Sochin, an introduction
Probably one of the most popular Katas in the Shotokan Syllabus for anyone higher than Shodan, Sochin is one of the most often seen Katas at tournaments. Its grandeur and character give the practitioner an air of awesomeness in their ability. The slow powerful movements and the unique techniques bring about a feeling of power and control that are desired by most students of Karate.
Most students do not study Sochin enough to learn the true past and meanings of the movements. They look only at the structure of the Kata and the timing and perfect the physical characteristics required to perform the Kata well, but do not truly understand the Kata or who created this powerful and expressive Kata that seems to dominate the Shotokan syllabus in its popularity.
History of Sochin
The original form of Sochin was introduced to Okinawa by Arakaki Seisho and was taught to Kenwa Mabuni, who may have passed it on to the JKA students sent to train with him by Funakoshi after WWII. The Original Kata was a Naha Te Kata and practiced in the area of Naha Okinawa. It was passed down from the Chinese Dragon style of Boxing and thought to promote Chi or Ki development. The original Kata is still a minor Kata in Shito ryu, however the newer version of the Kata is very popular in Shotokan.
Three suggested historical origins exist for the Shotokan version. the first is that the JKA emissaries were sent to Mabuni to learn Kata. They documented the Kata and brought it back to the JKA, were it was "shotokanized". Some say by the group of seniors altered the Katas, others say by Gigo Funakoshi and others by Gichin Funakoshi himself. Another history is that the Kata was altered after WWII, the JKA was in ruins and many of the instructors were scattered or killed. Others had not trained for years and some seniors were recalled and were given the job of documenting and cataloging Kata. At that point many changes occurred simply because they did not remember the Kata completely.
The last history is the most likely in my mind. When the Trade team came back to the JKA, Gigo Funakoshi took a personal interest in Sochin. Gigo had been working on many of the new ideas and put them into Sochin and altered it to reflect the new ideals of Shotokan. The reason I give the version more merit is because it came from Taiji Kase and he went into detail about his training with Gigo Funakoshi. Kase points out that allot of what Gigo was doing was to promote a good solid base, as Kase Karate seems to also do. This led me to think that the merit of this story was sound.
Sochin is a very complex Kata with all its turning, changes and changes in speed and unique body dynamics all add up to complexity. Despite all the advanced dynamics the Kihon is not very hard or advanced. Therefore while the Kata is not hard to learn, it is rather difficult to master.
The name Sochin can be translated several ways. Some of the more popular translations are 'peace and justice', 'strength and calm' and shito ryu often translates the name as 'monks of peace'! Two more obscure versions of the name have come up. One is 'to journey and conquer and the other is 'the grand prize'. Almost all the names point a picture of a powerful and graceful Kata and a kind of physical grandeur defining the Katas execution.
This is another Kata that Gichin Funakoshi tried to change the name of. He tried to call the Kata Hakko, but like the other renaming this did not stick.
Notes on Sochin
Sochin only looks correct when the person doing the Kata keeps in mind the importance of rooting strength! The use of Stance and low center of gravity along with strong legs and a supple but powerful waist. The Fudo Dachi stance is responsible for most of the stability. Threw use and training in the Fudo dachi a student will understand deep strong base power and also develop strong legs.
Performance of the two Kiai points has become a bit of a interesting point in Sport Karate. The first Kiai is done normally with a short burst of air and the sound that is generated by the Diaphragm and voice box being quick and energetic. But the second and last Kiai is often done in slow and drawn out growl or a long kiai that drains the student of air. This is not correct, as all Kata should be looked at as a key to fighting. No fighter would expel all of the air from their lungs in a situation were th attack may not be done.
The movements of Sochin also teach a rhythm of slow techniques interspersed with fast ones. The dynamic nature of this Kata makes it very popular for stronger and more muscular students wanting to show power and strength in movements with out losing the dynamic nature of their performance.
Sochin is the quintessential Power Kata. Most tournament practitioners that perform this Kata try and appear to be brimming over with power in all the movements. They Grunt and they Push out techniques that look like they are fighting threw quick drying cement as they fight off equally slow attackers. This is not what a Good Sochin looks like. I have had the honor of watching some great Karate men do Sochin and I can tell you that this Mime act is not the correct way to perform this Kata. I watched as Yaguchi Sensei taught this Kata and watched the "slow" as being a pacing and with such real power it was scary. I have seen the way that Brain Dingman performed this Kata in tournaments and the doubt of his speed and power was taken away with the changes in tempo. I have seen tapes of Enoeda sensei, Kanazawa Sensei and Kase Sensei perform this Kata and the true nature of the Kata comes out.
The Kata Sochin is filled with power and grandeur and is one of the true master pieces of the JKA style Karate and of Karate in general.
Any student that wishes to perform this as their chosen Kata should be looking at tapes of these great men doing the Kata and work to become like them when doing the Kata. not forced but naturally powerful and full of spirit when doing living the Kata.