Learn more about Kateda
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:
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
Primary sources: Kateda book, firsthand experiences, Google
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
See videos on the Sindo website 
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.
Training is usually conducted once- or twice-weekly and takes place in a mixed class of all degrees of proficiency, lead by a black belt or higher. Students practice the basic movements, numbered 1 to 10, a series of combination movements, numbered 11 to 20, and Central Power.
Some say they felt a high comparable to those attained by use of hard drugs through the training. This may be caused by the rush of endorphins and sympathetic drive created through such strenuous exercise.
One can only think of the results if one combined weight training with kixa training on the acquired physical strength one may gain.
 Sparring and Fighting
Although Kateda is a spectacularly aggressive martial art with heavy emphasis on what looks to the newcomer like extreme physical endurance of all forms, fighting plays no part in Kateda Self Defence below black belt. Students of above black belt engage in sparring while delivering Central Power to their limbs. This is done under strict supervision only once the individual has developed a peaceful mentality and demonstrated control over anger and aggression. Only at this point are students permitted to combine Central Power with Self Defence movements.
 Grand Training (or "Grandtraining")
Kateda holds an annual "Grandtraining", which is an intensive weekend-long training event. Through this weekend camp, students engage in intensive martial arts and Central Power training. Grade-holders are expected to push themselves to their limits and go without sleep, engaging in deep Central Power training which is used to keep them warm. Conditions are very basic and little food is distributed, as this is meant to go some way in replicating the harsh Tibetan environment in which Kateda was supposedly developed many thousands of years ago.
 Kateda Book
Nasution wrote an English-language book simply titled "Kateda" which was printed in the 1980s. The book is now extremely rare and laid out sketchy details of various aspects of Central Power. It also laid out the idea of a New World Peace Force. It is unknown whether this book is a translation of the original leather volume found by Tagashi, or to what extent it is an original work.
See Kateda by Lionel Nasution ISBN 0-946204-61-6
Someone should write a book around kateda and make loads of money - like a fictional story.
Kateda gained popularity in the United Kingdom in the 1980s, under the Grandmaster Lionel Nasution, which lead to the worldwide headquarters of Kateda being moved to London. Nasution was said to have learned directly from Tagashi. The art grew rapidly and had many hundreds if not thousands of students, but a BBC television programme in the early 1990s made dramatic claims about sexual harassment of female students, cultish behaviour, murky financial issues and serious injuries. A great many Kateda classes were run in West London, which was home to many BBC employees; it was predictable that at least one BBC journalist would be attending. Evidence for the documentary's claims came from firsthand testimonies of ex-students and ex-instructors.
Doubt was also cast over students' apparent rapid promotion through the coloured belts, with some being granted a black belt after just one year of training. This was in sharp contrast to arts such as karate, where it can take a decade to reach black belt. Critics viewed Kateda therefore as just a black belt factory and claimed that a Kateda black-belt would offer no defence against an attack from a holder of a far lesser belt of a "more serious" martial art. Whilst this point was never formally tested in an inter-art sparring contest, the spectacular feats of Kateda's students, instructors and masters were never under doubt and the sparring that took place above black belt certainly looked authentic and was frequently captured on video. Additionally, the way in which Masters, the Vice-masters and the Grandmaster sent assailants hurtling on the floor could probably not be faked on such a scale.
The justification within Kateda for the rapid progress of students was the somewhat mystical idea that "progress always speeds up just before a new Grandmaster is going to take over". However, there were persistent rumours that instructors were graded on the basis of how many new recruits they got in the door, which if true would explain why high-grade instructors tended to be so charismatic and focused on finding new recruits and encouraging existing recruits to pay up for the Grandtraining weekends. There was regular speculation over which of the Eighth-Graders was going to be stay as Vice-master and perhaps appointed successor; the Grandmaster regularly stripped them of their titles because they were not training "well enough." Critics said that this was just a sham designed to inject integrity into an elaborate con trick. It was also unclear what would happen to the existing Grandmaster when the new one took over since there could only be one Grandmaster at a time; would the old Grandmaster lose his super-duper Grandmasterly abilities, or perhaps die? This point was never addressed satisfactorily by the organisation and students were told not to question the Grandmaster.
Nasution reportedly left England and returned to Indonesia in the immediate wake of the BBC documentary, which did nothing to dispel the atmosphere of suspicion. Certainly the Kateda organisation encouraged its students to socialise at the organisation's headquarters in suburban London although this can hardly be deemed absolute proof of cultish behaviour, or perhaps it was simply a cult of having fun with like-minded people. Perhaps more sinisterly, however, Instructors and Masters were encouraged to drive souped-up black cars, to listen to preprepared tapes of music and spoken words and join the un-publicised Kateda Car Club (KCC). At meetings of the KCC, students allegedly engaged in even more extreme physical tests of Central Power but such stories were kept quiet by those involved. Additionally, the Kateda Book's description of the New World Peace Force only added to the allegations of cultishness.
It is unknown what happened to Nasution after he left the United Kingdom. Whether he has continued as Grandmaster is also unknown. He could remain Grandmaster as long as he lives but it is possible that the mantle has passed, perhaps to a practitioner of Sindo, Kixa or Nearu (see below). Present teachers of Kateda explain away the story but asserting that students from deprived backgrounds got into drugs and were asked to leave the organisation; reports (see external references) say that the allegations about potential sexual harassment and financial misconduct were fabricated as an act of retalisation. It remains, however, that the Kateda organisation of the time did nothing to defend itself publicly and the Grandmaster's disappearance did not give confidence. Nothing is proven, but the controversy remains traceable on the internet. Whatever the current situation, Kateda taught that there would only be one Grandmaster at any one time and, in in an ironic twist in 1989, that there would be a new Grandmaster imminently.
 Related Arts and Present Day
After the BBC exposé on Kateda, the art seemed to go underground. It still survives but offshoots from the original organisation have appeared to have attempted to escape the controversy, under the names of Kixa, Keita and Keinja. Kixa seems to be the largest. A number of apparently related arts are also practiced, such as Sindo and the very obscure Nearu.
Sindo is either identical or almost identical to Kateda. The founder of Sindo, Jimmy Thaibsyah trained with Lionel Nasution between 1972 and 1986 but has said that there are differences between the two arts and that Mount Bromo has no significance to Sindo. It appears that Sindo is therefore an art that developed in parallel to Kateda.
Nearu's website reports clearly that its founders studied with Lionel Nasution in London and set up in Iran thereafter, presumably after the BBC's Watchdog exposé. Nearu however appears to be a fusion of Kateda and other arts and is therefore best considered an offshoot.
The story gets more complex with Kixa, however, which employs a schematic log of Mount Bromo that engulfs the word 'Kixa'. This is all-but-identical to the Kateda logo and suggests strongly that Kixa is essentially a "phoenix" organisation.
Notwithstanding Kixa's emergence, Kateda appears to continue to exist in some form but details are sketchy. Both Kateda and Kixa classes are held in London (see Health & Fitness listings at ) but the extent to which the organisations are related is presently unknown.
Kixa itself claims on its website to be the "closest art to Shaolin". Since the Shaolin arts were probably brought to the Shaolin temple in China by a Persian monk, this claim is perhaps at odds with other histories. However, the similarity between Kixa/Kateda and the feats of which practitioners of Qigong and Yiquan are capable and the prevalance of Kuntao arts across the Malaysian peninsula and Indonesian archipelago suggest more than just an obtuse link. However such a link might be seen to loosen Kateda's claims of Tibetan origin, unless of course the Persian monk who arrived in Shaolin himself was a disciple of an earlier Tibetan tradition.
 Similarity to Yoga
Kateda's intense focus on breathing and muscle techniques is very similar to some of the exercises in Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga in particular shares Kateda's precise synchronisation of breathing and movement. However, Kateda practitioners always release the breath into a movement whilst Ashtanga teaches the reverse. Additionally, Yoga recognises a series of bandhas which map directly to the muscle groups involved in the muscle control phase of Central Power. One of the bandhas described in Yoga is located in the solar plexus, upon which Kateda places great emphasis. Another bandha (uddayana bandha) is the same as the "stomach lock" in Kateda. Yoga's use of candles in "tatrika" (eye purification) is exactly parallel to the use of the same props in Kateda's development of "One Direction".
At a superficial level Yoga is philosophically very different from Kateda, but beneath this they both share the aim of enlightenment through disciplined practice and a transcendence beyond the physical realm. The similarities that exist could therefore be viewed as giving support to Kateda's claimed age. Alternatively it could be said that Kateda is merely a related discipline of unknown age. While Kateda has the main aim of promoting Self Defence of the Body and Mind, and hence to provide a means of peace to its students, (ref: unknown); yoga "seeks to provide the student with a practical path (or indeed many possible paths) towards the common goal of liberation". The two could be said to be the same, yet Kateda just seems so much more practical, regardless of the setting the two are put in.
 See also
 External links
- UK Kateda website
- Kateda Jakarta (Indonesian language, lots of photos)
- Sindo website
- Kixa website
- Kixa request for funding to build a new "Centre" - could be evidence of cultishness
- Aryha website - conflicting history ?
- Nearu website
- News article about Kixa
- Scans of various news article about Kixa
- Discussion of Kateda
- Google Group Discussion of Kateda
- 1998 interview with Kateda Grandmaster
- Kateda Self-Defence Association, Jakarta - informative Indonesian language site
- 2001 Keinja article
- Keinja article
- The Five Tibetans
- Yellow Bamboo
- article mentioning both Tenaga Dalam and Nei Gong