Saturday 7 July 2007

Seiryu kata

It is July the 7th, 2007. Yes, that's right folks, 07-07-07 today... And this coming Friday is 'Friday the 13th', so appologies if you are superstitious! My post today is about a kata close to Asai Sensei's heart, and features the attacks he regarded as his tokui waza (specialised techniques). I would go as far to say (from extensive time with Sensei), that this formal exericse, if focusing on 'martial art karate', is the most important kata in Asai-ryuha. This week I have dropped all my other kata training, and have been exclusively working on Seiryu, hence this article.



The kata for the complete mastery of jujinho for the shoulders

Seiryu is literally translated as 'Green Willow Tree' and should not be confused with the Seiryu/Aoyagi of Shito-ryu karate-do, it is a completely different kata with no relationship, except sharing a name.

It is the kata Asai Sensei most intensively taught me during private lessons/morning training, and was very high on his personal agenda, insofar as his own training was concerned. This is because Seiryu trains his infamous 'snapping techniques', with 100% focus on jujinho (soft ligament method) and joint power. This form features no kicks, and therefore provides isolation training for shoulder, elbow and wrist snap, using the joints like 'links in a chain'. The more joints used, the more impact can be made with this incredibly powerful whipping action.

In regards to there not being any kicks, Asai Sensei emphasised his kiho (health) karate by saying that "Kata like Seiryu are excellent practice, for those who have leg problems, and/or during times of recovery from knee, ankle and thy injuries".

The technical focus of Seiryu is the perfection of huri uchi (swinging strikes) with ganken (the rock fist), haito (the ridge hand), and naiwan (the inside forearm). The name of the kata 'Green Willow Tree' comes directly from these strikes, as they resemble the flexible branches of a willow tree.

In contrast, the solid Shotokan stances featured (zenkutsu dachi and kiba dachi) act like tree roots, providing steadfast stability, for the wild and flexible upper body actions. Asai Sensei often liked to compare his body suppleness, to that of a willow tree, and in particular, made reference to Seiryu kata.

In addition to the solid stances, there are also four neko ashi dachi utilized, each coordinated with gedan barai, for a quick defense, and more importantly, a coiled spring to rapidly counterattack. The final sequence sees a pivot action into heisoku dachi with ryo sokumen gedan barai (similar to Jion and Kakuyoku-nidan) followed by jodan teisho hasami uchi, and yori ashi, with chudan haito hasami uchi. The second and final kiai is applied on this last technique.


You cannot perform Seiryu with any muscular power. To make it work, it must be performed with total relaxation/joint power, that is, no conscious muscular strength. Otherwise the respective techniques will be lame, and you will run the risk of putting your shoulder out of joint. Essentially Seiryu pushes you to develop joint power, and the resulting 'snapping techniques'. It is a kata that forces Shotokan karateka to go outside of the box, and develop their fighting repetoire to include Asai Sensei's tokui-waza.


© André Bertel, Japan 2007

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