Meaning of Shotokan Karate Kata
This page looks at the meaning behind each Shotokan Karate kata. Knowledge of these kata meanings are often part of Shotokan belt tests. Be aware that the order of these kata can vary from school to school. Please check with your Sensei for the proper kata sequence taught at your school. If you are looking for videos and/or written instructions for these kata (i.e. to prepare for a belt test), please visit the main Shotokan Karate Katas section.
Martial Arts Books – Shotokan Karate
Shotokan Karate Kata Meanings – Click on the kata in order to view kata videos, etc.
- Heian Shodan – Peaceful mind, Level 1
- Heian Nidan – Peaceful mind, Level 2
- Heian Sandan – Peaceful mind, Level 3
- Heian Yondan – Peaceful mind, Level 4
- Heian Godan – Peaceful mind, Level 5
- Tekki Shodan – Iron horse or horse riding, Level 1. Named because the kata uses the Kiba Dachi or Horse Stance.
- Tekki Nidan – Iron horse or horse riding, Level 2. Named because the kata uses the Kiba Dachi or Horse Stance.
- Tekki Sandan – Iron horse or horse riding, Level 3. Named because the kata uses the Kiba Dachi or Horse Stance.
- Bassai Dai – To storm a fortress or castle, Big (dai)
- Bassai Sho – To storm a fortress or castle, Small (sho)
- Kanku Dai – To look at or watch the sky, Big (dai)
- Kanku Sho – To look at or watch the sky, Small (sho)
- Enpi – Flying swallow
- Jion – Love and goodness, mercy, etc. Named after the Jion temple in China.
- Gankaku – Crane on rock
- Hangetsu – Half moon
- Jitte – Ten hands
- Chinte – Amazing or incredible hands
- Sochin – To maintain or preserve peace
- Meikyo – Bright mirror, mirror of the soul, etc.
- Jiin – Love of truth, inverted mercy, etc. Thought to be one of the Jion temple-based kata.
- Gojushiho Dai – 54 steps, Big (dai)
- Gojushiho Sho – 54 steps, Small (sho)
- Nijushiho – 24 steps
- Wankan – Emperor’s crown, king’s crown, etc.
- Unsu – Cloud hands, hands in the cloud, etc.