Basic insight into Shotokan Karate Katas

A kata consist of a number of offensive and defensive techniques with each Kata more advanced than the last. These routines are a library of karate techniques. Kasuya Sensei says “that karate-ka improve their waza by practising these katas, by kata you can learn ideal balance, speed, breathing and it places great importance on the mental aspect of karate-do.”

The modern Shotokan katas were initially developed in Okinawa by the karate masters of the past.  They originally came from two schools, Shorei-ryu and Shorin-ryu.  Shorei-ryu was practiced by heavily built, large frame, muscular, powerful and forceful karateka, while Shorin-ryu was practiced by light, fast swift and slight karateka. These Katas were mastered by Master Ginchin Funakoshi.  On introducing karate to the Japanese, he altered and integrated the katas to form the present day Shotokan karate katas.  Since the formation of the J.K.A., parts of the katas have further improved as a result of studies carried out by the research section of the J.K.A.

The following are the katas practiced by the WSKF and the off springs of the JKA.

9th KyuKion2040 seconds
8th KyuHeian Shodan2140 seconds
7th KyuHeian Nidan2640 seconds
6th KyuHeian Sandan2040 seconds
5th KyuHeian Yodan2750 seconds
4th KyuHeian Godan2350 seconds
3rd KyuTekki sho2950 seconds
2nd KyuBassai dai4260 seconds
1st KyuBassai dai4260 seconds

1st Dan   Bassai dai, Kanku dai, Empi, Jion Hangestu

2nd Dan   Bassai sho, Kanku sho, Nijushiho, Jitte, Tekki Nidan

3rd & Above   Chinte, Sochin, Meikyo, Wankan, Unsu, Gankaku, Tekki Sandan, Gojushiho sho, Gojushiho dai

* Kata JIIN is not practiced in the WSKF

The katas above have to be mastered for grading examinations for each grade.  Mastery of the kata, means the karateka knows the right sequence, each technique, its applications, the right speed and the exact timing of the kata.  While performing a kata the karateka must exhibit his courtesy boldness, confidence, gentleness and humility.  A kata cannot be fully mastered in a few years.  A karateka must always try to improve his/her kata on every performance.

In order to obtain maximum power in offensive or defensive techniques, the karateka must tense all muscles of the entire body and grip the floor with his/her toes at the moment of impact.  This is known as kime and must be done in the fastest possible time.  The karateka must exhale on kime and after the completion of the technique must instantly relax the muscles of the entire body in order to perform the next technique as quickly as possible.  There should be no expression or strain on the face of the karateka, while performing the kata always bear in mind your opponent.