Kata ( 形 ) means: shape, form and pattern
Kata is a Japanese word describing detailed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs. Each is a complete fighting system, with the movements and postures of the kata being a living reference guide to the correct form and structure of the techniques used within that system.
Kata is often described as a set sequence of karate moves organized into a pre-arranged fight against imaginary opponents. The kata consists of kicks, punches, sweeps, strikes and blocks. Body movement in various kata includes stepping, twisting, turning, dropping to the ground, and jumping. In Shotokan, kata is a performance or a demonstration, with every technique potentially a killing blow (Ikken Hisatsu)—while paying particular attention to form and timing (rhythm). As the karateka grows older, more emphasis is placed on the health benefits of practicing kata, promoting fitness while keeping the body soft, supple, and agile. The kata are executed as a specified series of approximately 20 to 70 moves, generally with stepping and turning, while attempting to maintain perfect form.
In kata the blocking movements are often performed while moving forward, which wouldn't be practical during the Bunkai. These blocking movements would be performed during a Tai sabaki (体捌き), stepping-back action, where the opponent's attack would be avoided and the block would be a mere cover.
The practitioner is counseled to visualize the enemy attacks and their responses as actually occurring, and karateka are often told to "read" a kata to explain the imagined events. The study of the meaning of the movements is referred to as the "Bunkai", meaning “analysis of the kata” or "application of the kata".
After learning kata, learned skills can then be used in a sparring. The main objective of performing kata is to try out different combinations of techniques in a safe, practice environment to ultimately find out how to defeat your opponent.
Here is a list of 26 katas of Shotokan Karate-Do International Federation:
(Click on each kata for details)