What is "Kata?"

The word "Kata" or Form is used to describe a choreographed sequence of techniques which appear to be used against imaginary opponents.

The purposes for Kata are many but most people find they assist in understanding the application of certain techniques in real-life situations.

Kata is an integral facet of every student's training and an invaluable tool in developing skill in the use of combination techniques as well as balance, fitness, focus and spirit.

Kata is an important part of both gradings and Tournament competition.

There are many Kata in Shotokan. There are but a handful of Karateka in the world who know, and have mastered, them all.

We have brought you here a comprehensive list of Shotokan Kata. Where possible, we've provided a brief explanation of each one. We hope you enjoy learning about them.

As many of the older or rarer Katas are shrouded in mystery, many of the details concerning them have been lost over time. If you happen to come across information on any of these Kata that can help us fill in those details, please submit your contribution for inclusion on this page.

On many of these kata, we have included a downloadable, printable sketch diagram. You'll see the appropriate link below the name of each one. These diagrams were sketched by Sensei Albrecht Pflueger, 7th Dan. A respected European Master. The Shotokan world openly uses and respects the accuracy of these diagrams in web sites all over the globe. Many of the diagrams we did not possess were graciously provided by Jürgen Porsch, who enjoyed the content of our site and helped fill in some blanks for us.

For those who wish to experience the true visual representation of kata, there are many many mpeg versions of all of these kata available on the Internet. Here we have provided links to some of those locations although it must be noted that these MPEGS are not hosted on our site.

These are the Kata (not in any particular order)......

Taikyoku

For beginners, a somewhat simplified version of Heian Shodan was introduced, which is called Taikyoku Shodan. This is most often used for 9th Kyu gradings as a "stepping-stone" to Heian Shodan.

There are also Taikyoku Nidan and Taikyoku Sandan to learn, each involving similar patterns but somewhat more complex techniques than the previous.

Click Here for a visual chart

Heian

The old name for the Heian Kata was Pinnan. These Kata were developed by Yatasune Itosu as intermediate Kata to the much longer main Kata of Shorin-Ryu. He did not make them up however, they were based on much older training forms called Channan, which had their origin in China. 

Master Funakoshi considered Pinnan Shodan too difficult for an introductory Kata so he changed Pinnan Nidan to Heian Shodan and Pinnan Shodan to Heian Nidan.

The Heian Kata we know and practise today are as follows....

Heian Shodan visual chart MPEG video
Heian Nidan visual chart

MPEG video

Heian Sandan visual chart MPEG video
Heian Yondan visual chart MPEG video
Heian Godan visual chart MPEG video

Tekki

The Okinawan name for these was Naihanchi and they are directly taken from the long form called Hua-Chuan which is one one of the main training forms of Tiger Style Northern Shaolin Wu-Shu. It was on Okinawa that the Kata was split into three separate sections that we now call Tekki Shodan, Nidan and Sandan.

The name means "Iron Horse". The Kiba-dachi stance used exclusively in these Kata is the main training stance of Northern Shaolin Tiger Style of Wu-Shu.

The Tekki Kata we know and practise today are as follows....

Tekki Shodan

visual chart

MPEG video

Tekki Nidan

visual chart

MPEG video

Tekki Sandan

visual chart

MPEG video

Bassai  

Again these Kata are from Northern Shaolin sources but from which sub-style we are not sure. They do however, have strong Tiger Style characteristics.

The name used on Okinawa was "Passai" and it translates as "Capture the Fortress". 

We are taught that Bassai-Dai symbolises the capture of the fortress and Bassai-Sho symbolises the fight to get out again.

The Bassai Kata we know and practise today are as follows....

Bassai Dai visual chart MPEG video
Bassai Sho visual chart MPEG video

Kanku

The Kanku Kata were taught to the Okinawans by Master Kwang Shang Fu - Military Attaché to Okinawa in 1724. The Okinawan way of saying his name is Kushanku and this was the Okinawan name for these Kata.

Master Funakoshi changed the name to Kanku which means "to view the sky".

When an intermediate student of Shotokan Kata views Kanku-Dai for the first time, there is always a sense of strong familiarity. This is because the Kata is made up primarily of techniques and combinations which appear in each of the 5 Heian Kata. It is widely believed that the Heian Kata were in fact each a small excerpt of Kanku-Dai, broken up to make learning this Kata easier for students. Whether this is true or not is not important, however it is true to say that once a student has a reasonable working knowledge of the 5 Heian Kata, Kanku-Dai is far easier to learn.

The Kanku Kata we know and practise today are as follows....

Kanku Dai visual chart MPEG video
Kanku Sho visual chart MPEG video

Jion  

This is the classic "mainstream" Shaolin Kata, complete with the "Ming" salute at the beginning. Shaolin was also named Jion-Ji by the Japanese but the literal translation of the Kanji is "to love the sound" (of Shaolin).

Jion visual chart MPEG video

Ji-In

Another Shaolin Classic and all of the above relating to Jion apply here too. The name translates to "love of truth".

Ji-in

visual chart

MPEG video

Chinte  

This Kata is one of the older ones and it's salute at the beginning betrays its Wutang origin. The name translates to "to restore calm" or "to establish peace". 

The final moves of this Kata are supposed to represent the ocean waves disappearing into the dry sand on the beach just as your enemies would vanish before you if you master these techniques.

Chinte visual chart MPEG video

Jutte (Jitte)

Another Shaolin classic. The name means "ten hands". If you master this Kata, your enemies will feel as though you had ten hands.

Jitte visual chart MPEG video

Empi (En-Pi)

A classic white crane style Kata brought to Okinawa in 1644 by Military Attaché Master Wang-Shu. The Kata was names after him hence its Okinawan name of "Wanshu". This translates to "excellent or incredible arms" and perhaps this explains the lovely hand techniques this Kata contains.

It also tells us that Master Wang-Shu must have been very good with his hands.

Empi

visual chart

MPEG video

Hangetsu

This is a Wutang Kata that came to us through Master Itosu's training in Na-Ha-te from Master Higaonna. It is named after the third Chinese Zen Patriarch but the name Hangetsu, given to it by Master Funakoshi, means "half moon" - a description of the dominant stance used in the Kata.

Hangetsu visual chart MPEG video

Sochin

This is a Northern Shaolin Dragon Style originally taught on Okinawa by Master Aragaki. This Kata is supposed to demonstrate the power of "Ki" and the name means "to overcome using power" (of Ki).

Sochin visual chart MPEG video

Unsu

Another Dragon Style Kata from Aragaki. Where he trained is not known but the strong Chinese influences in this Kata suggest it was certainly in Mainland China.

The name used on Okinawa is "Unshou" and it means "cloud defence" - even if your enemies surround you like a cloud, you will surely defeat them if you master Unsu.

Unsu visual chart MPEG video

Nijushiho

Another of Aragaki's Kata but this one is thought to have its origins in one of the Dragon sub-styles.

The name translates to "the twenty four steps". The form they are taken from is called "Kaisan". The old name was "Neseishi".

Nijushiho visual chart MPEG video

Gojushiho

These Kata are a departure from the norm as they have their origin in a Southern Shaolin Style called "Phoenix Eye". The form they are taken from is called "Kaisan". The name on Okinawa was "Useishi" but this was changed to Gojushiho - "the fifty four steps".

The Gojushiho Kata we know and practise today are as follows....

Gojushiho Sho

visual chart

MPEG video
Gojushiho Dai

visual chart

MPEG video

Meikyo

This is a very mysterious Kata. It seems that the Japanese knew it long before Master Funakoshi introduced Okinawan Karate into Japan. There is even a Japanese legend concerning Ameratsu, the Sun Goddess. 

It appears Ameratsu lost her mirror and could not admire herself and so went into a sulk. The world therefore, was in darkness. At last the other Gods decided something must be done so they sent a great warrior to perform a "war dance" outside her cave.

Hearing the noise, Ameratsu became curious and came out of the cave. The "war dance" was reputed to be Meikyo.

Meikyo translates to "mirror of the soul". The old name for Meikyo was Rohai and this is now coming back into use.

Meikyo visual chart MPEG video

Wankan

This is a Shaolin-based Kata of unknown origin. The old name was Wanduan and the name translates to "sword arm". Using these techniques, your enemies will think your arm is a sword.

To the layman, Wankan appears to be a simple Kata to perform, mainly due to the short length and few movements. The truth is that the Kata is full of technical subtleties that make it far more difficult to perform than would first appear.

Wankan

visual chart

MPEG video

Gankaku  

Yet another White Crane form, this time taught by Master Ching-To, attaché to Okinawa from the Ming court in 1732, and so the Okinawans named it in his honour "Chinto".

Master Funakoshi later renamed it Gankaku  (the crane on a rock).

Gankaku

visual chart

MPEG video