What is kempo (karate-do)?
“KEMPO IS SANCHIN, SANCHIN IS KEMPO”
Sanchin dachi – the Hourglass or X-stance
Sanchin is commonly regarded as an isometric dynamic tension and respiratory kata, and has a prominent role in a number of hard and semi-hard schools of fighting arts. It builds a basis for everything else in karate training. The name means three battles or three conflicts, as San means three and Chin means battle, conflict or war.
In the Shaolin Temple, where Sanchin was one of the fundamental exercises, it was practised not for martial purposes, but to enhance the study of Buddhist teaching. The concept was that there were three inner conflicts that needed to be mastered in order to allow spiritual progression: mind, body and speech (inner and outer communication).
Regretfully, this purpose of Sanchin was lost over time and forgotten, so now a tai chi chuan student might be puzzled by the introduction of this kata into my class-routine.
The main purpose of Sanchin, the hourglass stance, is to awaken awareness of our dual nature. Even its visual effect communicates the double-pyramid idea, and by adopting this stance a practitioner is reminded of the true meaning of karate training.
Apart from this esoteric value, the stance also works on the exoteric, the physio-energy level. It increases body awareness; improves coordination, spatial orientation, strength, flexibility, balance and precision; and integrates the body with the basic mental and energy forces.
Through the Sanchin stance and the Sanchin form, the student learns how to extend the mind or spread awareness throughout the body. Mental concentration aids the integration of movements with inner, vital energies, with the result that we no longer see an empty motion or a clumsy-looking energy-kata. When the stance and the form have been learnt well, we again see the movement initiated from within, and it perfectly reflects the well-known statement: Where the mind goes, chi follows and mobilises the body (Tai Chi Chuan Classics).
Sanchin integrates the five body triangles into a precise, interlinked and energised assembly. This 5-fold assembly might later, once refined through other types of training, serve as a conveying mechanism, an interchange between the higher and the lower levels.
There are slight variations in the execution of this kata, depending on the martial style. Regardless of the details such as an open palm or closed fist the approach should be the same, in line with the nature of this form.