Tanren

Oral history tells us that in the early 20th century at the dojo of Higaonna Kanyo, Sanchin kata was emphasized. This is likely due to the emphasis on physical education during that era and the average age of the students that sought tutelage from Higaonna which I would approximate to be between 12 and 18 years. Supposedly, the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education thought the emphasis on an overly hard Sanchin as taught by Higaonna was detrimental to the physical growth of young men and rejected his method for inclusion in the school system. Ironically Higaonna’s Nahate eventually made its way into the school system due to the efforts of Miyagi Chojun and his students.

History aside, in my limited experience in Tou’on-ryu and Goju-ryu I find the concepts of Sanchin the same in both kata, but their application is a bit different. I know I sound like a broken CD, but Sanchin is a tanren kata (鍛錬). That is, it is a form meant to condition the body mentally and physically. The breathing is natural and not forced as in “ibuki”. The entire body is “contracted” (shime) i.e. tensed with particular emphasis on the lower abdomen and the position of the pelvis, but not tense as to be rigid. When the body’s core is stabilized through Sanchin training and one’s movements become second nature, then this kind of training develops an explosive power if learned correctly.