This post provides you with a list of 20 katas that are commonly practiced in Kyokushin dojos.
There are also video demonstrations of these katas by Kyokushin masters, champions, and senior instructors.
Some Kyokushin dojos, however, may include other katas in their curricula such as Bassai, Tekki, and weapon kata while others focus on a fewer number of kata.
Below we will first briefly look at the origins of Kyokushin kata and the importance of kata according to its founder before covering the 20 most commonly practiced katas of the Kyokushin style.
The origins of Kyokushin kata
Because Mas Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin, trained extensively in both Shotokan and Goju Ryu styles, Kyokushin katas were taken mostly from Shotokan and Goju Ryu styles.
Due to their differing origins, Kyokushin katas are classified into Northern and Southern katas.
Northern katas are those taken from the Shotokan style. Mas Oyama learned those katas while training under Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan.
Northern katas are characterized by long and deep stances; long fighting distances; and long, straight, powerful, and explosive techniques.
Southern katas are those taken from the Goju Ryu style. Mas Oyama learned them from So Nei Chu (an influential Goju Ryu master of Korean descent) and Gogen Yamaguchi (a Goju Ryu master and a senior student of Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju Ryu).
Southern katas are characterized by higher, more natural stances; closer fighting distances; shorter and circular movements; and an emphasis on the combination of soft and hard techniques.
There are also a few ura kata or reverse kata which are basic Taikyoku and Pinan katas performed in mirrored form. Mas Oyama developed this practice to help students develop more balanced skills.
The importance of kata practices according to Mas Oyama
One cannot emphasize enough the importance of kata in karate training.
Mas Oyama in his book “Mas Oyama’s Essential Karate” compared learning karate to learning a language.
Kihon or learning basic techniques is equivalent to learning the letters of the alphabet.
Kata training is equivalent to learning to speak in sentences.
And, kumite practice is analogous to learning to converse.
Mas Oyama also noted that “it is essential for the karateka to learn the kata totally” and this means being able to apply what he or she learns from the kata to actual combat “with split-second accuracy“.
In order to accomplish this, Mas Oyama’s view is that you need to practice a kata from 3,000 to 10,000 times and that it is better to know one kata exceptionally well than to know many katas superficially.
An instructor once told me that an average karateka should err on the high side and aim for 10,000 times and that would take about 3 years of dedicated daily practice to really know one kata well.
Yet, many dojos teach five to eight katas in a three-year period. That is far too many to really learn them well enough to be able to apply them in actual combat.
As a result, many people wrongly criticize karate for being an ineffective form of self-defense because they don’t understand the importance of kata and don’t practice them enough to be able to turn “sentences” into natural “conversations“.
There is a myth that Choki Motobu, who some refer to as the greatest and deadliest karate fighter ever, only knew one kata Naihanchin (also known as Tekki).
This is incorrect. Choki Motobu did know other katas but he probably liked Naihanchin and practiced it a lot more and really knew this kata.
Nevertheless, this goes to show that to be a good fighter, you don’t need to learn a lot of katas, knowing one kata well can be enough.
And to know one karate well enough, you need to do what Mas Oyama said, practice it ten thousand times or more.
List of Kyokushin kata
Below is a complete list of Kyokushin kata grouped by their origins with links to the relevant katas.
Northern Kyokushin katas
- Taikyoku Sono Ichi
- Taikyoku Sono Ni
- Taikyoku Sono San
- Pinan Sono Ichi
- Pinan Sono Ni
- Pinan Sono San
- Pinan Sono Yon
- Pinan Sono Go
- Tsuki No Kata
Southern Kyokushin katas
Kyokushin’s Northern Katas
Taikyoku Sono Ichi
Taikyoku means “Grand Ultimate” or “Big Ultimate”. Sono Ichi means the First. Taikyoku Sono Ichi, therefore, means “The First Grand Ultimate”.
This kata is the same as Taikyoku Shodan practiced in the Shotokan or Wado Ryu styles.
Taikyoku also means the Void, implying a form that is stripped of all complex and fancy moves and only includes the most basic fundamental techniques. This might have been Gichin Funakoshi’s intention when he created and named the Taikyoku series.
This first basic kata includes only two recurring techniques: Gedan barai (downward block) and Chudan oi-tzuki (middle lunge punch). They are all performed in one stance Zenkutsu dachi (forward stance).
Below are a couple of demonstrations of this kata.
Taikyoku Sono Ni
This is the second kata in the series and is very similar to Taikyoku Sono Ichi.
The only difference between the two katas is all chudan oi-tsuki (middle-level punches) are replaced by jodan oi-tuski (upper-level punches).
This kata is the same as Taikyoku Nidan practiced in Shotokan and Wado Ryu styles.
Taikyoku Sono San
The third kata in the series includes the following techniques: uchi ude uke (inside-out block), gedan barai (downward block), chudan oi-tsuki (middle-level punch), and jodan oi-tsuki (upper-level punch).
This kata also introduces kokutsu dachi (back stance).
Pinan Sono Ichi
Pinan means “Peaceful and Safe”.
The Pinan series was created by Anko Itosu sensei with techniques taken from more advanced kata in order to teach karate forms to beginner students.
Although Mas Oyama learned these from Gichin Funakoshi, he had modified them and the Kyokushin versions of the Pinan katas are quite different from Shotokan versions.
Mas Oyama modified the Pinan series with more emphasis on strength and incorporated it into Kyokushin karate.
Pinan Sono Ichi introduces rising block (age uke), hammer fist (tetsui kome kame uchi) and open hand technique (shuto mawashi uke).
There are three stances in this kata: zenkutsu dachi, neko ashi dachi, and kokutsu dachi.
Although the embusen for the kata is simple, the changes in stances mean a shift of center of gravity which is a challenge for beginners to deliver sufficient power in their techniques.
Pinan Sono Ni
Pinan Sono Ni introduces some new techniques such as knife-hand strike (nuki-te), side kick (yoko geri), front kick (mae geri) and double hand block (morote uke).
This kata especially emphasizes shuto mawashi uke which is repeated multiple times in the kata.
A new stance, kiba dachi, is also introduced and helps improve lower muscle strength and stability.
Pinan Sono San
Pinan Sono San has many close-contact techniques and jumping and turning techniques. Hiji uke, uraken, ushiro hiji ate and ushiro tsuki are first introduced in this kata.
Pinan Sono San emphasizes kiba dachi stance with most of the techniques of the kata are performed in this stance.
Below are a couple of demonstration of Pinan Sono San.
Pinan Sono Yon
Pinan Sono Yon introduces students to new techniques such as cross block, knife hand block, fist wedge block, elbow strike, and knee strike.
Pian Sono Yon includes many double hand block and kicking techniques and the new kosa dachi stance and tsuru ashi dachi can be challenging to learn.
Below are two demonstrations of Pinan Sono Yon.
Pinan Sono Go
Pinan Sono Go is the last kata of the Pinan series.
Pinan Sono Go incorporates basic fundamentals of karate including basic defense techniques at jodan, chudan, and gedan levels; simultaneous blocking and counter-attacking; fast and slow techniques, and close-quarter fighting techniques; and a variety of common stances.
It is the first kata that introduces a jump technique.
It is said that mastering the techniques in five Pinan kata is enough to effectively defend yourself in real-life situations.
Below are two demonstrations of Pinan Sono Go.
Yantsu means “safe in three ways” which probably refers to the moves in three directions of the kata: one forward and two sideways.
Although Yantsu is a short kata with a few techniques, it is an advanced kata and is often a required kata for 1st kyu brown belt grading in the Kyokushin curriculum.
Yantsu’s origin is not clear but some sources suggest that it might have come from Ansan, a kata practiced in Shito Ryu style and was modified by Mas Oyama to suit the Kyokushin style.
Below are three demonstrations of Yantsu kata.
Tsuki no kata
Tsuki means “punch” and Tsuki no kata means “kata of punches”.
Tsuki no kata comprises mainly punches in addition to a few blocks, a few open hand techniques and a single kick.
The aim of the kata is to help karatekas develop power in their punching and other techniques from different heights, directions and stances. This requires karatekas to learn how to properly generate power from the hips and the dantien area.
Kanku means “viewing the sky” because in the opening move of the kata, two hands form an arch above the hand and the karateka would look up.
The symbol of Kyokushin karate style is the Kanku which is derived from this kata.
Kanku is a kata of Shuri-te origin. In some styles, a similar version is known as Kushanku. However, the Kyokushin Kanku version has been modified substantially by Mas Oyama to fit in with the Kyokushin system.
Even though it mostly combines techniques from the Pinan series, Kanku is a long, complex and advanced kata.
Kanku is a required kata for 2nd dan grading.
Below are two demonstrations of Kanku.
Sushiho means ’54 steps’ which refers to the 54 moves in the kata.
Sushiho is similar to Gojushiho kata practiced in the Shotokan style, but like many other katas, Sushiho has been modified by Mas Oyama to fit in with the Kyokushin system.
Sushiho is required for 3rd dan grading.
Below are two demonstrations of Sushiho.
Southern Kyokushin katas
Sanchin No Kata
Sanchin No Kata means ‘kata of three battles‘ and three battles are often refer to the battles of the mind, body and spirit. However, there are different interpretations of what those three battles really mean.
Kanryo Higaonna learned Sanchin during his time studying martial arts in China and brought it back to Okinawa. Chojun Miyagi, Kanryu Higaonna’s student and founder of Goju Ryu, made some changes to Sanchin later on.
There are two versions of the Sanchin kata in the Goju Ryu style, one with 2 turns and one without any turns.
The Sanchin kata practiced in the Kyokushin style is the version with two turns. However, like other katas, Mas Oyama made several changes to it.
Although Sanchin is a short kata that has only a few basic techniques, it is an extremely difficult kata to master and perform correctly.
The whole kata is performed in sanchin dachi stance which is a high and practical stance.
Despite looking quite simple, this stance is very difficult to get it right to create a solid immovable foundation while performing the techniques of the kata.
In this kata, all muscles are tensed throughout while techniques are performed in coordination with breathing. It requires total mental concentration and coordination of the mind and body. The concept of qi, the powerful energy force, is also introduced in the kata.
Below are three demonstrations of Sanchin No Kata.
Geki means “to attack”. Sai means “to smash, break, crush”. Dai means “major or big”. Gekisai Dai, therefore, means “attack and destroy – major”.
Mas Oyama learned this kata from So Nei Chu who learned it from Gogen Yamaguchi, a Goju Ryu master.
Chojun Miyagi created two Gekisai kata (Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni) in 1940 to introduce beginner Goju Ryu students to basic karate forms.
As with other katas, Gekisai Dai is quite different from its original form, Gekisai Dai Ichi practiced in the Goju Ryu style.
As a beginner kata, Gekisai Dai has a simple embusen and only a few basic block and attack techniques.
Below are two demonstrations of Gekisai Dai.
Geki means “to attack”. Sai means “to smash, break, crush”. Sho means “minor”. Gekisai Sho means “attack and destroy – minor”.
Despite the similarity in names, Gekisai Sho doesn’t look like it had been derived from Gekisai Dai Ichi or Gekisai Dai Ni as practiced today in the Goju Ryu style.
My view is that Mas Oyama had created this kata himself using his Goju Ryu experience and Kyokushin ideology.
Gekisai Sho has a more complex embusen. It includes coordinated breathing and a lot more open-hand techniques and has both Go and Ju techniques. It is also a lot more fluid compared to Goju Ryu’s Gekisai Dai Ni.
The only similarity between Gekisai Sho and Gekisai Dai Ni seems to be the mawashi uke followed by tora guchi towards the end of the kata.
While Gekisai Dai Ni is a beginner’s kata in Goju Ryu (required for orange belt grading), Gekisai Sho is considered a more advanced kata in Kyokushin (required for 1st kyu brown belt grading).
Below are two demonstrations of Gekisai Sho.
Tensho means ‘turning or flowing hands’.
Tensho was created by Chojun Miyagi in 1921 as a soft and circular version of the Sanchin kata. This kata combines both hard dynamic movements with deep breathing and soft flowing hand movements.
Tensho was Mas Oyama’s favorite kata and he considered it to be the most important kata of all because it involves a vital karate breathing method called ibuki.
According to Mas Oyama, practicing Tensho can help one develop great strength while maintaining passivity. This is especially important because, as a self-defense art, “the nature of karate is to be passive“.
A man who has practiced the tensho 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.Mas Oyama
Like Sanchin, despite having only a few basic techniques, Tensho is an extremely difficult kata to master because those flowing techniques need to be performed with deep breathing and under tension the whole time.
Tensho requires a total concentration and it is more a battle of the mind than the body because once you can conquer the mind, you can conquer the body as well.
Below are a couple of demonstrations of Tensho.
I find that in those demonstrations, the techniques were performed a little too fast. There was also not enough tension and power. The elbows should have been kept closer to the body as well.
However, I’m not sure whether this is how Tensho is supposed to be performed in Kyokushin style. My comments are relative to the Goju Ryu version only.
Saiha (also called Saifa in other styles) means ‘to destroy and tear‘.
This kata is thought to have originated from white crane kung fu and was brought to Okinawa by Master Kanryo Higaonna.
Saifa is a very short kata with not many techniques but is considered an advanced and difficult kata.
It introduces close-combat techniques including tearing one from an attacker’s grip and countering with a heavy back fist strike.
It also contains circular blocks and hammer fists and both Go and Ju elements of karate are apparent in this kata.
Seienchin means ‘to conquer and subdue at a distance”.
Kanryo Higaonna learned this kata during his time in China and brought it back to Okinawa. However, some sources also credit Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju Ryu, for learning this kata himself from his time in Fujian and incorporating it to karate.
Seienchin is called Seiyunchin in Goju Ryu style. As with other Kyokushin katas, there are a few minor variations between Kyokushin Seienchin and Goju Ryu Seiyunchin.
Seienchin involves the use of close-range striking, take-down and escaping techniques. It contains both Go and Ju techniques and both slow and explosive techniques.
Seienchin is a long and taxing kata to perform. Many techniques are executed in the low shiko dachi stance, making it a great kata to develop lower body strength and stability.
Seipai means ‘18 hands‘.
There are a couple of interpretations of the meaning of this kata’s name.
One interpretation refers to the attack of 18 pressure points and 18 kinds of techniques in the kata.
The other interpretation is 18 is 6×3. Six represents color, voice, smell, taste, touch, and justice. Three represents good, bad and peace.
Seipai reflects the essence of Goju Ryu. It includes both hard and soft movements, grappling and throwing techniques, long and short-range techniques, and techniques to deal with multiple attacks from different directions.
Below are two demonstrations of this kata.
Garyu means “reclining dragon”.
Garyu was created by Mas Oyama and the name is said to be his pen name. A reclining dragon is a powerful but not boasting animal. It only shows its true power when it is provoked.
Garyu is required for 3rd dan grading in the Kyukoshin curriculum.
If you find this post helpful, please consider sharing this post and my site with those who might be interested. I would appreciate that a lot.
Please also check out my library of other karate articles which is updated regularly.
- World Kyokushin Federation
- United States Kyokushin Kata
- Masutatsu Oyama
- Mas Oyama’s Essential Karate
- Mas Oyama: This Is Karate
- Choki Motobu (1932) My Art and Skill of Karate
- Master Choki Motobu: A Real Fighter by Graham Noble
- Shotokan karate kata list – Shotokan Karate Cote Saint-Luc
- Kyokushin Karate-do
- Wikipedia – Kyokushin
- Wikipedia – Mas Oyama
- Wikipedia – Sanchin
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