Literally translated, kata means “shape which cuts the ground”.

A kata is a sequence of blocks, kicks, punches, locks and throws 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 is 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. The conscious, rational thought practice is not used at all, what was once memorized is now spontaneous. The practice of traditional kata is also a way for the karateka to pay respect to the origins and history of Karate and the martial arts in general.

Grading Requirements

Belt Kyu Kata Meaning Video Link
Orange Belt 10th Taikyoku Sono Ichi Taikyoku Sono Ni Sokugi Taikyoku Sono Ichi Hajime
Orange Belt + Black Stripe 9th Taikyoku Sono San Sokugi Taikyoku Sono Ni Sokugi Taikyoku Sono San Hajime
Blue Belt 8th Pinan Sono Ichi Peaceful Mind 1 Hajime
Blue Belt 7th Pinan Sono Ichi Peaceful Mind 1 Hajime
Yellow Belt 6th Pinan Sono Ni Peaceful Mind 2 Hajime
Yellow Belt 5th Pinan Sono Ni Peaceful Mind 2 Hajime
Green Belt 4th Pinan Sono San Peaceful Mind 3 Hajime
Green Belt 3rd Pinan Sono Yon Peaceful Mind 4 Hajime
Brown Belt 2nd Pinan Sono Go Peaceful Mind 5 Hajime
Brown Belt 1st Yansu Keep Pure Hajime
1st Dan Black Belt Shodan Kanku Sky Gazing Hajime
2nd Dan Black Belt Nidan Tensho Rotating Palm Hajime
3rd Dan Black Belt Sandan Saifa Extreme Destruction Hajime
4th Dan Black Belt Yondan Seienchin Calm In The Storm Hajime
5th Dan Black Belt Godan Garyu Reclining Dragon Hajime
6th Dan Black Belt Rokudan Sushiho 54 Steps Hajime
7th  Dan Black Belt Schischidan Seipai 18 Hands Hajime
8th Dan Black Belt Hachidan
9th Dan Black Belt Kudan

Meanings of Kata

太極 – Taikyoku

Is literally translated as “grand ultimate”, from the characters Tai 太, meaning big, and Kyoku 極, meaning extreme, conclusion or end. In Chinese, the kanji characters are pronounced Tai Chi (or Taiji). 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.

平安 – Pinan

It symbolizes peace and relaxation (called Heian in Japan). During the physical movements of the kata, real fighting techniques are used, the kata aims to develop silence, peace, and harmony between the mind and the body.

安三 – Yansu

Yansu is derived from the characters Yan 安, meaning safe, and Su 三, 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 expediency

観空大 – Kanku Dai

Kanku means sky gazing, from the characters Kan 観 (view) and Kū 空 (sky or void) (the same character as Kara in Karate). The first move of the kata is the formation of an opening with the hands above the head, through which one gazes at the universe and the rising sun. The significance is that no matter what problems are faced, each day is new and the universe is waiting. Nothing is so terrible that it affects the basic reality of existence.

転掌 – Tensho

Tensho means rolling or fluid hand, literally translated as “revolving palms”, from the characters Ten 転 (revolve) and Shō 掌 (palm of hand). Tensho is the soft and circular (Yin 陰) counterpart to the hard and linear (Yang 陽) 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.

最破 – Saifa or Saiha

Saiha means extreme destruction, smashing or tearing, from the characters Sai最, meaning utmost, and Ha 破, meaning rip, tear or destroy. The word Saiha can also mean great wave, the source of the IFK logo. No matter how large a problem is encountered, with patience, determination and perseverance (Osu) one can rise above and overcome it, or smash through and get beyond it.

征遠鎮 – Seienchin

Seienchin means conqueror and subdue over a distance, or attack the rebellious outpost. From the characters Sei 征, meaning subjugate or attack the rebellious, En 遠, meaning distant, and Chin 鎮, meaning tranquilize. In feudal Japan, Samurai warriors would often go on expeditions lasting many months, and they needed to maintain their strength and spirit over a long period of time. This kata is long and slow, with many techniques performed from Kiba Dachi 騎馬立ち(horseback stance). The legs usually become very tired in this kata, and a strong spirit is needed to persevere, instead of giving up. The word Seienchincan also means to pull in battle.

臥竜 – Garyu

Garyu means reclining dragon, from the characters Ga 臥 (lie prostrate) and Ryū竜 (dragon). In Japanese philosophy, a great man who remains in obscurity is called a Garyu. A dragon is all-powerful, but a reclining dragon chooses not to display his power until it is needed. Likewise, a true karateka does not brag about or show off his abilities. He never forgets the true virtue of humility.

五十四歩 – Sushiho

Sushiho means 54 steps. Sushiho is derived from the words Useshi, the Okinawan pronunciation of the kanji characters for 54 (pronounced Go 五 Jū 十Shi 四 in Japanese), and Ho 歩, meaning walk or step. Other karate styles call this advanced kata Gojushiho.

十八 – Seipai

Seipai is the Okinawan pronunciation of the kanji characters for 18 (pronounced Jū 十 Hachi 八 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.

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