Karate Kata Name Meanings
Kata Name Meaning
Kihon (Taikyoku) Basic; First Cause (invented by Funakoshi)
Naihanchi (Tekki) Iron Horse (Inner step/rooted to the ground). Changed to Tekki by Funakoshi.
Wansu (Empi) Flying swallow (Changed to Empi by Funakoshi). Chinese name.
Pinan (Heian) Way of peace (literally “Great Peace”, sometimes translated as “Calm Mind” or “Peaceful Mind”). Basic training katas Itosu introduced to schoolchildren. (Changed to Heian by Funakoshi)
Kushanku <Kusanku> Okinawan name is name in Chinese of the kata’s creator. (Viewing the sky) (major version) (Kanku Dai) (Changed to Kanku by Funakoshi)
Kanku Sho Viewing the sky (minor version).
Ananku (Ananko) Light from the south
Seisan (Hangetsu) Thirteen (half moon)
Chinto (Gankaku) Fighting to the east (Crane on a rock) Renamed Gankaku by Funakoshi
Jion Love and goodness. (Named after the temple)
Jitte (Jutte) Ten Hands
Passai Dai (Bassai) To penetrate (storm) a fortress (major version)
Hakatsuru (Hakaku) White Crane
Passai Sho To penetrate (storm) a fortress (minor version)
Ji’in Love and shadows (also purported to be a Buddhist saint)
Rohai (Meikyo) Shield of the egret/Sign of the heron (Mirror of the soul/clear mirror)
Sochin Preserve peace
Chinte Incredible hands
Okan (Wanken) Crown of a king
Unsu (Unshu) Hands of a cloud
Gekisais Destroy or attack (modern kata)
Saifa Tear or rip apart
Seiyunchin Conquer over distance
Shisochin Conquer or defend 4 directions; gates; battles
Kururunfa Forever or constant peace
Wankuan (Mastsukaze) Kings Crown (Pine Tree Wind)
Gojushiho Dai 54 steps/techniques (major version)
Gojushiho Sho 54 steps/techniques (minor version)
Nijushiho 24 steps/techniques
Sanchin 3 battles or gates
Suparinpei (Pechurin) 108
Funakoshi changed the name of any kata that had a Chinese name. He also made some technical changes to the kata. His son deepened all the stances.
Jion (love and goodness) is a term in Buddhism, and it was also a name of a temple in China where monks would practice martial arts. It's a representative of the Shotokan style and is one of the most traditional kata in this style. Its roots are in Tomari Te.
Ji'in (love and shadows) is also a term in Buddhism. This kata is a sister kata to Jion because of its similar movements and the same start and finish. Ji'in was called by another name Shokyo. Its roots are in Tomari Te.
Jitte (Ten Hands) is said to originate from the goal of teaching a student to fight against ten opponents. Another interpretation says the name comes from the weapon, jitte. The use of this ancient weapon can been seen in the movements of this kata. It comes from Tomari Te.
Ni – two
Ju/Sei - ten
Shi - four
Ho - walk, move
is Chinese for the number 24. In Japanese, it translates as Nijushi, the "ho"
character means "move" and hence Nijushiho translates as "24 moves".
The Chinese and Japanese Kanji are identical.
Ro – heron
Hai - sign
translates as "heron sign" or "heron mark". The name
"Rohai", with identical kanji, is the name of a traditional Okinawan kata.
Ju/Sei - ten
San - three
is the original Chinese kanji for Seisan; it means thirteen (13 techniques, not 13
movements). In most (if not all) other styles that practice Seisan, this is the kanji
representation. Not only is it practiced in multiple Okinawan styles of karate (both
Naha-Te and Shuri-Te lineages), it continues to be practiced in China by several schools
of gungfu (Arhat or Monk Fist boxing, Lion Fist boxing and Tiger Fist boxing).
Batsu - pull out, remove, surpass, outdistance
Sai - close, shut, lock, cover, obstruct
Bassai translates as "to penetrate a fortress", or "to storm a
fortress". Another translation seems to mean, "to remove an obstacle".
Possibly, the kata means "uprooted fortress", as in a fortress that is
uprooted and mobile like a phalanx, this would be in the spirit of the kata, as it
incorporates quick motions but then roots for solid attack and defense portions like a
fortress. This is only a guess at the translation however, the oldest known version
originated in the mid 1800's in Nishihara village on the east side of Shuri. The
original kanji (and original meaning) could easily have been lost over the last 150
main difference between the Shuri version and the Tomari version are that the Shuri
versions are done primarily with closed fists, while the Tomari versions are primarily
Chin - to calm or quell
To - East
"Chinto" translates as "fighting to the east", which could be
interpreted from these characters, i.e. quelling a disturbance to the east. Chinto is a
shuri-te and tomari-te lineage kata and found in many current styles, including Shotokan
(they call it "Gankaku", or "crane on a rock"), as well as many
Shorin Ryu schools.
So - villa, inn, solemn
Chin - to calm or quell
Ryu Sochin seems different from other versions of Sochin, including the familiar version
in Okinawa (Aragaki Sochin taught in Shito Ryu for example), and the Shotokan version,
which doesn't resemble either of the other two.
Ten - roll, turn, pivot
Shin - body
means, "body turning" or "body pivoting" and is only practiced by
Chito Ryu karateka. Quick, evasive body shifting, and body twisting with quick counter
strikes characterize the kata.
Ryu – Dragon
San - Mountain
this kanji representation translates as "Dragon Mountain", this kata has been
translated to mean "Three dragons" as well (i.e. San = three).
kata is also practiced by Matsumura Seito Ryu (Matsumura Orthodox style), a style passed
to contemporary students by Hohan Soken, a well known Okinawan karate master in the
direct karate lineage of "Bushi" Matsumura. This is one of their Hakutsuru
(White Crane) kata and is called Ryushoken.
San - three
Ju/Shi - ten
Roku/Ryu/Ru - six
is the Chinese word for the number thirty-six (36). Practiced by Goju Ryu, Uechi Ryu,
Ku - public, prince, official, governmental
Shu - mutual, together, each other, minister of state, councilor
Kun – old boy, name-suffix
(or Kushu, sometimes Kosho) translates as "foreign attaché" or similar
government official. In many historical references, Kusanku is said to be the name of a
Chinese sailor who taught tote in Okinawan in 1756. It is likely that the kata is based
on his teachings, or perhaps a kata that he taught while in Okinawa.
San - three
Sen/Chin - war, battle, match
Sanchin is a common Okinawan karate kata found in styles from the Naha-Te lineage (Goju Ryu, Uechi Ryu, Shito Ryu, Isshin Ryu etc…). It has its origins in Fukien China and was passed several times to Okinawa by notable masters, including Higaonna Kanryo and Aragaki Seisho. The version of the kata practiced by some karateka has elements of both the classical Goju Ryu Sanchin kata, and the Goju Ryu kata called Tensho. Miyagi Chojun a student of Higaonna Kanryo and the founder of Goju Ryu, devised Tensho based on a Chinese kata called Rokkishu.