The Sanchin kata was brought to Okinawa in the late 1800's by Naha-te master, Kanryo Higaonna. The
name Sanchin indicates that through the practice of the kata there is a produced unity of mind, body and
spirit. Sanchin is
our Kihon or Basic Kata. All of our other Kata are related to Sanchin. Our
core strength for all other Kata is derived from Sanchin practice.
Sanchin kata uses dynamic tension or isometric muscular contraction with deep breathing for power training. The aim of dynamic tension in the Sanchin kata is to produce an overall body hardening effect to develop a resistance to body strikes.
Dai Sensei believed that to maximize your Sanchin training, you should practice the kata at least three times daily. The first time is done to get warmed up with inaudible breathing. The second time you practice, you must breathe normally and execute proper dynamic tension. The last time you practice, you must execute the IBUKI breathing (deep abdominal breathing) plus correct dynamic tension. Dai Sensei YAGI Meitoku explained often the importance of Sanchin - if you practice Sanchin everyday and maintain a proper diet... you should become very healthy and less prone to get ill!
Sanchin renshu gives the Karateka strong intention and helps harness the cultivation of KI (KI WO NE RU) .... your internal power!
In the dojo the is no specific count like in the practice of Kaishu Kata. Like Tensho, Sanchin should be all done, with no count, in one fluid motion. The lower belts of the dojo should follow along side their seniors. They should never go ahead of the seniors count.
It also should be noted that Master Miyagi introduced the closed fist technique to the Sanchin and also the turn.... the original version brought to Okinawa by Master Higaonna emphasized open hand techniques and was done facing the same direction.
Goju-ryu Kaishu Kata
The following Goju-ryu Kata are classified as Kaishu Kata. Kaishu translates to mean open hand form. The idea here is that the Karateka's posture should retain a similar state of relaxation to that of an open hand.
Gekisai Ichi and Gekisai Ni (Attack/Smash 1, 2)
The Gekisai kata were develop around 1940 by Master Miyagi as instructional kata. The basis for the Gekisai kata were to help beginner students, as a filler between Sanchin Kata and Saifa. As you can see both sides of the body gets to practice each set of techniques, starting off with beginner techniques and ending up with the most difficult of moves. The Gekisai kata introduces the student more complex moves with an easier form of execution. Students must grasp the concepts of the Gekisai kata if they want to be able to understand the the more advanced Kaishu kata. Techniques that Miyagi admired from Shuri-te such as the gyaku shuto were also incorporated into these kata.
Saifa (Smash and Tear)
Saifa kata was also believed to have been taken to Okinawa by Higaonna Kanryo Sensei. It is the first classical Kaishu kata to be learned in Meitoku-ha Goju-ryu. Saifa introduces students to a new set of strikes and smashes (back fist, hammer fist, and under punch). Some historians believe Saifa was invented in China to help teach and execute combat tactics on a gun wall of a boat, mainly because all the techniques are done going facing forward or backward in a straight line. After much practice of this Kata, the student, in turn, should have a stronger sense of balance.
Shisochin (Fighting Four Monks)
Shisochin or Fighting Four Monks concentrates on four directional fighting with emphasis placed on turning fast and reacting quick to finish your opponent. Some resources stated that Shisochin was Miyagi's favourite kata. Shisochin is an intermediate level kata. Technically, it is comprised mainly of the nukite (spear hand) and also the Te sho (palm) for blocking and striking. One unique attribute of Shisochin is the turning sequence (heavy Shuri-te influence) performed just prior to the Atama ate. Also the arm break is introduced.
Sanseryu (36 techniques)
Sanseryu is a kata of 36 different fighting exercises. The number 36 could be symbolic of the 36 families who settle in Kume village (Kume Mura), Okinawa in 1392. An important historical note indicates that Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi, Hanshi, has direct ancestral roots to this settlement in Kume. This is a more advance form which relies on strong kicking ability and also koshi. Koshi is the ability to use your hips to pack power in your technique. Another characteristic in Sanseryu is the foot placing after the Sokuto. This is a very important technique to master and requires years of dedicated practice.
Sesan (13 techniques)
Sesan, which translates to mean 13 techniques, is believed to be the oldest of all Goju-ryu kata. It is an advanced kata which relies heavily on knee kicks, stomping and strong punching. Two versions of Sesan exist, the Naha-te form and the Shuri-te form. Goju-ryu adopted the Naha-te version refined by Kanryo Higaonna Sensei. Dai Sensei teaches us that Sesan, along with Seiunchin are the training Kaishu Kata of Meitoku-ha Goju-ryu. Sesan Kata best fits the body type of a big muscular man! Due to its early origin, Sesan has many different variations.
Seiunchin (Marching Far Quietly)
Seiunchin's origin lies in the internal system of Wu-shu, Hsing-I. Seiunchin's direct translation through time has been lost, but many Goju-ryu Karateka refer to it as Marching far Quietly. Seiunchin is a unique kata because only hand techniques are used. An advanced kata, Seiunchin works a lot on the shiko dachi and incorporates strike such as the back fist and elbow. Along with Sesan, Seiunchin is the other training Kaishu of Meitoku-ha Goju-ryu, which is best suited for a smaller man with less physical power. Many times in the kata techniques are performed with the other hand used as re-enforcement!
Sepai (18 techniques)
Sepai or 18 techniques is one of the more harder forms of Goju-ryu. Its main characteristics is
body twisting techniques. Also, for students who practice Sepai, they must concentrate on the
hands and feet working together in harmony to properly execute certain techniques. Kanryo
Higaonna Sensei brought this kata to Okinawa from China and adapted to Naha-te. Meitetsu
Sensei often used the analogy of the importance hands working together (one hand is father and
the other is the son.......working together to have greater strength.) View kata here
Kururunfa (Holding Ground)
One English translation for Kururunfa is Holding Ground. Kururunfa teaches the Karateka balance. Within this kata, students are able to practice on their stance transitions. Also, in close hooking blocks and grappling manoeuvres are practiced. This is the second hardest kata in the Meitoku-ha Goju-ryu system. One of the signature moves of the Kata is the difficult throwing procedure towards the end of the Kata.
Suparinpe (108 techniques)
Suparinpe is the most difficult of Meitoku-ha Goju-ryu kata. Its Japanese Kanji reads 108 techniques. It incorporates many moves found in earlier kata (Sesan and Sanseryu, just to name a few) but of a higher degree of difficulty. Among its difficult hand techniques, it contains a unique flying kick. To practice Suparinpe correctly, one must acquire proper breath control, and a very precise timing of hands, feet and body. It is very long, strenuous, and should take a greater part of a lifetime to master.
Heishu Kata Tensho
Chojun Miyagi Sensei invented Heishu Kata Tensho in his later years, based on his studies of a
Chinese exercise called Rokkishu. The original form is explained in great detail
in the Bubishi. For Miyagi and his older students, Tensho was a way to
practice the concepts similar to Sanchin kata, but in a more relaxed state, with less emphasis on
body hardening, but equal emphasis on deep breathing. This will be the last kata to be practice
during a dojo training session.
Two versions of this Kata exists: the Kihon Kata and the Heishu Kata. Dai Sensei has referred to the Heishu Kata Tensho as Sanpo aruite Kata Tensho. The differences in the Kata lie in the opening and closing procedures. Like Kaishu Kata (open hand form), Heishu Kata Tensho demands the Karateka to learn the execution of open hand technique with that of the power of a closed hand. Another idea of Heishu Kata is the closing of the practice kata.... or the cooling down kata.
Meibuken kata are those developed by Dai Sensei, Meitoku Yagi. Along with being a major contribution to Goju-ryu in general, these kata are Yagi Sensei's interpretation of Miyagi Sensei's Goju-ryu. Like Chojun Miyagi Sensei's Gekisai kata, the Meibuken kata of Meitoku Yagi Sensei contain techniques of Shuri-te origin in which both Miyagi Sensei and Yagi Sensei admired (for example, the many open handed techniques found in the kata).
Some technical aspects of these kata are different than those of Kaishu kata.
1/ Both yoi and Yame position is chudan level, not gedan like in Kaishu kata. This is to represent the Chinese influence on these Kata.
2/ Fist chambers are always standing (tate-ken); sitting chambers are in Kaishu kata (swuate-ken). Dai Sensei often spoke of the significance of the vertical fist: Symbolic of the Chinese influence and also his idea was that from a vertical fist chamber one could punch 3 times to ever 2 times from a horizontal fist chamber.
3/ the Meitoku-ha no Kamae is a variation kake uke no kamae with emphasis on guarding the mizo ochi. This kamae is more practical in a real fighting situation.
Tenchi - Heaven/Earth
Tenchi was first introduced as Fukyu I and Fukyu II. Fukyu I = Ten and Fukyu II = Chi. This kata was developed around 1974. What is unique about this kata is that it is a two man or "mirror kata". Fukyu I techniques (AH) correspond to the techniques in Fukyu II (UM). Personally, I find this kata good preparation for Seiunchin, Seipai, and Suparinpe. The origin for the name Tenchi came from the first line of Hakku Kempo, it reads - "Jinshin wa Tenchi ni onaji"
Hanshi Ken Tallack performing Tenchi Kata:
Byakko - White Tiger
Created in 1988, Byakko teaches evasion techniques (Tai Sabaki) used against techniques from the Seiryu kata. Like Seiryu, emphasis is placed on correct stance transitions. Byakko was also developed to be paired with Seiryu as mirror kata. Byako represents the Um Kata. Soto uke is first introduced in Byakko.
Hanshi Ken Tallack performing Byakko Kata:
Shujakku - Red Sparrow / Phoenix
Shujakku was taught to Meibukai members initially in 1990. It's embusen (kata line) is very similar to that of Seiryu and Byako. Again this is also a mirror kata to be paired with Genbu. The majority of techniques in Shujakku are open handed (i.e.. nukite, press blocks etc.). There is a suri ashi block-strike technique practiced here similar to moves done in Seipai. Shujakku represents the Ah Kata. To have proficiency in this Kata, one must have the fluidity of a Sparrow in flight!
Please click here to see Hanshi Ken Tallack performing Shujakku Kata: