The word kata means “shape” or “form”. The kanji for kata (型) is composed of the following characters: 形 – Katachi meaning “Shape,” 刈 – Kai meaning “Cut,” and 土 – Tsuchi meaning “Earth” or “Soil.” Through the practice of kata, the traditional techniques used for fighting are learned; balance, coordination, breathing, and concentration are also developed. Properly practiced, kata are an excellent physical exercise, and a very effective form of mind and body conditioning.
Kata embodies the idea of ren ma (錬磨), or “always polishing”—with diligent practice, the movements of the kata become further refined, understood, and perfected. The attention to detail that is necessary to perfect a kata cultivates self discipline. Through concentration, dedication, and practice, a higher level of learning may be achieved, where the kata is so ingrained in the subconscious mind that no conscious attention is needed. This is what the Zen masters call mushin (無心), or “no mind.” The conscious, rational thought practice is not used at all—what was once memorized is now spontaneous.
Sosai Mas Oyama said that one should “think of karate as a language—the kihon (基本 – basics) can be thought of as the letters of the alphabet, the kata (型 – forms) will be the equivalent of words and sentences, and the kumite (組手 – fighting) will be analogous to conversations.” He believed that it was better to master just one kata than to only half-learn many. Sosai Oyama also emphasized the three fundamental principles of kata practice:
- Waza no Kankyu (技の緩急) – The Tempo (pace) of the Techniques. The tempo of the kata varies – some techniques are performed quickly, while others are done more slowly.
- Chikara no Kyojaku (力の強弱) – The Force or Power (strong / weak) of the Techniques. The power of a technique is derived from a proper balance between strength and relaxation.
- Iki no Chosei (息の調整) – The Control (regulation) of breathing. The correct timing (inhaling and exhaling) and force of the breaths (Kiai – 気合, Ibuki – 息吹, or Nogare – 逃れ) are essential for proper techniques.
The practice of traditional kata is also a way for the karateka to pay respect to the origins and history of Kyokushin Karate and the martial arts in general. Below you will find additional information regarding the origins of Kyokushin Kata, their specific meanings, and links to video examples of the kata in practice.
- Taikyoku Sono Ichi, Ni and San
- Pinan Sono Ichi, Ni, San, Yon and Go
- Tsuki no Kata
The Southern Kata were developed from Mas Oyama’s study of the Okinawan karate style of Goju Ryu under So Nei Chu, which in turn were derived from southern Chinese kempo. The movements in these kata are more circular and flamboyant than those in the Northern Kata. The Southern Kata include:
- Sanchin no Kata
- Gekisai Dai and Sho
The influence of Chinese Martial Arts theory in the systemization of Kyokushin is obvious. This is amply demonstrated in Sosai Oyama’s writings where he constantly encourages students of Kyokushin to research the Chinese origins of karate. Many advanced techniques of Kyokushin were taken by Sosai Oyama from his early study of the Southern Chinese Martial Arts.
In relation to the numerous kata that have fallen into disuse in Kyokushin, Sosai states that the techniques of Kyokushin kata should simulate actual fighting and the kata which do not have such clearly practical application have been abandoned. In personal training you should always keep the three fundamental principles of kata practice top of mind, and seek to understand the fighting applications of the techniques in each kata.
That’s why a practitioner should never think that as soon as it ascends in the latter or more complex katas the first and most basic ones loose importance, therefore, keep an open mind.
- Taikyoku sono ichi are required for 10th Kyu.
- Taikyoku sono ichi, ni, as well as Sokugi (kicking)
- Taikyoku sono san, as well as Sokugi Taikyoku sono ni, san are required for 9th Kyu.
- Taikyoku sono ichi, ni, san, and Sokugi Taikyoku sono ichi, ni, san, and yon in Ura are required for 3rd Kyu.
- Piñan sono ichi, ni, are required for 8th Kyu.
- Piñan sono san, is required for 6th Kyu.
- Piñan sono yon is required for 5th Kyu.
- Piñan sono go is required for 4th Kyu.
- Piñan sono ichi, ni, san, shi, and go in Ura are required for 2nd Kyu.
Sanchin is an isometric kata where each move is performed in a state of complete tension, accompanied by powerful, deep breathing (ibuki) that originates in the lower abdomen (tan den). The practice of Sanchin kata not only leads to the strengthening of the body, but it also aims at the development of the inner power (ki) and the coordination of mind and body. It also emphasizes on basic footwork, hand techniques as well as basic blocking techniques.
- Sanchin no Kata is required for 7th Kyu.
- Gekisa-dai (撃塞大) is required for 4th Kyu.
- Gekisa-sho (撃塞小) is required for 1st Kyu.
- Yantsu is required for 6th Kyu.
- Tsuki no kata is required for 5th Kyu.
Tensho is a basic illustration of the definition of Karate, derived from Chinese kempo, as a technique of circles based on points. Tensho should be a prime object of practice because, as a psychological and theoretical support behind karate training and as a central element in basic karate formal exercises, it has permeated the techniques, the blocks and the thrusts, and is intimately connected with the very life of karate. A man who has practiced Tensho kata a number of thousands of times and has a firm grasp of its theory can not only take any attack, but can also turn the advantage in any attack, and will always be able to defend himself perfectly.
- Tensho Kata is required for 4th Kyu.
- Saifa is required for 1st Kyu.
That is why this kata is long and slow. Many of its techniques are performed from kiba dachi (horseback stance). So it is known for the legs to become very tired while performing this kata, therefore, a strong spirit is needed to persevere, keeping up a strong spirit.
- Seienchin is required for Shodan.
- Garyu is required for Shodan.
- Seipai is required for Nidan.
The significance of the kata is that no matter what the severity of the problem/challenge is being faced, every single new day is another unique opportunity to overcome it. Not only that particular challenge but everything in our lives. The universe is waiting. Nothing is so terrible that it affects the basic reality of existence. So, basically as long as you are able to rise your hands and see this magnificent start nurturing us selfishly (with our without the usage of our hands), we are still blessed with opportunity to succed.
- Kanku is required for Sandan.
The steps we took in the past are linked to those we are taking today, which as a result will have an effect in those taken in the future. So we can say, that the achievements of today are a consequence of steps taken (hard work) in the near or far past. Also, this kata reminds us of our roots, family, teachers or those who also, taking their own steps in live contributed to where you are today.
- Sushiho is required for Yondan.