What Goju Do You?

When I started in karate I didn’t even know what that really was, much less that there were different styles of karate, different martial arts, and different origins. That came much, much later. Remember, no cable TV, You Tube, etc. Plus, the sensei were not much given to explaining such intricacies to a white belt. The feeling was, why ask so many questions if you hardly know how to do a basic block right. First things first. The truth is, I had no questions because I didn’t know anything about the martial arts, in fact the words “martial arts” were also absent from my meager karate vocabulary. The point is that too much is given to the names of things, and little to their substance, terms are thrown around like so much confetti. That I did learn: to stop intellectualizing and listen to my body, to observe mine and the bodies of others, as they moved or stood still. Take the word “Goju.” To give it the proper pronunciation in Spanish, one would have to change the “j” to “y.” And, according to whoever is speaking, put an accent on the u. That’s why I smile now when I hear or read about the proper way to say or write the Japanese or Okinawan terms, since there seems to be no consensus as how to say or spell anything in Goju or Goyú, and, anyway, it is all in the lingua franca of karate outside Japan or Okinawa: English. But I must now take a plunge and risk it all for I must mention my Goju syllabus, that like all Goju syllabi, differs somewhat, in order, and in what can be termed the “practice kata,” and by this I mean all that is not considered the “classical" Miyagi legacy(Seisan or sesan, etc.)—I’m getting a bit confused here—but bear with me. Its all Goju you know, so just let go.

My Goju syllabus was set in Shoreikan and was as follows:

Tandoku Kata Dai Ichi, Tandoku Kata Dai Ni, Gekisai Kata Dai Ichi, Gekisai Kata Dai Ni, Gekisai Kata Dai San, Sanchin, Saifa, Seiyunchin, Gekiha, Tensho, Sesan, Sepai, Sishoshin, Sanseru, Kururunfa, Suparinpei.

With Kimo Wall in Kodokan, add two: Kakuha Sho and Kakuha Dan, and eliminate one: Tandoku Kata Dai Ni. And there were others, but basically this is, was and will be my syllabus.

While in Chi-I-Do , under Master Kow Loon Ong (Cayo Sensei) — and where I formally got my black belt — certain practice katas were eliminated, another version of Tensho added, and kiso kumites restructured, and certain bunkai movements altered. Plus, all katas were given a, let us say, Chinese accent (elongated so to speak, etc.)

So you see, I too can further complicate matters vis-á-vis those three guys you see on the blog links. And what I mean by this is than Goju has many faces but still has distinguishable eyes, nose and mouth.

Our Bunkai was the kata with another person, and our kumite was two ways and with multiple steps, ending in one technique, usually five techniques per set. No ju (free) kumite allowed, permitted or tolerated, end of story. And yes, there was a reason for this. There is always a reason. So, what Goju do you?

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