Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thoughts on Sanchin bunkai

One of the more ubiquitous kata found in the various forms of Okinawan karate is Sanchin.  The movements found in Sanchin are said to be foundational to the rest of karate, and several practical applications can be found for every motion in the kata. 
A pretty smart guy in the blogosphere told me a while back that at their school they taught that every move should have at least three applications - strike/block, throw/takedown, and pressure point/joint destruction.  I'm not too much on pressure points, so I tend to say that every move should have at least two applications (atemi or grappling) but that vital points should definitely be kept in mind.

Following are some of my thoughts on the mostly-grappling applications of Sanchin kata...
  • The hands together pointing down over your groin thing at the start is not a salute. It is a wrist break response to a chest grab/push.
  • The first step forward from yoi into a stance looks like shomenate. It is basically entering strongly and violently with your whole body into the attacker's center while using the arms to wedge in and attack his face.
  • The basic arms-up stance looks and acts a lot like a basic judo clench.
  • The punch/block motions look a lot like vying for an inside grip just like in judo. The center punches also work great as kuzushi.
  • The big elbow motions followed by spearhands are clearing their hands off you and reaching into their center to do something (strike/grab).
  • The swirly motions are basically like the "swimming" motions we use to get around the other guy's arms when grappling. Also implied in this is the idea that your strikes should be able to originate from anywhere along these paths. Thus, you get the exotic atemi, like ear slap, groin slap/chop, overhand hook, eye rakes, and various other vital point strikes.
  • Any step that comes thru a center point under you (i.e. tsugiashi) can be replaced by any sweep or kick. This is (to me) where the lethality and finishing techniques come from. The upper body motions, including the strikes and "blocks" are basically gripfighting and setting up throws, and every time you take a step, you are either destroying a leg or hooking a leg to do a smashing gake-type throw onto a table or chair or etc...
Stuff to think about for you guys who think that this kata is a simple punch/block thing.
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