Karate Thoughts Blog

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1700+ Posts... and Counting


I which kata do you bite the attacker? Think about it. Is there a specific movement in any kata that you practice in which you bite?

I cannot think of any.

But in the correct situation, biting is a good defence -- or at least will create an opening for your defensive movement.

Sometimes we are too literal in our interpretation of kata. We should not limit ourselves to the specific movements in kata. In a real situation, we have to be able to do whatever works. Sometimes that might mean biting.

I must add a disclaimer. If you bite someone, you might contract a disease (or you could give the attacker one). I would only suggest the consideration of biting when there is no other way out.


Charles C. Goodin

Why So Good?

Why were the early Okinawans so good at Karate?

A friend of mine is from Hilo, on the Big Island (Hawaii). Hilo, particularly when he grew up, was a very quiet town. It still is.

When he grew up, my friend did two things: Judo and fishing. If he wasn't doing Judo, he would be fishing (or snorkling). Judo and fishing. Fishing and Judo. My friend was one of those Judoka who would wrap his obi around a tree and practice banging into it with his hips and legs to strengthen his throws.

It should not be too much of a surprise that my friend was very good at Judo and fishing.

Today we are so busy. Our lives are so filled with activities. When we are not watching television, we are on the internet. Children spend countless hours on their cellular phones.

Most of us do not live in towns like Hilo. Most of us do not just do Judo and fishing... or Karate.

Anyone can become skilled at Karate if he or she is willing to put in the necessary time and effort to become so. But so few people are willing to make such a commitment.


Charles C. Goodin

A Fine Instructor

The other day, a worker visited my office to service some equipment. Because of the photos in the Hawaii Karate Museum, the conversation turned to Karate. The man had studied martial arts when he was younger and was interested in starting Karate.

I knew that one of the workers in his company was a Shorin-Ryu instructor and mentioned his name. The man was surprised. He said that he had heard that his co-worker studied Karate, but did not realize that he was an instructor.

I said that he probably did not hear about him because he was a fine instructor -- one not prone to speaking about himself or letting others know about his Karate skills.

Being known makes most Karate instructors uncomfortable.


Charles C. Goodin

Ways to Move

I am going to state something obvious: there is is a big difference between hitting air and hitting a heavy bag.

Most of the time, we are hitting air in Karate. Unless we are pairing off with a partner or hitting a heavy bag, makiwara or even a log or rock, we are just hitting air. And really, hitting air is hitting nothing. There is no resistance (or so little that it does not count).

Why is this important? We generally practice kata in Karate to look "good" while hitting nothing. We are practicing "air" kata.

When you hit a heavy bag, your hand and body stops because of the impact. In fact, the bag kicks back. You have to brace your body for the impact. You have to punch through the bag, and lock up your muscles and joints so that you will not be knocked back.

If you hit air the same way, you would probably injure yourself. When hitting air, you have to adjust your timing so that there is a nice, clean "snap." This is like hitting the surface of the bag without penetrating it. How can you penetrate air? If you tried, you would probably throw out your shoulder.

So the timing and focus differ, depending on what you are hitting.

If you hit to look good, it probably will not work very well on a heavy bag or object. If you hit for impact, you probably will not look too good. One is pretty and one is ugly. Sometimes it is better to be ugly. I can just hear some of my senior friends. They would say that it is always better to be ugly.

Moving in different ways might present a problem for beginners. But advanced students can adjust their timing and focus according to what, if anything, they are hitting.


Charles C. Goodin


I studied Kenpo Karate under Florentino S. Pancipanci when I lived at Hickam Air Force Base. He taught at the adult recreation center. He also taught Tai Chi Chuan.

I remember one day that he gave a lecture about how everthing was connected. This was during a Tai Chi class, so we were wearing white T-shirts and black silky pants. He told us to look at the white T-shirts we wore.

He explained that the T-shirts might have been purchased from a store here in Hawaii, but the store purchased them from a factory in China that had made them. The factory had to purchase the cotton from farmers, who grew the cotton from seeds they may have purchased from a seed store. The farmers had planted the seeds in the ground, applied fertilier and water, used equipment -- all coming from different places.

The T-shirts also had printing. Again, the printing had to be done at the factory, but the factory had to purchase the ink from someone else. The ink might have been made from chemicals that, if you went far enough back, had been mined from the land. The ink had been applied using machines comprised of many parts made all around the world.

You could apply the same analysis to just about everthing. All things came from sources all around the world.

In the case of our shirts, the cotton had grown under the sunlight and water of a foreign land.

If you thought about it, were were surrounded by things from around the world, and if you traced each of these things back to their sources, there would literally be no end.

So a shirt was not just a shirt. It was so much more.

I took this to mean that we should appreciate the things around us. Each thing was the result of a process that spanned time and space.

If things are so special, how much more special are the people we meet.

In a similar way, the Karate we practice the is result of a process that spans time and space. Who could possibly know all the people (over the generations) and places that lead to the techniques and kata that we practice each day?

We should not take things for granted.


Charles C. Goodin

Zanshin -- Leave It...

My bother in law, Jayson Tanega, already read my post about Zanshin -- 100% Attention. Jayson is a great photopgrapher. See his website: tanega.net.

Jayson attended training at the Chozen-ji Temple during one of his high school summers. He remembers that "zanshin" meant "to leave it as you found it."

This made Furuyama Sensei's saying about a bird alighting on a pond make sense. When the bird flies away, the pond is not changed.


Charles C. Goodin

Furuyama Sensei and a Breath

I remember that Sensei Chiuchi Furuyama (Kendo and Iaido) had to go to the hospital for some sort of medical test. At that time, I was training with him at the Chozen-ji Temple in upper Kalihi.

Furuyama Sensei told me that his physician asked him to take a deep breath. He proceeded to inhale for over a minute! I am sure that he could have stretched out his breath much longer.

During Iaido, we were not supposed to breathe once the kata began. Only at the end of the kata would we exhale. No matter how long the kata was, we were not supposed to breathe. I say "supposed" because I breathed a lot! If I used only one breath, I would become light headed.

But Furuyama Sensei had great breath control.

The reason that we did not breathe during Iaido kata was that the tip of the sword would rise and fall with the breath.


Charles C. Goodin

Zanshin -- 100% Attention

"Zanshin" is often defined as a "lingering mind." I'm sorry, but that definition does not make too much sense to me. My Kendo Sensei, Chiuchi Furuyama (who taught at the Kaimuki dojo and the University of Hawaii, among other places) once told me that zanshin was like when a bird touches the surface of a pond and lifts off. I still have not idea what that means!

I think that zanshin is emphasized in sword arts. I primarily learned Iaido from Furuyama Sensei. When we performed a kata, we would visualize the attacker that we were cutting down. We would visualize his attack and our response. We would "see" each of our cuts as if they were really being made. At the end, when we returned the sword to its saya (sheath), we would keep our focus on the attacker, who lay dead on the ground. We would maintain awareness so that if he suddenly jumped up or attacked, we would be ready to cut him down again.

Our awareness "lingered" on the attacker. We did not let ourselves become distracted. Out attention was focused like a laser.

At the end of kata in Karate, when we return to our starting position, it is important to maintain zanshin. The kata is not over until the final bow (or whatever signifies completion in your system). As we are stepping back, we have be remain aware and ready to defend ourselves. We cannot let our attention wander. In fact, we are most vulnerable when we "think" things are over.

Even when we perform our final bow, we have to remain aware. The attacker could jump up and attack again. Someone else might attack us. A bus might come crashing through the wall. Who knows what could happen?

We must remain aware. We must be aware.

Of course, this is not something reserved only for the last movement of a kata. It applies all the time -- in the beginning, middle, and end of each movement. Zanshin is constant. We are vulnerable at any time there is a gap in our awareness, concentration and focus.

Taken further, we should not only reserve zanshin for kata. We should be aware before, during and after kata. We should be aware while in the dojo, but also before we arrive and after we leave. We should be aware at all times.

There is a teacher here in Hawaii named Masaichi Oshiro. He is retired now, but people who know or learned from him often comment that his eyes were like laser beams. I have met him and it is true. Come to think of it, people said that he had "steely eyes."

With a person like that, there is no opening. His zanshin is too great.

Sensei Chiuchi Furuyama passed away many years ago. I will always remember his warm smile and kindness. I never became skilled in Iaido or Kendo, but my first and third sons did take up Kendo. My first son was twice a member of Hawaii's team for the World Kendo Tournament. When he was just three years old, he would tag along with me to Iaido practice. Furuyama Sensei eventually let him use a small toy sword and copy us. My son probably does not remember Furuyama Sensei very well, but he helped to fuel his interest in Kendo and Iaido.


Charles C. Goodin

How Many Movements in a Kata?

I can't remember where I heard this, but it stuck in my mind.

How many movements are there in a kata? Take Naihanchi Shodan. How many movements are there? Take Kusanku. How many?

The anwer is "one." The only movement that counts in any kata is the movement that you are doing. The one that you just did is over. The one that comes next has not yet begun. Only the one you are doing counts. It requires 100% of your attention and effort. Thinking back or ahead only subtracts from the movement at hand.

Doing any movement with 100% of your attention and effort is the practice of kata. Kata is not simply the sequence or pattern. With one perfect movement, the kata is perfect.

Kata is not a question of how many but of how well.


Charles C. Goodin

Private Lessons

From time to time I am asked whether I teach private lessons. I usually just invite the person to join our class. After all, the monthly tuition is just $5 per month (the same as when I began training in Shorin-Ryu in the 1970s).

But if the person persists, I respectfully decline. I guess that I might consider giving private lessons if someone would make a big donation to the Hawaii Karate Museum, but otherwise, I have no interest.

But if I did give a private lesson, I wonder what I would teach? A student might expect to learn something advanced, particularly if they are paying a lot of money. They might want to learn Chinto or Kusanku or an advanced bo kata.

But I am pretty sure that I would decline. Instead, I would probably teach them how to relax, how to shift their weight, how to align their body, how to overload their weight in a direction in order to be able to move in that direction, how to step, how to shift/change their body alignment, and maybe if there is time, how to begin to use their koshi. That would probably take a few days just to begin.

I am sure that a person paying a lot of money would not want to learn such basic things. How could he tell his friends that he came all the way to Hawaii to learn to "step" or "relax." It would seem so trivial.

But the essence of Karate is in the basics. The more you break the movements down, the more the essence is revealed. Learning a kata such as Chinto, a student is dealing with complexity -- many advanced techniques. It may seem advanced, but really the "advanced" aspect of the kata is in the details, in the basics.

I like to think that all my students are receiving private lessons. I always try to teach what each student needs at his or her particular stage of learning. My class is very small, so there is a private feeling to it.

Would I teach someone Kusanku? Probably not. It is not my favorite kata.

I should add something that is very important. My two Shorin-Ryu Sensei have spent countless hours with me over the years (decades between them) -- and never accepted a penny (or yen) for their time or considerable effort. I was a very difficult student. It must have been very challenging for them. But they gave and give everything to me completely free of charge. I am just a student. They are real teachers.

How could I accept payment for private lessons when I have such fine and generous Sensei? It would be bachi.

It still would be OK is someone wants to make a gigantic donation to the Hawaii Karate Museum. We could name a wing after them! And they could always join our class.


Charles C. Goodin

Karate Terminology

Part of learning Karate is learning the terminology of the art. But since Karate originated in Okinawa, the original art was taught in the Ryukyu dialect (or perhaps even in Chinese). This dialect is usually called Hogen. But Mark Tankosich told me that Hogen actually refers to any dialect, not just the Ryukyu (or Okinawan) one(s).

When Karate was taught on mainland Japan, and even in Okinawa after the 1900's or so, the Japanese language was used to teach Karate. This is because the Japanese language was required to be spoken in the Okinawan school system. Speaking Hogen could get children, and even teachers, in trouble.

So today, most of the terminology of Karate is in Japanese. When we refer to a punch as a tsuki and a kick as a keri, we are using Japanese terms.

But there is nothing special or magic about the Japanese language. It is only helpful to use the Japanese language when visitors come from Japan or we go there.

My point is that a punch is a punch, whether you call it a tsuki or even a goose. The technique is what counts, not the term.

When the early Karate writers described the art, the had to come up with terminology to describe the movements. I understand that in the early days, there were very few terms to describe the art. There certainly were not terms to describe each and every movement and technique.

But writers being writers, it was easy for them to come up with terms. They described the movements using their own everyday language. A kick was simply a kick, or keri. When you kicked with the tips of your toes (tsumasaki) you did a tsumasaki geri. This simply means "tip of toe kick."

Sometimes the techniques were cloaked in swordsmanship terms, probably to make Karate more appealing to the Japanese. When we execute a nukite (spear hand) we are actually using our yubisaki (fingertips). When we execute a shuto (sword hand), we really are not using a sword, we are using the side of our hand.

A gedan uke is simply a downward block. There is nothing special about it. What is special is knowing how to do it well. If you do it well, you could call it a "duck."

Sensei Morio Higaonna told me that in Hogen, the word for "kiai" is "yagi", which means "voice arrow." Your voice pierced like an arrow. I like that very much.

Using words is necessary. But words do not mean that you can actually do the technique. They are just words. And there is a real risk that words can limit our understanding of a technique.

Take uraken, for example. This literally means "back fist." But you do not hit with the back of your fist. You hit with your knuckles. The back of your fist is filled with small bones. It is easy to suffer fractures in this area. The knuckles are much stronger.

You might also call an uraken a "club fist" because it is like hitting with a club. But it actually is not like hitting with a club at all. You must flex your wrist during uraken. Your wrist is not kept straight. "Club fist" gives the wrong idea.

Perhaps it might be better to call the technique "a whipping strike with the back of the fist but using the knuckles." But, of course, that would be too long. So we will continue to use the term uraken -- and try to remind our students about how to properly execute the technique.

Please don't get me wrong. It is good to understand Karate terminology. But is is equally important to understand the limitations of terminology, and that words are just words. Ability is what counts, in any language.

Be careful that someone does not hit you in the nose with a duck.


Charles C. Goodin

Donation by Sensei Patrick McCarthy

Aloha, the Hawaii Karate Museum recently received a generous donation of a 14 part DVD series by Sensei Patrick McCarthy. I thought that our readers would enjoy seeing the covers (you can click them for larger versions). I actually learned something just from the covers!

Secrets of Okinawan Karate & Kobudo (DVDs #1 - #14), by Patrick McCarthy. International Ryukyu Karate Research Society (koryu-uchinadi.com). Published by Rising Sun Productions Inc. (risingsunproductions.net).

Yakusoku Kumite
Drills #1

Arakaki Seisan

Yamane Ryu
Bojutsu #3

Kenpo Jutsu #4

Kata Bunkai
Part I #5

Kata Bunkai
Part II #6

Kata Bunkai
Part III #7

Kata Bunkai
Part IV #8

Koryu Uchinadi
Nyumon #9

Source of Karate

Kansetsu Tuite
Waza #11

Waza #12

Nage Waza #13

Ne Waza #14


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: One Reason Why I Train

This Guest Post is by my friend, Mark Tankosich, who has dan rankings in both Sho-ha Shorin-ryu karate and Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei jodo. Along with the martial arts, his passions include the Japanese language. He currently lives and teaches in Hiroshima, Japan.

Mark is the author of Karate Ni Sente Nashi: What the Masters Had to Say and Japanese Ego Negation and the Achievement of Self, which are hosted at the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai website. He has also published English translations of Japanese Karate articles.

- - - - - - - - - -

A couple of years ago, I "realized" (not intellectually, but more of what the Japanese call "jikkan," or "really feel") something that I'd like to write about today. I don't know how well I can explain it, so please bear with me.

As I've mentioned in a previous blog, my instructor of many years is in the United States, while I'm in Japan. Because I've been unwilling to change instructors, almost all of my practice takes place alone, on a river bank near my home. I stay in touch with my sensei via phone calls, videos, and occasional visits by him or by me, but basically it's just me, a few days a week out on the riverbank. The summer heat can be amazing, the winter cold is not insignificant, and of course, there are times when I either train in the rain or not at all. I should also add that living in a foreign country comes with plenty of isolation as it is, let alone engaging in a solitary activity like I do.

So with all this, it's not hard to understand, I think, that I might sometimes ask myself, "why?" Why in the heck am I doing this? Japan is probably the safest industrialized country in the world and I am significantly bigger than almost all Japanese people anyway, so there's not really much concern for self-defense. And surely it'd be more fun (maybe even more healthy!) to spend my time with other people. So what are my reasons? Obviously, there are many reasons why folks like us continue with our training, and a couple of years ago I had an experience that helped me to really understand what one of mine is.

Without going into the details, at that time I had to undergo a medical procedure that involved the doctor putting a camera down my throat. At first I was fine, but it took much longer than I expected, and about half way through I was on the verge of panic. I could feel the camera in me, I could hardly breath, and I was sure that I was about to choke on my own saliva. And then, it hit me: "This is why I train. I have the strength to deal with this because I train." Somehow, I found something inside of me (no, not the camera!) that I instinctively knew was a result of my efforts on the riverbank, and I was OK. I was still uncomfortable, but I was OK.

When I later thought about it, it seemed to me that the hardships (or more accurately, fighting the hardships) involved in my workouts (the weather, the loneliness, my own laziness, etc.) actually contributed in a positive way to the development of whatever it was that I found while laying there on the exam table, semi-choking and on the verge of panicking.

As I wrote above, there are lots of reasons why I and others like me continue to train, year after year. Knowing your own reasons makes it easier, I think, to persevere over the long run.

Mark Tankosich

Prescription Drugs

In Karate-No! Program and Drugs -- Medications, I wrote about some of my thoughts about drug and alcohol abuse, particularly how these should be avoided by Karate students.

In the second post, I tried to clarify, for younger readers, that when I write about drug abuse, I mean illegal drugs. I did not want children to think that they should avoid the medicines that are prescribed by their doctors.

I received an email from a reader urging me to further clarify my views (which I am very happy to do). I appreciate the input because it is important to be clear on this very important subject.

While it is true that doctors prescribe many useful medications for us, we must be very careful to follow their instructions very carefully. We must take the medications when, how, and how often the doctor tells us.

Also, it is extremely important that we only take our own medications. We should not take other people's medications. Other people's medication might be good for them (because of their illness or condition), but could harm us. For example, if your mother became ill and her doctor gave her a certain medication, you should not take that medication if you also become ill. It is possible that you have a different illness. In addition, your mother's medication was prescribed for her. It may be too strong for a child or may even be dangerous.

So, you should be careful to only take your own medication -- and you should not let other people take your medications either. The only person who should be giving medications to anyone is a licensed physician.

When we think of drugs, we usually think about the pills the doctor gives us. But other things can affect us. Alcohol is a good example. Drinking alcohol is like taking a drug. Smoking is also like taking a drug. Smoking a cigarette puts chemicals into your body. Even too much sugar can harm your body. It is important to eat and drink healthy foods.

There is also another kind of drug -- over the counter drugs. You can go to the drugstore and buy all sorts of drugs. It is easy, for example, to buy drugs to help you lose weight or even to gain weight. Just because a drug can be purchased does not mean that it is safe and will not harm you. Even legal drugs can cause problems.

And over the counter drugs (the kind you buy at the drugstore) can interact with the medications that our doctors give us. That is why it is very important to let you doctor know what kinds of drugs you are taking (even the ones you buy at the drugstore).

My own practice is to avoid all drugs unless they are really necessary. I do take two medications for my allergies. That is it.

At one time, I was prescribed medications for high choloesterol. I took them for a couple of months, but then decided that I really did not want to. I asked my doctor if there was any other way to deal with my high cholesterol. He said that through diet and exercise I could lower my bad cholesterol and raise my good cholesterol. So I got to work. I watched my diet and trained harder. As a result, I got in better shape and no longer had to take the cholesterol medications.

So, please avoid illegal drugs. Only take the medications that the doctor prescribes for you (and follow his instructions carefully). Do not take other people's medications and do not let other people take your medications. Be careful with the drugs that you can buy at the drugstore. Even legal drugs can cause problems. Ask you doctor (and parents) about this. Finally, even if you have to take drugs (because your doctor has prescribed them for you), ask your doctor if there are other good ways to deal with your medical problem. If it is possible to be healthy and avoid taking any drugs at all, that is the best.

Though Karate training, we can improve our health. But physical training is not enough. We must also make healthy choices in our lives.


Charles C. Goodin

"Old Style" Karate

Yesterday, I spoke to the widow of one of Hawaii's first post-war Karate Sensei. Near the end of our conversation, she said, "Thank you for preserving the 'old style' Karate."

Aftewards, I thought about what "old style" Karate meant. I have used the term myself. I guess that what constitutes "old" depends on your frame of reference. I think in terms of the 1920s and 1930s -- the days when Kentsu Yabu, Choki Motobu, Mizuho Mutsu, Kamesuke Higashionna, and Chojun Miyagi came to Hawaii. They taught some of Hawaii's earliest students, such as Seishin Uehara, Thomas Shigeru Miyashiro, Taro Azama, and Kiyoshi Kiyabu.

Others might consider the 1950s and 1960s to be "old style." These where the days when GIs and government workers returned to Hawaii after learning Karate while stationed in Japan and Okinawa.

Others might think of the days when the early Shotokan instructors come to Hawaii, starting with Kiyoshi Aihara in the late 1950s, and followed by Hirokazu Kanazawa, Masataka Mori and Tetsuhiko Asai in the 1960s.

In my mind, "old style" Karate was value based -- character was the goal, not only self-defense skills. "Old style" Karate was not commercial or sport based -- these "innovations" came later. Actually, the commercialism of Karate gave rise to the sport aspect. If Karate is a business, you need to promote it, you need to get the public's attention. Tournaments are a good way to get and keep students.

In "old style" Karate there was no tuition (or it was very inexpensive, almost a token) and there were no tournaments. Karate was a private matter. Masters were know for their expertise in certain kata or aspects of the art. Students would often be referred by their Sensei to train with other experts. Karate was not a business. There was no issue of losing business.

In Okinawa, Karate experts -- the very best of them -- were know as bushi. I wrote an article entitled Okinawa's Bushi: Karate Gentlemen. I hope that you will read it. Okinawa's bushi were the "old style" Karate masters.

You do not have to be old to be "old style." And an old person could be very commercial and sport oriented. It all depends on the person.

I sincerely hope that the "old style" of Karate will be preserved -- that traditional values will continue to be taught. I am trying to do a small part through the Hawaii Karate Museum, the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai, and my dojo, the Hikari Dojo.

Each of us , in our daily lives, can practice and preserve "old style" Karate.


Charles C. Goodin

A Teaching Problem

I realize that I have a teaching problem.

The more advanced I become (because of the number of years I have practiced), the more I want to concentrate on teaching the fine points, the smallest details. I would be perfectly happy spending an entire class on how to shift weight, or how to step, even how to turn from one body alignment to another. In fact, I have spent many classes, even weeks on these and other fine points.

But it is also good for students to practice all the kata over and over, to punch and kick in stationary and moving positions, to pair off, to practice breakfalls, to practice kobudo, etc. There are so many things that we could do... and should do.

The problem is that I hate to see students making mistakes. I realize that we all make mistakes, but I feel that it is important to teach the proper form. Then doing kata over and over is good. But doing kata with mistakes only reinforces those mistakes, in my opinion.

But I do realize that there is value in a good workout. It is good to stand in a puddle of sweat with a gi soaking wet, and you cannot do that if you are spending time on the fine points.

I think that this is one reason that it is good for the senior instructor to let other instructors lead the class. The senior might work on the fine points with selected students, while the rest of the class gets a good workout.

It is just that I really do hate to see mistakes... because every mistake in the dojo, whether done by a student or an instructor, is my own.


Charles C. Goodin

All Other Things Being Equal...

All other things being equal...

  • The bigger person will win,
  • The stronger person will win,
  • The faster person will win,
  • The more determined person will win,
  • The more skilled person will win.
Of course, all other things are usually not equal. Through skill and determination, Karate can enable a person to overcome a bigger, stronger, and faster attacker. But we have to be realistic. Size, strength, and speed are each considerable advantages. When combined, the advantage is very difficult to overcome.

There are other advantages we must also consider.
  • A person who has the element of surprise will usually win,
  • An armed person will usually win,
  • A person with friends backing him up will usually win.
The techniques of Karate should only be used as a last resort. Avoidance of conflict is the foundation of the art. If there is no way to avoid conflict, then you have to consider the many things that may not be equal.


Charles C. Goodin

Koshi -- Cracking the Whip

If you have ever cracked a whip or a wet towel, you will have seen that there are at least two phases to the process. Let's use the wet towel as an example.

First, you throw the towel forward. I wind the towel and hold the thicker end in my right hand (I am right handed). I hold the thin end in my left hand (this is the end that I will hit with). Then I throw the towel forward with my right hand, almost like a shuto movement or a side ura ken (backhand).

When the thin end is almost at its target, I pull back with my right hand. This makes the thin end whip forward at the end -- crack!

Here is my point. Most of the energy was put into the towel during the first phase. You use your arm, and perhaps even your whole body, to throw the towel forward. The entire towel -- its entire mass -- moves forward.

For the cracking part, you only need to use your wrist. That small motion accelerates the end (tip) and makes it crack.

The first phases is a big motion that takes time. The second phase is a small motion that is very quick.

When executing a movement in Karate, there are also two phases (usually). The first phase involves getting your whole body behind a punch or strike, and moving the striking hand and arm toward the target. This is a big motion that takes time. The second phase is like cracking the whip or towel. Using your koshi (as broadly defined), you set (vibrate, shake) the motion so that it accelerates. This is a small motion done very quickly.

There are two phases. You need both.

If you only strike using the first phase, you will lack speed. If you only strike using the second phase, you will lack power. You need the first phase for power and the second for speed (which also increases the power).

Koshi is like a blasting cap. It sets off the dynamite -- but it is not the dynamite. Perhaps another way to look at it is to say that the koshi helps the dynamite to not only explode, but enables it to be focused in the desired direction as well.

Koshi is like the snap of the wrist that makes the wet towel crack at the end. If you only snap your wrist without throwing the towel forward first, there will be no crack. You need both.

I think that 80 percent of the power comes from the first phase -- by moving forward, by pressing, by shifting and turning your body, by thrusting your arm forward, etc. Only 20% comes from the second phase. However, the second phase greatly increases the speed of the movement. By hiding the first phase, the second phase is so quick that the attacker cannot react to it (ideally).

Again, you have to hide the first phase as much and as long as possible. By the time you "throw, snap, twitch" your koshi, it is too late for the attacker to react.

It is good to practice with a wet towel. If you can whip the towel, you can learn to whip your movements. Just remember that the base of the whip is your core (trunk), not your arm. The snapping movement takes place in your koshi, not your arm. Your arm/hand is the thin part of the towel.


Charles C. Goodin

Vocabulary Word Assignment

I have previously posted a link to the Top 100 SAT Vocabulary Words.

Here is an assignment (mostly for kids). I would like you to list the words (from that list) that describe how a Karate student (or instructor) should be, and those that describe how he should not be.

  • A Karate student/instructor should be:
  • A Karate student/instructor should not be:
Please email your list to me at goodin@hawaii.rr.com.

I will complile the lists and post them in a few days!


Charles C. Goodin

Drugs -- Medications

Some of the readers of this Blog might be children. So I thought that I should clarify my statements about drugs. See: Karate-No! Program.

When I say that Karate students should avoid drug abuse, I am referring to illegal drugs such as marijuana, inhalants, ice, ecstasy, crack, etc. I am referring to the types of drugs that can get you arrested by the police.

There are many medications that our physicians might prescribe (give to us). For example, I take medications for allergies. These might be called drugs, but they are not illegal drugs. They are legal and designed to help us to be healthy.

When I say that Karate students should avoid drug abuse, I mean that they should avoid the use of illegal drugs. Illegal drugs can harm you physically, can lead to arrest and even imprisonment, and should be avoided.

A final note, students should also be very careful with all types of medications. Children should listen to their parents and follow their instructions about any medications (when to take them, how many to take, whether to take them on an empty or full stomach, etc.). Even adults should be very careful. Sometimes over the counter medicines, such as decongestants, can interact in unexpected ways with prescription medications.

Avoid illegal drugs and be very careful with all forms of medications.

Karate does not only involve defending yourself, it also involves taking care of yourself.

See: Prescription Drugs.


Charles C. Goodin

Karate-No! Program

One of the activities of the Hikari Institute (the parent of the Hawaii Karate Museum), is the Karate-No! Program. The purpose of the Karate-No! Program is to encourage Karate students to make healthy decisions in life and to avoid drug and alcohol abuse.

What is the connection between Karate and drug and alcohol abuse? Karate is part of a healthy lifestyle.

I can remember times, however, and have heard many instances when going out drinking was almost assumed to be part of Karate training. After a rigorous night of training, sometimes teachers and students would go out to drink. Sometimes this could last into the early hours of the morning.

For younger students, it might be hard to avoid going out. There might be pressure from the seniors and from peers. With families and work, this could present some problems, not to mention being unhealthy.

I wonder how many high level Karate instructors have suffered poor health because of drinking? In addition, I wonder how many of these instructors have suffered family and work problems as a result of excessive drinking?

Have you ever seen a person when he was completely drunk? It is not a pretty picture. It does not matter whether the drunkard is a 1st kyu or a 10th dan. It does not matter that the person has no recollection of what they did or said. People will remember how he acted while drunk.

As Karate students, we must be in control of our actions. We must also be responsible for what we do and say. Drunkenness is no excuse. We cannot go back and undo things that we might have done while drunk.

I am not saying that a person should not drink alcohol at all. But there is a big difference between one or two drinks in a social setting and drinking until one is intoxicated.

And even one or two drinks can impair one's ability to drive. How many innocent people have been killed or injured by drunken drivers?

I also wonder how many fights have taken place because of drinking? If a Karate expert is drunk, he can still inflict great harm, even kill someone.

A Karate student cannot afford to be impaired, either because of alcohol or drugs.

Personally, I do not drink, smoke, or take drugs. I have neither the time nor the money for these things. Between my family, work, Karate training, and Karate research, there are already too few hours in the day.

I have to admit that I sipped a beer and puffed a cigarette when I was a youth. I did not like either. I have never tried any drugs. I am not saying that I am a saint. I simply have many better things to do with my life.

I remember a Karate student. He was really strong for five minutes. Then he would begin to huff and puff because he smoked. How could his Karate improve if he kept smoking?

I sometimes say that some people take better care of their cars than they do themselves.

Avoid alcohol, drugs, and smoking. Try to become as healthy and in as good condition as you can. Remember that you are responsible for your actions and that you are a representative of your Sensei, dojo, and the art of Karate. Karate is (should be) part of a healthy lifestyle.

See: Drugs -- Medications and Prescription Drugs.


Charles C. Goodin

Lower Your Shoulders

I have often written that lowering your shoulders is part of the overall posture for Karate. Many students have a bad habit of raising their shoulders when they execute a technique. This generally means that they are trying to use too much power, particularly with their arms and shoulders.

But when I say that you should lower your shoulders, I do not simply mean that you should lower them if they are raised -- I mean that you should lower them even if they are in a normal position. Starting from a normal position, you should press your shoulders down. Even when executing a technique, you should have this feeling.

Notice that I said that you should "press" your shoulders down. You should not overly tighten your muscles as this will make it difficult for you to move.

In a similar way, you press your koshi "up" and squeeze your lats "in".

The compression formed from such pressing and squeezing, makes it possible to generate power using your entire body as a whole, rather than as separate parts.


Charles C. Goodin

Very Aggressive At...

I am a pretty calm person. There is one thing, however, at which I was extremely aggressive -- taking tests.

In undergraduate school, business school, and especially at law school, I was a test taking terror. I would gear my entire semester on being prepared for the final examinations. In law school, there often was only the final examination, no other tests or assignments during the term. As such, your entire grade would be based on that single examination.

I would study intensely for exams, and would make up songs that I could memorize and sing in my head with the names of all the major cases applicable to the subject. As soon as the test would begin, I would sing the song and write down all the case names. As the test progressed, I would be sure to include the relevant cases.

Test taking was like a tournament to me. I not only attacked the test, I attacked the person who wrote the test. I tried to see what it was he or she wanted/expected the students to say. If I could see that, the test was far easier.

I don't think linearly. The law, to me, was like floating, colored shapes. There were patterns, but sometimes seemingly unconnected things were connected. If you let the shapes move, you could see these connections.

I have to say that I was a test monster. They were my single focus and I directed all my energies to them. During a test I would not allow myself to be distracted for even a second. My attention was like a razor.

When it comes to daily life, I try to be very calm and peaceful. When it came to tests, I was extremely aggressive.

I also challenged myself by taking many courses in undergraduate school. One semester I took 7 classes. As a result, I graduated in three years rather than four and was able to get a master's degree with only five years of study overall.

As Karate students, we are often challenged physically. Through hard training, we can meet such challanges. But we can also use the same determination we learn in Karate to excel at school and work.

Karate training can enable you to give superhuman effort when needed.


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Kiai and a Barking Dog

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 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.

- - - - - - - - - -

When I first started karate training in Okinawa Shorin-ryu, I noticed that there was no kiai (shout). After a few days, I asked Chibana Sensei the reason why there was no kiai. Chibana Sensei explained that in the old days, karate training was done in secret, so silence was necessary. He continued that "ki" means spiritual or internal energy and "ai" means to meet. Kiai, then is the precise moment (meeting) when the internal and external energy is brought together. Kiai is synonymous with kime. Kiai can be done with no sound, but with a strong exhale. Kiai and kime then is the instant when the neurological and physical response become one.

One day, as we (Chibana Sensei and I) walked to my car from Chibana Sensei's home, we heard the barking of a dog behind us. As the barking got closer, we turned and saw what I think was a German shepherd dog running at us in full stride. I took a kamae (ready position) to time the attack.

Just as the dog started to leap, Chibana Sensei stepped in front of me, extended his arms with an open hand and with the same timing, let out a kiai. The kiai was like a shriek and at the same time a growl, which sent a cold chill up my spine and the hair on my head stood up. The dog looked like it hit an invisible wall, spun in mid-air, landed yelping as if being hit, and took off running. I was in awe. I asked Sensei about what he had just done. Sensei turned to me, smiled, and said, "Kiai."

Pat Nakata

Sensei -- Human Beings

In the oriental culture, students tend to revere their Sensei. In some ways this is good, but in other ways it is bad.

We must never forget that Sensei are human beings, not gods.

Take Jigoro Kano, Gichin Funakoshi, and Morihei Ueshiba. Each was a great martial artists, but not a god. If they were gods, then there is no chance for us to learn Judo, Karate or Aikido. But if they were human beings and we train just as hard, long, and intelligently as they did, then we should be able to obtain the same or similar results.

The problem is that most people are not willing to make such a great effort.

A Sensei is a human being. If another human being does something, I should be able to do the same thing -- within limits. Obviously, I am not going to be able to jump up and dunk a ball like a 7 foot tall basketball player.

My Sensei is amazing. But the more I learn from him, the less I am amazed. This may sound strange to say.

When I first met him, I was amazed by everything that he did. That was because I did not understand anything that he did!

Over the years, as he has taught me and I have practiced, I have begun to realize what he was doing -- and how he was doing it. I am no longer amazed. He was not doing magic. He had learned how to move, had practiced, and thus could do it.

What he could do would only be amazing to someone who did not understand what he was doing, and the time and effort he had put into learning to do it.

Instead of being amazed, I am impressed (and grateful). I think that my Sensei is a Karate genius -- but still a human being.

If he is a god, then I have no chance. But if he is a human being, even a Karate genius, I might have a chance -- if I try hard enough, long enough, and smart enough.

We should not worship or pray to our Sensei. We should do our best to learn from them. What is required is hard work -- unlike the heavens, that is something within our own control.


Charles C. Goodin

Learning Kata - Phases

When a student is learning kata, it is important that he learn each movement very precisely. Each movement, each stance, each sequence, etc. must be learned exactly.

It is like learning your alphabets in pre-school. The letter "A" must come first, then the letter "B", etc. The letters must be in the proper order. There is a proper sequence to the strokes for each letter. The student must learn the upper case and lower case versions.

At this phase, the student is memorizing the letters -- or the kata.

It takes me a long time to learn kata. I cannot learn by watching the kata just a couple of times. I have to go over it again and again. Sometimes it take me months. But then I will remember it pretty much forever. Sometimes students who learn quickly also forget quickly. When I learn a kata, it goes into my long term memory.

But once the "learning" phase is over -- by this I mean the phase of learning the details and sequences of the kata -- then there are other learning phases. The student has to learn what each and every movement of the kata means (bunkai or imi). How can each movement be used in the event of an attack? How can the movements be combined? What works best?

When movements are combined, they are like words. When we use words during conversation, the assumption is that we know that they mean. Otherwise we are just making "baby talk" or gibberish.

In the same way, when we perform a kata, the assumption is that we know what each movement in the kata means. Otherwise, what are we doing?

Another phase has to do with body dynamics, movement, alignment, flow, etc. This entails learning how to do the kata -- not just how each movement should look. If you took photographs of a kata, you would probably have movements 1, 2, 3, though 25 or whatever. There are 25 movements in this kata.

But really, there are thousands of movements. How do you get from movement 1 to movement 2? This is a process. You have to shift your weight, move your center of gravity, move your feet, change the alignment of your body, and execute the technique that ends up as movement 2. Between each movement there are a world of movements!

A beginner must learn movements exactly. An advanced student must learn things generally. It is not enough to "know" a particular movement. You have to know all movements that are within the same same range of movement. If a kata provides for a punch to the chest, you have to be able to punch at any height. You have to be able to improvise.

Advanced students have to learn to break from from the structure of kata. That said, they will continue to use that structure as a reference.

I was asked to perform Gojushiho at my friend's dojo. When I finished the kata, I was facing the wrong direction. I have no idea how that happened. I realize that I must have made a wrong turn (or forgot to turn), but I was "zoned out" during the kata. I was more occupied with the flow and feel of the kata rather than the specifics.

If a beginner makes a mistake in a kata, they usually get embarrassed. They are still learning the details.

When an advanced student makes a "mistake" in a kata, I wonder what they were seeing in their mind? Did the attacker move? Did the terrain change?

Honestly, when I make a mistake in a kata, I think it is funny!

If I am practicing with my Sensei and he makes a mistake in kata, it is not a mistake. If he punches twice rather than three times, I will do the same. I will perform the kata as he does it. He is the Sensei and I am the student. If he changes from one kata to another in the middle, I will do the same. It would be like a singer switching from one song to another.

My Sensei cannot make a mistake in kata. He does the kata, I follow. If he switches kata in the middle and I continue with the first kata, then I am the one making the mistake.

If my Sensei asks, "Did I make a mistake?", I would say, "Oh, did you?"

When you are in pre-school, you should be printing the alphabet. But when you are in college, you should be writing essays or even books!

I went to college for 8 years. I have been practicing Karate for much longer than that! What forms of expression should my kata take?


Charles C. Goodin

600 Posts


This is just a note to let everyone know that we have passed the 600 post mark. This post should actually be number 605!

Thank you very much for your support -- especially to those who have let me know that they have read every single post (pretty amazing).

By the way, if you go to Google.com and enter the search terms, "karate blog", please note which site comes up first. I'll save you some time. Here are the search results. I like the 3rd listing too!


Charles C. Goodin

Countering Intricate Techniques

Sometimes I show joint locks and intricate techniques to my students. There is a lot to learn in Karate and such techniques are part of the overall curriculum.

However, whenever I show such a technique I usually mention that an effective counter is to grab the attacker around the waist or chest and forcefully throw him to the ground (or against a wall, into a corner, onto furniture, etc.). There, you would proceed to pound, kick and stomp him. Even if you cannot grab the attacker, you might be able to crash your body into his. Spearing the attacker with your shoulder usually works pretty well.

If someone applies a joint lock to you, there probably is a counter. But if you do not know the counter or if it is too late to apply it, sometimes a crude, rough technique works the best.

Many martial artists do not know how to handle being slammed to the ground or into an object.


Charles C. Goodin

Sai Ring

Earlier this year, I wrote about a miniature Sai For Key Ring. Today I saw a sai ring on ebay. Hurry, you can get a ring with the image of a sai on it.

I am constantly amazed by the "Karate" things for sale.

I imagine that if someone wanted to attack you, you could show him your sai ring. "Wait, I have a sai ring," you might say.

"Do you have any sai with you?" the attacker might ask (assuming he even knows what sai are).

If you don't have actual sai with you, I don't thing that the sai ring will provide much of a defense.

Perhaps it might be better to have a ring with the image of a shotgun on it.


Charles C. Goodin


This is a small point. If I address a letter like this:

"Dear Smith Sensei"

it reflects a certain distance. Perhaps I do not know Smith Sensei too well.

If Smith Sensei were my own Sensei, I would be more likely to write:

"Dear Sensei"

If I used his surname, he might feel that I was being too formal.

But I would never write:

"Dear Bill (or Sam, etc.)"

That would be too informal (in a traditional sense).

When you are close enough to address your sensei as "Sensei," you are lucky!


Charles C. Goodin

Question Everything (Politely)

I am hapa, half Caucasian and half Japanese. My father was born in Georgia and my mother was born in Fukuoka (on the island of Kyushu in Japan). Because of my mixed race and background, I tend to view things in a mixed way.

As an American, whenever I hear something, I question it. Why is it so? Is it true? Who says so? Are there exceptions? My mind races with questions.

As a semi-Japanese, whenever I hear something, I accept it, particularly if the statement is by a senior. I think, "yes, yes."

Actually, my views are even more extreme. On one side, I disagree with just about everything. If someone says, "you should do this," I will want to do just the opposite. On my other side, I am more likely to blindly follow authority.

It can drive you a little crazy.

In Karate, how are we to react when our Sensei tells us something? In the Japanese style, the student should say, "Yes Sensei," and accept it. In the American way, the student might start asking questions.

In the old Japanese teaching system, there was really no place for questions. The teachers taught and the students listened. If a student asked a question, the teacher might take it as a sign of disrespect or as a challenge of his authority. The teacher might snap back, "I expained that already! You should have listened!"

If a Karate student asked his Sensei, "does that technique really work?" the Sensei might proceed to demonstrate the technique on the student (in a particularly painful manner).

In Karate, we have to walk a fine line of being respectful and also asking good questions. If we really do not understand something, I feel that it is best to ask a question. However, this might be handled best in private, unless the Sensei has expressed or shown a willingness to address questions in open class.

We should ask the questions in a respectful way. I tend to phrase questions in terms of my own lack of understanding. I might say, "I am sorry Sensei, but I did not quite understand that. Could you please explain it again?" I would not say, "Sensei, that made no sense!" or "you said something different yesterday!"

I do not like blind obedience to anything or anyone. I feel that it is best to question everything (politely). If you wrestle with a question and come to an understanding, you will truly understand the subject. But if you simply accept a statement, you have merely memorized it.

In addition, there is a tendency in some Karate schools to almost worship the Sensei. If a Sensei abuses his position and acts irresponsibly, a student has to have the good sense to recognize it. Can you imagine possible the consequences of blind obedience to an "bad" Sensei? A Sensei is a person. So are you.

Again, I also believe that it is important to be polite. Most Sensei are kind, genuine people. But even then, blind obedience is dangerous, and will not help you to understand Karate.

A teacher who is afraid of questions probably does not have the answers. In constrast, a teacher who is willing to accept questions probably knows the answers or is willing to find them.

Questioning in part of the learning process. Even when you become the Sensei, you will continue to question things and yourself. (Hopefully.)

But I don't expect you to accept what I say -- I wouldn't.


Charles C. Goodin

Slow and Steady

I really enjoyed Sensei Pat Nakata's Guest Post entitled Mada, Mada, Mada.

Some students are very enthusiastic. As instructors, we should encourage this. But Karate is a lifelong practice. Sensei Shoshin Nagamine compared it to a marathon rather than a sprint.

It is good to train hard and enthusiastically. It is more important to train dilligently for the long term.

The same is true in other activities. Take weightlifting, for example. You could lift extremely heavy weights every day for two weeks, but that will not make you a good weightlifter. In two weeks, your body will not have time to grow stronger. You will just exhaust and possibly injure yourself.

It is more important to follow a disciplined course of lifting, designed to develop your overall body, and to coordinate this will a healthy diet and lifestyle.

In Karate, the question is not how much or how intensely you can train for one year or even ten years, but how well you can train for your entire life.

An important consideration is the wear and tear of Karate training on your body. It makes no sense to train so hard that you injure yourself, tear your muscles and tendons, strain your joints, break your bones, injure your back, develop arthritis, etc. Sometimes, the results of overtraining, or improper training, will not show up for years of even decades.

When you are in your 20s and 30s, you should already be planning for how you would like to be in your 70s! I think that the Tai Chi instructors do an excellent job of this. Look at a 70 year old Karate instructor and a 70 year old Tai Chi instructor. Who is in better health? Who is more agile?

Of course, the answer depends on how they trained. Slow and steady is my recommendation.


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Menjo, Menkyo, Kaiden

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 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.

- - - - - - - - - -

I heard the term "Menkyo Kaiden" on my first trip to Japan. I asked Ohtsuka Hironori Shihan (Founder of Wado-ryu Karate) about the meaning of "Menkyo Kaiden". Ohtsuka Shihan explained that menkyo was originally a part of the ranking system in some of the old martial arts. Menkyo was also a certification and Menkyosho was a certificate. He further explained kaiden as a title that was given to a student that had learned all the techniques of the master and meant "equal to the master." A Menkyo Kaiden was normally a makimono (scroll) which was the transmission of the secret techniques (usually in drawings) given by the Master to the successor.

When I went to Okinawa, I was still unclear about the meaning of menkyo kaiden. I asked Chibana Sensei (Head of the Okinawa Shorin-ryu Karate-do Association) and he gave me the following explanation:

In Okinawan karate, the term menjo (diploma) was used, rather than menkyo. A "Shihan no Menjo" (expert teacher/master diploma/certificate) was awarded in place of a menkyo kaiden. A Shihan no Menjo superceded ranking in determining seniority. The transmission of techniques was through the kata. A recipient of a Shihan no Menjo would be able to demonstrate the various meaning and the corresponding applications of all the movements (techniques) of all the kata. Till today, I am not 100% clear about the difference (if any) between menjo and menkyo.

Pat Nakata

Guest Post: Mada, Mada, Mada

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 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.

- - - - - - - - - -

It was true that Chibana Sensei was never completely satisfied with anyone's kata, not even his own. He always said, "Mada, mada, mada." (Not yet/still to be.) He never complained about students not training hard enough. He encouraged all his students to train hard, but cautioned everyone not to overdo their training.

He gave this analogy: If you made the makiwara too rigid, it would be difficult to hit with many repetitions and nor would you want to hit it. But if you made the makiwara softer, it would be easier to hit and you would hit it more. In other words, make it hard enough so it is meaningful to hit, but soft enough so you are more willing to hit it.

Training should be approached in the same manner.

Pat Nakata

"China Hand"

My friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, is very good about teaching me the history, culture, and traditions of Okinawa Karate. He is also very patient. Sometimes he tells me the same thing, spaced out over many months or even years. Then, I will "suddenly" get what he is saying. (I will get it suddenly, even if he has told me many times.)

Here is the latest gem. Nakata Sensei has told me often that his Sensei, Chosin Chibana, would talk about Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu and say that Goju-Ryu more closely reflected Chinese techniques. This made sense, since the Goju-Ryu founders and pioneers had more recently studied in China. Shorin-Ryu was older in the sense that the contact with Chinese teachers had taken place longer ago.

But that was not exactly it. Shorin-Ryu, according to Nakata Sensei, featured techniques that were largely developed in Okinawa. This Okinawan art was known as Te, or Ti, or Di. What the Okinawans adopted from the Chinese was the kata system -- not necessarily the techniques. Shorin-Ryu reflects the Okinawa art using the Chinese kata method of teaching.

That being so, it would make sense that the Shorin-Ryu kata would not necessarily exist in China. If the techniques of the Okinawan art were placed in the kata format, the kata themselves would have been new.

This might also explain why the Shorin-Ryu techniques do not always have Chinese counterparts. Shorin-Ryu is not simply Chinese martial arts taught in Okinawa.

I know that this is an obvious point, but it was one of those "Oh I get it" moments for me. "Tote" or "Tudi" meant China Hand. What this really meant was the Chinese approach with the Okinawan techniques... or generally.

Of couse, Okinawans did learn from Chinese instructors. They would have learned a wide range of techniques. But they would have also known their own Okinawan art. It is that art, using the format of the Chinese martial arts, that we now know as Shorin-Ryu.

Or something like that.

By the way, Nakata Sensei's instructor, Chosin Chibana, is recognized as the first to use the term "Shorin-Ryu." I understand that he used this name to give recognition of the "Shorin" ("Shoalin" in Chinese) connection of the art. Chibana Sensei never used the term "Kobayashi-Ryu" to describe the art that he taught. "Kobayashi" is the Japanese pronounciation of the same character that Chibana Sensei used.


Charles C. Goodin

Excellence -- Learning From A Hotel

Last weekend, my wife and I went to the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort which is on the beach in the Poipu area of Kauai. My wife owns a travel agency and needed to inspect properties in the area. I got to be her escort.

The Hyatt on Kauai is a beautiful property, one of the very best in Hawaii. I was thinking about what made it so good. My family and I have stayed there several times, and we always look forward to going back. Here is what I came up with.

  • An excellent product.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Courteous service.
  • Knowing what you are and projecting it.
The first three are fairly straightforward. Any great hotel will satisfy these.

It is the final factor that made this interesting. There are many fine hotels and resorts in Hawaii. My wife and I have been fortunate to stay in many of them (thanks to her travel career). You'd be surprised at the ways different hotels position themselves. Remember, we live in Hawaii.

Some hotels try to feature every sort of Asian art, usually not quite the best but good ones or nice reproductions. In these hotels, you feel like you are in China, or Thailand, or somewhere in Asia.

Others try to look like European hotels. There are ornate marble columns, tapestries, and artwork from many parts of Europe. Again, many of the pieces of art are reproductions.

Still other hotels try to look like different parts of the United States mainland. I saw one not long ago that seemed to have a Santa Fe motif.

Again, we are in Hawaii. What I like about the Hyatt is that it features Hawaiian artwork and design. More importantly, it features its natural setting -- the beautiful ocean, the rocky coast, the sandy beach, palm trees, etc. You know where you are -- Hawaii (Kauai). At the Hyatt, the setting is the artwork.

How does this appy to Karate? Well, the same excellence analysis applies:
  • An excellent product.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Courteous service.
  • Knowing what you are and projecting it.
Any excellent Karate instructor will satisfy the first three. It is the last one that distinguishes some great instructors, and makes them stand out from the rest.

You have to know who you are, where you came from, and then project that image. In the case of Okinawan Karate, that means knowing about the culture and traditions of Okinawa, and including these as part of what you teach and the image that you project.

An Okinawan Karate instructor should not be like a hotel in Hawaii that is trying to be something else.

I enjoy the Hyatt on Kauai because it is an excellent property and projects an image that is consistent with what and where it is. That is something we all can learn from.


Charles C. Goodin

I heard...

I heard of an instructor, who learned from a...

chief instructor, who learned from a...

shihan, who learned from a...

10th degree black belt, who learned from a...

president of an international organization, who learned from...

master, who learned from a...

grandmaster, who learned from a...

great grandmaster, who learned from a...

professor, who learned from a...

hanshi, who learned from a...

soke, who learned from an...

old man who taught in his back yard, who learned from a...

hermit who lived in a cave.

So I asked the instructor what the names were of the old man and the hermit. He did not know. I then asked him what the titles were of the old man and the hermit. He did not know. I asked him what the ranks were of the old man and the hermit. He did not know.

So I thought to myself, "The old man and the hermit had no names, no titles, and no ranks. They must have been pretty good!"

During my recent visit to Okinawa, I learned the highest title for a Karate instructor. I had not heard it before. It is truly unique to Okinawa. The title is: soki.

When you reach this level, you will truly have Karate in your bones!


Charles C. Goodin

Karate Monuments

When I went to Okinawa, I visited Karate monuments and tombs. I even took photographs with them. There I was smiling -- so happy to be there!

But I have admit that I felt a little troubled visiting the tombs (haka). I am not a relative. When my wife and I visit her mother's grave, it is because we are relatives. Relatives and friends visit graves.

Monuments are a little different. The monument to Chotoku Kyan in the parking lot of the municipal building in Kadena is not a tomb. Kyan Sensei is not buried there. The monument commemorates the life and accompliments of a great teacher.

These issues have special meaning to me. As the head of the Hawaii Karate Museum, I have been thinking about constructing a monument to Hawaii's early Karate sensei. This would be a major project, but it is something I could do, or help to do. With enough money and enough public support, it could be done.

Where to build it, how to design it, who to include? -- these are all questions that weigh heavily on my mind.

But then there is the issue of vandalism. How would it seem if we built a magnificent monument, only to have it sprayed with paint, chipped with hammers, or pushed over. Sadly, people do that sort of thing. And if we include one sensei but not another, would feelings be hurt?

A monument is a good idea, but there are so many factors to consider.

I cannot help but feel that the true monument to a great teacher is his students, and their students. What we keep in our hearts and minds is infinitely more important than what is chiselled in marble or granite. Karate is practiced in daily life. Perhaps that is the best monument, the best testament to a great teacher.

There is a place for monuments. I realize that. Perhaps one day...


Charles C. Goodin

The Best Student

I am an attorney. I am fortunate to have many clients. When I speak to any of my clients, I want them to feel that they are my best, most important client. And they are. My business success depends on each of my clients. They are each the best!

So is each of my Karate students. Each student is the best, each is the most important. One student may have a particular strength -- one may be faster, another stronger, another smoother. But each is the best.

If I had to give a medal to the best student in my dojo, I would have to give the medal to each student.

I have four children. Do you know which one is the best?

The same goes for my Karate students. How can one be better than another? They are all different, and each the best.

At a dojo in which I trained, one of the instructors used to say, "we are all on the same bus." All the students are on the same bus. We are all going to the same place. It is not a race among the students.

If you are a Karate student, you should know that you are the best. If you are a Karate instructor, please try to make each of your students feel that way.

To be the best, try your best.


Charles C. Goodin

Where/When to Kiai

I have mentioned before that my sensei is pretty relaxed about kiai in kata. Usually, students do not kiai at my sensei's dojo, which is on the second floor of his home. I thought that this lack of kiai might be out of consideration for the neighbors.

But during my recent visit to Okinawa, I asked my sensei about kiai again. I mentioned that there are certain places in kata when a kiai is traditionally made. In Pinan Shodan, for example, there is a kiai on the nukite (spear hand) technique.

My sensei said that it really did not matter. A person might kiai on one movement or another, or not at all. It was really a personal thing. Performing the movements correctly is what matters.

The only time it might be somewhat important to kiai on a certain movement would be during a group demonstration. It would not look too good for the participants to kiai on different movements. But this is just a public relations concern -- it does not have to do with Karate training.

I imagine that there have been students who have failed examinations because they forgot to kiai or did so at the wrong time. The more Karate becomes a ritual, the less it becomes a living thing.



Charles C. Goodin

Foul Techniques

I am sitting in my office reading a tournament booklet. Some techniques not permitted:

  • Strike to face
  • Groin kick
  • Pushing with head and attacking
  • Elbow to face
  • Kick to knee
  • Head butting
  • Strike to neck
  • Kicking head from behind
  • Pushing with open hands
  • Striking the spine from behind
  • Grabbing and attacking
Why is it that so many of my favorite techniques are never allowed? They did not even include:
  • Pulling hair
  • Grabbing the groin
  • Joint locks
  • Poking the eyes
  • Poking the throat
  • Breaking fingers and toes
  • Choking
  • Throwing or ramming into a wall, corner or object
  • Hitting with a chair or other foreign object
  • Throwing dirt or sand into the eyes
  • Biting
  • Spitting
  • Ripping or gouging with the fingernails
  • Stomping
OK, so the second list is a little carried away. But I am often amazed at the self-defense techniques (goshin jutsu) that are not allowed in competitions. In fact, a comprehensive list of what is prohibited would probably be a list of what works best (particularly for a smaller person).

[Disclaimer: Of course if you are participating in a tournament, you should follow the rules applicable in that tournament. Safety should always be the most important concern. I do not participate in tournaments, thus my view of Karate is self-dense oriented. Be safe!]


Charles C. Goodin

Osae -- Hikite

It is starting to get interesting.

Osae is the pressing feeling of your front arm (or other body part) as you move from one position or technique to another. Hikite is the pulling or returning hand. Usually, the hand that does the osae will also perform the hikite.

Good osae -- good hikite. Weak osae -- weak hikite.

Let us take an example. You have just stepped forward with your left foot and thrown a left punch to the attacker's chest. You are now going to step forward with your right foot and throw a right punch.

As you lean, surge, step forward, you maintain a pressing feeling in your left arm and project forward with your left fist. Remember, you had punched with your left. Now you are performing osae with your left as part of the movement leading to the next right punch.

You lean and press forward and draw your right leg toward your left. You tuck your right arm as you tuck your koshi, squeeze your lats, and lower your shoulders. At the right moment, you throw the right punch (in connection with changing your body alignment). Until that split second, you are still pressing forward with your left. At that split second, your left converts to hikite and pulls. The punch and pull are coordinated. The opening created by the release of the osae is immediately filled with the punch. There is no gap -- or it is kept as small as possible.

Now let's try it a different way. You throw your left punch and instead of performing osae, you let your left go slack. Now there is an opening for the attacker. In addition, when you finally punch, your left will be loose. Your hikite will also be loose, especially at the beginning.

Good osae -- good hikite. Weak osae -- weak hikite.

So a punch becomes an osae which becomes a hikite, which becomes a punch...

It is important to relax but it is also important to be firm, without unnecessary slack in your movements.

Let us imagine that you have punched the attacker in the chest. Somehow he withstood the punch and immediately charges at you. If your left arm has gone slack, he will push right through it. But if you have performed osae, you can either press him back or even punch/strike again. Or you could grab him (hair, muscle, joint, etc.) and hikite as you counter with your right.

Remember too that one of the purposes of osae is to act as a block or blockage. If the attacker is going to advance toward you, your osae will present an obstruction which will disrupt his timing, flow, and/or angle of attack.

Everything works together. Osae is an important part of the connection between movements.


Charles C. Goodin

I Get Credit For...

My three sons are much taller than me and also much stronger. My second and third sons (aged 21 and 17) lift weights at home. Sometimes I will try to lift their weights which are always much too heavy for me! Honestly, my sons can lift as much with one arm as I can lift with two arms!

My sons will often laugh when I struggle with their weights. I always say, "That's OK, I am your father so I get credit for the weights that you lift."

If my sons can lift a great weight, that is to my credit. I am happy for them. They are my sons. If they are strong, I am proud. I get the credit.

On the other hand, if they were weak and lazy, I would get the blame for that, wouldn't I? So I should get some credit for their strength.

And I must be pretty strong because I can tell them, "lift this, or lift that," and they will do so.

Of course, I am sort of joking.

In the dojo, there are students who are stronger than me, faster than me, remember the kata better than me, move more efficiently, move more dynamically, etc. I am very happy for them. I get the credit (a little). If they moved terribly, wouldn't I also deserve the blame?

My point is that I celebrate the accomplishments of my children, and I celebrate each and every accomplishment of my students.

I want my children to be better than me in every way. Shouldn't they do well with the support of their parents and their extended family members? If they do well, I am happy.

I want the same for my students. If a student can surpass my Karate ability, I should be happy -- not threatened or insecure. Only a good instructor can produce students who surpass him or her. That is our job. We should never limit our students by our own limitations.

If I see a student perform a kata beautifully, I am more happy than if I performed it that well myself... just as I am happy when my sons lift heavy weights.


Charles C. Goodin

Haka -- Tombs in Okinawa

We often hear that Karate students would train late at night at the haka (family tomb) of their Sensei. In Okinawa, haka are stone or cement structures and can easily be much more expensive than the family home.

When I read about this, I always imagined the haka to be some far away place, perhaps in a large cemetery. I thought that the students were going to the haka to preserve the "secret" art they were learning.

But during my two visits to Okinawa (2002 and 2007), I noticed that there were haka on just about every hill I could see. There were even haka in residential areas. I imagine that there were literally haka everywhere!

Some of the haka are carved into the hillside. It did not seem that there would be much room to practice there. Others did have a smooth cement or granite open area in the front. Training could take place there. You have to remember that only one or two or a few students would practice. The haka did not have to accommodate a large group. Dojo in Okinawa tend to be pretty small. A 500 square foot dojo is pretty big!

It is important to remember that Karate students might have practiced at the haka, not in the haka. The larger haka are locked and contain urns with the bones and ashes of the deceased. Smaller haka only appear to have room for storage. A person could not stand up inside.

On my last visit to Okinawa, I visted the tombs of Chomo Hanashiro, Sokon Matsumura, and Anko Itosu. These had recently been relocated because of construction work in their former area (I think a new road was being built). Now the tombs are in a flat area near a residential area. I seriously doubt that any Karate students practice there. But the flowers placed on the tombs showed that people had come to show their respect.


Charles C. Goodin

100 Things to Help Karate Students

I found a website with 100 excellent things that will definitely enhance the lives of Karate students. Without a doubt, you should add these 100 things to your Karate repertoire. You don't have to be clairvoyant to know that they will help you to become an exemplary person, one others will want to emulate, deserving of adulation, and brimming with sagacity.

Don't procrastinate. Here is the link.


Charles C. Goodin

Osae -- Block(age)

After my post on Osae -- Pressing, I found an interesting webpage about the term osae as used in the Japanese game of go. See: http://senseis.xmp.net/?Osae. On that page, it is stated that "The Japanese term osae means to block the opponent."

I do not play go, but I do play chess (very badly). I know enough about chess to know that positioning you pawns is very important. If your pawns are aligned well, they protect each other and can prevent your opponent from advancing. Your opponent may be able to take one of your pawns, but he might have to lose a more valuable piece to do so. A pawn cannot advance if there is an opposing pawn right in front of it. That piece will block it. It is literally a blockage (something in the way).

If you have a gap in your pawns, it will be more easy for your opponent to attack you, particularly if the gap is in the center of the board.

From my perspective while performing kata, osae is a pressing feeling and keeping my arm or other body part extended as I advance toward the attacker. That is my perspective and feeling. But the result is to block or prevent (as in go and chess).

If I osae properly, it is more difficult for the attacker to advance. He might be able to hit or block my outstretched arm, but as he does so I might gain an advantage. I might be able to hit him or use his movement as an opportunity to enter. He might try to block my outstretched arm, but when he does so I might be able to punch him in the face or kick him in the groin -- a fair trade if you ask me. In chess I think they call that a gambit.

On the other hand, if I do not osae, I will be creating an opening that will make it easier for the attacker to hit me. There will be nothing to block or impede his advance.

Sometimes in chess, a single pawn can swing the advantage one way or the other. In a similar way, an osae, although not a seemingly important technique, can make a difference in self-defense.

Osae feels like a press and results in a block (or blockage).


Charles C. Goodin


The other evening I was driving one of my sons to an event. As we neared the destination, I told him:

"Be good. Don't take any drugs. No smoking. No drinking. But if you do drink, call me and and I will pick you up no matter how late it is. If someone is going to give you a ride, don't accept if he has been drinking. I will pick you up any time and anywhere. Don't get into any fights. Be responsible with girls. Treat them with respect."
My son listened and then asked, "Why are you telling me this? I already know all that."

He was right. I had said the same things to him many times before. I answered:
"As your father, it is my job to tell you things that you already know. I have to say things many times so that there can be no question that I told you. If I tell you only once, you might miss something."
I respect all my children. But when it comes to things like drinking, smoking, drugs, responsibility on dates, and fighting, I don't mind being a little redundant.

In the dojo as well, I might give the same advice and warnings many times. Who knows, some of the students might have missed an earlier class in which I said the same thing. Or they might have not paid attention. Or their lives might have changed such that the advice is particularly timely now.

As Sensei, it is OK for us to tell our students things they already know, or think they already know. At least they will realize that these things are important enough for us to emphasize them.

They don't give trophies for the times when a student did not drink, did not smoke, did not take drugs, did not drive drunk, did not fight, did not act irresponsibly on a date. Perhaps they should.

And please remember, our students learn much more from what we do than what we say -- so do our children.


Charles C. Goodin