Yasutsune Itosu (1830-1915) developed the Pinan series of five forms around 1905. History tells us that Itosu created the Pinans from two other katas known as Kusanku and Channan. The Channan (or Chiang-Nan) kata has been lost, but legend has it that Bushi Matsumura, Itosu’s teacher, either devised these kata or they were an older set of Chinese kata passed on by Matsumura. These forms were taught to elementary school students in Okinawa and when Gichin Funakoshi was hired by Japan to teach karate; he used these as the main portion of kata being taught.
The word Pinan (Okinawan) or Heian (Japanese) means “peaceful mind”. Pinan NiDan is one of the five Pinan kata taught in the Wado Ryu Karate-Do system. Generally Wado-Ryu & Shito-Ryu favor the Okinawan pronunciation of ‘Pinan’. Shotokan stylists favor the Japanese pronunciation of ‘Heian’. The reason for this is that Funakoshi gave all the katas practiced within Shotokan Japanese names. He did this so that the Japanese people would find the names easier to use, to further distance the art from any of its Chinese origins and to acknowledge the development of karate by the Okinawans and Japanese. Funakoshi also swapped the ‘NiDan’ (2nd level) & ‘ShoDan’ (1st level) suffixes so that the names reflected the order in which the katas are most commonly taught. This means that Shotokan’s ‘Heian ShoDan’ is called “Pinan NiDan” in Wado-Ryu and Shito-Ryu. Hironori Otsuka, however, changed the katas back to the original order, hence in Wado-Ryu Pinan NiDan is the first of the Pinans taught.
The five katas follow a sequence designed to introduce the beginner to kata and to progressively introduce more techniques as the student advances. The series incorporates almost all of the basic stances and many of the basic techniques of the various Okinawan systems of karate, thereby making the Pinans suitable for beginners and intermediates. Mastering each form requires years of practice in order to understand the finer points of each movement. Although the Pinans do not contain symbolic movements often seen in more advanced kata, there are a variety of combat interpretations for several of the basic techniques included in the forms. Understanding the techniques and their usage against the attacker will help the student to take away a practical application from the Pinans.
Of the four major Japanese styles of karate (Shotokan, Wado-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, & Shito-Ryu) practiced throughout the world today only Goju-Ryu does not practice the Pinan / Heian Katas. The reason the Pinan katas are common to the three remaining styles is that Itosu features strongly their family trees. Master Itosu along with Kanryo Higaonna were the main teachers of Kenwa Mabuni (founder of Shito-Ryu). The name ‘Shito’ is derived from the two characters used in the writing of ‘Itosu’ & ‘Higaonna’. Mabuni was undoubtedly Itosu’s foremost disciple. Along with Master Azato & Master Matumura, Itosu was also one of the teachers of Gichin Funakoshi. (founder of Shotokan) It is doubtful that Funakoshi learned the Pinans directly from Itosu as Funakoshi concluded his training with Itosu before the Pinans came into being. Some sources say that Funakoshi learned the Pinan katas from Kenwa Mabuni in 1919, four years after Itosu’s death. Kenwa Mabuni, Gichin Funakoshi & Choki Motobu (who also studied under Itosu) were the main karate teachers of Hironori Otsuka. Otsuka also studied Shinto Yoshin Ryu jujitsu under Yukiyoshi Tatasusaburo Nakayama. Otsuka received his instruction in the Pinan katas from both Mabuni and Funakoshi.
This database of the Wado Ryu katas is intended to become a valuable (hopefully) resource for dojo students and Wado Ryu karateka in general. The creation of each kata diagram is very labor intensive so progress will be somewhat slow, please be patient in that respect.
Remember, the best instruction you can receive in the martial arts is hands-on training by a qualified instructor. This database is not meant to replace instruction by a Black Belt. It is intended to assist students, training away from the dojo, when they cannot remember the next move in a kata and a Black Belt is not available.
Video of each kata with additional instruction and tips from 7th degree black belt and former World Champion David Deaton can be obtained from his video series “Wado Ryu Karate”. Ask at the front desk of your dojo for the videos. Actually seeing the katas run can be invaluable when practicing away from the dojo.
List of Wado Ryu Katas
- First Basic Kata
- Pinan NiDan
- Pinan ShoDan
- Pinan SanDan
- Pinan YonDan
- Pinan GoDan
Kushanku through Rohai are known as the 10 Black Belt Katas.
A fun mnemonic you can use to help remember the order of the Pinan Katas is, “Never Show Snakes Your Gummybears”. (NiDan, ShoDan, SanDan, YonDan, GoDan).
General Kata Rules
- All katas open with a bow and close with a bow.
- Except where noted, the opening (yoi) is always the left foot setting over half a foot length then the right foot setting over half a foot length, leaving you in hachiji dachi (ready stance). The hands close into fists with no movement of the arms.
- Yame (recovery) is always back to your opening position, by pulling the front foot back (or if the feet are side by side, by pulling the right foot in), unless specified differently.
- Except where noted, the closing (naorei) is always the left foot setting in half the width of the stance then the right foot closing the distance completely, leaving you in masuba dachi (attention stance). The hands open with no movement of the arms.
- Except where noted, once you drop down into a stance, you should remain low as you move throughout the kata.
- If no change in stance is mentioned, assume the previous stance is used.
- When a stance is designated left or right, that foot is the front foot.
- For all moves that involve turning to a new direction, the head moves first (it turns in the same direction as the body will).
- All turns, unless otherwise noted, are made by moving the foot behind the foot, not across the toes.
- When not specified, the back hand is pulled back in a formal hikite position.
- All junzukis, gyakazukis and kicks are to the solar plexus unless otherwise noted.
- Anytime you do an shoto uke, you are in a mahanmi neko ashi dachi with the back hand across the body and angled up slightly, crossing over the solar plexus, with the wrist remaining straight and the finger tips extending past the edge of the body (also in a shuto position), unless specified differently. (It is never different until you are a black belt.)
- Anytime you are in a tae uke position (one arm across your lower chest palm down and the other pulled back in hikite (pulling hand position)) you are standing in heisoku dachi (feet together at the heels and toes).
- Prior to going into a tae uke position, both hands are always on one side of the body (as it will be positioned for the tae uke). The hands will stay on that side of the body for tae uke. The one exception to this is Pinan GoDan, the hands cross to the other side of the body.
- A sweep is always at solar plexus level, arm down about 45 degrees from the shoulder to the elbow, up about 45 degrees from the elbow to the wrist, and the hand pointed down as far as possible with the thumb pointed up as far as possible. The palm is facing inward, and the hand travels toward the palm to the far edge of your front center line.
- Any information specific to a kata will be noted at the end of each kata page.
- Please note: The foot position diagrams and photos are viewed from the point of view of an instructor watching the kata.