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A twisted road.

Where our shared katas came from.

Writing an in depth article on the origins of the Shotokan katas is not my goal here. That is a task I leave to those more qualified to do so. My purpose here is merely to give a brief insight as to where the katas of the Shotokan Karate system, as well as some other styles originated from.

Now due to the lack of reliable historical documentation it is virtually impossible to know who created every kata, and when. Suffice to say that it was via the trade routes that existed between China, and Okinawa, that martial arts were first introduced to that island nation. It was from those early beginnings that Okinawan karate was born. The three major Okinawan styles were known as, Naha-te, Shuri-te, and Tomari-te. 

Of these three styles Naha-te was considered the "hard style" became the foundation for Goju-Ryu known as a half hard-half soft style made famous by Master Chojun Miyagi. While Shuri-te, and Tomari-te, on the other hand were both known for their speed and their flexibility, the exact opposite of Naha-te.

It was from blending the best of Shuri-te, and Tomari-te, that the foundation for Shotokan karate was created, and made famous by Master Gichin Funakoshi. While it was from combining the very best characteristics from all three styles, Naha-te, Shuri-te, and Tomari-te, that Shito-Ryu was created by Master Kenwa Mabuni.

The following katas were the original katas taught by these three schools of karate. All of these katas are still taught today in one form or another, and they are not always unique to any one particular style.

Chinte - Shuri-te / Lohei - Shuri-te / Ji'in - Shuri-te / Jion - Shuri-te / Jitte - 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 finally received exposure beyond the shores of Okinawa with its introduction to the Japanese public, notably by Sensei Gichin Funakoshi in the early 1920's. At first, he only introduced sixteen katas since he felt that number was more than enough for one person's lifetime. 

The sixteen katas were: Kanku-Dai, Kanku-Sho, (known on Okinawa as Kushanku), Heian Shodan, Heian Nidan, Heian Sandan, Heian Yondan, Heian Godan, (known in Okinawa originally as the Pinan katas), Tekki Shodan, Tekki Nidan, Tekki Sandan, (known on Okinawa as Naihfanchi), Wanshu, (later renamed Empi), Chinto, (later renamed Gankaku), Patsai, (later renamed as Bassai), Jitte, Jion, and Seisan (later renamed Hangetsu). 

Today the modern Shotokan system includes all of those original sixteen katas as well as: Bassai-Sho, Meikyo, (known on Okinawa as Lohei), Chinte, Ji'in, Wankan, (known on Okinawa as Matsukase), Gojushiho-Sho, Gojushiho-Dai, (known on Okinawa as Ouseishi), Nijushiho, (known on Okinawa as Niseishi), Sochin, and Unsu. A total of 26 kata. In addition, there are three practice katas, known as Taikyoku Shodan, Taikyoku Nidan, and Taikyoku Sandan. These three katas are not commonly practiced in some Shotokan dojos.

Over the years all of the katas that make up our modern Shotokan system have been altered in one way or another. As a result, some of their originality, and purpose has been lost over time. Nevertheless, today we honour, and respect all of these kata, and their link to our shared Okinawan art. 

Remember: "The foundation of anything only has value if it is true."