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#359172 - 09/26/07 08:18 AM Re: Sanchin versus Tensho [Re: ButterflyPalm]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6665
Loc: Amherst, MA
BP, as a beginner in karate and no CMA, I am having a difficult time 'navigating' the terminology and concepts that comprise 'internal'. It's obvious to me, while learning and watching my teacher and Sensei Hopkins, that the 'internal' aspect is understood...but not really articulated in a way that helps me to bridge to the two different systems. It is much like comparing two languages that share a distant root language...

If you know Sanchin and Tensho, could you elaborate on the 'internal aspects', from a CMA perspective? How does 'fajin' fit into this? And what is known as 'kyusho' in Tensho, which seems like a partial understanding of a larger paradigm.


PS. It might be of interest, to throw this into the mix:

#359173 - 09/26/07 01:10 PM Re: Sanchin versus Tensho [Re: harlan]
ButterflyPalm Offline

Registered: 08/26/04
Posts: 2637
Loc: Malaysia
The whole problem here is that the internal aspect of MA (whether done through Tai Chi or Sanchin/Tensho or some other CMA like 5 Ancestors) is that it is a process, a long, slow process, involving many steps, which is why I said someone needed to spend at least a year with me to fully grasp and understand it; (not to perfect it, but just to understand it) I believe that Miyagi himself was just starting on the process and so, as you say, the internal aspects of Tensho are understood or rather implied but not articulated; the question is can your teacher actually 'articulate' it and go down into the actual methodology in order to bring out the internal aspects of Tensho and teach it? From Giles Hopkins article, we know that he could not and so had to do bunkai with the Tensho kata. Miyagi would turn in his grave.

So being a process, it is not just one thing. I need to monitor your progress and when certain changes happen within the trainee's body, we go on to the next prescribed step and so on, until the trainee reaches the point where the original differentiation between internal and external disappears and merge together, like mixing sugar and water, both starting off differently, but ended up 'together' --- truly hard/soft --- or as Miyagi himself put it 'Goju' From this point on your cannot separate them even if you wanted to and every movement you make involves both.

As I said before on another thread, when I do a Tai Chi form for someone knowledgeable, I need not do the whole 108 or 96 movements; all that is needed is just one movement and if the audience is knowledgeable enough, that one movement is enough, either you obviously have it or you obviously don't and doing the whole 108 is not going to make any difference. Look at that Chang San Feng poem in the other thread again and imagine someone able to physically exhibit all those desirable characteristics and attributes when performing the Tai Chi Form and you will realise the immensity of the subject and that the internal aspects of the MA is not one thing.

So I cannot here just tell you in a sentence "what" it's all about and everything is crystal clear and you know what the 'internal' part of the internal aspects of MA is all about and go right out and do it. You need to be taught to train correctly and from there comes understanding, not the other way around, because it involves transformation of your internal bodily processes and how else can understanding be had other then through training? Try telling an absolute beginner the power and joy that comes from being able to do a really powerful focused punch after years of training; the beginner just had to experience it for himself/herself to fully appreciate what you are telling him, and here we are just talking something 100% external.

I started (more than 3 decades ago) like every other internal beginner in having great difficulty understanding what all this 'internal' thing was all about and all those theories, whether told to me or read in books, made no sense whatsoever; if anything, like you, it led to more questions than answers, because those books/theories were written by people who had gone through the long, slow process, they knew what it was all about.

It's like standing at the fork of a wooded road in the poem by Robert Frost (The Road not Taken) You really need to travel down that road to see what's ahead. I can fully understand the problem of "finding a qualified instructor"; it is not as easy as it sounds when it comes to the internal aspects of the MA.

I am not being dismissive, but now you appreciate what I meant when I said fate plays a part?
I'll rather be happy than right, anytime.

#359174 - 09/26/07 01:17 PM Re: Sanchin versus Tensho [Re: ButterflyPalm]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6665
Loc: Amherst, MA
Thank you for the reply.

As for evaluating the understanding of another's understanding of the 'internal' aspects based on one article, one that 'points' vs. states (and that has a different focus)...I personally wouldn't presume.

As for this comment:

I can fully understand the problem of "finding a qualified instructor"; it is not as easy as it sounds when it comes to the internal aspects of the MA.

I am not being dismissive, but now you appreciate what I meant when I said fate plays a part?"

You are not talking to a newb...only one that lacks the CMA paradigm.

#359175 - 09/26/07 04:20 PM Re: Sanchin versus Tensho [Re: ButterflyPalm]
Shonuff Offline

Registered: 11/03/04
Posts: 604
Loc: London, UK

In another thread where we saw 4 masters (karate/White Crane) doing Sanchin together on stage? it surprised me why the masters from White Crane chose to do an absolutely beginner's Form from 5 Ancestors, something one learns on the first day at a 5 Ancestors School, and not one of the more advanced truly Sanchin Forms to show-case the System. Perhaps those Forms are too long and so may not fit in with the timing of the karate Sanchin performances; ironically it was the karate fellow who took the longest and the rest have to stand around sheepishly waiting for him.

Surely the group had agreed to show the same form in their respective systems for comparative purposes. Also from what I have seen it is quite common for arts to be showcased by way of their core and fundamental aspects, i.e. Sanchin.

Do you know the name of the 5 ancestors form you say is related to Tensho?
It's Shotokan not Shoto-can't!!!

#359176 - 09/26/07 10:31 PM Re: Sanchin versus Tensho [Re: harlan]
Victor Smith Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 3220
Loc: Derry, NH
Hi Narda,

Trying to fully explain the internal arts is very difficult because of different backgrounds, different experiences and personal perception.

From my point of view internal and external are relatively less useful distinctions.

Essentially there is movement in space all of which has external and internal components.
Systems of study may he hard and fast, hard and slow, soft and fast, soft and slow and many more permutations.

We normally accept definitions such as CMA internal arts are tai chi, bagua, hsing yi or Daosit arts where CMA external arts are ones like Northern Shaolin, Hung Gar, etc. But those classifications are not universally accepted even within the Chinese arts. Iíve seen Chinese instructors who donít believe there is a real distinction, just different methods of training for the same goal.

While an art like tai chi is considered internal, there is a large discussion that the Chen systems (considered one of the predecessors of many other tai chi systems) really is just a small piece of Shaolin (as the N. Shaolin temple was about 100 miles from the Chen village).

Now Iíve played Isshinryu for 35 years, which most would consider an external art, and Yang Tai Chi for 30 years, likewise the internal side.

But each has internal and external components. Heck Goju is just ĎHard/Softí or ĎInternal/Externalí, which of course brings us to the discussion of Tensho.

While I live that Chi is a component of my training, and existence, I canít show it to you, I canít give you a cup of Chi. If you were to spend about 3-6 months playing tai chi with me I could let you decide if there is something to it or not, but you have to personally take that journey. Yet that opening isnít the answer.

I find a better set of definitions like this.
1. The purpose of form is to develop ones energy potential in movement.
2. The purpose of form technique application is to tap that energy into a physical response.
3. Forget trying to put words around internal energy feelings (Sanchin Hard or Tai Chi soft). What I find more useful is that you internalize your movement to use your entire body as one. More perfect alignment in technique execution equals the body not contesting against itself, and with less effort you generate greater response.

So whether Hard and Fast, Hard and Slow, Soft and Fast or Soft and Slow, the long term goal (often requiring 10 or 20 years) is continually working to make the body move more efficiently, to do more with less movement for greater effect.

Now consider Tensho in that light. It only takes a short time to move to wave your hands around, but to internalize your motion so your entire body is within those hand movements is more difficult.

While Tensho isnít part of my Isshinryu training, I have studied it from several traditions. More interesting was Ernest Rothrockís version called Tension Form from his Pai Lum training. Daniel Pai originally taught a form of Goju and eventually taught various Chinese traditions. Their Tension form is most definitely a Chinese-styled variation on Tensho, but more interestingly the advanced study requires three entirely different styles of breathing. The first level uses a sssssssss breathing pattern. I was once shown the 2nd style and it was so hard my side immediately got a stitch in it, but I was only shown it once.

So how to make this intelligible, for words donít really do it. Iím going to reference some youtube clips. Look the best performances are rarely on youtube, but you can still find some indicative steps. BTW these clips are and arenít perfect, but sometimes we see great things by seeing the imperfections, nor on a different day and a different place any of them may be much better (or worse) too.

Look at the following three versions of Tensho. The first shows a much greater total body involvement in the techniques. The 2nd is also doing so but differently. The third demonstration, a good public display, shows a very different approach to the hand techniques compared to the full body involvement.

Theyíre all using internal energy with their external movement, but look how differently?

Chinen Shinzo Sensei performing Tensho
Filmed at the Jundokan in Naha, Okinawa.
Tensho Kata by Hichiya Yoshio
Goju Ryu Karate Do Association of Singapore - Tensho Kata

Now let me show you a Hard style with great, IMO, internal development. As I see this the performers body is so unified in its motion, they can flow between techniques. Most definitely external, yet most definitely internal.

Yanqing Tui

Just to change the mixture, take a look at this form, the length makes it a tremendous long term study.

Five Animals Eight Methods Fist wu xing ba fa

To specifically see rather fair body unity in movement I offer a few tai chi forms from different systems of study, traditional forms, contemporary competitions forms, etc.

Chen Tai Chi
tai chi Yang 48
Tai Chi Yang Style (XIN) Fast Forms
Sun style Tai Chi 73 Taiji

Back to the hard, let me offer an old friend and a students old performance. Theyíre not perfect, but I feel they show working towards full body involvement with a technique.

Gojushiho Kata
Kusanku Kata

Finally back to Okinawa and some other considerations.

1990 Okinawan Karate ~ Kobudo Festival Demonstrations
Kama Ė Akamine Bo Ė Masanobi Shinjo Goju Suparimpe Ė Goju Tensho - Ryuko Tomosose Uechi Suparimpe -

Matayoshi performing Okaku
Matayoshi Hakkucho Kata
Kusano performing Hakucho

In the end there is just technique moving through space inserted into an attack line of movement, hopefully with the correct angle of entry, and the technique drawing from energy developed through kata, kuen, form study.

Or at least thatís how I work it.
victor smith bushi no te isshinryu offering free instruction for 30 years

#359177 - 09/28/07 07:23 AM Re: Sanchin versus Tensho [Re: Victor Smith]
CVV Offline

Registered: 08/06/04
Posts: 605
Loc: Belgium
I learned that tensho is a cool-down kata.
You can start training any kata but must stop training with tensho kata. It will rebalance the energy.

Sanchin and tensho seem the 2 opposites as hard and soft.
Sabchin kata contains mainly hard straight techniques. tensho soft cirsular techniques. But evetually you will learn to use hard and soft together in one technique.
This is learned in relaxing/tensing at the right moment.

So the value of training sanchin and tensho as basic training kata is to understand how hard and soft melt together.

Internal and external has another dimension to me. External start with developing muscle strength and learning to generate power from a static posture. Internal points to alignment and timimg in motion to deliver power in technique. Karate starts with external learning. I am told that tai-chi hsing-yi and pa-kua start from internal perspective.
For goju-ryu the 2 principles melt in training the body mind and spirit(chi) to act as a unity, to have explosive power in technique (fa-jing).

When I train sanchin and tensho I usually feel revived and sometimes light (especially with tensho). My joints feel stretched and I feel that I can strech deeper.

Sanchin is the basic training kata and tensho is the closing kata in our training system of Goju-ryu.
That these kata should not be tempered with is actually historical not correct. There are 2 versions of sanchin created by Miyagi and one by Higashionna and there are 2 vesrions of tensho. However, the breathing seems to be simular in all the systems although some do it longer and with more noise than others.

The tensho kata was developed in view of a trip Miyagi made
to Fukien provence in China around 1915 together with a white crane master Gokenki. There is already a first displey of this kata on film in 1918. It is odd that it is related to rokkishu as it looks more like some crane sanchin kata I have seen on the net than the rokkishu kata's I have seen on the net. Perhaps Toon-ryu rokkishu kata can give an answer ??

I would like to hear Butterflypalms perspective towards internal/external in regard to 5 ancestor/southern tiger and white crane systems. They are not regarded as internal systems or are they ???

#359178 - 09/28/07 11:27 AM Re: Sanchin versus Tensho [Re: CVV]
ButterflyPalm Offline

Registered: 08/26/04
Posts: 2637
Loc: Malaysia

They are not regarded as internal systems or are they ???

They are not generally regarded as internal systems, which does not mean that at a certain stage of training, internal elements were not introduced to enhance or rather complement the obviously hard external features, just that not many students stayed long enough with their masters to reach that stage. I know of one of the very first students of master Chee Kim Tong (who brought 5 Ancestors to Malaysia from Fukien province after WWII) actually broke off his almost 20 years of relationship simply because master Chee kept putting off this aspect of training, even though that student won a gold medal in a tournament held in the 60s and brought much fame to master Chee in Malaysia and east Asia as that tournament had participants from Hong Kong and elsewhere. I know because this student actually complained to me in the early 70s after the breakup. And 5 Ancestors has generally being regarded as a hard, external system, having historically come from the Shaolin tradition. It was called 5 Ancestors because it devolved from an amalgamation of the individual systems passed on from the 5 monks (traditionally 4 monks and 1 nun) who escaped the temple burning.

5 Ancestors (at least as practiced in Malaysia) has meditation, meditative breathing excerzies, static postures and 'soft' forms, just that these are seldom demonstrated in public; what are often shown are the fast, hard forms. 5 Ancestors was not my main system, but I know and practiced enough to see a parallel and can cross-reference between 5 Ancestors and Goju Ryu and hence my participation in these discussions, though from the other systems that I know and practiced I am able to see a common thread running through them all, and confusion and disagreements will inevitably occur when some people see only some and not the others. The blind men and the elephant?

I can be wrong or not having seen enough of course, but I am saying this is what I know and have trained for it at this juncture of my life (aged 58) and I hope to improve and thus bring myself up another level until the day I die, and if there is a 'beyond', beyond even that.

Coming back to Goju Ryu, as you mentioned, Tensho is used to complement (I wouldn't say 'balance') the hard Sanchin kata, and when trained long enough (and, controversially, correctly enough) these two seemingly diametrically opposed kata will become one, like, as I said, mixing sugar and water, or as you put it, 'melt' together.

The reason why arts like Tai Chi has never being regarded as external is simply because we don't "see" the hard element, but if you have ever being struck by a Tai Chi master, you will realise it is not as soft as it appears, just that a different system of power generation is trained for and used. Look at Bagua and especially Hsing Yi which 'appears' just as external and hard is still regarded as an internal system, why? It is not what it appears to be that makes a system internal or external, but the "adherence to certain fundamental principles in it's power generation" that makes it internal, but here again I must make clear, the initial internal/external dichotomy which a beginning student feels, or rather being subjected to, will disappear over time and lose any meaning for the advanced trainee because both of the internal/external, hard/soft elements come together and act together at the same time; it has to be, if not how else can you use it to fight if you need to vacillate between internal/external, hard/soft?

These internal/external, hard/soft elements are useful only for training purposes because no way you, in the beginning stage of your training, can make them 'melt' together right from day one and so you train the hard part and then the soft part and then at the advanced stage together. By 'together' (and this is the test) I mean you will 'feel' both the sensations of 'hardness and the softness' at the same time, WITHOUT the one opposing or interfering with the other. There is no way I can make anyone understand this part unless, as I say, it takes perhaps a year or so of monitored training as more than just the practicing of kata is involved. It is this 'togetherness' part that has, understandably, caused the most problems to beginners or even intermediates.

So there are two ways to do it; one, eat the sugar and drink the water or vice versa, or, mix them together and take the sweet drink in one gulp.
I'll rather be happy than right, anytime.

#359179 - 09/28/07 12:11 PM Re: Sanchin versus Tensho [Re: ButterflyPalm]
ButterflyPalm Offline

Registered: 08/26/04
Posts: 2637
Loc: Malaysia
I forgot to comment on the tampering or rather not tampering with the classical Tensho kata that you mentioned.

It really does not matter that you have two or more versions of Tensho or Sanchin. There are many versions of Tai Chi and Hsing Yi. The physical movements are but one part of the training. What you must not tamper with are the principles of internal visualisation that governs and give meaning to those movements. Having said that I can understand Miyagi's apprehension because if you haphazardly change the movements too much, you can in a way go 'off key' and the co-ordination between the principles of internal visualisation and the physical movements becomes that much less effective. You don't see any jumping or kicks or left-right turns in any version of Sanchin and Tensho do you?

Anyone can devise a set of 'sanchin' or 'tensho' kata which may look a bit different from the classical ones and still call it 'sanchin' and 'tensho' so long as that person understands and adheres to the fundamental principles involved. Miyagi's fear probably was that people who want to tamper with the classical kata (so that they were digestable for the masses) may not appreciate that and so, unwittingly, destroy the fundamental basis underlying it's practice.

Afterall the words 'sanchin' does not mean hard and 'tensho' does not mean soft, but together they become, in Miyagi's mind, 'Goju', why?

Everyone knows 'sanchin' means 3 Battles and 'tensho' is written with 'ten' using the chinese character radical for 'cloud' with the not so common addition of another radical for 'vehicle' giving the idea of a movement that is smooth, floating, light and yet, like a cloud, appeared solid. And 'sho' simply means palm.
I'll rather be happy than right, anytime.

#359180 - 09/28/07 01:45 PM Re: Sanchin versus Tensho [Re: ButterflyPalm]
Victor Smith Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 3220
Loc: Derry, NH
Hard or Soft, this discussion is interesting.

Tai Chi only resembles soft. My instructor's Wu studies contain both slow and fast forms. I've been on my own most of the past 30 years after my first two years of instruction, with occasional visits with each other. The lessons never stop, but int he beginning as I was practicing karate and he was mostly teaching 'kung fu' we didn't concentrate on the applications.

About a dozen years later I began teaching a small group, and as they were also long term karate students with me we would occassionally trip the light fantastic.

The first time I tried to apply the press I almost caved in my students chest (a mature adult) with the smallest of motions. When I called my instructor about that his reply was "Didn't I ever tell you not to use that on a student."


So is it soft or hard, well the friend who took it in would give one answer, an observer watching the form would have another.

From the perspective of Sanchin and Tensho, Sanchin (Miyagi's version) is a staple of Isshirnyu, but actually I found a great conflict in my studies when I began tai chi and choose to place deep sanchin study way back on the back burner for decades.

When I had the chance to learn Uechi Sanchin it was an amazing revelation, the energy release was clean and hard with normal breathing.

So being slow it took me 10 years before I put it together for myself and finally one day I took the chance and ran Sanchin, normal breathing and full speed. I got an incredible energy release and when I started using its application potential with the same energy, Sanchin technique became one of my primary tools on how I would break up an attacker.

So from my point of view Sanchin is both a basic study and my most advanced training.

Tensho another outside study to Isshinryu crosses back to the Jing Do short range energy techniques of my instructor.
Those techniques alone use circular movement to tear into an attacker. One small use it that any 'block' is turned into a smashing response in the same movment chain. So even if I don't know a form I can show how to use it to great effect.

And tensho can have many layers of approach to study.

Of course it far more limiting than the millions of versions of tai chi, but it's still flowing.

If there is a lesson to this its that how you train actually does become what you are.
victor smith bushi no te isshinryu offering free instruction for 30 years

#359181 - 09/28/07 01:53 PM Re: Sanchin versus Tensho [Re: ButterflyPalm]
CVV Offline

Registered: 08/06/04
Posts: 605
Loc: Belgium
Thanks Butterflypalm for the explanation.
I find it also very hard to explain what I feel is the difference between internal and external. Sometimes I am not even sure if I have the right perception on it. And like Victor said maybe you can only feel it yourselve to recognize it for others.

Sometimes in training, a technique or series of techniques (alone or with partner or with a tool) feels soo correct that it is the most natural thing ever done.

Miyagi was once asked if he could perform kata always perfectly. He commented that for every 30 times he performed sanchin, maybe one or two times the kata was good enough.

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