2015/16 Charity Challenge
by Richard Barrett

As outlined already this year's challenge was based around Sanchin kata. I woke at 6.30 am on the 1st of January, fed the dogs and cats and made a cup of tea, for an Englishman cannot start the day without one.

My challenge started just before 7 am whilst the rest of my family were still asleep. I entered the Shinsokan and bowed, didn't sweep the floor as the day before I had swept and mopped and said goodbye to another year. I said aloud our dojo kun and bowed towards my Tokunoma, then, with a timer, got myself into the first of six Sanchin positions and set the countdown going. Ten minutes in and the temperature in my body had started to rise and pain had started to surface.

It was then that I remembered, when working with an elderly English builder, what he had told me about pain. We were working on my house, going back 16/17 years ago and concreting a second floor. My job was hauling, by rope, buckets of concrete about 3 metres up to this builder who was laying it. After an hour or so I must have displayed or said something about the fact that my arms and/or back were aching. He said, bluntly "If you are in pain, just ignore it and get on with it". I hadn't forgotten this advice and as I remembered him, I smiled.

Trying to occupy your mind and lead away from the challenge and the sensations it gave you is hard. Where I was situated I was able to look at some of the pictures and writing I have displayed on the walls of this dojo. Next to me was the Kempo Hakku, the eight laws of the fist. So I was able to read each one and contemplate their meanings and this saw me through to the timer sounding and changing position, I also took time for a drink of water and turned on some Okinawan music, another distraction, I hoped. This time I turned and faced the tyre inner tube and again made the required kamae.

Shinsokan Dojo

This year's charity is to be donated to MS, a dear friend of mine has it and I thought of them at this point and it gave me added conviction to hold firm. Speaking of holding firm, to my right there was a mirror and I was looking sideways, looking to correct my form, not wanting to lean away from the resistance, when I looked down and noticed my feet, my toes and the sole of my feet to the heel were pure white. The resistance and gripping to the floor having pushed the blood from them.

The timer sounded and I turned and assumed the morote nukite kamae of Sanchin. After a few minutes of this, with the elbows away from the body, my shoulders started to scream at me and I tried to position my arms without losing form to deal with this. I also contracted my Lats as hard as possible to counteract the shoulders pain, it worked and I held position and listened to the music.

Before starting this challenge I thought the area to be most affected and worked was going to be the core, but I was wrong and after half way through, the legs were taking a beating. Facing away from the resistance, the front of my legs, my toes, ankles, shins, knees, thighs and hips all ached. Facing towards the resistance, the backs of my legs paid the price. At one point the front of my left hip got cramp, luckily it faded away a few minutes later.

I was in the second half of the challenge now and although you are still in pain, dealing with it, knowing you are on the last stretch, always seems easier. Occupying the mind, leading it away from what you are feeling is the key point and not wondering when the timer is going to sound, although I have to admit on one occasion, when it seemed like ages and it hadn't sounded, I had a look, just in case I hadn't started it, luckily I had and only had to wait another couple of minutes before the next change.

I continued to look at pictures, Chojun Miyagi Sensei, Eiichi Miyazato Sensei, practising together, posing for the photographer, wondering what that day was like and their training back then. In the second half of this Sanchin challenge I also took the opportunity to work on my breathing and although I couldn't move I still trained and used my imagination to trace the chikara michi paths with my breath through my body, starting with the legs, then the body, then the arms and, finally, together. This again occupied my thoughts for some time. I worked on the duration of my breath and would count the inward breath up to 10 (in my head) and then the equal amount for the outward breath. The next cycle I would increase the count until I couldn't achieve it and then come back to the 10 count.

Shinsokan Dojo

The 3 hours passed and this Sanchin static challenge was completed, it just left me the final task of walking a couple of meters to face the Tokunoma again and perform Sanchin kata, but having just held sanchin-dachi under tension for the past 3 hours, I found it hard to walk. I laughed out loud as I shuffled to the centre and couldn't make musubi-dachi correctly as my feet had been turned in for so long. But I must say this kata felt very strong and I could feel all of those connections throughout the body, both front and back. It was a rewarding exercise and kata, but I still couldn't make musubi-dachi at the end though, ha-ha.

Shinsokan Dojo

I bowed out of the dojo and spent the next half an hour walking around the house and only then did my legs free themselves and, of course, all of this was followed up with another cup of tea.

To those who took part and contributed to an MS charity, well done and thank you. To all those who thought about it, then made an excuse and didn't attempt it, shame on you, you missed out on a good challenge that would help your Sanchin kata, but more importantly your mind. Your physical Karate should challenge you which in turn challenges the mind. Determination and courage are two attributes that a karateka should strive for, not for a fight, but in dealing with life.

When talking to my friend in Japan, Susan Eddie, a Godan in Goju-Ryu, she told me of her experience during this challenge and also explained how she added to it, by using two inflatable balls, she gripped between her legs. Well that put me to shame, ha-ha. Next year I might leave the charity challenge decision up to her... but then I might live to regret it.

Richard Barrett
January 2016

“No matter how you may excel in the art of Karate, and in your scholastic endeavors,
nothing is more important than your behavior and your humanity as observed in daily life.”