"Regardless of how many
kata a person may know, if his training in them
insufficient, they will be useless."
Mabuni Kenwa - 1989-1952
A principle founder of modern karate
originator of the Shito School of Karatedo.
means form. For many years, all major and fundamental
points, blocks, strikes, kicks, punches and basic
techniques have been formed. Katas have series of
points and techniques selected concisely and each
has a specific and deep inner meaning.
Kata is the base and point of karate. There are
primary principles and fundamentals of Karate in
Katas that briefly are the position of body, stances,
foot works, tai sabaki, changing directions, timing,
breathing, kiai, as well as a correct mental behavior.
Long ago, kata was practiced secretly and was not
common. At that time kata was the only form of karate
learning and this can reveal the importance of kata.
Kata alone is a combat against some imaginary opponents
on whom karate techniques are done. Therefore, the
morals of the individuals during kata are of great
importance. Practicing kata continuously, you will
realize the real meaning of karate techniques. This
knowledge allows you to show correct reaction automatically
and in any situation against any attack. Moreover,
kata consists of a kumite strategy. Practicing a
kata, one should constantly focus on his opponent(s)
and do the movements with the highest strength and
care, as his life (being alive) depends on doing
the techniques in the best possible way. This sort
of practicing unifies body and mind. In other words,
we can call it feeling, touching and living of kata.
However, it has to be noted that some techniques
are dangerous but practicing them in kata gives
you a control of power and therefore, you gain enough
power to control these techniques before using them
in kumite. Katas practiced concisely and correctly,
teach the trainer the real purpose of master in
creating and doing them. That's why kata is counted
as one of the most important points in karate.
Some katas are performed under the same name but
differently. This is due to the fact that some masters
have made some changes in kata on the basis of their
own specific philosophy. As said before, in the
past, the main axis of karate practice was kata
as it was done to use techniques in attack and defense.
Beauty in performing kata was not considered. The
point was kata target.
There are some katas in which the strikes of fingers
are used such as: chintei, unsu, and
give effective strikes to the sensitive spots of
the opponent's body. The masters who had trained
their fingers sufficiently invented these techniques.
In any case, as these strikes were and are forbidden
in combats and competitions, they are only used
as one movement in one kata. Here, a very big difference
is made between kata and kumite. As one of the karate
masters said: "only those who have good observation,
try to perform kata techniques in kumite and only
these people take katas seriously."
Generally, Japanese masters go after concentration,
rhythm change, continuous movements etc, while in
western countries, power, speed and beauty are taken
into consideration. Even in some cases, the mental
points of kata ate forgotten. The Easterns believe
that martial arts should be practiced up to an old
age and if possible to death. However, a 70-year-old
man cannot practice as well as a 30 year old. On
the other hand, the heart beat of those who practice
kata in western styles increase. Medically and physically
speaking, this sort of increase in heartbeat may
be fatal and this is certainly not the aim of kata
practice. Besides, technically speaking, there has
to be a strong and stable position in which paying
attention to Hara is necessary.
The kata, about fifty of which have come down to
he present day, can be roughly divided into two
groups. One the one hand there are those that are
seemingly simple but also exhibit grandeur, composure,
and dignity. Through practice of this type of kata,
the karateka can build up his physique, tempering
his bones and forming strong muscles. The other
group is appropriate for the acquisition of fast
reflexes and quick movements.
Execution of each kata, thst is, the leg movements,
is alone a predetermined performance line (Embusen).
Though one practices without a visible opponent,
he should have in mined "disposing of enemies"
coming from four directions or eight directions-
and the possibility of a changing performance line.
Since the katas contain all of the elements essential
for exercising the whole body, they are ideal for
that purpose. Practicing alone or in a group, anyone
can follow this way, in accordance with his own
level of ability and regardless of age.
It is through these formal exercises that the karateka
can learn the art of self-defense, enabling him
to face a dangerous situation naturally and efficiently.
But the degree of skillfulness is the determining
As said before, in Shitoryu style, there are a
variety of katas, some are thought by Anko Itosu
(Shuri-te) such as Hian, Basai, Kosokun, Chinto,
etc, whose feature is quick movements, some by Kanryo
Higaonna (Naha-te), such as Sanchin, Seisan, Seipai,
Seienchin, Suparinpei, etc, whose emphasis is on
forming muscles and strength. In these katas besides
slow movements, there are quick movements too. There
are also other katas devised by Kenwa Mabuni such
as Shinpa, Juruko, etc, other by Aragaki (Tomari-te),
such as Sochin, Unsu, Niseishi, etc
Important points in performing kata.
There are some points and factors in performing
kata, which are of great importance. Some of them
are easy and clear. On the contrary some others
are complicated. Years should be spent in order
to get accustomed with them. The points are as follows:
- Kata has to be performed according to the fixed
order. The number of the movements cannot be altered.
Personal interpretation cannot be imposed either.
The form and the order of movements cannot be
changed. No mistake is accepted.
- The movement and change of direction have to
be made exactly on the Embusen line of kata. In
some styles (i.e. Shotokan), kata is finished
on the very spot it has been started. However
in shitoryu, some katas are not finished on the
start spot, although the distance between start
and finish spot might be slight (i.e. a step towards
right or left or back).
- The meaning of each movement has to be understood
and the movement itself has to be made correctly.
The real application of each part of kata has
to be practiced with the opponent seriously (bunkai).
- The speed of each kata has to be regarded. Some
are quick and some are slow (even some movements
in one kata are slow) and require concentration.
- The movements have to be made rhythmically.
They are all in connection with one another. Usually,
the end of one movement is the beginning of the
- While kata is performed rhythmically, some major
points have to be regarded. These points that
give kata dignity are as follows:
- Correct use of power, which means correct use
of power in certain moments of each movement.
- Smoothness in movement related to speed (slow,
- Flexibility of body related to contraction and
expansion of muscles in accordance with the movement.
Different forms of kata practices
- Slow, without concentration (relax) performed
as warm up.
- Quick, without concentration (relax) in order
to keep the moments of kata in mind.
- Quick, powerful with Kime. The movements are
performed one by one. This form is suitable in-group
- With the real speed and rhythm of kata and kime.
This is the real kata the same as real combat.
- Slow, with contraction of muscles, performed
as an exercise to strengthen the muscles.
- Slow, relax along with deep breathing, feeling
Hara in each movement like Tai Chi Chuan.
- Symmetry movements, if kata is started from
the left, try starting from the right.
- Converse performance (i.e. perform from the
end to the beginning). This is done in advance
level of kata practice.
- Selecting some parts of a kata and repeating
- Close-eyed performing.
A number of things can be said about kata. Below
you will find some points that help to better learning
and performing of kata:
- Do not try to do all the movements quickly.
It has to be noted that each movement requires
its own speed and position.
- Lower the hips and have pressure on Hara, you
can shorten the distance between your anus and
- Close your mouth and prevent contracting the
muscles of your face.
- Keep your body upright all the time.
- Move your whole body as a unit and not partly.
- Be fully aware of the connection between kata
and practice and kumite.
- Practice over and over.
In this section, we are going to read about thirteen
very fundamental points in kata that must be considered
while practicing kata.
Yooi no kishin- Readiness, concentration, will,
and determination against opponent before starting
In'yo - Active and passive (i.e. knowing
whether you are attacking or defending).
Chikara no kyojaku - Correct method in using
power, the amount of power used for each kata movement
Waza no kankyu - Speed used in each kata
movement and position.
Tai no shinshoku - the amount of contraction
and expansion for each movement.
Kokyu - Breathing, right exhalation and
inhalation in each kata movement.
Chakugan - Look spot, considering the aim
and destination of technique.
Kiai - Shout, in one or more certain points,
shout shows the soul of fight of kata. Additionally,
the whole conducted power is released.
Hyoshi - Rythm. Proper accentuation and
flow of the movement of kata and each combination
Kime - Focal point or Focus refers to the
concentration of all the energy of the body in the
instant a particular technique( blocks, kicks, punches
and...)makes contact with its target.
Antei - Balance. Stability, adjusting, figure
and using the proper and correct stance in each
Keitai no hoji - Using each technique in
its proper place.
Zanshin - Being fully aware, being in guard
position at the end of kata. Looking towards the
side kata is finished.
Today we can see that many karatekas do not practice
kata seriously and do not realize the usage of kata.
In fact, it is true that kata will be useable only
for those who have studied it deeply and have perfect
At the beginning and at the end of the kata, one
bows. This is part of the kata. When doing kata
successively, bow at the every beginning and at
the completion of the final kata.
List of Shitoryu Katas