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Frazatto's picture
Need help with Goju-ryu's Gekisai Dai katas

Yes yes, I have watched Iain's take on it, that is actually how I first found out about this crazy thing you guys have going on here :D

But I'm going for something a little different.

I don't see my instructor for over a year now, we still talk occasionally but with the constant lock downs in my city and all the other stuff going on, to actually get together and train was not viable at all.

I tried to talk with him already about this more practical approach to bunkai and I think I failed miserably in showing anything meaningful. Using Iain's method, I'm planing on preparing a proper demonstration of bunkai for the kata Gekisai for when we get back to the dojo.

So.... I think my first problem is that I need to create a more  "traditional" storytelling of the kata to get him engaged and I believe Gekisai is a good candidate for that since you can easily separate it in two perfectly symmetrical sequences, opening to the left or to the right defines with path to proceed.

I will definitely be using Iain's opening, but in a more structured manner. Thanks to my wife's help, I was able to imagine a credible sequence for the second part. And I'm waiting on my instructor for some details regarding the "old way" of doing the closing sequence.

In the meantime, what I'm really struggling with are the two first transitions.

If you never seen this kata, there are variations on YouTube and all are fairly similar: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=gekisai+kata+goju+ryu

The first transition is after the Gedan Barai, it's my working hypothesis that the adversary recovered from the first sequence and they do something that makes us keep turning with a Uti Uke and  "finishes" with a second uti uke as a grasp to the collar. My wife's natural reaction was to use a hook, but it looks very clumsy considering we are low and away after the gedan barai and a uti uke is not very useful against a hook to the face regardless.

The second sequence is just before the Ashi Barai and Iain's take on it is that you just slide to the opponent side and if they don't fall you push. But I was just able to reproduce the results as a static application, once I placed it in the sequence, it was difficult to position myself AND carry my wife's foot on the way to the side.

What also bothered me is that using that application on a sequence, the adversary stays passive for a very long time. So I'm wandering if we could create something else for this transition and I can't imagine anything that could make us lift our leg in that manner and than go for a stomp from the side.

I don't have a way to record myself for now, it would make this whole explanation much easier, sorry for that!

Anyone willing to take a chance in this experiment???

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture


There my Goju teacher's version of one of the techniques.

Kris also has a teachable page here where you can buy little modules on some of these applications:



He also has this DvD, I have trained with him for a bunch of years now, and still find this volume to be a really handy, simple reference for Goju Ryu Kata application, even after learning a lot of techniques directly. The caveat here is that this is variation after variation, with no explanation. You will have slow them down to see what is going on. Some people don't like that, it personally does not bother me and I tend to dislike highly verbal explanations of technique when I am engaged in actually learning them (believe it or not lol, im sure that seems surprising).


Here is an application video of me and a student doing some work from Gekisai, mostly moderate paced, think of it as "scratch pad" practice of variation. The basic idea is that after the first motion the uke follows up with simply moving the body, evading, or trying to better their position for the next attack. From here you can add in more realistic resistance.

Here you can seen where I frame off of him with my forearm as he adjusts his position at about 1:04, I see this as one use of the stepping back into Shikodachi. It's not pretty but i'd urge you to try with it a partner, if you time it right you can hit the back of the head with a hammerfist, otherwise you simply move off his line framing with the "blocking" forearm and as he adjusts your chambered fist is in a perfect spot.

Incidentally, one of the Rules of Kaisai is that backwards-moving movements imply 'defense', I don't think this means anything passive, but it does mean (to me) that the movement carries some specific lesson about evasion, repositioning, etc.

For me the Shuto is really simple, it's a shuto, the opponent can be doing whatever they want, there are lots of variations but the basic idea is you move in, grab an arm if available, and shuto their neck, face etc. I would argue you don't need much detail for that technique, it is fault-tolerant and works in all kinds of ways. If I want to include the lower body, I've found good tactics to be the ashi-barai, as well as a quick knee shot or stomp to the lead leg at close range, especially if there is little room and grabbing involved.

e wrote:
What also bothered me is that using that application on a sequence, the adversary stays passive for a very long time. So I'm wandering if we could create something else for this transition and I can't imagine anything that could make us lift our leg in that manner and than go for a stomp from the side.

It depends on how you time the lower body, it workes best (in my experience, obviously) if the stomp comes slightly before or after the shuto, kind of "cuts" the person in half, as it were. Just try it static to begin with, with the partner just having the hand out, you in shuto position on the outside (hands in kind of an "x" or cross-arm formation, the shuto elbow pointed at the opponents face), and feel the ways that work to enter with the stomp/knee, and then see how it feels to do it slightly after.

Sometimes it's also better to just go as simple as we can I think, a shuto with a stomp/drop into someone is pretty effective by itself.

I am gearing up to do a mawashi-uke video once that is ready, which is in Gekisai Dai ni to begin with of course. I'll include it here if you want, and we can compare notes.

Jonathan Walter
Jonathan Walter's picture

This sounds like a fun project. I tried to figure out bunkai for the Geki Sais for about a year before I gave up. Each indiviual technique seemed good, but I couldn't make them flow together in a logical way. 

But you didn't ask for negativity. You asked for help. One thing I tried was to use the two middle body blocks as a clinch. It's very similar to what I think the begining of Sanchin is. I have a video of that for reference


My idea was the first block was a clamp to catch one arm, and the second went behind their head.

As I said, I never made it work, but hopefully you can. And post a video. Best of luck.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture


I could not find any Geki Sai footage, but here is a lockdown video I made of some variations from Kururunfa for my students last year some time. My wife was the only available uke and she was not that enthused to be doing it. I'm posting them because of the discussion about timing the upper and lower body on the shuto.

If you have an uke that's willing to get a few bruises you can figure these out with more natural body movement and reaction than what's shown here, the application for the Gekisai technique is similar timing wise, only you are on the -outside- of their limbs and body, many of the same principles apply, only from a different angle, hope it can spark some ideas.

I have also experimented with doing the Gekisai bunkai as whole sequence, there is some value to this, but it is pretty theoretical, that many transitions is an experiment that can yield interestng things, though I'm not sure it's the most practical approach.The way Id id it initially uis just have someone stand with hands up posture of some kind, and begin the doing the techniques on them, it's actually surprising what you can do with the kata this way, and ends up looking similar to Taira Masaji's drills somewhat, if it come out well. It can also result in lots of silliness and needless complexity. I think in that sense that finding "flow" in Kata can be a bit of trap at times.

Iain's Beyond Bunkai Naihanchin DvD might also give you some good ideas in how it's structured, even though it's such a different kata. I feel like it's a good approach to "flow" for any kata that is still realistic and does not try to bend reality to the pattern of the kata, which is an easy thing to get lost in, in my experience.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Frazatto,

Frazatto wrote:
The second sequence is just before the Ashi Barai and Iain's take on it is that you just slide to the opponent side and if they don't fall you push.

I don’t think that description captures my thoughts, so you may have misunderstood my take on the sequence. The idea is if the preceding punch has not floored them, but it has wobbled them, then you can maintain the grip on the arm, slide the hand across the face and hook the thumb under the nose. You then slide the hand up – as if trying to slide the nose off the face – which will tilt the enemy’s head backward. The turn, with the head pushed backward like this, will make it difficult for the enemy to step, so they may fall, but if they do manage to try to step, then the “sweep” can be used to block the path of the foot so the enemy’s centre of gravity gets outside their base and they fall.

It’s not that “if they don’t fall you push”, but the push on the face is what disrupts the posture to make them fall, and if they don’t the “sweep” simply blocks the path of the enemy’s corrective step; often making it more of a “step block” than a “sweep”. Basically, the step block /sweep is a backup, whereas the way I read your description it seems you think the push is the backup to the sweep? It’s the other way around.

All I have on YouTube is the short clip below. This is a quick summary at the end of a session on this kata, so I only spend a few seconds going over it. I think it does make clear the push is primary through. Full footage of that session, and a complete seminar on the entire kata can be found in my app: https://iainabernethy.co.uk/iain-abernethys-applied-karate-kata-bunkai-app

I hope that helps clarify.

All the best,


Frazatto's picture

Well...buying things, specially in dollars or euros, is not possible. My country's money is quite worthless right now, multiply any price by 5.5 and you will understand why :P

I tought it would be more productive to be specific about what I needed, but you are already diving in, so let me explain my reasoning.

At first, i thought the Goju hard/soft was an aesthetic gimmick, all stiles have open and close handed movements, why make it special here?

But this year, while translating a Jujutsu book to portuguese, it hit me! This is a philosophical reference for Ying Yang and all the dualitys in martial arts. If you expand the idea, kicks and punches are "Hard" and wrestling is "Soft" for the chinese, we can even see this in Judo as the "soft" art in contrast to the  "hard" ones that come before.

Soooo....maybe Goju-ryu is saying those characteristics are preserved in the teachings explicitly.

Maybe, fast and slow in the katas is code for offense/defense and grappling respectively! And if that is the case, man!! We can dissect those katas in a much more objective way.

With that in mind, yes Jonathan Walter, the uti uke should be some sort of grappling technique and not an active block. Although I'm guessing it's not like Sanchin, I think it's a grab for the collar because of the low maegeri to the opponent's back leg right after. I will try to make a video on the weekend to show it, but it is my experience so far that the most effective way to deliver that kick is if you use the hold to the opponent collar to make them float on a half step backwards, very much like they do in Judo.

And Zach Zinn, following this reasoning, I think every time you retreat in the katas, you are actually pulling the opponent back with you one way or another. I would also argue, that is why most retreats in Goju kata are diagonal, it's way easier to pull someone in this fashion.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Frazatto wrote:
And Zach Zinn, following this reasoning, I think every time you retreat in the katas, you are actually pulling the opponent back with you one way or another. I would also argue, that is why most retreats in Goju kata are diagonal, it's way easier to pull someone in this fashion.

I'm in agreement I think. There are also not that many overt backward motions in Goju, we have some neko-ashi ala Seuinchin (which is already a flinching and "getting small" motion), the diagonal backwards shiko pivot, which I think you could argue is a "get outta dodge" technique involving framing, as well as  more offensive uses, and then the mawashi uke motions.

I think I get what you are saying about the collar grab. Personally I think it's easy to over complicate uchi uke, just put your hands in an "x" or cross formation, complete the technique as you impose that stucture on a person, conrolling a persons limb, etc. I think the explanation in iain's video is solid, and is pretty close to the variations I prefer for it.

Frazatto's picture

Hi Iain Abernethy, sorry for misrepresenting your work.

I was sure I could not make it justice so I thought pointing to your original video and giving an as brief as possible explanation just for context was a better plan.

I intend to get the access for the in app content as soon as possible, but right now I don't even have enough space to train or with whom to train with. That is why I'm resorting for "more intellectual" practices as in translating books and running simulations in my head :P

To be honest, I was hoping this thread would go unnoticed from you for a little longer... at least until I could show some results hahaha

But like I said, I feel I need a demonstration more closely related to what everybody is used to and building a  "traditional" storytelling of the continuous fight within the kata seams a good first approach.

I would also not feel I did a good job if the only thing I could offer was to copy your moves, I'm confident I can add something to the conversation if I put the effort to it.

Jeb Chiles
Jeb Chiles's picture

Here are a few applications from the Matsubayashi Fukyu Gata Ni version.

all the best 






Frazatto's picture

Maaaannnn I really jumped the gun on this one....

I really appreciate all your input, it helped to give me perspective, but this process is much richier and broader than I imagined at first and I find my creativity lacking in what it takes to really explore the possibilities.

Never the less, I do believe I have grasped the basic concepts and I require more experimentation!

So I'm now thinking of using this thread to document the small connections I make along the way.

Or should I create a new one?

Please let me know what you think.