The Tekki (Iron Horse) kata originally came from the Okinawan style of karate known as Shuri-te and were derived from one longer form called Naihanchi (Internal Divided Conflict) that was revised and split into three through  Anko Itosu’s teachings.

Gichin Funakoshi performing Tekki Shodan

Some scholars believe he actually invented Tekki Nidan and Sandan, but as only Tekki Shodan has a formal opening, they were probably derived from one kata. It is believed that Itosu learned Naihanchi from his teacher Sokon Matsumura, who in turn learned it from a Chinese man living in Tomari in Okinawa.

Gichin Funakoshi performing Tekki Nidan

They represent a fight that takes place with limited space however there is some debate about exactly what the pattern of the kata means. All three Tekki kata follow the form of a simple straight line while performing kiba-dachi (horseback stance). Some believe that this represents fighting with your back to the wall, others maintain that they were developed for fighting on a boat and others still think the kata were likely made to represent fighting on horseback.

Gichin Funakoshi performing Tekki Sandan

Naihanchi was the most basic kata before the introduction of the Pinan (Heian) kata and was taught in both Tomari-te and Shuri-te schools. Sensei Gichin Funakoshi learned the kata derived from Naihanchi and later renamed them to Tekki Shodan, Tekki Nidan and Tekki Sandan.  Funakoshi spent three years practicing each of the Tekki kata and thought of them as difficult to master, despite the fact that they are relatively short.

More Shotokan kata