kata means "shape" or "form". The
kanji for kata (the Japanese character
above at the right) is composed of the
Katachi meaning "Shape",
Kai meaning "Cut", and
Tsuchi meaning "Earth"
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.
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.
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
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
Mas Oyama also
emphasized the three fundamental principles
Waza no Kankyu. The Tempo
(slow/fast) of the Techniques.
The tempo of the kata varies –
some techniques are performed
quickly, while others are done
Chikara no Kyojaku. The
Force (strong/weak) of the
Power. The power of a technique
derives from the proper balance
between strength and relaxation.
Iki no Chosei. The
Control (regulation) of
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
of Kyokushin Kata
Kyokushin kata are often categorized as
"Northern Kata" or "Southern Kata,"
based upon their origin and development.
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:
Sono Ichi, Ni and San
Ichi, Ni, San, Yon and Go
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:
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 Martial Arts.
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.
training you should always seek the
applications of the techniques in the kata.
Katas and their Meaning
Taikyoku 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
- Taikyoku sono ichi, ni, as well as Sokugi
(kicking) Taikyoku sono ichi are required
for 10th Kyu.
- Taikyoku sono san, as well as Sokugi
Taikyoku sono ni, san are required for 9th
- Taikyoku sono ichi, ni, san, and Sokugi
Taikyoku sono ichi, ni, san, and yon in
Ura are required for 3rd Kyu.
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.
- Piñan sono ichi, ni, are required for 8th
- Piñan sono san, is required for 6th Kyu.
- Piñan sono yon is required for 5th Kyu.
- Piñan sono go is required for 4th Kyu.
- Piñan sono ichi, ni, san, shi, and go in
Ura are required for 2nd Kyu.
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
– The mind, body and the techniques,
– The internal organs, circulation and
the nervous system, and
– The three ki, located
– the top of the head (tento),
– the diaphragm (hara), and
– the lower abdomen (tan den).
Sanchin 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.
- Sanchin no Kata is required for 7th Kyu.
Gekisai 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.
- Gekisa-dai is
required for 4th Kyu.
- Gekisa-sho is required for 1st Kyu.
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.
- Yansu is required for 6th Kyu.
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
- Tsuki no kata is required for 5th Kyu.
Tensho 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 Kata
is required for 4th Kyu.
Tensho is a
basic illustration of the definition of
Karate, derived from Chinese kempo, as a
technique of circles based on points.
Tensho 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.
A 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.
Saifa or Saiha means
destruction, smashing or tearing. It can
also mean great weave. In this kara 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
- Saifa is required for 1st Kyu.
Kanku, 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 succed.
- Kanku is required for Sandan.
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 t his
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
- Seienchin is required for Shodan.
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.
- Sushiho is required for Yondan.
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 humility.
- Garyu is required for Shodan.
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.
- Seipai is required for Nidan.