Meaning “three battles”, I learned about sanchin while studying Goju Ryu style karate. Sanchin has specific meaning in the martial arts context, but it has a broader meaning too.
There are at least two interpretations of what sanchin represents, and I find both inherently true.
First, there are three things we try to unify as we do life: body, mind, spirit.
Second, life is a battle of three things: self, opponent, environment.
During my most intense training days, I could see this with clarity.
1. Some days, I was my worst enemy. When sparring, my body was tired or at times injured. There were days when my mind was my saboteur. I didn’t feel confident against this opponent, or maybe my head was at work or wrapped around a personal struggle outside of the dojo. Either way, the most prevalent battle was with self. More broadly, when does my own motivation, discipline or physical condition work against me?
2. Some days, my opponent was very tough — and even though my body felt healthy, my mind was focused, and the environment was relatively comfortable, my opponent presented the biggest challenge. More broadly, is there a relationship that is especially difficult or challenging?
3. Some days, the environment challenged me most — a three hour training session in a non-air-conditioned room in 95 degree heat and high humidity was a battle all its own. Forget about who fought well or whether I was at my best, continued participation alone was the struggle. More broadly, is the environment I’m trying to function in too hot, too cold, too crowded, too noisy, too spacious, too quiet, too dark, too bright? Is the vibe too negative? Is the culture toxic? Am I trying to thrive but am surrounded by an environment of limiting beliefs?
This sanchin template of tangible awareness has a basic mapping quality about it. It provides guidance for me to ask the right question of myself when I feel ‘off’. Which of these three is bothering me? It’s a starting place, and once I can answer that, I am a step closer to resolution.