Introduction
Saifa is required for your green and blue belts. It's an elegant kata, with lots of room for interpretation, but as always, one of the most important factors on which you will be judged, particularly if you are attempting to get your blue belt, is the quality and recognisability of your stances.

The English translation of its name is "Rolling Wave" or "To tear into pieces". It is certainly quite a fluid kata with some very flowing, circular movements; both as blocks and counters. It's the first kata to include any of the advanced techniques practiced by graded belts.

The kata primarily deals with close-ranged grappling techniques in the form of escapes and counters to grasps and holds.

Saifa originated in China, but was brought back to Okinawa in 1881 by Kanryu Higaonna who learned it from Xie Zhong Xiang. It was from Higaonna, that Chojun Miyagi, founder of the Goju style of karate, learned the kata. Although it is one of GKR's lowest combat kata, within other styles, it often occurs just before black belt. . I'd like to say that it's because we place a higher priority upon grappling, but as we do virtually no grappling training outside of of kata performance, that seem unlikely. More likely is the fact that the principles are not fully comprehended by GKR karateka.

There are several different ways of performing Saifa, according to which school of martial arts you train under. Although our version was originally taken from the Goju version, many of the moves have been changed, in some cases to the detriment of the principles that the originals encapsulated. In other cases, our performance makes better sense than the commonly taught Goju bunkai.

For green belt gradings, students are expected to know the kata's hand and footwork to a reasonable degree, but they are not expected to know it perfectly by any means. This is the first of the kata required for multiple grades, and it represents GKR's attempt to ensure that students truly know their kata, rather than simply rushing through each one in order to reach the next grade. With this in mind, for blue belt gradings, students are expected to demonstrate excellent stances, confident footwork, good balance and strong handwork.

Stances
There are lots of stances in this kata, and you'll need to pay careful attention to them to make the kata look its best. Pay particular attention to the Sanchins, which can easily look like short forward stance if you don't get them spot on.

Heisoku Dachi

Feet together

Shiko Dachi

Sumo stance

Zenkutsu Dachi

Forward stance

Sanchin Dachi

Pigeon-toed stance

Gyaku Nekoashi Dachi

Reverse cat stance

Nekoashi Dachi

Cat stance

Strikes
Again, there's a fair number of strikes to learn for this kata, including two that you will not have practiced during your basics: namely, Heiko Tsuki and Tetsui Uchi. None of the strikes are at all difficult to perform, so you shouldn't need to expend too much concentration executing them.

Ura Uchi

Back-fist strike

Heiko Tsuki

Double punch

Tetsui Uchi

Hammer-fist strike

Shita Tsuki

Short punch

Gyaku Tsuki Reverse punch
Choku Tsuki

Straight punch

Kicks
There's just a single kick in this kata and it's a simple one, so you've got no excuses!

Mae Geri Front kick

Blocks
There may be just two blocks in kata Saifa, but you probably won't have used either in the way that they occur in this kata.

Teisho Uke

Palm-heel block

Haito Uke

Ridge-hand block

Sequence:- By the numbers
Comments for more advanced students are at the end. References to compass directions (north, south, east and west), do not refer literally to their real-world directions, rather they are relative to your starting position, which is always considered o be facing north

Start

Start in Heiko Dachi. Bring your heels together. Rei. Return to Heiko Dachi.

1
Ichi
Turning west, step your right foot two shoulder-widths north of your left foot. Bring your left foot up beside your right in Heisoku Dachi, bending both knees slightly. Look straight ahead. At the same time, pull your right arm back with the fist closed, the palm facing your body. Move your left arm across your body and place the open palm against the front of your right fist.
2
Ni
Look right and pull your left arm back, keeping the hand open. Move your right arm across your body and twist your right fist into your left palm so that the back of the fist faces upwards. Move your left foot south two shoulder-widths into Shiko Dachi and perform a Teisho Uke by moving your left hand in a semi-circle past your nose and down to your right side. Follow with an Ura Uchi to the right using your right hand.
3
San
Pivoting on your right foot, turn east and step your left foot two shoulder-widths north of your right foot. Bring your right foot up beside your left in Heisoku Dachi, bending both knees slightly. Look straight ahead. At the same time, pull your left arm back with the fist closed and the palm facing your body. Move your right arm across your body and place the open palm against the front of your left fist.
4
Shi
Look left and pull your right arm back keeping the hand open. Move your left arm across your body and twist your left fist into your right palm so that the back of your fist faces upwards. Move your right foot south two shoulder-widths into Shiko Dachi and perform a Teisho Uke with your right hand by moving your right hand in a semi-circle past your nose and down to your left side. Follow with an Ura Uchi to the left using your left hand.
5
Go
Pivoting on your left foot, turn west and step your right foot two shoulder-widths north of your left foot. Bring your left foot up beside your right in Heisoku Dachi, bending both knees slightly. Look straight ahead. At the same time, pull your right arm back with the fist closed and your palm facing your body. Move your left arm across your body and place the open palm against the front of your right fist.
6
Roku
Look right and pull your left arm back, keeping the hand open. Move your right arm across your body and twist your right fist into your left palm so that the back of the fist faces upwards. Move your left foot south two shoulder-widths into Shiko Dachi and perform a Teisho Uke by moving your left hand in a semi-circle past your nose and down to your right side. Follow with an Ura Uchi to the right using your right hand.
7
Shichi
Turning your body north, drop your left hand down by your side. As you do so, move your left foot beside the right without putting your foot down. Now slide it one-and-a-half shoulder-widths west then put it down. At the same time, lift your right foot to your left knee. Perform a head-level Haito Uke with your left hand and drop your right hand below and behind your right buttock in a Teisho Uke. Look right.
8
Hachi
Look to the front. Execute a Mae Geri with your right foot. Move your right foot one and a half shoulder-widths east and put it down. Lift your left foot to your right knee. At the same time, perform a head-level Haito Uke with your right hand and drop your left hand below and behind your left buttock in a Teisho Uke. Look left.
9
Ku
Look to the front. Execute a Mae Geri with your left foot, and then drop your left foot behind you into Zenkutsu Dachi. As you move the left foot back, reach out with both hands and execute a double collar grab, crossing your right hand over the left. Pull your hands back to your hips, uncrossing them as you go. Follow up with a fast Heiko Tsuki to the collar bones. Leave your arms extended.
10
Ju
Open your left hand. Move it in a large outward semi-circular motion to a point about a foot in front of your groin. At the same time, move your right clenched fist in an outward semi-circle on the other side, ending in a side Tetsui to the palm of your left hand. The movement is done slowly with tension and should take 4 seconds to perform from start to finish.
1
Ichi
Perform a front Mawate by moving your right foot one shoulder width west of your left foot and cross the right hand over the left at the wrist. Rotate your body 180 degrees to face south in Zenkutsu Dachi. Execute a double collar grab, crossing your right hand over the left. Pull your hands back to your hips, uncrossing them as you go. Follow up with a fast Heiko Tsuki to the collar bones. Leave your arms extended.
2
Ni
Open your right hand. Move it in a large outward semi-circular motion to a point about a foot in front of your groin. At the same time, move your left clenched fist in an outward semi-circle on the other side, ending in a side Tetsui to the palm of your right hand. The movement is done slowly with tension and should take 4 seconds to perform from start to finish.
3
San
Raise your right arm over your head with the elbow bent to about 90 degrees and the palm of your fist facing forwards. Your forearm should be touching the top of your head. At the same time, cross your left arm over your body at the lower sternum with the back of the fist facing upwards, and lift your right foot to your left knee. Pivot 180 degrees on your left foot and drop your right foot into Sanchin Dachi. As you drop into stance, perform a downward Jodan Tetsui with your right arm, kiai, and retract your left arm simultaneously.
4
Shi
Open your right hand with the palm facing down and simulate a hair grab. Retract your right hand to your waist, palm downwards, keeping the hand open in a grab shape. Perform a Shita Tsuki with your left hand as you retract your right hand.
5
Go
Raise your left arm over your head with the elbow bent to about 90 degrees and the palm of your fist facing forwards. Your forearm should be touching the top of your head. At the same time, cross your right arm over your body at the lower sternum with the back of the fist facing upwards, and lift your left foot to your right knee. Pivot 180 degrees on your right foot and drop your left foot into Sanchin Dachi. As you drop into stance, perform a downwards Jodan Tetsui with your left arm, kiai, and retract your left arm simultaneously.
6
Roku
Open your left hand and simulate a hair grab with the palm facing down. Retract your left hand to your waist, palm downwards, keeping the hand open in a grab shape. Perform a Shita Tsuki with your right hand as you retract your left hand.
7
Shichi
Close your left hand into a fist with the palm facing downwards. At the same time, extend your right hand in a Choku Tsuki position and move your right leg forwards into Sanchin Dachi. All three movements happen simultaneously and with slow precision.
8
Hachi
Perform a Gyaku Tsuki with your left hand.
9
Ku
Pivot your right foot until it's facing west. Turn your body and right foot north. Bring your left foot up behind and to the side of your right foot, standing on the ball of the foot in Reverse Nekoashi Dachi. Leave your left punch extended until you are almost facing north, then bring it past your body in a straight line, extending the hand out in front of you. As your left hand reaches the right hand, the right hand moves forward with it. Both hands are open and finish one on top of the other, a head height apart, with your right hand uppermost.
10
Ju
Step back with your left foot into Zenkutsu Dachi, but immediately drag your right foot back and continue into Nekoashi Dachi. Pull both hands back to the left side of your chest, a head distance apart. Your right hand should be uppermost pointing backwards. Your left hand points forwards. Whilst moving both hands to the front of your body, rotate your hand position 180 degrees so that left hand is uppermost pointing east, and right hand pointing west. Turn your open palms outwards, with your right hand pointing upwards and your left hand pointing downwards. Push arms outwards with tension a foot or so.
End

Move your right leg back beside the left into Heiko Dachi. Bring your heels together. Rei. Return to Heiko Dachi.

Advanced notes

You set the tone for your entire kata by the way that perform your opening bow, and set yourself in Heiko Dachi. Focus, then move from your Rei to Heiko Dachi with tension and precision. Remember, left hand over right.

Careful with those Shiko Dachi's. By now you should be aware that it's the outside of the foot that is set to 45 degrees, so the feet don't point outwards like a duck's...

When moving from Teisho Uke to Ura Uchi, try to perform the two techniques immediately after each other, establishing the "rolling wave" action of this kata's title. Remember, there's no point doing a block and counter if the counter takes a week to deliver!

Move the left foot from the last of the Shiko Dachi stances into the one-legged stance in one smooth movement, rather than breaking it down into two separate motions.

Practice hard so that you can automatically balance on the one-legged stances. Move into them briskly, but keep the supporting leg very bent to aid balance.

A common mistake during the Morote Tsuki strikes is to position the fists to cvlose to each other. Remember that they need to be wide enough for a head to pass between them.

When performing the slow Tetsui, do not do so with fully extended arms. Remember the Bunkai - you are gripping an opponent by the hair and pulling his head down, twisting his face towards your other fist, which you then use to deliver a side Tetsui to the nose. You would never have the strength to pull his head down if you used straight arms. Pull your arms towards you, bending them progressively as you do so.

When performing your downwards Jodan Tetsui strikes, bend the wrist slightly so that the downwards force is accentuated, rather than deflected.

When stepping forwards in Sanchin Dachi, don't forget the circular in-out movement of the foot.

Many students seem very timid about rotating the back foot in step 9 of the second half, and they consequently end up with their legs twisted up. Be bold, and step round in one positive movement.

When setting yourself in Nekoashi Dachi and Reverse Nekoashi Dachi, try to square your hips off and lower your body weight.

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