The Heian family of Kata are practiced as the first set of Katas learnt in Shotokan Karate. The word “Heian” translates to “Peaceful Mind”. The Katas are named as Heian Shodan, Heian Nidan, Heian Sandan, Heian Yondan, and Heian Godan – totalling as 5 Heian Katas.
The words Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yondan, and Godan translate to First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth. The Heians are required to pass exams from Yellow to Blue as compulsory Katas, and for all further exams upon request of the examiner.
Sadly, many Karate-ka fail to train the Heians on a regular basis once they progess to more difficult Katas – the other 21 of 26 Katas in total. The beauty of JKA Shotokan Karate is the focus on basics, the return to what really matters – the core Kata and form needed to obtain inner peace, balance, strength, and posture. No matter what grade you are, be it a 7th dan Black Belt; the first Kata you will ever be asked to perform at any championship will undoubtedly be a Heian. No fancy moves, jumps , or difficult kicks.
That is true Karate – knowing the true meaning of what we train, why we train it, and how it can help us progress further. Those who do not regularly train the basics will eventually begin losing the core balace needed to keep form, and will miss the small details that mark the thin line between a beautiful Kata and a not-so-beautiful one. As I recall one of my Sensei’s saying:
“Training Heians is like walking through tall grass, you have to keep walking on the same grass to create a path. If you don’t, the grass will grow up again, with no path in sight, and you will need to start all over again. Keep the grass down.”
Karate is about learning, and the best way to learn is to develop what you already know, and seek perfection within those things throughout your lifetime.
Domo Arigato Gozaimas – Oss!