KARATE begins and ends with the KATA
The Kata is the essence and foundation of karate and represents the accumulation of more than 1000 years of knowledge and expertise put together by many masters from many places and of every age as part of their devotion to the search and training. The Kata is like a map that guides us and, as such, should not be changed or modified.
We must always consider the KATA as the foundation of our training, from which all the other aspects of KARATE are developed. We must make sure that the knowledge and experience of the great masters is kept intact.
DEFINITION OF THE WORD "KATA" = "FORM"
A KATA can be defined as a number of defence and attack techniques using the fist and leg in a preset order against imaginary opponents.
Kata training can be used to develop the fundamental elements of karate, since they include the basic principles, techniques and tradition of the art.
The important points when performing a kata are as follows:
Speed, direction in which the eyes look and see, rhythm, Zanshin (final sensation), embusen (line along which a kata is performed, used to develop the kata with the appropriate speed and rhythm), Kime, Kiai, balance, liveliness and ki.
The practical application of the kata technique is called BUNKAI KUMITE.
Every kata begins with a defence technique to remind us of the fact that martial arts are for defending ourselves and the most important values of society.
Almost every Goju-Ryu kata was developed from its foundation by Sensei Higaonna Kanryo, who studied and trained for a long time under the guidance of the master Ryu-Ryuko, who came from the Chinese province of FUKIEN.
This was created by Miyagi Sensei in 1940 as part of his desire to make Goju-Ryu popular among young people. This kata ends with a step forward. Japan was at war during the time when this kata was created and, according to Sensei Higaonna’s book, The History of Karate-Do, Miyagi Sensei included the step forward as an analogy to the country moving forward.
This was created at the same time as Gekisai Dai Ichi. It introduces open-hand techniques and movements in Neko Ashi, important features of certain advanced Goju-Ryu katas. Both katas, Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni, are performed with exaggerated movements and are relatively easy to understand.
This uses tai-sabaki (Body Shifting) and many escape techniques.
Seiyunchin is unusual in that it does not employ any kicking techniques. It contains several escape techniques.
This kata is said to have been the favourite of Miyagi Sensei in his later years. The kata employs block on joints and four-directional fighting techniques.
The name of this kata means the number 36 in Chinese and is calculated by the six-by-six formula. The first six represents EYE, EAR, NOSE, TONGUE, BODY and SPIRIT. The second six represents COLOUR, VOICE, TASTE, SMELL, TOUCH and JUSTICE. It uses various joint attacks and defences against kicking techniques.
The name of this kata means the number 18 in Chinese and is calculated by multiplying 6 by 3. The number 3 represents GOOD, BAD and PEACE. The number 6 represents the same as the second 6 of the Sanseru kata. Sepai uses various movements that require coordination between the hips and the hands. It contains a wide variety of technique.
This kata was passed on to Sensei Kanryo Higaonna by Sensei Ryu Ryuko; however, its creator is still unknown. Kururunfa contains a number of open-hand techniques and a special coordination of hip techniques and Neko Ashi movements. Like Sesan, Kururunfa has soft movements followed by hard movements; however, the difference between the softness and hardness is much greater.
Sesan contains very unusual techniques and emphasises the difference between Go (hard) and Ju (soft). A different version is practised in Shotokan (Hangetsu) and in Wado Ryu (Seishan). Sesan was said to be the favourite kata of Jin’an Shinzato Sensei and Chojun Miyagi Sensei.
This is the most advanced and complicated Goju-Ryu kata. It is also known by the old name of Pitchurrin. It means 108 in Chinese and has special significance in Buddhism (man is thought to have 108 bad passions, which is why a bell rings 108 times in Buddhist temples on 31 December to ward off bad spirits). This number 108 is obtained by multiplying the number 36 (SANSERU) by the number 3, which represents PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE.
The name of Sanchin or 3 battles refers to the conflict between mind, body and spirit during the practice of this kata. There are two versions of Sanchin: the version by Kanryu Higaonna and the one developed by Sensei Miyagi (which maintains the essence of the Sanchin kata by the master Kanryu Higaonna. It is a variation of the latter made with the aim of protecting any part of the body from degeneration due to a lack of training).
Miyagi Sensei developed this kata during his period of investigation in Fuzhou, in southeast China, between 1917 and 1921. It is also known as Rokkishu. The aim of the Tensho kata is to develop the concentration of strength in the centre of the hands, developing gentle movements that generate tremendous power.
The Sanchin Kata can be considered as an aspect of GO (HARD) and the Tensho Kata represents the JU (SOFT).