Based on Shotokan

What is Kata?

The word "Kata" or Form is used to describe a choreographed sequence of techniques which appear to be used against imaginary opponents.

The purposes for Kata are many but most people find they assist in understanding the application of certain techniques in real-life situations.

Kata is an integral facet of every student's training and an invaluable tool in developing skill in the use of combination techniques as well as balance, fitness, focus and spirit.

Kata is an important part of both gradings and Tournament competition.

There are many Kata in Shotokan. There are but a handful of Karateka in the world who know, and can do, them all.

We have brought you here a comprehensive list of Shotokan Kata as well as other Kata which have their origins in other styles that Shotokan Karateka enjoy learning and performing. Where possible, we've provided a brief explanation of each one. We hope you enjoy learning about them.

As many of the older or rarer Katas are shrouded in mystery, many of the details concerning them have been lost over time. If you happen to come across information on any of these Kata that can help us fill in those details, please submit your contribution for inclusion on this page.

On most of these kata, we have included a downloadable, printable sketch diagram. You'll see the appropriate link below the name of each one.

These are the Kata (not in any particular order)......


The old name for the Haian Kata was Pinan. These Kata were developed by Yatasune Itosu as intermediate Kata to the much longer main Kata of Shorin-Ryu. He did not make them up however, they were based on much older training forms called Channan, which had their origin in China. 

Master Funakoshi considered Pinan Shodan too difficult for an introductory Kata so he changed Pinan Nidan to Heian Shodan and Pinan Shodan to Heian Nidan.

For beginners, a somewhat simplified version of Heian Shodan was introduced, which is called Taikyoku Shodan. This is most often used for 9th Kyu gradings as a "stepping-stone" to Heian Shodan.

For a visual chart of Taikyoku Shodan - Click Here

The Heian Kata we know and practise today are as follows....

Heian Shodan - 平安初段

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Heian Nidan - 平安二段

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Heian Sandan - 平安三段

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Heian Yondan - 平安四段

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Heian Godan - 平安五段

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The Okinawan name for these was Naihanchi and they are directly taken from the long form called Hua-Chuan which is one one of the main training forms of Tiger Style Northern Shaolin Wu-Shu. It was on Okinawa that the Kata was split into three separate sections that we now call Tekki Shodan, Neidan and Sandan.

The name means "Iron Horse". The Kiba-dachi stance used exclusively in these Kata is the main training stance of Northern Shaolin Tiger Style of Wu-Shu.

The Tekki Kata we know and practise today are as follows....

Tekki Shodan - 鐵騎初段

Click Here for a visual chart

Tekki Nidan - 鐵騎二段

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Tekki Sandan - 鐵騎三段

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Again these Kata are from Northern Shaolin sources but from which sub-style we are not sure. They do however, have strong Tiger Style characteristics.

The name used on Okinawa was "Passai" and it translates as "Capture the Fortress". 

We are taught that Bassai-Dai symbolizes the capture of the fortress and Bassai-Sho symbolizes the fight to get out again.

The Bassai Kata we know and practise today are as follows....

Bassai Dai - 拔賽大

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Bassai Sho - 拔賽小

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The Kanku Kata were taught to the Okinawans by Master Kwang Shang Fu - Military Attaché to Okinawa in 1724. The Okinawan way of saying his name is Kushanku and this was the Okinawan name for these Kata.

Master Funakoshi changed the name to Kanku which means "to view the sky".

The Kanku Kata we know and practise today are as follows....

Kanku Dai - 觀空大

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Kanku Sho - 觀空小

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This is the classic "mainstream" Shaolin Kata, complete with the "Ming" salute at the beginning. Shaolin was also named Jion-Ji by the Japanese but the literal translation of the Kanji is "to love the sound" (of Shaolin).

Jion - 慈恩

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Another Shaolin Classic and all of the above relating to Jion apply here too. The name translates to "love of truth".

Ji-in - 慈陰


This Kata is one of the older ones and it's salute at the beginning betrays its Wutang origin. The name translates to "to restore calm" or "to establish peace". 

The final moves of this Kata are supposed to represent the ocean waves disappearing into the dry sand on the beach just as your enemies would vanish before you if you master these techniques.

Chinte - 珍手

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Another Shaolin classic. The name means "ten hands". If you master this Kata, your enemies will feel as though you had ten hands.

Jitte - 十手

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A classic white crane style Kata brought to Okinawa in 1644 by Military Attaché Master Wang-Shu. The Kata was names after him hence its Okinawan name of "Wanshu". This translates to "excellent or incredible arms" and perhaps this explains the lovely hand techniques this Kata contains.

It also tells us that Master Wang-Shu must have been very good with his hands.

Empi - 燕飛


This is a Wutang Kata that came to us through Master Itosu's training in Na-Ha-te from Master Higaonna. It is named after the third Chinese Zen Patriarch but the name Hangetsu, given to it by Master Funakoshi, means "half moon" - a description of the stance.

Hangetsu - 半月

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This is a Northern Shaolin Dragon Style originally taught on Okinawa by Master Aragaki. This Kata is supposed to demonstrate the power of "Ki" and the name means "to overcome using power" (of Ki).

Sochin - 

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Another Dragon Style Kata from Aragaki. Where he trained is not known but the strong Chinese influences in this Kata suggest it was certainly in Mainland China.

The name used on Okinawa is "Unshou" and it means "cloud defence" - even if your enemies surround you like a cloud, you will surely defeat them if you master Unsu.

Unsu - 雲手

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Another of Aragaki's Kata but this one is thought to have its origins in one of the Dragon sub-styles.

The name translates to "the twenty four steps". The form they are taken from is called "Kaisan". The old name was "Neseishi".

Nijushiho - 二十四步

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These Kata are a departure from the norm as they have their origin in a Southern Shaolin Style called "Phonexi Eye". The form they are taken from is called "Kaisan". The name on Okinawa was "Useishi" but this was changed to Gojushiho - "the fifty four steps". 

The Gojushiho Kata we know and practise today are as follows.... 

Gojushiho Sho - 五十四步小

Gojushiho Dai - 五十四步大


This is a very mysterious Kata. It seems that the Japanese knew it long before Master Funakoshi introduced Okinawan Karate into Japan. There is even a Japanese legend concerning Ameratsu, the Sun Goddess. 

It appears Ameratsu lost her mirror and could not admire herself and so went into a sulk. The world therefore, was in darkness. At last the other Gods decided something must be done so they sent a great warrior to perform a "war dance" outside her cave.

Hearing the noise, Ameratsu became curious and came out of the cave. The "war dance" was reputed to be Meikyo.

Meikyo translates to "mirror of the soul". The old name for Meikyo was Rohai and this is now coming back into use. 

Meikyo - 明鏡

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Shaolin based Kata of unknown origin. The old name was Wanduan and the name translates to "sword arm". Using these techniques, your enemies will think your arm is a sword.

Wankan - 明鏡


Yet another White Crane form, this time taught by Master Ching-To, attaché to Okinawa from the Ming court in 1732, and so the Okinawans named it in his honor "Chinto".

Master Funakoshi later renamed it Gankaku  (the crane on a rock).

Gankaku - 岩鶴

The following Kata are common to other styles of Karate although many of them share their history or origins with some Shotokan Kata.

Many Shotokan Karateka enjoy and study these Kata also......


This is a new name for Taikyoku Shodan, the first of the six Taikyoku Kata that used to be taught in Okinawa. They were once

 taught before the Heians but seem to have fallen into disuse, except for this one.


This Kata is known on Okinawa as Superinpi and the name means "one hundred and eight steps". 

Morio Higaonna said that the name really means 108 Masters as that is the number that it took to create it. It is also called



This name means "to calm and suppress from afar". A "Kingai" Kata from the Naha-Te school.


This is another Naha-Te Kata. The name means "heavenly hands".


One of the oldest of Kata. From Wutand Hsing-i Style. The name means "three conflicts".


Again - Naha-Te Kata. The name means "to come to stop or destroy".


"The white swan".


"The green willow".


"the thirty six steps".


"the twenty steps".


"to be born again".


The Shotokan Bo Kata

Tenryu No Kon

"heavenly Dragon stick". 

Sueyoshi No Kon

Named after Master Sueyoshi, who taught it to Master Funakoshi.

Sakugawa No Kon

Kata of Master Sakugawa.

Shirotaru No Kon

"the white barrel".