Make your own free website on

Okinawan Shorin-ryu Karate-Do

Back to Homepage

Selected Writings on Kata.

Article Index

Kata Gojushiho, as you know, used to be called useishi.  We know that the title refers to 54 steps, however, to find some of its true applications we must recall the "drunken monkey" cross-stepping maneuver in the kata and the "Hotaku waza" or "woodpecker techniques" used.  This last technique (joined fingertips) when understood, separates itself from "Dragon's Tongue" and "Tiger's Jaw" found in kata such as Bassai.  Each empty had formation just mentioned uses the tips of the fingers in a different way, at a different angle, with a different amount of force, to achieve a different effect.

Seisan - the foundational form in Shobayashi-ryu.  Although OSensei did not always teach it first he most always did so.  If, for some reason, students had too much difficulty with it he would sometimes teach Naihanchi (or Naifunchin) first. Seisan (thirteen positions of attach and defense) is foundational because it is said to contain the essence of Shorin-ryu.  In that one kata we find front, back, four corner, cat foot, and cross-leg stances, middle, high, and low "blocks", front kicks, side kicks, and back kicks (all the same "front kick" going to the front, back and side of the enemy), single and double hand redirections, joint breaks, throws, and a number of tuite and kyusho applications.  Unlike Naihanchi, which "opens" differently with the two hands simply
coverings the groin area (readers know that's not what they're really doing at all), Seisan, with its first move (the closed right fist placed in the palm of the open left hand), teaches us our fundamental tuite.  (By the way, when Naihanchi Shodan is taught first, it teaches us our fundamental Kyusho).

For reasons I won't go into here, Shimabukuro OSensei no longer teaches these things and they're not on his videotape.  However, these understandings and original applications may still be unearthed in the kata if you find someone who learned them first hand, earn their trust, know the kata, practice Hojo-Undo, etc.  More importantly, you will be helped along in this type of training if you remember that one of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.  If you only "perform" your kata exactly the same way each time, trying to replicate and perfect
only the movements, you will NEVER understand the form's most effective contents.  In the last newsletter we mentions the seven elements, or aspects, of kata. There must be a dynamic interaction between and among the elements of kata for the meaning to become apparent.  Also remember the elements of kata are VARIABLES.  Each is meant to be changed vis-a-vis the others in order to produce the greatest life protection effects possible on the widest variety of opponents.  They're not pillars of concrete forever (per)formed one way just so someone can tell you that you have "Number One Kata" (which often means you look pretty good but you don't know anything).  As written in an earlier newsletter, there is a difference between an Olympic shooter and a sniper.

Again, look for the good "tailor".  Exceptional Sensei produce situations not unlike plants naturally stretching and leaning towards the sun.  This is done not out of adoration for the sun but to better be able to draw sustenance from the sun.  This "stretching" (growth) and "leaning" (paying attention) also makes it easier for the sun to provide sustenance over time.