Excellent editorial by George

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Rick Wilson

Excellent editorial by George

Post by Rick Wilson »

Excellent editorial by George:

I know this is on the front page of the site but I felt it needed to be crossed over to the discussion forums as well.

Hard Sanchin “testing.” We all have done it and used it for demos.

Is it valuable for demos or does it portray the wrong image?

Is there any value in it for training?

Soft “checking” should that be what we focus on because we condition elsewhere.

Here are George’s excellent comments:

October 31, 2005: Thoughts. . .

I had mixed feelings reading the forums the past few days, as it appears that a few of the posters elected to single out a rather prominent Okinawan teacher and his "extreme" methods for "testing" his students while they perform the kata Sanchin. Having been on the "receiving" side of Mr. Takimiyagi's "checking" of Sanchin many times, I can honestly say that his interpretation and application of Sanchin "checking" is hazing at its worse, dangerous to the student and accomplishes nothing. Fortunately, his abusive behavior towards students is not shared by many of his Okinawan associates.

I'm mentioning this publicly, because there are many people who visit our web site that might get the wrong impression of Okinawan Uechi-ryu, based on the one-sided posts regarding a small minority of Okinawan teachers.
Interestingly, I haven't received any messages from people either wanting to defend Mr. Takimiyagi and his methods, (even though he has many students in the Western world), or complaining that our forums were "trashing" a time-honored and accepted tradition where seniors abused juniors while the junior students stand obediently at Sanchin "attention".

This isn't the first time I've written about this ritualized hazing. As pointed out in many other editorials on the subject, this extreme form of checking a student's Sanchin came about during public demonstrations, where the dojo attempted to entertain and impress their audience with the strength of their students. The younger students brought back these demonstrations of strength to their dojo where, in spite of warnings by their teachers, began to practice their Sanchin with other students, turning the sensitive "checking" into bone crushing competitive matches.

Naturally, as a young American serviceman, I was easily convinced that this version of Uechi-ryu was much more to my liking than the old version used by the senior masters of the time.

There aren't many Western Uechi-ryu teachers who hasn't heard both sides of the arguments for and against "extreme" conditioning and testing. Many of the now-senior Okinawan masters of Uechi-ryu grew up being taught by the old masters in the old way while experimenting with the "extreme" ways whenever possible. Some of the now-senior masters believe the hard conditioning and hazing is part of the discipline martial arts must contain. Some, like Mr. Takimiyagi, believe that Foreigners (Americans especially), need to be beat while standing helplessly. Some of our American seniors used to feel it an honor to be beaten-up in Sanchin by the Okinawans and would encourage their associates and students to "get in line for another Sanchin", and the privilege of being "tested" by an Okinawan master.

Now that the foreigners have "grown up" in their understanding of Uechi-ryu and the martial arts, some are beginning to questions the motives and purpose for some of the rituals imposed on them. At the time people accepted the hazing as part of the mystical aura surrounding the martial arts. Now, they may suspect that they were simply being abused, with no logical reason behind the treatment.

We have come a long ways in our understanding of our Uechi-ryu. We will continue to learn and benefit from what we are doing and discovering. Yes, there are some bumps in the road, but lets not dwell to much on them or let them destroy where we are headed.

Post by Stryke »

It is a great article

Gem has shown true class , to allow folks to vent and move on .

Putting his opinion out there clearly and letting the truth stand on it`s own merits .

The thread could of been read as okinawan bashing , But the truth is it`s not a race problem but a mindset and personality problem that can strike martial artists of any race .

Uchi has got a reputation for ridiculous testing . In fact when I mentioned to some very respected New Zealand senseis that I had been looking at Uechi , the conditioning was the one thing they really new about it . They joked that it was nuts , but there must be some truth in there mind to jest ?

Oh that and one of them had a book of yours George :)

I personally think conditioning is ahuge part of being effective , however testing it is something else .

and to be tested by someone who deos not know your capabilitys/and or limits is just foolish and dangerous .

This is of course only IMHO , i`ve never been in the situation and am far form an authority on it , it just seems common sense to me .

Post by Guest »

Great article...

Yeah, you have to condition and if your not, it'll come out in the wash (read: sparring). The Sanchin thing is just an excuse for losers to smack people around and get their jollies. Punch in the stomach? c'mon! If you want to check my stomach conditioning, do it in sparring.
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Post by JimHawkins »

The Sanchin 'hazing' from Uechi has no doubt spread out beyond just Uechi and I have to assume the same for some other Okinowan Arts.

In my old half Uechi school, that was an offshoot from Sensei Les Mayo, no idea what Mayo Sensei advocates but they used to beat the crap out of students, especially advanced students, during Sanchin testing. At the time and even still today I always thought of that as part of the pain of training. The idea, perhaps from some kind of Buddhism that a martial artist must be prepared to deal with *great* suffering as a part of his training. That pain was part of the path of being in budo and in order to have "made it" to a certain rank meant in part having went through that pain and suffering and survived it; To me this was a large part of what I thought Karate was all about, at that time.

I have mentioned before that at a 5th Dan test one student received as a part of his Sanchin testing a running flying full power front kick to the mid-section that he commented after the test felt like it broke his back.. Man, I thought, no Go-Dan for me thank you very much.. :lol:

Now, after talking with Van and others about it I guess I have to think that this level of punishment is just stupid. Still, I had always thought that they were emulating the very hard training ethic that I have heard about in Japan from many karateka and in more than just one style. So I don't know, how far do you go, if you are going HARD CORE KARATE without being an ass?
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Post by CANDANeh »

Having been knocked out in Sanchin testing by blows to the solar plexes and very ill afterwards I can understand issue with hard testing. This testing was carried out with the right intentions I`m sure of that and was not by a senoir instructor.
Hard testing without knowledge of risk is an issue, I refuse to test the areas with force containing vital organs for 3 reasons.
1. I do not want a student seriously injured.
2. I can find other ways to discover if the student is "tough"
3. I don`t want others following that example even though I may think I know what I`m doing.
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Post by MikeK »

So I don't know, how far do you go, if you are going HARD CORE KARATE without being an ass?
Jim, good question, but I think we have to define what hard core karate is. Is it smash and bash, is it using controlled strikes to "lethal" areas, is it a punishing workout or is it just being brave/stupid and having someone punish you while you stand there?
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Post by MikeK »

No Tony, that's bad as it doesn't help tori learn how to strike you. In boxing don't you let people punch you in the face so they can learn how to hit there? :lol:

During kyu kumite 2 I cover against that temple shot. It's a habit that I'm not going to try and overcome. Sorry folks but I don't let many people take pot shots at vital places.
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Post by 2Green »

Hey Stryke!

I like your avatar, I've seen Mad Max at least a dozen times..."Road Warrior"" as well.

" this is the tough guy testing of the same folks that wont go full contact for rounds because it`s to dangerous for Uechi tournaments ."...Stryke

I'm confused about the context of that sentence. How do you mean it?
I got in on the tail end of the "hard" testing, and now get the "soft" testing.
Soft testing reveals many more flaws in balance and strength, it's more scientific and less macho.

However, the hard testing was also good for me, because it taught me to stand firm in the face of a simulated one-sided "assault" and it required personal resolve at the emotional level to get through.
Students have to learn this one way or the other, in order to deal with intended intimidation in the real world.
For me it was a psychological test as much as anything.
This doesn't mean training to "stand there like a Sanchin dummy" in a fight!

I regarded the hard Sanchin testing as the same thing as simulated "adrenal" or "RimCat" type scenarios...you're being fired upon and you're at a disadvantage...like in the real world. You need to learn how to toughen up and not let the shots shake you. "This is Karate, not Ballet." some might say.

Perhaps along the way this process became abused and got perverted into some kind of sadistic ritual, by some specific individuals; that's the tone I get from the above posts.

But for me, in the situation I trained in, it was a respectful and positive lesson, no damage done, and I felt good coming through it.

Instead of "no pain, no gain", maybe we could coin:
"No challenge overcome, no gain."
Just my experience, FWIW.

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Post by Stryke »

hey Neil , Yeah I`m a mad max fan , Ive a cat here bugging me whos named after the road warrior .

I guess what I was trying to get at is that hard testing is supposed to be a test of conditioning and toughness right ?

well in extreme case it`s just dangerous , I guess youve read the thread on Vans forum .

real conditioing IMHO comes from the constant knocks and gradual development of contact training .

this is what IMHO would be getting tested right ?

so how come theres all this conditioning , and no one I know of runs full contact continuios uechi ryu contests ?

you train for this kind of conditioning right ?

Is it a case of we dont really train for this kind of fighting ?

or is it a case of we do the testing and not the conditioning ?

It just doesnt seem to add up .

the point based emphasis of Uechi , and the full contact testing mentality ?

with full contact you wouldnt need the testing .... and with non contact you wouldnt be prepared for the testing ....

seems an oxymoron from the outside .
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Post by 2Green »


I get your point exactly, and it's an excellent question.

All that conditioning, and it never gets used in "full contact continuous Uechi Ryu contests"?
So, what is the point...

The first point: "all that conditioning":
Some dojos neglect this, some emphasize it, some take it to the utmost.
Safe to say I think that not all UechiKa have a given baseline of conditioning, I think there's a LOT of variation in the amount of conditioning any given UechiKa might have at whatever rank-level.

The second part:"full contact continuous Uechi Ryu contests"...
I think these are a thing of the past, but one of my early Senseis was Louis Hopper and he was a "full contact" Uechi competitor, and an extremely tough guy. Still is.
He was an example of "all that conditioning" and also and example of "full contact continuous Uechi contestant".
He has since branched out into mixed martial arts and kickboxing.
My point is, these people DO exist!

At the dojo where I train, we incorporate conditioning into practice by using unpadded realistic contact, as you pointed out "gradual knocks building up over time", etc.
So the conditioning creeps up on you.
I've had 3 or 4 broken toes, many arm bruises, some the area of half a grapefruit, and the usual jammed fingers, contusions and scrapes that make up normal training:--and we're a "play-nice" class.

This all serves to increase my comfort zone so this stuff is no big deal now.
It's normal. THIS is conditioning.
My partner kicks me in the gut during drills? No biggie, I'm prepped.
I whack somebody too hard with my elbow? He/she's ready.
I get hurt more working on my car than in Karate class.

I think this is the way it should be -- we don't do any specific conditioning drills but we train as realistic as practical, with minimum gear, and we get hurt but not killed when we screw up. Lesson learned.
Limp home with an injury we're actually kind of proud of, and say "well, that's just Karate training".

Then go back for more!

The music spoke to me. I felt compelled to answer.
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