There are eight empty-hand katas in Uechi-Ryu; the longest has 36 steps. Only Sanchin, Seisan, and Sanseirui come from Pangai-noon, the others were added to the style by Kanei Uechi. Kanei Uechi designed all of the additional kata. Many of the names of the newer kata were formed from the names of prominent figures in the art, e.g. Kanshiwa from Kanbun and Sushiwa. The current list of empty-hand kata is:
- Sanseiryu (also known as Sandairyu)
Note: There are newer Katas (one or two) still being worked upon by the Okinawan Karate-Do association (Shohei-ryu).
The Sanchin kata is deceptively simple in appearance. It teaches the foundation of the style, including stances and breathing. Kanbun Uechi is quoted as saying “All is in Sanchin.” Though it is not difficult to learn the movements of Sanchin, to master the form is thought to take a lifetime.
Additionally, some organizations teach that each kata has a ‘meaning’ or moral; the more accurate meaning, however, is that each kata teaches a specific concept:
Sanchin: Literally translated as “three fights/conflicts”. From the kanji for “three” and (“to fight/to struggle”). Usually interpreted as three Modes/Conflicts: Mind, Body and Spirit). An alternate interpretation is “Three Challenges” being those of softness, timing, and power.
Kanshiwa: A combination of the first kanji in Kanbun’s name, and the last two kanji (if written in Chinese order) of Shu Shiwa’s name.) This kata teaches the new student the concept of harnessing natural strength through the use of primarily tiger-style techniques.Also known as Kanshabu. This officially known in Japan as the kids kata
Kanshu: A combination of the first kanji in Kanbun’s name, and the kanji for Shu Shiwa’s family name (Shu). This kata is also known as Daini Seisan) This kata teaches the concept of precision in timing through using crane techniques.
Seichin: Literally translated it means “10 fights/conflicts”)or a combination between two other katas- Seisan and Sanchin. An alternate meaning interprets the name phonetically and then it translates as “Spirit Challenge”, implying that it teaches the concept of soft whip-like motion. This form uses whip-like dragon-style techniques.
Seisan: Literally translated, it means “13”. Usually interpreted as “Thirteen modes of attack and defense” or “13 positions to attack/defend from”.) An alternate meaning is simply “13th Room Kata”, being the form synthesised in the 13th room of Shaolin, using individual techniques taught in the previous training rooms.
This kata now successfully combines the “Three Challenges” concept, and the student can now go back and recognize and further develop those elements in the previous forms.
Seiryu: Along the lines of the others, literally translated this means simply “16”. An alternate translation uses phonetics rather than literal kanji meaning, and can denote “10 Dragons Form”, as there are 10 dragon techniques in the kata. This kata teaches the concept of stability since the four consecutive Dragon techniques in rotation call for a strong sense of balance.
Kanchin: A combination of Kanbun’s first kanji and “fight”. The first kanji of Kanbun, Kanei, and Kanmei are the same. Since this was created by Kanei UECHI from fighting techniques he favored from his father’s training, the name is considered to mean “Kanei’s Challenge”, or “Kanei’s Fight”. This form teaches the practitioner the concept of making defensive movements at one stroke (called “ikkyoodo”—all at one stroke).
Sanseiryu: Literally translated,tiger coming down from mountain also it means simply “36”. Usually interpreted as “thirty-six modes of attack and defense” or “36 positions to attack/defend from.”). It can also mean “36th Room Kata” as it is made from techniques taught individually in the previous 35 rooms (or previous 12 rooms in three rotations). Shu Shiwa was also known as “The 36th Room Priest” according to the 1977 Uechi-Ryu Kyohon (Techniques Book). This final kata combines all the previous concepts to pre-empt the attack.
Some Uechi Ryu schools have added additional katas.