Tips for Sanchin

seasoned

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seasoned said:
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 follow your thinking to a certain extent but to clarify, to see if we are on the same page:

Sanchin kata is a feeling kata pertaining to structure, movement and breath. Put all of these together and they equate to the movement of power strictly, with no bunkai value.

Kata on the other hand is the result of applying the principles of sanchin kata into the application of bunkai.
 

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I follow your thinking to a certain extent but to clarify, to see if we are on the same page:

Sanchin kata is a feeling kata pertaining to structure, movement and breath. Put all of these together and they equate to the movement of power strictly, with no bunkai value.

Kata on the other hand is the result of applying the principles of sanchin kata into the application of bunkai.
Nicely said. Some say Sanchin is karate.
 

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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.
This is for J. Pickard as well as anyone that feels the need to give input. Sanchin kata is an internal kata dealing with what is happening on the inside as opposed to the outside of the body. I understand that structure, movement and breath which are tenants of the kata are visible moves or techniques that need to adhere to proper form. But it would make no difference what style Martial Art one studies because it's what is happening on the inside that makes all the difference and brings it all together. Structure, movement and breath are what creates the free flow of power unimpeded from the inside out.
 
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isshinryuronin

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I follow your thinking to a certain extent but to clarify, to see if we are on the same page:

Sanchin kata is a feeling kata pertaining to structure, movement and breath. Put all of these together and they equate to the movement of power strictly, with no bunkai value.

Kata on the other hand is the result of applying the principles of sanchin kata into the application of bunkai.
A thoughtful analysis, but I will add some clarification beginning with your last point. It is mostly correct. There are techniques, however, IMO that do not follow all of the Sanchin concepts as they may be based on other, more external methods of power.

Your first statement is also correct, except for the last three words, "no bunkai value." Sanchin does has effective bunkai application as do other kata. If fact, all the moves in Sanchin can be found in other kata, so there is nothing unique in that regard.

The fact that Sanchin is widely used as a form to practice breathing, rooting and so forth (and perhaps has been modified to maximize these elements as discussed earlier), does not mean it can't be performed like any other kata with speed, snap and combat effectiveness (give it a try).

On the flip side, other kata (at least in part) can be performed with the tension and internal breathing like Sanchin (though due to most other kata's length, would be quite exhausting, but I've done it).

Sanchin is one of the oldest kata still practiced. It's very possible it was originally longer and performed just like other kata. On the other hand, it's also possible it was designed primarily as a conditioning and breathing internal form. I have no idea. But as it exists today, it serves to develop one's inner core and the other elements we've discussed and has many benefits.

These thoughts on the subject just represent my personal beliefs/opinion.
 
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seasoned said:
I follow your thinking to a certain extent but to clarify, to see if we are on the same page:

Sanchin kata is a feeling kata pertaining to structure, movement and breath. Put all of these together and they equate to the movement of power strictly, with no bunkai value.

Kata on the other hand is the result of applying the principles of sanchin kata into the application of bunkai.

A thoughtful analysis, but I will add some clarification beginning with your last point. It is mostly correct. There are techniques, however, IMO that do not follow all of the Sanchin concepts as they may be based on other, more external methods of power.
I'm not sure what external methods of power you are referring to.
Your first statement is also correct, except for the last three words, "no bunkai value." Sanchin does has effective bunkai application as do other kata. If fact, all the moves in Sanchin can be found in other kata, so there is nothing unique in that regard.
This may be the part where many styles begin to separate in their thinking. In Okinawan GoJu, sanchin is the first kata taught and is the prelude to all other kata. The internal power which is developed through the sanchin concepts of structure, movement and breath are no different then the form that is used in weight lifting. (bad form bad lift. As far as bunkai value in sanchin that is left for the kata to follow.
The fact that Sanchin is widely used as a form to practice breathing, rooting and so forth (and perhaps has been modified to maximize these elements as discussed earlier), does not mean it can't be performed like any other kata with speed, snap and combat effectiveness (give it a try).
No comment.....:)
On the flip side, other kata (at least in part) can be performed with the tension and internal breathing like Sanchin (though due to most other kata's length, would be quite exhausting, but I've done it)
In Okinawan Goju there is some sanchin tension used in kata to emphasize some particular set of techniques. But, it all originated from sanchin..
Sanchin is one of the oldest kata still practiced. It's very possible it was originally longer and performed just like other kata. On the other hand, it's also possible it was designed primarily as a conditioning and breathing internal form. I have no idea. But as it exists today, it serves to develop one's inner core and the other elements we've discussed and has many benefits.
Possible.......I can agree.
These thoughts on the subject just represent my personal beliefs/opinion.
Thank you for the opportunity to share back and forth. I follow you on MT and always enjoy your input on many issues.
 
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Ah.... Sanchin kata.... a favourite of mine :)

Some really great insight and info provided already throughout the thread, really enjoyed all that.

Really great you're exploring the kata @J. Pickard . I've found it so incredibly valuable, and it continues to teach me the more I train it.

It's always been more a foundational kata, one that imbues really important principles of alignment, structure, posture, correct tensions and projection of energy, and I love how even though it's such a minimalistic kata (on the surface), there is sooo much to take into account as you do it.

I've learned a few versions, my first one was from all my time in Kyokushin, and it was done very, very hard. There was literally so much tension that the body had to be stiff as a rock while the arms moved.

I wasn't the biggest fan of this version, but I could see the value in it. And in black belt testings you had four people surrounding you. Not so much testing your alignment and structure etc, but just hitting you very hard and having to take it, and continue. Which in a way tests your structure hehe, but more tour perseverance and unwavering determination.

But other versions I learned allowed more body and hip movement and efficient transfer of energy. I would suggest going through the kata, and each time you do it just focus on ONE aspect each time. It may be the breathing, it may be keeping a nice clean vertical axis and posture as you move and transition, or the real sense of rootedness and connection to the ground (feeling it all the way through to your pinky toes), or the feeling of every movement coming out and returning to your centre/hara-supported technique... there is so much haha. But it really is a matter of learning in the doing of it.

But definitely get the stance and structure right, and go from there.

I recently did an art piece piece depicting what this kata means to me and what I feel it teaches, thread here if interested:


Ps. @Buka , I also do the stance on public transport too :)
 

_Simon_

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Also, I'm curious about you guys are well versed in your version of the kata, what is your take on the tension levels throughout it?

Do you practice it or feel it should be:
- max tension all the way (only releasing briefly upon the stepping)
- more progressive cascading/crescendo of tension as you reach the apex of the technique (like a wave travelling through)
- not even so much thinking about the muscular tension, but letting the tension just come naturally when it needs to
- something else?
 

hoshin1600

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Also, I'm curious about you guys are well versed in your version of the kata, what is your take on the tension levels throughout it?

Do you practice it or feel it should be:
- max tension all the way (only releasing briefly upon the stepping)
- more progressive cascading/crescendo of tension as you reach the apex of the technique (like a wave travelling through)
- not even so much thinking about the muscular tension, but letting the tension just come naturally when it needs to
- something else?
I have done multiple versions of sanchin. My current revision has a more Chinese influence.
I started with the Goju version, spent decades on the Uechi version. As time past I found more similarities between them and most differences were superficial.
Everyone's path is different. I am only relating my own journey here.
In my younger years I loved the max tension you could apply in Goju. The tension builds strength and muscle independence. Allowing you to contract single muscles. Everyone can flex a biceps, but to flex a quad is like brushing your teeth with the wrong hand.. As I studied Uechi I found the tension found in Goju to be excessive and counter productive to the overall concept of fighting. Muscles need to be loose to punch and tension restricts power. But......a good punch needs loose in some places and tension in other places. Ah ...that muscle independence comes into play here.
Uechi has a tendency to fall into a robotic cadence. I see a lot of Robot Ryu. Tension is localized in places throughout the kata that it doesn't belong.
As I evolved in my art, Sanchin tension is flowing like ocean waves that are in constant motion. While that sounds corny and dramatic, it's a visual that best conveys the feeling.
My own research into Sanchin history has lead my conclusion to be that Goju and Uechi Sanchin have a common Ancestor. I have found no other Chinese version with the same directional turns. In old Uechi , there was no preset number of steps and strikes. It was determined by the individual and the space allotted. There are many Chinese versions with back stepping and I think Miyagi modified his kata to model the Chinese after his trip to China. This removed the turns and closed the fists.
From my experience the Chinese are more like a fluid jazz where Japanese are ridgedly structured like classical music. I believe the amount and type of tension should be determined by the individuals stage of development along their journey.
 

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This is one of the best images of sanchin feeling kata. It shows the tract of muscle tension....
IMG_E4116.JPG
 
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J. Pickard

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Wow, thanks everyone. A lot of great insight and discussion here on this Kata and a lot of things for me to consider. The more I study it the more I like it, there is so much to learn from it that seamlessly applies to my TKD training. I wish the online TKD community was this helpful about things.
 

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Also, I'm curious about you guys are well versed in your version of the kata, what is your take on the tension levels throughout it?

Do you practice it or feel it should be:
- max tension all the way (only releasing briefly upon the stepping)
- more progressive cascading/crescendo of tension as you reach the apex of the technique (like a wave travelling through)
- not even so much thinking about the muscular tension, but letting the tension just come naturally when it needs to
- something else?
The tenseness of the body upon impact. Some use the term chinkuchi. Tension rises as the muscle and bone come into alignment and peaks at the moment of (imagined) impact. Then relaxes and releases for the next cycle. This is my understanding of sanchin.
 

isshinryuronin

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The tenseness of the body upon impact. Some use the term chinkuchi. Tension rises as the muscle and bone come into alignment and peaks at the moment of (imagined) impact. Then relaxes and releases for the next cycle. This is my understanding of sanchin.
While Bill and I practice the same style, there is some slight variation in forms (no problem) and my take on sanchin is a little different it seems.

Chinkuchi infers relaxation up to the point of impact and that's when the muscles tense. My sanchin has 95% tension throughout all the movements and adds the final 5% at the end. So while chinkuchi sort of comes into play in a subtle way (mostly locking the breath at the end of the move), basically there is max tension all the way through. This includes stepping to a slightly lesser degree. There is little relaxation.

Keeping all the body's muscles tight during the entire kata, while still allowing movement, is complex and takes a lot of mental concentration and control over the muscle coordination. For this reason I find sanchin exhausting both physically and mentally. It's work! But it's good for you.

Here is a confession: I do not find sanchin fun at my age - but still do it because...because it's karate and part of my (unpaid) profession - and I love it.
 
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_Simon_

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I have done multiple versions of sanchin. My current revision has a more Chinese influence.
I started with the Goju version, spent decades on the Uechi version. As time past I found more similarities between them and most differences were superficial.
Everyone's path is different. I am only relating my own journey here.
In my younger years I loved the max tension you could apply in Goju. The tension builds strength and muscle independence. Allowing you to contract single muscles. Everyone can flex a biceps, but to flex a quad is like brushing your teeth with the wrong hand.. As I studied Uechi I found the tension found in Goju to be excessive and counter productive to the overall concept of fighting. Muscles need to be loose to punch and tension restricts power. But......a good punch needs loose in some places and tension in other places. Ah ...that muscle independence comes into play here.
Uechi has a tendency to fall into a robotic cadence. I see a lot of Robot Ryu. Tension is localized in places throughout the kata that it doesn't belong.
As I evolved in my art, Sanchin tension is flowing like ocean waves that are in constant motion. While that sounds corny and dramatic, it's a visual that best conveys the feeling.
My own research into Sanchin history has lead my conclusion to be that Goju and Uechi Sanchin have a common Ancestor. I have found no other Chinese version with the same directional turns. In old Uechi , there was no preset number of steps and strikes. It was determined by the individual and the space allotted. There are many Chinese versions with back stepping and I think Miyagi modified his kata to model the Chinese after his trip to China. This removed the turns and closed the fists.
From my experience the Chinese are more like a fluid jazz where Japanese are ridgedly structured like classical music. I believe the amount and type of tension should be determined by the individuals stage of development along their journey.
What a great post, that's really helpful, thanks @hoshin1600 .

Yeah that's very interesting, and I tend to agree. I never understood the excess tension variety, and you simply can't move or create power very efficiently through excessive tension.

Some lines of thoughts that occurred to me regarding the super hard version:

It's possible that's not really even the point or focus of the harder version of the kata, and perhaps its primary mode of exploration is feeling that proper alignment structural integrity and developing a sense of rootedness and connection through your centre and into the ground. As well as developing that intimate connection with your body, and the ability to contract whichever muscle groups you choose. I found that many years of committed weight training also achieved this for me, so it was helpful going into Sanchin and exploring this in the "unweighted" movement of the kata.

And it's also possible the kata does have a focus of building strength in those voluntary intense contractions, but I am hesitant to say that that's the sole purpose of the kata.

And it is often said and it has been taught to me (and I'm sure we've all heard) that Sanchin kata represents the Go/hard and Tensho kata the Ju/soft. So in this light perhaps they are both meant to be contrasting explorations of those extremes. Or not extremes as such... but aspects.

However I do like your version, and the waves in the ocean visual/feel 100% clicks with me. I practice both types at home depending on the mood, but now lend more emphasis on a more natural Sanchin.
 

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The tenseness of the body upon impact. Some use the term chinkuchi. Tension rises as the muscle and bone come into alignment and peaks at the moment of (imagined) impact. Then relaxes and releases for the next cycle. This is my understanding of sanchin.

Thanks Bill. Yeah that makes sense to me.

While Bill and I practice the same style, there is some slight variation in forms (no problem) and my take on sanchin is a little different it seems.

Chinkuchi infers relaxation up to the point of impact and that's when the muscles tense. My sanchin has 95% tension throughout all the movements and adds the final 5% at the end. So while chinkuchi sort of comes into play in a subtle way (mostly locking the breath at the end of the move), basically there is max tension all the way through. This includes stepping to a slightly lesser degree. There is little relaxation.

Keeping all the body's muscles tight during the entire kata, while still allowing movement, is complex and takes a lot of mental concentration and control over the muscle coordination. For this reason I find sanchin exhausting both physically and mentally. It's work! But it's good for you.

Here is a confession: I do not find sanchin fun at my age - but still do it because...because it's karate and part of my (unpaid) profession - and I love it.

Ah that's really interesting, appreciate those thoughts on it that's very helpful.

It definitely is very complex and difficult to have that level control. I love that aspect of the harder version, and perhaps that's of really great value to those who just sort of tend to flop through and go through the motions of the kata without much thought or focus.
 

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While Bill and I practice the same style, there is some slight variation in forms (no problem) and my take on sanchin is a little different it seems.

Chinkuchi infers relaxation up to the point of impact and that's when the muscles tense. My sanchin has 95% tension throughout all the movements and adds the final 5% at the end. So while chinkuchi sort of comes into play in a subtle way (mostly locking the breath at the end of the move), basically there is max tension all the way through. This includes stepping to a slightly lesser degree. There is little relaxation.

Keeping all the body's muscles tight during the entire kata, while still allowing movement, is complex and takes a lot of mental concentration and control over the muscle coordination. For this reason I find sanchin exhausting both physically and mentally. It's work! But it's good for you.

Here is a confession: I do not find sanchin fun at my age - but still do it because...because it's karate and part of my (unpaid) profession - and I love it.
I don't mean to imply I'm flopping around like a rag doll during the kata. But no, I'm not as tense throughout as you're describing. I find sanchin relaxing and I'm 61 years old.
 

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There has been some variation pertaining to the use of breath and muscle tension. Only speaking from my perspective the word tension could be very misleading. I've seen some use restrictive out breath to the point of turning red in the face. Also muscle tension to the point where they start to tremble a bit. Everything should be free flowing.....The lower body when stepping should be firm but not restrictive while moving, stepping quickly, keeping contact with the floor with an inward arc. Once in position grip the floor and lock down the body structure as you exhale with the tongue to the roof of your mouth. Add tension like you would squeeze water from a sponge building up but not squeezing it dry. Just some thoughts, keep in mind this kata (sanchin) has been referred to as (3) year sanchin
 

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There has been some variation pertaining to the use of breath and muscle tension. Only speaking from my perspective the word tension could be very misleading. I've seen some use restrictive out breath to the point of turning red in the face. Also muscle tension to the point where they start to tremble a bit. Everything should be free flowing.....The lower body when stepping should be firm but not restrictive while moving, stepping quickly, keeping contact with the floor with an inward arc. Once in position grip the floor and lock down the body structure as you exhale with the tongue to the roof of your mouth. Add tension like you would squeeze water from a sponge building up but not squeezing it dry. Just some thoughts, keep in mind this kata (sanchin) has been referred to as (3) year sanchin
It has been said in earlier posts that sanchin kata contained no bunkai. To expand further on "no bunkai".... but, it does contain (principles of movement) that can be inserted into bunkai throughout the kata... Case in point, there is an old Chinese saying, "when the hands wage war above, the legs are in turn waging war below". Every step forward is a potential sweep or a strike to the shin as a disruptive move. This is why the stepping forward move in sanchin does so in an arc inward as it moves across to your stance. There are many principles of movement never explained because in would interfere with the base teachings of sanchin which are, the transfer of power through (structure...movement...breath) and is enough to think about at that time.
Anyone that has ever trained in an Okinawan dojo, in Okinawa...... knows that questions are not allowed, just do and don't talk....Old school
 

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There are many principles of movement never explained because in would interfere with the base teachings of sanchin which are, the transfer of power through (structure...movement...breath) and is enough to think about at that time.
Anyone that has ever trained in an Okinawan dojo, in Okinawa...... knows that questions are not allowed, just do and don't talk....Old school
Can't agree with this, if I'm understanding properly. There is a lot to think about while doing sanchin, including movement. Not sure what you're referring to re: movement that is not explained and that would interfere with the base teachings of the kata. Are you saying the stepping interferes with the rest of the form as it's too much to think about?

My sensei spent many years studying in Okinawa and still visits yearly. He has no problem asking questions and getting answers. He has spoken with other masters there and seemed to me they were fairly open. Now, their masters, going back to pre WWII, that may be a different story.
 
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