Sanchin

  Sanchin was brought back from China by Kanryo Higaonna, and means "three battles", the three generally accepted as being the body, mind and spirit. It is the fundamental kata of Goju-Ryu.
  There are two variations of Sanchin kata in use. One is the original version known as Higaonna Sanchin, and the other is a modified version, Miyagi Sanchin, with some changes made by Chojun Miyagi.
  The kata is performed at all ranks from beginner to the highest level of black belt.
   The physical principles that provide the strength of Sanchin are:

1) centering of the body's energy;

2) lowering the body's center of gravity; and

3) controlled breathing into the abdomen, which is the body's center. When properly performed, the kata is an incredibly strong foundation for the ensuing advanced techniques. Sanchin develops the immovable center of balance by a combination of physical balance (posture) and psychological balance (application of Zen ). Sanchin combines meditation with a healthy strong body able to withstand the rigorous mental and physical training.

  During Sanchin, the instructor tests the focus,centering, conditioning and stability of the student by repeatedly striking parts of the student's body, arms and legs. As a person's training progresses, the tests become more intense, the strikes much harder. It becomes a matter of pride and honor to be able to receive the hardest of blows with no visible effect.

  The Japanese martial arts have always been deeply related to Buddhism and, in particular, Zen Buddhism. In essence, the ultimate goal of the serious martial artist, "reaching a stage of enlightenment," is rooted in Buddhism.
  Although others exist, two of the roads to this Buddhist "enlightenment" are the practice of "sitting Zen" and "standing Zen." While "sitting Zen" is based on stillness, "standing Zen" is based on action. Both, however, are one internal reality viewed and practiced from different perspectives. In this discussion, the primary concern is the use of "standing Zen" in training. Both Zen monks in China's Shorin (Shaolin) Temple and swordsmen in early Japan used "standing Zen" to help discipline, control and strengthen their physical and mental energies. Eventually, this "standing Zen" system of focusing energy on attaining a "stage of enlightenment" (and physical superiority) was developed into a method af martial arts training known as Sanchin. Although every Japanese martial art style has its own individual characteristics, their origins can be traced to one source, a source that utilized this particular method of training. Therefore, it might be said that Sanchin was performed by all past styles. Looking at present-day karate, then, it seems strange that every style does not practice a perfect body training program such as Sanchin. (NOTE: In actuality, the physical education curriculums of some Okinawan schools practicing the Shorin style of karate did include Sanchin. However, because Sanchin was not suitable, medically speaking, for youths at the crucial age of incipient manhood, it was later eliminated.) It might prove helpful for students to look back once again and use the Sanchin methods and techniques of the past that still have value.
  We can be proud of Sanchin. It is unique to karate and does not exist in any other Japanese martial art. I feel that it should be regarded not only as part of the Goju-Ryu system but as a precious resource of Okinawan Karate-Do.
  Anyone who studies Goju-Ryu must first use Sanchin to develop proper breathing methods, basic body strength and mental power. The phrase, "Three-Year Sanchin," was heard often at training sessions, with Sanchin accompanied by preparatory, complementary and utilitarian exercises used to develop body strength. After that, Sanchin training concentrated on open hand and combat practice forms.
  Recently, karate has been studied with an emphasis on free-fighting without basic body training or prior training in basic techniques. This practice contradicts the essential aims of karate and can lead to both injuries and lifetime regrets. We must be careful. Sanchin training is very difficult and complex. As a result, it cannot be explained here completely. Its use, however, is not exclusively limited to martial arts preparation. It does not necessitate much time and space. And, it can serve as a refreshing, physically beneficial diversion for study or work. Also, because it does not demand much in the way of either time or space, it can and should be practiced frequently.