KATA are the forms you often see if you’ve ever seen a demonstration or a karate competition. There are around 26 different katas in shotokan karate depending on which organisation you belong to. At certain levels in your training you are expected to know the required katas. I have added the colours of the belt next to the kata  so students know which they are required to know for their grading examination. Remember passing one grade means another kata until you know all of them.

Masatoshi Nakayama often said that 10 minutes of kata each day was all that was required to keep your training going.

There is also a kata called Kihon that white belt students learn in order to obtain their first coloured belt, orange.


Created relatively recently, the Heians were originally called Pinan from the Okinawan pronunciation of the Chinese word for safety. When introduced to Japan, Master Funakoshi opted to use the Japanese pronunciation Heian. Considered basic kata for beginning students.

  • 平安初段 Heian Shodan – (peaceful mind, first level) (Red-8th kyu)
  • 平安二段 Heian Nidan – (peaceful mind, second level) (Yellow-7th kyu)
  • 平安三段 Heian Sandan – (peaceful mind, third level) (Green-6th kyu)
  • 平安四段 Heian Yondan – (peaceful mind, fourth level) (Purple-5th kyu)
  • 平安五段 Heian Godan – (peaceful mind, fifth level) (Purple/White-4th kyu)


Originally known in Okinawa as Naihanchi, the katas were renamed by Master Funakoshi upon its introduction to Japan to reflect the strength exhibited with kiba-dachi. Rich in fighting techniques, the Tekki family offers a plethora of close combat techniques.

  • 鉄騎初段 Tekki Shodan – (iron horse riding, first level) (Brown-3rd kyu)
  • 鉄騎弐段 Tekki Nidan – (iron horse riding, second level) (Black belt)
  • 鉄騎参段 Tekki Sandan – (iron horse riding, third level) Black belt)

Advanced Katas

  • Bassai Dai (to penetrate a fortress – big) (Brown/White-2 & 1st kyu)
    The strong techniques of this kata emphasise hip movement. Some resemble a battering ram being used against fortress walls.
  • Bassai Sho (to penetrate a fortress – small)
    This kata was derived from Bassai-Dai. It has a similar performance line.
  • Kanku Dai (to view the sky – big)
    Most of the elements of the Heian Kata were derived from this kata. The first movement in this kata views the sky, which symbolises the universe and shows your opponent that you are unarmed. It was Master Funakoshi’s preferred kata.
  • Kanku Sho (to view the sky – small)
    Kanku Sho was created from Kanku Dai. The movements and performance line are similar.
  • Hangetsu (half moon)
    This kata received its name from its principal stance, hangetsu dachi (half moon stance).
  • Goju Shi Ho Dai (fifty four steps – big)
    This kata is one of the most advance kata of Shotokan. Master Funakoshi called it hotaku (knocking of a woodpecker) because some of the techniques resemble a woodpecker tapping its beak against a tree.
  • Goju Shi Ho Sho (fifty four steps – small)
    This is a smaller version of Goju Shi Ho Dai. It is also one of the most advanced kata of Shotokan.
  • Enpi (flying swallow)
    The quick up and down movements of this kata are reminiscent of a fling swallow. Enpi is one of the oldest kata in Shotokan. Its former name was Wanshu.
  • Jion (love and goodness)
    Jion is a term in Buddhism. It is also the name of a temple in China. It uses basic stances and techniques. It is one of the most traditional kata in Shotokan.
  • Jiin (love and shadow)
    Jiin is another term in Buddhism. It has similar techniques and performance line as Jion.
  • Jitte (ten hands)
    The goal of this kata is to teach a student to fight against ten opponents. This is a strong kata, similar to jion and Jiin.
  • Meikyo (bright mirror)
    The first movements of this kata suggest the smoothing of water to make it as calm and even as a mirror. The triangle jump at the end of this kata is said to have a secret meaning portending to a miracle.
  • Niju Shi Ho (twenty-four steps)
    The movements in this kata resemble waves breaking on a cliff. The former name of this kata was ni sei shi.
  • Wankan (king and crown)
    Wankan is the shortest kata in Shotokan.
  • Gankaku (crane on a rock)
    The main stance in this kata (tsuruashi dachi) resembles a crane ready to strike at its prey. The movements are supposed to simulate a fight in the narrow alleyways of Okinawa. The former name of this kata was Chinto.
  • Sochin (strength and calm)
    The name of this kata comes from its stance (sochin dachi), a strong, rooted stance. The purpose of this kata is to teach defense against a stick. Its former name was Hakko.
  • Chinte (rare hand)
    Chinte has a lot of circular and roundhouse techniques. These are rare and are not typical of the shortest distance between two points concept of Shotokan.
  • Unsu (cloud hands)
    Unsu has several techniques that symbolize parting the clouds with open hands. It is also one of the most advanced kata of Shotokan.