Tips for Sanchin

J. Pickard

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Hello all. I recently started a study of Sanchin kata, both Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu. I myself am a Taekwondoin but love all martial arts and have also studied Shotokan for several years. I have a close friend who is 7th dan Uechi Ryu that I have been training and discussing the kata with. While she is beyond fluent in Uechi Ryu she cant give much feedback for the Goju version. So I was just looking for some pointers; things to keep in mind, common beginner mistakes, areas to focus on, etc. I have mostly learned Goju Sanchin from books and Youtube. I am really loving this kata and learning a lot about muscle and breathe control from it.
TIA
 

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A very simple kata but the depth of learning goes deep into the heart of Okinawan GoJu. The version of Sanchin developed by the style's founder, Chojun Miyagi serves primarily as a catalog of basic principles. It evolved by adding hand (go) closed-handed, strength building movements to soft (ju) open-handed techniques imported from China.
Miyagi taught Sanchin as the first kata and considered it so important that he required students to train exclusively in it for many years. When preformed correctly, Sanchin harmonizes both the soft and hard components of structure, movement, and breathing.
Sanchin kata is a "feeling kata" which is impossible to learn from videos. In the learning process it is said that it is easier to go from soft to hard then to learn the kata hard then try to incorporate and blend the softer elements.
It is this slow learning process of blending the Go with the Ju that can be very tedious in the beginning, but fruitful as we start the process of developing this blending and applying it to all the kata moving forward.....
In the end once blended, all techniques will encompass the "GoJu"...
 

Bill Mattocks

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Hello all. I recently started a study of Sanchin kata, both Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu. I myself am a Taekwondoin but love all martial arts and have also studied Shotokan for several years. I have a close friend who is 7th dan Uechi Ryu that I have been training and discussing the kata with. While she is beyond fluent in Uechi Ryu she cant give much feedback for the Goju version. So I was just looking for some pointers; things to keep in mind, common beginner mistakes, areas to focus on, etc. I have mostly learned Goju Sanchin from books and Youtube. I am really loving this kata and learning a lot about muscle and breathe control from it.
TIA
I highly recommend the book "The Way of Sanchin Kata: The Application of Power" by Chris Wilder.
 

isshinryuronin

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Uechi's Pangai Noon version is likely much closer to the way Higaonna Kanryo (who learned it in China) taught it. Miyagi made several major changes to Higaonna's Sanchin: Eliminating all the turns and shortening the kata, changing most of the open hand thrusts to closed fist punches, stressing the dynamic tension in the movements and using harder internal breathing.

Can't say for sure Miyagi's reasons for the changes, though they have the effect of focusing and concentrating the kata's core concepts. So, while shorter than Uechi's version, it is as physically taxing, maybe more so. It is possible to injure oneself if done full force if not well conditioned at an advanced age. It's the version my style does and is taught as an advanced form at the brown belt level.
 
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Flying Crane

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My advice would be stick with the Uechi version because you can get direct instruction in that one. You do not need to collect multiple versions of a kata, especially if you are learning one of them from videos.
 

dancingalone

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Hello all. I recently started a study of Sanchin kata, both Goju Ryu and Uechi Ryu. I myself am a Taekwondoin but love all martial arts and have also studied Shotokan for several years. I have a close friend who is 7th dan Uechi Ryu that I have been training and discussing the kata with. While she is beyond fluent in Uechi Ryu she cant give much feedback for the Goju version. So I was just looking for some pointers; things to keep in mind, common beginner mistakes, areas to focus on, etc. I have mostly learned Goju Sanchin from books and Youtube. I am really loving this kata and learning a lot about muscle and breathe control from it.
TIA
As a taekwondoin, have you thought about taking some of the same alignment ideas Sanchin teaches and extrapolating it to your hyung? It won't be exactly the same due to the different in range within TKD vs. Goju-ryu, but you will find plenty of crossover that might give you a different way of running your forms.
 

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Uechi's Pangai Noon version is likely much closer to the way Higaonna Kanryo (who learned it in China) taught it. Miyagi made several major changes to Higaonna's Sanchin: Eliminating all the turns and shortening the kata, changing most of the open hand thrusts to closed fist punches, stressing the dynamic tension in the movements and using harder internal breathing.

Can't say for sure Miyagi's reasons for the changes, though they have the effect of focusing and concentrating the kata's core concepts. So, while shorter than Uechi's version, it is as physically taxing, maybe more so. It is possible to injure oneself if done full force if not well conditioned at an advanced age. It's the version my style does and is taught as an advanced form at the brown belt level.
We teach it first, but most isshinryu dojos do not.
 

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Can't say for sure Miyagi's reasons for the changes, though they have the effect of focusing and concentrating the kata's core concepts. So, while shorter than Uechi's version, it is as physically taxing, maybe more so. It is possible to injure oneself if done full force if not well conditioned at an advanced age. It's the version my style does and is taught as an advanced form at the brown belt level.
My Sanchin has turns in it. The one without turns is newer and stems from Miyagi Sensei sitting down in his later years while watching class or giving instruction. The students ceased turning because they wanted to face Miyagi the whole duration of the kata. At least that is the story I heard.
 

isshinryuronin

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My advice would be stick with the Uechi version because you can get direct instruction in that one. You do not need to collect multiple versions of a kata, especially if you are learning one of them from videos.
Sound advice.
Sanchin kata is a "feeling kata" which is impossible to learn from videos.
While this is true for all kata to some extent, it is especially true for Sanchin. Concepts such as outward power projection driven primarily by breath (ki) rather than sequential muscular usage cannot be experienced, taught or learned visually.
I highly recommend the book "The Way of Sanchin Kata: The Application of Power" by Chris Wilder.
Can you share a gem or two you found particularly enlightening or interesting?
 

Bill Mattocks

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Sound advice.

While this is true for all kata to some extent, it is especially true for Sanchin. Concepts such as outward power projection driven primarily by breath (ki) rather than sequential muscular usage cannot be experienced, taught or learned visually.

Can you share a gem or two you found particularly enlightening or interesting?
From memory, extended explanation of how to take conscious control of muscle groups, using descriptions that make sense. Not simply breathing but how to line the spine and torso up in concert to breathing. How to weld yourself to the floor. There's a tutorial at the end on a semi-related topic, how to build your own makiwara and how to properly use it. Also how to construct and use chishi to build muscle that enhances sanchin training.
 

isshinryuronin

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My Sanchin has turns in it. The one without turns is newer and stems from Miyagi Sensei sitting down in his later years while watching class or giving instruction. The students ceased turning because they wanted to face Miyagi the whole duration of the kata. At least that is the story I heard.
I put a laughing emoji to rate your post, but didn't mean it offensively. There are many "stories" in karate of one kind or another. This one has a couple problems:

I'm sure Miyagi would verbally (or physically) admonish his students to look in the proper direction and change their execution before changing his kata to suit them. Also, it's hard to think he would change a form for any reason besides a practical and functional reason, and that, only after much thought.

The changes in the kata were not made in his later years based on the following timeline. It is said that Isshinryu's founder, Shimabuku Tatsuo, studied with Miyagi when he was in his early-mid 20's, giving a year of about 1930-34. At that time Miyagi was just in his early-mid 40's and the name "gojuryu" was just being thought about or brand new. Shimabuku was taught the changed version of Sanchin at that time, so any changes had to have been made earlier.
 
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J. Pickard

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As a taekwondoin, have you thought about taking some of the same alignment ideas Sanchin teaches and extrapolating it to your hyung? It won't be exactly the same due to the different in range within TKD vs. Goju-ryu, but you will find plenty of crossover that might give you a different way of running your forms.
I have actually found a lot of benefit from training the Uechi version so far in various aspects but mostly improved overall body alignment. I can see why this Kata, despite its apparent simplicity, is so widely regarded in Okinawan Karate. It has quite a depth of things to learn from it and I feel I am barely scratching the surface.
 
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J. Pickard

J. Pickard

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My advice would be stick with the Uechi version because you can get direct instruction in that one. You do not need to collect multiple versions of a kata, especially if you are learning one of them from videos.
I began exploring the Goju version to see what it has to offer in addition to the Uechi version. If it's theyre I want to learn from it even if its just at surface level.
 

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I began exploring the Goju version to see what it has to offer in addition to the Uechi version. If it's theyre I want to learn from it even if its just at surface level.
I would be interested in hearing what you find, in contrast to what you are taught in the Uechi version.
 

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My Sanchin has turns in it. The one without turns is newer and stems from Miyagi Sensei sitting down in his later years while watching class or giving instruction. The students ceased turning because they wanted to face Miyagi the whole duration of the kata. At least that is the story I heard.
My sanchin also has turns. Your story above is close to the way I was told. Miyagi felt it was disrespectful for students to turn their back on him while doing Sanchin kata. Through my GoJu lineage Miyagi, Yagi, and Shinjo the turns were returned. It was my understanding that the turns held the concept of whipping power. As you step across to the left at 190 degrees the pivot and snap of the hip generated a whip like feeling into the left middle block. The (2) turns are the only place in sanchin where this whipping concept takes place...
 

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I put a laughing emoji to rate your post, but didn't mean it offensively. There are many "stories" in karate of one kind or another. This one has a couple problems:

I'm sure Miyagi would verbally (or physically) admonish his students to look in the proper direction and change their execution before changing his kata to suit them. Also, it's hard to think he would change a form for any reason besides a practical and functional reason, and that, only after much thought.

The changes in the kata were not made in his later years based on the following timeline. It is said that Isshinryu's founder, Shimabuku Tatsuo, studied with Miyagi when he was in his early-mid 20's, giving a year of about 1930-34. At that time Miyagi was just in his early-mid 40's and the name "gojuryu" was just being thought about or brand new. Shimabuku was taught the changed version of Sanchin at that time, so any changes had to have been made earlier.
No offense taken, I wasn't there. That said the story I heard isn't that Miyagi himself changed the form. His students did, out of respect maybe, maybe for other more logical reasons. But your point is well-taken. Did Shimabuku Sensei state anywhere that his Sanchin without the turns is as Miyagi taught him?
 

dancingalone

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I have actually found a lot of benefit from training the Uechi version so far in various aspects but mostly improved overall body alignment. I can see why this Kata, despite its apparent simplicity, is so widely regarded in Okinawan Karate. It has quite a depth of things to learn from it and I feel I am barely scratching the surface.
I was inspired almost a decade ago by that video of Morio Higaonna from Goju-ryu and Gushi from Pan Gai Noon, and a Crane master all doing their all version of Sanchin at the same time. I traveled to Taiwan and studied a bit of crane gong fu to see the connection between my karate and either an ancestor art or at the very least a cousin art. Very illuminating. Those crane guys had very developed breath power.
 

Bill Mattocks

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No offense taken, I wasn't there. That said the story I heard isn't that Miyagi himself changed the form. His students did, out of respect maybe, maybe for other more logical reasons. But your point is well-taken. Did Shimabuku Sensei state anywhere that his Sanchin without the turns is as Miyagi taught him?
I have not heard of any such statement. I know that his videos show him doing Sanchin kata without turns, and that's how we do it. I've seen quite a few different Sanchin katas done, and I've enjoyed watching them; I have tried several, with and without turns. I think they all have utility and none are 'wrong' or 'right'. Several of his first-generation American students are still alive and teaching, I suppose someone could ask them if they know the answer to that question.
 

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Did Shimabuku Sensei state anywhere that his Sanchin without the turns is as Miyagi taught him?
Since Shimabuku's sanchin is the same as the Miyagi goju version often seen, it seems logical that he did learn it that way from Miyagi. It would be a gigantic coincidence that multiple students of his would effect the exact same changes. It is true that masters have often modified kata they learned to fit their own style, but in this case, it appears not.

I just found a video (1960ish?) of Yamaguchi Gogen, a goju student of Miyagi, doing Sanchin. The sideways turns are missing, but he does do the turn to the rear and then back to the front. Miyagi may have instituted multiple changes over the years, or the "Cat Man" may have changed it himself after Miyagi's death.

Isshinryu's katas were performed with minor changes (by Shimabuku) over the course of years, so there are various (slightly different) versions out there, depending when his students received instruction. Subsequent masters have also changed a move or two.

Contrary to what many non-TMA (and some TMA) practitioners believe, katas have evolved over the decades/centuries and are not "stuck" in the past. As Headmasters of their system they have the right to change/improve it based on their extensive experience and understanding of the form and techniques.
 
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Buka

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The first dojo I ever watched a class in was a Ueichi-Ryu school.(George Mattson) The first class I saw, some of the guys were sparring, others were off to the side doing Sanchin. The first dojo I ever trained in was a Greek Goju-Ryu school. (George Gonis) I learned Sanchin. Then I trained with a guy that used to be Ueichi, and he taught me Sanchin. There were slight differences, but I dont remember what they were anymore.

The only reason I left the Goju school was it wasnt practical for me to get to. It was before I had my first car and had to take public transportation, took an hour and forty minutes each way.

But I really liked Sanchin. And since those days I still use part of it, one of the Dachi stances. (I forget which one)

When Im on a bus or train, Ill always offer my seat to a lady or an elderly person. When I stand up, I always stand in a slight Dachi stance, with slightly looser hips. No matter if the vehicle does a lot of stop and go, or fast turns, I never lose my balance because of that stance.

When I was a sophomore in college we had to write a ten page paper as part of our English final. I wrote it on Karate, particularly Sanchin. I got an A. I sure wish I had saved that paper, we could all laugh our ashes off reading it. I had a whole sixteen months experience in the Arts at that time, which, you know, made me an expert. :)
 

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