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Kata and their Meanings


KATA                                       ORIGIN                                  TRANSLATION
Ananku                                Shuri-te                                Light from the south
Aoyagi                                  Shitō-Ryu                            Blue Willow
Ansan                                   Okinawa-te                        Keeping safe 3 ways
Bassai Dai                          Shito-ryu                             Penetrate a fortress
Bassai Sho                         Shito-ryu                             Penetrate a fortress
Chi No Kata                      Shito-ryu                             Earth Kata
Chinto                                 Shito-ryu                             Fighting to the East
Wanshu                              Shuri-te                                Flight of swallow
Gojushiho                          Naha-te                                Fifty-Four steps
Haku Cho                           Okinawa-te                        White Swan
Jiin                                         Tomari-te                            Compassionate Ground
Jion                                       Tomari-te                            Compassionate Sound
Jutte                                     Tomari-te                            Compassionate Hands
Kusanku                             Shuri-te                                 Founders Name
Kururunfa                          Shito-ryu                             Destroy with old techniques (several others have been used)
Matsukaze                        Shito-ryu                             Pine tree in wind
Nijushiho                            Shito-ryu                             24 steps
Pinan                                    Shuri-te                                Peaceful Mind
Rohai                                    Tomari-te                            Crane on a rock
Sanchin                               Naha-te                                Three Battles
Saifa                                      Naha-te                                Final Breaking point
Sanseiryu                           Naha-te                                Thirty Six Hands
Seienchin                           Naha-te                                A storm with calm
Seipai                                   Naha-te                                Eighteen Hands
Seisan                                  Naha-te                                Thirteen Hands
Shihokosokun                  Shito-ryu                             Mabuni's version
Suparempai                      Naha-te                                One Hundred Eight Hands
Tensho                                 Naha-te                                Changing hands
Tomarai Bassai                Tomari-te                            Penetrate a fortress

The origins, of the Kata, are as close as I can historically account. Please remember that prior to the early 1900's there were not very many written records of the any karate system, and of those, many were lost during the second World War. The Kata that are listed are not all of the Kata.

The history of Kata goes back to China and will show the influence of Chinese boxing on the Okinawan art of Te (hand) that was taught by Master Itosu. Kata were not entirely the invention of the Masters of the 1800's, but were formulated, from the beginning, by the Te Masters In concert with the Chinese that were introducing Kung Fu to the Okinawan martial artists.

However, the more modern masters did add their own Kata.   The early masters of Okinawa-Te all had either studied with the Chinese directly, or were students of Okinawans who had studied with the Chinese.   The Chinese influence brought the animal forms taught in their Kempo into the Okinawan art of Te.  

The animal forms that were studied were the Tiger, Eagle, Bear, Rooster, Crane and Snake.   Each of these forms was copied from the observation of each of the animals and their movements in combat.   Each animal represented a different style of combat, and taught a certain series of movements to each student.  

A student might spend his whole life mastering the movements of one animal and formulating his combative ability around that one animal.   Like all human endeavors, the Kata of the early Okinawan Masters was improved upon by their best students, and that continues still today.  

I am sure that the Kata of the early Okinawan Te Masters would not look exactly like the Kata of today's Masters.   However, the original purpose of the Kata is still the same.   Body power, breath control and precise movement are still the same lessons that are taught by Kata.   It is generally understood that it is not the quantity of the Kata that a student should be concerned with, but the quality of the few Kata that the student has learned.

Understanding kata and the role it plays in a traditional system of martial arts is important but that importance pales by comparison with a student’s ability to translate the movements of the kata into viable fighting applications, both for competition and for self-defense.
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