Learning to relax and release muscle tension while doing the kata greatly enhances speed and control. If you are tense when you perform a kata, you are fighting the tension in your own muscles which makes it more difficult to move freely. Learn to relax during the execution of the movement and tighten up at the focus point of the movement. In doing so you will improve the kime (focus) of the movement as well as the speed. Telling someone to relax when they perform kata and actually being able to do it are two entirely different things. Another drill is to pick a karate movement that relies heavily on speed like the Kezami (jab) and do the kezami in sets of 2-3 movements repeatedly. Make an attempt at trying to relax yet tighten up at the focus point of the extension of the movement. With practice you will find that the more your relax the more power you can generate though developing speed. Try the same drill while executing a set of techniques from the kata. Improve speed and focus of the set by relaxing and concentrating on the kime or focus of the movement.
Tension is caused by one or more of the following:
1. Nervousness caused by performing kata in front of a group as in a tournament situation. Solution: perform kata in front of people as often as possible. If training for a tournament, perform your kata by yourself with the entire class watching you. In doing so, it will help you to get used to performing kata in front of an audience. Enter tournaments often. The more you perform in a tournament atmosphere, the more relaxed you will be.
2. Fear of not doing well. Solution: Winning in karate tournaments is not important. Doing the best you can is all that is important for your individual growth and development. Take the pressure off yourself by telling yourself you will just try to do the best you can. Don't concentrate on the winning but rather on the execution. In following the true meaning of karate-do the is no winner or loser in competition.
3. Tension caused by trying too hard and not being used to it. Often times when training a kata the karateka will train at 70-90 percent of their physical and mental capability. Come the day of the tournament, all of a sudden the karateka is trying to do the kata 100 percent of their ability or more. The result: the power in the execution of the movement is not controllable by the karateka. In addition the karateka may find his or herself tired before they have finished their kata and run out of energy at the end. Solution: Train kata at 70-90 percent to perfect the movements but also spend at least a third of the time or more on doing the kata at 100 percent of your effort. With practice, you will be able to maintain muscle control even when exercising the movement at full force.