Seiyu Oyata Kata
Taika Seiyu Oyata had two principle instructors just after World War II while living on the island of Okinawa. Uhugushiku Tan Mei was his Ryukyu Hand instructor and Wakinaguri Tan Mei was his Chinese Hand instructor. Taika sought out other instructors as well after these two passed away. When branching out on his own he taught 12 open hand Ryukyu kata and 2 open hand Chinese kata. Additionally, he taught numerous exercises which were pieces of a greater Chinese exercise/form called Spider Web.
After immigrating to the United States and establishing himself, he began returning the Ryukyu kata to what he called original or traditional versions. He stated that after WWII, the dojo clients which were made up primarily of Allied servicemen, primarily wanted to fight and compete. Thus many of the original Ryukyu kata post WWII were modified for higher kicks and other fundamental changes that he wished to return to more realistic life protection methods.
Bunkai & Oyo
Contained within each kata are motions that can be used for life protection. Taika likened this to learning the alphabet. Much like a child learns their letters, then learns to spell words, sentences, paragraphs, essay and onward, the kata is your alphabet. You learn individual motions within each kata and then those motions become natural to you. Any time in your life you hear or see a word you do not know the meaning of, you must look it up. Kata motions are like this in that they are generally motions you have not come across previously in your life. You practice the motion until it is smooth and can be performed at the proper speed. Some of these motions cannot be practiced safely on a training friend at speed. Kata allows us to practice them at speed until they become second nature.
Bunkai is the process of researching an analyzing kata pieces. Though there are some combinations in kata that can be used as a technique, many of the motions can be jumbled up from various kata. If you take one motion from the kata Naihanchi Shodan and pair it with the motion from Kusanku, you have a new technique. It is just like taking different letters of the alphabet and moving them out of alphabetical order, you can make different words. This process is called bunkai and we specifically train in it by using a method known as Oyata Shuffle. The end results of Oyata's Bunkai process are techniques, referred to as Oyo.
This kata is the first learned in this system and Taika Seiyu Oyata felt it was the most important. In the video Lee Richards shows a host of techniques taken directly from the kata as well as some motions during the techniques are not contained within Naihanchi Shodan but add elements of other kata.
Naihanchi ナイハンチ or Naifanchi ナイファンチ is a ryukyu karate kata, performed in a horse stance. Taika's horse stance and version of the kata was less deep than many other variants with the outside of the heels slightly, further out than the pinky toe. Traditional movements (steps) are side to side. There are three Naihanchi kata; Shodan, Nidan, Sandan. Each kata had its own specialties or primary principles they conveyed.
As an example, Taika stated that Naihanchi Shodan was primarily attacks from the front whereas Naihanchi Nidan was primarily attacks from the rear. Naihanchi Shodan was Taika's most used kata in that it was typically taught at a white belt level initially, so it was the perfect kata to use as a scaffold to teach various principles. There were various exercises based up Naihanchi. One such example was Naihanchi Front/Back where Taika used the kata to teach a series of 180 degree turns based on the Foundational Scaffolding of Naihanchi. There were many others.
Ni Sei Shi
Niseishi 二十四 is usually either the last or seventh kata taught in the system, however Taika did not specify an order. The final version of this kata as taught by Taika had split foot motions in the three repeated portions of the kata. One foot would go forward while the other retreated.
The end of this kata is quite similar to the ending of Tomari Seisan however the hands are more palm forward.
Passai 拔塞 was typically the 10th kata taught by most under Oyata's lineage. Other styles have a Passai sho and Passai dai, however Taika's art only had one kata. Passai and Naihanchi Shodan both start with an opening motion different than the 'standard' side stepping ready position. Passai's begins with one hand closed and the other open. The origins of this kata are unknown however some researchers believe it is related to a Chinese Leopard/Lion boxing forms because some pportions resemble those styles forms.
Kūsankū 公相君was a Chinese martial artist who lived during the 18th century. He is believed to have had an influence on karate-derived martial arts as did other Chinese arts. He reportedly learned the Ch'uan Fa in China from a Shaolin monk. Around 1756 he travelled to the Ryukyu islands as an ambassador of the Qing Dynasty where he resided in the village of Kumemura, near Naha. During his stay in Ryukyu, Kūsankū instructed Kanga Sakugawa for about six years. The kata Kusanku was named in his honor by Sakagawa. It is the longest kata of the 12 Ryukyu lineage but has a clear heart of China hand.
Seisan (十三) has the character ten and three meaning 13. It was typically the fourth kata taught in Taika's system however some instructors chose to vary the order depending on age of participant and Taika did not stipulate any particular order of the Ryukyu kata. There are several versions of Seisan taught within the Ryukyu kingdom and Taika stated his version came from Tomari. Much like Naihanchi, Taika frequently used this kata as a foundation for particular principles. After he returned this kata to the pre-war state the stance was more square, in that the students feet during the Seisan stance should be equally distributed within a square, not a long rectangle like earlier version. The back heel was slightly outside the pinky toe which brings the chest square to the target or when practicing towards a wall, aligns you to that wall. The kata footwork would bring both heels in during movement committing you to a forward movement and must be peformed in a way that the chest stays straight to the wall, thus both arms are equal length. This was the final way the footwork was completed prior to his death in 2012.
Pinan (平安) kata are a series of five empty hand forms and are technically the newest or most modern forms taught under Taika's systems. These five kata originated in Okinawa and were developed by Anko Itosu from other Ryukyu kata such as Kusanku and Channan into forms suitable for teaching karate to young students in the Japanese school system. The Pinan kata were introduced into the Japanese mailand school systems on Okinawa in 1895, and were subsequently adopted by many teachers and schools in the early 1900s which is where Taika attended school in pre-war Japan as he was living with his aunt in Osaka. Though Taika never stated that he trained in these prior to WWII, it seems logical. All but a few moves within are contained in the previously listed kata except but a few, though in a different order.
Shiho Happo no Te
Shiho Miyo no Te
The Shiho kata came directly from the Chinese part of the art and Shiho happo no te began to filter into the association by Taika around 1994-5. The kata is quite long and works on the fluidity of the student. There are no real pauses or breaks and the hands are constantly opening and closing, frequently countering each other (one hand closed, one hand open). Turns are either on the heel or on the ball in foundational versions and at times can be split foot turns. The hand movements are commonly led by the pinky or the thumb. This kata was taught to Taika by Wakinaguri and his lineage is the only one to have it. Taika was very particular about this family only kata not being released in any video, and even when he allowed any filming of it, it was in mere portions or somewhat altered so it could be reserved for his direct lineage.
Kumo no Orimono
蜘蛛网 - Zhīzhū wǎng (Chinese), Kumo no Orimono (Japanese), or Spider Web, was a single long form that was reportedly roughly 45 minutes long. This form was designed to teach a student to move in every possible direction with every possible hand motion, at every degree of turn. Turns may be inside looking out, outside looking in, moving forward, moving sideways, retreating back, side, et cetera.
As this was a very advanced form, and very long, Taika broke this down into small, bite size portions and imparted them as Renshu or exercises. Initially these Renshu were taught in static horse or natural stances and later expanded upon. Numerous exercises snippets were released through the years with the first recorded version being in 1968 with with Exercise 1 from a horse stance.
Around 1996 Taika began releasing larger exercises starting with what became known as Spider Web 1, Spider Web 2 and Spider Web 3, though 2-3 never had any completely finalized version as he travelled around the U.S. tweaking each.
Regrettably, the entire sequence or even the percent we received is unknown. We do not know the order or how they all fit together. Taika talked about them like box cars to a train. We do not know exactly how long the train was or which order it should be in.