Form over Function – Saifa Kata

One of the Goju kata’s, Saifa, translated as tear and destroy is partly about creating a whipping motion into your strikes. I first came across the notion that this concept was apparent in saifa when watching Higoanna Sensei’s Goju Kata video made in the 70’s I think. The videos came in a horrendously expensive set, which provided performance and bunkai to all Goju kata. My copy wasn’t expensive and wasn’t original.

In fact, the final movement provides a template for the whipping punch described in a previous post, the hip-shoulder-arm action. Unfortunately this section of the kata is often performed in a manner that negates the whipping action completely, and so disregards the good bit! In this clip a world champion fails to exhibit this action in his kata. Although he’s very precise in his movements, nice form!

Oddly enough this whipping action is omitted in this peculiar version of saifa, and from this more regular one, and is still missing here, this guy gets a little closer to it, but none of these clips come close to doing the whipping action any justice.

Eventually, here’s a clip of the video as I remember it, and lo and behold there’s a whipping action at the end, in the final movement. Not quite as whippy as I’d do it nowadays, but its there if you look carefully. At the time I loved this video, the music was fantastic too but sadly missing from the clip.

The disappointing thing in all of this is the fact that so much is lost; it took some significant reverse engineering on my part to ‘rediscover’ it. I was always puzzled somewhat by the ‘whip like motion’ comment at the start of the clip. To be fair, we did train some whipping actions, from other sections of the kata, but it was never extrapolated to punching.

It is a great shame that by emphasising the value of a ‘pretty kata’ performance over one illustrating something of value so much is lost. Perhaps, a little more untidy in execution than those that put their kata performances on you tube, the whipping action in the final section of the kata is analogous to that used successfully by Mike Zambidis et al . It may be that I have interpreted this section of the kata incorrectly, but then it’s my interpretation and so to me, at the very least, it’s valid. I may be incorrect in some people’s opinion, but that doesn’t really matter.

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