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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