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Sam Chien 三戰 The Origin


Sam Chien is an empty hand form that focus in the development of body structure, rooting, mental awareness, subconscious elevation, focus, concentration, power breathing-cultivation, strength through muscle tensioning and sensitivity all these leads to total physical well-being.


Sam Chien has been around for hundreds of years no one knows the exact origin one thing for sure, Sam Chien has been practiced and part of southern Tai Cho Fist 太祖拳 and Fujian White Crane Fist 福建白鶴拳 since the 1700’s. Sam Chien will also be adopted later by Japanese karate the first known Japanese to have traveled to Fujian province and train in Tai Cho and White Crane was Kūsankū sometime between 1730 to 1760 he train most of his life in Fujian province and later will pass his knowledge to Kanga Sakugawa (1733 – 1815) Sakugawa started his training with Kusanku sometime in 1757. The Sam Chien form that they learn would become an essential part of karate later it would also be incorporated by other Tai Cho Masters into their newly formulated Goh Cho Kun 五祖拳 kung fu system in the late 1870’s.

The term Sam Chien relates to the body, mind & spirit it is about unifying this three to coordinately act as one; the spirit for perception, mental for decision and body for reaction. Breathing cultivation or “Qi” 氣 meaning air or vital energy this is the process of exercising the internal organs through breathing. The breathing or Qi exercise was made well known and greatly attributed to the Buddhist monk Da Mo or Bodhidharma when he introduced Buddhism to China sometime in 500’s AD he introduced this breathing science to help monks stay healthy and for them to be able to mediate better and longer it wasn’t originally meant for martial arts. Later martial art warriors both in the Shaolin and Taoist temples will incorporate this breathing method into martial arts application to become a distinctive part of martial arts.


In Sam Chien the Qi breathing technique differs from Tai Chi or other internal martial arts in a way that in Sam Chien it is a form of power breathing a more intense type of breathing its main purpose is to get the internal technique developed in a short period of time. It is a form of internal resistance training in conjunction with muscle tension and external power strength training.


Strength exercise and tension goes hand in hand to improve power and to increase muscular density. Sam Chien Qi breathing is combined with strength exercises through external workouts that may include the use of weights, running, striking, kicking etc. these are design to further improve resistance training to be more successful in applying the actual application of fighting techniques in Sam Chien it is through Qi breathing that energy, blood and oxygen circulation is enhance that helps in revitalizing our muscles, organs, improve circulation, improves stamina and endurance it also develops good mental awareness, focusing, concentration; improve pain tolerance and in recovering from illnesses and from combat wounds.


Qi development is also behind the concept of iron shirt 鐵衫 “tie shan” technique. This technique is not about becoming invulnerable or invincible to make the body bullet proof or able to stop spears, swords, or knives from penetrating the body it is about the ability to absorb impacts, better pain tolerance and aid in recovering from illness and wounds.


The concept behind this iron shirt is comparable to air tires the ability of rubber tires to handle heavy load is due to proper amount of air pressure inside the tire. The ability to absorb impact and have good pain tolerance is essential in surviving a fight it allows a Goh Cho fighter to counter attack and outlast their attackers.


Iron shirt training; Muscle tension is not about being stiff or hardening one’s muscles or holding ones breathing this method creates imbalance blood flow and air circulation and too much stress to the heart proper tension is about smoothly applying muscle pressure in coordination with breathing. The pressure application act as a conduit to better improve circulations that assist in developing fighting power techniques through the combination of breathing and pressure tension this is essential in developing the whipping-power techniques sometimes it is also refer as soft-hard combination external-internal power technique.


Too soft is not good it becomes a water wave or air with no pressure that will just pass through brick walls, too hard no