The Evolution of Sanchin

Here’s something cool. I found this video (posted below) while hopping around on Youtube. I got caught in a classic Youtube vortex where, in the blink of an eye, I had spent an hour clicking from one video to the next  saying “ohh, that looks neat”, “ohh that looks neat.”

This particular clip takes place at an event called Budosai 2007 in Britain. These guys did something quite interesting – they gathered artists of different styles (all of whom practice kata Sanchin) and had them perform side by side and together. This produced a really neat look at how Sanchin could have developed over time.

The generally accepted history of Sanchin is that the form was brought over from China to Okinawa, where it was integrated into the  indigenous art known as Te. The Okinawans then made changes to the kata as it became part of their training repertoire.

The practitioners seen in this video are as follows:

Pan of Yong Chun Village – Yong Chun White Crane
Chen Jian Feng – Wushu Guan
Shinyu Gushi – Pangai Noon (Uechi Ryu)
Morio Higaonna – Goju Ryu

Here now is the demonstration (original youtube location:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWh-uhw4C9s):

The differences are very intriguing. Most noticeable is the increase in length as it goes down the line. Higaonna Sensei’s kata is significantly longer than Master Pans. I imagine this has a lot to do with the kata turning into a form of meditation+body conditioning, which would both require a longer performance to test the limits of the practitioner.

The open hand/closed hand adaptation is also very obvious. The Uechi Ryu lineage kept a lot of the open hand techniques, while Goju Ryu lineage preferred a shift to closed fist.

The announcer made an important point toward the end: while we are seeing differences in technique, the same core concepts pervade each performance. Tension, breathing, zanshin, and focus can be found throughout the entire demonstration.

Do you do a form of Sanchin? Does it resemble any of these?