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Kateda PDF 

Kateda is a martial art whose origins are claimed to be in South Asia and/or South East Asia and is claimed to date from 1000 BC or even earlier; its teachers say it "was one of many knowledges that existed at that time". Various different stories of its origins exist, but a common theme is that it originated in the Tibetan Himalayas and was then taken to Indonesia.


Very little is written in the public domain about Kateda, so what follows is told from firsthand experiences of training. The only official book about the art, written by Lionel Nasution, is now out of print and impossible to find. Research for this article mixes firsthand experiences with what little can be gleaned from the internet. Citations are given wherever possible but beyond this it is difficult to Wikify this article further. Kateda practitioners past and present are invited to contribute.

It is said that Kateda was originally used for self-protection against the harsh Himalayan environment and as a basic training for maintaining a natural and healthy lifestyle. The rare and out-of-print Kateda book says that it is based on seven elements:

  • Bravery
  • Challenges
  • Leadership
  • Sacrifices
  • Togetherness
  • Peace
  • Knowledge.

Through the understanding and progression of these elements, individuals are said to be able to overcome their fears, negativity, stress, anger and other social problems. Training is also claimed to provide the opportunity for individuals to acknowledge their achievements of creativity, confidence, assertiveness, self-control, self-discipline, awareness, respect and understanding, to recognise and expand on their personal development.

History of Kateda

The History of Kateda is largely unknown to the public, as is in fact the existence of Kateda itself.

Kateda is claimed to be at least 3,000 years old, perhaps even 10,000 years old which would put its emergence at the end of the last Ice Age. Kateda is claimed to originate from Tibet. A small number of other Tibetan martial arts or Bod arts are known, such as Seamm-Jasani, Baobom, Yaanbao and the extremely-obscure Sung-Thru Kyöm-pa (also known as Amarëe). Seamm-Jasani is reputedly 10,000 years old, having its origins in ancient Bod (the Tibetan name for Tibet) or Peuyul (an archaic name that pre-dates modern Tibet, meaning "Land of Snows" or "Land of the Gods" in the Tibetan language) and is practiced in the outdoor Himalayan climate, so claims of Kateda's age are perhaps not as unlikely as they may initially seem. However, Kateda (like sister-art Sindo) may just be another re-formulation of Pentjak Silat or related Kuntao, Kuntao Silat.

It is said that Kateda was lost for a long time and was rediscovered by a solitary man from the Himalayan region called Tagashi (or Takashi). In 1907, at the age of twenty, Tagashi was travelling in the North of Tibet. There he reputedely found an ancient leather bound book or manuscript written in symbolic form. For the next forty years he studied the book and made an intensive search for its origin, comparing it with other ancient books kept by the people of Tibet, Nepal and the Himalayas. He came to the conclusion that the 'Seven Secrets', as he named the book, having translated the symbols into seven different characters, originated "from a time when wars were non-existent".

He described the teaching as "a structural anatomy of human inner force, built by the seven purest elements of natural inner strength". This knowledge was used for protection against the wild surroundings, and also for maintaining peace and harmony. With the invention of war weapons the teaching in the book became less and less practiced, until eventually they were completely forgotten. He also wrote "This Seven Secrets book contains the atomic power of the human body and the instinct powers of the human being. This internal power is separated into seven natural and pure parts. In the old ages these powers and knowledge were used only for the protection of life and the convenience of mankind, for example: to confront the wild nature, to confront fierce animals, the cold and the heat and even for peace and harmony between people."

Tagashi truly believed that the lessons of the book and the art of Kateda should never be misused, swearing all of his students to secrecy. In 1947 Tagashi decided to follow the map shown on the last pages of the book, believing this to be the journey made person, or persons who had been the last keeper of the book, to prevent it from being destroyed. By this time his views had changed and he believed that the 'Seven Secrets' should be shared with others; in contrast for his initial insistence on secrecy he now wanted everybody to have access to the knowledge but he appeared to waver on this point at various times (or, perhaps the story has been distored by time).

During the 16 year period of his journey through Nepal, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia he taught some 200 students. The teaching was given in secret to prevent them from misusing the resulting knowledge of Self Defence. Everyone was sworn to secrecy, especially those who were able to master the ability to punch solid objects without pain or injury. They also had to improve their sense of responsibility regarding this knowledge, by teaching others under Tagashi's intensive guidance.

In 1963 Tagashi and 30 Masters arrived at Bromo Mountain in Eastern Java, Indonesia. It was here thet he discovered the meaning of "Inner Vision" and "Inner Voice" through experiencing a vision: on the sides of the crater he saw the same symbols that were described in the book. This vision formed the basis of his belief that the Seventh Secret could be achieved through the methods of Self Defence.

From this moment Tagashi's aim was to stay in the Bromo Mountain and find the link or method which separated the ability he had already achieved, from the ultimate knowledge -- the Seventh Secret. During his six year stay from 1963-9 some students from Indonesia met Tagashi. They stayed with him and later, on reaching the Master stage, were given the special task of helping Tagashi find the key to unlocking the Seventh Secret.

In 1969 one of the Masters from Indonesia obtained permission from Tagashi to translate the Seven Secrets into ordinary language, including the method of unlocking the Seventh Secret, which had finally been discovered by this same master. This Master had never seen the manuscript until Tagashi gave him permission to translate it. The permission had been given because this master himself, while at the Bromo Mountain, had exactly the same vision as Tagashi, of the symbols described in the last pages of the book. Tagashi realised that this pointed to the reality of the Seventh Secret -- that it could be achieved.

The method by which it could be achieved was called Deep Silence, and would enable him to be able to control the mind so as to make contact with his subconsious and from there to reach his Inner Vision and Inner Voice. For three years from 1969-1972 this Master translated the Seven Secrets in the silent solitude of North Tibet, where the manuscript had been found. In March 1972 Tagashi accepted his translation. He also agreed to abolish the traditional secrecy and replace it with a structured teaching organisation with rules and regulations. The translation of the Seven Secrets was called Kateda -- meaning the highest stage of Central Power.

The methods of breathing, muscle control, physical movement, mind concentration, internal heat communication, Inner Vision and Inner Voice, are the words used today -- replacing the symbols of the original manuscript. The only symbol used in the translation is the name Kateda itself. The letters K-A-T-E-D-A were taken from symbols drawn on the very last page of 'Seven Secrets' -- the symbols of the mountain together with guide lines, also in symbolic form, of instructions towards reaching the highest point. The Mount Bromo remains in some sense the "spiritual centre" of Kateda and it is here that high-grade masters are trained by the Grandmaster. One Indonesian student claims that the letters KATEDA were derived from KArate TEnaga DAlam ("Tenaga Dalam" means "inner force") and has access to the symbol originally used by the Kateda organisation. Later another Indonesian art student Agus Nugroho, designed the logo symbolising Mount Bromo with the words KATEDA.

In 1976, on the 22nd of January, Tagashi died at the age of 89. He was cremated in the crater of Bromo, together with the original manuscript. This was his last wish. He also requested that whoever was to become the new Grandmaster of Kateda must put the priority of peace above all the knowledge achieved through Kateda's methods. At the time of his death, a number of his students had joined him in attaining the Seventh Stage. One of these students was a man named Lionel Henry Nasution, the son of an Indonesian General.

In 1977, 5 years after the opening of the first school of Kateda in Indonesia, The Kateda International -- the principal teaching organisation of the Kateda schools -- opened a school in England and, three years later in 1980 in America. All those schools with the branches were centralised under the name of 'Kateda School of Self Defence'. On 5th March 1981 the London Kateda School of Self Defence became the headquarters of all Kateda schools, as by this time the members of Kateda schools were from many different cultures and backgrounds -- from England, Indonesia, America, the West Indies, Iran, Denmark and so on. In 1982 there were some 30 Masters Leading schools through the traditional method of selection, ensuring the requests of the late Grandmaster Tagashi were adhered to.

It is not clear at which point Lionel Nasution succeeded Tagashi as Grandmaster although it is known for sure that Nasution studied directly under Tagashi and attained the Seventh Stage of Central Power under his direction in the crater of Mount Bromo.

He is now allegedly dead. Whether or not this is true, it is uncontested that Kateda, or Kixa, as it is now known, is a superior knowledge than sinda, (or sindo?) in that the way its knowledge is used in a way that does not compromise itself. There is no competition and there never will be.

Effects of the Practice

Like any well-conducted exercise, practising Kateda improves physical fitness, stamina and relaxation. Studying Kateda is claimed to improve mind strength, respiratory and nervous systems, co-ordination, balance and instincts, via developing all voluntary and involuntary, internal and external muscle groups.

After learning the basic movements of the art, which are simply numbered from 1 to 10 and comprise a variety of punches, blocks, kicks and vigorous leaps, students move on to learning how to deliver and maintain Central Power. The steps become dramatically more powerful when combined with Central Power.

Like many martial arts it also promises spiritual development, via the invokation of Central Power. Central Power is developed through unique breathing, physical and mental exercises. One exercise is called "kei", which suggests some kind of common thread with other oriental martial arts. This may be a linguistic accident, but the similarity to the Chinese word Qi or Chi is clear.

A student's proficiency in delivering Central Power through the body’s nervous system is tested in a variety of ways during training sessions, for example:

  • For men, break bricks hit on the solar plexus
  • For women, to kick and break bricks with the sides of the feet
  • Receiving punches delivered to the solar plexus
  • Withstanding strangulation
  • Rapid, repetitive punching iron plates with the knuckles
  • Jumping knuckle press-ups on iron plates
  • Being hit with an iron bar
  • Being punched simultaneously from all sides by as many as eight people

As the student becomes more adept, progressively more spectacular feats are performed. Practitioners manage these without any apparent suffering of pain or injury. If bruising occurs, this is said to be because the individual's mastery of Central Power is insufficient.

Certainly the physical benefits are clear, with students often becoming lean, toned and extremely strong but controversy surrounds Kateda's aggressive focus on physical tests of Central Power. Since the 1980s the presence of physical tests in the Kateda practictioner has rapidly declined and some of the tests mentioned above are no longer used by mainstream practitioners.

Belt System, Grades and Grandmaster

Kateda follows a familiar belt system, with new-comers starting at White Belt and then progressing through Yellow, Green, Blue, Brown and Black.

Beyond Black Belt, there are eight grades. Grades one through five are called "Instructors" and wear black uniforms with red Roman numerals. Sixth to Eighth Graders are called "Masters" and above wear impressive flowing white or cream robes with large red, Roman numerals.

The Eighth Grade is the highest grade available. Few attain it and from those few, one may be given the title Vice-Grandmaster but this is at the discretion of the Grandmaster. It is said that the next Grandmaster will be chosen from the Eighth Graders and is most likely to be the Vice-Grandmaster, but there is no guarantee.

Only one Grandmaster can exist at any one time. Students of Kateda say that if anyone is able successfully to attack the Grandmaster in any way, in or out of a training session, then they automatically become the next Grandmaster. In the rare event that somebody mounts such an attack, typically the attacker is sent flying by a nonchalant-looking Grandmaster, who may not even be looking, while incredulous-looking students look on. This is very similar to stories told about the Chinese internal art of Yiquan.

Possible Inference of Influences from Belts, Gradings and Robes

The system of belts and division of grades above black belt into Instructor, Master and Grandmaster is, surprisingly, almost identical to those used in the Korean art of Tae Kwon Do. This does not easily fit with the conventional history of the art.

The black robes of Instructors and Masters, however, are very close to those worn in Pentjak Silat, an indigenous Indonesian martial art; see. After the Second World War, Indonesia gained its independence and many Martial Arts organizations attempted to unify the various forms of Pentjak Silat into a single style. It would be surprising if Kateda and Sindo were not influenced by or even produced during this period, which had a great effect on Indonesian martial arts.

Central Power and the Seventh Stage

Mystical qualities of Central Power are reported by students; certainly the legend and history of the art depend heavily upon this mysticism. After developing the basic technique, students can resist a variety of physical attacks and can punch iron plates seemingly painlessly. Beyond this, however, the study becomes much more internalised and transcendent. After intense study, the student is said to reach the higher "Stages" of Central Power.

Upon attaining the final Seventh Stage, the student is said to develop omniscience and omnipotence. Attaining this stage is a necessary requisite for becoming an Eighth Grader. The Grandmaster is said to be able to communicate with all previous Grandmasters through the abilities that reaching the Seventh Stage confers.

The Stages of Central Power are, in order, with indications of where in a student's training they are learnt:

  • Breathing (White belt)
  • Muscle control (Yellow and Green belt)
  • Physical movement (Blue and Brown belt)
  • Mind concentration (Black belt)
  • Internal heat communication (Black belt)
  • Inner Vision (Instructor and Master)
  • Inner Voice (Master)

Students immediately start with the Breathing stage of Central Power with their White Belt. Mention should also be made of the emphasis on "One Direction", that is the focusing of the gaze and attention on a single point. This meditative technique is used in each class to focus the mind on developing Central Power.

What is Central Power and is it Unique to Kateda?

Kateda practitioners describe "internal heat", which feels like either heat or electrical tingling moving around the body when they invoke their Central Power and that this internal heat can be directed at will into the hands, feet, solar plexus or elsewhere. This is similar to Ying ("hard") Qigong, where practitioners direct Qi to specific parts of the body in order to resist attack or perform other spectacular feats of body control. Moreover, practitioners of Qigong say "where the mind goes, Qi goes", which is identical to the Kateda concept of directing Central Power under conscious control to various parts of the body. Indeed, Kateda teaches a method of cultivating power called "kei", which is linguistically very close to the Chinese terms "qi" or "chi". In fact, Indonesian Sindo  which is a verfiably-close relative of Kateda states on its website that Sindo is "the closest Martial Art to Shaolin".

Despite the divergent (claimed) origins of Kateda and martial arts of the Chinese traditions, these conceptual and linguistic similarities therefore strongly suggest a common origin, or subsequent cross-fertilisation, although irrevocable proof is probably lost in the mists of time. However, it is possible that the term "kei" is a more recent borrowing from Chinese.

Sceptics say that there is no such thing as Qi and that any feat that relies on its invocation is probably reliant on the Power of Suggestion. Believers however point to the nascent evidence that supports the existence of bioelectricity which is distinct from the electrical currents that routinely travel through the central nervous system for the purposes of motion, muscle control and sensory perception. Some claim to have actually photographed qi and Reiki energy in motion in people's bodies .

However, the highest stages of Central Power, inner vision and inner voice, do not easily fit into this framework. These apparently psychic abilities tie in better with the spiritual teachings of Yoga and perhaps the latest advances in non-local physics which both suggest the existence of a domain beyond that which we can perceive with our five senses and describe with Newtonian and relativistic physics. Deepak Chopra has published many books attempting to explain such topics of spirituality to Western audiences and whilst these works are controversial within conventional circles, Chopra's works have reached an enormous audience of people who report profound, positive changes in their lives once these concepts have been understood. Sceptics, of course, say that Central Power and Qi don't exist and that their mention is just a clever way to get people to pay to "learn" them.

More recently, there has been significant controversy in internet chatrooms over Yellow Bamboo, a derivative of Tenaga Dalam. This controversy is reminiscent of that which erupted around Kateda in London, England in 1990/1 and claims made about Yellow Bamboo, Tenaga Dalam and Kateda are strikingly similar. If Central Power does indeed exist, it can be said that Kateda has much in common with other arts, but proof of Central Power's existence is as yet not forthcoming.

One may theorise that Central Power is simply a name for an acquired means of conscious control of the autonomic nervous system - through voluntary activation of sympathetic innervation around the body, one may redirect blood flow to recquired parts of the body, hence increasing muscle strength - like a controlled adrenaline burst, only sustained via noradrenergic innervation. The basis for this is to be build upon, and the terminology used ought to be linearised.

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