Heian Shodan (Peaceful and Calm Mind)

Heian Shodan, developed by Master Yastasune Itosu, is the first kata a beginner to Shotokan Karate learns, and is fundamentally one of the most important kata you study. Despite being developed by Master Itosu, this kata, along with all of the Heian kata have origins that lead back to China, and these kata we practice today are based on the older training forms called Channan. This kata introduces the basic stances zenkutsu-dachi and kokutsu-dachi, with the blocks gedan barai, age uke, and shuto uke. The kata also employs the more complicated sequence involving the tetsui and the shift of the centre of gravity. Taking roughly 40 seconds to perform, this kata contains 21 movements. One very significant part of the kata is the timing of the three age-uke and the three oi-tsuki. To the beginning student, this may feel difficult, but this kata lays the essential foundations for all Shotokan Kata. Only once you have perfected this kata can you truly develop further. Heian Shodan translates as ‘Peaceful Mind – level one’. In many ways, the symbolic significance of the ‘Heian’ series represents the spirit and attitude that accompanies Karate-Do as a Martial Art, so these five kata that make up the series are truly significant, both fundamentally and philosophically.

Heian Nidan (Peaceful and Calm Mind)

Heian Nidan, the second of the Heian Kata series is a very popular kata among new students. This kata is a very powerful kata, which builds upon the fundamentals introduced in Heian Shodan, while also using new techniques. The representative movements of this kata, like most, are the opening techniques Haiwan uke, the double block followed by the punch. This develops a strong use of the hips, while developing the ability to execute more than one technique from one position, while generating impressive amounts of power. With 26 movements, this kata should approximately take about 50-60 seconds to perform, and is more physically demanding, both athletically and fundamentally than Heian Shodan, acting as a useful stepping-stone. As mentioned in Heian Shodan, the Heian Kata are representative of Karate-Do, and represents the attitude that must accompany the karate training. The word Heian is also used in Japanese history to describe the period between 794-1192, a time of unprecedented peace and security throughout the land, under the rule of the Heian dynasty. When you then think about the symbolic significance of the word ‘Heian’, a deeper respect and appreciation for the kata will follow.

Heian Sandan (Peaceful and Calm Mind)

Heian Sandan is the third of the ‘Heian’ series, and again develops on the fundamental principles taught in the previous katas. Among many students, this is the most unpopular of the Heian Kata, but an essential one all the same. Without training in this kata, with the spinning movements, the use of the foot and leg as a block, and strong attention to Kiba-Dachi, kata like Kanku Dai, Tekki and Bassai Sho would not be performed with as much grace and efficiency. This kata introduces many new techniques, the most complex being the disengage of the arm followed by the spinning tetsui. Although very difficult to the beginning student, the principles this kata teach are vital. Just through studying this technique, you learn to control your centre of balance, you learn to spin quickly and efficiently and you learn to generate power through moving your body’s mass. Although these concepts may at times be lost on the beginner, when it comes to studying the later kata, this introduction to these concepts builds the vital foundation for the rest of their kata study.

Heian Yondan (Peaceful and Calm Mind)

It’s quite common for many students once they have passed a grade, to never really feel the need to continue their study of the Heian Kata. It’s quite common for black belts to have completely forgotten their previous kata, being so caught up studying Bassai, Empi, Jion and Hangetsu. However, continued attention and study of these Heian Kata should follow, and not just up to Black belt. Many very senior Dan grades devote most of the kata training time to the Heian kata’s, for these kata teach such important fundamentals, and need to be perfected for a lifetime. Heian Yondan, the fourth in the series is a very popular kata. More than any of the earlier Heian Kata, Yondan introduces a new type of rhythm to kata training. It has interesting contrasts between very deep and slow to incredibly sharp movements. This contrast between slow and fast introduces rhythm to the beginning student, and helps them to develop the control to not just rush through the kata. It helps them develop their leg movements, and the ability to synchronize leg and arm movements. This kata introduces juiji-uke, Shuto-uchi, kakewake-uke, and hiza-geri, and perfection of these new movements is imperative in your continued study of the rest of the Heian series.

Heian Godan (Peaceful and Calm Mind)

Heian Godan is a very visually exciting kata. Being the most athletic of the Heian series, this kata employs movements, techniques and concepts that stretch the skills of the beginning student. Here, not only must the karateka further develop the vital contrast between fast and slow, but must also effectively execute a jump with speed, balance and grace. Through effectively developing this kata, the karateka will be able to develop not only the skills introduced and fine-tuned in the previous kata, but incorporate such skills as stance transition. Although appearing simple to an advanced student, to a beginner, the shift of weight and balance from zenkutsu-dachi to kokutsu-dachi can be very difficult. Through many repetitions of this within the kata, along with other transitions through stances, this kata is essential in the development of understanding how to generate power and how to use the body to its maximum potential. This kata introduces many techniques such as manji-game-uke, and teisho (although many styles don’t necessarily use the technique in this manner) along with this kata using the first jump in the Shotokan Syllabus.

Tekki Shodan (Iron Horse)

The Tekki Series are some of the most complex kata in the Shotokan Style. It has been reported that Funakoshi spent several years singularly practicing these kata, and because he viewed them as such a vital training exercise they have been placed in very high importance in the Shotokan Syllabus. Master Funakoshi learned these kata from the great Master Itosu – who is renown for both developing and creating many of the shotokan kata we practice and study today. Funakoshi spent three years learning each of the Tekki kata, growing to understand that although short and economical on space, these kata were tremendously difficult to master. Originally named Naihanchi, Funakoshi changed the name to Tekki. More significant is the way these kata have changed in performance. Originally being practiced from Naihanchi-dachi and hachi-ji-dachi, these kata are now practiced from kiba-dachi. Tekki Shodan, originally a Shuri-te kata, places much emphasis on deep rooting. To maintain a strong kiba-dachi, with accurate posture and to avoid bobbing up-and-down requires much lower body strength, and this kata, as with all of the Tekki Kata are renown for their effective development of the ‘Hara’ (Located three fingertips below the naval). This kata promotes lower body strength, and the technique Nami-gaeshi (Returning wave) involves raising the sole of the foot in front of the body while being supported by just one foot, requiring great skill and balance. To perform this technique without significantly raising your body is very difficult, so when a beginner can perform this effectively, they will begin to fully appreciate the benefits of this kata

Junro Shodan (Weight Distribution)

The Junro kata were created by the late Asai Sensei, founder of the JKS and considered one of the greatest shotokan practitioners who ever lived. He believed that there were gaps in the original 26 Shotokan kata and so filled those gaps with the Junro series, amongst other kata. The Junro series also helps to prepare the student for the more advanced shotokan kata that follow the earlier ones. The Junro kata are assessed at Shodan level and beyond.

Junro Nidan (Two Hand Techniques)

The Junro kata were created by the late Asai Sensei, founder of the JKS and considered one of the greatest shotokan practitioners who ever lived. He believed that there were gaps in the original 26 Shotokan kata and so filled those gaps with the Junro series, amongst other kata. The Junro series also helps to prepare the student for the more advanced shotokan kata that follow the earlier ones. The Junro kata are assessed at Shodan level and beyond.

Junro Sandan (Striking Techniques)

The Junro kata were created by the late Asai Sensei, founder of the JKS and considered one of the greatest shotokan practitioners who ever lived. He believed that there were gaps in the original 26 Shotokan kata and so filled those gaps with the Junro series, amongst other kata. The Junro series also helps to prepare the student for the more advanced shotokan kata that follow the earlier ones. The Junro kata are assessed at Shodan level and beyond.

Junro Yondan (Hip Rotation)

The Junro kata were created by the late Asai Sensei, founder of the JKS and considered one of the greatest shotokan practitioners who ever lived. He believed that there were gaps in the original 26 Shotokan kata and so filled those gaps with the Junro series, amongst other kata. The Junro series also helps to prepare the student for the more advanced shotokan kata that follow the earlier ones. The Junro kata are assessed at Shodan level and beyond.

Junro Godan (Leg Movements)

The Junro kata were created by the late Asai Sensei, founder of the JKS and considered one of the greatest shotokan practitioners who ever lived. He believed that there were gaps in the original 26 Shotokan kata and so filled those gaps with the Junro series, amongst other kata. The Junro series also helps to prepare the student for the more advanced shotokan kata that follow the earlier ones. The Junro kata are assessed at Shodan level and beyond.

Bassai Dai (Penetrate a Fortress)

Bassai Dai, translated to mean ‘To Storm A Fortress’ is an extremely strong kata, and is a very popular kata for competition. Reason being that it is flashy enough to interest spectators, but powerful enough to feel good to perform. This kata, also called Passai in other styles, is an advancement from the Heian Series. The concept of this kata is to develop power intense and destructive enough to storm a fortress, and the opening technique has been interpreted by many as the breaking down of the fortress doors, signifying the fantastic levels of power produced by the karateka. Despite such impressive displays of power, this kata is commonly regarded as a Shorin-ryu kata, since it employs many fast and sharp techniques, with particular attention being paid to the precision of the techniques. This kata introduces many new techniques including the opening attack, which represents the attack to the fortress or castle’s doors. It also introduces yama-tsuki or mountain or U punch. One element that makes this kata particularly complex is the movement and shifting of the feet. At one point, while performing shuto-uke, you step forward, but immediately retreat. Here, the kata has taken a relatively simple technique found in most of the Heian katas, but placed it in a scenario where it is harder to perform. Therefore, this factor, along with many others, means that this kata is valuable in the transition from a beginner to intermediate. For this reason, the kata is studied at brown belt, for it has many lessons to teach the developing karateka

Kanku Dai (The view of the sky)

Kanku Dai is one of the most important kata in the Shotokan Syllabus. This is, despite being an advanced kata, quite basic, but is a very long kata. Under the WKF rules, this is one of the Shitei kata alongside Jion, and is fundamentally both challenging and enjoyable to perform. This kata is famous for being Master Funakoshi’s favourite kata, and was often used in his demonstrations that he performed in his mission in popularising karate in Japan. He stated that this kata contained all of the art’s essential elements. The kata Kushanku was first introduced by a Chinese kendo expert to the small island of Okinawa, one of the Ryukyu Islands, passing the kata onto an expert Tode Sakugawa of the Shuri-te style, and it from here originated the Kanku-Dai we practice today. Also known as Kwanku, this kata is translated to mean ‘To Look To The Sky’, with the opening sequence being of symbolic significance, and representing the attitude of the kata. In the book Dynamic Karate M. Nakayama practices this opening sequence on a cliff edge, with the sun cast over his body. Below, it is noted that the kata represents the modesty in karate. This can be taken to mean that we should place our karate in the context of the world, and to look to the sky we see how small we are in relation to the rest of the world. This is very humbling, and in many ways breeds the idea that you are forever a student, not just of karate, but of the world. Many psychologists have analysed the opening sequence of the hands rising, with the head following the small triangular shape created by the position of the hands. It has been implied by many that the significance of the focusing of your attention through this shape enables you to block out the clutter and distractions of the world, and see the world, yourself and your karate for what it really is. The opening sequence of this kata has long been studied by all who love it, and along with the karate instructors, psychologists and Martial Art historians, many ides have been projected on the significance of this sequence. Debate aside, it might simply be more valuable to perform this sequence, and appreciate it for what it means to you, and what it offers your karate.

Enpi (Flight of the Swallow)

This again is a very popular kata for competition, and because of the lightning speed performance of many of the techniques, it is both very dynamic and extremely beautiful to watch. The kata ‘Enpi’, or ‘Empi’ as many associations call it can be translated to mean ‘Flight of the swallow’, and when you watch an effective performance of this you will see why. Anyone who has ever watched Asai sensei or Yahara Sensei perform this kata will fully appreciate the value of this kata. The swallow flutters up and down in defence against its predator to make capture as difficult as possible, and like this defence mechanism employed by the bird, this kata acts out the same kind of movements, raising with the knee, and then dropping to kosa-dachi. Power in this kata is not quite as obvious as a kata such as Sochin, which uses deep-rooted stances. Instead, this kata creates power through movement, making this kata quite deceptive. This kata was formally known as Hanshu, although the kata we practice today has been greatly modified by Master Itosu. Master Funakoshi however gave this kata it’s name while trying to make this okinawan art accessible to the Japanese audience. This kata introduces age-tsuki, while also using a huge, highly athletic jump. This kata requires lightness on the feet, and through training in this kata, you will learn to move quickly and generate power through momentum and movement.

Jion (a temple in China)

The origin of this kata is a topic of much debate. One theory of its origin describes its development in a Chinese Buddhist Temple called ‘Jion’, with the kata taking its name from the temple. Others believe it could very well have been developed by someone deeply connected with the temple Jion. These are just two theories of many, but this kata today, both for its philosophical and fundamental reasons, is a very important kata in the syllabus, and one of only two that have kept the same name since its origin. Although the techniques are fairly basic and simple, and only taking approximately one minute to perform, this is a kata favoured by many instructors, for it teaches the student so much, which is evident since it is also practiced in Wado-ryu.

Tekki Nidan (Iron Horse)

The most obvious observation, when watching these katas, is the fact they move in a straight line. The embusen for this kata has been much analysed by karateka and historians. Many believe this represents that the karateka is fighting on horseback; others believe that it represents the karateka fighting with his back against a wall. While others say the kata was developed for fighting on a boat. Debate aside, this kata is the intermediate of the Tekki Series, and like the others, it places much emphasis on rooting, power and stability. Unlike Tekki Shodan, originally a shuri-te kata, Nidan and Sandan were created by Master Itosu, but maintaining many of the concepts that made Shodan such a vital training aid

Tekki Sandan (Iron Horse)

Tekki Sandan, the most advanced in the Tekki Series, is the most complex and difficult to master. However, once the fundamental elements have been perfected in the previous kata such as maintaining correct posture, and the development of a strong and rooted dachi, attention can be paid to the complicated hand and arm movements. This is in common regard, the most popular of the Tekki Series, because of its sharp and effective hand movements. Although very difficult to learn, great power can be generated. These kata are also very important in developing alternative methods of using the hips. With many kata, such as Heian Shodan, and Heian Nidan, power is generated through both big technique and through big hip movements. As a beginner, this is an excellent way to develop power. As the karateka advances however, he aims to make this big power with as minimal movement as possible. This is where the Tekki kata help develop the karateka. Because of the dominance of kiba-dachi, and because of the lateral embusen, there is little opportunity to generate huge levels of power via the hips through big hip action. Therefore, the karateka is challenged to generate power through alternative means. Many Instructors place huge emphasis on hip vibration in these kata, and this is one concept that is both vital and effective to the Shotokan karateka, and through the study of these kata, the karateka will improve greatly.

Jitte (Ten Hands)

This kata shares the same Yoi position as Jion, and contains many similar characteristics. One such characteristic is the rhythm and timing of the three teishos in the kiba-dachi position. The timing here demands much control of the legs in order to quickly achieve effective, solid stances. This kata, also described by many as Jutte, can be translated to mean ‘Ten hands’. It is commonly believed that mastery of this kata may result is the karateka having the power of ten men. Others believe the number ten is a reference to the number of attackers. Jitte is a Shorin-ryu, Tomari-te kata, and is specifically useful in the study of defence against weaponry, and involves elements of the old Gyaku-te waza grappling techniques. Depending on application, the kata teaches you to defend against a variety of stick attacks, and instils an attitude of fearlessness in the face of extreme danger.​

Gankaku (Crane on the rock)

Gankaku, originally titled Chinto, is the modern name chosen by Master Funakoshi, can be translated to mean ‘Crane on a rock’. Such a name was chosen because of the one-legged movements, which resemble a crane on a rock, and develops much in the practitioner. Through moving on just the one leg, and the pivoting helps develop effective balance and co-ordination, whilst through effective body shifting, like in Empi, deceptive displays of power can be created. Mastery of this kata, the oldest in the Shorei-style, will provide you with an understanding of balance and your centre. Without controlling your centre, balance cannot truly achieved. It will also enable you to learn to develop a deep control of your body, which will thus have an effect on the rest of your karate. This kata is currently very popular in competition, although notorious to perform successfully. Many an excellent competitor has been defeated whilst practicing this kata, simply because of a slight stumble or loss of balance. When performed accurately however, it is one of the most visually impressive kata of the Shotokan style.

Hangetsu (Half Moon)

Hangetsu (Half Moon), formally known as Seishan, is one of the less popular kata amongst the younger student of Shotokan. Many very senior karateka have commented however that they gained an appreciation for the kata with age and experience. The one characteristic of this kata that makes it so important in the Shotokan syllabus is the attention to the breathing. Different associations use breathing in this kata differently, but all place emphasis on the deep inhalation and exhalation, particularly on the opening sequences of uchi-uke -gyaku tsuki. When applicated, the techniques for this kata are perfect for close-quarter defence and close-quarter counter-attacks, with the feet movements representing the desire to fight from a close-proximity, with the intent of pressurising, unbalancing and thus weakening the opponent. Other styles practice their own version of Hangetsu, and many do not consider this kata as a representative kata of the Shotokan Style. Many view Shotokan as a style characterised by the long deep stances for stability and power. This kata mostly uses hangetsu-dachi and also uses neko ashi-dachi, which although powerful and rooted are not quite as long and low in the hips. However, such opinions do not negate the value of practicing Hangetsu.

Bassai Sho (Smaller) Penetrating a Fortress

There are many different versions of the Bassai Kata in the various styles of karate, but historical evidence found by many historians have come to the conclusion that Bassai Sho can be credited to Master Itosu. Bassai Dai can be described as ‘To storm a fortress’, whereas Bassai Sho can be described as ‘to storm a fortress and capture the enemy’, with the former being the break into the castle, and the latter being the escape. When you apply these mental attitudes to the Kata, performance is both intense and emotionally charged. Seemingly lighter than Dai, this kata uses less brute force, and more dynamic movements in order to generate power. The only contradiction being at the kiai points in both kata, where in Dai, you lightly support the right hand, whereas in Sho you forcefully hold the arm that grabs at the hair, wrist, or lapel of the gi. One element of this kata that is particularly useful is the defence against a stick attack, with the applications being of great interest. Although this kata does not look as powerful as Dai in appearances, you may find that there is a dangerous calm to this kata, with techniques such as the end movements being particularly dangerous, although visually they appear very graceful and beautiful.

Kanku Sho (Little Kanku)

Kanku Sho, which translates to mean ‘To view the sky minor’, was created by Master Itosu, and was developed using Kanku Dai as the basis. There are fundamental similarities in the kata, one being the physical looking to the sky. In Dai, in the opening sequences, your hands elevate, and so does your head, with your eyes focusing through the triangular shape crated by the hands. In Sho however, while in zenkutsu-dachi, before the second jump, your hand follows your hand, which travels behind you. The symbolic significance of this can only be appreciated by the practitioner, but the similarities cannot be denied. Differences in the kata however are that Kanku Dai places emphasis on upper-level techniques, with the jodan shuto-uchi. Sho however employs a dominance of middle-level techniques such as the three morote-uke sequences, and the three oi-tsukis. Both kata develop defence from positions where you are standing, and where you are on the floor, where you are in a more vulnerable position. This kata is a very popular kata for competition, most probably because of its obvious aesthetic appeal. There are two jumps, both of which demand great skill, and there are very impressive displays of body shifting. These factors make this kata impressive for competition, but also it should be noted that effective performance of the kata demands extremely high levels of skill.

Gojushiho Dai 54 Steps/Directions (Big)

Gojushiho Sho and Gojushiho Dai are two of the most advanced kata in the Shotokan Syllabus. However, there is much disagreement concerning which kata should be titled Dai or Sho. Such confusion extends to certain techniques in the kata, which also are practiced differently between different schools of Shotokan. Gojushiho Sho has a dominance of kokutsu-dachi, kiba-dachi and zenkutsu-dachi. This kata however places a great deal of emphasis on neko-ashi-dachi. As a complete kata, the general ‘feel’ of this kata is far snappier and lighter. This kata employs many interesting hand techniques such as the eagle-hand strike washide. In actual fact, the original name for this kata was ‘Hotaku’ (woodpecker), because of the reminiscence of the woodpecker technique. But for reasons, widely unknow, this kata used the name Gojushiho meaning 54 steps.

Gojushiho Sho 54 Steps/Directions (Small)

This is a very popular kata in competition. It is both very strong and extremely beautiful; a perfect combination for a winning competition kata. When performed correctly this kata flows wonderfully, using the effective contrast between fast and slow techniques, and when performed correctly you will appreciate its aesthetic appeal. Formerly known as Useishi, this kata was originally refined by the Shito-Ryu style Master Mabuni. It was renamed Hotaku however by Master Funakoshi. The current name however Gojushiho can be translated to represent the 54 movements of the kata. This kata is a beautiful and complex form that involves many interesting te movements. One such example is the combination involving the raise of the knee with the hand position representing the grasping of a head. This then follows with a hard stamp and a withdrawal of the hands to the hip. This kata, when applied is also a perfect illustration of many self-defence movements. Within the kata we have many wrist disengages, followed by a strike. Another example is at the end of the kata, where someone comes behind you for a grab. After you strike them, you quickly shift into a zenkutsu-dachi, destroying their balance. This kata is very powerful, and strong. It contains deep-rooted stances with heavy techniques. It is often described that Sho is heavy and Dai is light.

Nijushiho (24 Steps)

Master Nakayama once recalled how Master Funakoshi took him to learn this kata from the Master Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of Shito-ryu. It was also with Master Mabuni that Master Nakayama learned the kata Gojushiho Sho. Nijushiho, was apparently created by Anikichi Aragaki, and is a very popular kata. The kata name is translated to mean ‘twenty four steps’, and the simplicity and ambiguity of the name has been a topic of much debate. Kata such as Sochin have a translation that perfectly highlights the attitude and feeling of the kata. Nijushiho however, a kata of much personality has a name of limited symbolic significance. It is this fact that has challeneged many to learn more about the philosophy of the kata, for it is not blatantly clear in the kata title. This kata teaches you to move and defend from many angles, and helps teach you co-ordination. Many use this kata as a tool to highlight the need for total concentration. If you take a student and force him to perform Heian Shodan in an angle that is different from the regular (for example, facing a corner of the room) they find it quite simple to finish the kata correctly in the accurate position. Nijushiho however does not use such basic and predictable angles, so to perform this kata accurately in a position that is irregular takes much concentration, since it is very easy to lose your co-ordination. This kata wonderfully contains sudden contrasts between very slow, and an explosion of power. To achieve this, the karateka must fine-tune his ability to shift from relaxation to tension., which requires great control of the body and its muscles.

JIIN (Mercy and Kindness)

The origins of the kata are not fully known, although it was at one stage unsuccessfully named Shokyo. This kata shares its Yoi position with Jion and Jitte, and the symbolic significance of the gesture also applies here. This kata, despite no longer being recognised by many associations, does have many instructional qualities that are of much value to any karateka. At one stage in the kata, the practitioner will spin twice in kiba-dachi then step for the third count. To do this effectively requires much skill, and to effectively do so requires development of balance and co-ordination. This is a very powerful kata, and although not as flashy as many of the other katas, it is of high value to all karateka.

Wankan (King and Crown)

This is one of the shortest kata in Shotokan, but is a very complex kata, formed by the Tomari-te instructors. Because of this Chinese origin, this kata is much lighter and smooth flowing than many of the other Shotokan kata. This is also a close-quarters kata, and although some perform the opening sequence in kokutsu-dachi,and others use neko-ashi-dachi, this kata is perfect for defence at a close proximity from the attacker, using effective seizing of the opponents legs and the subsequent throw employed to destroy the attacker. Although short, this kata emphasises the use of the neko-ashi-dachi, which is important, particularly for a close-quarters defence situation. Training in this kata will develop this stance, and your ability to easily move, defend and counter from proximity rarely encountered in Shotokan.

Meikyo (brightly polished mirror)

This is a kata renamed by Master Funakoshi, with its original name being Rohai. Translated to mean ‘A brightly polished mirror’, the name applies both to mirror imaging of many of the techniques, but more so, its philosophical significance is the idea that you should polish the kata through repeated practice so you gain an true understanding of the kata and of yourself. This can also be linked to the repeated use of the basic techniques of the kata, for although this kata appears very basic; its underlying principle is that through very basic training you attain skills that are truly brilliant. This kata although looking simple uses techniques such as the jump, and simultaneous strike, which takes great skill and balance. Defence against stick attack is also covered here, with an interesting way of blocking the attack, like in Bassai Sho, and how to use the attackers weapon to your advantage. This kata is not one of the more popular kata, but study of it is essential in order to improve, since it teaches you a great deal about the need for kihon study, with a philosophy that can apply to all of your karate.

Unsu (Cloud Hands)

Despite its modern popularity, this kata is in fact one of the oldest in the Shotokan Syllabus. Translated to mean ‘Cloud hands’, this kata of Chinese origins, is one of true connections to the earth. There are many theories concerning this kata, with many going as far as to say that the opening sequence highlighting the rise of the sun along the horizon, the keiko uchi represent thunderbolts from the heavens and the jump symbolising a hurricane. Whether you subscribe to these theories or not, you cannot deny the brilliance of this kata, which involves seemingly simple movements, which tend to hide a secret intent. This kata has many wonderful techniques, and strategies, employing examples of defence from the floor, and using the springiness of a jump to generate power and defeat the opponent. Using the floor in this kata is a fundamental aspect that in many ways makes this kata different from all the others. Many katas use a drop to the floor, but no other kata uses the floor in the way that Unsu does. Through studying this kata, you learn to fight from a disadvantage, and you learn how to fight in a way that helps you get to your feet. Apart from the more athletic elements of the kata, this kata employs strategies and clever tact. One such example is the use of the faint, before you drive in with a gedan attack. Through studying this kata, you can learn skills that can be applied to self-defence and competition kumite. This kata instils the notion of how surprise is an effective tool in defence, and through studying this kata, you become a more rounded karateka. Master Nakayama warned however that you would look like ‘A scarecrow trying to dance” unless the Heian kata, Kanku-dai, Empi and Jion were first mastered.

Sochin (Energetic Calm)

Sochin is one of the strongest, and most physically demanding kata of the Shotokan Syllabus. This kata, despite not being very fancy and overtly showy, it is a very popular kata amongst competitors, and at most competitions you will see many performances of this kata. Although there is much evidence that this kata was created by Master Aragaki, the Sochin we practice today, formally known as Hakko, seems to be much to the credit of Master Yoshitaka Funakoshi’s influence. The dominant feature of this kata is the prominence of the stance fudo-dachi, the ‘immovable stance’. Many believe however that the kata should be performed in sochin-dachi, while others believe that fudo-dachi and sochin-dachi are the same thing. Fudo-dachi, commonly believed to be the most powerful stance in shotokan, is a very rooted stance; with many feeling the stance is deeply rooted to the earth, enabling the karateka to be immovable in the face of danger. With deep and powerfully slow movements, and strong and co-ordinated breathing, you should aim to harmonize the breathing with the action, which helps solder the mind with the technique.

Chinte (Extraordinary Hands)

The title of this kata ‘Chinte’ is taken from the Chinese characters which mean ‘Strange hands’,despite an unsuccessful attempt to rename it ‘Shoin’ by Master Funakoshi in his attempt to make the art more accessible to the Japanese public. The kata managed to keep its original name. It is only natural that a kata with the title ‘Strange hands’ should pay high attention to the hand techniques of karate. So much so that there is only one kick in the entire kata, but with unusual (or strange if you care to make the connection) te-waza such as tate-zuki, naka-daka-ken, age-empi-uchi, teisho and nihon-nukite used throughout. Techniques such as naka-daka-ken are only used in this kata, so deveopement and understanding of these techniques will take place in this kata. Also important to consider in this kata is the fact that it teaches you a great deal about striking to vulnerable points of the body, and once you absorb the knowledge from this kata, you will be able to apply this to the rest of your karate, and actually improve the effectiveness of your karate. From this point of view, Chinte is critical kata in the syllabus, although it is commonly disliked by many students, and like Hangetsu, many of the more advanced karateka gain an appreciation for the kata over time. In many respects, this kata is quite similar to Sochin, particularly in the sense of how rooted the karateka becomes whilst performing the kata, with transitions from fudo-dachi into zenkutsu-dachi on the tate-shuto, tate-zuki sequence generating impressive levels of power

Suishu (Water Hand)

Suishu was created by Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei. This kata teaches relaxed, flowing, continuous, circular movements that are very different from most of the techniques in the JKA syllabus kata. While Asai Sensei was very flexible and had a physique that allowed him to easily achieve these flowing movements. We believe that regardless of the student’s physique, this kata can be utilized to teach centered turning, relaxed technique contributing to more power, and the ability to use small hip movements to deflect and immediately counterstrike, or, in some cases, use an offensive technique as a block in and of itself.


Kashu – Hi no te – Hands of Wind is one of Asai Senseis natural or elemental kata and may considered as part of a group of kata which include Unsu the only mainstream shotokan kata from the group. Asai Sensei developed these kata to assist in developing natural movement. The kata does not form part of the Japan Karate Shotorenmei grading syllabus, but is available to be selected as a “free kata”.

Roushu (Wave Hand)

A jutsu for mastering the concept of waves for offense and defense, incorporating the ebbing and flowing, swirling, and rise and fall movements of waves into movements of hand and arms, and tenshin..

Kakuyoku Shodan

Kakuyoku Nidan

Kakuyoku Sandan

Joko Issei

Various waza that are Junro kata with higher techniques

Joko Nisei

Various waza that are Junro kata with higher techniques

Joko Sansei

Various waza that are Junro kata with higher techniques

Joko Yonsei

Various waza that are Junro kata with higher techniques

Joko Gosei

Various waza that are Junro kata with higher techniques





Meikyo Nidan

Final Female Kata. Rika Usami of Japan