Variations On The Sanshin No Kata

By Don Houle

Sanshin no kata (sometimes called gogyo no kata) is the starting point for much of the taijutsu that is practiced in the Bujinkan. These single-participant exercises are designed to allow the student to learn and internalize the fundamental motions of our art without the pressure of facing an incoming attack. As well as representing five physical manifestations of movement, these techniques also represent five intellectual and tactical responses to an opponent's attack.

Since these exercises are typically performed alone, they are a great way to train outside of the dojo. Practicing on our own, we should focus on the fluidity with which the movements are performed. Try to get low - begin in a low shoshin no kamae and strive to keep the top of your head level all the way through. Don't dip low and then rise up when changing your foot position. If you find yourself bobbing, start in a slightly more elevated kamae and work on getting lower.

Once you have gone through the set of kata, you may feel that you want to do more. To keep these exercises from getting stale, you may want to add in a weapon to spice things up. Try performing the sanshin using a bokken [wooden training sword] or rokushakubo [six foot staff]. As an example, here is a simple way to do KA no kata with a katana:

This is but one of the many variations of these exercises. Play around with these on your own to help you understand the important concepts that the sanshin no kata embody.