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Shotokan Kata

Karate kata are sequences of basic, intermediate and advanced techniques arranged into set orders and patterns.  The closest examples or equivalents of the Karate Kata in other activities or sports are shadow boxing, dance routines and the floor routines in gymnastics.  The name kata is a Japanese term translated as mold, model, style, form or shape.

Each kata has its' own character.  Some kata are heavy and powerful whereas others are far more graceful and flowing in their nature.   Some kata however contain a mixture of both and each kata has its' own unique timing.  The 26 officially recognised Shotokan kata are all individually named and given their own personality.  In some cases, the source of the name is obvious.  In others, the name of the kata can only be guessed at from the kanji that their identity was originally written in.

Heian Kata

On the island of Okinawa, this group of kata were originally called the 'Pinan' kata. The name Heian was given to them by Sensei Gichin Funokoshi and is most commonly interpreted as meaning 'Peaceful Mind'.  The Heian Kata are named in a fashion that indicates their level of difficulty, i.e. one to five.  With the excepion of the Tekki kata, the other Shotokan kata are not named using such a numerical system.

Tekki Kata

This group of three kata were originally called the Naihanchi kata.  Once again this name was replaced by Funokoshi Sensei and changed to Tekki.  The name Tekki is taken from the character 'Tetsu' meaning iron or steel and 'Ki' meaning to ride a horse or simply knight.  One possible translation of the name Tekki is 'Iron Knight'.

Dai and Sho Kata

The Japanese kanji (characters) for Dai and Sho simply translate as 'Big' and 'Small'.  Despite a common misconception, Dai kata are not anymore or any less advanced that their Sho versions. Despite the translation of big and small, the Gojushiho kata are reversed.  The 'dai' version of these two kata is actually smaller than that of 'Sho'.

Common Kata Terminology

Rei – Bow
Yoi – Ready position
Yasume – Return to Yoi
Naore – Relax
Enbusen – The invisible performance line on which the kata is performed
Kiai – Focus point in the kata where the Karate-Ka shouts

The 26 Shotokan Kata

Heian Shodan (Peaceful Mind – Level 1)
21 movements Kai on movements 9 and 17

Heian Nidan (Peaceful Mind – Level 2)
26 movements, Kiai on movements11 and 26

Heian Sandan (Peaceful Mind – Level 3)
20 movements, Kiai on movements 10 and 20

Heian Yondan (Peaceful Mind – Level 4)
27 movements, Kiai on movements 13 and 25

Heian Godan (Peaceful Mind – Level 5)
23 movements, Kiai on movements 12 and 19

Tekki Shodan (Iron Knight – Level 1)
29 movements, Kiai on movements 15 and 29

Tekki Nidan (Iron Knight – Level 2)
24 movements, Kiai on movements 16 and 24

Tekki Sandan (Iron Knight – Level 3)
36 movements, Kiai on movements 16 and 36

Bassai Dai (To penetrate a fortress)
42 movements, Kiai on movements 19 and 42

Kanku Dai (To look at the sky)
65 movements, Kiai on movements 15 and 65

Jion (Named after the temple Jion-Ji)
47 movements, Kiai on movements 17 and 47

Enpi (Flight of the swallow)
37 movements, Kiai on movements 15 and 36

Jitte (Ten Hands)
24 movements, Kiai on movements 13 and 24

Hangetsu (Half Moon)
41 movements, Kiai on movements 11 and 40

Gankaku (Crane standing upon a rock)
42 movements, Kiai on movements 28 and 42

Bassai Sho (To penetrate a fortress – small)
27 movements, Kiai on movements 17 and 22

Kanku Sho (To look at the sky – small)
47 movements, Kiai on movements 6 and 47

Chinte (Incredible Hands)
32 movements, Kiai on movements 28 and 32

Sochin (Energetic Calm)
40 movements, Kiai on movements 28 and 40

Nijushiho (24 Steps)
33 movements, Kiai on movements 18 and 32

Meikyo (Bright Mirror)
33 movements, Kiai on movement 32

Gojushiho Dai (54 Steps – Big)
62 movements, Kiai on movements 54 and 61

Gojushiho Sho (54 Steps – Small)
65 movements, Kiai on movements 57 and 64

Unsu (Hands in the clouds)
48 movements, Kiai on movements 38 and 48

Wankan (Kings Crown)
25 movements, Kiai on movement 25

Ji'in (Named after the temple grounds of Jion-Ji)
35 movements Kiai on movements 11 and 35


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