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For the municipality in the Philippines, see Piñan, Zamboanga del Norte.
Other names Heian
Martial art Karate
Place of origin Japan Okinawa, Japan
Creator Ankō Itosu
Date of Creation 1900s

The Pinan (平安?) kata are a series of five empty hand forms taught in many karate styles. The Pinan kata originated in Okinawa and were adapted by Anko Itosu from older kata such as Kusanku and Channan[1] into forms suitable for teaching karate to young students. When Gichin Funakoshi brought karate to Japan, he renamed the kata to Heian, which is translated as "peaceful and calm". Pinan is the Chinese Pinyin notation of 平安, which means also "peaceful and calm". Tang Soo Do(Korean Karate) systems also practice these kata; they are termed, "Pyong-an" or "Pyung Ahn", which is a Korean pronunciation of the term "pin-an".[2][3]


The Pinan kata were introduced into the school systems on Okinawa in the early 1900s, and were subsequently adopted by many teachers and schools. Thus, they are present today in the curriculum of Shitō-ryū, Wadō-ryū, Shōrin-ryū, Kobayashi-ryū, Kyokushin, Shinki-Ryu, Shōrei-ryū, Shotokan, Matsubayashi-ryū, Shukokai, Shindo Jinen Ryu, Kosho-ryū Kempo, Kenyu Ryu, and several other styles.

One of the stories surrounding the history of the Pinan kata claims that Itosu learned a kata from a Chinese man living in Okinawa. This kata was called "Chiang Nan" by the Chinese man.[4] The form became known as "Channan", an Okinawan/Japanese approximation of the Chinese pronunciation. The original form of the Channan kata is lost. Itosu formed 5 katas from the long Channan Kata which he thought would be easier to learn. The 5 kata were Pinans Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yondan, and Godan.

Current practice[edit]

The Pinans are taught to various beginner ranks according to their difficulty. The kata are all loosely based on an I-shaped embusen or shape. These kata serve as the foundation to many of the advanced kata within Karate, as many of the techniques contained in these kata are contained in the higher grade katas as well, especially Kusanku.

In certain styles, Pinan Shodan and Pinan Nidan are inverted - what certain styles call Pinan Shodan is what others call Heian Nidan, and vice versa. For example, the kata Shotokan calls Heian Shodan, other styles, such as Shitō-ryū call Pinan Nidan. Another point to note is that Shūkōkai teaches Pinan Nidan first, and Pinan Shodan second, believing Pinan Nidan to be the easier, more beginner-friendly kata. The order that is learnt in Wado-Ryu goes as follows, Pinan Nidan, Pinan Shodan, Pinan Sandan, Pinan Yodan and Pinan Godan.

Pinan Dai (The Great Pinan)[edit]

The Great Pinan, practiced by some schools,[who?] is an amalgamation of all the five Pinan kata. The order in which the five kata are performed is changed from that of the simple and basic training order (above) and in this order the five kata blend naturally from one to another, without any breaks forming one elaborate and intricate kata. This kata although Okinawan in origin,[citation needed] encompasses the basic Buddhist elements[citation needed] and is performed in the order of earth, water, fire, air and ether as also outlined by Kōbō Daishi (Kūkai) of the Japanese Heian period.

Of an interesting note, no form recognized by the Okinawan Prefecture practices Pinan Dai suggesting that it was an invention from outside of Okinawa. The Great Pinans may be an attempt by those who practice them to claim they are the original karate of Okinawa.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Schmeisser, Elmar T. (2004). Channan: Heart of the Heians. Trafford Publishing. p. 124. ISBN 978-1-4120-1357-4. 
  2. ^ Pak, Ho Sik; Escher, Ursula (2002). Complete Tang Soo Do Manuel: From white belt to black belt. High Mountain Publishing. p. 237. ISBN 978-0-9718609-0-2. 
  3. ^ Shin, Jae Chul (1992). Traditional Tang Soo Do Vol. 2: The Basics. J.C.Shin. 
  4. ^ John Hancock (1995). "The truth about Pyong Ahn Hyung". Archived from the original on 2009-08-05. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 

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