Karate Thoughts Blog

Contents   /   Email  /   Atom  /   RSS  /  

1700+ Posts... and Counting

Hawaii Karate Pioneers

The Hawaii Karate Seinenkai has profiles of many of Hawaii's Karate pioneers, including (in alphabetical order):

  • Shuichi Agena, 1911 - 2001.
  • Kiyoshi Aihara, 1932.
  • Chonin Sanra Arakaki, 1894 - 1975.
  • Heizo Arakaki, 1915 - 1979.
  • Sadao Arakaki, 1895 - 1981.
  • Tomu Arakawa, 1925 - 1997.
  • Tetsuhiko Asai, 1935.
  • Sadao Asato, 1899 - 1987.
  • Taru Azama, 1900? - 1945?.
  • Takamasa Bingo, 1926 - 2003.
  • Joseph A. Bunch, 1938.
  • Tsuyoshi Chitose, 1898 - 1984.
  • William K. S. Chow, 1914 - 1987.
  • Lee Donohue, Sr., 1942.
  • Simeon Eli, 1912 - 1971.
  • Feliciano "Kimo" Ferreira, 1949.
  • Kenneth Funakoshi, 1938.
  • Taro Ginoza, 1889 - 1964.
  • Bruce Haines, 1934.
  • Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai, 1984.
  • Watoku Higa, 1888 - 1986.
  • Zenko Heshiki, 1938.
  • Shintei Higa, 1897 - 1994.
  • Tsutao ("Rubberman") Higami (1896 - 1972).
  • Morio Higaonna, 1938.
  • Kamesuke Higashionna, 1904 - 1968?
  • Kiyohisa Hirano, 1938.
  • Winfred E. S. Ho, Sr., 1927.
  • Robert Igarashi, 1914 - 2004.
  • Takeji Inaba, 1929.
  • G. Hisae Ishii-Chang, 1949.
  • Kanki Izumigawa, 1908 - 1969.
  • Hirokazu Kanazawa, 1931.
  • Kenwa Kanna, 1877 - 1950.
  • Kitaro Kawakami, 1895 - 1950.
  • Kitatsu "Kanshun" Kawamae, 1897 - ?
  • Richard Kim, 1917 - 2001.
  • Chinzen Kinjo, 1873 - 1962.
  • Chinyei Kinjo, 1899 - 1987.
  • Chokei Kishaba, 1931 - 2000.
  • Ishun Kishimoto, 1905 - 1981.
  • Kiyoshi Kiyabu, 1912 - 2005.
  • Mitsugi Kobayashi, 1923.
  • Bobby Lowe, 1929.
  • Shimpo Matayoshi, 1922 - 1997.
  • Patrick McCarthy, 1954.
  • James Mitose, 1916 - 1981.
  • Chojun Miyagi, 1888 - 1953.
  • Jimmy Miyaji, 1928.
  • Thomas Shigeru Miyashiro, 1915 - 1977.
  • Masataka Mori, 1932.
  • Seio Morikone, 1881 - 1977.
  • Pat Morita, 1932.
  • Tommy Morita, 1919 - 2000.
  • Choki Motobu, 1871 - 1944.
  • Chosei Motobu, 1925.
  • Kenneth Murakami, 1932 - 1992.
  • Wayne Muromoto, 1954.
  • Mizuho Mutsu, 1898 - 1970.
  • Fumio Nagaishi, 1926.
  • Shoshin Nagamine, 1907 - 1996.
  • Shigenobu Nakano, about 1926.
  • Seigi Nakamura, 1924 - 1999.
  • Pat Nakata, 1944.
  • Walter Nishioka, 1932.
  • Hidetaka Nishiyama, 1928.
  • Yukio Noguchi, 1927 - 1998.
  • Akio Nozoe, 1926 - 1987.
  • Seikichi Odo, 1926 - 2002.
  • Hironori Ohtsuka, 1892 - 1982.
  • Henry Seishiro Okazaki, 1890 - 1951.
  • Paul Ortino, Jr., 1954.
  • Masaichi Oshiro, 1926.
  • Toshihiro Oshiro, 1949.
  • Masutatsu ("Mas") Oyama, 1923 - 1994.
  • George "Big Boy" Oyasato, 1920 - 2000.
  • Edmund Parker, 1931 - 1990.
  • William H. Rabacal, 1925 - 1998.
  • Oki Shikina, 1904 - 1983.
  • Rodney Sadao Shimabukuro, 1948.
  • Carlton S. Shimomi, 1933 - 2002.
  • Katsuhiko Shinzato, 1939.
  • Koto Shiroma, 1904 - 1998.
  • Tatsuo Suzuki, 1928.
  • Tetsuo Toyama, 1882 - 1971.
  • Anthony "Tony" Troche, 1929.
  • Clarice Tsuchiya-Hirano, 1944 - 2003.
  • Seishin Uehara, 1901 - 1956.
  • Dr. Ryoon Uesato, 1883 - 1979.
  • Seiichi Urasaki, 1884 - 1966.
  • Ansei Uyeshiro, 1912 - 2001.
  • Kentsu Yabu, 1863 - 1937.
  • Gogen Yamaguchi, 1909 - 1989.
  • Paul Yamaguchi, 1925.
  • Sadao Yoshioka, 1922 - 1990.
  • Richard C. Kai Young, 1937.
  • Thomas S. H. Young, 1915 - 1995.
  • Hawaii has an important place in the history of Karate. Please visit the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai and Hawaii Karate Museum websites for more information.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Guest Post: Some Preliminary Translation Work

    This Guest Post is by Terry Garrett, author of the excellent The Chibana Project blog. Terry is a student of Sensei Pat Nakata. Nakata Sensei is the head of the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate Association in Hawaii. He was a student of Chosin (Choshin) Chibana in Kobayashi-Ryu Shorin-Ryu, and also studied Ryukyu Kobudo under Sensei Fumio Nagaishi.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    Unfortunately, this is not of the Okinawa Times article, as that has proven to be much of a challenge. This is a translation of a one-paragraph blurb about Chibana at the end of the 1991 reprint of Karatedo Taikan, the 1938 karate encyclopedia cataloging kata, techniques, history, a reprint of Itosu's Ten Precepts, and the first publication of Funakoshi's 20 Precepts. The paragraph was written in fragments with verbs in non-past affirmative dictionary form (or omitted altogether). These verbs were conjugated into past tense. In cases of verb omissions, the verb is interpolated based on the nouns. Names are arranged Japanese style with family name first.
    Chibana Choshin (1) (Meiji 18th year [1885] – Showa 44th year [1969]) 85 years old (2)

    Was born in Shuri’s Tori-Hori district. In Meiji 32nd year (1899) (3) became a disciple of Itosu Ankoh. In Taisho 7th year (1918), opened a dojo in Shuri. With Funakoshi Gichin and Ogusku Chojo (4) founded the Tode Research Club in Shuri. In Showa 8th year (1933), registered Shorin Ryu (5). In Showa 23rd year (1948), was first president of the Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karatedo Kyoukai (Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karatedo Association). In Showa 31st year (1956), was first president of the Okinawa Karatedo Renmei (Okinawa Karatedo Federation). In Showa 43rd year (1968), was awarded the Kunyontozuihoushou (Fourth Order of the Imperial Sacred Treasure) (6).

    (1) "Chibana Choshin" is the Japanese reading of the kanji for Chibana's name. The kanji for "Choshin" can also be read "Asanobu" which means "trust in the morning" or "to rise with the dawn."

    (2) Japanese include the year of birth as the first year - by Western counting, Chibana was 84 when he died.

    (3) It is generally accepted amongst most sources that Chibana became a disciple of Itosu in 1900.

    (4) Also known as "Oshiro Chojo", he was one of Itosu's top students during Kentsu Yabu's tenure as dai-sempai.* He was also a noted bo-expert under Chinen Sanda, father of Chinen Masami (founder of Yamani-Ryu kobujutsu). He worked closely with Funakoshi Gigo, Toyama Kanken, and Chibana on some of their kobudo training; his expertise with the bo suggests he probably focused on this weapon with them.

    *John Sells, Unante, 2nd Edition, (Hollywood: W.M. Hawley Library, 2000), pg. 147

    (5) Refers to registration with the Dai Nippon Butokukai.

    (6) The Zuihoushou (Imperial Sacred Treasure) was an award established in 1888 by Mutsuhito, the Meiji Emperor, to recognize exemplary Japanese citizenship - individuals who contributed to and embodied Japanese society and culture.

    Terry Garrett

    Flexibility -- A Two Edged Sword?

    I must preface this by stating that I am not a physician or physical therapist -- I am actually an attorney aside from teaching Shorin-Ryu.

    A friend of mine tore his Achilles Tendon some time ago (I think he said that he felt it "pop"). He used to practice in my dojo, so I was very aware of the fact that he was extremely flexible. Although he was in his early 50s, he could do center splits and place his chest on the ground very easily. I, in contrast, am pretty stiff.

    In any event, I remember discussing my friend's tear with a physician and he mentioned that sometimes extremely flexible people are more likely to suffer injuries. I was suprised because I thought that just the opposite would be true. The physician explained that a joint or tendon can only flex so far. Sometimes flexible people feel no pain at all until they get to this maximum point. By then it is too late -- the damage is done. Stiff people, in contrast, will experience pain much earlier and will be able to stop in time to avoid injury.

    So sometimes being extremely flexible might not be quite such a good thing and being stiff might not be all that bad. It all depends.

    I do think that it is useful to work on flexibility as part of training. We tend to lose flexibility with age unless we practice stretch. However, I do not think that it is necessary to be able to perform splits. In our style of Shorin-Ryu, our kicks tend to be low and to the front.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Knee Position After A Kick

    In our style of Shorin-Ryu we tend to use mae geri (front kicks). Yoko geri (side kicks) are used only sparingly and are targeted below the waist. In the Pinan kata, for example, all of the kicks are mae geri (even the first kick of Pinan Shodan). There are no side, roundhouse or back kicks.

    One of the common mistakes beginners make is to lower the knee after a front kick. The knee must be brought up to a horizontal postion (or higher) before the kick is fired (snapped out). The knee must remain at this height after the kick as well. It must not be lowered until after the kick snaps back. There is a saying that any strike or kick should snap back twice as fast as it went out.

    If the knee is lowered prematurely, the student tends to step or lean forward. This is an awkward and vulnerable moment in which the body is dead (shinitai). We look for the attacker to make such a mistake. It is an opportunity to attack or counterattack, particularly to sweep the front foot or leg and follow up with a punch.

    The knee is kept high after a kick for three main reasons: (1) from this position, it is easy to kick again; (2) it gives you the opportunity to change directions; and (3) it maintains body compression. The third reason is probably the most important for beginners since it is part of overall body dynamics training.

    There are five kicks in Pinan Yondan. Students tend to especially drop their knees after the last two kicks. Because the kicks begin and end in the same cat stance (nekoashi dachi) without a step, the knee dropping is easy to see. If the knee is dropped, compression is lost and the following two punches will be very weak. But if the knee is kept high and compression is maintained, the punches will snap out effortlessly. We tend to time the first punch with the return of the kicking foot to the ground.

    Dropping the knee prematurely makes the student lose compression. This is because the koshi tuck is lost. New students must be constantly urged to tuck their koshi and squeeze their lats -- until it becomes a reflex action.

    Keep your knee high after kicks and maintain compression for the next movement.

    I should add that there are cases in which the leg is not snapped back after a kick. In certain situations, the leg will be dropped after the kick to stomp on, rake, or buckle the attacker's leg. Examples of such kicks can be seen in Passai (Tomari version), Kusanku (Chattan Yara version), and Naihanchi. It is also important to maintain body compression in such situations.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Jamming Kicks

    I often say that all of the kicks in the Pinan kata are toe kicks (tsumasaki geri). This is the preferred way to kick the soft parts of the body, rather than using the ball of the foot (chusoku geri). Tsumasaki geri offers a more concentrated striking surface and an extended reach. Kicks using the ball of the foot were most likely popularized by modern tournaments for safety reasons.

    The third kick of Pinan Yondan, however, may be an exception to the tsumasaki geri generalization. This kick (right before the uraken) is probably a jamming kick -- a kick used to jam or prevent a kick by the attacker. If the kick is used to jam the attacker's knee or shin, it would make sense to use ball of the foot or even the heel.

    I tend to use my toes for this kick. Perhaps the striking surface depends on what you are visualizing, and this in turn is reflected in the analysis (bunkai) for the movement.

    If you think about this movement -- if you are kicking the attacker in the stomach, bladder or groin, he would tend to fall or bend forward. The uraken would then be over his head. But if you are jamming his kick, he will remain standing and the uraken would target his face (as done in the kata).

    The important thing is to consider the possibilities. Almost any kick can be used to strike the opponent. But a kick can also be used to jam, block, redirect, or slip a kick. We need to be able to instantly adapt to changing circumstances.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Who Is Sempai?

    Today I went to lunch with four Karate seniors (two 8th dan and two 9th dan). I took the opportunity to ask their opinion about this question:
    "Assume that there are two students, one who starts training first and the second who starts training a few months later. If the first student stops training and while the second student continues to practice, what happens if the first student returns to training 20 years later? Who is the sempai (senior)?"
    This is a common situation. After 20 years, the second student might be a 4th or 5th dan. The first student might not be a black belt at all. The time period could vary. It could be 30 years or longer.

    The general feeling was that the first student remains the sempai. The sempai is the student who started training first and this would never change.

    One of the sensei explained that he based sempai on who attains shodan first. In the absence of a ranking system, the sempai would be the student who learned the kata curriculum first.

    However the sempai status is determined, there could easily be a situation where a kohai (junior) has a higher rank and possibly higher title than his sempai. To me, this is fine. The sempai relationship is one of respect, not rank. One will always respect the students who came before him or her. It is a little bit like saying that your uncle will always be your uncle -- even if he hibernated for 20 years.

    But the sempai will not abuse his status and will realize that his kohai has learned much more than he in the last 20 or 30 years. He will defer to the kohai and insist that the other students show the proper respect to the kohai.

    A typical conversation might go like this:
    Kohai: "This is my senior."

    Sempai: "No, no no. I have not trained for many years."
    But the kohai will always be respectful to his sempai and avoid doing anything to embarrass him (such as defeating him blatantly in kumite or teaching him very basic things in front of other students). The sempai, in turn, will support the kohai, particularly if he has become the dojo sensei.

    It is extremely important to remember that seniority is not based on rank. I may have a higher rank than many people who are senior to me. I tend to address such people as "sensei", even if they do not head a dojo. There are many practical reasons why people with superior ability might not receive rank as quickly or as numerically high as others. Rank can be a pretty subjective thing. One should never be blinded by it. Many pre-war Karate students, particularly in Okinawa (and Hawaii), had no rank at all.

    And your own sensei is always your senior. There are no circumstances under which a student will become senior to his own sensei. Your sensei is and will always be your sensei.

    For returning students, a black belt who has been aways for a number of years will tend to wear a white belt until he has gotten back into shape and refamiliarized himself with the dojo curriculum. He will first ask the dojo sensei for permission to return to the dojo and, if invited to return, will do his best to learn what is currently being taught. He will not dwell in the past and practice things that have been discontinued. It is important for returning students to be very polite and sensitive to the attention they might attract among the junior students.

    I should add that in my experience, we never address a person as "sempai" or "kohai". These are terms to describe relative postions like higher/lower, younger/older, bigger/smaller. They are not formal titles used in Karate.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Hikite -- The Pulling Hand

    Hikite refers to the pulling or returning hand. Hikeru means to draw toward you. Te means hand. When you punch with your right hand, you typically pull your left hand back to the side of your body. This is called "chambering" by some Karate people.

    In our style, we pull our hand back to a point at the bottom of the ribs. Our back hand is not horizontal. It slopes down. When the back hand is horizontal, the lower ribs are open to attack. Since these ribs are not fused (like the upper ribs), they are more susceptible to damage.

    Choki Motobu was said to chamber high. However, he did not bring his arm all the way back. He only brought his elbow back to his body, almost like a Western boxer.

    There are several reasons for the hikite. New students are taught that the returning elbow can be used if someone grabs you from the back. The elbow strikes this attacker. This is true, but there are more practical reasons for hikite.

    There is a saying that you should not bring your hand back empty. This means that you should grab and pull something -- hair, clothes, an ear, the neck, etc. You pull with one hand and strike with the other. This makes it more difficult for the attacker to escape or dodge your strike.

    The hikite can also be used after the application of a joint lock or hyperextension (stripping or wrenching) -- you do not just pull back your hand, you are unraveling or breaking the joints of the attacker's arm in the process.

    The hikite can also be performed as a pulling, riding, or deflecting type of block. The forearm can be used to slide along a punch to neutralize it. The vertical punches in the beginning of Kusanku are an example of this technique. The elbow can also be used to jam a punch or kick.

    Beginners are taught to pull their arms all the way back to their sides. This is a basic technique. At a more advanced level, the arms might only pull back part of the way. The further back the arm is pulled, the further it will have to travel to attack. Advanced punches are executed at close range -- the proverbial one inch punch! Again, Choki Motobu often took this posture.

    The hands must work together. One goes out, the other comes back, and the process repeats itself. With proper body dynamics, one body motion will generate the power for both the punch and the returning hand. They are not separate motions.

    Remember -- never bring your hand back empty.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Advice To Husbands

    This post is specifically written to Karate instructors who are husbands. Because of my research, I have met with the families of many Karate instructors who taught in Hawaii from 1900 to the present. I have met with many widows and children of instuctors.

    My advice is this: be good to your wife! It is very difficult to train and teach if you do not have your wife's support. Karate is a thing (a great thing but still a thing). Karate will not take care of you when you are sick or old. Karate might not divorce you, but your wife could -- and take half (or more) of everything you own (including your dojo) and your children too.

    Don't put Karate first and your wife second. Your wife and family should always come first. Otherwise, you might find that you have become second to them.

    I remember calling a sensei. I could not speak to him and instead spoke to his wife. I would write to the sensei and he would write back, but I could not speak to him. Years went by and I heard that he passed away. Later, I communicated with his wife and she invited me to her home to see some photographs and other Karate related items.

    As it turned out, the sensei had become deaf in his old age. He was bedridden, and did not want to be seen in such a condition. His wife helped him to communicate with me.

    Who will take care of you one day? We all hope to remain healthy. Training helps us to remain strong as we age. But who will be there for us if we are not there for them?

    Remember, the odds are that your wife will outlive you.

    Put your wife and family first. Take care of your work and other obligations next. Practice Karate only when you have fulfilled your other responsibilities. My Sensei, Rodney Shimabukuro, often told me this. His Sensei, Tommy Morita, told him the same thing, and his Sensei, Masaichi Oshiro did too.

    Sometimes I say that Karate is like a walking stick. It is not the path. The path is life itself. Karate is not the path. It helps you to walk. The best and most important part of the path is your wife, family, and friends.

    I have been married for 28 years to my high school sweetheart. She is my best friend and strongest supporter. I am very lucky. I may be crazy (bakka) about Karate but I am more crazy about my wife!


    Charles C. Goodin

    Errors In Kata

    I have noticed that some senior Karate instructors tend to make errors in their kata when they are demonstrating or being filmed. Of course, errors do happen. But I am speaking about senior instructors who are extremely unlikely to make an error, particularly in a kata they would agree to demonstrate in public.

    My conclusion is that at least some senior instructors make errors on purpose. Perhaps this is to prevent people from selling copies of the film -- who would want to see one with an error? Perhaps it is to conceal the actual pattern of the kata. Perhaps it is just out of a sense of humor.

    No suprisingly, people who watch such imperfect kata might copy them. We thus can see many incorrect forms of kata. There are even cases where wrong photographs have been shown in books leading to public confusion about the correct form of the kata.

    My own sensei has a very flexible attitude about kata. Sometimes he will modify a movement to help students overcome a weakness or correct a problem. Later, he might change the movement back -- now the students will be able to do the movement correctly. But there will be some students who will not get the instruction to change the movement back -- now there will be two versions of the kata.

    But I still find it interesting that some senior instructors seem to make errors on purpose. Perhaps it is an inside joke.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Hikari Dojo Kun

    Many schools have a dojo kun. These are typically a set of sayings or maxims that guide the students of that dojo. Each sensei is likely to have his own favorite collection.

    I watched a class once where the students would yell out each of the dojo kun. It seemed a bit fanatical, like pre-war students in Japan preparing for military service.

    It seems to me that dojo kun should not be an adornment or something that students yell out. I often tell my students to "try your best," but I would not want to create a dojo kun with such a saying. We say what is appropriate to a student at that particular moment in his or her life.

    If you do good, then sayings are not necessary. And saying something does not necessarily make it so. We are judged by our deeds, not by what we say.

    In fact, my dojo does have a kun, we have many of them -- they are bo (the Okinawan word for bo is kun). See Yamani-Ryu Bojutsu.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Challenges For Women

    Women face many particular challenges in Karate training.

    First, most women are smaller, lighter, and weaker than men. This presents a physical challenge: a woman cannot expect to match a larger man in strength or weight.

    Of course, this is a generalization. I am 5 feet 7.5 inches tall and weigh 170 pounds. There are many women who are taller and heavier than me, and certainly many women who are stronger than me. In this regard, I face a similar challenge. My Karate training is shaped by the fact that I cannot expect to match a larger man in strength or weight.

    Now if a woman is only 5 feet 2 inches and 100 pounds, this challenge is even greater!

    In order to be able to possibly use Karate techniques, a woman must train hard and learn to use exceptional body dynamics. The idea is not to match a man, but to develop techniques and skills that are not size or weight dependent. This is generally true for all Karate students. Even a tall man could be challenged by someone who is taller. We need to learn techniques and methods that give us an advantage.

    Another challenge faced by women is the fact that some men in the martial arts are chauvinistic. This was especially common among certain older men from the orient who grew up in the pre-war era. Women were not accorded much respect in that society at that time. Even today, some men do not believe that women belong in the martial arts and look down upon them. They might even think that women do not deserve rank or respect.

    Of course, there are stupid people everywhere. Prejudice against women is absolutely stupid. It is reasonable to be frank about the physical challenges a woman would have -- but these are mostly size and strength factors rather than gender issues.

    My daugther is 13. I always tell her that women can do anything that a man can do. She should never tolerate being put down by boys her age and should not tolerate the same when she becomes a woman. I have often seen cases where men will treat my wife with less respect than me, simply because she is a woman. When we were active in real estate, some men would defer to me simply because I was a man. Again, this is stupid. People should be judged based on their abilities.

    Still, women face many challenges in the martial arts. As instructors, we should do our utmost to ensure that all students are treated fairly in our dojo.

    One of the women who teaches here in Hawaii is Hisae Ishii-Chang who heads the Island Ki dojo. I respect her very much and admire the way that she teaches. She is an excellent role model... and her daughter is also an excellent Karate student.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Throwing Without A Gi

    My last post was about Throwing Techniques. You might have wondered, "how do you throw if the attacker is not wearing a gi, coat, or other form of clothing?" In Hawaii, we often wear t-shirts. Some people wear no shirts at all, particularly at the beach.

    My friend and mentor, Sensei Pat Nakata, wondered the same thing when he trained with Choshin Chibana in Okinawa in the 1960s. In fact, Nakata Sensei asked Chibana Sensei about this, to which Chibana Sensei typically replied, "you attack."

    Nakata Sensei complied. Chibana Sensei responded by blocking Nakata Sensei's attack, and then grabbed Nakata Sensei's ear and side of the neck, which substituted for the lapel of a Judo gi. Chibana Sensei then easily threw Nakata Sensei by the ear and neck!

    Nakata Sensei was kind enough to demonstrate this on me. It definitely worked!

    There are many body parts that can substitute for a gi: ear, side of the neck, eye socket, hair, nose, mouth, groin, etc. And it is easy to throw after a joint lock has been applied.

    Clothes can also be used to put the attacker at a disadvantage. For example, a coat or shirt can be pulled over the attacker's head, or a belt can be grabbed.

    As I wrote previously, old style Karate did not have the safety constraints of modern Judo. Karate never was, and in my opinion, can never be a sport. It is a brutal form of self defense used as a last resort only.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Throwing Techniques

    Some people think that Karate involves punching, striking, blocks, and kicks, while Judo and Aikido involve throws and joint locks. This may be true of the modern versions of these arts. However, the old form of Karate was a complete art encompassing all of the above techniques.

    Throws present a particular problem in Karate. Of course, before one can learn to throw, one must first learn to fall and roll. This takes time and mats are required for safety.

    Aside from this practical consideration, there is a general bias in Karate toward fast techniques. It is generally preferrable to strike or kick rather than throw because this minimizes the contact time with the attacker. The longer the contact, the greater the possibility that the attacker can injure you, pull a knife or other weapon, or that another attacker can appear. This last reason is always a concern. We are always on the outlook for additional attackers and do not want to be tied up with one attacker giving another the opportunity to attack us... maybe hit us in the back of the head with a brick!

    But throws do have an important place in Karate. The type of throw, however, differs from modern Judo in one important respect -- in modern Judo, the throws are designed for the partner's safety. Old time Karate throws were far less kind to the attacker. After all, it makes no sense at all to throw an attacker to the ground if he can just get up and continue the attack.

    Karate throws are useful in certain situation. A "safe" throw can be used to give the attacker a chance to calm down or possibly to present an opportunity for the defender to escape. An attacker can also be thrown into another attacker. Using one attacker as a shield or obstruction is a good use of a throw. This can often be seen in the Pinan kata. A throw can also be used to throw the attacker into an object, such as a wall, corner of a wall, fire hydrant, or other object.

    Finally, a throw can also change into a joint lock, joint dislocation, bone break, choke, etc. Many common throws are the "safe" version of a much more dangerous techniques.

    There is another reason to practice throws -- the attacker might try to throw or grab you. If you have ever tried to throw a skilled Judo expert, you know that it is next to impossible. A Judo expert can reverse almost any throw or joint lock you attempt. This is a good reason to practice throwing techniques.

    To be honest, most Karate students are terrible at throws (and falling)... unless they also practiced Judo, Aikido, Ju Jitsu, or wrestling. High kicks in kumite make little sense if throws, sweeps, and trips, are allowed (not to mention kicks to the groin or knees).

    Kenpo students do incorporate throws and joint locks in their techniques. When I practiced Kenpo, we often ended a technique with a throw or joint lock. I mentioned that we "ended" the technique because we usually kicked and punched the attacker first, only afterwards did we throw. This is one of the rules I always mention in my dojo:

    "Whack the attacker first, then throw. Never start off with a throw."
    But once we did throw in Kenpo, we also kicked and punched the attacker on the ground. Sometimes we also applied locking techniques. We always kicked the attacker once he was down.

    Throws are an important part of Karate. Because modern Karate generally lacked throws, many modern students supplied the missing material with Judo or Aikido techniques. This is kind of like the frog DNA used to make dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. The dinosaurs looked authentic but were not quite right.

    Old style Karate throws were just as brutal as striking techniques. They were designed for speed and made so that the attacker could not get back up and continue the fight.

    There is another reason that throws are lacking in modern Karate. Old Karate techniques were executed at a very close distance. The engagement distance tends to be greater in modern Karate. I always say that the engagement distance in our form of Karate is where your elbow can touch the attacker. At this distance, it is very easy to switch to throwing, sweeping, tripping, joint locking, and similar technques. Just about every elbow strike or block presents an opportunity for such a technique.

    See Throwing Without A Gi.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Guest Post: Sho and Dai

    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 excellent article Okinawa Kata Classification: An Historical Overview appears at the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai website. Mario also has a new Karate and Kobudo Blog.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    The sho designation does not indicate a shorter or simpler kata, although some people mistakenly think so. Indeed many times the dai version is less complex and taught earlier than the sho version. IMHO, it is simply a way to differentiate between two versions and/or lineages of the same kata. This is a guess on my part, but this designation probably began in the 1920’s and 1930's with the writings of Funakoshi, Motobu and Funakoshi while popularizing karate on the Japanese mainland.

    If we look at Ryukyu Toudi Kempo (1922) by Funakoshi, you can see him introducing variants for Passai using the sho and dai suffix. Jumping ahead to the early 1930's you find Motobu Choki also using the sho / dai suffix when discussing kata in his Watashi no Toudi. Finally, in the mid 1930's you encounter the use of the sho / dai suffix in the works of Mabuni and Nakasone.

    Although the designation of sho / dai may have existed earlier, I think it was these two gentlemen really popularized it. The sho / dai distinction is not really all that surprising given the penchant for Japanese to organize things to almost anal retentive levels. I am not surprised that these early authors used the sho / dai designation to possibly help their Japanese students differentiate between the two.

    Mario McKenna

    If Can Can...

    There is a saying in Hawaii:

    "If can can, if cannot cannot."

    I think that this may be an old Japanese saying. It was popular with the issei (first generation) and nisei (second generation) Japanese in Hawaii.

    If you can do something, fine... do it. Try your best.

    If you cannot do something, worrying about it or complaining won't help. Get over it and move on. Don't waste your energy crying over spilt milk. There are other worthwhile things you can do.

    Once in a while we cannot use our training room. If the gym is closed, we cannot use it. Recently, the gym was closed because of a water pipe break. No sense complaining about it. Do something else. Practice at home.

    Once in a while we might have to use a different training room that might not be a desireable as our normal room. Don't complain. Do you think the room or place will be nice if someone attacks you? You have to do your best wherever you are. Make the best of whatever room we use. We should be grateful to have a place to train.

    Some people can find a million reasons not to do something. Other people will not let a million things prevent them from doing what they want or need to do.

    If can can, if cannot cannot. If cannot, do something else that is worthwhile.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Black Belt in ____ Months

    Sometimes I see advertisements for programs in which a student is assured of "earning" a black belt in a certain number of months. Sometimes the black belt is "guaranteed."

    I am afraid that I cannot offer such a program. How long it will take for a student to obtain a black belt depends upon a number of factors. I used the term "obtain" because I don't think that a student really earns rank -- rank is awarded by the sensei. The student does his or her best to learn. Learning is the reward. In recognition of the student's level of ability, the sensei might give rank (or not).

    But to say that a black belt can be expected in a certain time period is questionable, at least it is to me. Some students might learn the specified curriculum within that time period, but others might not, despite their best efforts. If the belt will simply be awarded on the basis of time, then it is a time belt, not a recognition of ability.

    Students should not worry about belts. Worrying gets in the way. Trying to earn a belt gets in the way. The student should simply try his or her best. It may well be that a white belt is more skilled than black belt holders in other dojo, perhaps even in the same dojo. Who cares? We should not compare ourselves to others. We should simply strive to be our best -- which may be far superior to the people to whom we thought of comparing ourselves.

    Imagine if you were in Physics class with Albert Einsteen. Do you think he was trying to get a better grade than the person he sat next to... or do you think he was already pondering the mysteries of the universe?

    Many of the seniors I have met tried to avoid getting black belts. They thought that it was unnecessary or would interfere with their training. Once black belts, they would have to spend more time teaching. I heard of one sensei who only received a black belt (3rd dan actually) because it looked bad for a white belt to be teaching the black belts! Another senior I know received a black belt only when he was asked to help teach a class. He never received dan ranking... but did receive a Shihan No Menkyo (instructor's license).

    Don't worry about rank. It is far more productive to strive for ability.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Helping One Student

    Our typical classes have between 20 and 30 students. I am lucky to have several yudansha (black belt holders) who help me. With their help, we can separate the students into groups. That way, they can focus on what they are learning at thir particular level.

    Each class, I try to help at least one student move in a way that they never did before. There is nothing better than watching a student who has had problems with a certain movement of a kata suddenly do the movement correctly. This is especially true in our stye of Karate because of our focus on body dynamics. When a student suddenly moves correctly, it is a qualitative leap -- the character of his movement changes.

    If a student can learn to do one movement correctly, then he can apply that form of mechanics to all related movements. A single case of improvement can positively "infect" many others.

    For example, if a student can learn to throw a proper shuto (knife hand strike or block), the shuto mechancis can be applied to almost every block in one way or another. Students do not have to learn dozens or hundreds of ways to move -- there is basically only one!

    My second son also tries to work on at least one student each class. It is hard to help an entire class learn something truly new. Concentrating on one student it is at least possible.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Relaxed Okinawan Atmosphere

    I have a new student who is a very nice young man. After one of our classes, I noticed that he was trying his best to be very polite (a very good trait for any student). I said:

    "Loosen up. This is an Okinawan class. It's OK to smile."

    Our style of Karate is Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu. Our main dojo is in Yonabaru, Okinawa. My Sensei in Okinawa teaches on the second floor of his home. My Hawaii Sensei is Okinawan and also learned in Okinawa. He taught at a Catholic church.

    Even though we train at a gymasium (at Halawa District Park), I want our class to feel like it is in a home. Even if we one day have a separate dojo in our own building, I would want it to feel like a home rather than a formal building or temple.

    In the old days, the very close students would train at the sensei's home or the sensei's family's hakka (tomb). One of these old time students recently told me that they always had to be careful when they trained at the hakka. I asked if it was because of little pebbles (they naturally trained barefoot). He said that the main problem was broken glass. Ouch!

    We are lucky to have nice floors, high ceilings, and even mirrors on the wall. But we have to remember that training at the sensei's home or family hakka was special -- training at a school, college, or other outside location was for more casual students.

    The atmosphere in Okinawan dojo tends to be less formal that their mainland Japanese counterparts. Students come into and leave the dojo with less formalities. Sometimes it may seem a bit too relaxed.

    My Sensei in Okinawa told me this when I first met him:

    "I enjoy practicing Karate. I practice at the home. If students also enjoy practicing Karate, they are welcome to practice with me."

    The basis for his training was enjoyment. How refreshing.

    It is OK to smile in our dojo. The only thing I am strict about is safety and paying attention. But it is OK to smile. It is OK to laugh. It is OK to make mistakes -- I have made far many more than you. Just try your best, learn as much as possible, and help your fellow students.

    If you enjoy practicing Karate then your Karate life will be a pleasure rather than torture. Let's make our dojo feel like a home.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Pinan Shodan and Yondan

    The shape of the first movements of Pinan Shodan and Pinan Yondan are the same except that the hands are closed in the former and open in the latter.

    To help students get movements, we come up with different analogies or constructs.

    For the first movements of these kata, the feeling is like pulling your hands off a hot stove. You touch the stove and instantly react by pulling your hands away. There is no time to think. The movement is instant. Your hands jerk off the stove.

    It is important to keep the elbows near the body. Do not let them move away from the body. In fact, the elbows can come closer to the body.

    Once the hands jerk up, the feeling is a little like throwing a bucket of water. Don't think of blocking. Think of throwing the bucket of water. This will ensure that your hands move together.

    Don't think of your fists or hands. Think of your wrists. Flick your wrists up into the block. If you focus on your fists or hands, your movement will be too tight.

    After the block, there is a recoil which is coordinated with the rotation of the koshi. To set the movement, the hara is used. Hara can refer to the tucking motion of the koshi area. Koshi generally moves in the horizontal and diagonal axes. The hara generally moves in the vertical axis.

    The movement begins with the koshi rotating to the left (possibly to the right first to generate movement). The hands do not move until the koshi begins to rebound back to the right.

    Many years ago, I watched a video of Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato performing Pinan Shodan. I must have watched him perform the first movement of the kata hundreds to times. For the life of me, I could not figure out how he was generating so much speed and power with so little apparent effort. I did not understand basic koshi then. Years later when I learned the same movement from him, I was so happy! It was as if a great mystery was solved.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Live Close to the Dojo

    When I was a student of Sensei Sadao Yoshioka, I already taught Karate (poorly, I must admit). I was a college student and had taught Karate in high school and also taught classes during college. Yoshioka Sensei lived in Pauoa and taught at the Nuuanu YMCA, which was right down the hill. He used to joke that he could almost coast in his car from his house to the dojo.

    Yoshioka Sensei told me that it is a good idea for your dojo to be close to home. That way, you don't waste so much time driving -- you can spend the extra time training. I thought that this was excellent advice.

    Many years after Yoshioka Sensei passed away, I opened a dojo at Halawa District Park. The dojo is across the freeway from my house. I can actually see it from my front door. When I look at the dojo from my house, I often think about Yoshioka Sensei and his advice... and his old blue car.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Training To Hit

    Several years ago a sensei visited Hawaii and observed my technique. He generously remarked:

    "You are training to stop, not training to hit. Karate is about transferring power. You are keeping it all inside of yourself."
    I always remember these words. Am I training to stop? Am I moving in a way to transfer power, or am I keeping it in?

    It is not enough to try hard. Usually, this is part of the problem. You have to think about what it is you are trying to do. Are you trying to make a kata look good in the air? Imagine playing pool and always stopping the cue short of the cue ball. It might look good but the cue ball would stay put. You have to hit the cue ball in order to sink any balls.

    We have to always keep in mind that we are training to hit and transfer power. You get no credit for power that you keep inside of yourself.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Approaching the Whip

    There are basically two way to teach a student to move in a whiplike manner (with koshi generated power).

    The first is to teach the student clean basics -- punches, blocks, strikes, and kicks. Next the student is taught clean kata. Every movement is precise and perfect. The problem is that the student will tend to be stiff and limited.

    The second is to teach the student how to move using the koshi very early. The emphasis is on the potential of body dynamics rather than clean form. The student learns how to move, not how to pose. Of course, the problem is that the student will tend to be mushy and sloppy.

    Stiff and limited on the one side or mushy and sloppy on the other -- you basically have to choose one and go with it. If you choose the first, you have to teach the student how to move once he becomes advanced. If you choose the second, you have to make the student cleaner when he becomes advanced.

    I tend to choose the second, because it gives the greatest potential for movement. A clean student with no body dynamics is pretty helpless. But a sloppy student who can move has a chance to use what he knows.

    But it is a difficult choice. Most of seniors in my style were stiff first and only learned to move freely after they already were advanced. But we don't like to teach our students this way because it is very frustrating to see limited movement. So we would rather teach the loose way because it feels so much better to us.

    But I think that it is probably easier to teach an advanced student with clean basics how to move freely -- if and only if the student is very open minded and willing to utterly relearn everything. Such a student can learn very quickly with excellent results. But if the student insists on holding onto his or her limited form of movement, learning is extremely difficult if not impossible.

    However you look at it, Karate is about learning how to move, not just what to do. We know that we have to block a punch. The question is how to do it in an extraordinary manner (otherwise we will always lose to a stronger, faster, and heavier opponent). Body dynamics gives the potential for extraordinary movement.


    Charles C. Goodin

    270 Posts!

    It is hard to believe, but the Karate Thoughts Blog has now reached 270 posts!

    Thank you very much to all the readers and guest writers who have made this possible.

    I have practiced martial arts since I was a 7 year old at Misawa Air Force Base, in Northern Japan. I wish that I could remember everything my sensei said to me over the years as a student of Judo, Kenpo Karate, Tai Chi, Gung Fu, Shorin-Ryu, Aikido, Kendo, and Iaido. Some of my sensei did not speak English or did so only sparingly. Time also dims the memory.

    With this blog, I am trying to preserve the subjects that we discuss in our Hikari Dojo. In this way, new students, or people outside the dojo who are interested, can also benefit (hopefully). Many of our themes are universal.

    I am also trying to encourage writers -- adults and children alike -- within our dojo. We also discuss the blog subjects from time to time in our dojo so that students will feel more comfortable speaking in public.

    "Blog" is a funny sounding word. In Okinawa, I think they would say "Brog." Funny sounding or not, I am glad there is such a "web log" to preserve and present our Karate Thoughts.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Double Hip

    This post was previously published on March 23rd under the title Crutches. I am republishing it and adding a short comment because I believe that the subject is very important.


    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 him to loosen up and move his 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).


    The use of the koshi is very much like the mechanics of a whip. If you get a damp towel, twist it, and practice snapping it, you will learn a lot about koshi dynamics. When you snap the towel just right there is no double motion either.

    We do not use a double hip or double pump. That is just an execise until the student learns to move more naturally. But when the student learns that exercise and does not progress further, he might think that the double hip is part of our basic technique. Like crutches or training wheels, double hip movements can be set aside when they are no longer needed.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Calm In An Emergency

    One of the traits of a Karate student is that he or she will be able to remain calm and focused in an emergency.

    You might have seen people who become extremely emotional and frightened in an emergency. Their hearts race and they are unable to focus their attention. They might become hysterical or even pass out from fright or panic.

    A Karate student will not just look calm -- his or her heart rate and breathing rate will remain normal or close to normal. He or she will will be able to focus on the task at hand, whether that means rescuing others, saving property, or even fleeing from the danger. At such times, a Karate student might seem to acquire superhuman strength, but it is really just a matter of focus and determination.

    In Karate, we prepare for an unexpected attack. If Karate, must be used as a last resort, we are prepared to do so in a calm and focused manner. Even emotions like anger and rage must be under our control lest we become swept up by the situation.

    If we are capable to using Karate for self defense, we will also be able to remain calm and focused in an emergency. In many ways, this is an even more important benefit of Karate training.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Rabbit Koshi

    There is an irony to koshi (the generation of power using multi-angular rotation of the core of the body).

    The sensei must make the koshi big for the students to be able to see it (and thus copy it). The movements must not only be big, but the timing must be altered so that the movement of the koshi can be seen as separate from the movement of the rest of the body. When you see a sensei "using" his koshi, you are normally seeing an exaggeration. We say that the sensei has "opened his koshi" -- made it visible. To move in such a manner is too awkward and slow for self defense.

    But if the sensei "closes" his koshi, beginners will not be able to see it -- because the koshi movements are too small and nearly simultaneous with the movement of the rest of the body. An advanced student will be able to see the subtle movements, or if the movements are completely internalized, at least an advanced student will be able to appreciate that koshi is being used because of the power generated.

    A sensei who closes his koshi may appear not to be using koshi at all.

    Thus, if you can see the koshi (because the sensei has opened his koshi), you are not really seeing true koshi -- you are seeing an exaggeration. If you cannot see koshi (because the sensei has closed his koshi), you might think that no koshi is being used at all. You might wonder, "how in the world is he generating so much power with so little motion?"

    If a beginner tries to copy a sensei who has closed his koshi, the student will move with no koshi movement. He will be able to mimick the form of the movements but will only have ordinary power rather than the nearly effortless, explosive power generated by the koshi. In order to generate more power, the student will resort of straining and pumping his arms, shoulders, and legs. It will be very frustrating. Again, this type of movement is too awkward and slow for self defense.

    You might have seen a magician who can pull objects from his sleeve. It is not magic, it is just that the objects are hidden in his sleeve. Koshi is like that. Koshi can be used so that the movements are either hidden within the gi, or even hidden within the body. There is a lot of movement (compression and tension) going on, it is just not visible.

    Koshi must be shown "big" to beginners. They must practice with "big" koshi at first. But gradually, the movements become smaller and smaller, while retaining full power. At the advanced level, there is power with no apparent movement... like pulling a rabbit from a hat.

    The rabbit was always in the hat!


    Charles C. Goodin

    Naihanchi -- Reluctance

    The beginning of the Naihanchi Shodan kata teaches the student reluctance -- an unwillingness to use the destructive aspects of Karate unless it is absolutely necessary to do so... a last resort.

    In the beginning of the kata, the left open hand is placed on top of the right fist. This shows that discretion/conscience (the open hand) is always in control of destruction/violence (the fist). See: Hand- Anger, and Treasure in the Pocket. The open hand is on the top.

    The first step of the kata is to cross the left leg over the right and to begin a step to the right. The left foot only touches the ground with the ball of the foot. The weight remains 95% (or so) on the right foot. The student does not commit to the step. He looks to the right and waits. This step is like the open hand.

    Dr. Noboru Akagi, a fine Kendo and Iaido Sensei, once asked me if I knew what I was supposed to think as I drew the sword. I replied that I did not (I actually thought that I was supposed to think about the cut). He explained that I am supposed to think: "don't cut, don't cut, don't cut." I was supposed to project the thought that the enemy should not cut me. If he does not cut, I do not have to cut either. But if he does cut, I will have to draw and cut him down (kill him) because there is no other choice... it has become the last resort.

    The beginning of Naihanchi Shodan shows reluctance. It is a posture of "don't attack, don't attack, don't attack." Both the hands and feet are restrained, controlled, and held back. The student holds himself back.

    Some students do not hesitate in the initial step. Often this is because they intend to make a big stomping or sweeping motion with their right root. They are rushing to generate power for this movement. They are rushing to the attack.

    In Karate, we should always hesitate -- hold back. We should be reluctant to extend our hand and willing to do just about anything to avoid it. Once it become impossible to hold back, then and only then is it necessary to unleash the terror of Karate. Until then, it must be controlled. Reason must always be on the top, just as the open hand covers the fist, and the weightless foot covers the supporting foot.

    My first Shorin-Ryu Sensei, Rodney Shimabukuro, always says that "a Karateman fears his own hand." He does not say that we should fear the attacker. We should fear our own hand and the consequences of our actions.

    In all of our techniques, until the last moment of execution (throwing the technique), we should hold ourselves back and think: "don't attack, don't attack, don't attack."


    Charles C. Goodin


    In my dojo, students are not permitted to wear any jewelry during training. One reason for this is that Karate training is austere. Jewelry has no place in the dojo.

    But the main reason is safety. Jewelry can become caught in a gi or hair. Earrings can be torn off ripping the ear. A ring can get caught injuring a finger.

    Of course, a necklace can be broken. But a pendant can create a serious puncture wound.

    Take a crucifix, for example. If it is turned on end (with a point facing the chest), a punch could drive it into the body. During training, the body twists and turns. Pendants can flip around in many positions. One could even fly off and injure a student's eye.

    I am disappointed when I see a student in other dojo wearing jewelry. To say the least, I am shocked to see instructors doing so. I am sorry to say that I see this pretty often.

    Personally, I have given up wearing a wedding ring and watch. It became a hassle to take them off at class. I used to worry about leaving them in my bag. It is easy to check the time on a cellular phone.

    Please leave your jewelry at home.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Fingernails and Toenails

    When I first meet a Karate student or instructor, I generally observe their fingernails and toenails. If I am going to pair off with them, I want to make sure that it will be safe.

    If the student or instructor is a male and has very long and/or untrimmed nails, I will usually suspect that they do not train regularly. Men who train regularly tend to have neatly trimmed nails. One reason for this is safety. The other is that it is difficult to make a proper fist with long fingernails.

    Women should be permitted to have longer nails because they can be used effectively in self defense.

    Sensei Mitsugi Kobayashi told me that he thought that Seko Higa observed his neatly trimmed fingernails and realized that he must be a Judo student, which he was. Kobayashi was accepted as a student -- something pretty rare for foreigners at that time.

    I usually keep my fingernails very short. I cut them as soon as the tips turn white. Because I am the senior instructor in my dojo, I want to make sure that I do not cut or scratch any students.

    Students should be aware that seniors will observe their nails. Students should carry a clipper in their bag, just in case it is necessary to trim their nails before class.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Famous Sensei

    What makes a sensei famous? If have written this before but want to emphasize the point -- what makes a sensei famous is his students.

    A sensei is judged by the students he produces. Anko Itosu is famous, but would he be as well know were it not for such students as Kentsu Yabu, Chomo Hanashiro, Gichin Funakoshi, Choshin Chibana, Kenwa Mabuni, and others? And were it not for students and writers such as Genwa Nakasone, would we know as much about many of the great sensei?

    It goes without saying that there have been many great fighters in the history of Karate and most are unknown today. Defeating a bandit or a boxer is of fleeting significance. But teaching the art to students who not only carry it on but add their own perspectives is truly memorable.

    When you hear stories about Kensu Yabu, you must wonder who his great sensei must have been.

    There is a big difference between being a great fighter and a great sensei. A great fighter is know for what he did. A great sensei is know for how and who he taught.

    If you want you sensei to become famous, try your best to be a good student!


    Charles C. Goodin

    P.S. Of course, your sensei does not care at all about such a trivial matter as fame. He is only trying his best to teach you.

    Ugly Kata

    One of the compliments a sensei might give to his student is that the student's kata looks "ugly." A new student might be offended, but oldtimers know that this is a real compliment. It means that the student has developed so much power that the form of the kata sort of bends.

    In contrast, it is something of an insult to say that a kata is "pretty," "nice", "neat," "precise", etc. This means that the student is still coloring within the lines. His power is contained by the kata.

    When you see a truly ugly kata performed, you think to yourself, "I do not want to be in front of that fist." It gives you a shrinking feeling.

    Please don't get me wrong. When I say "ugly" kata, I do not mean one that is poorly performed, incorrect, or sloppy. An ugly kata is technically correct. It is just that you can tell that the gun is loaded.


    Charles C. Goodin

    A Small Punching Bag

    In my good friend's dojo, there are two punching bags. One is a large leather bag (about 6 feet long) and the other is a short canvas bag (only about 2 feet long).

    When I went to his dojo, I tapped the large bag and it gave pretty easily. I then tapped the small bag and it was hard as cement! The small bag was filled with sand that had settled and compacted over the years.

    My friend mentioned that some people come into his dojo and punch the small bag hard without checking it first. They are shocked to find that they are essentially punching a rock.

    I only knew to check first because we had a similar bag in another dojo. It was also filled with sand. We would try to reshape it from time to time to loosen the sand. When we punched this bag, we did not hit very hard. We hit with short punches to condition our knuckles.

    A student of Chotoku Kyan told me that one day he went to Kyan Sensei's house and was about to punch his favorite makiwara in the yard. Something caught his eye and he carefully examined the straw rope wound around the top of the makiwara. Someone had embedded broken pieces of glass in the rope. If he had punched it, his knuckles would have been badly cut. He told me that malicious students from other dojo sometimes did these kinds of things.

    You should always carefully examine any object you are going to punch or strike.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Henry Seishiro Okazaki Photo

    Here is a group photo of Sensei Henry Seishiro Okazaki. It states that this is a Dai Nippon Butokukai Hawaii Division gathering. You can see a larger version here. It is believed that this photo was taken at the Kotohira Jinsha Temple in Kalihi.

    Do you recognize anyone in the photo? Okazaki Sensei is seated in the second row, second from the left.

    Okazaki Sensei was one of the leading Ju Jitsu/Judo instructors in Hawaii. Originally from Hilo, he taught there, and then on Maui before moving to Honolulu. Okazaki Sensei's dojo was open to students of any race. This photo shows Caucasian students and possibly guests from Japan.

    The photo was donated to the Hawaii Karate Museum by Ms. Constance Day who found it in Massachusetts.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Beware Of Knives

    My first Karate instructor was Florentino S. Pancipanci. He had learned Kenpo Karate under Professor Marino Tiwanak at CHA-3 Kenpo. By the time I started to train with him, Mr. Pancipanci had his own organization. He taught Kenpo Karate, Escrima, Tai Chi, and Gung Fu.

    Mr. Pancipanci (we called him "Mr." in class), was Filipino. Actually, I thought that Karate was a Filipino art at first! I trained under him at Hickam Air Force Base and occassionally went to advanced training at Schofield Barracks.

    One of the things Mr. Pancipanci always said was that you had to watch out for people carrying knives. He said that knives could easily be concealed. When a person brushed their hair back or reached for their back pocket or pants leg, you had to be prepared for a knife attack.

    Knife fighting and defense are taught in Filipino martial arts such as Escrima and Kali. We used to practice Knife Arts (defense sets) in Kenpo Karate.

    No matter how skilled you are, you have to be on the watch for concealed weapons. With a quick motion, an attacker can sever an artery or stab several times. Even if you are bigger, stronger, and more skilled, a knife, razor blade, or other sharp object can reverse the equation.

    We used to practice using folding chairs and even umbrellas to defend against weapons attacks. You need to be ready to use anything available.

    Never be over confident. Always be on guard for possible knife attacks.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Koshi, Hula, And Golf

    In my dojo we practice the multi-angular, rotational use of the koshi. This is a characteristic of the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu that we practice under Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato.

    One thing I have noticed is that women who have practiced hula (the ancient Hawaiian art of dance), have a much easier time learning the basics of koshi. This should make sense, since they also wave (use) their hips in their art.

    American men generally have a difficult time learning to relax and use their hips. Of all the athletes I have taught, the ones who seem to grasp the concept of koshi motion best are the golfers. They also use their hips when they swing their clubs. One of the instructors in my dojo is an avid golfer. I hope that he will soon write a blog about golf and koshi.

    Koshi is the root of all movement in Karate. At the advanced level, it is difficult or impossible to see the koshi motion -- but it is still there. A minimized spiral appears to become a straight line.

    Karate is kata. Kata is movement. Movement is koshi.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Visiting Another Dojo

    These are some things for my students to consider before visiting another dojo. Students of other dojo should follow the rules applicable in their dojo as taught by their sensei.

    First, ask your sensei first. Your sensei might know the sensei of the other dojo. This will give him the opportunity to discuss your visit with the other sensei first. If you show up at the other dojo without your sensei's permission (often with a written letter), the other sensei will feel awkward. He might not want you to visit unless your sensei has agreed first. He will want to welcome you to his dojo out of courtesy to your sensei, but will not want to allow you in his dojo for fear of offending your sensei.

    From time to time, students will ask to visit my dojo. Most do not ask for their sensei's permission. I rarely allow such visits.

    I will give you an example. If a student of Morio Higaonna asked to visit my dojo, I would expect to be contacted my Higaonna Sensei (because I have met him and he has taught at my dojo). If Higaonna Sensei does not contact me, I would think that the student does not have permission. Since I would never allow a student to visit without his sensei's permission -- particularly a sensei I know and respect -- I would decline the visit request and make a polite excuse.

    I would not want to contact Higaonna Sensei about his student because this would put the student in an awkward position. Do you see this difficulty this could cause?

    Second, do not go empty handed. Take an appropriate gift (omiyage).

    Third, be very restrained. Do not show off. Do not challenge any students. Do not challenge the sensei. Do not practice kata from your dojo in the other dojo -- unless the sensei has specifically asked you to do so.

    Karate history is rich with visitors who have foolishly challenged a sensei and been taken away in an ambulance.

    Fourth, try your best and realize that you are visiting to learn.

    Fifth, when you return to your dojo, do not show things that you learned in the other dojo -- unless your sensei asks you to do so. If, for example, you started to practice an outside kata in my dojo without my request, I would politely ask you to train elsewhere.

    Remember that how you act as a visitor reflects directly on your sensei.

    After your visit, the sensei of the other dojo will almost certainly contact your sensei and give a report. What I want most to hear is that my student was very courteous.

    After your visit, you should also give a report to your sensei. The other sensei might have asked you to carry a letter or omiyage to your sensei.

    Something else to consider, if I were going to visit my friend's sensei in Okinawa, I would mention this to my friend first so that he could give me any letters or omiyage that he might want me to carry to his sensei. This is the proper courtesy. If I did not show this courtesy to my friend, then what kind of friend am I?

    Also remember that the sensei of the other dojo might not show the usual things while you are visiting. When I have a visitor, I often will keep the class very basic. I will not show deeper techniques or body dynamics. Visitors might sometimes leave thinking, "what a basic class!" This is what I want. Remember that other sensei might do the same thing. You cannot judge the level of the dojo by what you saw during your brief visit.

    Lastly, you should be aware that not all dojo allow visitors. If they do not, you should respect their policy. Karate is not a business to many sensei -- it is an art and lifelong pursuit. Many sensei are not seeking new students or attention. Many sensei do not want to be written about or photographed. You should respect their wishes.

    The main thing to remember is to ask your sensei first.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Correcting Assistants

    Often, I will have two assistants working with groups that are close to each other. Rarely, one assistant might try to correct the other. In this case, a junior should not correct a senior. Period.

    If the junior has a question, he should ask it privately -- not in front of the group as this would undermine the leader of that group.

    A senior can always correct a junior, but should do so tactfully. Sometimes it is best to correct the junior privately.

    If a senior is teaching a group and temporarily steps away, a junior leader of another group should not step in, and certainly should not correct something that the senior taught. This would be a breach of courtesy and protocol.

    Seniority in the dojo is not determined by age (unless the students are the same rank and were promoted at the same time). Seniority is based on time in training in the dojo (with few exceptions).

    It is important to understand these rules to maintain order and harmony in the dojo. Also, if we learn these rules, we are better prepared to act courteously when seniors from other dojo visit us.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Showering Before Class

    I try to take a shower before each class. I like to say that we should sweat clean.

    It is easy for me to shower before my Saturday class. But on Wednesdays, I teach in the evenings after work. I thus try to go home before class so that I will have the time to shower and even take a short nap.

    Some students cannot shower before class. But even they can go to the restroom to wash their face, hands, and even their feet. It is very hot in Hawaii and we must try our best not to offend other students by being dirty or stinky.

    Your gi should be washed after each and every use. Do not wear a gi twice without washing it. A sweaty gi can get moldy and certainly very stinky. I like to wear a lightweight gi (50% cotton and 50% polyester), again because it is so hot in Hawaii. Also, I do not like to hear gi snapping. Heavyweight gi tend to snap and make noise. Trying to snap teaches the wrong form and is irritating.

    If you can snap while wearning a short sleeve T-shirt, then that is good (unless you are hitting your body)!

    Always keep your body clean. There is nothing worse than pairing off with someone only to find that your arm now stinks! OK, there are worse things, but it is pretty bad. Cleanliness is an aspect of courtesy.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Active Assisting

    When you are asked to teach, you must not forget that you are in the dojo to train. Don't teach by talking only. You should do the techniques or kata with the students. Sometimes you need to stand and watch the students so that you can correct them. However, you teach best by your example.

    I have been to dojo where the sensei or assistants seemed to only give instructions. "Do this kata. Do this drill." They did nothing themselves. At the end of class, their gi were still dry!

    I have also been to dojo where the sensei, irrespective of age or gender, trained harder than anyone else. That is how we should try to be.

    Leading a class is like making a charcoal fire. You have to fan the coals until they catch on fire and start to glow. The sensei fans the coals by setting the example for the students -- not by talking. We teach by moving (and explaining).

    Also, if you don't actively train, you will get out of shape. Use every opportunity to train yourself, even if it is while you teach beginners.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Assisting Your Sensei

    When you assist the sensei, you should do four things: (1) try your best; (2) do as instructed; (3) ask if you are not sure; and (4) ask before you do anything else.

    The first item speaks for itself.

    The second is very important. If your sensei asks you to teach a student the first five movements of Pinan Shodan, teach those movements and those movements only. Do not teach the entire kata or another kata. Teach those five movements.

    If the student learns very quickly or by chance already knew those movements, ask your sensei what he would like you to do. Don't assume that you should move on.

    The sensei might want the student to concentrate on those five movements. He might want to limit to the student to those five movements so that he can work with another group (who had already learned those movements) in the next session.

    Also, a student might do well learning five movements. But if you teach him 20 movements, he might get confused, forget the movements, or form bad habits. It is better to learn a few movements well than to learn many movements poorly.

    As for the third item, the student might ask you questions that you cannot answer. Don't make up answers. Tell the student that you will ask the sensei or a senior. None of us know everything. In my dojo, I am the sensei. But there are many things that I do not know. If I don't know the answer, I will consult with my seniors or other sensei.

    When you have done what the sensei has asked, you should ask him what he would like you to do next. This might be a good opportunity for the sensei to look over the student to see if he understood what you taught or has any questions.

    In my dojo, I intend for all students to eventually become teachers. As a result, I want students to learn to teach. A student does not have to be a black belt to teach. I remember running classes all by myself before I was a black belt.

    The main rule when you are assisting is to ask the sensei before doing anything beyond what you were asked to do.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Watching A Demonstration

    When you are in the dojo, the sensei will often stop and demonstrate a technique. At such moments, you must be exceptionally aware.

    First, you must be ready to run up and act as the uke (attacker) if the sensei calls you. The sensei might call your name, point to you, extend his hand toward you, look at you, or even just think of you! You must be ready to respond. It is very bad form for the sensei to have to try to get your attention because you are not paying attention or talking to another student. If this had been a real attack, you would have been hit! You must be ready at all times. Being the uke helps to train you for real life situations.

    The students who watch the demonstration must also be very aware. The sensei might ask one of them to act as a second uke. Again, there must be no hesitation or delay.

    In addition, the students who watch the demonstration must be aware in case the uke is thrown or pushed. An inattentive student might get knocked down or injured.

    Students should even be prepared to catch the uke if needed.

    The students should stand a safe distance from the sensei when he demonstrates a technique. This is for safety reasons. The students should only go closer if the sensei requests it so that they can better see the technique.

    The proper distance to observe a demonstration depends on the nature of the technique being shown. If the uke will be thrown, he must be given sufficient room to safely roll and stand up.

    If the sensei is demonstating a technique with a weapon, the students must stand back farther. This is especially true with respect to longer weapons (such as a bo, yari, naginata, nunti bo, or eku), chained weapons (such as a kusarigama), or bladed weapons. The students should stand back farther than the weapon can reach, plus an additional safety margin. Weapons occassionally break, are dropped, or are accidentally thrown. Weapons should be carefully examined before each use.

    When you watch a demonstration, you should be ready to be called upon, and make sure to stand back an appropriate distance. Seniors should make sure that juniors observe this.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Guest Post: Learning to Persevere

    This Guest Post is by Jennifer Takahashi, a ten year old student in the Hikari Dojo. Her father, David, is a nidan and assistant instructor. Jeniffer's mother, brother and sister also practice with her in the dojo.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    Once, on a day when I had Karate practice, I did not feel like going because I was lazy. My Dad said to me, "You should push yourself instead of giving up so quickly." After I heard that, I let it sink in and thought about it. When the time came to leave later on that day, I reminded myself of what my Dad had said and pushed myself to go. I enjoyed class that day and was glad I went.

    The next day, I had to wake up at 3:45 a.m. I also take piano lessons and we have a concert where a group of us would play. A television station wanted to show an example for the 6:00 a.m. news and my group was chosen, so that's why I had to get up so early.

    When that was finished, I was very tired and wanted to rest. But when I got home and lay down on my bed, I couldn't sleep because my younger sibling was very loud and noisy. Unfortunately, on that same day, I had a make-up class for gymnastics for two hours in the afternoon. I was again so tired.

    But I remembered what my Dad said the day before and how I felt after I went and I pushed myself to go. Like with Karate, gymnastics was fun and I was glad I went.

    So now whenever I feel lazy or tired, I focus on what I will learn after the activity and that makes me want to go.

    Jennifer Takahashi

    Tapestry of Karate

    As discussed many times before, Lineage is the line of your teaching -- who taught you, who taught him, and so forth back to the early Karate pioneers, and before that to the instructors in China.

    A Goju-Ryu student in Hawaii might trace his lineage to Masaichi Oshiro, who learned from Gogen Yamaguchi, who learned from Chojun Miyagi, who learned from Kanryo Higashionna (and Chinese instructors), who learned martial arts in China.

    A Shorin-Ryu student in Hawaii might trace his lineage to Pat Nakata, who learned from Choshin Chibana, who learned from Anko Itosu, who learned from Sokon Matsumura, who learned from Tote Sakugawa, who learned from Kusanku (a Chinese instructor).

    A Kenpo student in Hawaii might trace his lineage again to Masaichi Oshiro, who learned from William K. S. Chow, who learned from James Mitose, who may have learned from Choki Motobu (or his students), who learned from Anko Itosu, and Sokon Matsumura.

    Some students will have more than one line because they studied more than one art or learned from more than one instructor.

    As you learn more about Karate history, you will find that all Karate students are connected. The various lines (or lineages) of Karate are like threads. A single thread may not be very strong, but woven together they create the tapestry of Karate. While we may have differences, we are all cut from the same cloth.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Name Dropping

    I often write that I recently trained, ate lunch, or met with this Karate sensei or that Karate sensei. I realize that this may give the impression that I am dropping names -- trying to make myself look "famous" by mentioning the names of genuinely famous people.

    I have a very interesting life. Because of my research and work for the Hawaii Karate Museum and my own dojo, I do spend a lot of time with Karate instructors, and many have become my close friends.

    I am a very lucky student. Most students only get to hear stories and learn from their own direct sensei. I have the opportunity to listen to and learn from many sensei. When I hear a story or learn a lesson that I want to write about, I will always state the name of the sensei I spoke to so that the record is preserved. If someone tells or teaches me something, I don't want to make it look like I made it up myself.

    Obviously, Karate is something that you have to practice. You cannot learn Karate by listening to stories at lunch. But you can learn about Karate -- how did the seniors learn, what did they have to go through, what do they remember about their teachers? This will not make you better at Karate but it can enhance your appreciation of the art.

    There are also many old Karate seniors I don't write much about. A bojutsu expert who is bedridden and unable to speak on the telephone because he has become deaf. A sensei who cannot go out because he is tending to his sickly wife. A sensei who resides in a care home and can remember the 1930s and 1940s, but not last week. And then there are the 80 and 90 year old widows of the sensei who have saved their photographs and books, and preserved their legacies.

    I hope that you will understand that I don't intend to drop names -- my hope is to respectfully lift them up.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Readers in Iraq and Afghanistan

    A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai training at Sensei Paul Ortino's dojo. A few of Ortino Sensei's students were present. Most of them are in the military. One of the them mentioned that he had visited our various websites (Hawaii Karate Seinenkai, Hawaii Karate Museum, and Hikari Dojo) while he was stationed in Iraq.

    Iraq? I was at a loss for words. I had never stopped to think that servicemen and women might be reading this blog and our other Karate websites while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    My father was in the Air Force and I was raised on bases in Massachusetts (Westover), England (Greenham Common), Maine (Dow), New Jersey (McGuire), Japan (Misawa), Florida (Eglin), and Hawaii (Hickam). We lived in Florida for a year while my father was stationed in Viet Nam. I started martial arts training in Japan at Misawa AFB and continued here in Hawaii at Hickam.

    Although I never served in the military myself, I deeply respect the sacrifices servicemen and women make everyday, as well as the sacrifices that their families must also make. If you are serving anywhere in the world, I send my respect and gratitude for your service to our country. If you read this blog or any of our websites, I hope that they are a little helpful to you. What you are doing is infinitely more important.

    At every dinner at my house, my wife and I ask one of my four children to say the prayer. Each time, they end by asking that all of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan return home safely. You are in our thoughts and prayers.


    Charles C. Goodin

    Tools of the Trade

    I am a weekend handyman, meaning I do all sorts of projects in my house and yard. Thank goodness I am not a contractor because everything I do takes too long and uses up too many supplies. But there is a parallel to Karate.

    A good craftsman has the right tools for the job.

    No matter how hard you try, it is difficult to saw a piece of wood with a hammer or remove a screw with a saw. You need to use the right tools. Then it is easy -- or at least much easier.

    In Karate, you also have to use the right tools, or techniques. Sometimes a hammer (or hammerfist) is needed. But sometimes you only need a finger or two -- to poke the eyes or dig into the suprasternal notch. The xiphoid process is a good target but you have to turn your fist a little to hit it just right.

    With the right techniques, Karate is much easier.

    Walter Dailey, a student of Zenryo Shimabukuro (a student of Chotoku Kyan) said that Shimabukuro Sensei used to compare Karate to rushing into a burning building to save someone. Crude Karate people try to break or kick down the door. But a skilled Karate person simply turns the knob and opens the door.

    Proper techniques are the keys to open the doors of Karate.


    Charles C. Goodin