Nijūshiho (二十四歩) (Twenty four steps) is an advanced kata practiced in Shotokan,Shitoryo and Wadō-ryū karate.
The origin of Nijūshiho is unknown, but it is presumed that it originates from the Aragaki group like Sochin and others. This is shown through the similarity to Unsu. In introducing karate from Okinawa to Japan, Gichin Funakoshi changed the name of the kata from Niseishi to Nijūshiho. Both names mean "24 steps."
This kata is also practiced in Tang Soo Do and is called E Sip Sa Bo in Korean. Due to its difficulty, this kata is often reserved for advanced black belt level students.
Masatoshi Nakayama once recalled how Gichin Funakoshi took him to learn this kata from the Master Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of Shito-ryu. It was also with Master Mabuni that Master Nakayama learned the kata Gojushiho Sho.
Nijushiho, was apparently created by Anikichi Aragaki, and is a very popular kata. Kata such as Sochin have a translation that perfectly highlights the attitude and feeling of the kata. Nijushiho however, a kata of much personality has a name of limited symbolic significance. It is this fact that has challenged many to learn more about the philosophy of the kata, for it is not blatantly clear in the kata title.
This kata teaches you to move and defend from many angles, and helps teach you co-ordination. Many use this kata as a tool to highlight the need for total concentration. If you take a student and force him to perform Heian Shodan in an angle that is different from the regular they find it quite simple to finish the kata correctly in the accurate position. Nijushiho however does not use such basic and predictable angles, so to perform this kata accurately in a position that is irregular takes much concentration, since it is very easy to lose your co-ordination.
This kata wonderfully contains sudden contrasts between very slow, and an explosion of power. To achieve this, the karateka must fine-tune his ability to shift from relaxation to tension., which requires great control of the body and its muscles.
Some material in this article has been reproduced with express permission from "The Shotokan Way"