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2023 Update

As we now follow the Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa kata methodology, to accurately reflect the kata one should look at the videos available on YouTube. CFTS cannot host the kata videos on our site as it infringes copyright but you can watch them on YouTube. To search for the kata, simply enter "kanazawa <kata name>", i.e. "kanazawa heian godan".

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.

Heian Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yondan and Godan

(Peaceful Mind Levels 1,2,3,4,5)

These katas were developed as a training aid by Itosu Sensei in the early 1900's and were derived from Kanku Dai. The are also known as Pinan or Peian in other styles.

Tekki Shodan, Nidan and Sandan

(Iron Horse)

Originally named Naihanchi with an unknown origin, it is known that Itosu Sensei created the Nidan and Sandan versions from Matsumura's version Naihanchi Jo. Certain dangerous techniques were removed from these katas to make them suitable for teaching in physical education in the Okinawan school system.

Bassai Dai and Bassai Sho

(To storm/penetrate a fortress)

Originally known as Passai, the kata starts with a set of powerful blocks then switching to powerful attacks. The Sho version was created by Itosu Sensei


(Named after a monk)

The original name was Shokyo.


(Temple Grounds or Mercy & compassion)

This kata retains its original name.


(Ten hands)

This implies that once mastered, one is able to successfully engage ten opponents. The kata is usually performed with a bo staff and the empty hand form is unique to Shotokan.

Kanku Dai and Kanku Sho

(Looking skyward)

Originally named Koshokun or Kushanku after the Chinese envoy Kung Siang Chun during the Ming Dynasty, he is credited with introducing the kata to Okinawa.The five Heian katas were derived from this kata to be taught to school students.

The variation Kanko Sho was created by Itosu Sensei


(Flight of a swallow)

Originally named Wanshu, the up and down movements of the kata mimics the swooping flight of a swallow. The version we practice today was adapted from Azato Sensei.


(Crescent Moon)

Originally named as Seishan, it is called Han(half) getsu(moon) because of its crecent foot movements, it is a Goju Ryu kata of unknown origin.


(24 Steps)

Originally named Niseshi, this is a kata of unknown origin but traceable back to Ankichi Aragaki (1899-1927). It was borrowed from the Shito Ryu style by Funakoshi Sensei.


(Highly Polished Mirror)

Originally named Rohai (of which there are three, Rohai Jo, Sho and Ge) there is only one Meikyo, although no Rohai version has a defence against a Bo like Meikyo.


(Crane Standing On A Rock)

Originally named Chinto, this version stems from Itosu Sensei and many of it's moves resemble a crane standing on one leg, hence the reason for Funakoshi Sensei to name it so.


(Chinese hands or Unusual Hands)

Originally called Shoin, this kata features wide circular movements unusual to Shotokan.


(Kings Crown)

Originally called Shiofu, this katas lineage to Shotokan is through Matsumura and strangely is very short with only one kiai.

Gojushiho Sho and Dai

(54 Steps)

Originally named by Funakoshi Sensei, Hotaku (woodpecker hitting a tree) was a Shito Ryu kata named Useshi. The Sho version was created, possibly by Itosu Sensei but the Dai version is of unknown chinese origin.


(Strong Calm)

Originally called Hakko, this kata was modified and introduced to Shotokan by Yoshitaka (Gigo) Funakoshi. It is of unknown origin but traceable back to Ankichi Aragaki.


(Cloud Hands)

Another kata traceable back to Akichi Aragaki and borrowed from the Shito Ryu style of Kenwa Mabuni

Gankaku Sho

(Crane on a Rock - lesser)

This kata is unique in that the embusen is 45 degrees to the front and 135 degrees to the rear in linear form.

The kata includes ten different stances, including musubi dachi; zenkutsu dachi; kiba dachi; kokutsu dachi; fudo dachi; kosa dachi (crosslegged stance); shiko dachi; iagosi dachi (kneeling stance); bent leg renoji dachi (L stance); and soto hachiji dachi (open V stance). In addition, this kata includes numerous body rotations to change directions, many unique defenses and counter-attacks to different targets, levels and directions, open hand techniques,and several defensive distraction techniques with the hands.

Shotokan Kata

Please note, with reference to the video clips:

  • All of the video are performed by Sensei Paul Walker with the exception of Taikyoku Shodan (which does not feature in the SKIF curriculum), Seienchin and Seipai. 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.

  • 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 and 2 by Hirokazu Kanazawa

  • Sensei Andy Gillies

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