Karate Thoughts Blog


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1650+ Posts... and Counting

Happy New Year!

Here in Hawaii, the firecrackers and aerials are filling our night sky with smoke. In less than an hour it will be a new year.

My best wishes to you and your family for a very safe, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Basic Posture 2

In Basic Posture, I wrote:

  1. Slightly tuck your chin.
  2. Lower your shoulders.
  3. Squeeze your lats.
  4. Tuck your koshi.
  5. Slightly bend your knees.
I would like to add:
  1. Keep your elbows close to your body.
  2. Shift your weight in the direction you will move, then move.
  3. Protect your sechusen (centerline).
  4. Move as if on a tightrope.
  5. Move from place to place at a walking pace -- time your strikes and blocks to arrive when you get there.
  6. Squeeze out your air -- almost all of it, but not quite -- in synch with the timing of your strike or block.
  7. Hit on the recoil of your koshi.
  8. Recover the energy/power of the recoil for the next movement.
  9. Train to move freely in any direction.
  10. Kicks and strikes are like stabbing.
Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

When the Student is Ready...

There is a saying that "when the student is ready, the teacher appears." What this means in Karate training is that when you are ready to learn something, the Sensei appears and teaches you.

I have found this to be a true statement, but not for metaphysical reasons. It is not as if the teacher miraculously appears. There is another, more practical reason.

It all has to do with resolution. What I mean by this is the capacity to perceive.

Imagine a black and white television (I'm sure some people cannot even remember such a thing). A black and white television will receive a standard television signal but can only display images in black and white. Even if the signal is broadcast in color, the television will show black and white.

Now let's say that you improve the television -- change all its components -- and now it can show color. All of a sudden, the television will now show color images.

The signal did not change -- the television changed.

In a similar way, a student can only see, appreciate and understand so much. A beginner is like a black and white television. In fact, a beginner is even less sophisticated than that. A beginner can only show simple stick figures. As he advances, his ability to handle the signal that his sensei is broadcasting increases.

Eventually, the student can show black and white images, then color, then high definition, then 3-D, then the real thing.

I know that this is just an analogy, but it is a pretty good one to explain the saying. To the student, it seems like at certain stages the teacher miraculously appears. Actually, it is just that he himself has become capable of learning at a new level. The teacher was always there.

My Sensei have taught me the same things over and over. With great patience, they have shown me the basics, once, twice, a hundred times. Maybe on the hundredth attempt I finally got it. I could finally see what they were saying. I could finally do it. It was like a miracle -- but actually the miracle was that my Sensei never gave up, and patiently taught me, over and over, once, twice, a hundred times -- until I was finally ready to learn.

"When the student is ready, (it seems like) the teacher appears." In reality, he was probably always there.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Aloha to Sensei Paul Ortino

Sensei Paul Ortino stopped my my office this morning. Tonight, he and his family will leave Hawaii bound for Florida. Ortino Sensei has been here in Hawaii for over 25 years, was the head of the Hawaii Karate Congress and a founding member of the Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai. Since I joined the Kodanshakai last year, all of our training sessions have been at Ortino Sensei's dojo at Catlin Park, near the airport. He and his wife, Daisy, have always been very gracious hosts.

This year Ortino Sensei became a father and a grandfather.

Hawaii is not really losing a great sensei, because he will be coming back as often as he can. But the mainland is definitely gaining a great sensei. If you live in the Naples, Florida, area, I urge you to look him up once he is settled in. If he teaches a seminar in your area, please be sure to attend.

Ortino Sensei's principal instructor was Seikichi Odo. But I know that he also learned a lot from the many sensei here in Hawaii that he called friends.

Good luck to Ortino Sensei and his family as they begin a new chapter in their lives. I also want to thank Ortino Sensei for his support of the Hawaii Karate Museum.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The Most Famous Sensei

Who is the most famous sensei? It depends where you look.

On Ebay, I think that the most famous sensei is Gichin Funakoshi (and his students).

On Yahoo Japan, the winner is definitely Mas Oyama (and his students).

Who is perceived as the most famous sensei in the world? Again, that it easy. It has to be Pat Morita who brought the Miyagi Sensei character to life. God rest Pat Morita's soul! I'm sure that he is entertaining children in heaven.

Who is the most famous Karate student? That has to be Elvis Presley.

Who is the most famous Kenpo instructor? I would guess that Ed Parker (who was from Hawaii) eclipsed the fame of his teacher, Professor William K. S. Chow, and even his teacher, Masayoshi James Mitose.

What instructor from Hawaii wrote a Karate book that sold more than 1 million copies? That would be Shihan Bobby Lowe (the senior student of Mas Oyama).

What instructor from Hawaii is the most senior member of a 1 million plus member organization? Once again, that would be Shihan Bobby Lowe.

Do a Google search for Karate sensei. Who comes up first? Surprise, surprise, it is Hawaii's Thomas Shigeru Miyashiro -- Hawaii first Nisei Karate sensei.

Who is the highest ranked Karate sensei in the world? I have no clue, but I'll bet he still puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us.

Which Sensei has won the most trophies? Again, I don't know but I hope that he has a big house to put them all in -- and plenty of time to dust them!

Who has the most read Karate blog on the internet? Again, at Google.com enter Karate blog. The second listing is the Karate Thoughts Blog. The first listing is a list itself, so I won't count it.

Which sensei is the most important one in the world? The one who taught you! No one can be more important than your own Sensei. What matters is not his fame, rank, titles, number of students, books written, tropies, or search engine placements. What matters most is his character and unselfishness in teaching his students -- student after student, year after year.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Preparing For What?

Sometimes I hear that this person or that person is very good at kumite. The implication is that he or she is a good fighter.

But Karate does not prepare us for defending or fighting against other martial artists, not really. Karate generally prepares us to defend ourselves against an untrained attacker, often one who attacks without warning. We catch a blur out of the corner of our eye. That's it. That's all the time we have.

There is no taking stances or getting ready. Right there, whatever we are doing, wherever our hands and feet may be, that is the position from which we have to defend ourselves. We might be sitting at a desk or waiting in line at the movies. We might even get punched in the back of the head -- and then have to defend ourselves.

My point is that this scenario differs greatly from typical kumite. At least in kumite you know who you are fighting, how many there are (usually only one), and when the fight begins and ends. At least no other people can join in during the match. Could you imagine if the referee started to punch you in the middle of a match? This may sound crazy, but it would not be so crazy on the street. The attacker's friend or friends might join the fight at any time. They might even be hiding.

It is good to be good at kumite. Kumite teaches us a lot. But there is much more to self-defense.

The best "fighter" might not be the best person at kumite. I put "fighter" in quotes because Karate is about self-defense, not fighting.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Honored to Learn

I just posted a Guest Post by Sensei Pat Nakata entitled Kime, Kikomi, Kimochi. How fortunate I feel to be able to learn from such a fine Sensei, and how thankful I am that he would share his ideas here. Many people have a particular expertise in Karate. I believe that it would be safe to say that Nakata Sensei's specialty is hitting. He is a hitting scientist!

Some people might be thinking, "But I thought that your Sensei is Professor Katsuhiko Shinzato." That is correct. My Sensei are Shinzato Sensei (who lives in Okinawa) and Sensei Rodney Shimabukuro (who lives here in Honolulu). Nakata Sensei is a combination of my big brother, uncle, godfather, and mentor in Karate. He has done so much to help me with the Hawaii Karate Museum and my ongoing research.

Some people know a little and are greedy with it. Nakata Sensei was a great wealth of knowledge and shares it freely.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Kime, Kikomi, Kimochi

This Guest Post is by my friend and mentor 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. When he was a young man, he studied Wado-Ryu Karate under Sensei Walter Nishioka.

- - - - - - - - - -

One of Nakata Sensei’s students wrote:

I've noticed over the last two months that I have no more kimochi for the kime in the punch. I used to be able to feel the kime, but now I feel nothing. Is this normal? I still feel hara because it is something I still must exaggerate. I hit makiwara almost daily, but I'm starting to get worried about whether or not I'm regressing. Thank you for your time and patience.

Nakata Sensei replied:

... I really appreciate your question. First of all kime and kimochi are completely different. Kime (focus) is the timing of the transmission of force [speed X mass or 1/2 MV2(squared) generated by movements of the body (torque, momentum, etc.)] by locking all the muscles and ligaments of the whole body (body, arms, legs, fingers, toes, etc.). Kime is instantaneous which is impact. Our kime is more kikomi which is kime plus penetration. Kikomi is the locking of the whole body as penetration occurs. Kime is instanteneous. Kikomi is a flowing transmission of force.

Kimochi is feeling or having spirit. So, if you have kimochi on your kime or kikomi, you are probably muscling. When we are doing kata, we may have some kimochi of kime or kikomi. When you are hitting (hand pads, makiwara, or heavy bag) there should be no kimochi.

Your lack of kimochi on kime is not a sign of regressing but a stage of refinement where you have power (penetration) with no feeling (kimochi) because there is no effort. This occurs when your timing is right. Now work on your hara.

Pat Nakata

End of Year Update

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

This has been a very productive year for the Hawaii Karate Museum. Here are some of the highlights:

Our article, Kentsu Yabu's Senior Students in Hawaii, appeared in Classical Fighting Arts, Issue #8, 2006. This appears to be the first pre-War Karate photo from Hawaii to appear on the cover of any major magazine. The cover shows Kitatsu Kawamae and Kitaro Kawakami.

I was also very happy to see a translation of Chosin Chibana's Karate-Do No Kokoroe appear in Classical Fighting Arts. The translation was by my very good friend and mentor, Sensei Pat Nakata. The Hawaii Karate Museum also provided never before seen photos of Chibana Sensei performing Naihanchi Shodan for a pictoral accompanying the translation. I also wrote a short profile about Nakata Sensei. That issue really meant a lot to me!

On March 16, 2006, a very nice article about my family appeared in the Island Life section of the Honolulu Advertiser. The article is entitled Family Follows His Karate Moves: Goodin clan from Aiea spends quality time in classes perfecting martial arts, staying fit. The next day, a gentleman from Mililani called and donated over 100 historic Karate photos from Okinawa to the museum! The photos were of Choshin Chibana, the instructor of my friend, Sensei Pat Nakata.

This year we obtained dozens of books for our rare book collection (now over 500 books), including:

Hayanawa Kappo Kenpo Kyohan Zukai, Zen, Complete Illustrated Book of the Teaching Method of the Hayanawa Kenpo and Method of Resuscitation. Published May 17, 1896 (Meiji 29).

Rentan Goshin Toudi Jutsu. Toudi (Karate) Arts: Polish Your Courage for Self Defense, by Gichin Funakoshi. Published by Daisoko Bundo. Originally published March 10, 1925 (Taisho 14). 6th printing, April 1, 1926 (Taisho 15).

Karate (Toudi) Kenpo, Karate Research Society Vice President Mizuho Mutsu (also known as Zuiho Mutsu and formerly known as Mizuho Takada). Published August 15, 1933 (Showa 8). Donated by Shihan Bobby Lowe.

What Is Self Defense? (Kenpo Jiu-Jitsu), by Professor James M. Mitose. Written in 1947. Published in 1953. (Rare Two Man cover)

Karate-Do Ichiro, by Gichin Funakoshi. First edition, 1956.

We received many donations of artifacts, including a pair of iron geta worn by Mas Oyama, donated by Shihan Bobby Lowe, a bo (staff) that belonged to Shinken Taira, and a practice eku (oar), both donated by Sensei Pat Nakata.

We have an Exhibit about Goju-Ryu instructor Tomu Arakawa at the Hawaii Okinawa Center.

We were interviewed by OkinawaBBtv.com about the Hawaii Karate Museum. We have also begun preliminary work on a documentary about early Karate in Hawaii. We will let you know more as the project moves forward.

I also remained active with the Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai.

In April of next year, I will be going to Okinawa for training and to acquire items for the Hawaii Karate Museum.

Of course, there is much more going on than I can write here. Even at this moment, we are working on the presentation of a very historic set of interviews -- stay tuned. Thank you very much for you support of the Hawaii Karate Museum. We are growing because of your generosity. If you have any old Karate books, articles, photos, or weapons, please think of us as a place to preserve them for future generations.

Respectfully,


Charles C. Goodin
Hawaii Karate Museum

P.S. If anyone ever finds the films of Chojun Miyagi reportedly taken during his 1934 visit to Hawaii, please contact me. We're also looking for originals of Choki Motobu's two books. Finding them would really be something!

-- Charles

Do Pinan Like Naihanchi

I often tell my students that if they perform the Pinan kata like Naihanchi, they will look very good, but if they perform the Naihanchi kata like the Pinan, they will look very bad.

The Naihanchi kata teach stability, instability, and the proper range of motion. All of Karate can be learned from the Naihanchi kata.

The Pinan kata teach mobility, mostly -- how to move and turn. Derived from more advanced kata, they are not really designed for beginners. Actually, they are not really for beginners at all!

In some schools, the Naihanchi kata are taught first. I believe that this is a good idea.

In other schools, the Fukyugata kata are taught first. The Fukyugata kata were developed in 1940, essentially because the Pinan kata were not simple enough (in my opinion). The two Fukyugata kata were simple kata that could be performed by any Karate students, of any style, in Okinawa. But when you think about it, the Fukyugata kata are not really that basic either.

After the Fukyugata kata, some schools teach the five Pinan kata. Only after this do they introduce the Naihanchi kata.

In my opinion, this is too late. By the time a student has learned the two Fukyugata kata and the five Pinan kata, it is too late to learn the Naihanchi kata properly. Such a student will always do the Naihanchi kata like the Pinan kata.

Recently, my sensei mentioned that he thinks that the Naihanchi kata lay the foundation for the use of hanmi in the other kata. In essence, the Naihanchi kata teach us how to move sideways when we move forward.

When someone says that you have a strong Naihanchi, that is really saying something!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Vertigo

One of my senior students has vertigo (a dizzying sensation of tilting within stable surroundings or of being in tilting or spinning surroundings). This can present problems with our advanced Shorin-Ryu kata, many of which have 180 degree spinning sequences.

The other day I told my student, "You should become an expert of Naihanchi." There are no turns in the Naihanchi series of three kata.

Vertigo should not stop a student from practicing Karate. If the student can become an expert of Naihanchi, he will become an expert indeed!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Seeking Respect

Those who deserve respect seldom seek it.

Those who seek respect seldom deserve it.
We should all act our very best and try our very best at whatever we do. Respect comes to those who deserve it. And if we are doing good and trying our best, that is reward enough -- whether people recognize us or not.

In Karate, it is easy to become distracted by rank, titles and awards. I know some very well known Karate instructors. I also know some who are not known at all. My greatest respect goes to the instructors who wholeheartedly teach their students, often for little or no money, often in obscurity.

I am impressed when I meet a well known instructor who is down to earth. I am impressed when I meet an unknown instructor who teaches at the highest level. I am impressed when I meet a sincere and dedicated student -- of any art, of any level.

Respect is something you have to earn each and every day. If you seek it, you're missing the point. Just do good.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all Karate students and instructors, particulary to those serving our country in uniform overseas and who are separated from their families.

For my own students, please have a very safe, healthy and happy holiday season. I look forward to a very productive and prosperous New Year. Our first class of 2007 will be on Wednesday, January 3rd.

I will be going to Okinawa in April. Please help me to train hard to get into better shape!

Thank you very much to everyone who has read this Blog and sent letters of encouragement.

With warmest Aloha,

Charles C. Goodin

Getting the Roots

I am on a roll about weeds. Like I said, I am a weed expert! I'm a weed Terminator.

When you pick a weed, you must make sure to get the roots. If you cut off the top of a weed it will just grow back. I honestly think that it makes it stronger.

But if you get the roots, the weed will be gone forever. Others weeds may grow but that weed will be dead.

When you have a bad habit or error in Karate, you have to get to its roots to truly correct the problem.

For example, when you move your shoulders are too high. Simply lowering your shoulders will not eliminate the problem unless you get the root. Don't just lower your shoulders, you have to ask yourself why you raised them in the first place.

In my case, I was also an expert of raised shoulders. I did that for over 20 years despite my Sensei's best efforts to solve my problem.

I had to realize the source of the problem in order to eliminate it. Actually, my shoulders were not the problem -- the problem was my koshi, or lack thereof. I was raising my shoulders because I was trying to generate power using my arms and legs rather than the core of my body and my whole body in a coordinated manner.

When I learned to use my koshi -- or at least began to learn this skill -- my shoulders naturally began to lower.

My shoulders were the visible problem but my lack of koshi was the root.

Solving the shoulder problem -- by learning koshi and re-engineering my body dynamics -- also fixed many other problems. If I had only lowered my shoulders, the root would have remained.

My shoulder problem was just an example. Whatever problem you might have, you have to address the root of the problem, not only the leaves.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Mowing Weeds

I will admit here that I am an expert at something -- picking weeds. Let me put it this way... I individually paint nutgrass in my yard with a brush dipped in weed killer. That may sound crazy, but it works (and it is far better than poisoning the whole yard).

It is very important to pick weeds in the yard before you mow the grass. Otherwise, the lawnmower will simply spread the weeds and make things worse. The weeds that are cut will still have roots too. They will just grow back. Pick weeds first, then mow the yard.

I used to get upset at my children when they would mow the grass without picking the weeds. This showed that they were just in a hurry to get the job done.

How does this relate to Karate? Practicing kata is like mowing the yard. Pick the weeds first! You must work to eliminate your errors. Otherwise, every time you practice a kata, you will be reinforcing the errors and probably making new ones!

Of course, it is impossible to eliminate all errors in advance. We learn by trial and error. But working to eliminate errors should be at least as important as practicing the kata. Don't get carried away with simply doing the kata. Kata is good. Singing is good too, unless you are off key and get many of the words wrong!

Doing a kata 100 times is a waste of time unless you are getting better each time -- even if only by a small amount. One weed here, one weed there. Soon the yard is filled with nice grass.

I will tell you another thing I learned from yardwork. If your yard is filled with weeds, planting new grass won't help very much. The weeds are stealing all the nutrients and light from the grass. But if you gradually eliminate the weeds, the grass will become stronger on its own and grow into the little spaces you have made.

So the idea is to reduce and eventually eliminate errors to give good habits and proper form a chance to grow. Half of the job is doing right but the other half is not doing wrong.

This is why I train my students as I described in Finding the Error. This is a group effort to help students identify their errors -- and hopefully eliminate them. It is also a way for students to learn to identify errors in other students, and hopefully learn to also identify their own errors.

Pick the weeds before you mow the yard.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Grandmaster?

Many years ago I was asked to prepare a journal for the visit of a senior Karate instructor. It was a big job involving a demonstration and advertisements, and I also had to write some background information about this instructor, which was pretty easy because he was very well known.

At one point, someone reviewed my draft of the journal and asked "why didn't you put 'Grandmaster' before his name?" As it turned out, I was supposed to have known that this instructor was a "Grandmaster."

What is the term for "Grandmaster" in Japanese or Okinawan? Is there such a term, or is this an American term that we have adopted for great Karate people?

Is a "Grandmaster" a "Hanshi" or a "Judan"? What is the standard?

Please answer this question. Who was the founder of Goju-Ryu?

Did you answer "Chojun Miyagi" or "Grandmaster Chojun Miyagi"?

Who introduced Karate to the Okinawan school system?

Did you answer "Anko Itosu" or "Grandmaster Anko Itosu"?

If Chojun Miyagi and Anko Itosu were not Grandmasters, then who was? Wasn't it enough for Sokon Matsumura to be called "Bushi"?

Is a "Grandmaster" someone who has produced a student who is a "Master"? Then what happens when the student himself produces a "Master"? Does the "Grandmaster" become a "Great Grandmaster"?

Is there no end to this?

Don't get me wrong. In some arts there may be an appropriate title of "Grandmaster". But in Karate, what is the historic basis for it?

Karate students should hate titles and love training.

Here in Hawaii, when people speak about Sensei Tomu Arakawa, they always say, "he was a real gentlemen." Now there is something worth striving for!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Leave It On The Dojo Floor

When you come to Karate training, you should try your very best. This does not necessarily mean that you should try hard physically. Trying hard with wasted movement is not very productive (and can actually be counterproductive). You must try hard and smart. You must try your best to move properly and efficiently.

You must try hard physically and mentally. You must make sure that you concentrate on what you are doing. If you are doing a kata, your attention should be 100% on that kata -- not on what happened on work or school earlier in the day, or on what you will do after class.

If you try your best -- both physically and mentally -- then you have left everything on the dojo floor. You will have left behind your sweat and effort. Then you can go home and feel very good about your training.

But if you train only half-heartedly, you will go home and feel unsatisfied. That is because part of your sweat could not get out and part of your effort is still inside you.

Leave it all on the dojo floor. You will always get much more in return.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Capital "I" Problem

Humility is the most important trait of a martial artist. Courtesy and respect flow from humility.

The other day, I heard an instructor comment that a particular person had an eye problem. I knew the person but did not realize that he had an eye problem.

The instructor continued and clarified his statement.

"... a capital I problem."

Too many times, "I" gets in the way of training. Don't worry about rank or titles. If you have skill, that is more than enough. If you have a good character, what more could you want?

The best use of "I" is simply to say, "I will try my best."

I often think that a Sensei is a person who has "sense" of "i" -- not the capital "I".

In contrast, a foolish person is "nonsense."

Does that make sense?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Christmas Thought

Christmas is an excellent time to do something nice for someone. I said do something, not buy something. Nothing is more precious than the gift of your time and effort.

Take your mother out for lunch, rake an elderly neighbor's yard, write a letter to a relative you have lost contact with. Do something.

It is also a good time to thank your Sensei for the many years he or she has spent teaching you. I am not directing this to my own students. I too as a student have Sensei to whom I am very grateful.

I am also very grateful to my wife and children for supporting my (sometimes excessive) Karate efforts.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Something for Young Students

Some of my students are children who come to class after a long day of school and other activities. The other day I told two such students the following:

"I know that you are tired but I want you to try your best tonight. Karate is not only about learning new movements and kata -- it is about learning how to pay attention and try hard, to try your very best. If you can learn to do this -- even when you are tired -- you will be able to do better in school and work.

If you can do well in Karate, you can do well in anything."
The lessons we learn in Karate apply to our daily lives. Otherwise, what is the point?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate Refinement

There are different aspects to learning in Karate. During the early stages, a student learns the basics, kata, pairing off drills, and kumite. After a few years, a student may know quite a lot. However, he eventually reaches a stage where simply training more and learning more will not produce good results. This is where the student enters the stage of refinement.

Let me try to create an image for you. During the first stage, the student is like a clay figure. The Sensei builds up the student's knoweldge, like lumps of clay piled on, molded, and shaped to make a statute. Each piece of knowledge is like a little lump of clay. A little here, a little there, and gradually the student grows.

But after a while, adding more is not the solution. Refinement requires the stripping away of the excess to reveal the true student within this mass of clay. Here the Sensei become a sculptor. Michelangelo started out with a large block of rough marble, and cut out the beautiful statue of David. He revealed the David that was hidden within the raw marble. It took his eye to see it and his talent to reveal it.

Once a student reaches an advanced level, the Sensei strips aways bad forms, unnatural movements, bad habits, and inefficiences, to reveal the pure student. Of course, the student will be an active participant in this process. The Sensei can only guide the way. The student must make the actual refinements.

But it takes a good Sensei to understand this process. Once a student reaches the critical level, only refinement will lead to improvement. If the Sensei instead, continues to add new kata and techniques rather than working on refinement, the student's errors will only increase. He will become like a big glob of clay.

How many people do you know that know dozens of kata but can do none very well? What use are kata if the meanings of each movement are not understood?

It is better to know a few kata well and to work on refinements, rather than to know many kata in a shallow manner. In my style, some Sensei have told me that only three kata are really necessary: Naihanchi Shodan, Fukyugata Ichi, and Chinto. Perhaps the particular kata will differ, but the idea is this: with a few good kata known very well, a student can reach the critical level where refinement can begin. It is almost like critical mass. Once critical mass is reached, nuclear reactions can begin.

Kata are like the fuel for the Karate nuclear reactions. When the kata are pure and tightly focused, something amazing begins to happen.

Tonight in my dojo, the advanced students spent most of the evening working on just one kata, Fukyugata Ichi. And essentially, they were working on just the first movement. These students know many kata, but the idea is that if they can perform the first movement of Fukyugata Ichi correctly (from the standpoint of timing, weight distribution, body dynamics, koshi, body alignment, striking point, recoil timing, etc.) then they can perform all movements in the kata, and in all kata they know, correctly. Refinement improves everything.

Sometimes more is not better. Less is.

Remember that doing one movement well (actually exceptionally) is the key to doing all movements well.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Courtesy and Respect -- At the Highest Level

All beginners of Karate are taught the importance of courtesy and respect -- at least I certainly hope so! But courtesy and respect are not only important for beginners. They apply at all levels of training.

I am fortunate to know many senior Karate instructors. When we get together, we often discuss Karate history, techniques, teaching methods, and other subjects. We also often discuss the importance of courtesy and respect, particularly among senior instructors.

An instructor might be technically skilled, highly ranked, and famous, but if he lacks basic courtesy and respect, what kind of instructor is he? What will his students learn from him? Will they learn courtesy and respect? Or will they only learn the surface level of the art?

Whenever I meet a senior instructor who lacks courtesy and respect, I ask myself what kind of teacher he had? What kind of instructor would have skipped the most basic and important aspects of the art? Why didn't the teacher correct his student?

Conversely, when I met an instructor (or student) of any level who shows proper courtesy and respect, I think that he must have had a fine teacher, and that his teacher must certainly be proud of him.

Courtesy and respect are not only for beginners. They are for all students of the art, at all levels, at all times.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Billy Joel -- Best Performer Ever!

Last night, my wife and I attended a concert by Billy Joel here in Honolulu. It was the best concert ever and Billy Joel was simply the best! If you ever have a chance to see him, please don't miss it. He is not only a great singer, his piano is amazing and I think he writes his own songs. The 7 musicians who performed with him were also awesome.

This was another one of those occassions where I kept thinking, "He is so much more talented at what he does than I am at Karate." I will have to keep working at it.

As Karate students and instructors, we should not only compare ourselves to others in the art. Any time we see anyone who excels at their art, craft, skill, or profession, we should challenge ourselves to rise to their level.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Bunkai Article

I have posted my article, The Why of Bunkai: A Guide for Beginners, to the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai website. I hope that you enjoy it!

Basically, kata without bunkai are like words without meaning.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Basic Posture

These are the steps we tell students in our dojo to take to assume the basic posture for Karate training:

  1. Slightly tuck your chin.
  2. Lower your shoulders.
  3. Squeeze your lats.
  4. Tuck your koshi.
  5. Slightly bend your knees.
You would be surprised at how many mistakes can be eliminated by practicing the above. In addition, the correct posture activates your core allowing you to use "whole body" mechanics. I have an article on this subject in the current issue of Classical Fighting Arts.

See Basic Posture 2.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Professor Remy Presas

My good friend allowed me to borrow some DVDs about Arnis showing various armed and unarmed techniques. The DVDs featured Professor Remy Presas (1936-2001).

I get to watch many martial arts videos and DVDs. I have to say that I was absolutely amazed by Professor Presas. I just watched and shook my head. How could anyone be so skilled? He was so relaxed and calm, but literally tied his attackers into knots.

We Karate students should never forget that we can learn a great deal from other martial arts. A master of any art is a master. I wish that I could have seen Professor Presas in real life.

I have a great deal of respect for the Filipino martial arts. Our Hawai Karate Museum has the Halford E. Jones Filipino Martial Arts Collection. As I have written before, when I started learnng Kenpo Karate in high school, I actually thought that it was a Filipino martial art because most of my teachers were Filipino.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Pinan First Step

All of the five Pinan kata begin with a left nekoashi dachi (cat stance). Facing the front, we step forward or diagonally with our right foot, and pivot to the left into the nekoashi dachi. How far should we step with the right foot?

Imagine that you are standing in the beginning position for the Pinan with your toes behind a horizontal line. How far beyond the line will you step with your right foot? Think about it. Go try it.

My personal answer is about 2 inches. I suspect that most people will have stated a larger number -- I know that I used to step much farther. (For your reference, I am 5 feet 8 inches tall.)

What shortened my step and thus narrowed my stance, was the use of hanmi. In hanmi (the shoulders and tanden are diagonal), a narrow stance is possible. With the shoulders square and the tanden facing the left, a wider stance is needed. Otherwise, the legs will buckle or pinch the groin.

You might also notice this. If you are standing with your toes on a line, try pivoting to the left with no step at all. Your left foot will now be 2 inches or so behind the line. This is because we piviot on the ball of the foot, not the toes. Thus, even without a step, the stance will have some width. With a 2 inch step, there might be a 4 inch width.

One error I notice among my students is stepping too far to the right. This makes a fading nekoashi dachi. When you pivot, the left foot should stay in place, not slide to the right (away from the attack).

Part of the reason for the fade/slide is that most students take a nekoashi dachi with only 10 or 20 percent of the weight on the front foot. In Kishaba Juku, we tend to put much more weight on the front foot -- sometimes up to 50 percent. You will notice that none of the Pinan kata begin with a kick. The first movements are all blocks. This is why the weight distribution is about equal for the first movement. Again, this weight distribution is characteristic of Kishaba Juku. Other forms of Shorin-Ryu use other distributions.

Not all nekoashi are the same. One used for a block will differ from one used immediately before a kick.

Getting back to the step, the shorter the step, the faster the pivot. The longer the step, the longer it will take to pivot. Keeping close to the line will optimize our speed. Kata is like walking a tightrope (or series of intersecting tightropes).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Finding the Error

Tonight I asked my class to observe one of the students perform a kata. I had noticed that the student dropped his right hand before every right gedan barai in Fukyugata Ichi and I wondered if the class could catch it. He did not drop his left hand before left gedan barai, so the error was a little difficult to notice.

I was very surprised when each student I asked noticed a completely different error. They noticed that the student opened his hands, stepped rather than slid his feet, leaned forward, and other things -- but not the error I noticed.

I then discussed the error finding process with the class. Finding one student's error should not only help that student. We all make mistakes. If we can find the error in another student, we might also find the error in ourself. Fixing one student is good but fixing all the students, even in a small way, is much better.

Then I asked the student who demonstrated if he felt embarrassed, and as one might expect, he said that he did. I explained that we should be very happy when we discover our errors. If we have errors, we can perform a kata over and over and we will not improve. But if we can eliminate errors, then we will improve each time we perform the kata.

We should welcome the opportunity to be corrected. Each error we identify and eliminate brings us one step closer to our goal.

I then commented that if a student has an error, it is my fault as the Sensei. The student had to pick up the error some place. Either I taught it wrong, allowed an assistant to teach it wrong, or I did not fix the error when I should have. Any way you put it, the error is mine.

After the critique, I asked the student to perform the kata again. I was so pleased with his improvement! He not only corrected the right hand dropping problem, he corrected the other problems as well -- thanks to the other students' input.

As a group, we helped the student and also helped ourselves.

We have to remember that children are taught (or believe) that errors or mistakes are bad -- and that they are bad for having them. We have to teach them that in Karate, errors are natural. They are not bad for having errors -- all students have errors. It is not a matter of shame to be corrected -- it is a reason to celebrate.

I always say that if I am a good Sensei (for argument's sake), it is because I have made just about every mistake a student can make. I know how hard it is to improve and how frustrating it is to be stuck at a plateau for years. A perfect Sensei might not sympathize with students. I can relate.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Stance/Block Timing

Once again, we are considering the first movement of Fukyugata Ichi -- a left zenkutsu dachi (front bent leg stance) with a left gedan barai (downward block). This will offer a good example for this discussion but the principle will apply to all similar stance/block situations.

As you perform this first movement of Fukyugata Ichi, when does: (1) your left foot reach the zenkutsu dachi position; and (2) your left hand/arm reach the blocking position? This may seem like a strange question. But it illustrates an important issue. Does your left foot get into position first, and then you execute the block? Or do you throw the block before your left foot has gotten into position so that your block will hit at the same time as your foot?

Put another way, do you step into position and then block, or do you time it so that your foot and block hit at about the same time?

Of course, it is much easier to place the foot, and then initiate the block -- (1) step, (2) throw the block; and (3) the block hits. But in almost all cases, this will make the block too late. By the time you step into a position, the attacker will have already hit you. Thus, you must be prepared to block by the time you step into position.

Getting back to Fukyugata Ichi, by the time you reach zenkutsu dachi, your block must already hit. This means that you must initiate the block earlier -- at about the same time as your foot starts to move. Otherwise, by the time you reach the zenkutsu dachi, the attacker will have already kicked your leg (or done whatever he is doing)!

This gets back to the issue of (1) step and then punch, (2) step and punch simultaneously, or (3) punch and then step. There are many ways to time the step/punch combination, just as there are many ways to time step/block combinations.

Beginners are taught to step first, gain a firm stance, and then to block. Teaching all three things at the same will result in confusion, a weak stance, and conflicting recoils. But as the student advances, he will be taught to combine the movements such that the step and block are powered by the whole body -- a single movement with a single recoil. An advanced student will be taught to move quickly based on instability -- to not seek a strong stance first.

Consider again Fukyugata Ichi. If you step and then block, there will be a time delay before you can step forward to punch. You will have to wait for the block. But if you step and block at the same time (or close), then there is no delay and you can step forward to punch on the recoil of the block.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Higher Kicks -- Yes, But...

The other day, one of my senior students asked if he could have the students kick higher during the kata. I think he was teaching Pinan Yondan at the time (that kick is actually a jamming kick).

I told him that it was OK to do this, as long as the students understood that the higher kick was a variation. I often teach variations on the kata. The main thing is that the students know the proper movement. Then variations are good.

But it is also extremely important to understand that a variation, such as a higher kick, can radically change the meaning of the kata. Take Fukyugata Ni, for example. There are two mae geri (we execute them with toe tips) in the kata, each followed by an elbow strike.

Now, if you kick someone in the groin or bladder area, he will naturally fall forward. Then an elbow strike makes a great deal of sense -- he will be falling toward the strike.

But if you kick someone in the chest or face, he will probably fall backward. Then you would have to chase him to execute the elbow strike. If you think about it, if he falls to the ground, how could you execute an upward elbow strike?

In the Fukyugata Ni sequence, the kick to the groin area is followed by the elbow strike, and then we can execute an uraken with the same hand, followed by a strike to the groin (often done as a block). Chojun Miyagi developed this kata and we all know how Goju-Ryu people like to fight close.

Again, variations are good. Kicking high is good for flexibility. Just don't lose sight of what the movements in the kata mean. And remember to perform the kata correctly (without variations) at formal occassions.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Stomping the Feet -- Revisited

This is a follow up to my last post, Snapping the Gi. There is another bad habit, Stomping the Feet.

As I wrote in my earlier post about that subject, unless you are intending to stomp on the attacker's foot or leg, it usually does not make sense to make a stomping sound during kata. Some people seem to do it simply for the sound effect.

In fact, it is preferable for the feet to be quiet during kata. Any power that could be gained by stomping should be placed in the strike, block or kick, instead.

Think of a baseball player swinging a bat to hit the ball. Would he stomp before he hit it? Would a golfer stomp before hitting the ball? No, they would not -- because the idea is to put the power in the ball rather than the ground.

Many of the advanced Shorin-Ryu kata involve night or dark techniques. You usually see this in searching or feeling movements with the hands or feet. In the dark, you can't see the attacker and he can't see you. You would not want to give your position away by making unnecessary noise, such as stomping.

I remember in Iaido, we practiced a "dark" kata in which we crouched down and tapped the ground with our outstretched sword (the the right diagonal). This was to attract the attacker to the noise, and cut him down there.

But in Shorin-Ryu, I can't think of any movements in which we are tapping (or stomping) the ground to confuse or mislead the attacker.

Again, if the intention is to actually stomp, then it makes sense to do so. But if the intent is to strike or block, a stomp simply wastes power.

Snapping the gi and stomping (when not appropriate to do so), tends to attract attention. This is not the purpose of kata. It is better for the techniques to speak for themselves, without sound effects.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Snapping the Gi

Some students like to hear the sleeves of their gi (uniform) snap. This is a very bad habit and should be avoided. But as I'm sure you can guess, there are manufacturers that produce gis specially designed to make a nice snapping sound (just as they make black belts designed to fade or wear out more quickly)!

The problem with snapping the gi is that it shows bad timing. To snap, the punch must be stopped and pulled back (so the sleeve will snap forward). To make a really good sound, students tend to stop the punch too early and pull back with the forearm, rather than the lats. Nice sound -- bad technique.

We should not train to stop our punch and make noise. Instead, we should train to generate and transfer power.

I like to wear a light weight gi that does not snap (unless it is wet). I also like to train in a simple T-shirt. Heavy weight gis are too hot here in Hawaii. If I want to practice grappling, I will wear a Judo gi top.

Don't listen to or be distracted by the sound of your gi. Listen instead to the sound of your body as you execute techniques.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Violin Recital

Tonight I went to a violin recital for my daughter, Natasja, who is in the 8th grade. She started learning the violin last year. About 20 students were in her group tonight.

Each day, my daughter practices the violin and I have often heard her rehearse the songs that were performed tonight. But what I did not know is that she was only practicing her part of the song. Some of other students had the same part, but other students had others.

When they all got together, the music was beautiful. The songs were so rich with all the interwoven parts.

In Karate, we sometimes are only practicing part of the song -- the part we know. When we can all come together for training, comparing techniques, talking about history, sharing our experiences, and just to enjoy a meal together, we can begin to appreciate the whole song -- or at least a much bigger part of it.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Teach One or Two Things

Last night I was teaching Naihanchi Nidan to beginners in my class. Naihanchi Nidan is a beautiful kata, and fairly difficult compared to Naihanchi Shodan.

I was probably thinking about 100 things to explain about this kata. But that would only confuse the students. It is best to emphasize one or two things and makes sure that the students understand them well. A couple things tonight, a couple things next time, a couple more next week. Little by little, the students will learn.

I am not talking about movements. Students can learn many movements in one training session. Some can even learn the movements of an entire kata. I am talking about fine points or principles. Often, the opportunity to teach a fine point or principle will arise with a certain kata, but the lesson will have broader application.

For example, last night I also clarified a point in Pinan Yondan, the double punch that follows the kick on the back side of the kata. It is very important to keep your leg raised after the kick (so that your thigh is horizontal, or a little higher). The first punch should begin while the leg is still raised and the second punch should hit about when the foot sets down on the ground. Keeping the leg raised maintains compression.

This principle also applies to the knee strike/kick later in the kata, to the single leg stance in Rohai, to the makite uke sequences in Wankan, Rohai, Wanshu and Passai, and to the kick/punch sequences in the beginning of Gojushiho. Come to think of it, it also applies to the kick/punch sequences in Pinan Shodan... and to any sequence in which a punch follows a kick. You don't just step down and punch. You have to maintain compression.

One principle can apply to many kata or techiques. It is our job as instructors to be able to relate and link the lesson to all applicable movements.

Don't teach too many principles or it will confuse the students. Teach one or two and apply them thoroughly.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

How Many Movements?

This post relates to hanmi and body alignment.

Let us reconsider Fukyugata Ichi (if you do not know the kata, I will try to describe it sufficiently for your to envision it).

You are standing in a ready position facing the front. You turn to the left and step/slide into a left zenkutsu dachi (front, bent leg stance) with a left gedan barai (downward block). Then you step forward with your right foot into a right shizen dachi (natural stance) and execute a right junzuki (punch). You started out facing the front. Now you are facing the left.

OK, how many movements have you done?

Classically, the answer is two (the left block followed by the right punch). In books, you would see three photos:

1. the ready position;
2. the left block; and
3. the right punch
So, not counting the ready position (yoi), there are two movements, right?

Not so fast. Why are there two movements? Is there a block and a punch, or is there a block-punch? Are the movements separate, of part of one multi-part movement? This may seem like an odd question. But when you think of the movements as separate, you perform them as separate. When you think of the movements as connected, you perform them as such.

If someone punches or kicks you and you only think of the block, you will surely get hit! The idea is to counterattack, not simply to block. The block is executed for momentary protection -- the punch is what really counts.

The block and punch are not separate movements. They are part of one flow -- with the emphasis on the punch. If you only block, no matter how many times you do it, you will get hit.

If you think of the movements as being separate, you will put equal emphasis on each. But as a flow, the block will be used to pass or enter the attacker to deliver the punch.

As for shoulders, if your shoulders are square during the downward block, you will be wide open for a punch (or kick to the groin). Hanmi is much safer and less exposed. If your shoulders are square during the punch, again you will be wide open for a counter -- plus, you will not penetrate as deeply as you could in a hanmi position. In a hanmi position, your punch extends an additional 3 to 6 inches.

There is another way to look at movements. Take a video of the block-punch sequence. Now, if you looked at the individual photographs of the sequence, you would see dozens, even hundreds of movements (depending on your frame capture setting), not just two. It is hard to see where one movement begins and one movement ends -- BECAUSE THE IDEA OF A BEGINNING AND ENDING OF MOVEMENTS IS ARTIFICIAL.

In nature, movements flow from one to another. They are connected. The energy for one movement can flow to the next. In fact, recovering energy on the recoil from a block or strike is an important aspect of the body dynamics we practice in our dojo. The recovered energy can be used to initiate the next movement/sequence.

Why just two movements? If you were writing a book, you would have to worry about space. It is one thing to show 20 photographs for a kata -- it is quite another to show 20 photographs for each movement.

Here is another HUGE problem. In competitions, you must hit the right marks and snap at the right points. But the points that are expected are based on the assumption of discrete, separate movements. As such, many Karate students learn a staccato, robotic form of movement that is useless in actual self defense. A boxer who moved like that would get killed in the ring!

How many movements? Be careful what you think -- it will determine the way that you move.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Nutgrass and the Zen Priest

Today I remembered a story Sensei Sadao Yoshioka told us during Aikido class. This was probably in the late 1970s.

A Zen priest was wandering the countryside and was very hungry. He came upon a farmer's patch of daikon (a large while turnip). He was so hungry that he dug up a daikon and began to eat it. Well, the farmer saw him and ran up to chase him away.

As he fled, the Zen priest reached into a pouch hanging on his side and grabbed a handful of nutgrass nuts. Nutgrass is a very strong weed. The green part of the weed looks like an onion shoot (sort of). But below ground, there are a series of nuts connected by roots. If you pull the green shoot, another one will sprout. If you dig up one nut, you will miss the others and they too will sprout. The nuts go down several feet. In short, it is almost impossible to get rid of nutgrass.

So, the plot of daikon became choked with nutgrass.

The moral of the story is... actually, I cannot recall the moral. Perhaps if you see a Zen priest in your daikon patch, you should offer him food instead of chasing him. But it seemed like a pretty rotten thing for the priest to do!

I only remember this story because I have been trying to get rid of nutgrass in my yard for over 20 years!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Hanmi -- Look Up

Look up at the instructor in the light blue box in the graphic at the top of this Blog page. That was on the grounds of Shuri Castle in the 1930s. I believe that the instructor was Gusukuma Shinpan, a student of Anko Itosu.

Does the body alignment look familiar? Looks good to me! It is even more slanted than normal -- probably because of his advanced level.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Hanmi -- Square Shoulders

In An Introduction to Hanmi I wrote:

"When I first started to learn Matsubayashi-Ryu around 1975, [when executing a junzuki] we stood with our shoulders square and our tanden (below the belly button) facing the front (the direction we were punching). Our shoulders were essentially at a right angle to our punch.

Today, we execute the same punch in the same stance, but with our shoulders almost at a diagonal and our tanden facing about a 45 degree angle (to the left). We call this position hanmi. Our shoulders are not square to the direction of the punch."
I was describing a junzuki in shizendachi (natural stance). The same comment would also apply to most blocks. Today, in my dojo, we do not block with our shoulders or tanden square to the front -- we are slanted in hanmi.

I was asked by a blog reader why there was a change from the square alignment to hanmi. There are several reasons.

First, when I was a beginner, it was natural that I would learn the most basic and simple form. As I advanced over the years, my method of generating power changed. As a beginner, I would say that I used 80% upper body strength and only 20% lower body strength. So I would essentially move into position and then try to "muscle" the technique.

Today, I would say that I am using 80% to 90% lower body strength. By the time I get into a desired postion, I will have already thrown the technique.

Using koshi is one of the most important aspects of Karate. However, it also not a good idea to teach beginners koshi too early or their form will suffer. It is better to teach them nice linear movements with precise stances and well defined movements.

As we advance, however, he must literally learn to tame the "whirlwind", abandon all fixed stances, and blur our movements from one to another. It is like the difference between the block printing we learn as children and the way we sign checks (in almost undecipherable squiggles) -- and yet the check it good.

Why square shoulders? Because it was good for beginners.

Why hanmi? Because it makes sense to use it when you can generate power with your lower body (in a narrow rotational angle).

If there is a problem it has to do with the progression of teaching. If a beginner moves a certain way, it is good. If an advanced student moves like a beginner, there is a problem.

A 9th dan once told me something interesting. He was talking about a 7th dan and he said "a 7th dan still has Karate to learn, you know."

A 7th dan still has Karate to learn. So does an 8th dan, I suspect.

My point, is that we learn one way as beginners, and different ways at each phase of our progress in the art. If even a 7th dan is still learning... well, it should not be surprising that our shoulder alignment might change many times during our training career.

The idea, ultimately is to be able to punch, block, and strike in any alignment, in any direction, with maximum power generated in an instant.

I should also clarify something. Around 1974, I began to learn Matsubayashi-Ryu. Since 2002, I have practiced the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu. I do not practice or teach Matsubayashi-Ryu, so I cannot comment upon the techniques or methodologies of that system. I can really only speak about the way that I teach in my own dojo.

To me, Shorin-Ryu is Shorin-Ryu and Karate is Karate (I think that there is far too much emphasis on styles). I suspect that the issue of shoulder and tanden alignment is handled in a wide variety of ways.

At this point in time, we are practicing hanmi in my dojo, among many other principles.

But who knows what tomorrow may bring?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Sensei -- Junior to Some Students

The head of a dojo is entitled to a certain level of respect. I am the head of my dojo. However, I am constantly reminded that the head of a dojo may be quite junior to students of other dojo. Those students might not even be called "Sensei," but are unquestionably senior.

Three seniors I respect very much are ninth, ninth, and eighth dan respectively. They have each been teaching for over 40 years. As such, they have students who have trained with them for decades.

The other day, I paired off with one of their senior students. At one point, the student asked me to throw a punch to his face. He blocked and took me down so fast that I still am not sure what happened. I punched and BAM! That was it.

Remarkably (at least to me), another senior student from a different Sensei saw what happened and came over. He explained that he does the technique a little differently. So again I punched and BAM! Same thing! I felt like a child.

We must always remember that no matter what our rank, title or position may be, no matter how many students we have, the honors we have received, the articles and books we have written, no matter what -- we are still students. We should always looks for opportunities to learn and show our respect to those who can teach us. We must never let our perceived accomplishments blind us or narrow our view.

Being a Sensei should never make us forget that many students may be our senior and that we have a lot to learn from them.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Great Karate Books

A good Karate Sensei is better than the best Karate book. I am fortunate to have access to some of the greatest Karate books ever written. While I respect their authors and appreciate the wealth of information contained therein, no books can come close to my own Sensei -- or your Sensei.

The Hawaii Karate Museum has a 1926 edition of Gichin Funakoshi's Retan Karate Jutsu in excellent condition (see right). Anyone would be rightfully thrilled to own it.

However, we should be even more overwhelmed when we are lucky enough to have a Sensei who is kind enough to teach us Karate. A Karate Sensei is a living treasure! Books are trivial by comparison.

This is not to say that books are not important or valuable. We should preserve them for future generations. But we should not overlook the importance and value of our Sensei, many of whom are literally living encyclopedias and libraries of Karate!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Hanmi -- Javelin

I was thinking more about the hanmi body alignment. Have you ever seen an Olympic athelete throw a javelin (a metal or metal-tipped spear thrown for distance in track and field competitions)?

The athelete runs up to a line and throws the javelin as far as possible. Right before the release, his body is perfectly aligned with the javelin.

There is a nice image of this at the following site:


We can also align our body (and joints) along the trajectory of a punch so that our energy will be as focused as possible. This will enable us to punch faster and with more power.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Hanmi -- Joint Alignment

Consider a series of punches (junzuki). We are standing in a left shizen danchi with our left hand extended. We are going to step forward and punch with our right. This is like the 8th movement of Fukyugata Ichi.

OK. So in a left shizen dachi, where is our tanden? It is facing about 45 degrees to the right, as are our shoulders. This is a hanmi position. When we complete our right punch, we will be reversed -- our tanden will be facing about 45 degrees to the left, as will be our shoulders.

So, our tanden and shoulders will go from one 45 degree angle to another. Right?

It is not that simple.

As we begin to punch, we will osae (press) with our left hand. This is to occupy the center and prevent the attacker from entering while we punch. As we osae, the alignment of our tanden and shoulders will change -- we will turn to the right until we are almost sideways.

At this time, our shoulders will become aligned -- the right shoulder will be behind the left. In fact, many of our joints will be aligned -- our left hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder, as well as our right shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand. Our hips will also be aligned, as will be the joints of our legs.

It is almost as if we are holding a spear with our left hand forward. Just as you would thrust a spear in a straight line, so too would you align your joints to execute a straight punch.

Joint alignment is one of the most important aspects of body dynamics.

Getting back to the punch sequence, when we move from a left punch to a right punch, our shoulders do not simply move from one 45 degree angle to another (90 degress in total), they actually first recede to a 90 degree angle, and then move forward to the next 45 degree angle (135 degrees in total).

It is during the extra initial 45 degree angle (from the 90 degree angle back to the original 45 degree angle), that the koshi is used to generate and initiate power. Without the extra initial 45 degree angle, it is very difficult to fire the koshi. And again, the extra initial 45 degree angle (done during the osae), allows us to align our joints -- to get our power in a line.

Of course, actual angles vary and are not exact. My own hanmi is actually a little greater than 45 degrees. Some people might prefer a smaller angle.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

True Speed

During high school, I practiced Kenpo Karate under Florentino S. Pancipanci at Hickam Air Force Base. We called him "Mr. Pancipanci." We also addressed other students as "Mr." as a sign of respect.

One of the things Mr. Pancipanci used to tell us was that we should not show other people our true speed. If someone knows your true speed, then he gains an advantage. However, if he does not know your true speed, he will have to think twice. Are you faster than him?

Today, it is popular to demonstrate Karate. It may be tempting to do our very best and move as quickly as we can. However, we should remember that in doing so, we may be giving away something that is better kept secret.

We also have to keep this in mind when we watch other martial artists demonstrate. Are they moving as quickly as they can, or are they holding back? Are they showing their true speed?

Mr. Pancipanci also used to say:

"Learn to know yourself;
Be sure you know yourself;
Don't show yourself."
Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin