Seipai 2 person form: passing on the knowledge

Bob demonstrates the applications shown in my video.
A few years ago my friend Jim asked the following question on the Traditional Fighting Arts Forums:
"I think I'm right in saying there is not 1 authentic, traditional Okinawan 'form' that has a complete 2 man Bunkai in existence?"
 Jesse Enkamp replied with this answer:
"One word: Seipai!" 
I think Jesse-san was right in this (and also about the fact that, as he said, it wasn't the only one!).

That said, I also think it is quite rare for Okinawan and Chinese kata to envisage or even permit a literal 2 person application; to my mind most forms were created entirely for single person performance - bearing in mind that such things as embusen (floor pattern), repetition of certain sequences, etc. make a literal 2 person application unlikely.

You can't see the detail, but my right arm is trapped.
However occasionally, just occasionally, you get a significant portion of a kata that clearly is meant to work as a literal 2 person form.

You'll notice I refer to a "significant portion" not "entire" - because even seipai kata doesn't appear to be designed for literal 2 person application from start to finish.  For example, certain repetitions of sequences are clearly there to "balance" the use of left and right sides - and these repetitions are really quite incompatible with the notion of a literal 2 person form.

But certainly, the opening sequence up to approximately the mid point of seipai is consistent with a literal 2 person application.

As Jesse went on to say:
"I mean, it flows (almost) effortlessly if you try it out with a person in a grappling fashion (hint: the gedan teisho uke-chudan haishu uke-shuto combination is not against a kick and and then punch...  ) Am I the only one who does this ?!   
It looks very much like this Qin-na set in many parts:"

If you watch Jesse's version below, you'll see that it does indeed resemble the above drill in certain respects.  However, with the greatest of respect to the marvellous and thought-provoking Jesse, I cannot agree with some of the techniques used in his form - nor in many others that I have seen of a similar ilk.

I remember this kick!
As I recently discussed, I believe that any interpretation of grappling in arts like karate should follow the principles civilian defence arts - in particular that of actively addressing the risk of being tied up and taken to the ground.

This is certainly my experience of training in Chinese grappling systems (qin-na) of the kind shown in the above video.  It stands in strong contrast to the approach adopted in grappling arts proper (like jujutsu).

Unfortunately none of the 2 person seipai forms I've been shown addresses (at least entirely) the "ground-negating" issue.  Nor do any of them fit my own understanding of the individual movements of seipai - at least in the detail (although some, like Jesse's, come close).

So I recently decided to go over my own tapes of seipai instruction from my sensei Bob Davies from the 80s.  And while I'd known the demonstrated applications for more than quarter of a century, watching them in sequence made me see them in a new light: in a matter of seconds it occurred to me that they could indeed be strung together in a totally seamless way to produce a 2 person drill for at least part of the form.

(Wouldn't you know, I'm still mining the depths of that man's encyclopedic knowledge!)

Accordingly, what follows below isn't a literal drill shown to me by Bob; but it does fit together each of the applications he showed us back in 1988:

As many of you know, our school (the Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts) ties a grappling drill (tuide bunkai) to most of the kata.  In most cases, these have not followed the literal sequence of the kata.  As I've previously noted, the utility of 2 person drills lies not in their fidelity to the exact sequence of the original form (which can result in matching movement for the sake of it) but rather in terms of the value they add.

Bob gets ready to apply that nasty arm bar.
Once more, to quote Hinori Otsuka, founder of Wado Ryu:
"It is obvious that these kata must be trained and practised sufficiently, but one must not be 'stuck' in them. One must withdraw from the kata to produce forms with no limits or else it becomes useless. It is important to alter the form of the trained kata without hesitation to produce countless other forms of training."

However in this case Jesse was correct - seipai can indeed be followed in its literal sequence for two person application (at least up to the throw and possibly afterwards - I know Bob Davies showed us a 2 person "striking/blocking" embu that went right to the end, although it was a bit different in the beginning to this drill).

Ooh - I remember also  what happened next.
Please note that I include the stills of Bob because I don't feel at liberty to include the actual video, which was private (however I'm sure a few blurry pictures are not in breach of our agreement all those years ago!).

I mainly include them to show that the above drill isn't really "my creation":

In fact, there is really nothing "new under the sun".  As near as I can tell, practically every bit of martial and other human knowledge is already out there somewhere on the internet.

As I discussed recently, there are no real "secrets".  There is only information.  And I feel the only challenge worth undertaking in this internet age is to make good information stand out against the din of misinformation.

Apart from Jesse, others have shown me their own drills in confidence so I can't show them to you for the purposes of making direct comparisons (noting where I think they've got things wrong).  However if I could, I'm confident you'd agree that what I've freely given here covers any of their "secrets" - and more.

It might be a poor "commercial" decision to give away hard-earned information (hard earned, that is, in monetary terms as well as in terms of literal blood, sweat and tears), but it feels "right" anyway.  After all, as Cat Stevens famously sang: "I might die tonight".  What point would there be in the accumulation of my various teachers' knowledge in me if I did not pass it on - to as many interested people as possible?  Martial knowledge of this kind is not "dangerous weapon" after all: it is an investment - one few people (statistically speaking) are willing to make.

Besides - it's not as if I'm about to run out of things to show and write about.  After 5 years of blogging and almost 300 articles, I'm still only scratching the surface of what I've been shown.  And I keep being shown new things!


Copyright © 2013 Dejan Djurdjevic