Saturday, 1 December 2012

Seipai - not just a Goju Ryu kata

One of my current kata is the Naha-te derived kata, Seipai. This kata is generally a staple of the Goju Ryu stylists and remains remarkably unaltered across all Gojo ryu schools. However, it is also a kata that was taught by Kenwa Mabuni in his Shito Ryu style and is still taught in many branch styles of Shito Ryu, including Shukokai. In our system of Shukokai karate this kata is first introduced once 1st dan is achieved.

There is little to found on the history and origins of this kata other than the kanji for Seipai apparently translates to the number 18 if you use the Okinawan dialect. However, the kanji for Sei can also mean 'controlling'. The kata is generally attributed to Kanryo Higaonna who is said to have brought the kata back from Fuzhou district in China. However there is no evidence to support this. It is also thought that seipai may have its origins in the Dragon style of Shaolin kung fu.

Wherever Seipai has it's origins it is typically a Naha-te style kata, with it's fairly slow tempo and rooted stances, particularly the use of sanchin dachi and shiko dachi. There are also lots of circular arm movements, again typical of the Naha-te style. This kata pairs well with Seienchin kata and anyone who has learnt both kata will notice that they have a similar 'feel' to them.

I love these Naha-te kata and wish we had more of them in our syllabus. They make a nice counter-balance to the faster, more explosive linear katas of the Shuri-te style. I actually found the embusen to Seipai difficult to learn  as there are lots of changes of direction and it can be easy to lose sight of where the 'front' is when you are first learning this kata. However, now that I've got the hang of it it is one of my favourite kata and there's some pretty interesting bunkai to learn too.

Here's a video of Seipai:

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Yamabushi said...

We perform this kata at Sandan in my lineage, although I couldn't tell you why. I know many lineages place the kata at different points, but I haven't done enough research to find out why or if this is important.

At any rate, I enjoy this form, and I hope you do to. There are some great grappling skills involved and it holds a lot of interesting techniques/tactics.

As a side note, if you are interested, Mabuni Kenwa wrote a book about Seipai. It has been translated by Mario McKenna, and you can find a link to the book through his website Kowakan.

Rick Matz said...

There is a very good article on kata across styles at Ikigaiway:

Felicia said...

Learning this kata at present and it is also one of my favorites.Have fun with it :-)

Unknown said...

Good to see that, I practiced GoJu Ryu some 26 years ago! I always enjoyed sanshin Kata. Now I do Wing Chun and tia chi, much easier on my older joints.

Charles James said...

Enbusen in "shu" is good. In "ha and ri" enbusen is not so important over the actual application in combative mode. :-)

Charles James said...

But, you knew that didn't you?

. said...

Seipai is one of my required katas for Shodan so I'm working on this at the moment. One of my favourites I think.

Sue C said...

Yamabushi, I don't think there is a great deal of logic used in determining whereabouts a particular kata should come in the syllabus. Seipai is clearly a fairly advanced kata but it seems to appear anywhere between 1st kyu and 3rd dan. Thanks for the book recommendation - I've already got it though!

Rick, thanks for the recommendation, Ikigai always writes good articles so I'll check it out.

Felicia, I'll think of you next time I'm practising Seipai - perhaps we'll be doing it at the same time!

James, I've just booked myself onto my first tai chi seminar in January, I fancied trying something a bit more internal.

Charles, actually I hadn't really thought about it like that - food for thought though.

Marie, nice to hear from you again and glad you're still training (I wondered what had happened to you). When do you do your shodan grading?

Unknown said...

Thanks for the reply hope you enjoy the tia chi. I have found it very good as a way to really connect body and mind. The Tia chi linked with Wing Chun has given me a true understanding of the 'Hard and Soft' I still practice Karate with my 7 year old once a week (just got my green belt 'again re-my blog lol) I find my kata is much improved by the practice of chinese arts, I still enjoy the karate with my son though I find more and more that I am there mainly for him. The Chinese arts have really opened my eyes to a whole philosophy and new way of moving and become my path as I head into my 50s.


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