Tuesday, 19 October 2021




Sanchin-dachi is a particularly important tachikata in the kata of Naha-Te. However, don't get caught up in the geographical stuff, Okinawa is a small place, and Funakoshi Gichin Sensei was a genius instructor; hence, his fame and the success of his karate. Sanchin means ‘three battles’. These are technically related to the coordination of stance and movement, technique, and breathing; however, also to ‘shingitai’. It is sometimes poetically referred to, in Western karate circles, as 'the hourglass stance'; however, like many other translations, I think this is a disservice to proper understanding.

Naifanchi kata (Tekki) is the tanden base for Shuri-Te, Sanchin kata is the tanden base for Naha-Te. Consequently, these two tachikata and their bio-mechanics, and applications, cannot be overlooked. In saying that, Shotokan gives a top down position for Naifanchi-dachi, as the style is more refined and effective. Whereas, with Sanchin-dachi, most Shotokan karateka are particularly disadvantaged.

Today I’d like to help rectify this problem by correctly detailing Sanchin-dachi. So from now, I will some background info before verifying the correct stance.

In the standard 26 Shotokan-Ryu kata Sanchin-dachi appears merely five times:

ニ十四歩 (Nijushiho): (1) movement four flowing into movement five; (2) movement 32 flowing into movement 33; (3) and the final action, movement 34

雲手 (Unsu): (4) movement 45; and (5) movement 46.

Sanchin-dachi appears many times in the kata Asai Sensei’s introduced. To name a few: 明鏡ニ段 (Meikyo Nidan/Matsumura Rohai), 百八歩 (Hyakuhappo/Hyakuhachiho/Suparinpei), 火手 (Kashu/Hi no te), 安三 (Ansan), 雷光 (Raiko) etcetera. Needless to say, these kata force one to make a correct sanchin.

I’d like to conclude by providing the foundational test for one’s Sanchin-dachi  for projecting power (as opposed to absorbing impact). After assuming migi ashi mae sanchin-dachi extend teisho awase-zuki. From here have a training partner strongly push your palms. With the correct aforementioned form the force of the opponents push will be absorbed into the ground as opposed to being resisted primary by the arms and upper body. Of course practice this also in hidari ashi mae sanchin- dachi and later with various turns, seiken-zuki and so forth.

Finally I explain ‘how to make a correct sanchin-dachi’ in Shotokan-Ryu. Please note that in other Ryuha/Kaiha there are sometimes slight variations.

Key Points of Sanchin-Dachi:

1. Keep the upper body in shomen at all times. No hanmi.

2. Unless using dynamic tenshin (i.e. - like in kata such as Sanchin and Tensho) do not contract the seika tanden forward; rather, keep natural with a subtle lock). This is usually an expansive stance which requires the posture to be upright whilst the stance is inward tension. 

3. The back foot: the outside edge (sokuto/sword foot) points directly ahead or ever so slightly inward. Outward is incorrect. Asai Sensei taught greater inversion of the rear foot, and that's my particular way. However, I need to say that this is the 'Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei JKA style methodology'. I like this as I can generate more explosive power.

4. The front foot is 30 degrees or so pointing inwards.

5. The weight distribution is 50/50 with the knees bent in accordance to spontaneous functionality.

6. The power is inwards towards the seichusen and from the heels directed to the front.

7. When moving straighten the front foot (same as the form of the rear foor) then crescent step to the aforementioned front foot position).

8. Lastly, make sure that the big toe of the rear foot is 'approximately on the same line' as the heel of the front foot. A longer Sanchin beyond several centimeters is incorrect and this is a common error due to the high emphasis on extended tachikata in Shotokan.

I will conclude on that note today. My hope is that this somewhat helps your SANCHIN-DACHI.

This post is dedicated to Chuck Merriman Shihan who just passed away. A master of Goju Ryu Karate, an absolute gentleman, and of course, Sanchin. RIP.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

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