|Opening attack from Seiunchin kata.|
I was having an imaginary conversation with my daughter the other day. She isn't actually a little kid anymore, but it was the kind of conversation we used to have fifteen or twenty years ago. You know, the kind of conversations you're never really ready for because you never really imagined yourself as a parent. And who can prepare for that anyway? Or maybe you have the same questions 'cause you never got any better answers than "because it just IS!!"
Or maybe they were just dumb questions, like how come people have eyebrows? Or, why don't animals talk? Or, why does it rain? I was actually wondering about all this because I had just watched a video of Hokama Tetsuhiro sensei demonstrating bunkai from Seiunchin kata. It was on a Facebook page titled: Goju Ryu Karate. It's a short video, about 4 minutes long.
|Stepping forward and executing an|
arm-bar to bring the attacker's
Now I have a lot of respect for Hokama sensei. Back in 1987, I think it was, we were visiting and training in Matayoshi sensei's dojo--going to Okinawa for the first time with my teacher, Kimo Wall sensei, for two months--when Matayoshi sensei invited Hokama sensei, who had studied kobudo with him, to come by the dojo and talk to us. He brought copies of his first book, signed them, and gave them to all of us visiting Americans. Of course, this first edition was in Japanese, but the pictures were wonderful. But, back to the present. In this bunkai video I watched, Hokama sensei was showing what looked like very Aikido-esque techniques. I've seen many teachers concentrate on this sort of bunkai--Kuba Yoshio sensei is another one (here's a video showing other Aikido-like bunkai for Seiunchin: http://youtu.be/KyBXOiucFpk). Kuba sensei does this a lot, but it seems to me a bit of a stretch.
|Right hand grabs the head (or top-knot)|
and the left comes in to attack and
grab the chin.
And so I wondered why people seemed to be attracted to all of these joint manipulations just to throw the opponent. Is that really Okinawan karate? Doesn't the opponent just get back up and attack again? Is it to find less brutish-looking techniques, less violent alternatives? Is it seen as somehow more exotic and esoteric? Perhaps it appears to be more magical--a slight touch here, a little twist and the opponent is down. If you watch the videos carefully (and a bit critically), you see that the demonstrataed two-person techniques (bunkai?) only partially resemble the moves in kata. Why is that? Why not just come out and say, "Here are some cool moves I found while I was watching stuff from another type of martial art. Hey, if you squint your eyes up, they sort of look like Goju."
|Conclusion of the opening sequence|
of Seiunchin kata--an elbow attack
to the back of the head, neck, or
Goju is a close-in fighting system with a lot of grabs and such, but Goju quickly bridges the distance and attacks the head or neck. Neck breaks and head twisting are standard fare in Goju. Why? I don't know why; I didn't make this stuff up. But why? Because it just IS!!!!