|More typical fighting|
"Sensei ni, rei!" the senior student would bark out. And, after all the formal bows, the teacher would take over.
"Kiyotsuke. Rei. Yoi," the teacher would say, pausing between commands as the students responded. And then...
Then we began practicing kata. But here's where it gets interesting.
"Kata Saifa. Yoi. Hajime (begin)." Next was Seiunchin. "Yoi. Hajime." And then Shisochin. "Yoi. Kamae. Hajime." You see, there's that extra word--kamae. We used kamae not in the general sense of "posture" or even as a command--"kamae-te"--but in the connotative sense of "ready to fight." We generally understood it as a ready position, but no one every asked why the other kata (Saifa, Seiunchin, Seipai, and Kururunfa) didn't begin with a kamae or ready position. Why don't they?
|Kamae posture found|
in a number of kata.
Saifa begins with a self-defense scenario (bunkai) against a same-side wrist grab (opponent's left to defender's right). Seiunchin begins with a self-defense scenario (bunkai) against a cross-hand wrist grab (opponent's right to defender's left). Seipai begins with the opponent grabbing one's shoulder or lapel. Each of these kata shows defensive scenarios (bunkai sequences) against grabs or pushes, while Kururunfa, it seems to me, shows responses to an opponent's punch. The other four kata, however, show defenses and responses to an altogether different situation--one that begins from a wrestling clinch or, if you will, the posture one sees at the beginning of a Judo match. Just compare the postures.
|One of Judo's beginning|
So, does this change the way one sees the bunkai of these kata? Does it open up new possibilities? Do we need to re-think the opening "punches" (if that's even what they are!?) in Seisan and Sanseiru or question the "nukite" or "shotei-tsuki" techniques at the beginning of Shisochin? At the very least, we should question why so much of the bunkai people find in the Goju-ryu classical kata looks the same--most of it beginning with two people squared off, facing each other, until the attacker lunges in with a punch--when clearly, just from the way they begin, there is an implied difference.
It also makes me wonder about the three kata--sometimes said to be older or perhaps more related to each other (Sanseiru, Seisan, and Suparinpei)--having the same beginning "kamae" posture, as if they were based on a more grappling-oriented martial art, something like Okinawan sumo, for instance, though that's just a wild conjecture.
So anyway, before you start shouting, "No, Goju is about blocking and punching and kicking...after all, it's karate, not judo"....just wrestle with the idea for a bit. I think this is where it starts to get interesting.