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Seienchin kata - calm in the storm

Posted Oct 05 2010 8:20am
In preparation for my black belt grading next year I have begun to learn the kata, Seienchin. Anyone who knows this kata will immediately remember the lingering pain in the thighs as much of this kata is spent in a deep shiko dachi (horse stance)!

Seienchin is the only kata in our kyu grade syllabus that comes from the Naha-te style of karate in Okinawa. The name of this kata is most commonly believed to mean "Calm in the storm". It seems likely that the kata originates from China and was brought back to Okinawa by Higashionna (Higaonna) Kanryo around 1883. Higashionna spent many years in  Fuzhou, a town in the Fujian province of China and learnt several styles of gongfu or 'monk fist boxing'.  On his return to Okinawa he developed the style of karate known as Naha-te, the forerunner of Goju Ryu karate.

Higashionna had many notable students, including Chojun Miyagi (founder of Goju-Ryu) and Kenwa Mabuni (founder of Shito-Ryu). Both of these masters would have learnt the kata from him and Seienchin kata is preserved in both these systems as well as in Isshin-ryu (Isshin-ryu's founder, Tatsuo Shimabuku, had been a student of Miyagi in his earlier years). Mabuni is generally credited with being the person who took Seienchin kata to Japan when he moved there with his family in 1920. Seienchin is believed to be one of the most conserved kata practiced by different styles.

Seienchin kata is described as having 'Yin and Yang' in its performance due to the contrast between hard and soft or slow and explosive. It is as if the 'storm erupts from the calm phases of the kata'. It utilises very low shiko dachi stances, and the dynamic breathing and block/striking techniques are typical of the Naha-te style.

Here's a video of the Shito-Ryu version of the kata:

 Sources: Seienchin (2nd edition) karate and the kata. Dr Jason Armstrong.
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