Kata
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The Kata of Okinawa Goju Ryu

The 13 Kata of Okinawa Goju Ryu are:

Sanchin

Three Battles (Higaonna and Miyagi versions)
Geki Sai Dai IchiDestroy 1
Geki Sai Dai NiDestroy 2
SaifaSmash/ Crush or Waves
SeiyunchinPull off balance and Strike
ShisochinFour Directional Battle
Sanseru36
Sepai18
KururunfaAnnihilate
Sesan13
Suparinpei108
TenshoRotating palm

The exact origins of the all kata of Goju will always be left somewhat to conjecture and speculation. We do know  that 9 of the 12 kata in Goju-Ryu are Chinese in origin. The remaining three are Geki Sai Dai Ichi, Geki Sai Dai Ni, and Tensho. These were developed by Miyagi Chojun Sensei during the early 1940's.

Sanchin has been modified from its original form. Higaonna Kanryo Sensei closed the open hands of the Morote Chudan Uke and closed the hands on the Nukite strikes. Miyagi Chojun Sensei took the turn out of the Kata and added backward movement. Miyagi Chojun Sensei believed if you don't use something, it atrophies, so he added backward movement to Sanchin. Higaonna Kanryo Sensei or Miyagi Chojun Sensei also changed the breathing of Sanchin Kata so that it was slower, and also took out quick movements.

 There are two explanations for the purpose of developing the Geki Sai Kata. One is that Miyagi Chojun Sensei developed them for students in schools and to help an average person learn Karate more easily. Another explanation, which is lesser known, in addition to the first was that the Geki Sai Kata was developed for the Japanese Imperial army for use in combat. Tensho Kata was developed from a Kata Miyagi Chojun Sensei had learned in China, called Rokkishu. Tensho made complete the system where Sanchin left off. Tensho integrates intricate concepts of the techniques of Goju-Ryu. Tensho is a higher level breathing Kata.


It should be known that secret principles of Goju-Ryu exist in the Kata. The Kata is the heart and soul of any traditional Martial Art, especially Goju-Ryu. The Kata helps develop proper execution of technique, mental focus and most importantly it teaches the Bunkai.

The History of Goju Ryu Kata

The history of the Kata of Okinawa Goju Ryu starts in the Fujian district of Southern China. This is the geographical root of most Karate styles due to it's location in respect of Okinawa. Concerning Goju-Ryu, it is especially Monk Fist (Luohan Quan), Crane Boxing (He Quan) and Tiger Boxing (Hu Quan) that determined the roots of Goju-Ryu as it became gradually formed initially by Higaonna Kanryo Sensei and expanded and codified by Miyagi Chojun Sensei.

The starting point is Qinna, meaning 'grappling' or 'seizing' and forms the heart of the Southern Chinese self-defence methods. This Qinna is crystallised out in ritual form Kata, whereby every move refers to applications or Bunkai in simple (basic) or more complicated and free forms (Oyo Bunkai). Except for the knowledge of self-defence techniques, Kata is also the foundation of energetic qualities such as grounding, rooting, generating power, tension and relaxation, centering, etc. In short all those qualities which are necessary for moving in general and self-defence in particular.

It is clear that the origin of Okinawan Karate and Chinese martial arts -with Kata as paradigm- was next to self-defence also of holistic nature because of the great interest in Chinese medicine and the philosophical and spiritual traditions.

Bunkai

Partner exercises (Gyaku-te in Goju-Ryu) with Qinna, are the basis of Kakie (Kokie in the Fujian dialect), one of the strongholds of Goju-Ryu.

Goju-Ryu is characterised by emphasising close-combat fighting. In basic Kakie the Karate-ka learns the Go-aspects such as rooting, absorbing power, and using Muchimi. Aspects that are also emphasised in Sanchin Kata. In the technical respect the Karate-ka learns to use pushing- and pulling-techniques in this phase in order to out-balance his opponent (Kuzushi waza) to make the fighting distance suitable to himself. Connected to this, different methods to lock arms (or legs) of the opponent and 'opening up' the vital points of the body follow (Kyushu-jutsu).

After learning these basics the applications of the kata are integrated in Kakie.

The fighting techniques trained in Kakie, like so many Bunkai Kumite, are known as Gyaku-te and are divided in categories like e.g. Kansetsu Waza (manipulation of the joints), Nage Waza (throwing techniques), Shime Waza (strangulation's) and Kyusho Waza (manipulation of the vital points).

Kakie training is integrated in the total curriculum. As soon as a good foundation is laid in terms of basic techniques and abilities, Kakie training shifts to become more free form ending in Jiyu Kakie kumite and Iri Kumi, the free-fight exercise and competition-form of Goju-Ryu.

Many techniques trained in Kakie and in the Bunkai can be traced back to the old Chinese text about fighting arts, the 'Bubishi'.

Because of the knowledge of Gyaku-te with Kakie as practical exercise form and the dynamic qualities of moving, the traditional Kata of Goju-Ryu form alpha and omega of Karate-do. The influence of modern competition Karate (eg: WKF) and the longing for international reputation and recognition, has resulted in many Karate styles abandoning their original martial and spiritual orientation. As a consequence of this, Kihon, Kata and Kumite of these 'modern' styles are disintegrated and have developed into the direction of what scores and is allowed in competition.

The loss of knowledge of genuine fighting methods and the spiritual vacuum that occurred during the last few decades in these modern styles, had the result that many Karate-ka again orientated themselves towards the profound fighting traditions of Fujian and Okinawa.

The Bunkai, which means, "to take apart" are the combat techniques hidden within the Kata. Few Bunkai can simply be derived from watching, the vast majority need to be explained by a Teacher who knows the Kata. Without the Bunkai a Kata is simply a ritualistic exercise that is empty and void of true purpose.