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Karate Celebrities

Years ago, I attended a Karate seminar on the mainland (in Hawaii, we call the continental United States the mainland). It was a two day seminar.

At the end of the second day, I noticed that many of the attendees had lined up outside the ballroom in a long hall. I wondered what they were doing since this was my first big seminar.

I walked to the front of the line and there seated at a table were the Okinawan instructors who had taught the seminar. The attendees had lined up to get their autographs on books and photographs.

I was quite shocked. I wondered why anyone would do this -- first, why the students would want autographs and second, why the instructors would give them. In Hawaii, most instructors I know would feel too embarrassed to sign books.

I found out that this was common. Actually, it was expected that visiting instructors would make time to sign books and photos. Some might even sell books or videos.

Still, I found it a bit strange. I never knew that Karate instructors were celebrities.

Anyway, as I was watching the book signing, one of the students looked at the Okinawan instructors and looked at me (I am half-Japanese). Meekly, the student asked me if I would sign his book. I think he thought I might have been with the Okinawans. I did not sign, but if I could go back in time, I think I might sign this:

"If you are reading this, you should be practicing.

-- Signed by no one of any importance."

I will tell you something funny. My eldest son loves to play ping pong. He asks all my family members to play with him and I do from time to time. Every time I hit a nice shot, he says, "nice." He always does this. I hit a nice shot. He says, "nice."

Last week I hit a nice shot and scored a point. Nothing. I stood there. Nothing. My son finally said, "what?" I replied, "you forgot to say nice!"

Karate instructors should not be celebrities. They are people too. Certainly they are very skilled at Karate, some may have many students, written books, produced DVDs, etc. But they are still people. Karate is not designed to create celebrities, it is designed to create cultured gentlemen. If we treat instructors as celebrities, we might ruin them.

I have met some of the the most senior Karate instructors in the world. Several have been to my house for dinner. In my experience, the more accomplished the sensei is, the more humble and down to earth he is. The converse is also true.

If one of my students tried to make me into a celebrity, I would correct him right away. That is not Karate. In this case, the "empty" part of the term applies. You can't be empty if you are full of yourself.

We are all students of Karate and put on our gi bottoms one leg at a time.

Now Pat Morita was a real celebrity. And guess what? He was one of the nicest and most down to Earth people you could ever meet.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin