The Kata or Prearranged forms of Kyokushin find their origins in two streams of karate teaching. The first is the Goju-Ryu system of Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953) . The second is the Shotokan system of Gichin Funakoshi(1868-1958),the man who introduced karate to Jaoan from Okinawa in 1992 . Gichin Funakoshi and Kenwa Mabuni(1889-1952) ,founder of the strong Shito-Ryu system ,trained together under the Okinawan masters Yasutsune Azato(1827-1906) and Anko Itosu(1839-1915).Itosu devised the Pinan kata , which Funakoshi later altered slightly . Mabuni also trained under the master kanryo Higaonna (1853-1915). Chojun Miyagi began studying under Higaonna at the age of fourteen, after begin introduced by Ryuko Arakati , a highly regarded expert with whom Miyagi had studied from the age of eleven . The Goju Style is a member of the Shorei-ryu, the group of Naha-te schools influenced mostly by the Southern Styles of Chinese kempo . Higaonna began his study of Kempo at the age of sixteen . At twenty-two ,he travelled to Fuchow City , capital of the Fukien Province in Southern China. There he lived for fifteen years , studying under a teacher of Southern Shaolin Kempo known as Doruko (Ryu Ryuko) . Doruko’s kempo style was based on the Shaolin Five Animal Forms . These forms were originally developed for their therapeutic value by the Three Kingdoms Dynasty (200-265AD)physician , Wan t’o .based on his study of the movement of the bear ,monkey ,dear ,chicken and tiger ,the concepts of Wan T’o greatly influenced most martial Arts that came out of China since that time.
Southern China ,where Higaonna studied ,was largely an area of rivers and rice-fields. The lifestyle of the people involved much rowing ,finishing ,and wet-rice cultivation ,activities which promoted a strong upper body . Battles were often undertaken on soft and slippery ground ,and the maintenance of balance and solidarity was a major concern . fighting range (ma-ai) was close .Hence, the fighting arts tended to concentrate on stability rather than mobility , with tight ,powerful arm movements developed along the lines of the Circle and Point Theory .
The kata were often quit composed and dignified ,the techniques centred on the arms and shoulders ,with movements on strong ,stable stances. Serious consideration was also given to various methods of breading . Tensho Kata is a good example of Kata influenced by the Southern Style kempo . This kata was created by Chojun Miagi as a Yin (In ,soft ,internal) compliment to the Yang (Yo,hard,external)sanchin kata which had been brought from China by his teacher Higaonna .
The Circle and Point Theory is side to have originated with Change Sang-feng ,a Martial Arts master of the Sung period of the Sung period (960-1279).after a period of mountain training ,Similar to that undertaken by Mas Oyama ,in which time he observed closely the unique movements of monkeys ,cranes and snakes ,change developed the Wutang School (named after the mountain where he trained).The influence of this system’s concept was immense ,and like the five animal forms of Wan T’o ,it affected many great arts which were to follow ,such as T’ai Ch’i Ch’uan , Pakua ,and Hsing-i.
In contrast to the Naha-te School’s Southern influenced kata ,the Shotokan style had its strongest roots in the shorin-ryu, the Shuri-Te systems (from the shuri area in Okinawa) which were influenced mainly by the Northern Styles of Kempo .The vast Open stretches of the Northern China plains promoted a lifestyle that developed powerful hips and legs . transport was either on foot or horseback .
The Northern Style kata possessed broad –ranging movements with many jumping techniques. The fighting distance (Ma-ai) between opponents was fairly long range .
Great emphasis was placed on accuracy of movement. Blocks and strikes were stright-line and seemed stiff when compared to the southern Styles. Nevertheless ,they were very powerful when executed proficiently . Tsuki no Kata is a typical example of the Northern influence in Kata .
It is important to note that Naha-te Shuri-te and Tomari-te ,the three styles of Okinawan karate ,were developed in areas very close to each other and so shred many more similarities than differences. Superficially ,techniques varied widely ,but this seems to be due to emphasis on different facets of the same general principles of karate shared by all three styles .Kata were originally confined to one schools or another ,but with time they came to be shared by many schools ,with the name of the kata usually differing between each.
In his early years ,mas Oyama had the opportunity to train with masters of both Southern and Northern streams of thought ,both in Japan and Korea. Hence ,the Kyokushin style is a unique amalgamation of both ,as is demonstrated in the variety of beautiful and powerful kata.
The Kyokushin karate-ka is comfortable fighting both close range and long range. His kicks are extremely powerful , and he is just as cable with close –in arm traps and tight ,circular hooking blocks .In the kata of Kyokushin can be found a timeless and living link to the past masters of karate and through these kata ,the traditions of the classical art of karate continues.
Kyokushin Kata can be grouped according to their Source of influence as follows :
Naha-te-Southern Shuri-te- Northern
Influence strongest : influence strongest:
Sanchin Taikyoku One,two,three
Tensho Pinan(Heian)One to Five
Gekisai Sho Yantsu
Gekisai Dai Tsuki no kata
All of these kata except Yantsu and Garyu are found in one form or another in the other major traditional styles of karate (Yantsu and Garyu in some cases begin found in styles that have branched off from Kyokushin). Garyu ,a kata with strong Southern influence was developed by Mas Oyama .Yantsu is a kata frequently found (with numerous variations )in many schools of Chinese kempo. In the past there were more, mainly advanced kata from Shotokan , but these have become redundant .
In relation to the numerous kata that have fallen into disuse in Kyokushin ,Sosai states that the technique of Kyokushin kata should simulate actual fighting and the kata which do not have such clearly practical application have been abandoned . In personal training , one should always seek these applications of the techniques in the kata .
Unit a relatively short time ago ,the requirements for the Kyokushin fifth dan in Japan included the Hangetsu (Seisan in Goju-ryu) kata ,a kata of Shuri-te origin .The name Hangestu means ‘half moon’ or ‘crescent moon’ and is derived from the many
semi-circles inscribed by the hands and feet in the kata. The Naihanchin (Tekki) kata were also practiced in the Oyama Dojo days (see History chapter) . Naihanchin are excellent kata containing beautiful and very practical defense movements . Although no longer in the Kyokushin syllabus , both shotokan and Goju schools still practice the Naihanchin kata.
It is interesting to note that the Shotokan (Northern influenced) kata adopted by Mas Oyama for Kyokushin are designed mainly for beginners ;the advanced Kyokushin kata coming mainly from southern influenced sources. This may demonstrate two points :
1. By begin responsible for introducing to Japan , Funakoshi was faced with the task of teaching people who were totally unfamiliar with the basics of the art . In an era where jiyu (freestyle) kumite was not practiced ,it was necessary to develop or introduce kata that were simple in execution but served well to impart the basics of karate . Thus ,funakoshi created the Taikyoku kata ,and introduced other such as the Pinan kata because of their suitability to this purpose .The Pinan kata were created by Itosu in 1950 , for the purpose of simplifying instruction to the children he had been teaching in the public schools of Okinawa since 1901.
2. The fact that Mas Oyama chose mainly Goju kata for the advanced kata of Kyokushin shows that more than likely he regards the southern Chinese two-handed and Circle and point theories found in Goju as begin of paramount importance to his karate. Although much of Sosai Oyama’s knowledge of Chinese martial Art concept was learnt first
3. hand in China and Korea ,this knowledge was reinforced by the Goju theories studied under the teacher So Nei Chu.
The influence of Chinese 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
and study the concepts mentioned above in them .many Advanced techniques of Kyokushin were taken by Sosai
Oyama from his early Study of the Southern Chinese martial Arts .
1.Tempo of technique
2.Points of power stress
These too ,may be considered the three points of co-ordination in Sanchin. This kata was brought to Okinawa
from China by Kanryo Higaonna .It is the kata upon which the Naha-te schools based their teaching.It is also
that Sanchin dates back to Bodhidharma and the Shaolin Temple.
Tensho Turning Palms; changing Hands This kata was created by Chojun miyagi as a compliment to Sanchin
Miyagi developed Tensho after an in-depth study of the Chinese kata Rokkishu.Sosai Oyama has said that
this is the most indispensable of all advanced karate kata.
Gekisai Sho Conquer and occupy –Minor.
Gekishai Dai Conquer and Occupy –major.May also mean Strom the Fortress. The Gekisai Kata were created by
Miyagi in 1940 with the purposeof teaching strong and powerful movements .There is no particular reason
for using the labels ‘major’ and ‘minor’ as opposed to ‘One’ and ‘Two’.
Saiha Maximum Destruction .This kata was also created by Miyagi .The name promotes the feeling of expressing
maximum potential Through the bodily instrument.
Seienchin Ambiguous in meaning .often translated as The storm Within The calm Lit. means Attack the Rebellious
Outpost or Suppress the Retreat ,depending on which Chinese characters are used.The name indicates the
need to overcome the weaknesses of the sprit and suppress any desire to give up in the fact of life’s
challenges .one must ‘suppress the retreating heart’.
Garyu Reclining Dragon .In philosophy ,the word Garyu refers to a great man who remains in obscurity. This katawas created by Sosai Oyama .Garyu was his pen-name early in his karate life . A true karateka develops the sprit of humility and like a reclining dragon has the power but chooses not to release it.
Seipai Eighteen Hands .This was one of the most advanced kata of the Naha-te schools ,although the kata as
known in Kyokushin is so unlike the Goju version that it may be regarded as a different kata altogether.
Kata of Northern Influence
Taikyoku First Cause ;Grand Ultimate. The Taikyoku kata were created by Gichin Funakoshi .Sosai Oyama
describes the Taikyoku kata as theBasis of all kata. The crawling one must learn the path of karate. The
characters for Taikyoku read T’ai Ch’i in Chinese.
Pinan/Heian Peaceful Mind ; peaceful Safety. The five Pinan kata were created by Anko Itosu (instructor of Funakoshi) in 1950, as simplified version of advanced Chinese forms (including Kanku)for the sake of teaching children .Devoted practice of karate-do will bring a calm sprit and the peace of a confident heart.
Yantsu safe three. said to be the name of a nineteenth century Chinese military attaché to Okinawa. Sometimes also translated as To maintain Purity, indicating that one must strive daily in the battle of life to overcome weaknesses and remain pure in sprit.
Tsuki nokata punching kata .This kata teaches one to generate striking power in any direction and with various weapons.
Sushiho fifty Four Steps. This kata was one of the two most advanced in the Shuri-te schools. Besides there
possibly begin a numerical link between the name and the number of movements in the original form ,the
number 54 is intimately linked to Buddhist philosophy.
Kanku View the Heavens; Gaze at the sky. This kata was originally called Kushanku, which is said to be the title
given to a Chinese military attaché to Okinawa .The historical Kushanku (Guan Kui) who is credited with the
introduction of the Kanku kata came to Okinawa in 1756.He was an expert in hand –to-hand combat and gave
a demonstration of his abilities whilst in Okinawa .The Kanku kata is said to still contain many elements of
Kushanku’s original display .It was the kata chosen by Funakoshi for performance at the first public
demonstration of karate-do in Japan in 1922.Kanku is the supreme kata of Kyokushin. As one’s hands are
brought together in the opening position ,one gazes to the heavens through hands and reflect
on thesignificance to man of the glory and infinity of the heavens. As long as heaven and earth remain in their
celestial sojourn ,all will be well. The sun will rise again tomorrow and with it comes new hope, regardless of
how hard today seemed. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matthew).
According to Mass Oyama,the basic kata are as near to the ‘karate scriptures’ as we can come. In This is karate, he says: ’Repeated training in the basic [kata] makes it possible to express freely in motion any of the other more advanced ones.
Sosai goes on to say that in the five pinan kata are contained all of the basic positions and technique ,in a rich array of technical variation. As mentioned in the previous chapter ,Sosai also states that of the advanced kata ,the most indispensable is Tensho. In relation to this ,I quote from This is karate once more.
[Tensho] is a basic illustration of the definition of karate, derived from
Chinese kempo , as a technique of circles based on points.
Again ,Sosai says :
A man who has practiced the Tempo (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 should be a prime object of practice because as a psychological and theoretical support behind formal exercises ,it has permeated the techniques, the blocks and the thrusts , and is intimately connected with the very life of karate.
Thus, it behooves all of us to make an in-depth study of Tensho for proper mastery of karate . Tensho and Sanchin combine to offer the deepest insight into the dynamic principles of karate ,Sanchin for the Yang (Yo, Hard)aspects of karate power , and Tensho for the Yin (In, Soft). One’s understanding of karate will improve dramatically with a devoted study of the Tensho kata.
Perhaps one of the most authoritative quotes in relation to the value and vitality of training in kata is the following one from Kenwa Mabuni (founder of shito-Ryu) ,as quoted by Mas Oyama in This is Karate.
The most important thing in karate is the Formal Exercises. Within them all of the defence and offence techniques are woven together .For this reason we must know perfectly their analytical significance ,and we must practice them correctly.
Though there may be those who think that it is all right to ignore the formal exercises themselves and practice only the practice fighting ,this attitude will never lead to real karate progress….
Training in formal exercises alone however, is not enough for sufficient action.
A variety of types of training is needed to make the movements of the feet and hands strong and lively .In addition ,one must learn to change position and shift rapidly or he will come up short in a real situation.
One or two formal exercises is all a person needs if he practices them properly and to the point that they become his own. The other exercises then will serve for study or for reference. However broad a person’s experience ,it is insufficient , they will be useless. Learn properly and drill thoroughly in two or three forms and when the time comes to use them ,without your begin conscious of it , they will be more effective than you could have thought.
Another point on which we must lay special stress is proper training . if your training methods are incorrect it makes no difference how many practice fights you participate in or how many stones and boards you attempt to break because your bad habits will bring failure.
Though it is true that formal exercises are a most important part of karate ,it does no do to neglect the practice fighting and the training in breaking stones, boards, etc. The way to truly effective karate is to avoid idleness and practice seriously with the idea that the formal exercises are fifty percent of your work and the remainder of your training is the other fifty percent.
One of the most inspiring experiences in the karate-ka ’s life can be witnessing the masterly execution of kata .There is an integrity of motion and power ,a purity of movement that electrifies the atmosphere , leaving no doubt in the mind as to the power and beauty of the art of karate . It is this level of perfection in kata that all should aim for.
In training for kata, the experience must be lived .Concentration on the task at hand is totally absorbing ,and this mental absorption is reflected in the total physical exhaustion that results .If one concentrates deeply and performs a kata to the fullest, as if one is truly in a life and death situation, the physical demands are surprising.
Kata are practiced with free reign given to the imagination .This servers to heighten the emotional content during kata training. the period of mokuso prior to a kata performance is like the calm before the storm .The karate practitioner goes through an intense change in consciousness, a deliberate stepping up of mental awareness.
Around him ,the karate-ka imagines many powerful opponents, against whom he must fight as if for his life .The movements reflect his intensified mental processes and one senses the energy in his aura. The atmosphere is electrified by the power of the performance and the karate-ka ’s personality fills the dojo. At the completion of the kata ,the electricity subsides and the karate-ka returns to within himself. It is as if a cyclone has passed then all returns to an intense stillness.
Such absorption trains the body ,disciplines the mind and forges the sprit .One’s understanding of technique is broadened .It is no exaggeration to say that the deepest insight of karate will be received from intense kata training .The thousands of concentrated repetitions of kata lead to uncanny co-ordination and a highly refined sensitivity in kumite. It allows the karate-ka to seemingly know when the opponent is going to move even before the opponent knows himself , and he reacts perfectly, in a state of mind free of pre-meditation or concern.
Movements of one who has mastered kata seems so effortless, they belie the yearsof intense training necessary to reach such a level . Not only is technical development assured through kata practice ,one is also offered the opportunity to develop a strongcharacter through overcoming the many obstacles in the way of mastery.
With the introduction of tournaments and the sport aspect of karate over the few decades ,the role of kata has dramatically changed in the training of some karate-ka.In some dojo ,kata are not even practiced at all. However without the kata the karate-ka soon hits a wall beyond which he cannot seem to pass. He is unable to develop that changed electricity of the master which radiates out and fills the atmosphere .The karate-ka who pays no heed to kata is fooling himself. Soon, the physical attributes will begin to wane, and he is left with very little except memories of his former self.
In fact , it is through long hours of kata practice ,where sometimes only one or two kata are taken and repeated over and over that one develops the true sense of power which surrounds the genuine karate-ka. Sosai Oyama practiced kata 100 times daily during his mountain isolation. This sort of training not only develops excellence of technique but also acts as a form of moving meditation to train the sprit.
Kata have been a vital part of karate training since its first recognizable roots when Bodhidharma arrived at the Shaolin temple in 520 AD. Karate is evolving today at a rate never before seen and all karate-ka carry the immense burden of responsibility to preserve the essence of the art which is most beautifully and distinctly found in kata . One who does not practice kata is not really involved with the true art of karate at all.
Kata of course are not limited to the young and nimble. In fact , one of the most beautiful points about kata is that they are able to be practiced by anyone of any age and condition. They are a wonderful method of physical training and can be performed at a pace most suitable to the individual practitioner. There would appear to be no better form of exercise for mankind in general than kata. You must explore the full range possibilities yourself .Like all pursuits aimed at the cultivation of the body , mind and sprit, the experience of it is very personal and the results gained are in direct proportion to the depth of concentration and times spent in practice.
The understanding of practical application of kata techniques is known as bunkai. For kata to be of real value to the karate –ka , the movements from each kata should be studies and experimented with thoroughly.
In practice , it is a good idea to take a single kata and work on it until the footwork is natural and totally automatic From here , one can vary the angles and cadence of the footwork to gain a fuller appreciation of the possibilities therein. As suggestion ,try to always look for at least three , it doesn’t matter. The value of the exercise lies in the searching and the reflection on the movements. In this way ,one can use visualization and creative imagination in the actual performance of a kata to draw from it the true power it possesses.
If one performs a kata without a feeling of the actual application of a technique, there can be no power and no electricity generated. Always remember , every movement in a kata has purpose , although obviously the stress and importance varies widely. Through research of the bunkai ,this purpose will be discovered.
Do not underestimate even a minor adjustment of the hip in a kata. A subtle movement at the center can grow into a powerful attack at the shoulder ,but at the hand can mean the difference between an effective knock-out and an infective tag. Even a minor change of the position of the feet can mean the difference between being able to successfully stand your ground and being utterly overcome.
As has been already stated, in training aimed at the perfection of kata ,one’s concentration should be fully absorbed in the task at hand. That is to say ,when one is practicing kata, the mind should not be thinking of anything else, even other aspects of karate, except the perfection of kata. If the mind is thus absorbed, one can practice even a simple movement ,for example the first step of the first kata, Taikyoku Ichi , without becoming in the least bit mentally fatigued ,for many hours. Sosai Mas Oyama practiced 100 kata every day during his mountain retreat at Kiyozumi (see Chapter one). The way he did this was to break the training sessions into three sections. These three sections should each address a different principle of kata training. In this way, maximum result can be gained from your concentrated efforts. According to Sosai Mas Oyama, these three principles are:
1.Waza no kankyu -Tempo of technique
2.Chikara no Kyojaku -points of power Stress
3.Iki no Chosei -Breath Control
In kata training under Sosai ,these points are stressed tirelessly. By working on each point in turn ,then combining all three in one or two kata a session ,one’s ability to strongly perform impressive kata will improve dramatically. Let us look at each point individually so as to understand the meaning more fully. As karate-ka , we must remember the importance of the role kata play in our art. By concentrating on the master’s three points as outlined below, control in kata will come rapidly, in direct proportion to the amount of correct, concentrated training done.
In kata ,there is constant change in the tempo of techniques. Every kata has its low points and high points. It is important of course to first learn the sequence of moves;
This takes a relatively short time. After that, one learns to find the points of speed in movement and then balance these with points of slow tension. In this way ,one can bring the kata to its high point with fluidity and purpose.
One also discovers the combinations which are performed in a rapid flow ,and those performed at a steady , unchanged ,slow pace . one seeks out the points of broken rhythm in a kata ,where the timing of the techniques is adjusted subtly to confuse the opponent by upsetting his timing and thus his ability to defend and counter. Without such tempo variation, there can be no high points of energy concentration , no grace , and hence nothing more than a dance of meaningless movements. In a real confrontation, there is a need to be aware of the constantly fluctuating rhythm and so adapt accordingly. If one cannot adjust in this way, one will often lose complete control of the flow of the situation , and perhaps react to stimuli that actually pose no real threat. In other words , nothing was ever achieved without steady caution when necessary , and ‘controlled ferocity ‘ when the tempo increases. This principle is universal. In all sports , the master is the one who has learnt to control the tempo in all movement and to be aware when the need for change presents itself. He can go hard with raw power when required, but he can be controlled in his technique and rhythm when that is more appropriate.
By points of stress , it is meant that the concentration of strength varies greatly between techniques. Some movements are done rapidly , in as relaxed a state as possible ,allowing the smooth flow of movement to give the power. Other technique are done with all the primal power one can muster, culminating in that single point of pure focused energy.
The techniques that are accompanied by a kiai are usually high points of a kata , and power is total. At times strength comes from the solidity in the body , like Earth, immovable as a mountain. At other times, strength maintains the feeling of Water-power comes from adaptability and being able to flow through motion. The power may be like Fire, fiercely destructive and too hot to approach. You feel like a ‘god of energy’ and are unstoppable. Or the power may be of the Wind element, a cyclone that swiftly destroys all in its path. One generates the feeling of always being ungraspable , like the breeze. Beyond these elements is the Void ,whose influence gives a pervasive calm and discipline to a kata, leaving no doubt concerning the complete control of the karate-ka. In one’s practice of kata, one will come to appreciate the points of stress and the feeling that accompanies them.
Do not confuse the points of stress with physical tension. Sometimes ,the points of power are achieved through pure technique and the integrity of the whole body in movement, with minimal tension involved. This is the principle of the circle and point Theory ,as well as concept of centrifugal force. There is no tension, yet immense power results from the fluidity and speed of the movement.
Breath control in kata is vital. One should learn to related the breath to the tempo of the movements and points of stress in the kata. In Sanchin kata for example , the power of the movements comes from the depth of the ibuki breath. In a technique accompanied by a kiai , the breath is totally co-ordinated with the movement of the body.
Until correct breath becomes natural in a kata , one should be constantly aware of the flow of air into and out of the lungs. Try to analyze the correct timing of the inhalation and exhalation and treat this timing as importantly as that found in techniques.
A person who has mastered proper breath control can take being surrounded By powerful enemies, earthquakes or fires in his stride.
Breath control unifies the body, mind and sprit and is as vital to the correct application of a technique as physical strength. One should seriously study the cadence of the breath and its co-ordination with the body in the performance of all technique. If you compare the control of breath with the various states of mind , you will notice a very strong correlation. When one is calm and relaxed mentally , breathing is calm ,deep and smooth. When one is nervous and agitated ,breathing is more rapid and shallow. If you see someone become angry and lose control of themselves, take note of the wild fluctuations in their breath. Learning to control the breath will calm the nerves, bring discipline to the mind ,and generally affect one’s whole life.
Even in the most basic kata ,there should be perfect breath co-ordination if one is to be in control of the movements. As the kata become more complex so do the patterns of breathing. There are times where the breath is forced out rapidly.
There is something primal in the breath. If you have ever found yourself alone on a cliff, with nothing but the sound of the waves crashing on the shore below and the rain driving into your face ,you will know what it is to be alive and you know the powerful affinity with the elements you feel. At times like that there is an indescribable urge to shout at the top of your lungs for the whole world to hear.
The voice is thing of life. We shout against fires and so on ,against the wind and the waves. The voice shows ene