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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2000 1:17 am 

Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2000 6:01 am
Posts: 270
Location: Washington, DC
(somebody better tell me if this topic is too explicit for this forum)

I've heard many times..

"the preferred sanchin elbow position is to have the elbow one fist distance away from the chest."

My question is, how do you define chest on a woman?

I am a woman and I can say that personally having my elbow one fist distance from my <FONT=i>chest</FONT> puts my elbow against the front of my breast and the inside of my bicep directly against the side. Which means to perform a proper circle block I have to...er...well...um...squish things a little bit (for lack of a better phrase).

Putting my elbow one fist distance from my breast I can do a proper circle block, but it pulls my shoulder too far forward.

<FONT="small">(i can see you all smiling - Image- and I'm serious about this)</FONT>

Lori et al, what is the answer? Keep the shoulders back and the lats locked in and lose range of motion in the block or cheat the elbow out and sacrifice focus in the lats?



[This message has been edited by dmsdc (edited October 13, 2000).]

PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2000 2:50 am 

Joined: Thu Sep 17, 1998 6:01 am
Posts: 872
Thank you Dana - for the guts to bring up a topic like this.

Just about any female uechi-ka trained as you and I have been, instructed with the "one fist distance" rule has had to deal with this question - and some have a harder time than others.

Wow. Where to begin. A few points I've struggled out on my own through the years - not having any other female seniors in my dojo, or in the vicinity that I could train with. (I wish this forum was around a dozen or so years ago!)

So I don't ramble too much - I'll try and separate out parts that may be relevant.

First: Rules and body mechanics.

One on one instruction is great - but doesn't happen too often in a dojo environment, and if it is a healthy dojo, then class size is not too tiny either. So - methods must be devised to get a concept across to many students without the instructor showing or placing the student in the correct position one on one. This is, from what I understand, what brought forward many of these body position rules, such as the front foot in sanchin being turned in 45 degrees, (some say 30, some say a width of the foot) and other things such as the "one fist distance" for the circle blocks.

2) The "one fist rule" doesn't cut it with women across the board (no pun intended) Image

Yes - Dana - I'm with you on that one. Quite frankly - one fist can't be measured from the forward direction - and if it is - things are off. This is one thing I had to learn by what feels right instead of by "formula." However, the one fist rule remains - so how do we adapt it when we teach to women? Good question. What I've done is adopted more of a mirror approach to sanchin arm position. I have the student facing the mirror and I bisect their reflection - one down the middle, then each half once more until the torso is in quarters vertically. The middle division goes over the nose and the navel, the other two go over the nipples. Now - in a class full of guys, it's pretty easy to say "elbows in front on a parallel with the nipples." Gets weird in mixed company no?
But the bisecting the body thing works. This also teaches the student their "midline" which is where I teach the "cut" of the hand drawing back for the strike. So - this works from a frontal perspective. How about from the side and a return to the one fist rule? I've found it pretty much evens out. There are some problems that need more correction, some kids with chubby bellies and they tend to rest their elbows on the front of them, so I just take their wrists and pull them forward a bit, telling them to imagine they are holding a tray of tea. Not exact, but gets away from the bad position of resting elbows and almost vertical forearms. Women tend to figure out pretty quickly that shoulders are critical to a sanchin arm position, the wrong shoulder position "squishes" things as you put it (what other way is there to phrase that! Image ) or is just plain uncomfortable. I can and do check my male students when they are in sanchin by placing my fist on their ribs to show them if their elbows are too far forward. Can't do this on a woman - BUT - I do find that after using the mirror approach dividing the body into quarters and saying where the elbows should line up tends to eliminate what I see as the biggest problem with beginners - and that is the elbow too far on the side of the body.

I am interested in hearing anyone elses approach to this - I KNOW that we can't have been the only women to consider this Dana-san... and probably there is a male instructor or two out there who has thought of this as well and didn't quite know how to phrase it. Brought up by a female makes it PC to talk about - so thanks again!


PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2000 3:57 am 

Joined: Fri Jul 21, 2000 6:01 am
Posts: 14
Location: Adelaide, Australia
I'm glad someone has brought this up, because its somehting I have trouble with too. Unfortunately, I don't have a solution for you.
I'm not an uechi practitioner - my style is mainly a blend of shotokan and goju styles, so I don't know what sanchin elbow position means, and a don't know what you call a circle block, but we do several two-arm blocks which involve arms passing each other in front of the chest, and being um..... rather well endowed, there's usually just no room, and things do get squished. I don't want to sacrifice what I consider to be correct and effective technique by doing the block further in front, so I put up with it, but its hard sometimes to get a 'snappy' technique when there's just no room for those arms to pas each other. I don't know if there is a solution, and it IS a very sensitive subject, but I wish there was some way to discuss it with my (male) sensei without getting embarrassed.
Any time the sensei says 'one fist distance from the chest' or whatever, I just do the best approximation I can, assuming 'chest' in this case applies to where the rib cage ends, rather than other 'attachments' - and this usually does mean getting squished.

PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2000 7:39 pm 

Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2000 6:01 am
Posts: 270
Location: Washington, DC
Great respnses. Hopefully some of the gents will join in soon.

I'd like to be able to say that a really good support bra would do the trick. But who's going to wear one of those on a daily basis? (bleck!)

So a correct definition may be "one fist distance from the front of the ribcage"

However, I've asked my instructor about this and he gives a point similar to Lori's for kids with big tummies.

If a woman is actually resting her arms on her breasts she is not building up proper sanchin strength. So perhaps the answer is also dependant upon rank. At the early stages so that proper strength can be build the eblows should be pulled forward off the breasts. Not a perfect sanchin, but a good learning position.

Then as the female student progresses she can be encouraged to pull into a more regular sanchin, now that she understands how the position works and what it should feel like.

My personal choice is a bit like what I just described. For sanchin training I try to extend as far out at possible without completely losing my lats. Then, when I do kumite I pull in close.


PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2000 11:50 pm 
The one-fist rule doesn't work for all men, either, but for different reasons.

A suggestion could would be to focus on pulling the shoulders down tight without hunching them forward and without respect to where the elbows actually are in order to adequately develop the lats, pecs, traps, etc.

Does this make sense as a possible solution to this problem?

PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2000 3:37 pm 
I personally feel that the elbow positon in Sanchin has nothing at all to do with protecting your ribs so I don't worry about it. I put my elbows in the "sweet spot". I think this is what Allen is saying also.

If you want to protect your ribs (and face and nads for that matter) you'll have to stay in Karate long enough to learn Seisan and Sanseirui.


PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2000 6:17 pm 
I adjust my deviation as follows using Sanchin as my reference:

1)do a sanchin strike and hold it, note the position of the elbow.

2)while holding it extended, slide the hand you just struck with over the other hand and note the position of that elbow (don't just look at it, feel it too).

3)do your washuke and maintain your elbow movement between those two points you just established while ensuring your hand does not exceed the circumference of your body.

There! You should be doing a washuke within the parameters of *your* sanchin. Remember though, this is Kata. Once you establish a Kata move, you can exagerate it or abbreviate it to whatever extremes you are comfortable with. I can do a washuke as big and as far out as I want, using every inch my body can muster or I can do an itsy bitsy one with my wrist or evn just my finger tip, the kata is somewhere in the middle of all that potential.

PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2000 7:58 pm 

Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2000 6:01 am
Posts: 270
Location: Washington, DC
Great Responses!

Now for the next step. A new, well-busted woman has just joined your dojo. When you start explaining one fist distance theory she probably will be too shy to say anything but in her head she'll think something along the lines of..."Yeah right...when pigs fly is when I'm gonna get my elbow 1 fist away from my chest".

this could easily lead to an insecurity that that Uechi will never be right for them if they can't even get the basic arm position becuase of their body type.

To me this means that it becomes the role of the instructor to identify that she will have to modify "standard" position to meet her needs.

Does this sound like something that is too hard for a male instructor to say to a new female white belt, or beginner?

I mean, I was a brown belt before I had the courage to mention to my teacher that the basic definition just wasn't working for me.


PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2000 9:09 pm 
I don't have to sweat that one because my dojo is adult male only, by choice.

However, when I taught co-ed groups in TKD, I remember things such as demonstrating the classic TKD back stance with (picking a side...), left foot forward, left tricep tucked tightly against the rib cage, and right hand cupped up in the middle of the chest with about a fist distance away. When I'd go up and down the isles for a check, on the guys I'd put my fist between the right hand and the chest and make sure the left tricep was doing what it was supposed to be doing. On the women, I would typically gesture with my own arms instead when I was not satisfied with their "pose." To me it's no big deal because I'm an old buck and have been around martial arts for a long time.

PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2000 5:31 am 
Hi all,

Tony, maybe Uechi-ryu was designed for men after all!

However adapt is as adapt does, and there are some tremendous class Uechi she-fighters out there.

Uechi happens to be a style to adapt to, adapt around, and embellish from without anyway. I don't like to straighten my elbows too much in the “standard Sanchin elbow position” because effective strength is diminished plus it is easier for the opponent to grab the gi sleeve.

To make up for the greater extension of the arm and the need to keep from bumping into things, an effective method to accomplish a circle block with integrity is to keep a slight bend in the elbow of the arm doing the circle block, and as the hand starts to raise raise from about 4:30, twist the shoulder such that by 1:30 the arm is (fairly) in the standard Sanchin position. As the hand goes through 12:00, flip the hand out into crane by rotating at the elbow until the arm is in the "standard" crane position. For women who have the difficulty of "one-fist-distance," they need to experiment to find their own standard position and build their strength and speed with it as opposed to positioning their arms in an in inappropriate position for their anatomy.

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