Kata Meanings and Origins

Shotokan Karate has 26 kata in its syllabus (usually Taikyoku Shodan, also known as kihon or basic kata, is first taught to teach the basic pattern of movement and is not included in the 26). They originate from Okinawa and the three villages of Tomari, Shuri and Naha. Shotokan kata are primarily Shuri-te and Tomari-te in origin, but they have undergone various changes over the years, initially by Itosu Anko (1830-1915), then by subsequent karate masters as they adapted the kata to the times and more recently for competition. In our clubs we resist further change and use the kata as taught by the Japanese Karate Association while it was under the leadership of Nakayama Masatoshi (1913-1987), a direct student of Funakoshi Gichen (1868-1957). After Nakayama’s death there were splits in the JKA.

Please click on the kata names below for more information on each specific kata. The numbers in brackets show how many Shotokan kata are in that family.

Heian Kata   (5)Tekki Kata    (3)Bassai Kata   (2)Kanku Kata (2)
Gojushiho     (2)JionJitteJiin


Unante – The Secrets of Karate 2nd ed., John Sells, Pub W M Hawley, ISBN 0-910704-96-1
Shotokan Karate – Its History and Evolution, Randall G Hassell, Empire Books, ISBN 978-1-933901-28-2