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Mind, Body and Spirit are generally considered the BIG THREE battles in martial arts. The kata Sanchin is the embodiment of this concept with its name translating to just that and the most martial artists consider those to be the three battles. I’ve always liked Sanchin which is weird as it is slow and a lot of people when they first see it consider it a female kata. Teenage boys in particular hate to learn it. I’ve even had more than one boy tell me

that’s a girl’s kata

It bothered me a lot, since I found it a really helpful kata right from the beginning. At the time I started learning it, my Gran had just died and when it came to the funeral, I used the pattern in my head to regulate my breathing and get me through the day. I found it calming in a way nothing else has given me. I regularly use this kata for stress relief, it works much better than boxing. It’s a moving meditation. The thing is I didn’t want a girly, slow, non-punching kata. A common misperception! Anyone who is aware, knows that culture brings up people believing that anything girly is inferior to everything else. Only a very few people are immune. Most people believe they are not affected by this subliminal cultural bias. Some people think it doesn’t exist anymore.

Sanchin Kata

Me doing Sanchin at my first demo back in 2011

I was stuck, my mind battling with my spirit. I liked a girly kata and I didn’t want to be girly at all. My sensei told me once that my mind was weak. I thought he was wrong and insulting me. I always thought it was my body that was weak. I still think that but not in quite the same way. I had no reasons or insight then, just really strong feeling. In actual fact we were both right to some degree. What he meant is that I had no control over my mind, my thoughts would spiral negatively and I would get upset. To a degree this is true. However, at the time I needed to prove that he was wrong or more importantly that I wasn’t wrong. You see he had taken from me one of the things I thought I could rely on my strong mind. I certainly didn’t have a strong body in any way what so ever. Spirit was something I didn’t really think about as something distinct from my mind, it was also another one of those concepts I associated with being girly or religious.

The thing is I was only partly wrong and the psychologist Dr Tim Cantopher has been working with his patients on the theory that depressive illness is the curse of the strong.

“what happens if you put a whole lot of stresses on to someone who is weak, cynical or lazy? The answer is that they will immediately give up, so they will never get stressed enough to become ill. The strong person on the other hand reacts to stress by redoubling their efforts, pushing themselves way beyond the limits for which their body is designed. When they start getting the symptoms of depression they still keep going, with the inevitable result that eventually their limbic system gives way. If you put 18 amps through a 13 amp fuse there is only one possible result.”

Now he states ‘weak, cynical or lazy’; but some strong people will appear to be all these things, arrogant even, as they fight themselves. The appearance of weakness is often due to being overwhelmed and having nothing left to deal with the situation in hand. People on the autistic spectrum are often overwhelmed, but what a lot of people don’t realise is how much more they are coping with. A clothes label for example can be as irritating as a mosquito bite. The noise you hear in the background as a quiet rumble that you can ignore can be a deafening roar to such people.

Every girl knows from about the age of I think it is five (when you start to be aware of others opinions of you) that to be a female is to be second best to male. I may be presumptuous saying every girl, but I really believe if you ask any woman they would agree.

I actually witnessed this in action one day at a library. Two pre-schoolers talking about their books and the little girl asked the boy a question and he ignored it, so she tried a different tactic and asked again in a different way, he ignored it, then she tried a third time, he still ignored it. By this point one his mum stepped in “didn’t you hear” “yes” he replied. “So why didn’t you answer her?” asked his mum ” I was ignoring her because she was being a girl” everyone laughed and thought it was really funny. The mum did tell him off but the damage was done. I found it quite disturbing that a pre-schooler had already learnt that he could ignore girls and girly things.

Yesterday I decided to take my dog out fairly late after 8pm. How many men would ever think twice about doing or not doing this for safety reasons. This running article sets it out nicely.

Just being female means you are coping with thousands of little pin pricks every day from over concern about our safety and marital and reproductive statuses, to whether we are going to be heard, let alone listened to if we speak, or to whether we should brave not shaving our legs or going with out make-up. Not to mention the media bombardment of how women should look. You can image search literally anything, any word and you will nearly always get a naked or bikini clad woman in the listing.

So if you think about it we are already coping with more on a daily basis.

Considering my background of bereavement and lack of formal counselling I should quite frankly be a puddle of mush. Yet here I am getting up every day and continuing with my life. A weak person gives up, they stop trying to do these basic things and they make others do it for them. I’m not talking about those who are truly ill and still trying every day to get up and function. I am talking about those who deliberately play victim. When you look at people who are abusive, it’s fairly easy to see the selfishness.

So my mind is not really weak but was misfocused and fighting the wrong battles. You can’t win the war unless you fight the right battles. It’s really hard to know what battles you need to fight. I watched an episode of Supergirl recently where the bitchy boss said to Kara (Supergirl’s everyday persona)

You have to find the anger behind the anger

I think this is true of most emotions, you have to find what is really upsetting you or making you act in that way. So this whole thing about being weak and me needing to prove I wasn’t wrong or even about my frustration of how they were perceiving me and why didn’t they understand/see the real me. The battle I really needed to fight was to work out why did I feel so inadequate, why did I feel they might be right. It’s not until you find the emotion behind the emotion that you can actually deal with it and move forward.

Martial arts are extremely good at exposing these feelings, because unless you deal with your mind and your spirit, your body just will not co-operate with you. I haven’t quite worked out how this works yet, but that’s the great thing about martial arts there’s always another layer, an art behind the art.

So for me Sanchin very much embodies my journey, where I’ve worked hard on those three battles – my mind, body and spirit. It is my favourite kata and it is one of three from our nine that I have chosen to focus on. I want to find the Sanchin behind the Sanchin.

This is why they say a black belt is a white belt that never gave up.

These days I can show people how Sanchin is everything in karate. I mean literally in everything.

In Kris Wilder’s book, The Way of Sanchin Hiroo Ito’s foreward states

The very basic kata in Okinawa-style karate is Sanchin, and it has been understood historically that you master karate only if you master this kata. There is also a saying that karate begins with Sanchin and ends with Sanchin, and karate fighters should practice Sanchin every day, three times.

My favourite thing now is to tell boys who have discovered Bruce Lee, Sanchin is where they start learning how to do the one inch punch. OR if they don’t know, I can show them the ballistic version which demonstrates those short sharp punches. Haven’t quite got the one inch though, think mine’s more like 4 inches. Suddenly they find it a whole lot more interesting.

I will continue to work on those three battles as I move forward. I found a new one this weekend which has dampened my spirit, and I think I found 3 layers to this one. Oh wait there is nearly always three layers. Three has replaced seven as my favourite number. Now that is a girly statement! 🙂