Here's some more info on Sanchin that I distribute to my students, Kerry.
Purpose of Sanchin Kata
Karate's and QiQong's roots can be traced to ancient India and China thousands of years ago, where it began as a combination of yoga and Indian fist fighting systems. As the art spread throughout China; some say by Bodhidharma, an Indian priest who is supposed to have been in China during 500 AD; variations and local styles began to emerge and combine, based upon the movements of animals such as the tiger, crane, dragon, leopard, and snake. This style was commonly called Pan-gai-nun, which translates as half/hard, half/soft.
There is a popular story about Bodhidharma that when he went to reside in the Shao-lin Monastery, he saw the monks were weak and unhealthy from lack of exercise due to constant time spent in sitting meditation (Seiza). In order to strengthen them, he devised a system of movements; one of which is Sanchin, moving meditation.
The foundation of Uechi-ryu is Sanchin kata. Uechi Kambun -- the founder of Uechi-Ryu Karate-do -- used to say that, "All is in Sanchin," and that Sanchin alone warrants 10 years of training. Indeed, when he studied in China, Master Uechi studied Sanchin for three years before he was taught any other kata. (Master Uechi studied for 10 years under Master Shu Shi-wa, who was proficient in Southern White Crane Style, Tiger Form Boxing (Hu Hsing Chu), herbal medicines, philosophy, weaponry, conditioning and toughening exercises).
At first glance, Sanchin may appear to be a rather simple exercise consisting of very basic movements. However, it is actually a form of moving meditation which teaches the student to blend the Physical, Mental and Spiritual (Jing, Qi, Shen).
Sanchin means 3 Conflicts (other names include, 3 Steps, 3 Jewels, 3 Treasures, 3 Flowers). The first conflict is to develop a strong, healthy body capable of vigorous training. The second conflict is to be able to do the movements of the kata automatically ... to be totally aware, yet unencumbered by conscious thought. The third conflict is the attainment of mind-body-spirit unity. In this state the student becomes aware of his inner self, his true spirit nature. At this point it is said that health and longevity is attained and the student continues to train to reach enlightenment.
In order to benefit fully from Sanchin, attention must be given to all aspects of the kata. Over-emphasis on one, or neglect of another, leads to only partial results. There are 5 factors involved in the development of Sanchiin. Each compliments the others and their functions often overlap:
1, Proper stance & proper physical form of the basic movements.
2. Development of a strong, hard body. This ability, which comes from the proper physicalform and the prooper application of muscular tension, enables the student to absorb blows to most areas of the body.
3. The third factor of Sanchin development is proper breathing. This is a vital link between the physical and mental principles of the kata. Physically, it aids the development of the muscles and tendons. Mentally, it enables the student to turn inward to control his mind.
4. Next, is eyesight. The eyes are another link between the physical and mental. Concentration is aided by the proper gaze.
5. The fifth factor is concentration. First, complete attention to the task at hand is needed in order to achieve perfection of the physical aspects of the kata. Secondly, it is through intense concentration during the performance of Sanchin that a state of mind-body-spirit unity is attained. Eventually, the advanced student is able to pass beyond concentration into the realm of meditation.