Many martial arts embody Kata within their discipline. For some, Karate as an example, Kata is often all that a student will see. Within Judo however, which is as much a sport as a martial art, it sits firmly as one of the three primary pillars (the other two being Uchikomi and Shiai). Nowadays though, Kata is much neglected. Most Judoka only turn to Kata as a forced necessity in order to obtain a required grade and do not put much effort into further practice beyond that. This is a shame.
It is the forced choreography that embodies Kata that provides the main benefit. Through the repetition of a technique in a very proscribed way one aims to perfect each technique and through that aim, to focus their Judo on the core precept of 'maximum efficiency, minimum effort' where technique, balance, speed and timing overcome brute strength.
The above is all very well in Nage no Kata and Katame no Kata (the first two in the list below) but there are a further fifteen Kata listed. Three of them are the Kata of Counters and for these, the above applies at least equally. In order to be successful in applying a counter to a throw (at full speed) one must possess good timing and an understanding of Kuzushi (balance). The technique not only has to be properly applied but also instinctively otherwise the 'moment' will be missed. Unfortunately, these three Kata's are hardly known amongst club Judoka and their practice is limited. This is also a shame.
Of the remaining twelve Kata, several relate to self-defence and so whilst having little application to sport Judo, do clearly hark back to the days of Ju Jitsu and Judo as a martial art. Their purpose is clear as part of history (as attacks by swords are not common now) but also include useful lessons for today which make Judo at least as relevant for the street as any other martial art. The other Kata's demonstrate the correct application of force, balance and other desirable qualities such as exercise.
To ignore Kata is to ignore the soul of Judo. Kano's philosophy was clear on this. Judo was designed to encompass ones whole life and without a soul, one ends up as just a shell. It is with this in mind that the list below is designed to be as complete as possible. Further information is provided where relevant and this will be updated as it becomes available.
Nage no Kata
This is the first kata that a student learns. It consists of five sets of three throws each which are demonstrated both left and right handed.
The first set are hand techniques. The second set hip throws. The third set are leg techniques with the fourth being front sacrifice throws. The final set are side sacrifice throws.
Throughout the kata one can see how a threat (for example a blow to the head) develops so that as the aggressor 'learns' the defenders action the defender moves onto another techniques to defeat the attack.
Kodokan Demonstration Video
Katame no Kata
This is the groundwork kata. There are fifteen techniques split into three sets of five each. The first set are hold downs with the second set strangles and chokes. The final set are arm-locks with the very final technique including a leg-lock (which is banned from contest).
The kata demonstrates the techniques with genuine attempts at escape and how these are dealt with. In so doing it emphasises the importance of fluidity in Judo. One must not be 'stuck' in the one technique but be prepared to adapt and change as circumstances dictate.
Kodokan Kata Tournament 2007
Ju no Kata
This is often called the 'Kata of Gentleness'. The reality is that in order to demonstrate the correct amount of control, a lot of hard work is required. It consists of three sets of five techniques which show different attacks and defences demonstrating the efficient redirection of force and movement.
This demonstraton is by Bob Cleevely and Zolly Borzak at the European Kata Championship.
European Kata Championship 2010
Kime no Kata
Translated as the 'Forms of Decison' this is the traditional Kodokan judo self-defence kata. Standing and kneeling defences are demonstrated. The purpose of the kneeling techniques dates back to ancient Japan where one would kneel at a low table whilst entertaining. Included are defences against empty handed, knife and sword attacks using strikes, chokes, joint locks and throws.
Kodakan Training Video
Kodokan Goshin Jitsu
Kodokan self defence kata. This demonstrates a modern version of the Includes defence against empty hand, knife, stick (jo), and pistol attacks using strikes, joint locks and throws.
Kodakan Training Video
Itsutsu no Kata
The kata of five forms. Professor Kano died before giving names to the techniques seen here. The primary purpose is the demonstration of 'tai-sabaki'. As such, it shows the key Judo principle of 'maximum efficiency' but is also meant to be evocative of the movement of nature. The video to the right is from a 2008 Kata competition.
For comparison, as a historical record, you can see Mifune perform the same here.
Kodokan Kata Competition
Koshiki no Kata
This kata dates back to Kito-ryu jujitsu, before Judo was formed by Kano. Its purpose is to show the techniques of kumiuchi or fighting while wearing heavy armour.
Whilst is not directly relevant to modern Judo, it remains as the final Kodokan Kata in order to demonstrate the principles and techniques of Judo.
A version where the protaganists wear traditional armour is included here.
Kodakan Training Video
Gonosen no Kata
This is not a recognised Kodokan Kata but was developed by Mikonosuke Kawaishi. It is called the 'Kata of Counters' but in actuality, there are several such counters as can be seen below.
Demonstrated are a number of techniques first shown as a pure technique and then again with the appropriate counter defeating it.
Kaeshi no Kata
This alternative kata of counters was developed by Yukio Tani who taught in Great Britain in the early part of the 20th century.
It was passed onto Masutaro Otrani, one of the founders of the BJC.
It consists of ten techniques and the counters to them.
Nage-Ura no Kata
This is a different set of counters that was developed into a Kata by Kyuzo Mifune 10th Dan, the God of Judo.
It is appropriate to show the Kata as performed by him. But it should be mentioned that some of the techniques (Kata Guruma to Tomoe Nage) would probably be very hard for anyone other than Mifune to pull off.
The same Kata as on the right is also available here with some slow motion added so that you can better see how the techniques are performed.A third (more modern) version is available here as the video is clearer.
Mifune - Kodokan
Seiiryoku Zenyo Kokumin Taiku
Developed in 1924 as a means of physical education which is both useful for warm-up and cool-down in Judo. It is sometimes called the 'national exercise' where 'national' obviously refers to Japan.
It consists of two groups of exercises where all but one have a direct application in self-defence. It should be performed with full energy in each blow and at a brisk speed.
Kodokan Joshi Judo Goshinho
The Kodokan’s women's judo self defence kata was developed in 1943 by Jiro Nango, Kano's nephew. It consists of techniques that were considered be suitable to train women for the purpose of their self-defence.
The kata demonstrates a number of attacks that are to be expected on 'the street' and the defences thereof. There is some concern that this video does not fully demonstrate the kata as the number of moves does not match those listed here.
The kata of arresting techniques. These were developed for the Tokyo police department after Judo proved superior to Ju Jitsu in 1886. These techniques are used to control a non-compliant person placed under arrest.
Sometimes called the 'kata of decision'. This kata demonstrates the use of body movement in responding to attacks including both kneeling and standing defences against empty hand, knife and sword attacks. In this it is similar to Kime no Kata.
The accompanying video is the only reference found. Whilst the techniques match the description of the kata found here, the demonstration may not be correct.
Nagaoka Hidekazu & Samura Kaichiro*
Shobu no Kata
The kata of attack or contest. Although there is reference to this as a separate kata no further detail has been found. Other references refer to this as the previous name for Kime no Kata (above). It is likely that this is the case. The two best references are here and here.
Unable to locate a video
Go no Kata
The kata of 'Hardness' or 'Strength' was first developed at the Kodokan in 1887 but at the time, according to Professor Toshiro Daigo, it was considered inadequate and Kano was not pleased with its ten techniques.
So the kata was left whilst the powers that be 'thought it over' and as it appears that not that much thought went into it, was dropped and is not now considered to be an 'official' Kodokan Kata. It is sometimes referred to as the 'lost' kata.
During WW2, Mifune did do some work on this kata, but this has only served to add to the general confusion regarding it. It is hardly taught or practised today.
Hikomi no Kata
This is an 'un-official' kata that appears to have been developed in Europe. It has some popularity in Holland and Austria. The video is not a demonstration of the full kata from beginning to end but edited 'highlights'. It is included here more for the purpose of 'completeness'.
* Unable to confirm that video represents a correct demonstration of the appropriate kata.