The Five Principles of Sanchin

I’m fresh from the Aki Renshu event at the Okinawan Karate School in Pittsfield, MA.  It was definitely a great opportunity to train with Masters Higa and Takamiyagi, and thanks to Senseis Mark and Connie Flynn for hosting.

While I don’t have any pictures to post yet, I do have a little philosophy.  After Wednesday night’s workout, Mr. Takamiyagi discussed the importance of “making the art yours” and “expressing yourself through the movements of your kata.”  (Sorry to paraphrase.)  He also mentioned that “as long as you remember the Five Principles of Sanchin, you will be okay.”

He quickly listed them, but I was sitting in the back of our large group and couldn’t hear what he said.  I talked with him for a little while after the Thursday night session, and he provided more explanation.  Again, paraphrasing:

“The first is your mind.  You must stay focused.  Second are your eyes.  Don’t close them while you are doing your kata.  They should be penetrating.  Third, you must pay attention to your breathing.  Sometimes it should be hard, and sometimes it should be soft.  Fourth is to have good concentration and coordination in your body.  Last is the stance.  You need to stay rooted.”

I may not be giving his explanation the justice it deserves here.  If anyone can add to it or clarify anything, I’d appreciate it.

After training for awhile, I believe everyone learns these principles whether they know it or not.  Many of the Okinawan karate styles practice a version of Sanchin kata, and they place similar emphasis on the Five Principles though their movements may differ.  (Just Google “sanchin” and you’ll see what I mean.)  I think that serves as a great example of the master’s message: your personal interpretation of the kata matters less than your application of the deeper meanings of the form.

One of the great things about karate is its ability to help you live your life.  The Five Principles are a great example of this.  If I wrote down in how many ways my karate training has benefited me physically, mentally, and spiritually, I would need to upgrade the space requirements of this blog!  Here are a few fringe benefits of the Five Principles I can think of that don’t get a lot of press:

1. Mental focus helped me right my car when I spun into oncoming traffic during a snowstorm.

2. Developing “tiger eyes”is great for engaging people in important conversations (job interviews, decision making).

3. Learning to control my breath if I lose my temper calms me right down and keeps me from doing or saying things I know I’ll regret.

4. Learning to “feel” my body and to more truly know it helps keep me from injury and overeating, it reminds me to rest when I need it, and it helps me tailor my training to address my weaknesses.

5. This sounds silly, but I practice my Sanchin stance anytime I stand on a subway or bus.  I haven’t wiped out while riding public transportation yet!

His explanation got me thinking, if you couldn’t tell.  No matter what style you practice, how do its core tenets positively influence your life?

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About moaimartialarts

Lucky enough to grow up with the martial arts, I have felt their positive influence throughout my life and am especially interested in sharing these experiences with others. I enjoy working with youth and adults to give back some of what I've received. If you would like to learn more about Uechi-Ryu/Shohei-Ryu Karate, or if you want to find people to train with, please contact me. I am the head karate instructor for the Meriden Martial Arts Club.
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