A TWISTED ROAD
 
The Family Tree
Writing an article with any degree of depth on the origins of the Shotokan katas that we practice today is beyond my capabilities, and besides that is not my goal here. That is a task best left to others much more qualified to do so.
 
My purpose, therefore, is merely to give to the reader a brief background on where some of the katas we have within the modern Shotokan Karate system originally came from.
 
"Karate-do" or "the empty handed way", is a martial art, and today this art comprising a wide variety of different styles, is practiced in almost every country in the world. Within these various styles of karate are "ryu's" or schools, that will have as their principle aim the preservation of the ideals, training methods, and katas, as taught by the Founder, or Master of that particular style.
As with any family tree the similarities are often greater than the differences.
 
And karate is no exception.
While their methods, and their goals may vary, the katas that are practiced by these various individual styles of karate all have one thing in common, and that is that their katas all share the same "roots". As such the katas, even though they may be referred to by an altogether different name, and be performed with slightly different timing, movements, patterns, and techniques, they will still be recognized for what they are by experienced practitioners of another style simply because of their similarity due to their common heritage.
 
Now while the origins of many of the katas practiced today have long since lost, some of the katas can still be traced back to specific Master and even to a specific time or place. Suffice to say that it was around the mid to the latter part of the 1700's that Chinese merchants, envoys and military men, first started to introduce Chinese martial arts to the people of Okinawa. It was from these early visitors, and as a result of their influence, that the Okinawan's went on to finally develop three particular styles of karate known as: Naha-te, Shuri-te, and Tomari-te.
 
Of these three styles Naha-te was ultimately to become known as "Goju-Ryu" or the "half hard-half soft style" of karate made famous by it's founder Chojun Miyagi. Shuri-te and Tomari-te were both best known for their speed and flexibility, the exact opposite of Naha-te. From these two styles Sensei Gichin Funakoshi blended Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu, and together once intertwined, they formed the basis for the art of Shotokan Karate as we know it today. In turn the blending of all three of these styles together would in time form the basis for the style known today as Shito-Ryu.
 
All of the kata's taught within the Shotokan syllabus today came from one of three major styles of karate.
 
The following twenty four katas are were the original katas taught by the Naha-te, Shuri-te, and Tomari-te schools, and all of these katas are still taught today in one form or another.
 
In many cases these kata are not unique to just one style of karate.

Chinte

Shuri-te

Chinto

Shuri-te

Lohei

Shuri-te

Jiin

Shuri-te

Jion

Shuri-te

Jutte

Shuri-te

Kururunfa

Naha-te

Kushanku

Shuri-te

Matsukase

Shuri-te

Naihanchi

Naha-te

Niseishi

Tomari-te

Ouseishi

Shuri-te

Patsai

Shuri-te

Saifa

Naha-te

Sanchin

Naha-te
Sanseru Naha-te
Seienchin Naha-te
Seipai Naha-te
Seisan Shuri-te
Shisochin Naha-te
Sochin Tomari-te
Suparumpei Naha-te
Unsu Tomari-te
Wanshu Shuri-te
 
The art of karate-do finally received exposure beyond the shores of Okinawa with the introduction of karate to the Japanese public by Sensei Gichin Funakoshi in the early 1920's. Shortly after giving a demonstration of Okinawan karate to the Japanese public, Sensei Gichin Funakoshi, the Founder of Shotokan Karate, decided to remain in Japan to help perpetuate the art he loved so much. He at first introduced only sixteen of the twenty four katas, since he felt that sixteen katas were more than enough for one persons lifetime.
 
The sixteen katas were: Kanku-Dai, Kanku-Sho, (known on Okinawa as Kushanku), Heian Shodan, Heian Nidan, Heian Sandan, Heian Yodan, Heian Godan, (known in Okinawa originally as Pinan katas), Tekki Shodan, Tekki Nidan, Tekki Sandan, (known on Okinawa as Naihfanchi), Wanshu, (later to be known as Empi), Chinto, (later to be known as Gankaku), Patsai, (later to be known as Bassai), Jitte, Jion, and Seisan (later known as Hangetsu).
 
Today Shotokan karate includes all of the original sixteen katas as well as: Bassai-Sho, Meikyo, (known on Okinawa as Lohei), Kanku-Sho, (known on Okinawa as Kushanku), Jiin, Chinte, Wankan, (known on Okinawa as Matsukase), Gojushiho-Sho, Gojushiho-Dai, (known on Okinawa as Ouseishi), Nijushiho, (known on Okinawa as Niseishi), Sochin, and Unsu.
 
In total twenty-six kata.
 
In addition the practice of the following three katas: Taikyoku Shodan, Taikyoku Nidan, Taikyoku Sandan, is also common to varying degrees in most Shotokan dojos.
Regardless of their age, or of their heritage, all of these kata, while certainly altered over the passage of time, lie at the heart of, and are the underlying basis for all training practiced within the modern Shotokan system.
 
Today, regardless of any past need or purposes, the katas we practice, and the techniques and movements found within them, are studied and performed primarily as a means of developing an individual student's physically, mentally, and spiritually abilities.
 
 
Part the clouds - see the way.
 
"The objective of karate-do is to contribute to the evolution
of the human spirit through physical and mental training."
Sensei Peter Lindsay