Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-Do (Seiyunchin Kata) And Taiwanese Golden Eagle Fist
Original Chinese Language Article by: Tian Xie Zuo (天蠍座) (Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)
Translator’s Note: Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-Do is a gongfu fighting system originating in the provinces of Southern China, specifically Fujian. Chinese people migrated to Okinawa over hundreds of years taking their martial culture with them. This process of cultural transmission was augmented by Okinawans, who travelled to China in search of greater and genuine knowledge about these arts that simultaneously incorporate effective armed and unarmed self-defence, the robust building of psychological and physical health, and which contribute toward spiritual fulfillment. The Okinawans already had their own indigenous fighting systems within their island nation, but as a people were very open to learning new things from different places. Goju Ryu – a system of Karate-Do, is a well document transmission of Chinese gongfu that has integrated with Okinawan arts. The result has been a lasting system in Okinawa that has survived for hundreds of years and found its place in a modern world. Goju Ryu is popular around the world, and remains one of the few ‘karate styles’ to be practiced amongst Chinese people in both Taiwan and Hong Kong. Like virtually all martial systems, Okinawan Goju Ryu has a number of distinct lineages with different masters at their head. The debate regarding the exact origination of Goju Ryu’s Chinese roots is still very much a work in progress. To assist this ongoing debate I have decided to translate the following article written by the Taiwanese Goju Ryu teacher and practitioner Sensei Tian Xie Zuo. Sensei Tian centres his expert analysis on the Goju Ryu kata known as ‘Seiyunchin’, and compares the movements found there, with the Chinese style of gongfu known as ‘Golden Eagle Fist’. Sensei Tian advances this debate by stressing that although Goju Ryu is often consider a product of the Fujian White Crane System, there are other discernable influences within the style. I have retained the original Chinese text for reference. This is the text as it appeared on Sensei Tian’s Karate Blog in 2012, and has not been altered in anyway. ACW 19.10.12
As I have said many times before, I believe that the development of Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-Do should not be limited in origination to White Crane Boxing. It is a collection of martial techniques at its centre from the Naha area of Okinawa. This was added to by gongfu techniques brought back from China by masters Higaonna Kanryo and Chojun Miyagi. It is true that there is a definite White Crane Fist presence within Goju Ryu, but it is irresponsible to state that this is the only martial influence, as Goju Ryu has also absorbed martial techniques from a number of different styles of Chinese gongfu.
For example, the Kata known as Saifa (碎破 – Sui Po) means ‘smash the enemy to pieces’ and probably originated between the Zhangzhou and Quanzhou area of Southern Fujian province, and has its martial roots in ‘Lion Style’ (Saiwha) gongfu (獅法 – Shi Fa). The Kata known as Kururunfa (久留頓破 – Jiu Liu Dun Po), can mean ‘enduring presence that destroys the enemy’ and probably originated in the Fuzhou area of Northern Fujian province, and has its martial roots in Dragon Fist (龍拳 – Long Quan) gongfu, specifically the ‘Wo Long Fa’ (臥龍法- ‘Lying Dragon Style), and so on. All kinds of Chinese martial arts have been transmitted into Okinawa and have formed the Katas of Karate-Do, taking on Okinawan names and designations. These names were originally pronounced in the Fuzhou dialect, or ‘Minnan’ (閩南) of Fujian province. In addition to White Crane (白鶴 – Bai He) gongfu, Goju Ryu contains Lion Fist and Dragon Fist. The martial heritage of Goju Ryu can not be limited to White Crane Fist only.
The Kata known as Seiyunchin (制引戰 – Zhi Yin Zhan), which can be translated as ‘system to make war’, is known to have been a part of the early development of Okinawan Goju Ryu, but is not considered to have originated from within Naha Te. Research shows that Seiyunchin was brought back from China’s Fujian province by Higaonna Kanryo who travelled to Fuzhou to study Chinese boxing. Exactly who his teacher was at that time is a matter of debate. It is believed, however, that Miyagi Chojun later visited the area of Southern Fujian province to pay his respects to the lineage of the master (or masters) in question. This is suggested by other research regarding the type of Chinese Boxing and beliefs (such as Marshal Tiandu) extant in that area.
When the name of the Seiyunchin Kata (制引戰 – Zhi Yin Zhan) is subjected to in depth analysis, it is found that in certain books that record the history of Goju Ryu, the name of this Kata is written as ‘Qing Ying Zhan’ (青鷹戰), which translates as ‘Black Eagle Fighting’. Therefore, the method of fighting known as Eagle Claw (鷹爪功法 – Ying Zhao Gong Fa) should have a close link to this Kata. This is in addition to the fact that Crane Fist (鶴拳 – He Quan) is also known to have an ancestral set of Boxing which is called ‘Qing Ying Zhan’ (青鷹戰). However, the movements of this White Crane ancestral form are very different from the movements found within the Goju Ryu Kata known as ‘Seiyunchin’ – the two martial forms, although sharing the same name, do not correlate. Whilst researching Fujian styles of Boxing (閩南拳 – Min Nan Quan), it was discovered that the Kata Seiyunchin actually resembles the movements of the gongfu style known as ‘Golden Eagle Fist’ (金鷹拳 – Jin Ying Quan) found in the Xiluo area of Taiwan. This style has died out and no longer exists in Fujian province, but is still found in Taiwan’s Xiluo Qi Kan (西螺七崁) area, where this martial art is still preserved. This is the only place in the world where this style continues to be recorded, practiced and handed down from one generation to the next. This style is renowned for its martial effectiveness and is passed on by a very good teacher named master Liu Ming Shan (劉明善) of Xiluo. The movements of this Gongfu style are very similar to those found in the Okinawan Goju Ryu Kata known as ‘Seiyunchin’ (制引戰 – Zhi Yin Zhan).
A: Golden Eagle Fist (Soft Hand) grabbing and pulling attacker's arm
B: Golden Eagle (Soft Hand) Grasping, Pulling With Attack To Face
C: Seiyunchin Kata (Hang Block) Blocking Attack
D: Seiyunchin Kata (Hang Block) Attack-Pull - Similar To Golden Eagle Boxing
E: Golden Eagle Fist Movement (Castrate Rooster)
F: Seiyunchin Kata (Draw Bow) Similar To Golden Eagle Fist (Castrate Rooster)
We can analyse the name of the Seiyunchin Kata and its Chinese pronunciation (制引戰 – Zhi Yin Zhan), together with its technical design and movement structure. In many books regarding Okinawan Goju Ryu the style is associated with the Black Eagle Fighting style of Gongfu, which is pronounced as ‘Qing Ying Zhan’ (青鷹戰) in the Chinese language. If this is correct, then the movements of the Seiyunchin Kata should be closely linked to the movements found within the Eagle Claw system. There is indeed an ancestral Kata named ‘Black Eagle Fighting’ (青鷹戰 - Qing Ying Zhan) found within the White Crane system, but when its movements are compared with those found within the Seiyunchin Kata – the two sets do match. However, within the recorded martial arts of Fujian province there was a style known as ‘Golden Eagle Boxing’ (金鷹拳 – Jin Ying Quan) which is now only preserved in Taiwan’s Xiluo Qi Kan (西螺七崁) area, and passed on by master Liu Ming Shan (劉明善). The movements and techniques of this Black Eagle Boxing, when compared with those found within the Seiyunchin Kata, do appear to share a marked similarity, as can be viewed in the above photographs, particularly with regard to gripping, pulling, and countering, etc. This includes movements such as the Lotus Flower technique (蓮華式 – Lian Hua Shi), and Turn the Palm Back (迴受轉掌 – Hui Shou Zhuan Zhang). It is true that with regard to Turn the Palm Back that there is a similarity with the hand techniques found within the Five Forms (五形 – Wu Xing) of White Crane Fist, such as Fire Form Hand (火形手 - Huo Xing Shou), but these similarities may be considered generic to Southern Shaolin fighting systems (南少林拳法 Nan Shaolin Quan Fa) in general and do not prove a direct link between White Crane gongfu and the Seiyunchin Kata.
Of course, in the Okinawan Karate-Do styles that evolved from Naha Te (那霸手) such as:
Goju Ryu (剛柔流 – Gang Rou Liu), Uechi Ryu (上地流 - Shang Di Liu) Ryuei Ryu (劉衛流 - Liu Wei Liu)
As well as the Okinawan Karate-Do styles that evolved from Shuri Te (首里手 - Shou Li Shou):
Shorin Ryu (小林流 - Xiao Lin Liu) Shorinji Ryu (少林寺流 - Shao Lin Si Liu) Matsubayashi Ryu (松林流 - Song Lin Liu),
There can be seen a number of mutual influences in the development of modern Okinawan Karate-Do (Kong Shou Dao). These styles of Karate-Do incorporated and developed many different and distinct martial techniques and combat preferences. An example of this kind of development can be seen in the examples of master Funakoshi Gichin (船越義珍 – Chuan Yue Yi Zhen), and his son Funakoshi Yoshitaka (船越義豪 – Chuan Yue Yi Hao), who vigorously promoted the use of the Round House Kick (迴旋踢 – Hui Xuan Ti) in combat, and who were considered kicking enthusiasts.