Kata Histories

Robert Barton 

18 Arhat forms

These are very basic Chinese forms which are the original  Arhat skills of historical Shorin school and methods in China.  These skills may be seen being taught in a great many schools of Chinese and Chinese derivative arts and can, in fact, be seen in schools of India today. Most likely there were originally 16 of these exercises and as we look at how they are performed in various styles we can place those styles historically and geographically according to the technical morphology of these most basic exercises. 

 Geki sai dai Ichi (to attack & destroy 1)

Chojun Miyagi designed this kata around 1940 when he was employed instructing school children in Okinawa. This kata was used to introduce them to Goju Ryu karate techniques. He later started to teach this kata to his regular adult students in his own personal school.  

Geki sai dai ni (to attack & destroy 2)

Chojun Miyagi designed this kata around 1940 when he was employed instructing school children in Okinawa. This kata was used to introduce them to Goju Ryu karate techniques. He later started to teach this kata to his regular adult students in his own personal school.   

Sanchin (three battles/conflicts)

Sanchin kata was the first kata taught to new students by Chojun Miyagi until he created the Geki Sai kata. Sanchin actually has several variations all of which are considered heishu or closed hand kata. Heishu is a term that is referring to the dynamic tension of the kata on one level and the value of the kata as possessing secret teaching or okudenrequired for true mastery of karate. Sanchin is a form originating in Southern Chinese Wushu and a related form with the same name translation survives within the Five Ancestors School of kung fu and all of these forms are considered to be hard Chi kung and so is considered an internal training kata. This is in contrast to the kaishu or open hand kata which are seen as external kata. The three conflicts can be seen as having to do with body/mind/spirit or they can be viewed in light of traditional medicine.  

Saifa (pound and rend)

The first of the classic kaishu kata of Goju this kata was learned by Kanryo Higaonna when he studied in the under the direction of Xie Zhong Xiang, who founded a Crane system in Southern China, for an 18 year period starting in 1863. When Higaonna returned to Okinawa he taught this kata along with other kata brought from China by him and he introduced these kata into the Naha-te school of martial arts in Okinawa. The grabbing and striking skills of this kata makes it very well suited to very close combat. 

Seiyuchin (grasp, pull unbalance)

As the name implies this kaishu kata is full of grappling skills and includes takedowns and other techniques designed to unbalance the opponent. An often misunderstood kata we have in this form sweeping and tripping leg techniques though no obvious kicks. This has led the untrained or insufficiently trained to believe that this kata is only using hand skills.  

Shisochin (4 gates/directions of conflict)

Another kaishu kata of Southern China this kata clearly demonstrates the idea of mounting a defense from all sides.  

Tensho (rotating palms)

The second of the two heishu kata of Goju this kata was based on a Chinese form Rokkishu from the White Crane system but was developed by Miyagi to be better adapted to his Goju system. This is one of the signature kata of Goju.  

Sanseru (36 hands/moves)

Chojun Miyagi learned this kata while he himself studied in China around 1916 from a student of Xie Zhong Xiang. Due to the numerically related name it appears that this kata is related directly to Buddhists schools.  We are also taught that these numerically named kata refer to sets of specific strikes to vital points or weak spots especially susceptible to attack and that these points can be related to acupuncture. This kata is known to relate to kata of the same name still practiced in Southern Chinese Wushu specifically the crane, the tiger and the dog methods. Miyagi may have learned this as a crane or as a tiger form. 

Sepai (18 hands/moves)

The number 18 is constantly seen in Chinese martial arts of the Buddhists Little Pine Forest Temple methods these Shorin methods were taight in Southern China at several smaller temples related to the original Hunan temple. This kata has very old roots and there are numerous Chinese versions and variation found in many schools and is still found in Monk or Arhat/Lohan Wushu styles.  

Kururunfa (holding ground and striking suddenly)

This kata exemplifies the ideas of Go hard and Ju soft in the combination of explosive transitions coupled withmuchimi or sticky hands with a heavy feeling. This kata is a grappling kata and is related to the Chinese Southern sticky hands skills found in Wushu schools such as Wing Chun. These sticky hand kata help to differentiate Goju methods of karate from the other schools of Okinawan karate which are more likely to adhere to a rigid block strike approach.  

Sesan (13 hands/moves)

This is one of the oldest forms present within Goju and is also present within other Shorin form of karate though the version in Goju seems to be longer and have greater complexity. Versions of this form are still seen in several Southern Chinese schools of Wushu with Dragon, Lion and Monk (Arhat/Lohan) style schools among them. 

Suparenpei (108 hands/moves)

This is the most advanced and most complex kata in Goju. It has the highest number of moves. While this kata is often just viewed as long the complexity of it comes through in the actual proper execution of the form. There are numerous skills and variation on those skills combined with sudden changes of pace and tempo. This kata teaches us a great deal about the most complex views on dimensionality within Goju especially in that the applications demonstrate the use of all spacial dimensions as we learn in the other kata but in this kata we learn to manipulate time or more precisely the perception of time in order to bring this fourth dimension under our control. The use of the manipulation of the perception of time in the mind of the opponent has always been considered to be an okuden or hidden skill of this kata. Versions of this kata may be found in a great many Chinese Wushu schools, Southern and Northern among them are Dragon, Lion, Five Ancestors and Monk (Arhat/Lohan) schools.  

To understand the versions of these kata which we use in Shorin Goju one may simply observe the films of Morio Higaonna performing the Goju kata.

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