I'm confused as to how this kata is to be preformed. I understand it is a slow and muscle building kata, paired with the hard breathing.

Which foot slides into sanchin dachi first? I was confused on this as well.

Any help explaining the technicalities about "sanchin no kata" would be helpful.

  • 1
    Just wanted to chime in: Some karate styles such as Matsumura Seito Shorin Ryu practice their own Sanchin kata without dynamic tension. The goal is not to build muscle. They practice it with relaxed, gentle movement and use a different kind of breathing and kiko with it. It's a soft version, compared with most other sanchin kata practiced by most other styles. It uses open hands instead of closed fists also. Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 5:02

3 Answers 3


In Isshin-ryu's Sanchin, the right foot is first to step out, but my understanding is that this kata varies from style to style.

Obviously the best way to learn the technicalities of Sanchin(or any other kata) is from a qualified instructor. Sanchin was originally a chinese form, but was adopted very early by Okinawan karate schools. Okinawan styles that teach some form of this kata include: Goju-ryu, Uechi-ryu, Isshin-ryu, Shotokan, Kyokushinkai, and probably several others. So if you are really interested in learning this kata, a practitioner of one of those styles might be able to teach you.

  • Yes, Thank you. I actually have it figured out now, and you are correct, the right foot slides out first. I didn't know the katas vary between different styles, and I am Kyokushinkai. Thank you for your help
    – mgrace
    Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 5:41

If you train Kyokushin, I would like to recommend you to take a look into a book written by Shihan Arneil "Kyokushin karate kata". As I can see, Sanchin kata was explained there step by step, like other katas.

On the other hand, most of my friends found watching youtube videos in slow motion very useful (set up by clicking at "gear" button) Sanchin Kyokushinkai kata

I hope it will be enough for you to remember most important technicalities (like which leg moves when, which hand blocks/strikes in what order). To learn the kata properly, Sensei supervision is required anyway. Experienced Sensei would see at one glance all yours errors and mistakes in stances and techniques.

Be also aware that even different Kyokushin organizations differs on some details in kata. My dojo belongs to Kyokushin World Federation so i.e. some punches are lowered from jodan to chudan.

In addition, I can share with you short instruction how to go into migi sanchin dachi at the beginning of kata:

  1. Bend your knees and sweep a right foot to "clap" to left foot (backbone should remain sill straight and upward). Simultaneously form your fists into lower "cross" (something that looks like juji-uke gedan). Right hand should be closer to body because after rewinding it must agree with the right foot moved forward.
  2. Sweep your right foot that heel of the foot lies at the same line as toes of a left foot and those feet should be at a shoulder width (like in fudo dachi). Right heel should end up turned 45 degrees outwards. Rewind your arms into upper cross at the same time.
  3. Turn your left heel outwards of about 45 degrees.
  4. Strengthen muscles from all bottom of your body, especially those of stomach and buttock. Pull your fists outwards that inner edges of your fists are at the same width as your breast and arms are "growing up" at angle of about 10 degrees. Strengthen lower part of your throat (left small hole for the air) and perform ibuki.

Sanchin originates from the Chinese kung-fu forms "San Chiem" or "San Zhan".

Example comparisons of the various Chinese and Okinawan versions of the kata, this video shows how each style practises it:


It means (in all of the names and languages) "Three battles". Possibly a shortening of "Three Battle Steps".

While there is little to no direct evidence for the following view, the shortness of the kata indicates it was more likely to have originated from a formalised type of 3 step sparring. Something that Asian arts very often make use of early in the training of a technique. As such it would not have have been practised solo, but with a partner.

In various chinese kung-fu systems the convention used within forms to indicate a grip on an opponent is an open hand. Within Okinawan karate systems, the convention is a closed hand. When the kata was brought from China to Okinawa the local convention was used and the open hands were replaced with closed.

Now the kata very commonly has both hands raised with the grip convention. It indicates that when practising with a partner that you would have a two handed grip on that partner. Effectively a clinch position.

The kata is therefore very similar to wrestling "pummelling" drills where the two attempt to gain a superior position. This also explains the use of tension and dynamic tension when practising the kata within various karate styles and the use of the Sanchin stance.

Without a partner providing resistance when practising solo, the practitioner has to provide that resistance themselves. Today, the resistance is often used to build muscle, it's an interesting and innovative way of practising.

Or, put another way. Sanchin is a form of 3 step sparring, teaching wrestling from a clinch. The end techniques differ from style to style and are probably relatively unimportant in themselves, they would likely have changed depending on what was being practised at the time, though they could also indicate good clinch ending techniques.

I highly recommend practising Sanchin with a partner. It's ... enlightening.

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