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Self Discipline

There are two types of discipline. Regular discipline is when you comply with an external authority (such as your instructor or the police). Self discipline is when you follow your own conscience and code of conduct. It should be obvious that Karate instills the latter -- self discipline.

But how many instructors are actually trying to discipline their students. If you are strict, yell at your students, punish them, and even beat them, is all that designed to teach self discipline or simple obedience?

When the instructor is not there, when there is no visible authority, that is when self-discipline is most important. That is when the student must have the strength of will and character to do the right thing because it is the right thing not because of the risk of punishment or expense for doing the wrong thing. The instructor's job is to instill self discipline in the student.

I don't think that anyone would say that I am a mean or strict instructor. I try to teach by encouragement and example. I try to bring out the best in each student, not beat them down. I try to encourage good habits that will replace any bad ones.

That said, I always worry that one or more of my students might become very strict and mean when they become the instructor. I was told that Gichin Funakoshi was so peaceful that he would avoid even stepping on an insect. However, some of his students became very strict and militaristic. There were stories of students being beaten to death when they tried to quit a dojo. There are also examples of students killing animals to prove their strength. Of course, I am not comparing myself with Funakoshi Sensei. I am just worried that if his great peaceful example could be missed, could my little example be missed too?

I believe in bringing out the best in each student. I do not believe in punishment, beatings, or humiliation. I never make my students do push-up for errors. I just continue to teach. We all make errors -- I certainly do. It is my job to correct the errors. Any errors in the dojo are my fault, not the students'.

Some teachers are very strict and demand respect because they are actually very insecure. Even a physically strong and intimidating person can be very weak inside. A person who respects himself will work to earn the respect of others -- not demand it. Sometimes strictness hides weakness.

I am very fortunate to have had (and have) sensei who have inspired me to try my best. No matter how many mistakes I made -- and I made enough for 10 or 20 students -- they always kept encouraging me. "Keep trying." "Just a little more." "Let's try again." And then, on the rare occassion that I did something correct, they would celebrate as if they had won a great prize.

Because of their encouragement, I would build upon each tiny success. At first I might move correctly only once in a week. Then once in each training session. Then twice. Then a little more. Gradually, the correct way would become second nature and I could work on another area.

A good sensei brings out the best in each student -- coaxes, encourages, inspires, and celebrates. A good sensei teaches self-discipline, not simple obedience.


Charles C. Goodin

Shinitai -- Dead Body

Shinitai means "dead body." This refers to a condition in which the body has come to rest and lost its energy or tension. Imagine a slingshot. After the rock is shot, the rubberband falls limp. This is "dead body." In order to shoot another rock, the rubberband will have to be pulled back again -- energy will have to be used to restore the tension.

Now imagine an improved slingshot which instantly rewinds and reloads after each shot. As soon as one rock is shot, another is ready. This is "live body." The gaps in tension are minimized.

One of the objectives of Karate is to avoid having a "dead body" and to attack when the opponent falls into this condition.

Here is a practical example. You punch (however you like). If your movement ends with the punch, you will have to exert new energy to do something else, such as punch again or block. You punched and have now come to rest. At this point, you have a "dead body." Of course, you are not dead -- it is just that your body has come to rest and lost its tension. If you were a slingshot, you would have to pull the rubberband back again.

Now, if you had recovered the energy of the punch, rewound it so to speak, you would be ready for the next movement. You would have tension in your body. We tend to call this compression. Your body is not stiff but your muscles and tendons are under tension, like a slingshot or bow. From one movement to another, you are compressing, releasing, and recompressing. One movement's end fuels the next movement's beginning. It is a dynamic process.

This is one reason that our system is not designed for tournaments. There are no fixed points to evaluate. Properly done, our movements have no beginning or end, and there are no fixed stances. Everything is moving. Even when we appear still, the movement is ongoing inside. In fact, that is what distinguishes advanced students -- they can internalize the tension and compression so that the process is not visible (or less visible) from the outside. There is no telegraphing of the technique or the preparation for the technique.

A slingshot has only one rubberband, just as a primitive bow usually has only one string. In the body, there are many crisscrossing and overlapping sources of tension that can be used to generate and recover power. Imagine that you have 10 slingshots that are connected such that shooting one primes another.

When your opponent has "dead body" it is an opening for you. When your opponent has a "live body," you will feel relucatant to attack. Your job is to identify the opponent's condition and to maintain your own "live body."


Charles C. Goodin

Ping Pong

We have a ping pong table in our living room. Everyone in my family plays as do many of our guests. It is a lot of fun and good exercise. My mother grew up in Japan and played ping pong in school.

One of the things I learned by playing ping pong is that you can't watch the ball and then hit it. The ball moves much too quickly when your opponent slams it. You have to be able to react to where the ball will go. If you try to follow the ball, you'll always be too late.

The same is true in Karate. If you try to watch the attacker's hands and feet, you'll always be too late. You have to be able to block where they are going to hit -- or stop them from hitting in the first place.

Professor Katsuhiko Shinzato demonstrates this as follows. He stands in front of a student and asks him to attack any way that he likes whenever he is ready. He can punch, kick or strike with any hand or foot. As soon as the student begins to move -- actually before any visible movement is seen -- Shinzato Sensei will point to the striking hand or foot. This usually catches the student off guard. Time after time, Shinzato Sensei will know what the student is about to do.

This is why it seems that he blocks before the strike, or preempts the strike by his own positioning or technique. He is able to read the student.

In ping pong, your body learns to react to the ball. My sons keep telling me that I have to use my koshi when playing ping pong. I haven't figured out how to do that yet.


Charles C. Goodin

Why Character Is Emphasized

I know... I tend to emphasize character. Character this and character that. Karate in daily life. Respect. Courtesy. Discipline. Kindness. Compassion.

Why this emphasis? The answer is simple. It is a given that through hard work and dilligent training, almost any student can become skilled at self defense and many can become quite dangerous. Unless character (broadly defined) is taught and emphasized at each and every stage of training, there is a risk that a student will become negative and destructive, egotistical and angry, uncontrolled and unsafe... a loose wild animal.

One day I was practicing Iaido with Dr. Noboru Akagi. He asked me if I knew what to think when I drew the sword. I relied that I did not. He explained that I should think, "don't draw, don't draw, don't draw." As I prepare to draw my sword, I should project the thought that the attacker should not draw his sword so that I will not have to kill him. The sword is a treasure in its saya (sheath).

We cannot wait until a student is skilled to teach him character and values -- by then it may be too late. Becoming skilled is a given. That is why we have to emphasize character from the start.

And if a student quits after a few weeks or months, at least he will have learned some lessons that might help him in daily life. Respect. Courtesy. Discipline. Kindness. Compassion.


Charles C. Goodin

Training Focus

There are only so many hours in the day, and only so many hours in the week for Karate training.

Because of this, I try to keep our class tightly focused. Two things that we do not spend any time at all on are tournaments and kyu promotions. Avoiding tournaments saves a lot of time and money. Avoiding kyu ranks also saves a lot of time (for me) and expense for the students (assuming I would charge for testing, certificates, etc.).

I have spoken to students who found tournaments to be very expensive, especially when travel to the mainland or overseas was required. I also do not agree with the idea of a winner for kata and kumite. The idea is foreign to Karate, in my opinion. Karate is an art of self defense. It is a group mission for all the students in the dojo. There are no winners or losers. I don't give medals to my children for "best child." We are a family and so are the members of our dojo. What we do we do together. There are no external rewards. I believe in the old style trophy -- a bag of rice. At least you can eat it.

We never perform a kata based on how it would be rated in a tournament. Our only criterion is function. We do not care how a kata looks, just how it can be used. We seek perfection of form because that is what is required for maximum effectiveness -- not because it looks good or will be well received by the public. The public is easily impressed and poorly qualified to rate Karate performance.

We do not belong to a Karate political association either. I find politics to be the greatest waste of time and money.

Practice, practice, practice, and help the other students. That is more than enough for me.


Charles C. Goodin

Go Shin Jitsu

Go shin jitsu means self defense. When I practiced Kenpo, I remember that the complete name of the art was Go Shin Jutsu Kenpo Karate.

Today, some Karate instructors will specifically teach go shin jitsu -- self defense techniques.

This makes me wonder. Isn't Karate by its very nature go shin jitsu? Karate is an art of self defense.

But in many modern forms of Karate, the emphasis is on kata and kumite. Kata is form and kumite is sparring. Unfortunately, many forms of kata lack "fight" and many forms of "kumite" lack practical application because of limiting rules. Thus, go shin jitsu has to be taught as a separate subject.

But kata should be full of "fight" and pairing off techniques should have practical application. Everything we do in Karate should have an identifiable go shin jitsu element. We learn kata based on self defense techniques. We kumite to practice self defense. We learn body dynamics to enable us to use our self defense techniques more effectively. Go shin jitsu is not a separate element -- it is the fundamental building block of Karate.

The same is not true, for example, in Judo. Judo is a sport and governed by rules to determine who wins and to protect the participants. In Judo, it makes sense to teach go shin jitsu separately. Judo does have practical self defense applications, but they differ from the sport elements. After all, throwing an attacker is of little use if he just gets up and continues the fight.

This is not so in Karate, at least with respect to old style Karate in which everything we do is go shin jitsu.


Charles C. Goodin

My Favorite Kata

In my system of Shorin-Ryu, we practice 18 empty handed kata. That is more than some styles and much less than others. To me, it seems like we have about the right number of kata (not katas, remember that there is no plural in Japanese).

If you are like me you will have certain kata you prefer and others that you dislike or tend to practice less than your favorites. Over time, your favorites may change.

I never liked Fukyugata Ichi. I found it to be a very basic kata and I always felt awkward with the gedan barai movements. When I started to learn Shorin-Ryu, Fukyugata Ichi was the first kata taught. Now, in my dojo we teach the first three Naihanchi kata before the Fukyugata kata (Ichi and Ni). I find this to be much better because the stances in Naihanchi are more stable, and thus easier for beginners. Also, by the time students learn Fukyugata Ichi, they will have already been introduced to koshi principles.

When I re-learned Fukyugata Ichi from Professor Katsuhiko Shinzato, he made a small correction that entirely changed my view of the kata (and all kata): he repositioned my body in the zenkutsu dachi position to hamni (diagonal). Before, my shoulders had been square (facing forward) and my koshi was straight (forward). Now, my shoulders and koshi were about diagonal. While the length of my stance remained the same, it could now be narrower (because my koshi was diagonal). In addition, because my shoulders and koshi were diagonal, there was still body movement left for the next punch or block.

Shinzato Sensei showed me many other basic and fine points of the kata, and as a result, Fukyugata Ichi is now one of my favorite kata. It is a great complement to the Naihanchi kata. While the Naihanchi kata are relatively fixed, Fukyugata Ichi is very free.

My point is that I used to dislike Fukyugata Ichi because I misunderstood it. With just a few hours of instruction and a few weeks of practice, the kata became one of my favorites. It did not change -- my understanding of it did.

Whenever I feel like I dislike a certain kata, I try to keep in mind that the problem is probably with me, not the kata. Shinzato Sensei often says that with proper body dynamics, any kata of any style can be done well. If I can't do a certain kata well, I should re-examine my body dynamics. The kata may be revealing a weakness and giving me the opportunity to correct it.

So what are my favorite kata? Naihanchi Shodan, Naihanchi Nidan, Fukyugata Ichi, Pinan Shodan, Rohai, Passai, and Chinto. Pinan Yondan, Wankan, and Kusanku almost make the list. I also like sequences of many other kata. One day I hope to be able to say that my favorite kata is whichever one I am doing at the time.


Charles C. Goodin

A Spinning Back Kick

When I started to learn Shorin-Ryu from Sensei Rodney Shimabukuro, I was already a black belt in Kenpo Karate and taught my own classes on Hickam Air Force Base. This was in 1976. I thought I was pretty fast (silly me).

My brother-in-law took me to the dojo at Our Lady of the Mount Church in Kalihi. He had been referred to Sensei Tommy Morita who in turn referred us to Shimabukuro Sensei.

After a few training sessions, Shimabukuro Sensei showed us a spinning back kick (ushiro geri). Standing in a relaxed left front stance (zenkutsu dachi), he would spin clockwise and execute the kick with his heel. I think I commented that the kick looked to slow to be used in kumite. Shimabukuro Sensei offered to demonstrate. I took the same stance in front of him and readied myself. My brother-in-law stood on the side a few feet away.

Now you have to remember that I was just out of high school and had my own dojo. I thought I was pretty fast.

I waited for the kick. Nothing happened. Shimabukuro Sensei just stood there. I waited some more. Nothing. Then I glanced over at my brother-in-law. His mouth was open and his eyes were staring in disbelief.

I said, "What?"

Shimabukuro Sensei stepped back and relaxed. My brother-in-law explained to me that Shimabukuro Sensei had delivered the kick and placed his heel right under my nose. I had missed it by blinking. He kicked me during a single blink!

I swear that I did not see or feel a thing.

You would have to know Shimabukuro Sensei to believe this, I know. He was in great shape at that time and excelled at kumite. He had started practicing Karate during Dr. Tsuyoshi Chitose's visit to Hawaii in 1961 or 1962 and basically lived and breathed Karate.

That kick made me realize that I was not that fast or skilled and that there was something special about this "Shorin-Ryu" Shimabukuro Sensei was teaching and something extraordinary about him. That was 30 years ago.

Thank goodness that Shimabukuro Sensei took pity on a foolish student who thought he knew something. Had he not shown such kindness, I wonder where I would be in my Karate life today? I believe that I am his only student still practicing and teaching today. How ironic.

If I had a time machine, I would certainly like to go back and see that kick!


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Karate Is More Than Training For Yourself

This Guest Post is by David Takahashi, a nidan in the Hikari Dojo. David's wife and three of his children also practice with him in the dojo.

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My father was an avid fan of the martial arts. When I was young, we would always see whatever Bruce Lee movie came out and many other martial arts movies that were available at the local theaters. My father practiced Shotokan Karate under Sensei Kiyohisa Hirano and through that influence, I too, practiced the same style under Sensei Mitsuo Tsuchiya and later under Sensei Clarice Hirano.

Although I enjoyed learning what I did, I must say that for many years Karate meant only learning how to defend myself or perhaps training to do well in a tournament or competition. I practiced to be better skilled at the moves, but that was about it.

For the past few years, I have been training under Sensei Charles Goodin and the experience has been completely different from the past. Through his teachings in class and the Web sites -- including his blog -- I have come to appreciate what is behind what I do and have begun to feel that learning Karate is more than just for me. I feel that by practicing and learning, I am paying tribute to all those sensei who spent their lives perfecting the art. This thought leaves me feeling very humble.

Sometimes I imagine that the sensei who have passed on are standing all around us in the dojo watching us and perhaps nodding to each other when we "get it right" or whisper to one another a comment or two about how we could improve if we only did "this" or "that."

Imagining that all the past sensei surround me pushes me to try harder when I'm feeling exhausted. How could I not give anything but my best when so many before me spent years and years perfecting their skills and style so they could pass it on to us? The next time you feel tired of practicing, try imagining your sensei standing right next to you and maybe that will give you an extra boost of energy!

David Takahashi

Breaking A Cement Pot

A banyan tree planted in a cement pot will eventually break it. It is the banyan's nature to grow.

A student who is not allowed to grow will leave the dojo. It is the student's nature to grow.

You can stunt a banyan and create a bonzai. It would be a horrible thing to create a bonzai student -- a miniature version of the instructor. How sad!

As sensei, it is our responsibility to nurture our students, to help them to grow, to offer a good example and encouragement, and finally to get out of the way. A good sensei ultimately frees his or her students. It is like holding a bo -- the best grip is not tight but relaxed.


Charles C. Goodin

Please Help With Books

Because this blog is read by people around the world, I thought I might ask for help with a project. The Hawaii Karate Museum has a Rare Karate Book Collection. We are seeking to acquire originals of every Karate book published before 1950 (almost all of these are in Japanese). We have made good progress but we are still missing many early titles.

If you have or know of the location of any available Karate books from before 1950, please contact me at goodin@hawaii.rr.com. We greatly appreciate donations and are always purchasing older Karate titles and collection. We also have a smaller collection of Ju Jitsu, Judo, and Kendo books and seek early titles of these as well.

Thank you very much.


Charles C. Goodin

Care Demonstrating Weapons

I want to share an experience I had in the late 1970s here in Hawaii. I went to a martial arts demonstration that was held outdoors at what we now call the Neil Blaisdale Center (we used to call it the "HIC"). Rows of chairs were arranged in front of a small elevated stage. Various martial artists took the stage to give demonstrations.

About mid-way through the show, a man in his 20s (as I recall) walked up to the stage and began to demonstrate a Kung Fu spear form. He spun the spear all around and was pleasing the crowd. At a key point, he thrust the spear toward the center of the audience.

The shaft of the speak vibrated and the spear head flew off, landing in the fourth or fifth row between an elderly man and his granddaughter! Needless to say, the man and his granddaughter were frightened, the crowd was shocked, and the martial artist stood there for a moment holding his.... bo.

A few inches left or right and someone could have been seriously injured, even killed.

Extreme care must be exercised when demonstrating weapons in public, especially bladed weapons. The safety of the audience is the first concern but the demonstrator must also be careful not to injure himself or herself.

I have often heard that if you practice with a "live blade" the issue is not whether you will cut yourself, but when. One of my Iaido Sensei sliced his own forehead performing a Shinden-Ryu kata. I have heard of students slicing off fingers during testing.

I stabbed myself in the leg with a pencil teaching a woman's self-defense class. It was like the movie Young Frankenstein when Gene Wilder stabbed himself in the leg with a scalpel while giving a lecture. I literally said, "class... dismissed." The pencil broke off in my thigh and I had go to the emergency room to have it removed.

Please be very careful with any weapons.


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Ganbaru

This Guest Post is by my friend, Mark Tankosich, who has dan rankings in both Sho-ha Shorin-ryu karate and Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei jodo. Along with the martial arts, his passions include the Japanese language. He currently lives and teaches in Hiroshima, Japan.

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Goodin Sensei has asked me to write a bit about the Japanese word "ganbaru." "Ganbaru" is a verb that roughly means such things as, "to try hard," "to hang in there," or "to stick with (something)." It is frequently heard in Japan, very often in one of it's various conjugated forms. Perhaps you've heard some of these in the dojo or elsewhere.

"Ganbatte" is a somewhat polite and softer way of asking/telling someone to do their best or to not give up. It can probably be used with just about anyone, so long as they are not very superior to you. To be even more polite, you would add the word "kudasai" after "ganbatte." In my experience, "ganbatte kudasai" can safely be used even with very senior people.

"Ganbare!" means basically the same thing as "ganbatte," but is more of a command. It is the imperative form of "ganbaru," and thus is less polite and "harder" sounding. I don't think that you would want to use this form with someone who is very senior to you. On the other hand, because it is somewhat "forceful," it is often used to help motivate an equal or a subordinate who is struggling in some way.

"Ganbaro" is another common form of "ganbaru." The meaning of this is a little different than that of "ganbatte" and "ganbare," in that those two are directed at others, while "ganbaro" is also aimed at yourself. That is, "ganbaro" is a form that means something like "Let's do our best!" or "Let's all hang tough!"

It's true that sometimes learning the proper usage of Japanese words can be a little difficult. My advice to you?

Ganbatte kudasai!!!

Mark Tankosich

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From Charles:

I would like to thank Mark Tankosich very much for taking the time to explain the various forms of ganbaru. We are lucky to have skilled translators, such as Mark, who are not only fluent in English and Japanese, but familiar with Karate terminology as well.

My mother was born and raised in Japan. When she came to the United States and had me, she was more interested that I learn proper English than Japanese. As a result, I love Japanese culture and food but can't speak or write the language. But my mother did make me look up all the English words I did not understand in the dictionary and this helped me a great deal with my education and legal career.

As Mark points out, how you use a particular word can depend on to whom you are speaking. In Karate we are taught to be courteous. Learning the right words to use and the proper way to use them can help us to avoid unintentionally offending others.

One of the things I have learned is that it is better to communicate clearly and politely in English than to attempt to use poor or broken Japanese. Misunderstanding and unintended insult can result from the latter.

Thank you very much again, Mark.


Charles C. Goodin

Blog Comments

I mentioned that I have asked the black belts in my dojo to prepare lectures based upon this blog. They can talk about any post made here, and then elaborate.

The results have been excellent. Each student has done very well and brought out things I had not thought of. This blog serves its function when it makes people think about the art. It certainly makes me think, especially about what I will write next!

In addition, it is good for black belts to practice speaking in front of the class. Our class begins and ends class in a circle, so the speaker can easily see all of the students. Public speaking is a very useful skill, not only in Karate but in school and work as well.

I will soon ask the non-black belts to also prepare lectures. Eventually, I will ask all my students to participate.

Last night, one of my students gave a talk and mentioned that he often felt that I was writing certain posts about him. See: Not About You. I always felt this way when my Aikido Sensei gave lectures. I think it is because we address subjects that are common to everyone and part of our daily lives. And in the end, isn't that what Karate is all about -- enhancing our daily lives?

Thank you very much to everyone who reads this blog and especially to everyone who has emailed me comments and sometimes corrections. I will continue to try my best.


Charles C. Goodin


Students learn at different rates. If three students all start Karate class at the same time, within just a few weeks they will all be at different levels.

Part of this has to do with how much each student practices. Obviously, a student who practices more will remember the movements better and be ready to learn new material before another student who does not practice.

Age is also a factor. I teach students from the age of 11 to the mid-50s. I have had students who were in their 70s. Generally, children and teenagers learn more quickly than adults.

I will give you a personal example. It took me about 3 months to learn Sakugawa Nu Kun, the second bo kata in our curriculum. When I taught the kata to my second son, who was about 19 at the time, he learned it in about 2 days. I also have a 14 year old student who learned it in 1 day -- she seems to have a photographic memory for movement. She learned Gojushiho by watching it twice.

Kata is different from reading books. Kata are movements in three dimensions, four, when you count time. Some people learn kata by memorizing images of the sequential movements. Others learn by memorizing the feel of the movements. We all learn a little differently. This is important for instructors because we sometimes tend to teach all our students the same.

Some students can easily copy what we do. For others, you have to physically position their hands and feet.

Last night at ballroom dancing class, I was having a hard time with a particular sequence. I could not figure out which foot to step with first and was basically lost. One of the assistant instructors, a very nice woman, came and took my wife's place. By following her movements, the complicated sequence became simple. I could not learn by observing the movements but I could learn quickly by following the feeling of her movements. And I could then show my wife how to do the sequence too.

Sometimes if a student is stuck, you have to try a different teaching approach. My first Shorin-Ryu Sensei, Rodney Shimabukuro, was very good about getting down on his knees and placing my hands and feet in the right positions. He would push my back and press my shoulders down, literally shaping me like a clay puppet. He also made a point of never positioning my feet by using his feet. He would always use his hands as he felt that it was not courteous to use his feet. Even when I was a brand new white belt student, he showed me great courtesy, as he did to all his students.

Later, he urged me to "break down the movements" when I was teaching. Like a mechanic, an instructor should be able to break down any movement or sequence of movements into their most basic parts. This is especially important for body dynamics, where rhythms and flows cross convential delineations of movements. He used to always say that basics are the most advanced things and that no matter how high an instructor may be, he is not advanced if he has poor basics. A fifth dan with poor basics should actually be a fifth kyu.

If a student does learn a bit slowly, it is important for us (instructors) to be supportive and encouraging. We should never make them feel bad or embarrassed. Sometimes the students who learn slowly (relatively) become the best instructors.

I certainly learn slowly, but I tend not to forget things once I understand them mentally and physically. Learing slowly, I also have time to appreciate the parts of each movement and their connections to other movements, both dynamically and in applications.


Charles C. Goodin

Professor Walter Godin

I am sometimes asked if I am related to Professor Walter Godin (1937-2001). Professor Godin learned Kenpo Karate from Joe Emperado and William K. S. Chow.

My last name is "Goodin." Actually, long ago it was spelled "Goodwyne." I am not related to Professor Godin.

However, I can see the possibility for confusion. In high school, I had a Kenpo school which I called "Goodin's Kenpo Karate." I did not know about Professor Godin at that time.

Later and still today, people will ask me, "is Walter your father or uncle?" Now I know who they mean. But I actually did have an uncle Walter who lived in Florida, so you can imagine how confusing it could get.

My good friend Professor Kimo Ferreira learned from -- guess who? -- Professor Godin.

My family moved to Hawaii when I was in the 7th grade. My father was born in Georgia and raised in Florida. My mother was born and raised in Fukuoka, Japan. I was born in Massachussetts. My family on the Goodin side does not have any relatives in Hawaii.

So I am not related to Professor Godin or any Karate teachers in Hawaii.

But I have met a Charles Gooden here in Hawaii who is also a martial arts instructor. He is a muscular African American gentleman, who like me, also has a son named Charles. I do not think that we would be confused as I am somewhat pallid and definitely frail by comparison. How I wish that we could be confused!


Charles C. Goodin

Lineage and Commonality

I have written about lineage in Karate. Lineage refers to the line of your instruction: who taught you, who taught him (or her), and so forth.

One line of my lineage, just as an example, goes something like this: I learned from Professor Katsuhiko Shinzato, who learned from Chokei Kishaba and Seigi Nakamura, who learned from Shoshin Nagamine, who learned from Ankichi Arakaki, Chotoku Kyan, and Choki Motobu. Chotoku Kyan learned from Sokon Matsumura, who learned from Tode Sakugawa.

But I also learned from Rodney Shimabukuro, who has a similar and different line because his instructor, Tommy Morita, learned from Shoshin Nagamine as well as other instructors.

Actually, many of the instructors in my lineage (and most lineages) learned from more than one instructor. My "line" is actually more like a spider's web.

And that is the point. It is useful for you to know your lineage -- not because it will improve your technique (only hard work will do that), but because it will enable to know your connection to other Karate students.

My good friend and mentor is Sensei Pat Nakata. His instructor was Choshin Chibana, who learned from Anko Itosu, who learned from Sokon Matsumura. So do our lines connect with Matsumura? Yes, but they also connect through Ankichi Arakaki who also was a student of Choshin Chibana. Ankichi Arakaki learned from Choshin Chibana as well as Chotoku Kyan and taught Shoshin Nagamine. So Choshin Chibana is in my lineage through Ankichi Arakaki.

Nakata Sensei also learned Wado-Ryu from Walter Nishioka who learned from Hironori Ohtsuka. Ohtsuka Sensei learned from Gichin Funakoshi, who learned from Anko Itosu (as well as Anko Azato). So I am also related to Nakata Sensei through this line as Chibana Sensei learned from Itosu Sensei, and there is the connection through Ankichi Arakaki.

My friend Professor Kimo Ferreira practices Kenpo. Kenpo is somehow related to Choki Motobu, either directly through James Mitose or through others such as Mizuho Mutsu and Kamesuke Higashionna (I suspect this). If there is this connection, I am related to Kimo because Motobu Sensei taught Shoshin Nagamine, who is in my line.

But actually, I also practiced Kenpo under Florentino S. Pancipanci and Edward Wallace, who learned from Marino Tiwanak, who learned from William Chow (and others), who learned from James Mitose. So I am also related to Kimo through this direct line.

My line, a typical one, is actually many interconnected lines -- an elegant spider web.

Knowing this, I can appreciate my connection to other Karate students. Usually, we are cousins -- close or distant, but cousins nonetheless. How can I feel anything but respect and admiration for my cousins in the art?

Knowing my lineage will not make me a better practitioner but it can help me to be a better ambassador of the art.

Can you trace your line? I'll bet we are cousins.


Charles C. Goodin

Double Weightedness

In kata, it is important to avoid having your weight equally distributed on your feet (sometimes called "double weightedness") at the moment that you throw a technique. After the technique is thrown, there are times when the weight will be equally distributed.

The third movement of Fukyugata Ni is an example of this (stepping back into jigotai dachi with a left gedan barai). When the block is thrown, your weight is almost 100% on your left foot. Your weight becomes equally distributed only after the block is thrown (actually on the recoil). This position is held for only a split second before proceeding to the next movement. Actually, there are no fixed positions. The use of rigid stances is only a teaching device for beginners. At the advanced stage, movements flow naturally and seemlessly from one to the other -- the ending of one movement often provides the fuel (bounce) for the next.

Have you ever seen a Kung Fu movie where the actors walk on the tops of poles buried in the ground? In some ways, kata is like this. Most of the time, your weight will be on one foot, say the right. You will have to carefully place your left foot on a pole before you can transfer your weight to it. With the weight on the left foot, you can then move the right foot.

When your weight is equally distributed, you literally cannot move. You will have to shift your weight to one or the other foot before you can step. This delay is critical and creates a "dead body."

Think back to the poles. If you are standing with your weight equally distributed on two poles, how will you step? I guess you could hop or fall down, but these usually will not do. You will have to shift your weight to one foot to free the other. In that time, you will get hit.

Knowing where you weight is at all times is essential.

Many times, your weight will shift back and forth between your feet for a single technique. Sometimes a movement is more effective when you throw it into a returning wave. You might have seen this at the beach. A wave comes in and runs up the beach. As it returns, it runs into the next wave coming toward the beach. When they meet, there is a crash and the waves join momentarily to create a taller one.

Karate movements can be done in the same way if you shift your weight back and forth between your feet and time the movements of your koshi (hips, etc.). Like crashing waves, the movement exhibits much more power than would be expected from a single wave.

Kata involves juggling your weight in a precisely timed, exquisitely choreographed dance.

By the way, please do not try doing kata on poles. It could be very dangerous. I only used that as an example.

Be aware of and usually avoid double weightedness. If your opponent has double weightedness, it may be an opportunity for an attack.


Charles C. Goodin

Yamani-Ryu Bojutsu

In the Hikari Dojo, we practice the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu. We also practice Yamani-Ryu Bojutsu.

I learned (and am learning) these arts from Professor Katsuhiko Shinzato, who lives in Yonabaru, Okinawa. Shinzato Sensei teaches in a dojo on the second story of his home. He does not run a commercial dojo or organization.

Shinzato Sensei's primary Shorin-Ryu instructors were Sensei Seigi Nakamura and Sensei Chokei Kishaba. His Yamani-Ryu Bojutsu instructor was Sensei Chogi Kishaba. Sensei Chokei Kishaba also was skilled in the use of the bo, kama, and sai. Chokei and Chogi Kishaba are brothers, Chokei Kishaba being the elder of the two. Chogi Kishaba also studied Karate under Chojun Miyagi. Seigi Nakamura, Chokei Kishaba, and Katsuhiko Shinzato also studied the Matsubayashi-Ryu form of Shorin-Ryu under Sensei Shoshin Nagamine.

Chogi Kishaba taught Bojutsu to many instructors who taught the Matsubayashi-Ryu form of Shorin-Ryu. One of these instructors, Sensei Toshihiro Oshiro, moved to the the United States in the 1980s and has popularized Yamanni Chinen-Ryu Bojutsu. I was fortunate to train under Oshiro Sensei at two seminars sponsored here in Hawaii by Sensei Kiyohisa Hirano. I respect his Karate and Bojutsu skills very much. My good friend, Bill Weiss, who lives in San Francisco, also trained under Oshiro Sensei.

There are also other forms of Yamani-Ryu (or Yamanni-Ryu or Yamane-Ryu) taught by various instructors around the world who trace their lineage to the Chinen family.

While respecting other lines, our dojo follows Shinzato Sensei's form of Yamani-Ryu Bojutsu only. We practice three (3) bo kata: Shuji Nu Kun, Sakugawa Nu Kun, and Shirataru Nu Kun. Our emphasis is on function, not appearance. We do not participate in tournaments and thus are not influenced, restricted, or guided by tournament standards or requirements.

In our dojo, Shorin-Ryu and Bojutsu are intimatley woven. The body dynamics of the arts are complimentary. In fact, at an advanced level it could be said our Bojutsu shapes our Shorin-Ryu more than vice versa. Examples of these influences are shown in our methods of body alignment, body shifting, slanting, protecting the centerline (sechusen), and whipping.

I am very grateful to Shinzato Sensei for teaching us Shorin-Ryu and Bojutsu. We should try our very best to improve ourselves in these arts.


Charles C. Goodin

Karate And Race

Race does not matter at all in Karate training. What matters is how hard you train and how dilligently you explore the art.

I have met people who think that the best Karate instructors come from Japan... or Okinawa... or China... or some other place. It may be that many skilled teachers come from a particular country, but that is not an issue of race.

It is natural that there will be more instructors and more interest in the place where an art or sport originates. Students will naturally want to go to that place to study their roots. But that is just a place... not a race.

I am certain that there are many fine Karate instructors of Japanese ancestry. I am also certain that there are many millions of Japanese who have never practiced Karate. Being Japanese does not mean that you will be better or worse at Karate or any other activity. It might just mean -- depending on the circumstances -- that you might have greater access to Karate schools.

It is obviously easier to learn Karate in an area with many schools. I imagine that we might have the greatest concentration of martial arts schools, perhaps in the world, here in Hawaii.

But again, that is an issue of place, not race.

There is no color in Karate and the only race that counts is the human race.


Charles C. Goodin

Teaching By Example

As sensei, we try our best to teach our students. More than any other way, and all other ways combined, we teach by our example. Students never "do as we say" -- they "do as we do."

Students do not only emulate our techniques and body dynamics, they also learn by how we act, how we handle problems, how we express ourselves, etc.

If we are drunken in public, they learn.

If we curse in public, they learn.

If we are violent and easily angered, they learn.

If we are egotistical and petty, they learn.

If we are dishonest, they learn.

If we are jealous of others, they learn.

If we talk behind others' back, they learn.

If we let ourselves get out of shape, they learn.

On the other hand, if we apply our Karate training in daily life, and are as demanding of ourselves as we are of our students, they learn from that too.

In short, we teach by our example and should try our very best to make that example the very best it can be.


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: My New Cell Phone Strap

This Guest Post is by my friend, Mark Tankosich, who has dan rankings in both Sho-ha Shorin-ryu karate and Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei jodo. Along with the martial arts, his passions include the Japanese language. He currently lives and teaches in Hiroshima, Japan.

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I don't know about the United States, but here in Japan it is pretty rare for anyone older than, say, 13 (or, for that matter, younger than about 65) to not have a cell phone. They are literally everywhere. Even I, who for the longest time had a real dislike for these devices, bought one a few years back -- when my brother-in-law's company gave him a cell phone sales quota to meet!

Typically, any time one sees one of these phones, one also sees one of the straps that can be attached to them. There are fancy straps, plain straps, straps with charms attached, straps that can be hooked onto one's belt loops, leather straps, nylon straps, straps that serve as souvenirs of places visited... Just about any type of design that can be imagined can be found!

Until recently, I myself was using a strap that my wife bought for me when we visited Kobe a few years ago. But now I have a new strap (apologies to my wife!), and I thought it might be of some interest here.

To be honest, my new "strap" isn't really a phone strap at all. It is probably best described as a kind of key chain. But I liked it so much that after buying it I modified it so that I could attach it to my phone and carry it with me everywhere I go. You see, my "strap" is basically a piece of black leather with one of my favorite Japanese sayings embroidered (in gold) on it. The Japanese characters that make up the saying are read"fugen-jikko."

"Fu" serves here as a negating prefix, kind of like "non" in English. "Gen" is the character for "words" or "speech." "Ji(tsu)" can have several different meanings, including "truth," "reality" and "to bear fruit." "Ko" in this case is "to do" or "to carry out." When put together, I guess these kanji would literally mean something like "No words, carry (something) out."

One dictionary that I know of translates "fugen-jikko" as, "Actions speak louder than words." Another says that it means, "No talk and all deeds." I guess that either translation will do, but in any case, my new phone strap serves as a constant reminder to me that it is what I actually do -- not what I say -- in my training and in my life that is important.

Mark Tankosich

Fast Hands, Fast Feet

My good friend and senior Professor Kimo Ferreira says that hands appear to move much faster when they are in front of your face. Hands a few inches from your face seem to move much faster than hands moving two feet away.

My son, Christopher, a Kendo student, says that one of the secrets to fast footwork is to take small steps. Small steps are faster and also require smaller shifts of your center of gravity. This leads to greater stability as well as speed.


Charles C. Goodin

A Graduation

Tonight, I attended my eldest son Christopher's graduation from law school. He was born during my first semester at the same law school, 24 years ago.

I am very proud of my son. In addition to practicing Karate when he was younger, he is a very dedicated Kendo student (sandan). Just as I head a Karate dojo, he hopes to one day head a Kendo dojo. He was a member of Hawaii's team at the last World Kendo Tournament held in Scotland, and at the one held in California before that. He is very lucky to have fine Kendo Sensei: Dr. Noboru Akagi and Arnold Fukutomi, as well as many outstanding seniors in the dojo.

In Hawaii, many avid martial artists have fulltime jobs. Finding time to train and teach is always a challenge, but many sensei do just that, and unselfishly support the arts here.

I am also hopeful that my son might one day pursue the creation of a Hawaii Kendo Museum with his sensei.

Ganbatte Chris!


Charles C. Goodin

Touching Weapons

One of the strict rules of etiquette, courtesy, and safety is that you should not touch another person's weapon. This is particularly true of bladed weapons (obviously because of safety), but the rule applies to all weapons.

Once I observed an Iaido student from another dojo pick up an instructor's sword, remove it from its saya (sheath), and wave it around in the air. The instructor's face showed a combination of disbelief (that anyone would touch a weapon without permission), shock, and disgust. It was almost unreal to me too, as I could not believe that anyone would touch and use another's weapon in this manner. It reflected very poorly on the student, his instructor, and their dojo.

Do not touch another person's weapon unless you are given permisssion.

Generally, do not ask for permission. If someone wants you to touch their weapon, they will offer.

If someone does offer to allow you to touch their weapon, do so seriously and carefully. It is best to examine the weapon and return it. Do not use it unless you are encouraged to do so. If it breaks, are you willing to replace it?

The rules differ for instructors with respect their own students. An instructor will often touch and use a student's weapon to demonstrate a technique or proper usage. Students should not touch the instructor's or other student's weapons as set forth above.

Also, there are situations in which a pair of students will take turns with a weapon. Obviously, touching the weapon is allowed in this case.

In Iaido, I was told that it was serious offense to touch a samurai's sword. Even tapping saya was considered to be a challenge.

It is best to be especially careful to respect other people's weapons.


Charles C. Goodin

Bird Flu 2

What have you done to prepare for the bird flu? See: Are You Prepared For Bird Flu (H5N1 )?

One of the traits of a good Karate student is the ability to remain calm and focused in an emergency. This requires preparation.

If there was a disruption of services in your area, how long would your food and water supplies last?

In the last couple of weeks, I have asked several people if they have prepared for the bird flu and every one of them said that they had not. Hurricane season begins next month in Hawaii. Perhaps it would be a good idea to prepare an extra thorough hurricane kit this year. In normal years, some people prepare a three day supply of food, water, and essentials. For bird flu, I have heard that it is prudent to prepare a two week or even a one month supply (depending on to whom you speak).

If the bird flu does not arrive in your area, you can always eat the food.


Charles C. Goodin

Sensei Mas Oyama

Shihan Bobby Lowe was already a long time Kenpo and martial arts student when Sensei Mas Oyama visited Hawaii in the early 1950s. Apparently, Oyama Sensei did not demonstrate Karate during his first visit. At that time, he was passing through Hawaii on a tour to the mainland where he was wrestling under the name of "Mas Togo."

I am not sure whether it was on the first visit or a later one, but Shihan Lowe told me that Oyama Sensei did something that really impressed him. I was very curious to know what this could have been. Can you guess?

Oyama Sensei bent a quarter in half!

I have heard from several people that Oyama Sensei was tremendously strong. I certainly wish that I could find that quarter for the Hawaii Karate Museum!

Shihan Lowe is one of the most senior Karate sensei in Hawaii. I admire him very much. He is a very humble man but is looked up to by a million people or more in the Kyokushin system worldwide. He often travels internationally to conduct seminars.

He is also a noted writer. His book "Mas Oyama's Karate As Practiced in Japan" sold over a million copies. I think he sold more Karate books than all other Karate authors in Hawaii combined.

Shihan Lowe is truly an exemplar for aspiring Karate students and teachers.

By the way, I tried to bend a quarter but no luck so far.


Charles C. Goodin


I teach children as well as adults. One of the things I often tell children is that they should not say "yeah."

When answering their sensei or seniors, they should say, "yes, Sensei." They should not say "yeah."

The same is true when they address their parents and teachers at school. They should say, "yes, mom," or "yes, dad."

If a child says "yeah" to me, I just look at them and they usually quickly correct themself. The others students also give them a look indicating that they have spoken inappropriately. Children are quick to follow positive examples set by their peers.

This may seem like a little thing. But Karate is more than blocking and punching. Students must also be aware of their speech and their interaction with others. Are they acting politely? Are they being considerate? Are they aware of how they appear to others?

Over the years, many parents have told me that they noticed a positive change in their children. Many also asked me to keep up this emphasis.


Charles C. Goodin

A Job Worth Doing

One of the things my father told me growing up still guides me today: "a job worth doing is worth doing well."

Any job you do, if it is worth doing, is worth doing well. You should give it your best effort, whether it is sweeping the floor, writing a research paper, cooking dinner, or whatever you may be doing.

Needless to say, you owe it to yourself to do your best at Karate practice too. But it is not enough to do Karate well -- you should do everything well, you should give your best effort always.

A job worth doing is worth doing well. You should be able to count on a Karate student to do his best at any job he undertakes.


Charles C. Goodin

How Many Weapons?

I was learning knife techniques from my good friend and senior Professor Kimo Ferreira of the Kempo Jutsu-Kai. Kimo is a longtime supporter of the Hawaii Karate Museum and often visits, during which time he never fails to teach me some technique.

As I was standing with a dull training knife about to respond to Kimo's attack, he asked me, "how many weapons do you have?"

I quickly thought "one," after all, I only had one knife. But I thought a little deeper and said, "the knife, my other hand, my elbows, my knees, my feet, my hips, etc..."

Kimo smiled and agreed. Holding a knife, I should never forget that all the parts of my body are also potential weapons. One weapon should not limit the others.

And, of course, the knife itself has different aspects: the blade(s), the point, the butt.

I have learned a lot from my good friend Kimo.


Charles C. Goodin

Making Sense of "Sen"

You may have heard of these expressions:

go no sen

sen no sen

sen sen no sen

Basically, "go no sen" means to respond to an attack -- to counterattack. Someone attacks you and in response, you block (or do some other technique). First the attack and then the response. There is a delay.

"Sen no sen" means a simultaneous response. Someone attacks and you counter at the same time. There is no gap.

"Sen sen no sen" basically means a preemptive movement or technique. The opponent is about to attack and you prevent it. This may seem to violate the maxim that "Karate ni sente nashi" -- "there is no first attack in Karate," but really it does not. It all depends on how you look at it.

Someone walks up to you and without warning pushes you. You catch your balance just in time to see a right punch coming. In response, you block with your left hand. This is go no sen.

You know what's coming next. Simultaneously, you both throw punches (his left and your right), but you take the inside line and punch him in the face. This is sen no sen.

In this position, the attacker intends (hopes) to kick with his left foot. Before he can begin his movement, you prevent it by kicking him him the groin and taking him down to the ground. Your kick preempted his. This is sen sen no sen.

Viewed as part of the ebb and flow of the confrontation, the "sens" begin to make more sense.

Actually, we use many techniques that would be classified as sen sen no sen. For example, when we enter and strike to the face, we also trap or pin the opponent's leg. He has not even thought of kicking yet, but you have prevented it.

When Sensei Chosei Motobu visited my dojo with his friend and assistant Takeji Inaba, he emphasized the importance of multiple simultanous movements. For example, in one of the Motobu Choki Juni Hon Kumite forms that he teaches, you block up with your right hand, check a punch with your left hand and bump the attacker with you right knee. The block is go no sen, the check may be sen no sen or sen sen no sen, and the bump (or trap) would be sen sen no sen as it prevents a leg movement. All of these happen at the same time, overwhelming the attacker's senses and making it extremely difficult for him to respond effectively. Taking advantage of this short circuit, you strike down with your right elbow. As a counterattack, this would be go no sen but it followed a simulaneous flurry of "sens."

Sorry for making "sen" plural, but I hope you get my idea.

You are walking along a dimly lit street and see someone lurking in the shadows ahead. You cross the street and walk around the threat. Wouldn't this be sen sen no sen? You have preempted the possibility of the attack by avoiding contact.

A person calls you an idiot. Rather than lose you temper and react, you remain calm. You diffuse the conflict. Sen sen no sen again?

In most of our kata, the first movement is a block and the second movement is a strike of some sort. You block and them counterattack. This seems like go no sen. But what if the block breaks the attacker's arm or disables it? Then it is preemptive as well as defensive. Thus, even a sequence that appears to be go no sen, can actually be sen sen no sen, especially as we advance in our training.

Make sense?


Charles C. Goodin

Strengths and Weaknesses

The other day I was watching a television program about American fighter pilots. One of them said a very interesting thing. He said that the basic strategy was to attack the enemy's weaknesses using your strengths.

This also accurately describes the strategy used in Karate. When attacked, we should attack (counterattack) the opponent's weaknesses using our strengths. In the process, we should defend our our weaknesses.

We should thus always be aware of the attacker's strengths and weaknesses as well as our own.


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Yabiku Moden

This Guest Post is by Mario McKenna of the Okinawa Karatedo Kitsilano Dojo in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Mario is an instructor of Tou'on-ryu Karatedo and Ryukyu Kobudo. He is the English translator of Kobo Jizai Goshinjutsu Karate Kenpo (Kenwa Mabuni, 1934) and Seipai no Kenkyu Kobo Jizai Karate Kenpo (Kenwa Mabuni, 1934). His article Okinawa Kata Classification: An Historical Overview appears at the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai website. Mario also has an excellent Karate Blog.

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Yabiku Moden is an important but little known figure in kobudo history. He was born in Shuri and was the eldest son of four children. His father, Yabiku Mayo, was a strict but fair man who demanded much from his children. Because he was such a frail and skinny boy in his youth, Yabiku Moden was nick named "scarecrow" and was often teased and bullied by other children. Like many of his contemporaries, Yabiku Moden resolved to make his body and mind strong and as a result began the study of Karate under Itosu Sensei and Ryukyu Kobujutsu under various teachers including Tawada, Pechin Sensei and Chinen, Sanda Sensei (Nakamoto, 1983; Alexander, 1991; Bishop, 1996).

After graduating from the Okinawa Prefectural Teacher's College, he taught at Bito elementary school. Already by this time he had excelled in his Karate-do and Kobudo training. It was also during this time that he began to teach Karate and Kobudo formally to the local people of Bito. Around 1911, after moving to the Japanese mainland in search for better work, Yabiku Sensei founded the Ryukyu Kobujutsu Kenkyu Kai (Ryukyu Kobujutsu Research Association) in order to promote and popularize Kobudo throughout Japan (Nakamoto, 1983; Bishop, 1996).

Yabiku Sensei's dojo was probably the first Ryukyu Kobudo dojo on the Japanese mainland which openly taught to mainland Japanese (Sells, 1994). Besides his talent in Karate-do and Kobudo, Yabiku Sensei was known as a master story teller and would enthral his students with stories of the old Okinawa Bushi of a by-gone era (Nakamoto, 1983).

In his daily life it was said that Yabiku Sensei was constantly challenging himself through the study of Budo by always trying to overcome his physical and mental limitations. He is known, for example, to have worn iron geta (clogs) from morning to night in order to strengthen his legs and hips (Nakamoto, 1983)! To strengthen his arms and hands, he would grasp the frame of the ceiling of his home and travel around its perimeter using only his arms (Nakamoto, 1983). On a personal level, Yabiku Sensei was said to have been a deeply religious man who did not drink alcohol or smoke and was never heard to say a bad word against anyone (Nakamoto, 1983). Yabiku Sensei died on June 23, 1941 at the age of 63.

Mario McKenna

In A Crowded Elevator

When I am in a crowded elevator, I often ask my self "which Karate techniques would work best under these conditions?"

High kicks are definitely out as are long stances. Most throws would also be impossible -- no seionage or tomoenoge here.

This made me think about two of the general ways to describe Chinese martial arts: short fist boxing or long fist boxing. In an elevator, short fist would be the way to go.

So what techniques would work the best? In my opinion, the use of elbow strikes and blocks are favored by these conditions. An elbow can also be used to parry and attack and serve as an entry to grappling techniques. Even if you can't throw in an elevator, you can twist joints. This is a useful way to push or manipulate one attacker into another.

Think for a moment about all the elbow techniques you know. How many did you come up with?

Here is a short list (in English):

Forward elbow strike (as in Pinan Godan, Passai and Kusanku)
Side elbow strike (as in Naihanchi Shodan)
Side elbow strike (as in the first movement of Naihanchi Nidan)
Forward elbow strike (as in the middle of Naihanchi Nidan)
Forward elbow strike (as a follow through to a punch)
Rear elbow strike (like your returning arm when you punch)
Augmented rear elbow strike (as in the end of Pinan Sandan)
Rising elbow strike (as in Fukyugata Ni and the ending of Gojushiho)
Rising elbow strike that just comes to the plane of your body)
Side elbow block (like the last one but twisted)
Forward elbow block (as near the end of Pinan Sandan)
Downward elbow strike (as in the beginning of Pinan Nidan)
Downward elbow strike (as after you have kicked the attacker in the groin)
All of the above also done as parries
All of the above also done in response to grabs
All of the above done in response to kicks

The list goes on and on. From an elbow block or strike, it is very easy to follow through with an uraken (backfist) technique. It is also easy to return with another elbow strike moving the in the opposite direction. After a forward elbow strike, for example, it is easy to follow through with a reverse elbow strike. A punch is followed by an elbow which is followed by a reverse elbow which is followed by an uraken which reverses into an age zuki which is followed by a rising elbow strike after which you turn and deliver a backward elbow strike followed by an uraken to the groin, etc. Soon you are a whirling cloud of elbows and fists...

All in a crowded elevator.


Charles C. Goodin

Cutting Off Calluses

Some Karate students have thick calluses on their knuckles. This may be from punching makiwara, rough punching bags, trees, rocks, or other items. This is nothing new. Karate students have long done this and developed such calluses.

But some instructors required that their students avoid the practice or even sand off the calluses. When Sensei Pat Nakata began training with Choshin Chibana in 1962, he already had thick calluses on this knuckles from Wado-Ryu training. He told me that Chibana Sensei required him to remove them.

Sensei Paul Yamaguchi also told me about two Okinawan immigrants he trained with here in Hawaii in the early 1960s. He said that one of them had thick calluses on his knuckles while living in Okinawan. He had to cut them off before he could immigrate to Hawaii. Otherwise, the immigration inspectors might see them and think that he was a fighter or troublemaker. This could be grounds for denying entry to Hawaii and for return to Okinawa.

I wonder if this is what happened when Choki Motobu arrived in Hawaii in 1927? He was detained at the Immigration Station for one month and returned to Okinawa. After a near riot broke out in Hilo in 1925 after a match between Henry Seishiro Okazaki and a western boxer ("Kid" Morris), Japanese officials were especially cautious.

There are ways to avoid the development of calluses. A makiwara can be covered with leather rather than abrassive rope. A student of Chotoku Kyan told me that Kyan Sensei taught him to wash his hands in salt water after striking the makiwara. As Kyan Sensei lived near the mouth of the Hija River, salt water was nearby.

I am an attorney. In the business context, it would not be presentable for me to have grotesque knuckles. It would also give away the fact that I practice Karate (or some other martial art). It is for this reason that I agree with the saying that knuckles should be hard on the inside (the bones) but the skin on the outside should be natural.


Charles C. Goodin

Seio Morikone: A Dirty Suit Can Be Cleaned

Born in Katsurin, Nakagin Kun, Okinawa, Seio Morikone (1881-1977) attended the Shuri Daiichu (Shuri First School). Because his hometown was far away, his family had to pool the family resources to pay the tuition and allow him to stay at a dormitory at the school. He went on to become a school teacher in Okinawa. While in school and during training to become a teacher at the Shihan Gakko, Morikone learned Karate from Anko Itosu (about 1830 - 1915, student of Sokon Matsumura), who was also called Itosu No Tanme and Ichiji No Tanme. It appears that he learned many Shuri kata, including Naihanchi, Pinan (he actually began training before the Pinan kata were formulated by Itosu), and Kusanku. Having attended the Shuri Daiichu from the age of 13, it appears that Morikone studied with Itosu for about 14 years. Itosu selected his private students by their character and they had to abide by a strict code of self-discipline and non-violence.

In 1906, at the age of 27, Morikone immigrated to Hawaii, settling in the Ninole district of Hakalau, on the Big Island. There, he leased land from a sugar cane plantation, hired workers, and ran a small sugar cane operation of his own. Morikone often helped other Okinawan immigrants. Because of his higher education, he could read and write Japanese. Many immigrants could not do this and relied on Morione for assistance with documents and translation.

He moved to the island of Oahu around 1930 (three years after the visit of Kentsu Yabu, Itosu's senior student -- Yabu visited Oahu, Kauai and Maui, but not the Big Island). Morikone went to work for the Hine Clark Dairy in Ainahaina. Later, he raised chickens at his family's large home in Kaimuki.

When Mizuho Mutsu and Kamesuke Higashionna came to Hawaii in 1933, they went to visit Morikone to pay their respects. They asked to see his kata. Morikone had his son Goro (Gary) demonstrate the Pinan kata. Morikone went with Mutsu and Higashionna to the old Jikoen Temple to give a demonstration. He gave a speech about Karate and demonstrated the Naihanchi kata. Even into his 80's, Morikone was also known to occasionally demonstrate Karate at family parties and picnics.

Morikone taught Karate to children in the neighborhood and to a few adult students. It appears that Seishin Uehara and Thomas Shigeru Miyashiro learned from him, as did Taru (or Taro) Azama, who was related by marriage. He never accepted money for teaching. Students would often bring manju and anpan (Japanese pastries) to show their appreciation to their sensei.

It was often said that Choshin Chibana (1885 - 1969), was Itosu's last student. Actually, Morikone, who lived to the age of 96, was the last senior student of Itosu.

Morikone used to say that Karate students should learn to be like the rice plant: when the rice stalk is mature, it bends. In the same way, when a Karate student learns, he should bow and be humble.

One day, Morikone attended a wedding here in Honolulu with his wife. He wore his best suit. At some point during the wedding reception, some young men became rowdy and began to push Morikone around. Morikone did not strike any of the young men and eventually was pushed into a mud puddle at which point the young men wandered off.

Later, Mrs. Morikone asked her husband why he did not defend himself. After all, Morikone was likely the most senior Karate instructor in Hawaii.

Morikone explained that a dirty suit can be cleaned. When Karate is used, people can become injured or even killed. The harm is permanent.

A dirty suit can be cleaned. Harming others cannot be undone.

Morikone, a student of Anko Itosu, is remembered for not using his Karate. In this way, he represents the highest ideals of the art embodied by his sensei's (Itosu's) maxim: "Karate is a means of avoiding the use of one's hands and feet in a fight."


Charles C. Goodin

Obscure Sensei

You learned from a famous sensei. Congratulations. The sun still rises and sets.

You learned from an obscure sensei. Congratulations. The sun still rises and sets.

We all put our pants one one leg at a time. A cup of coffee still costs a dime... I mean $4.

Today, we think that a sensei is "high" if he has high rank. Particularly in Okinawa before World War II, titles and ranks were not that popular. It was a mainland Japanese convention. If you trace your lineage to a sensei who lacks high rank because of this, don't worry about it. Your sensei pre-dates ranks.

If your sensei's name is not included in the history books, he is not alone. I know many fine sensei here in Hawaii that no one (or almost no one) has heard of. Many of the well known sensei here trained at one time or another with these obscure sensei. The early Okinawan immigrants were especially likely to be relatively unknown. Actually, I know a sensei whose photograph appears in many old Goju-Ryu articles. He is usually identified as "unknown." You can't imagine how happy Sensei Morio Higaonna was when I arranged for him to meet this "unknown" sensei for lunch.

Who did the Karate greats learn from? Sometimes they learned from unknown Karate hermits. Who is greater, the well known master or the hermit who taught him?

Whoever your sensei is, however famous or obscure he may be, you should simply try to become the best Karate student and instructor that you can be. In the self-defense context, I am sure that an attacker doesn't care who your sensei was.

And even in the commercial context, connection to a famous sensei will only get you some attention. You have to be able to teach the students yourself. It all comes down to you. Name recognition has little or no relation to ability.

Somewhere I read that Chojun Miyagi said that a sensei should be able to give an 8 hour demonstration on Karate with no notice at all. Right there, on the spot, Miyagi Sensei could do this. Please don't hold me to the quote exactly, but the idea is right.

Can you give even a 1 hour demonstration and lecture on the art... right now?

Because of my research work with the Hawaii Karate Museum I know that I can. This is a true story.

From time to time I get visitors to my office who are spreading the word about one religion or another. You know how it is sometimes awkward when such people stop by. You want to be polite but you might not be interested in their particular religious views. I have heard of some people who hide when they see such people coming toward their house.

Anyway, one day a pair of nice people came to my office to speak to me about their views. I was very polite, but discovered that one of them was Okinawan. Of course, I steered the conversation to Karate and asked about her family tree, where her ancestors were from, etc. I spoke so much about Karate that after a while, they were the ones who were trying to figure out how to leave gracefully. And for some reason, they never came back.

If you have to give a demonstration, can you do any of the kata in your curriculum right now? Can you do all of the kata in your curriculum at demonstration speed, one after another? And then can you speak to the audience without gasping for air? Can you not only show the kata but the applications?

These may seem like rather far fetched questions, but I am serious.

Chojun Miyagi was not only famous because he was Kanryo Higashionna's student -- he was famous because he was a great sensei himself. I dare say that in some ways, it is because of Miyagi Sensei that we know about Higashionna Sensei.

If your sensei is obscure try your very best. Train hard. Teach your best. One day you too might make your sensei famous.


Charles C. Goodin

Historic Newspaper Articles

Last night at our Karate class, my second son, Charles, gave the lecture. He commented upon my post -- Attachment: Catching A Monkey. One of the ideas of that post is that it is hard to be unattached to something that you are holding onto.

Attachment can take many forms. On a gross level, we can be attached to material things such as cars and jewelry. We can also be attached to such things as rank and titles in Karate.

There is also another kind of attachment. We can even be attached to knowledge and history. Sometimes we feel "special" when we know more about a style or art. But this is just another form of attachment.

Taking my own advice, I have decided to "let go" of my Hawaii Karate research, specifically, all of the newspaper articles I found here in Hawaii before World War II. It took several years to locate these articles in personal collections, archives and microfilm. I was astounded by the sheer number of articles and advertisements. I suspect that more was published in Hawaii before WWII than in the rest of the world combined. I could be wrong. Please see for yourself at the following website:

Hawaii Karate Museum Newspaper Archive

This archive is an ongoing project. I will be gradually posting translations of the Japanese articles. I will also be adding articles as more are located.

If you enjoy this reference, please consider making a small donation to the Hawaii Karate Museum so that we can continue our work. Also, please do something kind for another person.

I hope that you enjoy the articles. As requested at the website, you are welcome to download and print the articles, but please do not host them elsewhere. Aside from that, I have opened my hand and withdrawn it from the jar. Thanks son.


Charles C. Goodin