Back in the early days of Kanbun's and Kanei's style, teachers didn't beat the snot out of their students while they performed Sanchin. Examining and testing Sanchin was and remains an important part of Kanbun's style. Beating on students is a new thing. George Mattson has a theory about the origins of this. By his observations over time, the severe testing started in demonstrations which were designed to show the toughness of the Uechika who had gone through years of iron shirt training. Now with things like board breaking, most students know that this isn't a part of karate training. But with the Sanchin beatings, "testing" has evolved to something that it never was in the old days.
There are also stories about a certain karate instructor who liked to beat on Americans because (by his account) Americans like that and expect it. You know... it's the Hollywood American thing. Or maybe not.
Severe Sanchin testing has gone from demo to classroom activity (for some) in a way that isn't useful. It isn't necessary to be beating on people doing their kata to help build their bodies and their confidence. In fact... in my opinion such activity is potentially dangerously counterproductive
- It trains the student not to give back that which is given. Unless we're talking about a girlfriend going loco, that's not a good thing.
- It trains the student to think that taking a hit - particularly without responding - is a good thing. It is never good to take a hit if you don't have to. The best fight is the one never fought; the best hit is the one never received.
- If we go outside the domain of empty-hand fighting, then it's dangerously counterproductive. When facing a weapon, taking a hit is asking to meet your maker.
The teacher's job is to work on Sanchin structure and function, and not to be engaged in a one-way conditioning drill. Some Sanchin "testing" is appropriate. And it's perfectly fine to work on a student's ability to perform kata in the presence of a little bit of manufactured chaos.
In my opinion, the back-and-forth of Uechi partner exercises (e.g. kotekitae, ashikitae) is a much better venue for conditioning. It creates a better psychological framework for the student, and can be done in a way that makes sense (e.g. to immunize ourselves against injury when doing partner exercises). Later on when something like Filipino knife work is layered on to the Uechi structure, the partner appropriately presents a very different paradigm.
Comments and alternate opinions welcome.