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Stevenson
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Question on Sanseru

I have a question that has long vexed me regarding sanseru kata. It is at the very end point in the kata:

Sensei Paul Enfield there.

Higoanna Sensei there.

I've seen it with a cross block before the turn and chicken head blocks.

For the longest time, I interpretted the chicken head blocks as a shoulder lock turning take-down, but it can't be because the wrong foot steps through. If you visualise your right hand on the back of the uke's neck and left arm wrapped around the uke's right arm, this is how I would interpret that last move. But for the take down, you should be pulling you right leg back and around, but instead we step through with our left leg spin around and finish.

I'm looking forward to Iain's thoughts on this in Eastbourne this weekend, but thought I'd put my hand up a little ahead of time. :)

Love to know what others thought of it as well.

Iain Abernethy
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Stevenson wrote:
I'm looking forward to Iain's thoughts on this in Eastbourne this weekend, but thought I'd put my hand up a little ahead of time. :)

Happy to share my thoughts early :-) And for those who can’t make it.  

I see it as a control position similar to what you describe, but with no explicit takedown. The kata shows a position of advantage that it is easy to dominate from … but it leaves the choice of methods up to you (including methods found earlier in the kata).

I always think returning to the meaning of “bunkai” helps here. While commonly taken to mean “application”, a better translation would be “understanding though disassembly” or “understanding through dissection”.

So in bunkai we cut the kata into units in order to understand it. The solo kata, however, has all those units stitched together. We need to be careful we don’t we don’t mistake the “stitching” (i.e. movements needed to link the discrete units together) for the units themselves. In this case, I don’t think the step is part of the method.

The preceding sequence in the kata is shown in in two directions, and the final position can be achieved from either (and at other points in the kata too). The kata is not showing the footwork to get there, because there are many variables and you can enter that position from many other positions. The footwork in the kata is what I call a “linking step”.

Imagine writing all the letters of the alphabet, in order, in joined up writing. That is like a kata. The letters are what matter. The lines linking the letters are not part of the letters. And if you change the order of the letters, then the letters remain the same, but the lines joining them would change.

We don’t fight with the kata in order. Nor were the kata created on the expectation that we would. We should fight in a free-flowing way (physically and cognitively). Therefore the “links” in kata are highly unlikely to be the same “links” in combat because we won’t be moving through the same positions in the same order. To return to my analogy we need to discriminate between “links” and “letters”.

Of course, many steps and turns are part of the “units” i.e. they have a direct combative function. And the only way was can tell the difference between a combative turn / step and a linking turn /step is by looking at the motion in the context of that kata.

So that’s the overall thinking, which in this case would see the last motion as a position of dominance (that we could do a takedown from; as well as many other things), and the way the kata steps is simply moving from one method to another (i.e. discrete unit to discrete unit) … and because there is not the expectation that you would always go from the preceding sequence to the final position (quite the contrary) then I’d classify this step as a “linking step”.

Stevenson wrote:
Love to know what others thought of it as well.

Me too! It’s always good to get many alternative views and to thoroughly explore the issue. Thanks for kicking off what will hopefully be an interesting topic!

All the best,

Iain

Stevenson
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Thanks Iain.

i suppose that makes sense. I have wondered if the kata had been passed on with the "wrong foot" moving into the final position. If you were to step back with the right leg into the same position as you finish the kata then it would make more sense of the move. Do you think that is a possibility? Really looking forward to tomorrow. I hope we can cover that bit. Higoanna does a sort of cross block before the turn which feels like it should do something. Can't wait to hear your thoughts.

The "linking steps" concept is really valuable. I think I have gone wrong on that a few times in trying to understand kata.

Mark B
Mark B's picture

My interpretation of the hand structure for the final motion is one of attacks to anatomically vulnerable targets. The hand structure is very similar to the blood pool hand of the six Ji hands. This hand structure with the dropping weight of the stance can be seen as potential attacks, either striking or manipulating to vulnerable areas of the neck, behind the collarbone etc. The slight rising motion could be viewed as a rising impact option, using the weight drop of the stance to draw the opponents head down as the hand rises to strike under the jawline.

Iain Abernethy
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Stevenson wrote:
Thanks Iain.

My pleasure! I’m pleased that was of some use.

Stevenson wrote:
I have wondered if the kata had been passed on with the "wrong foot" moving into the final position. If you were to step back with the right leg into the same position as you finish the kata then it would make more sense of the move. Do you think that is a possibility?

It’s certainly possible. However, I’d personally only favour that as an explanation if there were alternate versions who did it the other way. The kata is done pretty consistently, so it’s most probable it is as was intended.  

We also need to guard against assuming our bunkai is right, so it’s the kata that’s wrong. I think it’s a more robust process to work the other way around.

Stevenson wrote:
Really looking forward to tomorrow. I hope we can cover that bit …

Me too! We will be covering two-person flow drills for both kata … so every move of both kata will be covered as part of that. It will be a tough day on the brain! :-) I think we are thinking in a very similar way about the end of the form though.

Stevenson wrote:
The "linking steps" concept is really valuable. I think I have gone wrong on that a few times in trying to understand kata.

I’m pleased you think so. I find it can help me not get lost in irrelevant details to the point where I lose the bigger (and often obvious in retrospect) picture. It’s a separate issue, but I am a big subscriber to the idea that the angles in kata represent the angle we are attacking the enemy from (as opposed to the more common view that the enemy is attacking us from that angle); as per the writings of Mabuni et al. Therefore the linking steps are often just getting us to the appropriate angle for the purposes of the kata as a whole; while not telling us the unknown specifics of how we may get there in combat.

For me, the key point is that kata is a collection of discrete lessons linked together to form the whole; and it’s when we “decouple” those lessons from each other in terms of motion that we more clearly see how they fit together as a system.

Looking forward to chatting to you in person tomorrow :-)

All the best,

Iain

Iain Abernethy
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Mark B wrote:
My interpretation of the hand structure for the final motion is one of attacks to anatomically vulnerable targets. The hand structure is very similar to the blood pool hand of the six Ji hands. This hand structure with the dropping weight of the stance can be seen as potential attacks, either striking or manipulating to vulnerable areas of the neck, behind the collarbone etc. The slight rising motion could be viewed as a rising impact option, using the weight drop of the stance to draw the opponents head down as the hand rises to strike under the jawline.

They are good options Mark. There are quite a few variants in how the final position is achieved; so striking with the back for the wrist (rising) or pushing down with the fingers (dropping) would both work depending on the version. The same hand position is in Tensho of course (to which a connection to the hand positions of the Bubishi has been posited), but there the hand position changes as it drops so only the back of the wrist rising version would apply (i.e. no dropping with the fingers down). The rising strike into the neck grip (same hand position with two uses) – with the other wrapping the arm – also fits the Sanseru end nicely too.

All the best,

Iain

Paulenfield
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Right at the end of this video there is one example demonstrating the hooking and direction of spin:

Iain Abernethy
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Thanks for sharing Paul!

All the best,

Iain

DaveJH
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Stevenson wrote:
I have wondered if the kata had been passed on with the "wrong foot" moving into the final position. If you were to step back with the right leg into the same position as you finish the kata then it would make more sense of the move. Do you think that is a possibility?

Iain Abernethy wrote:
It’s certainly possible. However, I’d personally only favour that as an explanation if there were alternate versions who did it the other way. The kata is done pretty consistently, so it’s most probable it is as was intended.

Hi all, first post here. I'm Dave,  practicing goju ryu a while. Apologies, techophobe cant get the cut and paste working!- for the above comments, if you watch ryuei ryu version, he steps back the other way - see link below

Regarding a possible interpretation of the last turn and hand movements, it might fit nicely as a ground pin.  If you consider the prior application, you have just done a leg catch takedown.  Opponent now lying on ground on Left side of body, you standing behind them controling their right arm, and your right shin against their shoulder blades. If you do the last turn of the kata from here, spinning left leg round past their head pivoting on your right foot, you will turn your opponent over so he's lying face down. Controlling their right arm at the same time hooking round the elbow (with your left) will put a pin on.

Leszek.B
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Hi All 

Iain Abernethy wrote:

The same hand position is in Tensho of course (to which a connection to the hand positions of the Bubishi has been posited), but there the hand position changes as it drops so only the back of the wrist rising version would apply (i.e. no dropping with the fingers down). The rising strike into the neck grip (same hand position with two uses) – with the other wrapping the arm – also fits the Sanseru end nicely too.

As Iain mention  Tensho kata, we use koken as a very painful press on the jaw to imobilise, I gues you could apply it to Sanseru 

also few nice applications canbe found on video below from Tom Hill

Kind regards 

Les

Iain Abernethy
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DaveJH wrote:
Hi all, first post here. I'm Dave,  practicing goju ryu a while ...

Great first post! Welcome! I was not previously aware of that variation. Thanks for sharing!

I think I follow the application you describe too … but video would help. Is there any you could point us to?

All the best,

Iain

DaveJH
DaveJH's picture

Thanks Iain. 

The end pin position you are trying to achieve is like 1min 22sec in this video. The way you get the opponent there is not like in the video however. 

There might be a Taiho jutsu video if I can find it, Of flipping opponent onto their belly, will post if I find

A bit like the first minute of this

Again though, different start to get the opponent down, but similar 270 turn and arm folding