Tag Archive for seyunchin

Building the Kata Repertoire

Kata are an intriguing part of karate and other Eastern martial arts. They’re used for everything from the reinforcement of technique and self defense to spiritual development and physical excercise. In karate, each kata has a variety of movements and meanings, and each is often interpreted and applied differently from generation to generation and from style to style. Furthermore, it’s not unusual for different styles of karate to practice different sets of kata; if two given styles have a dozen kata each, it wouldn’t surprise me if they only had six in common.

There’s no arguing that kata are difficult to master. Once one learns all the movements, it takes some time to improve the techniques. As such, I’ve read statements from many karate practitioners and instructors saying fewer kata are better because of this time it takes for mastery. Others disagree, saying it’s good to learn additional kata to learn additional techniques. In my own style, Shuri-ryu, there are 15 official kata, and through the ranks I’ve climbed so far, each is designed to teach or reinforce certain techniques. Wansu, for example, teaches us to use hip thrust to power a punch.

Personally, I enjoy learning more kata. It adds some variety to the workout, and for those of us using karate for personal development, anything that keeps us moving and practicing is a good thing.

My latest kata is Seyunchin, which I only finished learning on Thursday. It looks something like this:

This is about 98% like ours: the steps are the same, but we execute some of the techniques differently. Seyunchin was recently added to my school’s curriculum by the owner, Shihan Joseph Walker, a Chief Instructor of Shuri-ryu. It has an interesting mix of tension, breathing exercise, and full-powered blocks and strikes, and we first learn it as a brown belt.

One of my favorite workouts is to run every kata I know. We’ve done this at the dojo a couple of times, too, turning it into a half hour aerobic session. It can take me a while to get through them, as I’ve built up quite a list of kata that are both part of Shuri-ryu and from kobudo (weapons) or other styles. That list includes:

  • Wansu (Wunsu)
  • Anaku
  • Naihanchi Sho (aka Tekki Shodan)
  • Empi Sho
  • Tsue Sho (a bo kata)
  • Sanchin
  • Seyunchin
  • Ni-Cho Sai (kobudo sai kata)
  • Kyan No Sai (kobudo sai kata)
  • Sushi No Kon Sho (kobudo bo kata)
  • Nikobudo Ichi (Kajukenbo kata)

I didn’t include the Taikyoku series, as these are considered punching exercises, not kata. Also, I’m currently learning Sushi No Kon, the Matayoshi Kobudo version of the bo kata I already know (incidentally, the Ni-Cho Sai I know is a Matayoshi kata). I can interpret the taikyoku kata to sai, and I can probably fudge my way through running Wansu with the sai. Finally, I have learned two sword kata which I believe are from Iaido.

It’s quite a list. I certainly won’t claim mastery of any of them, but again, they make for one hell of a workout when run one after the other. I can also choose to concentrate on my newest kata to be sure I’m ready for the next stripe review and promotion, or I can go back and continue to develop the kata I’d learned previously.

You just don’t get that kind of variety pushing metal into the air or running around a track. Those are important excercises too, but for someone like me, monotony is the surest way to kill a fitness program. I may not get excited about the simple taikyoku forms, but I still enjoy running Wansu as much as I did when I first learned it as a yellow belt.

And I still say bring on the next one!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

That Which Does Not Kill Me…

I survived graduation night.

I got recruited to help out, so I spent most of the night lining up the new graduates before they went out onto the mat and helping tie their new belts onto them. This worked out well because it kept me busy rather than sweating my own pending performance. It proved an interesting experience in itself, too, with some of the lower ranks calling me sir and oohing and ahhing when they noticed I had just earned my brown belt.

My own kata went smooth. My biggest concern with Empi Sho is always the leap at the end, and my heel landed in a seam between the mats. Of course I sank right down into it and my leg wobbled. I had a sudden image of falling on my ass in front of the crowd, but I managed to keep my footing and finish the kata. Some friends in the crowd assured me it looked fine.

Either way, Shihan Walker tied my new brown belt around me a moment later and all was right with the world.

There are more pictures from the night on my Flickr account. Some are a little fuzzy because I left my wife with a prime lens and a low aperture without having the time to explain how to manage it. She caught me dropping an elbow on an imaginary opponent during the kata, though, and it’s in focus enough to see I need to concentrate on kicking my heels out a little more in kiba dachi. I’ll blame the nervousness.

I’ll be learning two new kata as a Sankyu: one called Seyunchin, which was only recently added to our curriculum, and Tsue sho, a bo kata. I learned Tsue sho Saturday morning and it’s not particularly difficult, especially after seeing it run in class so many times and having participated in interpretation drills for it with higher ranks. I only found one video of it here; it’s very sloppy so I almost hesitate to link it, but the moves are the same and you’ll get the idea. I hope to learn Seyunchin this week, and this is what I’m in for:

I’ve seen it run several times and have always thought it looked like fun. I suspect it will be a little more difficult to learn, but I’m up for it. If nothing else it will bring more variety to my workouts at home.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.