Wado Ryu Katas

Kata History

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.

Kata Database

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.

We are in the process of adding images of each tech­nique along with the foot posi­tions. The some­times con­fus­ing nature of the dia­grams has been the biggest com­plaint con­cern­ing the katas pages. There will be blank image frame next to the foot posi­tion dia­grams dur­ing this process that will be replace with the pho­tos as they become avail­able. Please bear with us as we improve your online Wado Ryu resource. 

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
  • Nai­hanchi

  • Chin­to
  • Seisan
  • Wan­shu
  • Bas­sai
  • Jion
  • Jitte
  • Neseishi
  • Rohai

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

  1. All katas open with a bow and close with a bow.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Except where not­ed, once you drop down into a stance, you should remain low as you move through­out the kata.
  6. If no change in stance is men­tioned, assume the pre­vi­ous stance is used.
  7. When a stance is des­ig­nat­ed left or right, that foot is the front foot.
  8. For all moves that involve turn­ing to a new direc­tion, the head moves first (it turns in the same direc­tion as the body will).
  9. All turns, unless oth­er­wise not­ed, are made by mov­ing the foot behind the foot, not across the toes.
  10. When not spec­i­fied, the back hand is pulled back in a for­mal hikite posi­tion.
  11. All jun­zukis, gyakazukis and kicks are to the solar plexus unless oth­er­wise not­ed.
  12. 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.)
  13. 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).
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Any infor­ma­tion spe­cif­ic to a kata will be not­ed at the end of each kata page.
  17. Please note: The foot posi­tion dia­grams and pho­tos are viewed from the point of view of an instruc­tor watch­ing the kata.

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