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Finding A Sensei -- Part 6

We're making progress. We are getting closer to understanding how to find a Sensei.

But stop for a moment and answer this question:

If you find the right Sensei, are you willing to be a good student?

You might have only one chance in your life to find the right Sensei. Don't use up that chance unless you are serious.

Someone told me this story. A Karate student (an older man) met with a senior Sensei. It was obvious that the Sensei was a great person, martial artist, and teacher. But the student already had a Sensei. Changing Sensei was not easy. In fact, it was rarely done. Both the student and the great Sensei he met realized this. What could be done?

Finally, the student said, "perhaps in the next life I will be your student."

My point is that Karate training is a very serious matter that requires a great deal of commitment. It is not easy to change Sensei. If you find a good Sensei, make sure that you are willing and able to make the necessary commitment of time and effort to be a good student. Otherwise, don't start now. Do something else for a while. Wait until you can make the necessary commitment.


Charles C. Goodin

Finding A Sensei -- Part 5

Sometimes a person will move to Hawaii and ask me about finding a Sensei. They often say that they have practiced a certain style of Karate and want to continue in that style.

I know many of the Sensei in Hawaii. Quite often, a newcomer to our islands might live very close to a fantastic Sensei of a different style. I will try my best to recommend that they visit the Sensei's dojo but they will often refuse.

Think about it. A person might have learned XYZ style for a few months or even a few years from an instructor on the mainland. That instructor might have even been quite junior. I will try to refer them to a very senior Sensei, sometimes one that is one of the top Sensei in the world, and they will decline because they want to remain in the same style.

Style is not that important!

Let me put it this way, a person might have learned from an 8 and I am recommending that they visit a 100 -- but they would rather continue with a 6 in the same style.

Please don't get me wrong. I do not prefer one style over another.

Let us say that Chojun Miyagi was still alive and living in Hawaii. If someone asked me, I would recommend that they visit his dojo -- not mine! I don't care that they might want to learn Shorin-Ryu. Who could pass up the opportunity to learn from Chojun Miyagi?

And when I press for details, sometimes the student might tell me that they do not want to lose their rank -- such as a green belt -- by changing styles. If you have been reading this blog for a while you will already know my answer to this.

Finding a good Sensei is infinitely more important than any rank issues -- or style issues, for that matter.


Charles C. Goodin

Finding A Sensei -- Part 4

Back to character for a moment. If I lived in a town with a Judo Sensei with a good character and a Karate Sensei with a poor character, I would learn Judo.

Or I would drive to a city where a Karate Sensei with a good character taught.

My point is that the character of the Sensei is more important than the particular martial art he or she teaches. At the advanced stages, the martial arts overlap quite a bit. They are not as different as a new student might think.

I recently heard about a student who drove two hours each way to train with a Karate Sensei. In Hawaii, that would be pretty far! But many of us will even fly to distant parts of the world to train with our sensei. A friend of mine lives in Eastern Europe and visits his Sensei in Okinawa each year.

I know of many students who make considerable sacrifices to train with their Sensei. A fine Sensei makes it more than worth it!


Charles C. Goodin

Finding A Sensei -- Part 3

If you find that a Sensei has a good character -- CONGRATULATIONS! That is 90% of the task.

I want to mention two characteristics that do not matter.

First, it does not matter whether a Sensei is a man or woman. This should be self-evident. While it is true that there are more male Karate instructors than female instructors, there are more males in Congress too. That does not mean that women are any less qualified.

Second, the Sensei's race or country of origin does not matter, except to the extent that it might affect communications. Some people might think that an Okinawan or Japanese person would be better qualified to teach Karate. This would only make them better, possibly, at being Okinawan or Japanese. Karate is a skill and art -- not a genetic characteristic.

I have trained with two Japanese Sensei who did not speak much English. I learned a lot from both of them, but I think that I also missed a lot, especially with respect to terminology. Of course, I could have and really should have learned Japanese. The point I am making is that language is an issue. It is more difficult to learn if you cannot communicate.

I have met many fine Japanese and Okinawan Sensei. I have also met some who were rather poor at Karate. I have meet many fine American born Sensei. I have also met some who were rather poor at Karate. Where the Sensei were born was not the issue, nor was the color of their skin.

Some people think of Karate in romantic terms. A Sensei is supposed to look like Mr. Miyagi. Noriyuki Pat Morita did an excellent job of portraying the Okinawan character of Mr. Miyagi. But Pat Morita was born in the United States, was not Okinawan, and did not learn Karate (he learned a little Judo while interned during World War II). I believe that Pat Morita was a great actor and an equally great person. I was lucky to meet him and admire him very much. But his ancestry alone would not have made him a great Karate Sensei. That would have also required Karate skill (among other things).

Thus, once a Sensei with a good character is found, do not be distracted by gender, race, or national origin. These are not relevant.


Charles C. Goodin

Finding A Sensei -- Part 2

In Part 1, I emphasized that the first consideration in finding a Sensei is his or her character. Character is also the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth considerations.

Unless a Sensei has a good character, there is no point in considering him -- period.


Charles C. Goodin

Finding A Sensei -- Part 1

This will be a multi-part post. I am sometimes asked about how a student should pick a Sensei, or how a parent should pick a Sensei for his or her child. This is an extremely important question. It is a bit of an irony that a person with no martial arts experience is expected to make such a monumental decision.

Let me put it this way -- some people practice a martial art longer than a marriage (or even several marriages). There is a saying that if it takes ten years or even twenty years to find a Sensei, it is well worth it. I couldn't agree more.

The first thing I would advise is to conduct research before joining any class. Do not simply join a class because it is convenient or inexpensive. Would you select a spouse this way?

There are many factors to consider. I will qualify this by stating that I am discussing how to find a Sensei. To me, a Sensei is much more than a mere instructor. While it is true that a Sensei instructs, he also does and represents much more. A Sensei can become as close as an uncle, even a father, to some students. Karate is a lifelong pursuit, and you might have a Sensei for a good part of your life.

Character is the most important consideration. You might have thought that I would have said that the instructor's skill is the most important consideration. It is not. A skilled instructor with a poor character should be avoided. You would not want to train with an instructor who has a poor character, nor would a parent want his or her child to do so.

Would you want your child to learn from an instructor who curses, gets angry, acts unfairly, takes advantage of students, or worse? Of course not!

So you must judge the Sensei's character when deciding whether or not you want to learn from him. Ideally, you might ask a student of the class about his impressions. In a perfect world, your own relative would have been a student. Referrals are very important. In fact, a Sensei will usually give consideration to the referral of a student by his own students or other instructors. You do not only select your Sensei -- he selects you.

You cannot judge a Sensei based upon advertisements, signs, the size of his dojo, how many students he has, how many trophies are in his window, his rank, titles, fame, or any such things. These are all considerations, but do not address the character issue. The only way to judge character is to meet with the Sensei and talk to him. How does he act? Does he pay attention to you? Does he answer your questions? Does he show concern for the students?

I heard a very interesting thing. A very senior Sensei was deaf -- until the subject turned to money. Then he could hear just fine!

Is the Sensei interested in you as a person or as a customer?

Don't get me wrong. A Sensei usually needs to charge tuition to pay for expenses and to earn a living. Of course he needs to! But he should be interested in you first and foremost as a student.

Karate is a lifelong lesson in character. For good -- or for bad -- your Sensei will influence your character. You want to find a Sensei of whom you can one day be proud -- of whom your students can be proud.

Character is a very subjective thing. There is a saying that you do not really know someone until you have known him for 7 years. Some issues are more relevant than others. Is it relevant that the instructor has been convicted of a crime? What! You mean that there are instructors with a criminal record? Well, you might want to inquire about this, especially if you are selecting an instructor for your child.

The point is that you should think about you want and expect in a Sensei. If you don't inquire, how will you know?


Charles C. Goodin


Sometimes we hear about four letter words, meaning curse words. Of course, curse words have no place in the dojo. However, there is one four letter word that I particularly dislike: LAZY.

When we teach Karate, we try our very best to help students to learn and improve. We try to teach by our example, and by providing step by step guidance. Teaching is not easy.

All the effort is more than worthwhile when a student tries his or her best. But it is frustrating when a student does not try. I understand that sometimes students can be exhausted from a long day of school or work. This is exhaustion, not laziness.

If a student dislikes Karate training, he or she should try another activity. Karate is not the only extracurricular activity or form of self-defense.

If you practice Karate, you should give it your best effort. You should try your best at whatever you do. The payment for Karate is not the monthly tuition, but rather your hard work (including practicing at home). The harder you try, the harder your instructor will try to teach you.


Charles C. Goodin

Try Your Best In School

This is directed to school students. Karate is something you should do after you have done your homework and prepared all your school assignments. School is much more important than Karate training.

If you fall behind in school, your parents might make you miss Karate. Then you will fall behind in Karate too. It is hard to catch up in anything once you fall behind.

I have never heard of parents getting mad because their children did well in school. Just the opposite is usually true. When my children did well in school, I was much more likely to allow them to pursue extracurricular activities, go to movies, buy things, etc. I used to tell my second son, in particular, that if he did well in school, I would give him "slack."

The same is true in work. Good workers usually get more leeway than poor workers. Good workers get the bonuses, are given more flexibility, and are more likely to be retained when business gets hard and some employees have to be let go.

If children can learn to work hard in school, they will probably become better workers as adults.

Karate training is important, but school is more important. In fact, doing well in school should be considered part of Karate training. If you have to miss Karate training in order to do homework, doing your homework is Karate training. There is always time to practice Karate at home.


Charles C. Goodin

Global Changes

In my dojo, we will vary techniques and methods of movements from time to time. I will give a very basic example. Most Karate students step, and then punch. In Fukyugata Ichi, for example, there are several instances where the student is supposed to step forward and punch.

A beginner will be taught to step and then punch. Next, he will be taught to step and punch at the same time (the step and punch are completed at the same time). Later, he will be taught to punch and then step.

The above is very basic. There are actually many other ways to move.

My point is that as we learn and experiment with various methods of movement, my students will be expected to apply these variations to all the kata that they know. My seniors, for example, will apply the changes to all 18 kata in our system (19 if you include Tensho).

The kata are a template for learning. Each technique is distinct and will not change. However, the way to do each movement will change and evolve as the student advances.

Applying changes to literally hundreds of movements in the 18 kata we practice is a challenging intellectual exercise. Remarkably, many of my students, especially the younger ones, appear to be able to apply such global changes instantly (once they understand the principle involved in the changes).

As Chosin Chibana said: "Through Karate training one cultivates the mind."


Charles C. Goodin

Wrong Belt

One of the senior yudansha in my dojo is also a Judo yudansha. Once or twice he has accidentally worn his Judo black belt during our Karate class. This did not bother or upset me at all. It does not matter to me. One black belt is as good as another -- plus, I really like Judo!

But I have seen this kind of thing cause problems in other dojo. In particular, it would not be appropriate for a black belt holder to wear a red belt from another style or dojo. A red belt is quite different than a black belt. A solid red belt usually denotes a 10th dan and is reserved for the head of a style. While red and white striped or checkered belts can be worn from about the 6th dan level, most Okinawan Karate styles tend to avoid the use of red altogether.

Thus, showing up at a dojo wearing a red belt can cause some major problems and I have heard of it doing so. In fact, a yudansha who does this might even be expelled.

Some black belts also have stripes or bars to represent renshi, kyoshi, hanshi, or other designations. One should not wear a belt with such a designation if it is not applicable in the dojo.

I wear a plain black belt with no embroidery or writing. This makes things much simpler! A belt should hold our gi together, provide pressure on the tanden, and be avaiable for use in an emergency. It should not be a place for decorations or advertisements!

But I do like Judo belts.


Charles C. Goodin

Two Teachers, Two Styles

Sometimes a new student will ask whether he can study with me and another Karate instructor at the same time. I generally discourage this.

New students should concentrate on learning one style well. It is not so much that the techniques and kata of different styles are different -- it is that the mechanics and principles of movement are different. Two instructors will usually contradict each other, attempt to correct the other's "errors," and generally confuse the student.

Once a student reaches a certain level -- say nidan or sandan -- it is much easier for him to reconcile two different styles. Then, cross-training can be very valuable.

I studied two styles of Karate and five different martial arts aside from Karate. I feel that this background helps me to better understand Shorin-Ryu. However, I studied these arts at mostly different times. I would not encourage a new student to study more than one style of Karate.

It is best to learn one thing well before attempting another.


Charles C. Goodin

Bujutsu Blogger

I recently had the pleasure of meeting John Oberle, an officer in the United States Air Force newly stationed here in Hawaii. John practices the Kobayashi-Ryu form of Shorin-Ryu and has a blog called the Bujutsu Blogger. He writes on various subjects, and has a separate page for Martial Arts Posts.

I have linked to John's blog on the right sidebar.

I want to welcome John to Hawaii and encourage him to pursue his research of and training in Shorin-Ryu.


Charles C. Goodin

Karate: A Challenge

It would be easier to learn Karate if there was one and only one way to move. Once you learned this way of moving, you could do the same thing for the rest of your life.

However, there is not only one way to move in Karate. When we learn the basics, we are like children learning to print the alphabet for the first time. We make rough block letters. It takes a long time to even write the letter "A", but with time and effort, we master our letters and become faster. Soon we can write words, form sentences, and express ourselves in a written manner.

But even then there are "enhancements." We learn to write in script. We learn to type and use the computer. We can even dictate words into our computers. The block printing form of expression is not only one way. There are many ways to write.

Now what would happen if a child learned block letters but refused to learn any other way to write? He certainly would have a difficult time in high school and college!

Karate is the same way. As soon as we become comfortable with a certain way of moving, our instructors will challenge us to move in a more advanced or different way. Our instructors will build upon our knowledge. If we are lucky, our instructors will never be satisfied or complacent -- they will always challenge us to improve ourselves.

This can be a little confusing and unsettling. It may seem that our instructors are constantly demolishing the building and rebuilding it. However, if we look closely we will notice that nothing we learn is ever lost. A college student who uses a computer can still print, if necessary.

I have an undergraduate degree and two graduate degrees. School was pretty hard. However, I would say that Karate is even more challenging as it is physical as well as mental. I went to college for 8 years but have practiced Karate for over 30 years. Each and every time I practice Karate it is different and challenging. It is never boring. It is never the same.

I wrote earlier about my friend commenting that some people who say they have practiced for 20 years, have actually practiced for 1 year 20 times.

If Karate is always the same, if there is only one way to move, then a student is doomed to repeating a year over and over.

If, however, we are challenged to constantly improve ourselves, to exceed our limits physically and mentally, then Karate will be an ever changing, fascinating, lifelong pursuit.


Charles C. Goodin


The other day, I noticed that my 13 year old daughter was wearing a name tag when I picked her up from school. She explained that all students have to wear the name tags and that if they don't they are punished and required to pick weeds around the school. I quickly replied that this is what is wrong with schools today.

Picking weeds around the school should not be a punishment. Students should feel a sense of pride in their school and welcome the opportunity to pick weeds. Making the school neater would reflect positively on all of the students. Picking weeks is a duty, an honor -- it should not be a punishment.

But today, picking weeds is a punishment. I went to a center. I won't mention its name. Beautiful exhibits are presented there, but the grounds are poorly maintained. There are weeds and muddy spots. How can beautiful exhibits be shown inside when it is ugly on the outside? Why don't the workers also maintain the grounds? Is it because picking weeds is only suitable as a form of punishment? Is it because a groundskeeper is supposed to do it? If I went to such a center, the first thing I would notice is the state of disrepair of the grounds. That would be my first impression.

At our dojo, we ask the students to sweep and mop the floors, clean the mirrors, and make the dojo neat. This is not a punishment. When we clean the dojo, we feel like we are cleaning ourselves -- not only our bodies but our minds as well. If we can make the dojo clean and neat, we can also be clean and neat ourselves.

When someone visits our dojo, the first thing they will notice is how we keep it. If it is dirty, that will be their first impression -- of the dojo and of us.

Cleaning and picking weeds should not be considered a punishment.


Charles C. Goodin


I've never met a Karate expert who was in bad shape. On the other hand, I have met many Karate students who are in excellent shape, but are by no means experts.

Think about it. If you meet someone who is supposed to be a Karate expert, but find that he is in poor shape, then you will wonder what kind of training he does. Does he train at all? Does he practice in his mind only? At a seminar, does this "expert" train harder than everyone, or just stand around and watch, or take video?

But if you meet someone who is in great condition, that does not mean that he understands the principles of Karate. Sometimes, an instructor will hide behind conditioning to conceal that he does not truly understand Karate.

I practice bojutsu. I will carefully select the bo (many) that I use. Then I will carefully sand them and refinish them. If one develops the slightest crack, I will stop using it (I might cut it down for a club or yawara). I try to take good care of my bo.

Should I take less care of my body?

I also realize that people will judge me by my appearance (as shallow as that may seem).

Please do not get me wrong. I do not mean that Karate students should try to look like body builders. Karate students need to get in to the shape that is optimal for Karate training. When Shoshin Nagamine visited Hawaii in 1996, I drove him around the island with the sensei who had accompanied him from Okinawa. We stopped at a beach and one of the sensei took off his shirt. "Wow," I thought, "this guy is in bad shape." His body did not seem to have any muscles.

But later when he demonstrated, he was awesome! I was amazed. His body must have been like a thousand coiled springs. Was I ever wrong! He was in excellent shape for the type of Karate he practiced.

What kind of shape are you in? Do you take better care of your car than you body? If you don't take care of your body, it won't take care of you.

Conditioning is especially important as we age. One of the best ways to avoid injuries is to get into good shape. Good conditioning can lessen and postpone the effects of aging.


Charles C. Goodin

Calm In An Emergency

The recent earthquake here in Hawaii, presents a good opportunity to discuss one of the important traits of a good Karate student -- the ability to remain calm in an emergency. Fortunately, there was no loss of life here, but it could have been much worse. We are often faced by emergencies, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsumanis, floods, acts of terror, or even violence in our schools.

Some people can not handle emergencies. They literally become part of the problem by losing control. They can become a risk to themselves and others.

In Karate, we learn to deal with unexpected attacks and acts of violence. We learn that we can better deal with such situations when we are calm and focused. In kumite, for example, we sometimes see students who jump around wildly. The public might mistake this for skill. But we know that the dangerous opponent is one who remains still and does not respond to our attempted feints (fakes). The same is true in Kendo.

During times of emergency, we must remain calm and decide what needs to be done. Here on Oahu, the shaking was not too bad, but the power went out for most of the day. My initial response was to start filling 7 gallon jugs with water. I figured that if the power remained off for long enough, we would lose water. As it turned out, the power returned later in the day and our water supply was not interupted. But my son, who lives in a highrise, did lose water as soon as the power went out.

We already had our supplies ready for possible hurricanes and bird flu. Thus, we had plenty of canned food, water, batteries, etc.

It is easier to be calm in an emergency if you are prepared for it.

The next time you are in an emergency situation, try to monitor your reactions. Are you calm? Does your breathing remain controlled. Are you focused on the tasks at hand. Can you help the people around you? Or do you become part of the problem?

Karate students should be able to remain calm in an emergency.


Charles C. Goodin

Earthquake in Hawaii

Aloha from Shaky Hawaii,

We are all fine here in Hawaii. The earthquake was on the Big Island. Here on Oahu, there was very little damage and the main inconvenience was the loss of power for most of yesterday. Our cable television and internet were off too, which made it hard to keep up with the news. My cable television and internet are still off at my home (but working fine at my office, where I am now).

Yesterday was a good dress rehearsal for natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes. It is amazing how primitive life seems when you do not have power. Some buildings lost water service too, because the electronic pumps could not work without power.

But the main thing, is that there was no loss of life. We were very fortunate.


Charles C. Goodin

Teaching the Chonin

In Okinawa, a Karate instructor would make every effort to teach the first son born to his first son. This first grandson was called the "chonin." I believe that a first grandson born to a daughter would not be a chonin, but I am not certain about this.

When I discover an elder Okinawan Karate expert here in Hawaii, or research the life of such an expert who has passed away, I always suspect that he was trained by his grandfather. This tradition goes back to before the introduction of Karate to the Okinawan school system. Before 1900, Karate was a family matter for most people.

Two of my sons are adults and I am looking forward to having grandchildren in the coming years. I am beginning to appreciate the Okinawan custom of teaching the "chonin."

I have taught Karate to all four of my children starting about 15 years ago. But to tell the truth, I did not know as much now as I do then, and I certainly could not teach as well. As I approach 50, I am just beginning to understand the basics of Karate.

When I am a grandfather, I think that the time will be right to teach my grandchildren. Of course, I would not only teach the first son of my first son. I would teach all of my grandchildren (boys and girls), if they would like to learn.

I often hear stories about Karate instructors from their early students. Most agree that their instructors have mellowed with age. I tend to think that it is best to learn from a mellow and wise instructor. Perhaps a grandparent can teach a grandchild with more patience and understanding than a parent.

In fact, I have heard of several cases where a son quit martial arts training under this father. A father tends to be very strict and does not want to show any favoritism to his own son. Sometimes the senior students also take out their displeasure with or envy of the instructor on his son. This could also happen under a grandfather, but I suspect that a grandfather would be better able to handle the group dynamic.

There is a story that Kentsu Yabu went to California in 1919, to await the birth of his first son's son. During the next 8 years, his first son, Kenden, produced four daughters! Yabu Sensei decided to return to Okinawa, but stopped in Hawaii, where he taught Karate for about 8 months. Yabu Sensei acted as the grandfather Sensei to all his students here in Hawaii.


Charles C. Goodin

A Pimple on the Butt

A Zen priest once told me that there is a saying that all the books in the world about Zen do not amount to a pimple on the butt when compared to actually sitting zazen.

Studying "about" something can never compare to actually practicing it.

I have access to more Karate books than most people. Would reading all these books amount to only a "pimple on the butt" when compared to actually practicing Karate?

When it comes to the history, traditions, and culture of the art, I think that books are very useful. They are a window into the past and into the experiences of the authors. When it comes to the techniques and dynamics of Karate, I think that books can give us hints, but we must discover the principles ourself, through actual practice. The mind can learn from books, but Karate requires that both the mind and body learn.

Even our teachers can only teach us so much. It is up to us to digest and apply what they teach us.


Charles C. Goodin

Putt For Dough

My mother is an avid golfer. She says that there is an expression:

Drive for show,
Putt for dough.

Driving is when you hit the ball far. Everyone is impressed when a golfer can hit the ball far. This is for "show".

You putt when you are on the green. This is when your skills count the most. If you can minimize your putts, you will do well. This is for the "dough" (an American slang for money).

To me, koshi is like driving. In fact, using your koshi (core muscles) is necessary to drive the ball well. Using your body in a coordinated manner will increase your speed and power in golf as well as Karate. However, it is only one aspect of the game. You still have to be able to hit the ball straight, read the course, put spin on the ball, chip, and putt (among many other things).

Using your koshi will help you to move faster and with more power, but you still have to know how to hit an attacker, where to hit, how to block, parry, slip, throw, take down, trip, and many other things. Having more speed and power is like being able to driving the ball far. This is good, but no one wins in golf by driving alone. You have to be able to putt too. In Karate, you must be well rounded.


Charles C. Goodin

Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu Connection: Part 8

As it turns out, the similarities I noticed between Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu, were more a matter of my perception or characterization. I could have just as easily have said that there are similarities between Shorin-Ryu and Hsing-i.

Not long ago, I visited the dojo of my friend and senior, Sensei Joseph Bunch. As I watched his students train, I noticed that his son has an excellent koshi. Bunch Sensei teaches Ryukyu Kempo.

A couple of years ago, I watched Sensei Kenneth Funakoshi teach a Shotokan class at the Japanese Cultureal Center of Hawaii. Most of the students were very linear, but Funakoshi Sensei had a dynamic koshi.

I watched film of Choshin Chibana taken shortly before his death. There it was -- an elegant koshi.

Koshi -- whole body driven mechanics -- does not belong to any one style or to any one instructor. But when you practice it, you can easily see it in others, irrespective of style or art.

Koshi is a threshhold skill -- there is much more to learn in Karate. Koshi is not everything, but it is a critical thing. There may be an advanced level when koshi is no longer necessary or observable. If you think about it, koshi involves extra movement. It would be faster to move without it. Perhaps at an advanced level, the koshi movement is completely internal -- within the skin or inside the bones. Wouldn't that be something?


Charles C. Goodin

Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu Connection: Part 7

There is a natural limit to speed and power using linear, "ordinary," mechanics. When I was young, I never worried about this. The answer, to me, was to simply try harder to get better results.

If you are near my age (48), you will have experienced that trying harder is not always the solution -- we have to try "smarter."

When I met Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, I was dumfounded by his abilities. But he had not magically acquired his skills. He was part of a group that had focused on body dynamics. They too had see what happens when a Karate person ages. Some people settle for mediocrity, but others tap into a virtual fountain of youth. Why?

Shinzato Sensei could show me how to move more efficiently and effectively because he and his sensei had worked on it.

Back to Goju-Ryu. Until I met Shinzato Sensei, I, through my own limitations, was missing something (OK, I was missing a lot). Essentially, I was just trying to kick and punch, even though I could do this in the form of the 18 kata comprising the Matsubayashi-Ryu system. It did not matter what movement I was doing -- shuto, makitei uke -- I might as well have been doing crude punches. I was moving in a crude manner because I had not learned to connect my body and how to "dance" between hard and soft. Again, this was a result of my own limitations. My sensei had tried so hard for so long and yet I could not learn.

Here is some of what Shinzato Sensei taught me: (1) how to generate power using my whole body; (2) how to remain relaxed so that this power would not be wasted or slowed down; (3) how to tighten up for the split second of energy transfer; (4) how to immediately relax and recover a good portion of the power I had generated; (5) how to generate and manipulate waves of power and interference; (6) how to direct power in any direction easily; and (7) how to use this type of power to move from one point to another. As I have mentioned before, the starting and ending points of the movement did not change -- everything in between did.

Did he teach me body dynamics that were derived from Goju-Ryu. I do not believe that he did -- he taught me body dynamics that he had found worked for him.

It should not be suprising, however, that some aspects of the way that I learned to move should be similar to Goju-Ryu. Style is not relevant. Results are relevant. Any successful "style" must integrate hard and soft, and the transitions between the two. At their "root," Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu must have a lot in common. The particular techniques are trivial. An expert in Goju-Ryu could learn to do the Shorin-Ryu kata and an expert in Shorin-Ryu could learn to do the Goju-Ryu kata. The kata are simply templates for learning how to move.

Let me put it this way. I have seen Shinzato Sensei and Morio Higaonna demonstrate slaps. I would not want to be slapped by either to them? And if I were, I don't think that I would be able to distinguish between the Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu slap. At their level of body dynamics, a "slap" could knock you over.

I started this series questioning how some aspects of Goju-Ryu body dynamics had become a part of the Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu as I undestand and practice it (which is still very limited). Perhaps I too suffer from the emphasis on style that plagues modern Karate students. But whether you call it Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu, internal or external, soft or hard, cats or dogs, Karate is Karate.

I was wrong to think that Goju-Ryu had become a part of my movement. In fact, what I recognized was commonality of movement that is not style dependent. When you turn on a flashlight, the light is the same, irrespective of the brand of the flashlight. It is not Goju-Ryu light or Shorin-Ryu light, it is just light.

I mentioned my friend Stan Henning who researches Chinese martial arts and practices Hsing-i. When we first me, I demonstrated a combination using koshi. He smiled with a sense of recognition and said, "that's how we move."

How can a Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu student move like a Hising-i practioner? When power is generated in a similar manner, who could they move differently?


Charles C. Goodin

Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu Connection: Part 6

The question is not whether a style of Karate is internal or external, soft or hard, Goju-Ryu or Shorin-Ryu. In the end, any style will lead to proficiency in hard, soft, and the transitions between the two. Styles may approach this from different directions. One style may emphasize hard and move toward the soft. Another may do just the opposite. But in the end, they will be very similar.

For example, a beginner in Shorin-Ryu might move in a manner that is very stiff and hard. The same could be said of a beginner in Goju-Ryu. But you cannot find a truly advanced instructor of either style who moves in such a manner. I am not talking about rank. It might be possible (even easy) to find people with a high rank who move like beginners. However, anyone who is truly advanced will have learned to move in an integrated manner. Period.

If Shorin-Ryu is a victim of anything, it is of its own success. What did Itosu Sensei have to do when he spearheaded the effort to introduce Karate to the Okinawan school system? Of course, he had to simplify things.

Last night I was speaking to some of my students. I mentioned that it would be much easier for me to teach them Karate without koshi and body dynamics. I could probably teach them a great deal in 4 years without koshi. But then they would be blocked by limits much sooner. There is a natural limit to how fast a person can move and how much power he can generate using ordinary, linear mechanics.

To set higher limits, koshi is necessary, especially as we reach our 40s, 50s, and beyond.

If I was going to teach a student for just 3 months, it would not make sense to teach koshi. But if I was going to teach a student for his lifetime (or at least mine), it would not make sense to teach him without it!

Do you think that Itosu Sensei was overly concerned about body mechanics when he (and his students such as Kentsu Yabu and Chomo Hanashiro) taught children in the public schools? How long did he have the students -- perhaps a few years. They were not on the same level as his personal students. They were taught so that they would get into a minimal level of conditioning and learn some discipline. It was Karate-lite.

Was it much different when Funakoshi Sensei basically introduced this same type of simplified Karate to the Japanese mainland university system? The students were older and stronger, but still casual when compared to the private students who would train at the sensei's home in Okinawa.

Recently I read about limited efforts to introduce Karate to the Japanese military. Limited is the right word. Given severe time contraints and the need for immediate results, training was limited to basic punching and kicking. I highly doubt that koshi was emphasized.

Shorin-Ryu and its derivatives suffer from their own success, the processes that caused them to be simplified. Don't get me wrong. I am sure that there were skilled and accomplished instructors who understood and had mastered body dynamics -- but did they have the time and forum to teach this?

Choki Motobu Sensei is an interesting case. Unlike Funakoshi Sensei, he kept his classes small. The emphasis seems to have been on practical applications -- the same way that Karate was taught privately in Okinawa. Shotokan is a great success. Until recently, few people realized that Motobu-Ryu still exisits and is taught by Motobu Sensei's son, Chosei, in Osaka.

When Karate is simplified or streamlined, the first thing to go is a longterm, concentrated, progressive approach to body dynamics -- the process of generating and transferring power, and moving using the "whole body". Karate becomes punch and kick. Where is the advantage in that?


Charles C. Goodin

Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu Connection: Part 5

Sometimes you have to step back to see where you are... and where you came from.

One way to view Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu is as representatives of the "internal" and "external" styles of martial arts. This distinction has been made (correctly or incorrectly) for some time in China. Even in Okinawa, the arts were characterized by early Karate writers as being either "Shorei" or "Shorin," the former being better suited for stocky students and the later being best for students with a slight build.

Now, if you ask me, I could not tell you whether Goju-Ryu is an "internal" style or an "external" style, whether is is "soft" or "hard". The same would apply to Shorin-Ryu. It is difficult, if not impossible to characterize a style. You can only characterize the person practicing a style or art, at a given point in time. A certain person might act in a harder or softer manner compared to other students, but the style itself encompasses both -- as in the name Goju ("hard, soft").

My friend, Stan Henning (who lives here in Hawaii) wrote:

Yin-yang theory encompasses concepts such as stillness overcoming movement and the soft or pliant overcoming the hard or inflexible, but the ideal is not emphasis on one or the other of these contending attributes. Instead, it is their application in tandem with the ebb and flow of combat--as the Chinese say, "hard and soft complement each other" in application of force. Thus, according to theory, a martial art that ignores or over emphasizes either attributes is flawed--at least in the real of self-defense.
"Chinese Boxing: The Internal Versus External Schools In the Light of History and Theory", Journal of Asian Martial Arts, Vol. 6, No. 3, 1997. Page 16.

He continues:
The artificiality of attempts to describe Chinese boxing in terms of so-called Shaolin or External and Wudang or Internal schools, whose differences are said to lie in the external display of strength of the former versus the internal cultivation of energy and application of force of the latter, becomes evident after one becomes familiar with the theoretical foundations and historical backgorund of the martial arts.
Page 18.

In a nutshell, Mr. Henning, who also practices Hsing-i, says that there really is no distinction between external and internal, hard and soft. Real martial arts involve -- must involve -- both.

I highly recommend his articles, references to which can be seen at:


So how does this apply to Okinawan Karate? It follows that there really is no distinction between external and internal, hard and soft, Shorei and Shorin. Different styles may have different kata (forms) and emphasize different techniques -- but in the end any real martial art must integrate external and internal, hard and soft.

In discussions with Mr, Henning, he said that any great martial artist will have integrated both forms of energy. Any great martial artist of any style will have accomplished this. Only beginners and lesser students will be rigidly one way or the other. Real martial arts involve the "ebb and flow." Real martial arts involve hard, soft, and the transitions between the two.


Charles C. Goodin

Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu Connection: Part 4

Somehow, there appears to be a trace of Goju-Ryu body mechanics in the Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu that I am learning and teach. It must have come to me through the instruction of Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato. But what form of Goju-Ryu body dynamics?

My first impression of Goju-Ryu was of muscular, thick necked, men who seems to strain and grunt, especially when carrying heavy stone jars! They seemed to be doing extreme dynamic tension -- like balloons ready to pop! I have to say that some Goju-Ryu people still look like that to me today.

However, I became aware that there are different ways to move in Goju-Ryu. While some students are very "hard", others have a much softer form of movement. The "hard" students are hard from the beginning while the softer students are "hard" only at the split second of contact. There are Goju-Ryu students with fantastic kime, and power that is derived from their entire bodies, directed and amplified by their koshi, and channeled, with no waste of energy, to their intended target.

Look at photographs of Kanryo Higashionna and Chojun Miyagi. They have completely different body types. Higashionna was slim and light while Miyagi was muscular and thicker. I also understand that Higashionna and Miyagi used different forms of breathing, Higashionna's being softer. Miyagi Sensei was not Higashionna's only student. While Miyagi's Goju-Ryu became the main style, it was not the only one, and Miyagi's own students may have learned differently.

My point is that the image of a tight, straining Goju-Ryu student is not the only one (I am not suggesting that Chojun Miyagi looked or moved like this -- I tend to think that he did not). I mentioned that I have had the opportunity to observe Sensei Alan Lee, who learned from Tomu Arakawa, who in turn learned from Kanki Izumigawa, who learned from Higa Seko. Lee Sensei is built more like Higashionna Sensei. His movements are light and his kime is extremely sharp -- he is relaxed until the split second of contact, and then he is relaxed again.

I also have had the opportunity to train briefly with Morio Higaonna. Despite his fearsome appearance (my students worried that he was killing me), his touch was like silk. He too was relaxed, and could deliver power like a steel whip.

Now we are getting closer to what I mean by the trace of Goju-Ryu mechanics that may be in present the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu -- body generated power, using a relaxed body, amplified and directed by the koshi, with tension only for the split second of contact, energy transfer on the recoiling hip, with energy recovered for the next movement...

With such a core mechanic, I tend to think that the style through which it is expressed should not matter. Hard soft, soft hard, coiling and recoiling, relaxing and tensing, compressing and releasing, contracting and expanding. It goes on and on. the style does not matter. It is not what you call it -- it is how you move.


Charles C. Goodin

Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu Connection: Part 3

How could it be that there is some trace of the Goju-Ryu form of movement in my Shorin-Ryu? I can say for certain that I did not move in the same manner before 2002, when I began to study under Professor Katsuhiko Shinzato. Prior to that time, my own personal problems limited me to a very linear form of Matsubayashi-Ryu, despite the best efforts of Sensei Rodney Shimabukuro to show me the correct way. Perhaps it took a pilgrimage to Okinawa for my eyes to open.

In any event, my form of movement changed drastically when I met Shinzato Sensei. Let me put it this way -- the beginning and ending points of the movements were pretty much the same, but everything in between was different. My focus shifted from Point A and Point B to how to move from Point A to Point B. "How to move" became my focus, and remains so today.

Kata is not simply a way to learn how to defend yourself, it is a guide to movement and body dynamics.

I have only learned the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu from Shinzato Sensei. I have not learned from any other instructors and did not begin my Kishaba Juku training under after Sensei Seigi Nakamura and Sensei Chokei Kishaba had passed away. Nakamura Sensei taught Kishaba Sensei and Shinzato Sensei, and they had all trained under Sensei Shoshin Nagamine.

If there is any Goju-Ryu in my movement, it must have come from Shinzato Sensei. Did he ever study Goju-Ryu? To my knowledge, the answer is "no."

How about Nakamura Sensei and Kishaba Sensei. I do not know about Kishaba Sensei (Chokei Kishaba), but I do understand that Nakamura Sensei had studied Goju-Ryu, but with whom I do not know. This is something I will try to research.

There are actually two Kishaba brothers. Sensei Chokei Kishaba taught Shorin-Ryu. His younger brother, Sensei Chogi Kishaba, teaches the Yamani-Ryu form of bojutsu. Chogi Kishaba also happened to study Goju-Ryu under Chojun Miyagi.

Shinzato Sensei learned Yamani-Ryu bojutsu under Chogi Kishaba. Is is possible that Goju-Ryu body dynamics were introduced to Shinzato Sensei via bojutsu? Is is possible that bojutsu movement can influence Shorin-Ryu movement? For those of us who study Yamani-Ryu, of course the answer is "yes!" Bojutsu has a profound influence on the way we move in Shorin-Ryu. I often say that we move like bojutsu people who also practice Shorin-Ryu rather than Shorin-Ryu people who also practice bojutsu.

So, Seigi Nakamura and Chogi Kishaba, two of Shinzato Sensei's teachers, also learned Goju-Ryu. Is it possible that they taught Shinzato Sensei in a way that transferred at least some aspects of Goju-Ryu body dynamics?

When I visited Okinawa in 2002 to learn from Shinzato Sensei, I was amazed by his body dynamics. "Amazed" does not properly express my feelings. No words could. Let us just say that it was a jaw dropping experience. He would perform a movement and my jaw would drop because I could not believe that he was doing. Given my understanding of "Karate" at that time, a person should not be able to move as quickly and with as much power as he was doing. Now I better understand what he is doing -- there is a method to his movement. He has worked on body dynamics under the tutlelage of instuctors who also worked on body dynamics.

At one point during my visit, I asked Shizato Sensei, are there any people in other styles in Okinawa who move the way that you do? His reply was very interesting. I thought he might mention some people in other forms of Shorin-Ryu. Instead, he answered, "Some Goju-Ryu people."


Charles C. Goodin

Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu Connection: Part 2

I have practiced Shorin-Ryu since 1975 (as best I can remember), under Sensei Rodney Shimabukuro (student of Tommy Morita, who learned from Masaichi Oshiro, Tsuyoshi Chitose, and Shosin Nagamine). I practiced the Matsubayashi-Ryu form of Shorin-Ryu until 2002, when I began to practice the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu under Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato of Yonabaru, Okinawa. I am a student of both Shinzato Sensei and Shimabukuro Sensei.

I have never studied Goju-Ryu. However, I have had Goju-Ryu visitors who have instructed in my dojo. They include, Mitsugi Kobayashi (student of Seko Higa), Morio Higaonna (student of Anichi Miyagi), and Rodney Hu and Solomon Kupahu (students of Masaichi Oshiro, who learned Goju-Ryu from Gogen Yamaguchi). I also have had the opportunity to observe Alan Lee (student of Tomu Arakawa) during our Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai trainings. Arakawa Sensei taught the Kanki Izumigawa form of Goju-Ryu. Izumigawa Sensei learned Goju-Ryu from Seko Higa, who had learned from Kanryo Higashionna and Chojun Miyagi.

In my dojo, we have adopted the Tensho kata in our curriculum. We practice the kata as taught to us by Mitsugi Kobayashi (the Seko Higa version, which starts like Sanchin). We try to do the kata in a Goju-Ryu manner, not in a modified Shorin-Ryu manner. Kobayashi Sensei told us that Tensho used to be called Rokkishu, which meant "six energy hand". It appears that Miyagi Sensei learned this kata in China and taught it under the name Tensho.

On a side note, when I met Paul Yamaguchi on Kauai, he said that he still practiced Tensho each day. Yamaguchi Sensei was one of the original Kenpo black belts under James Mitose. He learned the Tensho and Sanchin kata from Mitsugi Kobayashi.

I am presenting all of the above to give you my training exposure to Goju-Ryu. While I have practiced Shorin-Ryu for over 30 years, I have also observed and in a limited way, learned some Goju-Ryu. But I certainly am not a Goju-Ryu student or instructor -- not at all (I am just an admirer of Goju-Ryu).

A few weeks ago, I attended a training in which I demonstrated our Pinan Nidan kata. There were two Goju-Ryu instructors in attendance, along with instructors of Kobayashi-Ryu, Ryukyu Kempo, Kyokushin, and Shotokan. Now, the Pinan kata are pretty strictly Shorin-Ryu kata, as they were developed by Anko Itosu based probably on the Kusanku and Passai kata, and possibly an earlier kata that has since disappeared (Channan?). Pinan Nidan is about as basic as you can get, except for the initial tetsui ate (hammerfist) strikes, which are very difficult to do in a dymanic manner unless you use your koshi properly.

In any event, when I demonstrated the kata, I "opened" my koshi, so that it could be seen. In other words, I used an exaggerated motion so that the way I generated power was obvious.

Later, the two Goju-Ryu instructors said to me: "You move like us."

A few years ago, I would have dismissed this. But the issue of the relationship between Goju-Ryu and the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu had been gnawing at me. Was there a connection? Was it possible that Goju-Ryu instructors could see something in the way that I move that reminded them, perhaps just a little, of their own style -- even when I performed a strictly Shorin-Ryu kata? If so, how did this happen? How could the Goju-Ryu way of moving get into my Shorin-Ryu?


Charles C. Goodin

Goju-Ryu and Shorin-Ryu Connection: Part 1

This will be the first of several posts, I'm sure.

Most of us were taught that there are two main forms of Karate in Okinawa: Shorin-Ryu (the larger one in terms of students) and Goju-Ryu (the smaller one). Shorin-Ryu came from the Shuri area and Goju-Ryu came from the Naha area. Shorin-Ryu was called Shuri-Te (or Shuri-Di) and Goju-Ryu was called Naha-Te (or Naha-Di). Anko Itosu was the leading instructor of Shuri-Te and Kanryo Higashionna was the leading instructor of Naha-Te. In fact, it was Higashionna's student, who coined the term "Goju-Ryu" (or was it one of Miyagi's students?). This is a very simplified overview.

Shorin-Ryu is Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu is Goju-Ryu. While some instructors, such as Kenwa Mabuni, sought to teach aspects of both, most instructors taught one or the other. There is a general feeling that Shorin-Ryu is excellent and Goju-Ryu is excellent, each in their own way. A combination of the two, however, is considerably less effective. By this, I mean no disrespect to Shito-Ryu (a name derived from the names of Higashionna and Itosu) practitioners. I am just stating the general view on the subject.

One instructor told me that trying to learn Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu is like trying to catch two rabbits. It is hard enough to catch one rabbit. Two rabbits will run off in different directions, just like Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu pursue different teaching methodologies.

Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu have their own kata, that largely do not overlap. There are some exceptions. Fukyugata Ni is a Goju-Ryu kata. Shorin-Ryu students who practice it, however, do so in a Shorin-Ryu manner. They do not move like Goju-Ryu students performing Gekki-Sai Dai Ichi (the kata after which Chojun Miyagi patterned the Fukyugata Ni kata).

Gojushiho is also said to be a Naha-Te kata. All numeric kata are from Naha-Te. This also includes Seisan.

But again, my impression is that Shorin-Ryu students practice any Naha-Te derived kata in a Shorin-Ryu manner. They do not move like or look like Goju-Ryu students.

There does not seem to be a reverse adaptation of kata. You do not see Goju-Ryu students performing Kusanku, Chinto, Passai, Rohai, or Naihanchi, for example. But if they did, I suspect that they would do so in a Goju-Ryu manner.

Of course, in modern times people will learn kata outside their own style in order to perform them in tournaments. In the old days, this simply was not done.

In some ways, the two styles are like water and oil, they do not mix easily and tend to separate from one another.

So Shorin-Ryu is Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu is Goju-Ryu, just like black is black and white is white. Or are they? Is there a gray area? Can a Shorin-Ryu student move like a Goju-Ryu student and vice versa?


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Power Training

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 Karate Blog.

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Katas teaches us how to fight, but they also are a means of teaching the body how to correctly generate power. In Chinese martial arts we often hear the term fajing (hakkei in Japanese) as a term to describe the energy generated and released during striking. However, this same type of energy release can be found in karate as well; although it is not readily apparent. To find it, you must look at the postures, stances and way of stepping in kata in coordination with the breath. Naturally for power training, the simpler the better like sanchin or naihanchi.

Mario McKenna


Once you learn the form of kata and various techniques -- and repeat them thousands of times -- the focus shifts to becoming more and more efficient. This means that extra or unnecessary movements must be eliminated and the process of generating and transferring power must become as efficient as possible. You want to accomplish as much as possible using the power you generate.

The goal is to have no extra movements and to waste no power. For example, raising the shoulders is an extra movement that produces no power and slows down your movement. Tensing the fist and arm too early wastes power and slows down a punch. Extra movements make you slower and give a more efficient opponent an advantage.

Relaxation is the first key to efficiency. Proper timing of the "squeeze" is the second key. When you punch, it is important to clench your fist and brace at the instant of contact. Otherwise, your punch will simply bounce off the opponent. But if you squeeze at the wrong time, you will telegraph your movement and slow it down. Once power is transferred, you must instantly relax so that you can move quickly into the next position or execute the next technique.

Many students confuse making their bodies hard with being powerful. Except at the split second of contact, making the body hard is a waste of time and power. Power is something that explodes from a skilled Karate person -- the skill is in knowing how to generate, channel and transfer this power. A good punch is like a shaped charge -- an explosion focused in a specific direction.


Charles C. Goodin

Advice to New Students

These are some of the things I would tell a new student.

Attend Class Regularly -- at least as regularly as possible. There is a lot to learn. If you miss class you will fall behind. This will make it harder to keep you with other students who joined about the same time as you did. You are also getting into shape. You need to train regularly to get into training shape -- flexibility as well as strength and stamina. This is especially important for older students.

Try hard. Give it 100%. Try your very best all the time. However, you should not strain yourself. The biggest problem for beginners is using too much strength. So by trying hard, I do not mean that you should make your muscles tight. You should devote your attention and effort 100% while you are training. You should apply yourself fully. Try hard but remain as relaxed as possible.

Ask Questions. In the old days in Japan it was considered rude to ask questions. Students just followed along. We train in Hawaii -- questions are good. Other students might have the same question. So go ahead and ask. If I am not available, ask one of the seniors.

Practice At Home. I can tell which students practice at home and which ones don't. It is essential to practice at home. That is where you will find out that you really don't understand something. It is easy to follow along with other students. But all alone you will have no one to follow. You will have to know it yourself.

If you cannot practice physically, review the kata in your mind. Go over the kata in your mind as if you are practicing for real. You will find that you can't move correctly physically if you can't move correctly in your mind. This will also improve your concentration. I used to practice kata mentally when I rode the bus in high school. I also used to practice kata mentally as I would fall asleep.

Set Goals. Set goals for yourself for the next month, year and ten years. Time will pass whether you practice Karate or not. But if you set goals, you will be able to accomplish them. In ten years, most students can become very skillful in Karate. This will also enhance their health, concentration, self-discipline, etc.

Apply Karate In Daily Life. Practice being more patient, more understanding, more helpful... being a better person. This is Karate. What good it is to be able to block a punch if a criticism will make you fly into a rage? What good is it be be a "great" Karate man but a terrible father or husband? The better a person you become, the better you will be in Karate.


Charles C. Goodin

Never Be Satisfied

In Karate, we move from one rank to another. The kyu ranks come relatively quickly, and then the dan ranks come, separated by an increasing number of years. At 1st dan, a student feels like he still has far to go. At 5th dan, a student might feel half way there. At 9th dan, a student might feel that the end is within reach.

Nothing prevents our progress as much as success, or the feeling of having accomplished. At 1st dan, a student should feel that he has only scratched the surface. At 5th dan, a student should re-number his thinking. Instead of thinking of 10 degrees of black belt, he should think of 50! He still is just scratching the surface. At 9th dan, a student should throw out the number system altogether! He is still just scrathing the surface.

A 1st dan scratches the surface of basics. A 5th dan scratches the surface of techniques. A 9th dan scratches the surface of an art. We all are scratching the surface of life itself.

We should always feel that we have a long way to go. Decades of practice simply give us a better appreciation of the enormity of the journey.

There is a saying that our reach should always exceed our grasp. We should always be grasping for something that is out of our reach. We should never be satisfied. If we look, we can always find room for improvement.

This may seem rather demanding. However, Karate is not merely about technique -- Karate is practiced in daily life. That means that we should seek improvement in all aspects of our life.

But even in technique, the great Karate people are always seeking improvement. Do not let rank, titles, or position lessen your view.


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Tallahassee Karate Club

This Guest Post is by Bill Lucas of Kishaba Juku of Tallahassee.

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Dear Readers,

For the last 9 months, Tallahassee Karate Club (Kishaba Juku of Tallahassee) has enjoyed training in the clean, air conditioned comfort of a nice Aikido dojo here in Tallahassee, FL. Considering we had trained in a garage and local parks for a number of years before that, the dojo was a welcome change.

Unfortunatley, the dojo was lost to fire on Sept 23rd and we're back to training wherever we can once again.

Our hope is to help North Florida Aikikai reopen the dojo as soon as possible so Tallahassee Karate Club can once train in a real dojo.

If you know anyone who would be willing to make a tax-deductable donation of either money or equipment, please direct them to the NFA website at:


Thanks so much!

Bill Lucas
Instructor, Tallahassee Karate Club

How Many Students?

Sometimes instructors will ask each other how many students they have. I think that there is a general belief that it is better to have more students.

I try to keep my class pretty small -- no more than 30 students. The reason for this is so that I can concentrate on each student and try to help him reach his maximum potential.

In my dojo, there are three students who are sandan (3rd degree black belts) and two active students who are nidan (2nd degree black belts). I think that each sandan represents about 100 students and that each nidan represents about 75 students. So when I have the three sandan and two nidan in the dojo, I feel like there are really 450 students present!

You can't just count bodies. You have to look at how much time and effort it took to produce a student. For each sandan, I imagine that 100 students had started and quit. One sandan is a big accomplishment. A sandan can basically run his or her own dojo.

Class enrollment goes up and down, somewhat with the seasons, and also over the years. Keeping the advanced students is the most important thing because they are the ones who teach the most. You have to balance their progress with their teaching duties. Teaching is an essential part of learning. You cannot learn without teaching. At the same time, we must continue to develop the advanced students and not only make them teach.

I have a good senior friend who is a 9th dan. Can you imagine how many students it took to produce him... perhaps a million!


Charles C. Goodin

U.S. 1944 Report: Karate

Here is another excerpt from page 19 of a U.S. report on Okinawa from 1944. It is one of the very early references to "Karate" in English.


The Okinawas of the Loo Choo Islands
A Japanese Minority Group

Okinawan Studies
No. 3
R & A No. 1567

Office of Strategic Services
Research and Analysis Branch
Honolulu, Hawaii
June 1, 1944

"Karate: One result of this deprivation of warlike implements by the Satsumas, it is claimed, is the development among these people of hand-fighting or karate ("bare-handedness"), a custom brought from China and adopted, later, by Japan itself. Jiu-jitsu, it is said, is part of karate."
Earlier on the same page, it was stated that:
"Some authors explain this absence of arms as being due to the Satsumas who in 1609 took over the islands and deprived the inhabitants of all means of warfare."

Charles C. Goodin

Names of "Okinawa"

Here is an excerpt from a fascinating U.S. report on Okinawa from 1944. The report sets forth existing knowledge about Okinawa and concludes that differences between Okinawans and mainland Japanese could be exploited by the U.S.

I have provided an excerpt below, from pages 1 and 2 of the report, as it presents many of the names by which Okinawa / the Ryukyu Kingdom was known.


The Okinawas of the Loo Choo Islands
A Japanese Minority Group

Okinawan Studies
No. 3
R & A No. 1567

Office of Strategic Services
Research and Analysis Branch
Honolulu, Hawaii
June 1, 1944

Location: The distance from Kyushu, the southern-most island of Japan proper or Naichi, to Formosa is about six hundred miles and between these two points there is an almost continuous series of groups of small volcano and coral islands, over sixty in number, over fifty of which are occupied.

Names: "The nations of Loochoo call their country Ojiza", according to the "Manchu History". On modern maps the entire archipelago is commonly designated as Nansei Shoto (Southwest Islands). Uruma is another name for the group and the Japanese often call them Nanto Shoto (Southern Islands).

There are five principal clusters or guntos of islands: the Osumi, nearest to Japan; the Tokara; the Amami, including Oshima and Tokuno; the Okinawa; and the Sakishima, which includes the Yayeyama and the Miyako groups or rettos; together with two other very small groups, Sento Shoto far to the north of Sakishima, and the Daito Shoto far to the southeast of Okinawa. The most western island, Yonakuni in the Yayeyama Retto, is only sixty miles away from Formosa.

The name Ryukyu ("Floating Globes") is given to the three southern groups, the two to the north, Tokara and Osumi, being galled Satsunan. The name Ryukyu seems originally to have been applied to Formosa but in the Ming Dynasty was transferred to these islands. In some of the early literature there is often confusion caused by this fact.

Loo Choo is the original Chinese name given these islands. The reading of the same characters in Japanese is Ryukyu.*

*Variants for the spelling of these two names are legion. Some of them follow:

Chow Loo
Lew Chew
Lew Kew
Lieoo Kieoo
Licou Kieou
Lieu Kieu
Lioo Kioo
Lioo Kiou
Liu Chii
Liu Kiu
Loo Choo
Loo Chow
Luchu or Lu Chu
Lyu Kyu
Poo Choo
Ryu Kyu
Soo Choo

Okinawa, "the land of the extended rope", is the name given to the group (Okinawa Gunto) in which the largest island is also called Okinawa (Okinawa Jima). The same name, as we shall see, was given in 1879 to all the island clusters south of Amami Gunto to form the Okinawa Prefecture. The name seems to have been derived from that of one of the islands called Akonawa on which an envoy of China was shipwrecked in the Tong period. Okinawa was included by the Japanese among the "twelve islands of the South Sea".



Charles C. Goodin