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1650+ Posts... and Counting

First Day of the Okinawan Festival


Today was the first day of the Okinawan Festival.  Behind me are two panels from the Okinawan Sumo exhibit.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Okinawan Festival at Kapiolani Park

Aloha,

The annual Okinawan Festival will be held at Kapiolani Park on Saturday, August 31st and Sunday, September 1st.  Here is a link to the Okinawan Festival website:

http://www.okinawanfestival.com/

Here is a link to a map of the site:

http://www.okinawanfestival.com/images/map/Okifest%20Site%202013.pdf

Here is a link to the entertainment program for both days:

http://www.okinawanfestival.com/2013/program/Okinawan_fest_program_%202013.pdf

This year, I (the Hawaii Karate Museum) will be giving two exhibits: (1) the S. S. China steamship (the ship that brought the first Okinawans to Hawaii in 1900), and (2) Okinawan Sumo.   I will be exhibiting photographs and artifacts in the Cultural Tent.  There is no admission for the Cultural Tent.

Here is a link to my handout:  seinenkai.com/handout.pdf

I hope that you will be able to attend the festival.  It is a great cultural experience and lots of fun.  Karate is from Okinawa, so our art is part of Okinawan culture.  To better understand Karate, we should study Okinawan culture.  Please make sure to stop by and say hello at my exhibits.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Centipede Bite

Last night I was working in my garden in the back of my house.  It is cooler at night and the area is well lit, so I sometimes prefer nighttime gardening.

Anyway, when I was almost done re-potting some plants, I felt a sting on my left calf.  I looked down and there was a 4 inch centipede, not the big one with blue legs, but the smaller fast one.  I brushed it off but the damage was done.  I went inside to wash the bite, put rubbing alcohol, some neosporin, and some cortizone.  It burned for a few hours (like a jellyfish sting) but that was it.

So here is the point.  I looked down at that centipede on my leg and thought that is must be thinking: "Take that Karate man!  Block this!"  Just keeping it real.

I think this was my first centipede bite.  Lucky I am not allergic.  Most people don't know this but we have little scorpions here too -- I saw one a month ago in my eldest son's yard.  I will have to be more careful.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Update -- Nakata Sensei

Aloha,

It has been quite an active and overwhelming time since February when my very good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, passed away.  To be honest, it is still hard for me to believe that he is no longer with us.  He was such an active and generous person.  We ate lunch and dinner together at so many places that I always expect to see him.

I felt the same way about my Aikido Sensei, Sadao Yoshioka.  This was especially true when I recently went to a graduation party at the Natsunoya teahouse.  That was the place where Yoshioka Sensei has his kanreki (60th birthday) back in the 1980s.

With respect to Karate, I am at a loss without Nakata Sensei's guidance.  Whenever I had a question about a style or teacher, I would not look for the information in books -- I would simply call or see him.  He was literally a walking encyclopedia of Okinawan Karate.  He would either tell me about his personal experiences with the style or teacher, or share Chosin Chibana's recollections.  I was always amazed by Nakata Sensei stories.  I had the good fortune to hear some of the same stories many times over the years and they never changed.  His memory and attention to detail was phenomenal, even during the last two years when his health condition declined.

I also relied on Nakata Sensei whenever I wanted to know what a particular movement meant.  He practiced Chibana Shorin-Ryu and I practice Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu. Although our kata are not identical, they are similar enough for comparison (same but different).

I have watched a lot of people demonstrate the meaning (or "imi") of kata both live and on various DVDs and videos.  Nakata Sensei's explanations were always very down to earth and brutally effective.  There was no "fluff" or "puff" or guesswork.  Basically, there was just a lot of pain.

Once he told me about Chibana Sensei demonstrating a certain throw to him.  He had asked Chibana Sensei how the throw could be done if the attacker was not wearing a gi or strong clothes ("how would you grab?").  Chibana Sensei said "come, come" and demonstrated the answer.  I then said, "What did Chibana Sensei do?"  Nakata Sensei said, "come, come" with a gesturing motion of his hands.  I walked up to Nakata Sensei and he grabbed me by one ear and the side of my neck.  With a twist of his hands I was helpless and in a perfect position for him to throw me.  Chibana Sensei had demonstrated the same thing on him.

I had practiced Karate for quite a while when this happened, but I have to admit that I was not thinking about a counter at the time -- I was just flailing around and half-screaming.  Good thing that Nakata Sensei was my good friend and was only moving lightly.  I would hate to see him mad.

I actually did see him a little mad -- just once.  During one of our lunches with senior Sensei, I excused myself to go to the rest room so that I could pay for the bill.  Nakata Sensei almost always paid the bill and I wanted to pay for this lunch.  When the lunch finished and the waiter came, Nakata Sensei asked for the bill and was told that I had already paid it.  Nakata Sensei informed me in an especially firm tone that I should not do that again.  (I was honestly scared.)

Now I understand that the host pays the bill unless it is addressed in advance.  After that, I would offer to pay the bill before we got together and things were fine.  But even then, Nakata Sensei was the one who usually hosted and paid for everyone.  He was extremely generous, not jsut monetarily but of his time.  He would think nothing about driving half way across Oahu to pick up a Sensei so that he could attend a lunch.

Our lunches were really something -- two or three hours of nothing but Karate talk.  When other seniors would come, we would talk about their styles and experiences.  What an excellent overview of the arts!  I almost hated to return to work!

So it has been difficult for me since February.

But... during that time I completed the donation of the third increment of rare Karate and martial arts books, magazines, and multi-media to the University of Hawaii for the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection.  This increment was 10 boxes, and included some of the very oldest and rarest materials in the collection.

The third and final part of my article about Shozen Sunabe was published by Classical Fighting Arts and is now available.  Sunabe Sensei (a student of Chotoku Kyan) is another person I sorely miss.

I am preparing right now for the Okinawan Festival which will be held on the Labor Day weekend at Kapiolani Park.  This year I am giving two exhibits: the first on Okinawan Sumo and the second about the Pacific Mail Company's S. S. China, the steamship that brought the first Okinawan immigrants to Hawaii in January 1900.  I received grants for these projects from Hui O Laulima.  The exhibits will be in the Cultural Tent.  I will also write an article about the S. S. China (I have a ton of great material).

I am also teaching and studying Karate as usual.  The other night I told the students to always remember that they are students, and that I am the biggest student in our group because I have been studying the longest and continue to try to improve each day.  I will never brag about being a good instructor or about rank and titles.  If I ever brag, it will be about never giving up as a student.  So when it comes to Karate, I am still working at it.

Thank you very much to several readers who have inquired about my health.  I am fine, thank you.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: E Homai (Asking for Wisdom)

This Guest Post is by my friend, Sensei Angel Lemus, of the Zentokukai Okinawa Shorinryu Toude Association. Angel was a writer and editor of Bugeisha, one of the finest Karate journals ever published. He lives and teaches here in Hawaii.  Angel and I are members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai.

- - - - - - - - - -
E Homai (Asking for Wisdom)

Today I took part in a hike on the beautiful mountains on the windward side of Oahu.
 
The tour guide ended with a common Hawaiian chant called E Homai which asks for wisdom and understanding from above. It is a beautiful chant which I have heard many times before but this time it was different because of what our guide mentioned after the chant.

He was talking about the rainfall on the mountains which is the source of our drinking water and how in old Hawaiian folklore it was said that the sky father "Wakea" gave the water to mother earth "Papa" and thru this connection life is possible. Then he said that the old Hawaiians believed it was very important to have "knowledge and understanding" of things, but even more important is to have the "WISDOM" of what to do with this knowledge.

This made an instant connection for me with Karate and all the countless hours of practice that we spend year after year. Why do we continually practice karate? There are many reasons of course but I thought of myself when I was younger and of new students in general who want to learn the next kata, and the next, thus the accumulation of knowledge becomes an obsession and the goal. As if when you learned the last kata you are somehow transformed into something better (which you are not) and you are left with an empty feeling, because there is something very important that is missing. And what is missing is wisdom, something you certainly do not have when young or when first learning something.

The separation between knowledge and Wisdom is a vast chasm. This is why the old Okinawan Senseis would take their sweet time teaching their students, years just on one kata, they were in no rush, because it is truly pointless to accumulate knowledge that is unusable without the needed wisdom that can only be attained thru time and maturity.

We all need to seek Wisdom in order to make use of the knowledge we have. The Hawaiians express their humility every time they do this chant, the words are charged because they believe them with an open heart otherwise they are meaningless.

Next time we say "Sensei Onegaeshi Masu" lets make sure we really and humbly mean it (not just say the words out of habit), then and only then we may gain some wisdom because we are humble (and our cup is empty). And not just in the dojo but in our daily life where our Karate wisdom is put to use.

http://apps.ksbe.edu/kscholars/oli/ehoma

Nakata Sensei Demonstration

Aloha,

The demonstration in honor of Sensei Pat Nakata has been announced for Saturday, March 16th, from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., with lunch to follow.  The location is the Kaimuki High School Performing Arts Center.

For information, contact Sensei Alan Yokota at AYokota@CJSGroupArchitects.com.

Members of Nakata Sensei's dojo will perform each of the standard Shorin-Ryu and Kobudo kata in their curriculum.  Members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai will perform their own versions of Nakata Sensei's eight (8) optional kata.  I will be performing Gojushiho.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Here is the flyer (click to enlarge):

Passing of Sensei Pat Nakata

I am very sad to report that my good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, passed away last week, on Thursday, February 7th.  He was 68.  Words cannot express my sense of loss and also my deep respect for and gratitude to Nakata Sensei.

If his approach to Karate could be summed up in one word, it would certainly be: TRAIN.  You learn Karate by training.  Talking about Karate is OK after you have trained.  But you don't learn Karate by taking about it -- you learn Karate by training.  And for more than the last 50 years, Nakata Sensei certainly did train!  Tomorrow would have been the 50th anniversary of his dojo here in Hawaii.

If you are student of Nakata Sensei, you might want to contact Sensei Alan Yokota or John Oberle who are coordinating events for the dojo.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Students of Chotoku Kyan

I have met two students of Chotoku Kyan and actually both of them have been to my home: Shoshin Nagamine and Shozen Sunabe.  I have no doubt at all that these men studied with Kyan Sensei.  In the case of Sunabe Sensei, I am confident that he trained daily at Kyan Sensei's house for twelve (12) years, and then during the summers when he attended college on mainland Japan.

Come to think of it, I met one other man who trained with Kyan Sensei.  His name escapes me at the moment, but he is the Sensei of Kunio Uehara (he caught habu and spoke Hogen).  I was introduced to him by Uehara Sensei in 2002 during a visit to Okinawa.

But I do not have any proof of other students who trained with Kyan Sensei, except for what I have read or been told by other people.  I have no first hand evidence.  In short, I do not personally know who else might have trained with Kyan Sensei at this house or at other locations, such as the Agricultural School or the Kadena Police Station.

I do know know who else might have trained with Kyan Sensei and I do not know who did not train with Kyan Sensei.  I was born in 1957, about 12 years after Kyan Sensei died.  I simply am too young to have been there.

Some people get into heated arguments about who did or did not train with Chotoku Kyan and other Karate "masters" (I put the word in quotes because I doubt that Karate experts would describe themselves as such).  I want no part of such arguments.  It is not for me to say.

If anyone ever says that I said that a certain person did not train with Kyan Sensei, they are wrong.  Well, I can say with certainty that I did not train with him.

The style of Karate that I practice traces to Chotoku Kyan (among others).  Arguing about this lineage would be a waste of time.  If my Karate traces to Kyan Sensei, the question is how this is reflected?  Does the art I practice and teach reflect -- at least in part -- what Kyan Sensei taught?  That is the important thing.  If it does, then good.  If it does not, then practicing a style that traces to Kyan Sensei is irrelevant.  A lineage does not guaranty anything.

I respect all styles of Karate and am very grateful to Karate instructors and students who carry on the traditions of the art.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Meet your Canvas

My daughter, my eldest son, and I watch a show on Spike TV called Ink Master.  A group of tattoo artists work on a tattoo each week and one of the artists is sent home by the judges (a lot like cooking contests).  A winner is named at the end of the series.  I am not writing about tattoos.  What  caught my attention was something that was said to the contestants each week.  When the contestants were introduced to the people who had volunteered to receive tattoos, they were told "meet your canvases."

"Meet your canvases."  Doesn't that sound like our students in Karate?  Tattoos are pretty permanent, and so is what we teach our students.  Actually, bad tattoos can be removed with great difficultly or covered by a better tattoo -- there is actually another show on Spike TV for that called Tattoo Nightmares.

As permanent as tattoos may be, what we teach our students -- for good or bad -- is more permanent.  The techniques, strategies, attitudes, courtesies, and feelings we teach our students about Karate will last a lifetime.  And unfortunately, our mistakes, like bad tattoos, are very difficult to remove.

Our students are our canvases.  What a great responsibility we have to create masterpieces.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The Best Karate Book I Have Read in Years

I hope that the title of this post got your attention.  I should say that the book I am going to describe is one of the best Karate books I have ever read.


(image from Lulu.com)

A few weeks ago I received a package from Mario McKenna.  It was a donation to the Hawaii Karate Museum of his recent translation of  Morinobu Itoman's "The Study of China Hand Techniques" which was published in 1934.  This book captures the techniques, ideas, strategy and feeling of "old style" Karate.  By "old style" Karate, I mean the Karate of the turn of the 20th century (when Karate was introduced to the public in Okinawa).  We do not know much at all about Morinobu Itoman, but he writes about the Karate that I have heard about from the Karate pioneers here in Hawaii.  I encourage you to acquire this book and read.  I have read it twice so far and I am certain that I will be quoting from it in my future articles.

Mario McKenna is quite a Karate and Kobudo instructor and student, and a very generous translator.  He can read the old books in Japanese.  I and most Karate students cannot.  I actually saw a copy of Itoman's "The Study of China Hand Techniques" at a bookstore in Okinawa in 2002, but the owner would not sell it to me.  Now, you and I can read it in English!

I also had the pleasure of meeting Mario when he recently visited Hawaii.  What a nice person!  Now I have met Mario and Mark Tankosich.  I hope that one day I can meet Patrick McCarthy, Graham Noble, and Joseph Swift.  How fortunate we are for their research, articles, and books!

You can follow Mario's Kowakan blog at:


Mario also has a bookstore for the books he has translated and written.  Please see:


All of these books are very reasonably priced.  He has also translated Karate-Do Taikan by Genwa Nakasone (available in paperback and hardcover), The Study of Seipai: The Secrets of Self-defense Karate Kenpo, by Kenwa Mabuni, and Karate Kenpo: The Art of Self-defense, by Kenwa Mabuni.  In addition, he has written a book entitled Ryukyu Kobudo The Students of Shinken Taira.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year



Aloha and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

I am sorry that I have not written for some time.  I became ill in November and was sick for almost a month with respiratory problems that were triggered by vog from the Big Island.  Then I became very busy with end of year work at my office.  Last of all, I was behind in Part 3 of my article about Shozen Sunabe, which I finished on Friday night.  So now I am healthy and caught up (for now).

My family photograph (above) was taken in July during my second son Charles' wedding.  My first two sons are married, and I have a three year old granddaughter from my first son, Christopher. I am teaching her about the solar system.

I wish you and your family and dojo a very Merry Christmas (belated), and a very Happy New Year.

Who knows what Karate discoveries will be made in 2013!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Not Useful Unless...

I lift weights at home.  I am 54 and it is necessary for me to lift in order to maintain muscle mass and tone.  However, I don't just lift because it makes me look better or healthier.  I have noticed that since I started lifting about 5 years ago  I am stronger.  I can lift heavier things -- like a lawn mower, or rocks, or dirt, or a heavy suitcase, or my granddaughter.  My point is that getting in better shape helped me to be able to do more work.  It was not just a matter of looking better -- it was a matter of being able to do more.

What does Karate training help you to do?  Of course, there is a self defense value.  It is certainly useful to be able to defend yourself.  But what more is there?  Aside from self defense, how does Karate training benefit your life?  Does it enable you to do more?

I believe that this is a really important question.

In my own case, I know that the discipline of Karate training has helped me in my work as an attorney, and in all of the other things that I do.  This sounds simple but it is not: to be able to work when you should work and concentrate 100% on the task at hand.  Most people cannot do this.  In Karate, we learn to become focused.  We might be focused on a punch aimed at our face or a kick aimed at our groin.  But for that moment, we pay attention 100%.  If we extend that to our work, we can focus 100% on the task at hand, and put other things aside until the task is completed -- no matter how long or how much effort it takes.  How many workers do you know who can do that?

My point is that Karate should not just be for vanity.  It is nice to be in shape.  It is nice to be able to defend yourself.  It is nice to feel confident.  However, what more can you do with this?  What can you do to help and contribute to your family and society?  Are you just a tough guy?  So what?  There are lots of tough people.  But how many people use that toughness to help others, stand up against injustice, etc.  Karate must have meaning beyond the immediate benefits of self defense, getting in shape, etc.

Karate is practiced in daily life.  The measure of your Karate is how you are doing in daily life.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Missing Class

One of my students recently had to miss class because he had to study for a college course.  When I spoke to him, I mentioned that if he was studying for his college course, that is what he was supposed to be doing -- that is Karate.  If he came to Karate when he should have been studying for his college course, then even though he would have been at Karate class, that would not have been Karate.

Doing what we are supposed to be doing is the nature of Karate training.  I should add that doing what we are supposed to be doing -- and doing it well, to the best of our ability -- is Karate training.

We should not do things in a weak or halfhearted way.  We should always try our best.  This also means that we should be careful to do things that are worthwhile and positive.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

My Strong Sons

A couple of posts ago I mentioned how my second son Charles could easily lift me up and put me on this shoulder.  My sons are very strong, each in their own way.  So is my daughter.

My response when they best me in strength, creativity, intelligence, etc. is that I am their father and get credit for their abilities.  So if they are strong, I am strong.  If they are creative, I am creative.  If they are intelligent, I am intelligent.

At least that is what I tell them.

And as for my second son, when he was a baby, I carried him on my shoulder all the time.  So let's call it a draw.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

How It Looks

I will give you an example of a student who has been taught poorly:

When the student cares more about how a movement looks than how it works.
Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

All Students Deserve The Best Sensei

Most students are very lucky to have their Sensei.  Ideally, the student tries very hard and is taught by a sincere and skilled Sensei.  Of course, not every student tries hard.  Many students quit after a sort time.  Even if a student trains for 5 years, that is basically just an introduction to Karate.  It takes many years to learn the basics and many more to learn the advanced aspects of the art.  Many of us say that Karate requires a lifetime of training -- and even then there is more to learn.

One of the saddest things I see, as a Karate instructor, is a sincere student who has trained for many years but seems to have gained only the most basic understanding of the art.  Sometimes I think to myself, "That student deserved a better instructor."  That is a  very hard and sad thing to think or say.  But I do see this. Honestly, I see it more than I want to admit.

When I get a new student, I want to teach him to the best of my ability, with no limits.  I will teach him for as long as I can.  As long as he tries, I will try.  I will do my very best to show him the the basics, body dynamics, applications, advanced techniques... -- everything I know.  I will also try to constantly improve myself so that I will be the best Sensei I can be.

Once I help the student to "ignite" or become a self-aware and self-motivated Karate student, I will also try to get out of his way.  I will be there to help, but will encourage his own self discovery and growth.

Every student deserves this.  Every student deserves an instructor who will try his best, without limits.  Every student deserves an instructor who is honest, who loves the art, and who lives it in his daily life.  Every student deserves an instructor who can help him to grow in the art -- and not become stuck or frozen at a beginner's or incomplete level.

It is extremely sad to me when a student deserves a better instructor than he had -- especially if the instructor took the student for granted or did not try himself.

Taking a student is a great responsibility.  It is not about tuition or enrollment.  It is a lifelong commitment.  Taking a student can be like having a child.  Many of us train with our Sensei for decades.  They become part of our families and lives.

It is easy to talk about lazy or unmotivated students.  But it is hard to talk about instructors who do not try hard enough for their students, or who care more about how many students they have rather than how far they help their students to progress.

All students deserve the very best Sensei.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Strength -- Keeping It Real

The other day I was playing around with my second son, Charles, who is 26.  He weighs about 180 pounds and is almost 6 feet tall.  I weight about 173 pounds and am 5 foot 8 inches.

We were kind of playing Sumo -- trying to push each other around the living room.  When I get down lower, I have a little advantage.  But I know that Charles is much stronger.

We were going back and forth, when Charles decided he had enough and picked me up and put me on his shoulder.  He would not put me down until I gave up, which I promptly did.

The thing is that he picked me up so easily.  He also held me on his shoulder (upside down) with no problem.  I really was helpless.

Now I know that I could have hit him, or poked his eyes, or bit him on the neck... but my point is that he is so strong -- way stronger than me.  In a contest of strength, he would win and I would lose for sure.  And he is not that strong!  I think that he can bench about 275 pounds.  He had a friend in high school who could bench 500 something!  My third son can bench 300 something.

When we speak about self defense, we have to keep it real.  There are strong people out there.  If Charles could pick me up that easily, he could have just as easily slammed me down on a fire hydrant or on a curb.  And I weigh 173 pounds.  Imagine how easily he could have lifted or thrown a 100 pound person.

Good thing we were just playing around.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Kendo Demonstration



Yesterday, I participated in a Kendo demonstration with my eldest son Chris (age 30), at his daughter's (my granddaughter's) preschool.  Chris explained the basics of Kendo to the children and I, in full bogu, stood by so that he could point out the striking targets (men, kote and do).  After his talk, the children took turns hitting me!

I actually studied Kendo and took Chris with me when he was only about 3 or 4.  It must have made an impression because he still practices Kendo.  He was a member of Hawaii's team to the world tournament twice and actually will participate in a tournament on Kauai this weekend.


Chris, Maddy and Grandpa

So even though we were speaking to children who were only 3 of 4, it is possible that they will be inspired to study Kendo or another martial art -- even Karate -- one day.

I was never very skilled at Kendo, but I think that I could have defeated these kids -- except this one who hit me like a pinata!

By the way, the bogu I am wearing is actually one I purchased a couple of years ago for kobudo practice.  I thought that it might come in handy when we practice bo.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Look First...

In kata, I often tell my students that they have to look first when changing directions.  The explanation I usually give is, "What if it's a truck instead of a person... you can't block a truck!"

But the other day, I thought of another explanation.  You have to make sure that you are blocking or striking the right person.  You would not want to block or strike your friend or a loved one.

In Karate, we learn to use techniques that certainly can injure others.  Even though we only use such techniques for self defense, we still have to be careful not to injure the wrong people.  Hey, if  someone is trying to injure of kill me, I think he or she deserves to get hurt (or worse).  But I absolutely do not want to hurt an innocent bystander.

So look first.  It might be truck or an innocent bystander.

And when you look, just look.  Don't do it for dramatic effect.  I hate that.  Just look -- like when you change lanes when driving.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Passing of Sensei Walter Rowden

I have learned that Sensei Walter Rowden of Belleville, Illinois, passed away on October 2nd.  He was 76.

I met Rowden Sensei three times when I attended Matsubayashi-Ryu Seminars in Toronto, St. Louis, and Los Angeles.  I also met him when he came to Hawaii and visited with Sensei William Rabacal.

Rowden Sensei was always very kind to me.  He was a gentleman.  We corresponded over the years on the subject of bunkai.  He was always curious about applications and exploring different ways to interpret the meanings of the movements in kata. He was very open minded, and would even discuss things with a youngster like me.

I was inspired by Rowden Sensei's constant desire to learn and improve himself.  That is something we call can learn from.

To all students -- please do not take your Sensei for granted.  Life is very short and unpredictable.  Learn all that you can while you can, and let your Sensei know that you appreciate them.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

No Gi Is Fine With Me

My second son, Charles, is the head of our dojo.  I have mentioned that he does not like to wear a gi.  Most of the students in our dojo wear a white gi bottom and a white T-shirt (usually a Hawaii Karate Museum T-shirt).

Not Charles.  He just wears shorts and a T-shirt.  I think he wears basketball shorts.  He does not care about a gi at all.  Since he is the head of the dojo, what can I say?  He always tells me that I am the one who said that gi, belts, and rank are unimportant.

I still wear a traditional gi and belt, but that it probably half because I am an old fut, and half because I get cold easily.  It also helps with new students who wonder who is in charge.

But I agree that a gi is unnecessary.  The trappings of Karate often become traps.

If you eliminate the gi, belts, rank, titles, patches, embroidery, trophies, medals, plaques, certificates, positions, organizations, politics, commercial aspects, tournaments, and drama, what are you left with?

TRAINING.  And you do not need a gi to train.

Plus, I have always hated loud gi.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Warm-Up Exercises and Koshi

In most Karate schools a set of warm-up exercises are done before basics, kata, and other forms of training.   The set done in Matsubayashi-Ryu are pretty standard and are similar to those done in other systems.

Originally, most Karate warm-up exercises came from the Japanese military, which in turn got them from European military advisers in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

So here is my point -- the warm-up exercises often have very little to do with Karate.  In particular, with respect to our style (Kishaba Juku), the traditional warm-up exercises were not designed with koshi or koshi dynamics in mind -- they were not designed to improve the student's koshi.

This is important, at least to me.  One of the important aspects of training in Kishaba Juku is reshaping the body to be optimized for koshi/core driven mechanics.  Working the arms and legs is a very good thing, but working the core is also important.  And working the connections between the upper and lower body, and core and extremities, is essential.

The military advisers to the Japanese army over 100 years ago were not thinking about this.  We can.

I have been reformulating our warm-up exercises to help in the body reshaping process for our students.  I am still working on it.  I get this funny feeling that the exercises will make us more like Goju-Ryu and Uechi-Ryu students -- more alike physically and in posture.

And personally, once a student can do warm-up exercises properly, I would prefer that he warm up on his own so that we can get right into kata and training.  Kata is a preferable way to warm up, at least to me.  Why do  warm up before doing kata?  Why not just do kata to warm up?

But if we are going to teach warm-up exercises, it would be nice if the exercises could help us with body reshaping and body dynamics.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Nice Karate Dream

This Guest Post is by one of the adult yudansha in our dojo (Hikari Dojo), Peerawut "Peter" Kamlang-ek.

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Nice Karate Dream

This is a story.

A student joined the dojo for the very first time and he loved it since his very first day. He felt like this dojo was for him, he looked up to his Sensei, yudansha, and other students because they seemed like good people… he was the most beginner. That night himself as a Shodan from the future showed up in his dreams and told him, “I’m glad you feel like you like Karate, you should try your best, stay for a long time and train, just remember the two most important things are character and skill, everything else is just a distraction.” The young Karate student nodded and acknowledged.

He trained for several years and was promoted to Shodan, that night himself as a Sandan showed up in his dreams and spoke to him again, “I want to say congratulations but I think I should just say, good job... you continued to train, just remember the two most important things are character and skill, everything else is a distraction, especially rank.” The young Shodan agreed and trained even harder.

Several years later when the Yudansha was promoted to Sandan, the very same night himself from the future showed up in his dreams again… this time he said, “You don’t need to know what rank I am, I just want to reassure you that I am still practicing Karate and the two most important things are still and will always be character and skill.”

“What a nice dream!”-- he thought.

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What does rank in martial arts mean to you? I know a person who doesn’t even know where his black belt is... I’m dead serious. The other day a student at our dojo was promoted, I walked up to congratulate him and he seemed very uneasy, bowed humbly (not to me, just to the comment) and said thank you. This might sound bad to some people, but I don’t think anyone at our dojo cares about getting promoted at all...what I mean is it is not our goal. We just want to move at an optimal level and are hardcore about body mechanics. If there was a list then maybe rank is at the bottom, skill will precede that by many numbers, then what do you think is at the very top?.. You guessed it! Character! Character should always be number one. 

As a matter of fact, I take it back, rank is not even on the list.

I have met many respectable people who are humble and downplay everything and I have met too many people who have very little and blow it out of proportion.

I wish everyone a nice dream tonight.. and it doesn’t have to be about Karate!

Oyasuminasai!
 
Peerawut Kamlang-ek

Classical Fighting Arts

The new issue is out.   Mine came in the mail yesterday.  I have two articles this time.  I hope that you enjoy them (if you get the magazine).  I have written about Mitsugi Kobayashi and Shozen Sunabe (part 2 of a 3 part article).

Some of the photos in my articles are from our museum collection.  However, most were provided by David Chambers and some real treasures are included.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: No Stances...

This Guest Post is by my good friend, Sensei Angel Lemus, of the Zentokukai Okinawa Shorinryu Toude Association. Angel is the creator of One Minute Bunkai. The URL is oneminutebunkai.com.  He and I are members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai.

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No stances, strategy, and the relationship of the players/pieces involved

I love the pleasure of NOT worrying about stances, the liberation of that part of your consciousness that has to think of stance delivery as you travel through your kata.

Now I just step out there and not think of what my feet are doing, why?  Because I can. Because I'm not a beginner and I know that my feet, legs, and my lower body know what to do instinctively according to what my upper body is doing.

Its like my upper half and lower half are communicating with themselves checking with each other to ensure that everything is running in optimal condition assuring maximum power and results. Thus it leaves my higher functions to do their part, my eyes to see/gather input about situation surrounding me to allow my "instinct" adapt to the ever changing and chaotic nature of combat. My brain is put on shelf on standby mode so it can have a coffee break and look at the spectacle like someone watching a movie (but it does not butt-in).

Think of it like a tank crew, the tank commander is on the turret gathering intel, making command decisions and barking out orders putting the tank in a good offensive position while at the same time putting it in the best defensive position as possible. The tank driver only drives taking commands from the commander, the ordinance/fire chief aims and fires, the unit of 3 depend on each other, and one cannot possibly do it all at the same time. The commander is your self/instinct, your feet/legs are the driver, your hands/arms are the fire control.

I have found that by abandoning the focus on stances it is a liberating feeling that brings your awareness to a higher level that allows you to focus on the fighting while working kata. Your kata practice should feel like when you are attacked aggressively by your partner and you just move and do your thing. In partner work you don't stop to think for one second about stances. And if you do, that split second will cost you. In partner work your entire focus is (should be) on the attack aimed at your opponent, you just move in whatever "stance" you land in, and it will be correct and it does not need a name.

Going forward I will rely less and less on stance labeling when teaching my new students, at the beginning I will just say step here and there and bend your knees. I will say to them look at me and do what I do, "Mitori Geiko" learning by watching. I will just make minor corrections but not spend so much time (as I have done in the past) on making their cat stance look picture perfect. Because ultimately what matters is can they hit hard, not does the stance look pretty. And if the student is with you for many years he/she will figure it out over time. Of course this method will not work in sports karate because sport kata needs long pauses and the dramatic stances for judges to see the perfect balance and beauty of the presentation­ it is what it is.

In arriving at this juncture I now understand when I see videos of the old masters doing their kata and they always look like they move with a sort of abandonment of what stance they are in at any given time in their kata, the more experienced and older the less predominant stances are. When I wore my early karate diapers I used to see the old films and think, look at those old guys they can't do stances right anymore. Well now I'm wearing my advanced Karate Depends and loving it.

Learning a Long Kata (Yara Kusanku)

I am teaching a student the Yara Kusanku kata. I believe that it is the longest kata in our system -- so there are a lot of movements to learn.  I would say that it might take a student about one month to learn the kata.  I had one student who learned the kata in just a day or two -- but I think she practically has a photographic memory.

Anyway, as I was going over the kata with the student today -- and it seemed like such a long kata -- I said, "Learning the movements and sequence of the kata is only one percent (1%). Learning how to do the kata well is the other ninety-nine percent (99%)."

I added that anyone can learn a kata.  A kata has almost no value in and of itself.  Learning a certain kata does not make you better at Karate.  Being able to perform a kata well (with good body dynamics and power and with a good understanding of the meaning and applications of the movements) makes you better at Karate.

I added that many people know advanced kata and do them terribly.  So what!  Knowing an "advanced" kata does not make you advanced.  An advanced person can perform a "basic" kata and make it look extraordinary.  An unskilled person can perform an "advanced" kata and make it look horrible.  Actually, the hardest thing is to perform a "simple" kata well -- because there is no place to hide (as Robert "Snaggy" Inouye used to say).

Learning the movements and sequence of a kata is like tracing a picture, something any child could do.  Now take that tracing, color it, add dimensions, and turn it into a living, breathing thing!  Animate your kata.

Kata are not simply things to collect.  If you become better at one kata, your overall Karate skill should increase.  Each kata interacts in some way with all the others.

Yara Kusanku is an excellent kata.  However, I feel that Rohai, Passai, and Chinto best capture the feeling of our particular style.  Rohai and Chinto are frightening and Passai is beautiful.

"Learning the movements and sequence of the kata is only one percent (1%). Learning how to do the kata well is the other ninety-nine percent (99%)."

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

More Promotion Advice

Tonight I spoke to the student who was promoted Monday night.  I recommended that he (and other students) concentrate on skill and conditioning -- these are things that cannot be taken from you.  I told the student, "Monday I promoted you, today I could demote you.  Rank is an arbitrary thing."

If you are good at Karate you are good whether I say so or not.  Certainly a person who might attack you won't care about your rank -- he probably won't even know that you study Karate.

If you are promoted -- good!  Now keep training and help the other students.  Keep going.  Enjoy the moment and get back to work -- the work on yourself.  Hey, almost none of the students even wear belts in our dojo.  Most wear a gi bottom and T-shirt with no belt.  So the belt itself mean nothing.  It is the skill that counts.  Keep working on skill.

Would you rather be a 1st degree black belt with a skill level of 3, or a 3rd degree black belt with a skill level of 1?  It sounds like a ridiculous question but I am serious.  Rank is so arbitrary, particularly when you look at many schools.  Can you imagine being a 7th degree black belt with a skill level of 1?

If you are promoted -- good! Don't let it get in the way of your training.

If you are promoted -- good!  You are on the right track. You've learned a lot and there is a great deal more to learn!


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

What We Said When A Student Was Promoted

One of our students was promoted to shodan Wednesday evening.  My son and I basically said:

  • Good job.
  • Keep it up.
  • Help the other students.
I don't think there is much that should be added to that!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Maintaining Power When Transitioning to Kishaba Juku

What do all of the most senior instructors of Kishaba Juku have in common?  To my knowledge, all of them spent many years, even decades, first studying one or more different styles of Karate.  At one time, most of the early instructors of Kishaba Juku practiced the Matsubaashi-Ryu form of Karate.  Today, some Kishaba Juku instructors might have practiced Shotokan or other styles of Karate.

My point is that for most instructors, the methods of Kishaba Juku represented a change or transition from one form or style of Karate to another.  In addition, the methods of Kishaba Juku represented a change or transition from a fairly linear approach to Karate to a more dynamic, whole body, core driven, rotary, whip-like, non-linear, etc. approach.

In my case, I had practiced the Matsubayashi-Ryu form of Karate for over 25 years before becoming a student of Kishaba Juku.  I think that I am fairly typical.  In fact, it is pretty rare to find a senior instructor who began in and has only practiced Kishaba Juku.

When I became a student of Kishaba Juku, I had reached a point where I was deeply frustrated by my inability to improve.  I feel that I had reached my own limits of linear Karate.  I am not saying that other people could not have done better than I did with the same training and methods -- I am just saying that I had reached my own limit.  Trying harder did not produce better results.  Quite the opposite.  Trying harder only made be stiffer, more robotic, and more frustrated!

Of course, the answer is that I was doing things wrong.  For a person who had trained for 25 years, I was doing it wrong.  I was still training like a beginner, which is appropriate for a beginner but not for a more advanced student or instructor.

I will give you a concrete example -- chudan shuto uke or uchi.  I could perform the movement reasonably well (I thought) and could generate a fair amount of power.  However, I could only do 7 or 8 in a row before I became tired.  I was generating all the power using my extremities.  I was muscling the movement and hacking like a caveman.  I simply was not strong enough to keep going after 7 or 8 of such inefficient, full power movements.

When I went to Okinawa and met Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, I was amazed by his ability to execute full power shuto techniques, one after another, up and down the dojo, seemingly with no limit.  I remember telling him, "Sensei, if you could just show me how to do that I would be so happy!"

Wow, was I asking for a lot!  Obviously, Shinzato Sensei was not only skilled at shuto.  He could perform any movement just as well -- because of his body dynamics.  The technique did not matter because his body dynamics were so good.  I sometime use a power drill analogy.  Techniques are sort of like drill bits.  You can change the drill bits all you want, but the power source does not change.  If the drill is strong and has good speed and torque settings, you can use any bit you like.  In the same way, Shinzato Sensei's body dynamics don't really change depending on the technique he is performing.  His body dynamics allow him to execute any technique he wants.

So I was incorrect to ask him to "just" teach me to perform shuto like he did.  Then, I did not understand the concept of body dynamics which explains why I incorrectly focused on a certain technique.

But to make a long story short, after my first few training sessions with Shinzato Sensei, I think I could perform about 20 shuto in a row without getting too tired.  Looking back, I was still horribly inefficient, but the point is that the improvement was noticeable.  It gave me positive feedback and hope.  I knew that I was on the right track.


But I have to admit that my early movements, when I was transitioning to Kishaba Juku, were not as powerful as my previous movements. I could hit more but I was not hitting as hard.

Which brings me to the point of this long post.  When transitioning to Kishaba Juku, it should be expected that the student will lose some power.  The student has to learn how to move in a completely different way.  The beginning and end of the movement might look the same but everything in between will be different.  In particular, the student will be learning to generate power in a new and different way -- whole body, core driven mechanics (plus much more).

The new student will lose power but will learn to move more freely in a relaxed manner.  Freed from the rigidity of robot-like movement, the student will gradually be able to generate more power, not by exerting more strength or effort, but by moving faster and with much better timing.

A club can hit very hard.  However, it would be much easier to crack a whip 50 times than it would be to swing a club 50 times.

After about 2 years, I was able to generate as much power as I did before I became a student of Kishaba Juku.  After about 4 years, I was able to generate considerably more power, and by then could perform about 30 or 40 shuto in a row without getting very tired.  Today, I am not sure how many shuto I can perform.  Generally, it seems that I can do as many as I want -- like I remember seeing Shinzato Sensei do, but of course not as well.

When I have a visiting student in Kishaba Juku, I often observe that they tend to concentrate on free movement rather than powerful movement.  Sometimes I ask them, "Did that feel powerful to you?"  The question seems to surprise them.  A new student in our style might think that free, fast movement is good in and of itself.  It is not.  We need to move like a steel whip - not a wet noodle.

Dynamic movement is not good because it is pretty or impressive.  So what?  Can it be used?  If someone attacks you, can you drop them?  Can you move very fast and hit very hard?  You have to be able to do both.

Which is why I think that it is good to start with linear mechanics.  As I mentioned, I could generate power before I became a student of Kishaba Juku.  I was just very inefficient at it.  Now I can generate power much more easily.  I don't get as tired because I am not using as much effort as before.  The two reasons for this is that: (1) I am generating power better (core drive, whole body, etc.), and (2) I am wasting way less energy.  It is not that I have become a great deal physically stronger.  I have become stronger because of my overall training, but that is probably only about 20% of the equation -- 80% is body dynamics.

I sometimes work with Shotokan students.  I enjoy doing so.  They have great linear basics which they practice very diligently.  But, like me, they tend to reach a natural limit moving with linear basics.  More effort does not result in more power or more satisfying movement.  Like me, they need to learn to produce power better and waste less energy.  I can relate to them

Students with linear basics and mechanics will naturally reach a limit -- a limit which is aggravated by age.  With linear mechanics, you have to put in more and more energy to get better results.  Obviously, with age, energy generally diminishes.  I am 54 now.  I certainly am not as strong as my 3 sons.  But then, when I was their ages, I was not a strong as them either!  But can honestly say that I can perform techniques much better at 54 than I could in my 20s, 30s, or 40s.  I am much more powerful and have much more stamina -- again because of the way we generate power and the fact that we do not waste much energy.  My net result today is way better than my net result at younger ages.  And, of course, I have had more time to understand and refine my movements.

When do students reach the limits of linear mechanics?  Of course, it depends.  But I generally think that it is about at the 2nd dan or 3rd dan adult level -- assuming a traditional ranking system not a belt mill. You certainly know that something is wrong when you find a 5th dan or higher who is still cranking away at linear mechanics.  Such people tend to be very frustrated and possibly suffering from self inflicted injuries -- much like I was!

So let's see.  How can you tell if you are moving well?  First, does it feel good?  Do you feel like you are moving very quickly, with a great deal of power, without getting tired?  You have to evaluate yourself very honestly.  Are you moving like a robot, a wet noodle, or a steel whip?

There is another way to evaluate yourself.  When I first watched Shinzato Sensei, and for years after that, whenever he executed a dynamic movement my mouth would drop open.  I would simply be in awe.  When he visited my dojo, my students had exactly the same reaction.  I think that other people have shared this experience.

Well, when you move well, people tend to blink and wonder -- and their mouths tend to drop open.

When you surprise yourself you are on the right track.  It is a good sign when you say, "Wow, how did I do that?"  Now do it again and again until it comes naturally.

And always remember that speed by itself is not enough.  When transitioning to Kishaba Juku, the ultimate goal is to have more power -- seemingly endless, easy power, that appears to come from nowhere. Or at least, that is what I think as a student who is still working on it.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate Magazine Covers

I just spent a few minutes looking at Karate and Kenpo magazine covers on Ebay.  Phew!  What a lot of violence and testosterone!

If you have practiced Karate for a while, you might have appeared in articles or even on a magazine cover.  The photographers for such things does tell you to, "Look calm, look peaceful, look like you don't want to fight."  Quite the opposite!  Covers have to be exciting -- at least in part to people who really don't understand the martial arts.

I watched a video of a well know escrima teacher from the Philippines.  What got me about it was how casual and natural the teacher looked.  Karate people tend to act like they are doing Karate.  They seem to take on a persona -- like they are acting.  This escrima teacher looked like an ordinary Filipino man, just moving around naturally -- but with exceptional ability.  Except for that exceptional ability, you could not tell him apart from any other man.  Even the terminology he used was ordinary language.  There was no pretense or drama.

Again, he was perfectly ordinary seeming, but with exceptional ability.

Of course, it should be same in Karate.  We should be perfectly normal, but with exceptional ability.  We do not have to put on a gi or "act" like the people we see on magazine covers.  We do not have to act at all.  We can just be ourselves.  Our facial expression does not have to change when we move or execute techniques.  We are not being photographed for a magazine cover or video.  People are not watching.  The only person who might be watching is the attacker, and he probably won't care about our facial expressions.

My wife is Filipino and my four children at mestizo (mixed).  My first Karate instructor was Filipino.  I first thought that Karate must be a Filipino martial art because so many of the teachers were Filipino.  My early Karate teachers were also escrima instructors.  Perhaps this is why their Karate looked so natural and unforced.

Karate should be natural.  We should just be ourselves -- with exceptional ability.



Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The E in Karate

The last letter in Karate (at least in the English spelling) is "E" and that letter can stand for escape.

It is fitting that the last last letter in the name of our art is also the last thing you will do in an engagement -- escape.  If you have to defend yourself, if it was not possible to avoid the attack, then at the earliest opportunity you should escape.  Defend and escape.  Not defend and make a point.  Not defend and defeat the attacker.  Not defend and beat the crap out of him.  Defend and escape -- get away.

If someone attacks me, he is committing a crime.  He is a criminal.  I am not willing to fight.  I would only protect myself and loved ones.  I am not starting anything and I will try my best to avoid a violent situation.  But if someone attacks me by surprise or will not allow me to withdraw, then there is no choice but to defend myself (or loved ones).

At such time, I will be looking for the earliest possible moment to escape -- to get away.  I am not getting away from a fight.  I am defending, not fighting.  I am getting away from a criminal.

When practicing bunkai, it is useful to practice various techniques -- from the initial avoidance or block, to the counter attack, to a take down or throw, to striking the attacker once he is on the ground, and even to grappling on the ground.  However, if someone attacks you do not have to use every technique you know.  At every phase of the defense, you should be looking for a way to escape.

And if are attacked and defend yourself, you may well have to explain your actions to the police.  Even if you were initially justified in defending yourself, did you go to far?  Did you continue to "fight" when you could have safely escaped?  Did you become the aggressor?

Don't get me wrong.  Karate is to be used as a last resort, and if it is a last resort your life or the life of a loved one is on the line.  If someone attacks me in such as situation, I will do whatever it takes -- but only whatever it takes and no more.  After that, it is up to the police to handle the criminal, not me.

As a Karate instructor, I am not looking for an excuse to use my techniques -- I am trying my best to avoid it and if I must defend myself, I will try to escape at the earliest safe opportunity.  KaratE.

Please also see:  Avoidance and Escape.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Tight Shoulders -- Advice?

This is a story.

A Karate student tried really hard to do things right, but had a chronic problem -- his shoulders were too tight.  His tight shoulders affected all his movements and caused him a great deal of pain.  He even had to see the doctor and chiropractor about his shoulder problem.

His instructor would yell at him whenever he saw his tight shoulders.  Then he would command, "Lower you shoulders and drop and give me twenty!"  The student would obediently drop and do the pushups.  This went on for years and the problem only got worse.

Finally a visiting instructor came to the dojo.  He observed the student and mentioned to him that his shoulders were too tight.  The student dropped and started to do pushup.

"Stop, stop," said the instructor, "please get up."

So what do you think that the instructor said to the student?

"Relax and squeeze your lats."

The point is that yelling at the student and making him do pushups as punishment only made the problem worse (mentally and physically).  The solution was not to feed the problem but to have the student work positively on a solution.

"Relax and squeeze your lats" is not a punishment -- it is a positive solution to the problem.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

SHTF BOB

You could say that I am a "prepper."  Living here in Hawaii, we have to be prepared for hurricanes and tsunami, among other things, and the disruption of public services that can result.  My father was in the military and I was a Boy Scout, so prepping is in my blood.  Plus, my eldest son's good friend Darin has been a big influence on me.  He is from Kauai and they seem to get it bad whenever we have a hurricane (Hilo too).  So he has grown up with an awareness of the need to be prepared.

This week I purchased a really nice bugout bag.  The brand doesn't matter, but the person selling it had included "SHTF BOB" in the title.  It took me a while, but I finally realized what this means.

Shi* Hits The Fan Bug Out Bag

If you think about it, Karate is also something you need when the SHTF.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

About Power: Strength, Speed, and Timing

I was speaking to a student tonight after class and I said to him, "Right now, I am more powerful than you."

I explained to him him that power depends on strength, speed, and timing (along with such factors as proper body alignment, weight shifting, technique, etc.).  I told the student that he was certainly stronger than me, but that his timing was not there yet.  With proper timing, he would be more powerful than me.

My second son, Charles, was also there.  I mentioned that Charles is more powerful than me. Even though I might be a little faster than him, he is much stronger and has better timing than me.

We are always working on body dynamics in the dojo.  There are a number of factors. But for me, strength, speed and timing are key when it comes to power.

It is difficult to become stronger.  It takes hard work and time.  It is difficult to become faster.  Generally, I think that people have a certain maximum speed.  Once you are efficient, you cannot move faster.  You can move smarter, but not faster.  But timing is something that we can work on and improve without too much effort.  Better timing is largely a matter of eliminating wasted movement.  It is hard to become much stronger when you are older.  It is not that hard to develop better timing, even as one becomes older.

I mentioned that my son Charles has better timing than me.  Because I usually teach beginners or young yudansha, I almost always move in a way that is appropriate for them.  I move in a way that they can see and copy.  As a result, I am not moving in my natural way, and my timing is thrown off.  In particular, I tend to throw my techniques late.  I also enlarge the lines of my koshi movements, again so that the students can see and copy me.  But this throws off my own timing, which reduces my overall power.  My son tends to move in his natural way, and does his best to break it down for the students.

How powerful are you?  How are your strength, speed, and timing?  Are these things that you are working on?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Half Second Warning

Would you rather be 15% better in Karate of have a half second warning?

Think about it for a moment.  We practice Karate, at least in part, to develop self-defense ability.  If we are attacked, we should be able to defend ourselves using the techniques we learn and practice in Karate.

We train, year after year, even decade after decade, just to become a little bit better.

But being better might not be enough.  Even a skilled Karate expert won't have much chance if he is hit hard without warning.  He is walking down the street, and bam!  A punch to the side of the head.  All the self defense training in the world won't work if you are unconscious.

But what if the Karate expert had a half second warning?  Then he could step aside, block, counter attack.  You can do a lot in half a second!

It is one thing to practice to improve your skill.  It is quite another thing to train to improve your sense of awareness.  Dojo training often (usually) does not concentrate on awareness.  Attacks are prearranged.  You know who will attack you, when, and how.  Walking down a dark street you will know none of these things.

But if your awareness is "turned on" and you are consciously aware of your surroundings, you might be able to see a dangerous situation before is happens and avoid it.  Or you might be able to at least see (hear, sense) the punch before it lands.  A half second is a really long time in self defense.

It takes a whole lot more work to get better than it does to be more aware -- and awareness might be more useful.

Of course, we should work on both things -- really work on both things.  Practice awareness.  When you do, you will realize how oblivious most people are -- like people crossing a busy street while texting.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Karate is Not Jujitsu

This Guest Post is by my good friend, Sensei Angel Lemus, of the Zentokukai Okinawa Shorinryu Toude Association. Angel is the creator of One Minute Bunkai. The URL is oneminutebunkai.com.  He and I are members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai.

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Karate is Not Jujitsu

When I teach bunkai and see others practicing I have noticed one thing, it has to do with working bunkai, analyzing it, and the partner work which is a lot of fun but I think it is too easy for us (everyone in general) to forget one big really really important point:­ Karate is not Jujitsu.

Applications involve many things like tearing, breaking, locking, scissoring, blood/oxygen denial, and all this requires grabbing, holding and controlling, and all of it looks sort of like Jujitsu, not because Karate is imitating Jujitsu but because all "real" martial arts, Karate included, contain the same kinds of principles and applications.

So one can say that Karate is like Jujitsu, but one cannot say that Jujitsu is like Karate which brings me to my original point -- Karate is a highly evolved martial art containing grappling and controlling techniques, but what makes it unique is its Atemi­ striking aspects which are second to none. Karate masters of old for whatever reasons decided to focus on the thrusting (punching) and striking which evolved into many ways of using your fists and hands turning them into all kinds of destructive strikes. They devised the Okinawan Makiwara and became incredible hitting machines delivering destructive punches/strikes.

So when I see people working bunkai that starts off with a strike, and I see the "uke" (the person receiving the technique) resisting or trying to counterattack the grapple (later on), I tell myself that person does not "get it", he would not have the opportunity to be resisting because he should have been already knocked out unconscious, or his arm would be totally incapacitated, or his lower abdomen would have imploded causing total shutdown of his body from a toe kick, or he would have been blinded, or his leg would be torn or broken. There is no fighting back from this.

We have to remember that by the time a Karateka doing real Karate would be grabbing and controlling an opponent in order to apply some lock or break, it should be unnecessary to do so because the attacker should have no more fight left in him.  When I work bunkai I always try to incapacitate the opponent using Atemi, it is just so much easier. Of course I am a total advocate for studying bunkai and all the fancy stuff, but when it comes down to it, I will hit first whenever possible then see where things go from there. This is what I try to do in every One Minute Bunkai.

We have to remember that Karate has given us massive high caliber destructive impact weapons, let's always keep those as the primary arsenal before we move into other aspects like grappling.  If you call yourself a Karateka and you are mostly focusing on the grabby feely stuff then in my book, you are more of a Jujitsuka than a Karateka. Atemi defines Karate above other arts. My ideal scenario is to be totally awesome on both aspects of Karate applications, atemi and grappling (Tode).  If you are close to grabbing your opponent's arm then you should have 3 options, 1) totally incapacitate the arm with atemi, 2) bypass atemi and go straight into Tode (grappling), 3) my favorite, do both, start with atemi and then go into it but only if you feel it is necessary. And by this I mean if you hit your opponent so hard that his arm loses all life in it and has turns into a wet noodle, his fight is ended.

I can tell you from personal experience from years of my Sensei (Tim Rodgers) destroying my limbs, where the last thing in my mind was to continue, because I could not, because I was in so much pain.

Lets learn Bunkai, yes, but lets treat it like dessert, it comes after the meat and potatoes, and you cannot eat your dessert unless you clean your plate.

Domo.

Emergency Types

In an emergency, I have observed that there are four types of people:

  • A seemingly strong person who loses it and cries like a baby.
  • A seemingly calm person who gets really angry and curses.
  • A seemingly normal person who becomes super calm and focused on dealing with the emergency.
  • A clueless person who doesn't even realize that there is an emergency.
The first type is pretty useless in an emergency and often becomes one of the victims.

The second type cannot focus on the emergency because his anger blinds him.  He just gets in the way.

The third type is how Karate students are supposed to be.  He rises to the occasion.  He does what needs to be done.  He saves other people. He seems to summon superhuman strength, not just physically, but of will and determination as well.  He is prepared for emergencies because he prepares for emergencies.

The fourth type is also useless in an emergency and is usually one of the victims.

I might have missed some other types.  But over the years I have definitely observed that the third type of person is not necessarily the one you would expect.  This person rises when there is a need and fades back when the emergency is over.  Thank goodness for such people!

What type of person are you?  How about the people around you?  Can they count on you, and can you count on them? -- maybe this guy will lose it, this guy will fly into a rage, this guy will be clueless...

And of course when I use the word "he" in this post, I mean "he" or "she".

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Shozen Sunabe Article -- Part 2

I have proofed and finalized the second part of my article about Shozen Sunabe, a student of Chotoku Kyan.  I had not read it for a while, and it was interesting to hear Sunabe Sensei's words and memories again.

I usually submit some photos with my articles.  But David Chambers, the publisher of Classical Fighting Arts, often supplies his own photos or those of other contributors.  This time, I was blown away.  There were two photographs I had never seen before!  I would purchase the magazine, just for the photos (in my articles and others).

There are also some very nice photos in my editorial about Mitsugi Kobayashi (student of Seko Higa).

As I have mentioned before, because my articles appear quite a while after I wrote them, I often forget about much of what I have written and it is like I am reading the articles for the first time.  I really mean this.  By the time I get to read an article, I might have written others and  worked on other projects, such a lectures or exhibits.  I am always working on projects.  I figure that there will be time to remember what I have written later.  And nothing is as important as training -- right?

I do hope that more young Karate instructors will write about the art.  Just start with one article about something that interests you.  Once you get into writing, the words will just flow!  You will find your voice, and then I can read your articles!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Being Like Someone Else

These are corollaries of my last post.

  • If you try to move exactly like someone else, you will fail.
  • If you try to teach someone to move exactly like you do, you will fail and so will he.
For a student, the objective should be for you to learn to move in a way that is optimal for you.

For a teacher, the objective should be to assist the student to learn to move in a way that is optimal for him.

Of course, beginners need to learn basics.  Optimization takes place after a student has learned a fundamental set of basics.  I would call this "basic" phase undifferentiated Karate.  At this phase, everyone moves the same.  Here, the same is a good thing.

Once this phase is reached successfully (this might be at the nidan or sandan or even higher dan level), the student begins to tailor his movements to himself.  He makes his Karate fit him so that he can move optimally.  His Karate is differentiated.

Undifferentiated Karate is like stem cells.  Stem cells can basically become any cell in the body.

Differentiated Karate is a unique thing.  Is the the basic package tweaked or adjusted to the student.  The student develops a focus and emphasis, and this pushes the movements in a certain direction.

Here is the interesting thing:  Most Karate schools are teaching undifferentiated Karate because that is all the instructor knows.  Students learn basics for their entire Karate careers, maybe for several decades.  The punch, kick, and block of a beginner is the same punch, kick, and block of the master.

Kishaba Juku allows a wide range of movement as the student progresses in Karate and seeks the optimal way to move for him.  Imagine an illustration of evolution from a single cell organism to a human being.  There are so many different phases, but they lead to a certain result.

Karate is an evolutionary process.  It is a progression.  Being a single cell organism is appropriate for a beginner and for a certain amount of time.  But the time comes to evolve.  That is not a bad thing -- it is a natural thing.

And as I mentioned in my last post, excellent Sensei did not get that way by trying to copy someone else.  Once the student learns the basics well (and I mean well), it becomes a personal process and progression.  Excellent Sensei become that way by learning the basics and then working hard to optimize them for themselves.  The result is a unique interpretation of Karate.

We should learn to copy that process, not the specific end result.
  • If you try to move exactly like someone else, you will fail.
  • If you try to teach someone to move exactly like you do, you will fail and so will he.
Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Kishaba Juku Kata, et al.

As you probably are aware, I practice the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu, which was named for Chokei Kishaba, and is  headed by Katsuhiko Shinzato.  Kishaba Sensei and Shinzato Sensei were heavily influenced by Seigi Nakamura, and all three Sensei studied the Matsubayashi-Ryu form of Shorin-Ryu.

Most styles of Karate have a certain curriculum.  They practice a certain number of distinct kata which form the core of the style.

Kishaba Juku does practice a certain core set of kata.  To be honest, I am not completely sure if we practice 18 kata, or fewer.  I practice 18 kata, but there are about 3 kata that are either not practiced or are not emphasized.

But Kishaba Juku is not known for the kata it practices -- it is known for the way that it practices them.  In particular, it is known for core driven, whole body mechanics.  If you have seen videos of Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, you will know what I mean.

Just be careful when you watch such videos.  You have to know the context in which they were taken.  How Shinzato Sensei performs a kata depends on who he is teaching and what he is teaching or demonstrating.  Sometimes he might try to demonstrate something wrong or inefficiently to demonstrate a point.  A random video will not explain this.  Again, you have to know the context in which a video was taken.

But even when he is moving in a basic way, or trying to show something "wrong", Shinzato Sensei is extremely dynamic.  By this I mean that he can move very quickly with tremendous power, in a very relaxed manner.  When I first saw him on video, I absolutely could not understand how he did that.  I now know why I could not understand -- I was trying to figure out how he did what he did based on an assumption the he was moving the same way that I was.  In other words, I thought to myself that it would be impossible to him to do what he was doing moving the way that I moved.  And that was absolutely true.  Of course, he was not moving the way that I was!

I have spent a decade now, mostly trying to understand how Shinzato Sensei moves and to do it myself.  I have had some success.  I certainly do not move as well as he does, but I move much better than I used to.

In the last year or so, I have focused less on moving exactly like Shinzato Sensei and more on moving in a way that is optimal for me -- the way that gives me the best results.  I still used Shinzato Sensei's movements as my guide, but I recognize that we are two different people.  I am taller and heavier than him and about 19 years younger.  I have my strengths and weaknesses.  He has his strengths and weaknesses.

If I try to move exactly like him, I should not expect to do so -- because we are not exactly the same.  More importantly, Shinzato Sensei does not move the way that he does because he tried to be exactly like Nakamura Sensei, Kishaba Sensei, or any other instructor.  He moves the way that he does, based upon the influences and examples of his Sensei, and his own effort to move the way that is optimal for him.

Therefore, if I want to be like Shinzato Sensei, I should not simply try to copy him -- I must try to move in a way that it the most optimal for me.  He took responsibility for his own progresss -- so must I.

In fact, at a certain point, every student of Karate must take responsibility for his own progress.

My wife tells a story of a long ago relative who was in his 50s but still lived at home with his parents.  Every day he would ask "What's for dinner?"

A mature Karate student should not be asking "What's for dinner?"  A mature Karate student should be living his own life and making his own dinner.

And it is very important to keep in mind, and this is my personal opinion, that Kishaba Juku is not the result of its kata curriculum.  We do what we do because of a particular body mechanics and an approach to teaching and training that is focuses on body mechanics.  We use the kata we practice in order to get the body mechanics results we are seeking.  We could generally do the same with other kata.  In other words, our kata are a tool.  Our body mechanics are not the result of our kata.

I am fairly confident that if we could go back in time and watch Chotoku Kyan, Choki Motobu, and their teachers perform the same kata we practice today, they would not look exactly like us.  There might be some similarities, but I do not believe that Chotoku Kyan, for example, practiced Tomari Passai, exactly the same way as we do.  I do not mean that the base movements are very different, after all, we learned Tomari Passai from Kyan Sensei.  I mean that we probably do not move the same way.

Kyan Sensei moved in a way that was optimal for him.  Motobu Sensei moved in a way that was optimal for him.  And Shinzato Sensei moves in a way that is optimal for him -- on that certain day.  A day later, he might move differently because he is still working on what is the best for him.

Our kata are excellent.  Several of them lend themselves very easily to good body dynamics and good "fighting".  Naihanchi, Rohai, Passai, and Chinto, for example, are amazing kata.  When you see Shinzato Sensei perform them (and other kata), you just have to marvel.  I and my students just watched with our mouths open.

But the same kata can just as easily be performed in a stiff, robotic, heavy, clunky, horrible way that does not work at all!

It is not the kata that count -- it is the way that you do them.  And please don't forget that at a certain point you have to seek to move in the way that it optimal for you.  You have to make your own dinner.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

When You Do Something Right

You are at the dojo following along, practicing Karate.  All of the sudden, the Sensei yells out, "Good!  That's right.  Nice movement!"  He is talking about you.

Now what?

You might feel good that you have done well.  But what did you do well?  Why did your Sensei compliment you and draw your attention to a particular movement?  What did you do?  How did you do it?  How did it differ from the way that you usually move?

Can you duplicate the correct movement?  If you were performing a kata, does the same movement appear elsewhere in the kata?  If so, you can also correct those movements?  Does it appear in other kata?  Do other movements share the same or similar mechanics?  Can you apply what you learned to those movements?

Perhaps you should speak to your Sensei to better understand what he did.

But certainly you should think carefully about what happened and continue to work on your movements.  Don't waste time or energy patting yourself on your back.  Your Sensei's intention was to help you improve.  Praise by itself is pretty meaningless unless it results in improvement.

Improvement requires hard and constant work.  You are the only one who can do this.  Your Sensei cannot do it for you.  No one can, except you.

Praise is designed to help you work in the right direction.  Working in the right direction is up to you.

This is the biggest problem I see in students -- failing to capitalize on improvement opportunities.  It is hard to improve if you just keep doing the same things the same way.  When your Sensei indicates that you have done well, you have to build upon it.  Your Sensei might light the match but you have to catch on fire!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

99 Things Wong -- 1 Thing Right

If a student does 99 things wrong and 1 thing right...

A poor instructor will criticize and yell at the student 99 times,
but miss the 1 right thing.

A good instructor will acknowledge and encourage
the student for the 1 right thing.

In my experience, criticism and yelling do not work.  If a student does something wrong, an instructor has to ask, "Why is he doing it wrong?"  Since he is the instructor, the problem lies with him.  How could he have taught better so that the student would understand?  What is the student missing?

In addition, a wrong movement is usually just a symptom of a deeper problem.  Yelling at the wrong movement will only draw attention to it.  The more the instructor yells, the more the student will tend to do the movement wrong.

High shoulders, for example, may be a symptom of loose lats.  Yelling about the shoulders will not get the student to squeeze his lats.  The instructor has to address the issues of the lats, and when the student says, "Maybe that's why my shoulders are so tight," that's when the instructor must say, "Yes, that is right!  So, so, so, so!"

All students make mistakes (so do I).  Mistakes are opportunities for progress, not reasons for yelling, punishment, shame, etc.

I remember whenever I made a mistake, my Sensei, Katsuhiko Shinzato, would be patient and have me try again.  Eventually he would say, "Perhaps you might try this..."  Then he would demonstrate a way to move that would address my problem.  He never criticized or embarrassed me -- and I was certainly old enough to take it and experienced enough to deserve it.  He always treated me with kindness and understanding -- and still does.  He taught by his example, by careful explanation, by creative experimentation, by approaching the subject many different ways (to get through to me), by patience, and by encouragement.  And once I could do something a little well, he recognized it (so that I could),  and we moved on and built upon my little progress.  On and on and on.

We have to learn to see the 1 right thing the student does.  We have to learn to encourage it so that the student will progress to 2 right things, then 3, then 99 right things and only 1 wrong thing.  Maybe even 100 right things!  Wouldn't that be great!

My Sensei here in Hawaii is Sensei Rodney Shimabukuro.  I always remember that he could be running five different groups of students, but even if he was standing on the opposite side of the dojo, with his back turned, he could tell when a student did something right.   He would yell out words of encouragement, such as "Good job!" or "That's right!"  He never missed such a moment... even with his back turned on the opposite side of the dojo.  I am still working on such awareness.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

How Many Students... Ha!

When I meet a Karate instructor, eventually we talk about our students.  The first thing someone might ask a Karate instructor is, "How many students do you have?"   There is almost a presumption that a "good" instructor will have more students than a "poor" instructor.

Ha!  The opposite is often true!

Would you think that a man with 6 children is a better father than a man with 1 child?  Parenting skills certainly are not measured by volume!  Neither is Karate skill.

Over the years, I have meet more and more Karate instructors who have decided to teach smaller and smaller groups of students -- sometimes only one, two or three.  These are very advanced instructors, most of whom have already produced students who have become instructors.

For such instructors, teaching is not a numbers game.  They are trying to pass on the art.  They are not trying to teach 100, 1000, or even 10,000 students who know a little, they are trying to teach one student (maybe two) who will know the entire system thoroughly.

Rather than ask an instructor how many students he has, I would rather ask if he is able to teach the way that he wants to.  Is he accomplishing his goal?  Does he have a special student who might carry on the tradition of his art?

With big schools, there must be a certain emphasis on rank, titles, position, organization, finances, politics, etc.  In a very small school, the attention can be focused on training and developing the skill and character of the student.  The early Karate instructors in Okinawa came from extremely small schools, if you could even call them that.  Actually, students usually learned one-on-one from the instructor at his home, the family grave, or some other private location.  There were no ranks or titles.  Masters where known for what they could do, for their abilities.  There usually was no tuition or fee.  The relationship between Sensei and student was a personal one.

After Word War II, and particularly beginning in the 1960s, Karate transformed into a group thing, into a sport or activity taught to large groups of casual, money paying students.  For some people, Karate became a business -- something it never was in old Okinawa and the Ryukyu Kingdom.

I am not impressed by sheer numbers of students -- I have met too many students who have trained for 10 or 20 years and have no clue about what they are doing.  I am impressed by quality.  I am very happy when I meet an instructor who can teach the way that he wants to, and has a dedicated student or two who is willing to undertake a lifetime of training.

And in my personal experience, some of the most skilled -- and happy -- Karate instructors have the fewest number of students.  In fact, when I meet an instructor who emphasizes the large number of his students, it makes me question his skill -- certainly his choice of emphasis.

My respect and gratitude goes out to all instructors who have taught quietly and not sought attention, who have arranged their lives and schedules around teaching, who have paid the expenses so that students could afford to learn, who have maintained and passed on the true art.  When we do this, we are getting back to the way Karate was originally taught, and perhaps we are becoming more like the Karate experts and Sensei of old.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin