It has taken me several minutes sitting at my computer to even begin to write something about Sanchin. I learned, Sanchin 52 years ago in 1960 in the Boston dojo of my first teacher, George Mattson. On June 2, 2012 I most recently demonstrated Sanchin for my current teacher, Grandmaster Shintoku Takara in Okinawa. In between, few days have passed that didn’t include my Sanchin exercise.
Based upon a 26 year training relationship with Master Takara, I’m confident that I can perform Sanchin to the satisfaction of my teacher. I’m confident that I can teach Sanchin to his satisfaction as well.
Van has asked me to write something about the “proper” way to teach Sanchin. In response I’ve thought back over the many Okinawan seniors and their students who graciously accepted me into their dojos, tested me and constructively critiqued my demonstration of Sanchin. Beginning in 1969 they are, George’s teacher Ryuko Tomoyose, Kanei Uechi, Seisho Yonaha, Katsuhiko Minowa, Kosuke Yonamine, Shigeru Takamiyagi, and Hiroshi Inada.
Since 1986 my strongest influences are, Shintoku Takara, my Sensei, Tsutomu Nakahodo, my Komon and Ken Nakamatsu, who I consider a spiritual advisor. Worthy of note, is that these men, on paper, are prominent within three distinct associations. It is their respect for each other and mine for all of them which renders those distinctions irrelevant.
There’s something of each teacher mentioned above in my personal understanding and in my personal demonstration of Sanchin. As if to underscore the “art” in martial art, they all have personal instructional “methods.”
At times, there seemed to be contradiction and even opposing opinions from one teacher to the next. All I can say about that is I just did my best to understand and incorporate each of their perspectives.
I don’t think anything could be said about Sanchin without stipulating that it originated with Bodhidarma ( Daruma ) as an active meditation. Meditation suggests calm composure and management of tension. These components of Sanchin training were emphasized by everyone I have ever called “Sensei.”
For anyone, myself included, to suggest they alone know “the right way” to perform or to teach Sanchin is to demean the complexity of the exercise and the brilliance of its originator.
There is an individual “right way” for every student, but it reveals itself through serious effort by a student and a teacher. My teachers, at times, seemed to be pointing me in opposite directions. Now I understand that they each have directed me toward the same destination.
Senior Advisor - OUKA
Grandmaster Shintoku Takara