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1650+ Posts... and Counting

"Toned Sexy Core"

I was watching a television commercial for an exercise machine, the use of which would give one a "toned sexy core."

How about that? We have been working on our core all these years and did not even know that it was sexy! I can't remember the last time I heard someone say, "Wow, check out that person's core."

But, of course, in Karate we work on our core so that we can develop "whole body" movement. Core and "koshi" are almost the same, at least to me.

Anyway, the next time you are practicing Karate, don't forget that you are also toning your core, and that is apparently a sexy thing!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

"One Big Muscle" Ness

I recently wrote a post entitled One Big Muscle, the idea of which is that "You have to learn to use your body like one big muscle."

For beginners, this might sound like a difficult concept. One way to visualize this is to think of a puppet. Think about a wooden Pinocchio puppet. His arms and legs are segmented at the joints (wrists, elbows, shoulders, etc.). There are strings attached to various points on the puppet's body. All of these strings lead up to the person controlling the puppet. By pulling on one string, the puppet's arm will raise, by pulling another, his leg will raise, etc. A skillfull puppeteer can make it look like the puppet is alive.

But the puppet is not alive. It only moves because of the puppeteer pulling on its strings. The puppet is just a collection of parts.

Now imagine, through the magic of technology, that the strings are removed. Instead, there are tiny motors put inside the puppet. There is a motor in the wrist, another in the elbow, another in the neck. Each motor is wirelessly connected to the puppeteer, who now uses a remote control to make the puppet walk, dance... seem alive.

This is getting closer to a "real" person, but still the puppet is not alive. Its movements are still controlled by the puppeteer. It is still just a collection of parts.

Here is the point. Most Karate students are like puppets. I do not mean that their movements are controlled by a puppeteer. Of course not. But their body is like a collection of parts that move separately and are powered in the extremities. Their body is not like one big muscle.

I feel qualified to state this because I was an expert at it! I was an expert at moving like a collection of parts. I did not mean to do it, but I did not know any better.

A puppet, not matter how you control it, is still a puppet.

In Pinocchio, the puppet magically becomes a real boy. He has no more strings, no more puppeteer. He is alive.

This is how I felt when I started to learn how to use koshi. It felt like the strings were being cut and a magical new engine was turning on. I now prefer to refer to koshi dynamics as whole body dynamics, because even the koshi (although important) is still just a part of the whole.

When you see a puppet move, you can tell that it is not alive. When you see a living person move, you can tell that he or she is not a puppet.

When you see a Karate student use their whole body to generate power and movement, you can tell. When you a Karate student move like a collection of part, you can tell this too.

Here is one more level -- the body is not just the body. Sometimes you hear the phrase, "mind, body, and spirit," which gives the impression that these are three things. But these, too, are parts of the whole person.

A Karate expert moves with his whole body, with the totality of his being... however you would like to phrase it. There is no separation of the body parts. There is no separation of the "body" and "mind." There is no separation at all.

Each movement is generated by the whole.

My experience is that when Karate students observe this for the first time, their jaw drops open. It makes no sense. How can living movement make sense to a student who is still moving like a puppet?

When Karate students experience this type of movement for themselves, they feel freed from the strings!

Learning to use the whole body is not grade or rank based. I have seen mudansha (kyu holders) with excellent body dynamics. I have also seen yudansha of all levels with extremely poor body dynamics. Of course, the experts with the very best body dynamics tend to be senior yudansha -- but not always. It all depends on the person and the way that they are training.

People who move like a collection of parts, tend to do very well in their 20s and 30s. After that, they tend to become weaker and slower. People who move "whole body," tend to be weaker at first, but much, much stronger as they age.

As an instructor, this is why I feel that it is best to teach clean and strong linear basics to beginners, and then, when they reach the natural limits of such movements, to help them transition to "whole body" movement. But this is a difficult, time intensive process -- certainly not "cookie cutter" Karate (where everyone moves the same throughout their Karate life).

You are a unique person. One size will not fit you. You have to find the best approach for you and learn to use your whole body in a coordinated manner, like one big muscle.

I am still working on this for myself. I do not mean to suggest that I have "mastered" the process. Far from it! If anything, I have "beginnered" the process. I am working on it, and that is the key. We each have to work on it ourselves.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Happy Halloween -- Be Safe!

Happy Halloween! Our dojo has training tonight, but I have advised all of our students that they can miss class to go trick-or-treating or to hand out candy at their homes. I didn't want any students to feel like they had to attend training and miss out on a special event.

I feel that children need to be children. Halloween is a fun time for them, as well as for their parents. There is always time for Karate training. Karate is something you do for a lifetime.

I remember that when I practiced Kendo, there would be training even on Christmas in some schools. The only day they took off was New Years. That seems a bit too much for me. I encourage students to spend special holidays with their families and loved ones. One should not neglect family and loved ones because of Karate training.

Halloween can also be a risky time, especially for children. Going out at night presents dangers. Children should be escorted by a parent (or adult) and make sure to have a good light source. Watch out for cars and dogs and other people. Make sure that the children's costumes are safe and non-flammable.

Some years, you might hear about someone putting poison or foreign objects in the candy. You have to watch this carefully. Parents should inspect all candy. And candy is not very good for children anyway. So many of our children in the United States are overweight and this can lead to a host of medical problems. Some parents will trade their children for their candy and give them something healthier (or money or something).

Of course, I cannot tell any parents what they should do. That is up to the parents. These are just some of the things that I think about as a parent of four children who all went our trick-or-treating when they were young.

The most important thing, as Karate students, is to be aware and careful. That applies at all times, not just on Halloween.

Here are two of my candy stories. When I was young, I lived at Misawa Air Force Base in Northern Japan. In Japan, they sold bags of "rock candy" which was big crystals of sugar. I can't think that anything that could be more sweet than big crystals of pure sugar. I could eat the whole bag! Back then (late 1960s), some people still gave out homemade candied apples (the red ones, not the caramel ones). We would eat the apples and lose our fillings.

I loved candy and any sweets. As a result, I was a chubby boy. The way I slimmed down was practicing Judo on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at the big gymnasium on base. I still liked candy, but the exercise helped me to burn off all the calories.

Happy Halloween! Be safe.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Submitting Karate Questions

If you would like to submit a question about Karate, to see what I might think about a subject, you are welcome to do so. I will most likely paraphrase the question and state the initials of the person who submits the question (to be safe). It would help if you state where you are from (city, state, country). I am sorry, but I cannot promise to answer all questions, but I will try to answer the ones I find particularly interesting.

I won't answer questions about who promoted who, who is the best, how you can get promoted, commercial issues, politics, etc.

Of course, I only know what I know and thoughtful people can disagree about things. If I don't know something, I will say that I don't.

But you are welcome to submit a question. You can email to me at:


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

One Big Muscle

Last night I was teaching a yudansha who had recently returned to our dojo. She had left during our transition to the body mechanics taught by Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, so I spent some time explaining the basic concepts.

At one point, I said, "You have to learn to use your body like one big muscle."

It sounded good at the time, and I realize that it is an oversimplification. But thinking about it further, I think it is a good teaching point. Too often, we think about the various "parts" of our body as being separate. We think about our right arm and left arm as if they are not connected. We think about our upper body and lower body, our front and back, or our right and left halves. But these are just ways to characterize the body. We have only one body and the parts are really not separate -- they are connected... obviously.

When it comes to movement, if you view the body as separate parts, you will probably move in a disjointed manner. The parts have a hard time moving together. In fact, they often work against each other.

But in natural movement, the body is ONE, like one big muscle. Take a sneeze. You don't have to think about it or will it. It just happens. But look at all the movements that are involved. I am pretty sure that no one can intentionally sneeze with the speed and power of a natural, unexpected sneeze.

If your body is one big muscle, then twitching that muscle will result in movement of the body. Moving the muscle will move the body. It sounds so much easier than coordinating the movements of many separate body parts.

I sometimes refer to our way of moving as "whole body" Karate. Even separating the koshi (conceptually) can lead to a disjointed approach. We have to be careful to view the body as a whole. Using that one big muscle is a bit like wringing a big wet towel. We can wring it this way, and that way, and through coordinately movement crack that towel like a whip.

The whole body is the whip, or one big muscle.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

You Never Know...

When you meet someone, you never know what they are going through in life. They could be suffering from an illness, caring for a parent with Alzheimer's disease, raising a child with a learning challenge, having problems at work, just lost their home to a wild fire, hurricane or flood, been the victim of a crime, or any number of situations. It is even hard to really know what a person is experiencing when you know that person well. Many people keep their difficulties to themselves.

At the same time, it might be hard to know if a person is a chronic alcoholic or abuser of drugs. Did he forget to take his medications today? Is he a criminal or even a terrorist? On the surface, most people appear to be "normal" (what is normal anyway?).

But so much goes on, just under the surface. Many people are walking around with great pain, anger, and suffering.

My point is that everyone is not the same. When someone yells at you, he might not only be reacting to something you did. There might be much more to it. You might have triggered his reaction, just like a little loose stone could cause a landslide. This is why some people overreact. Sometimes it just takes a little nudge or prick to make a person lose control.

The person might not be mad at you -- he might just be mad.

I know a man who used to abuse drugs. He mentioned to me that when you see an addict talking to an imaginary person, that person is real to him. The addict actually sees him! That "imaginary" person might even be telling him what to do!

You never know.

When you correct a student at the dojo you might find that she trembles when you touch her arm. Is she the victim of abuse at home?

When you throw a punch at a child in the dojo, he might cower rather than block. Has someone abused him?

When a student does kumite, is he trying to properly hit you (with control) or striking out wildly against someone haunting his mind?

You never know... but it is better to be aware of the possibilities.

I think that this is one reason that courtesy is stressed so much in the martial arts. Courtesy can sometimes diffuse a volatile situation, or at least not aggravate it. On the other hand, a gruff, angry, or arrogant attitude can make a bad situation much worse.

The martial arts also teach us to be patient, and to have a very long fuse. We should not be easily angered to quick to fight. We should not be part of the problem. The techniques of Karate are a solution only as a last resort.

You never know. It is important to realize that you never know. There is much more to people than can be seen on the surface. Some people are juggling hand grenades, so to speak. You can't see the hand grenades, but they are there, and ready to explode!

You have to be careful and aware. And still, you never know.

You can only control yourself. What is going on under your surface? Karate training gives us the self discipline to control ourselves and the opportunity to better understand ourselves.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Not Just in the Dojo

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, including Practice Kata Correctly, by Kenwa Mabuni.

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Not Just in the Dojo

As Goodin Sensei has noted here, he and I seem to agree on a lot when it comes to karate. In fact, I had just recently decided to do some writing about a certain topic, and before I knew it, he touched on it in a post!

Goodin Sensei referred to what he calls "big karate" and "small karate." The former, he says, is karate which addresses your entire life, while the latter is just about techniques and other physical things. This distinction, I think, is mainly what the famous Gichin Funakoshi was referring to in the eighth of his 20 guiding principles of karate. Funakoshi Sensei wrote (in Japanese): "Dojo nomi no karate to omou na." Everyone reading this knows the meaning of the words "dojo" and "karate," but what about the rest of the words that make up this saying?

Briefly, "nomi" means "only," "no" is "of," and "to omou na" means "Don't think (something)!" Put it all together, and we get a translation of "Do not think that karate is only in the dojo!" This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite Japanese (karate) sayings.

In my opinion, Gichin Funakoshi was referring to what can seem like two different things, but which are actually one and the same. First, I think that he was telling us that we need to be alert, to be capable of using our karate techniques, of defending ourselves, etc., outside of the dojo, too, just as we do inside of it. Karate that only works in the training hall, with one's dojomates, is really pretty useless, after all.

More importantly, though, I believe that the second part of what Funakoshi Sensei was pointing out is that we should live our ENTIRE lives as we practice in the dojo; that karate training really should be a blueprint for a way of living.

Are you polite in the dojo? Are you careful about the effects of your actions and words? Do you do your best to concentrate completely on what you are doing? Do you work hard? Are you constantly trying to improve yourself? THIS is the way we, as karate-ka, should also strive to live our lives. This is the way that we should be at school, at home, and at work.

I believe that, in essence, Funakoshi Sensei was saying, "Use in your everyday life what you've learned in the dojo, be it techniques to defend yourself, or the proper way to talk to others, achieve goals or deal with difficulties."

Mark Tankosich

MMA Tag Teams

I have an idea.

In mixed martial arts matches, there should be tag teams. There would be the two main fighters, but they each would have a team member. The team members would have to stay at the edge of the ring (or cage) and could not do anything until the two main fighters go to the ground for say 20 seconds. Then the team members can run in and kick and punch the opposing fighter until the fighters get back to their feet. The team members could not hit each other, only the opposing fighter.

In other words, the fighters could not stay on the ground very long before they would get jumped. If a fighter's hands were tied up choking his opponent, that would be too bad. The opponent's team member could run in and kick him in the head!

Doesn't this sound a little bit like the street?

I am only joking about MMA tag teams and mean no disrespect to MMA people. I always say that early Karate (Tote, Tudi, or "China Hand") was a mixed martial art, incorporating striking, grappling, and everything in between (plus weapons). And I know that many MMA experts warn people about groundwork on the street because of the risk of another person jumping in to help his friend.

But wouldn't it be at least a little interesting to have such MMA tag teams? It would certainly make the fighters get quicker choke-outs or submissions.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate In The Olympics

I just posted an article by Stan E. Henning to the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai website entitled: Chinese Martial Arts Confront the 21st Century. The article discusses the issue of Chinese martial art becoming a part of the Olympics.

No one has ever asked me, but if they did I would say that I would not like to see Karate as an Olympic sport or event. First of all, I do not consider Karate to be a sport or form of competition. I consider it to be an art and civilian form of self defense.

There are also many different styles of Karate. Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu, for example, are quite different. I suppose that a core set of kata could be selected for use in the Olympics, but I really don't like that idea. It is more than difficult enough for a Shorin-Ryu student to properly learn Shorin-Ryu kata. Too many people, in my opinion, dilute their efforts by learning kata in other styles before they have properly learned and refined the kata in their own style.

If Karate were an Olympic sport, I suppose their would be weight divisions and the winners would be given medals. I do not like such external awards for Karate. The reward for a job well done is the job well done. Also, in Karate we must prepare to defend ourselves against any attacker, not just one in our weight division.

I do think that mixed martial arts could have a place in the Olympics. It comes the closest to a well rounded approach to martial arts competition, in my opinion. The mixed martial arts accept participants from any art and style. Competitors might excel at different skills, but a combination of striking and grappling skills is usually a prerequisite.

As for Karate, I believe in the saying, "If you know it, don't show it."

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Comment On Doing The Work

I want to comment on the Guest Post by my friend, Mark Tankosich, entitled Doing the Work.

First, Mark and I have never met (yet). He lives in Hiroshima and I live in Honolulu. We have become friends via email and blogs. We practice different forms of Karate and different martial arts. About the only thing we have in common is our age.

But it is very strange that Mark and I, with such different backgrounds, think the same about so many aspects of Karate. I have also received email from readers across the world who have expressed the same sentiment. It seems that many of us share the same or very similar feelings about Karate.

What I liked about Mark's latest post is that it really hits the heart of the matter of training -- it is something that you must do. If someone tells us to do something, we are just following orders. But when we are the ones urging ourselves to improve, then it is something else. We are our own Sensei, in a way.

Like Mark, I am always asking myself how I can improve myself, how can I do better? There are some things I would really like to do, such as learning to read and write Japanese, learn Escrima, learn naginata, practice yoga, go fishing, etc. But family, work, and Karate obligations make some of these difficult, at least in the near term.

Self improvement is something only you can do. No one else can do it for you. You can hire or find experts to help you, but it is really up to you. You must do the work. As Mark wrote: "No matter the goal, there is always 'the work' that must be done. Always, and without exception."

I suppose that it is possible to find a person who is good at Karate but poor at everything else. But this would be surprising to me. I have found that Karate experts are usually as demanding of themselves in all areas of their lives. What good would it be to be good at Karate but poor at your daily work, or good at Karate but poor at being a father, or good at Karate but poor in basic communication skills?

I sometimes say that you should be excellent at Karate, but better at other things. By this I mean that if you are truly excellent at Karate, you should be even better at your work, even better at being a father, son, husband, etc. If you are excellent at Karate, it means that you will have demanded more of yourself in all things. Perhaps this another way of saying that you should be well rounded. Another way of saying this is that you practice big Karate (addressing your entire life) rather than small Karate (addressing the physical and techniques only).

You can attend seminars, read books, watch DVDs, travel the world seeking out the greatest masters, but in the end, the work is something you and only you can do.

See, Mark and I agree again.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Rank, Titles, Certificates, Etc.

I have written at length about rank, titles, certificates, etc., usually in a negative light. When you see a lot, the negatives tend to stand out and irritate you.

But enough is enough. From now on, I will only write on that subject if I have something positive to say. That does not mean that everything about rank, titles, certificates, etc. is positive. There are a lot of problems, some big and some subtle. But writing about those problems here probably won't do much good -- if you are hung up on those things, you would have probably stopped reading this blog a long time ago.

So no more negative posts (on that subject).

Hmmmm, so what should I write about?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Complainers

Sometimes we all have to do difficult jobs. But some people spend more time and effort complaining about it than the do actually working.

If you have to do a difficult job, complaining won't change anything. It will just irritate the people around you and probably make your boss think poorly of you. Who do you think he will fire if he has to reduce his work force?

On the other hand, if you do your best and maintain a positive attitude, this will also be noticed by the people around you.

The funny thing is that some people will complain about just about anything. It becomes part of their nature. If this describes you, you might find it hard to see it in yourself. But if you do see it, you should work on yourself and resist the temptation to complain unless it is really necessary.

When faced with a difficult job, you should just "suck it up" and resolve to do your best. Attack the job. Maintain a positive attitude. Learn what you can from the experience. A difficult job may lead to a better one.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The Greatest Karate Treasure

I devote considerable time to the Hawaii Karate Museum. We are constantly searching for old Karate books, articles, photographs, weapons, and artifacts -- and we have been very fortunate to acquire some amazing pieces over the years. It is not unusual today to hear of older Karate books selling for more than $3,000.

I probably get to see more historic Karate items than most people. But I want to make it very clear that no Karate artifact, no matter how valuable or historic, is as important as your own Sensei.

You do not learn Karate from an artifact -- you learn from your Sensei.

Artifacts do not shape your character -- your Sensei works on that, as do you.

You do not look up to an artifact as a role model -- you look up to your Sensei.

All the Karate artifacts in the the world are not as valuable as your own Sensei.
A Karate museum has an important function to preserve the history of Karate. Part of that is collecting historic items. But that is only important if there are great Sensei in the world teaching Karate to succeeding generations of Karate students. An artifact can tell a student something about Karate, but that only matters if the student is actually learning Karate from his or her Sensei. Otherwise, it is just an idle curiosity.

If you would like to discover the greatest treasure in Karate, you do not have to look any farther than your own dojo. Your Sensei is the greatest treasure in Karate.

And when I say that a Sensei is "great," please don't think that I am referring to his rank, title, championships, number of students, or the size of his dojo. You can find great Sensei teaching in their homes, garages, backyards, schools, churches, recreation centers, malls... anywhere.

What makes a Sensei great is his (or her) skill, teaching ability, and heart. If you are lucky enough to have such a Sensei, please don't miss the opportunity to learn from him (or her).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Follow-Up to Random Thoughts

On September 17th, I posted an item entitled Random Thoughts This Afternoon. I asked my daughter, Natasja, to review the list and add any of her thoughts. Natasja is a student in our Hikari Dojo and is also a very active dancer. This is her list:

Here are more things to add to your blog "Random Thoughts This Afternoon:"

  1. Don't do well for others, do it for yourself.
  2. Believe in yourself.
  3. Don't be jealous of others, be grateful for what you have.
  4. Never take advantage of the ones you love.
  5. Always surround yourself with people who can make you a better person.
  6. What goes around, comes around.
  7. Strive for excellence.
Respectfully,

Natasja Goodin


(Original post, September 17, 2007:)


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

Split Counting / Thinking

When you are doing a lot of punching, blocking, kicking, or whatever, the count can seem to go on forever.

Counting to 100 seems to take a long time. It is easier to count to 10 ten times. Even 15 can seem like a lot (if you are doing something hard). Counting to 5 three times can make it easier.

When you are doing 10 things, the number 8 means that you only have 2 to go. It is easy to do only 2 more things.

If you are doing 1,000 punches, the number 500 means that you are half way there!

Doing 1,000 punches sounds like a lot, but at least it is not 5,000!

The reason I am writing about this is because numbers are a mental thing. As humans, we count things: 1, 2, 3, 10, 100, 1,000. Since counting is a mental process, you can trick your mind into "thinking" that something is a lot or a little, hard or easy, etc.

I used to like puzzles, particularly when I was young. I would do 1,000 piece puzzles. That's a lot of pieces, but each one you fit together means that there is one less to chose from. That makes it easier to find the next piece.

When you do kata, you usually do not count the movements (unless you are doing the kata in a group). Moving on you own internal count, there are no numbers. There is no real feeling of a beginning, middle, and end to the kata. Of course, you might bow at the beginning and the end.

Have you ever started with one kata but ended with another? I used to do that with Pinan Yondan and Godan. I would start out with Pinan Yondan and end up with Pinan Godan. There was no "count" in my mind. I was just feeling the kata. Afterwards, I would just laugh about it. One kata is as good as another.

Done a certain way, kata have a count. Done another way, they have no count at all.

When you count, your mind is moving in a linear way. Time moves slowly. When you do not count -- do not verbalize or number the movement process -- time seems to move differently.

One of the secrets of Karate (a secret is just something you realize through training) is to learn to switch your mind into the verbal or nonverbal, numeric or non-numeric mode. When someone punches you, there is no time to think. If you try to think you will surely be hit. But if you can switch into the nonverbal mode, things seem to move slowly and you move without thinking. It is as if your body makes the decisions and you realize it after the fact.

I will tell you one of my tricks. When I take the ready position for a kata, that switches my mind off. In a non-kata context, if I put my index finger and thumb together (of either hand), that does the trick. You mind will obey physical commands if you train it to do so.

1, 2, 3... a, b, c,... *, * *. (* means non verbal).

Respectfully,

Charles C. G**din

When You Can't Give A Raise...

There is a saying in business: "When you can't give someone a raise, give them a title."

Giving someone a raise costs money. It is expensive, especially if you have many employees. Giving a title is easy and free. But soon, you will notice that people have all sorts of exaggerated titles. It can almost be like a Dr. Seuss book: one title, two titles, red title, blue title!

It is a good thing this is not done in Karate!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Angel Lemus Coming To Hawaii

Now that he has announced it, I am happy to mention that my friend Sensei Angel Lemus of the Okinawa Shorinryu Toude Zentokukai will be moving to Hawaii early next year! Angel was a writer and editor of Bugeisha, one of the finest Karate journals ever published, and is a talented graphic artist and designer.

The Zentokukai traces its lineage to Chotoku Kyan. In that regard, and others, Angel's and my backgrounds are linked. He has visited us at the Hikari Dojo (as has his wife Judy), and I have always been a big fan of this Karate research, writing, technique and work. You can see a small sample at the online video of his Elbow Exercise in the Form of a Karate Kata.

I am looking forward to training opportunities with Angel, and am excited about the prospect of imposing upon his talents for Hawaii Karate Museum projects.

If you think about it, Angel belongs in Hawaii -- the closest place to heaven on Earth.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

"Professor" Goodin

Soon, you might hear about a "Professor" Goodin. No, it is not me. My eldest son, Christopher, will be an adjunct professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law (at the University of Hawaii) during the 2008 Spring semester. He will teach a legal writing class. Chris is only 25, and currently clerks at the Hawaii Supreme Court.

"Professor" is a title used by many of my Kenpo friends here in Hawaii. I am often asked if I am related to the late Professor Walter Godin. As I have mentioned before, I am not related to Professor Godin (my name is Goodin and my family is from the mainland and Japan).

Now that there will be a Professor Goodin (in law), I wonder if the confusion will increase?

I am very proud of my son. He worked very hard at law school and in the year of his private practice at a major Hawaii law firm before his 15 month clerkship at the Hawaii Supreme Court.

If you ever hear of a "Judge" Goodin, that will most likely be him.

I have to say that I am sure that Chris' successes in law are due, in part, to his Karate (and Kendo) training. Martial arts teach students how to work incredibly hard, set the highest standards for themselves, and live by a code of conduct grounded upon honesty, integrity, and concern for others.

Way to go Chris!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Doing the Work

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, including Practice Kata Correctly, by Kenwa Mabuni.

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Doing the Work

A while ago, several things that happened in my everyday life all came together to lead me to another one of my "obvious insights." I won't bore those of you kind enough to read this with the details of my personal experiences, but the result of it all for me was a new "saying" that I try to keep in mind. That saying is, "You've got to do the work!"

What do I mean here? Well, when all those things that I mentioned above happened to me, it made me think about how often I express (even though it's usually only in my own head) some desire to achieve, change or improve something. "I should be a better husband to my wife." "I really want to improve my ability to read complicated Japanese kanji." "In time, my jodo will be good!" "I have to learn to stay more 'even' emotionally." "I should be doing more translations and research articles." "I'll get that kata down soon." And on and on and on.

But the insight (if you can even call it that!) that I had was that, while I was pretty good at finding goals to achieve or things that need to change, I wasn't, on a consistent basis, "doing the work" required. "Have I been more helpful to my wife recently?" "When is the last time that I seriously studied kanji?" "How often am I practicing jodo each week?" If my answers to these sorts of questions are not what they should be, then I'm just fooling myself with all of my wonderful thoughts about how I'm going improve or achieve something in the future.

No matter the goal, there is always "the work" that must be done. Always, and without exception.

Do you have any goals you'd like to achieve, or changes you'd like to make in your life? Remember: "You've got to do the work!"

Mark Tankosich

You Can Count On Some People To...

You can count on some people to always forget to do what they said they would do. You can count on some people to always do what they said they would do.

Which type are you? Even if you are not sure, other people have already formed an opinion about which type you are. They will know whether they can or cannot rely on you.

I wish that I could say that you can count on every Karate student. The truth is that you cannot. It all depends on the student. I would say that you can count on a good Karate student -- but then you can count on all good people.

I always say that it is much easier to create a student who is good at techniques and mechanics than it is to create a good student. Techniques are easy -- character takes real work.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Sensei As Superstars?

We have to be very careful about how we view people and things, including Karate Sensei. When a person is on the covers of magazines, the covers of videos and DVDs, the covers of books, and is viewed as a "world" authority, we tend to think of that person as a celebrity. You will notice that I did not say that the person is a Karate Sensei. We would think of any person with such notoriety as a celebrity of sorts.

When that person is a Karate Sensei, there is an additional assumption many people make -- that the person must be a great fighter. After all, if the Sensei is on so many covers, he must be tough. This assumes that being a great Sensei requires that the person be a great fighter. Does it? Perhaps so, but not in the conventional, sport sense. Man to man, in a ring, I'm pretty sure that many Karate "greats" might not do so well. But in unexpected self-defense, they might excel.

The point is that we have to be very careful of our perceptions. If you are standing in line at a seminar to have a book autographed by a visiting instructor, you might find yourself reacting to him as if he is a celebrity. After all, celebrities sign books and people stand in lines for them. But the Karate Sensei might not think of himself as a celebrity, a superstar, a master or a "great" anything. He might just think of himself as a humble student.

Do we stand in lines to have books autographed by humble students? Do we put humble students on the covers of books, DVDs, videos, magazines, and on posters? I think not.

The medium largely determines the subject and how we think about it.

Some Karate instructors might act like celebrities. Most do not. We have to be very careful to react to instructors as they are, not how they might appear to be in various media. Marketing people are highly paid to determine how someone or something appears for a desired result -- that you will purchase their product.

I think that most Karate Sensei are super people, not superstars.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Best Fighter, But...

Sometimes we talk about who is the best fighter. I suppose that if you had a tournament in which every person in the world participated, you could come up with a person deserving of this title (at least until the next tournament). But even the best fighter will have to be careful because:

  1. A lesser fighter could catch him by surprise.
  2. A lesser fighter might be armed.
  3. Even the #1 fighter in the world probably cannot defeat the #10 and #11 combined.
  4. Even a lesser fighter might get lucky.
  5. The best fighter could become permanently injured.
  6. The best fighter might suffer a heart attack or stroke (especially as he gets older).
I was watching a show about predators. The narrator mentioned how animals such as sharks and lions will be very careful not to injure their eyes or break their teeth. Even such "great" predators have to be careful. They could undoubtedly kill a prey animal, but if they themselves became injured they might eventually starve or die from a wound.

One on one in a fair fight, the better fighter will defeat a lesser one... probably. In Karate, we never count on a one on one conflict or a fair fight.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Testing Problem

A reader sent me a very nice email discussing the issue of testing. In a nutshell, who would you promote -- a student who does well every day but does poorly on the test day, or a student who barely tries each day but does excellent on the test?

We all know the right answer, but have probably seen the wrong results.

The problem is with the structure of testing. If the sensei observes the student each day, then testing is just a formality. Even if the student does poorly, the sensei will know the student's true ability. A test might be a good way to help the student to overcome his fear or lack of confidence when demonstrating in front of people. But the test is really not a test -- the test takes place each and every day.

But if the testing is done by a visiting sensei, then that sensei must base his decision on what he sees. He does not have firsthand knowledge of how the student performs each day. Of course, he can consult with the student's regular sensei.

We tend to assume that testing is part of the Karate evaluation process. But is it, or was it? At least in the old days, I really don't think that it was.

A student who learned personally from a sensei, particulary a "house student," was tested each day, each and every minute of training. That is what counted. Before there was such thing as belts, the sensei might have awarded his student a teaching license (or something similar). Or he might have given him nothing at all.

My sons are my sons. My daughter is my daughter. Everyone who knows me, knows them. This is how it was with teachers in the old days. You knew the student because you saw him with his sensei and his sensei recognized him as such.

If I did give a test and a lazy student passed it, I would fail him. Of course, I should not have allowed him to take the test in the first place. Lazy students do not deserve to do so.

But then, I do not give any kyu rankings and test for dan levels by watching my students closely over a long period of time. If I have them demonstrate prior to promotion, it is really just a formality.

If you are a student, you should try your best. If your dojo has a testing process, you should respectfully follow it. But don't forget that how you do on a test is not as important as how you do each day, and how you do at an unexpected time when you need to use your Karate techniques. A mugger doesn't care whether you passed a test or not.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Titles And Slippers

This is a story.

A man traveled to Okinawa to learn from a great master. When he arrived at the dojo (high up a mountain, of course), he took off his slippers and entered a reception room where he was greeted by one of the master's students.

"Please tell the master that John Doe, hanshi, tenth dan, president of the Blah Blah World Association, and ten time world champion has come to learn from him!"

The attendant bowed and went into the dojo. He returned a minute later. "Sorry," he said, my master said that he cannot see anyone who is wearing slippers in the dojo. Please come back tomorrow."

The next day, the man returned, took of his slippers and said, "Please tell the master that John Doe, hanshi, tenth dan, and president of the Blah Blah World Association has come to learn from him!"

Shortly, the attendant returned with the same answer.

The next day, the man returned, took of his slippers and said, "Please tell the master that John Doe, hanshi, and tenth dan has come to learn from him!"

Again, the attendant returned with the same answer.

The next day, the man returned, took of his slippers and said, "Please tell the master that John Doe, hanshi has come to learn from him!"

Same response.

The next day, the man returned, took of his slippers and said, "Please tell the master that John Doe has come to learn from him... please."

The master soon entered the room.

"Master, I have come thousands of miles to learn from you!" shouted the man.

"First, don't call me master. I'm just a Karate student. And lesson one is this -- leave your titles in your slippers. Neither belong in the dojo."

Of course, this is just a story. In real life, the man would have probably left the first day and sought out another "master" who would have flattered him (and perhaps even given him another title). It is very difficult for people to let go of titles and impossible for them to learn until they do so.

If you ever visit a sensei to learn, don't mention any titles or similar things unless you are directly asked (and then do so only reluctantly). If you do mention titles (without being asked), the sensei will probably think, "How can I teach someone who already thinks that he knows everything?"

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Offending

Falling off a cliff is fast. Climbing up a cliff takes a long time.

Offending someone can be very fast. It might only take a few seconds. Making it up to the person takes a long time, if it is even possible.

We all have to be very careful about what we say and how we say it.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Training During Chemo

As I mentioned before, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and is now undergoing chemotherapy. She will have six treatments and has had two so far. Her third is next week and the last one is scheduled for around Christmas.

She will have other types of treatments after that (Herceptin, hormone blocking and radiation), but the chemotherapy is the most difficult for her.

You might have noticed that I have been posting more in the last couple of months. One reason for this is that I have canceled most of my appointments during my wife's chemo so that I can help her with things.

Actually, I have sort of vowed to try to get into good shape during her treatments, which in total will last a year. I am training, riding an exercise bike (over an hour tonight), and weightlifting with my sons. I can see how this might seem selfish, but I figure that if I am in good shape I will be better able to help my wife and also less likely to become ill, which could also expose my wife to sickness.

I am also posting more because I am trying to keep mentally active. I am trying to write down as much a possible while I have the time and energy to do so. I am not worried about my health as much as the concern that in time I will be less enthusiastic about writing. In the end, the only way to learn Karate is to practice. I realize this. But I am hopeful that in these posts I am covering some things that will be helpful to other students of Karate.

I know that the Guest Posts are helpful, especially to me.

Thank you to the people who have asked about my wife and sent their thoughts and prayers. It is much appreciated. My wife is doing very well. She is an extraordinary person.

Her hair had started to fall out after the first chemo treatment. It was very upsetting to her. Each handful of hair would make her sad. So she asked my second son to buzz off all her hair. Rather than dealing with each handful, she cut it all off. She is very strong willed. I tease her that she looks like a Shaolin monk.

Now I know that it might seem cruel to tease my wife, but we have found that laughter is an excellent medicine -- laughter and prayers.

Rather than wearing a wig or hat, she has been wearing my son's Kendo tenogui (the cloth you wrap around your head). I think it looks very cool.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

"Charles" Sensei

We usually address our sensei by their last name: "Smith Sensei." But sometimes you will hear sensei addressed by their first name: "Charles Sensei."

When I first learned Shorin-Ryu, I remember that our sensei was often referred to by his first name. I believe that this was because he had started training as a child and had literally grown up in the dojo. When he became the Sensei of his own branch dojo, many of the senior students were older than my sensei. They probably remembered him when he was just a child. So they addressed him by his first name followed by "Sensei."

Other people heard this and probably copied it.

But it is not appropriate for a junior to address his senior in this manner, even if the junior is older. You might see an older senior do so, somewhat out of affection.

It becomes more awkward as the sensei gets older. When a sensei is in his 30s, 40s, 50s, or older, it looks very awkward when people refer to him as "Charles Sensei."

I have even seen this done with 9th dan in their 60's!

The sensei will usually not complain or correct people, but it is my experience that they do not like it. I do not think that this happens as much in Okinawa and Japan. It seems to be more of a Western phenomenon.

It is more polite to refer to the sensei by his last name: Smith Sensei.

This is just my view on the subject.

In my dojo, it can be confusing, since my second son and I are both named Charles and we both are sensei. But is is easy to tell us apart as one of us is tall, dark and muscular.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Chudan Uchi Uke -- Chudan Soto Uke

When it comes to "middle blocks" there are two types -- outward and inward.

In our dojo, we typically call a middle block "chudan uke". The first movement of Pinan Sandan, for example, is a chudan uke. Specifically, we call this a "chudan uchi uke, " meaning that it is an "outward" block.

But other schools call this same block a "chudan soto uke."

When I speak to my other friends in Karate, it seems that the terms are used differently by just about everyone. I understand that Shotokan people use the same terms as we do, but I'm sure that this differs too.

I do wonder why there are so few "chudan soto uke" in our kata. We do have them in the Naihanchi kata, but none in the Pinan kata.

I really wonder why since the inward block (chudan soto uke) is such a useful block, and in my opinion, stronger than the outward block.

For beginners, the uchi and soto versions of chudan uke are two different things. But in the advanced stage, the outward block is not so outward and the inward block is not so inward. They both tend toward the center. Some advanced people do the blocks almost like an uppercut. Whether the block is to one side or the other of the attacking arm is pretty irrelevant. In other words, done in a very minimalist way, the uchi and soto blocks can look identical.

Of course, how to do the movement is more important than the name we give to it. A person can know the name but not how to do it. The name won't help you if you are attacked.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Things To Do To Be Polite

Here are some things you can do to be polite:

  1. Hold the door open for a lady or an elderly person.
  2. Hold the elevator door open so that it does not close before someone coming down the hall can reach it.
  3. In the elevator, ask a person in the back what floor they would like, and push the button for him.
  4. Address an elder man or woman as "sir" or "maam" (or "uncle" or "aunty" here in Hawaii).
  5. Send a "thank you" card.
  6. When driving, let the other car merge into your lane.
  7. When driving, when someone lets you merge, wave to say thank you.
  8. When a service person does something for you, say "thank you."
  9. When someone does a really good job, write a short note to his boss. It will stay in his file.
  10. When a delivery person brings you a package at your office, offer him a soda.
  11. Check up on someone you know who is ill, and bring them some flowers or pastries.
  12. Being polite in the dojo is easy because there are established norms. Follow the rules of etiquette in your dojo.
Being polite does not cost anything but is worth a lot.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: What Constitutes A "Black Belt?"

This Guest Post is by Mario McKenna of the Okinawa Karatedo Kitsilano Dojo in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Mario is an instructor of Tou'on-ryu Karatedo and Ryukyu Kobudo. He is the English translator of Kobo Jizai Goshinjutsu Karate Kenpo (Kenwa Mabuni, 1934) and Seipai no Kenkyu Kobo Jizai Karate Kenpo (Kenwa Mabuni, 1934). His article Okinawa Kata Classification: An Historical Overview appears at the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai website. Mario also has an excellent Okinawa Karate and Kobudo Blog.

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What constitutes a yudansha or blackbelt? My observation of most Japanese karate is that it is heavily criterion based with respect to gradings and promotion. That is, there is usually a group of examiners with a predetermined set of techniques, kata, kumite, ect. that a student must perform successfully for each respective rank.

Those kind of proficiency tests are known as norm-referenced tests and are by no means unique to Japanese karate. That is, they are specifically intended to show the overall ability of someone in karate or to show proficiency in a specific area. Specifically they:
  1. Compare an individual performance to an over-all group mean or average
  2. Are global in nature; that is they test over-all ability
  3. Will follow a normal distribution when individual scores are plotted on a frequency distribution curve - a bell curve
So, norm-referenced tests provide information regarding the student's performance in comparison to a norm or average of performance by similar students. Unfortunately, norm-referenced tests are not intended to assess individual learning or progress in relation to program goals or objectives*.

The flip side to this can be found in some Okinawa karate dojo where testing is less formal and largely student focused. Generally, speaking the criteria for "testing" the student is less specific and defined. In many instances the test may simply consists of the student performing one kata! However, this type of testing is more student focused as it does not aim to compare one student with another or with a predetermined standard or criterion. Instead it focuses on how well the student has advanced in his/her understanding of karate relative to him/herself. This kind of testing is referred to as criterion-referenced testing.

These are just general observations and not necessarily indicative of what constitutes testing in Japanese or Okinawa karate dojo. But it is my opinion that criterion-referenced testing is far superior and more consistent with karate's historical, moral and philosophical foundation. That being student-centered instruction, introspection, elimination of ego-related distractions and ultimately self-realization. Comparing someone to someone else as a basis for determining what is a yudansha is self-defeating I feel and does not lie at the heart of karate-do.

In closing I would like to quote Murakami Katsumi sensei when he explained the purpose of budo. I think it sums up nicely what a yudansha should be.

"All the students whom my teachers [Toyama, Kyoda, Chibana, Inoue, Sato] instructed all gave something back to society. They refused to instruct anyone of low character or moral standing because these people would give nothing back to society. Their instruction was for helping you become a valuable and productive member of society. It must be that way. This is how all my teacher's taught and instructed me how to teach. When I studied under Kyoda Juhatsu, he always said that our training was to build both a strong body and a strong mind. A person learning Budo only for the sake of learning to fight gives nothing back to society and is beaten by the smallest things he may encounter in life. This kind of person is useless. If however your mind is strong, no matter what trials you may encounter in life your will power and your determination will see you through them. However, the first and most important thing to develop is a strong and healthy body. I honestly feel that this is the proper way to train."

*(This is not surprising since traditionally norm-referenced tests were developed from psychology and it's tradition of psychometrics whose purpose was to measure individual differences).

A Bump On The Head

The day after a big Karate tournament, a man went to work. Everyone noticed that he had a big bump on his head.

"You must have lost," said one of his co-workers. "That's a huge bump on your head!"

"Actually, I won said the man sheepishly. I was the grand champion."

"So how did you get the bump?" asked the co-worker.

"Well," replied the man, "the trophy was over 6 feet tall and it fell on me!"

"Sounds like the trophy should have been the grand champion!" quipped the co-worker.

The reward for skill is skill. If you have skill, trophies don't matter. If you don't have skill, trophies won't help.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Hakama

I wish to comment on the practice of wearing a karate belt "outside" a hakama. When I practiced Aikido, the yudansha would wear their black belts inside their hakama. In Iaido, we wore a thicker belt inside our hakama. In Kendo, we did not wear a belt at all. When a Naginata expert came to my dojo, she did not wear a belt outside her hakama.

But I have noticed some Karate people wearing a belt outside their hakama. This looks very strange to me. Is this to make sure that people can see their belt?

A hakama is a very beautiful piece of clothing. Watching an Aikido expert effortlessly toss attackers is truly a work of art.

I don't think that the beauty of a hakama should be covered by a belt. But that is just my opinion. A belt is just a belt whether it is worn inside or outside.

And while we are at it, when did Karate people start wearing hakama? I guess that it conveys a greater sense of formality. A plain gi is more than enough for me. Even a gi bottom and t-shirt is nice.

I always thought that it was such trouble to nicely fold hakama after training. Oh well!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Worst Karate Master Ever?

I wish to tell you who I believe the worst, most overrated Karate master of all time is. He is...

Of course I would never say such a thing! I don't have such an opinion.

But the way we are, we like to think about such things. Who was the best? Who was the worst? Who was a fake? Who was the best fighter? Who defeated who? If they had an entertainment show for Karate, these would be the juicy bits of gossip they would discuss.

But as Karate students, such thoughts are irrelevant. We should just be respectful of our seniors and elders, grateful to the Karate pioneers, and try our best.

And what difference does it make if someone was great or not great? What matters is if we ourselves are skilled. We cannot become skilled by judging others. We can only become skilled by practicing.

I believe in the saying, "if you don't have something nice to say about someone, then say nothing at all."

Who was the worst? Who cares? I will just try to become the best I can be.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The Stronger Student And The Brick

This is a story.

In a dojo there was one senior student who was stronger than all the others. During kumite, he would routinely go with each of the other senior students and defeat them one after the other. Over time, he grew very cocky and would belittle the other students. He took great pride in embarrassing them.

One night, this student and one of the others (whom he had belittled) went out to a restaurant. As they left, two muggers crept up in the darkness. All of a sudden, they struck at the backs of the heads of the students with bricks.

The senior student was struck on the head and died on the spot.

The junior student, who had always been brutalized, had developed a keen sense of awareness and easily moved out of the way. He quickly disarmed the muggers, knocked them out, and waited with them until the police arrived.

Later, the student was asked how he had survived when his senior had died.

"He was very good at beating up people, " explained the student. "Because of him, I learned how to avoid getting beaten up."

In Karate, learning not to get hit is almost as important as learning how to hit. Even if you can hit hard, it won't do much good if you get hit in the head with a brick first.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Don't Come To Class Sick

This applies to my students. Different dojo might handle the issue differently.

It is important that students not come to class when ill with a cold, flu, pinkeye, chickenpox, or other sickness. It is good to want to train, but it is more important to get better and not get the other students sick.

One sick students can make many other students sick and those students can in turn make their families, classmates, co-workers, neighbors, etc. sick as well.

Students should think about others and be considerate.

For children, if you are feeling ill, tell your parents that I recommended that you not come to class until you are better. They can always call me. Like I said, it is good to want to train but more important to get better first.

Rigorous training can make a sick student even more sick. In a weakened condition, the student might be more likely to become injured or to injure another student.

If a sick students comes to class, I will just have to call the parents or guardians to come pick them up. I will not allow a sick student to train.

With global concerns about bird flu, we all have to be very careful. After class, it is important for students to go home and wash their hands with soap or other sanitizers. You should not eat until you have washed your hands thoroughly. You can't see germs, but they are there.

And if you have become sweaty during training, you should change into dry clothes before you leave the dojo. You should not wear a wet gi home because you can catch a chill, particularly in an air conditioned car. You should always bring an extra t-shirt. I carry two or three in my car at all times.

Remember that students should not wear their gi top and belt outside of the dojo.

Be safe and be healthy. Be considerate of other students by not coming to class when you are sick. Get better and come to class when you are fully recovered. That way we can all stay healthy.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Longer Basics

The longer you keep new students on basics, the better they will become in the long run.

Conversely, the faster you rush them through basics, the more bad habits and mistakes they will form and the longer it will take to correct them.

If a student gets bored with basics and wants to move on, he will probably get bored with intermediate and advanced techniques too. The problem is not with the basics, but with the student's attitude and patience.

Of course, if a student can do the basics well, it is time to introduce the next level. When this is appropriate will depend on the student.

I mentioned to a group I was teaching last night that a ten year old will learn very quickly but a forty year old will probably learn more slowly. However, the ten year old will probably forget quickly while the forty year old will remember the technique forever.

You also have to keep in mind that a student who seems to "get" the basics, might be just barely getting it. It might look correct, but the student's understanding is shallow. You have to make sure that the student really gets it and is not on the verge of failure.

The longer you keep new students on basics, the better they will become in the long run. I'm pretty sure that is why the old time Sensei taught the first kata for three years.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Bouncer

I once studied with a Karate Sensei (he has since passed away). One day, an older man visited the dojo and asked to become a student. I saw my Sensei talking with him for a while, and then the older man left. (I should note that by "older man" I mean that the man was older than me. I think he was younger than my Sensei.)

Later, my Sensei explained that the man was a bouncer at a night club in Honolulu. My Sensei said that he was reluctant to teach the man Karate because he was not seeking to learn it for self defense. He needed Karate skills to handle the troublemakers and fights that broke out at the night club. My Sensei did not want to be responsible for the injuries that would likely result from teaching the man Karate.

My Sensei had no hesitation at all to teach Karate to policemen or members of the military. Such students protect the public. As a Karate instructor, I feel that it is an honor to teach such students.

But I thought it was interesting that my Sensei did not want to teach a bouncer. That is why I am sharing it here.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Million Dollar Black Belt

Last night I asked my students whether they thought I would promote someone to black belt (shodan) for one million dollars. Most of the students shook their heads.

I answered that I probably would do it and then put the money in the Hawaii Karate Museum. And if someone asked me whether the black belt meant something, I would say, "not at all!"

Skill is not something that you can purchase. A black belt (or any belt, title or other indicator) only has meaning if it represents a certain skill level. It is the skill that counts, not the belt. The belt means nothing at all.

If you have skill, then a belt is not necessary. If you only have a belt, but no skill, then you only paid for the cloth. You are just pretending.

A million dollars would help the Hawaii Karate Museum to preserve the history of Karate here in Hawaii and to also collect and preserve priceless Karate artifacts from around the world. That is a great and useful thing. I would surely award a person a black belt for doing such a great thing -- but it would not be in recognition of skill. It would be more of an honorary award.

In our dojo, we do not charge any fees at all for dan levels. The dan ranking is in recognition of the student's skill level. Why should I charge for recognizing something that speaks for itself? A certificate from me does not make it true. The student either has skill or he does not.

We do give a letter to dan recipients just so that there will be some evidence of the promotion. But the letter is meaningless in and of itself.

Now for ten million dollars, I think we would name the Hawaii Karate Museum after the donor. Is anyone interested? I would like to accomplish this before I am 60 (about 10 years from now).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Where To Train

Several prospective students visited a Karate instructor to ask to join his dojo. The instructor spoke with each of them first to better understand their expectations.

The first prospective student said that he wanted to learn Karate quickly and could spend no more than three hours in training. The instructor referred him to a self-defense seminar held at a local high school.

The second prospective student said that she had only one year to study and wanted to get an overview of Karate. The instructor referred her to a one credit Karate course held at a local community college.

The third prospective student said that he wanted to do well in tournaments and had five years to train. The instructor referred him to the dojo down the street that was known for its success in tournaments.

The fourth prospective student said that while she wanted to learn self defense, she primarily wanted to improve herself and had a lifetime to train. "Welcome to our dojo!" said the instructor.

Where you should train depends on what you are looking for and how much time and effort you are willing to devote.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate-No! Program Updates

I have added five new statements by Karate instructors and students at the Karate-No.com website. You can see these at the top of the Statements section of the website. Please ask your students to visit the website too.

Karate is an excellent form of self-defense. But we must also defend ourselves against drug and alcohol abuse. As instructors, we have a golden opportunity to set good examples for our students and to encourage them to lead healthy, responsible lives.

Please watch the website. In coming weeks, I hope to be able offer Karate-No! pencils that you can give to your students (especially for dojo here in Hawaii).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

YouTube Problem

I just watched some videos of Sensei Toshihiro Oshiro on YouTube.com. Some were from tournaments and appear to have been privately made videos. With the subject's permission, such videos would seem fine.

But I also saw film clips from Oshiro Sensei's commercial videos available at Tsunami Video. Nowadays, just about anyone with a computer can make video clips from just about any source. But commercial videos are copyright protected. The subject of the video (in this case Oshiro Sensei), is paid a royalty on each video or DVD sold.

I like YouTube but wonder how many video clips are posted without the subject's or copyright holder's permission? As martial artists, we should respect the rights of others.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Another Old Karate Article (Late 1940s)

The following description of Karate appears on pages 77 through 79 of "about... Okinawa" by Lucy C. Bond, which was recently acquired by the Hawaii Karate Museum. In the Foreword to the book she writes, "The information contained herein is a composite of articles done by someone, whose name I do not have, who was attached to the 34th General Hospital on Okinawa during the early days of American occupation." One of the articles was from 1946. I estimate that the book was published in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

KARATE

Although not "officially banned," but tacitly "ignored," Karate is no longer taught in Okinawan schools, but may still be used for exercise and sport competition. Karate was more of a military art than a sport under the Japanese. After the Island was no longer under the military control of the Japanese, following World War II, the sport was frowned upon except for demonstrative purposes. No actual competitive matches are held nowadays.

Here is how it goes. The contestants, lined in double rows facing each other go through the fundamental positions assumed in Karate practices. These slightly resemble those in boxing, but it can be noticed at once that the art or full swing of Western boxing is missing. Instead, the arms are held clamped tightly against the sides and the blows are delivered straight forward, in piston-like jabs with incredible swiftness. The feet are also used with several instant thrusts with the legs on a level with the opponent's chest or even as high as his face.

For each offensive thrust there is, on the part of the opponent, a defensive position. Thus, these positions of Karate are not a number of rather arbitrary rules, as in Western boxing, but a scientific arrangement of all physically possible blows and defenses. Each of the basic exercises is effective only when the entire body is used, doubled through the use of both hands and feet as in Karate.

It is the rule, rather than the exception, that the third knuckles of all Karate fighters' hands be broken through the sport until the fist presents a flat and calloused surface capable of blows which can splinter wood or crack paving tile! The fingers are strengthened until they can deliver blows which rupture internal organs and inner blood vessels. The toes are capable of paralyzing a man for life.

This "strengthening" process begins in the study of Karate with the student thrusting out-stretched fingers into sacks of rice until one thrust enables him to reach the bottom. He must be able to hit a reed-covered post until he is able to deliver a full blow without breaking a knuckle or bursting a blood vessel. He must practice kicking until, with the ball of his foot, he can break in two at least seven layers of thin boards or five layers of roofing tile. By this time, he has a set of "weapons" as deadly as swords or clubs!

Karate was an Okinawan sport as far back in their history as five hundred years ago when King Sno [sic. Sho] (who ruled at the time Nakagusuku Castle as erected here in his defense) prohibited the carrying of arms, except by his own policestate. Two hundred years later, when the Ryukyus had been made a vassal state of the Satsuma Clan of Japan, an even firmer clamp was placed on the Okinawan's use of weapons.

It was during this period that Karate, then known as OKINAWA-TE, grew in leaps and bounds in undercover practice as the only available means of self-protection, until the Satsuma lords found that their armies were no match for the Ryukyuans with this deadly art of defense.

When in 1873 Japan began the conscription of Okinawans for the army, they had to admit that these Karate-trained soldiers were superior both in mind and body for combat. Consequently, in 1900, Karate was made a regular subject of study in Okinawan male normal schools and the first middle school. In 1905 a group of experts from Okinawa was sent to Kyoto to hold a demonstration of this "art," one which quickly spread all over Japan!

However, as in Judo, the blood-thirsty aspect of Karate has not always been stressed. The translation of TE means "void" or "vacant," as well as being another word for "dead body." A literal translation might, therefore be "the use of the hands and feet while the mind is vacant."

It is known that in earlier times in China, also known as KARA, the Buddhist priests studied "Kara-te" to overcome exhaustion and that it was considered more as body-training rather than the war-like use to which it was later put by Okinawans for self-defense measure against the oppressive Satsuma Clan warriors. Later, under Japanese occupation, preceding World War II, stress was placed on self-protection and destruction of one's enemy.

Today, the sport is allowed here only for a competitive sport in a demonstrative form, along with the JODAN-OMETE. Jodan-omete, now a thing of the past, was once very popular on the island. It is a form of Karate and means literally, "smiling face." This title was derived no doubt from the grimace of the broken jaw or skull of an opponent.

Think we had better stick to baseball, don't you?

I hope that you enjoy this early English description of Karate. While there are some errors in the article, there is also some very interesting information. Since the author of the original article was stationed in Okinawa, this information may be a little less filtered than contemporaneous descriptions from authors on mainland Japan.

We will keep looking for old Karate books and articles! Who knows? We might even find Motobu Sensei's two books one day.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Jodan Uke

Jodan uke (high block) is one of the most difficult blocks to do well. These are some of my thoughts on the subject.

First, as with all blocks, the most important thing is that you block, not how you block. Blocks in Karate arose from instinctive reactions to attacks. If someone punches at your head, you might move in a natural way that resembles a jodan uke. When someone decided to teach a defense to a high punch, they must have come up with the details that we now call jodan uke. But the instinctive movement is the root, and still the one you will probably do if attacked unexpectedly.

Jodan uke is executed in a way that is similar to gedan uke (lower block), and shuto (knive hand strike). They all have the same flavor. As such, if you can do shuto well, you can probably execute jodan uke and gedan uke well too.

In shuto, you do not use your shoulder. You keep your shoulder pressed down. However, many people perform jodan uke using their shoulder as the primary way to generate power. In our school we do not. We keep our shoulder pressed down and only raise it as little as possible at the end of the block.

The shape of jodan uke is very important. At the point of contact, the forearm and the upper arm form a right angle (90 degrees). However, the forearm is at a 45 degree angle. This means that if you held up both arms and did two jodan uke, they would form a diamond pattern.

If the forearm is horizontal, a downward moving strike will hit it directly. The force will be at a right angle to the radius and ulna. But if the forearm is at a diagonal (45 degree angle), then the a downward moving strike will slide down, much like snow falling off a sloped roof.

In addition, if the forearm is horizontal, the elbow will be farther from the body. This makes it harder and slower to strike with that arm after executing the jodan uke. On the other hand, if the forearm is at a diagonal, the elbow will be kept lower to the body, and striking with that arm will be easier and faster.

We block with the radius (the bone on the pinky side of the forearm) when executing a jodan uke, not with the wrist or the hand itself. The exact spot is about and two finger widths from the wrist, but this depends on the person and the actual spot is not as important as the fact that the block is made when needed.

When the block is completed, the ulna (the bone on the thumb side of the forearm) is about one fist from the top of the forehead.

After executing a jodan uke, let's say that you are going to execute another with the opposite arm. In our school, we emphasize that the arm that has just blocked should be rotated to the front -- the elbow moved the near the centerline of your body (sechusen). This then provides a barrier in case the attacker punches before you can execute the next jodan uke with the other arm.

The arm (rotated the the front), is used for the osae (press).

In addition, if needed, the arm when rotating to the front, can be turned into an inward block (chudan soto uke), flipped into an uraken, or shaped into a variety of elbow strikes (forward, side, downward). There are many possibilities.

If the arm is not rotated to the front, there is an opening between the two jodan uke executions. It is almost like the arms form a window through which the attacker can punch you right in the face.

In our school, students first experience the jodan uke in Fukyugata Ichi and Fukyugata Ni (because there are no jodan uke in the Naihanchi kata). The rotation of the arm to the front after the block is done in both kata, but especially emphasized in Fukyugata Ni.

Of course, a jodan uke can be done to any part of the attacking arm. Preferably, the block strikes the attacker's upper arm (if on the outside). In this way, you are close enough to counterattack very quickly. If you block near the attacker's wrist, you will probably be out of range for a counter punch, and he might be able to quickly pull back or flip his punch and counterattack. If you are on the inside, you must be careful because if you block on the upper arm, the attacker's elbow could bend and his strike coud wrap around and hit you.

A jodan uke can also be used to strike the attacker's body. In this case, it becomes more of a jodan uchi. A jodan uke, for example, can be used to strike under the attacker's jaw, or against the side of his head. You might see this at the beginning of Pinan Shodan, but it is possible with any jodan uke. It can also be used to push away an attacker who has gotten too close, almost like blocking in football. It all depends on the situation. I am sure that there are as many applications for jodan uke as Professor Rick Clark found for down blocks (he wrote about 75 applications).

Like with a punch, the jodan uke spins at the last moment. The blocking arm is kept palm inward until the wrist is raised to about the chin level. Then it quickly spins into the block. The idea is to have a cutting feeling when you make contact. Because the blocking area of the forearm is sort of oval shaped, the spin make the block sort of "kick" when contact is made.

In some schools, they do not use the jodan uke very much, preferring instead to use a higher form of chudan uke (middle block). My friend and senior Sensei Pat Nakata explains this by saying that you don't strike the attacker on the wrist or forearm, you strike more at the root -- the upper arm or shoulder. Even if a punch is high, the attacker's upper arm or shoulder is not that high. Thus, a chudan uke will work.

Jodan uke does leave you more exposed than a high chudan uke. I agree with Nakata Sensei that a high chudan uke is generally preferable. But again, the most important thing is that you block and do not get hit. If you are hit, you might be seriously injured (even killed) and not be able to counterattack.

Jodan uke is easy to do poorly and hard to do well -- just like everything in Karate.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Follow-Up: If You Are Healthy -- Train

I received a nice email from a gentleman regarding my post: If You Are Healthy -- Train. Unfortunately, I accidentally lost that email.

I wanted to reply here by saying that I hope that the gentleman's medical condition will improve and that he can return to training very soon.

People have to stop Karate training for a number of reasons. Some people do not have the necessary time. Some people advance but become disillusioned by commercialism or politics. Some people move and cannot find a dojo.

But it is especially hard when medical problems are the reason for having to stop training. The desire is there but the body simply won't allow it.

My best wishes to the gentleman who wrote, and to anyone else with medical problems that affect their Karate training.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Response: Advancement In Karate

I received a very nice email from Sabine Dauner in Germany regarding my post about Advancement in Karate. I am quoting it here with her permission:

"I've just come across your blog and read a few of your posts - very interesting and worthwhile reading. I've been practising Shotokan-Karate for about 20 years now (in Germany) and I found your thoughts on "Karate Advancement" so true. There's a saying that you might already know that hits the point: "Don't walk in the footsteps of your masters. Search what they were searching for." That's it, isn't it?

Looking forward to more of your posts!"
I like the highlighted saying very much. I had mentioned about following in the footsteps of our seniors in my post.

But it is true that we are better off searching for what our seniors and Sensei were searching for. From a literal point of view, if you follow in someone's footsteps, at some point you will come to an endpoint. The search in Karate is endless. There is no end to training. Great Karate people train and seek improvement every day of their lives.

I am sure that most Karate Sensei will advise their students to try to become their best rather than trying to reach the same level as the Sensei. Each Sensei hopes that his students will go farther than him.

There is an unspoken etiquette. A student will never claim to be as skilled as his Sensei, or to even seek to be such. A student will only seek to become like his Sensei, perhaps only 1/2 as skilled. But the Sensei will always hope that his student will surpass him in skill -- and he will work toward that goal.

There is another point. If you admire someone in Karate, you have to ask how he became so skillful. How he got there might work for him, but might not work for you. For example, a Karate expert might be an excellent grappler because he practiced Judo or Ju Jitsu for 30 years. Do you also plan to do the same? If you literally follow in his footsteps, then you should.

But he might have found that there is a better or more efficient way to integrate Karate and grappling. He might have found an approach that saves time. So his footsteps might be a good indicator of direction, but not necessarily the most desirable path for you.

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, is an interesting example. He did not become the way he was by practicing Aikido. He studied a number of arts and arrived at an understanding that became known as Aikido. Should his followers practice Aikido, or should they practice the arts that he did in the hope at arriving at a similar understanding? I don't know the answer, but the question is certainly interesting.

Thank you very much to Sabine Dauner for the quote and for making me think more about this subject.

How excellent it is that a person in Germany can reply to a blog post written in Hawaii. And who knows where in the world you are reading this right now?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

50 Years In Karate

Today is the birthday of my good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata.

This year he celebrates his 50th anniversary in Karate. I wonder how many students he has taught (so far)? It seems that just about everyone I meet has trained with him at one time or another in their lives.

I wish Nakata Sensei another great 50 years in Karate!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Too Full -- Of Yourself

My last post made me remember a demonstration I observed some time ago.

One instructor paraded out to the center of the dojo and put on a show, like a real showman. You could tell that he was enamored with himself. If there was a mirror in the dojo, I'm sure that he would have been looking in it!

Another instructor, much more senior, also demonstrated. He walked out in a very unassuming way, spoke very cordially to the audience, and demonstrated his kata without flare or pomp. His gi was very simple. He seemed so down to earth, like the kind of person you would want as your own uncle or grandfather.

The first instructor was too full of himself. This was shown not only in his mannerisms but in his Karate movements.

The senior instructor was almost not even there! His manner and movements were pure. What a fine example for Karate students.

You have to empty your cup to learn Karate. This does not only apply to beginners. Never be too full of yourself (no matter what great things you might have done).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin