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Featured Article / Review
Jundokan International
Chojun Miyagi_______
| |
Ei'ichi Miyazato_____|__Teruo Chinen
[Jundo-Kan International]
... full article
Every kata is the most important kata just as every link in a chain is the most important link

A sequence of prearranged movements and techniques indicating defensive and offensive attacks and / or counter attacks according to and following a diagram engaging an imaginary opponent.

Today, Karatedo is not just a Japanese Bujutsu (Combat art) or Budo, but a sport as well and an art designed to acquire skills of modern self-defense and historic Bujutsu. Karatedo has been incorporated into educational institutions, Police Departments and formal Military applications. The yesteryear `cult' image having disappeared now gives us the opportunity to teach openly and without persecution and labeled by spoof martial arts movies. In other word, we now have a more mature market to work with. Making Kata more approachable to the common person who may have not known better before. We recommend that you keep a weekly record of your training. Doing so is an excellent resource for tracking your goals and accomplishments and will dramatically improve your performance by monitoring routines.

Gojuryu, for many years, had been handicapped, politically, in the area of competition Kata due to bickering of what version is right and what was wrong. Political interest are very discouraging, especially to those looking to build upon the future of Karatedo. So many different organizations claim and believe to have the true essence of Karatedo however few can agree upon the same principles. If the development of Gojuryu and Karatedo are to flourish, the leaders of these organizations should not standardize their own Dojo format but agree upon formats of Kata that are within the public view. In other words, Shitei for competition and individual on the Dojo level. we've read many memo about different ideologies and interpretations of kata. The truth is, none of us were there at the creation of the Kata. In actuality, most are still trying to get right what Chojun Miyagi Sensei tried to teach us. 

Above anything however, we should be as open minded like a white Belt, in listening to one another's point of view and except that such things could be possible instead of constantly looking for proof of wrong. The optimist attitude should flourish with the leaders and students of Karatedo. For in the end it may be the `leaders' who are disapproved of for grasping pessimist attitude. Strange as it is that, when two adults argue or disagree they carry a grudge for a lifetime however, when two Children argue they can be best friends again after ten minutes. 

In some cases, different styles and Karatedo practitioners try to keep what they believe are their secrets, as so does Gojuryu. Although those secrets are readily seen right in front of you, all you must do is become aware and that takes cadence and tenacity. Besides, there are only so many ways and directions the human body is capable of being manipulated. Practice, practice, practice. Keeping an open mind and remembering how easy this political thinking (our secret techniques) can get in the way of clear thinking is always a good point to remember. And above all you must seek out knowledge and the truth because it will not seek out you! Once, someone mentioned Superinpi ending in Neko Ashi Dachi. Who is to say that is the right or wrong way? Last year, it may have been wrong however 150 years ago, who knows as well as what application it may have interpreted.
  • So what is Kata?
Kata can be defined as a series of prearranged defensive and offensive movements manipulating the body as a tool for survival under circumstances of one or more attackers.
We have found that through research and probing, there are many different systems Gojuryu as well as Karatedo and yet from Dojo to Dojo they are different, they all seemed to be in search of the same end result, some type of enlightenment. In the highest form of understanding we can translate Kata as 'Zen in motion' in contrast to 'zazen' or sitting meditation. An understanding that requires depth in philosophy, an imagination of opponents and situations uncommon and mastery of basics within your own particular style.
There are multiple key elements of kata.
  1. Karatedo Ni Sente Nashi [In Karatedo there is no first attack]; All Gojuryu Kata begin with a defensive motion. Remember there is no first attack in Karate! There are however counter measures, which can be found through out the system.
  2. Kishin Yoi [or "Kishin no yoi"] - Ready; The correct state of mind and preparation - prior to the movements of the Kata.
  3. Kata Tokucho [Kata no Tokucho] Unique techniques of system or style, Grace; There are specific principles and movements or type of movements within each of the major systems and styles of Karatedo as well as with different Kata in each system. Kata Tokucho gives the kata meaning and beauty.
  4. Osoi wa Hayaku Waza Kankyu [Waza no Kankyu = technique of slow fast] Rhythm & Timing; All kata no matter what Ryu-ha or Kai-ha must have a certain rhythm and contrast of fast and slow, [slow part slow, fast part fast]. Different techniques move at different speeds in different kata. Some kata that are found in different styles might even have the same movements however, are executed with a different speed. Those watching as well as the performer of the kata must be able to differentiate the difference in speed and the purpose of the technique. (waza: technique; no: of; Kan: slow; kyu: fast).
  5. Nujisashi; Slow and relaxed portions of kata specifically not tense however focused.
  6. Chikara Kyojaku [Chikara no Kyojaku = Power of strong weak] Power; The correct use of power must be obvious in movements and stance. This power should also be obvious to the viewer. It should relax at the correct time and there must be balance showing a clear difference between strength and relaxation. Can also be noted as "Chinkucki Kakin" = Stabalized tension of the body where as the body sinks and is strongly rooted accompanied with proper breathing and associates with using the body of the entire body.
  7. Jushin Antei [Jushin no antei = center of body stability] Balance; There should be stability in Kata and the stability is correct, not stable because there was no power and the stability should flow with the transitions in the kata.
  8. Muchimi = sticky motions of tense movement; exemplified specifically in Gojuryu and some Shorin Ryu.
  9. Tai Shinshuku [Tai no shinshuku = body expansion and contraction]; Alternating from one posture to another requires a combination of balance, power, speed and control.
  10. Kiai; Correct use of shouts at predetermined points in the kata. Kiai is a shout coming from lower abdomen, short and powerfully shocking projecting energy and force.
  11. In - Yo; In-Yo must be in proper harmony with breathing and controlled [See also Kokyu]. This must harmonize, contract and relax with the dual forces of kata, with the active and passive elements, with the offensive and defensive techniques.
  12. Kokyu [breathing out and in]; Kokyu can be described as the best time to effectively use a combination of Tai Shinshuku, Yo-In and Kiai through out the execution of Kata. When practicing Kihon we are taught - inhale when blocking and exhale when striking, just as in Sanchin Kata. Breathing in Kata should be measured by the action or motion being executed. Short movements (even those with full motion) have a short breath. Long movements, even done quickly, receive a longer breath. Breathing, especially when executed in longer Kata as Seiunchin and Superinpei, is necessary to maintain your strength and power, shifting your body and controlling muscles and of course proper Kiai must incorporate breathing.
  13. Simplicity - Complexity;
  14. Chakugan [= Observe the eyes, Visualization of technique or focus of attention]; Focus is not merely striking, blocking or looking into the direction of an imaginary target. Chakugan is correctly focusing on each individual technique how it might flow and how it is executed. Chakugan, of course, includes your eyes to show the purpose of the movement but it is seen in our eyes, it's not an act, it is a feeling. Teachers should instruct students to look into the direction of attacks and defensive techniques.
  15. Embusen; Is the imaginary line representing the directions of the Kata. North, South, East and West. We follow this pattern as it has been preset by those before us. We following the correct pattern of movement within the prescribed pattern of the Kata. Many katas are symmetrical and most end in the same place they began.
  16. Zanshin [State of mind]; There is a state of mind when performing Kata. We perform kata as if there were actually someone there, blocking their strike, attacking to the head, breaking the grab and following through with a throw. We perform Kata with the mental awareness that someone actually exists with each execution of technique until the completion of Kata, knowing exactly where you are when you end, precise, as strong as when you started, focused with an empty mind.
  17. Kime; Focus physically in the dojo and mental focus in life. Kime is to pay attention with intent. This is an element that an experienced Sensei or student can see or project in their eyes like a window into the soul of the person performing Kata. Kime is also related to the placement of energy. Those watching a kata performance should 'feel' the techniques and their purpose.
Kihongata: basic, fundamental formal exercises. Sanchin, Gekisai dai ichi and Gekisai dai ni are kihon kata that serve as practices for cultivating a strong physique while encouraging martial way spirit. In some Gojuryu organizations - Sanchin is a Kihongata where as Gekisai dai ichi and dai ni are Fukyugata. 

Students learn to regulate their breathing while coordinating it with the use of their power in correct posture. Note: In 1940, Chojun Miyagi Bushi formulated the Gekisai kata which he included in the kihon curriculum. Also Tensho kata is now categorized under Heishu kata (closed hand formal exercise). 
Kihongata include:
  • Sanchin
  • Tensho
Sanchin is the basic Kata of Gojuryu Karatedo to study "Ki, Soku and Tai" which are necessary factors of martial arts and this is a basic Kata for training to learn correct breathing and posture for substantial attack and defense techniques. The founder Chojun Miyagi Sensei studied Rokkishu from Chinese boxing Nan-ha Shorin-ken Hakkaku-ken and developed Tensho as Heishu Kata. Tensho aims to study "Ki, Soku and Tai" the same as Sanchin and several Uke techniques and attacking techniques by Shotei.
In many Gojuryu Dojo Kihongata may include Taikyoku Kata however it should be noted that Taikyoku are not true kata however preliminary exercises to Kihon Kata such as Kihon is preliminary to Kihon Ido.
Fukyugata"Fukyu" means promotional; something to be spread or shared. "Gata" is an alternate pronunciation of "kata", the letter "k" changes to "g" when the character is preceded by another word or term, or form.
  • Gekisai Ichi and 
  • Gekisai Ni

In 1940, Gen Hayakawa, Governor of Okinawa, assembled the Karate-Do Special Committee, composed by Ishihara Shochoku (chairman), Miyagi Chojun, Kamiya Jinsei, Shinzato Jinan, Miyasato Koji, Tokuda Anbun, Kinjo Kensei, Kyan Shinei, and Nagamine Shoshin. The goal was to create a series of Okinawan kata to teach physical education and very basic Okinawan 'independent style' martial arts to school children. Their goal was not to create a standardized karate as the Japanese had been doing with Kendo and Judo for the sake of popularization.

Fukyugata therefore, may be thought of as a basic, promotional kata, simple enough to be taught as part of physical education programs at schools and part of a standardized karate syllabus for schools, independent of the sensei's style however has been formerly adopted by Gojuryu Karatedo.

Nagamine Shoshin of Matsubayashi Shorinryu along with Miyagi Chogun developed Fukyugata dai ni, which is part of current Matsubayashi Shorin Ryu syllabus. Fukyugata dai ni is known as Gekisai Dai Ichi in Gojuryu Karatedo. Miyagi Chojun further developed Gekisai dai ni, specific to Gojuryu Karatedo.


Kaishugata: open hand formal exercises. Suitably interwoven, each kata combines both offensive and defensive techniques in various parameters that we observe while practicing. Therefore, it is through practicing these movements and understanding their purpose that we are brought closer to understanding the relationship between body and mind. In doing so, the principles of toki and musubi can be cultivated. Note: After Chojun Miyagi taught Sanchin kata he usually chose a kata for each student depending on the student's body type and had him or her practice that particular kata until they mastered it.

The Kata of Kaishugata include:

  • Saifa [砕破 or サイファ]: In English is "to smash and tear". Saifa has its origins in China and was brought to Okinawa by Higashionna Kanro. Saifa is made up of quick whipping motions, hammerfists [Tetsui], and back fist strikes. Saifa particularly emphasizes moving off-line from an opponent's main force, while simultaneously closing distance to escape and counter. Saifa is commonly the first advanced Gojuryu Karatedo kata students learn after Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni.
  • Seiyunchin [制引戦 or セイユンチン]: In English means to "attack, conquer and suppress. Seiyunchin is also referred to as 'to control and pull into battle'. Seiunchin demonstrates unbalancing techniques to contain opponents with close quarter striking, sweeps, take-downs, grappling and throws.
  • Sanseiru [三十六手 or サンセイルー]: Simply "36 Hands" in English, Sanseiru teaches practicioners how to maneuver inside and around an opponent in close quarter fights while emphasizing the destruction of the opponent's mobility by means of Kansetsu Geri.
  • Shisochin [四向戦 or シソーチン]: Translated in Engish means "to destroy in four directions". Kata Shisochin integrates powerful linear attacks [Shotei Tsuki] in combination with circular techniques and deflecting. Shisochin is known to be the favorite kata of the Founder of Gojuryu Karatedo Miyagi Chojun.
  • Seipai: [十八手 or セイパイ]: In English means "18 Hands". The 'embusen' of Seipai incorporates both the four directional movements and 45° angular attacks and includes techniques for both long distance and close quarter combat.
  • Seisan [十三手 or セイサン] (13 Hands): Seisan is considered one of the oldest kata and is widely practiced among other Naha-te based schools. Other styles of Karatedo or "Ryuha" also practice this kata or versions of it including Ryueiryu.
  • Kururunfa [久留頓破 or クルルンファー]: Translated means "Holding on long and striking suddenly" and the techniques of this kata are similar the Chinese Praying Mantis style. The applications of Kururunfa include escapes, traps and whiplike defensive and offensive techniques.
  • Suparimpei [壱百零八 or スーパーリンペイ]: In English means "108 Hands" also known as Pechurin. Suparimpei is the most advanced kata of Gojuryu Karatedo. It is theoritically that Suparimpei may have had three levels to master [Go, Chu, and Jo], land that ater Miyagi Chojun left only one that being the highest, "Jo" level.
Chojun Miyagi introduced a modern point of view into conventional meditation and health program and developed Junbi Undo, or preparation exercise which was produced for improving your health, and Hojo Undo, or supplementary exercise which is practiced with equipment from an early stage of school's development. He developed rational system of training. Junbi Undo and Hojo Undo are still actively used without any changes.
The basic Kata Sanchin, Kaishu, or open hand Kata Gekisai 1 and 2, Heishu, or closed hand Kata Tensho, authentic Kata of Kanryo Higaona Sensei such as Saifa, Seiyunchin, Shisochin, Sanseiru, Seipai, Kururunfa, Seisan and Superinpei are instructed. In November, 1974 - 4 basic Kata Sanchin, Tensho, Saifa and Seiyunchin were decided and standardized by the JKF Gojukai. In 1980 - The rest of 8 Kata (Gekisai 1 and 2, Shisochin, Sanseiru, Seisan, Seipai, Kururunfa and Superinpei) were decided.
  • The relationship to Bunkai & Oyo
Bunkai is the term used to describe the actual application of the techniques practised in the kata. When I began Karate training I do not recall this term being used but we did practice 'Bunkai' however it was called 'Kata Kumite' or Sensei simply said this part of Kata is this technique. 

Oyo is the term for applications that also come from the kata, but are not necessarily duplicated purely as they are within the embusen of the form.
Without a clear understanding of the applications of a kata, it is merely a sequence of movements with no meaning. In order to fully appreciate the teachings of a particular form, the bunkai / oyo must be analyzed and understood. Many elements and levels of technique are to be found upon careful study and instruction. It has been said that the kata are the encyclopedia of technique for a style. Bunkai / oyo is the understanding of that information.

Of all the 'major' systems of Karatedo, Gojuryu seems to have retained a most complete system relating to Bujutsu. Long ago all the major systems of Karatedo [then known as Taode] contained extensive techniques similar to Jujutsu, Judo and Aikido. At one point the major Karatedo systems were introduced to the gymnastic ciriculum of the Okinawa school systems, in 1902, and made available publically. During this time many Sensei disguised grappling or Jujutsu type techniques in their kata. Gojuryu Karatedo however, seems to have been the least affected by this modernization as exemplified in Kata where Tegumi [Tuite or Tuide] is still clearly seen and practiced.
#1 Yuishinkan
on May 04 2007 14:16:04
#2 sensei78
on August 20 2007 14:07:03
Great article, I have been studying Shorei-kan Goju-Ryu for 31 years now and was wondering if you were familier with Toguchi's bunkai? Our bunkai is a little different than most Goju, instead of showing individual technique interpretation our bunkai goes through the whole kata, we call it two man kata. Our school is in Midwest City, Oklahoma, and my sensei recieved his Shodan from master Toguchi.
#3 namban
on June 07 2015 22:17:47
Chojun Miyagi writings regarding kata in my opinion developed from 30ís to 40ís on a simplified way connecting with Goju foundation. And the view of kata in (1) Heishu as fundamental, showing a close state of mind-body looking to our own inside and basis, more linked with squaring basics, and (2) Kaishu as advanced kata showing an open state of mind-body looking to applications on target bodies, more linked with circular movements, this simplified view as I study, make me believe the profound knowledge he developed studying and developing karatedo with his good partners of the time.
Tensho research begun probably on the 1915 trip to China, and we are looking to a conclusion that with 12 kata, structured 10 Kaishu and 2 Heishu. If one of them is linked with Kanryo Higaonna creation (Sanchin), the other one is linked with Chojun Miyagi innovation. We are on the 100 anniversary of this good moment.
Tensho and Goju are one in Karatedo!
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