I now get to learn two new kata before obtaining my next belt. No pressure, but there is a lot of tension.
Dynamic tension, to be exact.
Sanchin is a tension kata, and as such running it is very different from running a “normal” kata like my other new one, Empi Sho. Where we typically put our full power into our techniques like punches and kicks, we instead tighten every muscle in the body and push the technique out slowly, using passive resistance all the way. We also breathe out, slow and steady, making it both a good breathing exercise and an isometric workout for the muscles.
Perhaps it’s easiest if I just show you:
This is the Shito-ryu version of the kata, and as usual our Shuri-ryu interpretation of the kata has some slight differences, but it works the same way: run the kata with dyamic tension and controlled breathing. We’re also a bit louder than this guy, but we don’t use the same odd (to me) breathing technique as they do in the Kyokushinkai version. Sanchin comes from the Naha lineage, and if you’re curious you can find some thoughts on its history on Mario McKenna’s blog and on Wikipedia.
I wasn’t terribly worried about holding the tension. My dojo has turned the last class on Tuesday night into a more intense workout, and Sensei Miller always has us run at least one tension kata. Because it was not yet time for me to learn Sanchin, I’ve been running the various Taikyoku kata with tension. This gave me plenty of opportunity to get the breathing and isometric resistance down, which should make things easier as I inch closer to brown belt.
Not that it made learning Sanchin easy, mind you. I’ve been watching my classmates run Sanchin for months, and there aren’t a lot of steps to it. However, the weekend I learned it I found myself asking Noah Legel, another Shuri-ryu student, for a quick review via email. I remembered it right, but the application feels strange at times, especially with tension thrown into the mix and having to nail down the peculiar Sanchin-dachi stance.
I think I’ve got it down, though. Now it’s just a matter of refining the technique, making it look good and making sure it has the desired effect. It’s also cool to see characters running tension kata in movies like The Executioner and knowing both why they’re doing it and how it feels, even if it does look a little awkward on the screen.
Now if only I could shake that dorky feeling when I run it at home…