There has always been much speculation about the histories of the kata that we practice in Shotokan - unfortunately none of the great masters ever wrote a journal or stated who created what and when or indeed why. There is much conflicting information on the internet regarding katas and all things to do with martial arts, so we must be careful to state that what is printed here is one version of a possible truth - as in many cases, no one can accurately state the exact truth.

A quote from Rob Redmond's book on Shotokan kata reads as follows, and I'm sure we all agree with his sentiments......

"Kata have a feeling of antiquity about them, and that is one of the attractors that draw people to learn the art of karate. The idea that you are performing a routine that has been handed down from teacher to student for 50 years, and in some cases as long as 400 years, is fascinating and humbling. These exercises bring more to the performer than simple sweat and exhaustion. The kata endow the performer with a sense of timelessness."

The sources of some of the information shown here are listed at the bottom of the page.

Please note: The information section shown is purely for historical interest purposes only and is not required as part of the CFTS grading syllabus.

If you have any further information you wish to add, please send it through to the webmasters, thanks!

Click on the kata name to view the YouTube video.

Important Note:

Due to copyright infringement regulations, we are unable to link to the Kanazawa Sensei videos as before. But we have something more useful to you, the kata of Sensei Paul Walker from SKIF.

Paul has been practicing karate since January 1982 and spent three years of his training, from 1996 to 1999, studying in Japan at the Headquarters Dojo of Master Hirokazu Kanazawa.  He has been a member of the Shotokan Karate International Federation (SKIF) ever since, and is a current board member for SKIF-USA.

Most of the following YouTube video links feature an extremely useful commentary to explain the kata and its associated moves.

Japanese Name
English Translation
Original Okinawan Name

There are six Taikyoku katas, created by Gichin Funakoshi as training aids only. Taikyoku is the Japanese pronumciation of Taiji / Tai Chi, which hints to earlier links from China to Okinawa and then Japan.

This video is not Sensei Paul Walker, as the Taikyoku kata are not practised in SKIF.

HEIAN SHODAN Peaceful Mind Level One Pinan Nidan Derived from Kanku-Dai by Anko Itosu in early 1900's
HEIAN NIDAN Peaceful Mind Level Two Pinan Shodan Derived from Kanku-Dai by Anko Itosu in early 1900's
HEIAN SANDAN Peaceful Mind Level Three Pinan Sandan Derived from Kanku-Dai by Anko Itosu in early 1900's
HEIAN YONDAN Peaceful Mind Level Four Pinan Yondan Derived from Kanku-Dai by Anko Itosu in early 1900's
HEIAN GODAN Peaceful Mind Level Five Pinan Godan Derived from Kanku-Dai by Anko Itosu in early 1900's
TEKKI SHODAN First Level Horse Riding Naihanchi Jo

Derived from Naihanchi, the kata makes use of close combat in-fighting making it different from most others. It was taught to Sokon Matsumura and passed down to Anko Itosu.

Second Level Horse Riding Naihanchi Chu Created by Anko Itosu from Tekki Shodan template
TEKKI SANDAN Third Level Horse Riding Naihanchi Ge Created by Anko Itosu from Tekki Shodan template
BASSAI-DAI To storm a fortress Passai-dai Bassai-Dai is a very old kata, and there are many different versions of it. While some credit its creation to Matsumura Sokon, in reality no one knows for sure if the kata was created by him or not. We don't really know where all of these Bassai kata came from, nor do we know who created the first one. We don't know how old the kata is, nor do we know if it was born in China or in Okinawa.
BASSAI-SHO To storm a fortress (the lesser) Passai-sho Created by Anko Itosu from the Bassai-Dai template
JI'IN Named after a Buddhist monk Ji'in Funakoshi Sensei tried to rename this kata to Shokyo, but students kept the name as Ji'in
JI'ON Named after a Chinese temple Jion This kata retained its original name. It was probably conceived by a monk associated with the Buddhist 'Jion' temple of ancient China. Evidence of this can be seen in the 'Yoi', where the wrapping of the left hand around the right was how the monks of the temple greeted and identified each other. The literal meaning of the kanji is love(ji) and kindness(on). 'Join ji', the temple of love and kindness.
JI'TTE 10 Hands Jutte Ju(Ten) te(hands) implles, once mastered, one is able to successfully engage ten opponents. A kata of unknown origin usually performed with the Bo. The empty hand form is perhaps unique to Shotokan.
KANKU-DAI Looking Skyward Kushanku-dai

Originally named Kushanku (or Koshokun), it was the only kata taught by Funakoshi Sensei for the first three years of training. It was named after the Chinese envoy Kung Siang Chun (aka Kong Su Kung, Kushanku etc., although this may not have been his actual name, it may have been a title).

Looking Skyward (the lesser) Kushanku-sho Created by Anko Itosu from the Kanku-Dai template
CHINTE Chinese hands Shoin Shoin was Funakoshi Sensei's name for this kata, but later the original name was re-adopted and features close-in attacks to the eyes, nose and ribs.
ENPI Flight of the swallow Wanshu It is often claimed that the origins of the kata can be traced to the Chinese envoy Wang Ji who visited Okinawa in 1683. Wanshu was only known to the karate-ka of Tomari-te village and was taught by Matsumura, and later adapted by Sokon Matsumura and Anko Itosu.
Named after the stance, half/crecent moon Seisan Perhaps the oldest kata in karate and versions can be found in many karate styles. It is said that Sokon Matsumura introduced this kata into Okinawa from China.
NIJUSHIHO Twenty-four steps or Moves Niseishi Niju(20) shi(4) ho(steps) is of unknown origin and classified with the group of katas (which includes Unsu and Sochin) traceable to Ankichi Aragaki (1899-1927). Borrowed by Master Funakoshi from the Shito Ryu system of Kenwa Mabuni.
According to the late Sensei Enoeda, the kata is an expression on the nature of water in a stream or river. Sometimes depicting the slow, regal movements of the flowing water. At other times, it's strong and swift currents, the contrast of the flow as it navigates around an obstruction.
MEIKYO Highly Polished Mirror Rohai Where as there are three Rohai (Rohai Jo, Rohai sho, Rohai Ge), there is only one Mei(Bright) kyo(mirror). All three Rohai where created by Anko Itosu from the Rohai of Matsumura. The name Meikyo, is apparently in reference to the symmetry of the kata
SOCHIN Named after the stance, sochin-dachi (fudo-dachi) Sochin Modified and introduced to Shotokan by Gigo Funakoshi in 1930 from the Shito Ryu system of Kenwa Mabuni. This is the CFTS Federation kata, every student over brown belt should have a good working knowledge of it. Funakoshi Sensei tried to rename it Hakko, but the Sochin name was kept.



Fifty-four moves, or woodpecker tapping a tree Useichi Funakoshi Sensei tried to rename these kata to Hotaku (woodpecker) but like Sochin and Ji'in, the older name ended up being used. Both kata are believed to have been created by Sokon Matsumura - there is a legend that the Gojushiho katas were to be his finest and final creation, the last kata in his system of Tode.



Fifty-four moves (the lesser), or woodpecker tapping a tree Useichi See above
WANKAN King's Crown Wankuan/Shiofu

Modified by Gigo Funakoshi, it was never completed and ends after the first kiai. It is the shortest and most technical of the katas. Funakoshi tried to rename it Shiofu but the original name was kept.

UNSU Cloud Hands Unsu A kata of unknown origin, traceable to Ankichi Arakaki, it was borrowed by Funakoshi Sensei from the Shito Ryu system of Kenwa Mabuni.
GANKAKU Crane on a rock Chinto Probably more myth than reality, it is said that Chinto, a Chinese pirate, washed up on Okinawan's shore with his crew. A famous Okinawan fighter was sent to deal with him but when they fought, the match was a tie. Chinto remained on Okinawa for a period and taught the principles behind the Chinto kata, which Shotokan now calls Gankaku.
GANKAKU SHO Crane on a rock (the lesser)  

Gankaku-Sho is a very traditional Japanese/Okinawan style kata from Tomari-te Shorin-Ryu. Unlike the more commonly seen Gankaku kata of Shotokan (meaning “crane on a rock”), which is performed in a straight line to the front and rear, Gankaku-Sho is performed along a different line of movement (embusen), which is forty-five degrees to the front left and one hundred thirty five degrees to the right rear from the yoi position.

This is said to be the old version of Gankaku and features ten different stances.

Calm within a storm  

From Shito-Ryu style, using shiko-dachi stance, unlike the other 26 Shotokan kata.

This link still features Kanazawa Sensei.

SEIPAI 18 hands  

A Goju-Ryu kata also using shiko-dachi stance.

This link still features Kanazawa Sensei.


Please note, with reference to the video clips:

  • All of the video are performed by Sensei Paul Walker with the exception of Taikyoku Shodan. (This kata does not feature in the SKIF curriculum).
  • Kanazawa Sensei features on Seienchin and Seipai


Information Sources (including, but not exclusively):

  • Kata - The Folk Dances of Shotokan by Rob Redmond
  • Okinawan Karate - A History of Masters and Styles by Christopher Clarke
  • Shotokan Karate International Kata Vols 1&2 by Hirokazu Kanazawa
  • Sensei Andy Gillies


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