Entrance to the Barn Dojo....

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fifth principle...in no particular order

"In Goju-ryu katas, entry techniques and controlling techniques are followed by finishing techniques, but the finishing technique may sometimes only be tacked on to the second combination or sequence."

The bridging technique in the
opening sequence in Seipai.
Goju kata analysis can be confusing--that is, analysis that considers the structure of kata. Individual techniques can occur in kata without repetition, as in the opening of Seipai kata. These are fairly clear, but one must still recognize the sequence or combination--that is, the opening with the "uke," the controlling or bridging technique, and the finishing technique. The opening in Seipai is the initial move stepping back into horse stance with the sweeping, circular arm movement--the left hand blocks, while the right hand attacks. The controlling or bridging technique is the step with the hands together. And the finishing technique is the drop into horse stance again with the hands brought into the chest and the right elbow out.

The opening technique of the
 second hammer-fist in Saifa.
But techniques can also occur in pairs, and these sequences may be a little harder to see. These are techniques that are repeated on the right side and the left side, or against a right attack and again against a left attack. This is shown in the sweep and overhead or standing hammer-fist attack in Saifa. It is first shown against a right attack and then against a left attack. The opening is a block and hammer-fist attack by the defender, followed by a grab and upper-cut. The controlling and finishing techniques are only tacked on to the second (left) hammer-fist and upper-cut sequence.

The finishing technique of the
opening threesome of
Seiunchin kata.
To make it more confusing, techniques also occur as threes--that is, they are done first on one side, then on the other, and then repeated once again as they were done initially. These threesomes, however, occur, for the most part, at the beginning of katas, showing a kind of basic technique that may be explored in the rest of the kata (though there is a threesome in Kururunfa and Suparinpei). This is done in most of the Goju-ryu katas. However, to further confuse any analysis of kata structure, this sort of threesome repetition also shows some variation (a curious note that may argue for a variety of sources or kata creators over a long period of time). Saifa kata and Seiunchin kata both show threesome repetitions at the beginning, but Saifa's repetitions seem to be complete in themselves, whereas the opening techniques of Seiunchin have a single finishing technique tacked on only after the third repetition of the opening sequence.

And we see repetitions of four of the same techniques in Shisochin and Suparinpei, which leads to the question of why one needs any repetition at all. If kata is a means of preserving and remembering technique--which I believe it is--then why does one need any repetition at all, whether it's two times, three times, or four times? Obviously one can take a technique out of kata and practice it on either side. Kata should not be viewed as a means of practicing or perfecting a technique. If that were the case, every time we did kata there would be some techniques we would only be doing once!

In any case, kata does have structure, and once one sees this structure the analysis of individual techniques and an understanding of bunkai becomes a lot clearer.


  1. I always thought that the four side techniques in sisochin is a kind of 360 learning like to get used to attack from different angles

  2. The structure of Shisochin is not easy to see, but think of these "four" direction techniques as two and two--they go together. The first one and the fourth one go together and the second and third ones go together. The first of each pair is the "uke" or entry, while the second is the control. The finish is shown later in the kata. Pretty interesting structure and really beautiful techniques. Let me know if you can see it this way.

  3. Now I see as a two pairs of techniques, It´s one of the first katas I learned and to me one of most difficult to understand

  4. Martin, if you have any more specific questions on how it is done or where the finishing techniques come in, send me an email.