The Real Truth of Sanchin Kata
Guest Blog by Alaric Dailey
It has been said that if you don’t know Sanchin, you don’t know karate. I suppose there is some truth to this.
Sanchin is taught in many variations, the least modified version of which, appears to be the Pangainoon/Uechi-ryu variation. This is because of all the Naha-te styles, Pangainoon has been “out of China” the least amount of time. This also happens to be the version I know, so I will be comments from the point of view of how it was taught to me, and why it is that way.
Sanchin means three battles, those three battles are “order”, “form” and “breathing”. These are the same 3 battles that you fight every time you learn a form. You learn the order of the moves, how to do them properly, working out how they flow together (the form), and how to extract every ounce of internal and external power, both of which are enhanced with breathing.
Part of the proper form is “loose-tight”, which is quite the trick in Sanchin, since it is a dynamic tension form. However, you have to loosen, your muscles to strike with force, to block with speed, and to tighten them as you are struck with the body checking.
Part of every form is to clear your mind and attempt to perform it with “mushin”, the “no-mind” of zen.
Truly Sanchin, is a very difficult form. Pangainoon/Uechi-ryu, teaches it as the first form, and expects you to test on it at every belt, and to improve on it. Other styles, such as Isshin-ryu, Goju-ryu, Kyokushin, and Okinawan Kenpo treat it as an advanced kata, in some cases styles have made it the shodan (blackbelt) kata.
It is interesting, that you also see the “aikido unbendable arm” as the guard, or Wing Chun stylists would recognize it as Tan-sao. I see many people holding their sanchin arms much lower than I was taught, Sensei always said your fingertips should be eye-level. My Wing Chun Sifu says the same thing about tan-sao, of course NOT holding the tan-sao at this level meant that Bruce Lee found it useless, so he through it out of JKD.
Just for a point of interest, here are a few different versions of the form.
And here is a White Crane form named the same thing that appears to be the same form
I personally don’t believe that the unaltered white crane form was the one taught to the Okinawans, we see far too much tiger in the Okinawan karate versions, a greater emphasis on external power, tiger claw strikes etc.
About the Author: Alaric Daily began practicing the martial arts in 1992. Martial Art she has studied include Pangainoon, Karate, Kenpo, Wing Chun, Krav Maga, Judo, Jujitsu, Aikido, Bagua Zhang, and Tai Chi Chuan