By Heather McLean, Instructor, Southern Crane Kungfu
I have been asked several times over the past couple of weeks about San Zhan, the first of the basic 16 patterns in our system, by new members. The first question I have been asked is why is it so important, and the second is why are there other clubs with patterns also called San Zhan, even though they are working with a different style of kungfu from ours?
In answer to question one, San Zhan is the most important pattern you will ever learn because it is the foundation of all the other patterns that are going to be built on top of it. San Zhan teaches you the building blocks of our system of kungfu; you must learn San Zhan slowly and correctly, and it must continuously improve throughout the life of your kungfu career as it is always going to be your oldest, most mature pattern.
When beginners are first taught the first pattern, they normally think they have it sorted and polished within a couple of weeks and are ready to grade. They aren’t. One thing you learn with kungfu is the more you learn, the more you realise you don’t know. Or in reverse, the arrogance of ignorance is bliss! So take it slowly. You have plenty of time.
The answer to the second question is in Fujian Province, Southern China, the first one to three patterns of many systems and styles of kungfu, including our Tiger Crane Kungfu and Yong Tai Tiger Boxing, are called San Zhan (also called Sam Chien in Hakka Chinese, or Sanchin in Japanese Okinawan Goju-Ryu karate) or Ba Bulian for the first three patterns of Calling White Crane, the first Ba Bulian of which contains the San Zhan movements.
San Zhan and Ba Bulian all tend to follow the same format, with the first two patterns being relatively similar while building on difficulty, consisting of an opening, sets of movements following the three forward and three backward stepping San Zhan, finished with a more complex movement, and the third pattern taking the student onto much more complex basics.
So keep training hard! Every time you grade we expect to see improvement in your older patterns, with the San Zhan being the one you are most proficient in. Practice, practice, practice!