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The following traditional Kata of Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate are taught by the Outer Eastern Martial Arts Club.

Gekisai Dai Ichi

Gekisai Dai Ni

"To Attack and Destroy"

The Gekisai Kata were

 formulated by Chojun

 Miyagi Sensei in 1940

as a form of physical

exercise for high school

boys and to help popularise Goju-Ryu among the public of Okinawa.  In 1948, after WWII, Miyagi Sensei began to teach the Gekisai

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 Gekisai

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




"To Smash and Tear to


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/Baquaas 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 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.



"Three Battles or


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,

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 described 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 breathing techniques.

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 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 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 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 intent.



"36 Hands"

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



"18 Hands"

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. 



"Holding Ground"

Kururunfa epitomises 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 Goju-Ryu.



"13 Hands"

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 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 (Pechurin)

"108 hands"

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 are 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.



"Turning Palms"

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 is "normal".




Another kata that we sometimes practise is called Naihanchi Shodan. This is not a Goju kata but one taught by the legendary Sokon 'Bushi' Matsomura, the founder of Shuri-te. Here is an article about the history of Naihanchi kata by Iain Abernethy.  

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