Karate kata also called Karate forms - are a series of related Karate techniques done in sequence. The number of moves in Karate forms range mostly from 20 to about 60. Some have more than a hundred moves. There are over 100 different katas practiced across all Karate styles.
The Shito Ryu Karate style practices more than 50 katas..!
Watch the Men's JKA All Japan Kata Champion in Action...
Originally kata was the only way Karate techniques were practiced. Karate bunkai was emphasised as application not presentation.
Karate basics kihon and sparring exercises kumite came much later.
Karate kata is taught and practiced in stages. The basic katas ‘lead’ a student through the early stages of learning and prepare her for the ‘advanced’ stages.
Karate forms seem to get easier with practice, and in a sense they do, but over time what was once ‘simple’ can become incredibly difficult.
The Karate techniques practiced in kata are highly applicable in kumite sparring. They train you to respond to situations naturally and freely.
The kata ‘state of mind’ is one of restful alertness. In this state Karate techniques can be applied as circumstances demand. A calm mind and trained body allows the true power of Karate kata to emerge. When they come together the Karateka can explode into action and down an opponent with one blow.
Watch the Women's JKA All Japan Kata Champ in Action...
Karate Ni Sente Nashi means "There is no First Attack in Karate".
A well known Karate Maxim - the first move of every kata is a block!
Karate Kata - 10 Elements
There are 10 aspects that make a successful kata.
Karate forms are done without any opponents so these elements apply to the person doing the kata. The ‘observer’ will ‘sense’ most of the 10 elements rather than see them.
1. Preparation of the mind - Yoi No Kisin
2. Awareness of attack and defence - Inyo
3. Balancing of power - Chikara No Kyojaku
4. Correct speed - Waza No Kankyu
5. Expand and contract - Tai No Shinshuku
6. Breathing and posture control - Kokyu
7. Understanding the target - Tyakugan
8. Demonstration of Martial spirit - Kiai
9. Stance and movement - Keitai No Hoji
10. Remaining completely aware - Zanshin
Shotokan Katas are part of the ‘trilogy’ that makes up the worlds most popular Karate style.
The three parts; kata, kihon and kumite are all emphasized equally in the Shotokan style.
The five Heian kata contain the essential Karate techniques learned in kihon practice. Heian is the training ground for all the other katas. Beyond the Heian kata there are twenty others.
The 15 "Styles" of Shotokan
Gichin Funakoshi originally only brought fifteen Karate forms from Okinawa. These became known as the "15 styles".
The Japan Karate Association now has 25 kata. Some other Shotokan groups still include the kata "Jiin" making the total 26.
List of Shotokan Katas
Karate Bunkai is where all the techniques of kata come to life. Karate kata is done against imaginary opponents, Karate bunkai deals with real attacks!
Kata was never intended to be a polished show of perfection. The Karate forms we see in martial arts tournaments are a million miles away from the
chaos of fighting
Competitive performances can be beautiful, skillful and athletic but they're not all practical.
In a real fight you will have trouble recognising any Karate techniques from a pretty world championship winning kata.
But... the fast and dynamic Karate Blocks, strikes, kicks and punches contained in Karate kata all have real-life combat application(s). These applications are tested in Karate bunkai. Some Karate styles (usually from the Okinawan tradition) use kata as it was intended to be used - others have made an ornament out of it.
If you take the view that all Karate techniques should have a combat application, then Karate forms should demonstrate hundreds of different ways to stun and subdue an attacker.
...anything else should be called ‘presentation’ or thrown away!
We think there is middle ground - both can co-exist.
If you look at the performance of Masao Kagawa or Hideto Tsuchiya of the Shotokan Karate style you will see Karate kata of masterful grace, power and brimming with fighting potential.
Whether it’s standing on a stage or facing an opponent “intent” will dictate whether an action “works”. The intention to perform is very different than the intention to survive. Karate bunkai is the place where kata either lives or dies.
Sitting down in your own time to watch your favorite Karate kata being performed over and over without raising a sweat. Bliss!
You know there’s no substitute for real practice but kata videos can inspire - sometimes more than actually training!
Great kata videos are everywhere. The trouble is - there’s too many! The best kata videos get lost in the crowd. Finding what is relevant is time consuming and annoying.
Over time we will fill these pages with exciting, relevant kata videos old, new, classics and those gems by ordinary Karateka that seem to slip under the radar. We may even show a dud or two to highlight the contrast between practical and showy.
We figure we know a good Karate kata when we see one - so we’ll share what we find right here.
...your opinions on any of the kata videos we present are welcome.
These are some of the most impressive names from the world of Karate Kata. Some were also great competition fighters. From this list who do you recognise as being equally impressive as a fighter..?
- Do you train in Kata more than Basics or Sparring..?
- Do you perform Kata best at gradings, competitions or in the Dojo..?
- Have you ever tried a Kata from another style..?
We think Karate would not be the same without Kata - but we're not everyone, so let's have your opinion...
Other Stories About Karate Kata...
Check out some great stories about Karate Kata written by other visitors to this page...
Tensho - My favourite kata I love Tensho - many people think it is simply a softer version of Sanchin, but it conceals hard within soft, containing effective close-range techniques …
Kawakanajima Kata Kawakanajima Kata is a very old Okinawan Karate Kata. According to some Okinawan Karate master's the creation of this Kata was inspired by 4 epic ancient …
Bassai Dai - THE Shotokan Kata Bassai Dai is the best known shotokan kata and one most practiced. Why? because it has qualities of budo... composure, power, strength, speed and evasion …
A Hard Kata But a Worthy One... Not rated yet I would say that sanchin is an amazing kata just because of its simplicity but also how annoyingly difficult it is to perform and is a very under rated …
Sensei, Karate Student - Dean Weber Not rated yet I am a black belt in Shotokan having received it in 1975 from Master Fred Corritone, currently of Virginia. I think that kata are important for the karate …
my best kata Not rated yet I love Kata Enpi- the flying swallow.
I practice everyday. In love the combined use of many stances and sudden change and shift of feet in footwork.