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1650+ Posts... and Counting

Finding Errors -- A Banyan Tree

Sometimes I will point out an error to a student. Many beginners react with sadness because they were conditioned in school or childhood that an error is bad -- therefore they feel bad.

But I try to explain that when I point out an error, I am doing my job (as a Sensei) and also doing them a favor.

Let's take an example. Let's say that I am having a problem with my computer. Something is not working right with one of my programs, say Windows or my virus protection, or any number of programs. A problem in one program can affect many other programs and functions.

When I call a computer technician and ask for help, I am asking him to find the error and fix it. When he does identify the error, I am happy! I might even owe him money.

Because of the computer technician's expertise, my problem is solved. Should I be sad? Should I react with a sour face? Of course not!

A Karate student naturally has many errors. It is natural. No one starts out doing everything correctly and no one avoids all bad habits. We all make mistakes.

When your Sensei or a senior corrects you, you should be very grateful. One error down!

I am going to borrow a parable I read in a religious book (I am not trying to be religious here).

A great Karate master observed the movements of two of his students. The first student was the most senior in the dojo. Everyone expected him to be named the successor of the master. The second student was the newest, only 12 years old. This all took place outside under a magnificent banyan tree with spreading branches that blocked out the sky.

The master spoke to the senior student first. "Your kata was excellent, however, I noticed 10 errors."

The senior student was furious! He knew he had made no errors. He was worthy of being a master himself. He ripped off his gi top and stormed off, never to be seen again.

The master then addressed the new student. "Son, look up at the banyan tree. You made as many errors as there are leaves above you."

The student jumped up and started dancing!

"Why are you so happy?" asked the master.

"Sensei, the leaves in the tree, although many, are finite. With your guidance, I will work on them one by one, and even if it takes a lifetime, I will surely eliminate them all!"
You should celebrate the identification of each error. If you work on each error, one by one, you will surely eliminate them all.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The Whole Is Greater

If you took a style of Karate and collected all of the movements done in that style, and then categorized and organized all those movements, and the combinations thereof, and all of the kata, drills and patterns done, and then made sure to include both right and left hand variations, and all the possible variations based on direction and vertical level, and then organized all of these various movements and patterns in the most logical order, and created a curriculum based on all of this, then...

The whole of the style would still be greater than the sum of its parts.

Karate is somewhat like music. Beauty of movement or sound is not quantifiable. Great music is not made by playing by the numbers.

Karate done as described in the first paragraph above is often described as a plastic flower -- it looks like a flower but has no fragrance.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

New Blog Template and Table of Contents

I have updated the template for this blog. It should look pretty much the same, but the codes are updated. I was concerned that if I did not update, Blogger might one day stop supporting the old template and codes. I did not want to risk losing the archive of posts.

I have also made a new Table of Contents. I was manually coding the old table of contents, which meant that I had to update it every month. The new code updates automatically. In addition, the list can be sorted alphabetically (or reversed) or by date (most recent or oldest first). That is much more user friendly. It does take about 20 to 30 seconds for the Table of Contents to initially load. That is because there are over 700 posts to index.

I found the code for the Table of Contents at the Beautiful Beta Blog and modified it to make the contents appear on a separate page.

Please check out the new Table of Contents and try out the sorting options. Remember, it takes a little while to load.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Kata Errors

Last night, we had the advanced students in our dojo demonstrate kata for the beginners. We wanted the beginners to get an idea about what they would be learning.

I was very proud of all our students, but naturally noticed some errors. Here is a list, in hopes that it will help our students, and other students who might make the same errors:

  • Moving too quickly. Give yourself time to "set" each movement.
  • Feet not straight enough in Naihanchi dachi.
  • Not turning the head in the direction you are looking. Don't look "side eyed". If you turn your nose in the right direction, your head will also be correct.
  • Looking down. You should look straight throughout the kata.
  • Stances too high. Even for our style which is based on natural stances, you have to get down low enough in Naihanchi dachi, zenkutsu dachi, neko ashi, etc. Sometimes high stances are also a result of rushing.
  • Weak kicks. Kicks should whip and stab.
  • Moving too fast. I know I said this already, but it is the main problem. Take your time to "set", and then throw the movements quickly. The pace between movements is a walking pace.
Hope this helps! These are all very easy to work on.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Stepping Through A Narrow Opening

OK, this is where stepping gets interesting.

When we bring our feet somewhat together (being careful not to create a "dead" moment), we should feel like we are squeezing through a narrow opening. It should feel like we are in a hallway that gets narrower at the point when we bring our feet together.

Our whole body is compressed toward the vertical centerline. Because we are moving forward quickly, this compression sort of "piles up." The tension wants to go somewhere.

This creates an opportunity for us to direct the tension in any direction we desire -- typically in the direction we want to step, but not necessarily so. This moment when our feet come together (almost) is sort of a neutral moment at which time we can move in any direction. And the tension does not have to be released as a step. It can be a strike, block, kick -- whatever we want to do.

Imagine squeezing a rubber ball. This is a "super ball." Once you squeeze it, it wants to spring back with great force. With a gentle nudge, you can send it in any direction you please.

So what squeezes in the body? Everything, but most noticeably the lats, thighs, sides, shoulders, etc. -- basically the entire core of the body.

With practice, the release of the tension created in this manner can be very explosive.

OK, let's be careful. Explosive sounds like a good thing. But is it? An explosion usually is in all directions. This is not very efficient. If you are trying to generate power in front of you, only the part of the explosion going in that direction will be helpful. So when I say explosive, I mean a directed explosion.

The nice thing about compression is that you can compress from any direction, and release in any direction. You can move forward, squeeze, and release forward. Or you could move back, squeeze, and release forward. You could squeeze your body in whatever direction you like, and then, from a neutral position, release in any direction (or expression) you like.

Getting back to the "Shape" of Footsteps, I hope that I have made the point that the "shape" is not simply part of the process of getting from one place to another by stepping. The "shape" of the footsteps is also part of the process of generating power (through compression and release).

The next time you move forward in a kata, imagine that you are squeezing through a narrow opening. There is barely room for your shoulders to fit! Once you squeeze through, you should be able to explode on the other side.

Hopefully so!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

"Shape" of Footsteps

I began the study of Shorin-Ryu as a student of Matsubayashi-Ryu in the 1970's. Naturally, I read, read, and re-read The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do (1976) by Matsubayashi-Ryu founder Shoshin Nagamine. I still use the book as a reference.

On pages 21 through 24 of the book (I am looking at a first edition, in English), there is a discussion about Shuri-Te and Naha-Te. One aspect of this discussion has troubled me for some time.

On page 23, there is a diagram showing the stepping patterns of Matsubayashi-Ryu (Shuri-te) and Goju-Ryu (Naha-te). The Matsubayashi-Ryu steps appear to be on a straight line. From shizentai dachi (natural stance), the student would step forward in a straight line.

The Goju-Ryu steps (in sanchin dachi), in contrast, are curved. Nagamine Sensei wrote: "Unlike the movements in Shuri-te, the feet travel rather slowly on a crescent-shaped line." Page 22.

Traditionally in Matsubayashi-Ryu, there is a fist's width between the line of the heels in shinzentai dachi. As one steps (on a straight line), this width is maintained -- creating an opening between the legs of a fist's width. This is plenty of room for a kick to the groin.

When I started to learn the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu, one thing I was taught right away was that the feet should arc while stepping, somewhat like the Goju-Ryu steps. I was a little confused -- the crescent shaped step was Goju-Ryu (Naha-te), not Shorin-Ryu. (Note: I should explain that by "arc" I mean that the back foot moves toward the front foot and then forward to the final position. It arcs or zigzags, depending on how you do it.)

This "bothered" me for a few years. Only recently have I realized that the arc, while there, might be reduced until it is almost a straight line. When there is a fist's width (or more) between the heels, the arc will be noticeable. But when the body is in hanmi (slanted), it is more natural to have less space between the heels. Actually, the heels are almost on the same line. In this orientation, the movement of the feet while stepping is more like a straight line. See: Posts Regarding Hanmi.

Because we overload our front foot and "pull" or "drag" the back foot as we step forward, we tend to pull the back foot toward the front (load bearing) foot. The wider the stance, the more it will travel in an arc. However, the narrower the stance (width wise), the more it will seem to travel in a straight line.

This differs from the illustration in Nagamine Sensei's book. So perhaps for Kishaba Juku, we need a new diagram to illustrate stepping.

I should also clarify that we actually do not bring our feet together when we step. It may look like this, but when you bring your feet together, you create a "dead" moment. At this moment, your balance becomes fixed and you cannot move freely. Actually, the feet come close, but not quite together. For some students, their thighs will touch before their feet could.

Of course, there are many ways to move and to step. It all depends on what you are seeking to accomplish. But our general way of stepping is in an arc. The curvature of the arc will vary depending on the horizontal width of the stance.

So do we step like Goju-Ryu? Not at all! The fact that both methods feature a crescent or arc is, I think, a coincidence. The mechanics are, in my opinion, completely different.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Shifting Weight

I am working with our beginner group on stepping and punching. For beginners, this is an extremely important phase -- going from stationary basics to moving basics. Moving basics are many times more complicated than stationary basics because there are many more variables we have to deal with.

When stepping, it is essential that students become aware of shifting their weight. They must know, at all times, exactly where their weight is. You can't lift your right foot if your weight is on it. You have to shift your weight to the left first.

In our style of Shorin-Ryu (the Kishaba Juku form), we do not propel ourselves off our back foot (like you see in Kendo). Instead, we overload our front foot, thus freeing the back foot. We then, essentially, drag the back foot to the desired position. Another way to say this is that we anchor our front foot, thus releasing our back foot. (Note: I am making up these terms. My Sensei does not use them, to my knowledge).

Moving back is just the opposite. We overload (or anchor) our back foot, thus freeing (or releasing) our back foot. We then can pull (or drag) our front foot to the desired position.

I may make it sound like our moving leg is "dead". Perhaps it is better to say that it is very relaxed. Our moving leg is not tense or rigid. It is relaxed. In this way, for example, we can kick in a whip-like manner.

Shifting weight from one leg to the other takes time. You cannot shift your weight as quickly as you can move your hand. I believe it is for this reason that it is said that Shorin-Ryu kata are done at a walking pace. Shifting the weight is very natural at a walking pace. We shift our weight (at a walking pace) and then move very fast, shift our weight again (at a walking pace), and then move fast, etc.

Students have problems when they try to shift their weight too quickly. The turbulence caused by this disrupts their intended movement. For example, if they shift their weight and step too quickly, and then block, their block will be disrupted by the turbulence (or shockwaves) caused by their body shift/step. The block will create its own shockwave, which will be distorted by the body shift/step shockwaves. These conflicting shockwaves cannot be used to generate other movements. They will generate other movements, but the students will not be in control of them.

But when the body shift/step is natural, there is very little turbulence. In fact, the shockwave created can be used to ignite and amplify the block.

But I am running too far ahead. For beginners, the point is that they should become aware of where their weight is and where they need to put it to enable them to step, slide, kick, etc. You don't just step -- you have to shift your weight first.

At an advanced level, this weight shift is hidden or blended with another movement (such as a parry or slip) so as not to telegraph your intentions to the attacker. But again, that is for later discussion.

Do you know where your weight is?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Post 714

Just an update. This is the 714th post of this blog.

If you have read them all, thank you... and I apologize for being so wordy.

I am continuing my quest to write down as many of the Karate Thoughts in my head as possible. Perhaps one day I will forget them, and can read them here to remind myself.

Plus my many Karate friends here in Hawaii and around the world are always giving me new things to ponder.

Thank you again!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Signed Books

What is the mystique about signed Karate books? Apparently, a book that has been signed by the author is more valuable than one that has not. But both books contain exactly the same content -- text and photos. They are identical, except for the signature.

Does the signature add content? Does it make the words more true or the photos any clearer?

We have many signed books in our Hawaii Karate Museum. I am glad that they are signed. But I'm not sure why.

I co-authored a real estate book. We actually had a book signing party. Someone asked me to sign their book and write, "to the best real estate agent ever!" I wondered, is he really the best? I just signed my name. But looking back, I still am not sure why authors sign books.

It would be different if the author scribbled notes in the margins to explain things, or even drew some pictures. I would like that -- it adds to content.

Sorry to ramble. And to any authors who have signed books for me, I mean no offense. Books are good... because of their content.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Teaching Karate 14 -- Basics

Sometimes as instructors, we want to teach advanced techniques and kata. But I have noticed that the best instructors are just as eager, in fact, even more eager, to teach basics.

I tend to teach the beginners in our dojo. Sometimes I feel like practicing Passai or Chinto, but instead I might be teaching basic punching, blocking, kicking, or stepping. However, I find that there is still so much to learn in the basics. It is easy to hide a weak technique in an advanced kata, but it is hard to hide a weak technique in an isolated basic.

In addition, the basics are just that -- they are the building blocks of all intermediate and advanced movements. By the time a student is ready to learn more advanced movements, he will have already learned the basics. If he learned them incorrectly, it might take weeks, months or even years to correct him. The advanced kata will naturally be infected with poor basics. An advanced kata with poor basics is hard to describe in a tactful way.

One teacher told me that he wanted to say that a particular student's kata was like a seizure, but could not bring himself to do so.

As far as technique is concerned, there is nothing more important than good basics. With good basics, advanced movements will be incredibly simple. Without them, advanced techniques are simply impossible.

Be grateful for the opportunity to teach basics to new students.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Low Leg Kicks -- Escape

In my post earlier today about Low Leg Kicks, I neglected to state an important reason why my Sensei here in Hawaii thought that low kicks could be a good technique. The reason I stated was that they were more humane. Another reason is that they could give the defender time to escape.

If the attacker is knocked to the ground by the kick, or cannot walk, it will be much harder for him to continue the attack. The defender should be looking for any opening to escape.

The idea is not to kick the attacker in the leg so that you can "finish him off." In Karate, the goal is to escape from violence, preferably before doing permanent damage.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Seize, Control, Strike

I was speaking to two of my friends and seniors, Sensei Pat Nakata (Chibana Shorin-Ryu) and Stan Henning (Hsing-I). I spoke to them separately, but they both addressed the same subject.

In a nutshell, they said that martial arts involves seizing, controlling and striking. When someone punches, you block (or parry, deflect, etc.), seize him (by his attacking arm or elsewhere), establish control, and then strike him. This sounds like a long process, but actually can take place very quickly. To a novice observer, the three things would likely blur together as a single action.

In sport Karate, there is usually little attention paid to seizing and controlling. The competitors typically exchange strikes -- the first to land a clean point wins.

But it is hard to properly strike a fast moving opponent. If you strike to his face, he might dodge out of the way and counter. If instead, you grab him by the hair and twist his neck to the side, it will be very difficult for him to avoid your strike. And if you pull him toward you when you strike, then the power of your punch is greatly increased.

Of course, there are many ways to seize and control an attacker. One time, Nakata Sensei grabbed me by my ear and the side of my neck and pulled me in toward his side. I definitely was controlled and there was practically no way I could avoid a strike. At the same time, the was no way that I could punch or kick, or even grapple (unless I wanted to lose my ear or sustain a broken neck).

In our Shorin-Ryu kata, whenever the hands are brought together on the side, one on top of the other (we used to call this a "clam" position), this meant that we were controlling the attacker by applying a joint lock (on the arm, shoulder, or neck, for example). I noticed that this clam position was more popular in the 1960s and earlier but is often not taught today. You can still see the position in the Naihanchi series of kata.

I found it interesting that Nakata Sensei and Mr. Henning would share the same strategy (seize, control, strike) despite practicing different martial arts. Given the influence of Chinese martial arts on Okinawan Karate, perhaps this should not be surprising.

What is surprising is that the seizing and control aspects are not always taught in modern Karate. An exception to this is Goju-Ryu (and related arts), a style of Okinawan Karate with more recent Chinese ties. And, of course, seizing and controlling continues to be taught in older forms of Okinawan Karate.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Low Leg Kicks

When I learned to spar back in the mid-1970s, we never kicked to the legs. Kicks had to be above the belt and to the front of the body (not the back). As such, we tended to kick to the stomach, sides, chest, or head. Sometimes we swept, but did not kick to the legs.

This weekend I was training with some of my seniors and we practiced low leg kicks to the outside and inside of the legs. Today, such kicks are often seen in mixed martial arts matches. I must say that I found it very interesting and enjoyable to spar with low kicks. We did take precautions, however, to avoid kicks to the knee area (to avoid joint injuries) and to the groin. We practiced making harder contact with protective pads.

When I discussed this with my Shorin-Ryu Sensei here in Hawaii, he commented that he thought that low leg kicks were a good idea. His reason was very interesting. He said that in Karate, we prepare for an attack by a non-martial artist. Such a person would probably not train to take kicks to the legs. A strong kick to the outer thigh, should be able to drop or deter a normal, untrained person, without doing permanent damage. In contrast, a kick (or stomp) to the groin or knee joint, the ankle or Achilles tendon, or a kick designed to break one or more bones in the leg, could do permanent damage.

I was very impressed with his reasoning. My Sensei is always thinking about how to do less damage rather than more. He has compassion, even for an aggressor.

See: Low Leg Kicks -- Escape.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Breaking Up Fights

I often say that Karate techniques should be used as a last resort and that fighting should be avoided. At the same time, when there is no other way, a person must defend himself or his loved ones.

But I want to clarify something. I have not said that you should go around trying to break up fights. You should avoid fighting. But if two people are fighting, you might get injured if you try to break them up. In fact, bystanders are often injured or even killed. Being a Karate student or teacher does not make you a police officer or school teacher. It is not your job to stop other people from fighting.

Who knows, if you try to stop two people from fighting they might turn on you instead. You could get hit by a wild punch, smashed by a rock, slashed by a knife, or their friends might attack you. In the end, you might even be the one accused of fighting.

Some of the old timers here say "don't stick your nose in other people's business."

The best thing to do, particularly for school students, is to stay out of it and get the proper assistance from teachers or school security. When I say stay out of it, I also mean stay away from it. If you are standing near the fight watching it, you still could get injured or attacked.

In this post, I am writing about breaking up fights. I am not addressing a situation where someone is attacking an innocent person. There may be times when the right thing to do is to come to the aid of the victim -- or to get help. The best course of action will depend on the situation.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Old Karate Article From 1947

If you are like me, you love old Karate articles. Here is one from about 1947. It was published in Okinawa by the Education Department, Military Government, Ryukyus.

If you click on the small image, a larger one will appear. Here is a text link. Unfortunately, even back then, Karate was known for its "trick feats." And you might notice the out turned feet in a kata that appears to be one of the Naihanchi.

I hope that you enjoy it!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

If You Say It Enough...

My good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, often tells me that "if someone says something enough, they start to believe it."

In Karate, we are often exposed to high ranks, titles, positions, and claims of great exploits. Sometimes these things are true, but often they are exaggerated or even untrue. When someone puts such things in writing (or on the internet), they tend to take on a life of their own. If a person, for example, claims that he is a 12th degree black belt, and says and publishes it enough, he will start to believe it himself. After all, it must be true since it is in writing (even if he is the one who wrote it).

I was featured in a magazine article a few years ago about my Karate research. I got to look over the article before it was published, but not the photos and captions. I was horrified when one of the captions described me as a "Master." I quickly made a very embarrassed call to my sensei to apologize for the error. He mentioned that he had "noticed" it but did not want to say anything.

But suppose I reacted a different way. What if I thought that "Master" sounded pretty good. I could put it on my business cards, websites, articles, posters... I could even have a patch made for my gi. Pretty soon, I would think that I was a "Master!" What started out as an error, would become a reality... to me.

Of course, this did not happen. I have a problem with the term "Master." I think that the term "Sensei" is one each of us should strive to deserve.

But from time to time, it is good to take a reality check. Saying something does not make it so, even if you say it a lot.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

You Never Know

When I was a child, I studied Judo at Misawa Air Force Base in Northern Japan. I loved Judo. We had classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

I am half-Japanese and half-Caucasian and was always one of the smallest students in my age group. Many of my classmates where much taller and heavier than me.

As I gradually became more advanced, I did better, even with bigger opponents. In fact, I became used to randori with bigger and older opponents. In Judo, size does not matter that much.

But here is my point. In Judo, anyone can beat you and you can beat anyone. Even if you are advanced, a junior might throw you. If he throws just right, and you are not paying attention, or slip, you can quickly find yourself flat on your back. The same is true when you go with someone more advanced than you. He should be able to beat you, but you might win. The odds are in favor of the more advanced student. He might win 9 times out of 10, but there is still that one time to consider.

In Judo, you can get up after the match. In Karate, we have no such luxury. Even if we are more skilled, even if we are faster, stronger, better in every way, we have to realize that there is a margin for error. We could lose -- meaning we could be hit, kicked, stabbed, etc. And we might not be able to get back up!

As a result, we cannot afford to slip, or lose our focus or attention. We have to take every attacker 100% seriously. He might get lucky, he might be armed, he might have friends we do not see. We cannot afford to to lose even once.

Because you never know....

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Random Thoughts This Afternoon

Some thoughts I had this afternoon (some written here before):

  1. Try your best.
  2. Don't try to outdo others -- challenge yourself to be the best you can be.
  3. Improve a little each day.
  4. If you don't have something nice to say about someone, don't say anything at all.
  5. Don't speak ill of others.
  6. Don't start something unless you are going to finish it.
  7. If you say you will do something, do it.
  8. Your word is your bond.
  9. A job worth doing is worth doing well.
  10. Demand more from yourself than you do of others.
  11. It is better to be very good at one or two things rather than being mediocre at many things.
  12. When you make a decision, stick to it -- unless you discover that you are clearly wrong.
  13. Even when you are sure you are right, remember that you could be wrong.
  14. The reasons people give for their actions are often not the real reasons (and they are often not aware of their true motivations).
  15. When you hear the two sides of a story, it will often seem like two different stories.
  16. You are only as big as the smallest thing that upsets you (or can get you to react).
  17. Give credit and accept responsibility.
  18. Everyone is at a different stage of personal development. You can't expect everyone to think and act the same.
  19. Focus on "doing" rather than talking about what you have done.
  20. Your actions speak for themselves.
  21. Actions speak louder than words.
  22. Being kind is more important than being enlightened.
  23. When you are making a lot of money, save some. There will always be a rainy day.
  24. If you really love Karate, seek the best education possible. It will make you better able to understand and teach Karate and may give you a lifestyle that allows you to practice and teach without depending on tuition.
  25. The secret of Karate is practice, and that is not a secret at all.
  26. Mistakes are formed quickly but take a long time and great effort to correct.
  27. As a student or a teacher, you are a role model whether you like it or not.
  28. The real dojo is daily life.
  29. Everything you need in Karate is within you.
  30. Be polite. Gentlemen should open doors for ladies and the elderly.
  31. You can learn from the mistakes of others -- you don't have to make the same mistakes yourself.
  32. When you die, you won't count your money or possession, you will probably think about your loved ones.
  33. No one is perfect.
  34. If you aren't doing what you enjoy, when will you do it?
  35. Even the greatest Karate masters grow old and die. Karate should help you to live a long and healthy life and help you to be a good person.
  36. If Karate is useful for self defense only, it is probably not the best use of your time.
  37. Don't cheer others' failures. We all have failures in our lives.
  38. Don't envy other Karate peoples' skill, rank, or titles. The only way to earn anything of value in Karate is through your own hard work.
  39. Don't neglect your loved ones, or you might lose them, and even if you don't lose them, you will not deserve them.
  40. Find ways to praise rather than criticize. If you criticize a student's technique twice, try to compliment him at least once.
  41. There is nothing more precious than children (and new students).
  42. What makes a martial art good or bad is the people who practice it.
  43. Your teacher counts, not associations.
  44. You will save a lot of money and grief if you don't smoke, drink, or take illegal drugs. There are many better things to do in life.
  45. Get in the best shape possible, particularly before you are 50. Then stay in good shape.
  46. I never heard a person say that they wish they had less education or that they had spent less time with their children.
  47. Everyone's fart stinks. (This is another way of saying that people are basically the same.)
  48. Recycle.
  49. Count your blessings.
  50. When you don't get what you want, be careful. Perhaps you were being saved from something.
  51. Life is short, and the more you live it, the shorter it seems.
  52. When the rice stalk is mature, it bows under its own weight.
  53. A Karate expert remains calm in an emergency.
  54. Preparation is key.
  55. Karate is a last resort. When it become the last resort, anything goes.
  56. Hitting is easy. Repairing the damage is hard.
  57. Don't complain. The squeaky wheel gets replaced.
  58. There is always someone stronger and faster.
  59. If my children or students are better than me, then I win!
  60. Think before you speak.
  61. When you are angry, calm down before you act.
  62. If you don't like yourself, you will probably try to make everyone else miserable.
  63. Karate and religion are two separate things.
  64. When everything is going great... be careful.
  65. Make sure you have sufficient supplies for an emergency. When the emergency happens, it will be very hard to get them.
  66. There is one thing you are better at then any other person in the world... being you.
  67. The person you criticize or dislike may save your life one day.
  68. When you do well, move on, When you do badly, learn from it.
  69. Prayer is one of the greatest healing forces.
  70. Don't settle. Your reach should always exceed your grasp.
  71. Don't plant a seed unless you are willing to water and care for it. This applies to Karate students too.
  72. Karate should not be a punishment... it should be something you enjoy.
  73. You can learn from anyone and from any experience.
  74. Being smart is not enough.
  75. Do the right thing because it is right, not because you have to.
  76. Stick up for the little guy. We are all "little guys."
  77. Don't let possessions possess you.
  78. Beauty is on the inside.
  79. If you compromise on your values a little, you have compromised a lot.
  80. As you read this, are you aware of yourself reading this? I say "hello" to you both.
Time to go home and get ready for class tonight.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

"Work In Progress" - Ryu

Earlier this year I visited my Sensei in Okinawa. Our system is a juku, not a ryu. Essentially, a juku is a private training group. From time to time, I have thought about an appropriate name for a ryu (I guess because I am so word oriented). My Sensei is generally not interested in such things and I eventually came to better appreciate his feelings.

Nevertheless, I finally felt confident that I had come up with a fitting name and mentioned it to my Sensei. It is "Work In Progress" - Ryu. If you know my Sensei, you will understand the meaning.

Nothing in our system is hard and fixed. It may seem to change over the years -- sometimes much more quickly than that! Sometimes I think that a butterfly changes less in its life than we do! But it is because we are not seeking to learn something that already exists. My Sensei certainly is still working on himself each day. He is not content with himself, nor are most of us content with ourselves. We are all evolving, each in our own way.

Honestly, everyone's Karate is a "work in progress." Once the process is complete, then what? I think it would be time to quit! Can anyone really say, "I have mastered Karate and know all there is to know (and can do it all too!)?" I think not.

Before anyone gets too excited, I am not really suggesting that our system be called "Work In Progress" - Ryu. That was just a joke I mentioned to my Sensei. It was a joke, but not really that funny.

Another good name might be "Under Construction."

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate Thoughts Blog Google Ranking

I just did a search for "Karate blog" on Google. Guess which blog was the first on the list?

Here are the search results.

I have to thank the many readers around the world of this Karate Thoughts Blog for their support! And we are nearing the 700th post.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Sparring Mistake -- Turning the Back

I was watching footage of a sparring match in Okinawa. The participants appeared to be teenagers.

One of the youngsters scored a punch to his opponent's chest. I thought that he did not have good distance or kime but the punch was counted. I did not particularly care about the match. The way people kumite varies depending on the rules. Some kumite has degraded to a silly game of tag which bears no relationship to actual self defense.

But it is what happened next that got my attention. The youngster who had scored the point, immediately turned his back on his opponent and walked back to the starting line. He turned his back!

I'm sure that he meant no disrespect, but if this had been an actual fight he would have surely been hit on the back of the head. His point was weak. The opponent was not knocked out or knocked down. He turned his back on someone who could still attack him.

What if the opponent had not seen that a point had been awarded? What if he thought that the match was still on? Or what if he was just angry and wanted to get in a punch for payback?

I would have taken away the point when the youngster turned his back. I would have warned him to never turn his back on an attacker.

But if the only goal of the match was to score points, then I guess that the youngster won. I hope that he does not turn his back on the street. Don't win a point and lose your head.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Sadao Yoshioka's 'Ki' on Nature

At the recent Okinawan Festival, a kind person gave me some old Karate magazines, including three Martial Arts Hawaii magazines from the 1970s. Volume 1, No. 3 has my good friend and senior Sensei Pat Nakata on the cover (with thick black hair!). Inside are articles about several respected instructors I am very fortunate to know or have met, such as Andrew Lum and Tommy Morita. Nakata Sensei was in an article comparing Karate and Kung Fu.

But I must admit that I shed a tear when I saw the article about Sensei Sadao Yoshoka entitled Aikido's 'Ki' On Nature. Since the article was from 1975, Yoshioka Sensei looked so young and healthy. Actually, he was already in his early 50's. I began training under him the next year, when I started college. I was taken by my brother-in-law, Joseph Tanega, who is shown sitting next to Yoshioka Sensei meditating under Manoa Falls (with three other students). Joseph now resides in England. My first class was at the Waialae dojo.

The caption to the waterfall photo describes the waters as "chilling." I also went a few times. We arrived at the waterfall at dawn. The water was more like an icepick in your head! But afterwards, it actually felt warm.

I was only 18 when I met Yoshioka Sensei. Now I am 49, just a few years younger than him when he was interviewed for the article. What a Sensei he was! Naturally, his technique was beautiful, far more beautiful than I could ever appreciate. But what made him so special, in my opinion, was the way he wove lessons about daily life into each and every Aikido class. I cannot think of a time that he did not give a lecture, even when he was undergoing very painful chemotherapy. As I've mentioned before, whenever Yoshioka Sensei gave a lecture, each of the students would think that he was speaking about them! I knew they were wrong because he was speaking about me!

I was a poor Aikido student, but respect the art today because of the positive impression I received from Yoshioka Sensei. Today I am also friends with Sensei Gary Omori, who at one time also trained under Yoshioka Sensei. Sometimes I get to watch his fine students and reminisce about my brief study of Aikido.

The article that appeared about Yoshioka Sensei in Martial Arts Hawaii is available online at the website of one of his students. Pease see Aikido's 'Ki' On Nature.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Challenging Your Sensei

I have, from time to time, heard about students who had disagreements with their sensei and challenged them to a fight. Naturally, I do not approve of such a thing. But I recognize that there are some bad sensei in the world and some of them do terrible things to their students.

But if a student disagrees so severely with his sensei, it is usually best for him to simply withdraw from the dojo and either find a new sensei or train on his own. What is the point of fighting?

But that is not my point. My point is that students who fight their sensei often end up with students who later want to fight them. If the student acts that way, why should his students act differently?

If instead, the student acts with respect and dignity, then his students might do the same. Even if the student disagrees with his sensei, he probably feels some gratitude to him for teaching him over the years.

Courtesy is tested when the situation is heated.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Wallet In Front Pocket

When I go to a theater or shopping mall, I move my wallet from from back pocket to my front pocket. This is to avoid fights.

If my wallet is in my back pocket, someone might try to steal it. Pick pockets often work in pairs, so there may well be more than one of them. If I am lucky enough to confront the thief or thieves, they might try to fight or might even be armed. To defend myself, I might have to use dangerous techniques. I could be injured. I could injure one of them or a bystander. Who knows?

So to avoid all this, I move my wallet to my front pocket where it is much more difficult to steal.

Of course, you never know what could happen. But if moving my wallet reduces the risk of theft and a possible fight, then it is wise to do so. And it is such an easy thing.

Karate is about not fighting. Self defense is not fighting. The attacker is fighting. The defender is only defending.

Karate techniques should be used as a last resort and only to the extent necessary. Prevention is the best technique.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Paralyzed

You probably saw the horrible video footage of Buffalo Bills football player Kevin Everett attempting to make a tackle during a kick-off and suffering a life threatening spinal cord injury. I pray that he will recover.

I'm sure that he is in outstanding shape. Football players wear helmets and protective body equipment. And yet, in a split second he was paralyzed. When he fell, he did not even move.

In Karate, we sometimes make contact with each other. In a split second, anyone could be seriously injured. If a hit is just right, the body angle is just right, who knows what could happen? We always have to be very careful.

Sometime students might think that I am overly cautious. I don't think that there is such a thing.

Again, I pray for the recovery of Mr. Everett.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Hurt Shin

Yesterday I watched a video of a Karate demonstration. I won't identify the style, but one participant stood on his left left foot and held out his right leg bent at the knee at a right angle. An assistant came out with a long piece of wood to demonstrate a break.

The assistant swung the wood right into the other guy's right shin. The wood just went "thwack" and did not break. So they did it again. "Thwack." Still in one piece. By now the guy was looking a little concerned. One more time. "Bam!" That must have been a really hard piece of wood because it simply would not break. Finally, they gave up and walked off the stage.

I have to hand it to the guy getting hit. He did not show any pain and was very composed. It was probably the assistant's fault. Perhaps he did not swing the wood correctly.

But it certainly seemed to me that it must have really hurt and could very well have done some damage. I would never recommend doing such a thing.

Breaking bad habits, to me, is more important that breaking pieces of wood.

I still wince when I think about that guy's shin.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Tanks -- And Karate

I watched a television program in which they rated the top ten tanks of all time. You might wonder how this relates to Karate. (Of course, I think just about everything relates to Karate in some way.)

To rate the various tanks, they compared them based on different strengths and weaknesses. Here are some (as I recall).

Firepower: Naturally, a tank that can shoot farther and more powerfully has a huge advantage. The same applies in Karate. Someone who can hit harder has a big advantage over someone with a weak punch.

Armor: A tank that can take a hit is better than one that is easily destroyed. Again this is obvious, as is the parallel to Karate. The armor used on modern tanks is not simply thick, hard metal. The armor tends to be sloped (to deflect incoming rounds) and sometimes explosive (to prevent rounds from having time to pierce the armor). The sloped armor reminds me of how we "slip" punches, I'm sorry, but I don't have an analogy to the explosive armor.

Speed: The best tanks tend to be the fastest and most maneuverable. This makes sense and applies in Karate too.

Construction and Maintenance: How hard is it to make the tank, how much does it cost, and what are the difficulties and costs of maintenance? I had a computer. It had great features but kept breaking down. I ended up hating it! A tank may be great, but if it costs too much, no one could afford it. The same goes for maintenance. As I recall, the German's Panther tanks were very good but hard to maintain, and the Tiger tanks were outstanding but so expensive that relatively few were made (compared to other types).

In Karate, how long does it take and how much work is involved in attaining proficiency? If it takes a lifetime to become proficient at self-defense, that means that for most of one's life, one is not yet proficient. If the objective is self-defense, you must ask how well and quickly your training accomplishes this. Of course, self-defense is not the only goal in Karate.

I am sure that I have grossly oversimplified the factors, and there may have been others. But here is the point I want to make -- the factors are not independent.

In order to have great firepower, a tank may have a really big and heavy gun. But this slows it down. To accommodate the added weight, the tank will need a bigger engine. This is heavier too. A tank with a huge gun might be so slow that it would be an easy target.

The same goes for armor. Too much armor will slow the tank down. A bigger engine will be needed, more gas, etc. To accommodate more armor, other things might be sacrificed -- the big gun for example.

A bigger gun or more armor?

And both affect speed. You might have a really fast tank if you strip the armor and give it a small gun.

A super high tech tank might seem like a good idea, but is it rugged enough to handle battlefield conditions? Will it break down often and will be cost of repair be too great? Is it so complicated that soldiers will require a Ph.D to run it?

Some people in Karate work on a devastating punch (firepower). Others might seek to toughen then body so that they can take any hit or kick (armor). Still others might work on agility and quickness (speed). And how long does it take for all this to become effective, and at what cost?

The best tank rates high on all factors (and tends to be very expensive). Firepower alone is not too hard to accomplish, as are armor and speed. But to achieve all three takes a lot.

So does Karate. The best Karate student can punch hard, take a hit, and move quickly. He is not one dimensional. One strength is not sacrificed for another.

To all my friends in the military, please forgive my inaccurate descriptions of tanks. I have never served in the military (my father and my wife's father did), and I have the greatest respect for our men and women in the armed services. My point about tanks is that we can learn something from them and apply the same (or similar) principles to our Karate training.

Also, I respect that what also makes a tank great are the men and women who man, command and service them.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Chemotherapy & Breast Cancer

Last month I mentioned that my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. It has been a very challenging time since then and we have attended a seemingly countless number of appointments and tests. Earlier this week, my wife began chemotherapy. Her treatment regimen is actually a bit complicated, but suffice it to say that she is scheduled to complete chemo around Christmas. She will have other treatments for the next year, but the chemo will be the most difficult phase.

My wife is also an instructor in my dojo. I wish that I could say that her Karate training has made her as tough as she is, but I think it has more to do with her giving birth to and raising our four children. She had four C-sections, and never complained. She is so tough. I, on the other hand, complain when I get a simple blood test or flu shot.

You might have noticed that I have been writing more this month. Now that her treatment has begun, our schedule is actually better. Fortunately, her oncologist has an office in the same building as our offices (legal and travel). So she only has to run down to the third floor for her treatment. It is still hard, but at least we do not have to spend time in traffic.

We also have a new crop of students in our dojo. New students always get me thinking (and writing).

My wife and I have tried to learn as much as possible about her cancer and the available treatment options. Two websites we have found to be very helpful are:

breastcancer.org

and

Susan G. Komen For the Cure

I'm sure that there are many other helpful websites, but these helped us a lot.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Not Using Koshi

Once a student can use koshi very easily and apply it to all of his (or her) movements, it is best to ask him to try to learn to stop using it. This may sound paradoxical, since so much time and effort is spent learning how to use it.

But it is a bit like training wheels on a bicycle. Once a child develops the balance and confidence needed to ride the bicycle, the training wheels are no longer necessary. It would seem ridiculous to see an older child racing down the street with training wheels. As soon as possible, they are taken off.

Big koshi movement is like a training wheel. It serves a purpose, but once that purpose is fulfilled, it is no longer necessary. Large, exaggerated koshi movement is only taught to give the student the opportunity to learn the flow, shape, feeling, and timing of the movement. Once this is accomplished, the movements should be refined and reduced, until they are no longer visible.

An advanced student who still shows an obvious koshi is riding with training wheels.

Please do not get me wrong. When teaching newer students, it is necessary to demonstrate the large, exaggerated koshi movement. Otherwise, they will not be able to see or learn it.

But if I take an advanced student to the side, I expect him to be able to switch off this form of movement and only use "internal" koshi movement. By "internal," I mean contained within the body -- there is no visible outer movement (or it is reduced as much a possible). I do not mean some sort of metaphysical "internal" movement or power.

If a student cannot "turn off" the external koshi movement, he is not moving in an optimum manner. He could be beaten by a clone of himself who could internalize the movement. This is because the "internal" koshi is faster and harder to react against. It seems that speed and power just materialize (when actually they are generated within the body). With internal koshi, there is no telegraphing of the movement.

In addition, large movement of the koshi is slow, relative to smaller movement of the koshi. Faster is almost always better.

Again, I would only recommend that a student try to stop using external koshi after he can use external koshi extremely well -- in all his movements consistently.

Not using koshi at all is a problem. Using too obvious a koshi is also a problem. Using koshi in a way so that others cannot tell you are using it is the goal. Sometimes, as teachers, we get so used to demonstrating large koshi for our students that they and even we forget this goal.

At the right time, the training wheels should be taken off.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Bench Pressing

I mentioned that I have been lifting weights with my sons (aged 21 and 18). I like to lift lighter weights with more repetitions than them. They tend to lift heavier because they are trying to build mass. I am just trying to stay in shape as I get older.

My second son got me to bench press 175 pounds (once). That is a lot for me. I was a little happy. Even though my sons regularly lift 225 pounds or more, at least I felt somewhat close.

Then my second son mentioned, "You should have seen my friend in high school. He could bench 550. He was a monster!"

That sounded like an awful lot of weight to me, so I looked up the world record. It is about 1000 pounds!

So how does this relate to Karate? The answer is this -- I certainly would not like to grapple with someone who could bench press 1000 pounds or even 500 pounds. My sons are already much stronger than me. I cannot possibly match them in raw strength.

That is why Karate techniques tend to be concentrated on attacking an opponent's weak spots. Even a person who can lift 1000 pounds has very weak eyes. Karate also teaches us to be very agile and quick. There is little advantage in standing there and slugging it out unless you are bigger and stronger.

I began my martial arts training as a grappler (in Judo). I also practiced Aikido and Kenpo. Grappling has also been a part of my Karate training. However, I always keep in mind that the attacker might be much stronger than me. In fact, he might be able to lift 1000 pounds. Just imagine if he got a hold of me!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Strengths and Weaknesses

One of our new students is very tall (the tallest ever in our dojo). He is strong too, not just tall.

I often tell students that they should not compare themselves to me. I am only 5 feet 7.5 inches and weigh about 170 pounds. Some students will be taller or shorter, thinner or stouter, stronger or weaker than me. This is natural.

Instead of comparing themselves to me, they should compare themselves to an optimized version of themselves. Are they as strong as they could be? Are they in as good shape as they could be? Are they are quick and fluid as they could be? Are they as skilled as they could be? If they were to defend themselves against an optimized version of themselves, how would they fare?

Of course, we cannot pick the person who will attack us. He may well be a bigger and stronger person. It could also be a smaller person with a weapon. Size is only one consideration.

A taller and stronger student will have certain advantages. He will have a longer reach. He will be stronger. He can probably take more punishment (maybe).

But a smaller student might be quicker. He might also be just as strong -- more importantly, he might be able to hit harder (to concentrate his power).

There are also disadvantages to being taller. Tall students generally have a harder time taking falls and getting up quickly. They also present a bigger target -- there is more to hit. In addition, the joints of a taller person are probably proportionately weaker than a smaller person's because they have to carry a heavier, longer load.

I always say that one of the advantages of the some of the early Karate teachers in Okinawa was that they were compact, but just as strong as a big man. If you ever practiced Judo, you know that the worst opponent is someone who is smaller than you but stronger and more skilled.

A small person can neutralize some of the advantages of a taller opponent by getting in very close -- bumping bodies. It is hard for a taller person to punch and kick in close. A smaller person, in contrast, can use a wider array of techniques in close.

Whatever the size and shape of a student may be, he or should should try his best to learn and get into good shape. Little by little, we can all improve ourselves.

An old saying among Karate experts is that size does not matter in Karate. That is true if the student is very skilled and in excellent shape. Otherwise, size matters a great deal.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

KarateGrammy Blog

Today I received a very nice email from the author of the KarateGrammy Blog (http://karategrammy.blogspot.com/). She practices Tang Soo Do, and took up the art just before her 60th birthday. She has an interesting perspective. I hope that you will visit her blog.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Just Like....

This is a story.

There was a student who idolized Choki Motobu. He read all of his books (Okinawan Kenpo Tode Jutsu, Kumite Hen, 1926, and Watashi no Tode Jutsu, 1932). He read all of the articles published about him. He watched every video produced about Motobu's fighting system.

He studied for years, then decades. Finally he felt confident that he had learned the Motobu art. In fact, one of his seniors declared "your techniques are just like Motobu Sensei's!"

Brimming with confidence, the student went to a shady area of town to test out his skills. Acting cocky, he quickly got his wish. A big man threw a wild punch toward the student's nose. Out went the student's block and "bam" the punch landed right on his nose!

A couple hours later, after he had been revived and taken to the hospital, the student awoke to find his senior sitting by his bed.

"You, you said my techniques were just like Motobu Sensei's," said the student.

"They are," replied the senior. "You have copied his techniques precisely. But I didn't say that you are as strong as Motobu Sensei, or that you can take or slip a punch as well as he could, or that you are a fighter. And only a fool goes out looking for trouble. You're lucky that you weren't killed."

"Is that all you have to say?" whimpered the student.

"Well, that big guy who punched you sure hit like Motobu Sensei!"

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Kata For A Lifetime

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.

- - - - - - - - - -

Just last night I was discussing with Alan Yokota about our Shorin-Ryu Karate Kata curriculum. Chibana Sensei felt that Itosu Sensei had too many Kata. In his discussions with Itosu Sensei, it was decided that Chibana Sensei would teach Itosu Sensei's core Kata, with the addition of the Matsumura Patsai, which he had learned from Tawada Sensei. Chibana Sensei trained with Tawada Sensei for three years in order to learn this Kata. The Chibana Chosin Kata curriculum is the orthodox Shuri-te Kata.

In Okinawa many of the old masters used the phrase, "hitotsu no Kata sannen (one Kata, three years)". In other words, to learn a Kata well, one would have to practice a singular Kata for three years. As mentioned Chibana Sensei trained with Tawada Sensei for three years in order to learn the Matsumura Patsai.

Each Kata or Kata series in Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate is a complete fighting system in itself. In other words, Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate is a mix of many styles. The Naihanchi Kata was the fighting system that Tudi Sakugawa (Teruya Kanga) learned in China. The Kusanku Kata was the fighting system taught by the emissary, Kusanku. The Patsai Kata Sho (Itosu) or Dai (Matsumura) was/were a complete fighting system by itself. The Chinto Kata was the fighting system of a Chinese fighter named Chinto. The Pinan Kata series is a very complete fighting system, which was created by Itosu Ankoh Sensei to teach the young students in the school system.

As far as I am concerned, the strongest complete fighting Kata are our three Kihon Kata, which were created by Chibana Sensei. Ironically, Chibana Sensei developed the Kihon Kata as a lead-in for the rest of the Kata. The Kihon Kata are a combination of very basic techniques, which makes them the strongest of all the Kata.

The Kata is a combination of basic (Kihon) techniques. One could practice each technique individually, without the Kata. Combat involves movement. This is where the Kata comes in. We are now concerned with the transition from one technique to the other. This transition or pressing (osae) involves timing and rhythm (iki no hyoshi [breathing rhythm]). Kumite practice becomes a distraction because a Kata is against multiple attacks and not just one opponent.

The osae for us is the most important aspect of our Kata practice. I have explained that the osae is the closing of distance. I like Goodin Sensei's word best; entry.

Considering all these factors, it is not one Kata for three years nor five years, but rather one Kata for a lifetime.

Pat Nakata

My Teacher Is So Great!

If my teacher is a 10th degree black belt, what does that make me?

If my teacher is a hanshi, what does that make me?

If my teacher is a great fighter, what does that make me?

If my teacher is a great technician, what does that make me?

If my teacher is a great historian and researcher, what does that make me?

If my teacher is great, that does not make me great. What is does make me is very lucky to have such a fine teacher. It means that I have a teacher who really knows his (or her) Karate, and if I am a good student, I will have a chance to learn.

But many students of great teachers do not become great themselves (you usually don't hear about them). It is up to the student. The teacher became great, in large part, by his own hard work. A great teacher can point you in the right direction and set an excellent example. But the actual progress depends on your effort and diligence. A great teacher cannot make a student great. That simply does not happen.

Even if the great teacher is the father or the grandfather of the student, the student cannot simply ride on great coat tails. Being related to a great teacher might help someone acquire a high position, but not skill. Skill only comes through hard work.

If my teacher is great, I have an excellent opportunity if I will invest in the necessary hard work and training. It also means that I have a lot to live up to. Others will expect me to excel because of my teacher's reputation. In addition, my actions will reflect, positively or negatively, on my teacher. I will always have to be mindful of this.

There was a student. He was coming out of a theater when a mugger jumped him, knocked him to the ground and demanded his wallet. As he handed over the wallet, the student said, "Don't you know that I am the Karate student of a great teacher?"

"No, I didn't know that," replied the mugger. "Too bad you didnt bring him to the movie with you!"

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Ten New Students

For the first time since my dojo opened in 1997, we have had ten new students during the last month. Enrollment tends to go in spurts, but this is the biggest spurt ever for us. (My son Charles, has been in charge of the class for the last three months. I wonder if he attracts more students than I did?)

My advice to new students is this: practice. If you will practice what you learn at each class, the next time we can teach you something new. Little by little you will learn, and soon you will know a lot. But if you do not practice, the new things will only confuse you. Karate is very simple if you practice.

It is also good to ask questions if you do not understand something. In the beginning you will be learning how to move. You learn how to move before you learn how to use the technique for self defense. So in the beginning it is best to ask about the movement aspect -- how to shape the movements, when to tense, when to relax, how to align your body, when to breath, etc. The questions you ask will probably also help the other new students.

I always tell new students that half of the new students will usually quit within three months. This may be because they do not like the class. Or it may be that they actually do not have time to attend classes regularly. But we do find that attrition is greatest during the first three months.

If a new student can make it to the three month mark, he or she will usually stay on for a year or longer. So try your best to make the three month mark, and then a year. I always say that after two years you will begin to feel comfortable with training. You will know enough to follow along with much of the class.

So good luck the the new students! Good luck to new students everywhere! Try your best, practice, and try to stick it out. One day you might become a teacher yourself.

Every Sensei, every single Sensei including the greatest of all time, was once a brand new student just like you. The secret of their success was that they practiced and never gave up.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Black Belt War

This is a story.

A new instructor opened a Karate school in a small town. He advertised himself as a "First Degree Black Belt!"

Things went well for a few months. He got many new students as he was the only Karate instructor in town.

One day, he noticed some construction across the street. A new Karate school was opening. The new instructor's sign prominently stated "Second Degree Black Belt!"

Immediately, the first instructor noticed that he had fewer inquiries and new students. He even lost some of his existing students to the new school. This would not do. He called his instructor at the U.S. headquarters of the style he taught and explained the situation. Since the headquarters received a percentage of each student's tuition, it had a vested interest in maintaining and increasing the enrollment. Within a week, the instructor had a brand new 3rd dan certificate and he advertised the fact with great satisfaction.

Not to be outdone, the neighboring instructor called the U.S. headquarters of his style, which had a similar stake in the success of his school. Before the ink had dried on his competitor's signs, he was advertising that he was a "FOURTH DEGREE BLACK BELT!"

No way, said the first instructor. Calls and pleas were made to the international headquarters of the style. The very existence of the style was being challenged. If one town fell, others would too, and soon even the masters themselves would suffer. A board meeting was held and a special resolution was passed. The instructor would be promoted to 5th dan. Since he did not have enough time, experience, and skill, the certificate would be post dated ten years. But the public would not know this. For all they knew, he was a "FIFTH DEGREE BLACK BELT!"

This meant war! The neighboring school took the same action and got the same result, except now he became a "SIXTH DEGREE BLACK BELT AND RENSHI!" The Renshi was a nice touch.

But Kyoshi is better, and that is what the first instructor demanded and received, along with a 7th dan certificate.

Haaa! The neighbor was already taking action. If Kyoshi is good then HANSHI is better, with an 8th dan to go along with it!

Now the first instructor was in a bind. The highest living instructor in his style was an 8th dan. He could not ask for such a rank (well he could, but he knew he could not get it). So.... he switched associations and lateraled into a 9th dan position. It took all his savings, but he got the rank he wanted and constructed a sign covering almost his entire storefront.

The neighbor pondered what to do. How could he compete with a 9th dan? Of course! He left his system and created his own. Now he claimed to be a "10TH DEGREE BLACK BELT, SOKE!" His sign was in neon with moving arms and legs. He had to mortgage his house to pay for the sign and advertising but he knew it would be worth it!

The first instructor was actually impressed with his competitor's boldness, so he did the same thing! He became the "GREAT GRAND MASTER" of his own system, complete with a "10TH DEGREE BLACK BELT!" Actually, his belt was gold, silver, and red (black was simply too plain).

The students in the town were so confused by the black belt war that most lost interest and quit practicing Karate. Instead, they all took up mixed martial arts, where the students typically wear no belts at all.

Both schools quickly closed. The only one who missed them was the owner of the printing shop which had made their many signs, posters, and business cards. He was very sad to see them go!

The End.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Take Time Teachinig

I watched a television program about building construction. A high rise was being constructed. For each floor, they would mix the cement, test it, and then pour it.

For some reason, the tests were either not done or done incorrectly for two floors and the cement mix was not proper. Even though they had already gone on to the next level, they had to go back and jack hammer out the two tainted floors. Naturally, this took a lot of time, money, and manpower. It took much longer to remove the floors than it did to pour them. And there is a chance that the removal could damage the structure. It would have been much more efficient to perform the tests correctly.

Teaching Karate is a lot like this. We build up our students lesson upon lesson. The higher floors, so to speak, are supported by the lower ones. If the third and fourth floors are incorrect, the more you place on top of them the greater the likelihood that the whole structure could collapse.

So it is better to take your time when teaching. Don't rush. Undoing mistakes takes far more time and far more energy than teaching correctly in the first place. In fact, some students never seem to be able to be corrected.

Think about this for a moment. What student is most unlikely to be able to be corrected?

The answer is a student who has become a teacher. When you see teachers with obvious mistakes, it is likely that they are too "advanced" to ever change.

So we should try to get it right the first time. No matter how long it takes, it will take less time than correcting an error later.

Changing a tile on the roof is much easier than re-excavating the foundation!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Student's Needs

The other day I was observing a student moving during class. I could tell that the student's body alignment was less than ideal and spent some time working on this with him.

However, upon reflection, I realized that the student's body alignment was less than ideal for me. At my phase of training -- right at this moment -- his body alignment would not be ideal for me. But it might have been OK for him.

This is not to say that his body alignment could not be improved. Certainly, the lesson I taught was useful and correct. However, the question is whether it was the right thing to teach to that particular student at that particular time. Would it have been better if I taught him something else?

This is a question we always have to ask ourselves. Am I teaching the right thing at the right time to the right student? The issues I am working on myself might be interesting to me, but they might not be appropriate or the best choice for a student (at this time).

If a car has a flat tire, it might not be the best time to change its lights. You should repair the flat tire first.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

100 Pound Bag of Rice

Yesterday, I met with an Okinawan Sumo champion who was born on Kauai in 1918. He was very active in Okinawan Sumo before World War II. Of course, sumo activities in Hawaii ceased during the war.

I asked this gentleman what the reward was for winning a sumo tournament before the war. He said that the champions received a 100 pound bag of rice, which at that time cost $3.

Three dollars may sound like nothing today, but I'm sure it meant more back then. More importantly, the reward was something you could eat. It could help to feed your family. One hundred pounds of rice could go a long way.

After the war, they started to award brass cups instead of bags of rice.

Today I hear about Karate trophies that are taller than the competitors. Since the same people tend to win these things over and over, I am pretty sure that some people must have many giant trophies in their houses!

I personally prefer the bags of rice -- or perhaps a gift certificate to buy food. How about a gift certificate to buy school supplies or to purchase clothing for the poor and needy? I would even prefer a nice T-shirt. At least I could wear it.

Have you ever gone to a swap meet and seen used Karate trophies for sale? I would think that hardly anyone would buy them as they serve no purpose at all. What could you do with them? They only have meaning, if at all, to the person who won them.

Everything you need in Karate is inside your own skin -- all your experience, skill, strategy, courtesy, compassion, etc. When you eat rice, it is inside you too.

The reward for excellence is excellence.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Black Belt Yet?

Sometimes people will ask me how long I have practiced Karate. I will usually reply about 35 years (or so). They will often then ask, "So, are you a black belt?"

I always think to myself, "I should hope so!"

It only takes 8 years or so to earn a Ph.D or medical degree. In 7 years, a person can earn a law degree (4 years of undergraduate school plus 3 years of law school).

I can't think of anything that takes 35 years to earn. If there was, I'm sure that most people would give up long before attaining it.

It is just that our popular culture is fixated on the "black belt." It means so much to the average person. Do they think that it represents an advanced degree in Karate?

I wonder what they think when they see an 8 year old black belt? Don't get me going on that issue.

If we do not want the public to be fixated on the "balck belt", we in Karate should not emphasize it ourselves. My sons have begun to refuse to wear any belt at all.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Sensei's Friends

In my dojo, it is natural that my students will show me respect and courtesy. This is inherent of the student/teacher relationship.

I have many friends who are also Karate sensei. My students will also show respect and courtesy to them. In fact, they will show them at least as much respect and courtesy as they show to me, if not more. A failure to do so would reflect extremely negatively on me.

Students should be very mindful of this.

Students should always be aware that they represent and reflect upon their sensei by their actions, ways of expressing themselves, body language, eye motions, etc. -- not simply by their words.

When I meet my Sensei's friends, I strive to show them the same respect that I show my Sensei.

Another way to think of this is to view your sensei as your father. His friends would be like your uncles. It is natural that you would show respect to your own uncles (or aunties)!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Succession in Karate

There was a farmer with ten sons. His land was small and rocky. As a result, even with the hard work of all ten sons, the family could barely eke out a living.

When the farmer neared the end of his life, he called his sons together. "Sons", he said, "because the farm is so small, I have decided to leave it to the eldest of you. The others can stay and help, or go off and seek their fortunes. But the farm is too small to split among you. If I did so, none of you could make a living and you all would starve."

So the farm was left to the eldest son.

There was a great musician with ten sons. He taught each of them how to play different musical instruments.

When the musician neared the end of this life, he called his sons together. "Sons," he said, "everything I know I have taught you. Now each of you can make a living as a musician. No matter how much you think you understand music, there is still more too learn. The more you study and practice the art, there more there is. There is no end to it."

So the musician's legacy was left to each of his sons.

There was a great Karate instructor with ten students. When he neared the end of his life, do you think he treated his Karate like a farm or an art? It seems to me that far too many "great" Karate instructors view their art as a small, barren field. Karate is an art, a skill, a limitless resource. There is no end to it.

There was another father who had ten sons, each of whom was born blind. Each day for many years, the father applied medicines and urged his sons to perform eye exercises. Finally, each of them could see perfectly.

When the father neared the end of his life, his sons gathered and asked, "So who gets the farm?"

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Hawaii Student and the Stick

This is a parable.

There was a ferocious Karate instructor, known for brutalizing his students. Three students visited his dojo in Japan and sat seiza before him.

The first student was a Japanese from Japan. The instructor approached him with a gnarly stick and asked, "Do you want me to beat you?" He bent down and the student whispered "Hai."

The instructor hit the student from head to toe, covering his body with painful welts.

He approached the second student, a Japanese from the mainland and again asked , "Do you want me to beat you?" He bent down and the student whispered "Yes."

Once again, the instructor beat the student with a vengance.

The two battered students rubbed their wounds and turned to watch the third student, a Japanese from Hawaii.

The instructor approached and again asked, "Do you want me to beat you?" He bent down and the student whispered his answer.

The instructor handed the stick to the Hawaii student and left the room.

Amazed, the Japanese student from the mainland asked the Hawaii student, "What did you say?"

The Hawaii student answered, "I said, no thank you. But if you like, I can continue to beat these other guys for you!"

Hawaii students tend not to take unnecessary abuse. This is not because they are lazy or disrespectful, but because they are practical and not overly impressed by high titles and rank. They see brutalization for what it is.

Hawaii students will only take so much. Then the attacker better be ready to get it back.

Actually, the Hawaii student would probably have said: "Listen, you better put down that stick if you know what's good for you."

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Proofing Students

I am a real estate attorney. Much of my day is spent proofing documents, looking for any errors. I have done this for 20 years and am pretty good at catching typos (except in this blog sometimes). I find them even at stores, airports, everywhere. You'd be surprised at how many businesses do not seem to care about such things.

One of the rules of proofing is this: if you find one error, look for others. An error means that there might be a bigger problem with a document. One error means that there might be others.

When I meet Karate students, I also feel the same way. If a student does not follow the proper courtesies, I will be on guard for other errors. If a student does not address his seniors properly or breaches other rules of protocol, he probably does other things wrong too. He may be egotistical, insensitive, careless, etc.

One error means that there may be others.

I am not speaking here about technical errors. Naturally, newer students have many errors and seasoned students have much fewer (hopefully). Technical errors are not a major problem. Practice and attention can fix them.

As student myself, I try to make sure that I do not present errors that will make my seniors question the rest of my Karate. We can only try our best, but the key is to try.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Stepping Out Of The Ring

This afternoon, I discussed the issue of stepping out of the ring during kumite with two senior Karate sensei. One of them mentioned that he was taught that stepping out of the ring was like falling off a cliff. As such, any points scored by the person who stepped out of the ring, after he stepped out, would not be counted. How could anyone score a point while falling off a cliff?

The other sensei in our discussion agreed. I too recall hearing such things when I was a much younger student. Stepping out of the ring is like falling off something.

This reminded me of a high school incident. I attended Radford High School in Honolulu. One day, my friends and I, all of whom practiced Karate, were goofing around on the bleachers at the football field. We were about half way up the bleachers, perhaps 10 feet of the ground.

One of the my friends was practicing kicks. He would kick, step back, kick, step back... Well, he was near the edge of the bleachers and sure enough, on his last kick he stepped back right off the edge. His right leg scraped against the side of the rough wooden edge, from his ankle all the way down to his groin (almost). He barely caught the guard rail. It really hurt.

It all happened so quickly. One minute he was kicking and the next he was down and in pain.

Lucky thing it was not a cliff!

I can tell you for sure that he could not have landed a good kick or punch while he was falling off the side of the bleacher. He was just fortunate not to have been badly hurt.

So when they say that stepping out of the ring is like stepping off a cliff, you should heed the lesson and the warning. You have to be aware of your surroundings at all times. How can you defend yourself when you are falling off a cliff, bleachers, or into a hole?

What your step!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Mabuni On Kata

I would like to announce the translation of an excellent article by Kenwa Mabuni (founder of the Shito-Ryu form of Karate), entitled Practice Kata Correctly. The URL of the article is: http://seinenkai.com/articles/tankosich/tankosich3.html. It appears at the at the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai website.

The article was recently translated by Mark Tankosich, who practices both Karate and Jodo. I am a big fan of Mark's translations and articles, and am very grateful to him for allowing me to post the article at the Seinenkai website. I will not post the actual article in this blog, because I want readers to see the article with proper formatting.

Please read the article carefully. It helps us to understand the importance of kata and how to properly practice them based on the advice of one of the leading experts of the era. Mabuni Sensei's words are just a true today as they were in the 1930s. As he says (with respect to kata): "Breadth, no matter how great, means little without depth."

Thank you very much again to Mark Tankosich for the excellent translation of such an important article.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Watching Others Perform Kata

You can learn a lot by watching other people perform kata.

On a very superficial level, you might notice when he makes an error such as leaving out a movement, turning in the wrong direction, making the kiai at the wrong point, or performing individual techniques incorrectly.

On a deeper level, you might notice the way that he generates power. Does he simply "muscle" the movements or is he using a more sophisticated method, such as "whole body" koshi?

How is his timing? How does he enter? How does he shift his body? These are all excellent questions.

But on a deeper level, you might ask what he is thinking and feeling. Is he angry, conceited, afraid, composed, trembling...?

Does his kata have a certain "floweriness" or flair? Is he performing the kata to make an impression? Does this reflect arrogance or insecurity?

It is one thing to be able to read the kata. It is another to be able to read the person. You might try to do both.

You might try to be aware of these things when you perform kata yourself.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Teaching - Learning

In Karate, when you know more than the next student, you should teach him. When you know less, you should learn from him. This is a pretty simple thing.

However, when you know more but refuse to teach, or know less but refuse to learn, there will be problems.

A teacher should be very generous, understanding, and willing to teach. A student should be very humble, grateful, and willing to learn.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Two Things To Improve One's Karate

I often get to watch Karate demonstrations, whether live or on DVD (or some other medium). I have much to learn myself, but I can suggest two things that will greatly improve many students' performances:

Slow down. Don't rush the count. Take a walking pace between movements and then move quickly once you get there. Give yourself enough time to "set" your movements. There is no need to hurry.
Lower your shoulders. The excitement of being in front of a crowd or camera often makes a student nervous and tense. It shows in the shoulders. Your shoulders should always be pressed down. That is a basic thing -- but it took me more than 20 years to begin to get it. Power comes from your entire body. It goes through your shoulders. If you raise your shoulders, the power will be blocked, slowed, and/or lessened.
On the rare occasions when I have given public demonstrations, I have done both of the above improperly.

Slow down and relax.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin