Q) What has made you drop your focused breathing and slow speed in Sanchin?
About 25 years of focused study on the issue.
It began the first year I was a new sho-dan. I had received the last of my Isshinryu instruction for life when Charles Murray returned to the USAF for a career. Training on my own and teaching youth left me time to look into other interests and I began to study Yang Tai Chi Chaun with Ernest Rothrock.
I very quickly encountered a conflict between my tai chi training and my Sanchin, and there was nobody I could turn to that could advise me what to do as I was not going to stop either Isshinryu or Tai Chi. After deep introspection on my training I started to continue to practice but de-emphasize Sanchin and continue my Yang studies.
Add to that then I took the advantage to train with many other great practitioners of different arts. The truth is there is not necessarily an advantage in any one approach to training as long as the person has been properly instructed. I fully believe Sanchin and/or Chinkuchi is a great training alternative, but I fully believe Isshinryu without chinkuchi or deep Sanchin training is a great alternative too, and there are incredible MA’s I’ve worked with who do not pursue Sanchin. IMO the key isn’t that there’s just one approach that works, just that there are different, often diametrically opposed approaches that with supreme work function fully.
When I eventually met Harill Sensei at his kata application clinics and heard a very small bit about what he did with Sanchin, I realized he was truly on to a great level of study, but I also realized I could never touch it. There is a vast difference between clinic study and true training. Harrill Sensei’s offering had to be based on years of non-stop work something impossible for me.
I had made my choices at that time, just as I never tried to teach myself Chinkuchi from Charles example. But where you don’t have one thing, your studies may yield better answers.
My years of study at that point made me start to learn how efficient alignment and motion were incredibly important in usage. Those students shared their Uechi Sanchin and Uechi Sesan with me, and in the Uechi Seisan I found an incredible energy release in the study. It made me more aware to work to neutralize a Uechi attack, they use serious tools. (BTW relatively speaking New England has a strong contingent of Uechi practitioners). Course that’s just a theoretical basis for study.
There are many senior Okinawan instructors that I do not feel are holding back. Let me use the Okinawan seniors in Uechi as one example. They show the core of their art because of their skill, and perhaps a form of intimidation in that what they show is how they will take you apart.
In my own case I’ve only shared my students kata to show a point of their passage. To show the steps a sho-dan should pass through. To show what the pressure of competition provides on their performance at the stage they re in. Or at most a clean performance but not necessarily their peak. And why should I show their peak, it’s their surprise after all.
But then I’m not trying to recruit anyone, but to provide examples for useful discussion.
I have learned one lesson, you won’t casually see me demonstrating there, a rule I’m going to bend one time as soon I plan on perhaps sharing my wansu NO tonfa exercise. Not to showcase me, I’m old, tool heavy and slow, but to show a solid way to develop good Tonfa technique.