Sanchin turns

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Sanchin turns

Postby Dana Sheets » Sun Aug 19, 2007 3:08 am

How do you do a basic, 180 degree, sanchin turn?

I've recently been looking closely at the turn and how best to coordinate the movement of the foot, leg, hip, waist, shoulders, arms.

What starts the turn?
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Postby Stryke » Sun Aug 19, 2007 4:13 am

Hey Dana not an expert but I think foot first then all at once

I think this is more a synchronised movment thean a sequential one , Im thinking elbows and knees together leading the drive .

but just what i do . Is clearly tainted because I like it as a basic tai otoshi type move

Postby Jim Robinson » Sun Aug 19, 2007 10:53 pm


When teaching a new student the Sanchin turn I make sure they do not spin the 180 degrees.
Emphasizing the turn on the ball of the foot and keeping the heel low will prevent them from rising up and settling down. Also new students will drop thier hands/arms on a turn which has to be corrected.
Another thing that is stressed is not to turn blindly. What I have them do is turn thier heads slightly as the heel starts to pivot.
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Postby Dana Sheets » Mon Aug 20, 2007 8:56 pm

What I have found is that if I teach turning the foot - then students disconnect at the waist - meaning that they twist their shoulders more than they twist their hips or vice versa. This is something they "learn" while trying to work out the footwork and then have to get corrected out of later.

So I've been looking or a way to help them be connected from the start without moving like a b-movie version of Frankenstein.

What I'm trying is to teach the student that the turn is a reflection of what they are doing with their spine. At the bottom of the spine is a little triangle of bone - the sacrum - and their turn starts with whichever side of the sacrum is going to move forward. They must connect their bodies from the sacrum up to the shoulders and move the middle as a unit. The movement of that center unit will drive the movement of the legs and not the other way around.

In this way it seems to keep students from rotating their femur out and opening up the centerline (and thus busting their stance) and keeps them more consolidated during the turn.
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Postby Stryke » Tue Aug 21, 2007 5:11 am

just a perspective but If you taught it as a throw then the mechnincs would have to be sound .

form can follow function .

Postby Dana Sheets » Tue Aug 21, 2007 11:06 am

hmmm...I've tried that. What I noticed when I did that is the newer students want to muscle the throw with the momentum of their body weight instead of their connection to the ground. So you get this kind of "heave" motion in their turn which they have to recover from.

So there's something wrong with my instruction that I'm not clearly getting the message across about where structure meets power.
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Postby JimHawkins » Tue Aug 21, 2007 4:52 pm

The old rear foot seems to become the new front foot.. The whole body seems to follow <pivot> with this change in the old rear to new front and the new rear leg/foot seems to drop in behind, however to break the inertia the pivot seems to start from both feet/legs, So, to me, it seems the pivot of the whole body should be in sync and part of the conversion of old rear to new front, with the new rear following in behind like a trailer..

Just my observation.. :D
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Postby Stryke » Wed Aug 22, 2007 5:08 am

hmmm...I've tried that. What I noticed when I did that is the newer students want to muscle the throw with the momentum of their body weight instead of their connection to the ground. So you get this kind of "heave" motion in their turn which they have to recover from.

thats kind of my point doing the technique points out the flaws and offers feedback , correct the technique and the form should follow . Get them too do it on a bigger person so muscling dont work 500 reps later they`ll have a how and why to reference the move too , a principle is established .

in the end it is just turning around , sometimes to much information is the problem too .

Just some thoughts , and I`m sure youve already been here .

Postby Dana Sheets » Wed Aug 22, 2007 8:27 pm

So what I've found is if I talk with the student about their feet, or refer to the feet "starting" the turn - their bodies disconnect. Has anyone else found this to be true?
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Postby Rick Wilson » Wed Aug 22, 2007 9:26 pm

The Sanchin Turn and just my approach.

When I work on the Sanchin turn it is important to me to maintain the integrity of the six harmonies.

If you do this then the body disconnect that Dana speaks of doesn’t happen.

This turn is a little different than what we might more often see some doing today but it actually harkens back to when I started Uechi and the eyes lead the turn, so it is probably familiar to some out there.

The idea of the harmonies is to maintain total body usage in what you do.

So when the rear foot turns, that leg’s knee turns with the ankle and foot, and because the knees and elbows must move in harmony, the elbow on that side of the body also “drops” back and turns “in harmony”.

This means the entire body initiates the turn and there is no body disconnect.

As an aside comment, the momentary position this “transition” places you in is a very common one used in Bagua Zhang. Just an interesting note.

Here are some pictures showing the turn.




Some Notes on the Six Harmonies:

The Six Harmonies: ... =1#pid3409

Training the Six Harmonies: ... =1#pid3410

Simply my take and opinion on the Sanchin turn.
Rick Wilson

Postby Dana Sheets » Thu Aug 23, 2007 2:44 am

Hi Rick,
Thanks for posting and sharing the picts and your thoughts.

So here's my thing - the foot, ankle, knee, and all that turn because the core turns.

I think of it this way - the foot is the pivot point that is basically an extension of the spine. So it is the spine that I am turning - because I turn my spine my body must pivot the leg to keep me from becoming uncentered.

Does that make any sense?
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Postby Bill Glasheen » Thu Aug 23, 2007 3:29 am

Interesting comments. Much written above seems fine by me. I might describe things differently, but then that's my geek biomechanical perspective.

I so used to have fixed opinions on this. But I've learned over time that there are a number of different "valid" ways to think about this, depending upon how you view a turn.

This reminds me of a discussion where someone posted a Slovenian karateka with a home-made thingie (something like a Wing Chun dummy) that he was doing Uechi stuff to. Someone critiqued his moves as being all wrong, because most of his strikes were to the midsection of his gadget. But then Marcus brought up the point (from McCarthy) that a middle area from your perspective may be a head shot from your enemy's perspective - because you dropped them down onto their knees. Oooooohhhhhhh! :idea:

Same with the turn here. In the eyes of some, there's this right/wrong thing about whether you turn by "looking" first, or turn with the nose always facing the navel. I actually used to participate in those discussions, using a mantis as an example in nature where head often would look first while body remained in a Sanchin-like (mantis) posture.

And then I started doing aikido. And then I suddenly got the paradigm shift. Sometimes a turn or a "tenshin" isn't about facing a brand new bad guy from another direction. Sometimes the most unusual turns (like that 225-degree turn in Sanseiryu) are about getting another angle at the same person. As such, maybe you want to think along the lines that the fight is happening all the way through the turn.

Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't.
Dana wrote:
So what I've found is if I talk with the student about their feet, or refer to the feet "starting" the turn - their bodies disconnect. Has anyone else found this to be true?

I could see how this language would get undesireable result. Certainly I'm not into opening up my femoral area for the world to inspect - unless I want a cardiac cath or something...

My language would be something in-between how Jim and Rick describe it. I use the back foot becoming new front foot analogy that Jim uses. I also like to freeze the turn halfway through like Rick does above. And when doing that, then I show how a half-way position actually can be such that you don't know which way a person is going if you freeze it. That's different than what Rick is showing above, where he clearly has the idea that he's going in a new direction - probably facing a new bad guy. Not right or wrong, but just is.

I like the concept of thinking of the leg and the hips moving as a unit here. I like to demonstrate this by going back and forth from start to halfway. At the halfway point, the navel has turned 90-degrees, and you have two front feet in two different directions.

Another point I like to make is this. In all Uechi kata turns, one foot always is firmly planted on the floor while the other is pivoting. You do the shift of roles at the halfway point. This is REALLY important if you consider turns to be the drivers of technique. As your hips are connected to the feet, so too is the upper body connected to the hips. So basically you can think of the driving (planted) leg sending energy through the hips to the arms and hands for ... whatever.

And when it comes from foot to hips to hand, I don't see this as sequential summation of movement. For the most part, I'm doing simultaneous movement. If I choose to let the hands get ahead as Rick has done above (which isn't necessarily wrong given a particular application), then I know I have disengaged the power of my legs from my arms. Thus my arms are just getting ahead to touch or receive something. But disengaged in that way, there can be no action/reaction between hand and floor until the turn finishes and stance settles. These days, I hate to think of gaps in my kata. I like instead to think of energy and thus technique potentially (not always) being constant and unending.

But sometimes you want to whip. And then you no longer feel like a nut. ;)

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Postby Rick Wilson » Thu Aug 23, 2007 4:57 am

Dana: Yes absolutely that makes sense. I work from driving everything from the floor through the ankles and knees and with the six harmonies to actually execute the turning of the spine so that is why my explanation comes out the way it does. But absolute the turning of the spine is the purpose.

Bill: Good post. The only part I would argue is that when the hands lead in conjunction with the elbow knee harmony then there is no disconnect of the arms from the power of the legs as they are all still well aligned.
Rick Wilson

Postby 2Green » Mon Aug 27, 2007 3:06 am

Hi Dana, slightly different answer I guess...

What I finally tumbled onto, and how I now explain it to beginners, is:

The rear foot and the head turn as one, with a slight drop in stance.
I tell students " just forget about the hands for now, stand in a right Sanchin.
Now, pivot you rear foot until it is pointing 45 degrees to the rear, and move your head with it."

( The rear foot moves 135 degrees, in case anyone's counting. I never did.)

The point is, the head follows the rear foot.

The slight drop in stance corrects the zombie-like stiff rotation, and "getting up" in the stance as well.
But I like to leave out the arms at first.

When I add the arms, I make sure that the "turning arm" (e.g., left arm for a left turn) is kept "live" as it may encounter restistance or be used as a "sweep" when making the turn.

Training this way builds habits for future turning habits like the guarded turn, the Daini-seisan turn, Seichin turn and Seisan turn.

In all these, the concept is the same: the head turns with the REAR foot.


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I just turn

Postby Robb in Sacramento » Mon Aug 27, 2007 5:54 am

Great discussion. It's always good to have Rick weigh in on a topic.

Dana asked how do I turn, and so the answer to that is, I just turn. But, if you were asking me how do I teach it, the answer would be as a series of transitional stances. I also like Bill's insight from Aikido, and it is very similar to a view expressed by my Kobudo instructor in going over both a bo kata and Shorin Ryu kata. Perhaps the turn is a throw, or a deflection, or simply getting out of the way. But whatever it is, I think it is the practitioner that gives it meaning.

Many years ago I was visiting a Renbukai school. There was a time in California when if you wanted to seriously test your tournament fighting skills, you worked out with and sparred with the Renbukai guys. I think I still have bruises from their sneaky good front kicks and their fast and accurate reverse punches -- but I digress (and no, I was never any good at tournaments but I do have a great deal of respect for the people who are so I felt like it was a good idea to go train with them).

This junior instructor was teaching a student how to do a turn in a kata. It happened to be a kata I was familiar with from Shotokan, but the way the turn was being taught was unfamiliar to me. My Shotokan instructor had always taught us to bring the rear foot into the front foot and essentially establish a cat stance as a transitional stance between a front stance in one direction and a front stance going in the opposite direction. This instructor was teaching the student to shift the rear leg behind the front leg and then twist the hips while turning 180 degrees.

I had not seen this way of turning before, and when the instructor informed the student that the reason for turning this way was to impress the kata judges, I must confess I dismissed the method of turning. Fast forward, and again with my kobudo instructor I am learning a form and when it comes time to turn he has me shift my rear leg behind my front leg and pivot. Whoa. Then he explained what I was doing and how it could be used I immediately kicked myself for overlooking this method of turning.

I think the points that have been raised about turning from the hips or the core (how ever one chooses to view it) are sound. But at some point I think we must also look at feeling the turn coming from the earth. While I know we stole the warm-up exercises from the Okinawan school system, I still believe it is somewhat telling that we begin our warm-ups with our feet, not with our upper body. I think it is also telling that Kanbun supposedly spent three months or more on how to step and how to turn. I wonder if part of this three months was spent getting the student in touch with the earth so that he or she would feel connected in all of their movements?

My original instructor in Uechi believed you should be ready to defend yourself at any point in a kata, including the turn. He would remind us that the form was to give us a guide, but real attacks are random and we needed to be ready to stop the turn at any point and fight (whether that meant adjusting or moving away or countering did not matter, it only mattered that we were in control of the turn).

So, I just turn. But I remind myself that everything I do in San Chin and the other kata must be done with purposefulness. I just turn, but I try and make sure that my body is not twisted and that my hips (or core) are engaged in the movement. I just turn, but I try and remain connected to the earth without being weighed down or bound to a particular path to the completion of the turn.

And thanks to you Dana, I am going to be spending some time focusing on just turning. You ROCK!

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