Introduction
Sepai is a classic Goju Kai kata, containing a bewildering array of blocks, and more strikes than any other kata. Like most Goju katas, it deals with grappling situations, and in this case, most of the grapples are right up close and personal, with perhaps the shortest range techniques in all Goju katas. It's extremely graceful, yet also demonstrates explosive movement. Its title means "18 hands". The number 108 and any of its divisors has significance in the Dharmic religions.


Stances
Although there are seven stances in Sepai, shiko dachi and sanchin dachi are the most commonly used. In almost every instance, shiko dachi is used to pull your opponent off balance. However, the use of sanchin dachi in this kata reminds us that in addition to its facility for producing strong rotation, it is also a very rooted stance for close-quarters grappling. There seems to be much confusion as to when to use sanchin, and when to use shizentai, but there are times that strongly suggest one or the other. One good rule of thumb is that when there is a strong forwards motion, the stance is more likely to be shizentai, and when there is a strong body rotation, it is more likely to be sanchin.

Heiko dachi Ready stance
Gyaku zenkutsu dachi Reverse forward stance
Sanchin dachi Pigeon-toed stance
Shizentai dachi Natural stance
Shiko dachi Sumo stance
Neko ashi dachi Cat stance
Kosa dachi Cross-legged stance
Musubi dachi Heels together, toes apart stance



Strikes
No kata has a greater selection, or a more diverse array of strikes than Sepai. It contains strikes to all three levels, using fore and back knuckles, elbows, both edges of the hand, and the palm. It truly is a tour-de-force of striking techniques, and if any one kata could be said to represent an entire fighting system, this one is surely it.

Yoko shuto uchi Side knife-hand strike
Morote yoko empi uchi Reinforced side-elbow strike
Yoko gedan barai shuto uchi Side low-level sweeping knife-hand strike
Shuto uchi Knife-hand strike
Yoko mawashi empi Side round-elbow strike
Yoko uraken uchi Side back-fist strike
Otoshi ude uchi Dropping forearm strike
Smak i uchi? Slap
Teisho uchi Palm-heel strike
Otoshi yama tsuki Dropping double punch
Furi uchi Flare strike
Tetsui uchi Hammerfist strike
Shita tsuki Short punch
Ura uchi Forward backfist



Blocks and catches
Given the variety and sophistication of the strikes in this kata, the blocks are surprisingly simple. The only unfamiliar one wil be the double leg catch.

Haito uchi Uke Ridge-hand Inside block
Gedan barai Low-level sweeping block
Open handed downward pressing block
Two-handed catch
Yoko gedan barai Side low-level sweeping block
Uchi uke Inside block



Kicks and sweeps
Low to mid-level mae geris are used three times in this kata, but it's the use of powerful foot/leg sweeps that are a new feature.

Mae geri Front kick
Ashi barai Leg sweep




Sequence:- By the numbers
Start Sepai footwork chart start Start in heiko dachi. Move to musubi dachi Rei. Return to heiko dachi.
1
Ichi
Sepai footwork chart step 1 Bring your left foot in next to your right. As they meet, turn to the west, pivoting on the ball of your right foot. As you pivot, start to swing both arms backwards (to the south) from their ready stance position and open both hands. Step to the south into shiko dachi. Swing the left arm in a big circle backwards until it reaches about head level, then bring it back in and perform an otoshi teisho uke, dropping past your face and finishing at solar plexus level with the palm facing north. At the same time the right continues circling more slowly, passing on the inside of the left arm with the elbow bent, performing 270 degrees of a circle and ending up pointing to the north at shoulder level, with the arm straight, and the palm flat and facing west. Both arms should finish moving at the same time. You should remain looking north throughout.
2
Ni
Sepai footwork chart step 2 Moving the left foot, step up into sanchin dachi. Slide your foot into position with the foot parallel to the floor. Leave the right arm fully extended, but turn your palm to face the floor. Bring your left arm up underneath palm up and clasp the right so that both hands are holding each other. The fingers do not interlock Both arms should be fully extended at shoulder height, but both shoulders should be level. Continue looking north.
3
San
Sepai footwork chart step 3 Very slowly draw both hands towards your chest. When they get there, sharply thrust them out, still keeping them interlinked. As they thrust out, rotate them so that the left hand is on top and the right is on the bottom. Keep your shoulders level. Continue looking north.
4
Shi
Sepai footwork chart step 4 Step forwards with the right foot pivoting on the left to finish up in shiko dachi facing west. As you start to move, bring both hands to your chest, then as you land into position, thrust to your side (the north) with a morote yoko empi uchi at shoulder height (using the left palm to push against the right). The clasped fingers of the right hand face upwards, and the fingers of the left face to the west. Continue looking north.
5
Go
Sepai footwork chart step 5 Keeping your weight back on your right leg, step through with your left foot into a low south-east facing zenkutsu dachi (actually it's a north-facing gyaku zenkutsu dachi!). The body should be leaning to the south-east such that the straight left leg and the left side of your body are in a straight line, and you should have your head turned over your left shoulder looking north.

As you step through, perform an open-handed yoko gedan barai to the left side. The left arm should be above the left leg, and at the end of the move should be parallel to the left side of the body. The right arm raises to your right side so that the elbow is as high as you can get it. Your right hand is open, and near to your jaw, with the palm facing outwards. The angle from your right elbow to your right wrist should be roughly the same as the angle of your left arm, and both should be facing to the same place (your left ankle).

6
Roku
Sepai footwork chart step 6 Without moving any other part of your body, perform an open-handed uchi uke with your left arm to the north. At the end, the open hand should be facing palm upwards. Continue looking north.
7
Shichi
Sepai footwork chart step 7 Draw your left foot back so that it is a little in front of and to the west of your right, with both feet facing east, both knees bent, and your weight more on your right leg. Now sharply twisting the hips and your stance into a north-facing sanchin dachi, perform a jodan soto shuto uchi with the right arm to the north, drawing the left hand back into chamber as you normally would. Continue looking north.
8
Hachi
Sepai footwork chart step 8 Perform a chudan mae geri to the north with your right leg. As you draw it back, place it down into shiko dachi facing east. As you turn into the stance, perform a mawashi empi to the north with your left arm, drawing your open right hand to your solar plexus in a guard, with the palm facing north. Continue looking north.
9
Ku
Sepai footwork chart step 9 Perform an ura uchi to the north with your left arm. Don't move any other part of your body. Continue looking north.
10
Ju
Sepai footwork chart step 10 Look south. Turn your hips to the south and draw your right leg back towards your left in neko ashi dachi. Do not rise up as you switch from shiko dachi to neko ashi dachi. As you turn, rotate your left arm at the elbow, and place your left arm across your body so that it rests with the knuckles facing upwards, with a closed fist. Once your body is facing south, perform a gedan barai with the right arm. At the end of the block, you should find that the side of your left fist knuckles are touching the inside of your right elbow.
1
Ichi
Sepai footwork chart step 11 Without moving any other part of your body, perform an uchi uke with your right arm. Continue looking south.
2
Ni
Sepai footwork chart step 12 Without moving any other part of your body, open your right hand and turn the palm outwards, with the thumb sticking out in grip. Bend the right forearm downwards to the south until the arm is completely straight. As you press downwards, try to keep the palm facing forwards as much as possible, so you'll need to bend the wrist as the arm lowers. Continue looking south.
3
San
Sepai footwork chart step 13 Place your front heel on the floor and step across the front of your right foot with your left leg, keeping your stance tight with your shin and calf touching. Start to pivot your body clockwise to the west, eventually aiming to finish in a north-west facing sanchin dachi. Look north-west.

Close your right fist, and bend your right arm to the side so that it is now across your body parallel to your left arm, but on top of it. Keeping both forearms across your body, roll your right arm forwards and down, and your left and left forearm backwards and up, so that they change places. Keep rolling in the same direction until the left forearm is in front of the right. At that point draw the left arm back into chamber by your left side. Continue rolling the right arm a further half rotation, snapping it into place with a sharp downwards movement.

As you snap your right arm into place, your stance should also lock in briskly.

4
Shi
Sepai footwork chart step 14 Lift your left forearm over your head, with the elbow bent at a right angle. Your hand should be open with the palm facing forwards. Start to pivot anti-clockwise on the balls of both feet, and look over your shoulder to the south-east. As you do so, drop your right hand to your right side, palm open and facing forwards. When you are facing approximately south, your legs will be fully crossed over. Step through with your right leg to the south-east about 1 1/2 shoulder lengths. Now shuffle the back foot up behind the right into shizentai dachi (about 1 shoulder long and wide, both feet facing forwards). As you step into shizentai dachi, the right hand flicks forwards with a sharp upwards slapping motion at groin height. The left arm retracts sharply from above the head back into chamber by the left side, however the left hand remains open, and finishes palm up by your side.
5
Go
Sepai footwork chart step 15 Swing the left hand in an arc, passing in front of the right shoulder palm to the right, and dropping down in front of the left thigh, where it finishes palm still open and facing downwards in a palm heel gedan barai. At the same time, draw the right hand back into chamber by the right side in a palm heel shape with the fingers facing downwards Drive the right palm heel forwards to the south-east, twisting as you go so that the fingers are upwards at the end of the strike. The strike should end up at jaw level and completes a few moments after the left arm has finished sweeping down into position.

At the same time as you do the hand-work, you should step through with your left foot, to end up in a left-foot-forwards sanchin dachi. However, as you step forwards, you allow your right hip to drop back more than usual. Then as you deliver the palm heel strike, you turn your hip in strongly to face the south-east. You should also lower your height more than usual at the mid-point of the step, rising slightly at the end. The effect should be to create a kind of wave as you step through.

Continue looking south-east.

6
Roku
Sepai footwork chart step 16 Step with your right foot to the south-east into shiko dachi facing north-east. As you snap into stance, bring both arms sharply across your body, with a gap of about six inches between them. The left arm should be underneath, and the right arm on top. Both palms should be open. The left palm should be facing upwards towards the elbow of the right arm, and the right palm should be facing downwards towards the elbow of the left arm.

Continue looking south-east.

7
Shichi
Sepai footwork chart step 17 Draw both arms back into chamber. At the same time, sharply lift the sole of your right foot to the inside of your left knee in a sweep and look at the floor. Do not change height. As you place your right foot back into its original position, punch downwards as low as possible with both fists in front of you at shoulder width, keeping the palms facing in towards each other, not towards your body. Try to keep your back straight. Kiai as you punch.
8
Hachi
Sepai footwork chart step 18 Turning backwards, step through with the right foot, rotating clockwise until you are in shiko dachi facing south-west. As you do so, perform a yoko gedan barai to the left side using the left arm.

Look south-east.

9
Ku
Sepai footwork chart step 19 Look south-west.

Swing the right hand in an arc, passing in front of the left shoulder palm to the left, and dropping down in front of the right thigh, where it finishes palm still open and facing downwards in a palm heel gedan barai. At the same time, draw the left hand back into chamber by the left side in a palm heel shape with the fingers facing downwards Drive the left palm heel forwards to the south-west, twisting as you go so that the fingers are upwards at the end of the strike. The strike should end up at jaw level and completes a few moments after the right arm has finished sweeping down into position.

At the same time as you do the hand-work, you should step through with your right foot, to end up in a left-foot-forwards sanchin dachi. However, as you step forwards, you allow your left hip to drop back more than usual. Then as you deliver the palm heel strike, you turn your hip in strongly to face the south-west. You should also lower your height more than usual at the mid-point of the step, rising slightly at the end. The effect should be to create a kind of wave as you step through.

10
Ju
Sepai footwork chart step 20 Step with your left foot to the south-west into Shiko Dachi facing north-west. As you snap into stance, bring both arms sharply across your body, with a gap of about six inches between them. The right arm should be underneath, and the left arm on top. Both palms should be open. The right palm should be facing upwards towards the elbow of the left arm, and the left palm should be facing downwards towards the elbow of the right arm.

Continue looking south-west.

1
Ichi
Sepai footwork chart step 21 Draw both arms back into chamber. At the same time, sharply lift the sole of your left foot to the side of your right knee in a sweep and look at the floor. Do not change height. As you place your left foot back into its original position, punch downwards as low as possible with both fists in front of you at shoulder width, keeping the palms facing in towards each other, not towards your body. Try to keep your back straight. Kiai as you punch.
2
Ni
Sepai footwork chart step 22 Turning backwards, step through with the left foot, rotating anti-clockwise until you are in Shiko Dachi facing south-east. As you do so, perform a Gedan Barai to your right side using your right arm.

Look south-west.

3
San
Sepai footwork chart step 23 Turn your body to face north, and as you do so bring your right foot up close behind your left with the right heel off the floor (Reverse Nekoashi Dachi). At the same time, cross your left arm across the front of your body at solar plexus height, and cross the right arm behind your body at the same height. Both hands are closed in a fist, with your right palm facing upwards, and your left palm facing downwards.

With barely a pause, step the right foot back changing the stance into full Nekoashi Dachi. As you step back into Nekoashi Dachi, perform an Uchi uke with the left arm, finishing up at the centre line of the body. At the same time, perform a temple-height Furi Uchi to the north with the right arm, finishing with the right elbow at the same height as the fist, and the right fist roughly six inches further away from you than the left. Although the arms finish at the same time as the footwork, they both move very slowly and powerfully into position.

4
Shi
Sepai footwork chart step 24 Slowly swing the left arm across the back of your body at solar plexus height, and cross the right arm in front of your body at the same height. Both hands are closed in a fist, with your right palm facing downwards, and your left palm facing upwards.

Step forwards into Kosa Dachi with the left leg behind the right. At the same time, execute an Uchi uke with your right arm, finishing in line with your centre-line, and a left arm temple-height Furi Uchi with the fist about six inches in front of the other one. The foot and handwork of this part of the stage should be performed explosively fast.

5
Go
Sepai footwork chart step 25 Pivot anti-clockwise on your right foot until you are facing and looking east, and move your left foot out into Sanchin Dachi. As you set your stance, perform an Uchi uke with your left arm, drawing your right arm back into chamber.
6
Roku
Sepai footwork chart step 26 Continue looking east, but turn your body south, pivoting on the toes of both feet. As you do so, drop your left arm and perform a groin-level hammerfist to the east. Immediately perform a head level backfist to the east with the same arm.

Turn your body back to the east, performing a slow, strong Uchi uke with your right arm, whilst drawing your left arm back into chamber.

7
Shichi
Sepai footwork chart step 27 Execute a Mae Geri to the east with your right leg. Drop the leg back into a south-facing Shiko Dachi. As you drop into Shiko Dachi, perform a Shita tsuki to the left side using your left arm, and draw your right open hand to your solar plexus with the palm facing to the east.

Continue looking east.

8
Hachi
Sepai footwork chart step 28 Look west. Turn your body west and slide up with your left foot until it is just behind the heel of your right foot, keeping the left foot parallel to the floor. Without stopping, move the left foot back from the heel and out in an arcing motion to form a right-foot-forwards Sanchin Dachi facing west. As you move your left foot backwards, perform a slow Uchi uke with your right arm, drawing the left arm back into chamber.
9
Ku
Sepai footwork chart step 29 Continue looking west, but turn your body south, pivoting on the toes of both feet. As you do so, drop your right arm and perform a groin-level hammerfist to the west. Immediately perform a head level backfist to the west with the same arm.

Turn your body back to the west and perform a slow, strong Uchi uke with your left arm, whilst drawing your right arm back into chamber.

10
Ju
Sepai footwork chart step 30 Execute a Mae Geri to the west with your left leg. Drop the leg back into a south-facing Shiko Dachi. As you drop into Shiko Dachi, perform a Shita tsuki to your right side using your right arm, and draw your left open hand to your solar plexus with the palm facing to the west.

Continue looking west.

1
Ichi
Sepai footwork chart step 31 Move your left foot in towards your right. When they are almost touching, smoothly pivot on your right foot and turn north. Your left foot is now behind your right to the south As you face north, reach out with both arms, palms open, right hand on top at shoulder-level, and a head-width gap between them. Both arms should be almost straight. Take a long step back with your left foot, and draw your right foot back into Nekoashi Dachi, with the right foot in front. As you step back, draw both arms halfway towards your chest.
2
Ni
Sepai footwork chart step 32 Looking north, draw both hands in to your chest, maintaining the gap between them. Your elbows should be out, and your right hand will be facing west, whilst your left will be facing east. Close both fists and thrust them towards the floor rotating them around the vertical axis. At the finish, the right arm will be straight, with the elbow touching your tummy, whilst the left arm will be in front of it by about a head distance, also with a straight arm. Both fists will be about the same distance from the floor.
3
San
Sepai footwork chart step 33 Open the left hand and place the back of the hand flat against the inside of your left knee. Draw the right hand up until the back of the fist is touching the right temple, then swing the fist sharply out to the right and downwards, striking your left palm with a hammerfist. Kiai as your strike.
End Sepai footwork chart step end Look up sharply. Return to ready stance. Heels together. Bow. Back to ready stance.

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