Sanshin no kata, are you doing it wrong?

I was.  For a good 10 years.  Maybe more.

When I began in this art in the prehistoric '80s, no one knew anything.  Well, some said they did.  But looking back, I tend to feel differently.  Not many had even been to Japan, much less separated ninja fact from fiction.  Even something as basic to our art like Sanshin no kata, to this day, you will find fact mixed with fiction.

Since we are currently studying this in my basics class tonight, I thought i would write about it.   My CURRENT understanding of the forms (open to new info), is this:

What is often called "sanshin no kata," is actually only one exercise in a series.  The series includes

Sanshin no kata
Shoshin gokei
Gogyou no kata
Goshin no kata

Sanshin no kata is the swingy arm movement similar to chi no kata.  But it is also a way of moving.  The whole body taijutsu that makes our techniques effective at a basic level.  It can be used in the context of nearly any technique, from kicks to grappling and the obvious punches.  It should be done in all directions.  The ura form includes the cross with the opposite leg leading.

Shoshin gokei are the five forms everyone calls "sanshin no kata." Chi, Sui, Ka, Fu, and Ku no kata.  Meant to be done solo in the air.  Also moving, and in all directions.  The ura form is included.  Please don't add "theories" of earth movement and water, etc.  The names are simply a counting system.

Gogyo no kata are the same five forms done against an attacker.  The movement can change considerably with the variables of the type of attack given, and the nature of your opponent.  Also to be done with ura versions included, and in all directions.

Goshin no kata is when you do a continuous, non-stop repetition of one of the five forms endlessly without an attacker until one of two things occurs.  The form naturally and spontaneously shifts or changes to one of the other forms, OR you reach satori (a flash of enlightenment).

So far I haven't said much about  HOW to move.  This can't be taught in words.  You need an experienced teacher to help with that.  But even there, many experienced teachers have been confused by misinformation or the lack of information.

If you subscribe to my training notes (if you aren't a subscriber yet, you miss a LOT of free Bujinkan notes), you know how I train on sanshin in my basics class.

I challenge teachers and students alike to examine why they do what they do.  Where they learned it, where the info. came from.  And when.  Does it make sense?  Would it work?  If not, why not?  Is it because the form is being done poorly or just wrong in the first place? 

I can tell you, when done correctly, our Bujinkan is VERY effective.  And please check in with Japan.  The teachers there can help you sort through all of this.  If not, you throw out thousands of years of knowledge and are floating free in a fog of your own confusion.  I might visit you there, but I try not to overstay my welcome.



This is a very interesting article!
There are many many different things said about Sanshin no kata. In my begin period of Bujinkan, back in 1989, we called it all "gogyou no kata". Later we called it "sanshin no kata". Nobody ever could explain this, and it was just thought to be different names for the very same thing.

What you tell us here makes sense, I must say!

Bujinkan Santa Monica

Yes. Thank you for checking it out. The Bujinkan can sometimes be confusing for those of us that started in the '80s. When I started, no one ever said the word "Bujinkan," much less understood the kata names. Back then everyone just called it ninjutsu.

It does help my training now to try to understand the origin and structure of our art. Which includes learning some Japanese!


If anyone wants to know what Sanshin no Kata etc is, just ask Soke.

Everyone else is wrong, even when they are right.


Haha, I just found this back! Great! :D

I remember back in the late eighties... when we trained musha dori and musō dori.
We got the names all wrong.

We have been taught that wat we call "musha dori" now, would be "gosha dori", while our "musō dori" of now was "musha dori".

It took me years to find out that it actually is "musha dori" and "musō dori", and that "gosha" is just another way of reading the characters of "musha". Thus: "musha dori" and "gosha dori" is the same thing.
And it took me yet another couple of years to find out that it might have been a mistake of Manaka that has begun to lead an own life. :)

Bujinkan Santa Monica

Good points Kennin. Us old guys learned lots of nice things in the eighties. Too bad we didn't know what the hell we were learning. Hopefully we are a little wiser now.


Claudio : Very good article Michael! Thank you very much for your knowledge! Greetings from Argentina!


I always like to come back and reread this article...ESPECIALLY when people ask "how to do the Sanshin"

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