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)

Kusanku <Kushanku>          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

Sanseru                          36

Sepai                              18

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

Niseishi 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

Rohai translates as "heron sign" or "heron mark". The name "Rohai", with identical kanji, is the name of a traditional Okinawan kata.

Seisan (Classical):

Ju/Sei - ten

San - three

This 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

Traditionally, 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 years.

The 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 open handed.



Chin - to calm or quell

To - East

Traditionally, "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

Chito 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

Tenshin 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

Although this kanji representation translates as "Dragon Mountain", this kata has been translated to mean "Three dragons" as well (i.e. San = three).

The 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 Hakatsuru (White Crane) kata and is called Ryushoken.



San - three

Ju/Shi - ten

Roku/Ryu/Ru - six

Sanshiru is the Chinese word for the number thirty-six (36). Practiced by Goju Ryu, Uechi Ryu, Chito Ryu



Ku - public, prince, official, governmental

Shu - mutual, together, each other, minister of state, councilor

Kun – old boy, name-suffix

Kusan (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.