When I began my journey to understand how Isshinryu kata techniques could be applied I developed a tool in using one aspect of kata for investigation. Specifically I began to look into the use of stepping and turning in our kata.
In the mid 90’s, meeting Charles Joseph (Joe-san) Swift through the internet, we found that our personal investigations shared many of the same interests. Describing what I was doing with stepping he recalled an article he had read in “Gekkan Hiden” and in turn translated part of it for my use.
The article by Ikeda Hoshu on Joshinmon Karate was most appropriate because Joshinmon Karate was a descendent of Kyan Chotoku as was Isshinryu. I felt that their sharing the same kata origins lead to similar application potential.
Reading what Joe-san had translated mostly re-enforced my own researches, and I saved the article and set it aside.
This is common for me as it normally takes me a minimum of 5 years to understand how new material fit into my own understandings.
If anything the article also shows how much information is being shared in Japanese that most of us have no access to.
The other day going through my library I picked up my archive from Joe-san and re-read the article. As time passed it seems I’ve learned a little more and now there is so much there I didn’t fully understand before.
The lessons it contains are ones I’ve already learned, but now I see one’s that others are building their arts on too.
To show what I mean allow me to share a part of that article, with Joe-san’s permission.
From a partial translation prepared by Charles Joseph Swift of the article “Koryu Nana-kata and their Secrets” by Ikeda Hoshu in the July 1997 edition of the monthly journal ‘Gekkan Hiden’.
The article section The Importance of the Koryu Nana-kata in Joshinmon. Joshinmon is a system derived from the teachings of Kyan Chotoku and the Koryu Nana-kata are the 7 ancient kata from Kyan Sensei. Those kata being: ananku, wanshu, seisan, chinto, passai (dai), useishi and kusanku (dai).
“… In Okinawa there is an old saying: ‘Even if you teach kata, do not teach te.’ Te means the multitude of hidden and secret techniques within the kata. The reason that kata are performed as solo exercises is that if one were to teach all of the bunkai kumite there would be an infinite number of techniques from just one kata. The usage of the techniques will vary depending upon one’s physical traits and the demands of a real confrontation. “
The article goes into some of the special characteristics of ananku, wanshu, seisan and chinto kata. I will focus on Seisan.
“ Seisan utilizes the seisan-dachi (see attached Japanese page, 18). One can see techniques in this kata where one blocks and punches while utilizing the unique zig-zag footwork. At this time, one slams the heel down from its “floating” position. The application of this is to step in the zig-zag pattern to evade the attack and immediately step inside the opponent’s stance, hooking behind his foot, and then pushing with both palms as you slam the heel down, thus effecting a takedown. This technique can be seen in Southern Shaolin Quanfa, but is rarely addressed in karate.”
“The stances and footwork in kata are actually techniques. They also represent combative engagement distance or maai. Without this understanding, there comes the error of mistaken kata interpretation.”
Page 18. Seisan text
“The unique footwork of seisan. Stomp the heel down. This can also be found in Useishi (Gojushiho).
You can view the Joshinmon Seisan kata at the following Youtube location.
Seisan Kata from the Joshinmon Dojo of Joen Nakazato a direct student of Chotoku Kyan.