and mind to throw that switch from normal mode to fighting mode. Not sure everyone finds this to be true, but for me it works. I believe technique alone does not win a fight, attitude; mind set whatever you want to call it is what actually wins the fight. For me I find I can let the beast out of the cage mentally, like a baseball player visualizing his hit. There is no way to do partner drills where you grab the person’s larynx and shake and pull like a pit bull until you hear it tear. However that is exactly what I do in kata.
I love kata but not all kata. I love bunkai bit not all bunkai. When I do seisan my kata does not look much different you would still recognize it as seisan. Speed, placement of power timing may differ but my kata application is not what others are doing.
I think this is where that “magic kata” stems from. I have done many styles and without bashing I will say the majority of kata do not translate well for a realistic application. You have to really dig deep to find a good bunkai and in many kata actions it is just not there. In the Chinese kata Superrenpei that Simon Laylie showed Bill there is an action where you squat down and do a one knuckle punch on to the ground. Application… your doing a shoken to the top of the foot, so said Bill. It’s not a great bunkai but for lack of any other explanation it will have to do. And so goes the majority of kata in the karate world. The teacher has no real application so none is given and a mindless kata is practiced for years with no reason. But the teacher can’t just say flat out, I don’t have a clue so he hides behind a veil of ancient Chinese wisdom that says- practice and it will come grasshopper.
Kata without application is dance.
When Larry Tan Was at summer camp he said” kata is a language of movement.” I find many martial artists do not know their own language.
I love my kata even if I am the only one who can understand what I am saying