Thursday, April 28, 2011

Seienchin

This is now a multi-part series.  You can find
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4 here

I have been doing a lot of seienchin (seiyunchin) lately - it's my kata of the month, and one that I've identified as needing a bit of work on anyway.

This is the first in a series of posts on how I view seienchin; the principles it contains, the applications that can be associated with/extracted from it (both those I have been taught, and those I can find); the mechanics of performing it and how it compares with other kata.

The aim behind these is for me to explore and learn a bit more through the writing of these posts, so take them for what you will - my musings on and exploration of something I don't know much about (yet).

So…

Seienchin, as I understand it, is unique amongst the non-tensho/sanchin goju kata because it doesn't have any kicks in it.  Like sepai, sanseru and shisochin, it does not finish with mawashi-uke/tora-guchi; but it does finish in neko-ashi dachi, the same as all the others except sanseru and suparimpei  (and tensho and sanchin of course).  It is typified by the majority of the kata being performed in shikodachi, more so (as a proportion) than any other of the goju kata.  This gives the first hint about what the kata contains; shikodachi generally indicates a takedown or off-balancing of the opponent.  Seienchin then, contains a large number of techniques that should work at close-range to off-balance/throw an opponent.

Why doesn't seienchin have any kicks in it?  My feeling on this is based on the range at which the kata takes place - too close for kicking.  Instead, the legs are used to push against the opponent's legs, taking their balance in that way.  There are also spaces provided in the kata for attacks with the legs to take place (knees, sweeps, low kicks), they are just not emphasised.

Seinchin as a kata has 5 main sections:
  1. Three angled forward steps in shikodachi - each single step has multiple hand techniques attached; then a composite portion with a short "head" involving rapid back/forward movement in natural/han-zenkutsudachi at the top of the spine.
  2. Two angled forward/back "arms" in shikodachi. These "arms move away from the origin at 45deg. And then back along the line to the spine.  Each step has synchronous hand movements.
  1. A straight-back down the spine in shikodachi (same movement repeated each side), then forward along the spine to end with a hammerfist and kiai. Generally, hand and foot are synchronised.
  1. A composite section stepping 45deg diagonally (in the direction of the kata origin) off the spine, forward/back in shikodachi.  Then, coming backwards in neko-ashi-dachi along the spine towards the kata origin.  Then, turning and repeating the section on the opposite side of the spine.  Hand and foot techniques are synchronised.  Section C forms an arrow-shape.
  2. A short end section, with one step forward along the spine, and one back to finish. Hand and foot are synchronised.

Seen from the top, seienchin has the general shape of an X on a stick.  I have no idea if there is anything of significance in this shape (probably not).

Part 2 to follow sometime soon, in which I post me performing the kata and ramble on about what I think the bits of section A mean.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Imaging and imagining technique

Recently (the last year or so), I started doing something different when effectively applying a technique.  I would get an image in my head of how the technique should feel - mostly as some sort of flowing line, combined with sensations along parts of the line.  Depending on the technique, there might be loops, a fulcrum or two, or branching or steps.

It's very weird, but whenever I do the technique with that image in mind, it almost always works exactly as it should.  Now, when I am learning techniques, I try and work out what its image should be, and I find that doing so allows me to pick it up quicker - If an image looks forced or doesn't hang together, I tend to find that I'm doing the technique wrong.

Mental imaging as a way of helping to understand and guide the body through a technique is something I have seen mostly mentioned with regard to kata practise, where one is often exhorted to imagine they are being attacked by opponents, and to work out how the movements of the kata might be a response to those attacks.  This imagining is something I have indulged in for years, almost from the moment of starting karate, and indeed I have found that running through a kata/technique or two in real-time in my mind before going to sleep helps me to improve my ability in doing that kata or technique the next time I actually do it.  It doesn't beat the real thing, but I find that it allows me to nut out problems I have, and use time that isn't normally available, for training.

But this whole imaging thing is new to me; it wasn't a conscious decision on my part to do it, it's just something that my brain has thrown up of its own accord.  I'm interested to see what it comes up with next.