word kata means "shape" or "form".
The kanji for kata (the Japanese character above at the
right) is composed of the following characters:
meaning "Cut", and
meaning "Earth" or "Soil".
translated, kata means "shape" or "form".
A kata is a sequence of blocks, kicks and punches from one or more
stances, involving movement forward, backward and to the sides.
The number of movements and their sequence are very specific. The
balance between offensive and defensive techniques, the stances
used and the direction and flow of movement all serve to give each
kata its distinctive character.
Through the practice of kata, the traditional techniques used for
fighting are learned. Balance, coordination, breathing and concentration
are also developed. Done properly, kata are an excellent physical
exercise and a very effective form of total mind and body conditioning.
Kata embodies the idea of ren ma, or "always polishing"
– with diligent practice, the moves of the kata become further
refined and perfected. The attention to detail that is necessary
to perfect a kata cultivates self discipline.
Through concentration, dedication and practice, a higher level of
learning may be achieved, where the kata is so ingrained in the
subconscious mind that no conscious attention is needed. This is
what the Zen masters call mushin, or "no mind."
The conscious, rational thought practice is not used at all –
what was once memorized is now spontaneous.
Mas Oyama said that one should "think of karate as
a language – the kihon (basics) can be thought of
as the letters of the alphabet, the kata (forms) will be
the equivalent of words and sentences, and the kumite (fighting)
will be analogous to conversations." He believed that
it was better to master just one kata than to only half-learn many.
Mas Oyama also emphasized the three fundamental principles of kata:
no Kankyu. The Tempo (slow/fast) of the Techniques.
The tempo of the kata varies – some techniques are performed
quickly, while others are done more slowly.
no Kyojaku. The Force (strong/weak) of the Power. The
power of a technique derives from the proper balance between
strength and relaxation.
no Chosei. The Control (regulation) of Breathing.
practice of traditional kata is also a way for the karateka
to pay respect to the origins and history of Kyokushin Karate and
the martial arts in general.
of Kyokushin Kata
kata are often categorized as "Northern Kata" or "Southern
Kata," based upon their origin and development.
The Northern Kata are similar to those found in
Shotokan Karate, since they were developed from Mas Oyama's training
under Gichin Funakoshi. Master Funakoshi in turn derived these kata
from northern Chinese kempo and Shorin Ryu, the Okinawan karate
style based on Chinese Shaolin (i.e. "Shorin") kempo.
These kata utilize long, powerful stances and strong blocks and
strikes. The Northern Kata include:
Taikyoku Sono Ichi, Ni and San
Sono Ichi, Ni, San, Yon and Go
Southern Kata were developed from Mas Oyama's study of
the Okinawan karate style of Goju Ryu under So Nei Chu, which in
turn were derived from southern Chinese kempo. The movements in
these kata are more circular and flamboyant than those in the Northern
Kata. The Southern Kata include:
Sanchin no Kata
Dai and Sho
influence of Chinese theory in the systemization of Kyokushin is
also obvious. This is amply demonstrated in Sosai Oyama's writings
where he constantly encourages students of Kyokushin to research
the Chinese origins of karate. Many advanced techniques of Kyokushin
were taken by Sosai Oyama from his early study of the Southern Chinese
In relation to the numerous kata that have fallen into disuse
in Kyokushin, Sosai states that the techniques of Kyokushin kata
should simulate actual fighting and the kata which do not have such
clearly practical application have been abandoned.
In personal training you should always seek the applications of
the techniques in the kata.
Katas and their Meaning
is literally translated as "grand ultimate", and in Chinese,
the kanji characters are pronounced Tai Chi. The
word Taikyoku can also mean overview or the whole point
– seeing the whole rather than focusing on the individual
parts, and keeping an open mind or beginner's mind. The beginner's
mind is what is strived for during training and in life. The beginner's
mind does not hold prejudice and does not cling to a narrow view.
The beginner's mind is open to endless possibilities. That's why
a practitioner should never think that as soon as it ascends in
the latter or more complex katas the first and most basic ones loose
importance, therefore, keep an open mind.
Piñan is the Okinawan pronunciation of the
kanji characters for peace and relaxation (pronounced Heian
in Japanese). Though the physical moves of kata involve techniques
used for fighting, the purpose of kata is to develop a calm, peaceful
mind and harmony between the mind and body.
Tsuki no as its name implies, is a punching kata.
The word Tsuki can also mean fortune and luck. Good fortune
and luck does not come by waiting. In every punch we perform in
this kata, we should imagine that a barrier of some kind (it could
be a recognized weakness or bad habit, etc.) is being broken down.
Strong, persistent effort directed to overcome any type of problems
will bring good fortune and success.
Sanchin is known as the oldest kata in Karate-do.
Literally means "three battles" or "three conflicts",
and it can also be translated as "three points" or "three
phases". Certain legends attribute the creation of Sanchin
to Bodhidharma in the early sixth century. Sanchin kata
seeks to develop three set of elements at the same time:
the mind, body and the techniques,
the internal organs, circulation and the nervous system, and
three ki, located in:
top of the head (tento),
diaphragm (hara), and
lower abdomen (tan den).
is an isometric kata where each move is performed in a state of
complete tension, accompanied by powerful, deep breathing (ibuki)
that originates in the lower abdomen (tan den). The practice
of Sanchin kata not only leads to the strengthening of the body,
but it also aims at the development of the inner power (ki)
and the coordination of mind and body. It also emphasizes on basic
footwork, hand techniques as well as basic blocking techniques.
means conquer and occupy. The name is derived from the characters
Geki, meaning attack or conquer, and Sai, meaning
fortress or stronghold. The word Gekisai can also mean
demolish, destroy. Dai means "large" and sho
means "small". In this case it is used to differentiate
the katas with out using the numbering system. These katas teach
strength through fluidity of motion, mobility and the utilization
of various techniques. Flexibility of attack and response will always
be superior to rigid and inflexible strength.
Yansu is derived from the characters Yan,
meaning safe, and Su, meaning three. The name is attributed
to that of a Chinese military attaché to Okinawa in the 19th
Century. The word yansu also means to keep pure, striving
to maintain the purity of principles and ideals rather than compromising
for vainly objectives.
means rolling or fluid hand, literally translated as "rotating
palms". Tensho is the soft and circular (yin) counterpart
to the hard and linear (yang) Sanchin kata. Not only was
Tensho one of Mas Oyama's favorite kata, he considered
it to be the most indispensable of the advanced kata:
Tensho is a basic illustration of the definition of Karate, derived
from Chinese kempo, as a technique of circles based on points.
should be a prime object of practice because, as a psychological
and theoretical support behind karate training and as a central
element in basic karate formal exercises, it has permeated the
techniques, the blocks and the thrusts, and is intimately connected
with the very life of karate.
man who has practiced Tensho kata a number of thousands of times
and has a firm grasp of its theory can not only take any attack,
but can also turn the advantage in any attack, and will always
be able to defend himself perfectly.
or Saiha means destruction, smashing or tearing.
It can also mean great weave. In this kata we can say that no matter
how large the problem/challenge encountered is, with patience, determination
and perseverance (Osu) one can rise above and overcome
it, or break through.
Garyu means reclining dragon. Japanese philosophy
says that a great man who remains in obscurity is called a Garyu.
A dragon is all-powerful, but a reclining dragon chooses not to
show his power for mere vanity, but unless it is really necessary.
In the same way, a true karateka does not brag about or
show off his abilities; he/she never forgets the true virtue of
also known as the rising sun kata or sky gazing. Literally translated,
Kan means "view/proper observance", and Ku
means "universe", "air", "emptiness"
or "void" (the same character as Kara in karate).
The first move of the kata is the formation of a triangle with the
hands above the head, through which one gazes at the universe and
rising sun. This triangle has an even more profound meaning, since
we internally invoque three extremly powerful energies: "Peace",
"Love" and "Freedom". The significance of the
kata is that no matter what the severity of the problem/challenge
is being faced, every single new day is another unique opportunity
to overcome it. Not only that particular challenge but everything
in our lives. The universe is waiting. Nothing is so terrible that
it affects the basic reality of existence. So, basically as long
as you are able to rise your hands and see this magnificent start
nurturing us selfishly (with our without the usage of our hands),
we are still blessed with opportunity to succeed.
Seienchin means conqueror and subdue over a distance,
or attack the rebellious outpost. In feudal Japan, Samurai warriors
would often go on expeditions lasting many months, and they needed
to maintain their strength and spirit over long periods of time. That
is why this kata is long and slow. Many of its techniques are performed
from kiba dachi (horseback stance). So it is known for the
legs to become very tired while performing this kata, therefore, a
strong spirit is needed to persevere, keeping up a strong spirit.
Sushiho means 54 steps. Sushiho is derived from the
words Useshi, the Okinawan pronunciation of the kanji
characters for 54 (pronounced Go Ju Shi in Japanese), and
Ho, meaning walk or step. Other karate styles call this advanced
kata Gojushiho. This kata, symbolically speaking, serves
as a tool to remind us of the impact the steps we take in our daily
lives has on our destiny. The steps we took in the past are linked
to those we are taking today, which as a result will have an effect
in those taken in the future. So we can say, that the achievements
of today are a consequence of steps taken (hard work) in the near
or far past. Also, this kata reminds us of our roots, family, teachers
or those who also, taking their own steps in live contributed to where
you are today.
Seipai is the Okinawan pronunciation of the kanji
characters for 18 (pronounced Ju Hachi in Japanese). In other
karate styles, this kata is sometimes called Seipaite, or
eighteen hands. The number 18 is derived from the Buddhist concept
of 6 x 3, where six represents color, voice, taste, smell, touch and
justice and three represents good, bad and peace.