A kata is a series of basic techniques simulating a fight against one or more imaginary opponents. During a kata the moves are used to defend against an attack using blocks, strikes, throws and other techniques. There are features specific to Shotokan kata and that are considered during both competition and grading. Including but not limited to:
Proper sequence of movement
All kata start and end on the same spot.
Timing is important - the hand and feet must land together.
Smooth movement of feet
Demonstration of the difference between: hard/soft; fast/slow; contraction/expansion
Correct eye direction
Fighting spirit and effort
Demonstrating the meaning of the techniques
Most katas have 2 kiai points. There are 25 kata in the JKA prescribed list. Kata’s 1-6 (Heian 1-5 and Tekki Shodan) are called Sentei kata and are taught to beginners up to purple belt. Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Empi, Jion and Hangetsu make up the Shitei kata and are the basic black belt katas, A Tokui kata (favourite kata) is selected from the rest of the kata.