A kata is a prearranged series of kihon (basic techniques) designed around an imaginary confrontation with one or several opponents. During a kata the student visualizes the attack, and uses the moves of the kata to defend themselves with blocks, strikes, throws, and control techniques.
The original masters and founders of karate created the kata as a way to pass along their knowledge to future karateka (karate students). For a time, during the samurai occupation of Okinawa, practice of karate was not allowed. Kata were viewed as permissible as dances, but close examination shows them as the textbooks of karate handed down for centuries from the original masters.