A kata is a set of techniques organized as pre-arranged movements that simulates a fight. Okinawan kata have traditionally been used to preserve sets of techniques and fighting principles, and they have also served as the basis upon Okinawan fighting systems (such as Gōjū-ryū) are taught.
In kata, each movement can be interpreted as different techniques and its applications. Kata is to be understood as a "living textbook" in which karate proper—its techniques and philosophy—is passed down. The practice of kata itself provides the practitioner a sense of structure and possibilities to use in a real fight. Bunkai, on the other hand, is the analysis—or interpretation (oyo-bunkai)—of kata movements. After the analysis of bunkai, karateka usually practice two or more person drills to ingrain the application in the muscle memory, which makes sense of sequences of movements in kata forms. Techniques-within-techniques are revealed through constant practice of kata and bunkai.
The kata taught in Gōjū-ryū are rather traditional and in most organizations are emphasized more than actual kumite (or free sparring). This emphasis in kata is also an emphasis in bunkai, the actual self-defense application of the kata movements. The self-defense approach explains why Gōjū-ryū does not emphasize free sparring and its limiting rules.
Kata detractors say that these kata are useless in a real fighting situation, while proponents say they are failing to realize what the purpose of kata and bunkai is. This conflict of views is due to the sport emphasis of gendai budō and the fighting emphasis of koryu bujutsu. As gendai budō, the practice of karate kata is focused in performance and channeled through performative sport-oriented tournaments. On the other hand, as bujutsu, the practice of kata is focused not only on performance but also in the fighting knowledge codified in it. So the term "kata practice" has two totally different meanings: as gendai budō it is performance; as bujutsu, it is performance and self defense application.
Kihongata means a "kata of basics." In Goju Ryu, sanchin kata is the foundation to all other Gōjū kata because it teaches basic movements, basic techniques, power generation and breathing techniques from qigong. It is also the foundation of body conditioning. The more the karateka practices this kata, the more his Heishugata will change. First variation of Sanchin-kata (sanchin kata dai-ichi) serves as Kihongata. See more on Sanchin kata below.
Heishugata means "kata with closed hands" or "fundamental kata". This kata teaches fundamentals (i.e. not only basics of movement but also principles) of the style while basics are learned during Kihongata. Traditionally, Kaishugata was taught as a second kata, or a "specialty kata" of a student, after Heishugata (e.g. Sanchin-kata and/or Tensho-kata) is learned and practiced.
* Sanchin kata - Kanji: 三戦 - Katakana: サンチン (three battles): In Gōjū, there are two sanchin kata:
o Miyagi's sanchin (or "sanchin dai ichi"): The most widely taught as initial and Kihongata, was created for such purpose by Chojun Miyagi, and has no turns so the karateka goes forward and then backwards.
o Higashionna's sanchin (or "sanchin dai ni"): It is a full-version Sanchingata and is older and was taught by Higashionna Kanryo. In this kata the karateka always goes forward, but turns 180 degrees twice.
* Tensho kata - Kanji: 転掌 - Katakana: テンショウ (revolving hands): Tensho was created in 1921 as "softer sanchin" by Chojun Miyagi to balance Go aspect of Heishugata (Sanchin-kata) with Ju variation for Heishugata. It is a combination of hard dynamic tension with deep breathing and soft flowing hand movements.
Kaishugata means a "kata with open hands." This is more advanced than Heishugata. Kaishugata serves as a "combat application reference" kata and is open to vast interpretation (Bunkai) of its movements' purpose (hence, "open hands").
* Saifa - Kanji: 砕破- Katakana: サイファー (to destroy and defeat): This is usually the first advanced Gōjū-ryū kata the students learn in most goju kaiha, after gekisai dai ichi and gekisai dai ni. The first three moves are the signature of the kata—-a wrist-grab-counter with a back fist - thrown technique. The center of the kata is the sagi ashi dachi, or crane stance, which is simultaneous to two blocks and a knee strike followed by a mae geri.
* Seiunchin - Kanji: 制引戦- Katakana: セイユンチン (Attack, Conquer, suppress; also referred to as "to control and pull into battle"): Seiunchin kata demonstrates the use of techniques to unbalance, throw and grapple, contains close-quartered striking, sweeps, take-downs and throws.
* Shisochin - Kanji: 四向戦- Katakana: シソーチン ("to destroy in four directions" or "fight in four directions"): It integrates powerful linear attacks (shotei zuki) and circular movements and blocks. It was the favorite kata of the later Miyagi.
* Sanseiru - Kanji: 三十六手 - Katakana: サンセイルー (36 Hands): The kata teaches how to move around the opponent in close quarters fights, and emphasizes the destruction of the opponent's mobility by means of kanzetsu geri.
* Sepai - Kanji: 十八手 - Katakana: セイパイ (18 Hands): Sepai kata incorporates both the four directional movements and 45° angular attacks and implements techniques for both long distance and close quarter combat. This was a Seikichi Toguchi's specialty kata.
* Kururunfa - Kanji: 久留頓破 - Katakana: クルルンファー (holding on long and striking suddenly): its techniques are based on Chinese Praying Mantis style. It was Ei'ichi Miyazato's specialty kata.
* Seisan - Kanji: 十三手 - Katakana: セイサン (13 Hands): Seisan is thought to be one of the oldest kata quite spread among other Naha-te schools. Other ryuha also practice this kata or other versions of it.
* Suparenpei - Kanji: 壱百零八 - Katakana: スーパーリンペイ (108 Hands): Also known as Pechurin, it is the most advanced Gōjū-ryū kata. Initially it had three levels to master (Go, Chu, and Jo), later Miyagi left only one, the highest, "Jo" level. This was a Meitoku Yagi's and Morio Higaonna's specialty kata.
In 1940, Gen Hayakawa, governor of Okinawa, assembled the Karate-Do Special Committee, composed by Ishihara Shochoku (chairman), Miyagi Chojun, Kamiya Jinsei, Shinzato Jinan, Miyasato Koji, Tokuda Anbun, Kinjo Kensei, Kyan Shinei, and Nagamine Shoshin. The goal of these men was to create a series of Okinawan kata in order to teach both physical education and very basic Okinawan independent style martial arts to school children. Their goal was not to create a standardized karate as the Japaneses had been doing with Kendo and Judo for the sake of popularization.
This type of kata is not traditional Gōjū-ryū kata; instead, they are "promotional kata", simple enough to be taught as part of Physical Education programs at schools, and part of a standardized karate syllabus for schools, independently of the sensei's style.
Nagamine Shoshin (Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryū) developed fukyugata dai ichi, which is part of current Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu syllabus; and Miyagi Chojun developed fukyugata dai ni, which is part of current Goju Ryu syllabus under the name gekisai dai ichi. Some Goju Ryu dojo still practice fukyugata dai ichi. Miyagi sensei also created gekisai dai ni, but it is practiced by Goju Ryu and some offsprings only.
* Gekisai dai ichi - kanji: 撃砕 - Hiragana: げきさい ("to destroy" or "attack and destroy"). It was developed by Miyagi Chojun after 1936, and it is the first Goju kata to be taught to beginners. It is called fukyugata dai ni by Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu practitioners.
* Gekisai dai ni - Miyagi created also Gekisai-dai-ni. Gekisai Dai Ni incorporates slightly "softer" techniques, although it follows a similar pattern to that of Gekisai Dai Ichi. It involves the use of open-handed and circular techniques, and it is the second kata to be taught to beginners.
 Other non-traditional Gōjū-ryū Kata
Some Gōjū-ryū schools have their additional, style-based kata, that are not in other Gōjū-ryū kata curricula. Some of this extra kata are simple kihon kata (like fukyugata dai ichi or taikyoku), some are advanced kata (like Meibukan kata). Other schools of Goju (such as the Shorei-kan ) from the Toguchi branch offers extra katas such as Geikiha 1 & 2 and the Hookiyu katas 1 & 2. Another non traditional kata is Kurogane Shatsu (iron shirt) meant to train the body and endurance of the mind.
 Meibukan kata
Meitoku Yagi sensei, founder of Meibukan, created a set of five kata with the techniques he considered were Miyagi Chojun's favorite techniques :
* Tenchi (Heaven and Earth)
* Seiryu (Blue Dragon)
* Byakkoi (White Tiger)
* Shujakku (Red Sparrow or Red Phoenix)
* Genbu (Black Turtle)
These kata are referred to as Meibukan kata, and have a two-man component. The first half of Tenchi can "fight" the second half, while the remaining four forms pair off against one another.
Meibukan dojos also practice several types of Taikyoku kata, as well as Goju-Ryu Kata with Bo/Sai (Gekisai, Saifa, Shisochin).
 Yamaguchi Goju Kai kata [JKGA / IKGA]
* Taikyoku: Series of five kata created by Gōjū Kai's founder Gogen Yamaguchi. Taikyoku teaches basic block/attack patterns and basic ways to move in four directions.
o Taikyoku Jodan; Dai Ichi & Ni
o Taikyoku Chudan; Dai Ichi & Ni
o Taikyoku Gedan; Dai Ichi & Ni
o Taikyoku Kake Uke; Dai Ichi & Ni
o Taikyoku Mawashi Uke; Dai Ichi & Ni
Tada Seigo, founder of Seigokan, created additional kata for introduction to educational programs and for beginning students:
* Kihon Uke no Kata
* Kihon Tsuki no Kata
Seikichi Toguchi, founder of Shoreikan Goju Ryu, created additional kata:
* Hookiyu Kata Ichi
* Hookiyu Kata Ni
* Gekisai Dai San
* Gekiha Dai Ichi
* Gekiha Dai Ni
* Kakuha Dai Ichi
* Kakuha Dai Ni
* Hakutsuru no Mai
Toguchi also created two-man sets for each of the Hookiyu, Gekisai, Gekiha, and Kakuha kata, as well as for several of the "koryu" kata.
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7. ^ Meitoku Yagi. History of Tōon-ryū
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