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Chikara Andrew
Chikara Andrew's picture
The 30 Kata of Mabuni

I have realised as I’ve written this post that it is quite long winded and references an array of Kata. Whilst I have different books and sources in front of me I may have used spelling and terminology from particular text.  

I have recently been reading Mario McKenna’s translation of Mabuni’s Karate Kempo: The Art of Self Defense, having previously bought and digested his translation of the Study of Seipai. An interesting comment sprung out at me when he introduces the chapter on Seiunchin: “There are thirty advanced kata…”

Mabuni is renowned as a collector of Kata and certainly Shito-Ryu has now has more than thirty kata in its approved kata list, albeit there are a number of “derivatives” in there as opposed to unique kata. So which kata did Mabuni consider to be the thirty advanced kata of his karate at this point, 1934?

Interestingly I note from the text that at this point Mabuni considers himself to be a practitioner of, or belong to the school of Goju-Ryu. He refers to Miyagi as his senior at a number of points in the text. However from what I understand Goju-Ryu does not utilise anywhere near thirty kata.

Certainly the list should include Seiunchin as that is the subject of the text, also the book references Seipai, Senseru, Useishi, Suparempei. So that’s five, just twenty five to go.

What is not included, as the text refers to Sanchin as a basic kata I would also rule out Tensho. Today most of us would not consider the Pinan Kata to be advanced kata, they had certainly been in existence for some time by 1934 and would certainly have been known to Mabuni, if they are discounted that leaves five more kata to find.

Also taking the lead of those kata listed I would have thought Seisan should be included along with Kururunfa which is used in both Goju-Ryu and Shito-Ryu. In addition following the numerical forms referenced in the text, Niseishi should be included. 

Aside from Higashionna, Mabuni was a student of Itosu. So perhaps the following kata should be included within the list, Bassai (possibly two entries Dai and Sho – although Shito-Ryu also uses Tomari-no-Bassai), Kusanku (again possibly two entries for Sho and Dai) Mabuni developed Kosokun Shiho from this kata – an interesting fact I picked up from a post on this forum.

Mabuni is also credited with taking the Chinese form Nepai and developing Nipaipo. Also although not in the Goju-Ryu or Shito-Ryu lists Mabuni spent time working with a touring Okinawa in the early 20th Century with a number of Karate notables including Funakoshi and Motobu who both practiced Naihanchi so it is fair to say he would have known this kata.  

So from this I get to twelve kata, fourteen if you allow Sho and Dai versions of Kusanku and Bassai.









Bassai (Dai and Sho)

Kusanku (Dai and Sho)

Nepai (Nipaipo)


There are a number of other classical kata not included in the above but I don’t have a specific link to Mabuni. I would greatly appreciate others input, particularly with reference to linking the kata to Mabuni.


Kevin73's picture

Here is a list of ALL of Mabuni's kata that he put into Shito-Ryu.

hese are all the katas of Shitō-ryū and an orientative grade for each of them:

Basic Katas

  • Hiji-Ate Goho
  • Junino Kata
  • Daichi Dosa
  • Daini Dosa
  • Daisan Dosa
  • Daiyon Dosa
  • Heian Shodan (pinan sho-dan)
  • Heien Nidan (pinan ni-dan)
  • Heian Sandan (pinan san-dan)
  • Heien Yondan (pinan yon-dan)
  • Heian Godan (pinan go-dan)
  • Myoju
  • Aoyagi/Seiryu
  • Juroku
  • Naifanchi shodan
  • Naifanchi nidan
  • Naifanchi sandan
  • Sanchin
  • Tensho (Rokushu)

1st Dan

  • Bassai sho
  • Bassai dai
  • Niseishi
  • Wanshu

2nd Dan

  • jiin
  • Jion
  • Jitte
  • Seienchin
  • Seisan
  • Matsukaze/Wankan

3rd Dan

  • Seipai
  • Kosokun sho
  • Kosokun dai
  • Shiho Kosokun
  • Matsumura no Seisan
  • Matsumura no Rohai

4th Dan

  • Chintei
  • Soochin
  • Chinto
  • Sanseiru
  • Tomari no Wanshu
  • Shimpa

5th Dan

  • Annan
  • Shisoochin
  • Unsu
  • Kururunfa
  • Tomari no Bassai
  • Paiku

6th Dan

  • Gojushiho
  • Heiku
  • Nipaipo
  • Haffa
  • Hakkaku
  • Papuren
  • Ishime no Pasaï

7th Dan

  • Suparimpei
  • Chatanyara no Kusanku
  • Tomari no Chinto
  • Tomari no Pasaï
  • Shinsei ich
  • Shinsei ni
  • Sooshin
  • Annanko

8th Dan

  • Tomari no wanshu
  • Oya domari basai
  • Kian Chinto
  • itosu no rohai shodan
  • itosu no rohai nidan
  • itosu no rohai sandan
  • Kaishu Naifanshin
  • Kaishu Sanshin
  • Häu~fa


One can only guess what he considered the "30 advanced kata".  I would say looking at the list, looking at the katas that are found in multiple styles like Naihanchi, Bassai, Seisan etc. and consider the foundational katas of the Shuri and Naha styles since he sought to incorporate both into one style.

Chikara Andrew
Chikara Andrew's picture

Thanks Kevin

Do you have a reference for that list? It looks far more comprehensive than the Shito-Ryu kata lists I have been looking at. I'm a Shukokai practictioner however as a branch of Shito-Ryu we still use their kata lists for syllabus and competition.

I get from that list a total of 52 advanced kata, although as I mentioned in my original post there are a lot of derivitives, I get 4 Rohai, 5 Bassai/Passai, 4 Kosokun/Kushanku.

Interestingly the Pinan are included in the "Basic" list above so that confirms my thought that these are not included in Mabuni's 30 advanced kata.

I note that Jiin, Jitte and Jion are in there, I understand that these originated in Tomari but have a connection/influence/modification by Itosu, so it would be fair to say that Mabuni got these kata from Itosu and could therefore be included in the 30.


Chikara Andrew
Chikara Andrew's picture

I have moved a step closer, possibly as close I am I likely to get, by finding a link to a Shito-Ryu kata list published by Mabuni in 1938, so only 4 years after the publication of Karate Kempo: The Art of Self Defense.

The list appears on the site of Andreas Quast within a wider article about Mabuni which can be found here http://ryukyu-bugei.com/?p=5404#_ftnref14

This lists 33 Kata however if we remove Sanchin and Tensho and the 5 Pinans as Basic Kata then we are left with 26.

However this list is also caveated with the following statement:

“Adding other kinds of kata the number increases. In the Aragaki-ha there are such kata as NīsēshiUnshu, and Sōchin. … Of Sēsan there are five or six kinds all together in Naha and Shuri. As for Gojūshiho and others there are also some differences in the Itosu-ha and the Matsumura-ha.”

Sochin already appears in that list but if we include Niseishi and Unsu then we are up to 28 Advanced Kata. I had previously mentioned Nipaipo (derived from Nepai) and interestingly this is not included, Mabuni learnt Nepai from Go Kenki in the 1920’s, so 29?

I note that he includes Shiho Koshokun which as someone on this site pointed out was developed by Mabuni to allow its practice in his very small dojo is Osaka. So back to 28?

Maybe there is no clear answer, I just thought it was a very profound statement included as a very throwaway comment in the middle of the book. Mabuni was considered to have encyclopaedic knowledge of the Kata of Karate taken influence from the three major districts, Naha, Shuri and Tomari (I don’t refer to them as branches of Te as I consider this to be modern(ish) revisionism) and albeit allowing for translation it doesn’t say about or around 30, it just says 30.