Kata Study – Tensho

In Shin Ai Do karate every student on one stage of their progression through grades is given a kata.

This kata is specially chosen to suit his or her ability and character. This kata is the main one to study. You need to know other forms within the system but this one you have to specialise in and know it thoroughly. For me it is Tensho kata.



I was “assigned” to study it around 15 years ago. I have tried many versions and adaptations in search of knowledge and efficacy of movement.

This kata was introduced by Chojun Miyagi in to the Goju Ryu system in 1921 as a softer Sanchin. The name Tensho is translated as “revolving hands”, “rotating palms”, or “turning palms.”  Some researchers suggest that it is a modified version of the Rokkishu form from Chinese Kung Fu.

Movements in Tensho are flowing but under tension with deep breathing. Over time many versions have developed. Every master did a little bit of modification. Nowadays every school where this kata is taught they have their own adaptation.

In our school we teach a version introduced by Mas Oyama. Although over time it is bit different few movements were changed to fit with the analysis of hands on interpretation.  We are using this magnificent kata for various reasons ranging from health, strength through self-defence, meditation and relaxation training.


Tensho for Relaxation

Focusing on the self-defence aspects we have three levels of understanding the Tensho:

  • Kuzushi, Nage (off balancing and throwing)
  • Tuite (joint manipulation)
  • Atemi, Kyusho (strikes in to the vital points)

Beginners are introduced to the flow of unbalancing and takedowns with use of the stances and hands movement with use of Tai Sabaki (body movement). In this way students learn effective way of using their body and directions of the techniques.

Intermediate form focuses on the joint and muscle mechanics and how to take advantage of body responses to pain signals. All the movement are transformed to joint locks with use of the stances, body and arms.

The advanced version exploits weak points of the body, putting pressure or strikes to the nervous system, muscle system and other tissues of the body. Neurological responses to the pain.

All this makes Tensho kata very effective weapon in karate, which is often not recognised and used only as a “breathing “Kata.

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Off balancing

Performing and studying this kata for 15 years now I keep finding new ways of using it for different purposes. Understanding this kata opens up body strength, effective self-defence and mental relaxation. Teaching it on the seminars more and more people are discovering benefits of this form. Next time you do Tensho please try to find ways of using it not just for breathing.


short clip of possible analysis for Tensho.




Les Bubka

About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing.

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2 replies »

  1. Wonderful study of Tensho, Les – it has long been a favourite kata of mine, and a steady anchor in challenging times. Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

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