World Karate Federation
Dragon Society Int'l
Okinawan and Japanese Goju-Ryu
Goju-Ryu Karate Kata
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 can be
found in several Chinese arts (San Jan), particularly 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, diaphragmatic 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.
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 diminish as well. Therefore Sanchin
develops discipline, determination, focus, perseverance 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
GEKI SAI ICHI
GEKI SAI 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
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 Zhongxiang 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
striking techniques of this Kata, Saifa can be interpreted to mean
grabbing and tearing of tissue in close-quartered combat.
"Control, Suppress and Pull"
The name Seiyunchin 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 foot sweeps, parries and traps.
"Four Gates" or "Four Directions
Shisochin translates as "Four Gates" or
"Four Directions of Conflict". To leave it at that discounts a truer
understanding. The third kanji
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
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
naming of Sepai
is again from the martial arts development 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 emphasis 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
|Seisan, Sanseru and Sepai all share the
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 originated.
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 quan.
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. Secondly, 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