Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Kata
The following is a list of the Kata of Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do
as taught by the
Northwest Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate School.
Geki Sai Dai IchiGeki
Sai Dai Ni
"To Attack and Destroy"
The Geki Sai Kata were formulated by Chojun Miyagi Sensei in
1940 as a form of physical exercise for high school boys and to
help popularize Goju-Ryu among the public of Okinawa. In
1948, after WWII, Miyagi Sensei began to teach the Geki Sai Kata
in depth as a regular part of Goju-Ryu in his own dojo.
Until this time, Sanchin was the first Kata taught in Goju-Ryu.
Sanchin Kata is physically and mentally a demanding Kata and requires
a great deal of time and patience to learn and perform properly.
The Geki Sai Kata however are easier to learn and perform, and
contain dynamic techniques which are more attractive to young
people. These Kata contain the same kanji
found in Saifa. This would suggest that even though these
Kata were designed primarily as a form of exercise, Miyagi Sensei
included his understanding of combat as part of their makeup.
"To Smash and Tear to Pieces"
Saifa is the first of the classical combative Kata taught in
Goju-Ryu. Goju-Ryu's Kata origins come from the martial
arts taught in the Fuzhou area of southern China, largely Crane
and Xingyi/Baqua as well as other internal and external martial
arts. Kanryo Higaonna Sensei was taught this Kata, along
with the other Kata of Goju-Ryu, while he studied in China from
1863-1881 under the direction of RuRuKo ( Xie Zhong Xiang in Chinese)
and others. These Kata and martial strategies would become
the basis of the the quanfa of Higaonna Sensei, which later Miyagi
Sensei would call Goju-Ryu. From an understanding of the
grappling and strking techniques of this Kata, Saifa can be interpreted
to mean grabbing and tearing of tissue in close-quartered combat.
"Three Battles or Conflicts"
Sanchin translates as "3 Battles" or "3 Conflicts". This
has many meanings. First it refers to the struggle to control
the body under physical fatigue. With fatigue the mind begins
to lose focus and thus the spirit begins to diminsh as well.
Therefore Sanchin develops discipline, determination, focus, perserverance
and other mental attributes. The Chinese refer to this
as Shen (spirit), Shin (mind) and Li (body). Another possible
interpretation refers to the "Three Burners" of the body as decribed
in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
One of two "heishu " Kata of Goju-Ryu, Sanchin is probably the
most misunderstood Kata in all of Karate. In contrast, it
is probably the single most valuable training exercise in Goju-Ryu.
Like the other Kata of Goju-Ryu, Sanchin ( Samm Chien in Chinese)
can be found in several Chinese arts, particulary the southern
styles including four styles of Crane Boxing, Dragon Boxing, Tiger
Boxing, Lion Boxing, Dog or Ground Boxing and Monk Fist.
Sanchin has such aspects as deep, diaphramatic breathing found
in many internal arts as well as external attributes like mechanical
alignment and muscular strength.
Because many martial artists have little or no understanding
of the true history and nature of the Chinese arts from which
Okinawan Goju-Ryu has its roots, Sanchin has become little more
than an isometric form performed with dangerous tension and improper
The original Sanchin that Higaonna Sensei learned from RuRuKo
(1852-1930) was performed with open hands and with less emphasis
on muscle contraction and "energetic" breathing. With the
changes brought about by Emperor Meiji (Meiji Restoration Period
1888-1912), Higaonna Sensei changed the open hands to closed fists
as the martial meaning was no longer emphasized. Later Miyagi
Sensei would again alter the Kata in pattern alone.
"Control, Suppress and Pull"
The name Seiunchin implies the use of techniques to off balance,
throw and grapple. It is this understanding that imparts
the original intentions of the Kata of Naha-te before the sport
alignment of modern Karate. Seiyunchin contains close-quartered
striking, sweeps, take-downs and throws. Though the Kata
itself is void of kicks, many practitioners make the grave mistake
by missing the opportunity to apply any leg technique. Though
almost invisible to the untrained eye, the subtleness of "ashi
barai" and "suri ashi" can represent footsweeps, parries and traps.
"Four Gates" or "Four Directions of Conflict"
Shisochin translates as "Four Gates" or "Four Directions of Conflict".
To leave it at that discounts a truer understanding. The
is the same found in Sanchin and Seiyunchin, which translates
as "battle" or "conflict". This lends to a deeper definition
of its meaning. The idea of four directions can come from
the performance of the four shotei in four directions. It
can also represent the four elements represented in Chinese medicine
(Acupuncture is one) of Wood, Fire, Metal and Water with man representing
Earth. Since this was the science and culture of that period
in China when Higaonna and Miyagi both studied in Fuzhou, it would
be a great oversight to discount this aspect as a very probable
explanation of the Kata's name and martial intent.
Sanseru is unique as Miyagi Sensei studied this Kata under a
direct student of RuRuKo during his studies in Fuzhou, China beginning
in 1916. Sanseru, from its numerical designation, would
seem to have its roots in Buddhism. This is not to infer
that there is a religious connection or implication with this
Kata or Karate, but simply that Buddhism was a part of the culture
of the people of that time. It should also be noted that
numbers had a very important role in the language of the more
ancient Chinese before the invention of kanji.
A more realistic explanation of this and the other numerically
named Kata is that they refer to a systematic method and understanding
of certain groupings of vital acupressure points. It is
this science that the martial arts was based upon and developed.
Feng Yiquan, who lived during the Ming Dynasty (1522-67) developed
this particular method of using variations of "36" forbidden points
to defeat his opponents. Other disciples of Feng created
other quans expanding the number to 72 and ultimately 108.
Sanseru is found in the following styles of Chinese Boxing: Crane,
Tiger, and Dog
The reference to "18" in naming this Kata has a couple of interpretations.
Like Sanseru, there is suggested a connection to Buddhist philosophy.
Another insinuates "18 guards for the King". The most apparent
and most meaningful in the naimg of Sepai is again from the martial
arts develpoment and the use of attacking pressure points.
18 is one half of 36 suggesting that perhaps an alternative set
of attacks and defenses of preferred techniques and strategies
from the original Sanseru 36.
Sepai is found in Monk Boxing.
Kururunfa epitomizes the ideals of Go-"hard
and Ju-"soft". Stance transitions are quick and explosive
while the hands techniques are employed using "muchimi" or a heavy,
sticky movement. As in the other kata of Goju-Ryu, it is
quite evident that grappling and close-quartered fighting is the
favored fighting style. The same kanji
is found in Saifa. Again, this would suggest a strong empahsis
on grappling. Where most other styles' Kata concentrate on "block/punch",
it is obvious from the unique techniques that this is not the
case with Goju-Ryu.
Seisan, Sanseru and Sepai all share the kanji .
This may well be a Chinese dialect of the Okinawan term
"te" or "fighting hand", referring to life-protection techniques.
To better understand these Kata requires a more defined understanding
of the language and culture of the people from which these Kata
Seisan is believed to be the oldest of all Okinawan Goju-Ryu
Kata. There is a version of Seisan practiced in the Shorin
schools, but in comparison, the Goju-Ryu version is longer and
much more complex.
Seisan is practiced in the following styles of Chinese Boxing:
Dragon, Lion and Monk Fist
Suparinpei is the most advanced Kata in Goju-Ryu. It contains
the greatest number of techniques and variations. Suparinpei
is deceptive in that it appears simple in execution but when combined
with transitions and changing tempos, it is only surpassed by
Sanchin in technical difficulty and understanding. Once again,
the number "108" is suggested to have origins in Buddhism and
can represent the "108 sins of man". On the Chinese New Year,
temple bells are rung 108 times to "drive away the evils of man".
It is believed these named associations with Buddhism is based
upon the lack of factual knowledge of the true nature of these
Secondly, with the cutural changes that took place in China during
and after the Boxing Rebellion (1900) and the fall of the Qing
Dynasty (1644-1911), little emphasis was placed on learning such
complex arts. Most who learned the fighting arts after this time,
did so as a means of exercise, recreation or artistic performance.
In additon, the wide-spread use of firearms reduced the need and
effectiveness for hand-to-hand combat as a means to civil defense.
Suparinpei is found in the following styles of Chinese Boxing:
Dragon, Tiger and Monk Fist.
The second "heishu" kata in Goju-Ryu, Tensho is derived from
the Chinese form "Rokkishu". Unlike Sanchin, which is almost
identical to its Chinese counterpart, Tensho is uniquely Okinawan.
From his understanding of the Kata of Goju-Ryu and the "nature
of man", Miyagi Sensei developed Tensho to further complete his
Goju-Ryu where Sanchin left off. Tensho has many of the
same principles of Sanchin but goes further to include more intricate
concepts of the techniques of Goju-Ryu. These concepts expressly
come alive in kakie , which in advanced training, breathes life
into the bunkai of the Kata of Goju-Ryu.
The term "heishu" translates as "closed". As with every
aspect of Okinawan Karate, there is more than one definition.
First, "heishu" can refer to muscle contraction and "ibuki" style
breathing unique to Sanchin and Tensho.
econdly, it can imply the restriction and specific direction
of energies within the energy pathways of the body, both superficial
and deep. The other 10 Kata are referred to as "kaishu"
or "open", as they are free of constant muscle contraction and
breathing is "normal".
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