A kata is a pattern of movements which contains a series of logical and practical attacking and blocking techniques.  In each kata there are certain set or predetermined movements which the karate-student can practice alone, without a partner.  These kata have been created by previous masters after many years of research, training, and actual combat experience.  The true meaning and spirit of karate are embedded in the kata and only by the practice of kata can we come to understand them.  For this reason, if we change or simplify the kata either to accomodate the beginner of for tournament purposes, then we also  will have lost the true meaning and spirit of karate!  In karate there is no first attack. Every kata begins with a defensive movement, which exemplifies this spirit.  Not only is there no first attack, but the best defense is to avoid the fight altogether.  That is why it is said that karate is the art of a wise man.


Almost all of the Okinawa Goju Ryu Kata were handed down from Higaonna Kanryo Sensei  (teacher of Goju Ryu founder Chojun Miyagi Sensei) who had studied and trained for many years under Ryu Ryuko Sensei in Fukien Province, China.
The following kata were handed down by Kanryo Higaonna Sensei from Ryu Ryuko Sensei : Sanchin – Saifa – Seiunchin – Shisochin – Sanseru – Sepai – Kururunfa – Sesan and Suparinpei. The original creators of these kata are unknown…


Many of the kata names are Chinese numbers symbolizing certain Buddhist concepts.  For example, Suparinpei (the number 108 in Chinese) has a special significance in Buddhism.  It is believed that man has 108 evil passions, and so in Buddhist temples on December 31st, at the stroke of midnight,  a bell is rung 108 times to drive away those spirits. The number 108 in Suparinpei is calculated from 36×3.  The symbolism of the number 36 is given in the explanation of Sanseru which follows.  The number 3 symbolizes-past-present,and-future.
The purpose for developing kata also varied with the times and with the people who developed them. For example, in China over 1600 years ago kata was developed and practiced for the purpose of self-defense, whereas the Buddhist monks would practice kata for the purpose of strengthening the spirit as well as the body.

The true meaning and spirit of karate are embedded in the kata and only by the practice of kata can we come to understand them. For this reason, if we change or simplify the kata either to accommodate the beginner or for tournament purposes, then we also will have lost the true meaning and spirit of karate.

In karate there is no first attack. Every kata begins with a defensive movement, which exemplifies this spirit. Not only is there no first attack, but the best defense is to avoid the fight altogether. That is why it is said that karate is the art of a wise man.

To practice the kata correctly every movement must be repeated over and over again. Only through constant repetition can the techniques become reflex action. Fortunately to that end, an important aspect of kata is that it can be practiced alone, anytime and anywhere. When kata is performed by a well-trained person, its dynamic power and beauty of movement become almost aesthetic in quality.



“It should be known that the secret principles of Goju-Ryu exist within the kata.”
Master Chojun Miyagi – Founder of Goju-Ryu

In Goju-Ryu Karate-Do there are three types of Kata :

  1. Heishugata (closed hand Kata),
  2. Kaishugata (open hand Kata)
  3. Kihongata (basic Kata).

Heishugata is where the entire body is kept at a constant level of tension. Sanchin and Tensho Kata are both examples of Heishugata.

Kaishugata is where the level of tension of the body varies throughout the Kata. All Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Kata, except Sanchin and Tensho Katas, are Kaishugata.

As well as being a Heishugata, Sanchin Kata is also categorized in Goju-Ryu Karate-Do as a Kihongata because it is considered to be the fundamental or basic Kata of Goju-Ryu Karate-Do.

Most of the Kata of Goju-Ryu Karate-Do originated in China and were brought to Okinawa in 1881 by Master Kanryo Higaonna. These Kata are Sanchin, Saifa, Seiyunchin, Shisochin, Sanseru, Sepai, Kururunfa, Sesan and Suparinpei. Other Kata originated in Okinawa.

Master Chojun Miyagi created Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni Kata. He also developed a version of Sanchin Kata and created the Kata Tensho which he developed from a Chinese Kata called Rokkishu.

Kata is the most important part of a Karate practitioner’s training. It develops strength, cardio, flexibility, speed, power, coordination, Kokyu-Ho (inhale/exhale breathing method), self-defence skills through Bunkai (analysis), Qigong (practice of internal and external universal energy), discipline, focused mind, confidence, memorization skills, how to pay attention to detail, perseverance, a hard work ethic, etc. However the ultimate aim of Kata is the unity of the body, mind, and spirit.



This kata was introduced and developed by Chojun Miyagi Sensei in 1940 as a form of physical exercise to popularize karate among the public of Okinawa. It is interesting to note that this kata finishes with a step forward. Japan was at war at the time of this kata creation and according to Higaonna Sensei’s book The History of karate-Do, Miyagi Sensei included the forward step as an analogy to the country moving forward.


 This kata is very similar to Gekisai Dai Ichi , however some advanced techniques and timing are included. Kake uke, Mawashi uke and Nekoashi Dachi are the additional techniques in the kata.ln this kata the concept of muchimi (heavy sticking but flowing action) is introduced in the kake & mawashi uke. Muchimi requires stance with a lower centre of gravity, hence neko ashi dachi.


Generally accepted as unity of body, mind and spirit. This kata uses dynamic tension or isometric muscular contraction with deep breathing for power training and overall body hardening effect to develop a resistance to body strikes. Sanchin Ichi kata was introduced and developed by Chojun Miyagi Sensei because the original kata i.e. Sanchin Ni which he learned from Kanryo Higaonna Sensei was too long and difficult to perform for beginners, leaving Sanchin Ni to be taught at the later stage. Sanchin Ichi has all the movements as Sanchin Ni ,but is shorter and no turns, hence making it a little easier.The original Sanchin that Higaonna Sensei learned from RuRuKo (1852-1930) was performed with open hands and with less emphasis on muscle contraction and “energetic” breathing, which is still practiced in Uechi Ryu. Higaonna Sensei changed the open hands to closed fists as the martial meaning was no longer emphasized. In Sanchin the most important things are correct posture and correct breathing.


Saifa helps promote whipping power generated by movement of hips switching between soft and hard movements of the arms. lt also helps develop Taisabaki (body evasion) and balance. It mixes swift light stances (nekoashi dachi & sagi ashi dachi) with solid grounded stance (shiko dachi). It contains a vast number of techniques like tettsui uchi,uraken uchi,shotei uke, hiza geri,ura tsuki, haito uchi,morote tsuki ,ashi barai etc.


Seiyunchin is a long demanding kata which contains no kicks and is mostly performed in shiko dachi. This kata is most performed at tournaments throughout the world. This kata is well suited for practical close in fighting with pulling and gripping techniques.


Techniques with joint locks and breaks features this kata. It is of Chinese origin taught to Kanryo Higaonna Sensei by Ryu Ryuko Sensei. It is said to be one of the Chojun Miyagi Sensei’s favourite kata.


“36 Hands” An explanation of this and the other numerically named kata is that they refer to the systematic method and understanding of certain grouping of vital acupressure points. The techniques in this kata seem basic, direct and hard, however there are some unique and advanced, close-in techniques. Joint and knee locks and kicks, low front kicks while moving forward and blocking after turning are techniques that require lots of practice. Slow movements evolve into fast, explosive ones. A feature of this kata is use of koken (top of wrist) at the end of the kata. This last movement (morote koken uke in shikodachi) is an often misunderstood movement with an array of close-in application.


Circular, whipping movements and body evasion (taisabaki), dropping your body to rise up and push your opponent off balance and faints are all found within this kata. There are, as in ALL the other kata, many hidden techniques and movements. Certain hand techniques require a unique use of certain part of the hand eg, performing the gedan furi uchi after swiveling 90 degrees requires the hand to be shaped like it would when one knocks on a door.


Again the use of taisabaki, joint locking and breaking techniques are prominent within this quick and fast kata. Many open handed techniques could either be interpreted as a joint lock or a block, and depending on the circumstances could be used as both. The use of the hips to aid some hand techniques enhances both the power and effect of the technique.


Sesan which translates to mean 13 techniques is believed to be the oldest of all Goju Ryu katas. Thirteen is also a number representing goodluck and prosperity in Chinese Numerology. The opening three Sanchin dachi steps with the morote chudan uke (double middle level block) and chudan gyaku tsuki (reverse stomach punch) appears to be similar to that as in Sanseru kata, BUT, in performance and application they are NOT! This is a powerful, fighting kata with many superb close-in fighting techniques.


The longest of all the Goju katas, Suparinpei is the most advanced kata in Goju Ryu and contains the greatest number of techniques and variations. 108 also has special significance in Buddhist belief’s from where the kata originated. Quick blocking and simultaneous striking are found all over this kata. Just like in a fight, you have to pace yourself and your breathing to end off this kata strongly. This kata is also known by it’s original name, Pichurin.


Tensho kata was created by Miyagi Chojun O’Sensei. Tensho literally means ‘turning hands’. This is the ‘JU’ (softness) of Goju and Miyagi O’Sensei developed this kata from the ‘Rokkishu‘ kata of the Fukian White Crane System. The hand movements and breathing require a high level of co-ordination. It is a combination of hard dynamic tension with deep breathing and soft flowing hand movements, concentrating strength in the TANDEN.


The oldest kata by far still practiced in modern karate, Sanchin is a treasury of dynamic body tension and controlled breathing so complex that scarcely a handful of karateka after a decade of study will begin to understand it. At first glance Sanchin may appear to be a rather simple exercise consisting of very basic movements. However it is actually a form of moving meditation which teaches the students to blend the physical , the mental ,and the spiritual. In fact the name Sanchin means Three Conflicts. The First Conflict is to develop a strong , healthy body capable of undergoing vigorous training. The Second Conflict is to be able to do the movements of the kata automatically to be totally aware yet unencumbered by conscious thought. The ThirdConflict is the attainment of mind-body unity. In this state of meditation the student becomes aware of his inner self , his true spirit. In order for the student to benefit fully from Sanchin , attention must be given to all aspects of the kata. There are five factors involved in the development of Sanchin. The first factor is the learning of the proper stance and the proper physical form of the basic movements. These movements form the basis for all subsequent training. The second factor is the development of the strong hard body capable of resisting attack. This ability which comes from proper physical form and the proper application of muscle tension enables the student to absorb blows to most areas of the body. The third factor of Sanchin development is proper breathing. This is a vital link between the physical and the mental principles of the kata. Physically it aids in the development of correct muscular tension. The fourth factor is eyesight. The eyes are another link between physical and mental. An individuals primary perceptions of his surroundings usually comes to him through the sense of sight. The fifth factor of Sanchin development is concentration. After years of such intense physical , mental and spiritual training the student can do the movements of Sanchin with nearly perfect physical form and with total concentration. The advanced student doing a highly developed Sanchin kata controls his mind and every muscles of his body , yet remains completely calm and stable in every position. Through physical posture , strength and psychological principles of karate he has attained an immovable centre of balance both physically and mentally. The training has also enabled the student to achieve a state of meditation and harmonious interaction between the mind and the body through which he is able to act and react naturally and spontaneously. Thus the ultimate goal of Sanchin training is enlightenment and self-realization.