KATA can be translated as  "form", "pattern", "model", or "mold".

The techniques incorporated vary widely depending on the KATA being practiced, and are executed from a variety of different stances. All of these techniques are performed in order, moving according to a set of predefined footwork.

Shotokan KATA contain plenty of very important elements which one needs to practice according to the karate-ka’s personal level of training. When performing a KATA the karate practitioner must live and feel each single technique.

KATA must be performed with serious attitude. The Mind must be calm a clear. This is a very important point which will help the karate-ka to fully understand the meaning of KATA. Studying KATA on a regular basis will teach the student to combine defensive techniques and attacks with proper breathing technique.

KATA is studied in order to improve sparring (KUMITE) techniques which can be applied in a real fight. When performing a KATA in front of other people the practitioner should be able to make the audience to feel the spirit and the strength of the techniques. A karate-ka should practice many KATA because in each KATA there are different methods and applications on how to defend and attack.

As a  karate-ka progresses through the ranks, it is important to practice the lower KATA as well as the one for their next grade.

As the level and experience of the karate-ka increases, so does the complexity of the KATA they will be asked to perform.

The Shotokan katas contain a plenty of very important elements which one needs to practice according to the karate-ka’s personal level of training. When performing a kata the karate practitioner must live and feel each single technique.

Kata must be performed with serious attitude just as in kumite (sparring). Mind must be calm a clear. This is a very important point which will help the karate practitioner to truly understand the meaning of kata. Studying kata on a regular basis will teach the student to combine defensive techniques and attacks with proper breathing.

Kata combines offensive and defensive techniques, proper body movement, and changes in direction. Although the kata do not involve visible opponents, the karateka, through serious study of the kata, learns the art of self-defense and the ability to calmly and efficiently deal with dangerous situations. For these reasons, the kata have been the core of karate training since ancient times.

Each kata has a fixed number of movements. One must perform the movements in the correct order.

One must begin and end the kata at the same point on the floor. Each kata has its own performance line (EMBUSEN) depending on the kata.

There are three main aspects to performing a dynamic kata:

1.correct use of power
2.correct speed of movement, be it fast or slow
3.expansion and contraction of the body

Bow at the beginning and end of the kata. Bowing is part of the kata too.

When performing KATA, spirit, focus, timing, breathing, posture and balance must all be brought together in every move throughout the KATA.

KATA will give karate-ka a better insight into what to expect from combat.

The karate-ka should concentrate fully on the KATA, actually visualizing his attackers in his mind’s eye  and reacting accordingly and should reach a state Zen ; he should not have to think about which move comes next. The techniques should flow smoothly and powerfully from the subconscious, the mind being calm & seeing all

The learning of a KATA begins by performing it’s sequence gain & again until it becomes ingrained, whilst the KATA being perfected, the karate-ka gains practice of balance, stances, punches, kicks, strikes, tension, relaxation & breathing.

The 10 Points in Kata

All Karateka should study the Ten Points of the Kata and consider these when practicing each Kata

YOI NO KISIN - the spirit of getting ready. Be prepared for your opponent in the Kata.
INYO - the active and the passive. Consider both attack and defensive aspects of the Kata.
CHIKARA NO KYOJAKU - use of strength. Balance your power in relation to the movements in the Kata.
WAZA NO KANKYU - speed of movement. The speed of each movement in the Kata.
TAI NO SHINSHUKU - expansion and contraction. The form of the body in the Kata.
KOKYU - breathing. Understand breath and posture control in relation to the movements in the Kata.
TYAKUGAN - targeting. Know the purpose of each movement in the Kata.
KIAI - shouting. Demonstrate good martial spirit in the Kata.
KEITAI NO HOJI - positioning. Movement and stance in the Kata.
ZANSHIN - alertness. Retaining your guard (alertness) for the whole of the Kata, and beyond.

The Kihon Kata

Kihon means basics, or fundamentals. If kata is the heart of the Shotokan karate system, than the kihon is the blood and the foundation of the kata. These kata are designed to build strong basics and prepare students for the more advanced Heian kata series.

Kihon Kata Ichi (basic kata number 1) also called Taikyoku Shodan
Emphasis on basic low blocks/strikes and stepping punch, moving through the center and building strong and low front stances, proper basic breathing and application of kiai. Hip rotation, vibration.

Kihon Kata Ni (basic kata number 2)
Emphasis on basic face blocks/strikes and stepping punch, moving through the center and building strong and low front stances, proper basic breathing and application of kiai, hip rotation, vibration.

Kihon Kata San (basic kata number 3)
Emphasis on basic outer blocks/strikes and stepping punch, moving through the center and building strong and low front stances, proper basic breathing and application of kiai, hip rotation, vibration.

Kihon Kata Yon (basic kata number 4)
Emphasis on basic combination blocks/strikes and stepping punch, moving through the center and building strong and low front stances, proper basic breathing and application of kiai, hip rotation, vibration.

Kihon Kata Go (basic kata number 5)
Emphasis on basic face blocks/strikes, front snap kicks, timing of lunging punch after kick, kicks exploding from the center, proper kicking chamber and snap back, control of arms and upper body during kick, building strong and low front stances, proper basic breathing and application of kiai, hip rotation, vibration, and reconnection.

Basic Katas
Taikyoku Shodan Taikyoku Yondan
Taikyoku Nidan Taikyoku Godan
Taikyoku Sandan Taikyoku Rokudan

The 26 Shotokan Standard katas With Meaning And Origin:

Modern Name Original Name Meaning Source/Origin
Kihon Kata Taikyoku Shodan Basic Form Gichin Funakoshi
Heian Shodan
Heian Nidan
Heian Sandan
Heian Yondan
Heian Godan
Pinan Shodan
Pinan Nidan
Pinan Sandan
Pinan Yondan
Pinan Godan
Peaceful form/mind
Peaceful form/mind
Peaceful form/mind
Peaceful form/mind
Peaceful form/mind
Yasutsune Itosu
Yasutsune Itosu
Yasutsune Itosu
Yasutsune Itosu
Yasutsune Itosu
Tekki Shodan
Tekki Nidan
Tekki Sandan
Naihanchi Shodan
Naihanchi Nidan
Naihanchi Sandan
Iron Horse
Iron Horse
Iron Horse
Yasutsune Itosu
Yasutsune Itosu
Yasutsune Itosu
Bassai Dai (Major) Passai To storm a castle Oyadomari
Bassai Sho (Minor) To storm a castle (Minor) Yasutsune Itosu
Jion Jion Buddhist Monk From Tomari te
Jiin Shokyo Temple Grounds From Tomari te
Jitte Jitte Ten Hands/Techniques From Tomari te
Kanku Dai (Major) Kushanku/Koshokun Looking into the Sky Kung Hsiang Chun
Kanku Sho (Minor) Looking into the Sky (Minor) Yasutsune Itosu
Enpi Wanshu Flying Swallow
Hangetsu Seisan, Seishan Half Moon China
Gankaku Chinto Crane on a Rock
Sochin Hakko Strongly Rooted Gigo Funakoshi
Nijushiho Niseishi Twenty-four steps Seisho Aragaki
Unsu Unsu/Unshu Cloud hands Seisho Aragaki
Chinte Shoin Strange Hands
Meikyo Rohai Bright Mirror
Wankan Hito/Shiofu King's Crown Gigo Funakoshi
Gojushiho Dai (Major) Useshi or Hotaku 54 Steps (Major) Yasutsune Itosu
Gojushiho Sho (Minor) 54 steps (Minor) Yasutsune Itosu

Following is a short history of traditional kata

Taikyoku, meaning "first cause," is a series of kata developed by Gichin Funakoshi after years of practice and study. He wanted to put together a set of forms that would enable the beginner to learn Shotokan basics-a sort of beginner's "first look" at the style.

The Taikyoku kata are actually based on the Heian forms, but possess a few modifications. Although Taikyoku are known as Shotokan kata, they are found in many other styles and are considered simple to learn.

Known originally by the Okinawan name Pinan, Funakoshi is credited by many with being the first to refer to this kata series by the Japanese word Heian, meaning "peace of mind" or "peace and tranquility." The name change was likely due to the growing national spirit in Japan at that time, causing Funakoshi and others to change Pinan to a Japanese word. The word Heian was chosen by Funakoshi to demonstrate a philosophy of being confident in one's karate abilities. The thought was that, if you mastered each of the five kata in the series, you could enjoy the peace of mind the kata afforded. Funakoshi also reversed the order of the first two kata in the original series.

The Pinan forms were developed by Okinawan master Yatsutsune Itosu (better known as Anko Itosu) for the Okinawan public school system. Itosu was one of Funakoshi's instructors and ultimately influenced him a great deal. Because Itosu considered most kata too difficult for the public school curriculum, he developed five new forms he called Pinan, and introduced them to students at the rate of one per year.

Itosu developed the Pinan series from a pair of uniquely different kata called Kusanku and Channan. While Kusanku is still practiced today in one form or another, the channan form is lost to history.

Tekki (iron horse) was originally referred to as the Naifanchi kata. As the name implies, this series of kata is performed exclusively out of a straddle or horse-riding stance (kiba-dachi). Naifanchi were originally the basic kata for the Shuri-te style.

The originator of the first Tekki kata is unknown, but it is believed that Anko Itosu developed the second and third forms. It was because of the perceived difficulty of the Tekki kata that Itosu decided to develop the Pinan series as the initial forms taught to Okinawan public school students.

Originally named Wansu, the Empi kata translates to "flying swallow" and is one of the only forms left from Okinawan Tomari-te. Tomari-te, and most of its kata and techniques, was lost to history due to the secrecy of its practitioners.


The original name of the kata, was actually a Chinese official who arrived in Tomari around 1683 during the reign of King Sho Tei. Wansu was highly adept at the martial arts, and this knowledge soon be came known to the local population. Little is known about Wansu, however, other than the fact he only taught a few students at a time. After only a few years in Okinawa, Wansu returned to China, leaving his students to fend for themselves. He did, however, leave behind a kata that eventually became known as Wansu (and later Empi).

The wansu kata was therefore practiced exclusively in Tomari until after 1865, when it spread to both Shuri and Naha. Funakoshi altered the original name to the Japanese word "Empi" in order to describe the upward and downward movements of the kata. These movements, along with the quick shifting of stances, are similar to the movement of a flying swallow, thus its namesake.

There are actually two forms of the Bassai kata: Bassai-dai (bassai major) and Bassaisho (Bassai minor). Bassai-dai was originally known as Passai-dai, but was more commonly referred to as Matsumura-No-Passai. The original Passai form was developed by Bushi (Sokon) Matsumura, and was one of the first kata taught to Anko Itosu. After years of practicing the kata, Itosu developed the Passai-sho form, which is seldom practiced today.

Even though the most common interpretation of Bassai is "to penetrate a fortress," another translation gives a more descriptive definition of the intention of the kata. Because of the variety of techniques in the kata, one of the best interpretations of Bassai is "to break through the enemy's defenses by shifting and finding the weak points." Although this is not a literal translation, it is ultimately the true meaning of the kata.

Kanku-dai is one of the oldest forms practiced today. The original name for this kata was Kusanku (sometimes pronounced Kushanku). Kusanku was a Chinese official and martial artist stationed in Okinawa. It is not known if he was sent to Okinawa by his government to spread martial arts, or was simply on a diplomatic assignment. Nevertheless, he eventually stayed in Okinawa for at least five years and taught karate to many individuals, the greatest of whom may have been Tode Sakugawa.

When Kusanku was transferred back to China, he left behind many students but only one official kata, which eventually was named after him. From this form, Sakugawa developed many others as he disseminated this early style of karate.

It was, however, Anko Itosu, and not Sakugawa, who probably discovered the most from his practice of Kusanku. Around 1900, Itosu was asked to teach karate in the Okinawan school system. Because he thought the Kusanku kata was too difficult for elementary school children, he developed from Kusanku the Pinan kata series over a five year span. Kusanku ultimately became known as kanku-dai when Funakoshi introduced it to his Japanese students. Kanku-dai means "to view the heavens," which describes the opening move in the kata whereby the practitioner literally views the sky through his hands.

Sochin, meaning "to keep the peace," evolved from Naha-te, but its actual origin is in China. Naha-te master Ankichi Aragaki left Naha to introduce his style to martial artists in the capital city of Shuri. By the time he returned, Goju-ryu karate had become the most popular style in Naha. This is a reason that Sochin was more popular in Shuri than it was in Naha.

The version of Sochin that was later introduced to Japan was developed by Funakoshi and his son.

Jion is the name of both a Buddhist temple and a patron saint of Buddhism. The kata by the same name is thought to have developed from a Chinese monk who learned his art in a temple. The Jion form was very popular in Tomari and is one of the few kata that remains from the Tomari karate style.

Originally known as Chinto, this kata was eventually called Gankaku (crane on a rock) because of the one-legged stance which is predominant throughout the form. Because of its complexity, Gankaku is one of the most advanced kata in Shotokan as well as other karate styles. Gankaku was developed by Anko Itosu, and it is his version which is practiced in most Shotokan schools today.

The Hangetsu kata, originally known as sesan, has many crescent-shaped techniques, stances and stepping routines, which is why it was later named "half moon" (Hangetsu).

Hangetsu has Chinese origins, and a similar version of the kata is practiced by Naha-te stylists. Although the Shotokan version of the kata has the same origins as the form practiced by Naha-te stylists, the application of the techniques is very different, primarily due to the advent of Goju-ryu in Naha.

Gojushiho, originally known as Useshi, is considered the most advanced kata in Shotokan karate. It originated in China, but was developed fully by the great Bushi Matsumura.

Some styles have two versions of Gojushiho: the original is known as Gojushiho-dai, while the second version, introduced by Itosu, is Gojushiho-sho.


1. Bassai-Dai 12. Jion
2. Bassai-Sho 13. Sochin
3. Kanku-Dai 14. Nijushiho
4. Kanku-Sho 15. Goju Shiho-Dai
5. Tekki - Shodan 16. Goju Shiho-Sho
6. Tekki - Nidan 17. Chinte
7. Tekki - Sandan 18. Unsu
8. Hangetsu 19. Meikyo
9. Jitte 20. Wankan
10. Enpi 21. Jiin
11. Gankaku


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