Kata (Japanese: 形, or more traditionally, 型; lit. “form”) is a Japanese word describing detailed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pair. Kata are the soul of karate. They combine both basic and advanced techniques, stances and body movements into a set of flowing compositions. Funakoshi the founder of Shotokan Karate sincerely believed it would take a lifetime to master a handful of kata and that sixteen would be enough. He chose the kata which were best suited for physical stress and self-defense, stubbornly clinging to his belief that karate was an art rather than a sport. To him, kata was karate. There are a total of 26 Kata in Shotokan however when Funakoshi arrived in Japan in 1922, he originally taught a total of fifteen kata, although it has been speculated that he probably knew many more.

Funakoshi’s Kata Knowledge

The fifteen kata in Funakoshi’s syllabus included:

Hoping to see karate included in the universal physical education taught in our public schools, I set about revising the kata so as to make them as simple as possible. Times change, the world changes, and obviously the martial arts must change too. The karate that high school students practice today is not the same karate that was practiced even as recently as ten years ago [this book was written in 1956], and it is a long way indeed from the karate I learned when I was a child in Okinawa. — Gichin Funakoshi

Explanation Video

Overview of Shotokan Kata.

The start of each of the 26 Kata at a glance.

The Complete list of 26 Kata (video 1 hr 32 mins)

KataNo. of “Movements”Kata meaning
Heian Shodan21“Peacefull Mind One”
Heian Nidan26“Peacefull Mind Two”
Heian Sandan20“Peacefull Mind Three”
Heian Yondan27“Peacefull Mind Four”
Heian Godan23“Peacefull Mind Five Universe”
Tekki Shodan23“Iron Horse One”
Tekki Nidan24“Iron Horse Two”
Tekki Sandan26“Iron Horse Three”
Bassai Dai42“Penetrating the Fortress-Big”
Bassai Sho27“Penetrating the Fortress – Small”
Kanku Dai65“To look at the Sky – Big”
Kanku Sho48“To look at the Sky – Small”
Enpi37“Flying Swallow”
Jion47“Love (and) Goodness”
Gankaku42“Crane on the Rock”
Hangetsu41“Half Moon”
Jitte24“Ten Hands”
Chinte32“Incredible Hands”
Sochin41“Preserve Peace”
Meikyo33“Mirror of the soul”
Jiin38“Named after the Saint”
Gojushiho Dai65“54 Steps – Big”
Gojushiho Sho67“54 Steps – Small”
Nijushiho24“24 Steps”
Wankan24“Crown of a king”
Unsu48“Cloud Hands”