The Kata of Isshin-ryu
first kata learned by students in Isshin-ryu system is called Seisan. In some
styles it is an advanced kata taught only to Black Belts. This kata was
developed by a famous Chinese martial artist Master Seishan (or Seisan). He was
a great master from the Pangai Noon Style of Kung Fu or southern Chinese boxing.
He was sent from
in 1588 by the king to teach Chinese boxing. He remained on
until 1600, just prior to the Japanese invasion. Master Seisan was considered
the 8th wonder of the world because of his unusual power and ability.
Seisan Kata is believed by some to be the oldest known kata still being
. Naturally, there are many versions as practitioners adapt each kata to their
own needs, however, Isshin-ryu version which was derived from the Shorin-ryu
style, is believed to be close to the original.
Many consider that Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura learned the kata from
Master Sakagawa or from one of the Chinese masters when he was in China. Master Sakagawa would have learned Seisan from Peichan Takahara, and Chotoku
Kyan learned the kata from Matsumura. Master Kyan is credited with teaching the
kata to Master Shimabuku. According to Master Angi Uezu, Master Shimabuku’s
son-in-law, the name translates to thirteen. Sei meaning ten and San meaning
three. Therefore, in this kata the student is fighting thirteen imaginary
opponents. The number thirteen also holds great significance in Taoism (such as
Friday the 13th). Master Funakoshi named the kata Hangetsu or Half
Moon Kata (crescent moon or half moon) and adopted it for the ShotoKan Karate
System. While I have no literature to support this interpretation, I believe
this name probably came from the sweeping steps and/or blocks which are circular
in form covering half of the body at a time.
Kanbum Uechi, an Okinawan who studied in the
from 1897 to 1910 with Chou-Tzu-ho developed the Uechi-ryu system of Karate
about 1949. This style incorporates movements of the tiger, crane, and dragon.
Sanchin is the first and foremost kata of Uechi-ryu, but another kata basic to
this system is Seisan.
In the Goju-ryu style Seisan kata demonstrates 13 techniques: three fast
chest punches in Sanchin-dachi stance, chest block, two kicks to the knee, and
assorted quick punching from the horse stance. It ends with a front kick
followed by a punch to the chest and drop into neko-ashi-dachi with mawashi-uke
technique. It is considered an advanced kata in this style.
Shorin-ryu is still a popular style of Karate on
which practices Seisan. Sokon Matsumura was raised by “Tode” Sakagawa who
gave him the nickname Bushi which means warrior. Matsumura who lived into his
90’s, is credited with creating all of the kata of the system that came to be
called Shure-te. In the Shobayashi Shorin-ryu system Seisan is still taught as
well as Naihanchi (I through III), Wanshu, and Chinto.
The Isshin-ryu version contains 130 movements and takes approximately one
minute to perform. It is one of the longest of ant beginner’s kata in the
various styles. Most styles begin teaching short introductory kata immediately
after the student masters the basics.
There are two kiais in this kata. The first one is on the fourth front
kick and the second is on the last front kick. The basic Seisan stance is used
over fourteen times through out the kata. Additionally, an elbow break designed
to free the student from a wrist grab is employed in the kata.