There are 26 official Shotokan karate katas put forward by Master Nakayama Masatoshi. However, some dojos include the kihon kata, Taikyoku Shodan for the very beginners, making it 27 katas in total.

Katas are the essence of karate regardless of style. Katas are mostly performed alone and can be practiced according to the ability and physical fitness of individuals. This is one of the major features of karate that is not found in any other martial art. Practicing katas not only improves one’s fitness but also a way to harmonize our mind and body because it requires total concentration while performing karate techniques. [1]

Below is a list of the 27 Shotokan karate katas and videos of their performances by karate masters, senseis, world champions, and senior students.

  1. Taikyoku Shodan
  2. Heian Shodan
  3. Heian Nidan
  4. Heian Sandan
  5. Heian Yondan
  6. Heian Godan
  7. Tekki Shodan
  8. Tekki Nidan
  9. Tekki Sandan
  10. Bassai Dai
  11. Bassai Sho
  12. Jion
  13. Kanku Dai
  14. Kanku Sho
  15. Hangetsu
  16. Empi
  17. Jitte
  18. Chinte
  19. Gankaku
  20. Sochin
  21. Nijushiho
  22. Wankan
  23. Ji’in
  24. Meikyo
  25. Gojushiho Sho
  26. Gojushiho Dai
  27. Unsu

1. Taikyoku Shodan (太極初段)

Taikyoku Shodan means “first cause”.

This is an introductory kata that master Gichin Funakoshi introduced to help new students learn the basic techniques of Shotokan karate. It teaches chudan oi tzuki and gedan barai performed in a series of 27 movements.

Below is a video of Masao Kawasoe sensei performing this kata both in slow motion and at normal speed with great power.

2. Heian Shodan (平安初段)

Heian Shodan means “peaceful mind/way first level”.  This kata is the first of the five Heian katas.

There is a belief that the movements in the Heian katas were developed from a more advanced kata, Kanku Dai. Some sources say that Master Ankō Itosu thought Kusanku or Kanku Dai was very long and consisted of many moves difficult for a new karateka. He, therefore, divided the kata into 5 Heian katas to gradually introduce them to beginners.

Heian Shodan emphasizes on hanmi (side facing) and shomen (square facing), with the body and hips being in hamni for blocks and shomen for stepping punches. This kata also focuses on zenkutsu dachi, kokutsu dachi, oi tzuki, tetsui uchi, age uke, and shuto uke.

Heian Shodan is required for 9th Kyu, yellow belt grading.

Below is a video of Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei performing this kata. The second video is of an unknown Shotokan instructor performing this kata slowly with additional step-by-step instructions. These instructions are especially useful for students who just start on this kata.

3. Heian Nidan (平安二段)

Heian Nidan means “peaceful mind/way second level”.

This is the second kata in the 5 Heian Katas and introduces a few more advanced techniques.

Heian Nidan teaches concurrent blocking and striking methods performed in a relaxed state. This kata also introduces yoko geri keage (side snap kick) and mae geri (front kick).

Heian Nidan is the required kata for 8th Kyu, orange belt grading.

Below are video performances of this kata by Nakayama Masatoshi sensei and Aragaki Misako sensei.

4. Heian Sandan (平安三段)

Heian Sandan means “peaceful mind/way third level”.  This is the third and the shortest kata in the 5 Heian kata series.

Heian Sandan, just like Heian Nidan, also emphasizes simultaneous blocking and striking techniques, with the introduction of fumi komi (step-in technique) and spinning tetsui uchi (hammer fist strike).

Heian Sandan is required for the 7th Kyu, green belt grading.

Below are 2 video performances of this kata, one by Master Hirokazu Kanazawa and one by Aragaki Misako sensei.

5. Heian Yondan (平安四段)

Heian Yondan means “peaceful mind/way fourth level”.

This kata constitutes numerous slow-flowing and open-hand techniques and simultaneous blocking and striking techniques. The kata introduces juji uke (figure 10 block), mawashi empi (elbow strike), and hiza geri (knee strike).

Heian Yondan is required for the blue belt, 6th kyu grading.

Below are the demonstrations of this kata by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei and Masatoshi Nakayama sensei.

6. Heian Godan (平安五段)

Heian Godan means “peaceful mind fifth level”.  This is the fifth and last in the 5 Heian katas for the purple belt, 5th Kyu grading.

This kata is performed with several bodyweight shifts, where punches are executed from kokutsu dachi. This kata is the first that introduces a jump, kage tzuki (hook punch), ura tzuki (half punch used at close range), and a difficult combination of blocking and striking techniques at the last four moves.

Here are performances of this kata by Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei and Kanazawa Sensei.

7. Tekki Shodan (鉄騎初段)

Tekki Shodan means “Iron Horse first level”. This is the first of three Tekki katas and is required for the second level of the purple belt or the red belt (4th kyu) grading depending on individual Shotokan schools.

Tekki katas were anciently known as Naihanchi, inside conflict. It is believed that Master Anko Itosu formulated three katas from Naihanchi, which was a derivative of Nifanchin – an older kata. Gichin Funakoshi learned the kata derived from Naihanchi and later renamed them Tekki Shodan, Tekki Nidan, and Tekki Sandan.

Tekki Shodan is a kata where one learns to generate power from the hips and legs. The kata is practiced along a straight line in kiba dachi (horse-riding stance) with techniques being executed at extremely short distances.

Below is a demonstration of this kata by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei and Kazuaki Kurihara sensei who is a multiple-time All Japan Karate Championship winner in both kata and kumite divisions.

8. Tekki Nidan (鉄騎二段)

Tekki Nidan is the second in the 3 tekki katas. It means “Iron Horse number two” and almost similar to Tekki Shodan except for some cross-steps and one heisoku dachi.

This kata develops a karateka’s grabbing, locking, and throwing techniques while maintaining a stable kiba dachi. The kata introduces the use of zenwan shomen gedan barai kensei (forearm frontal low feint), ryo zenwan suhei kamae (horizontal forearms posture), and oshi uke (low forearm block to side).

Tekki Nidan may be used as a part of Shodan grading.

Below are videos of Tekki Nidan performed by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei, Arimoto sensei, and Paul Walker Sensei.

9. Tekki Sandan (鉄騎三段)

Tekki Sandan means “Iron Horse number three”.

Tekki Sandan, with 36 movements, is the last kata in the Tekki kata series. This is a very fast kata constituting numerous consecutive techniques executed continuously which require exact timing.

It introduces zenwan hineri, zenwan uchi otoshi, and zenwan gedan furisute.

Many techniques in this kata are performed with a supported hand (soete), mainly applied in trapping or grabbing adversary’s techniques. The application of the kata revolves around immobilizing an opponent’s attacking limbs by tapping to deter further attacks.

Below are performances of this kata by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei, one of his students, and a senior instructor.

10. Bassai Dai (披塞大)

Bassai Dai means “to storm a fortress”.  Bassai Dai is said to have originated from Passai, which was an initial name for Bassai.

According to historical records, two versions of the Passai kata were practiced in Okinawa, one from China brought by Sokon Matsumura, a karate master, and another taught by a Chinese martial artist, who resided in Okinawa, to Okan Oyadomari. The Shotokan version of Bassai Dai is believed to have come from the lineage of Okan Oyadomari.

Bassai Dai is a widely recognized kata and is practiced in many karate styles. This kata teaches fast changes of direction, fast turns, and technique combinations that require dynamic hip rotations.

Depending on particular Shotokan schools, this kata may be required for the brown belt (3rd kyu) grading.

Below are performances of Bassai Dai by Rika Usami, a world kata champion and Kazuaki Kurihara sensei who won medals at All Japan Karate Championship on 13 occasions for both kata and kumite.

11. Bassai Sho (披塞小)

Bassai Sho means “to penetrate the fortress minor.” 

It is thought that the two Passai katas may have originated from Master Tawada and Master Matsumura, one became Bassai Sho and the other one Bassai Dai.  

Bassai Sho comprises a unique foot sweep, double strike combination, and outside block, with the two last moves of the kata being take-down techniques.

Bassai Sho is one of the required katas for Nidan grading.

Below is the video performance of this kata by the world champion, Zachary Alexander, and a senior student.

12. Jion (慈恩)

Jion means “Temple Sound”. Jion is the second longest kata after Kanku Dai. This kata consists of basic movements with a great focus on shomen and hanmi transitions.

Many karate historians believe Jion is an ancient Chinese boxing form that was developed further in Okinawa. Some also argue that the kata originated from Jionji (Jion temple), where martial arts were extensively practiced.

Jion is often used for 2nd brown belt test in Shotokan.

Below are 2 performances of this kata by Mimura Yuki, a kata champion, and Aragaki Misako sensei.

13. Kanku Dai (観空大)

Kanku Dai, implying “looking to the sky major”, was originally known as Kusanku, a kata believed to be created from White Crane Kung Fu. Kusanku was the name of a Chinese diplomat who traveled to Okinawa from Fukien in the 18th century.

This is a long kata incorporating all of the basic fundamental movements of Shotokan karate and is physically and mentally taxing to perform. It contains many movements from the five Heian katas.

Kanku Dai is a part of the first kyu’s grading requirements.

Below are the videos of Kanku Dai performed by Mimura Yuki, a kata champion, and Kazuaki Kurihara sensei.

14. Kanku Sho (観空小)

Kanku Sho means “looking to the sky minor” and forms part of the second dan black belt grading. It is a smaller but more advanced version of Kanku Dai. Yasutsune Itosu is thought to have created two versions of the Kanku kata using similar patterns of movements and embusen.

This is one of the most acrobatic katas in Shotokan characterized by two jumping techniques, which are quite challenging to perform. The first jump resembles that of Empi, but is performed on the spot, while the second jump (jumping spinning crescent kick) is the same as the one in Unsu.

The techniques in this kata are very exhaustive and require higher fitness, thus, often preferred by young and athletic black belts.

Below are a couple of demonstrations of this kata by a senior black belt and Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei.

15. Hangetsu (半月)

Hangetsu means “Half Moon”. Hangetsu is a kata performed in hangetsu dachi, semi-circular steps. It has 41 movements that require the coordination of breathing, contraction, and expansion techniques.

This kata was added to Shotokan karate curriculum instead of the Sanchin kata by Master Gichin Funakoshi. The ancient Okinawa variant of Hangetsu kata is called Seisan. 

This kata shows the first use of neko ashi dachi and is a part of Shodan grading.

Below is the video performance of this kata by Tatsuya Naka sensei and Osaka Yoshihura sensei.

16. Empi (燕飛)

Empi (also known as enpi) means “Flying Swallow”.

Some karate historians say Wang Ji (a Chinese master in Shaolin White Crane ) brought Empi to Okinawa in the late 1600’s as Wansu and it was later renamed to empi by Gichin Funakoshi.

Empi consists of fast and dynamic movements, lots of takedown and throwing techniques characterized by numerous instances of simultaneous blocks and strikes. This kata introduces age tzuki and kosa dachi, whose combination with hiza geri, soto uke, and gyaku zuki, in motion, resembles a flying swallow.

Empi can be a choice for Shodan grading.

Below are videos of this kata performed by Kanazawa sensei and an unknown blackbelt.

17. Jitte (十手)

Jitte kata is a very special and unique kata amongst the 26 Shotokan katas and was created by Matsumora Kosaku sensei. It constitutes complex movements that many karatekas find challenging to master and understand.

This kata, meaning “ten hands”, comprises ten sets of techniques to give a karateka the power to fight against ten opponents. Even though Jitte’s application is demonstrated against punches and wrist grabs, this kata perfectly deals with weapons. It utilizes both kogeki (attack) and bogyo (defense) against about 6 feet bo staff.

Jitte is a part of Nidan grading.

Below are performances of this kata by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei and a senior instructor.

18. Chinte (珍手)

Chinte means “extraordinary hands” or “unusual hands”. Some sources claim Chinte was from China while others say that the kata originated from a folk dance in Okinawa. Yasutsune Itosu sensei is credited for unveiling this kata for modern training.

Chinte consists of several unique and barely seen hand techniques. It introduces the application of nihon nukite, nakadaka ippon ken, hasami zuki, tate zuki, and tate mawashi uchi. This kata has yori ashi (three small hops) towards the end, which deviates it from all other Shotokan katas.

It teaches defensive techniques that are most appropriate to people of “smaller sizes” such as women and children.

Below are a couple of demonstrations of this kata by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei and Takako Kikuchi sensei.

19. Gankaku (岩鶴)

Gankaku means “crane on a rock” and has 42 moves. This kata, originally called Chinto, was created by Sokon Matsumura sensei.

It involves sharp and fast attack techniques in combination with slow moves. This kata is partly practiced in tsuru ashi dachi (crane stance), which enables a karateka to develop proper balance.

It contains elements of forward-spinning turns instead of backward-turnings as in most katas and forms a part of Sandan grading.

Below are performances of this kata by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei and Luca Valdesi at the World Karate Championship in Belgrade, 2010.

20. Sochin (壯鎭)

Sochin means “powerful calm” or “tranquil force”.

Some sources suggest that this kata was developed from Kung Fu Dragon style and was taught in Okinawa’s Naha district by Arakaki Seisho, a prominent Okinawan martial arts master. Another source says Yoshitaka Funakoshi developed the kata from a variant taught to him by Master Kenwa Mabuni and added it into Shotokan karate.

Sochin is a very physical kata that teaches very dynamic and explosive techniques in a series of slow powerful moves and fast explosive techniques coordinated with contraction and expansion.

This kata is performed in fudo dachi (immovable stance), which is quite challenging to get right.

Below are performances of this kata by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei and Koji Arimoto, a kata champion, under the instruction of Masao Kagawa sensei.

21. Nijushiho (二十四步)

Nijushiho is one of the first black belt katas practiced in many Shotokan dojos and is widely used as a part of Sandan grading. This kata means “24 steps”, the number of steps in the kata, actually has 34 moves.

Originally, the kata was called Niseishi (24) in Okinawa. Some sources say Nijushiho was developed from Chinese dragon boxing by Master Seisho Arakaki, just like Sochin and Unsu.

It comprises the use of open hand techniques coordinated with many instances of back and forth small explosive movements. This kata’s first three moves are difficult to get right and sanchin dachi (hourglass stance) is also introduced for the first time.

Here are the performances of Nijushiho by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei and Tatsuya Naka sensei.

22. Wankan (王冠)

Wankan means “kings crown”. The first few moves of the kata take after the shape of a crown which is where the name comes from.

This is the shortest Shotokan kata with only one kiai. Some sources say the kata was introduced into Okinawa as Wang Ji by a Chinese White Crane master while other sources thought the kata was practiced by the royal family in Okinawa, thus the name Wankan.

It is also rumored that Master Gichin Funakoshi passed away before completing making changes to the original kata leading to Wakwan’s shortness and only one kiai.

The opening kakiwake-uke (wedge block/v-block) can be practiced in either neko ashi dachi (cat stance) or kokutsu dachi.

Below are the performances of Wankan by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei and a senior blackbelt.

23. Ji’in (慈陰)

Jiin implies “temple ground” and is believed to have originated from a Chinese Buddhist Temple. Gichin Funakoshi renamed it to Shokyo (Pine Shadow), a name that was not welcomed by his students.

Jiin kata is often grouped with Jitte and Jion since they all begin in palm over fist posture and use the same techniques. This kata’s primary technique is kosa uke, executed with gedan barai hovering over the lead leg.

Below is a video performance of this kata by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei and an unknown senior karate instructor.

24. Meikyo (明鏡)

Meikyo means “mirror to the soul.” It is a self-reflection and introspection kata. The kata teaches senpais (senior karatekas) to occasionally reflect on their techniques while looking inward for improvements and changes instead of searching for others or outward like beginners.

This kata is a requirement for Sandan grading.

Below are the performances of this kata by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei and an unknown instructor.

25. Gojushiho Sho (五十四歩小)

Gojushiho Sho means “54 steps minor.”  Some sources credit Gojushiho kata to Sokon Matsumura but Anko Itosu is thought to have created the two variants, sho and dai.

Gojushiho Sho involves flowing clouds (ryuun) set of moves combining ryuun no uke (knife hand flowing block), shuto gedan barai (knife hand down block), and triple shihon tate nukite (four finger spear hand).

This kata is large in the frame and not as complex as its dai counterpart.

Below are performances of this kata by Hirokazu Kanazawa and an unknown instructor.

26. Gojushiho Dai (五十四歩大)

Gojushiho Dai translates to “54 steps major” and is more complex and longer than Gojushiho Sho. This kata emphasizes on striking the opponent’s vital areas, with most of its techniques being finger strikes.

It is the longest Shotokan kata with many techniques executed in neko ashi dachi. This kata has no zenkutsu dachi and introduces washide (eagle hand) for the first time.

This kata is a requirement for the fourth dan grading.

Below are the performances of this kata by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei and Koji Arimoto (2012 team kata World Champion).

27. Unsu (雲手)

Unsu kata was created by Seisho Arakaki sensei. Some sources say the kata was developed from Okinawan folk dance, to their gods Fujin and Raijen. Other sources link Unsu to a Shaolin dragon Kung Fu form.

Unsu, meaning “cloud hands”, is a very magnificent and highly advanced kata practiced with utmost speed, agility and power. It combines lots of advanced hand and leg techniques executed with great timing.

Difficult techniques of the kata are kawashi geri (mawashi geri performed when lying) and the 360 degree jump. This kata is a part of Yondan grading.

Below are performances of this kata by Hirokazu Kanazawa sensei, Ryuji Moto at JKF Senior Team Selection 2021, and a senior blackbelt.

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