Kata and sport. A winning combination.

Lean Frontiers, Inc. is please to welcome a guest Blog Post by Karl Swanke, former Green Bay Packers offensive lineman in the National Football League. Join Karl for a webinar titled “Kata and Sport, a Winning Combination” on Wed, September 2nd from 2:00-2:30 PM EDT. Register for free here.

A sportsman’s mind is always working to find the best routine (Kata) to succeed; they are scientifically thinking.

There are two types of Improvement Kata’s (IK) that athletes are continually working on: the individual IK and the team IK.  In order to succeed they have to perform at the highest level in each.  As we are familiar, the IK consists of understanding the challenge, grasping the current condition, setting the target condition, and experimenting to get to the target condition.

My individual Improvement Kata.

For me, my individual challenge was to play football in the NFL.  I first understood this challenge when I was 10 years old.  At that time, my current condition was 5’5” tall and 110lbs, with average speed and strength.  My first target condition was to play on the local youth football team.  My first experiment was to try out for the team where 100 youths, ages 10 to 13, competed for 35 spots; I expected to make the team. My first experiment failed, I did not make the team.  After many more experiments and target conditions, I realized my challenge and played 7 years for the Green Bay Packers in the NFL.  This was my individual IK. I needed to practice this routine repeatedly until I could perform at a high level all the time and if I made a mistake, I made sure it never happened again.

My teams Improvement Kata.

The team IK challenge is to win games. Each individual needs to work together to achieve that challenge.  Both the offense and the defense have to work together to understand their team’s current condition, then set target conditions on the way to meeting the overall challenge of winning games.  Initially, the current condition is many individuals performing at an extraordinarily high level, yet not as a team.  Nobody performs well enough on their own to overcome lack of teamwork. A famous NFL quarterback like Tom Brady cannot overcome the bad play of receivers.  If every pass he threw was on target yet they dropped the ball, the team would not succeed. Similarly, a strong offense cannot overcome a poor defense. Therefore the team IK needs to be broken into individual and team IKs for the team to meet the challenge of winning. My part of the team IK was to perform the structured routine of an offensive linesman.  My role was to protect the quarterback from the defensive players trying to stop or disrupt the QB’s pass.

The game Improvement Kata.

Every week the current condition was to understand as much about our opponent as possible.  Each play is an experiment designed to take advantage of defensive weaknesses. Watching film, practicing base techniques, previous experience, and learning new plays creates our knowledge threshold. Our first offensive target condition is to score a touchdown.  As the offense tries its first experiment, using information gathered from studying the defensive tendencies, players execute their part of the play according to their knowledge threshold. My first small step was to that threshold, once that step was taken, then the defense’s reaction determined if my experiment completed as I anticipated.  Any deviation from my planned outcome brought learning. As I learned, I was able to adapt to what the defense was doing differently from what I expected and if I adjusted well enough, and my teammates likewise, the target condition (score!) was met.  Once that target condition was met, we set the next target condition and experimented with other plays until we met the team IK challenge (victory).  In this way, Kata and sports is a winning combination.


FREE WEBINAR: Join Karl for a webinar titled “Kata and Sport, a Winning Combination” on Wed, September 2nd from 2:00-2:30 PM EDT. Register for free here.

NEW TO KATA? A low-cost, high-impact online course is available. The Toyota Kata Knowledge Certification Program which includes on-demand, online videos with certifying questions. LEARN MORE

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