Kata Explanation and History

SAIFA – Smash and Break

Saifa is the first of the classical combative Kata taught in Goju-Ryu. Goju-Ryu’s Kata origins come from the martial arts taught in the Fuzhou area of southern China, largely Crane and Xingyi/Baqua as well as other internal and external martial arts. Kanryo Higaonna Sensei was taught this Kata, along with the other Kata of Goju-Ryu, while he studied in China from 1863-1881 under the direction of RuRuKo (Xie Zhongxiang in Chinese) and others. These Kata and martial strategies would become the basis of the the quanfa of Higaonna Sensei, which later Miyagi Sensei would call Goju-Ryu. From an understanding of the grappling and strking techniques of this Kata, Saifa can be interpreted to mean grabbing and tearing of tissue in close-quartered combat.

ANAKU KATA – A Swallow on the Beach and Pivoting Form

Expanation and History

ANAKU (Ananku) represents a swallow walking and turning (overlooking the ocean). It is also known as expression pivot and turning form. Head snapping (before turning) and te and tekatana ukes should be strong and obvious when performing this kata.

The kata’s origin is unknown; however it is believed to have been re-composed by Chotoku Kyan in Okinawa around 1895. He died in 1946.
Source: Pinnacle of Karate by Master Robert Trias

(Also referred to as Oyadomari form)

Explanation and History

The Bassai (basai) or Patsai katas are believed to have been originated and composed strictly for King Cyado Mari of the Ryu kyu Islands (Okinawa), for his personal body guard’s use in saving his life against enemy encounters. The katas were being taught by Kosaku Matsumora, in Tomari, Okinawa, around 1869. The forms were the favorite of Bushi Matsumura, Choki Motobu, Chotuku Kyan and Chosin Chibana. Bassai Dai was also known as Passai Dai and Tawara Passai.

There are now in existence four (4) basic Bassai forms, which are: 1) Bassai Sho – breaking the small fortress; 2) Bassai Dai – breaking the great fortress; 3) Bassai San – penetrating the mountain fortress; and 4) Bassai Tomari – thunder in the forest. They are also known as “Breaking the giant enemy circle forms.” Many variations of this extremely aggressive form exist in different ryus.
Source: Pinnacle of Karate by Master Robert Trias

Gai Sai (Gekisai)

The Geki Sai Kata were formulated by Chojun Miyagi Sensei in 1940 as a form of physical exercise for high school boys and to help popularize Goju-Ryu among the public of Okinawa. In 1948, after WWII, Miyagi Sensei began to teach the Geki Sai Kata in depth as a regular part of Goju-Ryu in his own dojo. Until this time, Sanchin was the first Kata taught in Goju-Ryu. Sanchin Kata is physically and mentally a demanding Kata and requires a great deal of time and patience to learn and perform properly. The Geki Sai Kata however are easier to learn and perform, and contain dynamic techniques which are more attractive to young people. These Kata contain the same kanji found in Saifa. This would suggest that even though these Kata were designed primarily as a form of exercise, Miyagi Sensei included his understanding of combat as part of their makeup.
Source: Wikipedia Online Resource

(The most notable of all forms in the Shuri styles)

Explanation and History

Each movement of a kata or form has a practical application, usually a block and a counter-attack. Within every kata, and this one in particular, there are hidden or symbolic movements that have both practical and symbolic interpretations. In this kata, the beginning symbolic movements mean, “I gather within in me all forces of the earth. I look up and ask the heavens for perfection of self. I instill its force and energy (fire and earth elements) into my body.” The origin of the three (3) Naihanchi katas is unknown. We do know for a fact that they were practiced as one single kata by Okinawan Shuri-Ryu Master Sokon Matsumura around 1825. Naihan Chi was, however, handed down to Matsumura from earlier times. We can assume that Naihan Chi is well over one hundred and seventy years old, possibly dating back to the era of Tode Sakugawa, Suekata Chogun and Ito Gusukuma. Nihanchi was also the favorite form of Yusutsune Itosu (1830-1915).

Around 1895, Master Choki Motobu popularized Naihan Chi by daily performing the three forms as only “one kata” at least five hundred times. The three Naihan Chi’s performed as one became known as Motobu’s Kata, and he is said to have stated many times, “There is only one kata necessary to develop and excel in Karate and that is Naihanchi as one.” Motubu’s favorite hand form when performing Naihan Chi was the forefinger punch (Keiko Ken Zuki).

Because of its length and degree of difficulty, the kata is now divided into three sections for teaching purposes. A point of interest with this form is that although it was developed by Shuri-Ryu stylists, it has become an international form that is performed in almost every major style of Karate, Taekwon do and Kempo today. The form was developed as a defense against four to eight opponents, with the performer pinned against a wall defending to the right, left or from the front, but never from the rear. The original name for this kata is Naihanchi, which means “Iron Horse”, but it is more commonly referred to as Iron Horse-Missing Enemy form. Other names for this kata are Naifunchin, Teki and Chulgi.
Source: Pinnacle of Karate by Master Robert Trias


The reference to “18” in naming this Kata has a couple of interpretations. Like Sanseru, there is suggested a connection to Buddhist philosophy. Another insinuates “18 guards for the King”. The most apparent and most meaningful in the naming of Sepai is again from the martial arts develpoment and the use of attacking pressure points. 18 is one half of 36 suggesting that perhaps an alternative set of attacks and defenses of preferred techniques and strategies from the original Sanseru 36.
Sepai is found in Monk Boxing.
Source: Wikipedia Online Resource