Sanchin – “Three Battles/Conflicts”
One of two “heishu ” Kata of Goju-Ryu, Sanchin is probably the most misunderstood Kata in all of Karate. In contrast, it is probably the single most valuable training exercise in Goju-Ryu. Like the other Kata of Goju-Ryu, Sanchin can be found in several Chinese arts (San Jan), particularly the southern styles including four styles of Crane Boxing, Dragon Boxing, Tiger Boxing, Lion Boxing, Dog or Ground Boxing and Monk Fist. Sanchin has such aspects as deep, diaphragmatic breathing found in many internal arts as well as external attributes like mechanical alignment and muscular strength. Because many martial artists have little or no understanding of the true history and nature of the Chinese arts from which Okinawan Goju-Ryu has its roots, Sanchin has become little more than an isometric form performed with dangerous tension and improper breathing techniques.
The original Sanchin that Higaonna Sensei learned from RuRuKo (1852-1930) was performed with open hands and with less emphasis on muscle contraction and “energetic” breathing. With the changes brought about by Emperor Meiji (Meiji Restoration Period 1888-1912), Higaonna Sensei changed the open hands to closed fists as the martial meaning was no longer emphasized. Later Miyagi Sensei would again alter the Kata in pattern alone.
Sanchin translates as “3 Battles” or “3 Conflicts”. This has many meanings. First it refers to the struggle to control the body under physical fatigue. With fatigue the mind begins to lose focus and thus the spirit begins to diminish as well. Therefore Sanchin develops discipline, determination, focus, perseverance and other mental attributes. The Chinese refer to this as Shen (spirit), Shin (mind) and Li (body). Another possible interpretation refers to the “Three Burners” of the body as described in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).