The classical Goju-ryu syllabus begins with Sanchin kata. It's properly called a "kihon kata", or basic form, meaning that it teaches the student how to stand, how to adhere to the ground (essentially become immovable), how to line up the spine, how to breathe abdominally, how to punch and block in synchronization with the breath. Daily practice of Sanchin kata develops stamina, powerful legs, and a deep understanding of the connection between breathwork and body movements.
The Sanchin kata taught at the Asian Arts Center is the one originally taught by Kanryo Higaonna: after the first three steps, the student turns around, performs three steps in the opposite direction, then turns back to finish the kata. Other ryuha practice the shorter version done after WWII when an already ill Miyagi could only sit and observe the class; in order to avoid turning their back to their teacher, the students at that time modified the kata to only go forward (facing Miyagi), then retreat (still facing him.)
Children do not learn Sanchin right away as it is too difficult for them; they wait until they are Green belt holders in the Youth class (ages 9 to 13) before learning it. Sanchin kata is a requirement kata for Brown belt promotion testing. Even in the Junior class (ages 5 to 8), the introductory katas such as Gekisai Dai Ichi and Dai Ni are too difficult; sets of more basic techniques are taught until the student is mature enough (after two years of training) to tackle the Gekisai katas. In the meantime, they learn valuable ukemi (breakfalls and tumbling) on the mat and start basic sparring.
The Youths, more mature body-wise and intellectually, can handle a syllabus closer to the Adults'. They follow the Federation's structured warm-up routine, practice basic standing techniques (blocks, strikes, and kicks), study the katas: Gekisai Dai Ichi, Dai Ni, Saifa, Seiyenchin, Sepai, and Sanchin. They learn sambon-kumite (three-step pre-arranged sparring) called Jo-Chu-Ge but also practice free sparring for fun. Self-defense applications are taught on a limited basis.
The Adults class follows strictly the Federation's routine established on Okinawa. Besides the warm-ups, basics, katas, and Jo-Chu-Ge kumite, the students also practice kakie (sticky hands sensitivity training), makiwara striking, kigu undo (supplemental equipment training) and bunkai applications (self-defense training based on the analysis of kata techniques.) After Shodan (1st degree black belt), the students study Shisochin, Sesan, Kururunfa, Sanseru Ichi, Sanseru Ni, and, finally, Suparimpei. By the nidan (2nd degree) level, they learn Tensho kata, the complement of Sanchin. Our ryuha is the only one that practices Sanseru Ichi, probably taught by Higaonna to Seko Higa.