Traditional Okinawan karate was for self-defense only. Famous master Gichin Funakoshi in his writings says that one kata is enough for self-defense. Kata usually contain few throws, few joint locks and bunch of punches, strikes and kicks, which are enough for effective use in real confrontation.
Kata are movements designed to give the karate practitioner a series of techniques that help you learn body mechanics, once practiced thousands of time repeating them you can master one kata. When performed a kata can look like a dance, as a matter of fact Okinawans hid their kata in dances because Japanese forbade Okinawans to practice Karate.
Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu we have eighteen (18) katas.
Fukyugata I & II
Pinan I to V
Naihanchi I to III
Fukyugata kata I was created by Master Shoshin Nagamine in 1941. Fukyukata I and Fukyugata II were originally requested to be created by a special committee of all the Okinawan Karate-Do Association organized and summoned by the governor of Okinawa at that time, Mr. Gen Hayakawa. The reason for the inception of these two introductory kata was to allow beginners and school children to approach Karate practice in the most lenient way possible.
Fukyugata II was created by Master of Goju-Ryu, Chojun Miyagi.
Pinan Katas I to V
There are five Pinan's were developed in 1907; its meaning “the way of peace” or “great peace”). Anko Itotsu was commissioned to teach karate in the public schools his first students were elementary school and he found Naihanchi kata were too difficult and he developed Pinan kata's to start.
Naihanchi Kata I to III
Naihanchi kata developed around 1796; it means “horse riding stance” passed on by Bushi Matsumura. It is said that Naihanchi kata had Chinese origin from the Shaolin Ch’uan Fa. Naihanchi kata were practiced in two cities in Okinawa Shuri Te and Tomari Te, Te meaning Empty Hand. This kata is also found in Shorinji-Kempo in Japan. Naihanchi stresses side ways and angle movements. Naihanchi used to be the first kata taught and a favorite of Choki Motobu.
Originally a Chinese form, it was brought from the island of Formosa later the country of Taiwan. It is characterized by strong power movements. Most movements are performed in the zenkutsu-dachi or Forward stance or front-standing stance.
Wankan Kata pronounced (Okan) or “King’s Crown”.
The composer of this kata is unknown, but it has been practiced for a long time primarily in the village of Tomari on Okinawa. This kata combines elegant but powerful movements in both attack and defense sequences.
Rohai Kata 27 steps.
This kata was created by an unknown master. It too was practiced predominantly in Tomari village. The characteristic of this kata is the one-foot stances where the other foot is drawn to deliver a quick snap-kick. It is a short kata but is very elegant looking.
It is believed that this kata was brought to Okinawa in 1683 by a Chinese envoy named Wanshu; but later, this kata was reformed and developed by Karate men of Tomari Village. The characteristic of this kata is the execution of hidden fist punches (kakushi-zuki).
Passai Kata has 34 steps.
Developed around 1870; it means penetrate or break into a fortress.
Sokon Matsumura taught this kata to Anko Itotsu. It is believed that Matsumura was taught Passai by his instructor Satsunbuku Sakugawa. Sakugawa was believed to have learned the Passai kata in China. The floating hand techniques are very similar to the movement of Tai Chi Chuan and there are also other similarities in the shifting of body weight and cat stances. Matsumura taught Passai in the village of Tomari. Passai was a favorite kata of the Tomari Te masters.
Gojushiho Literally means 54 steps.
This kata is the most advanced kata of the Shuri Te branch of Okinawan karate. In the native tongue of ancient Okinawa the kata was called Useishi, meaning 54 steps. Records points to the development of the kata before the time of Matsumura. It combines more of the Ch’uan Fa elements than any other kata. Some have suggested that the mastery of Gojushiho equates to the mastery of Okinawan karate since it incorporates aspects of fast and slow technique and philosophies, hard and soft, and a range of circle theory strategies.
Chinto or Gankaku has 34 steps.
Developed around 1796; meaning crane on a rock or fighting to the east because movements are performed diagonally.
Old records show that a shipwrecked Chinese martial artist named Chinto lived in the hills of Nago. During the night hours he would use the cover of darkness to raid the local farmer’s for food. All attempts to capture him failed. Each time the villagers attempted to overcome him by force he overwhelmed them with his martial skills. The villagers enlisted the assistance of the greatest martial artist in the area of that time, Sokon Matsumura (Bushi). Matsumura was a karate teacher and the chief of the royal guard of King Sho. After many failed attempts a mutual respect developed between the two and they became friends. Chinto taught Matsumura his art and Matsumura in turn developed a kata encapsulating these skills.
Kusanku has 60 steps.
Developed around 1761; its meaning “viewing the sky” it is said a military envoy of the Imperial Court of China named Kusanku or Kushanku had recorded in a book of poems called Oshima Hikki (Diary of the large Island), written by Tode Sakugawa of Tosa village. It is believed that Kusanku kata was handed down through Sakugawa to Anko Itotsu who developed its parallel forms (Sho and Dai). Later, Chosin Chibana refined these forms to their present day appearance. In Kobayashi Shorin-Ryu the dual forms of Kusanku are often referred to as Chibana Kusanku because of his influence in the separation of the once singular form. The Kusanku form is reputed to be Chibana sensei's favorite kata.