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 Post subject: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2012 2:25 pm 
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SANCHIN

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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.


Walter Mattson
Senior Advisor - OUKA
Grandmaster Shintoku Takara

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 Post subject: Re: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2012 3:25 pm 
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Walter Shihan:

It may have taken you some time to write this, but it is one of the most insightful posts I have ever read. Thank you.

Robb in Sacramento


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 Post subject: Re: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2012 4:47 pm 
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Insightful indeed...thanks Robb.
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I don’t think anything could be said about Sanchin without stipulating that it originated with Bodhidarma ( Daruma ) as an active meditation.


Walter indicated that you can substitute the word meditation with concentration...as some of us have difficulty with meditation.

There will be more from Walter...and feel free to ask questions, everyone.

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 Post subject: Re: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2012 6:01 pm 
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Van and Walter I have a question. Can you talk about the progression over time of what you concentrate on while performing Sanchin. I.e. early on in your training progressively towards where you are now.

Thanks,

Steve


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 Post subject: Re: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2012 8:35 pm 
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Hi Steve,

Thanks for the post. Walter will surely provide an answer with his opinion.

Sanchin is a challenging kata/exercise not only to perform effectively but also to teach properly.

Students have a tendency to become bored very quickly with those repetitive simple movements.

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 Post subject: Re: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2012 10:50 pm 
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Steve,

Here's Walter's answer to your question...again to remind all...Walter is only expressing his personal opinion, and not lecturing on the 'proper' way Sanchin is to be done
Quote:
Specific to your question Steve, my early Sanchin training was external. I wanted whoever was taking me through Sanchin to respect my power and speed. Meditation wasn't in the equation.

At one point, Frank Gorman told me he was always prepared to catch my forearm as he thought it might fly off my elbow!

Eventually, I was satisfied with power and speed ( or my elbows hurt ) and I shifted to internal training. Simply put, I went from "How does it look?" to "How does it feel?"

I would say my Sanchin training focus is to balance minimal effort with maximum effect.

I allow external training in Sanchin to dominate my students' focus for the first 10 or so years ( Yondan ) and then I introduce internal Sanchin training. Great question Steve.

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 Post subject: Re: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2012 1:20 am 
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Thank you Van and Walter. Interesting. In my albeit short experience with Sanchin, (I am a shodan) it has always been a struggle to "stick" to sanchin practice. Not because it was boring, as I see its increased importance the more I study it, but because that's my problem with most anything I pursue. Sticktoitiveness..lol. That's why it took me about 20 years to get my shodan. When I first started I just did it the way my instructor (Rick Potrekus Sensei) showed me. Then I evolved to becoming stronger physically (in my mind being able to take a good body check), but then I began to see, as I learned more advanced kata, that many if not all strikes and receiving (some call blocking) would return to the sanchin position. I am not currently near anyone to practice with, much less my instructors, so it becomes difficult to practice sanchin and know that one is doing it properly. There were many times I would "think" that my sanchin was strong but a simple push or strike from Rick sensei or George sensei and I would wobble like a weeble. So much of my practice now is trying to develop mental pictures of what I should be doing while I am doing it.. I appreciate the input from both of you.


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 Post subject: Re: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2012 3:30 am 
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Thanks for your input, Steve. There is so much to learn from comments like yours.

Speaking for myself, having come to Uechi from competitive sports, the last being semi-pro soccer when stepping into a Uechi dojo, I was totally turned off by sanchin.

Being used to mobility,evasive movements_ combined with explosive force in kicking the ball and checking opponents, I could not comprehend the rooting concept and the 'duck walk' of the exercise done with full tension at that time.

Also the just standing there while being 'tested' seemed to be ridiculous, not because of the so called 'punishment' _ as I was used to more severe hits on the soccer field_ but more so at the idea of having to remain 'grounded' while taking those 'testing' hits...whereas I was used to absorb and redirect the force of the defensive players [I was a forward striker], so I could get around them to find the space to kick the ball at the goal box.

To me it made better sense to shift my body upon a shove, hit, check or whatever contact...to act like a swinging door, such as the ones you see in saloons of western movies...so as to gain a swing back momentum into an attacker in a fight. We see this great concept in Enshin karate.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-aV5Snn ... re=related

But Sanchin all began to make sense to me in later years when learning to remain 'relaxed firm', yet flexible without binding tension, feeling the connection of the major body components ...in any position my body would happen to be during tournament fighting, all acting at once to deliver explosive force in just one brief moment of Kime,then back to relaxed firmness allowing me to move again as the swinging door. This being the 'internal' as Walter explains it, and as George sensei began to teach it as well.

We find these concepts in all Uechi kata as well as hojo undo but most do not practice the 'offshoots' of them while on the floor. The reason much of my teaching today is devoted to this aspect of mobility...as opposed to 'stancing' ...

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 Post subject: Re: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Sun Jul 22, 2012 3:37 pm 
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Quote:
One of the 3 most important questions in life is "Who am I?" You find that answer, I believe, when you have the confidence to stop trying to be what you think others want you to be.

Relating that to Sanchin, early stages of test forms are accompanied by anxiety, those are the EXTERNAL stages where "test form" is taken to mean "show time."

Instead of calm and poise, our minds fret about how the reviewers will judge us. Sanchin practiced in that state belongs partially to the reviewers as we have allowed them to dictate our composure. Until the Sanchin I show for evaluation is exactly the Sanchin I practice alone in my basement, the INTERNAL component is missing. It may represent Sanchin, but it isn't my Sanchin.

The goal of test form Sanchin is to exhibit the natural "state of your art." How beneficial is the critique of even a Grand Master if the form he saw wasn't really yours?

It has to do with how you see the development of a martial art. Do the skills come exclusively from your teacher and you assimilate them into your form?

Are they already in you and your teacher helps you let them out? Is it a process which includes elements of both? Is it possible to teach an art in the first place, or is it more accurate to say, we only teach how to practice the art? Think about it.
_ Walter Mattson

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 Post subject: Re: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Sun Jul 22, 2012 6:35 pm 
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Van the "relaxed firm" phrase is a great phrase, think I'll steal it :P It took me a while to (not that I've mastered it) to get a hold of that concept. I would concentrate greatly on trying to anchor myself to the ground, which usually meant tensing all my lower body muscles as tight as I could make them. What that did was make me like a stiff tree stump that would snap under great pressure, when what I should have been was more like a sapling that bends and "receives" the wind (i.e.blow) and only tenses the muscles directly effected by the particular strike, and not necessarily tensing them as hard as I could. So in a sense I would become stronger by actually relaxing some. I.e. "relaxed firm".

If I recall correctly, either Schreifer sensei or Potrekus sensei told me once, we're looking more for how your body recovers to sanchin than we are how hard a blow you can absorb without movement. Movement when struck or pushed wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

I could have that quote wrong, maybe they'll weigh in.

Steve


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 Post subject: Re: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Sun Jul 22, 2012 7:14 pm 
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Steve,

This is a great post thank you. I know Walter would also agree. Sensei Mattson as well.

The recovery, as you state, is the key.

Imagine some misguided sensei pushing you in different directions in sanchin, and as you lurch into an awkward, swaying or staggering motion_losing your connection to the ground…you think 'I'll never get this damn sanchin' because you were taught you should have become a wooden Indian in front of a cigar store.

Now tell the 'sensei' to do it again with his eyes closed because you have a surprise for him.

So he does, only this time when he shoves, you act like the swing doors of the western saloon, and rebound at him with a swiveling technique that will open his eyes.

One example of this when I was fighting tournaments:

I would stick out a leg from a semi cat stance, baiting the opponent to come at it with a low kick/sweep.

If he swept my leg on the outside, I would let the relaxed leg fly in an arc and return into his body or head like a TKD hook kick.

If he swept on the inside, like against the flat of my shin, I would lift up the leg over his low sweep and return in an arc against the back of his kicking leg or going deeper into his support leg and grabbing him for a take down and finish punch.

We practiced this a lot along with Bob Bethoney and Arthur Rabesa.

Bob Bethoney pulled it against a very famous Uechi Ryu fighter in Okinawa during their yearly Okinawan Tournament…dumping him to the floor.

Sanchin 'grounding' is all relative.

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 Post subject: Re: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 9:15 am 
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Hi Van

Great post. Many of the things said I have been through as well. As you know Van I use a lot of internal energy to gain the same power as I used to do with strength. Niether are wrong but the internal seems to give the same power but without the excess effort. The medititaion or concentration for me is a means of giving myself over completely to the sanchin kata. To experience it rather than just peform it.

Taking the sanchin test has also changed over time. It seems to have moved from an aggressive defence to a calm and relaxed state of mind that allows a change from defence to offence in a seemless manner. I didn't know about the Bodhidarma connection but it does make sense to me.

I have used that kick on many occassions Van after baiting someone. I can see you smiling from it now!!

There are so many ways to practice sanchin. Hitting them hard, pushing them, eyes closed, holding on to them, more than one person pushing them but all of them concentrate the mind in to becoming sanchin. I try to be rooted to the floor but not stuck to it. I want to move smoothly more than quickly. I want to be everything that sanchin can let me be. I know that there is much more to come but I don't know what it is yet. Over the last eight years I have felt that I have had many changes in the way things work in Uechi Ryu not just in sanchin, however, everything is coming from sanchin.

The tree is a great example Steve and I use it often myself. The roots and the branches look the seem so we should be connected to the surroundings as much as we are connected to the ground in the rooting. I have heard many sensei say that wa uke is nothing without the sanchin stance. Understanding why they say that can change the way in which one moves during sanchin.

In sanchin we can defend, attack, evade, accept, have calmness, fight, qigong, gain balance, posture, strength, targeting, internal power, external power and things I have not come across yet. As the comments in this thread indicate we all change over time in mind, body and spirit.

I think that you will always see an element of your sensei in what you do even if you have more than one but it is more important that we can see as much of yourself as possible. We are all different both physically and emotionally so I explore to bring the best out of a student. I only teach how to practice the art. Sanchin will always be sanchin performed at many different levels.

All the best

Jim


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 Post subject: Re: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 1:09 pm 
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Hi Jim,

This is really a fantastic post, something that I and surely many others will read over and over, because there is so much to learn from it.

I know that Walter and George sensei would also agree with you.

All the best,

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 Post subject: Re: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 1:32 pm 
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Jim Hulse
Quote:
There are so many ways to practice sanchin. Hitting them hard, pushing them, eyes closed, holding on to them, more than one person pushing them but all of them concentrate the mind in to becoming sanchin. I try to be rooted to the floor but not stuck to it. I want to move smoothly more than quickly. I want to be everything that sanchin can let me be.


This is very good. As you know George sensei has a drill that is interesting called 'in your face sanchin' _ where someone has to perform sanchin through a gauntlet with students impeding, hitting shoving, pulling etc.

A great drill, where I love to surprise the 'pushers'/pullers...who don't expect certain reactions which I believe to be integral to sanchin...such as pivoting, deflecting,going against or with the flow of the pulls and pushes, using the wauke to unbalance and displace the people in the gauntlet, sometimes by slamming them against one another.

When someone complains by saying'well you didn't do sanchin the right way' you just give them a big smile, because you know he will try to learn to do the same thing on his own.

I find this to be a good way to teach someone to 'fight' out of sanchin.

With your energy skills from chi-gong and your massive frame, I can see how you would make people fly.

This could be a good demo. :)

I am enjoying watching the Liverpool and Chelsea soccer games being played here in the states, in baseball parks.

Soccer the love of my life.Image

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 Post subject: Re: SANCHIN
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 3:26 pm 
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To refine my comments/question even more, during one's practice of Sanchin alone, with no one providing outside input, what do you all think of, or what mental picture do you attempt to see? Many kata's have relatively specific applications (at least in the early stages of learning) to their moves so you can mentally "see" a target. Do you ever use an invisible opponent?

Steve


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