Seisan (Thirteen Hands):
Prior to 1903, Seisan was customarily taught in Shuri and Naha. Seisan is the oldest kata still being practiced on Okinawa. This kata can be traced back to the time of Bushi Matsumura, who brought it back from China during his travels there. The student who masters this kata will become proficient in the hand techniques and foot work of Shuri-te, which teach how to get inside an adversary’s attach to destroy his stability, while simultaneously developing a strong foundation.
Ananku (Light from the South):
This formal exercise is a Shuri-te form, and is believed to have been brought back from Taiwan by Chotoku Kyan. In this kata, the student quickly increases his ability to execute lightning-like movements, as well as to shift and lunge away from the adversary. These evasive techniques are coupled with intricate hand movements. This kata is most effective for practicing both long and short range defense.
Wansu (Name of Chinese Envoy):
This formal exercise, native to the Tomari-te method, is still practiced today on Okinawa as well as abroad. Wansu kata served as the foundation for the modern kata Enpi of Shotokan Karate.
This obscure formal exercise is believed to have been based on the unique evasive martial arts techniques of a Chinese envoy Wang Ji, or Wansu as he was known on Okinawa, who was sent to Okinawa in 1683. Wang Ji lived and worked in the Tomari district, and aside from his diplomatic responsibilities, he also took up the instruction of a small group of disciples. He taught them a system known as Shaolin Temple White Crane Fist Boxing.
Wang Ji taught the importance of blocking and countering while using evasive foot maneuvers. Also reflected in this kata is the secret of taking the adversary up and off his feet, and throwing him to the ground. For this reason, this kata is also often referred to as the dumping kata.
Passai (To Thrust Asunder):
The Passai kata has been one of the most favored exercises in history, practiced by such legendary masters as Kyan, Matsumura, Oyadomari, Motobu, Ishimine, Chibana, and Twada. Itosu and Funakoshi also practiced this form, and of course developed their own versions.
Allegedly, this form is from China, and students practicing it will learn the techniques of night fighting, grappling techniques, and will develop unquestionable strength. All variations of Passai teach the importance of powerful blocking and angular defense against attack from multiple directions.
Naifanchi (Horse Riding, Tekki, Kiba Dachi):
The Naifanchi (Daipochin) kata comes from the famous Okinawan karate-ka, Choki Motobu, who is famous for his actual active testing of bunkai in real fighting situations. This sometimes happened by suspicious means, and many a teacher would watch this kind of conduct with disapproving eyes. It was said that Choki Motobu knew only three kata, the Naifanchi series, Wansu, Passai and Guwa. Motobu for the most part, was victorious in his use of the kata bunkai. In many Shorin-ryu styles, Naifanchi (Heishugata) acts as foundation to further kata (Kaishugata) like Sanchin in the Goju-ryu system. Master Tatsuo Shimabukuro, the founder of Isshin-ryu (blend of Goju-ryu and Shorin-ryu), was quoted as saying that, “Naifanchi is mother to Shorin-ryu and Sanchin is father to Goju-ryu. When these two come together then Isshin-ryu is born.”
The primary stance in this series of kata is kiba dachi, which emphasizes the strengthening of the legs and hips. A distinct characteristic of kata is the technique where the circular movement of the arms protects the head in a block, while simultaneously setting up the opening for the uraken. The appearance of kata can be seen as simple, but from careful study and practice of the bunkai, it is very rich in techniques, and is seen as an effective fighting system.
Gojushiho (54 Steps):
This anonymous kata, whose movements are said to resemble those of a drunken man, is very old and comes from China.
Nukite-zuki (spear-hand thrust), one of the open-handed techniques, distinguishes the kata from the others.
Chinto (Fighting to the East):
Legend has it that the name Chinto relates to a Chinese sailor who was shipwrecked on Okinawa and who eventually instructed Bushi Matsumura in the art of Chinese Kenpo.
Learning this formal exercise teaches a student the importance of stability and balance, and countering an attack while grabbing the attacker. The student will become powerful and graceful while learning to be evasive at the same time. The applications of grappling and throwing are most apparent in this form.
Wanchin (Named for an Okinawan Village):
Wanchin is the kata of Zenryo Shimabukuro (1909-1969). It is built from elements of other kata which sensei learned from Kyan Sensei. The Wanchin kata name is a combination of the kanji from Wansu and Chinto. Zenryo Sensei wanted the name to sound Chinese, thus Wanchin is the kanji writing. Zenryo Sensei believed strongly that simultaneous block and counter techniques (Uke-Kogeki) were of primary importance. The movements of Wanchin kata demonstrate many of these techniques, taken from Passai, Seisan, Gojushiho and Kusanku.
The block as you counter technique is the prime distinguishing factor of the kata. Wanchin kata is exclusive to the Seibukan and is closely guarded by its Karateka.
Kusanku (Name of Envoy whom first taught it on Okinawa):
The Kusanku kata teaches body change and the ability to adapt to changing situations spontaneously. The art and techniques of night fighting are also emphasized as are jumping and leaping.