Ying and yang?(Sanchin and Sanzhan Pt2)

I carried on practicing Sanzhan when I came back to England for a few months, I didn’t want to lose the skills that I had learnt from China, but as the months rolled on I gave it up as in many ways Sanchin is the evolution of Sanzhan and I wanted to focus on the foundational kata of my art, especially with the summer school grading approaching sooner and sooner. Sanchin to me has much more of a martial aspect to it, especially when compared to the Sanzhan form, it helps you to place the correct amount of tension when you are punching and blocking, the short range power from the torque of the hip not only increases your punch power whilst improving its technique. It also develops your block to resist against a larger force with using the hip and block in a upwards circular motion. Sanchin is clearly an Okinawan art as it takes the basics of Sanzhan and modified it to include the basics of your fighting techniques.

When I first learnt Sanzhan I was really excited, I felt like the Okinawan’s must of done when they were learning Chinese kung fu to develop their karate. As time went on I became really frustrated with the form, with the way the Sifu taught the form, what other kung fu students were learning at the school and favouritism, but that is for a different post. But I suppose my real problem is that Sanchin has always seemed so natural to me, and yet Sanzhan the form that Sanchin came from, felt so alien and wrong. While Sanchin is a simple form to learn it takes a lifetime to master, but Sanzhan felt at times almost impossible to learn as it wasn’t designed for my build. So back home I focused on Sanchin kata as I much prefer it as a kata/form.

Besides I had a grading coming up and I needed to put focus on it. I injured my elbow at the grading and I didn’t allow it to heal properly, I had other injuries prior the grading and I was getting impatient. My main focus in my own strength training over the past 9 months has been pullups. Strength training is a separate passion of mine from karate, and it is only since China that I have modified my strength training to be more practical with karate. Weightlifting strength isn’t that compatible with karate, which has lead me to calisthenics training. Anyway my elbow tendon was getting worse and worse, and I had to have a rest from doing pullups and chinups. So I focused on hanging pullups and I thought practicing Sanchin would be could form both as an exercise for my back muscles and it is a kata I needed to focus on.

Practicing the kata daily gave me many ideas, as I said in a previous post I was able to improve my short range kicking with the term I like to call “Sanchin Kicks”, and I started to work on the Sanchin inch range punch that Sensei was showing us at summer school and during the summer. It relies a lot on the hip movements, and with training with a mate we were able to conclude that the White Crane inch punch and the Sanchin inch punch have a very similar level of power. We also compared the wing chun punch, a normal karate punch and the boxers punch but that might be for another post. So I started doing my normal Sanchin kata, and then did another version of focusing on the inch power, not only in the strikes, but also in the lifting of the blocks.

Then I was comparing the Uechi ryu Sanchin and our Sanchin, and I decided to experiment with the Sanchin again and make the punches fast and explosive, then I experimented again and practiced the Sanchin kata with ridiculous amount of tension, and then I would cycle through them. I was trying to see if training in these hidden, or should I say subtle aspects of Sanchin to see how it would improve my overall Sanchin kata.

I think it did improve my Sanchin kata but the value of this experimenting was the insight I felt that I had gained. This experimenting made me realise why Miyagi took out the speed of the strikes and turned them into tense punches. The reason I think that he had taken out the speed of the strikes is because he incorporated this aspect into the later katas of Shisochin, Saneriru etc. So that he could simplify and turn Sanzhan into a more martial kata, and that by practicing all the later katas, his senior students will be developing this explosive punch in each of the higher katas bar Kururunfa.

It also made me realise that I had been trying to blend Sanzhan and Sanchin, and while Sanchin contains many of the Sanzhan aspects, it does it on a much subtler level. I therefore decided to start doing the Sanzhan form again, because I can work on my inch power, tension and the snapping speed of my strikes, letting me therefore to focus on Sanchin kata in itself. It is strange how learning Sanzhan improved my Sanchin, and by me focusing on Sanchin, it  has lead me right back to Sanzhan, it seems to be a circle, I can’t seem to be able to do one without the other.


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