Comparison Video: Goju and Uechi Seisan

Today I ran across a very useful clip in which the Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu versions of the Seisan kata are performed side by side, sequence by sequence:

The Seisan kata has become a major preoccupation of my practice in the last two years. It exists in practically every major school of Okinawan and Japanese karate, and may well be among the oldest of the extant kata. When I learned the Goju version, I didn’t see much resemblance to the Hangetsu form that I was familiar with; but after working through some application scenarios the commonalities began to stand out like beacons. This led me to learn the Uechi version of the kata for further comparison. I find that the Goju and Uechi versions complement each other extremely well, and the Hangetsu version seems to reflect a composite of the Naha versions.

Karate kata are a huge mess that people seem to be tripping all over themselves to interpret, usually with awkward results; but some experience in close range fighting makes this one easy to read: circular deflections, mangling of windpipes, uppercuts, aggressive throws and stomping of knees and ankles can be mapped all over the place. If you are familiar with one version, give the others a look and see where they lead you.


4 responses to “Comparison Video: Goju and Uechi Seisan

  1. To be clear and thorough. The Seisan version you do is the version Higaonna Morio started teaching in 1977 after he left the Jundokan and hooked up with Aniichi Miyagi. It’s not the Seisan done by the Jundokan (or Higaonna Morio before 1977) Check versions done by Miyazato on Youtube.

    Also I don’t get that Harry Cook trained long enough in Goju – couple of years at most or he speaks enough Japanese to comment on the overall application.

  2. I know this probably got posted before here- but for more side by side comparison action don’t forget the famous clip of the 4 Masters demonstrating various versions of Sanchin:

  3. Karl,

    I’m not entirely sure what the difference that you are pointing out is. Having done an extensive amount of cross-referencing on the available versions of this kata, I just don’t see anything in Higaonna’s version that stands out as inferior to the other available versions. If your assumption here is that Higaonna is teaching second rate Goju because he broke from his “true teacher”Miyazato, please explain how An’ichi Miyagi’s teachings, and Higaonna’s practices, are deficient when compared to Miyazato’s.

    At any rate, this issue has been addressed by the man himself:

    Secondly, if the versions of Seisan that we use are somehow second-rate, please share with us the superior version that you undoubtedly practice. We are, after all, a pack of karate mutts, and probably spend too much time thinking about the nature of conflict and practical application, not important things like how to do pretty looking kata.

  4. Not just Harry, but Iain Abernathy (another UK karateka whose interpretation is more realistic than most people) is not a native Japanese speaker.

    His applications are indeed more streetworthy than a lot of garbage out there (and his books are recommended by none other than Geoff Thompson, one of the fathers of the British Reality Based movement- which almost all of its founders are karateka!)

    Mastery of the Japanese language is important, but it can only get you so far. Let’s say for example all of the sudden I understood Japanese- some high grade instructor from Japan/Okinawa teaches me an application- I understand what he says perfectly- and I find that he is teaching me an application that is absolutely worthless in a real fight- what good is my Japanese knowledge?

    Even the western Japanese speaking students who train with Masaaki Hatsumi are confounded by him sometimes- and they are very fluent in Japanese- because he tries to convey concepts by his actions rather than what he is saying.

    Budo is about-
    and is bound to laws of nature.

    Good budo is learning how to use one’s body efficiently to effectively attack and counter and respond to an offending force. Kata encapsulate these principles into physical lessons that have to be practiced in modern context while understanding the historical and physical roots of these actions in the kata, and thus the student discovers a way to achieving better efficiency in combat.

    (This is not just about karate, but any other style that has “kata” in its syllabus).

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