As regular readers of my blog will recall, I have been aiming to do regular daily practice and exploration of the softer, yin side of my practice. I would like thrice daily, but at work this is difficult and akward, so I am doing twice daily for now. This culminated with a decision to work on some qigong and the kata Tensho. I have found myself doing this the last few days on a very consistent basis, after New Years. This is entirely coincidental and not in line with any sort of resolution, but rather good timing against overcoming a bit of a Christmas cold, feeling energized, and learning one version of the top form in Goju, Suparinpei.
Anyways, in my practice of Tensho I have been experimenting and exploring a few different concepts within the form. I have been performing is with different emphasis on each repetition in an effort to explore muscular tension, internal tension, mental focus, and breath control. I will continue to work on this and develop the internal power I believe inherent with proper practice of TCM and its close derivatives like Goju karate. I find myself preferring the Okinawan emphasis to my forms, and so in this I have been doing research to find out what past masters have thought on Tensho. The information is surprisingly sparse, and so as with all my research I have been pushing for related topics to try to find something with depth. I have resolved to play with the form and my own ideas on softness to try to come up with my own flavour of the form. Achieving the proper, relaxed ideal I have in mind is incredibly difficult but I feel rewarding. As I find myself fond of saying, the way is in the training...
As mentioned above, I have also been focusing on Suparinpei, the crown of Goju. Having finally learned the schematic from my Sensei before the winter holidays, I have been somewhat obsessed with it. Watching videos, reading articles, and practicing what I have been shown and how it contrasts with what I see other styles doing. For those in a similar world, I highly recommend making a study of a given form in this method - find the different versions according to large schools, teachers older and newer and compare what is being done. Watch the hips! Be aware of the breath. See how the practitioner tenses. Be aware of the timing of a single movement like mawashi uke - this technique alone can change the intent of a given application. Fascinating and I feel like I am finally beginning to connect with some sort of central concept for my art. The more I practice, the more I realize I am truly at the beginning, and there is so much progress to make that I am excited for what additional practice will bring.
Anyways, back to Tensho. In the course of my research, I found that many people group Tensho with Sanchin for obvious reasons. So due to the lack of depth people have given Tensho, I was immersed again by people's thoughts on Sanchin. In the past I have read things about Sanchin, and I know that Sanchin is the heart or core of Goju. But until I started reading more about it and really thinking (actively) about this fact, I didn't really feel that I understood what it meant, or how this short and simple form could be at the core. But two things have recently changed by mind, and I am now including Sanchin into my daily practice.
The first is a video I was watching, about an unrelated art. Bak Mei, or White Eyebrow, is a Southern Chinese Quan Fa style with an interesting history. At any rate, I was watching a video, link provided below, when it mentioned a relation between essential basics in Quan Fa and other arts like Karate. This sparked a bit of a revelation to me, and sparked further interest.
Bak Mei Salute power details
I then found a great little intro article, which I believe is taken from the intro to the book The Way of Sanchin Kata: The Application of Power by Kris Wilder. The link to the article is provided below. Needless to say after this inspiration from Bak Mei and the versatility of Sanchin, I have ordered the book and this fuels my own practice and research into the benefits of this basic form. It has been many years since I thought of this form as difficult, and I am glad to be able to discover more depth to this form. I finally get what the interest in this form is, and why it is still so essential to current quan fa styles as well as part (extinct) styles. Forms for combat experience and Sanchin for conditioning. The way is in my training...
Sanchin Kata Fundamentals
So my current twice daily practice looks to be shaping up nicely. Just after I wake and just before I sleep there is one Sanchin and one Tensho waiting for me. Suparinpei is added in as well to help start developing some understanding and depth. It raises other questions I have as well about my art, namely:
- Why do we order the forms the way we do?
- Are the forms a progression from simplest to most difficult?
- Are the forms a progression from most essential to the more obscure?
- Are the forms even a progression and what does advanced mean in a curriculum?
- Why do we study all the forms now instead of only a few?
- If some forms were added after the fact, what is it that they provide in terms of new material?
- If we want to add another form into the style, what are the criteria for its inclusion?
I find all of this providing a great sense of freedom in my training. There is no limit, only that which I set for myself. For now I have no plans or end goals, only to continue training and to continue learning. I suppose that is as close as I will get to a resolution.