A form:  A choreographed pattern of movements that simulates a “imaginary fight.”

  • Japanese prounuciation 型  “kata” Translates as “Form” or a mold, law, or model.
  • Chinese pronunciation 型 “hsing”
  • Korean pronunciation 型 “hyeong”

Important Kata Terms:

  • 分解  Bunkai (analysis)
  • 応用  Oyo (application)
  • 演武線  Embusen (kata line)

Circa 1891 The Japanese Army was very impressed with “te” but lost interest due to poor organization and outdated training methods. Master Itosu took steps to modernize karate by intoducing the “Pinan” Kata as a form of physical fitness and removed the dangerous elements (tegumi). (Funakoshi later named them Heian to suit Japanese nationalism). In 1901, Itosu started teaching Karate at the Shuri Jinjo Elementary School and by 1905 he teaching at the First Junior Prefectural School. Karate became part of the official physical education of Okinawa’s school system, eventually making its way to mainland Japan via Funakoshi in 1922.

“Heian” The word “Heian” is Japanese and shortened from two words – 平 heiwa (peace) and 安 antei (stability)

Heian 1-5 are the most popular kata in the world.

  • 平安 Pingan (Chinese) “stay safe”
  • 平安 Pinan (Okinawan) “stay safe”
  • 平安 Heian (Japanese) “peaceful”
  • 平安 Pyong-an/Pyung-Ahn (Korean)

SHITEI 指定 Kata “designated” (Heian & Tekki Shodan)  These kata introduced by Yasutune Itosu

  1.  平安初段 Heian Shodan – (peaceful mind, first level)
  2. 平安二段 Heian Nidan – (peaceful mind, second level)
  3. 平安三段 Heian Sandan – (peaceful mind, third level)
  4. 平安四段 Heian Yondan – (peaceful mind, fourth level)
  5. 平安五段 Heian Godan – (peaceful mind, fifth level)

Okinawan “Naihanchi” kata and naihanchi-dachi demonstarate elements of Tegumi and tai sabki. This Shōrei-Ryu kata was later remaned “Tekki” 鉄 Tetsu (Iron) 騎 (to ride or sit horseback) by Funakoshi who also renamed the straddle stance to Kiba-dachi (Cavarly Horse Stance)

鉄騎初段 Tekki Shodan – (iron horse riding, first level)

鉄騎弐段 Tekki Nidan – (iron horse riding, second level)

鉄騎参段 Tekki Sandan – (iron horse riding, third level)

SENTEI 選定 Kata “Selection” are (4) required kata (compulsory):

9.  Bassai Dai (Passai) 拔塞 (to penetrate a fortress – major/big) Japanese meaning of 拔(batsu) is “to pull out or to extract” in Chinese “拔 (bá)” can mean “to seize or capture” and 塞(sai/soku) means a “place of strategic importance” or fort. Bá sāi (拔塞) would mean “to seize or capture” a “place of importance. Some moves symbolize a battering ram used against fortress walls.  Introduced by Peichin

10. Kanku Dai 観空大 (Kushanku) (to view the sky – major/big) The first movement views the sky, which symbolizes the universe and shows your opponent that you are unarmed. It was Master Funakoshi’s preferred kata.  Introduced by Kung Hsiang Chun

11. Jion 慈恩 (love and goodness) or mercy is a term in Buddhism. It is also the name of a temple (Jionji 慈恩寺) in China.

12. Enpi 燕飛 (Wanshu/excellent wrist) The quick up and down movements of this kata are reminiscent “flying swallow” where it gets its name . Enpi is one of the oldest kata in Shotokan. The “Funakoshi 15” Heian 1-5, Tekki 1-3, +4 Sentei kata, + these (3)  Introduced by Wang Ji

13. Hangetsu 半月 (Seisan) meaning half moon based off the hangetsu dachi (half moon stance).  Bushi Matsumura

14. Jitte 十手 (ten hands) also spelled Jutte is designed to fight against ten opponents.

15. Gankaku 岩鶴 (Chinto) (crane on a rock) The main stance in this kata (tsuruashi dachi) resembles a crane ready to strike at its prey. The movements are supposed to simulate a fight in the narrow alleyways of Okinawa. The former name was Chinto.  Bushi Matsumura

Other Advanced Kata:

16. Bassai Sho 披塞小 (Passai) (to penetrate a fortress – minor/small)  Yasutsune Itosu

17. Kanku Sho 観空小 (Kushanku) (to view the sky – minor/small) Kanku Sho was created from Kanku Dai. The movements and performance line are similar.

18. Sochin 壯鎭 (Hakko) (strength and calm) The name of this kata comes from its stance (sochin or fudo dachi), a strong, rooted stance. The purpose of this kata is to teach defense against a stick.  Yoshitika Funakoshi

19. Chinte 珍手 (rare or extraordinary hand) Chinte has a lot of circular and roundhouse techniques. These are rare and are not typical of the shortest distance between two points concept of Shotokan.

20. Goju Shi Ho Dai 五十四歩大 (fifty four steps – major/big) This kata is one of the most advance kata of Shotokan. Master Funakoshi called it hotaku (knocking of a woodpecker) because some of the techniques resemble a woodpecker tapping its beak against a tree.  Yasutsune Itosu

21. Goju Shi Ho Sho 五十四歩小 (fifty four steps – minor/small) This is a smaller version of Goju Shi Ho Dai. It is also one of the most advanced kata of Shotokan.  Yasutsune Itosu

22. Meikyo 明鏡 (Rohai) (bright mirror) The first movements of this kata suggest the smoothing of water to make it as calm and even as a mirror. The triangle jump at the end of this kata is said to have a secret meaning portending to a miracle.  Tomari-te

23. Niju Shi Ho 二十四步 (twenty-four steps) The movements in this kata resemble waves breaking on a cliff. The former name of this kata was ni sei shi.  Seisho Aragaki

24. Unsu 雲手 (cloud hands) Unsu has several techniques that symbolize parting the clouds with open hands. Classically pronoucned “un-shu” Considered Rare Kata:  Seisho Aragaki

25. Wankan 王冠 (king and crown) The shortest kata in Shotokan introduced by Funakoshi’s son (Gigo/Yoshitaka).

26. Ji’in 慈陰 (love and shadow) or inverted mercy. Along with Join and Jitte begin with left hand covering right (ancient Chinese) Tokui kata 得意 is your “free” or favorite kata. It translates into: speciality, pride, triumph aka your best! Its pronounced: (toe ku eee) *Kata has been described as the soul of karate.  Tomari te

There are 26 standard Shotokan Kata. Some count Taikyoku “first cause” (Kihon Kata) as a 27th

27. Gigo Funakoshi also created partner kata known as “Ten no Kata” 天の形 Which translates as kata of the universe/heaven in 1930s. He was sent to learn kata from Okinawan master Kenzo Mabuni and as a result of these teachings, the curriculum of Shotokan is believed to have included Sochin, Nijushiho and Unsu.