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1700+ Posts... and Counting

Please Correct Me

I have been to events where senior instructors were visiting from Okinawa. At such occasions, most participants are eager to receive corrections of their techniques. After all, the opportunity to train with senior instructors is very limited.

However, visiting instructors are often very reluctant to offer corrections, even in private. They will hold back. See: Enryo Tsuru. Because of this, I am careful to inform visiting instructors of my sincere desire to receive instruction and corrections.

When my Sensei, Professor Katsuhiko Shinzato, visited my dojo last year, I said (with a bow):

"Sensei, please correct us. We are trying our best to move the way that you do. If we are moving differently, it is only because we have not learned your way yet. We are not attached to the way that we move. We want to move like you do. Please feel free to correct us. Onegaishimasu."

Today I would add, "please don't enryo" (hold back).

Shinzato Sensei will also teach kata in different ways at different times for different reasons to different people. But he will be reluctant to do so if the student is attached to a certain way or version. I thus ask him to please feel free to show us any kata in any way that he likes. If he likes, we will change all the movements of any kata because we are attached to him, not the kata itself. After all, the kata are simply vehicles for teaching techniques, body dynamics, footwork, body shifting, timing, etc.

I should add that Shinzato Sensei would never correct me in front of my students. He would only do so privately. If I was doing something incorrectly in class, and he wanted to correct it, he would probably find a way to do so indirectly so that it would not reflect negatively on me. He would probably preface his correction by saying "you might try this" and would almost certainly correct one of my students rather than me. This is his way of being reserved, courteous, considerate, and humble.

If you want to be corrected -- and for your students to be corrected -- you should politely ask your instructor so that he will feel comfortable doing so. Whatever your level may be, it is important to always have a beginner's heart and attitude.


Charles C. Goodin

Mosquito & Butterfly

Learning various martial arts in Hawaii dojo since high school, I heard two terms to describe certain students.

A "mosquito student" is one that only shows up from time to time. This type of student is an annoyance, like a mosquito or gnat buzzing at your ear. For some reason, we also call this student a "mosquito fish." I think it is because mosquito fish smack at the surface of the water looking for mosquitos. Mosquito fish stay at the surface and never go deep -- thus, mosquito fish student.

A "butterfly student" is one that flutters from one dojo to another, never learning very much. In Japanese, the word for butterfly is "chocho" so we call this type of student a "chocho." He learns a little here and a little there, and puts it all together to make very little.

Before anyone thinks I am writing about them... I have been both of these at one time or another. In law school, during which time my first son was born, it was very difficult for me to make the time to attend training. I'm sure that I was a mosquito student.

I've also trained in more than one dojo at the same time, sometimes on the same day. I must have seemed like a chocho.

I always tell my students that family and work must come first. Karate is something you do only after everything else is taken care of. I give my students permission to come to class late if necessary. I give "permission" so that my students will not feel stressed.

Japanese students in particular, feel great stress and even shame if they miss class or are late. I have felt this way many times during my life. I even used to get heart palpitations. Stress and shame can make some of the best students quit. So I try to make my expectations both known and flexible, particularly with respect to family, work, and school. See Missing Class.

But as students, we should try our best. If we consistently lack the time to train, perhaps we should ask for a leave of absence from the dojo until our schedules are more acommodating. We do not want to be mosquitos or butterflies.


Charles C. Goodin

Kenpo Kyohan Online

I would like to invite you to see a rare treat at the Hawaii Karate Museum website:

Hayanawa Kappo Kenpo Kyohan Zukai, Zen

Complete Illustrated Book of the Teaching Method of Tying (Hayanawa)
the Striking Methods of Jujutsu (Kenpo)
and the Method of Resuscitation (Kappo)

Published May 17, 1896 (Meiji 29)
Tokyo, Kinseido. 108 pages. 50 Sen. Japanese language

This book was written at a time when striking was still an integral aspect of Ju Jutsu.

If you have any old Ju Jutsu, Judo, Kendo, or Karate books that you would like to donate (or sell) to the Hawaii Karate Museum, please contact me at: goodin@hawaii.rr.com.

We are attempting to collect and preserve these treasures for future generations.


Charles C. Goodin

A Good Heart

My first Shorin-Ryu sensei, Rodney Shimabukuro, has been my sensei for 30 years. We have watched each others children grow to adulthood. Over the decades, he has emphasized one thing more than any other -- that the most important thing in Karate is to have a good heart. He does not say "kokoro", he says heart.

We can learn etiquette for every situation, techniques for every conceivable attack, terminology and theories of movement, the minute details of Karate's history and traditions, and yet it will all be meaningless unless we have a good heart. We can have the highest rank and titles, thousands of students, a global organization, fame and fortune, but without a good heart, it will be empty.

On the other hand, we can lack all of these things and still have a good Karate life.

A student with a good heart can become the best sensei. A student with a good heart can learn etiquette, techniques, and history. Even if he is not physically talented, he can learn to move properly with time and effort. However, a student who lacks a good heart seldom changes. Everything he learns simply aggravates his underlying problem -- a lack of heart. A sensei's job is as much to cultivate the student's heart as it is to teach all other aspects of the art.

A person with a good heart is compassionate and understanding of others. He puts the needs of others ahead of his own. He does the right thing because it is right, not because it is advantageous. He can make mistakes, but can do no wrong. A good heart is like a guiding light.

Only a student with a good heart is qualified to learn the destructive aspects of Karate -- because only he can be trusted to truly use them as a last resort. See: Last Resort. He will not fight for honor, glory, petty insult, or possessions, but will only act to defend life. In the heat of conflict he will remain cool.

In thirty years, my sensei's lesson has always been the same -- the most important thing in Karate is a good heart.


Charles C. Goodin

Balls of the Feet

Last year I had the good fortune to meet Sensei Paul Yamaguchi at his home on the island of Kauai. We discussed many subjects but one has affected my training the most.

He stressed the importance of keeping the weight on the balls of the feet. Just as in Judo, the weight should not be on the heels. It is said that you should always be able to slide a piece of paper under your heels.

I already "knew" about this, but when I stopped and thought about it, I did not consistently practice it. So when I returned to Oahu, I started to concentrate on keeping the weight on the balls of my feet. The results were instant -- my feet and legs hurt, which meant I had not been distributing my weight properly before.

Since then, I have always checked my weight distribution. It seems like a small thing, but keeping the weight on the balls of the feet really makes a difference. It enables you to move faster, keep your balance, change directions, and shift your weight. It makes your movement "springier."

Try this. Put your weight on the balls of your feet and feel the muscles of your legs (especially your thighs), butt, and stomach (abdominals). Now imaging doing this all the time during Karate practice. This weight distribution starts the process of connecting your upper and lower body and is necessary for whole body movement.

I should add that the idea is not to keep the weight solely on the balls of the feet but on the toes as well. The toes grab the floor. I say that the flesh of your heels can touch the floor, but not the heel bone.

I often tell my students: keep the weight on the balls of your feet (and toes), tuck your koshi, squeeze your lats (latissimus dorsi), and keep your elbows close to your body. These are basics of the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu. However, they are also common to other forms of Karate. It seems to me that my friends in Goju-Ryu do the same.


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Kata Gassho

This Guest Post is by my friend and mentor, George Donahue. George is an instructor of Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu and was the head of the Ken Zen Dojo in Manhattan for about fifteen years. He has written articles for FightingArts.com.

He wrote this post in response to my post: Passing In Front.

- - - - - - - - - -

I've been thinking about your use of the kata gassho, the open palm extended to the front, when you pass between people. You relate that it is to show that you are harmless, not wielding a weapon. Shorinji Kempo uses it too, for much the same reason, but also for more. Because my dojo in New York City was shared with the NYC Shorinji Kempo group, we often used this gesture, too, particularly when our classes overlapped or we had joint training. It definitely wasn't a Matsubayashi practice.

But it's origin has nothing to do with weapons. The regular gassho, with the two hands pressed palm to palm, is a Buddhist sign -- a mudra -- of blessing and compassion. It's almost always accompanied by a humble bending at the waist, a sort of moving bow, as is the kata gassho. When the left hand is occupied with carrying anything (and it's always the left that does the grunt work), the right hand alone makes the mudra, kata gassho. In the occasional instances where the right hand is occupied but the left is free, the left would do. So, you may incidentally be showing that you aren't wielding a weapon, but the original gesture is one of peace and blessing. A positive gesture of respect and good will rather than a negative one demonstrating harmlessness. In other words, it's not the absence of the weapon or the ill intent that is the signal, it's the presence of good will that is the gift.

The Dalai Lama performs kata gassho frequently, maybe hundreds or thousands of times a day, and there is no question of ill intent there. The people I see most often performing kata gassho in this neck of the woods are Korean Zen Buddhists (or others who practice the Korean
way), and they seldom carry weapons. There is not as strong a martial tradition in Korean Zen as there is in Japanese Zen. Japanese Shingon Buddhists also perform kata gassho almost incessantly, or they did in my youth. Whenever I remember any of my elderly uncles or cousins, I can never picture them any way but in that posture--except when I visualize them practicing kenjutsu or other activities of that sort and whacking me.

You also spoke inadvertently about kata gassho when you were describing some aikido people as not letting go. I had never thought of it this way. My Aikido sensei, Akira Okada, specifically instructed us to perform kata gassho as we completed a throw, with the active hand, as a gesture of respect and good will to our uke. We weren't (or at least we weren't supposed to be) holding on to our momentary power over another. We were saying a silent "thank you" even as the action unfolded. My childhood Judo and Jujutsu sensei, Shunnosuke Ando, also taught us to do this, but he didn't explain why--at least while I was around. Perhaps he saved the explanation for the older kids. I think the Aikido practice goes all the way back to Morihei Ueshiba, who taught that respect and compassion for one's attackers kept them from being one's enemies. You counter their violence with good will; you try to keep from harming them. No one can be your enemy without your cooperation.

George Donahue

Catching Flies

There is a saying that "you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Actually, in Hawaii, I think you would attract ants rather than flies.

But the meaning of the saying is that is is easier to attract people by being kind rather than by being angry or domineering. This applies in the dojo.

I have been in classes where the instructor always seemed to be yelling at and punishing the students. See: Push-Ups. This type of instructor demands respect, but seldom deserves it. He is teaching with vinegar.

I do not believe in punishing students. If a student is disruptive, I might have them sit down and calm down for a few minutes. This is not because I am overly liberal. It is because I am a parent. As all parents know, you can only yell at your children so much. After a certain point, they stop listening.

Our goal is not to make the students listen to us (obedience), it is for them to gain self-discipline. How will yelling at them help them in life? When they have to make tough decisions, who will be there to yell at them? When they are offered drugs in school or dared to steal something, will their teachers or parents be there? No. The only voice they hear will be that of their own conscience.

The best way for an instructor to motivate his students is by setting a good example. In a technical sense, this means that the instructor should have a high level of skill and conditioning. But it also carries over into daily life. How does the instructor act outside of the dojo? What kind of a role model is he? Is he a role model at all?

Once, I heard an instructor say "do as I say, not as I do." That was very sad.

The term "hanshi" means "moral exemplar." As instructors, we are exemplars (one that is worthy of imitation; a model) for our students. We show them how to be by trying to be our best ourselves. We are as demanding of ourselves as we are of them -- in fact, we demand more from ourselves.

Getting back to vinegar and honey, I prefer to teach by enouraging my students, and hopefully providing a good example for them. There are times when a student may be superior to me in certain respects. I would then do my best to encourage them. Just as a parent does, an instructor wants his students to go farther than him. We want the very best for our students. Our job is to boost them up, not beat them down.

How an instructor teaches reveals a lot about he is as a person. An angry person will teach a certain way, as will an insecure person, a frightened person, etc. In the same manner, a happy person will teach in a certain way, as will a generous person, an intelligent person, an enlightened person, etc.

You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.


Charles C. Goodin

Passing In Front

In my dojo, when we pass in front of someone we lower our head slightly and extend our open right hand at about waist level. This is to show that the right hand is not carrying a weapon. Our left hand is against the side of our left leg at about hip level.

This practice actually comes from Kendo and Iaido, but I have always done done this in Karate as well.

If two people are talking to each other, you should try not to pass between them. You certainly should not pass between two people who are pairing off -- you could get hit. You should try to go around them. If that is not possible, you should wait until they stop and give you a signal that you can pass.

When you pass in front of someone, you should maintain a keen sense of awareness. See: Busai -- Martial Awareness. You should be ready to respond to a sudden attack. By bowing and extending you hand, you are not lowering your guard.

My friend and mentor, George Donahue, wrote a Guest Post in response to this post. See Guest Post: Kata Gassho.


Charles C. Goodin

Attachment - Catching A Monkey

My father told me that this is a way to catch monkeys. Get a jar with a somewhat narrow neck. Place a fruit in the jar and tie the jar to a tree branch.

When the monkey comes, it will reach into the jar and grab the fruit. However, while holding the fruit it cannot withdraw its hand through the narrow neck of the jar.

Even when a person arrives, the monkey will tightly hold onto the fruit. It is captured because it won't let go.

This is a story about attachment -- to wealth, power, fame, etc. We are trapped by holding onto these things too tightly. In this case, it is not good to be like a monkey.


Charles C. Goodin

Japanese Plural

This is a small point. There is no plural in Japanese. You would say one kata, two kata. You would not say two katas. You don't add the English letter "s" to Japanese words to make them plural.

Thus, I would say that I had two sensei, not two senseis. I would teach two waza, not two wazas. I would visit two dojo, not two dojos. I would also refer to the five Pinan kata rather than the five Pinan katas. You get the idea.

Using the "s" sounds very awkward and foreign, even to a hapa (half Caucasian/half Japanese) like me.


Charles C. Goodin

Who's Best / Last

Sometimes who becomes the sensei is not about who's best but who's last.

Many times, we start training with a group of other new students. One by one, the others quit and we are the only one left. This process can take years. Often, the people who quit may be faster, stronger or even smarter than us. But we do one thing that they do not -- we keep training, year after year, decade after decade.

I always did very well in school. However, I learned Karate slowly. It takes me a long time to learn a new kata. One of my sons can watch a kata a couple of times and remember it. I might have to watch it 100 times!

However, once I learn something I rarely forget it. People who learn very quickly also tend to forget quickly -- unless they have a photographic memory. In addition, because I was taught a kata or technique many times (because I learn slowly), my sensei tended to show me more details and layers.

Those of us who had to struggle to learn Karate make good teachers because we understand how difficult it can be for students. We are more patient and give the student time to mature in the art. We know that students learn at their own time.

There is no rush. It is not about who's best but who's last.


Charles C. Goodin

Bushi: Karate Gentlemen

Okinawa's Bushi: Karate Gentlemen

By Charles C. Goodin

This article appears at the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai website.

Recently, I was conducting a search of Yoen Jiho Sha /1 issues when I came across an article entitled A Small Talk on Karate - Kinjo, a Benefactor of Karate-Do in Hawaii, by Sosen Toyohira. November 16, 1961. /2 One section of the article in particular caught my attention:

"In Okinawa, an expert of Karate was called a "Bushi," which meant a true gentleman or a noble character. In feudal times in Japan, in contrast, "Bushi" referred to "warriors" or "samurai." Karate is a defensive art only - it is never used for offense. It is a self-defense art that should be mastered to conquer oneself and learn to behave modestly. For that reason, a well trained Karateman was looked upon as a "Bushi" - a noble Karateman."

* * * *

As it turns out, different types of "Bushi" are recognized in Okinawa.

A "Kakure Bushi" is a "hidden Bushi", one who never tries to let himself be known as a Karate practitioner. Occasionally we hear about Karate hermits, experts who live in caves, tombs, or the mountains, and have completely withdrawn from society.

On the other extreme is a "Tijikun Bushi" or "knuckle or fist Bushi."

* * * *

For the remainder of this article, please see: http://seinenkai.com/art-bushi.html


Charles C. Goodin

Favorite Weapon

My dojo held a party at the beach and I invited my friend, who is a senior instructor of Kobudo as well as Karate. At one point, he was discussing various Okinawan weapons with my students. It was fascinating.

One of my students asked him, "Sensei, what is your favorite weapon?"

My friend thought and was quiet for what seemed like a long time. Finally he answered, "my fist."


Charles C. Goodin

Business Card

An instructor gave me his business card. It stated that he had won a certain event decades ago.

I mentioned this to my son, who was about 17 at the time. He said, "you'd think he'd have gotten over it by now."

In Karate, we do not stop and look back at our accomplishments.

I discussed this with my friend at lunch today. He is an Aikido sensei. He said that some Aikido students do the same thing when they throw someone. After throwing, they keep their hand extended as if to dwell on it. Once something is done, you let it go... and move on to the next thing. You should not remain attached.

Another thing we say is that when you face the sun, your shadow is always at your back. If you turn to see your shadow, you are moving in the wrong direction. You accomplishments should follow you quietly like a shadow. In the evening of your life it will grow long.

I make it a point not to state my Karate rank or title on my business card or even at my dojo website. The only place it appears is on a members listing of a senior instructors group to which I belong.

See: Enryo Suru.


Charles C. Goodin

Wearing Gi In Public

I always instruct my students not to wear their Karate gi tops or belts outside of the dojo (or at special events, such as demonstratons). The gi bottom can be worn because they look like white pants. The gi top and belt should only be put on when the student arrives at the dojo and should be removed when he or she leaves. They should not be worn while commuting.

There are two reasons for this. First, it is not becoming (conforming with a traditional sense of propriety) to wear the gi top and belt outside of the dojo. To do so draws attention to the student. We are not advertising. We wear no patches or any names on our uniforms. We are reserved.

The second reason again has to do with drawing attention. Someone could give the student trouble because he or she is a Karate student. It has been known to happen. A drunk person, for example, could say, "Hey Karate man, how would you block this!"

One day a senior Karate instructor happened to stop by my dojo. He was wearing his full gi, belt, and shoes (not slippers). I think he was going from one of his classes to another and had stopped by my facility on business.

I introduced the instructor to my class. Later, after he left, several of my students asked me why he was dressed like that outside of his dojo. They could not believe it (nor could I).

In my dojo, we do not wear our gi tops and belts outside of the dojo (except at special events, such as demonstrations).


Charles C. Goodin

Not About You

As I wrote in Yoshioka Sensei's Lectures, my Aikido Sensei would give lectures and each of us in the class would think that that he was talking specifically about us. It was uncanny.

This blog is not about a specific student or students. It is just some of my thoughts about Karate. It is not about you, although certain topics might be relevant to you (or not). This is general information.

If I wanted to write to a specific person I would do so privately.

But I realize from firsthand experience how it is to be the student, listening to a lecture, and knowing for certain that it must be about you. In this case, it is not.


Charles C. Goodin

Close the Windows

In the early days of Karate in Hawaii, some instructors would close the windows when training started. It is very hot and humid here. It must have been unbearable! But the instructors did not want outsiders to peek in the windows and "steal" techniques.

Today, most dojo are open to the public. However, this mindset still exists.

I cannot close the windows in my dojo, but I do teach differently when someone is observing (unless I know them personally). For the most part, I will only teach basics when there is an observer. Part of this is to preserve the advanced techniques.

But another reason is that I do not want to attract students by the use of advanced techniques. The basics are the most advanced thing. I don't want to attract students by showing things like chokes or takedowns. This will give them the wrong idea.

I would also prefer for visiting instructors to think that we focus on basics. In their case, I am actually guarding the advanced techniques. In some cases, I will make the class so basic that the visiting instructor might get a poor impression. This is my way of closing the windows.

When you visit a dojo, you should realize two things: (1) what you see might not be representative of what is usually taught; and (2) your presence is affecting the class. Because of the latter, you should be careful to follow the proper protocol when you visit a dojo.

You should also be aware that visiting a dojo to train is not an insignificant thing. Traditional dojo are not like restaurants where they hope for walk in customers.

Years ago, a person asked if he could visit my dojo to train. I responded that I generally do not allow visitors outside my very small style of Karate.

He replied (by email) that he was a kumite champion, had a very high rank and title, that I would have been very lucky to have him visit, and that if he did, he would have wanted to spar and kick my... butt.

Well, I guess that it was lucky for me that he did not visit.

When it comes to etiquette in Karate, the greatest caution must be taken when visiting another dojo. How you act during a visit will reflect on your dojo, teacher and even your style. You should not take this lightly. You should also remember to Never Go Empty Handed.


Charles C. Goodin

Politics -- A Reason To Continue

It happens that many of the most kind and sincere Karate students/instructors are the least able to handle or endure the stress, negative consequences, and sheer waste of time of politics. See: Quitting Karate: Politics. There have been times in my life when I felt like quitting a particular martial art, dojo, or association because of politics. As a general rule, the larger the organization and the more money invovled, the worse the potential politics.

We are Karate students! We are not the United Nations. Our problems should not be as weighty.

One thing more than any other kept me going whenever I questioned whether I should continue -- who will teach the children? Of course, I am not the only teacher, but I do like to teach children (as well as adults). I have four of my own, now ranging in age from 12 to 24. They generally started training with me at the age of 5 or 6.

Children give us a reason to continue that is greater than our own interests. For children, we will endure hardships and inconveniences such as petty politics. When we teach for children we are not thinking about ourselves.

There are other good reasons to continue in the martial arts, but for myself, passing the art on to the next generation has always been the most important.

And we should do everything possible to form dojo where politics is not welcome or tolerated. Our students' training should not be tainted by such concerns.


Charles C. Goodin

Busai -- Martial Awareness

In Karate, we are preparing for the unexpected -- for an attack we do not see coming. Imagine that you are standing in line at the store when someone comes up from behind and slugs you in the head. In Hawaii we typically refer to this as a "false crack." I think it is also called a "sucker punch." It is pretty much too late to use the self defense skills you have worked on for years or even decades if you are hit without warning (perhaps by a brick).

"Busai" means martial awareness or intuition. It is like the proverbial "eye in the back of your head," which, by the way, we used to try to develop in Aikido.

Intuition sounds like a completely subjective or metaphysical thing. I believe that busai is actually a very practical awareness of your surroundings, including all of the people within your potential range of contact.

Sensei Pat Nakata told me that his sensei, Choshin Chibana, was always cautious, even in his own home. Chibaba Sensei would always walk through the center of a doorway so that he could best respond to an unexpected attack from the right or left.

Chotoku Kyan was also said to practice busai at all times. He would always assume the most advantageous position from which to respond to a surprise attack. He would be suspicious, even of his friends.

Gichin Funakoshi wrote: "when you leave home, think that you have numerous opponents waiting for you."

Most sensei carefully select where they sit in restaurants. Students are trained to position the sensei with his back to a wall, facing the entrance so that a potential attacker can be identified and would also have to fight his way through the students to get to the sensei.

When I walk downtown at night, I always try to be aware of people, particularly those standing in the shadows. It is almost like a video game in which potential adversaries are highlighted by a form of busai radar. It becomes second nature to calculate angles of attack and to identify items (such as cars, fire hydrants, shopping carts, etc) that can be used as obstructions or weapons. Escape routes are also identified.

The feeling I get is the same as in mokuso -- an unfocused state of hightened awareness. See: Mokuso.

Busai involves more than sight. Sound is also of great importance, particularly in the darkness. A click or footstep can be the only warning of an impending attack. Even a smell can give you the split second it takes to avoid danger.

Some movements in kata are based on nightime defense -- feeling in the darkness with your hands or feet, sheilding your eyes to enhance your nighttime vision. Kata can be practiced different ways based on the assumed conditions: daytime, rough terrain, night, etc.

With busai, an attack can be anticipated and hopefully avoided. If avoidance is not possible, busai can help you to prepare for the attack, ready your defense (and counter attack), and plan for escape.


Charles C. Goodin

Body Waves

In Hawaii, we are lucky to have beautiful weather and the ocean close by. One of the things I used to enjoy was body surfing.

Sometimes a big wave rolls in but when you try to catch it you find that it lacks power and fizzles out. At other times, a small wave appears that can take you all the way into the beach.

What seems to matter the most is the shape of the wave.

The same is true of power generated by body motion. Sometimes a large motion produces little power while a small motion, if properly shaped (formed), produces a great deal of power.

When learning body dynamics, students first practice large body movements. As they the learn the proper shape (form) and timing of the movements, it is possible to make the waves smaller and smaller, until almost imperceptible. At the advanced stage, it seems as if the power appears out of nowhere.

In ocean waves, the crashing of the wave on the beach is the ending point of a process could have begun thousands of miles away. With punching, strikes and blocks, the final expression of power is the ending point of a power generation process that began with the feet (usually) and was channeled and amplified through the body.

See Exhaling.


Charles C. Goodin

Omiyage On Return

I described omiyage (a thoughtful gift) in Never Go Empty Handed.

Yesterday at class, one of my students brought an omiyage. He had been on a trip to Las Vegas and brought some delicious trail mix that he had purchased there. This was a very courteous thing to do.

It is not only courteous to bring an omiyage when you visit someone's home or dojo, it is courteous to bring an omiyage when you return to your own dojo.

When I went to Okinawa, I brought Hawaii products for my sensei and the students there. When I returned to Hawaii, I brought Okinawan products for my sensei and students here.

Again, the idea is for the omiyage to be thoughtful, not expensive.


Charles C. Goodin


At the beginning and end of each class, we sit in the seiza posture and practice mokuso. Essentially, we clear our minds and focus on our breathing. We are not praying or thinking (intentionally).

If we practice mokuso only at the beginning and ending of each class, it is of little value. But if we practice mokuso during and between each movement of a kata or drill, then that is something!

Some schools hold their hands in special configurations during mokuso. In one dojo I attended, we held our hands in the position used in a Rinzai Zen system during zazen (sitting mediation). See: Karate and Religion. It was interesting because that hand position was very similar to the hand positions found at the beginning and end of Okinawan Karate kata.

I began to associate this hand position (used in in mokuso or zazen) with the beginning of kata. When I began a kata, as soon as I formed the beginning hand position, I would immediately going into the mental state of mokuso. It is pretty clear to me that this was at least one of the intentions of the kata formulators -- not that they incorporated Zen but that they assumed that students had learned to quiet and focus their minds. The hand position was a triggering device.

I am a very mental person. I am almost always thinking about something or another. There are only a very times when I don't think: when fishing, working in the yard, and during kata.

Some people refer to kata as moving meditation. There is a saying that "when your body is still, your mind moves - when your body moves, your mind becomes still."

I would not call kata a form of meditation. I would say that during kata your mind is alert and focused without being fixed on a specific thing. In this state, you are able to respond to any circumstance without hesitation.

I used the word circumstance because you are not simply responding to potential attacks. You might have to save a life. Suppose a drugged or crazed attacker grabbed a baby and threw it at you. You wouldn't block the baby. You'd have to catch it as gently as possible. There would be no time to think, only to act without hesitation.

Mokuso training, at the beginning and end of class, and during and between each movement, enables you to do this -- to react without conscious thought or hesitation.


Charles C. Goodin

Two Things I Never Heard

I never heard a person say, "I wish I had less education."

I never heard a person say, "I wish that I spent less time with my children."

But on the other hand, how many people take the steps to gain more education? How many people decide to spend more time with their children and arrange their schedules accordingly?


Charles C. Goodin

Missing Class

If you are going to miss class, it is a good idea to let your sensei know in advance, particularly if your absence will be extended. Today, it is very easy to communicate by email. However, you should follow the procedures expected in your dojo. Assistants should be especially responsible in this regard because the sensei is relying on them.

If a yudansha (black belt holder) has missed class for several months or years, he might return to class and wear a white belt until he gets back into shape. This may seem like a very conservative thing to do, but I have seen it done often here in Hawaii.

The sensei might instruct the yudansha to wear his black belt right away or might give him some time to recover before resuming assisting or teaching responsibilities.

Once when I joined a dojo (I was already a shodan), a new student (so I thought) came to class. He was standing in the back of the dojo wearing a white belt. I was assisting and at one point slightly repositioned one of his punches. He responded by executing a great punch (one that scares you if you are anywhere near it). It turns out that the student as a returning godan (5th degree balck belt) and the sensei's senior student.

If such a senior could wear a white belt upon his return to class, we all can.


Charles C. Goodin

Begin Well, End Well

It is very important to show the proper courtesies when you begin training at a dojo. You might ask the sensei if you can watch a class first. If you are interested in joining, you might ask the sensei (or the person in charge of new students) what is expected of new students. Do you have the time to attend classes regularly and practice each new lesson at home?

If you have been referred to the dojo by another sensei, you might be asked to hand carry a letter of reference from the referring sensei. Make sure that you handle this responsibly.

When you begin training, you should follow all of the rules and procedures applicable to new students. One of the senior students will probably inform you of these. An important responsibility of all students is to come to class early and help clean and setup the dojo.

Here's where it gets a little awkward for some students. If you decide to quit the dojo/class, you should also shown the proper courtesies. You should come to the class and speak to the sensei personally. It is not good form to quit by telephone, letter, or by notifying one of the other students. It is very rude to quit without notifying the sensei.

When you come to class, you should thank the sensei for teaching you and discuss your reasons for quiting (to the extent possible). It would be thoughtful to bring an omiyage (thoughtful gift). See Never Go Empty Handed and Omiyage On Return.

Your sensei might accept your decision. He might ask you whether you might want to take a leave of absence until you have the necessary time to train. You should carefully consider each option. If you quit, you are no longer a student of the sensei and member of the dojo. If you take a leave of absence, you are.

Even after you leave the dojo, you should try your best to be supportive of it and show your respect to the sensei.

I had a student who trained with me for only about a year. He was a good student and also practiced naginata. Recently, he kindly arranged for his naginata sensei to visit my dojo to give a demonstration. My former student assisted and was accompanied by several senior members of his dojo. My former student was very thoughtful to do this. By arranging the demonstration, he helped my students to appreciate the naginata and kusarigama. Thanks to him, they got to observe and meet a fantastic sensei. I think very highly of my former student.

Begin well, end well.


Charles C. Goodin

Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai

I would like to invite you to visit the website of the Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai. I handle the website for the organization and am very fortunate to be a member. The purpose of the organization is to promote traditional Karate in Hawaii.

Sensei Jimmy Miyaji is the president of the organization, Sensei Pat Nakata is the Vice President, and Shihan Bobby Lowe is the Adviser. Other members include the following sensei: Joseph Bunch, Lee Donohue, Kenneth Funakoshi (represented by Hisae Ishii-Chang), Alan Lee (student of Tomu Arakawa), Fumio Nagaishi, Paul Ortino, Earl Padeken, Tony Troche, and Richard Young.

The members are students of such teachers as Choshin Chibana, Shinken Taira, Mas Oyama, Shinei Kyan, Richard Kim, Hirokazu Kanazawa, Kanki Izumigawa, Tsuyoshi Chitose, Masaichi Oshiro, Kenneth Murakami, Eizo Shimabukuro, Seikichi Odo, James Mitose, Walter Nishioka, Tommy Morita, Henry Seishiro Okazaki, Rubberman Higami, Yasuyuki Sakabe, Yukiso Yamamoto, Frank Matsuyama, Mits Kimura, Duke Moore, and others.

In Hawaii, we are fortunate to have a group of senior Karate instructors who regularly meet and train together. I do not believe that this is common among the other martial arts here.


Charles C. Goodin

A Piece of Nanden

This is another story from Yoshioka Sensei. He said that there are bokken (wooden swords) made of nanden, a lightweight wood also used for hashi (chopsticks). Nanden can come in light and dark varieties. The main features for its use in bokken is its light weight and strength.

Yoshioka Sensei said that there was a way to strike lightly with a nanden bokken that would not bruise the skin but would cause the bone to rot. This sounds like the delayed death touch discussed in Karate circles.

The remedy for such a strike was to rub the affected area with a piece of nanden. This explained why some sensei carried small pieces of nanden with them.

Yoshioka Sensei also said that nanden leaves would be put in a container where rice was stored. This would keep the rice free from insects.

I have a nanden plant in front of my house, and I use nanden chopsticks. Again, I think of Yoshioka Sensei whenever I see them.


Charles C. Goodin

A Narrowing Path

My Aikido Sensei, Sadao Yoshioka, used to handcraft bokken from exotic hardwoods. His favorite were dark woods like pau ferro. With a little oil, the finished bokken would be almost black.

When shaping the bokken, Yoshioka Sensei would compare the spine (back) of the blade to the way or path (or "Do") of Aikido.

"In the beginning," he would explain, "the path is wide, as it is near the grip of the bokken."

"However, as you proceed along the path, it becomes narrow, as it is at the tip of the bokken."

He explained that when you practice Aikido, there is room on the path in the beginning. As you become more advanced, the path is narrow and there is less room to wander. It is easier to fall off the true path as you advance.

I tried to make three bokken with Yoshioka Sensei. It is incredibly difficult to make the spine straight and tapered. In addition, there are cut, sloping surfaces on each side. These must also the straight. At the same time, the bokken curves.

I was amazed at how Yoshioka Sensei could get it all straight (and properly curved) using only a pencil, his eye, and hand tools. And yet he did, starting with only rough planks of wood. The finished bokken were works of art -- and expressions of the Path or Way.

Whenever I see a bokken, I think about Yoshioka Sensei and his lessons.


Charles C. Goodin

Like A Rice Plant

There is a saying that a Karate student should be like a rice plant.

As the rice stalk matures, it bends. In the same way, as a Karate student advances in the art, he should become more humble -- bow his head. Humility accompanies maturity. See Proper Bowing and False Courtesy.

It is because of this saying that some Karate schools incorporate the rice plant into their logs or patches.


Charles C. Goodin

In A Barrel

This story was told to me by my good friend Professor Kimo Ferreira. I am paraphrasing to the best of my ability.

A man challenged a Karate (maybe it was Kenpo) instructor to a fight with weapons. The challenger wanted to have the first choice of weapons. The Karate instructor agreed as long as he could choose the place for the fight.

The challenger chose a bazooka. The Karate instructor selected a knife, which suprised the challenger.

"OK, so where do we fight?" asked the challenger.

"In a barrel," replied the Karate instructor with a smile.


Charles C. Goodin

Awkward, Unpredictable Kumite

My first Shorin-Ryu sensei was very skilled at kumite. Back in his time, he could successfully kumite with just about anyone he went with.

One day, he practiced with a student who was mentally challenged. As soon as they started, the student hit him. He thought it must have been a lucky hit, but then the student did it again -- and again.

After a while, my sensei began to study how the student was moving. His awkwardness and unpredictability made him extremely difficult to kumite with.

I also think that most people who practiced kumite with my sensei would have been very cautious with him. They would have anticipated his techniques (or tried to) and been reluctant to expose themselves to an attack or counterattack.

This student, on the other hand, seemed to have no such concerns. He moved when he wanted to move and struck without telegraphing or warning.

I think there is something to be learned from this.


Charles C. Goodin

In Praise of Translators

Those of us who seriously practice Karate and study its history, owe a debt of gratitude to a handful of translators who have literally opened the books (and articles) to us. For the most part, these are American, Canadian or European Karate instructors and students who are, fortunately for all of us, fluent in Japanese.

I wish to thank (in alphabetical order): Kiko Ferreira, Patrick & Yuriko McCarthy, Mario McKenna, Andreas Quast, Sanzinsoo, Charles Joseph Swift, and Mark Tankosich.

Others too, deserve our thanks.

I think that it is safe to say that we can learn more about Karate today than at any other time -- from the Bubishi, to Motobu, Funakoshi, and Mabuni's books, to Karate-Do Taikan and Karate Kenpo, we are so lucky!

A heartfelt thank you to Karate's translators!


Charles C. Goodin

Masami Teraoka

I am very fortunate to know a great artist, Masami Teraoka. Please visit his excellent website at:


That website is also the entry point for the website of his wife, Lynda Hess, who is also a great artist. Both have a very insightful and expanded view of reality.

My Karate is not as good as Masami's artwork. I must still work at it!

As I posted earlier (My Skilled Friend), I feel that it is important to compare our abilities to any great artist, musician, scholar, etc. We should not limit ourselves to martial artists.

How did these great people become so great at what they do? And how can we, in our chosen medium of expression, do so?


Charles C. Goodin


It is almost impossible to see something different from what you understand. With a fixed mind, you cannot see clearly.

When I first met Professor Katsuhiko Shinzato, he started to work on my basics, migrating them to his form of body dynamics. One of the first techniques we worked on was a simple gedan barai (downward block).

I always had a very bad problem with my shoulders rising. This was because I was generating power from my arms, shoulders and chest, which was all I understood until that time.

Shinzato Sensei would show me how he would squeeze his lats, twist his blocking arm, and lightly throw the block using power from his lower body, boosted and directed by the action of his rotary motion koshi (this is really an oversimplification).

I would respond by raising my shoulders and blocking using my chest and arms!

Shinzato Sensei would show me again, breaking down every aspect so that it should be clear.

I would do my same old block.

Now I am not an unintelligent person (hopefully) and I had travelled all the way from Hawaii to Okinawa to specifically learn this from Shinzato Sensei. I really wanted to be there and do my best.

But I just could not see what he was doing. Fortunately, I took a video of the training and over the next few weeks and months I would watch it again and again, until it started to become clear. I could see Shinzato Sensei's method of generating and directing power... at least I could begin to see it and even begin to do it. I must have watched the video more than 100 times in just a couple of weeks.

This made me realize a very important thing -- not that I was a slow learner (which I was) -- but that we can only see what our minds will allow us to see.

When Shinzato Sensei moved, I was trying to interpret his movement by what I knew. I only knew how to move in a rigid manner. Using that framework, what he did made no sense. It was as if his movement was "magic" -- so powerful, fast and explosive with seemingly no effort. With my fixed perception, he was just a magician.

Only in microscopic steps was Shinzato Sensei able to coax me out of my dreamlike state. After a few days with him, I was still terrible, but his magic started to look more like a reality to me -- his fantastic movement was the result of the skillful application of sound body dynamic principles.

Later, I observed a video of Shinzato Sensei teaching a group of Goju-Ryu students. Our style has Fukyugata Ni (Gekkisai Dai Ichi) in common with them, so he chose that kata to work on.

No matter how he moved, they moved in the way they to which they were accustomed -- like Goju-Ryu students. He was trying to show them how to move in a different way, but they could not see it or allow themselves to do it. I am not criticizing them -- I did the same thing.

Again, it is very difficult to see something that is outside of your experience, frame of reference, expections, mindset, etc.

There is another issue. Suppose you have a camera that can take fantastic photos. It can generate 10 megapixel images (that's really big). Unfortunately, you have a really bad printer that can only print crude black and white images. In this case, it does not matter how magnificent the images you take are because they will come out poorly from the printer.

In my case, Shinzato Sensei was a 10 megapixel image and I was a junky old printer. Just about everything he did was beyond my resolution.

But that's Ok. That's how it always is. The sensei has to drop his movements down to our level of perception and then coax and build us into greater levels of resolution.

Please remember that it is difficult to see what a gifted sensei is doing. You have to look as hard as a drowing man gasping for air! See?


Charles C. Goodin


If you have a sprained ankle or broken leg, you will need crutches until you recover.

In Kishaba Juku, we are sometimes asked about our use of a "double hip."

In order to develop power using your whole body, it is necessary to connect your upper and lower body through your core and koshi. Hip motion is an important aspect of generating and directing power.

When a student is stiff and not used to a rotary use of the hip (koshi), we will try all sorts of exercises to get them to loosen up and move their hips. One such excercise is using a double hip movement.

Of course, such a movement would not be useful in practical circumstances -- it is too slow. The use of a double hip motion is just an execrcise, or crutch, until the student catches on. But if a student only learns to that level, he might think that it is used at all levels.

Once you are healthy, you no longer need crutches (for hip movement or otherwise).


Charles C. Goodin

Baking a Cake

Let's say that you are supposed to bake a cake for one hour at 350 degrees. You cannot simply bake it in half the time at 700 degrees. The cake would surely burn.

This is how it is with students. It takes a certain amount of time for students to learn, practice, apply, and perfect techniques. If you rush them, they will get bad habits and become frustrated. Students must learn at their own pace.

Sometimes I hear comments that a particular student is not advancing quickly enough. I always say, "give them time." A sensei must be very patient. We should encourage students, particularly by our own effort, but must remain patient.

Then, when they get it, even if months or years after we taught them, we must be there to say, "that's it!" or "so, so , so , so!"

Don't burn the cake.


Charles C. Goodin

My Students - Myself

I can see myself in each of my students.

Each error that they make reminds me of my own faults. I am responsible for their movements. If they are moving incorrectly, it is because of me.

However, as they progress, I feel it is by their own effort.

My job is to dilligently stomp our my own errors in them.


Charles C. Goodin

Soaking In Urine

I heard this story from a man and woman, whose father was one of the early Karate and Okinawan Sumo experts here in Hawaii. When a Karate person would receive a certain kind of internal injury, the remedy was to soak in a barrel of urine. My understanding is that the injury referred to was a death touch -- an injury that would result in death days or even weeks after it was inflicted.

During the plantation days, urine was saved and used as a liquid fertilizer. Each home would have little buckets for gathering the urine which would be poured into community barrels or vats. Thus, it was not that hard to find enough urine in which to soak.

I have no idea if this remedy worked, but I found it very interesting. I wonder if this practice was also followed in Okinawa, Japan or the orient?


Charles C. Goodin

Keep Your Elbows Close

One of the things my sensei always says is to "keep your elbows close to your body." This simple rule can have remarkable results. The closer your elbows are to your body, the better your arms can connect to your core (koshi).

The same rule applies in Yamani-Ryu Bojutsu. The closer your elbows are to your body, the better the bo can connect to your core (koshi). This is one of the secrets of whiplike, explosive movement.

When blocking, your elbow should generally not extend more than one fist from your body. During the process of generating and transferring power, it will often be much closer.

When your elbow is overextended, it is vulnerable to attack, particularly arm bars and wrenches. It also makes you easier to throw and exposes your body.

Keep your elbows close to your body.


Charles C. Goodin

Never Go Empty Handed

Karate means "China Hand," at least that is how I interpret it.

When I think of "Empy Hand" I think of the saying that "you should not go empy handed to a person's house." When you visit someone's house, particularly for the first time, you should bring an omiyage. An omiyage is a thoughtful gift. The emphasis is on thoughtfulness, not price.

This rule also applies to the dojo. When you visit a dojo, you should not go empty handed. It is best to bring a pie, cake, pastries, ground coffee, or something thoughtful. This is a token of your respect to the dojo and its members.

When any of my students plan to visit another dojo, I always say "don't go empty handed!" I might even send an omiyage specifically from our dojo. The students would also bring their own omiyage, unless they are visiting on my behalf.

From time to time, we get visitors to our dojo. I will sometimes ask my students to predict whether the visitor will bring an omiyage or token to the dojo. Unfortunately, many guests do not do so. It seems that the practice is most prevalent in Japan, Okinawa, and the east -- and students who study these cultures.

Also, a fair percentage of visitors who come to train (men or women) will wear jewelry, make up, cologne, etc., which is not permitted in our dojo. It is awkward for me to inform them of this.

If you plan to visit a dojo, especially for the first time, please bring an omiyage. If you are traveling, bring the omiyage from your home town, perhaps something special to your area. Then you can say something like, "these are macadamia nuts from Hawaii" or "this is sourdough bread from San Francisco." You get the idea.

Please don't misunderstand. I don't sit around eating sweets! The pastries or gifts are not the focus. They are just tokens. In fact, bringing a expensive gift is even worse than bringing nothing at all because it would obligate our dojo and members. We will have to reciprocate. An omiyage is a token of appreciation for being allowed to enter the dojo.

Remember, don't go empy handed.

And if you visit a dojo for the first time, you might inquire about any protocols followed, such as not wearing jewlrey.

See: Omiyage On Return.


Charles C. Goodin

Checking With Other Sensei

From time to time, a student might request to join my dojo when he already trains with another sensei. In such cases, I will ask the student to obtain his sensei's permission first and add that I will have to call the sensei to discuss the situation before the student can begin to train with me. I might even arrange a lunch with the sensei first.

Sometimes, this presents a problem for the student. However, it would be very rude for me to allow a student who already has a sensei to train with me without the proper courtesies, particularly if the sensei is my senior (in any style or of any art). If the student refuses to get permission, I simply will not accept him.

Sometimes, the other sensei will be happy and give his blessing. I will be careful, however, never to contradict anything that the student was taught. I will also be very slow to promote the student in my style irrespective of his other rank. I will require the student to wear a white belt for at least a year, again irrespective of his other rank.

Actually, the style I teach is very unusual and the results of the body dynamics we teach are very noticeable. It is hard for most students to turn this off in their other class, and this can present a problem. It would be rude for the student to move our way in his other class. Again, this would reflect negatively on me and my dojo.

Please be very careful to observe all the necessary courtesies if you decide to train with two sensei.


Charles C. Goodin

What Have I Done Today?

Each day I ask myself, "what have I done to improve my Karate today?"

Sometimes the answer may be "nothing." Work and family must come first.

But the next day I will ask the question again. And the next.

How can I expect improvement from my students if I don't demand it of myself?

"What have you done to improve your Karate today?"


Charles C. Goodin


Rank is a very subjective thing. Some people are promoted quickly while others remain at lower ranks for decades. A lot depends on the sensei, dojo, organization, etc., which again, is very subjective. If you learn from a godan (5th degree black belt), it will be very difficult for you to become a godan yourself. It is possible, just difficult. However, if your sensei is a judan, there is plenty of room for your advancement.

These are petty considerations for serious Karate students. Training polishes the spirit. There is no rank for that.

When I meet another Karate student or instructor, I might notice their rank (relative to mine for certain purposes), but I am more interested in how long they have trained. If they have trained longer than me, irrespective or rank or style, I will consider him or her to be my sempai (senior).

There is no shame in being junior to someone. In fact, I find it preferable. Seniors are much more likely to teach me things. Juniors, traditionally, will be reluctant to "teach" or correct a senior.

I am in an unusual situation with respect to my first Shorin-Ryu sensei. Because he retired many years ago, I have risen to a higher rank than he holds. Of course, he is my senior in every way and would have a higher rank had he not retired. But this points out the weakness of any ranking system. I would never act senior to him... never.

I met a gentleman at a seminar many years ago. I was a sandan at that time and he was a shodan. However, he had trained for many more years than me. As it turned out, his sensei refused to promote him because he had not done something the sensei had requested. Nevertheless, I treated this gentleman as my senior, and still would. He has trained for much longer than me.

I have heard that the higher dan ranking you obtain, the more it costs. Some dan certificates can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. My sensei must be very unusual. When I received my last promotion three years ago, he charged nothing at all.

Rank is a very subjective thing.


Charles C. Goodin

Whip Speed Limit

Not long ago, I was a guest instructor at my friend's Shotokan Dojo. I brought my second and third sons and a young girl (one of my best students). They are 21, 16 and 14, respectively. My sons are 6 feet and 5 feet 10 inches tall, and the young girl is about 5 feet tall. The point is that they were different ages and builds.

As an experiment, I had the three of them stand in a horizontal line and throw gedan uke's on my command. I told them to move as quickly as possible. Each of them has very good koshi body dynamics.

Despite their different ages and builds, there was no appreciable difference in their speeds. Their whipping motions were almost identical. Actually, the only difference I noticed was that my third son was delaying before initiating his technique. Perhaps the other two were just quicker off the command.

My point is that there seems to be a natural limit to speed using whiplike mechanics. Whiplike movement are much faster than conventional forms of movement. However, once whip mechanics are learned, speed does not continue to increase appreciably.

It does become possible to throw techniques with little or no "wind up", thus giving the illusion of faster movement. But actually, the whip movement is at the same speed -- the distance is just shorter.

I would theorize that anyone using whip mechanics in any style or art would face a natural speed limit. Even whips, although fast, do not move infinitely faster and faster. There is a natural limit.

One day I was practicing kumite with my Sensei at my home. We were doing the Chinese "slapping hand" form of practice. He started out at medium speed and I could keep up with him. He gradually increased his speed and I kept up (because I had practiced this form of kumite since high school). I was feeling pretty confident and good (a sure sign that something bad was going to happen).

Then I accidentally ran into one of his hands. It almost knocked me off my feet. He was going fast and I was going at about the same speed. However, my movements were light. His entire body weight was behind each of his movements. I should add that I am taller and heavier than my Sensei.

That's the real difference. While speed has certain limits, the amount of power behind the technique can be increased with practice. My sensei has fast and heavy hands. I'm still working on that -- a slap than can knock you off your feet.


Charles C. Goodin

Block From Where Your Hands Are

My Sensei, Professor Katsuhiko Shinzato, often says that we must block from where our hands are. If you punch the attacker's chest and he throws a punch, you must block from where your hand is -- on his chest. There is no time to pull your hand back or "wind up" before you block.

Bruce Lee was famous for his "one inch" punch. This is the same idea. You must be able to punch, strike or block using only one inch or no space at all. In other words, you must be able to generate full power in minimal space. This requires an advanced form of body dynamics which is the core of the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu as well of other "internal" styles.

Some time ago I was watching Enter the Dragon. The was a slow motion sequence when Bruce Lee was in the mirror room near the end of the film. When I saw him move in slow motion, I thought to myself, "that's Kishaba Juku!" His body dynamics were so similar to ours. This should not be surprising. All styles that use core (or "koshi") body dynamics are similar.

Blocking or striking from where your hand is shortens the distance your hand must travel, thus giving the appearance that you are moving very fast. Short movements are faster. Short movements with full power... now that's the trick!


Charles C. Goodin

Sensei Pat Morita

The most famous "sensei" to visit Hawaii was undoubtedly Pat Morita. I met Pat because his hanai son's daughter was in my class. Eventually, I worked on a few writing projects for him. See Noriyuki Pat Morita: In the Footsteps of a Sensei.

Pat took his role as a sensei very seriously. People would always come up to him and say "Mr Miyagi!" "Wax on, wax off." Many would relate how his portrayal of the character influenced their lives. Pat would always take time to pose for photographs, sign autographs, and "talk story" with them.

I also saw elder martial arts sensei from Japan come up and pay their respects. Pat would always treat them with courtesy and respect.

Pat did not study Karate, except for this film roles perhaps. He did learn some Judo while interned during world War II. I believe that Fumio Demura was his stunt double for the Karate Kid films.

Pat had the nicest bow. His back was always perfectly straight. One day he told me that it was because the vertebrae of his back were fused because of the spinal turburculosis he suffered in childhood.

Here are two little known facts. Karate Kid 2 was filmed here in Hawaii. Sensei Zenko Heshiki was a consultant for the project.

In Karate Kid 1, there is a scene in which Miyagi shows a picture of himself when he was a boy. The photo was of Cy Shimabukuro, the son of my first Sensei, Rodney Shimabukuro. Shimabukuro Sensei learned from Sensei Tommy Morita.

I will remember many things about Pat Morita. He was a great writer and writing coach. He was a great actor. He was a proud and hard working American of Japanese ancestry. He volunteered his name and time to many worthy projects.

But perhaps more than anything, I will remember the way his whole face lit up when he smiled. It was infectious. You had to smile and laugh when you were around him. He could delight children by his expressions, or even by folding dollar bills into animals.

Many of the sensei I have learned from have passed on. I will always think of Pat Morita with great respect and admiration among them.

Here's to you Uncle Pat!


Charles C. Goodin

Shorin, Goju, Etc

To me, Karate is Karate.

Before the advent of styles, the relevant thing was the teacher. Who was your teacher?

It is said that it became necessary for Karate to develop style names when registration was sought with the Dai Nippon Butokukai, the governing body for martial arts in Japan before World War II. However, most teachers at that time did not use style names. And the Butokukai no longer governs Karate, unless a dojo becomes a member.

Imagine meeting a famous opera singer. You would not ask them what style of opera they practice. His or her talent is what makes them famous.

Today, I think that some people want to be recognized or receive credit for belonging to a certain style. Names of famous Karate instructors are dropped to bring credit to the student.

But then, I think that the name Shorin-Ryu was name dropping too. In Okinawa, it looked good to be associated with Chinese martial arts. The kanji for Shorin is the same as Shaolin, however, there appears to be very little connection between the two.

Early Karate writers even traced the art back to Bodhidharma, who came from India. In Kenpo Karate, I remember hearing him referred to as the Great Prince Daruma Buddha the 28th. Wow, Karate goes back to India! How great! How noble!

Of course, this only matters if you are trying to sell something -- classes, rank, credibility, etc. Really now, how much of what you know came from Bodhidharma, the Shaolin Temple, Kusanku, Tode Sakugawa, Bushi Matsumura, Kosaku Matsumora, etc.? Most of what you learned came from your teachers and the people you trained with, as well as your own insight and creativity.

It is good to know your lineage so that when you meet another Karate student you can appreciate your connection (if any). A gentleman called me the other day and said that he practiced Shotokan, which, in his words, "came from Shorin-Ryu." I replied that early Shotokan was Shorin-Ryu, perhaps it still is. So, he and I were cousins in the art.

If you stand next to another Karate student or teacher who can move in an extraordinary way, would you ask what style he practices or how you could move like that too? Styles don't teach -- teachers do.


Charles C. Goodin

Hide Behind Your Bo

I attended two bo and sai seminars conducted by Sensei Toshihiro Oshiro (see OshiroDojo.com). He is a senior of Yamanne-Ryu (or Yamani-Ryu) Bojutsu and studied under Chokei and Chogi Kishaba, among others. I consider him to be an excellent instuctor and I have never seen anyone manage a large group of diverse students as well as he does. The seminars here in Hawaii were sponsored by Sensei Kiyohisa Hirano.

One thing that Oshiro Sensei stressed is "to hide behind your bo." He said this often and I often think about it.

The years have gone by and I now teach Yamani-Ryu Bojutsu under Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, who also studied under the Kishaba brothers. In my class, I often repeat, "hide behind your bo."

I a very basic way, this makes sense. If someone is going to attack you, you should keep one tip of your bo pointed toward him. You should literally hide behind your bo.

If you were diving in the ocean and a big shark swam by, I am sure that you would point your spear toward it.

The same applies to the use of the empty hand. I often tell my students to hide behind their blocking or forward hand. This hand is always pointed toward the attacker and presents a barrier. It can either block or impede (slow down) the attacker. You have to occupy the space between you.

It is essential to protect your seichusen (center line) and to attack the opponent's seichusen. This is the strategy of Karate -- how to protect your seichusen but get the attacker to expose his, so that you can attack it. Hiding behind your bo (or hand), you almost walk on a tightrope, protecting your seichusen and angling to the most advantageous position to attack his.

Hiding behind you bo also involves lining up your joints. When you hide behind the bo, your joints naturally line up presenting an opportunity for the use of explosive, whiplike body dynamics.

The next time you strike or block, think about hiding behind it.


Charles C. Goodin

Self Respect

A few minutes ago, my daughter and I were walking outside the building in which my law office is located. She noticed a man smoking. He works in a pharmacy. She said to me, "doesn't it seem strange that someone who works in a pharmacy would smoke?"

I said, "he must not respect himself." "If someone tried to stab him with a needle that would inject tar and nicotene into his system, he sure would resist. But he freely does the same thing to himself."

In Karate, respect should start with ourselves. It doesn't make sense to work on perfecting kata and character while neglecting our own bodies. We should work to have healthy bodies. This, in turn, will enable us to do better in activities such as Karate. It will also help us to age better and resist illnesses and disease.

Respect yourself and respect others.


Charles C. Goodin

A Compliment - Family

Several years ago, I participated in a demonstration for Furyu: The Budo Journal. It was at the Borders Bookstore in Waikele. There were many martial artists in the audience.

My sons and I demonstrated Karate (kata). Other presenters demonstrated other martial arts.

After my demonstration, a older teacher of another art can up to me and said that he was very impressed. I hate to admit that I felt a little proud, thinking that I must have done my kata very well.

Then the gentleman explained that although he had taught his art for many years, his children would never join him. He was impressed that my sons were training with me.

Since then, I have never felt proud about my kata, but always feel very proud about the fact that my entire family (my wife, sons and daughter) train with me. Karate is a family activity for us.

When it comes to kata, I always feel that I must work hard to improve.


Charles C. Goodin

Recent Family Article

Last Thursday (March 16, 2006), a very nice artcle about my family appeared in the Island Life section of the Honolulu Advertiser. The article is entitled "Family Follows His Karate Moves: Goodin clan from Aiea spends quality time in classes perfecting martial arts, staying fit." You can click on the link to see the online version of the article. The title of the online version differs from the print version.

Of course, I was very happy that the article presented my family. I am very fortunate that my entire family practices with me -- my wife, three sons and daughter. My family is like a built-in dojo.

I was also happy that the article was about family and health, not about tournaments, sport, violence, or commercialism.

The day the article appeared, I received a call from an 81 year old gentleman who had practiced Karate in Okinawa in 1952. His sensei was Choshin Chibana (how lucky!). I met with him right away and he donated a very precious photo collection to the Hawaii Karate Museum. I have been very busy scanning the collection and readying it for presentation.

I had other calls about the article, most wanting more information about classes. I asked the reporter to give the link to the Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai website so that readers could find a dojo in their area. My dojo only accepts new students two or three times each year. Our next opening will be during the first week of June.

It is a little embarrassing to be the subject of articles. However, it is very good for the Hawaii Karate Museum's projects. Also, for those of us who are "traditional," we should allow articles to be written about us so that traditional values and views can be presented. Otherwise, the public will only hear about the sport aspect, entertainment aspect, or cases where martial arts are abused.

If you want to write about Karate, please consider writing about traditional values, health, and Okinawan culture. People will read what we write about.


Charles C. Goodin

Signaling the Uke

When I practiced Aikido, the sensei would often call up a student to act as the uke (attacker). The sensei might point or wave his hand toward the student or just look at him. If the student was daydreaming, he would miss the signal.

This is a critical aspect of training. The student must be ready to respond to the sensei's signal without any gap. The split second that the sensei signals, the student must already start moving toward him. There must be no gap whatsoever.

In fact, the sensei might just think about the student... and the student should respond, without hesitation.

This applies to all martial arts, not just Aikido. A student who can respond without hesitation can also respond to an unexpected attack.

Mental alertness is one of the most important aspects of martial arts training.


Charles C. Goodin

Email, Posting

It is important for Karate students to be courteous and polite. This applies to all forms of communication and interaction.

Some people tend to become more casual in email and when posting on the internet. A student should remember that courtesy applies in these situations too. Students should address seniors in a courteous manner and write in a way that is composed and reserved.


Charles C. Goodin

A Fine Sensei

One of the finest sensei I have ever met is Dr. Noboru Akagi, my sons' Kendo sensei.

Aside from his technical ability and promotion of the arts of Kendo and Iaido here in Hawaii, Akagi Sensei did something very rare among teachers -- he groomed his successor and handed the dojo over to him while he was still relatively young and healthy. He still teaches but has already established his successor, as well as many other capable instructors.

Too many sensei wait until it is too late to groom a successor or successors. Since this could take at least 20 years, a sensei must start the process before he is too old. Otherwise, he might not have enough time or will be unable, at an advanced age, to move and demonstrate correctly.

Some sensei selfishly hold onto control of the dojo rather than passing it on. In such a case, the dojo might fall apart or break into factions upon the sensei's death.

Sensei should plan ahead, groom a successor, and then support him or her.


Charles C. Goodin

Hai Hai

Okinawan sensei tend to say "hai hai" when they want to simply acknowledge something. Since "hai" means "yes," this can cause some misunderstandings. Actually, "hai hai" often means, "I see", or "I understand" which is quite different than "yes."

A sensei told me that he watched a student perform a kata in a particularly terrible manner. When asked for his comments, the sensei just said "hai hai." The student took this as an acknowledgment that he had performed the kata properly and walked away very happy.

Actually, the sensei meant no such thing. "Charles," he told me, "it was as if the student was suffering a convulsion." "How could I comment on that?" "It was not kata."

Don't assume that "hai hai" means yes.


Charles C. Goodin

Seeing the Attacker

During kata, it is important to be able to see the attacker. For each movement, there is a corresponding attack or attacks. When you move, you should visualize the attacker and see your technique being applied.

You can tell when a student sees the attacker or is merely going through the motions.

Once I watched a sensei performing Fukyugata Ichi. The first movement is a left gedan barai (downward block) followed by a right step and right chudan tsuki (middle punch). The sensei took an extra long step before the punch.

When asked about it he explained, "he moved." The attacker, in his mind, had stepped back requiring him to take a longer step.

He might have been joking, but he seemed serious.

When performing kata you should visualize the attacker(s).


Charles C. Goodin


I am taller than all of the teachers I studied with since adulthood. However, when we trained I always felt that they were taller. Only in photographs do I notice that I am taller.

This is a strange thing!


Charles C. Goodin


In my dojo, we exhale when we strike or block. It sounds like hissing.

The reason for exhaling is to squeeze most of the air out of your lungs and to compress your body. The sound of the exhale is irrelevant and, in fact, it can be done quietly. The purpose of the sound, at least with beginners, is to make sure that they are breathing and exhaling properly.

Students who do not exhale properly look like drums. The vibrations caused by their movements reverberate in their drumlike bodies causing disruptive shockwaves.

Imagine a plastic bottle half-filled with water. If you roll the bottle on the ground, the water will slosh around and cause the bottle to roll unevenly. If you squueze the water out, the bottle will roll smoothly. The same is true of the body. When the air is squeezed out, movements are much cleaner.

Also, lungs filled with air make a good target.

Finally, when you move in a wavelike manner, it is important for the energy not to hit air pockets which will dissipate the wave. When your body is compressed and the air is squeezed out, the wave will go faster as long as the density is maintained and the striking part tapers (like an arm or leg). This is the secret of whips.

See Body Waves.


Charles C. Goodin

Student Breakeven Point

I was speaking to another Karate instructor. He asked me how many students I had. I told him that I had 30 students.

I asked him how many students he had. He said that the had 60.

I thought that 60 students was very good. Then he told me that the breakeven point for his dojo was 80 students. With 60 students, he was losing money.

I teach in a nonprofit manner because I do not want to have to think about breakeven points when it comes to my students. Each student is a lifetime investment.


Charles C. Goodin

Imi (Meaning)

My good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, said that his sensei, Choshin Chibana (founder of the Kobayashi-Ryu form of Shorin-Ryu and student of Anko Itosu), did not speak about bunkai (applications). Instead, they used the term imi (meaning).

Often, the way a technique was done in the kata differed from its actual meaning. For example, punches were usually done to the middle or high levels, but not in a downward direction. This was because it did not look good to punch someone who had fallen (or been dropped by a punch).

Chibana Sensei learned the imi of kata from Itosu Sensei. I have found learning the imi of kata from Nakata Sensei to be fascinating. The fact that we practice different forms of Shorin-Ryu does not matter in the least.


Charles C. Goodin


Once when I was giving a lecture at class, I told the students to be careful to adjust the headrests in their cars. Too often, I said, the headrests are at the neck level, below the head. In case of an accident, the occupant's head could snap back, causing injury. The headrest should be behind the head to cushion it in case of a collision.

At the next class, one of my yudansha students told me that his car had been struck from behind after the last class. But because he had adjusted his headrest, he was not injured. The headrest had prevented him from getting whiplash.

There is more to Karate than punching, blocking, and kicking. We have to look for ways to be safe and careful in daily life as well.


Charles C. Goodin

Strike Through to the Back

When striking, the focus is never on the surface -- it is to the back of the person. If you are striking the face, your target is the back of the head (on the inside). If you are blocking a punch, your target is the back of the arm (through the bone).

Too often, Karate books and videos show surface striking. In order to be in the correct position to strike through to the back, you must stand closer to the attacker. If you can only strike the surface, you will do little or no damage and invite further attacks.

So, when you practice punching (or blocking, kicking, etc.) you should visualize striking through to the back.


Charles C. Goodin

Last Resort

Once when I was giving a lecture to my class, I asked when Karate techniques should be used. One child said, "only as a last resort." Another child agreed.

Then I asked a third child if that was right. He also agreed. I then asked him what "last resort" means. He had no idea!

We have to be careful to make sure that our students understand what we are saying. Memorizing "last resort" won't help if the student does not know what it means.

I explained that Karate techniques should only be used when there is no other way out -- when you have tried to avoid the conflict by every other means possible. Using Karate is the last thing you want to do, not the first or even the second.

The saying "Karate ni sente nashi" roughly means that "there is no first attack in Karate." This goes hand in hand with the idea of use as a last resort. Karate is not used to attack first, nor is it used to counter -- unless it is unavoidable.


Charles C. Goodin

Treasure in the Pocket

Mizuho Mutsu, who visited Hawaii in 1934, wrote that a hand is a treasure in the pocket (much like a sword being a treasure in its saya, or sheath).

This saying may not have originated with Mutsu. But it is interesting that it was repeated by James Mitose, who taught Kenpo in Hawaii in the 1940s. The saying was passed down in Kenpo schools. I remember hearing it in high school. I believe that Mitose had a copy of Mutsu's 1933 book (Karate Kenpo), because two photographs from the book appear in Mitose's 1947 book (What is Self-Defense).

"A hand is a treasure in the pocket" means that in Karate we are to avoid the destructive use of the hand. Once the hand is used, it becomes a terrible thing. A Karate man fears his own hand, meaning he fears the consequences of using his art destructively, even if for self-defense.

The secret of Karate is to avoid its use, except as a last resort.


Charles C. Goodin

Who Made It?

Sometimes when I visit a dojo and observe an interesting technique or drill, I will ask the instructor whether he learned it from his sensei or developed it himself.

At times, I think that the instructor might be concerned that I thought he made it up.

Actually, if the instructor learned the technique or drill from his sensei, I would compliment him for being a good student.

If, on the other hand, he made it up, I would compliment him for being a genius!

All great teachers are innovators.


Charles C. Goodin

Other Martial Arts

When I was about 20, my Karate sensei encouraged me to practice other martial arts. Some might think it better to concentrate on Karate alone. With my sensei's enouragement, I practiced Aikido, Kendo, Iaido, and Judo. I had practiced some of these and other arts (Kenpo and Tai Chi) when I was younger.

In the short term, my Karate training might have suffered. In the long term, my sensei could not possibly have given me better advice. Now, when I speak to my friend who is a Aikido sensei, I say "Karate and Aikido are the same." One of my pleasures is to match bo against bokken with my sons who practice Kendo.

All martial arts have a great deal in common. The differences are more a factor of emphasis than fundamental.

A person who is experienced in other martial arts has a better chance of countering them, if necessary. And some of the best Karate sensei I have met practiced Judo first. Judo, Karate and Kendo are an excellent mix. But is is best to excel at one.


Charles C. Goodin

Chameleon Kumite

Whenever I had the opportunity to spar, I would always try to use my partner's technique. If he liked to punch, I would punch. If he liked to kick, I would do the same. Some fight close, some far. I would copy them. I would grapple a grappler and go sticky with a sticky hand person.

Of course, I would often lose or at best tie with people who were very good at their techniques. But in the process, I would become better at their techniques, while keeping my favorite method in reserve. I think of this as chameleon kumite.

Sometimes you can learn more by not winning. And sometimes when you win, you are giving away your technique.


Charles C. Goodin

One Special Technique

Some of the elder sensei I have met told me that in the old days a Karate master would develop a single technique that was his specialty -- something he could do better than anyone else. If attacked, the master would wait for the perfect opportunity to use this technique.

Of course, the master would also practice other techniques, but he would concentrate on his specialty. A normal person would not be able to withstand it. Even another master might not be able to defend against it if used at the right moment. The other master, naturally, would have his own special technique.

Today, we tend to practice many techniques and specialize in none. I feel that is wise to have "an Ace up your sleeve."


Charles C. Goodin