SANCHIN KATA: The Three Battles In A New Perspective

21 Feb

The within is submitted for the benefit of all life journeymen. The foregoing discussion of the Sanchin Kata is not intended simply as the divine province of those martial artists fortunate to know Sanchin. Rather, every person who reads the within should endeavor to learn the Sanchin Kata and perform Sanchin at least daily. Embrace Sanchin as a long lost lover and Sanchin will fulfill you with its enticing secrets.

The Sanchin Kata is perhaps one of the most treasured Kata of traditional Karate-Do and the predecessor arts of Kung-Fu, Kalaripayat and Pranayama. Within my methodology and ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do, Sanchin Kata is made available to all who wish to learn and probe its benefits and secrets regardless of whether they wish to learn a full Karate-Do curriculum. To borrow from my article on this blogsite entitled Dante’s Issho Dojo (please see the category Martial Ideology Applied To daily Life), Sanchin is the portal to a new contextual paradigm for Kata to be found in Jiriki Kata-Do. This paradigm allows the three battles of Sanchin Kata to be extended into a new dimension.

The translation of the Kanji for the word “Sanchin” offers insight into the attributes that are found within Sanchin Kata.

 Kanji for Sanchin taken from an original Sumi-e drawing on rice paper

As one may see from the Kanji, the word Sanchin is composed of two root words. The root word “San” means “Three” and the root word “Chin” means “Battle”. The word “battle” does not refer to warfare; rather, “battle” refers to conditions, or aspects requiring attention and cultivation by the performer of the Sanchin Kata. Thus, while Sanchin literally means “Three Battles” , the interpretation of the Kanji should be extended to mean “three aspects of the human condition.” Through the regular performance of the Sanchin Kata the three aspects of the human condition are incubated, nurtured and evolved so as to facilitate an enraptured human experience.

Historically, the interpretation of the three battles of Sanchin Kata has been limited to a martial arts perspective. There are many interpretations of the three battles of Sanchin that are derived from the Art of Karate. The central theme of the Karate-Do proclamation of the three battles is the development and unification of body and spirit. This development of mind and body is fundamental to the practice of Karate. In general terms, the three battles of Sanchin have been described as: Breath, Posture and Spirit. All three aspects are to be unified through the Kata. Thus, historically, it can be said that the Sanchin Kata unifies the body (through the elements of breath and posture) and spirit (through the moving-Zen concepts) of the Karate-Ka (one who practices Karate). Such a unification of mind and body elements are essential to the practice and execution of Karate technique and Kata.

Through the Sanchin Kata, the Karate-Ka forges a body that is tough and resilient. A Karate-Ka’s body would be as solid as the trunk of an oak tree and as flexible as the boughs of a willow tree. The spirit of the Karate-Ka would be fostered so as to allow the Karate-Ka to perceive the external world and act spontaneously in accord with the attendant circumstances. Through the Sanchin Kata, the Karate-Ka would achieve a superhuman perception. This would enable the Karate-Ka to be impervious to physical pain and discomfort. The Karate-Ka would also be immune to harmful emotions and spiritual distractions. This state of being forms the building blocks to Karate.

The definition of the three battles of Sanchin within the boundaries of the perspective of the martial arts is, by its very nature, limited in scope. Further, the definition is redundant as it uses three manifestations (breath, posture and spirit, or similar expressions) of only two aspects of the human condition (body and mind). I note here that I am aware of a limited number of martial artists that define the three battles of Sanchin as the unification of body, spirit and “soul”. I submit that such a definition, while it appears hopeful in expanding the concept of Sanchin beyond the realm of martial arts, is dismally disappointing. One need simply explore the definition of soul to be disappointed. I submit that the soul is an improper aspect of the Sanchin Kata for the following reasons. The use of the word soul automatically (like Merlin’s magic wand) conjures up religious connotations that do not belong integrated within Sanchin. Even assuming, arguendo, that such religious inclinations can be suppressed, the traditional and philosophical view of the soul is that at some point it must reside within the human bio-body. Thus again, the definition merely draws upon conditions that exist within the human and fails to account for external universal-environmental factors. This failure results in the human existing as separate and distinct from the universal environment on both a physical and conscious level.

For more than three decades, I have engaged in the practice of the Sanchin Kata. My devotion to Sanchin enlightened me to the discovery that the traditional proclamation of the three battles of Sanchin Kata was incomplete. The traditional proclamation of the three battles possessed a very sever limitation. The limitation is that three battles of the Sanchin Kata were expressed solely within the martial arts context and perspective. Such a perspective of the three battles of Sanchin merely describes two states of the human condition. These two states represent a limited view of the source of physical power, spiritual insight and emotional stability of the Karate-Ka. The two states of human existence I am referring to are a physical state and a spiritual state. To date, the unique attributes ascribed to a Karate-Ka, or any martial artist for that matter, were believed to be solely a manifestation and unification of the body and spirit (or mind) aspects of the human condition.

After many years of continued rigorous practice of and devotion to the Sanchin Kata, I came to realize that clearly lacking from the definition of the three battles is an additional third human quality. It became apparent to me that the three battles of Sanchin must be allowed to break the limiting boundaries imposed upon it by the martial arts perspective. This means that the three battles must be viewed and defined from the perspective of the total human condition. The three battles of Sanchin, as expressed to date, account for two aspects of the human condition that are internal to the human (body and mind). It became apparent to me that the missing, heretofore undiscovered battle, or aspect, of the Sanchin Kata must be external to the human bio-body. I call this aspect the metaphysical aspect of the human condition. Just like the Tesseract shown below illustrates a standard three dimensional cube in a new paradigm of four dimensions, my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do extends the three battles of Sanchin Kata into a heretofore undiscovered new paradigm, to wit: the redefining the three battles of Sanchin to recognize a metaphysical aspect of the human condition that exists external to the human bio-body. Further, by way of my methodology and ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do, the Sanchin Rite (this is a term of art I coined so as to avoid the use of the word “Kata” and the martial arts connotation of the word) is made available to anyone that desires to learn its secret teachings.

The metaphysical aspect of the Sanchin Rite recognizes the presence, consciousness and creative power that exists in the universe around us. In addition to recognizing the metaphysical aspect of the three battles of Sanchin Kata, I was enlightened to a means of incorporating a methodology into the performance of the Sanchin Rite for perceiving this metaphysical realm. I submit that the Three Battles of Sanchin are:

1. Physical Battle, or the aspect of properly breathing while performing all components of the physical movements of Sanchin so as to experience the physical, metabolic benefits of Sanchin;

2. Spiritual Battle, or the aspect your mental processes, emotions, psyche and state-of-mind;

3. Environmental Battle.

It is imperative to remove the boundary of the martial arts perspective and begin to think of the three battles of Sanchin within the overall perspective of the entire human condition. Such a boundless interpretation of the three battles mandates that factors that are internal to the human must be considered as part and parcel of factors that are external to the human condition (including those factors that may exist beyond the ken of human perception). I was awakened to the metaphysical aspect of the Rite of Sanchin Kata only after three decades of practice coupled with an introduction into newly developing sciences, including quantum physics, noetic sciences and traditional and non-traditional philosophic ideologies. To date, I am aware of no other Sanchin-Ka (A term of art I use to describe anyone who practices Sanchin) that has defined the three battles in the manner I set forth. Further, I am not aware of anyone that has promulgated a specific methodology and manner of performing the Sanchin Rite so as to experience the metaphysical aspect of the Rite (or Kata). Perhaps I am the only person willing to commit name and reputation to acknowledging the existence of a third, metaphysical aspect present in Sanchin. I am also confident that Sanchin can and should be learned by anyone who desires to embrace it and learn its secret teachings. Such knowledge can be undertaken independent of a full Karate curriculum. I have developed my methodology and ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do so as to grant practitioners the divine province of experiencing unification and synchronization of not only body and spirit, but the universal presence and consciousness.

Through the understanding and development of the three battles, or aspects, of the Sanchin Rite, one can begin to foster an understanding of the state of human existence I call the Plateau of Human serenity. The Plateau of Human Serenity is the portal to the broader concepts of the human condition as explored through the various Rites (or Kata) of Jiriki Kata-Do. The Sanchin Book (which may be found on the Sanchin Book page of this Blogsite) sets forth the first installment of the Jiriki Kata-Do dynamic lecture and exercise series. The foundation of the Sanchin Kata presentation is the imperative nature of recognizing and awakening the potential gained by existing and synchronizing with factors that are internal and external to the human bio-body.

Sanchin Kata in Tonto National Forest, Arizona

Here is a link for a promotional video about my Sanchin Kata & Jiriki Kata-Do DVD filmed in the Tonto National Forest. Arizona. Please see the “SANCHIN DVD & BOOK” page tab above for information on how to purchase the DVD.



 I remain, as I hope you do, enraptured by the new knowledge to be gained on this remarkable journey called life,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

The Kanji for Sanchin Kata was taken from my series on the Mokuroku No Kata of Goshin-Do Karate entitled Goshin-Do Kata-Jitsu: Volume Three: The Goju-Ryu Influence (Issho Publications, E. Rutherford, NJ 2002). 

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2 Responses to “SANCHIN KATA: The Three Battles In A New Perspective”

  1. Peter St-Onge January 2, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    I’m glad to have read your article on Sanchin. It’s nice to see someone who truly appreciates the depth and value of the Sanchin kata. I’m personally conducting my own studies into the health aspects of practicing sanchin daily, in addition to specific times of the day. I’ve been studying goju ryu for 25 years now and I am continually amazed at what I learn about this kata, both from experience and from my peers in martial arts. I would love to hear more of your thoughts on this kata should you be willing.

    Peter St-Onge, 4th dan
    Simco Goju Ryu
    Ontario, Canada

    • Sensei John January 2, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

      Dear Sensei St-Onge:

      Thank-you for your kind words. As someone who has decided to embark upon his own “Sanchin Pilgrimage”, I hope you remain encouraged to continue your exploration of Sanchin. The key, I submit, lies in continuing to practice Sanchin within the context of the three battles as I defined them and developing applicable physical & spiritual technique with the Kata. You may also then enliven the three battles within similar traditional Karate-Do Kata & apply the results of your Sanchin exploration. I would recommend Seienchin Kata as a natural evolution and then Suparunpei Kata. In fact, the series on my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do will continue in 2012 with a DVD and Book on Seienchin Kata, technique, ideology & philosophy of the duality of nature & human life.

      You may always feel free to contact me, provided, of course, that same does not interfere with your relationship with your Sensei.

      My best wishes to you,

      Sensei John Szmitkowski,
      Karate-Do No Renshi
      Goshin-Do Karate-Do

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