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Advancement In Karate

In America, we are taught to strive to get ahead. I have always tried my best in school and work. I was a Boy Scout when I was young. As soon as I earned one rank, I would begin work on the next. I eventually became an Eagle Scout, and this helped me to obtain a scholarship that helped me through undergraduate school. I went to graduate school at Northwestern University and then to law school at the University of Hawaii, all on scholarships, loans, and the hard work of my wife and myself. I opened my own law office at the age of 29. Blah, blah, blah.

My point is that I was raised to try my best to get ahead through hard work. I believe that is one thing that makes our country great.

But when it comes to Karate training, I never try to get ahead. The concept simply does not apply, at least in my way of thinking at this point in my life. Don't get me wrong, when I was a Kenpo Karate student in high school, we had belts and I worked for each of them until I became a black belt. We actually did not have numerical dan ranks, or if we did I did not know about it.

When I began Shorin-Ryu training, we had no color belts and I do not think we even had kyu ranks. I just tried to learn, and found that very difficult for many years (decades).

So here I am at the age of 49 having practiced Karate for 30 something years. Actually, this is a great age for a Karate instructor! So what about advancement? What about trying to get ahead?

Well, I guess that I could try to catch up to my Sensei. I actually have two Sensei, one here in Hawaii and one in Okinawa. They are my fathers in Karate. Can you catch up to your father?

I now have four children. That does not mean that I have caught up to my father. He will always be my father, just as my Sensei will always be my Sensei. I cannot catch up to them, or even get close.

The best I might attempt is to try to become as skilled as my Sensei where when they were my age. But this is also impossible in my case, so I will just try my best.

How about my Karate friends? Sensei Pat Nakata (Chibana Shorin-Ryu) is my very good friend and senior. Can I catch up to him? He actually began Karate training in 1957, the same year that I was born! I would say that he has a pretty good head start. I am also friends with Shihan Bobby Lowe (Kyokushin). I believe that he started practicing Karate before Nakata Sensei was born, so he has a big head start on both of us! And in both of their cases, they practiced much more intensely that I have.

The fact is that in Karate terms, I would be happy to just carry Shihan Lowe's and Nakata Sensei's training bags. I am not trying to catch up to them. There is no way!

Shihan Lowe and Nakata Sensei are like my uncles in Karate. Can I ever become my own uncle?

Rather than catching up, I am trying to follow in the footsteps of my Sensei and senior friends in Karate. Fortunately for me, they have left very deep footprints which help me to find the right direction in my Karate training and life.

Karate is like the proverbial onion. You peel it layer by layer.

The issue is not advancement but to just keep practicing with a student's heart. The more we practice, the more Karate is revealed to us.


Charles C. Goodin