Sanchin experiment in Russia

By: Sensei Bogdan Kurilko – IOGKF Russia

A unique research article from IOGKF Russia, which labels the methods and results of a program developed to help improve the quality of conditions in patients in a psychotherapy centre, using Sanchin and Tensho Kata…

Supported by the Administration of the Russian Branch of the Federation, we carried out a unique experiment in the city of Vologda. The instructor for IOGKF – Russia in this region is Yuriy Korma. The experiment has shown positive results so far.

A number of groups of out- and in-patients from the Psychotherapy Center were organized to study Sanchin and Tensho Kata. The groups included physically challenged people, patients suffering from different types of respiratory tract and musculoskeletal system problems as well as those who have had a stroke. Some students from non-medical groups also attended the trainings and helped their instructor. Doctors working in the Psychotherapy Center got acquainted with the two katas and these two katas (Sanchin and Tensho) were chosen as a complex of exercises for the patients of the department for the following reasons:

  1. Katas Sanchin and Tensho (further katas) are a relevant to development and can be applied as a method in the system of therapeutic activities arranged by the Psychotherapy Center in compliance with the innovation program of non-drug treatment. 
  2. Katas allow the making of a basis for the application of further pedagogical, psychological and medical methods as well as for the self-development of patients.
  3. Katas as a kind of respiratory and physical activity helps to develop a more harmonious   personality as it has a simultaneous effect on a number of areas:

    • -  sensitive (it implies the ability to the percept of space, light, sound, colour, motion in a very presice and detailed manner, i.e. the ability to use sense organs at their utmost depth and breadth;
    •  -  motoric (making complicated arbitrary moves and overall physical development);
    •  - personal, emotional and volitional (a detailed full range of feelings, experiences of  life phenomena – nature, surrounding people, arts; dynamics of feelings; ability to maintain a good psychological state in difficult situations needed for successful activity);
    •    - need and motivation area (a set of needs and wants, their hierarchy and incentives which regulate the satisfaction of these needs and wants).

  4.  The applied method is based on a complex of respiratory exercises (Sanchin and Tensho) which have proved their efficiency and during a number of years in Okinawan karate.
  5.   These methods can be used in specific conditions of the Psychotherapy Center and allow in particular to apply individual approach in the treatment of patients. 
  6. Test groups of athletes who have practised Sanchin and Tensho for less than a year have not experienced any negative influence on their health state but on the contrary they have improved it!

The basics of respiration techniques and concentration of muscle work acquired by athletes allow them to solve a number of tasks at the same time: to get rid of excessive pre-start excitement and get ready for the start; to control breath intensity and frequency during, while training and competing; to restore psychological balance after a competition; warm up and activate muscles during warming up and after physical work in a training or a competing process. Sanchin and Tensho can be practised with different intensity and this makes it possible to get muscles ready for work in time and make them recover after a hard physical activity. 

The peculiarities of the organization of the respiratory gymnastics in the Psychotherapy Center are the following.

In compliance with the working plan of the out-patient department of the Psychotherapy Center the length of an individual treatment course if not that long, about 24-26 days (if a patient wants, he or she may prolong the treatment up to 4 courses), then a patient attends special consultations. It is usually the patient’s attending doctor who directs he or she to the training group.

The composition of the group with which a teacher works is diverse and it changes constantly: patients are from different age groups, they have different social status, different diagnoses, they are at different stages of their treatment. The number of people in a group is not fixed. Correspondingly the members of a group are at different levels of the acquisition of the program offered to them, and it should be taken into account in the work.

While applying the system of respiratory gymnastics we stick to the following methodological approaches:

Comprehensive many-sided pedagogical thinking: This principle is particularly relevant because of the fact that the clients are people who turned to the center for psychotherapy aid, people with distressed (exhausted) physical, mental and social adaptive abilities (including those in a difficult psychological state, the so-called “closed” or aggressive, who are bad at establishing contacts). Let’s take an example: according to this approach “laziness”, “disobedience” are considered not only as a consequence of absence of discipline, neglect (from the pedagogical point of view), but also as a symptom of a disease in the situation of chronic stress, danger for health and mental development of a person (from the medical point of view).

”Treat as an equal” approach: There is not any authority which suppresses the freedom of personal expression and strengthen the defensive “shell”; this approach creates comfortable environment of interaction (including non-verbal) in a group, the atmosphere of mutual aid and mutual teaching (exchange of experiences, impressions including interaction worth the instructor); the instructor’s position is based on the principle “we all study”.

Person-oriented, individual approach: This approach takes into consideration individual peculiarities of communication; while evaluating a patient’s achievements we compare his or her results with the previous ones; the acquired knowledge and skills can be applied in a creative way (at later stages tasks on involving patients in unknown exercises and making new combinations of movements are introduced).

Differential approach: Selection of different systems of exercises regarding peculiarities of a group.

Positive atmosphere during trainings: (cordial, sincere, “without tricks”).

Active use of feedback: Feedback is established already at early stages of the program (which is particularly relevant during short-term courses).

Creating situations of success: Acquisition starts with tasks which consist of a number of repeated elementary moves and positions; when they are done, a substantial appraisal from the instructor is expected (with a detailed indication of an achievement), and an internal (psychophysical) feeling of comfort (which gets stronger as a result of recognizing a successful body movement).

This method is applied with the following objectives:          

-to give socially acceptable exits for emotions and feelings, to eliminate physical tension (to get rid of “clenches”);

-to teach how to control breathing, coordinate breathing with different types of physical activity;

- to make the treatment process easier;       

- to develop internal control;

- to develop kinesthetic senses and ability to percept them;

- to develop a positive image of one own body (and consequently of the positive “ego”;

- to improve (create) social contacts through verbal and non-verbal communication.

The tasks are:

- to teach how to strain and relax groups of muscles in an arbitrary way (including as a non-verbal means of expressing emotions);

- to teach how to control breathing (frequency, duration, exhale/inhale volume) and coordinate breathing with different kinds of physical activity.

- to develop abilities for perception of internal feelings, to extend comprehension of the own body (which improves physical and mental wellbeing) ;

- to develop the ability to subordinate movements to the rhythm;

- to develop the ability to coordinate different types of physical activity;

- to develop attention, memory, accuracy of movements, thinking, self-control;

- to apply the acquired skills of self-regulation (through breathing control and perception of internal feelings) in a new situation.

Teachers and instructors carry out control using the following methods:

1) observation:

  • breathing;
  • face expression, folds, wrinkles, complexion and other changes of the face skin;
  • visually controllable state of eyes;
  • pulls (strength, frequency);
  • palm condition;
  • straining/unstaining muscles: position; balance, accuracy and fluidity; collar zone and   
  •    shoulders condition;
  • ability to react to hints, remarks and appraisal;
  • attention sustainability.

It should be noted that all the indicators of a patient’s condition depend on a number of factors including age, sex, nutrition and physical activity, body build, occupation, interests, going in for sports, type of therapy, injections and drop bottle prescribed. 

2) Talking to a patient and thus finding out his/her subjective evaluation of his/her state. This is carried out through questions about wellbeing (sleep, mood).

At earlier stages group work is arranged and it has the following tasks: to explain to students an exercise offered, to carry out control over the correctness; then  discuss the feeling and experience and the achievements made.

When it is possible those who train control themselves on their own: they observe their own posture, movements, check their muscles by touching them (muscles tone) and breathing.

Results achieved in the course of training:

1. Training process goes in positive atmosphere, patients “get out of” their hard state (their mood becomes better, evaluation of their own physical state boosts), patients do not leave the training by themselves, they look forward to attending the next training, they express willingness to repeat and to continue the training and communication (they say it in a talk, in notes, in letters of gratitude), recommend the training course to their friends and acquaintances, and bring them to the training.

In whole these facts are an evidence of the favourable effect of the training organized according to the above mentioned method.

2. In 2007-2010 (a training period starts in September) a special questionnaire called Mood. Body. Activity (MBA) was introduced to study the self-evaluation of patients during a session of respiratory gymnastics (a kind of a modification of the established questionnaire called State. Activity. Mood). The time to fill in the questionnaire is given at the beginning and at the end of each training.

Today we have results from 640 patients who attended the course. The respondents’’ after-training MBA points were higher the pre-training ones. The most considerable gap between an after-training and pre-training MBA points was indicated during the first days of the course (i.e. with a “negative” original state, when the overall pre-training MBA point is remarkably below zero).

Moreover, 404 out of 640 participants showed positive dynamics according to the parameters of their state during the 1st training week (exit into a solid “+”); 137 participants – during the 2nd week and at the beginning of the 3rd week, 78 – by the end of the 3rd training week. Seven participants whose pre-training MBA point did not increase during the course showed “surges” (a higher MBA point of the day) by the end of each week. 473 respondents showed a higher pre-training MBA (the majority show exit into “+”) during the training course.

84 out of all the respondents had had a 12-week treatment at the out-patient department which made it possible to examine the patients during a longer course of respiratory gymnastics. As a results it was established that a high pre-training MBA point and a high overall MBA point of the day (exit into “+”) starting from the 2nd and 3rd week of the course, remain stable onwards. 

The psychiatrists of the child and adult out-patient departments of the Psychotherapy Center and the attending doctors of the patients who took part in the course of the relaxation respiratory training made the following evaluation about the results of the training: 

“A level of anxiety becomes lower; communicative contacts become better; mood changes for a more stable one; patients make fewer somatomorphic complains; sleep becomes normal; blocks are eliminated; patients become less fixed at feelings of discomfort; they start being more conscious of present events rather than get closed and fixed at their past experiences or anxiety about future. Patients’ self-esteem gets higher; they become surer of their own forces and staying power in their everyday physical activity. The phenomenon of “opening” one’s own possibilities of which they were not aware before was accompanied with an elated mood, they became more active, their mimic reactions grew livelier, they tried to extend their communicative field and repeat trainings.”

Main features of the relaxation respiratory training in the context of the traditional Sanchin and Tensho kata techniques.

A few points have been changed in breathing and muscle activity of the basic kata techniques. This is due to the fact that the basics of performing kata are to be adjusted to patients’ disorders and impairments. Some of patients are lying-down cases, some are weak for standing upright that is why some katas are perform in a seated position. In the course of time these categories of patients could perform Sanchin and Tensho at an optimal technical level. It should be noted that the offered variant were first tried by the instructor. Moreover, two other types of kata were worked out with a particular focus of breathing and muscles activity. In whole variations in breathing and in concentration in muscles activity do to break the general structure, purpose, and what is more important the philosophy of Sanchin and Tensho which help to gain force, harmony and control over body and mind.

Reasons for choosing Sanchin and Tensho as a basis for relaxation respiratory training:

Sanchin and Tensho help to:

- activate visceral muscles (heart, kidneys) equally as other body muscles;

- strengthen visceral muscles, the effect which cannot be achieved by means of any training simulators;

-  teach how to make a correct inhale and exhale;  

- activate those groups of muscles which are really involved in kata (note that while training breast muscles at simulators bodybuilders usually strain their face first of all);

- ensure correct and proper breathing and activity of those muscles groups which will be involved in kata performance and which will pump a large amount of blood;

- to direct the major amount of blood through large muscles groups (hip, abdominal and cluneal muscles).

It should be noted that practicing these two katas we took into consideration the fact that the main function of the heart is to pump the  blood, however an overall blood circulation and its quality depends, as well on the activity of large and small groups of muscles. That’s why the more harmoniously muscles are trained, the lower the charge on the heart. 

Thus, it is the basic Sanchin and Tensho katas which develop an ability to coordinate the activity of respiratory system, heart and muscles. Remember, however, that concentration of attention at controlling breathing pulls and muscles activity allows to get rid of emotional tension, “switch one’s self off” problems and negative thoughts and gives a great psychological relaxation. 

Conclusions presented in this paper are based as well on the instructor’s personal many years’ experience of applying katas Sanchin and Tensho as a basic complex with a great recovery potential. The author of this paper saw these kata’s in 1992 in the city of Alma-Ata performed by Sensei Morio Higaonna and since then impressed by what he had seen, he started practising Goju-Ryu. By training he succeeded in restoring the main functions of the spine after a severe trauma – a triple spine fracture with a temporal leg paralysis.


Thank you very much for your responsive and attentive treatment to your wards. We come to you with all our health problems, offences, old traumas and we never stop being surprised by getting a positive result from you. The same was with me. I started operating better with my hand, which I had injured as early as in 2003. To top it all one year ago I got attacked by osteoarthritis and I even had to change my tea cup (my hand used to hurt so much with my usual one). I started attending your trainings and you convinced me that the life is going on. That can do a great deal! It turned out to be that I am very strong! I think everybody from our group August-September 2008 will share my word of gratitude. Thank you very much!

We dedicate this short extempore poem to you.

You are with us!

The life is super,

You have a gift for all of us.

May joy be ruler and forever,

And light of victory may last!

Amid the torrent of our weekdays

In a resort of quiet walls

Belief and hope grant us always

As it’s enjoined to human soul.

O.A. Deryagina

We express our gratitude to Russian IOGKF for his training programme of high quality which has had a very positive effect in our treatment. Thank you very much Yury Nikolaevich for your creative work and your attention to every member of our 17-people’s group.

Group under attendance of psychotherapist Baranov V.N

Patients’ signatures subscribed

Note below is made by the woman whose daughter died at the age of 19. After the training programme she and her husband decided to adopt a child from an orphan asylum, they submitted necessary documents and while the documents were being prepared they found forces to have their own child. Now they have two children!!!

They told that when the children get a little bit older they will sign them both up to karate Goju-Ryu course.

We would like to express sincere gratitude to Yury Nikolayevich Korma, our instructor at the course of respiratory gymnastics. He is a wonderful and responsive person. We you lose your own child it seem like you are dying together with him or her. Your life becomes meaningless. It is very hard to gain a victory over yourself. That’s why it is so important to get help and support of a professional. Attending the course of respiratory gymnastics helped me to return interest of life, to feel my own body. I met such a Teacher and this has been a real invaluable present the fate has given to me. I want to make a deep bow to this enthusiast who generously shares his knowledge the warmth of his heart with everybody.

I say my words of sincere gratitude for fascinating course of respiratory gymnastics, his ability to communicate with us as with equals, though we are sometimes very unbalanced and capricious people.

I experience that myself. I do remember the feeling when you enter the assembly hall where we had trainings and feel like having no forces to do anything and then you see his kind face, feel his open heart and when he gives you proper advise and you realize that you cannot simply turn this person down. Sometimes you have to do the training against you will, but you understand that it cannot be otherwise. You can let his great work, his proper humour; his unique abilities, support and inspiration just pass us.

Thank you very much, Yury Nikolayevich.

My deep bow to you.

We are sincerely thankful to Yuriy Korma and all IOGKF Russia instructors for their patience, responsiveness, professional help, useful and relevant advise, concern and attention. We are always glad and willing to attend fascinating and unforgettable trainings under your instruction which always last in a burst of inspiration, where you teach us how to breathe correctly and feel more at ease and relax, feel our organisms, to look at ourselves and people around us at a new angle. You charge with positive energy, put  us in high spirits, make us believe that we will recover, help us overcome our doubts, fears, closeness and pain and leave them within the walls of this building called “psycho”. Yury Nikolayevich gives us at utmost all his knowledge and skills which he never displays them for show.  When you communicate with such person as Yury Nikolayevich your soul and body become younger. That  is why we want to come here again and again, see again you, Yury Nkolayevich, always smiling, your open heart, the warmth that you give to all people around you. We would like to thank your parents! It is due to them that we HAVE YOU!

Group November-December, 20 participants. Signatures subscribed

Thanks a lot for unique gift to unite people of different age, different social status, health problems and psychic setup in a unanimous team and to instruct it skillfully. You have found an individual approach to every one of us and helped by word and deed. We have realized how important it is for our health to breathe correctly, to struggle with stress, depression and fears, to use reasonably our energy and forces, regulate our mood. Your training course is a must at the Psychotherapy Center.

It is impossible to solve all our health problems only by using drug treatment, without psychological relaxation and physical activities. It is the place where you are to be, and where you do good to people, return to them their health. We would like the administration of the center to pay attention to professionals of such a high level and appreciate their work at its true value.