What is Kata?

If one were to describe Kata to a non-practitioner of Karate then the definition would be something like: "A prescribed sequence of steps, strikes, and blocks combined in such a manner as to allow us to practice them with a view to achieving all techniques with balance, speed, power, precision, and grace of execution." However, it is fair to say that Kata is considerably more than this.

The word kata means "shape" or "form". The kanji for Kata is composed of the following characters:

Kitachi meaning "Shape"

Kai meaning "Cut"

Tsuchi meaning "Earth" or "Soil"

Literally translated, kata means "shape which cuts the ground". 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. Below is a list of katas and what they really mean.

Taikyoku ‘Grand Ultimate’ created by Gichin Funakoshi

Sokugi ‘kicking

Pin an ‘Peaceful Mind’ created by Anko Itosu 1905

Sanchin ‘Three Battles’ Kanryo Higanonna China/Okinawa

Yantsu ‘Safe Three’ Okinawa origin

Tsuki No Kata ‘Punching Kata’

Gekisai Dai ‘Conquer and Occupy – Major’ Chojun Miyagi 1940

Gekisai Sho ‘Conquer and Occupy – Minor’ Chojun Miyagi 1940

Tekki ‘Iron Knight’ Funakoshi

Tensho ‘Turning Hands’ Chojun Miyagi

Seienchin ‘Suppress the Retreat’

Garyu ‘Reclining Dragon’ Sosai Mas Oyama

Seipai ‘Eighteen Hands’ Goju-Ryu

Kanku Dai ‘Sky Gazing Kata’ Chinese/Okinawa Funakoshi 1922

Sushiho ‘Fifty Four Steps’ Shuri-te Okinawa

Sanchin ‘three conflict, battle, or war

Saiha /Saifa ‘rolling wave, to break or to smash

Bassai dai ‘Remove an obstruction,