JKA Katas

平安初段 Heian Shodan – (peaceful mind, first level) / Pinan Nidan


It was the great Anko Itosu (1830 -1915) who developed the Pinan katas. Itosu was born in Yamagawa village, which was situated in the Shuri Region of Okinawa. Itosu began his study of Karate in 1846 under the legendary Sokon Matsumura (1809 – 1901).

In 1901, Itosu placed Karate onto the physical education program of the Shuri Jinjo elementary school. As it stood Itosu believed Karate to be too dangerous to be taught to children and set about disguising the more dangerous techniques contained within the katas. As a result of these modifications, the children were taught the katas as mostly blocking & punching.

The Pinan katas are often thought of as training methods for beginners or children and are hence undervalued by more experienced karateka. The main reason for the katas being viewed this way is the fact that they were first established at the time Itosu was introducing Karate to the Okinawan schools.

Of the four major Japanese styles of karate (Shotokan, Wado-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, & Shito-Ryu) practised throughout the world today only Goju-Ryu does not practice the Pinan Katas. The reason the Pinan katas are common to the three remaining styles is that Itosu features strongly their family trees.

The word ‘Pinan’ means ‘peaceful mind’ (Note: same characters can also be read as “Safe form Harm” in Chinese). The name is taken to mean that once these five forms and their applications have been mastered the karateka can be confident in their ability to defend themselves in most situations. The word ‘Pinan’ is made up two ideograms. The original Okinawan pronunciation of the first ideogram is ‘pin’, whereas the Japanese pronounce it ‘hei.’

Shotokan stylists favour the Japanese pronunciation of ‘Heian.’ The reason for this is that Gichin Funakoshi gave all the katas practised within Shotokan Japanese names. He did this so that the Japanese people would find the names easier to use, to further distance the art from any of its Chinese origins and to acknowledge the development of karate by the Okinawans & Japanese. Also, the word Heian is used in Japanese history to describe the period between 794-1192, a time of unprecedented peace and security throughout the land, under the rule of the Heian dynasty.

Gichin Funakoshi also swapped the ‘Nidan’ (2nd level) & ‘Shodan’ (1st level) suffixes so that the names reflected the order in which the katas are most commonly taught. This means that Shotokan’s ‘Heian Shodan’ is called “Pinan Nidan” in the remaining styles and vice-versa.

When analysed correctly the Pinans / Heians have a great deal to offer to the karateka. Itosu was an extremely talented fighter and the Pinans / Heians are regarded by many to be a summary of his most effective methods – A fact supported by the name he chose for them. We are greatly indebted to Itosu for creating such an effective system of fighting.


Heian Nidan


Heian Sandan


Heian Yondan


Heian Godan



Tekki Shodan – The Tekki (Iron Horse) kata originally came from the Okinawan style of karate known as Shuri-te and were derived from one longer form called Naihanchi (Internal Divided Conflict)


There is three modern kata derived from this (Shodan, Nidan and Sandan). Some researchers believe Nidan and Sandan were created by Anko Itosu, but others believe that it was originally one kata broken into three separate parts (probably due to constraints of space). The fact that only Naihanchi/Tekki Shodan has a formal opening suggests the kata was split.

Whilst the kata is linear, moving side to side, the techniques can be applied against attackers at any angle. The side to side movements in a low stance build up the necessary balance and strength for fast footwork and body shifting. The kata are intricate strategies of attacking and defensive movement, done in the kiba dachi, for the purpose of conditioning the legs to develop explosive power.



Bassai dai (拔塞大) – Passai (拔塞) is the name of a group of kata practiced in different styles of martial arts, including karate and various Korean martial arts, including Taekwondo, Tang Soo Do, and Soo Bahk Do.


Bassai is most often translated as “To Penetrate a Fortress,” meaning that one must exhibit the power and spirit required to break through an enemy’s castle.
Bassai Dai is believed to have been created by Sokon Matsumura.



Jion (慈恩) – (“Mercy”) is a representative Shotokan kata.


Jion with Ji’in and Jitte share the same beginning, the same kamae with the left hand covering the right one, which apparently has its roots in ancient Chinese boxing.



Heian Kata in All Japan Tournament