Monday, 13 October 2014

Deep Rooted Confidence 1

Higaonna Sensei performing Sanchin

n obvious and vital part of any martial arts training has to do with physical balance.

Right off in my first Jiu Jitsu class I realised that if I didn’t place my centre of gravity somewhere beneath that of my uke’s, and if I didn’t manage to position  my feet, hips, back and arms in a correct – and balanced - structural order, I’d never be able to pull off a proper hip throw.

The same concerns about balance hit me when I tried my first mae geri keage in Karate class. I bungled my weight transition from the leg I was about to kick with to my supporting leg. Instead of bending my supporting knee, I kept it straight. The result: I rolled my weight too far to the left and toppled sideways.

Of course, to a teenager there are other more critical issues of balance.
Out on a date, wanting so much to impress a girl, I remember feeling my knees shake and my feet losing their grip on the world. Or trying to land a part time job and having the floor of the interview room turn as slippery as ice beneath my self-mustered confidence.

Physical balance: emotional balance. In the best martial forms of training, one is inseparable from the other.

In Karate, we spend hours training stances; in Savate, all techniques must be rooted in the legs; in Boxing, fighters put tons of roadwork, skipping, etc. into building strong legs to support strong punches; in Aikido, practitioners learn to glide effortlessly from balance point to balance point; the elusive Kung Fu system My Jong Law Horn employs stance work that is fluid, ever-changing and unpredictable nevertheless remaining always on balance, no matter what the angle of attack or defense.

Through  abundant training, mind and body feed one another, creating the kind of physical and emotional confidence we often associate with high-level martial arts, no matter what the system. Deep rooted confidence comes from being One.

We become like trees. The healthier and stronger the tree, the deeper the roots. Our martial arts develop deep roots. Our lives develop deep roots.

Let’s briefly examine two very diverse ways in which the martial arts can develop a deep rooted confidence. Today, we`ll concentrate on the famous Sanchin stance. In the next post, we`ll look at a position from the Internal Chinese Martial Arts.


Karate-ka spend decades working on the Sanchin stance. Some basic points to observe when practising –

1.  Slide the right foot in front so that the heel of the right foot is in a lateral line with the big toe of the left foot.

2. This next move requires lots of practise – spread the toes of both feet then press down against the floor with each individual toe. Twist the feet so they point slightly inwards. Each toe acts as an individual lock on the floor.

3. The knees are bent and are directly over the toes.

4. Push the tailbone down, forward and up, tensing the anus and the buttock.

5. Concentrate on the area just below the navel called the tanden.

Higaonna Sensei, in his Traditional Karate Do Volume 2, adds this advice-

Keep the chin slightly down, eyes looking straight ahead

The spine must be straight, shoulders down and chest open

Tighten the latissimus dorsi muscles

Tighten the thigh muscles

The middle of the top of the head should be in a straight line with the back of the heel of the right foot

Breaking material across the body

Breathing must be deep and thorough, with the mind driving the breath through every part of the body. In fact, the breathing unites the mind and the body in one.

As Higaonna suggests, the stance develops roots like a tree, to the extent that others can try to push or upend you without success. The stance is used in iron body type practise, where your partner hits any part of your body, often with maximum force.

I’ve heard it said that Karate-ka of old would venture out during a typhoon in Okinawa to practise Sanchin.  Deep rooted confidence, as deep as the roots of a tree, unbending in a storm.

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