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Commentary on Seiunchin

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The form Seiunchin (also written as Seiyunchin) is a very popular Goju kata due to its flowing moves and atheistic appearance.

It contrasts well with other kata that are predominantly kick / punch forms and are harder.

Seiunchin is attributed by some schools to have connections with the internal art of Hsing I. Whilst Goju is a Buddhist art emphasizing hard/soft as are other Okinawan karate styles, Hsing I is one of the three internal Taoist arts. The other two being Ba Gau and Tai Chi.

If it takes 10 years to master the hard /external then it will take a further 20 years to master the soft / internal

In post war practice the emphasis has predominately shifted to the hard and external. In an over simplistic analogy, hard is the development of body strength and isolated body techniques to attack the opponent i.e. leg to kick, arm to punch. Whilst the soft uses relaxation and the whole mind / body to merge with the energy of the opponent to receive, defend and attack with flowing counters.

The development of energy and vitality in Chinese is Chi Kung or 'Energy Work' in Japanese it is Kiko. Chi/Ki is the life energy that is inextricably linked with the breath, blood and circulation. Martial Ki is not just one thing but a unified synthesis of many parts.

Three personal qualities are required to study the martial way:

Intention of the spirit
Concentration of the mind
Discipline of the body.

The five initial stages of developing Ju or Internal power require:

Relaxed extension and contraction
Co-ordinated joint alignment
Whole body awareness
Breath control

Seiunchin teaches a number of Go and Ju Kiko. The opening move is that of Shiko dachi with yama uke. This is a standing practice that promotes the five stages with focus on centring. When standing in the horse or square stance the knee should be over the foot, knees pressed out and the back held straight.

Both arms are held in what might be described as the form of a mountain. The elbows must be allowed to sink naturally, not sticking out like a pair of short wings. Hold the hands open with the tips of the fingers extending outwards and slope the forearms at a gentle angle of around 45 degrees.

Do not stick out the backside, but stretch the lower back instead by pulling up the hips. By increasing the standing time this exercise will develop rooting with the earth, an ability to lower the centre of gravity so that the body becomes heavy and immovable.

Breathe down into the lower abdomen concentrating on this area. There is natural firmness in the abdomen a feeling of pressing down and out. This leads to a sensation of a circular feeling like a rotating ball in the lower abdomen.

This will develop the awareness of 'one point' giving a feeling of being centred. Practice this facing straight ahead. After month's even years of standing, slowly the tensions held in the muscles will drop away. This is often accompanied by shaking as each group of muscle fibre try to maintain its frozen stiffness before letting go.

Natural lithe movement will be developed so improving posture generally.

Delivery of soft power does not use the large hip twists of hard strikes. Instead the legs and hips are rooted so that power is issued from the waist. This method is demonstrated by the opening sequences where the spearhead strike is delivered in rooted shiko dachi with the drive coming from the midsection.

Training to maintain a stable base whilst rotating the waist is important to efficient use the lower body to drive the upper body with out loss of stability. Twisting from side to side without moving the hips will stretch the back muscles. This makes for a very powerful technique.

When fighting a strong opponent, multiple attacks are required to break down their defences. Low level martial arts use separate techniques such as a kick, punch and back fist. In the higher levels of Goju the crane technique of vibration is used to deliver multiple attacks in the same action. This does not issue from the shoulder or hip as this does not contain true power that will penetrate.

Generation of the vibrating power requires abdominal breathing coupled with spasms of the diaphragm that then pass through joints and muscles issuing out where directed. Special breathing and Ki exercises are required to cultivate the vibrating or shaking power of the crane.

Seiunchin should be practised with the shoulders and chest relaxed, with attention paid to the sinking the ribs. In this way the arms can open and close in a fluid motion so that pushing and pulling uses body power and not just shoulder strength. The waist, lower back and ribs all work together to generate the push and pull.

Feet, knees and hips are linked together a natural firmness and mechanical alignment centred in the Tan Dien, Hara or belly. This roots, so enabling the waist to drive from the hips and legs that are braced against the ground. This is similar to bracing a rifle or shotgun into the shoulder to control the recoil.

The techniques of Seiunchin teach closing with bridging of arms and legs of the opponent at an angle. Meeting the opponent head on then this will match force with force, this is acceptable for the bigger person but not for the smaller.

Use rooting to unbalance the opponent and then to subsequently to pull down and apply controlling techniques or to unbalance and then to lift up and strike.

Within Seiunchin are locks, throws, holds, traps, strangles and strikes, but the important part of the form is how the internal feelings and mechanisms are used to manifest the external techniques.

Sodokan Goju Karate Association
Best viewed at a display setting of 800 x 600.
Mike Clark 1997-2005. Reproduction of material on this site is not permitted