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Postby M J Brelsford » Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:12 pm

Question To All,

Lately I have received a few inquiries on sanchin. I am looking for input from anyone in the comparison of what some term “old style” sanchin and “contemporary” sanchin.

I have my own views but would really like to hear, or better yet see a posting of the differences, if any.

Thanks in advance.

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Postby Bill Glasheen » Mon Dec 15, 2008 11:27 pm

Hello. Mark! Long time no hear from!

Wow... This is something that brings the cynic out in me, Mark. How "old" do you want to get? The kata predates Kanbun and his teacher, and is seen in myriad manifestations throughout China.

So my guess on this is that someone has a snapshot of Sanchin in time performed by a specific individual, and is referencing said performance. My guess in the Uechi world is that this is Sanchin as practiced and taught by Kanbun - assuming he taught it the same way over time to every student.

I'd like to offer that "Sanchin" is less choreography and more process. I think you know what I mean by that.

Fleshing this out a bit... Imagine performing this kata around 1900 when you couldn't drive down to the gym in your Honda to do kah-rah-tay and then pump iron. Back in the day, you developed your strength doing Sanchin in myriad ways. This included dynamic tension Sanchin, Sanchin stepping while holding jars, etc. I personally don't believe Kanbun was all about beating on people the way some like to do it today. But certainly Sanching "checking" was part of that process.

When I think of contemporary Sanchin, I think of what I can do now that I have more gym toys to play with. Some things like forms with dynamic tension are a bit anachronistic. I'd rather do Olympic lifts, kettle bells or club bells, etc. where I can get the core involved in the movement. The jar training still works for me; there's no better way to teach the Sanchin grip.

Another difference may have to do with the physiological understanding back then and now. Back in the day, Kanbun knew Chinese medicine that was all about chi meridians, herbs, etc. Now we have a western anatomy/physiology view of the body. And we have access to modern physical therapy, training methods, and pharmaceuticals. Certainly the best students of the arts draw from all paradigms, and find the common thread that produces an effective end product.

I think (danger!) Kanbun and I are on the same page - to the degree I am worthy of such. However Kanbun and I have different backgrounds, educations, and different sets of toys to work with. I'm perfectly comfortable with us having different nuances in terms of how we each may prefer to perform the form. Others however will disagree mightily on that. I'm guessing there are quite a few who think "doing Sanchin" is all about being the mirror image of your teacher, or of some individual in the past. Obviously I don't share that view. In the words of Matsuo Basho,

"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought."

Hope that helps!

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Postby M J Brelsford » Tue Dec 16, 2008 12:03 am

Hey Bill,

Good to hear your views. I agree with most of what you say. I have seen a wide range of sanchins, Chinese as well as other Okinawan styles. I view the Chinese stuff as nice but, as I am sure you have seen, at times it’s hard to draw real a real straightforward “Uechi” connection.
I am more looking for Okinawan stuff. What did Kanbun teach? Is it really any different from then and now? According to my sources it’s the same, go figure. Kanei explained that he taught the same way his dad taught him, no changes. I just wonder if anyone/group could/can openly explain the differences. You hear lots of thing but no one group ever puts it in black and white. Sanchin is elusive but not magical, or am I wrong!
I would honestly like to hear/see from all sides, any side, ego’s aside and just explain it in an open forum. ANY input would be nice from any takers.
What is the difference? Are there differences, if any? Is the sanchin of old better for you then now? Are the concepts/emphasis different? What makes it different or alike?

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Postby Glenn » Tue Dec 16, 2008 5:25 am

What comes to mind to me is the video George has that was taken at the Wakiyama dojo during a visit in 1965.
VidMag 12: Wakiyama Uechi-ryu
If I recall, at that time the dojo was led by Kanbun Uechi's first Okinawan student, Ryuyu Tomoyose. The Sanchin peformed by the students in the video is clearly different from any other performance I have seen, then or now. Was that "old Style" or a divergent "new style" path, or maybe simply a different way of doing Sanchin that was being explored at a single dojo at the time? Is anyone still performing it that way today or did it disappear sometime between the 1960s and today?
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Postby Stryke » Tue Dec 16, 2008 7:31 am

I still dont often see anyone move Like Kanei in his demonstration clip

so how are things the same .

more fluidity , relaxation , and looseness shown than most all other Sanchin performances Ive seen ... and it`s supposedly broken down and slow for demonstration .

but you folks have seen alot more Uechi Sanchins than me .

Postby fivedragons » Tue Dec 16, 2008 9:44 am

Hey, here to put my foot in my mouth, and talk about something I don't have an embroidered 10 foot belt in.

What if sanchin is just a way to practice putting your fingers into someone's throat, your thumbs into someone's eyes, and finally, how to grab someone by the nuts and pull while you palm heel them to the chin?

Bear with me...

Say someone tries to nukite you in the throat. The sanchin draw shears their force into the waiting off hand. Nukite to the throat with the patented sanchin step that blocks them from stepping back to avoid.

Say someone tries to put their thumbs in your eyes. The double arm strike shears the force offline, and you stick your thumbs in their eyes.

Say someone tries to grab your nuts, and palm heel you to the face. Your upper hand parries and shears the force, leading to an eye rake while the lower hand parries the nut grab, and then you hit them in the neck with the BIG CIRCLE and proceed to grab their nuts and palm heel them to the face.

When you pull on someone's ball sack while you are stepping into their chin, preferably with your foot stomped down into and/or behind their knee, you have performed what is called a throw, now they have hit the back of their head on the ground and you can jump up and down on their internal organs, joints, face and throat.
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Postby Van Canna » Tue Dec 16, 2008 4:58 pm

This is a good thread....

What is really at the base of Sanchin practice? This is important to define.

I think this definition is very good ... ... ition.html

I think the most succinct definition of San Chin is the one from Takmiyagi Shigeru, a high ranking Uechi-ryu teacher of the Okikukai.

"Sanchin and its Five Cardinal Points"

by Takamiyagi Shigeru

The practice of San Chin, the foundation kata of Okikukai, develops the student in five ways that reach beyond the basic needs of exercise or self-defense. Properly understood, san chin is a philosophical statement.

The five benefits of san chin are as follows: 1. San Chin integrates all parts of the stance 2. San Chin corrects the breathing 3. San Chin develops penetrating eyes 4. San Chin cultivates spiritual concentration 5. San chin strengthens the body.

The key word understanding San Chin is "integration". Proper stance anchors the student to the floor; while proper concentration and breathing integrates all body movements.

Proper eye contact demonstrates uninterrupted awareness, focusing the mind on every area of attack of the opponent. To develop a strong and integrated San Chin kata is to forge a wellhoned and ordered self."
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Here is Master Kanei Uechi

Postby Van Canna » Tue Dec 16, 2008 5:07 pm

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Postby M J Brelsford » Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:48 pm

Hello All,

I’d like to first say, there is about 170 hits on this thread and only a handful of anyone responding… Lets hear what folks have to say. I hope folks don’t let things get in the way of this thread. I would really like to hear from all sides.


Interesting insight….


Nice input…
Perhaps we could hear from some of your connections on this, what do you think?



In speaking once with Tomoyose sensei on the Wakayama film, he stated that no “Uechi” folks had been to that dojo in a long time. That during his visit, he was trying to get them “back on track” and get them in touch with Kanei’s methods. As one can easily see, things had gotten a bit confused.

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Postby Bill Glasheen » Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:48 pm


I was going to bring the Wakayama film up.

There is a tendency for some traditional-minded folks to think that "old" in martial arts is "good" or "right." The truth is that folks from the past were good and bad back then as they are now. Work from our elders has to pass the test of time.

I have seen some dojos (my lips are sealed) try to mimic what they see in the Wakayama film. And to what end? How do we know that this snapshot in time from some random dojo totally disconnected from the greater martial world is in any way a valid path? In fact we don't.

Oral history is what it is. All we have are the teachings of a handful who saw Kanbun. Kanei was certainly a wonderful source. So are Toyama and Tomoyose Senseis. They're all IMO valid sources for Kanbun's art and how they think the material should be taught. And the degree to which each of these teach differently should tell you something about how martial arts can evolve or be "personalized."

I happen to think that of the three of them (Uechi Kanei, Tomoyose Ryuko, Toyama), Kanei was perhaps the best at understanding what "vanilla" Kanbun Ryu was all about. But that is my personal opinion. And it is not in any way to slight the others. In fact, over time I have evolved to flow more smoothly as Tomoyose Sensei originally taught George Mattson. That's less "change" though and more evolution in execution of the basics. I have further evolved to incorporating some core muscle involvement that Nakamatsu Sensei is now espousing. But then all that is layering detail on the basics. It is putting flesh on the skeleton. The basic skeleton remains unchanged.

And then there are those (Nakahodo, Shinjo Seiyu, etc.) who take the material to the next level because of their extraordinary athleticism and warrior mindset. ;)

- Bill
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Postby Van Canna » Wed Dec 17, 2008 4:13 am

In speaking once with Tomoyose sensei on the Wakayama film, he stated that no “Uechi” folks had been to that dojo in a long time. That during his visit, he was trying to get them “back on track” and get them in touch with Kanei’s methods. As one can easily see, things had gotten a bit confused.

True. Tomoyose sensei told me the same thing….some of the stuff on that video was actually comical he said, and it did look that way to me also.

I’ll put out some feelers Mark_ but I am not sure if there will be an interest.
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Postby Van Canna » Wed Dec 17, 2008 4:23 am

Good read of Okinawan Sanchin as seen by Goju masters.

Opinions will be very diversified on this...every master sees it differently. :)
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Postby Rick Wilson » Wed Dec 17, 2008 4:51 am

Hey Mark:

I hope everything is great with you and the family.

You are right there are a lot of hits but not many opinions shared, so I thought I would throw mine out there for what it is worth (if anything at all :lol: ).

First of all this is one of those topics that can never resolved because we have no film of Uechi Kanbun performing anything. However, I think you have opened a topic that should make for a great discussion if people choose to take part.

Which is why I am making that choice, I offer only my opinion here and make no claims to being right – just the way I see it.

Because there is no film of Uechi Kanbun Sensei we are left to look at what we have and for myself over here in Canada that is restricted to a few pieces of older films (now on video) and commentaries either recorded or heard in person from a very few older Okinawan masters.

I say this up front to be clear that I have do not the exposure or the experience that Mark has, so I can only draw my conclusions from the little that I have to go on.

I believe the performance of Kata has changed.

The little footage and commentary I have support this belief, at least in my opinion.

For example the part of that Wakayama historical clip referred to in another post that intrigues me the most is not the drastic differences in the Kata but rather one small segment.

There is a part where a man in a suit coat is obviously discussing mythologies of performance with a young Tomoyose Sensei.

The move they are discussing is the turn Wauke hammer fist in Seisan.

The man in the suit coat performs it in the manner I would term “old” style. He does the move AS he transitions his footwork and combines the Wauke hammer fist. He “lands” on the strike

Young Tomoyose Sensei performs it in the manner I would term “new” style. He pivots, then steps, then Wauke, then strikes. All separate pieces.

These two differences are my first major specific points where I see changes.

The moves in old style were performed in the transitions not turn or step THEN perform the movement.

To me this is the manner you move and strike in a fight using the force of the body movement to enhance the strike.

To me it works better so that is what I attempt to do.

Another example is the step elbow strike. There is much more force when you land on the elbow strike rather than step then strike. This method I have seen in some earlier footage of Uechi Kata.

The other major difference is also indicated by commentary where things used to be one move. The enhanced body mechanics of the Wauke and strike combine (yin and yang – the body mechanics not the chi stuff :wink: ).

The next two major differences are the speed and timing of the Kata today and the size of the movements.

Learning anything requires you beginning by slowing things down, breaking them down into pieces and making the movements bigger. However at some point you speed up, put everything back together and reduce the size of the movements.

In an interview with Mabuni Sensei Uechi Kanbun Sensei commented that the forms of his Chuan Fa style were done” quick”. The “quick” has gone from many performances of Kata. This is also support by stories of his Siesan Kata being so fast no one was sure if he had a kick on his Seisan Step back or not.

In viewing some older films of Kata you can see how the Wuake is performed smaller and more compact rather than the larger version that prevails today.

The next major differences I would comment on come from recorded commentary and comments at a seminar by an older Uechi Master. The positioning has changed. The Sanchin position has opened up and many “stances” are no longer compact fighting versions but more for “pictures” as one older master described the stances of today.

I also see in clips that the kata don’t stop and start but drive through to the end in a “flow.” I believe that in a fight you don’t stop either therefore that is what I attempt to do in kata as well.

I can see from the very limited exposure to film and commentary very distinct changes have taken place.

I can speculate of the causes for these changes but not the point of this thread.

Marcus commented on the loosenss and the smooth flow of Uechi Kanei Sensei's Kata that we don't see often today -- changes.

The specific changes from old style to new that I conclude are:

1. Moves used to be done in the transitions or as we moved and not step then movement.
2. The Wauke and the strikes used to be one move not separated.
3. The movements were tighter and compact.
4. The forms used to be done quick.
5. The form of the stance was more compact and less open (more applicable to fighting than “show”).
6. The Kata don’t stop and start.

Is it right?

No idea.

Is it what Uechi Kanbun did?

Absolutely no idea.

Does it work for me?

So far.

So, great question Mark, sorry I don’t have any insights for you and I definitely have no answers for you.

I can only say I find what I call the “old” methodologies more effective but I cannot speak to what others might find, prefer or conclude.

So as I said at the start there is no footage of Uechi Kanbun performing his Chuan Fa, so I make no claim that the “old” style I surmise here is his method or that I in anyway do (or am attempting to do) things as he did them.

I don’t know.

Good topic to discuss.

All the best, Mark. :D
Rick Wilson

Postby Dana Sheets » Wed Dec 17, 2008 2:06 pm

The major difference, I think, has to do with the first six months of training.

There had to be a reason to do jar work every day, spend three months on the opening movements and another three months on just stepping and striking before you learned to turn around.

And I don't think it is for lack of modern gym equipment. There are many traditional weight lifting methods in Okinawan karate that would have been known to Kanbun Uechi. Yet he preserved and maintained this method of developing a new practitioner.

In 2004, this is the same method Mr. Tomoyose described to our group that he was using to teach his grandson karate; because, it was the way he was taught Uechi-ryu. And there was at least one other school we visited in Okinawa that still taught this way.

What was so important to learn so intensely during those first six months? Why do those who were trained that way have such wonderful stability, strength, grace, and power?

Time spent training fundamental sanchin skills during the first few months of training is the major difference I see between what was done then, in Okinawa and what is most often done today, outside Okinawa.

That "sanchin skill" is, (I believe) as is being discussed, a total body awareness and integration with a strong connection to the ground.

...but who has the patience to learn or teach this way today?
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Postby M J Brelsford » Wed Dec 17, 2008 5:07 pm


Snap shots are just that, hard to get the whole picture. While I agree with your point on Kanei’s sanchin, I do not agree with you on how Nakamatsu sensei is distorting sanchin. I have seen some crazy stuff over the years and that entire thing is WAY out, for me anyway. Either there was a serious misunderstanding in communication, because I know he did not learn it that way. Far, Far too much “Japanese” hips in what is an Okinawan style.


See what you can do…


Good points… But I think some of what you are expressing is how some folks learned or in some cases did not learn from different teachers in North America, perhaps. I do not, nor did I learn some of what your saying in my experiences in Okinawa.


How about some names to go with what your saying, I would like to hear what dojo you speak of, don’t be shy…

There is plenty of room for individualism in sanchin, but at the same time there are certain points that make the Uechi sanchin what it is. I agree with Van’s comments from Takamiyagi sensei but there are lots more that is taught and found in sanchin. Having spent many years of training with Nakahodo sensei he clearly speaks of the power, speed and technique that are learned from sanchin.

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