Kata History

This page is currently under construction. It is known there is much controversy over some of these topics.

Shotokan’s Ten no kata / Omoto Ten (The Kata of the Universe)

This kata has relatively modern roots, being formulated around 1941 by Gichin Funakoshi (some sources claim it was actually Gichin Funakoshi’s son Yoshitaka). Ten no kata consists of two complementary parts, front (Omote) and back (Ura).

Ten no kata Omote is a kata for sparring training to be practiced by oneself. This is to familiarize oneself with the stances, techniques, and timing. It consists of ten movements done without a partner. The first four movements of Omote are basic punches. The next three movements are blocks against lower level and middle level attacks with a counterattack accompanying the block. The last three movements are practiced against upper level attacks. Each movement is performed twice — first left, then right.

Ten no kata Ura is the first form of practice in which an opponent is involved. Up to this point an opponent was just imagined in training. Ura consists of six movements that are practiced with a partner. In Ura, one person attacks with a punch while his partner tries to apply the blocks and counterattacks practiced in Omote. The partners take turns alternating roles. The attacker always starts from a gedan barai (downward block) posture and attacks with oi zuki (lunge punch).

Systematic sparring training with a partner begins with Ten no kata Ura and progresses through
gohan kumite (Five step pre-arranged), sanban kumite (three step pre-arranged), Ippon kumite (One step pre-arranged), Jiyu Ippon kumite (1 step free style), and Jiyu kumite (Free style sparring).

Information Provided by Sensei Tim Hillary

SOURCE: Karate-Do Nyumon by Gichin Funakoshi; Karate-Do Kyohan by Gichin Funakoshi; Shotokan Karate — A Precise History by Harry Cook; and Okinawan Karate by Mark Bishop.

Shorei One

Tai Chi Gedan

Shorei Mege

Shorei San

Shorei Yon

Shorei Go


National Dance

Gai Sai (Gekisai)

The Geki Sai Kata were formulated by Chojun Miyagi Sensei in 1940 as a form of physical exercise for high school boys and to help popularize Goju-Ryu among the public of Okinawa. In 1948, after WWII, Miyagi Sensei began to teach the Geki Sai Kata in depth as a regular part of Goju-Ryu in his own dojo. Until this time, Sanchin was the first Kata taught in Goju-Ryu. Sanchin Kata is physically and mentally a demanding Kata and requires a great deal of time and patience to learn and perform properly. The Geki Sai Kata however are easier to learn and perform, and contain dynamic techniques which are more attractive to young people. These Kata contain the same kanji found in Saifa. This would suggest that even though these Kata were designed primarily as a form of exercise, Miyagi Sensei included his understanding of combat as part of their makeup.

Source: Wikipedia Online Resource

Pinan (Heian) Kata

(There is much controversy over the history and development of this kata, below is what is commonly accepted, although there is still much research to be done on this.)

Developed by Ankoh Itosu around 1900 and introduced by him in April of 1901 into the Physical Education curriculum of the Okinawan school system. Itosu learned the kata Chiang Nan from a Chinese living in Okinawa. He later remodeled and simplified this, along with elements from Kanku Dai, to form five basic kata calling them Channan, which were later entitled Pinan.

Pinan Ich

Pinan Ni

Pinan San

Pinan Yo

Pinan Go

Nekobuto Ich

Nekobuto Ni

Nekobuto San

Nekobuto Yo

Nekobuto Go


Saifa is the first of the classical combative Kata taught in Goju-Ryu. Goju-Ryu’s Kata origins come from the martial arts taught in the Fuzhou area of southern China, largely Crane and Xingyi/Baqua as well as other internal and external martial arts. Kanryo Higaonna Sensei was taught this Kata, along with the other Kata of Goju-Ryu, while he studied in China from 1863-1881 under the direction of RuRuKo (Xie Zhongxiang in Chinese) and others. These Kata and martial strategies would become the basis of the the quanfa of Higaonna Sensei, which later Miyagi Sensei would call Goju-Ryu. From an understanding of the grappling and strking techniques of this Kata, Saifa can be interpreted to mean grabbing and tearing of tissue in close-quartered combat.

ANAKU KATA – A Swallow on the Beach and Pivoting Form

Expanation and History

ANAKU (Ananku) represents a swallow walking and turning (overlooking the ocean). It is also known as expression pivot and turning form. Head snapping (before turning) and te and tekatana ukes should be strong and obvious when performing this kata.

The kata’s origin is unknown; however it is believed to have been re-composed by Chotoku Kyan in Okinawa around 1895. He died in 1946.

Source: Pinnacle of Karate by Master Robert Trias

Seechin “Control, Suppress and Pull”:Kata

Explanation and History

As with many katas, Sometimes there is confusion as to the pronouncation and spelling of this kata. This stems for people with extremely different backgrounds trying to write the name of the kata which has been found spelled and prounced in many different ways. The following are some of the variants of the name – seienchin, sayunchon, seenchin, seiyunchin The following information was gathered from Winepeg online encyclopedia.

The name Seechin or Seiyunchin implies the use of techniques to off balance, throw and grapple. It is this understanding that imparts the original intentions of the Kata of Naha-te before the sport alignment of modern Karate. Seiyunchin contains close-quartered striking, sweeps, take-downs and throws. Though the Kata itself is void of kicks, many practitioners make the grave mistake by missing the opportunity to apply any leg technique. Though almost invisible to the untrained eye, the subtleness of “ashi barai” and “suri ashi” can represent footsweeps

Source: Wikipedia Online Resource/Hanshi Terry Sanders


(Also referred to as Oyadomari form)

Explanation and History

The Bassai (basai) or Patsai katas are believed to have been originated and composed strictly for King Cyado Mari of the Ryu kyu Islands (Okinawa), for his personal body guard’s use in saving his life against enemy encounters. The katas were being taught by Kosaku Matsumora, in Tomari, Okinawa, around 1869. The forms were the favorite of Bushi Matsumura, Choki Motobu, Chotuku Kyan and Chosin Chibana. Bassai Dai was also known as Passai Dai and Tawara Passai.

There are now in existence four (4) basic Bassai forms, which are: 1) Bassai Sho – breaking the small fortress; 2) Bassai Dai – breaking the great fortress; 3) Bassai San – penetrating the mountain fortress; and 4) Bassai Tomari – thunder in the forest. They are also known as “Breaking the giant enemy circle forms.” Many variations of this extremely aggressive form exist in different ryus.

Source: Pinnacle of Karate by Master Robert Trias


(The most notable of all forms in the Shuri styles)

Explanation and History

Each movement of a kata or form has a practical application, usually a block and a counter-attack. Within every kata, and this one in particular, there are hidden or symbolic movements that have both practical and symbolic interpretations. In this kata, the beginning symbolic movements mean, “I gather within in me all forces of the earth. I look up and ask the heavens for perfection of self. I instill its force and energy (fire and earth elements) into my body.” The origin of the three (3) Naihanchi katas is unknown. We do know for a fact that they were practiced as one single kata by Okinawan Shuri-Ryu Master Sokon Matsumura around 1825. Naihan Chi was, however, handed down to Matsumura from earlier times. We can assume that Naihan Chi is well over one hundred and seventy years old, possibly dating back to the era of Tode Sakugawa, Suekata Chogun and Ito Gusukuma. Nihanchi was also the favorite form of Yusutsune Itosu (1830-1915).

Around 1895, Master Choki Motobu popularized Naihan Chi by daily performing the three forms as only “one kata” at least five hundred times. The three Naihan Chi’s performed as one became known as Motobu’s Kata, and he is said to have stated many times, “There is only one kata necessary to develop and excel in Karate and that is Naihanchi as one.” Motubu’s favorite hand form when performing Naihan Chi was the forefinger punch (Keiko Ken Zuki).

Because of its length and degree of difficulty, the kata is now divided into three sections for teaching purposes. A point of interest with this form is that although it was developed by Shuri-Ryu stylists, it has become an international form that is performed in almost every major style of Karate, Taekwon do and Kempo today. The form was developed as a defense against four to eight opponents, with the performer pinned against a wall defending to the right, left or from the front, but never from the rear. The original name for this kata is Naihanchi, which means “Iron Horse”, but it is more commonly referred to as Iron Horse-Missing Enemy form. Other names for this kata are Naifunchin, Teki and Chulgi.

Source: Pinnacle of Karate by Master Robert Trias

No Hi


Explanation and History

There are three (3) “Ten” katas. (“Ten” literally means “heaven, sky, air, heaven’s will or nature.”) The first kata is named Tensho, which means “motion of hands,” but is often referred to as “The Kata of the Universe,” “Thousand Hands,” “Heaven and Breath,” “Earth Reflecting Heaven,” and “Ten Hands” form.

Ten Sho resembles the sudden awareness of the false-self to the real-self. In it lies true existence. Truth exists in many forms, but only through serious study and continuous practice (thousands of times) will it reveal its true nature. Ten Sho expresses a triple nature: 1) A subtle inner meaning (teaching or Dharma); 2) An outer explanation (practice or Sangha); 3) A divine principle (enlightenment or Buddah) within the state of nothingness (Sunyata) or emptiness. This triple nature is often referred to as “The Three Jewels”.

When performing Ten Sho, use both the hard and loud (Ibuki) and soft and quiet (Nogare) breathing methods (Yin-Chi), as developed through the breathing exercises. The stomach must be extremely tense, with rapid and strenuous body movements of great physical strength and spiritual concentration, with instant relaxation and dropping of the hips. The Chinese call this Pi-Chi, which will generate, control and direct the energy flow throughout the body. Pi-Chi was also used by Tibetan Lamas (Tu-mo” in Tibetan) to generate heat within their bodies for the purpose of transferring this heat or energy to another body.

When performing the interpretations with an opponent, the hands must rotate in either direction (like a ball) when making contact with his hands or arms. Always move with, and control, the opponent’s movement (as in trapping hands) without breaking contact with said movement.

One of the highlights of the system is the “Breathing Katas”. Breath is the vital fuel needed to sustain life , and when vigorous physical and mental breathing is experienced, more blood sugar is required to keep the pace. If the blood does have sufficient oxygen, exhaustion sets in. To minimize exhaustion and obtain maximum results, the breathing procedure mentioned here must be used: Inhale by taking a deep breath into the lower stomach through the nose. Momentarily practice dead breath (Shin Shin Tai Sha), visualizing the hung sound for storing the air (energy). The entire body should at this point be tight and under extreme surface tension (softness and tension with pliability). Slowly start releasing (exhaling) by blowing. Push and force all the air out through the mouth, expressing the hahh or sooo sound, which will release all the air (power) completely from the entire abdominal region.

Finally, the following points should be noted in performing the Ten Sho kata:

1.All hand movements are done with tension under breath.

2.The pelvis rises after each inhalation.

3.All middle block positions must have the elbows inside of the rib cage, and the fists must be slightly outside of the shoulders.

4.Relax (exhale) and drop hips after each arm movement.

Source: Pinnacle of Karate by Master Robert Trias


Explanation and History

The originator of Kan Ku Sho is not known. It is believed that the kata was named and composed by Yasutsune Itosu and taught extensively in Okinawa by Itosu’s most advanced student Chibana. It can be assumed that the kata is over 120 years old. It is practiced internationally by most ryus and the name Kan ku sho means “sky observation (small) form”. It is commonly referred to as “looking at the sky or flowing lagoon” form. Other katas with similar movements are Ku San Ku (Kusokun) and Kan Ku Dai (sky observation (great) form.

Source: Pinnacle of Karate by Master Robert Trias


Explanation and History

The origin of this kata is unknown, although it was practiced in the Okinawan villages of Shuri and Tomari years ago. Its original name is basically Chinese – “Nandan Sho” (smooth water and difficult victory form). It may be noted that Nanda was the half-brother of Gautama, the historical Buddah. The Japanese call the kata “Nijushiho, “meaning twenty-four (24) steps. The Okinawans named this kata “Nisei Shi”.

Source: Pinnacle of Karate by Master Robert Trias


Explanation and History

(Animal Forms: Peacock, Tiger, Dragon, Snake, Monkey, Iguana)

Go Pei Sho represents a peacock preparing to defend itself. As it slowly opens its wings, it goes into a series of wing-striking and clawing attacks that are intended to blind the attacker.

Go Pei Sho was inherited from the Chinese movements of Master Li Tsun I, of the Hopei School, also called Goka Ta Ken, from which stems Okinawan Karate. The kata was later restored to its present and original form by Master Robert A. Trias. Since it is basically Chinese in movement, it was first known as Hopei-Sho.

Go Pei Sho’s beginning hidden and symbolic movement is that of a peacock slowly opening its wings and preparing to attack. The symbolic meaning pertains to the water ruler element and means, “Through my fingertips I receive streams of energy that I will direct deep into my lower stomach, and which must flow uninterrupted throughout my entire body.”

The inspiration involves releasing oneself from two opponents who have grabbed on by the shoulders. The performer, using both hands as tiger claws, rips at the opponents’ eyes. The other meaning of the same movement is a double arm block against an opponent who is reaching for the performer’s neck.

Source: Pinnacle of Karate by Master Robert Trias


The reference to “18” in naming this Kata has a couple of interpretations. Like Sanseru, there is suggested a connection to Buddhist philosophy. Another insinuates “18 guards for the King”. The most apparent and most meaningful in the naming of Sepai is again from the martial arts develpoment and the use of attacking pressure points. 18 is one half of 36 suggesting that perhaps an alternative set of attacks and defenses of preferred techniques and strategies from the original Sanseru 36.
Sepai is found in Monk Boxing.

Source: Wikipedia Online Resource


Explanation and History

Kata Dan Enn Sho represents five of the twelve animal styles of the Hsing Yi system (feel of the human mind or intellectual fist). The movements of the eagle, crane, hawk, snake and tiger are very obvious. Dan Enn Sho, like Gopei Sho, was inherited from the movements of the Chinese Master Li Tsun Yi Tsun I) of the Hopei school. The Hopei schools were also called Goka Ta Ken, from which stems all Okinawan Karate. The kata was later restored to its present and original form by Master Robert Trias.

It is believed that this kata was named after Lord Sho (Enn Sho) and Sho Shin, lords of Tama and Nakac Juin castles in Okinawa by Nogunto Otomo, who, at this time was placed in jurisdiction of both castles by King Sho Hashi. It is also reported that the Enn Kan Hi castle (home of the Otomo clan, in Saski-Ki village) could have been a link in the naming of this form.

Forms used are: Chicken (cock) Head, Crane Beak, Snake Head, Hawk Claw, Tiger Claw, Eagle Claw, Swallow, Ostrich, Monkey, Iguana, Bear, Dragon and Horse.

NOTE: In China can be found many different English equivalents for Chinese words. For example: Hsing Yi will also be spelled Hsiang Yi, ro Hsiang I, Shien Yi, Xing Yee, Yein Yi, Yein I, or Yen Yi, etc. Common styles of Hsing Yi Chuan are known as Pa Su Chuen, We Shin Ling Wan, Yao Shou, Chi Shin Su Pa, Cha Su Choe, Suer Shing, Wu Shing Sian, Wu Shing Sian Sin, Pa Shih, Sian Ko and Shih erh. All Hsing Yi Chuan combines both Pakwa and Taichi Chuan.

Source: Pinnacle of Karate by Master Robert Trias