Over the weekend, I attended a Seiyunchin bunkai seminar via Skype with one of Taira Masaji Sensei’s senior students, Paul Enfield. Although I am a Shorin-Ryu practitioner, I have picked up some other kata throughout my karate journey, and Seiyunchin is one of them. The version I learned was a bit different, though, and I have been working on making it more like the Goju-Ryu version. Enfield Sensei’s instructional DVD on Seiyunchin was quite helpful in this endeavor, but this seminar really helped bring things into focus. This may seem surprising, at first, because the seminar was not about how to perform the kata, but how to apply it to an opponent. In order to perform a kata properly, it is my belief that you must have an understanding of the applications. This ties in with what I recently wrote about regarding the importance of solo kata practice and partner practice.
Taira Sensei is a true master of his art, and it shows in everything from his kihon practice and hojo undo to his solo kata and kata applications. What he is really known for, though, is his approach to kata application. You can see his renzoku bunkai (continuous analysis) drill for Gekisai, a fundamental kata of Goju-Ryu, in the video, above. Enfield Sensei’s seminar was on Taira Sensei’s applications for Seiyunchin, and therefore it was heavily based on limb entanglement, limb control, and breaking the opponent’s structure. Concepts such as muchimidi (heavy/sticky hands) and chinkuchi (blood-sinew-muscle, related to alignment and power) are vital to this kind of training. While the Goju-Ryu approach is a bit different from the Shorin-Ryu approach, there was also quite a bit of cross-over. In fact, some of the applications that Enfield Sensei explained were useful in furthering my understanding of Shorin-Ryu kata, rather than just Seiyunchin.
The seminar was just an hour long, but we were able to get through the entire kata. Almost every technique could be used as a follow-up to the previous, if the previous technique happened to be blocked or otherwise fail. There is a great deal of tactile sensitivity involved in feeling what your opponent is doing when working at such a close range. This is something that takes a lot of time and effort to develop, but can be very valuable. To see some of what was covered, you can watch the video, above, which contains several excerpts from the session.
Of course, since this seminar was held virtually, there were limitations. I did not have a partner with me to practice the techniques, which meant that I had a harder time thinking of questions since I couldn’t actively discover them. In addition, I couldn’t recieve corrections on things I was doing wrong, or that I could improve. There is also the usual technical difficulties that come with video conferencing–getting everyone but the presenter to mute themselves so there isn’t an echo. You would be hard pressed to learn solely through virtual instruction, but for learning additional information, it’s a very useful tool. You can gain access to instructors that you otherwise would not be able to, and the whole session can be recorded (even those who weren’t in the Skype seminar can purchase the video here) so you can refer back to it later. You could also arrange to have a partner with you when the seminar is going on, so you can actively practice. All-in-all, it worked quite well for what we needed! I can definitely recommend holding seminars over Skype when travel is not possible, and Enfield Sensei’s seminars, in particular, as he is a very good teacher and presenter.