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Most Advanced Kata

At a recent Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai training session, we were asked to demonstrate and explain the most advanced kata in our respective Karate systems/styles. This was an interesting assignment because each of us had to determine what the most advanced kata in our own system/style is.

One way to approach this question is to ask what kata a student will learn last. In our dojo, the last kata a student will learn is probably Kusanku or Chinto -- it depends. In our dojo, we practice a total of 18 kata. At the shodan level, a student might practice 10 or 12 of these kata. A student might not practice all 18 of the kata until the sandan level. So, a student in our dojo might have studied for many years before he even learns Kusanku or Chinto.

But does the fact that a kata is learned last make it the most advanced? In our system, Kusanku, Chinto and Gojushiho are usually learned last and are also the longest kata (in terms of the number of movements). Are they advanced because they are learned late, or because they are long?

Or is it because the kata contain complicated or "advanced" techniques? Is the Kusanku kata technically more difficult than the Pinan or Naihanchi series of kata?

Late, longest, or more complicated? What makes a kata the advanced in a system?

Or does it depend upon the degree of difficulty or points that would be awarded for a particular kata in a tournament?

So what kata do you think that I performed for our training session?

Initially, I said that I would perform Kusanku because it is one of the two last kata taught in our system (generally). I thought about it, and decided I would perform Chinto, because it is also taught late and contains difficult/complicated techniques. Then I decided that the essence of body dynamics in our system is taught via the Naihanchi series of kata.

Finally, I decided that I would perform Fukyugata Ichi. Do you know why?

It is because Fukyugata Ichi is such a simple kata, one that is learned very early. It only contains about 20 movements (depending on who you count them) and not even one kick!

I picked Fukyugata Ichi because it is the most difficult kata to do well -- there is no room to hide weak techniques or mistakes. In Chinto, if one or two techniques are done poorly they might be hidden or overshadowed by the rest of the kata. In Fukyugata Ichi, if one technique is done poorly, it will show!

I also find that it is difficult to perform Fukyugata Ichi with a compressed koshi. If you perform the kata with a big koshi, the kata will look strange (wobbly). To maintain the simple and clean lines of the kata, the koshi has to be compressed and thrown very late -- it can almost look as if no koshi is being used at all. This can be very challenging.

Why didn't I pick Naihanchi? We learn koshi through Naihanchi. The "shape" of the kata is ideal for learning and applying koshi. The Naihanchi stance is ideal for us.

Fukyugata Ichi has no Naihanchi stances. Instead, it uses zenkutsu dachi and shizen dachi. Additonally, we use a hanmi "slant" in just about all our movements (in these stances). It is one thing to move from side to side in Naihanchi dachi. Moving from one side to another in zenkutsu dachi and shizen dachi is quite different -- and can be challenging.

So I performed Fukyugata Ichi as the most advanced kata in our system. I realize that I could have performed any kata, but I wanted to explain why I chose that particular one.

If you can do one kata well, you can do all kata well (if you practice hard). Being able to do a kata well is what counts -- not whether a kata is considered to be advanced, intermediate or for beginners. (Plus, don't forget that we are all beginners.)


Charles C. Goodin