Sanseiru kata and its variations: Part 2

[Note that this is a continuation of Part 1 of this article.]

One of the chief differences that has been pointed out to me about the way I was taught to do sanseiru and most other dojo is that in the second shiko dachi a jodan uke / age uke is used instead of the sokumen awase uke.

In this variation (as demonstrated by Teruo Chinen and perhaps the most common and regarded as the standard) the feet in the shiko are angled 90 degrees but the body is turned 45 degrees. The kata performer then effects a jodan/age uke (not an inside sokumen awase uke as I had always assumed - it looks like it could be one).

The problem I have with this is set out below:

The bunkai doesn't seem to me to have the feet at 90 degrees, and for good reason: the angle of your forearm would simply be insufficient to create a deflection. See this video for an example:

You'll note at at about point 1.33 that the angle of the defender's feet is about 45 degrees and the body is then further turned so that it actually faces the attacker. This makes the block effective. If the angle were less, the deflection would have an insufficient "angle of attack": potentially the block would slope towards you and not away.

On the other hand, you will also notice that the bunkai -

(a) is very little like the kata at this point and is at odds with the fundamental tenshin/taisabaki in the kata move (which is to go in towards your opponent at 90 degrees); and

(b) puts you in a very precarious position (take a look at point 1.33 and see how the defender is flying straight into the attacker's fist - yikes!).

[I should point out that this is not intended as a criticism of the martial artists' ability in this video. As a rule, I only post videos of martial artists who I consider to be good. Disagreeing with a technical point is different from disregarding their ability or knowledge generally. In this case I think the applications shown in the video are of a very high standard.]

By contrast, take a look at this picture of a person who I presume is Chojun Miyagi performing (what I think) is a much more appropriate bunkai of the move (courtesy of


Miyagi might have just moved in to do a hiji ate with his right hand after blocking the attacker's punch with his left using a gykau te / haishu osae uke (far more consistent with the move in the kata than a groin grab, IMHO). On the other hand if he needed to he might use the right "hiji ate" as an outside sokumen awase uke then apply the hiji ate. In any event, he is shielded from further attack on his right side by his right arm which, if a left punch is thrown by the attacker, can be deflected using the kata's next move - a hike/kake uke together with the footsweep, double punch etc.

I can see now why some schools turn to face the opponent head-on when they do the jodan/age uke. I think it is an attempt to make workable a bunkai that is, at best, an oyo. See for example the version below at point 1.27:

I have been asked whether any of our goju is Chinese influenced - in this regard I think my version of this move in the kata probably is (I am slowly starting to realise just how much CMA have influenced my teacher's art and now mine - more on this later).

To my mind the hiji ate / sokumen awase uke application of this move is inherent in the kata at this point regardless of my influences...

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic


  1. Well, technically the entirety of Okinawan arts was Chinese influenced or derived, ethnically and culturally speaking. The Chinese empires ended up producing a lot of martial family lineages and preserved a lot of knowledge in scroll format. Although while I am surprised how so much survived the decay of the ages and the intent of humans to destroy such, I do have to wonder how much was lost. How many secrets, of what caliber, are no longer with us because they just sort of got erased due to history or humanity's errors.

    Modern martial artists would gain much by taking a look back at Ancient Chinese history.

    Anyways, it's obvious from my observation that those who take an honest look at these cultural and historical aspects, will improve their skills. And it doesn't really matter what it is they "do" as a style either. People become too attached to names and identities, thinking some artificial human word is the sum total of hand to hand fighting.


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