Saturday, July 30, 2011

Seienchin Part 3


This is now a multi-part series.  You can find
Part 1
Part 2
Part 4 here



Continuing on from Seienchin Part 2, where I had only made it part-way through the first three arm movements in the first step of the kata.

I originally learned as an application for this second movement of Section A, to deflect, grab and throw an incoming kick.  It is a good technique, but to my mind is definitely a more "henka" interpretation.  I must admit, I struggle to see this sweep down then up as a stand-alone technique divorced from the movements before and after it.  While it is done with both hands, it is a very similar feel to one of the basic wrist-escapes I learned years ago in aikiki aikido where the wrist is turned over and out, at the same time as the body turns and moves 180deg.  This is the same feeling that completing an elbow-press or elbow-wrap gives, and for me, this is currently the primary application I ascribe to that movement.

Having said that, as seen in Taira sensei's flowdrill for the kata, and similar to a drill we do attached to sepai, it functions in isolation as an escape and reversal of a wrist grab, where the hands escape, then grab underneath the attacker's forarms, leading into the next technique, where they are pulled down into a knee or a headbutt.  But again, the feeling in the body is the same as the elbow-press/wrap feel, and fits with my understanding of this section of the kata as being one of taking the initiative through disrupting balance.

The wedge-wrap around combination of the first and second movements can also be used to gain control of the head, subsequent to jamming/breaking the incoming attack.  A similar notion can be seen in sanseru in the section immediately after the four elbow-punches.

The terminus of the second movement is with both hands in front of the body in a "plate-carrying" position, palms up in front of and out from the face. This quickly leads into the third technique where both arms simultaneously perform a gedan barai "as though breaking a string", as my sensei says.  The traditional technique I was taught for this was against a strangle, grabbing the wrists and pulling the grip away (combined with shifting).  As was pointed out to me, this is essentially a strength-against-strength technique and should more properly be preceded by a softening-up or weakening of the opponent.  Funnily enough, the first technique, with minimal modifications can be used to wedge between the strangling arms and attack to the suprasternal notch (in other words, quite similar to the very end of the kata), before wrapping around and proceding in a similar manner to Taira sensei's flowdrill.

The plate-carry hand movement feels and fits in with an under-grip on limbs interpretation.  There is no pressing down/controlling feeling as with similar movements in tensho and seisan, and within the contexts of the prior and following movements it does not make sense that the back of the hands are pushing down at this particular point.  Where on the attacker's limbs they grab depends, I guess, on the preceding motion.  I do not see this terminal point as a stand-alone attack (although I am always willing to be convinced otherwise).  The double gedan barai in this context is then pulling the opponent offbalance into a knee, headbutt or shoulder, or throwing them to the ground.  In other words, not a gedan barai at all!

In isolation, this third movement could also effectively be used in taking the initiative to grab someone by the lapels or shoulders push-pulling them at an angle back off-balance, then stepping one leg behind them, take them down to the ground.  Similarly the first movement can be used in a pre-emptive fashion, rather than waiting on someone to attack.  Iain Abernethy mentioned the over-emphasis on reaction in a recent podcast and how many karateka don't train in a proactive or pre-emptive fashion.  I tend to agree with him, and look to how what I do can be adapted for use as an initiating move, rather than a reactive move.

Interestingly enough, all of the applications I have detailed in these posts on seienchin have so far been to the inside of an attack, rather than to the outside.  I guess that is because, from the angle of shifting and the direction of the gaze, applications feel more natural that way.  It is also because, as I mentioned in my first post on seienchin, the kata is primarily concerned with disrupting and offbalancing - going to the inside is an effective and immediate way of achieving this in Section A.

However, there is a variant way that the first three movements (wedge-scoop-gedan barais) can be used effectively to the outside without compromising the integrity of the movements or contradicting what I have identified as my primary focus of this section.  Against an attack (from the right hand side of the opponent, and preferably a grab for the wrist/body/throat), the 45 degree shift needs to have the lead leg go to the outside and behind the opponent's right leg (applying pressure to their knee joint on the way through) and the wedging action acts on the outside of their arm.  The sweep around of the arm entangles and bends their arm behind their body (the other arm can take their head/neck) and the gedan barais signify dumping them on the ground.  Additional shifting and spiralling needs to added to make this effective, but given that I consider that the angled shikodachi can be symbolic of angled movement to offbalance an opponent, rather than a 100% written in stone direction on footwork, that's not a problem.

In my next thrilling (!?!) installment, I will finish looking at Section A and start thinking my way through Section B.  As always, these musings are a way for me to explore how and why kata work they way they do and are not an exhaustive or authoritative word on the subject.

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