The WKF Shitei Kata Are Finally Removed (+ Historical Bonus Material!)

By Jesse | 47 Comments

Note! This article consists of two parts: First I break the crazy news that the standardized shitei kata are finally going to disappear from the WKF Karate tournament scene, and then in the second part I reveal an exclusive translation of a never-before-seen exchange of two cool historical letters between one of the most influential Karate masters of Okinawa and the Japan Karate Federation. Read the first part if you’re interested in Sport Karate, the second part if you’re interested in the cultural history of Karate, and both parts if you’re a Karate Nerd™.

Here we go:

1: The Shitei Kata Are Finally Removed

Here’s a challenge:

Imagine for a sec that you were one of the brave Karate pioneers who set sail from Okinawa during the beginning of the 20th century with the grand vision of spreading your beloved native martial art to the rest of the world.

Easy?

That’s exactly what eight remarkable Karate teachers (Gima Shinken, Motobu Choki, Funakoshi Gichin, Chitose Tsuyoshi, Miyagi Chojun, Mabuni Kenwa, Uechi Kambun and Toyama Kanken) did, during the years between 1921 and 1933, as they travelled from Okinawa to mainland Japan to promote Karate.

As history tells us; after these guys arrived in Japan, in 1933, the Dai Nippon Butokukai (Japanese Martial Arts Federation) forced them to change Karate in several ways; like wearing the gi/obi, adopting the grading (dan/kyu) system, changing the name to Karate-do, systematizing terms and titles, as well as establish a rule-bound competitive format through which to test one’s technique and fighting spirit (later divided into kata and kumite) which eventually led to the creation of modern Karate. This is basic history which I presume you all know.

Naturally, then, every aspect of this modern Karate had to gradually develop even more to further standardize and globalize Karate; resulting in many big federations and associations being formed here and there.

One of those was the JKF – Japan Karate Federation – the official #1 governing body of Karate in Japan.

Ever heard of it?

The JKF has always been, and still is, the most influential factor when it comes to deciding how, why, when and where Karate is to be enjoyed by the Japanese people (and to some extent the rest of the world).

And one of proudest inventions of the JKF is the “shitei” kata. 

(Repeat after me: “shee-tay”)

The shitei kata, which literally translates to ‘specified form’, denotes a certain, specified, standard kata that every contestant in an officially sanctioned WKF/JKF tournament – no matter where in the world – needs to perform in the opening round(s) to qualify for the rest of the tournament. Obviously, these kata need to be performed in a pre-described way, and don’t really allow for any significant personal variation in technique, rhythm, stances, tempo and so on.

Here’s an example of multiple-times world champion Luca Valdesi from Italy performing the shitei kata Kanku Dai:

The shitei kata are divided into four sets, based on the four major styles of Japanese Karate:

  • Seienchin & Bassai Dai (Shito-ryu)
  • Jion & Kanku Dai (Shotokan)
  • Saifa & Seipai (Goju-ryu)
  • Seishan & Chinto (Wado-ryu)

Now, what happens if you don’t practise any of these four styles? What if you’ve never heard of these kata before? What if you haven’t even seen them?!

Does that mean you… can’t compete?

Yup.

That’s right.

At least not in any big (official) tournament sanctioned by the WKF, JKF or other related federations.

So naturally then, the shitei kata have always been a major pain in the ass for most regular people – not to mention judges, coaches and trainers who need to constantly memorize the intricacies of these standardized kata.

I mean, sure, you could theoretically just buy the shitei kata books or DVDs, or go to expensive seminars or judges courses, but should that really be necessary just to test your kata skills in a simple Karate tournament?

Well, up until now it was.

But here’s the kicker:

THE SHITEI KATA ARE GONE.

It’s true.

Finito. Sayonara.

The end.

Although the JKF tried desperately to hold on to their precious mandatory kata (like by introducing eight more shitei kata exclusively in Japan, collectively referred to as “Shitei Kata Dai Ni”), as of January 2013 the shitei kata are officially removed from the new WKF kata rules and will hopefully never resurface again on this earth.

Let me repeat that:

The shitei kata are GONE.

Meaning; you are now finally free to artistically express your own individual Karate – as long as you adhere to your dojo’s interpretation of the correct traditional kata of Karate.

To me, this is one step closer to bridging the gap between martial and art.

This year’s WKF World Karate Championships, held in Paris, November 2012, will be the last one where the standardized shitei kata are required by the competitors.

After that it’s 100% tokui (free choice) kata for everyone, every round.

As far as I know, this hasn’t been publicized anywhere before. But it’s happening.

I urge you to send this article now to anyone you know that competes/judges/follows Sport Karate to break these awesome news.

Because, truth be told, this opens up a whole new world for kata competition.

2: Historical Bonus Material: The Okinawan Karate Federation Openly Criticizes JKF’s Shitei Kata

Now, over to something more interesting (still related to the soon-to-be-gone shitei kata) for you history buffs out there:

When my German friend Andreas Quast visited his late sensei, soke Nagamine Takayoshi (1945-2012) at his house and dojo in Kumoji in Naha, Okinawa, on a sunny day in 2011, he received a very special document as a gift (with the caveat that he had to translate it for the rest of the world). The document was a copy of a 1982 letter written by Takayoshi’s father, the legendary Karate master Nagamine Shoshin (who at the time was the president of the Okinawa Karate Federation), to Takaki Fusajiro of the JKF – along with another letter with Mr. Takaki’s reply from January 1983 to Nagamine sensei.

The contents of these exclusive letters reveal that there was a dispute over the selection of the original shitei kata already at that time… a feeling that has lingered on till this day, as the rest of the Karate world gradually moves away from its traditional Okinawan roots.

See for yourself:

Nagamine Shoshin’s Letter to the JKF about the Shitei Kata

To: Zen Nihon Karate-do Renmei (= JKF), Takagi Fusajiro, Managing Director.

From: Okinawa-ken Karate-do Renmei (Okinawa Karate Federation), Nagamine Shoshin, President.

Date: November 1st, 1982

“Regarding the shitei kata (designated kata) of Karate-do at the National Athletic Meet.

At the 36th National Athletic Meet held in Shiga Prefecture last year (1981), the JKF for the first time carried out competition in the kata of Karate-do. For this purpose a total of 8 kata were designated as shitei kata by the JKF; namely Bassai Dai, Chinto, Kanku Dai and Jion from the Shuri-te system, and Seishan, Seinchin, Seipai and Saifa from the Naha-te system.

At this year’s National Athletic Meet, however, we received a great shock.

These appointed shitei kata were not only borrowed from us, but were also in a completely miserable condition!

We, the members of the Okinawa Karate Federation, are unable to be satisfied with this decision and are having difficulties in understanding the situation. Thus, we now offer a full report of our opinion. Candidly discussed among the board of directors of the Okinawa Karate Federation, we hereby sincerely request your organization’s careful handling and consideration for improving this matter, with no preconceived notions.

Okinawa is the birthplace of Karate. Therefore we, the Okinawan people, are proud of, and responsible for, maintaining the pure traditional kata and handing them down as such to our posterity. However, we are aware of the present trend in which Karate has been regarded as a kind of sport for competition to some extent, and we are not reluctant in supporting this contemporary demand. We also want to clarify that we are not assuming an air of importance because of our long tradition, or the fact that Okinawa was the cradle of Karate. Our only wish is that your organization, the JKF, should pay more attention in selecting a reasonable method in the transition of Karate from a martial art to a sporting event.

Going back in history, we can look at the the Dai Nippon Butokukai [Japanese Martial Arts Federation] which was established in 1895 in order to modify the ancient Japanese martial arts into the modern-day Budo sports of Judo and Kendo, respectively. Not longer limiting their practise and subsequent mastering to the samurai class, these lethal techniques were made accessible to regular people. Ever since these days, the traditional Japanese martial arts became one of the three pillars of national education (moral education, intellectual training and physical education) in Japan.

Along with this development, refined kata of modern Judo and Kendo were born in 1906 and 1911 respectively, paving the way for further development in this new era.

However, the completion of these kata for Judo and Kendo required a time of 14-15 years. After long debate and occasionally tumultuous discussion among some 40 or 50 great masters representing the different Koryu Bujutsu (antique martial styles) of Japan who took part in the planning and extracting their piled up wisdom, these ultimate forms were finally devised. The details of which were decided by public opinion in a fair and democratic setting.

But, although already thirty-odd years have passed since the adoption of Karate sparring for competition (kumite), several revisions of the rules for Karate have come and gone. Still to this day no unified rules have been established and/or sanctioned by all! Moreover, for the competition of kata, the wisdom of the many masters of Okinawa has not been sought after (similar to Judo or Kendo), but rather it has been decided upon these borrowed shitei kata – which really is a flaw in the JKF’s authority, isn’t it?

They say, “better late than never”, so we once more earnestly beg the JKF to look back on the historical facts, drawing a parallel to the modernization of the ancient styles of Jujutsu and Kenjutsu into today’s Judo and Kendo. In the same manner, rather than to keep acknowledging the various offensive and defensive techniques of sport kumite only, we hope you can restore the fundamental kata of Okinawa too, so that Karate enthusiasts from all over the world, without exception and under equal conditions, may willingly participate in the nonpartisan and impartial kata competition.

To recapitulate our request to the JKF: We earnestly advise that you not only use the names of kata originating in Okinawa, but also the physical kata themselves as currently practiced in Okinawa, for future Karate competitions throughout Japan. By giving effect to the above mentioned ideas, we are confident that the interchange of ancient Okinawan kata with the new mainland kata of JKF will be realized, resulting in the “development of new ideas based on study of the past” [here Nagamine sensei uses the famous proverb "On-Ko-Chi-Shin"], the fruition of perfectly blending old and new techniques of Japanese Karate.”

Signed:

Adviser: Uehara Seikichi

Adviser: Higa Yuchoku

Adviser: Takamine Choboku

 Vice-president: Miyahira Katsuya

Vice-president: Arakaki Seiki

Vice-president: Iraha Choketsu

Chairman of the board: Miyazato Ei’ichi

Board member: Nagamine Tadayoshi

Board member: Higa Seikichi

Board member: Akamine Eisuke

Board member: Shimabukuro Zenpo

Board member: Uehara Ko

Board member: Shimabukuro Eizo

Board member: Shiroma Seihan

Board member: Kise Fusei

Board member: Bise Joman

Board member: Shimabukuro Kichiro

Board member: Irei Takeshi

Board member: Sakumoto Tsuguo

Board member: Inamine Seijin

Board member: Kaneshi Eiko

  _____________

Wow, right?

Awesome letter. You can almost literally touch the feelings behind the writing. And the signatures read like a Who’s Who of Okinawan Karate.

Powerful stuff indeed.

Now, here’s what the Japan Karate Federation answered:

JKF’s Reply to the Okinawa Karate Federation, January 1983

To: Nagamine Shoshin, President of the Okinawa-ken Karate-do Renmei (Okinawa Karate Federation).

From: Fusajiro Takaki, General Manager, Central Technical Division of the Japan Karate Federation.

Date: January 10th, 1983

“Re: Your opinion on the designation of shitei kata.

The standing committee meeting of the Central Technical Division of the JKF was held on December 11th to discuss the matters presented in your November 1st letter of opinion. The following is the official answer of the organization:

Concerning the existing designated shitei kata, they are the product of hard work among the members of JKF and adopted not only for the domestic events such as the National Athletic Meet, but also for international meets.

JKF is not of the opinion that the present methods are the best ones, and we are considering that your views might be adopted in future tournaments. However, in promoting National Athletic Meets as one way of competition, we are determined to continue to use the present kata, while maintaining the kumite as it is practised today.

Therefore, we intend to have a discussion with you in the future for a satisfactory solution of the problem.”

 _____________

Dude…

Imagine being on the board of the Okinawa Karate Federation, getting this “reply” two months after the first letter.

I would be pissed off!

Nagamine sensei’s own comment to the above reply, when asked in 1991, was that “the letter said that the JKF will have a discussion for a satisfactory solution of the matter, but nine years have already passed. Ever since that reply, not a word has been heard. This discredits the authority of the JKF, who is responsible for the unification of the global Karate kata. Again I repeat the phrase “better late than never”. I am still looking forward to a quick correction on the part of the JKF.”

Well, correction is here.

Because the shitei kata are soon gone.

For better or worse?

Time will tell.

And that’s all I had to share with you guys today.

Hope you enjoyed it.

About the author

is a self-titled Karate Nerd™, best-selling martial arts writer, unreasonably handsome elite athlete, autodidact, karatepreneur and carrot cake aficionado. He really thinks you should become a Karate Nerd™ too.

47 Comments

  1. Jesse

    August 1, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    /// End Note: The Okinawa Karate Federation (Okinawa-ken Karate-do Renmei) was founded in 1967 as the sole united Karate organization of Okinawa, with Nagamine Shoshin sensei as its 1st president. In 1987 the National Athletics Meet was held in Okinawa, and many groups suddenly split from the Okinawa Karate Federation when they saw the state of Sport Karate. Only recently have there been made new efforts to unite the Okinawan Karate landscape, for example by founding the Okinawa Dento Karate-do Shinkokai, with the governor of Okinawa Nakaima Hirokazu himself as its president. ///

    • Jesse

      August 1, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      Also, big up again to my homie Andi for helping me get this awesome historical bonus content out here. Check out his personal site here: http://ryukyu-bugei.com/

  2. Tashi

    August 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Jesse-san, are shitei kata really gone? Where did you get this fantastic news?

    • Jesse

      August 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm

      Tashi-san - let’s just say I’ve got contacts. ;)
      However, I think most people will be even more thrilled about the OTHER changes in the new rules…

      • Tashi

        August 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm

        Whoa! You are great, Jesse-san, this is the reason why you’re the King of Karate Nerd!! Thanks a lot!

  3. Dave Oddy

    August 1, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    WHOOP! WHOOP!! WHOOP!!!

  4. Boban Alempijevic

    August 1, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Holy…. Jesse-San… Me Bows for the great news.

    Yeah, I think that the board members of the Okinawan Karate Federation just MIGHT have gotten slightly annoyed.. I know I would.

    PS! Your contacts are AWESOME! :D

  5. Jeffrey K. Mann

    August 1, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Senor Jesse-san,

    Thanks for posting this information!

    In regard to shitei-kata, they seem to have held two roles: 1. determining which kata can be performed. 2. how they are to be performed. Will this policy allow people to perform any kata in any way they would like? While I like the idea of people being permitted to perform a kata with Okinawan timing, emphasis, muchimi, and technique,doesn’t this open up the possibility of things going the XMA route?

    Thanks.

    -Jeff

    • sean77

      August 7, 2012 at 10:28 pm

      Not necessarily, depending how many branches of karate will be recognized. Up until the big change, only two kata from each of the four major branches were recognized. It could be that more branches will be recognized like kyokushin, uechi-ryu, matsbayashi-ryu, etc., and you could do any karate from those branches. I doubt they would let an XMA’er in the door, at least I hope not…

      • Jesse

        August 8, 2012 at 1:50 am

        Indeed, the new rules actually include Kyokushin, Isshin-ryu, Uechi-ryu and most other Japanese Karate styles officially recognized by the Rengokai. Now WKF Karate tournaments are for (almost) EVERYONE! :)

        • Kai-ru

          November 13, 2012 at 4:52 am

          The new rules will incorporate Kyokushin kata. This was very surprising to me. What about off shoots of kyokushin? Seidokaikan, Ashihara, Enshin etc. The Seidokaikan Kata are more recognizable but Ashihara and Enshin would really be stirring the pot.

          If the WKF is looking to be more inclusive to the Kyokushin community will there be chance of holding knockdown tournaments open to members of the WKF or perhaps the development of a new fighting division?

  6. Chip Quimby

    August 1, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Again, that’s why THIS blog is THE go-to place for people who want the most out of every minute spent reading about karate/martial arts on the internet. The passion in those letter is palpable!

    But what great news!

    I think judging now in general is going to have to evolve to an entirely new level, especially when judges start seeing some of the kata out there that find themselves being performed in the final round of tournaments…and heaven forbid they don’t contain a reverse punch, lol.

    Thanks Jesse!

  7. jaybee

    August 1, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    I also hear they will be expanding the number of tokui katas to included other styles! Waiting in anticipation…….

  8. Tashi

    August 2, 2012 at 12:35 am

    In my opinion, the WKF should restart to use the judgments with points as it was before the 2000 (Karate is the only sport/art where the performance is assessed whit flags). Just watch a gymnastics tournament or an ice-skating competition…
    But I would like to read your opinion: what do you (Karate Nerds) think about my idea?

    • Dave Oddy

      August 2, 2012 at 12:58 am

      I disagree Tashi -- the flags are much better IMO for three reasons…

      1) They allow the judges to focus on comparing two athletes at a time, rather than tracking where everyone’s relative score is. Regardless of how systematized the point scoring determination is, scores can drift over the course of a division.

      2) Since each decision is independent of others, the flag system allows judges to be swapped out during the division -- this is not possible with number scoring. Swapping judges out allows judges to be removed when an athlete from their country is competing. A fresh judge can come in and have no bearing on the rest of the field.

      3) It forces athletes to perform in multiple rounds with multiple kata. Even though the old system had multiple rounds, the flag system gives it a bout-like feel, pitting two athletes against each other….

      Well -- that’s my $.02…

      • Tashi

        August 2, 2012 at 4:05 pm

        Thanks for your interesting reply. I would argue point by point:
        1) Judges should not focus on the contestants, they should simply examine the kata and give a rating from 1 to 10. The ranking will be made ??by judges at the table. I think it’s a fairly simple method and is used in all sports where individual performance is required (such as the kata, the floor exercise of gymnastics, etc.).
        2)The judges will be replaced after a certain number of performances (this happen in several Olympic sports with the points judgment).
        3) When the points judgment was in effect the athletes who had reached the finals had to do 4/5 kata, now the number can be up to 7 kata at category. This allows the athlete to focus his training on the 4/5 kata he “fit” better than other.
        If you think I’m wrong or I did not understand the question please tell me.

        Kata is not a direct comparison discipline as kumite, where the two karateka fight. The one who performs kata “competes” against the judge, as he must demonstrate to perform the kata better than anyone else in his category. Moreover the flags system is in effect only in Karate (Kata), while in the other sports whit individual performance (Olympics or/and not) require a judgment by points (ice-skating, horse riding, Rhythmic gymnastics, Artistic gymnastics, Synchronized swimming, Diving, etc). Why is Karate the only sport when the performance is judged whit flags?
        I think there’s a reason why in all of this sports (whit an individual performance) they have adopted a rating system whit points and not whit flags. My Sensei always says me: “There is a reason why Karate isn’t an Olympic Sport…”. I would like to read what you think about my reply Oddy-san (and and of course you too, Jesse-san!). I like these Karate conversations!!

        • Dave Oddy

          August 2, 2012 at 5:07 pm

          Tashi-san,

          Thanks for your reply… Again -- point by point…

          I’m only going to speak for the benefits to karate competition -- the other sports have their own reasons I’m sure…

          1) When judges focus on point scoring, scores can drift over the course of a division -- especially depending on relative quality of the immediately preceding performance. Using the flags isolates each decision to only two kata -- each decision is truly independent of the rest and not just “ideally independent.” It is MUCH easier as a judge to focus on only two kata at a time than to sit through a large field of athletes and try to keep the scores consistent. Yes this is something they should be trained to do, but the flag system adds a level of focus to their decisions. And by the way -- in the flag system, there are never ties -- another positive in my mind.

          2) Yes, judges CAN be replaced, but it adds another judge’s relative scoring bias into the entire field of competitors, rather than just the “bouts” in front of him. The general rule is NOT to replace judges when using the score system for exactly this reason. This leads to referee fatigue (poor decisions) and difficulty making sure a judge does not officiate a bout with an athlete from the same country. The flag system solves these problems very effectively and efficiently.

          3) On this point, I agree. I think that depth is more important that breadth in karate and studying seven kata deeply is not realistic. However, sport kata is much more superficial than applied traditional kata, so it doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem at elite levels. And at recreational levels, the field is small enough to limit the number of rounds to two or three anyway. However, mostly I agree with you on this point.

          Others…

          I actually think Kata is better served as direct competition like kumite. It brings an element of competitive strategy into the game where an athlete may choose kata based on their opponent -- or perhaps based on their next opponent. They may want to save their best kata in case they go up against the favorite, but then could risk falling out before they have chance to use it. This makes for a more complex competitive context. The head-to-head nature of the competition also adds an element of spectator excitement in an area of the sport which can otherwise be very boring for the layperson. I think that in general, head-to-head competition is a better context for sport.

          Why don’t other sports use this system? Who know… tradition? Difficulty in changing the format of an established sport? They just didn’t think of it? We all know that there are a million crazy reasons for crazy rules in sport. Not for me to say -- I have listed why I think it is good for karate….

          • Tashi

            August 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm

            Oddy-san, one more time I want to thank you for your willingness in reply me.
            On the 1st point I think you’re right, scores can drift over the course of a division and this is a problem that can be solved using flags. My senpai once told me jokingly one of his idea for kata competition: “Why don’t use the round system of kumite (one against one) but whit the score point? It would be more precise!” I don’t like so much this idea but I would like to listen your opinion.
            The 2nd point is a bit complicated, because in other sports this problem was solved (I don’t know/remember how but a friend of mine who competes in gymnastic once tell me about this issues’s solutions).
            I agree whit you when you say that kata requires competitive strategy when choosing next kata, etc. but this can also be applied in score competition(choosing kata by round) and of course this is a little different.
            When you write about the spectacular part of kata, I remember a book written by Tokitsu Kenji when he wrote that karate (and therefore kata) is changing since the competition are based on spectacular moves and choreographic actions that are not part of Karate. I know very well that competing in karate isn’t traditional karate and my previous quote wasn’t a reprimand, but it would be a cue for future discussions.
            Thanks a lot for your answers, Oddy-san.

  9. Diego Romero

    August 2, 2012 at 5:38 am

    *SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*

  10. Pimentel Gerardo

    August 2, 2012 at 6:37 am

    Very fit and healthy your historical contribution. Congratulations friend!!

  11. Steve Wilson

    August 2, 2012 at 6:41 am

    Well I think this is a good thing, as it assumes judges can decide what is good kata and within good kata is good technique.
    Wishy washy movements in kata look wishy washy, when you see seniors like Sensei George Andrews, who is a physically huge individual doing small movements they look “florid” and I’m hoping I’ll get there in about 20 years…. When they move though you can see the power and intent…..
    Here I think is what kata judging is all about, getting the feel for sink, spit, swallow, float -- fast and powerful in parts, soft and tender at times, mindfull of surroundings and devastatingly thorough in finishing techniques.
    I remember a competition a few years ago where I did Seiyunchin, slowly, strongly and controlled very GOJU. LOTS of Shicka Datchi. Then a guy from Wado-Ryu did it twice as fast and all Zenkutsa Datchi. Same kata, hugely different interpretation from the style not from the individual. Technically I thought I was better as it is a Goju kata, however his Wado Ryu version was so much faster I wondered how I could do better -- then I met Sensei George ;)
    Brian—-- I’ll have you next time :)
    I lost the plot a bit there
    My point was -- it’s how you do it, not the technicalities of exactly where the hands or feet are that matter. Sepai should look like Sepai, but whether that front foot is at 45 degrees or straight in “Po Stance” :)” or if that is bear claw to the groin or just a Gedan Barai / Harai shouldn’t matter if it’s done powerfully and with conviction.
    If it is, it’s a good kata, though of course what it really needs to back it up is good bunkai, which ever oyo works, as long as it’s oyo not oreo ;-)

    Is that my 2 or 3 cents worth?

  12. Zachary

    August 2, 2012 at 7:59 am

    Not like we didn’t know this was on the way, but so glad to hear a sort of confirmation of it!! Thanks Jesse!! As I’ve been told, a shorin kata list is to be included as well. Can’t wait to read WKF’s official announcement.

  13. Paul Anderson

    August 2, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Who cares?

    It’s still just line dancing whatever Kata is chosen.

  14. Szilard

    August 2, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    I have a bad feeling about this. I am sure the shitei system will be replaced by something even worse. JKF is a big organisation, and as such it is hard to believe they can change anything without making it worse than it was in the first place.

  15. Szilard

    August 2, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Do you have video of Luca Valdesi doing other shitei kata? It would be fun to watch him doing Wado Ryu stile. :)

  16. Sam

    August 2, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Good riddance. The so called Goju shitei kata were not done the way they are traditionally done in Goju. They were simply a set of poses. Basically they ripped the heart and soul out of the kata.

    There was a reason many senior Goju people called them the shitty kata. But we are so small compared to other groups, no one cared.

    Glad to see they are going the way of the dodo.

  17. Mike Ritter

    August 2, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    I have heard of meetings between the WKF and Okinawan this is very good news!

    Is this correct or a miss spelling of Sensei name
    Board member: Nagamine Tadayoshi
    Takayoshi???

    • Jesse

      August 2, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      That’s the way it reads! ;)

    • Andreas Quast

      August 3, 2012 at 1:22 am

      The name given is “Tadayoshi”. It’s one of the few unknown names in the list of the many directors. In any case, the late Takayoshi Sensei’s name is written in another way, so that both Kanji of the first-name would have been spelled wrong. Which can happen fast in Japanese. :)

      • Andreas Quast

        August 3, 2012 at 1:37 am

        One of the best things with the Shitei-gata is not only that one wrong thing had been corrected; also another wrong thing has been taken a shot at: the exploding amount of associations, which tend to split and spilt and split until every former member dojo has its own association, each of which of course claiming to own the true tradition. Nobody seems to be satisfied with “a” true way of Karate. This said, the opening up of individual traditional Kata – which is neither confined to race nor nationality nor geographic location – will open up the sports arena not only to an incredible amount of traditional Kata, but also to individual accomplishments, commitment, and passion, which in no way has the slightest thing to do with being a member of xyz-Renmei, or this-and-that-association, or naninani-kan, whom traditionally (!!!) put so much energy in impeding themselves as well as others by emphasizing politics and egos over advancement, you could easily have satisfied the power requirement of a small city by letting those dudes run a blade wheel instead.

  18. RANGA RAO

    August 3, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    This news was a good news for all original karate practioners who were practicing for some many long years and suddenly the change was contemplated and it was not uniformaly done for it was shown with lot of difference.
    so at last they have realised that leave the kata to the persons who made in their own original way.

  19. Miguel Ochoa

    August 4, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    Its a great opportunity for every kind of style of karate in future competitions, also the community of karate maybe support that in the future that karate may go to the olympics.
    I think that old master from Okiniwan are in agreement with this decision about shitei kata disappearing from future Karate events. It took a long time but finally it was removed and became justice. OSS!

  20. Luis

    August 5, 2012 at 7:39 am

    OHMYGOSHOMYGOSHOHMYGOSH….. I’m (can’t find the adjective) I’m always baffled about the changes my national federation does on Jion and Kanku Dai being shoto myself, some moves doesn’t seem to have a logic, lack something or I don’t know. This opens something even bigger than we can imagine.

  21. Peter Bernier

    August 6, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Very Exciting! Love reading a letter from history (esp with my grand master, Kise, was on the board) And quite frankly its really good news because I don’t do Bassai dai. I do Passai dai. My kata looks very little like the JKA’s kata. I do it the way master Soken did (Matsumura Seito). This free’s me and many other people to not have to learn both their system’s katas and the “JKA”.
    Thanks Jesse-san

  22. Dr.T.Mohan Raja

    August 15, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Congrats Jesse san for passing the info. Removal of Shitei katas are “Good riddance of a bad choice/decision” of introducing katas arbitrally favoring the mainland Japan styles thus eclipsing the original okinawan one’s. Giving prominence to only select styles is uncalled for.
    Thanks once again for the info.

  23. Fatih Ince

    September 3, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Hi Jesse-San,
    I am seeking your permission to use your text either directly, or as a reference for my original writing on the subject. I’d like to include your materials in this article: The WKF Shitei Kata Are Finally Removed (+ Historical Bonus Material!)

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Thanks,
    Fatih Ince
    Chief Instructor

  24. Charlie Lee

    October 31, 2012 at 2:22 am

    Hi there,

    I knew just before Summer. Good news for all of us. I trained (hard) some of them. I never liked them.

    Regards from Spain

  25. Chuck Johnson

    December 6, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Jesse,
    I am glad the mandetory kata are gone. But I have one concern as to judging. How will they decide what is an allowed, traditional kata? We all know what the katas from Okinawa and Japan should look like, but what happens when someone adds an “Unsu” jump, double side kick and flying kick to kanku sho and says “thats how my dojo does it”? If this competetor wins then everyone will feel the need to tinker with their kata to be sucessful.

    I bring this up because I competed in the 1980′s in American “open” tournaments where karate, taekwondo and kungfu competed together with judges being from any system. If your form didn’t have a split or back flip it was hard to win. I was so happy when I found USANKF tournaments where I could actually do traditional kata and be judged by experienced Sensei.
    Chuck
    St. Louis, MO
    USA

  26. kata matsumura bassai videos

    December 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Dear sir send me videos of kata matsumura bassai in my e-mail account and web site which is mention above.
    Thanking you.

  27. VIC ARNOLD

    February 26, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    I see a small problem here due to the universal lack of understanding bunkai.If a movement is altered without the participants understanding of it’s practicalitys is that practicality lost.?Mind you a lot of people don’t see much practical use for kata so it wouldn’t make any difference to them anyway.
    Another consideration .Is free choice going to become interpreted as free style where we see something called KANKU DAI done to music with flying side kicks and spinning hook kicks every 2nd or 3rd movement?
    I favor and support free choice without it (it’s always been present) ryu like shotokan goju wado kai etc. etc. etc. wouldn’t exist .

    • Dave Oddy

      February 26, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      Vic,

      I guess the current and very “theatrical” bunkai component of synchronized kata already shows a total lack of understanding for kata movements and the realistic confrontation for which karate developed. Water under the bridge in my opinion, since shiteigata had already pretty much killed the nuance of kata that allowed for realistic bunkai in favor of standardized aesthetic performance value.

      My own opinion is that while shiteigata may be gone, the aesthetics which referees have been conditioned to appreciate over decades JKF influenced karate will live on for some time. While this (hopefully) means that pure XMA flavored theatrics will have a hard time finding their way into WKF competition kata, it also means that realistic and pragmatic kata without JKF flourish will probably also be undervalued in competition.

      Those are my $.02 for what they are worth!

      Dave

      • VIC ARNOLD

        February 27, 2013 at 2:39 am

        I don’t expect over night succes with this new direction but as judges and referees we can have some influence on the future but we have to get out and do it and make our opinion known loud and clear.
        Thank you for your response your views are always welcome.

  28. CaDs

    January 7, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Hi Jessie san, thanks for this great post.
    Any chance that Genseiryu katas will recognized within the new rules?

    Domo arigatou

  29. ronald gutierrez

    March 1, 2014 at 5:08 am

    Hello Jesse, do you have anything about shorin- ryu karate. I ‘ m somewhat frustrated that this style of karate isn’ t getting the recognition it rightly deserve. Also, isn’ t it that shorin ryu is one of the traditional style that came from okinawa from shuri- te if my information is correct. Lastly can you recomend a book or dvd regarding shorin ryu, it’ s kata and techniques.

  30. Fero Komora

    March 5, 2014 at 2:02 am

    Hi Jesse,

    Thank you for presenting this letters. They are explaining a lot and for me they are a confirmation of my feelings after lessons with our okinawa teachers.

    Many thanks

  31. Barretto

    April 1, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    When I first saw the WKF years ago I immediately wanted to compete in their tournaments. Unfortunately, Tang Soo Do is not considered karate [even though our main parent art is Shotokan], and thus not allowed to compete in the WKF or USANKF. We practice the same forms as those practiced in the Japanese and Okinawan systems; Pyong an (Pinan/Heian), Bassai, Nianchi (Naihanchi/Tekki), Chip Su (Jitte), Jion, Kong Sang Koon (Kusanku/Kanku Dai), Sei Shan (Seisan), Jin Do (Chinto/Gankaku), etc.

    Having competed throughout the 1990’s at open tournaments I noticed acrobatic moves originally contained to “open/musical/creative” forms divisions gradually being allowed in traditional divisions. And with each passing decade it’s gotten worse. ‘Traditional” forms divisions at open karate tournaments are a joke. Even a friend of mine who practices Shorin ryu cringes when he sees open tournament forms performances.

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