Kyokushin kata and their meaning

太極 - Taikyoku

is literally translated as “grand ultimate”, from the characters Tai 太, meaning big, and Kyoku 極, meaning extreme, conclusion or end. In Chinese, the kanji characters are pronounced Tai Chi (or Taiji). The word Taikyoku can also mean overview or the whole point – seeing the whole rather than focusing on the individual parts, and keeping an open mind or beginner’s mind. The beginner’s mind is what is strived for during training and in life. The beginner’s mind does not hold prejudice and does not cling to a narrow view. The beginner’s mind is open to endless possibilities.

平安 - Pinan

Symbolizes peace and relaxation (called Heian in Japan). During the physical movements of the kata, real fighting techniques are used, the kata aims to develop silence, peace, and harmony between the mind and the body.

三戦の型 - Sanchin

Sanchin literally means “three battles” or “three conflicts”, from the charactersSan 三 (three) and Chin 戦 (war, battle or match). It is the principal kata in certain Okinawan karate styles, such as Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu, and it is likely one of the oldest kata. Certain legends attribute the creation of Sanchin to Bodhidharma in the early sixth century. Sanchin kata seeks to develop three elements at the same time:

  • The mind, body and the techniques,
  • The internal organs, circulation and the nervous system, and
  • The three Ki 気, located in:
  • the crown of the head (Nōten 脳天),
  • the diaphragm (Hara 腹), and
  • the lower abdomen (Tanden 丹田).

Sanchin is an isometric kata where each move is performed in a state of complete tension, accompanied by powerful, deep breathing (Ibuki 息吹) that originates in the lower abdomen (Tanden 丹田). The practice of Sanchin not only leads to the strengthening of the body, but to the development of the inner power (Ki 気) and the coordination of mind and body.

撃塞大 - Gekisai dai 撃塞小 - Gekisai sho

Gekisai means conquer and occupy. The name is derived from the characters Geki 撃, meaning defeat or conquer, and Sai 塞, meaning fortress or stronghold (literally translated as “closed”, “shut” or “covered”). The word Gekisai can also mean demolish, destroy or pulverize. The katas teach strength through fluidity of motion, mobility and the utilization of various techniques. Flexibility of attack and response will always be superior to rigid and inflexible strength. (Dai 大 andShō 小 mean “larger” and “smaller”, respectively.)

安三 - Yansu

Yansu is derived from the characters Yan 安, meaning safe, and Su 三, meaning three. The name is attributed to that of a Chinese military attaché to Okinawa in the 19th Century. The word Yansu also means to keep pure, striving to maintain the purity of principles and ideals rather than compromising for expediency

突きの型 - Tsuki no Kata

Tsuki no Kata by its very name is kata of punches (Tsuki 突き), and there is only one kick and just a few blocks in the entire form. The word Tsuki can also mean fortune and luck. Good fortune and luck does not come by waiting. For every punch in this kata, envision that a personal barrier is being broken down. Strong, persistent effort directed at problems will bring good fortune.

転掌 - Tensho

Tensho means rolling or fluid hand, literally translated as “revolving palms”, from the characters Ten 転 (revolve) and Shō 掌 (palm of hand). Tensho is the soft and circular (Yin 陰) counterpart to the hard and linear (Yang 陽) Sanchin kata. Not only was Tensho one of Mas Oyama’s favorite kata, he considered it to be the most indispensable of the advanced kata:

  • Tensho is a basic illustration of the definition of Karate, derived from Chinese Kenpo, as a technique of circles based on points.
  • Tensho should be a prime object of practice because, as a psychological and theoretical support behind karate training and as a central element in basic karate formal exercises, it has permeated the techniques, the blocks and the thrusts, and is intimately connected with the very life of karate.
  • A man who has practiced Tensho kata a number of thousands of times and has a firm grasp of its theory can not only take any attack, but can also turn the advantage in any attack, and will always be able to defend himself perfectly.
最破 - Saifa or Saiha

Saiha means extreme destruction, smashing or tearing, from the characters Sai最, meaning utmost, and Ha 破, meaning rip, tear or destroy. The word Saiha can also mean great wave, the source of the IFK logo. No matter how large a problem is encountered, with patience, determination and perseverance (Osu) one can rise above and overcome it, or smash through and get beyond it.

観空大 - Kanku Dai

Kanku means sky gazing, from the characters Kan 観 (view) and Kū 空 (sky or void) (the same character as Kara in Karate). The first move of the kata is the formation of an opening with the hands above the head, through which one gazes at the universe and rising sun. The significance is that no matter what problems are faced, each day is new and the universe is waiting. Nothing is so terrible that it affects the basic reality of existence.

征遠鎮 - Seienchin

Seienchin means conqueror and subdue over a distance, or attack the rebellious outpost. From the characters Sei 征, meaning subjugate or attack the rebellious, En 遠, meaning distant, and Chin 鎮, meaning tranquilize. In feudal Japan, Samurai warriors would often go on expeditions lasting many months, and they needed to maintain their strength and spirit over a long period of time. This kata is long and slow, with many techniques performed from Kiba Dachi 騎馬立ち(horseback stance). The legs usually become very tired in this kata, and a strong spirit is needed to persevere, instead of giving up. The word Seienchincan also means to pull in battle.

五十四歩 - Sushiho

Sushiho means 54 steps. Sushiho is derived from the words Useshi, the Okinawan pronunciation of the kanji characters for 54 (pronounced Go 五 Jū 十Shi 四 in Japanese), and Ho 歩, meaning walk or step. Other karate styles call this advanced kata Gojushiho.

臥竜 - Garyu

Garyu means reclining dragon, from the characters Ga 臥 (lie prostrate) and Ryū竜 (dragon). In Japanese philosophy, a great man who remains in obscurity is called a Garyu. A dragon is all-powerful, but a reclining dragon chooses not to display his power until it is needed. Likewise, a true karateka does not brag about or show off his abilities. He never forgets the true virtue of humility.

十八 - Seipai

Seipai is the Okinawan pronunciation of the kanji characters for 18 (pronounced Jū 十 Hachi 八 in Japanese). In other karate styles, this kata is sometimes called Seipaite, or eighteen hands. The number 18 is derived from the Buddhist concept of 6 x 3, where six represents colour, voice, taste, smell, touch and justice and three represents good, bad and peace.