Rooting and the beginning of Internal Work

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Rooting and the beginning of Internal Work

Postby Rick Wilson » Tue Aug 12, 2003 7:42 am

I decided to start a new thread with this post because I did not want to interrupt the flow of thought Max is providing on the other thread and his new one.

I will address the start of this post Max regardless because he has inspired the post.


You have addressed a side of Sanchin that many will not touch. I tried to start a thread on Bill’s forum about the other benefits of Kata but there were no takers.

Perhaps by opening up this side they do feel that somehow the combative side is neglected. I do not believe you can work through this side without having truly worked through the combative side.

Sanchin is meant to deal with the body, mind and spirit (and in my personal beliefs emotion). There are combative elements for all three but there are also internal higher levels of development that can be gained through the continued practice of Sanchin.

Your reflection on this issue has been excellence. It detailed the path you have experienced and perhaps opened a few eyes to what could be experienced. I know I have learned from your sharing. Thank you.

The internal experiences of Sanchin can be vast. Without them you will have only a small piece of the puzzle.

Rooting and connecting to the Earth is an example. We see many comments about rooting as pressing the feet to the floor or the old clenching of the toes or the splayed duck toes. All of these are a mere physical attempt at internal work that fall short. And even if they could achieve some small portion they only work on half the picture.

The opening of Sanchin is the performance of a rooting ritual. An opening of a connection to the Earth (please note this too is only one half of true rooting as you must also root upwards).

Rooting can be worked on in Sanchin and in the practice of Ink Grinding. Sanchin can be performed with Ink Grinding. Let me run through the steps of development:

In China before you could write you had to use a mortar and pestle to grind the ink block into powder before adding water. This grinding of the pestle into the mortar is where the name comes from.

1) Walk in Sanchin but hold your arms down with the palms of your hands facing towards the ground. As you step grind your feet into the ground, and perform the same grinding action with your hands in the air extending your energy from the palms to the ground. You should feel your feet pressed into the floor.

2) Perform the same step as in step one but after you have ground your feet and hands “draw” upwards with the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands. You may clench your hands into the Uechi Kumite position (much as you were carry jars.) This action should make it feel like you have pulled the floor to press up against your feet.

3) Perform the same step as in Step one but this time when you grind down do not grind against the floor. Instead act as the tree sending roots deep into the Earth. Use the extension of your hands down ward to achieve an overall body effect. The feel should change from that of pressing the floor into your feet to one where the floor ceases to be a factor and you have rooted deep into the Earth.

4) Perform the same step as Step Three only this time after you have sunk your roots internally draw up from the Earth through the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands. You should feel a very different rooting taking place.

5) Perform the same step as Step Four only this time with your arms in Sanchin position.

While these are listed as steps they are intended to be done over a period of time. You must achieve the feelings described before moving on to the next step. Each person will progress at their own rate.

Back to the opening of Sanchin: When you step out extend the arms downwards rooting deep into the Earth. Draw the energy up through the soles of your feet and the fingers of the hands to the DanTein. We now close the hand here but Kanei Uechi Sensei did not. I believe the clenching of the hands is an attempt to teach the drawing up from the Earth. Clenching the hands also acts as a tool to seal the energy into the Dan Tein.

Most often when rooting is discussed it is only the half of sinking into the ground. Rarely have I heard the other half of drawing up from the Earth.

I am sure, as Max said, some will disregard this post as they may fail to see how it relates to a combative side but what the heck.

And this is still just a portion of the internal side of the body. The mind and spirit must also become a part of the whole in the rooting process.
Rick Wilson

Postby CANDANeh » Tue Aug 12, 2003 9:47 am

"We now close the hand here but Kanei Uechi Sensei did not. I believe the clenching of the hands is an attempt to teach the drawing up from the Earth. Clenching the hands also acts as a tool to seal the energy into the Dan Tein."

The opening(s) of sanchin I find has interested me in recent years, actually Dave Mott sensei sparked that interest in me at one of his seminars.
In the process of "rooting" during openings you can observe so much in individuals. Many seem to struggle others esp. others who have developed in their training in using the earth and bodies natural resources seem to become part of the environment (like a tree in landscape)
It is impossible to stand perfectly still after your opening and this to me the other interesting part of "rooting", some will try so hard not to sway etc.. However, movement must occur however slight. Large buildings, bridges sway to remain up and movement is required by us to maintain balance IMHO. Internally movement is taking place to locate center or root. I often try rooting while in line ups, kills time and the hidden sutle aspects can be explored without even someone standing inches away knowing. Uechi Kanie not using clinched fist may be the setting aside of attempts to capture and seal that energy as he no longer requires to do so. 'Rooting upwards" is an interesting concept and makes a lot of sense. I must admit I have yet to read max`s thread and off I go to there. Good post...thanks
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Postby Rick Wilson » Tue Aug 12, 2003 1:27 pm


While only guessing I hold the same opinion that Uechi Sensei ws beyond needing such tools to aid his rooting.

The concept of not being able be perfectly still is a good one because it also eliminates the thought that rooting is becoming a statue. Taking this farther you must still be rooted as you move.

David Mott Sensei is my teacher so there is no question that he inspires many of us.

I hope to post more either tonight or tomorrow.
Rick Wilson

Postby maxwell ainley » Tue Aug 12, 2003 7:30 pm

Thanks Rick ,
please carry on with your own thoughts .
You are correct Rick , We do need the combat side ,but our development of a holistic nature can suffer ,we can become top heavy ,as you say we arn't rooted at all .
Your sanchin rooting offers yet another line inwards ,with out loosing that close link to combat ,like everything in sanchin we need to grow to see it ,and most importantly understand .
I don't see these aspects as ; this is my inner work ,now this is my external combat mode ,they need to built into a inter-flow ,one helps the other ,just like seisan helps sanchin comprehension ,then they reverse help aid our growth .
Rick I keep my fingers open in sanchins opening ,thats the way I was taught ,my hands ,arm alighment are ready in postion [the nukite hand formation ]ready green for go .
To also ensure a flow of energy reaching the coiled trapzium /latisimus /glutemous three teired fajin rear muscles triology /

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Postby Jackie Olsen » Tue Aug 12, 2003 8:13 pm

I feel that ... What is drawn up is sent back down so that there is a circular movement of energy. The Rooting which is so important to establish can also become a probablem when we become too "set" and hinder the flow of energy. Therefore when doing kata -- like in Sanseiryu -- where a Sanchin stance comes before a movement, a student often cannot move off the deep set and movements become too hard/robotic.

I have played with using the Microcosmic Orbit Breath ... but have found I really have to concentrate in order to move, breathe & stay centered.

Excellent discussion... thank you Max for inspiring and Rick & Candaneh for jumping in!
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Postby CANDANeh » Tue Aug 12, 2003 11:47 pm

Rick Wilson wrote:The concept of not being able be perfectly still is a good one because it also eliminates the thought that rooting is becoming a statue. Taking this farther you must still be rooted as you move.

Watch a cat as it readies to take a bird, it seems motionless but it is preparing for movement. Muscles are coiled, and slight back and forth motion can be seen and if you are able to touch, it feels much heavier than normal, especially if picked up from behind. It reminds me so much of a position in Konchin that also seems motionless just before you move forward into the frontal elbow strike... the steps (movement) forward seems so much like the cat "sinking" deeper as it nears the bird. This flow of movement in kata to me is moving while rooted, each step you should feel more rooted as you approach the "target".
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Postby Rick Wilson » Wed Aug 13, 2003 6:48 am

Max is correct that while we may separate things for explanations purposes they are in fact a whole. In actual performance there can be no separation.

The previous post on rooting dealt with a physical feeling and therefore could be classified as “The Body.” Barring in mind this is for explanation purposes only.

“The Mind” has many functions in rooting but for learning to root we come back to the issue of awareness. Awareness is absolutely necessary to root (or do anything else.)

You must listen to your body being and feel everything taking place. You cannot learn to root without being aware of what is taking place. You cannot have proper body alignment when you are unaware of the position your body is in.

You must expand your mind to explore your body and what is happening to it externally and internally for there will not be one without the other.

Yin and Yang are not opposites but complements of a whole. They are simply different positions on the circle. Without awareness you will never feel this. Without awareness you simply end up with pull here push there.

As you perform the Ink Grinding exercises let your mind’s awareness expand into body awareness into body being awareness.

This process will also go through stages (read Max’s other posts for insights.)

Move slowly so that you can learn to be aware. Moving too quickly will be too fast for your perception until this too grows. This is why Taiji begins by being done slowly. You must move slowly to allow your growing ability to be aware catch up to what is happening. (Many have lost that Taiji progresses to moving fast.)

Enjoy the experience of being aware of what is happening. Enjoy experiencing the act of rooting. Allow yourself to feel and explore the differences as the Ink Grinding exercise progresses.

Proper mind awareness becomes one with body awareness and the next step is completed.
Rick Wilson

Postby CANDANeh » Wed Aug 13, 2003 9:47 am

Total body awarness and sense of what space you occupy was once described to me as being "it". Now this is not a selfish or arrogant 'it" but self knowledge "Enjoy the experience of being aware of what is happening" (as Rick Wilson indicated). By being 'IT" when you occupy a space it is part of the earth as a whole and draws and gives energy to earth. Sanchin should not just expend energy but receive equally as well (after kata should we be with less energy?). "Rooting" simply discribed as a tree is I think misleading, yes it is "rooted"and it gives and takes and certainly holds its ground. However, I think if we must use inanimate objects an iceburg is a better choice as it moves and it is physically rooted by what you do not see. It also goes full circle (soft/hard over and over) and is hard in soft (water & ice) If the ancient MA would have seen one they I am sure would have been impressed :lol:
The mind I agree plays an important role in rooting and we must continue to explore ways of doing so.
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Postby Rick Wilson » Thu Aug 14, 2003 6:53 am


Very good comments. Yes, Sanchin is a gathering of energy. As much as I really like the half hard half soft analog of the iceberg, the tree still fits best for me as a beginning because the tree roots itself to draw sustenance from the earth. The drawing of energy is the missing part of what many do in rooting.

The third component of the whole is the Spirit. This is what joins the others and makes them complete. This is what enables everything to achieve a higher level.

My martial arts have become a part of my spiritual journey. I have also taken part a number of Native traditions. We have had two children come to us through adoption and they are Cree. To ensure they are proud of their heritage and understand their customs a number of ceremonies have become part of our lives.

We take part in sweat lodge ceremonies. In the sweat lodge in what is called a round the tarps close, there are prayer songs, steam and heat. In a typical sweat there are four rounds and four songs sung in each round. There can be significant experiences and other times there is just a particular feeling that I experience. I have, a few times, felt this same experience when doing a Kata if the circumstances are right.

This is where my martial arts are heading.

The other major ceremony I have been privileged to take part in is fasting. In this ceremony you go through a number of ritual preparations in the late afternoon or early evening and from that moment on you may not eat or drink anything. You may not speak to anyone but the assigned helpers. You sleep the first night in a Tipi (or whereever.) The following morning you take part in a special Sweat lodge where there is only one round and all sixteen songs are sung. You then go in a procession out into the bush to where you have prepared a small fasting lodge of willow covered in tarps. There you remain for three more nights and then you come out of the bush into another special sweat lodge where there are two rounds. In between the two rounds you get your first drink of water in about 84 hours.

The complete fasting ceremony consists of four fasts and is done over a minimum of four years. Last year I completed my fourth fast and my first cycle of fasting. I hope to begin my second cycle next year.

This is a significant experience and one I won’t go into too great of detail on a public forum.

I will explain a small part of it that may help exemplify the experiences that can be available in Sanchin.

The belief is that when the fast begins the people fasting have entered into the spirit world. That is why no one who is not part of the fasting ceremony will acknowledge them and they will not acknowledge anyone. It is very hard to describe the experience of entering into the fast. The feeling of being separate from the normal world is there and as the fast progresses it increases.

The experiences found within a sweat lodge ceremony are exceeded and expanded in the fast. There is a tapping into or becoming part of something beyond the normal world we live in.

I am sure many would have explanations for this and I care not. I only care for the personal experience.

Kata can progress on a similar path.

My teacher David Mott Sensei says the bow that begins and ends the Kata is offered as a thank you to all those who have followed this path before us. Without them we would not have the art we do. This acknowledgement goes back well beyond the known history of our particular art. It connects us to those who have gone before and have passed on. It can be in a sense a connection to the spirit world. Or at least this is the same experience that I can feel.

When you perform Sanchin you are separate from the normal world we live in. You may experience entering into a different state of being.

When the spirit joins with the awareness of the mind to attune to the body experience, then the entire being becomes whole. There is a filling of the body and a connection to the Earth. The spirit is used to connect upwards to what in some circles would be called the Heavenly Qi. This connection completes the circle, and gives an entirely different feeling to rooting.

My martial brother David Elkins helped clarify where this may be heading for me and Max touch on this very subject with the comment: “We vibrate in tune with things there is no interference.” There is a vibration to the universe that has been discovered by science. Native Americans have known of this vibration for thousands of years. The drum not only represents the heart beat of every person and mother Earth it also is the heart beat of all existence. It is that vibration. I believe this is why every culture has a drum.

The Dan Tein can not be left uncommented on. The Dan Tein is the centre of our being and is the generator and governor of all the energies passing through. (Our inner energy drum.)

I am very far from the end of this journey and some of the things I have comment on I have only just begun to glimpse.

For me this path began with a simple rooting exercise and the Kata Sanchin.

In the native belief there are four elements not three: Mind, Body, Spirit and Emotion. I’ll leave this Uechi discussion at the three.

Okay, more personal sharing on a public forum than I am used to but, as I said, I have Max as an inspiration. :D

Like Max has stated this is a personal journey and not something I expect my students to have to believe in or partake of. However, I expect proper Martial Practice should lead to the same path for everyone and that experience will be guided and tempered by whatever personal spiritual beliefs they hold.
Rick Wilson

Postby Jackie Olsen » Thu Aug 14, 2003 2:42 pm


Thank you for your deep sharing and well-expressed thoughts on your path. I have followed a Native American path for years and am very familiar to the experiences and ideas you speak of. There are many similarities in experiencing energy. And, the rooting and discipline of Sanchin can be applied to "holding one's space" within the energy of a sweat, which can be come quite intense, especially if you are doing ceremony or a closed door sweat.

I feel that is by the process of purifying our essence, balancing and conserving our energy, then 'cultivating' and concentrating (focusing) the spirit that enables our energies/brain to be transformed, recharged and rejeuventated ... a returning to the Source ... thus completing the circle and begining another one. This is a part of what Sanchin teaches me...

But, as you said for yourself - these are my views and my path from where I stand in the circle...

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Postby maxwell ainley » Thu Aug 14, 2003 6:17 pm

Jackie, Rick, CANDANeh.

Interesting ,only know bits on the native indian ,thanks for insight Rick ,Jackie .
Well in general some cultures seem to be more in touch with nature in general ,Sanchin if practiced with that inner investigation will re-introduce a practioner more in touch with nature ,rooting is a part of this .
Our methods come down to us ,from a section of humanity that were more in tune with these matters than say your average man and woman ,no offence to any one meant .
Rooting will be a specalised aspect within those circles of study ,but to tap into these studies we must open up some what .
I see our methods ,as not always being clear cut .were as in the indian experience ,there seems to be a definate attempt at these experiences ,were there appears in our ryu to be ,come on then find it . I see our old masters as rather impish types more so the ones farther back .
Now there are various reasons for this .

Sanchin offers us if we can tap in similar experience ,I have tried to show that the enlightenment experience is a real concrete underlying experience .
Cross ref; back to Sanchin from these other experiences you talk of is natural .
Rick the emotions also need study in our ryu ,again maybe this is not so clear cut .The passions them selves are enlightenment .
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Postby Rick Wilson » Sat Aug 16, 2003 7:05 am

Hi Jackie:

Thank you for your comments. I too have found many similarities between the Native spirituality and what I find in the deeper part of martial arts.
Rick Wilson

Postby Rick Wilson » Tue Aug 19, 2003 5:37 am

On another forum I comment on filling.

David Mott Sensei refers to filling yourself. This connects directly to rooting. It is as if a fluid or energy pours into our bodies giving it a weighted feeling. As Leo describes this weighted feeling has martial applications.

What does “filling” feel like? Grab hold of a Uechika and try to pull them. What do you feel? You feel like you have grabbed onto a big bag of wet sand. I use this description deliberately. You do not grab onto a big heavy statue. The feeling is very different and is best described by Leo’s words: “Never are we completely stationary inside or out.”

Now grab hold of someone who is not a Uechika (or other type of martial artist.) They may be strong and they may feel solid or they may feel like they are not there but they just don’t feel like a Uechika.

David Sensei told me this story. He says we become a little jaded working with our Uechi brothers and sisters in that we get very used to grabbing people used to filling themselves. The surprise can come when we grab someone who does not.

David Sensei was leaving his dojo one night and stepped out onto the sidewalk only to find three or four guys putting the boots to a man on the ground. It was clear the man had had enough, so David shouted for them to stop.

They ignored David Sensei so he rushed up and grabbed the nearest guy to him. Just like in Seisan Bunkai he gripped the man pulled him into Sanchin spun and thrust him away. As David turned back he saw that the other men were no longer kicking the guy on the ground. They were not looking at him either.

The men were looking over at their friend who had landed over ten feet away up on top of a car.

David Sensei asked the men to leave the guy on the ground alone, and shock and surprise, they did.

David said that, as he reviewed what happened, he was shocked at how light or “not there” the man had seemed. He was so used to try to throw Uechika around that this guy had seemed unsubstantial.

Filling can go much farther, as can all internal practices.

Filling and rooting are merely aspects of a whole and the true practice is the whole.

But, sometimes we need to break things down before we put them back together.

Filling can be an energy practice. It can be a listening exercise. It can be a way of sensing your body and what it feels like inside and out. It can be a way to gather and link everything to the Dan Tein. Filling gives us substance but never immobility.
Rick Wilson

Postby Jackie Olsen » Fri Aug 22, 2003 5:23 pm

Great first-hand example of what happens when we practice - with repetition - the basics, the foundation.

I had a similar experience (tho with an un-rooted/grounded Uechika BB) during the Seisan bunkai. Since we don't let go right away at the end of the move, I remember both of us "moving" across the floor based on the power of my left and turn. I'll never forget the look in his eyes (or the surprise, I'm sure in mine) when this happened.

Experiences like this happen when we least expect them to.

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