View Full Version : KATA: Sanchin

Doug Daulton
31st December 2000, 17:03
This thread is dedicated to the research and study of the theoretical and practical applications of the kata Sanchin in its various derivations throughout the Okinawan karate ryuha.

Discussion of Japanese and Western interpretations of this kata are welcome as are discussions of the influence of Chinese martial arts on the origin/development of this kata. Practitioners of all levels and backgrounds are welcome to post. Though the free sharing of ideas, perhaps we can all learn a bit more about the kata.

Please avoid statements like "My teacher, XYZ Sensei, knew the one, true Kata X ... all else is bunk." or the Saturday cinema classic "My kungfu is better than yours". Even if you are right .. it is rude and most likely something your teacher would rather you did not say anyway. All E-budo rules apply.

Enjoy! :D

31st December 2000, 19:20
Hello all,

I do not know Sanchin. I have the belief in a natural type breathing as opposed to the forced breathing found in (I would guess) all the different styles of Sanchin. I do teach haragei as it relates to combat put I do not ever teach forced breathing like that found in Sanchin.

I have heard pros and cons about this type breathing but would appreciate some insight into others opinions on this subject.

William D. Gray

31st December 2000, 21:34
Sanchin can be and is done in some schools with natural breathing.

Apparently sensei Toyama's Uechi school does so, some shorin people do so, and Okinawan kenpo people sometimes do this kata in a soft manner as do Motobu ryu Karate people.

TThe point of sanchin is exacly rhe same as that of Naihanchi and it teaches the same skills though in a forward and back manner from sanchin stance , instead of a side to side way.

The crossing hads and arms are there as are the crossing legs in the turn.

The mawashi uke or wa uke steaches the intercept and countermoves, and so forth.

The dynamic tension breathing is a new addition to sanchin, after Miyagi and in Uechi, after Kanbun and he also taught the kata with no excess tension at an advanced level.

Some of this information has newly been made available on the Uechi Forum by Gordi Breyette sensei, a student of Toyama sensei.

It has been said that if you do sanchin you don't need naihanchi and vice versa.

It appears this may be true.

I also believe and medical science states that the way some people breathe during sanchin is hazardous to ones health and involves what s known as a Valsalva manaeuver that can bring about heart attack.


Paul Wollos
1st January 2001, 04:52
Hello all,

Sanchin, or at least the name, exists in Chinese Feeding Crane, called Samzhang / Samchien.
Movements there are performed fast, there is a big difference in hand techniques and footword, i.e.: there are 4 steps forward, then turn aroung, 4 steps to return, turn around, finish - all performed in right stance (similar to Sanchin dachi), only. Hand movements are strikes rather than blocks, mostly fists and palms are used.

Previous to Feeding Crane, I have only experience in Kyokushin, so I don't know if any styles of traditional Oknawan karate/kempo include fast performace of Sanchin.

Paul Wollos

1st January 2001, 06:23
Paul Wollos posts feeding Crane san zhan or sanchin.

Now that was interesting.

In Five Anestors Fist Kung Fu this form also exists , also differently done from karate.

Yes, in some karate styles it is done fast, but not the same way as in Crane as described. I have heard there used to be more steps in it though.

And those blocks have also been explained as strikes in some karate styles, but usually beginners take them to be blocks.

I guess there are many sanchin styles, probably all coming from Fujan quanfa styles.

I hear also, that some styles also do seisan, calling it se mon sau r four gates hand.

Interesting to study different sanchins.


1st January 2001, 15:37
The main argument that I hear about Sanchin, is the so called "valsalva manuever". For those who might not know what this is, it is how most weightlifters die. You hold your breath as you try and push the weight and you pass out, or if you have a bad heart it can cause your BP to go way up.

Not all Sanchin methods use this type of training. The style of Sanchin I was taught teaches to breath in and tense AS YOU EXHALE and do the dynamic tension parts. You don't hold the breath at any part.

As to the Chinese methods, I have heard it called "Sam Chien" and it comes from the dragon in kung fu. As far as Karate styles that use it, I know of Uechi-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, Isshin-Ryu. I'm not sure of others.

1st January 2001, 23:12

Thank-you for your comments I love learning new stuff. I would like to see the other types of sanchin mentioned any ideas where a tape might be found with these katas being demonstrated?

I did know that it taught the same concepts a naihanchi but was wondering about the the breathing part of it. I do not feel it is necessary to force the breath with dynamic tensioning. Any thoughts on this?

William D. Gray

P.S. Again, these are great threads. Keep em coming.

2nd January 2001, 15:25
I think that the forced breathing might come from some misconceptions. The way I was shown (not saying this is the best/only way, just realizing some are shown differently) you tense the abdomen and when the air comes out when done properly it makes a "hissing noise" in the throat. This is done by relaxing the throat and uses the abdomen to expel the air it isn't done by making a noise in the throat.

Many times when I have shown this to beginners they will try and make the sound. I also do have them exaggerate their exhale to emphasize their breathing so they don't hold their breath.

Joseph Svinth
3rd January 2001, 08:53
Morio Higaonna's books and tapes show several versions of sanchin. Mas Oyama's books show it as well, but he taught the (IMO) more dangerous style of breathing. Still, I must admit that doing it his way, it feels real good just before you pass out.

Bunkai includes someone very strong trying to hold you from behind. Feel the center, and within three steps you really do almost always get free and then turn inside him. The yin-yang stepping (heel-toe) at the bensoku turn is important for the latter, otherwise you don't get enough hip rotation. Some styles have you pivot on the toe, which implies a different bunkai.

Visualizations include imagining yourself moving through thick mud. At the end, picture yourself pushing a beachball underwater as you push down, and as you lift up, picture yourself scooping up all that is good in the world. Breathe in the good, exhale the bad.

Whichever version you do, sanchin is a very slow kata. (About two minutes, timed, if I recall Steve Armstrong's book correctly.) But that always seemed a little anal for me, to sit there with a stopwatch timing kata.

3rd January 2001, 22:10
Joe mentions timing sanchin kata with a stopwatch being silly.

Could'nt agree more.

Friend of mine, Kobayashi ryu type with a strange sense of humor, once was asked on his nidan test to quickly give bunkai for a kata he knew, this being Naihachi nidan.He bgan confidently, 'A man and his dog were walking on the Beach...'

Whole board cracked up, he passed the test.

Made me think of a similar one for sanchin.'You are walking up a Japanese mountain path when a Boulder a la Indiana Jones, rolls towards you. You see no way to sidestep, therefore, you inhale a deep breath, and ibuki, such that the boulder when it rolls towards you, will not crush your organs.Putting your forearms and fists up over your body to form a bridge, allowing the boulder to pass over your head without pulverizing it, and tensing every muscle in the body, you allow the boulder to pass harmlessly over you.:D

Talk about timing kata with a stopwatch, I used to time them by popular rock songs.

Wankan took half the time of the Raspberries 'I wanna Be With You' done fast, seisan took the whole song done slow.

Kusanku fast took the entire 'Jumpin' Jack Flash', by theRoolling stones.Bringing us back to beginning in good kata fashion.Boulder pushing block.

I've never figured out how to hold a stopwatch during the openhanded moves of Kusanku, though.:-)


[Edited by kusanku on 01-03-2001 at 05:12 PM]

Joe Swift
3rd January 2001, 23:59
<b>Hi all, an excerpt from an article I wrote on Isshinryu Karatedo Kata,,, of course I have since come across much more fascinating stuff on Sanchin! - JS</b>
This kata has been described by many writers as the original exercise that Bodhidharma taught to the monks at the Shaolin Temple. However, this theory has no substantive proof either way, so this actually remains nothing more than speculation.

At any rate, the Okinawan versions of Sanchin have their origins in the Quanfa originating from Fujian Province, where many, if not most, Quanfa styles have a form of this name. In fact, the term Sanchin (written as "three battles" in kanji) seems to be found only in Fujian-based Quanfa systems, as forms of this name are not found in the martial arts of other areas (Kinjo, 1999).

Many researchers, especially from the Gojuryu tradition, credit Higashionna Kanryo with bringing back Sanchin from his studies in China (Higaonna, 1981; Kai, 1987). However, there is evidence that Sanchin had existed in Okinawa since before Higashionna's voyage to Fujian and was passed on by Aragaki Seisho, who was Higashionna's first teacher(Iwai, 1992; Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education, 1995)).

Higashionna's teacher in Fujian is believed by many to be Xie Zhong Xiang, founder of Whooping Crane boxing (McCarthy, 1995; Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education, 1995; Otsuka, 1998; Tokashiki, 1995), although there is opposition to this theory (Kinjo, 1999). Higashionna is believed to have learned the Happoren form from Xie, which is said to be the basis for the modern Gojuryu version of Sanchin (Otsuka, 1998). Higashionna probably integrated concepts from Happoren to the Sanchin he learned under Aragaki. When practicing Happoren alone, however, the breathing is silent (Otsuka, 1998).

In either case, Higashionna had his students spend several years on Sanchin alone before allowing them to move on to the other kata he taught. Higashionna apparently taught Sanchin as an open hand kata at first, with fast breathing, but later changed it to a slower, closed fist version (Higaonna, 1981; Murakami, 1991). Others give Miyagi Chojun credit for closing the fists and slowing down the breathing (Kinjo, 1999).

One provocative account survives about the importance of Sanchin in Higashionna Kanryo's teachings:

<i>"When I was still a child, I wanted to see the karate of the famous Higashionna Sensei, even if only once. So I went to the place he was teaching. However, no matter when I went, I never saw Higashionna Sensei perform karate. His students were practicing only Sanchin with all their might, and Higashionna Sensei was instructing them."</i> (sic, Murakami, 1991, pp. 133)

The three of Sanchin is often described in English as the battles between mind, body and breath. Other descriptions refer to attack and defense on the three levels, i.e. the upper, middle and lower levels (Kinjo, 1999; Otsuka, 1998; Tokashiki, 1995). The three important points of Sanchin have been described as the stance, the breathing method and the spirit, and if any one of these three are lacking, one will not be able to master Sanchin (Higaonna, 1981).

Higashionna Kanryo's Sanchin features two turns, and only one step back. In order to remedy the lack of backward stepping, Miyagi Chojun created a shorter version of the kata, featuring no turns, and two steps backwards (Higaonna, 1981). It is this version that Shimabuku Tatsuo utilized in his Isshinryu system.

4th January 2001, 05:00
The only Chinese documents of Bodhidharma's putative Monk training are the Ekkin Kyo or Yijijning excercises and the Marrow Washing Classic, and while some of the Yijinjing moves if not all are done wit tension,(But no strange breahing) they do not at all resemble sanchin. I would call that evidence that Bodhidharma did not develop the excercise known only in Fukien styles of sanchin.

In fact, amonfg thse systems there is only one that claims its founder did develop t, and that the other systems took it to use for their own, and that is Five Ancestor's Kung Fu Founder Chua Giok Beng.

This would have been I believe in the early to mid-1800's.

Making sanchin, if the claim be true, a much newer kata than many Okinawa forms such as seisan and others.

Could sanchin come from the earlier Haporen( Ba Bu Lian) form still extant in some Crane styles? I don't know, don't know the form.

I do know that the Ngo Cho Ch'uan( pronounced Go Jo, by the way) or Five Ancestor's style is still begun with the Saam Chien kata, one of ten Ch'ien or 'battle"-meaning tension-forms.

Then there are thirty-four fighting forms resembling Shorin forms, suggesting a common ancestor, or five of the:-) for both the goju and shorin forms.