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1700+ Posts... and Counting

Five Years From Now

When I speak to prospective students, I often tell them that in five years, they will just be five years older. They might be out of shape and heavier than they are today. But if they start practicing Karate, in five years they will have gained a useful skill. They will have an activity that can help them to get into better shape and slow the decline in strength that comes with aging.

I ask them to picture themselves five years from now.

We can attain a great deal if we are willing to work hard and dedicate ourselves. Nothing worthwhile comes easy or quickly.


Charles C. Goodin

Ryukyu's Kings

Everyone is aware that Karate developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom (see Names of Okinawa), a small country dominated politically and militarily by Japan and China. But it was a separate nation, with its own distinct culture.

Many of Karate's pioneers in the Ryukyu Kingdom were members of the royal, noble, and administrative classes. People in the kingdom were distinctly aware of the King and those who were related to him. To this day, Okinawans in Hawaii will speak about their close or distant relationship to the royal family line.

There is a myth that Karate was developed by Okinawan farmers and peasants. Japanese tended to characterize all Okinawans as farmers and peasants. When the Ryukyu Kingdom was abolished and its lands were annexed to Japan as Okinawa Prefecture, a period of forced assimilation ensued. The prefecture became the poorest in Japan.

So, depending on the time period you look at, Karate in Okinawa may have been practiced by royalty, nobility, ordinary citizens, very poor people (many of whom emmigrated to mainland Japan, the United States and South America to escape poverty and starvation), post-war people rebuilding a devastated land, or the people we see today.

But during the days of the Ryukyu Kingdom, Karate tended to be practiced by royalty, nobility and the adminstrative classes. They were generally the only ones with the time to learn and practice Karate. The poor worked all day in the rocky fields or ocean, and did not have time to train at night at someone's tomb.

Again, I'm sure that you are aware of this.

Here is my point. I do not like kings, or lords, or royal anything. I am an American. Here, there are no classes. Anyone can get ahead based on hard work. We believe that all people are created equally. We do not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation... on a whole host of factors. We live in a democracy.

I have nothing against Okinawa's kings. But I do not glorify them either.

Sometimes I will hear people talking romantically about the feudal days in Japan. They imagine themselves as samurai or lords. I will comment that had they lived in those times, they probably would have been peasants -- like the majority of people. They would have had to toil in the fields to feed the royalty and nobility.

A person should be judged by his or her character and personal accomplishments, not on his or her bloodline. Everyone is equal in my eyes. That means that no one is lower, and no one is greater. Put another way, to me everyone is equally royal and deserving of respect.


Charles C. Goodin

Honesty and Hard Work Expected

I have been a martial artist ever since I was a child. Later this year, I will be 50. So I have practiced as a child, teenager, and adult.

I am an attorney by profession. When I have met martial artists in connection with my profession (other martial artists in the legal field), there are two unwritten assumptions. The first is that they will be honest and trustworthy. The second is that they will be hard working.

I know that these are generalizations, but they are generally true. Martial artists are honest. They act with courtesy out of a sincere sense of humility. When they say that they will do something, they do it. You can trust them. You can count on them.

Martial artists know the meaning of hard work and problem solving. As soon as you begin training, you are beginning a lifelong project of correcting and refining your movements. Most people would give up. But a martial artist will never give up. A martial artist knows the importance of working on himself. You are not just working on kata and waza -- you are working on yourself.

Martial artists challenge themselves mentally and physically. They have an iron will and sometimes an iron body too. Long after others will have given up, a martial artist will keep going.

When I proposed to my wife, we had to seek her parents' permission. The fact that I was a martial arts instructor was one consideration in their decision. In fact, my wife, her older brother, and her father, had all practiced Kenpo Karate. I was a Kenpo Karate instructor when I proposed. Again, the assumption was that my martial arts training reflected honesty, hard work, and character.

Are there martial artists who are bad people? Certainly. But that can be said about any class or group of people. There are always bad examples that make everyone else suffer. We should try our best to set good examples so that we will not let our Sensei down or make the martial arts look bad.

Martial artists should be people you can count on.


Charles C. Goodin

In Praise of Karate's Brits

As you probably know, I live in Hawaii. From my office in Pearlridge, I look out over Pearl Harbor. I see the Arizona Memorial, the Battleship Missouri, and the bridge to Ford Island.

But it is funny. During the course of my Karate research and writing, one of the people I speak to most is David Chambers of Classical Fighting Arts. I also am in contact with Graham Noble and Harry Cook. What do these men have in common? They are all from England. David now resides in California, but Graham and Noble remain in England.

All three are excellent researchers and writers, and David gives us a great place to publish our work.

I actually lived in England as a child. My father was in the Air Force and stationed a Greenham Common. We lived off base. My parents would dress me up in little suits. I looked like a miniature Winston Churchill -- really.

Harry Cook visited Hawaii last year. My friend Kimo Ferreira and I reminded him that the great explorer Captain James Cook, visited Hawaii in the 1700's, and experienced Hawaii 's martial arts firsthand.

Karate research has become a global phenomenon. With the internet, we are as close as our computers.

From Okinawa, Karate has spread to the four corners of the world. I routinely interact with researchers in the United States, England, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Okinawa.

To some extent, foreign researchers are more serious about Karate research than many Japanese and Okinawan Karate experts? Why? Because Japanese and Okinawan experts are more likely to take the history of the art for granted. It is so familiar to them. To us (foreigners), it is something valuable and precious, worthy of study and preservation. Sensei Morio Higaonna is a notable exception to this. His passion for preserving Karate's rich history is incredible. I am also very encouraged by the work of the Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Encyclopedia Committee. My Sensei is a member of this committee, as is Higaonna Sensei.

But for now, from what used to be called the Sandwich Islands, I send my compliments to the British Karate researchers and writers. Cheers!


Charles C. Goodin

A Good Workout

Last night, as I was walking into the gymnasium where our Karate classes are conducted, a worker at the gym said, "Have a good workout!"

That was a very nice comment, but it got me thinking. I never go to class with the thought of having a good workout -- I am always thinking about correcting my students (or myself). The old saying is that you should go to class to learn -- train at home.

I do not think about class time as training time. To me, class time is for learning. It is my time to correct my students -- to help identify their errors. I also will teach them new things or review materials. But I never conduct class simply for a workout. We do train hard, but it is always for the reasons I mentioned above.

I do not believe in babying my students. I will teach them and correct them, but it is up to them to work on what they learn. They should always try their best. If I show them something, I expect them to work on it at home, and return to class ready to be corrected or to learn more. Class is for learning. If my students will not work on what I teach them, I will hold back new materials until they show that they have done so. The cost or expense of learning is a commitment to personal training.

This is not only my attitude. My Shorin-Ryu Sensei have always taught like this.

Don't get me wrong. Push-ups and sit-ups are great. But there are better things to do in class and plenty of time for exercise at home.

Come to class to learn -- train at home.


Charles C. Goodin

A Sai For Key Ring

Sometimes you can find the best things on Ebay. Today I found a little sai that you can put on your key ring. Now that is a very useful thing -- a miniature sai for your key ring.

If you can think of it, someone is selling it. They sell just about everything imaginable to supply the insatiable demand of Karate students.

There are racks to display your old belts, rubber nunchaku and sai, Karate charms for bracelets, trophies, rank certificates -- you name it, they sell it. I even forgot about the Karate ring that looks like a high school graduation ring.

One thing that you cannot buy is skill. The only way to become skillful is by hard work and dedicated practice. No one can take skill from you. If you have skill, it is all yours. You don't need a fancy new gi to have skill. You would not display skill on a belt rack, or hang it on a charm bracelet or key ring. If you have skill, you will probably keep it to yourself.

But then I am pretty sure that someone is selling a patch that says "skill" -- and someone will probably buy it.


Charles C. Goodin

Shaking Hands

In America, we greet each other by shaking hands. It is a sign of respect.

Instructors from Japan or Okinawa might or might not feel comfortable shaking hands. There, it is more typical to show respect by exchanging bows. If the instructor has been to America many times, he will probably shake hands. But if he has not, there might be an awkward moment when it is unclear whether you should bow or shake hands.

If you are going to show respect by bowing, it is important to learn the proper way to bow. The junior initiates the bow and bows lower than the senior. The junior remains in the bow position until after the senior has begun to rise. The junior should look down, about towards the senior's knees. It is not appropriate to look into the senior's eyes during the bow.

Any breach of the protocol applicable to bowing could be perceived as disrespect. It is therefore important to learn to bow correctly. Ask your Sensei to teach you the protocol applicable in your dojo.

Sometimes I will have one of my students act as a visiting senior instructor and have the entire class take turns bowing to him. The "senior" will stand at the head of the class, for example, and the class will form a circle. The circle will rotate, giving each student a chance to pass in front of the "senior" and bow.

Visiting instructors may meet a large number of students. Each time they shake hands, there is a risk of germs and diseases. I have heard that some politicians who shake hands frequently, use sanitizing liquids to reduce the risks of germs.


Charles C. Goodin

Wearing Your Sensei's Rank

Once in a while, I will encounter a student who "wears his Sensei's rank." By this I mean that the student acts as if he has his Sensei's seniority and status. This typically occurs when the Sensei is very high ranking.

Let's say that the Sensei is an 8th dan and his student is a 2nd dan. The student should know his place. However, in the presence of a 3rd dan from another Sensei who might be lower ranking than his Sensei (such as a 6th dan), he will try to act like the senior.

The 2nd dan is trying to act like an 8th dan, which, of course, is rediculous and inappropriate. The 2nd dan acts like he has a chip on his shoulder. This can be particulary bad if the student perceives that someone is acting disprespectfully toward his Sensei. "How dare you!" he might bellow, again acting out of place.

The junior's place is to quietly assist his Sensei -- to be there when needed, to be seen, not heard. When he acts like a "squeeky wheel", he is doing a disservice to his Sensei.

Students should know their place. High instructors should make sure that their students do not act disrespectfully or inappropriately.

If your Sensei is high ranking, that does not make you high ranking. If your Sensei is famous, that does not make you famous. If your Sensei is skilled, that does not make you skilled. If you have a great Sensei, you should just feel fortunate -- and humble.


Charles C. Goodin

Being A Good Host

Occasionally, I would visit my Aikido Sensei at his home in Pauoa Valley. This was when I was in college.

One thing I remember is that his wife would always serve us soda and cookies or some other treat, such a manju. Without fail, she would make sure to serve us. I think I would drink more than one soda.

In my house, we rarely have any soda when guests stop by. This is because my four children almost always drink all the soda as soon as we bring it home. Snacks too. My children are like hungry termites! As they have grown -- two to adulthood -- they seem to eat even more!

But I suppose that my Aikido Sensei's family would have liked soda and treats too. I believe that my Sensei (or his wife) made sure that there would be refreshments on hand for guests who might stop by. In this way, they were always prepared to be good hosts.

I will have to try to hide some soda in my house.

One of the most important principles of the martial arts is to be prepared for unexpected danger... or even unexpected guests.


Charles C. Goodin


Sensei Sadao Yoshioka used to give a lecture during every Aikido class. He covered so many subjects. I regret that I did not write it all down. Sometimes I would also remain after class with one or two students and have further discussions with Yoshioka Sensei. I was just a junior, but Yoshioka Sensei made a big impression on me. He still does.

He would often talk about the "mind." Most of us are familiar with the conscious, or thinking, mind. It is what we use during our waking hours.

The subconscious mind is not conscious or verbal. It operates under the surface. It affects what we feel. It is our "gut."

Often, what we think with our conscious mind is caused by our subconscious mind. We think we are thinking it, but our thoughts are not always under our control.

You would think that the consicous mind and the subconscious mind would work together. You would think that the conscious mind would be in control. But often, the two minds do not cooperate. The subconscious mind can be like an unruly child.

There are two points during the day when the two minds cross -- when we wake up in the morning and when we fall asleep at night. Most people are unaware of this crossing. But if you are very still and aware at this crossover point, you might begin to notice things.

If you can remain awake as you fall asleep, or wake up before you wake up, your two minds will be active at the same time. You have to be still and aware.

The subsconscious mind can be like an unruly child. It can also be like a mighty pillar of strength. Without training, it can be like a jumping insect. With training, it can be like a deep pool of water.

I know that it all might sound a bit flightly. The point is that when we speak about the "mind" during martial arts training, there is more to it than the "thinking mind." Martial arts train the person as a whole.

Yoshioka Sensei used to always talk about "taking the attacker's mind." He wasn't just talking about the conscious mind.


Charles C. Goodin

Avoiding First Names

It is very difficult to establish a student/teacher relationship, particularly with Japanese or Okinawan Sensei, if the student refers to the Sensei by his first name.

Assume that a prospective student says, "Hi Bill (or Kenji or whatever), I want to be your student."

If the student is inexperienced, the Sensei might overlook it. Hopefully a senior student will instruct the student how to properly address the Sensei.

But if the student has martial arts exprience, the Sensei might assume that he is rude, or possibly that he has been poorly trained.

Remember, once a student addresses his Sensei by his first name, it will be difficult. It is something to be avoided.

Even if your Sensei is very liberal -- perhaps he is non-Japanese and does not follow strict formalities -- you have to be careful when seniors from Japan or Okinawa visit. Suppose a 10th dan visits. You would not want to go up to him and say, "Good to meet you Sam!"

Sensei Zenko Heshiki taught for many years in New York. He told me that many new students would call him "Zenko." So after a while, when a new student would ask him what his name was, he would say, "Sensei." That way the new students would call him "Sensei" (even if they thought that Sensei was his first name).

All my students would address me as Sensei. They would also address my friends, who are sensei, as Sensei. For example, they would address my friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, as "Sensei" or "Nakata Sensei." If I ever heard one of my students address Nakata Sensei by his first name, I would get pretty upset.

The same goes for my friend, Sensei Gary Omori, who teaches Aikido. The art does not matter. Since he is my friend, and is a Sensei, my students would address him as such.

Also, if one of my students addressed one of my friends inappropriately, this would reflect very negatively on me. It would make me look like a poor instructor.

I am not very interested or impressed by titles. "Sensei" is not looked upon as a high title by many people. They would rather be called "Soke" or "Master", or whatever. But Sensei is a special title to me, because it is an expression of respect for someone who teaches. To some extent, it is a term of endearment.

So please be very careful about how you address instructors.

I should add that I will sometimes refer to my friends' senior students as "Sensei", even if they are not the head of their own dojo. This is because they are senior to me in terms of training. How can I call my senior by his first name? So I might use "Sensei" or avoid the use of a name. Such seniors will generally tell me that they are not "Sensei", but that is OK with me. I am using the term as a sign of respect for a senior.


Charles C. Goodin

A Lost Black Belt

Earlier this week, one of my shodan students came to class. He thinks that he lost his belt. So I told him that he would have to start all over again from 10th kyu!

Only joking. I told him that belt or no belt, it makes no difference. Your knowledge and experience are not in your belt, they are in you. If the belt has some value, then someone could buy it.

Obviously, someone who purchases a black belt or yudansha ranking, would buy only the belt (or rank) -- he would know nothing about Karate.

I wear a black belt that cost about $3.50. I have two in case I misplace one. My belt has no embroidery or patches. It is very plain. I even remove the manufacturer's tag. That way there is no front or back. That makes it easier when I put it on.

The only time I am somewhat firm about my yudansha wearing their black belts is when we give a public demonstration. That has only happened a couple of times in the last 10 years!

Don't emphasize form over substance. A belt is just form. Skill is substance.

When I visited my Sensei in Okinawa, and when he visited me here, we often trained in shorts and tee-shirts!


Charles C. Goodin

Teaching By Example

We often say that the best way to teach is by our example. Actually, it is the only way to teach.

Whether we like it or not, whether we realize it or not, our students learn by our example.

An instructor can stand in front of a group of students and rant and rave about humility. They will hear his words, but will learn by the way he conducts himself -- is he humble? Do his words match his actions?

No one wants to learn from a hypocrite. Most students will see through him.

Of course, we might have physical limitations that make it hard for us to train as hard or as long as younger students. We should give it our best effort. The example is that we give it our best -- not how many punches or pushups we can do. Our physical strength and stamina will naturally decline with age, but our determination can grow even stronger.

Students learn from what we do and how we do it, not just from the words that come out of our mouths or that we write down on paper (or post on the internet).


Charles C. Goodin

Not The Same As The "Old Days"

I often meet with elder martial artists who tell me that martial arts are not the same any more. Whether it is Karate, Judo, Aikido, Kendo... the art does not matter. Most elders will say that the art was more authentic in the "old days."

Students today are lazy. They do not understand discipline. They want to be pampered. It has become too commercial. The martial arts have become a sport. The martial arts have become just a show. Lawyers and the risk of lawsuits have forced teachers to water down what they teach.

It sounds so hopeless!

A senior Karate instructor once told me, "True Karate is no longer taught in Hawaii."

I replied, "How can students learn true Karate if sensei like you will not teach it?"

I wonder, in 1900 I'll bet that the elder martial arts masters complained about the youngsters of that time. I'll bet they thought that the art was not the same as the "old days."

There will always be "old days." We only have the time we live in. It is up to us to practice sincerely. That is what makes an art authentic. It helps if we explore the history and traditions of our respective arts to help us keep on a true course.

One day, these will be the "old days."

In my opinion, some of the finest martial artists are living today.


Charles C. Goodin

Dojo Cleaning

About a week ago, my students and Sensei Gary Omori's Koshinkan Dojo Aikido students got together for a joint dojo cleaning. We use adjacent rooms. On Monday, my class uses his matted room and on Wednesdays my class uses the linoleum tiled room next door.

I sent an email to my students to let them know about the Saturday morning cleaning. Most of my students came out.

I must say that I have excellent students. How do I know this? Because I did not have to tell any of my students what to do. They all simply began to clean with no instruction or supervision. They all just worked together.

I did not have to supervise at all. What did I do? As the Sensei, I thought it important to find the dirtiest job and do it. So I cleaned toilets. But I had plenty of help.

No one complained. No one slacked off. This is how a dojo should be. We all work together. I even have some students who have missed classes for the last few months because of work, but still came out to help clean.

If anyone thinks I am bragging, you have remember that I am bragging that my students can clean well! I always say:

  • Clean the dojo, clean youself.
  • Clean the dojo, have a clean mind.
  • If your dojo is clean, your home and office should be clean too.
  • If you are too good to clean, then you are too good for our dojo.
  • The Sensei should lead by example. If he does not help clean the dojo, he is missing his own training.
  • If you clean the dojo but do not help clean at home, you should quit Karate.
  • They way you are in the dojo should reflect the way you are outside the dojo.
Cleanliness should also apply to your gi and body. Your fingernails and toenails should also be clean and neatly trimmed. Jewelry should not be worn in the dojo.

I am very fortunate to have fine students (who also clean very well).


Charles C. Goodin

So Many Posts

The other day I received an email from a nice reader who said that she started Karate practice about a year ago and has read all of my posts to this blog. I was surprised. I never thought that anyone would read all the posts. My own relatives have not even done this.

Thank you very much to everyone who reads this blog and for the occassional questions. Next month (February 21st) will be the one year anniversary of the blog.

I will try to keep going, because as I have stated several times before, I wish that my own teachers had written more. So many of them have passed away and my own memory often fails. I also like the convenience of the blog format. Of course, when I was a young student, there was no internet or even PCs!

Thank you again.


Charles C. Goodin

Shuji Nu Kun

This post is about the Yamani-Ryu bojutsu kata, Shuji Nu Kun (or Shuji No Kon). I learned this kata from Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, along with Sakugawa Nu Kun and Shirataru Nu Kun.

Monday, I was going over the kata with my students. I asked them, "How many times do you change your grip during the kata?"

The answer was surprising, even to me. You do not change your grip at all during the kata. Once you grip the bo, your right and left hand grips do not change. You only slide the bo to make one end or the other longer or shorter.

How amazing that such a beautiful and varied kata could involve no grip changes.

I think of Shuji Nu Kun as being similar to our Rohai kata. Both are relatively short, but contain techniques that involve very advanced principles. It is very difficult to perform these kata well.


Charles C. Goodin

Please Help: Classical Fighting Arts


You may know that I am a writer for Classical Fighting Arts (http://dragon-tsunami.org/Cfa/Pages/cfahome.htm). This journal used to be known as Dragon Times. It changed names when it went to the magazine format. From its next issue, it will be published in all glossy paper.

I have been very happy to watch the magazine grow over the years. It is the child of David Chambers and his dedicated staff.

I am not paid to write for the magazine. I do so because I believe it is an excellent publication (and they let me write what I like). The staff is very supportive. A couple of issues ago, the a 1927 Karate photo from Hawaii was featured on the cover. That photo is part of our Hawaii Karate Museum collection. It was the first time a pre-war Karate photo from Hawaii was on the cover of any magazine.

Lately, I have been helping other writers with their articles. The next issue will have articles about Yabu Sensei and Motobu Sensei, that I did not write, but with which I helped. In the current issue, there is a beautiful translation of sayings by Chosin Chibana, written by my friend and mentor, Sensei Pat Nakata.

I would like to ask for your help. If your local bookstore does not carry Classical Fighting Arts can you please ask them to do so? It would help to ask Barnes and Noble especially. The magazine is already widely carried in Borders. If they need to contact Classical Fighting Arts, its toll free number is 1-800-717-6288.

Several years ago, a publisher asked me to write for his magazine. I stated that 9 out of 10 of the articles were not very good -- they were too commercial. He answered that of course this was true -- the 9 bad articles paid for the 1 good one.

Classical Fighting Arts, in my opinion, has all good articles. Even if I might disagree with a particular view, it is still a view worthy of discussion.

If we don't encourage the coverage of traditional Karate and martial arts, we will have only ourselves to blame when the only coverage is of sports and celebrities.

Thank you.


Charles C. Goodin

Successor's History

One of the problems about succession is this: the successor group sometimes writes a history leaving out all of the seniors and others who did not succeed or otherwise left the organization. An art never develops in a vacuum. There are usually many key seniors who contribute to the development of an art. A proper history includes them all.

An art is never just one person. Think about it -- there has to be at least one student. Usually there are many.

Politics often distorts the history of an art.


Charles C. Goodin

Choosing A Successor

Success brings a host of problems. If a Karate instructor becomes very well known and has many students, the issue of who will succeed him becomes a major headache. Unknown instructors do not face such weighty problems.

Who should be the successor?

First, I think it would be better for the instructor to select his successor. If he leaves the matter undecided and then dies, the students will have to decide, and this can cause ill will.

So, assuming the instructor will select his successor, who should he pick?

There are many possibilities, including:

1. The most senior student in terms of years.
2. The most senior student in terms of rank.
3. The student with the most students or dojo.
4. The most famous student.
5. The student with the greatest technical ability.
6. The student who is personally closest to the instructor.
7. The instructor's son, grandson or other relative.

Each of these choices presents problems. In many cases, once a successor is selected, whole groups of students will leave to form their own dojo or oganizations. Sometimes they will wait for the instructor to die, sometimes not.

Let's examine the choices. The most senior student in terms of years may be close in age to the instructor? What good is it to chose him? Another successor will have to be selected soon. A successor should be of the next generation, not the same one as the instructor.

The highest ranking student will probably be too old as well. Rank presents many problems. You sometimes hear instructors say that their own high ranking students have poor basics. People receive rank for all sorts of reasons. Ability to teach and technical excellent are not always the primary reasons.

The most senior students (in terms of years or rank) may move the way the instructor used to move decades ago. If the instructor has continued to work on himself and develop the art, there may be quite a difference.

The student with the most students may be a good businessman, but does that make him the best choice. What is most important -- quantity or quality?

The most famoust student may be a celebrity. I won't even go there.

How about the student with the greatest technical ability? He sounds good. But can be teach? Can he run a dojo?

The student who is closest to the instructor might not be the oldest or the most high ranking, or even the most technically gifted, but he will probably represent the instructor's teachings the best.

Relatives? This is the general choice when the dojo is a business or has property. The best way to preserve the family's assets is to keep them in the family.

Sometimes a son or grandson will be selected as the successor, even if his lacks Karate skills. Sometimes the instructor will ask the seniors to complete the successor's instruction. Sometimes this works, more often than not it does not.

So who to pick?

Of course, there is no easy answer. I feel it is in the nature of organizations to split and eventually fall apart. Organizations are not important. What counts is the relationship between instructor and student. All organizations are doomed to failure. Eventually they are run by administrators rather than practicing instructors. Eventually they collapse under their own weight.

I have an idea, why not appoint a board of directors to handle the succession and let them select a successor from among themselves. That sounds like a perfectly good idea. Let a committee make the choice. Of course I am joking.

As an instructor, I just hope that some of my students will continue to practice the art of Karate. Our style is not a brand that must be maintained. Karate is a living art. It lives in the lives of the students who practice it and apply it in their daily lives. Karate does not live in dojo, buildings, associations, or on paper.

Each student who continues to practice the art is a successor, and from the instructor's perspective, a success!

Pick all of your students. Hand the torch to each of them.


Charles C. Goodin

The Greatest Karate Master Ever

Once upon a time there was a great Karate master -- the best ever! Other Karate masters would run away when they saw him coming.

He had 10 students. None of them trained hard and as a result, they all became mediocre martial artists. The students of the lesser Karate masters, wo trained hard and diligently to improve themselves, could defeat them easily.

Years later, no one could even remember the name of the great Karate master.

The End.


Charles C. Goodin

Lining Up By Rank

In some dojo, the students line up according to rank. It is very important, in such dojo, for the students to know exactly where to stand. It is a matter of status.

To stand ahead of your senior would be a major offense.

In my dojo, we line up in no particular order. I give no kyu ranks at all. I give no colored belts. The first rank a student will obtain is shodan, and this can take many years, particularly for children since I impose a minimum age of 17 for shodan.

I believe that rigid adherance to formalities, rank, and lining up protocol reflects the pre-war militaristic way in which Karate was taught on mainland Japan. This was natural, given the military conflicts in which Japan was engaged and the urgency with which Karate was taught to college students bound for military service. However, this was not the case in Okinawa, where classes were much smaller and much less formal.

In my dojo, there are times when an adult will be taught by a child, even a yudansha taught by a non-black belt. I do not care about how this may look. I have found that a student who is upset about rigid formalities (such as being taught by a junior), should really quit Karate training. After all, I would not have the junior teach the senior unless the junior knew something worth teaching. In addition, in my dojo it is possible that a non-black belt will have trained for more years than a black belt.

The emphasis of Karate should first and foremost be on character. Next, it should be on proper fundamentals. Students should learn the proper courtesies and respect, but this should be motivated by a feeling of humility.

A student should feel grateful to his seniors and compassion for his juniors. Lining up in the right order is just a formality that does not ensure or necessarily reflect this.

If you've read this blog for a while, you will know that my class begins in a circle. There is no high spot or low spot. We are mutually appreciative of each other. We do not bow separately to the Sensei. We bow to each other. This is simply our way of doing this.


Charles C. Goodin

Sifu Andrew Lum

One of the nicest and most skilled martial arts one could hope to meet is Sifu Andrew Lum. When I was in high school (back in the 1970s), I wanted to join his class -- but it was too far to ride my bike from Hickam Air Force Base to Hawaii Kai!

About two or three years ago, I was introduced to Sifu Lum by Sensei Pat Nakata. They both teach classes in the same building in Kapahulu.

Sifu Lum is an excellent role model for traditonal Karate students and instructors. His "mind, body, spirit" approach is the way all martial arts should be taught. I recently discovered that he has a website at: http://sifulum.com/.

I always emphasize that Karate ("China Hand") came from the Chinese martial arts and that we can learn a great deal from them.


Charles C. Goodin

A High Kick

A friend of mine just gave me a general interest magazine that happened to contain a feature story about Okinawan Karate. In fact, Karate was shown on the cover.

A ninth dan, hanshi, was shown executing a high mawashi geri (roundhouse kick) to the neck of a younger student, who blocked the kick. I showed the cover to my wife and asked, "Who is in a better position, the one kicking or the one who blocked?"

It was obvious the the kicker was in a precarious position. His leg was high in the air, his kick had been blocked, and his groin and supporting knee were wide open for a counterattack. To me, this cover illusrated what not to do -- don't kick high and leave yourself in a vulnerable position. However, I image that the intent was to show the opposite -- a great high kick.

Of course, magazine covers are designed by graphic artists, not martial artists. They probably told the 9th dan that they wanted a dramatic cover and asked him to show a high kick -- since everyone loves to see high kicks. The 9th dan probably explained that a high kick is not representative of the techniques of his Karate system, but gave in after many requests.

Someone wrote an article about my Karate research. This was years ago. It was for a pretty nice magazine so they sent a professional photographer to do a photo shoot. We met at a park. He wanted a dramatic photo and asked me to execute a high kick, which I did. I kicked about as high as high as my ear.

Not quite satisfied, the photographer asked me to execute the kick on the side of a hill. He crouched under me and I kicked over him. From that angle, the kick looked really high. I kicked. Snap. Not good enough. I kicked again. Not quite right. Again. Missed it. Again and again I kicked.

Now with the photographer under me, I could not set my leg down after the kick. I had to pull it back, which was difficult given the slope of the hill. After about 60 kicks, I felt pretty bow legged.

Finally the article appeared with the kicking photo. My wife looked at it and said, "Why did they take a picture of your crotch?"

You can't win. We practice Karate for decades and yet we tend to listen to photographers and graphic artists, who want to show things that do not necessary represent what we do. But then, how can you show avoiding trouble on the cover of a magazine?


Charles C. Goodin


In my last post on Pride or Shame, I said,

In the west, we are generally rewarded for our efforts. We try to get ahead.

In the east, you generally work hard and do not seek any attention. You just try your best.
My mother was raised in Japan, my father here in the US. My father was in the Air Force, so we moved from base to base. On one tour, I attended elementary school in New Jersey. I remember an episode that took place in class just a couple of weeks after we moved there. The teacher would ask a question and several students would raise their hands (some quite excitedly). The teacher would usually call on one of them.

Being of mixed race, I probably did not fit into the class too well. One day, the teacher asked me to stay back after the class was dismissed. She asked me, "Charles, why don't you ever raise your hand? Don't you know the answers?"

I was shocked. Didn't she understand anything? "I know the answers," I said, "but it is rude to raise your hand."

I was taught that it was not polite to call attention to yourself. I knew the answers, but why should I raise my hand? It was so obvious -- to me (based on the way that I was raised).

I did not want the other children to think that I was trying to show off. Even if none of the other students could not answer the question, I would not raise my hand. I did not realize that this made the teacher think that I was slow or had not done my studies.

Years later in law school, there were many occassions to raise our hands when we knew the answers. Generally, I still would not. Thank goodness that most of the grades were based on written tests.

What's the point?

I asked a student of Gichin Funakoshi if he had any photographs with his Sensei. This gentleman is in this 70s. Nevertheless, his face turned red. "No, no," he said, "I would never ask Sensei to take a picture." He could not even conceive of such a presumptuous request.

Japanese culture teaches modesty to an extreme level. I am sure that other cultures do too. But because Karate comes from Okinawa and Japan, the early instructors probably tried to instill this trait in their students, because it was ingrained in them.

So be careful. A person who knows something might not raise his hand. A person who raises his hand might not know the answer as well as others. In Karate, the person who shows might not be as skilled as the person who holds back.


Charles C. Goodin

Pride or Shame?

Sometimes I will hear a student say that they are trying to make their Sensei proud of them. This is a noble effort.

Sometimes I will hear a student say that they are just trying not to make their Sensei ashamed of or embarrassed by them. I can also understand this.

The first effort reflects western thinking. The second, eastern.

In the west, we are generally rewarded for our efforts. We try to get ahead.

In the east, you generally work hard and do not seek any attention. You just try your best.

I was brought up with both ways of thinking.

Let's say that there is a demonstration. One student might say, "Did I do well? Did I make you proud?" Another student might say, "I hope I didn't mess up."

Karate teaches modesty. As I grow older, I find myself hoping more and more that I do not embarrass my Sensei. If I ever hear praise, I reply, "I will practice harder."

Don't rest on your laurels. Keep trying your best.


Charles C. Goodin

What Impresses Me Most?

What impresses me most when I meet a Karate student? Sincere politeness.

I don't mean mere attention to the details of courtesy and protocol. Anyone can do that -- even fake that. I am talking about sincere politeness -- courtesy that is motivated by humility.

I am not impressed by rank, titles, awards, or even great kata or fighting skills. Without sincere politeness, those things are meaningless or at best are very shallow. And I've meet some very high ranking people who were pretty full of... well, themselves.

Sincerity, honesty, humility, politeness, respectfulness, courtesy -- these are impressive.


Charles C. Goodin


I received an email addressing my last post, Chambering The Fist, in which I mentioned that I am not aware of the Japanese term for chambering. A reader suggested that the term is hikite.

I understand hikite to mean the pulling hand, rather than the chambering position (the alignment of the pulling hand along the side of the body). I agree that hikite broadly refers to a pulling or returning hand. I just don't know what the term for chambering might be.

Again, I never heard the term chambering when I started to learn Karate. It sounds like a military term to me (possibly gun related).

Thank you again for the input.


Charles C. Goodin

Chambering the Fist

A reader emailed me a question about chambering the fist and I thought it wold be good to address the subject generally.

"Chambering the fist" refers to bringing the fist back to the side of your body when you punch, block, or strike. When you punch with your right fist, for example, you generally bring your left fist back to your left side.

I must admit that I never heard the word "chambering" when I started learning Karate. We just brought the fist back. There was no term for it. I do not know the Japanese term. It probably is some form of hikeru.

Where you bring the fist back differs greatly from one school or style to another. When I started learning Shorin-Ryu, we brought our fist back pretty high -- the idea was for the forearm and fist to be parallel to the ground. With such a high (parallel) alignment, it was thought that a punch would be more direct -- on a straight line. This alignment was stressed by Choki Motobu.

Today I chamber my fist much lower, about the height of my lowest (or floating) rib. The idea is for the fist to move along the arc of a natural pendulum for the beginning of the punch and then to thrust forward.

I must say that with the parallel alignment, you must make numerous small adustments as you punch to keep the arm parallel to the ground. With the lower chamber, I find punching to be much easier and natural. I also found that I raised my shoulders with the high chamber. This caused many problems, including shoulder and neck strain.

I met a gentleman who lives here in Hawaii. He learned from Chotoku Kyan in Okinawa. When he showed me his punch, he used the low chamber (at the floating rib). However, he hid his fist behind his back. When you looked at him from the front, you could not see his fist because it was tucked behind his side/back. He also used a hanmi body alignment.

He explained that hiding the fist made it harder for the attacker to see it and to react to it. It thought this was very interesting. I also thought that it would work better with the old style of clothes in Okinawa and Japan.

Thus, it is possible to chamber high (like Motobu), low (like Kyan), and all points in between. I believe it to be a matter of personal preference.

Now, that said, I believe that chambering is overused and not that practical in real self-defense. We must be able to punch wherever our hand may be. It is not natural to bring it back to our side. That is simply callistenics.

The only reason to bring the hand back is because you are pulling, tearing or blocking something. If you are not doing something, it would be better to keep your fist and arm in front of you. This makes it harder for the attacker to hit you and also reduces the distance you must punch. I like the idea of a "one inch punch." If you can generate power in a short distance, your Karate will be incredibly efficient -- no wasted time due to long movements.

The chambering approach also has a certain assumption -- that you would hit with one hand and bring back the other. Perhaps you would block with your left hand, and then hit with your right, at which time you would bring back your left hand.

However, some styles of Karate teach that it is better to block with the left and then hit with the left. The right would be kept as a guard. Again, block with a hand and then hit with it. The idea is not to alternate between hands. Using this approach, there is no chambering.

I personally follow this last approach. I do not believe in chambering the fist except for basics, as done in kata, or to pull back something -- like hair, an arm, to twist a joint, etc.

What about the rationale that bringing back the left arm transfers power to the right? My answer is that that are better ways to generate power using the core of your body/koshi. I do not like zig-zag Karate (alternating between right and left). I prefer to keep one side forward and to change orientation seldom and with great care.

I should add a caveat about the Motobu high chamber. If he brought his fist back high to the side of his chest with his elbow parallel to the ground, then I see problems. But if his fist was high with his elbow low (about the level of the floating rib), then this alignment makes much more sense. In this way, the arm covers the side very effectively and the shoulders will not be raised. It is a more natural position.

I think that the problem occurs when people interpret Motobu as requiring a high chamber with a high elbow. A high fist with a low elbow works very well. In fact, I would do that with my fist extending a few inches in front of my body (almost like the beginning of Tensho).

This alignment is also like the back hand of a chudan shuto uke. The idea is to protect your side and have your hand in front of you, ready to block or attack. Your elbow is also in position to block kicks.

Lastly, watch a boxer punch. They never bring their hand back to the side. It is kept in front of them for a good reason. And remember, boxers can't pull body parts -- thus there is no reason to bring the hand back to the side.

Ok, one more thing. It is possible to bring the hand all the way back to the side in order to strike to the back with the elbow. This is a good technique but would be used only when necessary, not with every punch. Since the attacker is generally in front of you, it is better to keep your returning hand in front of you too.

To the reader who submitted the questions, thank you!


Charles C. Goodin

Improving Your Karate

If you could improve one aspect of your Karate, what would it be?

Think about it. Think about one thing you would like to improve. Have you thought of something?

Now, what are three things that you could do to accomplish this?

Have you thought of these three things?

Good. Now do them!

We have to be responsible for our own self-improvement. Our Sensei will always be urging us on, setting an example for us, and teaching us, but real improvement is up to us.

Normally, the answer is to practice more -- longer, more regularly, harder. But sometimes the answer may be more technical. Once, I spent a few weeks analyzing video of my sensei and categorizing his responses to various spontaneous attacks. At first, I did not see any patterns. He just moved so fast. But after a while, I realized that his responses were somewhat predictible. There were patterns.

Once I saw the patterns, I could practice them in similar situation.

My point is that what you will need to do to accomplish your goal depends on your goal. Sometimes you just need to practice more. Sometimes you will need to practice in a certain way, or more carefully scrutinize your body dynamics or technique. It all depends.

But unless you take responsibility for your own improvement, you will be like a leaf floating on a pond. The years will go by. It could be like learning Karate for 20 years, with the first year repeated over and over.

If you could improve one aspect of your Karate, what would it be?


Charles C. Goodin

Holding the Bo -- Pinkies

In Yamani-Ryu bojutsu, it is very important to grip the bo firmly with the pinkies. All of the fingers should grip the bo, but the pinkies are especially important.

Many beginners put the emphasis in their index fingers and leave their pinkies loose. It is very easy to knock the bo out of their hands.

But when the pinkies are firm, the bo is very solid. The idea is for the pinkies to be firm -- not tight. You sort of squeeze the bo.

You might find that keeping the pinkies firm requires you to adust your elbows. If your pinkies are loose, the bo is under less tension. Keeping the pinkies firm puts the bo under greater tension and may require you to bring your elbows closer to your body -- which is a good thing. When the bo (and your body) is under tension, it is easy to "whip" the bo -- to dynamically transfer your body power into the bo.

Remember that in bojutsu your opponent will try to knock the bo out of your hand. When performing kata, there is no one to test your grip. If you lose the bo, you will almost certainly be defeated.


Charles C. Goodin

To Do -- Or Not To Do

My last two posts listed 62 things Karate instructors should not do. The reaction has ranged from "great" to "too limiting". To Do or Not To Do, that is the question.

I personally like to think and write in the positive. Be good. Work on character. Follow the Golden Rule.

But sometimes I think it is useful to write in the negative -- to set forth a list of things not to do. In my case, the list has come from common sense, as well as from negative things that I have seen happen over the years. Every time I see a negative thing, it goes into a data bank in my brain, a list of things I should try to remember to avoid. Hopefully, writing the list will help at least one person to avoid at least one negative thing.

Of course, you cannot go around constantly worrying about negatives. If you have a good heart and try your best, that is normally more than enough.

But then again, there may be some things that might not be avoided simply by a good heart and good intentions. Insurance is one of these. I just sent off payment for my dojo's annual insurance. It is the single largest expense of our dojo. I wish that we could do without it, but we simply cannot. Insurance is necessary. It is not a matter of intention. It is a simple reality of teaching in America - insurance is necessary. Does your dojo have insurance?

For a young instructor, a list of things not to do might be a useful reference. Look it over. If it is helpful, good.

For more experienced instructors, it will probably seem like old news. You've already been through most of what I listed, and probably much more. Experience is the best teacher.

I do believe that it is possible to learn from others' experiences and mistakes. We should learn from positive examples and can also learn from negative examples. You cannot imagine how many people I've met who complain about something their parents or instructors did, and then turn around and do the same thing!

If your instructor was an egomaniac, you should work on being humble. If you instructor was overly commericial, work on creating a greater sense of family in your dojo. If your instructor was a power hungry politician, train hard and work on becoming the best teacher possible. You do not have to repeat mistakes. The more aware you are, the more you can avoid mistakes and errors.


Charles C. Goodin

Things Instructors Should Not Do (40-62)

Some more things instructors should not do.

40. Don't forget to obtain insurance to cover your dojo. Hopefully, you will never need it. But if you ever do, you will be glad that you got it.

41. Don't forget to have your students (or their parent or guardian) sign a release/consent form when they join your class. See an attorney in your area to discuss this.

42. Don't forget to report income and pay state and federal taxes if you are obligated to do so. Making little or no money does not mean that you are "non-profit" and even being a properly registered non-profit corporation does not make you tax exempt under the federal law. Again, see an attorney in your area to discuss this.

43. Don't let visitors train in your dojo unless you have followed the proper procedure. Did you have them sign a release/consent? Did you discuss their visit with their instructor(s). Do you know the visitor? Is it possible that he could injure himself or your students?

44. Don't neglect your own students. If you are going to teach students around the country or the world, don't forget your students back home. It is hard to be a strong instructor if the students in your home dojo are weak.

45. Don't neglect your own education. If you want to teach karate professionally, it certainly would not hurt to have a college degree, even a graduate degree. To the extent that teaching Karate requires business skills, it could help to have business training. I know one Sensei who refused to promote one of his students until he obtained a college degree.

46. This applies here in Hawaii. Some of my sensei told me -- don't teach Karate as a business. It is very expensive to live in Hawaii. To have enough students to make a comfortable living, you would have to teach multiple times a day in different locations. When you are young, $10,000 or even $50,000 may sound like a lot of money. But after operating expenses, health insurance, pension contributions, etc. there may be little or nothing left for you. Many Sensei I know pursued professions and taught Karate on the side. For example, my son's Kendo Sensei was a thoracic surgeon. My Shorin-Ryu Sensei is a linguistics professor. Having a profession will enable you to provide for your family and will also allow you to underwrite the expenses of teaching Karate. Please don't get me wrong. I have nothing against teaching Karate as a business. It is just that it is very challenging, especially if you want to concentrate on a relatively small group of students. If you are going to teach Karate and work on the side, try to make that side job a skilled profession.

47. Don't think that you will live forever. Groom a successor while you are still strong enough to do so. Too many instructors wait until it is too late and then leave their dojo in disarray.

48. Don't forget to learn other martial arts. My Shorin-Ryu Sensei urged me to study other martial arts. This was around 1978. I subsequently practiced Judo, Aikido, Kendo, and Iaido. This helped my Karate tremendously. In the short term, training in other arts may take away time from your Karate training. But in the long term, it will make you a much better instructor.

49. Don't let your ego get in your way. Thinking you are too good will make you miss opportunities to learn. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Never think that you are too good to learn from someone.

50. Don't fall for the "traditional" trap. Calling a style of Karate "traditional" does not make it so. When it comes down to it, Karate was Okinawan streetfighting, elevated to a very high level. Sometimes, a very "traditional" style will become so crystalized/formalized that it loses its effectiveness as a self-defense art. What is traditional? An art from 1980, 1960, 1940, 1900, 1860?

51. Don't think that "non-traditional" methods are inferior. If something works, you should probably learn how to do it, at least so that you will be better able to counter it. A punch on the nose is a punch on the nose, no matter what you call it.

52. Don't forget to write articles. If you have good ideas about Karate, write them down and try to have them published. It will enhance your visibility as an instructor. And if you think that most Karate articles are shallow or wrong, you have only yourself to blame, unless you write yourself.

53. Don't forget to write about character. If you do write -- and I hope that you will at least try -- write an article or two about character issues. If you only write about tournaments, sports, politics, etc., you should not be surprised when people tend to focus on those things.

54. Don't look back. As soon as you accomplish something as an instructor, move forward. Don't spend too much time looking back at what you have done. You don't need to pat yourself on your back. Let your work speak for itself. If you won a championship in 1960 --LET IT GO.

55. Do not put your rank on your business card. Aside from issues of modesty and propriety, you will have to change your business card every time you are promoted.

56. Don't confuse Karate with the United Nations. It is just Karate. We are not ending starvation in Africa or resolving conflicts in the Middle East. But you'd be surprised how many people get embroiled in Karate politics, so much so that they will even quit the art.

57. Don't think that being a strong fighter means that you are healthy. You might be a great fighter. But if your blood pressure is too high and your cholesterol is out of control, your body will eventually break down. Also, what good is rigorous training if it ruins your knees, hips and shoulders? How can you defend youself if you are a wreck? Practice Karate for self-defense and health.

58. Don't forget that people will not remember you for how good you are -- but for how good your students become!

59. Don't forget that the great "masters" of old were just men too. They become skilled because of hard work -- not magic.

60. Don't become so attached to a way of moving or of perfoming a certain kata. If you tell your students that something has to be done a certain way, you will look bad later when you tell them to move another way. Be attached to the process of learning, not the specifics.

61. Don't do things simply because other Karate instructors do them that way. They could be wrong.

62. Don't forget that you are the example. If you are fat and out of shape, what does that tell people about the way that you teach? I know that some people may have health problems -- we all do. What I mean is this -- you have to train yourself too. A fireman has to be able able to climb a ladder and a Karate instructor has to be able to perform. Get into the best shape possible. One of my Sensei urged me to get into the best shape possible before I turned 50 because the body will naturally weaken after that age. If you are in very good shape, the decline will be more gradual. Be demanding of yourself.


Charles C. Goodin

39 Things Instructors Should Not Do

1. Don't curse at students. Obviously.

2. Don't get angry, especially when hitting a student. We are supposed to be calm, even when defending ourselves. So why be angry in class? It makes no sense.

3. Don't belittle students, put them down, embarass them. A person will remember an insult forever.

4. Don't overly criticize students. Try to find something positive to say. Correcting is good. Being overly negative is not. Correct one thing and praise two.

5. Teach by example, not by edict. The sensei is the example for the dojo.

6. Don't just stand there shouting commands. Train youself. You should train harder than the students. Don't be a kuchi bushi.

7. Don't speak negatively of other instructors, styles, or art. It only makes you look bad and lowers the class.

8. Don't forget that the newest and youngest students have the most potential. It is up to you to help them to realize that potential.

9. Don't forget that you were once a student too.

10. Don't tell students one thing and do another. Don't tell them to be humble and then dwell on rank, titles and awards.

11. Don't forget who taught you, who taught them, who taught them and so on. We would not be here if not for a long line of teachers.

12. Don't forget to always feel a sense of honor and responsibiity when teaching. My friend and senior Art Ishii often discuss the way that the Judo Sensei we remember growing up were pillars of the community. We might not be pillars (Ishii Sensei is), but at least we should be upright.

13. Don't flirt with students. Training should be free from inappropriate behavior. Students trust you. Do not abuse that trust. When I was young, my sensei often advised me not to date my students. I have seen some marriages ruined by this.

14. Don't come to class drunk or when high on drugs. Do not become drunk at any Karate functions. Some sages become fools when drunk -- and that is how students will remember them.

15. Don't brutalize students, particularly younger ones. If you break a student's spirit, they will never learn Karate. Brutal instructors are often insecure.

16. Don't slack off. If you don't try hard, neither will the students.

17. Don't forget that the highest instructor is still a student. If you are not still learning, how can you teach?

18. Don't expect students to do things that you would not do (unless you have a physical limitation). Like Kyan Chotoku used to say, "if he does it three times, I will do it seven times!"

19. Don't forget to also study the history and traditions of the art of Karate. In that way, you will find many things in common with other styles and systems. A person who knows little only sees differences.

20. Dont' forget that the "secret" of Karate is practice. No matter how poorly a student may perform the techniques and kata or Karate, he will improve with practice. You can't cook a one hour cake in five minutes.

21. Don't copy bad examples. If you teacher did something wrong, that does not mean that you have to. Copy his good traits and avoid any bad ones.

22. Don't forget that some of the youngsters in your class might be smarter than you! Some might be geniuses! Some might go on to be much better at Karate than you. If so, then you have done a great job as a Sensei.

23. Don't teach religion in class -- unless you are qualified to do so and the students have agreed to also learn religion from you. Respect each student's right to his own beliefs.

24. Don't forget that the basics are the most important part of Karate.

25. Don't teach so many kata that the students become good at none.

26. Don't forget that students should learn how to use each movement of a kata -- and ultimately how to counter them too.

27. Don't forget that the most important thing is character. What good is Karate skill with poor character?

28. Don't forget that you are responsible for your students. You must know their character. Don't teach dangerous techniques to students you do not know. Who knows that they will do with them?

29. Don't adjust your student's feet with your feet. Get down and make the adjustment with your hands.

30. Don't be distracted. During class, think only of your class and students. Leave the outside world in your slippers (outside).

31. Don't call yourself "sensei." You are called "sensei" by others.

32. Don't come to class late (unless there is a good reason). The sensei is usually the first to arrive and the last to leave.

33. Don't forget to take part in cleaning the dojo. A person who is too good to clean the dojo, is not too good.

34. Don't forget to enjoy Karate. Don't teach Karate as a way to make students miserable. If you enjoy Karate, your students will enjoy it too. They will catch your fire.

35. Don't think of your senior students as potential competitors. How can you teach them if you think this way? What are you going to do, have them sign noncompetition agreements?

36. Don't neglect your family. Imagine losing them because you pay too much attention to Karate. Now do not let that happen!

37. If Karate is something you do part time or as a hobby, don't neglect your work. Imagine losing your job or livelihood. Now do not let that happen either! I remember a gradute student telling me that he was failing at school because of the demands of his Karate dojo.

38. Don't forget that one day you will become old, your strength will decline, and you will not be able to compete with young men any more -- unless you learn to use "whole body" dynamics.

39. Don't get mad at me for making this list. If you have been around for a while, you've probably seen many of these "don'ts" and perhaps some that were even much worse!


Charles C. Goodin

Your Highest

You are never higher than when you stoop down to help a child, or get down on your hands and knees to scrub the floor!

You won't find Karate by looking far away. It is always very close to you.

I remember a certain priest at bon dance. The old people would say, "This young priest just walks around. The old priest would get his hands dirty (help)."

In my experience, students who clean poorly are not very good at Karate either.

Clean the dojo, clean your self.


Charles C. Goodin

How I Started Karate

I turned 49 last month. I started practicing Karate about 33 years ago. It seems like a long time ago, but also like only yesterday.

I began practicing at the Adult Recreation Center at Hickam Air Force Base, here in Hawaii. I lived nearby, and would walk to the dojo or ride my bike.

I learned about the class from a friend in Boy Scouts. His name was Chris Crisler. I was already practicing Judo, but one day he told me that I should come and watch this class. I think he was already in it.

The class was taught by Florentino S. Pancipanci, and his senior students. The emphasis was on very practical self-defense. They also rolled in the class (on the cement floor) and did throws and take downs. Because of my Judo experience (I had also trained for about three or four years in Japan), I was drawn to the training.

So I joined the class. I was very active in Boy Scouts, but as the years went by, Karate became a bigger and bigger part of my life. By the time I graduated from high school, I was out of scouting and teaching Karate part-time. I actually taught through my undergraduate years at the University of Hawaii and my master's program at Northwestern (in Evanston, Illinois).

I was engaged in high school. My fiance and later wife, Nayna, would come to class to collect the tuition. I remember that at one time, I had over 50 students at Hickam. This was when I was still in high school. Looking back, I was too young and inexperienced to teach. But such is life.

So after 33 years, how has my Karate training changed? I used to train mostly with my arms and legs. Now I train more with my stomach (hara)!

And after 33 years, I think that I am beginning to actually scratch the surface of Karate. Maybe I am starting to get the first syllable. "Ka."

I don't know what happened to my friend Chris, from Boy Scouts. But I am very grateful to him for taking me to my first Karate class. Sometimes a small act can set things in motion that last a lifetime.


Charles C. Goodin

Kick And Fall

My friend let me watch one of his professional Karate type "fighting" videos. You know, two men in the ring...

One of the competitors was a big man. He was strong and fast. Well, generally all the men in these fights are big, strong and fast. In these contests, kicks to the head are allowed. This particular competitor could kick pretty high, but fell down afterwards at least five times.

I've seen matches where high kicks were used very effectively. But falling down five times?

In these matches, grappling and ground work were not allowed, so there really were no negative consequences to falling down. I guess that you could not kick in the groin either. Otherwise, I suspect that a groin or knee kick would be used as a counter to many high kicks.

One of my friends is a senior of Kyokushinkai. In their matches, you cannot punch to the head but you can kick there. I asked why this was so -- to me it seemed that both could cause severe damage. He said, "if you get kicked in the head you deserve it."

I would not want to try to kick a Judo man or wrestler in the head. Would you? I am pretty sure that I would be taken down.

High kicks look good on television. And some people can use them effectively. But I prefer to keep both my feet on the ground, or pretty close.

As one of my friends often says, "if you want to kick someone high, take them down first." Makes you rethink what a stomp means, no?


Charles C. Goodin

To Be A Good Teacher

Some people are skilled at Karate but cannot teach it. Some people are good at Karate but are poor teachers. In order to be a good Karate teacher, a person must be skilled at Karate and a good teacher.

I have heard that it is possible to learn Karate, even from a poor teacher. But I do not think that this is true. I think that you can only learn poor Karate from a poor teacher.

A Karate teacher must be able to make corrections on a razor's edge, particularly with respect to body dynamics. Karate is not simply brute punching, blocking and kicking. To quote the commercial, Karate is not so easy that a caveman could do it -- unless the caveman was enlightened and had a great teacher.

If you are going to teach, one of the most important traits you must cultivate is patience. You might have to teach a student something once, twice, a dozen times, a hundred times, even more. You cannot get mad or frustrated. You have to be calm and encouraging. If the student starts to get it on the 99th attempt, you have to be able to say "that's it!" without missing a beat.

The student learns from your patience and enthusiasm -- he learns to be a good teacher like you.

If you compliment the student 99 times and criticize him once, he will remember the criticism and forget all the compliments. Years from now, he will still think about the criticism.

I always say that my students' errors are my errors and my students accomplishments are their accomplishments. I mean this.

My wife often says that I am passionate about teaching. I never really thought about it, but afte she said it I realized that it was true. What I mean is this -- whatever kata or technique I am teaching, I have the feeling that it is the most important thing in the world, at least at that moment. To me, Naihanchi Shodan is great -- an honor to learn and teach. The same goes for Fukyugata Ichi, Passai, or Kusanku. Any kata is great. Every kata is great. None are better or worse -- unless you make them that way.

I like to say that you can learn all of Karate from a single technique. By this I mean that learning one technique properly will have an effect on all the techniques you know. It is like DNA. If you can look at Karate at the DNA level, then there is infinite potential in each and every technique. The building blocks of Karate are actually quite simple. The only problem is in the assembly.

I have been influenced the most by my two Shorin-Ryu Sensei, Sensei Rodney Shimabukuro (whom I started learning from in 1976 or so), and Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato (whom I started learning from in 2002). They have several things in common, but the most notable is great enthusiasm for the art. When you learn from them, you really want to learn. Their enthusiasm is contagious. It is as if the fire inside of them makes you catch on fire too.

They do not make you do anything. Being the way they are makes you want to train hard and improve yourself.

If you have a good teacher, you are very fortunate. You should make the best use of that opportunity and become a good teacher yourself.


Charles C. Goodin

Karate -- Is It Defensive?

I would like to recommend another post by Sensei Mario McKenna. Please read Karate as it was Never Meant to Be - A Defensive Art. Please read that post and then come back here.

Did you read it?

Once again, McKenna Sensei is exactly right. His quotes of Motobu Sensei illustrate his point.

I am working on the translation of an early interview of Choki Motobu (I am one of the editors, not the translator). Motobu often emphasizes that block and punch Karate will not work. You must be able to simultaneously defend and attack. It is not "1" and "2". There is only time for "1", which must serve as both defence and attack.

In many Karate schools, students are taught to block with one hand and hit with the other. Motobu Sensei would block with one hand and and hit with it too!

In fact, one of the most basic defenses is to block with a punch that also hits the attacker in the face (or other target). The two punches cannot occupy the same space. If your punch can slip the attacker's, even slightly, he will miss and you can hit him. Your punch is a block.

When Motobu Sensei's son, Chosei Motobu, visited my dojo a few years ago, he demonstrated a technique on me. He jammed my right hand with his left, blocked my left punch with his right hand, bumped my body with his right elbow, and buckled my legs with his knees/feet -- all at the same time. He explained that this type of block/attack overloads the attacker's senses, making it very difficult for him to react or counter. For a split second, the attacker does not know what to do and cannot coordinate his body. His body shudders or stutters. In that split second -- just a split second -- the defender attacks (hits, such as with an elbow).

Most skilled Karate instructors I know do not think much about blocking. Their defense is an attack.

Karate is defensive -- we do not start fights. But if someone is going to attack us, we do not have to wait to be hit before we can defend. Once we are hit, we might not be able to defend ourselves or our loved ones.

We must be able to perceive a very fine line between the formation of the attacker's intention to attack and his actual attack.

My Sensei sometimes demonstrates an uncanny ability. He will stand in front of a student and ask him to attack using either hand or foot. As soon as the student starts to move, my Sensei will point to the appropriate hand or foot. He points to the hand or foot before it can move. This shows that he could prevent or choke the attack at its root.


Charles C. Goodin

Titles -- Again

Sensei Mario McKenna has recently written an excellent blog post called Titles and their Use - Japanese 101. Please read it. He writes the Karate and Kobudo Blog.

Titles tend to be misused and overused in the West. Basically, the only title needed in the dojo is "Sensei," and that is used by students when they address their teacher, not by the teacher to describe himself or herself. I would not call someone and say, "This is Sensei Goodin." I would simply say, "This is Charles Goodin."

Don't get distracted by titles. Character and ability are what count the most.

A person with a title could have no ability. And a person with great ability could have no title.

I highly recommend McKenna Sensei's Karate and Kobudo Blog.


Charles C. Goodin

Weapons Cases

Please remember that Kobudo weapons should not be carried in public unless they are in a case or wrapped. Bo and sai, for example, should not be carried exposed. They should be brought to the dojo in a case and taken from the dojo the same way.

Carrying exposed weapons is asking for trouble. It could also expose the weapons to rain and dirt. Weapons should be kept clean.

Please also remember that tekko could be considered to be brass knuckles in some places. Brass knuckles are illegal in some states. Check the laws in your area.


Charles C. Goodin

Classical Kobudo Bias

Recently, a senior instructor mentioned to me that there was a bias in the early days in Okinawa to the use of the bo and sai. These were the classical weapons used by the experts in Shuri -- the castle town. The bo was used by court attendants and the sai was used by law enforcement officers. Bo techniques were likely derived from yari (spear) techniques.

The use of other weapons was not looked upon as highly -- at least by some people. Thus, some Kobudo experts would not emphasize the use of the nunchaku, tonfa, or tekko, for example, as these were not "samurai" weapons.

Here, the term "samurai" means the martial artists of Shuri.

Another bias was toward the Karate and Kobudo systems of Shuri. Other styles were sometimes called "village" Karate or village "Kobudo." Such descriptions were probably accurate. A Karate system from Itoman would indeed be an Itoman system. But the implication might have been that this system was not from Shuri. Even here in Hawaii, I have found that immigrants were very conscious of the Shuri issue.

Sometimes, the implication was that the "village" art was geared more toward performance at festivals rather than actual fighting. Again, this might or might not have have been true. I am sure that there were some village systems that were quite effective and others that were more like odori (dance).

Today, most Karate students are not too aware of such matters. Kobudo is taught as an adjunct to Karate and as something extra to do in tournaments. Just as in Karate, Kobudo kata are learned for performance, rather than for "fight". Students have to pose (delineate movements) so that they can be accurately judged.

My Sensei here in Hawaii used to speak about Shuichi Agena, who, when using the bo, moved so quickly that his bo could hardly be seen. His bo was just a dark blurr.


Charles C. Goodin

Bo and Elbows

I recently watched a Karate student perform a Yamane-Ryu (or Yamanne-Ryu) bo kata. He would improve 20% if he would just keep his elbows closer to his body.

You have to understand that 20% is an incredible amount of improvement. Sometimes we work hard for just a 2 or 3% improvement.

Keeping our elbows close helps us to connect our bo movements to our "whole body" and koshi. It also streamlines the movements of the kata, presenting a smaller or narrower target.

In Kendo, the wrist or forearm area (kote) is one of the three main striking points. In combat, if you cut the opponent's kote, he will not be able to use his sword. The same is true with the bo. If your elbows stick out, you are presenting very inviting targets. However, if your elbows are kept close to your body, your wrists and forearms will not stick out and will be much harder to strike.

When using the bo, particularly in the Yamane-Ryu system, keep your elbows close to your body -- the closer the better.

I should note that I usually use the term "Yamani-Ryu" to describe our system of bojutsu because that is the way my sensei spells it. Other people use the terms "Yamane-Ryu" or "Yamanne-Ryu". My sensei is Prof. Katsuhiko Shinzato. He learned bojutsu from Chogi Kishaba. I understand that different students of Kishaba Sensei might use slightly different terms. The student I observed had learned from one of Kishaba Sensei's other students.

However, I pretty sure that the kanji is the same, whether we use the terms Yamani, Yamane, or Yamanne.

Yamani-Ryu is distinctive because it is truly a bojutsu system -- not simply Karate using a bo. I often say that our Shorin-Ryu is influenced more by bojutsu than our bojutsu is influenced by Shorin-Ryu.


Charles C. Goodin

Real Courage

We often see newscasts or documentaries showing tales of human courage.

The other day I saw a television show about dogfights. One story was about two U.S. fighter pilots who attacked a formation of 50 German planes. They flew among the German planes causing confusion and making it difficult for the enemy to shoot at them. How brave they must have been to attack against such overwhelming odds.

I have also seen other acts of courage, such as a child taking an extended leave from work to care for an elderly parent, or a parent working hard while caring for a child with a severe illness.

Those who risk their lives for our country are heroes. Those who arrange their lives to care for loved ones in need are also heroes.


Charles C. Goodin

Two Things I've Never Heard

I've written this before, but it is worth repeating.

I've never heard anyone say that they wished that they had less education.

I've never heard a parent say that they wished that they spent less time with their children when they were young.

In contrast, I've heard the opposite many times.


Charles C. Goodin

Mr. Pancipanci's Umbrella Pattern

One of the nice things about writing a blog is that it makes you remember things. It is sort of like writing down your dreams. The more you write, the more you remember.

I practiced Kenpo Karate under Florentino S. Pancipanci at the Adult Recreation Center at Hickam Air Force Base. I also practiced in the separate Tai Chi Chuan and Ying Tung Gung Fu class that he taught. I was a high school student at this time.

Mr. Pancipanci had learned Kenpo Karate under Prof. Marino Tiwanak, the head of the CHA-3 Kenpo organization. For some reason, we used to say that CHA-3 taught "hard" Kenpo while Mr. Pancipanci taught "soft" Kenpo. I am not sure why there was a difference, if there was one. Mr. Pancipanci had his own organization when I learned from him.

I later trained under Edward Wallace of the CHA-3 organization at the old quonset hut in Moanalua. His daughter, Julie, was also an instructor. My good friend Garrick Saito also trained with me at this time. Garrick and I both trained under the same teachers (Mr. Pancipanci and Mr. Wallace).

Garrick and I would go up to Schofield Barracks to train with Mr. Pancipanci's advanced group and even to Barber's Point. You have to remember that we were in high school at the time. We were teenagers training with the adults.

Anyway, thinking about Mr. Pancipanci made me remember that at one point he taught us an umbrella pattern. He was also an Escrima teacher, but I do not know who he learned from. I never learned Esrima from Mr. Pancipanci, but looking back I can see how it influenced the way he taught Kenpo and empty hand techniques.

With the umbrella, we learned a pattern that I have long forgotten. But I remember that we used all parts of the umbrella, the point, the shaft, the curved handle --- we even opened the umbrella and spun it so that the pointed ends would scrape or cut the opponent. The opened umbrella was also used to hide our attack.

I will never forget that Mr. Pancipanci could seemingly block any attack with the umbrella. Not just that, he could hook the attacker's hand or foot with the curved end and apply locks. He made it look so effortless.

Looking back, I realize that he was actually teaching us Escrima using the umbrella. I have since learned that the cane and other everyday items are used in Escrima (and other Filipino martial arts).

Years later I began to learn Aikido from Sensei Sadao Yoshioka. He sometimes taught the use of the jo. When I started to learn the first jo kata, I was again reminded of the umbrella pattern. Many aspects of the poking and blocking were the same.

I eventually started to teach Kenpo Karate on my own and lost touch with Mr. Pancipanci. I understand that he passed away.

On rainy days here in Hawaii, when I open an umbrella, I always think of him twirling the open umbrella and hopping into an attack (we learned how to hop too).

Maraming pung salamat, Mr. Pancipanci.


Charles C. Goodin

Things I Worry About

If I had to defend myself against an attacker who does not appear to be very skilled, what do you think I would worry about? I asked my class this tonight.

One person answered that I should worry about his friends. That is correct. I would especially worry about people I might not be able to see. And I would worry about concealed weapons.

But another thing that I would worry about is that the attacker might be faking his apparent lack of skill. What if he is an excellent Karate, Judo, or mixed martial arts expert? What if he is a skilled street fighter? What if he is just pretending to lack skill so that I will underestimate him and lower my guard?

You have to be careful not to underestimate anyone, nor to focus so much on the attacker that you miss his friends, who may join the attack. You have to carefully assess the attacker and the overall situation.

And never forget that the use of Karate techniques is a last resort, for self-defense only. If you are fighting out of anger, that is not self-defense. Self-defense is defending your life and the lives of others. If you can run away, that is good self-defense. If you can end the conflict, that is a win. If you have to use Karate techniques, the attacker could be seriously injured. So could you. You should avoid the use of Karate techniques to the extent possible. If you decide to teach the attacker a lesson, who knows what could happen? His friends could appear or he might pull a concealed weapon. He might even have a disease that you could catch from contact with his blood or bodily fluids.

Karate is something that you should hope not to use. As Mizuho Mutsu (who came to Hawaii in 1933) used to say, a hand is a treasure in the pocket.


Charles C. Goodin

Karate -- Like Lightning

The idea is not to show your Karate until you see an opening, and then to move like lightning. This seems like a very simple statement but it is important.

We should not take stances, kamae or postures that give away out Karate training. Karate should be a complete surprise. Once the element of surprise is lost, we have lost a major advantage.

Therefore, one of the important skills we must cultivate is learning to see an opening (suki in Japanese). Then we must be able to attack it instantly.

When Choki Motobu fought the boxer (John Kentel) in Kyoto in 1923, I suspect that the boxer took him to be a silly old man. He might have fought differently if he knew that Motobu was a master of Okinawan Karate.


Charles C. Goodin

Karate-Do Ichiro

Good news! The Hawaii Karate Museum was very fortunate to acquire Karate-Do Ichiro (Karate-Do One Road), by Gichin Funakoshi. October 1, 1956. 212 pages. Japanese language.

This appears to be a first edition of the book, not a reprint.

This book was acquired with a donation by Sensei Fumio Nagaishi.

What a great way to start the new year!


Charles C. Goodin

Shoulder Angles

I recently met a very strong Karate student who had suffered a shoulder injury at work. While driving a van, he reached back and popped his shoulder. I am not certain if he tore his rotator cuff, but the injury was pretty severe. I tore my own rotator cuff, so I can sympathize.

Reaching back and picking up a heavy object at the wrong angle is definitely a bad idea. Even a relatively light weight, at the wrong angle, can cause an injury.

How is this relevant to Karate?

Don't apply techniques at bad angles, especially behind your shouldler. Naihanchi teaches the optimum range of motion. It is best to "fight" with your elbows in an imaginary box in front of your body. Almost never let your arms get behind you. At most, they should not pass the plane of your chest.

Equally important is the idea that we should, whenever possible, force the attacker to fight us at bad angles. We should position ourselves so that the attacker will have to reach back to block or hit us, like the strong Karate student I mentioned. It would be hard for an attacker to continue if he pops his shoulder.

We should "fight" in a strong position and attack a weak position. Let me ask you this. Would you want to lift weights on a diagonal behind you? Keep your arms where they are strongest (and least likely to be injured), and attack on an angle where the attacker is weakest, and most likely to injure himself if he tries to lift, push or block you.

I am not talking here about sparring or tournaments. I am addressing goshinjitsu -- self-defense.


Charles C. Goodin

Folding A Hand

The other day, a gentleman from the mainland visited me at the Hawaii Karate Museum. He was about 9 years older than me, taller, and more muscular. One of my sons was at my office. This son likes to lift weights and is almost 6 feet tall. My son shook the gentleman's hand.

Later that night, my son told me that he had tried to give the guest a firm handshake because he looked strong. When my son (who is pretty strong himself) began to squeeze the gentleman's hand, the gentleman squashed my son's hand with ease!

I then told my son that this gentleman had studied the Uechi-Ryu form of Karate for almost 40 years. In Uechi-Ryu, tremendous grip strength is developed. Students practice with stone jars (kame) and work on hand and arm strength.

I told my son, "Never engage in a hand squeezing contest with an Uechi-Ryu instructor."

This reminds me of something one of my other sons did. When visiting Sensei Pat Nakata's dojo, my youngest son saw a small punching bag. Without much thought, he punched it pretty hard. This small bag was filled with sand that had settled, making the back essentially as hard as cement!

Never punch a bag until you have felt it.

This remind me of still another story. A student of Chokotu Kyan trained at the master's house. Each day, he would strike the makiwara in the backyard. One day as he was about the begin his striking session, he decided to check the rope wound around the wood. Someone had planted broken pieces of glass in the rope. Had he hit the makiwara, the student would have be seriously injured.

So, don't engage in handshaking contests with Uechi-Ryu sensei, don't hit punching bags until you check them, and check your makiwara too!

Of course, when greeting someone, you should always be courteous. My son was not trying to be rude.

But in the martial arts, we must always assess our opponents. We should use our strengths against their weaknesses. We cannot do this unless we know their strengths and weaknesses, as well as our own.

Never underestimate an opponent.


Charles C. Goodin