The following Goju-ryu Kata are classified as Kaishu Kata. Kaishu translates to mean open hand form. The idea here is that the Karateka's posture should retain a similar state of relaxation to that of an open hand.
Gekisai Ichi and Gekisai Ni (撃 砕 - Attack/Pulverize 1, 2)
The Gekisai kata were develop around 1940 by Master Miyagi as instructional kata. The basis for the Gekisai kata was to help beginner students, as filler between Sanchin Kata and Saifa. As you can see both sides of the body gets to practice each set of techniques, starting off with beginner techniques and ending up with the most difficult of moves. The Gekisai kata introduces the student more complex moves with an easier form of execution. Students must grasp the concepts of the Gekisai kata if they want to be able to understand the more advanced Kaishu kata. Techniques that Miyagi admired from Shuri-te such as the gyaku shuto were also incorporated into these kata.
One thing I find fascinating is the etymology of kanji. The Kanji for SAI if made up of 4 radicals’ cliff, rock, nine and ten. Here one can only assume, the meaning is formed from a rock falling off a cliff breaking into 9 to 10 pieces, hence to Pulverize!
Saifa (砕 破 - Smash and Tear)
Saifa kata was also believed to have been taken to Okinawa by Higaonna Kanryo Sensei. It is the first classical Kaishu kata to be learned in Goju-ryu Meibu-kan. Saifa introduces students to a new set of strikes and smashes (back fist, hammer fist, and under punch). Some historians believe Saifa was invented in China to help teach and execute combat tactics on a gun wall of a boat, mainly because all the techniques are done going facing forward or backward in a straight line. After much practice of this Kata, the student, in turn, should have a stronger sense of balance.
Shisochin (四 向 戦 – Fight in 4 directions)
Shisochin concentrates on four directional fighting with emphasis placed on turning fast and reacting quick to finish your opponent. Some of my resources stated that Shisochin was Miyagi's favourite kata. Shisochin is an intermediate level kata. Technically, it is comprised mainly of the nukite (spear hand) and also the Te sho (palm) for blocking and striking. One unique attribute of Shisochin is the turning sequence (heavy Shuri-te influence) performed just prior to the Atama ate. Also the arm break is introduced.
Sanseryu (三 十 六 手 - 36 techniques)
Sanseryu is a kata of 36 different fighting exercises. The number 36 could be symbolic of the 36 families who settle in Kume village (Kume Mura), Okinawa in 1392. An important historical note indicates that Dai Sensei Meitoku Yagi, Hanshi, has direct ancestral roots to this settlement in Kume. This is a more advance form which relies on strong kicking ability and also koshi. Koshi is the ability to use your hips to pack power in your technique. Another characteristic in Sanseryu is the foot placing after the Sokuto. This is a very important technique to master and requires years of dedicated practice.
Sesan (十 三 手 - 13 techniques)
Sesan, which translates to mean 13 techniques, is believed to be the oldest of all Goju-ryu kata. It is an advanced kata which relies heavily on knee kicks, stomping and strong punching. Two versions of Sesan exist, the Naha-te form and the Shuri-te form. Goju-ryu adopted the Naha-te version refined by Kanryo Higaonna Sensei. Dai Sensei teaches us that Sesan, along with Seiunchin are the training Kaishu Kata of Meibukan Goju-ryu. Sesan Kata best fits the body type of a big muscular man! Due to its early origin, Sesan has many different variations.
Seiunchin (制 引 戦 - Attack, Conquer, Suppress)
Seiunchin's origin lies in the internal system of Wu-shu, Hsing-I. Seiunchin's direct translation through time has been lost, but many Goju-ryu Karateka refer to it as Marching far quietly. Seiunchin is a unique kata because only hand techniques are used. An advanced kata, Seiunchin works a lot on the shiko dachi and incorporates strike such as the back fist and elbow. Along with Sesan, Seiunchin is the other training Kaishu of Meibukan Goju-ryu, which is best suited for a smaller man with less physical power. Many times in the kata techniques are performed with the other hand used as re-enforcement!
Sepai (十 八 手 - 18 techniques)
Sepai or 18 techniques is one of the harder forms of Goju-ryu. Their main characteristic is body twisting techniques. Also, for students who practice Sepai, they must concentrate on the hands and feet working together in harmony to properly execute certain techniques. Kanryo Higaonna Sensei brought this kata to Okinawa from China and adapted to Naha-te. Meitetsu Sensei often uses the analogy of the importance hands working together (one hand is father and the other is the son.......working together to have greater strength.)
Kururunfa (久 留 頓 破 – Holding on long with sudden attack)
One English translation for Kururunfa is Hold Long / attack sudden. Kururunfa teaches the Karateka balance. Within this kata, students are able to practice on their stance transitions. Also, in close hooking blocks and grappling manoeuvres are practiced. This is the second hardest kata in the Meibukan Goju-ryu system. One of the signature moves of the Kata is the difficult throwing procedure towards the end of the Kata.
Suparinpe (壱 百 零 八 - 108 techniques)
Suparinpe is the most difficult of Meibukan Goju-ryu kata. Its Japanese Kanji reads 108 techniques. It incorporates many moves found in earlier kata (Sesan and Sanseryu, just to name a few) but of a higher degree of difficulty. Among its difficult hand techniques, it contains a unique flying kick. To practice Suparinpe correctly, one must acquire proper breath control, and a very precise timing of hands, feet and body. It is very long, strenuous, and should take a greater part of a lifetime to master.
Origin and Characteristics of Meibuken Kata
Meibuken kata is those developed by our Dai Sensei, Meitoku Yagi. Along with being a major contribution to Goju-ryu in general, these kata are Yagi Sensei's interpretation of Miyagi Sensei's Goju-Ryu. Like Chojun Miyagi Sensei's Gekisai kata, the Meibuken kata of Meitoku Yagi Sensei contains techniques of Shuri-te origin in which both Miyagi Sensei and Yagi Sensei admired (for example, the many open-handed techniques found in the kata).
Dai Sensei explain in 1997 that he got the idea for the Meibu-ken kata after viewing the war flags in the Naha Matsuri held in Kume every October. The Tsuna-Hiki is the world’s largest tug of war, in which each opposing side has 4 war flags representing the 4 cardinal directions: north, south, east, and west.
Do not get the word Meibuken confused with Meibukan. Meibukan means - house of the pure-minded warrior whereas Meibuken means - laws of the pure-minded warrior.
Some technical aspects of these kata are different than those of Kaishu Kata.
1/ Both Yoi and Yame position is chudan level, not gedan like in Kaishu Kata. This is to represent the Chinese influence on these Kata.
2/ Fist chambers are always standing (tate-ken); sitting chambers are in Kaishu kata (swuate-ken). Dai Sensei often spoke of the significance of the vertical fist: Symbolic of the Chinese influence and also his idea was that from a vertical fist chamber one could punch 3 times to ever 2 times from a horizontal fist chamber.
3/ the Meibuken no Kamae is a variation kake uke no kamae with emphasis on guarding the Mizo ochi. This kamae is more practical in a real fighting situation.
Tenchi - 天 地, Heaven/Earth
Tenchi was first introduced as Fukyu I and Fukyu II. Fukyu I = Ten and Fukyu II = Chi. This kata was developed around 1974. What is unique about this kata is that it is a two-man or "mirror kata". Fukyu I techniques (AH) correspond to the techniques in Fukyu II (UM). Personally, I find this kata good preparation for Seiunchin, Seipai, and Suparinpe. The origin for the name Tenchi came from the first line of Hakku Kempo, it reads - "Jinshin wa Tenchi ni onaji"
Seiryu – 青 龍 Azure Dragon
Seiryu was developed by our Dai Sensei in the mid-80's. Quick performance of stance transitions and suri ashi are practiced, perhaps in preparation for learning Kururunfa Kata. Seiryu was also developed to correspond with Byakko kata. Similar to Tenchi, these two katas simulate balanced fighting sequences. Seiryu represents the Ah Kata.
Note: Azure is half blue/half green
Byakko -白 虎 White Tiger
Created in 1988, Byakko teaches evasion techniques (Tai Sabaki) used against techniques from the Seiryu kata. Like Seiryu, emphasis is placed on correct stance transitions. Byakko was also developed to be paired with Seiryu as mirror kata. Byakko represents the Um Kata. Soto uke is first introduced in Byakko.
Shujakku – 朱 雀 Vermillion Bird (Sparrow / Phoenix)
Shujakku was taught to Meibukai members initially in 1990. Its embusen (kata line) is very similar to that of Seiryu and Byako. Again this is also a mirror kata to be paired with Genbu. The majority of techniques in Shujakku are open handed (i.e... nukite, press blocks etc.). There is a suri ashi block-strike technique practiced here similar to moves done in Seipai. Shujakku represents the Ah Kata. To have proficiency in this Kata, one must have the fluidity of a bird in flight!
Note: Vermillion is half red/half orange.
Genbu -玄 武 Black Turtle
Genbu is the newest of the Meibuken kata. It was introduced in late 1990. It works on attacks and blocks at close range. Its techniques correspond to those of the Shujakku kata. Techniques emphasized in this kata are the koken uke, double punch, and double front kick. It also works on the arm break technique from Kaishu kata Shisoshin. Genbu represents the Um Kata.
Note: Genbu literally translates to Mysterious Warrior
The Meibuken is one of the more complex parts of our Goju-ryu syllabus. In 1997, Dai Sensei explained many insights into the Meibuken - the kata names, meanings, etc. He made it very clear that to understand the Meibuken you must already have a strong base in the performance of the Kaishu Kata. Also, he made it clear that his eldest son, Yagi Meitatsu Sensei, Hanshi Judan was the most qualified to teach and demonstrate the Meibuken Syllabus. Many Meibukai Teacher on Okinawa started to learn to complete Meibuken system but did not complete the entire syllabus.