Last night (Wed 5th Sep ’12) I was privileged enough to be in the right place at the right time!
Partially in response to a question I asked about a deeper lesson of the Kata Sanchin earlier in the week, the Dojo was treated to a master class in body mechanics.

Sensei Dan Lewis teaches the different aspects of the Kata as ‘Float, Sink, Spit, Swallow’.
Based upon my understanding of what was taught last night, and coupled with my own understandings, I shall try to explain the key aspects with more than just a nod to the Yin Yang duality:

Float and Sink:
This is to generate power (usually sudden or explosive) in an upward / downward direction – to enable an uplift / throw, or downpull / drop.
Say you were carrying a sack of potatoes with the intention of lifting onto a shelf at say, a high head level; a reasonably difficult task for most people.
Through strength alone you already know through everyday life experience that you would be able to lift it to about chin level, but to get it higher you will need to provide a little extra impetus to throw upward for the last bit.
To generate this extra upward movement, you actually need to drop down just a little to generate a spring-like load in your legs, torso and arms.
In doing this you are actually, initially travelling in the opposite direction to where you want to go. You are sinking down in order to float up.

In Yin Yang terms, you are fuelling the seed of Yang (hard, masculine, ‘floating’)within the Yin (soft, feminine, ‘sinking’)… an analogy could be that you need to wind up a spring in order for it to kick out. Without tension, it remains’ in a condition without potential… it is actively ‘dead’.
In combat terms, it is possible to transfer this ‘energy’ to the opponent through physical contact. The method for the hard Martial Arts (Karate, Muay Thai, etc) is to make hard, sudden, physical, normally a striking contact, that the opponent has no time to react to.
The methods of the soft Martial Arts (Ju Jutsu, Aikido, etc) is to be more subtle and make small changes to the practitioners muscular tensions, and skeletal alignments to apply the force suddenly and smoothly without warning.

Spit and Swallow:
In a very similar way to the above, it is necessary to first ‘travel’ in the opposite direction to the direction in which you wish to go.
To Spit is to reject, or to force away.
To Swallow is to receive, or to absorb.
If in throwing the sack of potatoes upward it doesn’t go quite far enough, it will fall back toward you. In order to catch it you will need to ‘receive’ it; to swallow the falling force.
Then you would try again to throw it upward, but this time instead of only rising upward (floating) you might also impart a bit more of a push away than the last time… the spit.
To understand the feeling of ‘spit’, try doing a powerful sneeze (or more crudely, try spitting a long way) and observe how your body creates the movement required.
The spit of Sanchin is merely this natural method of generating sudden power, directed where we choose.

At the end of the lesson, he said that we should perform our first Kata, Gekisai Dai Ichi, but try to capture the spirit of the lesson within the performance.
It felt so much different…!

This one lesson will change my Karate practice immensely!


There is another lesson that can be taken from all of this and extended out into wider life.
The idea postulated here is that in order to change from one condition to another, one must first provide the impetus for change by doing the opposite.
Sir Issac Newton realised this when he wrote his 1st Law of Motion:
Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.
This is easily seen when cycling. In order to turn right, one must first turn left just a little to start ‘falling’ to the right and initiate the turn.

Another example is a person throwing a tennis ball. To throw far, one must first withdraw the arm and place the feet and body backwards from the initial standing position in order to ‘load up’ the body and arm ready to throw.

From all of this it seems right to say that any person who wishes to make a change in their life, must first be prepared to do the opposite, or at least be prepared to first take a few steps back in order to procede…