An introductory kata to teach basic movement.
Heian Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yondan and Godan
The Heian kata are the product of Ankoh Itosu’s effort to streamline several kata, into forms suitable for teaching the gross body movement skills of karate to school age kids. The most obvious sources for much of the Heian kata content are Kanku-dai, Gojushiho and a few others. The movements have, of course, been rearranged and reinterpretated, so linking all five Heian kata together will not result in some complete form of the older katas.
The Heian kata were introduced into the school systems on Okinawa in the early 1900’s, and were subsequently adopted by many teachers and schools. Thus, they are present today in the curriculum of the Shorin/Shorei styles, Shotokan, Matsubayashi ryu, and several others.
These ARE NOT ‘ancient’ kata, nor are they ‘training’ kata- very effective principles and strategies are found in all of them, as effective (or ‘deadly’) as the kata that they were drawn from.
Tekki Shodan, Nidan and Sandan
The series of Tekki kata were derived from the older, original Nifanchin kata. Nifanchin was brought to Okinawa via Fuzhou, China, at some point in the long history of trade between the two kingdoms. It was broken into three distinct segments, possibly by Ankoh Itosu, Tokumine Pechin, or Motobu Choki.
The kata are performed entirely in the kiba-dachi stance, or “Horse stance”. The name Tekki itself (and the older Nifanchin) translates to “Iron Horse.” Contrary to popular belief, the kata are not designed to teach fighting on a lateral line or against a wall. Rather, they are intricate strategies of attacking and defensive movement, done in the kiba-dachi, for the purpose of conditioning the legs to develop explosive power. If one rotates one’s torso a few degrees to one side or the other while performing Tekki, the result is the Hachi-monji, or figure eight stance. This has been called the basics of all karate.
In the earlier days of karate training, it was common practice for a student to spend 2-3 years doing nothing but Tekki, under the strict observation of their teacher. Motobu Choki, famous for his youthful brawling at tsuji (red-light district), credited the kata with containing all that one needs to know to become a proficient fighter.
Bassai Dai (Storming a Fortress)
Bassai dai is one of Shotokan’s most powerful Kata’s. “Bassai Dai” simply means “Storming a fortress”. Every single move in Bassai-dai is powerful and deadly. This kata is usually learned at 3rd kyu( Brown belt)and is used in grading up until 1st dan(black belt).
Video clip: Bassai Dai
Enpi (Flight of the Swallow)
Enpi comes to us from the Okinawan Tomari-te school where it apparently first appeared in 1683. It is believed to have been influenced by Chinese boxing. It was originally called Wansu (wanshu). Funakoshi Gichin changed the name when he moved to the Japanese mainland in the 1920’s. Funakoshi changed the names of many of the kata, in an effort to make the Okinawan art more palatable to the then nationalistic Japanese. The main theory about its creation and development is that a Sappushi Wang Ji, an official from Xiuning, transmitted the kata while serving on Okinawa. Others purport that it was a product of the interaction between Okinawans and the so-called “36 Chinese Families” that immigrated to the islands in the late 1300’s.
Video clip: Enpi
Jion (Jion-ji Temple)
Ji’in, Jion and Jitte form a group of katas beginning with the same characteristic kamae, which apparently has roots in ancient Chinese boxing. Jion likely originates from China and was practiced by the Tomari-te school, where it likely originated. Jion conceals a strong fighting spirit, although it is not difficult to perform. It is a representative kata in the Shotokan system because of the importance of the perfection of the basic stances in its mastery.
Video clip: Jion
Kanku Dai (Gazing Heavenward)
Kanku Dai is the major form of this kata and derives its name from the opening movement of gazing toward the sky. It consists of 65 movements executed in about 90 seconds, thus is the longest Shotokan kata. It symbolizes attack and defense against 8 adversaries. This was one of Sensei Funakoshi’s favourite katas and is a representative kata of the Shotokan system.
Video clip: Kanku Dai
Hangetsu (Half Moon)
Hangetsu originates from the Naha-te school. The first part is slow and strongly respiratory, stressing the development of the hara. This sequence shares a strong similarity with sanchin. The second part of the kata is more dynamic in its execution. Due to the shared principles of expansion and contraction, Gichin Funakoshi substituted hangetsu for sanchin in the Shotokan curriculum. Mastery of this kata rests on mastery of hangetsu-dachi (half-moon stance). The kata consists of 41 movements.
Video clip: Hangetsu
The origin of Nijushiho is unknown, but it is presumed that it originates from one of the Chinese Dragon styles. Alternating explosive and calm sequences lend it a very distinctive rhythm. Some Okinawan practicioners have likened it to the ebb and flow of the ocean crashing on a beach. This explosion and recession of movement is especially evident in the opening movements. This principle, applied throughout the kata, alludes to an understanding of reception of an attack, and suppression of the attacker in the same motion. Like most good karate, it imparts the important principle of defending and responding in one movement.
Niseishi to Nijushiho – “The Twenty Four Steps”
In an effort to make his Okinawan (and thus, foreign) art more palatable to the then-nationalistic Japanese, Funakoshi changed the name of the kata from Niseishi to Nijushiho. Both names mean “24 steps.” However, this is not simply an interpretation of the number of movements or techniques extant in the kata. 24 is related to 108, which is an auspicious number in Buddhist scriptures. Both 2 and 4 are lowest common denominators of the larger number. 108 refers to the 108 ‘afflictions’ of the soul, which are to be symbolically stricken down in events like Kagamai Baraki (Japanese New Year). The kata Gojushiho (originally Ueseishi) is “54 steps”, another set of lowest common denominators. It is a likely possibility that both kata were so named as a reference to this aspect of Buddhism. Although the kata have come down to karate practicioners via Okinawans, who mostly rejected Buddhism in favor of their own animistic beliefs, the original kata came from the Chinese, who embraced it.
This does not imply that the kata itself is a Buddhist exercise- the Buddhist symbology is only an artifact of its originators, who were most likely Buddhists of some flavor.
Video clip: Nijushiho
Kanku Sho (Gazing Heavenward)
Kanku Sho is the minor form of this kata and derives its name from the opening movement of gazing toward the sky. The embusen of the kata is similar to that of Kanku Dai, but it begins differently. It is a compulsory Shotokan kata and of high technical merit.
Video clip: Kanku Sho
Jitte (Ten Hands)
Ji’in, Jion and Jitte form a group of katas beginning with the same characteristic kamae, which apparently has roots in ancient Chinese boxing. In Jitte is understood the idea that its mastery will permit one to face ten adversaries. Its origin is from the Tomari-te school. Some claim that the name, Jitte, is derived from the position of the raised fists, resembling a type of sai known as a jitte, which occurs a number of times in the kata. This rather short kata of only 24 movements contains a number of defenses against the bo, as well as some secret techniques, but the number of interpretations do not end there.
Video clip: Jitte
Bassai Sho (Penetrate the Fortress)
The originator of this dynamic and powerful kata is unknown, but likely was of the Tomari-te school of Okinawa. It exhibits characteristics of the Tiger style. Bassai Sho is considered to be the minor form of the kata, but it is so distinct from Bassai Dai that this not certain. Bassai Sho features blocks against the joints and against a bo. Although not often practiced, its practice is recommended as beneficial for the development of balance and the use of the hips.
Video clip: Bassai Sho
Ji’in (Love of Truth)
Ji’in, Jion and Jitte form a group of katas beginning with the same characteristic kamae, which apparently has roots in ancient Chinese boxing. Ji’in likely originates from the Tomari-te school. Sensei Funakoshi did not teach this kata extensively. However, it remains important for the execution of many simultaneous techniques and the often-repeated stances, enabling swift changes of direction while maintaining balance, power and steps of equal length. It has, however, been removed from the Japan Karate Association teaching and grading syllabus.
Video clip: Jiin
Chinte (Rare Hand or Chinese Hand)
This very old kata originates from China. Its mixture of standard movements and rarely-seen techniques, vestiges of ancient forms, give this kata a special appeal. Particularly dynamic, with its alternating strong and slow passages, Chinte is unique also in the presence of a number of circular techniques, despite the preference in Shotokan karate for linear movements. It is a kata of close-distance self-defense techniques. The closing movement alludes to the absorption of the power of the waves by the sand, which is a symbol of the return to tranquility after the violent storm.
Video clip: Chinte
Sochin (Immense Silence or Tranquil Force)
Sochin, originating from the Dragon style, has a unique rhythm. What is essential in its practice is the correct execution of sochin-dachi (or fudo-dachi), that is, the karateka must root himself into the ground, with the knees strongly flexed and tension to the outside, the centre of gravity slightly inclined to the front, and the hips strong. This lends the kata a special significance. It demonstrates the power of Ki.
Video clip: Sochin
Gankaku (Crane on a Rock)
The image of the crane on the rock reappears throughout Gankaku. The power of this kata is the practice of strength and balance while standing on one foot and executing two-armed attacks, like a crane beating its wings in defense. Gankaku is certainly derived from the Heron style of Chinese boxing and, as such, is very ancient. The embusen of the kata is linear, exhibiting only vertical and perpendicular lines.
Video clip: Gankaku
Gojushiho Sho (Fifty-four Steps)
Gojushiho Sho is the minor form of this kata, which has its origin in the Phoenix Eye style. Its name derives either from the repetitive movements of a woodpecker pecking a tree-trunk, or from the staggering and hesitant steps of a drunken man. The advantage of the two versions of the kata is to better master the difficult techniques presented therein, but not without facing some confusion, for many sequences are the same and others only slightly different. The embusen of both Gojushiho dai and Gojushiho Sho are nearly identical. However, the latter kata begins straight off with a wide variety of advanced techniques and, as such, is highly recommended for study.
Video clip: Gojushiho Sho
Unsu (Hands in the Cloud)
The origin of Unsu is unknown, but it is of the Dragon style. It is somewhat a condensation of other katas (e.g., Bassai, Kanku, Jion, Empi, Jitte and Gankaku), hence it is essential to have mastered these before practicing Unsu. The movement, Unsu, or hands in the cloud, is used to sweep away the hands of the opponent and is said to signify the gathering clouds in a thunderstorm. The practice of Unsu is particularly satisfying, due to its rhythm, accent on speed, abrupt stops and numerous techniques not found in any other kata. It consists of 48 moves.
Video clip: Unsu
Gojushiho Dai (Fifty-four Steps)
Gojushiho Dai is the major form of this kata, which has its origin in the Phoenix Eye style. Its name derives either from the repetitive movements of a woodpecker pecking a tree-trunk, or from the staggering and hesitant steps of a drunken man. The advantage of the two versions of the kata is to better master the difficult techniques presented therein, but not without facing some confusion, for many sequences are the same and others only slightly different. The embusen of both Gojushiho Dai and Gojushiho sho are nearly identical. Gojushiho Dai consists of many advanced open-handed techniques and attacks to the collar bone.
Video clip: Gojushiho Dai
Meikyo (Wiping the Mirror) (Rohai)
Meikyo was first practiced in the Tomari-te school. Mysteriously, it was known in Japan before it was introduced by Sensei Funakoshi. It contains some defenses against the bo. Embusen and rhythm of Meikyo are complicated and can pose some difficulties. It depicts many close distance fighting techniques and throws by means of grabbing the wrist. The jump at the end of Meikyo is considered secret and spiritual.
Video clip: Meikyo
Wankan (Sword Arm)
This ancient kata originates from the Tomari-te school. It is the shortest of the Shotokan katas and its techniques are not exceptional. Nevertheless, it features a surprise throwing technique of special significance and attacks to the joints. Wankan poses real difficulties in its proper execution. Mastery of its techniques will lend an arm the strength of a sword.
Video clip: Wankan
All text provided by kind permission of Wikipedia.