Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Seisan (Hangetsu) Kata

In Okinawan dialect, there is a kata known as Seisan; in Japanese, it is Hangetsu. It has also been called Sesan, Seishan, and Jusan. Seisan refers to the number ’13'. Thirteen what? Thirteen hands, 13 fists, 13 techniques, 13 bunkai, 13 seconds?. But in Japanese, Hangetsu, means ‘half-moon’ referring to pigeon-toe stance (hachi-dachi) used throughout much of the kata. Even so, Seisan was applied decades, if not centuries, before it was called Hangetsu by Gichin Funakoshi.

Seisan is thought to be a very old kata, and is prominent in the Naha-Te (i.e., Goju-Ryu, Kokushin Kai) karate schools. For those of you who have studied the history of karate, you will remember, karate took on different characteristics in three different villages on Okinawa: Shuri, Naha and Tomari. The Naha practitioners emphasized body building and hardening and were considered physically powerful martial artists. At the beginning of the kata, we can see evidence of the Naha influence in slow blocks and punches that Naha schools often perform with ibuki (deep and hard breathing) and resistance. As a teenager, I remember practicing this and similar kata with ibuki and by the time we finished, a break was needed to catch our breath. That is how intense the breathing exercise is performed.

The kata is found in most legitimate karate styles including some Korean martial arts. The kata is considered to be advanced. If you are curious, I would suggest watching some videos of this kata just to get an idea of the considerable differences employed by different schools today.
Training in kata at the Arizona hombu dojo in Mesa, Arizona under the
watchful eye of Soke Hausel, Hall-of-Fame grandmaster of
Shorin-Ruyu Karate
Some legitimate karate styles that practice this kata include Chitō-ryū, Gōjū-ryū, Go Kan Ryu, Isshin-ryū, Meibukan, Moo Duk Kwan (Korean), Ninjutu Shito-ryu, Ryū-te, Ryūei-ryū, Seito Matsumura-ryu, Shōrin-ryū Seibukan, Shōrin-ryū Okinawa Seidokan, Shōrin-ryū Seiyo Kai, Shōrin-ryū, Shōrinji-ryū, Shinki-ryu, Soo Bahk Do (Korean), Koshinkai Karatedo, Shotokan, Tang Soo Do (Korean), Uechi-ryū, Wadō-ryū, Yoshukai Karate.

The Seisan kata likely originated from one of the many Chinese Kung Fu systems, but it is unknown which. There are some Chinese styles that have a form called 'Shisan' in their curricula, but a link from a specific kung-fu form to Okinawan Seisan has never been established.

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