The late Shoreikan Goju-ryu founder, Seikichi Toguchi, published a series of guidelines in his second English language book
for understanding the application of kata. Toguchi stated that these principles were taught to him by the founder of Goju-ryu Miyagi Chojun. Toguchi also claimed that these guidelines were secret and that Miyagi told him not to make them public (pp. 47). The guidelines as outlined by Seikichi Toguchi are:
1) Don’t be deceived by the embusen
2) Techniques executed while advancing imply attacking techniques, those executed while retreating imply defensive or blocking techniques
3) There is only one enemy and s/he is in front of you
Toguchi adds, “I would like to reveal part of this theory for the first time while conveying to the reader the depths of Miyagi’s Goju-ryu karate (pp. 47).” I am a little taken aback by this statement for two reasons. First, these principles were not secret as Toguchi states (I will discuss this below) and second, by stating that these principles were secret creates a mythology around Goju-ryu, Miyagi, and Toguchi of some “secret knowledge” when this is simply not true.As an example of this, let’s look at the third principle that Toguchi outlines, “There is only one enemy and s/he is in front of you.” More than 60 years before the publication of Toguchi’s book containing the “Kaisai no Genri”, Mabuni Kenwa wrote the following in his book Kobo Kenpo Karatedo Nyumon
(1938) in the chapter entitled “The Bunkai of Pinan Nidan” under the heading “Kata and their Direction”. I’m sure the reader will immediately notice some similarities.
…Examining the performance line (embusen) of the kata Pinan Nidan we see that the kata moves towards various directions left and right, advancing and retreating. However, when you analyze a kata, you must not become fixated on the directions contained in a kata. For example, do not assume that because a kata starts by moving to the left, that the attack is coming from the left. In other words, there are two different ways to examine this technique. The first is that the attack is coming from the left and that you defend to the left. The second way of looking at it is that the attack is coming from the front and that you are shifting to the left [away from the attack].
…At first we may assume that both these explanations are reasonable, however if we focus only on the first example, then the meaning of the kata becomes limited and its application limited. Kata must be applied naturally and freely.
…When we look at the second example, we see that when faced with an attack from the front, that the Pinan kata teach us to shfit our body away from an attack and place ourselves in an superior position to defend.
So, we can see that at least one of the supposed secret principles that Miyagi Chojun taught to Toguchi in the interpretation of kata appears to have been common knowledge to the Okinawan Karate teachers of the time. I am inclined to think that Toguchi would have been aware of Mabuni’s publications, and so I am at a bit of a loss as to why he would state that Kaisai no Genri were secret principles. My only conclusion is that it adds to the myth of Miyagi Chojun and Goju-ryu…