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Kata ( 型   or   形 literally: "form" ), are the detailed choreographed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in groups. The term is used in many traditional Japanese arts such as theater (like kabuki) and schools of tea ceremony (chado), but are most commonly known for the presence in the martial arts.  Kata are used for teaching by most Japanese and Okinawan martial arts and so we use them too.

This is the Kata progression that I teach and try to practice every day. Ok, not everyday but I do manage most days, and Ok maybe not all of them but most :D

--- KATA ---

Taikyoku - FORMS
Gedan (low blocks) -- Chudan (middle blocks) -- Jodan (high blocks)
Simple long form based on the “H“ kata patterned created by Gichin Funakoshi to introduce new students to the concepts of structured movements and basic techniques. The short form is a simple “turn – block – punch” pattern.

Fukyugata Ichi -- Fukyugata Ni
Shoshin Nagamine created Fukyugata Ichi and Chojun Miyagi (Goju-ryu) created Fukyugata Ni (or Gekisai Ichi) with early exposure to mae geri and empi techniques. They were commissioned in 1940 by special committee under Mr. Hayakawa, governor of Okinawa and introduced in 1941, designed to be the first basic kata for students of all styles.

Shodan -- Nidan
The composer of the Naihanchi is unknown. Before the Tiakyoku, Fukyugata and Pinan kata were developed, karate students learned Naihanchi Shodan as their first (and often for years, their only) kata. Performed in straddle stance it translates to “internal divided conflict”. It is the first kata introduced that starts with a move to the right. 

Shodan -- Nidan -- Sandon -- Yondon -- Godan
The Pinan katas were developed by Anko Itosu after his commission to teach in the Okinawa public school system around 1900 and were taken from older kata, including Kusanku, and made into easier forms for teaching karate to young students. Pinan translates to “peaceful and calm” and the kata are now a karate standard.

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(Minimum required kata to progress into dan)
Kusanku Dai or commonly just Kusanku, is believed to be introduce by and named after the Chinese martial artist and diplomat to Okinawa, Kwang Shang Fu. This kata is distinguished by having advanced techniques and is the longest kata in our style. Choshin Chibana is credited with refining this kata and the versions most widely practiced are all based on the Kusanku Sho and Kusanku Dai that he taught.

Additional Kata for the serious karateka to consider as they progress into dan

 Itosu No Passai – Chintō
Kusanku Sho – Matsumura No Passai
Naihanchi Sandan – Gojūshiho

*with Naihanchi Sho, the Pinan’s and Kusanku Dai arguably the most significant kata of Okinawan karate

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"A closer look at kata will divulge not only the manoeuvres we have all come to know and love, but also grappling movements, throws, hook and uppercut punches, eye gouges, grabs, knee attacks, ankle stamps, joint strikes, head-butting and even ground fighting."..."Because they encompass every eventuality in all scenarios; a necessity if one is to be at all prepared for an attack."
--'The Pavement Arena' by Geoff Thompson

"Kata has great value when correctly approached. It is the very thing that ensures karate is a workable system. If we approach kata in the way we were originally supposed to, we will ensure that karate is a functional, holistic, and pragmatic martial system."
-- 'Kata: Why Bother?' By Iain Abernethy