The word kata means "shape" or "form". The kanji for kata (the
Japanese character above at the right) is composed of the following characters:
Katachi meaning "Shape",
Kai meaning "Cut", and
Tsuchi meaning "Earth" or "Soil".
Literally 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.
Through the 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.
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. 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 now spontaneous.
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 half-learn many.
Mas Oyama also emphasized the three fundamental principles of kata:
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 more slowly.
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 Breathing.
The 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 general.
Origins of Kyokushin Kata
Kyokushin kata are often categorized as "Northern Kata" or "Southern Kata," based
upon their origin and development.
The 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:
- Taikyoku Sono Ichi, Ni and San
- Pinan Sono Ichi, Ni, San, Yon and Go
- Tsuki no Kata
The Southern 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:
- Sanchin no Kata
- Gekisai Dai and Sho
The 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
In 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.
In personal training you should always seek the applications of the techniques in
the kata. Kyokushin 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 mind.
- Taikyoku sono ichi are required for 10th Kyu.
- Taikyoku sono ichi, ni, as well as Sokugi (kicking)
- 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 Kyu.
- 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 time:
- The mind, body and the techniques,
- The internal organs, circulation and the nervous system, and
- The three ki, located in:
– 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.
Yantsu 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.
- Yantsu 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 success.
- 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 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.
- Tensho Kata is required for 4th Kyu.
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 through.
- 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.
Seienchin 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 spirit.
- 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.