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What is a kata ? Wikipedia describes it well:

"The basic goal of kata is to preserve and transmit proven techniques. By practicing in a repetitive manner the learner develops the ability to execute those techniques and movements in a natural, reflex-like manner. Systematic practice does not mean permanently rigid. The goal is to internalize the movements and techniques of a kata so they can be executed and adapted under different circumstances, without thought or hesitation. A novice’s actions will look uneven and difficult, while a master’s appear simple and smooth."


Kata

Grade

Summary
1st Kata 9th Kyu
Also called Taikyoku Sono Ichi (overview level 1).  You'll perform basic blocks and a stepping punch, use strong low long stances and learn basic breathing technique plus how to 'kiai'.
2nd Kata8th Kyu
Relax - Taikyoku Sono Ni (overview level 2) is like 1st kata with a front kick and a reverse punch thrown in.  We'll want to see hip technique being used.
Saifa7th Kyu
Sai is to 'smash'. Fa means to 'tear'.  A kata of joint manipulations traditionally used to smash bone and tear muscle.  Disclaimer: no students have knowingly been smashed or torn to date.
Bassai Dai6th Kyu
Bassai Dai translates to 'To Storm a Castle'.  There are multiple versions of this kata with some federations (i.e. Shotokan) teaching it from Brown Belt onwards - we like a challenge.  This kata contains a lot of arm blocks.
Seiunchin   5th &
4th Kyu

Seiunchin - 'to control and pull into battle'.  This kata comes from the Goju-ryu style.  It's all hand techniques and no kicks - perfect for the shorter person.  Expect lots of Sumo stance, backfists and elbow strikes.
Enpi3rd & 2nd Kyu
Often translated as Enpi this is another kata adopted by multiple styles. Enpi means Flying Swallow.  Lots of debate around about the origins of this kata.  Some think its based on the legend of Wang Ji who would throw himself at and jump on opponents - resembling a swallow in flight.  Others think its origins lie with the sword techniques used by warring families in Okinawa - all we know is its good fun.
Sepai1st Kyu & 1st Dan
'18 Hands'.  A great kata with many hidden techniques (feints) to confuse the enemy in battle.  A great kata to start your Dan career.
Hangetsu2nd Dan
Adapted from the Seishan kata (from the Ryukyu Kempo karate style) Hangetsu translates as 'Half Moon'.  It gets its own stance and brings with it a number of breathing techniques that take time to master.
Kankudai3rd Dan
Kanku - 'viewing the sky'.  Another Shotokan based kata its also known by the name of Kushanku.  Kanku Dai is a response to eight opponents involving a combination of blocks and counterattacks.  At 65 moves its a monster kata to learn.
Unsu4th Dan
Unlike others the name 'Unsu' refers to the whole kata not any one technique within it.  Its a highly regarded kata amongst Dan grades.

 
   
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