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The following was written by one of O’Sensei senior instructors Neville Billormia with some editing by Rod Sanford:

In the 1830´s Matsumura developed a 54 kata system in the Shorin styles of Shuri-Te Karate.  The system of 54 kata in a style is an ideal no longer rigidly held to and rarely reached in this day and age.

Today not all styles have 54 katas.  It may be that the heads of particular systems quit their instructor (Master) before learning all 54 katas.  Or the master may have died before passing on all 54 katas to his followers. In other cases the master of the system may have refused to teach or pass on the entire system of all 54 katas to his followers.  This may be because the master felt the students did not meet criteria the master had set.  For example, Master Gichin Funakoshi only passed on 16 katas in Japan although he knew at least 54 katas, and probably more. But for whatever the reason, today not many schools in the United States adhere to the 54-kata systems. And so you find many systems teaching much fewer katas, sometimes only 7 to 20 katas.



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