Gekisai Dai Ichi (Rip and Tear I or Turning Disadvantage into Advantage I)
This kata was developed and introduced in the 1940's by Miyagi Chojun O'Sensei. It's intention was to popularize Karate-Doh to the general public and help establish a curriculum for school children. It contains powerful, basic movements that are quite easy to interpret and learn, however many of the techniques have multiple applications. Most the movements are done with a closed fist and with full power.
Gekisai Dai Ni (Rip and Tear II or Turning Disadvantage into Advantage II)
The format of this kata is very similar to Gekisai dai Ichi, however some advanced techniques and timing are included. Kake uke (open hand hooking block), mawashi uke (circular block) and neko ashi dachi (cat foot stance) are the additional techniques in the kata. In Gekisai dai Ichi full power and speed was utilized however, in Gekisai dai Ni the concept of 'muchimi' (a heavy, sticking but flowing action) is introduced in the kake and mawashi uke's. 'Muchimi' requires stances with a lower centre of gravity, hence neko ashi dachi!
Sanchin Ichi (Miyagi Sanchin)
Sanchin Ichi translates as "3 Battles One" or "3 Conflicts One". This kata was developed by Miyagi Chojun O'Sensei because he perceived Sanchin Ni, the original Sanchin kata he learned from Higaonna Sensei, was too long for beginners. As stated above, Sanchin Ni was determined to be too difficult for beginners to perform, therefore Sanchin Ichi was developed, leaving Sanchin Ni to be taught at a brown and black belt level. Brown and Black belts should do their own personal training using Sanchin Ichi and Sanchin Ni. Sanchin Ichi has all the same movements as Sanchin Ni but is shorter and no turns hence making it a little easier.
The Sanchin kata are the basis of the Goju-Ryu Karate system. All other kata are based on the Sanchin forms. The principals of the Goju-Ryu Karate are all encompassed within these kata. The Grand Masters in Okinawa have explained that in the olden days Goju-Ryu or Nata-te karateka would learn the Sanchin Kata and only one other Kata, based on that persons body type, therefore you would only two katas. Today we are very lucky to be able to learn the whole system, however we must remember Sanchin Kata was and still is an very important kata.
Saifa (Crush and Tear or Smash and Tear)
Saifa kata introduces tai sabaki (body evasion) and open handed palm-heel blocks and strikes (haito uchi). It mixes swift, light stances (neko ashi dachi & sagi ashi dachi) with solid, grounding stances (shiko dachi). Saifa contains a vast number of techniques like hammer fist strike (tettsui uchi), back fist (ura uchi), morote tsuki (double fist punch), ashi barai (foot sweep), haito uchi (ridge hand strike) etc, etc.
Seiunchin (To Travel Far and Conquer or To Attack and Pull into Battle)
Seiyunchin is a long and strength-sapping kata. It contains pulling and gripping techniques, throws, hidden techniques and requires a strong upper and lower body, good breath control and lots of stamina. There are NO kicks in this kata!! This kata is most performed at tournaments throughout the world. The techniques are well suited for practical, close-in fighting.
Sanchin Dai Ni (Higashionna Sanchin)
Sanchin Ni translates as "3 Battles Two" or "3 Conflicts Two". This has many meanings. First it refers to the struggle to control the body under physical fatigue. With fatigue the mind begins to lose focus and thus the spirit begins to diminsh as well. Therefore Sanchin develops discipline, determination, focus, perserverance and other mental attributes. The Chinese refer to this as Shen (spirit), Shin (mind) and Li (body). Another possible interpretation refers to the "Three Burners" of the body as decribed in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
One of two "heishu " Kata of Goju-Ryu, Sanchin is probably the most misunderstood Kata in all of Karate. In contrast, it is probably the single most valuable training exercise in Goju-Ryu. Like the other Kata of Goju-Ryu, Sanchin (Samm Chien in Chinese) can be found in several Chinese arts, particulary the southern styles including four styles of Crane Boxing, Dragon Boxing, Tiger Boxing, Lion Boxing, Dog or Ground Boxing and Monk Fist. Sanchin has such aspects as deep, diaphramatic breathing found in many internal arts as well as external attributes like mechanical alignment and muscular strength. Because many martial artists have little or no understanding of the true history and nature of the Chinese arts from which Okinawan Goju-Ryu has its roots, Sanchin has become little more than an isometric form performed with dangerous tension and improper breathing techniques.
The original Sanchin that Higaonna Sensei learned from RuRuKo (1852-1930) was performed with open hands and with less emphasis on muscle contraction and "energetic" breathing. With the changes brought about by Emperor Meiji (Meiji Restoration Period 1888-1912), Higaonna Sensei changed the open hands to closed fists as the martial meaning was no longer emphasized. Later Miyagi Sensei would again alter the Kata in pattern alone which is Sanchin.
Shisochin (Four Direction Battle)
Again like seiunchin kata, close range techniques are used throughout this kata. Rapid whipping techniques are blended in with those requiring 'muchimi'. Joint locks and breaks are a feature of Shisochin kata. You can see the Chinese influence in this kata as there are only four (4) closed hand techniques in this kata with all the rest open hand techniques. Hanshi Miyazato would do Shisochin Kata quite often at demonstrations. Much practice is required to master this kata especially to get the focus Hanshi Miyazato had.
Sanseru (Thirty Six Hands)
The techniques in this kata seem basic, direct and hard, however there are some unique and advanced, close-in techniques. Joint and knee locks and kicks, low front kicks while moving forward and blocking after turning are techniques that require lots of practice. Slow movements evolve into fast, explosive ones. A feature of this kata is use of koken (top of wrist) at the end of the kata. This last movement (morote koken uke in shikodachi) is an often misunderstood movement with an array of close-in applications.
Sepai (Eighteen Hands)
Circular, whipping movements and body evasion (taisabaki), dropping your body to rise up and push your opponent off balance and faints are all found within this kata. There are, as in ALL the other kata, many hidden techniques and movements. Certain hand techniques require a unique use of certain part of the hand eg, performing the gedan furi uchi after swiveling 90 degrees requires the hand to be shaped like it would when one knocks on a door.
Seipai training with Minei Nanko Sensei 9th Dan, Okinawa Gojub Ryu Karate-Doh Kyokai
Kururunfa (Forever Crushing and Breaking)
Again the use of taisabaki, joint locking and breaking techniques are prominent within this quick and fast kata. Many open handed techniques could either be interpreted as a joint lock or a block, and depending on the circumstances could be used as both. The use of the hips to aid some hand techniques enhances both the power and effect of the technique.
Sesan (Thirteen Hands)
The opening three Sanchin dachi steps with the morote chudan uke (double middle level block) and chudan gyaku tsuki (reverse stomach punch) appears to be similar to that as in Sanseru kata, BUT, in performance and application they are NOT! This is a powerful, fighting kata with many superb close-in fighting techniques.
Suparinpei (One Hundred and Eight Hands)
The longest of all the Goju Ryu kata, Suparinpei is said to contain all the techniques from all the Goju Ryu kata. Quick blocking and simultaneous striking are found all over this kata. Just like in a fight, you have to pace yourself and your breathing to end off this kata strongly. This kata is also known by it's original name, Pichurin.
Tensho (Revolution of the Wrist or Revolution of the Heavens or Turning Hands)
Tensho kata was created by Miyagi Chojun O'Sensei. Tensho literally means 'turning hands'. This is the 'JU' (softness) of Goju and Miyagi O'Sensei developed this kata from the 'Rokkishu' kata of the Fukian White Crane System. The hand movements and breathing require a high level of co-ordination.