November 26, 2020

Karate 4 Life
Basic #3 - TAN (胆 )Grit/Determination
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In the episode we continue going deeper into ichi gan, ni soku, san tan, shi riki as we take a deeper look into the third tan power: grit, determination, guts, tenacity, an indomitable spirit that won’t back down.

Sometimes you just have to ask yourself the question,

“How bad to you want it?”

Technique alone won’t win you a fight or get you out of a tough situation.

We’ve seen it so many times in competition, the best fighters don’t always win. It’s not just about your speed, power, technique or even how well you understand the strategy of the game.

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”

—- Transcript —-

Martin: Hey everyone, this is Martin & Sandra Phillips and welcome back to the Karate 4 Life Podcast.

Sandra: Today we want to dig a bit deeper into the basics of karate and life, taker a closer look at the third element of ichi gan, ni soku, san tan, shi rikigrit & determination.

Martin: We’ve noticed that everyone faces challenges in life, some big some small. But not everyone has a way to navigate these problems.

Sandra: It’s not always easy, but we’ve found that we always keep coming back to what we’ve learned from our years in the dojo.

Martin: And that’s what this podcast is all about…

Sandra: Helping us all find the solutions to life’s problems. Or even better yet, to remove the problems before they arise.

Martin: This is Martin & Sandra Phillips and welcome to the Karate 4 Life Podcast.


Sandra: Moving forward Martin today, we are moving on to San Tan but I dare say without Ichi Gan Ni Soku, this won’t be all that much fun.

Martin: Yes, there’s a reason this is number three. Although it’s incredibly powerful and it can carry you a long way forward, I think it definitely worked best when you’ve got those foundations of the first two elements in place.

Sandra: I guess Ichi Gan Ni Soku tend to I guess, position yourself, prepare yourself, creating that always ready feel about you. This is what really takes it to a whole lot new level and drives you towards wherever you want to go.

Martin: Yes, it turns it up a notch, doesn’t it?

Sandra: Yes, and as we probably would learn very, very soon, it does enable you to do bold attacks. Whether it’s in life or in a Dojo, makes it very, very possible when we add this element.

Martin: Yes. It certainly does. May be we should explain what it’s all about.

Sandra: Yes, sure thing. We have San Tan, should we just read this from…

Martin: Going back through it, so Ichi Gan, first, the eyes, Ni Soku, second, the stance or the legs, San Tan maybe we’ve coined it as grit and determination, which you kind of see from this explanation we’re about to read out. This is from Soke’s teaching manual the kyohon. Could you do the honours there?

Sandra: Yes, sure thing. “Tan refers to the liver. Tan power is the foundation for cultivating ki power, will power, perseverance, and endurance. By cultivating Tan power, spirit sickness (Shikai), and other such weaknesses are gone. Correct judgment ability results and bold attacks are possible.”

Martin: Yes, there’s a lot there hey. A lot there. I’ll just get back to the very first part as I mentioned previously, Tan refers to the liver. I’ve done a little bit more research on this one. It’s not specifically liver as an organ, but it’s literally that colloquial term “the gut” when you have that gut feeling or somebody shows guts. Liver is probably a little bit of a misnomer there.

The other one is probably worth repeating once again, is Tan is a different thing to Tanden as a term we hear here in the Dojo quite a bit. Tanden refers to the energy center located in the lower abdomen. While it’s very much related to Tan power, they’re not one and the same. They’re two different things. Let’s carry on anyway.

Sandra: All right. Let’s take a very different perspective on this one compared to what we have taken with Ichi Gan Ni Soku. Let’s go down a road that you are all too familiar with, your past. Let’s see if we can do a bit of digging down there in terms of San Tan and see if we can help people identify San Tan in action around them. If we go back to your early days in the Dojo, even in life I guess, in the community that you’re living and growing up in.

Could you think back to any examples or moments when you become aware of San Tan?

Martin: Yes, I guess maybe not necessarily specific moments, but I guess that feeling within the Dojo, within the Dojo community. The Dojo that I grew up in when I very first started training in Chito-Ryu was a bit of a rough area or known to be a bit of rough area. The kinds of people that were attracted to the Dojo naturally had this Tan Power about them. They were fighters. Not necessarily fighters as in physically hitting people, fighting with each other.

They were battlers, they had something to prove in life and that came out in everything they did in the Dojo. They way that they trained. They just threw everything into what they did. They trained with guts and determination. You could see if the training thing was to go and do 100 push ups, they go and do 200. They just throw everything into it. I remember back in the early days when you started training, you were very much like this.

You had your own story, you had some challenges to overcome, and it took a lot of guts and determination to get through that.

Sandra: I think for me, although I was having a hard time and then dealing with some significant bad times in my life at that time, I think for me personally, there was a lady by the name of Charlene. She was one of the black belts in that Dojo at that point in time and I don’t think I really had a lot of time with her coming through, but the time that I did have with her, she was extremely confident.

I don’t think I truly understood the energy that she had created in her journey, but it was very, very powerful. I guess, if you said no to her, I dare say, she’d say, “No way. I’m just going to go and do something.”

Martin: Yes, she was very much like that.

Sandra: I couldn’t imagine her ever backing down from anything.

Martin: I had quite a bit of time with Charlene and we literally grew up in the dojo together. She’s my senior in age and we literally started training on the same day. We stepped into the dojo the very first day the dojo opened and she trained her butt off. She became the first in what became the WKF, World Karate Federation, she became the first Australian and the first Chito-Ryu practitioner to become WKF World Champion.

It wasn’t called the WKF back then but what’s now the WKF. I don’t think it was because she’s technically excellent, although she is very, very talented, certainly very talented, it’s largely because of this determination. She had something to prove.

Sandra: I guess for a young person coming through for me, I did latch onto that energy about her and I thought, “You know what? I don’t know what it is, but it feels good.” For me at that point in time, going through some hard times, I latched on to that and there were days where I’d be thinking, “What would Charlene do right now?” It sounds kind of funny, but I would actually use that often and think, “How would she deal with this? Would she back down?”

That was one thing I found for me where I first experienced that San Tan for me. It wasn’t actually through me personally, but it did evolve because of that influence in my journey.

Martin: There really have been some amazing people in both of our journeys along the way that have demonstrated this Tan power. It really is incredible, isn’t it?

Sandra: I think we’re both very, very blessed to have some great role models in that area, 100%. I guess what gets me even more excited the more I study this is learning about shikai and how that when we truly do practice San Tan in all areas of our life, then we can actually have the shikai and not be present in our lives.

Martin: You probably should explain what that actually means.

Sandra: Doesn’t everybody know what shikai is? Everyone should know that.

Martin: You don’t know what shikai is?

Sandra: Everyone should know what that is.

Martin: Maybe just a quick explanation. Again we might just read from Soke’s teaching manual here.

Sandra: Okay, “Shikai. The four sicknesses of the spirit are surprise, fear, doubt, and perplexity. If even one of these occurs, spirit is disordered, emotional balance is off, and one will be daunted and then a weakness will develop from within oneself.”

Martin: So by developing this Tan power, we are able to cut away these shikai. We’re able to stop this from happening.

Sandra: For me when I first realized that, that was just incredible.

Martin: It’s gold, isn’t it?

Sandra: To think that there was one thing I could do to control something which would alleviate anxiety and fear.

Martin: Yes, I guess this is I guess the foundation for pretty much mental illness as a whole, isn’t it?

Sandra: Very much so. That’s what I’m saying. It’s really, really exciting this. You’ve got to latch onto this one and practice San Tan in all that you do.

Martin: Okay, let’s get back to in the dojo. I’m going to throw this one at you today. When you’re looking at developing this Tan power, this is something that’s absolutely essential. How do you do it?

Sandra: For me personally, it would be a case by case. Everyone’s a little bit different with how they experience life, and we have to come to the place where that person is at. I think that would be the most important thing because if you think you’re going to help somebody develop San Tan in the way it doesn’t actually match their personality, you’re going to lose some really good people out of the dojo.

For me, it’s more about coming to where they are at in their life there and then and think what is the best way to help them get some grit in what they’re doing.

Martin: This can be a really confronting journey to start to develop this.

Sandra: Very much so. When I watch people stepping, just basic stepping in their stances, I study this so deeply. You probably know this yourself, when you’re watching somebody stepping 10 steps forward and 10 steps back. I’ve got people who I work with who step forward 10 steps very, I guess what’s the word, hesitantly, and then they step back 10 steps and they end up being further back or at the same point.

Then, why is everybody around them getting so much further ahead than they are? Then they come back to that same spot, or they ended up back through the back wall.

Martin: Because they’re really confident in going backwards.

Sandra: They’re very confident going backwards and we need to help them practice San Tan to help put that intent into their step as they move forward. I love studying the technique in that way as well.

Martin: One of the things that we do for a black belt grading is this conditioning, the hundred push-ups, hundred sit-ups, hundred squat-kicks, and yes, it helps develop a strong body, but largely it’s about demonstrating can someone show this Tan power, isn’t it?

Sandra: Yes, and anyone that’s listening right now would have multiple experiences of life going upside-down for them. Sometimes you dig yourself out of a hole, you’ve got to really get some grit and determination to fight your way out of that hole. I guess going towards black belt, for me, I want to know that people who do come through and earn that level of black belt, they can truly feel like this moment of “You know what? I really have grown this feeling San Tan feeling within me so well that if I was confronted by a life-changing challenge of sorts, I could dig in and practice San Tan and I could pull myself through this”.

I think that’s such an important thing to have for people in life these days.

Martin: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Where do we go from here?

Sandra: Well, I think we need to get ourselves ready to move on to our Shi Riki next time we speak.

Martin: Power-

Sandra: Power.

Martin: And technique.

Sandra: Very interesting I’m sure.


Martin: Thanks for listening to today’s episode of the Karate 4 Life Podcast.

Sandra: If you found this episode useful, please comment on our website karate4life.com

Martin: Share it with your friends via social media and don’t forget to tag us #karate4lifepodcast.

And if you’ve got a topic that you’d like us to cover in future episodes or questions about karate or life…

Sandra: Please send us a message, we’d be more than happy to share our thoughts.

Martin: Coming up in the next episode we’ll take a deeper look at the forth and final element of ichi gan, ni soku, san tan, shi riki – technique & power.

About the author 

Sandra & Martin Phillips

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