Katas of Wado Ryu

Kata consists of a pre-arranged series of movements designed to provide the student with a tool for practicing the basic karate techniques and combinations of techniques through repetition. All karate styles and schools are founded on the use of basic martial arts techniques. These techniques include punches, strikes, blocks, kicks, and other movements depending on the school and style. Most Karate schools teach Kata and include repetitive practice of them on a regular basis.

Early karate teachers linked these basic techniques into prearranged series (kata) to support many teaching objectives including: development of combinations, simulation of combat against multiple imaginary opponents and/or another venue for practice of a particular technique or series of techniques.

It is thought that most karate kata originated in Okinawa, when in fact, many of the early kata were named after Chinese kung-fu experts who taught the Okinawans their art, formalising the Okinawan kata between 1600 and 1850.

At the time when karate kata was being developed in Okinawa, kata was the primary means of instruction. Prior to the 1700’s, little formalization of kata existed and even the concept of a karate dojo was unknown. Around 1900, karate and these Okinawan kata migrated to Japan. Many of the basic katas from Okinawa were taught in Japan.

A Brief History of Wado-Ryu

Wado-Ryu was founded by Master Hironori Ohtsuka, who was born on the first of June 1892 in Shimohate city, Japan. In 1905 Master Ohtsuka began his study of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu under Tatsusaburo Nakayama. By 1928 Master Ohtsuka was the chief instructor of Shindo Yoshin Ryu.

In 1922 Master Ohtsuka began his study of Karate under Master Gichin Funakoshi and by 1928 he was the assistant instructor to Funakoshi Sensei’s Dojo. Master Ohtsuka also studied under Choki Motobu and Kenwa Mabuni and in 1939, Master Ohtsuka registered the name Wado-Ryu for his own style of Karate.

Wado-Ryu combines the Karate techniques taught by Funakoshi with the influence of Motobu’s fighting methods and Mabuni’s way of performing the kata. Wado also contains JuJitsu’s locks, throws and techniques of avoidance.

In 1972 Ohtsuka was awarded Meijin, the highest title possible and the first man in history to receive this honour. Sadly, Master Ohtsuka died at the age of 89 on the 29th of January 1982, he left us with an excellent legacy to remember him by.

The Katas of Wado-Ryu

Originally Wado-Ryu had 16 kata, but in 1945 the kata Suparimpei was dropped from the syllabus. After the Second World War, only 9 kata remained (up to Chinto) but in the Chojinkai association we still practice the 15 katas registered in 1945. The Katas practiced in Chojinkai are:

The Pinan Series

The Pinan katas were developed by Anko Itosu in the early 1900s. Itosu learned the kata “Chiang Nan” from a Chinese martial artist who lived in Okinawa, and later remodelled this into five simpler katas, calling them Pinan because he found the Chinese “Chiang Nan” too difficult to pronounce. These katas also contain many techniques drawn from the katas being practiced in the Shuri region of Okinawa at that time. Pinan means “peaceful mind”. The name is taken to mean that once the five kata and their bunkai (application) are mastered, the karateka will be able to defend themselves adequately in most situations. Ohtsuka was taught these katas by Gichin Funakoshi and Kenwa Mabuni.


Kushanku was the name of a Chinese public official who came to Okinawa in the 1700s. Tode Sakugawa was taught Chinese kempo by Kushanku, and Sakugawa devised this kata to record Kushanku’s striking and grappling methods. Kushanku is one of the longest katas and it contains a wide variety of techniques. This kata is a requirement for brown belt gradings upward. Students will also be taught the applications of the form and are required to demonstrate these applications for gradings. Ohtsuka was taught this kata by Funakoshi and Mabuni.


The word “Naihanchi” is said to mean “surreptitious steps” or “sideways fighting”, although there are also other meanings given for this name. It is said that Sokon Matsumura brought this kata back to Okinawa after a trip to China. Master Ohtsuka was taught this kata by Choki Motobu, who was one of the most feared fighters on the whole of Okinawa. The kata contains grappling, throwing and striking vulnerable areas. Many masters regard the techniques of this kata to be amongst the most effective of them all. Ohtsuka himself said that there was something deep about Naihanchi and it would take more than a lifetime to master. Naihanchi is a very old kata and no one is sure of its exact origin.


This kata is said by some to be the oldest of them all. It was introduced into Karate by Sokon Matsumura who was taught it while studying in China. Seishan means “thirteen hands”. This kata emphasizes close-range self-defence techniques, with the distinctive foot movement being used to destroy an opponent’s stability.


Chinto was the name of a shipwrecked sailor and martial artist who taught Matsumura Chinese kempo. Matsumura formulated this kata as a means to record Chinto’s methods. Practise of this form will teach the student many grappling and throwing techniques in addition to developing stability and balance. Ohtsuka was taught this kata by Gichin Funakoshi.


Passai means “to thrust asunder”. This kata was one of the most popular katas in history and it is believed to have originated in China. Passai – sometimes pronounced “Bassai” – contains a wide variety of striking and grappling techniques including throws, chokes, locks etc.


Wanshu was the name of a Chinese envoy who came to Okinawa in the 1600s. Whilst stationed in Okinawa, Wanshu taught a small group Shaolin White Crane Kempo. Wanshu taught the importance of fighting using evasive foot movements and this is reflected in the kata he inspired. This kata also contains a number of throwing techniques.


Rohai translates as “vision of a white heron”. The name of the kata reflects the large flowing arm movements contained in it that resemble the movement of a heron’s wings. The version of Rohai practiced in Wado-Ryu is derived from Rohai Shodan as created by Anko Itosu. Ohtsuka was taught this kata by Kenwa Mabuni.


Neiseishi means twenty-four steps and was created by Aragaki. With the exception of the Pinan series, Neiseishi is the only kata in Wado-Ryu of Okinawan origin, with the remainder originating from China. This Kata includes grasping and countering techniques along with close-range striking.


Jitte means “ten hands”; this is frequently taken to mean that if this kata is mastered it will give the karateka the power of five men. It is believed that this kata was developed by monks in China.


Jion means “Temple Sound”. Jion was the name of a temple in China and it is believed that this kata was developed at the temple, or by someone associated with it. Jion contains striking, locking throwing and methods of trapping the opponent’s limbs. It is a long physically demanding kata and consistent practise of Jion will develop a strong body.