Sanchin and Kata – just my opinion.
Van asked me on another thread about my views of Sanchin/Kata.
So these are my thoughts and my opinions: Agree or disagree, like or hate; this is just how I think.
Also understand that I believe in progressive teaching so Kata should evolve and the practice of Kata should deepen as principles are learned and added.
It is hard, and unreasonable, to try and explain a kinetic response of charged tendons created by the proper yin yang action of one knee down one knee up driven by the kua conforming to the three external harmonies to a student who is just trying to figure out if their left or right foot is in front.
So understand I am looking at this as a lifetime practice and what I see should be derived from Sanchin and all Kata.
Part One: Goals
I am going to approach this from a few angles.
One of the people I listen to for advice on practical protection is Rory Miller. Rory expresses that when responding to an assault we should seek to achieve the “Golden Move.” The golden move achieves three things simultaneously:
1. You avoid the assault
2. You achieve a strategic position
3. You impact them (pain and or balance.)
I was once told by a Uechi senior that he had been told that Uechi lives in the transitions and this to me fits into achieving Rory’s Golden Move because it cannot be achieved if you are not moving = transition.
This was also confirmed in my mind by listening to some old interviews with Uechi Seniors where differences from before to now were commented on and watching some old footage where one particular move was shown by an older practitioner and a younger man showed the current version. The older man performed the action in movement and all in one action (simultaneous) where the younger man had the movement and actions segmented into separate moves.
There were also the comments that Uechi Kanbun Sensei’s Kata was so fast no one was sure how he did certain moves. This could not be with segmented moves.
Again this for me confirmed the end product has to be something united in actions.
Training to achieve that unity is a different approach to the performance of a Kata.
Another factor in my approach to Kata is the readings of Peter Ralston and more recently Moshi Feldenkrais.
All teachers will relate to the following, some students seem to “get” what we are showing immediately and even have excellent revelations themselves where others struggle even with hard work and effort put in.
In addition, people see “effort” they often cannot see or recognise the strength in “effortless.”
I remember seeing video of a high level Dan test in Okinawa when I had not trained in Uechi for very long. One person was testing for 6th Dan and another 8th Dan. When I watched the tape the first time the 6th Dan candidate impressed the heck out of me and I thought he should have been testing for 8th and not the other man because he was so much better. In fact the man testing for 8th didn’t impress me much. What I was seeing was the EFFORT put into the Kata by the 6th Dan candidate and what I was not seeing was the effortless power of the 8th Dan candidate.
I simply did not know enough to see the difference in skill level. Later as I learned more and saw more I realized just how good the candidate for 8th actually was. Humbled to have been so arrogant.
I think people have become enamored with the EFFORT and OBVIOUS power in Kata and fail to see this is a limited practice and one that will inhibit you obtaining higher levels of function.
IF you cannot see and feel the differences in the slightest pressures then you will never achieve the highest levels and therefore teaching and practicing Kata should be a way to achieve a body awareness. This requires a slow and diligent and deliberate approach.
We are looking for the body awareness spoken of by Peter Ralston and described in the quotes below.
Some quotes from Moshe Feldenkrais:
“People who apparently spontaneously prefer the better way of doing are those who have the capacity to detect small differences of sensation.”
“Easy and smooth action is obtained when the aim is achieved by the smallest amount of exertion, which, in turn, is obtained with the minimum tonus present.”
“When the proper erect posture is held with the minimum tone that is necessary, not only do we sense the smallest change, so that righting the position when necessary is started in good time but the body is capable of righting itself immediately without preparation.”
“ People with a fine kinaesthetic sense tend to a low tonic contraction, and are not satisfied until they find the way of doing which involves the smallest amount of exertion; also the limit to which unnecessary effort is eliminated, is closer to the ideal minimum."
“At the higher level of effort, one cannot detect small differences; therefore, it is impossible to improve beyond a certain stage. This things are self-perpetuating; the crude kinaesthetic sense tends to become cruder and cruder, the finer ones tend to become finer yet.”
“Unskillful doing uses up more energy than properly doing.”
“Efficient activity is sensed as easy and fluent, and, for reasons we cannot discuss at the moment, looks and feels graceful. People with a low kinesthetic sense feel only extreme inefficiency.”
“This answers the two questions, why some people spontaneously find the better way of doing, and stick to it, and why others, in spite of the example presented by other people, continue in their inferior way. They have no means of sensing the difference. Unless they become aware of it intellectually, they never know about it at all. Intellectual awareness is, however, not sufficient to alter matters fundamentally. For all they can do is to observe other people and imitate the grossly observable differences. “
Dr. Feldenkrais’ principles.
They can be applied in every orientation, direction, pattern and activity that humans engage in on earth.
• Good posture is the ability to move in any direction without hesitation or preparation, and it’s based on the specific contact we find with the surfaces we’re on.* (Jeff Haller’s addendum in italics).
• Clear Skeletal Support: the bones below move to support the bones above.
Evenly distributed muscular effort/tone (proportional work: the big muscles do the big work, small muscles small work)
• Every movement is generated through an equal and opposite force delivered to/received from the ground.
• Force must travel up and through the skeleton (longitudinally), not across it. Avoid shearing forces.
• Head and eyes are free in the activity.
• Breathing is free in the activity.
• Reversibility: the ability to organize for the action and it’s suspension or reversal at any moment.
When building our understanding of Kata through practice we begin with training at a speed we can comprehend what is going on. Speed only comes once form has been achieved.
So when practicing Kata if you are doing it simply to get the moves and reps out of the way then STOP – you are simply wasting your time and you will learning nothing.
When practicing your kata “listen” to each and every movement and “detect small differences of sensation.”
Look at how each movement and position feels and does it meet Dr. Feldenkrais’ principles?
Look at how each movement and position feels and would it obtain Rory Miller’s “Golden Move?”
Are you feeling EFFORT? Do you love that? The reason is we are used to that feeling and seek it. It is like hitting a pad, most people love the feel of that slam and reverberation of the hit when that really means the power of the strike stayed with you and was not transmitted into your target. Instead try to enjoy feeling nothing when you hit and enjoy observing the energy of the strike’s effect on the pad or person.
So in practicing Kata do not seek that feeling of effort but seek the feeling of the principles above in each movement. Would you be able to move without hesitation from every position or have you tensed and locked your body in such a way you are a statue?
This is not to say a person can’t do a dynamic tension Kata as one rep to engage tendons and a different feeling but this, to me, should not be the consistent way to perform a Kata but rather a way to work a particular skill or body set.
Do “the bones below move to support the bones above?”
Are you using “up more energy than properly doing” it through aligning with gravity and only using the minimum muscle tension required?
Are you performing Kata in a way that “involves the smallest amount of exertion; also the limit to which unnecessary effort is eliminated, is closer to the ideal minimum?”
“When the proper erect” Sanchin stance/posture “is held with the minimum tone that is necessary, not only do we sense the smallest change, so that righting the position when necessary is started in good time but the body is capable of righting itself immediately without preparation.”
Sanchin Kata, all Kata to me means “Efficient activity” that is “sensed as easy and fluent, and … looks and feels graceful.”
This will differ from the view of others because they may have different goals than I do or have a different feedback loop. If your feedback loop that tells you that you are achieving your goals means experiencing tension and resistance and effort then my approach will not resonate with you because those are the things I do not want to feel.
Again this is my approach to Kata. I believe the principles obtained in Kata practice directly transfer to self defence and therefore every move of the Kata should work at achieving Rory Miller’s Golden Move.
I believe the most efficient and effective way of achieving the Golden Move is by achieving Dr. Feldenkrais’ principles.
Interestingly while Dr. Feldenkrais is best known for his method of teaching health through body awareness he was one of the first European Judo Black Belts and trained in Japan with Dr. Kano and taught WWII soldiers practical methods. He wrote a book on that as well as Judo ground work and other Judo techniques.
I like body movement practitioners who have a martial arts background.
More to come, if anyone is interested.