Entrance to the Barn Dojo....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Random thoughts on Sanseiru

We've been working a bit recently on Sanseiru. There are those who have suggested that the canon of Goju kata should be separated--based on some selective historical hearsay or what seems to be slightly flawed "cluster analysis"--with Sanseiru, Seisan, Suparinpei and Sanchin on one side, and Saifa, Seiunchin, Shisochin, Seipai, and Kururunfa on the other.

But, using only one example, how does one then explain the similarity between the "changing gate" blocks of Sanseiru and Seipai--open hand in the first kata and closed hand in the latter? Admittedly, there does seem to be a kinship between the structures of Seisan and Sanseiru, but there are many more similarities between all of the different katas, those included.

I find the changing gate block (the illustrated technique and the move that follows it) a fascinating technique--typifying many aspects of Goju, from the simultaneous block and attack, to the "softness" of the technique, to the ability to almost instantly change attacks. Another aspect of this combination fascinated me as well: The first time it occurs in kata--facing north from the double open-hand down technique in shikodachi--the attack is from the front or north. The defender (kata) is in a 90 degree relationship in applying this technique. In the second instance, facing west after the double punch, the attacker is coming from the west, and the defender (kata) "absorbs" the attack, stepping back with the right foot, right forearm blocking and left open palm attacking, and then follows the attacker along the west-to-east line into the double punch; that is, in this second application, the relationship has moved to one of 180 degrees. Interesting, because both Sanseiru and Suparinpei employ this 90 degree/180 degree movement in the structure of their center sections.

Of course, this directional turn does not occur in the way Sanseiru is done in all schools. The Toguchi Shoreikan, for example, will turn to the left into a closed hand chudan block (done twice with a step) before this second technique. They also don't quite employ this "changing gate" block, though one can see a vague similarity. And there are certainly other differences as well.

The opening of Sanseiru is also different to some extent in the Shodokan of Higa Seiko sensei. After the three "punches"--or tsuki-uke (my own thoughts on the subject)--there is a right open hand block (or grab), followed by the left open hand coming to the right elbow and stepping back into a front stance as the left hand is swept out along the right extended arm. Some have described this as a grab release. Some have even suggested that the hand follows your own arm as a means of situating your technique in the dark! I believe this is an arm bar, which follows the tsuki uke and grab. Once you have stepped back into the front stance, levering the opponent down, you then reach over for the head (in the Shodokan version), as you step forward. In the process of stepping forward, the left hand quite naturally scoops the opponent's right previously barred arm up and locks it out of the way. The defender's right arm is now grabbing the opponent's head, the left arm controls the arm and is lying on the opponent's back. This is then followed by a left knee to the opponent's ribs, moving forward into a right elbow attack, etc.

Curious to me how the different schools of Goju developed different versions of this opening. And more curious still, how some schools "fudge" their explanations by saying things like: "The kata may show one stepping back into front stance, but in reality one would step forward." Or, trying to block and grab an opponent's kick with this technique...as if, one, his kick is really that slow, and, two, he wouldn't then punch you in the head! Anyway, just my own random thoughts.

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