Kata of Wado Ryu Karate

When Otsuka Sensei first introduced Wado Ryu karate he registered 16 kata and later said that only 9 kata were needed by students to learn his karate.

"I only incorporate 9 kata into my movements. Some falsely believe that mastery and progress comes by knowing as many kata as possible. In the older days, one only knew about 2 or 3 at the most. Even to use one kata properly and efficiently is not an easy task. One must remember that it is quality over quantity when practicing any kata"-Hironori Otsuka

Of the five Pinan kata, Pinan nidan is the simplest and thus is learned first before the other four in the order of Pinan shodan, Pinan sandan, Pinan yondan and Pinan godan

Naihanchi is usually the next kata in the sequence followed by Seishan, Chinto and Kushanku to complete the total of nine. To correctly practise Naihanchi kata requires mastery of the stance called Naihanchi-dachi.

Of the three Naihanchi kata (Naihanchi shodan, nidan and sandan) extant at the time of establishing Wado Ryu, Otsuka Sensei considered nidan and sandan as redundant and noted that he "personally favoured" Naihanchi as it became progressively more difficult the more he practiced it. He also said that "If one was to use the Shiko-dachi (in which these kata were routinely practiced at the time) instead of the Naihanchi dachi, then the most important objective of kata is ignored. If one wants to use the Shiko-dachi, then one should practice sumo, not karate."-Hironori Otsuka

This is not to say that he didn't appreciate sumo, rather Otsuka Sensei correctly felt that as Naihanchi kata was commonly trained using shiko-dachi, it created a situation where you would be left to deeply rooted to permit the fast reactive movements that are the hallmark of Wado ryu karate.

In Naihanchi-dachi one learns to become "grounded" and yet able to quickly react in any direction. "Consider a tree that is deeply rooted yet can sway in any breeze." Naihanchi-dachi is the foundation for Otuska Sensei's creation of yoko-seishan dachi and tate-seishan dachi which are key features of the Seishan kata.

After achieving a sufficient grasp of Seishan the next kata is Chinto, both Naihanchi and Seishan are essential to the learning and understanding of Chinto.

Kushanku incorporates many aspects of the Pinan kata, Naihanchi, Seishan and Chinto, and might have been derived basically from the Pinan kata.

Otsuka sensei considered change as inevitable so the order in which kata are learned is not as important as teaching the movements he introduced through correct practice of his vision of these Okinawan kata. However, Naihanchi must precede Seishan and Chinto.

And finally, the only way to learn and master any kata is to continually practise at home, at work, in the gym, in the dojo and in your mind as you visualize yourself performing these kata perfectly.