March 3, 2001



Tatsuo Shimabuku doing Isshin-ryu vertical punch sanchin



Norm Losier performs Isshin-ryu sanchin while Navy Corpsman Mike Lawson monitors. Kim Macon, Orthopedic Technician, monitors Losier's blood pressure. Advincula takes photos to document while Physical Therapy Technician watches.

There are vast differences in the way medicine is approached, diagnosis derived, and preferred treatment methods dependent on the country. These differences exist primarily because of cultural influence. For instance, in France diagnosis of stomach disorders often focuses on laying blame on the liver, whereas in the United States, typically the same symptoms would be diagnosed as a digestive disorder. In the U.S. a full hysterectomy is often recommended and performed, without giving thought to alternatives, whereas in other European countries this same procedure would be used only as a last result, if at all. (Medicine and Culture, Lynn Payer)

An entire book could be written on the cultural/medical differences and the impact it has on our perspective of maintaining good health. However, that is not the focus of this article. Suffice to say these cultural differences do exist and play a major role in our perspective of Martial Art health benefits or lack of. They also impact technical preference, training methods, theory, and philosophy. This article will attempt to explain Sanchin Kata from a United States medical perspective. It should be noted that most of the truths we cling so strongly to are merely a matter of our own perspective.

What is Sanchin? Is the practice of Sanchin harmful or beneficial to the Karateka? Is there some magic associated with the Ki or Chi energy that the practice of Sanchin is said to develop, or can we explain this phenomena? In
the summer of 1997 we set out to answer these questions, and to provide scientific proof of said answers.

Sanchin literally means three conflicts. These conflicts being that of the mind, body, and spirit. By being called three conflicts it is suggested that Sanchin is the answer to these conflicts, or at least a path to unification. Sanchin is both an isometric and isotonic exercise, by the nature of muscular tension and range of motion demonstrated in its performance. According to some Okinawan Martial Arts teachers the practice of Sanchin is necessary to the karateka in reaching his/her full potential. However, there are those who disagree and feel that the practice of Sanchin may be harmful to the practitioner and pose risk to the blood pressure, heart, and/or other internal functions of the body.


L-R: Navy Corpsman Mike Lawson takes notes while Orthopedic Tecnician Kim Macon looks on. Physical Therapy Technician Pete Hillburn prepares Sensei Norm Losier for test.

To perform the study we sought out professionals in the sports medicine field. We where able to enlist the help of Kevin Seufert , M.D., who specializes in sports medicine at the U.S. Navy S.M.A.R.T Center, (Sports
Medicine and Reconditioning Therapy) at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, Ca. Dr. Seufert has had exposure to a multitude of sports related injuries. He has been a primary provider for patients from a wide variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. From working with young Marines at the SOI S.M.A.R.T Center, to seeing dependents and older retirees at the Sports Medicine Clinic, Navy Hospital Camp Pendleton, to his work with civilian organizations such as Palomar College and the Iron Man Triathlon. Dr. Seufert does not practice Martial Arts, thereby giving an unbiased opinion to the study.



Orthopedic Technician Kim Macon monitors bood pressure and pulse rate of Norm Losier while he performs Isshin-ryu sanchin

Sensei Norm Losier performs Isshin-ryu sanchin.

Sanchin Kata was performed in the Isshin-ryu Karate method for the purpose of the study. Isshin-ryu is a combination of Shorin-ryu and Goju-ryu Karate style created by Master Tatsuo Shimabuku. Each participant of the study performed Sanchin Kata on a real time EKG (Electrocardiographs), similar to a stress test, for the duration of the
Kata. Blood pressure and pulse checks were performed both manually and mechanically at 30 second intervals during the performance of Sanchin, as well as at one minute intervals for five minutes both pre and post exercise.
Prior to commencing the study it was determined that a physiological baseline should be established as a basis for comparison. This was done by having each participant of the study receive an EKG and blood pressure check while at rest, and while squatting 70% of their own body weight for three sets of 12-15 repetitions.


The 1997 Sanchin study performed and compared in the manner described above showed no significant physiological functioning difference between performing squats and performing Sanchin Kata. According to Dr. Seufert,
"Based on this study I don't find the practice of Sanchin to be any better or worse for someone than the performance of any other strenuous activity, but, as with any exercise program, participants should consult their own physician
prior to starting. Results showed an increase in both blood pressure and pulse in both exercises, however the increase was almost identical. Their where times during the performance of Sanchin that the EKG was unreadable due to muscular tension, but overall it was within normal limits for every participant involved. "I think that a better study would be to monitor the age and cause of death in Sanchin practitioners versus non practitioners of the same ethnic, social, and cultural backgrounds. Says Dr. Seufert.



Orthopedic Technician Kim Macon monitors Sensei Tom McDonagh's blood pressure and pulse rate while he does sanchin.

After establishing that the practice of Sanchin is not physiologically harmful, the questions remain, what are the benefits? Are there any benefits at all? Sanchin does increase the heart rate, control the breathing, and stimulate muscular activity. These physical states are accepted positive states of physical health, but these benefits can also be found in many other proven activities. So what makes Sanchin special? In any type of competitive athletics, or even in combat, one will perform the way they train. Runners run, boxers spar, and Marines fight the way they train. For
this reason it would be wise to incorporate Sanchin practice into ones routine. Sanchin,s focus on breathing, muscular tension, self-control, physiological systems control, and the use of simple techniques used during
the practice of Sanchin contribute to a balanced martial artist and develop key attributes necessary in a self defense system.


Sensei Tom McDonagh performs Isshin-ryu sanchin while Navy Corpsman Mike Lawson monitors EKG and Orthopedic Technician Kim Macon monitors Sensei Tom
McDonagh's pulse rate and blood pressure

Orthopedic Technician Kim Macon monitors Sensei Tom McDonagh's blood pressure and pulse rate while he does sanchin

But what about the claim that Sanchin develops Ki, or in Sensei Advincula's term, Chinkuchi? We do not have a way to measure this theory in western medicine, but consider an alternate theory. We do not have a clearly defined word for Ki, Chincuchi, or "life force in American medicine. American culture tends to view western medicine in scientific terminology, while Oriental medicine focuses on a way of life philosophy. The philosophy of oriental medicine focuses on all things in life gearing towards enlightenment and the extension of life versus the philosophy of western medicines attitude of preserving life and fixing what,s broken. One must admit that preventative medicine still takes a back seat to surgical procedure in our country, in many aspects, including prestige, compensation, and reality. When considering these differences between cultures, it is safe to assume we do have a word for Ki in western medicine, bioelectrical energy. This realization removes much of the world of martial arts out of the unknown and into proper perspective. There isn't any magic to what we are doing, it is scientifically sound, and can therefore be understood, developed and implemented by anyone willing to commit to the necessary discipline.


This assertion will no doubt irritate those too lazy to exercise or train with a realistic mindset, and also those who make their living on mysticism and secret selling. But if martial arts are only for the special few, the enlightened ones, then really, what good is it?



Sensei Mike O'Leary performs Isshin-ryu sanchin

 Orthopedic Technician Kim Macon monitors Sensei Mike O'Leary's blood pressure and pulse rate while he does sanchin

We don't understand everything. Life is about change and growth. I do believe it is reasonable to assume that while energy/Ki cannot be created or destroyed, (Newton-"The energy in the universe is constant, it can neither be created or destroyed), through the practice of Sanchin, it can be harnessed, controlled, and directed through practice. We are all part of nature, and everything from a human cell to a car battery redirects energy. Solar panels don't create energy, but they do harness and re-direct it. The practice of Sanchin can be viewed as a solar panel, by helping to harness, control, and re-direct our internal energy, Ki, or Chinkuchi.



Sensei Mike O'Leary uses weights with 70% of his own body weight and does squats of three sets of 12-15 reps for comparison reasons


About the author: M.W. Lawson is a Navy Corpsman. He has a B.A. in Behavioral Science and is working towards a Physics degree. He has practiced Isshin-ryu Karate since 1991, Hindiandi Gung Fu since 1998 under Sensei A.J. Advincula and Sensei Keith Craig. He has boxed for James Doolan, golden gloves, and under the U.S.M.C. team under coach "Pineapple" aboard Camp Pendleton. He has published several articles including recent poetry in "The Silence Within", a collective poetry works by the International Poetry Society. He currently lives with his girlfriend in La Jolla, California, and is a member of the Isshinkai and teaches Advincula's Martial Arts at MCRD San Diego.

 Advincula doing Isshin-ryu vertical punch sanchin

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