Introduction
Taigyoku Shodan is required for your orange belt. It's deceptively simple, but its very simplicity is what makes it so challenging to perform well because there are no dramatic or flashy manoeuvres to disguise any imperfections in your execution.

The English translation of its name is "First Cause, First Level" but we generally refer to it simply as "First Kata", except at tournament when you are expected to announce the kata that you will perform in Japanese - "Taigyoku Shodan!".

The kata was originally created by Shotokan founder, Gichin Funakoshi - the so-called "father" of modern karate. Whilst the arm movements are fairly practical to use in combat (though not necessarily as blocks), the stances are somewhat exaggerated to give them a calisthenic benefit. In real combat, the stances would be 25-50% shorter.

For gradings adults are expected to know the kata's basic pattern and footwork, but they are not expected to know it perfectly by any means. Since the kata has been moved from yellow belt to green belt for children (under 13s), there are no longer likely to be any concessions for age. Minor mistakes are acceptable in both adults and children.

As students attain higher grades, they will continue to be assessed on this kata and their performance takes on greater significance. Many senseis will tell you that a student passes or fails his black belt based upon the way he performs Taigyoku Shodan.

Stances
There are just two stances in Taigyoku Shodan, and you will be very familiar with them as they are basic stances that you practice in class every single week. Here's the stances you'll be required to use.

Heiko dachi Parallel stance
Zenkutsu dachi Forward stance

Strikes
There's just one strike in this kata. It's a stepping version of the chudan tsuki punch, performed using the rear hand.

Oi tsuki Stepping punch

Blocks
Again, there's just a single block in this kata, but it's repeated eight times.

Gedan barai Low level sweeping block

Sequence:- By the numbers
White and yellow belts should simply follow the labelled blue and grey rows. Comments for more advanced students are at the end. References to compass directions (north, south, east and west), do not refer literally to their real-world directions, rather they are relative to your starting position, which is always considered to be facing north.

Intro taikyoku shodan start

Start in ready stance facing north. Move your left leg in towards your right and bring your heels together. Place your hands by your sides. bow. Moving your left leg, return to ready stance.

1
Ichi
taikyoku shodan step 1 Look sharply to your left. Pivoting on your right foot, turn your body to your left, move your left foot to form zenkutsu dachi facing west. At the same time, sweep your left arm downwards, performing gedan barai.
2
Ni
taikyoku shodan step 2 Step forward with your right leg into zenkutsu dachi. At the same time, deliver a oi tsuki with your right arm, timed to strike just before your foot lands.
3
San
taikyoku shodan step 3 Look behind you over your right shoulder. Move your right foot back and place it on the floor two shoulder-widths behind and one shoulder-width to the south of your left foot. Turning to the right, rotate your body 180 degrees. As you rotate, perform a gedan barai using your right arm. You should end up in zenkutsu dachi facing east with your right leg forwards.
4
Shi
taikyoku shodan step 4 Step forward with your left leg into zenkutsu dachi. At the same time, deliver a oi tsuki using your left arm, timed to strike just before your foot lands.
5
Go
taikyoku shodan step 5 Look sharply to your left. Pivoting on your right foot, turn your body to your left, move your left foot to form zenkutsu dachifacing north. At the same time, sweep your left arm downwards, performing gedan barai.
6
Roku
taikyoku shodan step 6 Step forward with your right leg into zenkutsu dachiand deliver a oi tsuki with your right arm, timed to strike just before your foot lands.
7
Shichi
taikyoku shodan step 7 Step forward with your left leg into zenkutsu dachi and deliver a oi tsuki with your left arm, timed to strike just before your foot lands.
8
Hachi
taikyoku shodan step 8 Step forward with your right leg into zenkutsu dachi and deliver a oi tsuki with your right arm, timed to strike just before your foot lands. As the punch lands, kiai loudly.
9
Ku
taikyoku shodan step 9 Pivoting your body anti-clockwise on your right foot, move your left foot and place it on the floor two shoulder-widths to the east and one shoulder-width to the north of your right foot. As you turn, look over your left shoulder. Continue rotating your body until you are facing east in zenkutsu dachi. As you rotate, perform a gedan barai using your left arm. Finish with your body facing east.
10
Ju
taikyoku shodan step 10 Step forward with your right leg into zenkutsu dachi. At the same time, deliver a oi tsukiwith your right arm, timed to strike just before your foot lands.
1
Ichi
taikyoku shodan step 11 Look behind you over your right shoulder. Move your right foot back and place it on the floor two shoulder-widths behind, and one shoulder-width to the north of your left foot. Turning to your right, rotate your body 180 degrees. As you rotate, perform a gedan barai using your right arm. You should end up in zenkutsu dachi facing west with your right leg forwards.
2
Ni
taikyoku shodan step 12 Step forward with your left leg into zenkutsu dachi. At the same time, deliver a oi tsuki using your left arm, timed to strike just before your foot lands.
3
San
taikyoku shodan step 13 Look sharply to your left. Pivoting on your right foot, turn your body to your left and move your left foot to form zenkutsu dachi facing south. At the same time, sweep your left arm downwards, performing gedan barai. Finish with your body facing south.
4
Shi
taikyoku shodan step 14 Step forward with your right leg into zenkutsu dachi and deliver a oi tsuki with your right arm, timed to strike just before your foot lands.
5
Go
taikyoku shodan step 15 Step forward with your left leg into zenkutsu dachi and deliver a oi tsuki with your left arm, timed to strike just before your foot lands.
6
Roku
taikyoku shodan step 16 Step forward with your right leg into zenkutsu dachi and deliver a oi tsuki with your right arm, timed to strike just before your foot lands. As the punch lands, kiai loudly.
7
Shichi
taikyoku shodan step 17 Pivoting your body anti-clockwise on your right foot, move your left foot and place it on the floor two shoulder-widths to the west and one shoulder-width to the south of your right foot. As you turn, look over your left shoulder. Continue rotating your body until you are facing west in zenkutsu dachi. As you rotate, perform a gedan barai using your left arm. Finish with your body facing west.
8
Hachi
taikyoku shodan step 18 Step forward with your right leg into zenkutsu dachi. At the same time, deliver a oi tsuki with your right arm, timed to strike just before your foot lands.
9
Ku
taikyoku shodan step 19 Look behind you over your right shoulder. Move your right foot back and place it on the floor two shoulder-widths behind, and one shoulder-width to the south of your left foot. Turning to the right, rotate your body 180 degrees. As you rotate, perform a gedan barai using your right arm. You should end up in zenkutsu dachi facing east with your right leg forwards.
10
Ju
taikyoku shodan step 20 Step forward with your left leg into zenkutsu dachi. At the same time, deliver a oi tsuki using your left arm, timed to strike just before your foot lands.
End taikyoku shodan end

Look to your left. Turn your body to the left and stand in ready stance, moving your left foot back to stand beside your right, feet a shoulder-width apart. You should be facing north. Bring your heels together, moving your left foot alongside your right. Place your hands by your sides. bow. Move your left foot away and return to ready stance.

Advanced notes

You set the tone for your entire kata by the way that perform your opening bow, and set yourself in ready stance. Focus, then move from your bow to ready stance with tension and precision.

The first and last stance of any kata are the most crucial because they are the most visible. Ensure that you set yourself properly. Go through your check-list: hips straight or at 45 degrees, back leg locked, back foot at 45 degrees, front knee bent and pushed out, weight low, fist pulled back, etc.

Try to keep your height low as you perform your turns. Avoid leaning forwards to compensate.

You should concentrate on bringing your hips square as you punch.

Your gedan barai should reach its final position as your hips lock into position, deriving maximum power from the hip movement. This synchronisation will take practice.

Many students seem to forget where mid-level is when delivering the punches in this kata. Your arm should be slightly below horizontal.

The footwork on steps 5 and 3b can very easily look sloppy and there's no "official" way of doing them. They're best performed if you bring your left foot back in to your right, in a kind of diagonal cat stance, before stepping out into zenkutsu dachi.

As you progress through the grades, you will increasingly be judged on the power of your kata. Don't just go through the motions. Punch and kick as if you mean it.

As you step forwards, work hard on keeping your height low and consistent from one move to the next - no bobbing!

When you deliver anlunge punch, attempt to land it a fraction before your foot hits the floor, thus driving your entire body weight, momentum and hip movement through your fist.

Performing big turns like these, require good balance, which only comes with lots and lots and lots of practice...

When stepping forwards in zenkutsu dachi, remember that your moving foot slides, just above the floor, moving in an arc towards, then away from the static foot.

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