Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seienchin Part 2

This is now a multi-part series.  You can find
Part 1
Part 3
Part 4 here

So, finally, I have found some time to think some more about seienchin. As usual, my reason for doing these posts is to help myself make sense of what is happening in the kata and to explore different possibilities.  I am expecting to make mistakes and to pursue leads which go nowhere, but that's what happens when we learn.

I took a video of myself doing the kata, and have attached it here.  As is usual, I have noticed quite a few things wrong with it and have fixed them up somewhat as a result (after all, isn't that the whole point of video-taping yourself?), but haven't had a chance to tape myself again.  Some things to note are that my arms are pushing too far forward in the double triangle "block" in Section A, and my hands are meant to be sweeping across high and low, not along a single mid-line in the two backward steps in shikodachi at the start of Section C.

I will concentrate in this post on Section A of the kata

Section A:
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.

Since writing my first post on seienchin I have attended a 2-day seminar with Masaaji Taira sensei of the Jundokan.  He is renowned for his development of flow drills for the goju kata and one of the ones we explored at the seminar was his flow drill for seienchin.  Section A in his flow drill is a defence and follow-up to both wrists being grabbed.  The Jundokan version of Seienchin (seiyunchin) kata is slightly different from the version I know.  The main two differences are in the very first movement of arms.  In the version I know and practice the forearms are angled out from the body, in the same plane as a chudan uke (but still turned in so that the arms form a triangle.  The feeling is a strong "out".  In the Jundokan version  the forearms still form a triangle, but they angle in towards the body, almost brushing the chest.  The feeling here is almost identical to the feeling from the Yoshinkan aikido  solo-training exercise, hiriki-no-yosei-ichi (but held lower and closer to the body)

The second main difference is in the nukite "strike".   In the version I know, the nukite comes out from the body, and in the Jundokan it goes across the body.

I like Taira sensei's entire flow drill.  I like it a lot and it has found a permanent place in my mental and actual practice of this kata.  Its technique sequence for Section A is logical, immediate and realistic in how it makes sense of an entire suite of movements for each of the shikodachi steps.  The one "weakness" (if I can call it that) is in the way the nukite is utilised, as a punch to the midriff.  While I have absolutely no problems with the concept of a nukite (or any other attack) being generally representative of any attack at the level it occurs, I do wonder why the kata would not just contain a punch there instead.

Having said that, the way I have learned (and continue to approach) the opening section of this kata is that each shikodachi step contains a series of separate techniques.  The opening shift to 45deg. indicates moving off the line of an attack but doing so towards the opponent (if that makes sense).  Each separate movement of the arms can be interpreted as a technique, or they can be combined together.  If we view them as separate movements, each movement can make use of the 45deg. shift, not just the very first triangle block.

The triangle "block" can be interpreted as a simultaneous block-and-strike of an incoming attack.  The rear hand intercepts the incoming strike (on its inside), while the lead hand attacks the throat/face/chest of the attacker.  I like this as a concept for a number of reasons;
firstly it works against pretty much any attack above the navel; and it works equally well against curved or straight attacks
secondly, it puts pressure on the attacker and gains the initiative
thirdly, it works against grabs (both single and double) to the chest or arms
fourthly, it works if they attack from a distance, or from a very close range.  From a close range, the angled shift can incorporate an attack to their lead leg (although this needs a crescent step or staying on the opponent's outside to work well)
fifthly, this as an attack can either be a finisher, but if things go wrong, it flows well into the next arm movement. (which can then be interpreted as a variant upward elbow wrap): 

In isolation, the second movement of section (from the triangle block position, sweep down, into the belly and up) doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.  It works well as a follow-on to the first movement, as mentioned above.  With the first movement used as a wedge to a strangle or double grab, the second can become a clearing motion of the attacker's arms.  Better, it can be used to trap the arms in an elbow-press, with subsequent throw/offbalancing of the attacker (leading into the third movement).

I will continue this train of thought in a subsequent post...


  1. I do not practice the same version of Seiunchin as you do (I can't see the videos while I am at work but your description sounds different, which makes sense since you train a different style) but the cross-body nukite at chudan level, to me, actually partners with the hikite in drawing your attacker down so that the chudan-level nukite is actually a strike to the throat or eyes. That's just my interpretation, though, and I'm also not a black belt :P

  2. Hi Noah, that would make sense from the point of view of the technique being performed to the inside of the attacker or in clearing a grab and wrapping around to control their neck.

    I've put my thoughts on the movement you describe in my Seienchin #4 post, and mention something similar there, but I'm intrigued by how you initiate the movement in partner-work. Is it from a grab or a shove? Do you use it pre-emptively, or does it follow on from another part of the kata?

    Thank you for your comment :), and it doesn't matter about your belt, all input is gratefully received.

  3. I've worked it off of punches, shirt grabs and wrist grabs but each one changes it a bit and I'm still studying how to use Seiunchin (it's one of my favorite kata, even though it isn't in the curriculum of the style I currently practice). There are differences in the way the entire sequence is performed between my version and yours (I watched your video when I got home) so it does change the way you apply it--if you want to see it you can watch video of the Shito-Ryu version because it is very close to the way I was taught, although it isn't identical. I tend to use the haito-uke before the nukite as either a strike to the side of the neck or to clear the arms, and which one of those I do depends on the attack and subsequently changes my targeting for the nukite. Another use for that nukite, if the haito is a strike to the neck, is actually to twist the attacker's head and then when you take the next step you will actually throw them over your leg by their head.

    It's all kind of difficult for me to explain and it makes me really wish I had a good video camera, haha.