Shotokan Kata

Tate Shuto Uke from Shotokan Kata Empi

After many research about Shotokan Kata, I realized that is hard to say out the exact number of katas found in Shotokan Karate. As a result I decided to write an article about this in hope that I can clarify things out. In general the numbers vary from 25 -27 depending on the federation or the frame time we talk about. Shotokan Kata’s are divided in 2 sections: Shitei Gata (Mandatory) and Jiyu Gata (Advanced Kata). Shitei Gata are also divided in two categories: Kihon Gata (5 Heians plus Tekki Shodan) and Sentei Gata or the big for: Jion, Empi, Basai Dai, Kanku Dai. Jiyu Gata refferes to the rest of the Katas found in Shotokan Karate.

JKA, the main authority in Shotokan Karate, current Kata list consist of 25 Katas. Originally the list contained 27 Katas but hey decided to remove Taikioku Shodan due to its similarities with Heian Shodan. This is something I totally agree with since Taikioku Shodan is mainly a Heian Shodan without Kokutsu Dachi and Shuto Uke. As a side note, I think Taikioku’s Shodan simple pattern is very useful when while experimenting with different techniques or when trying to came with something new in order to spark the imagination of my young students.

Jiin was removed from the original list since it was very similar to Jion – containing sections from other Katas too. Unlike Taikioku Shodan, I’m not sure if this was a good decision. Even if it’s not a popular Kata and has a lot of similarities with other Katas I tend to think that Jiin could have different applications. One way or the other, I will still practice Jiin for myself even if my aim is to follow the JKA. Another Kata rumoured is Hyakuhachiho (Suparinpei), but I had never seen someone practicing this Kata.

Shotokan Kata list used by the Japanese Karate Association, JKA.

Shitei Gata.

Kihon Gata or Fundamental Katas: Heian Shodan, Heian Nidan, Heian Sandan, Heian Yondan, Heian Godan. Tekki Shodan.

Originally called Pinan, from the Okinawan pronunciation of the Chinese term for safety. When introduced to Japan, Sensei Funakoshi decided to change the name and use the Japanese pronunciation: Heian. Heian Shodan and Heian Nidan belong to the Shuri-Te school  created originally by Sensei Iasutsune Itosu. They contain simple elements from Kanku Dai, Jion, Bassai Dai and Tekki. This Shotokan Katas are also found in other Karate styles like Shito Ryu, Wado Ryo and Kyokushin – under the name of Pinan. The 5th fundamental Kata, Heian Godan, represents a synthesis between the first four.

Sentei Gata or the big four.

They represent the core of Shotokan Karate Do.

Jion: The origin of this Kata is found in China, getting his name from the Budist temple Jion. It’s a representative Kata for the Shotokan schools and it can only be found in Shotokan Karate and Wado Ryu.

Kanku Dai: It is the longest Kata found in Shotokan Karate Do, being one of the Sensei Funakoshi favorite Kata. It consist of 65 counts and it can be found in other school also unde the name of Kushanku or Shikoku-Shanku.

Bassai Dai: Originally named Passai in Okinawan tradition. This kata is one of the most practiced Kata in JKA. Very useful for basic techniques and improving hip movement. This kata is also found in the schools of Shuri-Te, Naha-Te and Shito Ryu.

Empi: Maybe the most popular Shotokan Kata. This kata is the result of the Chinese Kempo over the Okinawan Martial arts. Was first introduced in the region Tomari by Sappushi Wanshu. This Kata is very important for improving the power generated by contracting and expanding the body

Jiyu Gata

Jitte: One of my favorite Kata. Meaning 10 hands, this Kata teaches defence against Bo (wooden staff). It is one of the few Shotokan Katas that teaches defence against weapons.

Hangetsu: The Only Shotokan Kata that focuses on breathing. This Kata is very useful for health and learning how to use energy (ki) and breathing. The first part is executed slowly with strong breathing, stressing the development of the hara. The second part is more dynamic in its execution, with an explosion of punches as well as graceful mae geri. Master Funakoshi used to orignately call this Kata Seisa (41 moves), but later the name changed to Hangetsu (Half Moon).

Gankaku: Crane on a Rock. This kata belong to the Shorei Style and the original name was Chinto. As the name says, this Kata imitates a crane and is very useful for improving balance and geri waza (leg technique).

Tekki Nidan: This Kata is based on Tekki Shodan. The only thing I will like to add here is that Sensei Motobu only known one Kata: Tekki. It is said that he mastered the essence of Karate by only  practicing this Kata.

Tekki Sandan: The original name of this Tekki Katas was Naihanchi. The name was change to Tekki by Sensei Funakoshi who also changed the stance from naihanchi dachi to Kiba Dachi. Versions of Tekki Kata are also found in Shito Ryu, Shoto Ryu and Kiokushin.

Bassai Sho: Just like Jitte, this Kata teaches defend against Bo (staff). It also contains many joint lock techniques. It can also be found in Shito Ryu.

Kanku Sho: The minor version of Kanku Dai. This kata was modified by Senei Itosu and was conserved by his student Chibana Sensei. It is found in Kobayashi Ryu, Shito Ryu, Shoto Ryu under the name of Kushanku Sho or Kanku Sho. JKA named this one as the official representative Kata for Shotokan Karate Do.

Chinte: This Shotokan Kata is practiced manly by women as it does not required a lot of power. Originally from China this Kata can only be found in Shotokan and Shito Ryu.

Sochin: Powerful and explosive, is practiced both in Shotokan and Shito Ryu. This Kata should pe practiced to improve upper body strength without the use of hip movement.

Nijushiho: Onother one of my favorite Shotokan Kata. Consist of 24 steps and 34 counts. This Kata has slow techniques followed by strong and supple techniques. Has his own caracteristic rhythm and has common similarities with Unsu and Sochin.

Gojushiho Sho: It is said to be one of the most advanced Katas in Shotokan Karate. Unlike Gojushiho Dai this Kata uses Kokutsu Dachi and improves strength on the right leg.

Gojushiho Dai: The original name of Gojushiho Katas was Hotaku which was a representative Kata for Sensei Itosu School, Shuti-Te. Oppose to Gojushiho Sho this Kata improves strength on the left leg. This is mainly achieved from the use of Nekoashi Dachi.

Wankan: The shortest Shotokan Kata. It only has one Kiai – this being one of his main characteristics. It’s a representative Kata for Tomari-Te being also known under the name of Shiofu or Hito.

Meikyo: Also known as Rohai. Unlike other styles, Sensei Funakoshi introduced techniques against Bo and changed the name from Rohai to Meikyo. This Kata belongs to the Tomari-Te Kata and can also be found in Shuri-Te, Naha-Te and Shito Ryu under the name of Nanko, Rohai or Meikyo.

Unsu: Particular Kata of Shotokan and Shito Ryu. The name of Unsu was first used in Sensei Funakoshi book Ryukyu Kempo, published in 1922.

All the above Shotokan Katas belong to the official JKA Kata list. Interesting fact is that although Taikioku Shodan is not found on the official JKA Kata list, it is still a requirement for the 8th Kyu belt test. Taikioku Kata’s are in number or 6: Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Godan, Rokudan. They were created by Sensei Funakoshi and his son, Gigo, in order to help students learn the basic Kata principles.

Of course Jiin is till practiced by many other Karate Federations. There are even federations that practice extra Kata’s. Maybe the most popular of this are Sensei’s Asai Katas. He created those Katas in order to help improve and teach different skills. But I don’t have any strong knowledge above this Katas so if you wanna find more please check out here.

Without going to much into details I think this covers all the major aspects. If you wanna find out more about Karate and why this changes occurred make sure to read my previous article. You can find a link here

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Comments (4)

  • Felton 4 years ago Reply

    Why I agree with most of the Katas descriptions, I think some of them are no the right sport. Otherwise, keep up the good job

    George Paun 4 years ago Reply

    Thanks, new articles are coming soon

  • Colby 4 years ago Reply

    Just want to say your article is as astounding. The clearness in your post is just
    nice and i can assume you’re an expert on this subject.

  • Syl Walsh 3 years ago Reply

    Very good and well written!

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