Monday 12 July 2021

Explanation of updated IKS Kata Requirements

Daily self training, July 12th - 2021.

 I have been asked about the kata requirements for those wishing to attain dan with 国際空手道松濤館 (International Karate Shotokan), based on a post earlier this month. It is a good question as our system is different.

I’ll briefly outline the IKS Kata Requirements here today (up to Godan), which were recently updated. Furthermore, I will conclude with an explanation why IKS is differs from other groups.



Other groups: In most Shotokan groups the candidate must select one kata from Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi or Jion; furthermore, one kata is randomly called by the examiners from any Heian or Tekki Shodan.


The IKS syllabus reflects Masters Funakoshi, Nakayama and Asai's life-works.

IKS: In IKS the candidate must select one kata Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi, Jion, Jitte, Gankaku or Hangetsu; also, one kata from any Heian or any Tekki. Note – we allow more options while, at the same time, more specialization. In sum, the Shodan examination allows the examinee to select what is best for them amongst the 15 kata established by Funakoshi Gichin Sensei.

弐段 (NIDAN)

Other groups: Other Shotokan organizations typically allow Nidan candidates to pick their favorite kata (from any kata above Heian and Tekki Shodan). Then the examinees randomly request one kata from Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi or Jion.


IKS: Again, IKS is different. While the first kata is the same as other organizations (covering the 26 Shotokan kata established by Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei) the second formal exercise is also free choice. However, we require it to be one from Tekki Shodan, Tekki Nidan, Tekki Sandan, Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi, Jion, Jitte, Gankaku or Hangetsu.




Other groups: The Sandan examination is one’s free choice Shotokan kata and often followed by a kata randomly called by the examiners. In my experience (under Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei) these kata typically include Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi, Jion, Jitte, Gankaku or Hangetsu.


IKS: In IKS the candidate must select their two favorite Shotokan kata and also one of the official koten-gata, from Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei. The candidate must also demonstrate 3-5 oyo-waza (applications) from one or a mix of these three kata.


Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei not only spread karate to the world, he was also a genius teacher.

·        The IKS kata requirements for the 四段 Yondan and 五段 Godan examinations are the same as the Sandan, but increasingly higher technical standards are necessary in order to pass.

So WHY does IKS have different kata requirements from other groups?



The first reason International Karate Shotokan has a different system is because it is a BUJUTSU FOCUSED group. That is, while some are serious competitors, the IKS syllabus is not for competition, it is for maximizing bujutsu skill via the grading system. Interestingly though, this actually gives an edge for competitors, and I believe, ‘will break the current stagnation’.



A unique point is that we have 27 Shotokan Kata and 38 Kata from Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei. These 65 kata are not just meaningless number; rather, it is number which gives our members more options to find the best kata for their physique, individual strengths and weaknesses, age, health, injuries and so on.


In addition to the five Heian and Tekki Shodan, one could go through the entire IKS syllabus with only three kata! At Dan level, three kata is all one needs to practice!!!



In this regard, the IKS syllabus has returned kata training to the ‘pre competition’ style of practice in which experts ‘specialized’ (as opposed to having shallow knowledge).  Of course, outside of one’s specialization—and as a coach—broad knowledge is also important and “fun”; nonetheless, in bujutsu karate depth of skill is the essence of karate. Accordingly, karate experts traditionally have one to three kata, which they can literally fight with. The IKS syllabus acutely follows this model.



In particular, I want to highlight a practice I faced as I went up the ranks, which I completely disagree with (and accentuates my previous point). That is, RANDOMLY SELECTED KATA BY THE EXAMINERS… This practice is like a memory test that promotes mediocre karate at best. What are they testing? Simply checking if one knows ‘stuff’? It actually amputates kata from fighting and promotes karateka to do kata which are not suitable for them.


I’m not saying not to learn all of the kata, and to train them all. But training is different from examinations. Black belt examinations are “ evaluate the karateka’s BEST karate, with the objective of establishing whether they have met the standards required for the next Dan”.

Accordingly, if we evaluate a random kata, most likely it will not be their best karate; therefore, we open the door for a potentially easier pass. In fact, from my experience, that’s what it always does! It gives a gateway—an excuse—to bolster scores for a passing grade.


Many people were shocked in Europe when they saw me fail examinees! I was shocked about that. Some karateka from a major organization said to me “we have never seen this before”. So, obviously, for some, the grading no longer has any meaning. IKS is all about strictness. It is not pass and fail, it is pass or not pass. No one fails as just by taking an exam the individual has put themselves on the line. That being said, to pass a person below standard is to make DAN meaningless; furthermore, damage karate as a whole.




Scenario One: Some older person who can’t kick above knee height being told to do Kanku Dai in their Nidan Exam. It is a ridiculous notion to make them do this, what relationship does this have to bujutsu?


Scenario Two: What about some extremely frail person being told to do, say, Jion. Would they use these types of waza/applications in a self-defense situation? Is this the fighting style they would use? Again, it is not only a pointless exercise, it’s a counterproductive one!



Now, by requiring the examinees to select what kata they will demonstrate ‘forces them to ascertain the best kata for themselves’… Otherwise, THEY WILL FAIL THE EXAMINATION! Therefore, in IKS Dan Exams they need to understand and be aware of themselves in their selection process. This is literally bujutsu when one must ask themselves “are the techniques in this particular kata optimal for my fighting skill, body type, physical attributes”, etc.


Moreover, over the years—as we inevitably change—we may also have to change kata. Therefore, the IKS kata grading requirements also requires FLUIDITY OF AWARENESS as opposed to being a static system. While a static system functions, it cannot function to allow the individual to optimize their potential. This underpins why International Karate Shotokan has this new system for the kata portion of Dan Examinations.

I hope this confirms why the 国際空手道松濤館 (IKS—International Karate Shotokan) has a different approach to kata. This way is by no means claiming superiority, however, it does aim to maximize each and every individual.

Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei not only refined Shotokan but revolutionized it. A return to karate as 'Bujutsu'.

Osu, André Bertel

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

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