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A basic explanation of what kata is can be often found as "a pre-arranged set of defensive moves and attacks against an imaginary single or multiple opponents". The Shotokan katas contain a plenty of very important elements which one needs to practice according to his/her personal level of training. When performing a kata the karate practitioner must live and feel each single technique. There are 26 standardized katas in Shotokan. Here we exclude the taikyoku kata and some other kata practiced by different organizations and schools

The basic differences in the training and teaching methods among the various styles in karate can be distinctively seen in kata. 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 must be studied not for a demonstration purposes but for improving the kumite techniques and eventually applying them in a real fight. The essence of kata is not in how beautiful the movements are but how effective they are. 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. If one thinks about karate as a system of self defense then he/she should practice many katas because in each kata there are different methods and applications on how to defend and attack.

A brief overview

Modern Name

Original Name



Kihon Kata

Taikyoku Shodan

Basic Form #1

Gichin Funakoshi

This kata is now utilized by most Shotokan groups around the world. There are also Taikyoku Nidan and Sandan (#2&3) but they are not so popular among the Shotokan communities. Taikyoku Nidan is the same as Taikyoku Shodan except that all the punches are performed at high (chin) level and in Taikyoku Sandan all the blocks change from down block in front stance to middle inside-outside block in back stance with all punches at high level.

Heian Shodan
Heian Nidan
Heian Sandan
Heian Yondan
Heian Godan
Pinan Nidan
Pinan Shodan
Pinan Sandan
Pinan Yondan
Pinan Godan
Peaceful form/mind #1
Peaceful form/mind #2
Peaceful form/mind #3
Peaceful form/mind #4
Peaceful form/mind #5
Yasutsune Itosu
Yasutsune Itosu
Yasutsune Itosu
Yasutsune Itosu
Yasutsune Itosu

The Heian kata are essentially the same as the older Okinawan Pinan. The name is derived from the phrase heiwa-antei (peace and calmness). It is said that master Itosu has changed the order of the techniques in the five Heians so that students first learn simplier movments (Heian 1&2) and then gadually proceed to more advanced techniques (Heian 3&4&5). Another idea is that master Itosu has derived these five katas from the much longer and complicated kata Kanku Dai (Kushanku).

Tekki Shodan
Tekki Nidan
Tekki Sandan
Naihanchi Shodan
Naihanchi Nidan
Naihanchi Sandan
Iron Horse #1
Iron Horse #2
Iron Horse #3
Yasutsune Itosu
Yasutsune Itosu
Yasutsune Itosu

The Naihanchi (Tekki) katas are tipical for Shuri-te style. Funakoshi renames Naihanchi to Tekki. Naihanchi Shodan was revised by Itosu who created the second and third forms of this kata using the original as a model. Before the creation of the Pinan/Heian kata, Tekki/Naihanchi was one of the most important basic forms of Shorin Ryu. According to the martial arts phylosophy these kata represent a fight when one does not have space to retreat or move like fighting with his back close to a wall for example.

Bassai Dai (Major)


To storm a castle


There are many versions of Bassai kata, including Matsumura Bassai, Ishimine Bassai, Tomari Basai etc. The oldest form of the kata can be traced back to Oyadomari Peichin.

Bassai Sho (Minor)

To storm a castle (Minor)

Yasutsune Itosu

Itosu has created this kata based on Bassai dai.



Buddhist Monk

From Tomari te

It is considered that this kata is from chinese origin and that Jion is word from the buddhist scripts. Another idea suggests that it was named after the temple Jion where monks had practiced martial arts and later it was passed from China to Japan.



Temple Grounds

From Tomari te

Shokyo was the name given to this kata by Gichin Funakoshi. Later it was changed back to Jiin. The standard Shotokan form lacks the last four techniques that are found in the Shorin Ryu version.



Ten Hands/Techniques

From Tomari te

It is said that the techniques in Jitte are designed to disarm a bo (long staff) wielding opponent.

Kanku Dai (Major)


Looking into the Sky

Kung Hsiang Chun

Many forms of Kanku Dai exist in Shorin Ryu and was thought to be Gichin Funakoshi's favorite. It is believed to be based on the teachings of the 18th century Chinese instructor Kung Hsiang Chun. It is strongly recomended that one should first study carefully the five Heians before starting Kanku Dai.

Kanku Sho (Minor)

Looking into the Sky (Minor)

Yasutsune Itosu

Itosu derives this kata from Kanku Dai.



Flying Swallow

It is often claimed that the origins of this kata can be traced to the Chinese envoy Wang Ji who visited Okinawa in 1683. Wanshu was known only to karate-ka in Tomari village and was taught by Kosaku Matsumora. Later this version was adapted by Matsumora and Itosu.


Seisan, Seishan

Half Moon


Perhaps the oldest kata in karate versions of this form can be found in many styles. It is said that Bushi Matsumura introduced this kata into Okinawa from China .



Crane on a Rock


This is considered to be a very old kata and the real source is unknown. Funakoshi explains that this kata belongs to the Shorei style. The kata was practised by Matsumura and later was modified by masters Kiyataka and Itosu.



Strongly Rooted

Gigo Funakoshi

This kata was probably created by Yoshitaka Funakoshi in the late 1930s. There are a number of similarities to the older Aragaki Sochin especially at the end of the kata, so he may have used the older version as a model.



Twenty-four steps

Seisho Aragaki

This kata was practised by Shotokan adherents during the 1930s and is featured in Nisaburo Miki's book Kempo Gaisetsu. It was adapted by JKA instructors to conform to their standards.



Cloud hands

Seisho Aragaki

This kata is said to have been taught to Bushi Matsumura by a shipwrecked Chinese sailor.



Strange Hands

Shoin was Gichin Funakoshi's name for the kata. Later the older name was re-adopted. Chinte features close in attacks to the eyes, nose, and ribs.



Bright Mirror

From the original Tomari-te kata called Rohai, Itosu derived three kata known as Rohai shodan, nidan, and sandan. Meikyo is based on Rohai nidan.



King's Crown

Gigo Funakoshi

This form shares the same name as an Okinawan kata and parts of the two are vaguely similar. It may have been created by Yoshitaka using the older form (from Tomari-te) as a model.

Gojushiho Dai (Major)

Useshi or Hotaku

54 Steps (Major)

Yasutsune Itosu

This kata is an advanced form in many Shorin Ryu groups.

Gojushiho Sho (Minor)

54 steps (Minor)

Yasutsune Itosu

Gojushiho Sho was created by Itosu using Gojushiho Dai as a model.