Karate Thoughts Blog


Contents   /   Email  /   Atom  /   RSS  /  

1700+ Posts... and Counting

Happy New Year 2009!

Aloha from Hawaii!

Well, the New Year is almost here. This is a good time to rededicate ourselves to Karate training and refining our techniques and body dynamics.

Karate is not one style or system. Karate is all of us. Whether we practice Goju-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu, Kenpo, or Shotokan, we are all carrying on the art of Karate. From the youngest child to the oldest Sensei, each and every one of us is a thread in the great fabric of the art.

Karate does not exist in books or photographs. It only lives when we practice it. It is something to "do," not just think, talk, or read about.

Our dojo starts classes for the New Year on Monday. For my students, let's try our very best! And let's try to help our juniors too!

And most importantly, let's try our best to practice Karate in our daily lives -- to refine ourselves as well as our techniques.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The Sensei's Improvement

When you become a Sensei and perhaps even head your own dojo, it is easy to measure your progress in terms of the number of students you have, their tournament successes, magazine articles, television interviews, rank, titles, awards, etc. You can start to think in terms of the prosperity and progress of your dojo or school.

It is important, however, to remember your own progress as a Karate student. A Sensei is still a student.

The Sensei must also continue to work on himself, his kata, techniques, body dynamics, etc. Age is relentless. As the decades march on, our speed and strength decline. Unless we constantly refine and improve our techniques, we will fall behind the younger and stronger students. But if we are creative and determined, we can find ways to generate more power and speed using less effort.

It is ironic: age hurts us but forces us to discover the real gems of Karate.

If we do not work on ourselves, there is a risk that we will start to think in terms of the success of our dojo and students. This is important too, but without our own progress and improvement, we will eventually become dojo administrators rather than practicing Sensei.

The best Sensei I have met are the most demanding of themselves, and they train regularly (not just teach). They are working hard to refine their Karate, to make it the very best possible.

A Sensei is a student too, and must constantly seek improvement, even while running the dojo and teaching the students.

How much have you improved this year? How much will you improve next year?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Why So Quiet?

Some kind people have emailed or called to ask why I have been so quiet lately.

There are two main reasons. I have been catching up on things around the house and yard after our Hawaii Karate Museum book donation. I was actually a couple of years behind on some chores and projects.

Second, my eldest son, Chris, bought the house next to ours and moved in last month. I have also been helping him with his yard (restructuring it). It is so good to have our son and daughter-in-law right next door!

So I have been very busy, but in good ways.

Thank you very much for your concern.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Happy Holidays 2008!


Back row: Charles (2nd son), Cael (3rd son), Michele (daughter-in-law), Chris (1st son)
Front row: Natasja (daughter), Nayna (wife), Charles (me), Tomoe (mother)


Here is a letter I sent to some of my Karate friends:

This was a very eventful year for the Hawaii Karate Museum. After over 10 years of actively collecting and receiving rare and historic Karate books and journals, we donated the entire collection to the University of Hawaii. The collection, consisting of over 1,000 books and 1,000 journals, will be housed at the Hamilton Library and will be known as “The Hawaii Karate Museum Collection.” The rarest books will be in closed shelves, meaning they can only be accessed in a controlled room with proper identification. However, the majority of the collection will circulate. It will even be accessible to other universities and libraries in the US and worldwide. This was done in connection with the opening of the Center for Okinawa Studies at the University. Karate is a cultural asset of Okinawa.

Because of this donation, the collection will have a perpetual life. I feel that this best respects the contributions of the many Karate Sensei, students, enthusiasts, and their families who donated their priceless treasures to our museum.

We continue to maintain our artifact and photograph collections, and to pursue our research about Karate in Hawaii.

This year, a fantastic encyclopedia on Okinawan Karate and Kobudo was published in Japan. My Sensei is Okinawa, Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, was one of the three primary authors. Earlier this month, the Okinawa Times recognized the encyclopedia as the best book on Okinawan culture in 2008 and granted it the Okinawa Times Syuppan Bunka Sho award. Thanks to Shinzato Sensei, some historic Karate photos from Hawaii were included in the encyclopedia and I was able to contribute information about Hawaii’s early Karate pioneers.

My publishing efforts this year have focused on my good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata. A multipart interview of Nakata Sensei by Graham Noble and myself appeared in Classical Fighting Arts. With Nakata Sensei and Mr. Clarence Tatekawa’s help, we also published articles and photo sequences of Sensei Chosin Chibana (Nakata Sensei’s instructor in Okinawa).

This has also been a sad year with the passing of Mrs. June Arakawa, Sensei Shozen Sunabe, and Mr. Tomotsu Teruya, among others. Mrs. Arakawa helped me and the Hawaii Karate Museum in more ways than I can possibly list. She told me who to go visit, and with her referral, people were willing to talk to me. Mr. Teruya was born in Hilo and told me about the first generation Karate instructors there, including his own, Sensei Seiichi Urasaki. Another was Mr. Sunabe, whose son lived on Oahu. I was able to locate Mr. Sunabe’s son, Shozen, and found out that he trained for 12 years with Chotoku Kyan, a leading prewar Sensei in Okinawa.

Each year, the elder Sensei, and even their own children are passing away. This is why it is so important to collect and preserve the old Karate photographs, books, weapons, articles, and stories. After her passing, the sons of Mrs. Arakawa were very kind to donate their entire collection of Karate photos and artifacts to the museum. Sensei Mitsugi Kobayashi (Higa Seko Goju-Ryu), who had already donated his book collection, also donated his photo collection this year. Many other kind people also donated books and photos.

Karate is practiced in daily life, not only in the dojo. As we refine our techniques, we also refine our character. This makes Karate meaningful.

Thank you very much for helping us with our efforts. If you have any books, photos, or other items you would like to donate (even in the poorest condition), please contact me.

Respectfully,


Charles C. Goodin

Hawaii Karate Museum
98-211 Pali Momi Street #640
Aiea, Hawaii 96701

Tel: 488-5773
Email: goodin@hawaii.rr.com

Book Donation Completed!

Our donation to the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection at the Hamilton Library of the University of Hawaii is completed! Over 1,000 books and over 1,000 journals, plus many multimedia items (video, DVDs, film) were formally turned over to the UH.

After the donation, my wife and I took a nice trip to Arizona and California. Actually, I am still recovering from the several months of preparation work that was required for the donation. There is still some work to do on our side, but now the University can begin the lengthy indexing process.

We will continue to acquire and donate books and materials to the collection. If you have any Karate or martial arts books that you would like to include in the collection, please contact me:

Charles C. Goodin
Hawaii Karate Museum
98-211 Pali Momi Street, Suite 640
Aiea, Hawaii 96701 USA

e-mail: goodin@hawaii.rr.com

We will continue to list all books and donors at our Rare Karate Book Collection website.

Once the books are indexed (an expensive process since so many books are in Japanese), books in the collection will qualify for inter-library loans, both in the United States and internationally. This means that Karate researchers and enthusiasts around the world will have access to some of the rarest Karate materials.

Thank you very much to everyone around the world who has donated Karate books to the Hawaii Karate Museum and supported our efforts. My efforts on the project go back about 12 years. But the donors of the books have had them from in their private collections from the 1930s, and even earlier.

I am greatly relieved and grateful that such a substantial collection is now safe at the University of Hawaii where Karate researchers and enthusiasts can access and appreciate it.

Karate is a great art... worthy of study at the university level and in our daily lives.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

One Movement -- One Hundred Movements

Last week, I showed our class how to generate more speed and power in a particular movement of Naihanchi Shodan. I was very happy to see that about 75% of the class could "catch" this way of moving.

But that was just one movement. So I tried to show the class how the same principle could be applied to another movement in the same kata, and to other movements in Naihanchi Nidan and Sandan.

The point is that learning a single movement (actually how to generate more speed and power in a particular movement) is good. But it is limited to that movement.

A hardworking and bright student will not be content with this. He will examine all the movements in all the kata he knows to see if the same principle can apply to any of them. Without exception, he will find that a single principle will apply to many movements. Thus the saying "one movement -- one hundred movements."

As an instructor, my job is to show that single movement (principle) and to show the student how to examine other movements to see if the same principle applies. But it is the student's job to actually review his movements -- to do the hard work. That is not my job. It would be wrong for me to say, "here is the principle and here are all the movements in all the kata to which this principle also applies." If I did that, I would make shallow students who can only learn what they are taught.

What I want are students who can take a little piece and figure out the whole.

Of course, the students will have to understand their kata well enough to be able to do this. At first, the job is for the student to simply memorize and duplicate the movements of the kata. It is a matter of being able to repeat what the instructor does. But when the student knows the kata pretty well, it is time for this movement template or form to "come alive." This is when the instructor can teach "one movement" that will enable the student to improve "one hundred movements," perhaps even more.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

"Serious Karate Man"

Sometimes I will ask a senior about a Karate instructor I am about to meet or might have recently heard about. Two statements mean a lot.

The first is that the instructor is "serious." This means that he actually practices Karate and does so in a serious manner. His Karate book is written is sweat. This instructor is someone to be taken seriously.

The second statement is that the instructor is "sincere." This means that the instructor actually practices Karate as part of his daily life. His Karate training is not simply a physical thing.

It is possible for an instructor to be serious but not sincere or sincere but not serious. The first would be shallow and potentially dangerous. The second would be weak.

When I hear that an instructor is both serious and sincere, that is really something! He is someone I look forward to meeting!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Attention To Details

At class the other night I mentioned what I thought distinguished Karate schools in Okinawa from Karate schools overseas, including here in Hawaii. But when I thought about it, that was an improper comparison. I should have framed the discussion in terms of what distinguishes a good Karate school from a poor Karate school, wherever it may be located. Location or country is not relevant.

So what is it? What is the distinguishing factor? The answer is attention to details.

In a good Karate school, the emphasis is on attention to details. Each movement must be correct. Each part of each movement must be correct. Each movement builds upon the ones that came before it and is a strong foundation for the movements that will come after it.

The reason I thought about Okinawa is because dojo in Okinawa, generally, are known for attention to details. The emphasis is not on learning many techniques quickly or learning many kata -- the emphasis is on the fine points. As such, the students learn slowly in terms of the number of techniques and kata they learn over a period of time -- but they learn very well.

However, I'm sure that this is not true of all dojo in Okinawa, Japan or wherever. I'm sure that you can find dojo in Okinawa and Japan that rush the curriculum.

Here in the United States, I would say that we do tend to rush the curriculum. Here, if there are 10 things to learn, we want to learn them right away. If there are 50 kata in the curriculum, we want to know them all.

In our system, we practice 18 kata (with an emphasis on 15 or so). In some schools, I know that shodan are expected to learn all of these kata. However, in Okinawa I understand that the more advanced kata are reserved for students of the sandan level.

My point is that a student who knows 18 kata and has trained for 3 or 5 years cannot be expected to understand the kata was well as a student who has trained for 10 or 15 years. He might "know" the 18 kata (in a shallow sense) but he will not really "know" them (in a deep sense).

I feel that it would be better for the shodan to learn fewer kata but to learn them very well. Then it will be easy to him to learn the more advanced kata. Have you ever noticed that a student who learns too many kata too quickly tends to move like a beginner, even when performing an advanced kata? This is generally true even as he advances in rank.

But if the expectation in the dojo is that a shodan will know all the kata, then that is what a student will try his best to do. The expectation is wrong. You cannot blame the student for striving to meet expectations.

Ranking can aggravate the situation. So can tournaments.

The emphasis in a good school -- wherever it may be located in the world -- must be on attention to details. Each and every movement must be correct -- especially the basic movements. If a student punches wrong, think about how many times this funamental error will be repeated in the kata. One wrong movement could be multiplied dozens of times!

By the same token, one right movement can be multiplied dozens of times.

Wrong is wrong and right is right. Students should be encouraged to work on getting each and every movement right -- not on bulk (the sheer number of techniques and kata).

When I observe a student performing Naihanchi Shodan, I first look at his footwork. You can observe this with the very first step -- if it is correct, all the steps will probably be correct and if it is wrong, all the steps will probably be wrong. And as an instructor, it is my responsibility to correct it (if it is wrong).

As instructors, we have to set the expectations in the dojo. I feel that we would do well to encourage students to pay attention to details. And when they get it, we should reward them by celebrating and saying, "So, so so!"

Here is a story. Two Karate fighters were going to have full contact match. On the back of the first fighter's gi was embroidered the number 1,000 -- the number of techniques and kata he had "mastered." On the gi of the second fighter was embroidered the lowly number 1.

The match began and the second fighter promptly punched the first on the nose and knocked him out.

You can guess what the number 1 stood for (a good punch to the nose).

Pay attention to the details.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Sheets of Wood

If have often read of seemingly amazing feats by Karate masters of old who could break or poke their fingers through sheets of wood. I remember reading that Kentsu Yabu broke seven sheets of wood with his fingertips during his 1927 visit to Hawaii.

I was speaking to a Karate senior who trained for three decades in Okinawa. He mentioned to me that "the sheets of wood in Okinawan were thinner than what we use today."

Okinawa was a very poor prefecture. The Karate masters were not poking their fingers through "two by fours" or plywood. I'm not saying that they were not strong or tremendously conditioned, just that we should not forget that they were human.

When I was in high school I went to a Karate demonstration. An instructor held up two pieces of wood that he planned to break. To show that they were strong, he banged them together -- and they broke.

You've probably been to a demonstration where a board simply would not break. I've seen demonstrators rip their knuckles and damage their hands trying in vain to break such an unbreakable board.

This just goes to show that you can't judge the strength of a board by simply looking at it. Some strong looking boards are weak and some normal looking boards are incredibly strong -- just like people.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Rules Applicable To Karate

The techniques of Karate are used as a last resort. I have often written about this. If this "last resort" is reached, what rules apply to the use of Karate techniques -- what things are illegal, outlawed, or prohibited?

I know that this seems like a simple question. But even the most brutal forms of combat you might see on television have at least some rules. For example, I don't think any competition allows you to grab two of the attacker's fingers and split them apart. This is a very easy and useful technique, but pretty soon all the competitors would have mangled fingers.

In Karate, once the state of "last resort" is reached, there are no laws or rules. It is literally "kill or be killed," or very near that. You must defend yourself and loved ones. The attacker is not restricted by any rules, and you cannot afford to be restricted either.

My point is that unrestricted Karate is quite a different thing than competition Karate or children's Karate. This may sound severe and it is. Karate is a very serious thing. It is no less serious than carrying a gun or a knife.

When rules are applied to Karate, the techniques become less and less effective, and more and more dependent upon size and strength. Rule bound Karate puts women, older, and smaller students at a distinct disadvantage when attacked by a larger and stronger person.

Imagine if someone gave you a gun and told you that you could only use it to strike the attacker, like a hammer. You might as well not have the gun at all, or at least you should get a better hammer.

Rule bound Karate is a bit like having an unloaded gun and being allowed to only say "bang, bang."

If you practice rule bound Karate, your interpretation of techniques will be limited by the rules. The Karate elders of old had no such restrictions, and their techniques reflected this.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Seize and Control

This Guest Post is by my friend and senior, 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.

- - - - - - - - - -

Seize and Control

Chibana Chosin Sensei often told me that the real fighting practice in Karate is in the Kata. This teaching is not unique to Chibana Sensei. In fact, it is universal for most Karate. In all of the traditional Karate Katas that I have seen, most of the techniques integrated 'seize and control'. This 'seize and control' within the techniques seem to have been lost, because of two main reasons:
  1. Most Karate teachers (including Chibana Sensei) taught that the a strong punch, kick, strike, and block were of utmost importance. Smashing techniques were in many cases reduced to striking techniques, thus losing the 'seize and control' that made them more brutal and combat effective.
  2. In tournament competition, grabbing and pulling (especially while executing a punch, strike, or kick) is prohibited, because of safety concerns. When Charles Goodin Sensei was looking at a tournament brochure on the illegal or 'outlawed' techniques, he commented that these were the effective techniques that one would use in a real self-defense situation.
Chibana Sensei constantly appeared to redo his grip before executing his Kata movements, but this gripping was in actuality the seizing of the opponent. Many of the old teachers did not show the seizing of the opponent, but in the explanation of the technique (bunkai) they revealed seizing as part of the technique and transition. In most cases the seizing is executed with the [striking] hand, after which [it is used to pull] into the following attack (kick, punch, strike, smash). This hand that seizes, pulls, or opens the opponent is called the 'shigoto no te' or the working hand, which is the essential part in delivering a decisive technique. Some techniques are executed to stun the opponent followed with a seizing technique. Other times a seizing technique is executed as part of a block ('uke').

Seizing an opponent is normally establishing control. To be victorious in an encounter, one must be in control, especially if there is multiple opponents. As the great swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi, points out in his 'Book of Five Rings', "one should move directly into the opponent. One does not make adjustments to the opponent, but lets the opponent make the adjustment to you. When the opponent does adjust, destroy him (cut him down)". Establishing control is one of the main fighting strategies in Martial Arts. This control is in the Kata (Classical Kata). Again, as Miyamoto Musashi said quite often in his book, "you must study this well".

Study well this 'seize and control'.

Pat Nakata

Vote, Vote, Vote

Elections here in the United States will be held next Tuesday. Whatever your political persuasion may be, it is important that you exercise your right to vote. I would say that voting is not just a right, it is a responsibility.

Karate is not political, at least not in a governmental sense. However, part of being a good Karate student is being a good citizen.

The people you vote for might not win, but at least your vote will be counted. You will have expressed your opinion. As the saying goes, if you do not vote, you should not complain.

I am a father of four children, three of whom are already adults. My wife and I encourage our adult children to vote. In Hawaii, it is very easy to vote by absentee ballot, so there is no excuse for not voting.

When I ask people why they do not vote, a common reason I hear is the fear of getting picked for jury duty (based on voter rolls). However, there are other ways that potential jurors are selected, and jury duty is an important civic responsibility.

So please vote. I am not suggesting that you vote one way or another, or for one candidate or another. That is completely up to you.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Lesson In Courtesy

I was at a dinner at a restaurant with a visitor recently. My wife was with us. Midway through the meal, my wife rose to go to the restroom. Our guest, who was sitting at the end of the table, promptly rose to his feet until my wife left the table. He also rose when she returned. I just sat there.

Sometimes we take things for granted. I do not think that it is too common here in Hawaii for men to rise to their feet when a woman leaves or comes to a table. But it should be. A gentleman should know this. I had let it slip but will not do so again.

On Friday I was at a meeting. In my capacity as an attorney, I belong to a committee that works on standard forms for real estate professionals. I sat between two ladies. I made sure to rise to my feet when they arrived and left their seats. I also offered to help them with their seats. This is something a gentleman should do.

So who was the guest who taught me this lesson in courtesy by his own actions? It was David Chambers, the publisher of Classical Fighting Arts, who visited Hawaii on his way back to his home in California after a visit to Okinawa. Thank you David!

Karate techniques and body dynamics are important. But being courteous is also important, and something we can do in our daily lives. The ideal of a Karate expert is to be a gentleman. See: Okinawa's Bushi: Karate Gentlemen.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Tuck Your Koshi And...

I have often written about the posture necessary for power generation and speed in our form of Shorin-Ryu:

  • Lower your shoulders.
  • Squeeze your lats.
  • Tuck your koshi.
  • Slightly bend your knees.
  • Place your weight at about the center of your feet.
I want to add something about tucking your koshi. I have realized that when you tuck your koshi upwards (squeezing out the curve in the small of your back), you should also tighten your abdominal muscles and press them down. Your koshi tucks up and your abs press down.

From the koshi side, there is pressure upward from the feet, knees and thighs. From the abs side, there is pressure downward from the shoulders, back and lats. It is like squeezing a big rubber ball sort of (in a very simplified way).

With the body aligned and tensioned in this manner, it is possible to connect the upper and lower parts of the body. This is important, because almost all power comes up from the feet. If there is a disconnect between the upper and lower parts of the body, this power will be wasted or reduced.

So the tucking up of the koshi is met by the pressing down of the abs, creating tension and a useable connection.

It is a very simple thing, but also very important.

Once a student begins to learn how to generate whole body movement using the koshi, I think that it take about two years for the student to restructure or rebuild his body to accommodate and withstand such dynamics. The proper posture won't help much if your muscles and tendons are not properly conditioned.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

What I Notice First

I get to meet many Karate students and instructors. Here is what I notice and ask first:

  • Is he in good shape?
  • Does he act like a gentleman (politeness and courtesy)?
  • Who is his Sensei?
  • For how long has he trained?
If he is in poor shape, I will think that he does not train very regularly or well -- unless he is ill.

If he does not act like a gentleman, I will think that he does not train his character as well as his body.

Knowing who his Sensei is will help me to understand the type of Karate he is learning -- the style and emphasis.

If he has trained for a long time -- say 30 years or more -- I will know that he is very serious about Karate.

You might have noticed that I did not ask about his rank or titles. These are too subjective and tell me very little about the person. In fact, if he emphasizes his rank and titles, this will tell me that he is insecure and seeking recognition through his Karate.

You will also notice that I did not ask about tournament wins. I am simply not interested in such things.

I have just thought about another thing I notice -- fingernails. If he has long fingernails I will think that he has not been training regularly.

I'm sure that Karate seniors have their own list of things that they consider. Usually, the first consideration is politeness and composure.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Ordering the Okinawan Karate & Kobudo Encyclopedia


This is a follow-up to my post about the Okinawan Karate & Kobudo Encyclopedia.

The book was published by Kashiwashobo in Tokyo, Japan. The encyclopedia is shown on the opening page of the company's website. There is also an order page specifically for the encyclopedia at:


The only problem is that these pages are in Japanese. I have not found an English page yet and automatic translation services are pretty rough. I would not want to base an order on such a translation. However, if you read Japanese, you should be able to order from the above page.

I believe that the encyclopedia is 15,000 Yen. I do not know how much shipping would be, but the encyclopedia is quite heavy.

This is a must have book for any Karate collection or library.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

One Good Punch

Did you see the last MMA match with Kimbo Slice? He got caught with a good punch and that was it. The match was over in 14 seconds.

Kimbo Slice appears to be a very tough fighter and I am sure that he is extremely strong. But anyone can be dropped by a good punch, even someone as tough as him. If he can be dropped, how much more so could I? I am only 5 foot 8 inches tall and 167 pounds. Plus I am 50.

And what if that punch had been to a spot that could have done permanent damage? A single punch can kill. On the street, a punch might stun or knock someone out and he could die hitting his head on the curb. It happens.

My point is that as Karate students, we have to realize that one good punch could drop us. We have to be on guard for this and not underestimate an attacker. Even a lucky punch could drop or injure us. With multiple attackers, the danger increases.

A person who fights a lot might win. But eventually, the odds are that he will be injured or even killed. That is why Karate techniques must only be used as a last resort, not lightly. This applies to the beginner and the most senior instructor alike.

There is another side to this. If we punch someone, they could be severely injured or even die. Even if we think we are holding back, we could do serious damage. Accidents happen. We are responsible for our actions. If there is no way to avoid it, we have to use Karate techniques. Then and only then can we justify the consequences.

I noticed that Mr. Slice seemed to be OK after the match and that he appeared to be a very good sport. I'm glad that he was not injured badly.

I enjoy watching MMA matches with my sons, but I always fear that someone might be killed or permanently disabled one day... I hope this never happens.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

How Many Times?

During this political season, I have been watching the debates. Sometimes a candidate will use a certain word or phrase so many times that it becomes almost comical. On talk shows or news programs, these repeated words or phrases are strung together to make an amusing video clip.

What does this have to do with Karate? Sometimes when I meet a Karate instructor or student, he will try to mention his rank as often and in as many ways as possible. "Oh, I am a 5th dan." "When I tested for my 5th dan..." "I used to be a 4th dan, but now that I am a 5th dan..." "Any time now I will be testing for my 6th dan, since I have been a 5th dan for a whole year." "Knock, knock. Who's there? 5th dan." You get the idea.

The same goes for titles.

When I hear this, my eyes must glaze over. I am not interested in rank. And a single mention is more than enough. If we exchange business cards and the person's rank is stated on the card, it does not have to be said at all.

The more rank is stated the less authentic it seems.

If you have a certain rank, you should try your best to hone your skills so that you will not let down the trust your Sensei has shown you. Your rank is not really yours, or at least it is not only yours. It is a statement by your Sensei.

When I meet people, I am more interested in who they train and have trained with and for how many years. I also am keenly aware of their age. Even if a person is junior to me in rank or years of training, I will respect the fact that they are older than me.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Koshi Progression -- Heaviness

When I first started to learn how to use my koshi, I was naturally very excited. It became easier and easier to move very quickly in a short distance. Of course, my body hurt for a while, especially my forearms, and it took a while for me to strengthen and coordinate the muscles and tendons involved in the koshi mechanics process.

I did not figure this out on my own -- not at all. I was very fortunate to have a Sensei who could demonstrate and teach koshi mechanics to someone as stiff and clumbsy as me! And then he continued to coach and encourage me as I groped with the A, B, C's of koshi mechanics. I had no special talent, but I did wholeheartedly want to learn.

Once I could move somewhat consistently, the next step was to apply koshi mechanics to each and every movement in each and every technique and kata. Of course, this took time and is an ongoing process. But once you can apply koshi mechanics to one movement, it is possible to apply koshi mechanics to any movement. You can do this on your own.

But this is an ongoing process. Once a student can use his koshi and apply koshi mechanics freely to each and every technique and movement, there is still more to go. The process is not over. In fact, at this stage the student could probably not use koshi powered techniques effectively. The movements would look good, and be very fast and snappy, but they would not have stopping power.

The next step is extemely important. The student must learn to put his body weight behind each movement. The hands and feet cannot simply flail about. It is possible to use the koshi to generate an extremely fast movement. But if the mass behind the strike is small, the power generated will be minimal. You could, for example, use your body/koshi to power an uraken, but if you pull your weight back before the uraken strikes, you will only be hitting with the hand and arm rather than your whole body. The uraken will be very fast and will make a nice "pop," but it will only sting rather than drop the attacker.

A student can learn to move fast and light. It takes much more to learn to move fast and heavy.

Without koshi it is easy to make a heavy movement (a strike with your weight behind it). With koshi, it is easy to make an extremely fast movement (a strike without your weight behind it). The trick is to learn to move in a way that looks extremely fast and light, but is actually fast and heavy.

It is hard to explain this but easy to feel it when you are hit. I have been lucky enough to be hit with such a movement and even as I reeled from the strike I thought to myself, "how could such a fast and light looking technique feel so heavy?"

So the idea is to be able to flick a technique using the koshi that will be able to drop or stop an attacker. I can tell you one thing -- a light looking heavy technique sounds different. I do not mean the snap of the gi but the sound of the body itself. It has a much deeper tone.

I'm sure that there are other stages to the process and each stage has many levels that a student must discover and explore for himself. Developing heaviness is one part of the process. First fast and light, then fast and heavy -- to be able to look like you are just flicking but actually you are throwing your whole body behind the technique.

One last thing. Using koshi is easy. By this I mean that it does not require much physical effort -- like snapping a whip. Putting your weight behind a technique is also easy. It basically involves distance and timing (being close enough to the attacker to hit him with your weight and properly timing the shifting of your weight with the impact of the strike). Thus, moving fast (with koshi) and heavy (with proper distance, body shifting and timing), should also be easy. You should not have to try harder or expend more energy.

This is something to work on.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Most Important Thing I Did Last Week

Last week was typically busy for me with my legal work, Hawaii Karate Museum work, teaching at the dojo, family matters, and I was sick with a nagging cold as well. Then there was the United States financial crisis. It was a pretty busy and interesting week.

However, everything I did last week seems trivial when compared to what happened on Thursday. That morning, as I was leaving for work I saw a 20 month child walking on the sidewalk and ran over and grabbed him when he was about 5 feet into the street. The child had somehow gotten out of his house unseen. I was so relieved and happy to return him safely to his parent.

I know that this kind of thing happens all the time. But if I had left for work just a little bit earlier or later, or had not been paying attention, things could have turned out very differently.

I have to tell you that my heart was pounding for 20 minutes. I have four children (aged 26, 22, 19, and 15) and I remember when they were little too. Accidents can happen even when we try our best to care for our children.

Coming to the aid of this child was the most important thing I did last week... and actually one of the most important things I could ever do. Events like this really put things in perspective.

Please watch out around you.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Hawaii Karate Museum Collection -- Soon

All of the books being donated to the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection at the Hamilton Library of the University of Hawaii are boxed and ready to go. There are over 1,000 books and over 1,000 journals, plus many multimedia items (video, DVDs, film). Due to the schedule of the university's freeze-dry facility (all the books have to be freeze dried to eliminate any mold or mildew), the donation will probably take place the third week of this month (October 2008).

If you have any Karate or martial arts books that you would like to include in the collection at the time it is established, please contact me:

Charles C. Goodin
Hawaii Karate Museum
98-211 Pali Momi Street, Suite 640
Aiea, Hawaii 96701 USA

e-mail: goodin@hawaii.rr.com

Time is short, but I can still process donations received in the next two weeks. Older books (in English or Japanese) are especially desired. We will continue to list all books and donors at our Rare Karate Book Collection website.

Also, I wanted to let people know that once the donation is made and processed, and the books are indexed (an expensive process since so many books are in Japanese), books in the collection will qualify for inter-library loans, both in the United States and internationally. This means that Karate researchers and enthusiasts around the world will have access to some of the rarest Karate materials.

Thank you very much to everyone around the world who has donated Karate books to the Hawaii Karate Museum and supported our efforts.

Whats next? Even more work to preserve the history of Karate in Hawaii and the world.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Last Resort Rationale

My last post, Grappling -- Not Just Throws, may have sounded a bit severe in terms of the techniques discussed. However, you have to remember that Karate techniques are used as a last resort only, to save life. They are not something to be used for petty disagreements, but in a life or death situation only. In that situation, the techniques used would be extremely severe indeed.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Grappling -- Not Just Throws

We often talk about "grappling" so I thought I would look up the definition online at one of my favorite websites, dictionary.com:

"grap·ple /ˈgræpəl/ *** verb, -pled, -pling, noun
–verb (used without object)
1. to hold or make fast to something, as with a grapple.
2. to use a grapple.
3. to seize another, or each other, in a firm grip, as in wrestling; clinch.
4. to engage in a struggle or close encounter (usually fol. by with): He was grappling with a boy twice his size.
5. to try to overcome or deal (usually fol. by with): to grapple with a problem.
–verb (used with object)
6. to seize, hold, or fasten with or as with a grapple.
7. to seize in a grip, take hold of: The thug grappled him around the neck.
–noun
8. a hook or an iron instrument by which one thing, as a ship, fastens onto another; grapnel.
9. a seizing or gripping.
10. a grip or close hold in wrestling or hand-to-hand fighting.
11. a close, hand-to-hand fight.
[Origin: 1520–30; appar. a freq. of OE gegrǣppian to seize; associated with grapnel]"
In the context of self-defense, grappling essentially is seizing. We tend to think that such seizing is followed by a throw, but this is not necessarily so. In sports, such as wrestling, you typically have to pin your opponent. In Judo, you either have to execute a clean throw or pin your opponent.

But in self-defense, seizing can be the beginning of many things. You could seize and throw. You could seize and push or pull. You could seize and execute a locking technique. You could seize and choke. And, very importantly in Karate, you can do all or any of the above, plus you can seize and strike, poke, tear, rip, stomp, dislocate joints, break bones, poke vulnerable areas, etc. And you could always seize something... like the testicles. A handful of testicles will usually get an attacker's undivided attention (and there are other body parts you could seize with equal or even greater effect).

The point is that grappling -- seizing -- is not simply a matter of grabbing and throwing. In fact, in my experience, the strongest strikes are done when you have already seized and put your attacker into a weak position.

For example, if someone punches at you, you could block or avoid the punch and counter by punching him on the nose (just an example). That might work.

Or you could block the punch in a way that also rakes the attacker's eyes, reach around behind his head or neck with the same hand, and then punch him on the nose with your other hand. Your punch will be much stronger because you had seized and controlled him, and made it harder for him to avoid or slip your punch.

This is just a very simple example. You could have seized and put the attacker into a much weaker and more vulnerable position -- one in which, for example, he was bent over backwards (or otherwise twisted) with his neck exposed. This could be combined with dislocation or breaking techniques.

My point is that grappling is integrated with striking. They are not two things -- they work seamlessly together. Grappling, striking. Striking, grappling. One thing not two.

And again, the ultimate aim of grappling (seizing) is not necessarily to throw the attacker. If a throw is used, it makes no sense to simply throw the attacker in way that allows him to get back up. In the self-defense context, a throw should do considerable damage -- which is not that difficult a thing to do. If you have practiced any grappling arts, it actually is harder to throw someone safely -- you have to modify throws so that your partner will land nicely on his back rather than on his face, for example.

In addition, once seized, the attacker can be thrown into, onto, and/or through things (hard or sharp things, for example), or thrown off things (like a wall). The ground is just one place an attacker can be throw. An attacker can also be thrown into other attackers.

It also takes more time and energy, at least sometimes, to seize and throw an attacker to the ground than it does to seize and execute other types of techniques. It all depends.

When you put your hands together in the starting position for Naihanchi (and all kata for that matter, in my opinion), you may have already seized the attacker. A little flip of the wrist and turn of the body, and the next technique of the kata can be so much more effective.

I think that we have to broaden our idea about what grappling is. Mixed martial arts shows a great deal, but there are usually at least some rules even in MMA (thank goodness). Can you imagine what would happen if those extremely tough, extremely well trained, and extremely strong guys were allowed to strike and grapple (seizing in the broadest sense) without any rules at all? It would be... well it would be the old form of Karate (Tudi).

Some of you might be thinking, "this post does not sound like a Shorin-Ryu instructor." I think that it does -- at least the Shorin-Ryu with which I am familiar. And I have to confess that I studied and taught Kenpo Karate first (back in the 1970s when I was in high school and college). I am sure that this has positively influenced my views about the techniques we use in Shorin-Ryu. (Did you know that snap, crackle and pop are more than just sounds that a certain cereal makes?)

To all my Kenpo Karate (and related arts) friends our there -- Aloha, best wishes, and my respect from Hawaii!

OK, I have to add this explanation when I write about Kenpo Karate. My last name is Goodin, not Godin, and I am not related to the late Professor Walter Godin (athough I did have an uncle Walter in Florida, but his last name was completely different because he was my uncle's wife's brother). And my good friend, Professor Feliciano "Kimo" Ferreira, was one of Professor Godin's senior students. And the style of Kenpo Karate I studied did come from Palama, where Professor Godin also trained. I learned under the Professor Marino Tiwanak line (under Florentino S. Pancipanci at Hickam Air Force Base, and then under Edward Wallace and his daughter Julie at the old Moanalua quonest hut). I taught Kenpo Karate at Hickam Air Force Base, Foster Village, and Evanston, Illinois (there I was actually teaching a combination of Kenpo Karate and Shorin-Ryu). What a small world!

And if you can believe it, when I was in high school teaching at Hickam, I called my school "Goodin's Kenpo Karate" because I did not know about Professor Godin. How naive I was!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Pulling With the Back

My third son works out every day at 24 Hour Fitness. He is in great shape. So I asked him to help modify my weight routine, since I had plateaued with the routine I have followed for the last year or so.

Today he was explaining bent over dumbbell rows to me. This is where you lean on a bench and pull up a dumbbell with one hand. There is a good photo of this here.

Dumbbell rows are a pretty simple exercise and I had done them already. But my son explained today, "try not to pull up with your arm, at first pull with your back."

By pulling in this way, the back muscles are exercised. I tried it an realized that I had been pulling incorrectly just using my arm.

Here is the point. Once I started pulling with my back muscles, I realized that it feels just like hikite (pulling hand). When you punch, the hand you pull back to your body is the hikite.

You could pull using your arm muscles, but this would be wrong. You need to pull with your back and lats, just like the dumbbell rows. This is in keeping with the saying that "you punch with your back" (as opposed to your arms, chest and shoulders).

Lifting weights makes it easier to feel isolated muscle groups.

If you can learn to pull with you back and lats, your Karate movements will be much stronger and more stable. In essence, you will be pulling with your body rather than just your arms.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

My Cold -- A Reason

I am still recovering from my cold. But I found out something interesting, something many of you might have suspected.

When I developed shingles about a month ago, that lowered my immunity, which made it easier for me to catch a cold. I did not think of this, but my allergist mentioned it during a routine visit.

Since then, many people have told me, "Oh yeah, I figured that's what happened."

So in hindsight, while I was recovering from shingles (all better now), I should have been extra careful.

What does this have to do with Karate? Our bodies are our weapons, so to speak. We have to care for them just as we would care for greatly needed weapons. If we do not take care of our bodies, how can be defend them?

Have you ever known anyone who owned a precious samurai sword? If so, you know the great care with which the sword is treated and maintained. Our bodies deserve even more conscientious care.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Being Told What To Do

Most people do not like being told what to do. I do not.

But if a job needs to be done and a person does not do it, someone will have to tell him to do it. This might be done in person or even by a note. The longer it takes for the person to get on the job, the more often and urgently he will be told to do it.

If you do not like being told what to do, you have to take the initiative to do what needs to be done before some can ask you to do it. It is not enough to dislike being told what to do. You have to also take the initiative.

Actually, your goal should be to do what needs to be done before anyone even has the idea of asking you to do it.

This applies in the home, school and at work. It also applies in Karate. In Karate too we need to be able to seize the initiative -- to move in a way that disrupts or even preempts an attack.

I have owned my own business for 21 years. When an employee has to be told what to do, that is just average. I have to do work in order to get that employee to work. It is double effort. That person can be replaced. But when an employee is self directed, that is someone special, someone you want to keep on your staff.

If you don't like being told what to do, don't just sit there -- do what needs to be done. Seize the initiative.

If you are not sure what needs to be done, you can always ask. A person who seeks work usually gets the good jobs. A person who just sits there, gets what's left over.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Saved By Tonfa

Sensei Fumio Nagaishi asked me if I heard the story of the Karate Sensei who was saved by a pair of tonfa? I told him that I had not.

Nagaishi Sensei said that near the end of the war as American troops advanced through a village (I believe it was Awase Village), a military pastor stopped in front of a house and looked in. On the wall was a pair of tonfa, mounted back to back with the handles on the upper side. Can you visualize this? You might have seen tonfa hanging like this in various dojo.

To the pastor, the tonfa looked like the Christian cross and he raised his hands to pray.

This was the house of Sensei Shosei Kina. Nagaishi Sensei learned kobudo from Kina Sensei's student, Sensei Shinyei Kyan (the Okinawan politician and a senior who taught in Sensei Shoshin Nagamine's dojo). Nagaishi Sensei also met Kina Sensei, who lived to be 100.

I do not think that Kina Sensei intended for the tonfa to look like a Christian cross, but you never know. Kina Sensei was in fact a Christian as were many of the villagers in Awase.

I found an interesting article online that mentions Shosei Kina and his remarkable path to Christianity. See: The Village That Lived By The Bible. I also wrote about Kina Sensei in Emphasize Peace.

Nagaishi Sensei, who is now in his 80s, lived in Okinawa for 30 years before returning home to Hawaii. He practiced both Karate (under Chosin Chibana) and Kobudo (under Shinyei Kyan and Shinken Taira) in Okinawa and taught Kobudo here in Hawaii.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Hit Me Anywhere...

A Karate student returned to Hawaii after training in Okinawa. This was in the 1960s. The student had practiced Kenpo and Okinawan Karate here in Hawaii, and went to Okinawa for additional training.

When he returned, an Aikido instructor, who was not very impressed by Karate, told the student to hit him anywhere. The Karate student said that he did not want to, but the Aikido instructor took a ready position and insisted. So the Karate student kicked him in the groin! The Aikido instructor, apparently, was not ready for that, and doubled over in pain.

This story was told to me by the student, and I believe it to be true.

The point is that the Aikido instructor was probably ready for the kinds of attacks he was used to seeing in Aikido. He probably would have been ready for most types of punches, but the kick came as a complete surprise. You have to remember that this was in the 1960s and Karate was not that well known. Of course, I am sure that there are many fine Aikido instructors who could have handled the kick easily. The martial art is not the point.

Today, everyone knows that when someone says you can hit him anywhere, you should watch out for a kick to the groin. It is an easy attack, can be launched from a long distance, and can be easily modified into a kick to the knee, a sweeping kick, or other technique.

And if you ever tell someone to attack you anywhere, don't be surprised if you get kicked in the groin -- or today you might have to watch out for a Superman Punch!

A word of caution -- I would never advise inviting anyone to hit you anywhere.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Not Stepping Back 2

I wish to address Sensei Pat Nakata's Guest Post, Not Stepping Back. I believe that his post got many people to think about their karate techniques. I agree that it is best to move forward into the attacker, rather than step away. Modern self defense techniques often begin with a step back. This can be explained in different ways -- yielding to a powerful attack, creating a space for a counter, giving the attacker a chance to change his mind --but it differs from the "traditional" approach.

In my opinion, once the engagement begins, the traditional approach is to quickly enter and destroy the attacker. It is self defense only until a certain line is crossed -- then the defense becomes very aggressive. You almost want to move through the attacker.

But my point is a little different. With multiple attackers and surprise attacks, we cannot always move forward. The attackers may be all around us or we may be caught by surprise from the rear or sides. We do not always have the time to face the attacker.

Thus, we have to move "forward" with whatever part of our body is facing the attacker. We might attack to the back with reverse elbow strikes or back kicks. We might attack to the side with Naihanchi type movements. We might move to the various diagonals.

We have to be able to move freely in any direction, and to execute defensive and attacking techniques freely in any direction. Again, once the line is crossed, defense includes attacking, whether is it pure attacking or counterattacking.

We also should be able to move vertically, particularly to and from the ground. This is often neglected in modern Karate training but was an integral part of the old Karate (Tudi) in Okinawa.

There is also an occasion when we might move back -- when we run away. When you read the colorful exploits of figures such as Choki Motobu, you find that even though he was a tough fighter, he often ran away, particularly from mobs. He seemed to be very good at hiding in trees and on roofs. Sometimes it is necessary to stand and fight. Sometimes it may be wiser to run away and fight another day.

One of my Sensei was the victim of gangs as a child. He could not defeat a gang by himself, so he would run away and wait for opportunities to confront the gang members one on one. That was his strategy. If he stood his ground, he would certainly lose. By running away, he could defeat the gang one at a time.

So I agree that we should not step back. We should move into the attacker, whatever direction he may be. We must be able to execute techniques freely in all directions.

To do that, we need to learn to use our whole bodies to generate power. But that is a different subject.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Mad At Myself For A Cold

Well, my shingles are just about all gone... so I caught a cold. I have not caught a cold since June of last year, when my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. I told myself that I could not afford to get sick. She is doing very well now, but that is no excuse for getting sick.

My Kenpo Karate instructor, Mr. Florentino S. Pancipanci, used to tell us that we should get mad at ourselves if we got sick. If we got sick, it would interfere with our work and training so we should not allow ourselves to become sick. He wanted us to feel that our health was within our control. I also think that by getting mad at ourselves, we were telling our subconscious that we did not approve of getting sick.

We should not simply view getting sick as an accident. It is something that we have at least some control over.

Control or not, I got sick and spent most of the last two days sleeping. I even missed training tonight. Arghhh!

But I realize that even Karate instructors are human. Since I know many older Sensei, I have seen that they too suffer from illnesses and disease -- just like all humans. I would say that most are in better shape than ordinary people, but not necessarily in better shape than other athletic people of their age. What I mean is this: a 70 year old Karate Sensei may not be in better shape than a 70 year old swimmer, runner, or Yoga practitioner. The Karate Sensei may be in better shape or he may not. It all depends.

Of course, you could argue that the Karate Sensei could defend himself better than the others. But is his health any better? I wonder.

For myself, I want to remain as healthy and active as possible as long as possible. At 50, I still have time to tailor my Karate training and exercise regimen to accomplish this.

I guess that the point I am trying to make is this: training in Karate for self defense motivations is not enough for me -- I also want it to enhance my health and longevity. These goals should go hand in hand.

There is a saying that Shorin-Ryu instructors live to at least 85. I am glad that I practice Shorin-Ryu! But I know that we cannot simply rely on a saying. We have to work at it. We have to exercise, watch our diet, watch our stress, etc.

But for today, I am mad at myself for catching a cold. I will have to be more mindful so that I can avoid it the next time.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Slovenian Interview With Shinzato Sensei

A very nice interview with Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato has appeared in a Slovenian newspaper after his recent visit there.

Here is link to the online version:


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Okinawan Dialect

I am not an expert at the Okinawan language but I have learned a few things during my Karate studies.

"Shiro" means "castle" in Japanese. In the Okinawan dialect, this would be "Gusuku."

Thus, the name Miyashiro would have been Miyagusuku, and Shiroma would have been Gusukuma.

There are no "e" and "o" sounds in the Okinawan dialect. Thus, they would not have said "Karate." In the Okinawa dialect, the word for the art would have been "Tudi." Japanese might have said "Tode" or "Tote," but Okinawans would not have used the "e" and "o" vowels.

"Tudi" meant "Tang hand" with Tang representing a great dynasty of China, and thus China in general. Tudi thus meant China hand. China could also be pronounce "Kara" but Okinawans would not have said "Karate," they would have said "Karati."

So when we say that Karate was an alternative pronuncian of Tote, that is only partially correct.

Our Yamani-Ryu bojutsu kata show these pronunciation patterns:

Shuji Nu Kun
Sakugawa Nu Kun
Shirataru Nu Kun

Do you notice that there are no "e" and "o" vowels. The Japanese pronunciation for the second and third words in usually "No Kon."

The name Higaonna is also a Japanese pronunciation. I spoke to an elderly Okinawan woman here in Hawaii and she pronounced it "Hijaunna" with the "j" sound like a buzzing "z."

I do not understand the Okinawan dialect, or Japanese for that matter, but these word and pronunciation patterns are very interesting. I think that it would be useful to have a comprehensive glossary of Karate terms in the Okinawan dialect(s).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Best Fighter?

It might be good to be the best fighter in the world, but...

  • On a good day, the second best fighter might be able to defeat the best fighter.
  • The 10th and 11th best fighters working together can almost certainly defeat the best fighter.
  • Being the best fighter doesn't mean much if you are hit in the back of the head with a brick or stabbed in the back.
  • Even an untrained attacker could get lucky.
  • Even if the best fighter wins a fight, he could get injured or contract a disease.
  • The time will come (with age) that the best fighter will not be the best fighter any longer.
  • What does best mean? What are the criteria? Best fighter with rules, in a certain weight division, in the whole world? What?
Wouldn't it be better to be the best person in the world?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Referring An Instructor

Sometimes I am contacted, usually by email, with a request to refer a potential student to a Karate instructor, either here in Hawaii or elsewhere in the world. As time has gone by, I have developed a policy generally not to give such referrals.

Usually, the person asking me for a referral gives me very little information about himself, sometimes not even his last name. It is one thing to recommend a restaurant -- it is quite another to recommend a Karate instructor. If I refer a student, I will be responsible for that student in the eyes of the instructor. As such, I can really only refer a student if I know him.

If you refer a person to a restaurant or store, those businesses usually want customers. They sell something. A Karate instructor -- at least the Karate instructors I know -- do not sell anything. They are not advertising for students. Usually, students only come to them from referrals from other instructors, students, or close friends. And to be honest, a student would have to be very lucky to be referred to a fine Sensei.

The relationship between Sensei and student can last a lifetime. It is not something to be entered into lightly.

This is why I generally do not refer prospective students to Karate instructors unless I know the student pretty well. I do not mean to show any disrespect to the student. It is just that we have different attitudes about what such a referral means.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Kamae-Gamae

This Guest Post is by Halford E. Jones, a frequent reader of this blog, and the donor of the Halford E. Jones Filipino Martial Arts Collection at the Hawaii Karate Museum.

- - - - - - - - - -

Kamae-Gamae

Dear Charles,

Your recent blog (No Fixed Positions) prompts me to take perhaps a different viewpoint from that presented on your blogs concerning kamae. While I fully understand and appreciate your thoughts and those of Pat Nakata (Guest Post: Kamae) and those of others, I think that historically there is a reason for such postures or poses or stances, etc. Namely, that in times past, with books and scrolls perhaps not as prevalent at might have been wished, the emulation of such by learners was important.

My thoughts on all this are prompted by the various statures and stone carvings found in various cultures of martial activities, and some of which are either Hindu or Buddhist in orientation. Namely that by a study of such and assuming such positions one could learn some things. Granted there were not ways to capture such things on film or DVD then to show motions, but these things, the kamae, are, as you have all pointed out, ways to 'capture the transitions', etc.

Although there is no need to point this out to you or others, but the late Mas Oyama presented a whole series of kamae in one of his massive books, which I have, and also some of the possible uses and applications of such.

There is also another aspect to all this: namely, that the holding of such postures and poses are a type of 'yoga' and accustoming the body to develop along certain ways and need not interfere exactly in actual fights or movements in kata, etc. In others words, I think that in countries where heat and cold are rather harsh at times, the holding of such postures is a form of body training and discipline, not merely a way to fight or whatever.

Going back to yoga and various 'styles', schools, etc. that exist, aside from the trendy ones that are on nearly every street corner now, the ancients took hundreds if not thousands of years to perfect such things and, in most cases, when possible, left detailed descriptions of what would occur in the body on such things,which, unfortunately many moderns do not realize or even know about, more concerned with achieving physical perfection and doing exercise, etc. and not knowing what the full results will be by a lifelong practice.

Naturally, static positions are not the end all, be all, but they are, nevertheless, important to perhaps make certain that angles and body can be employed in certain situations more efficiently than merely making rapid, non-concentrated gestures and motions. Thanks for your time and keep up the good work.

Yours in martial arts,

Halford E. Jones

Hurricane Dynamics in Karate

With all the recent hurricanes, I have been watching a lot of cable news. This is weird to say, but when I see reports about hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, I think of boarding up my windows here in Hawaii (really I do).

I used to live in Florida, in a trailer, and we were always worried about hurricanes and tornadoes. Here in Hawaii we get our share of hurricanes too.

One thing I often hear is that the strongest part of the hurricane is the front, eastern quadrant. Getting hit by this part of the hurricane is the worst. At least this is what I have heard.

In our system of Karate, we move in a whiplike manner. In essence, we are moving like a hurricane (perhaps the movements are circular, elongated, or almost straight). But all of our movements can be envisioned as portions of a moving circle, like a hurricane.

Of course, our movements might be clockwise, counterclockwise, or rotating in a vertical or other plane.

But if hurricanes have a stronger quadrant, do our movements also have a stronger portion or section? When we execute a chudan shuto uke or uchi, for example, is there a portion or section of the movement that is strongest or best for hitting?

I believe so. And it tends to be the front eastern quadrant (if rotating counterclockwise) or the front western quadrant (if rotating clockwise).

I do not have the mechanical or physics background to explain or confirm this, but it seems right to me.

Another hurricane analogy. No matter how fast we might be moving at the extremities, our center remains very calm. Tension builds up around the center and radiates outward (tensing and releasing).

I do not mean to make light of hurricanes, not at all. It is just that there might be something we can learn from them about whiplike and rotational movement.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Always Someone...

My second son, Charles, is almost 6 feet tall. I am only 5 foot 8 inches tall, so he is much taller than me. My other sons are about 5 foot 11 inches tall. They all tower over me.

But the other day, my second son was playing basketball and had to guard a person who was 6 foot 6 inches tall, much taller and heavier than my son. He towered over my son.

My point is that there is always someone bigger, always someone heavier, always someone faster. If you compete head to head (based on size, weight, speed, etc.), you might win or you might lose. If you are my size, the odd are that you will lose.

And you never know when an attacker might have a weapon. You might be taller, heavier, and faster than him, but a knife or other weapon has a way of changing the equation, especially if you do not see it.

But even a taller person has weak eyes. Even a heavier person has weak testicles. Even a faster person has knees that can be strained or broken. It is possible to exploit a stronger person's weaknesses.

It is easy for me to keep in mind that there are always taller, heavier, faster and stronger people out there. My sons have to keep this in mind too. Even a person who is 6 foot 6 inches tall may encounter a bigger attacker. And even a giant has to worry when there are two or more attackers.

When I was a child in Misawa Air Force Base, Japan, I studied Judo. When I started, I was among the shortest students. The only way I could win was to get in close. From that time until today, I consider that to be one of the most important principles in martial arts. It certainly applies to Karate. When I say close, I mean literally crashing into the attacker -- trying to move through him. At that range, my height is actually an advantage.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Things You Do Not Want To Hear...

This is basically a joke, so please take it as such. Karate can be funny too.

Here are some things you do not want to hear when you perform a kata for an expert in your style:

  • Your gi looks very good
  • Your patch was sewn on very well
  • Your gi was very loud
  • You pronounced (shouted) the name of the kata very well
  • I like the way that you kiai
  • When you kiai, you really are not supposed to actually say "kiai"
  • I like the way that you bow (actually, that is a compliment)
  • Are you really supposed to slap your hands on your sides like that when you come to attention?
  • What kata was that?
  • You appear to be in very good shape
  • I have never seen a kata performed like that
  • You move from movement to movement too quickly
  • You have no feel for the kata
  • That was like an artificial flower, it looks like a flower but has no smell
  • What rank did you say you are?
  • Who is your Sensei?
  • Do you practice our style of Karate?
  • Are you OK? I thought that you were having convulsions.
  • You must have learned from a book because that kata has only 16 movements but you did it with 35 movements, the number of photos in the book
  • Do you have any idea what the movements in that kata mean?
  • The good news is that you can only improve after that
  • I am so glad that you are finished
  • I give you a 10... out of 100
  • I am literally speechless
  • Very pretty
Although this is basically a joke, I think that I have heard some of these comments in my life! Have you? And sometimes I wonder what people who observe kata are really thinking!

My Sensei here in Hawaii would sometimes try to do the kata like I had done it. It would be so frustrating for him to try to move incorrectly, but it was almost a little humerous to see him straining to do so. Actually, I found moving incorrectly to be very easy!

When I observe kata, I usually say, "Good, good, keep working on it." And when I first started learning from Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, he would almost throw a party every time I got a movement even 10% (maybe 5%) correct. He would say, "So, so, so!" and give a huge smile. He gave me so much encouragement!

If you are an instructor, it might be a good idea to avoid the comments on the list above. There are better ways to encourage students. And if you have to say one negative thing, try to say two postive things. My Sensei here in Hawaii, Sensei Rodney Shimabukuro, always said this, and he said that his Sensei, Sensei Tommy Morita, said the same thing too.

"Good, good, perhaps you can work on this..."

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Encyclopedia

I am writing this post primarily to members of Kishaba Juku and students of Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato. However, it may also interest Karate students of all styles.

After many years of hard work, the Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Encyclopedia (746 pages) has recently been released. Shinzato Sensei was a member of the committee that worked on the book, and he is listed as one of the three primary authors.

The committee members were (to my knowledge, and not in any order): Shigeru Takamiyagi, Keicho Tabaru, Morio Higaonna, Toru Kadekaru, Miwa Kanazawa, Tokumasa Miyagi, Kiyoshi Tsuha, Katsuhiko Shinzato, Masahiro Nakamoto, and Masaru Agarie. I'm sure that you will recognize many of these great Karate Sensei. On my last visit to Okinawa, I was fortunate to meet Takamiyagi Sensei and Nakamoto Sensei, and to see Higaonna Sensei again (he had visited Hawaii earlier).
Shinzato Sensei wrote several of the Karate masters profiles in the book and other articles, including articles and profiles that appear on:

  • pages 104~110
  • pages 168~169
  • page 179
  • page 184
  • pages 209~223
  • pages 236~239
  • pages 376~377 (Arakaki, Ankichi)
  • pages 386~387 (Itarashiki, Chochyu)
  • pages 395 (Iraha, Choko)
  • page 396 (Ueshiro, Ansei)
  • page 407 (Ohama, Nobumoto)
  • page 408 (Omine, Chotoku)
  • pages 412 (Kaneshima, Shinsuke)
  • pages 413 (Kana, Kenwa)
  • pages 413 (Kishaba, Chokei)
  • pages 417 (Gima, Shinjo)
  • pages 418 (Kyan, Shinei)
  • page 418 (Kyan, Chotoku)
  • pages 419 ~420 (Kyan, Chofu = Chotoku's father)
  • pages 425~426 (Kushi, Jokei)
  • pages 430~431 (Kojo, Kafu)
  • page 435 (Shima, Masao)
  • pages 441~442 (Shimabukuro, Taro)
  • pages 448~449 (Shinjo, Heitaro)
  • pages 484~485 (Nakasone, Genwa)
  • pages 487~488 (Nagamine, Shoshin)
  • page 489 (Nakamura, Seigi)
  • page 490 (Nakamura, Yoshio)
  • pages 492 (Narahara, Shigeru)
  • pages 516~517 (Makabe, Choken)
  • pages 527 (Miki, Jisaburo)
  • pages 529~530 (Miyagi, Shikichi)
  • pages 537 (Mutsu, Mizuho)
  • pages 542~543 (Yagi, Meitoku)
  • pages 544~545 (Yabu, Kentsu)
  • pages 557~559
  • pages 702~725 Karate chronology
Kishaba Juku students will recognized many Sensei in our lineage (and others). There are also many excellent photographs of these Sensei, including Nakamura Sensei, both Kishaba Sensei(s), and Shinzato Sensei.

Unfortunately, for many of us, the encyclopedia is in Japanese. However, it is hoped that there will be an English translation. But for me, the photographas are great! The list price of the book is 15,000 Yen (about 150 US dollars). I do not have information about where and how the book can be purchased yet. I received a copy as a donation to the Hawaii Karate Museum. When I get more information, I will post it.

I know that Shinzato Sensei and the other committee members have worked very hard on this project for many years. I feel that we, in Kishaba Juku, are very fortunate to have a Sensei who is not only technically amazing, but a scholar are well -- not to mention one of the nicest people you could ever have the good fortune of meeting. Also, many of us are so lucky that he is so fluent in English (at least for myself, I do not speak or write Japanese). Shinzato Sensei is just back to Okinawa after teaching in Slovenia.

Shinzato Sensei was also very considerate to include photographs and information about some of the great Karate master who visited and lived in Hawaii. I was personally very moved to see these.

I hope that you will have the opportunity to acquire or view the new Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Encyclopedia. Our museum's copy will soon be a part of the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection at the Hamilton Library of the University of Hawaii, Manoa Campus.

Congratulations and a big Mahalo (thank you) to all the writers and contributors to the new Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Encyclopedia!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

No Fixed Postions

I want to piggyback on the guest post by my friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, entitled Kamae. I think that in Shorin-Ryu (all the different branches) we have learned that there are no fixed positions, or kamae. When we move, we move. We do not take up certain postures.

However, if you were to look at a book showing kata photographs, it would seem that each movement of the kata is fixed. You punch and hold it. You block, and hold it. You kick, step down, and hold it. We take certain stances and hold our hands in certain positions -- at least it looks so in books.

But in actuality, the photos in a book are just snapshots. If a kata is made up on 1,000 photos, a book might only show 20. It is showing just the highlights. If the 1,000 photos were shown, it would take a whole book for just one kata. So we are only seeing 1 out of 50 photos.

These snapshots seem fixed, but really they are not. We hit and move, and block and move, and kick, and move. We move.

Have you noticed that most kata begin with the hands held down? I believe that this is to represent the most natural position. Usually, we do not walk around or stand with our hands held above our heads, or even at our chest level. Usually, our hands rest naturally.

I was working on a set of yakusoku kumite patterns for our dojo. I consulted my Sensei in Okinawa, Sensei Katsuhiko Shinsato, about the patterns. He recommended that they begin with the hands resting naturally on the thighs. He did not want the hands to be held up in a fixed postition.

Shinzato Sensei has also made the point that we must learn to be able to block from wherever our hands may be. If they are down by our thighs, we block from there. If they are crossed on our chest, we block from there. If they are on top of our head, we block from there. Wherever they are, we block from there. We do not adjust.

Of course, the same goes for striking, kicking, whatever. We move from where we are. From that point, we move directly into the block or strike. We do not waste time taking a position or pulling our hands back. The movement must be direct -- otherwise there is wasted time, and in that time you will be hit.

Imagine two people. One pulls his hand back before punching. The other one punches directly. By the time the first one pulls his hand back, the other one may already have completed his punch.

Using the koshi (whole body dynamics), it is possible to generate considerable power in a short distance. So blocking or striking without pulling back or taking a fixed position is possible.

If a person takes a fixed position -- this is very important -- there is moment, a split second, when he cannot move. In his mind, he is moving to a fixed or rigid position. He is not zig zagging -- he is moving to a certain position. If you know this, you can attack at that moment.

And if you do this (take a fixed position), the attacker can attack you at that movement.

When an attacker stands in front of you with his legs open, I like to tell my student to "make a wish". This refers to what you say when you break the wishbone at Thanksgiving and other family events. If a person is dumb enough to stand in front of you with his legs open (an unintended kamae probably), you should just kick him in the groin as quickly and as hard as you can. It is like breaking the wishbone... "make a wish."

As Nakata Sensei mentioned, taking a kamae telegraphs your intention. It also shows that you know some form of Karate. A skilled Karate person will be able to gauge your ability by your composure and the type of kamae you take. You will be giving away something.

Think about wild animals attacking a prey. Once a lion charges, it takes no fixed position until it has the prey firmly in its jaws. It is just a blur of motion.

Actually, animals only take fixed positions in mating rituals. Otherwise, they move quickly to attack or escape.

Why have fixed positions become so common in Karate? I think that there are several answers, including:

  • Tournaments. Competitors are judged by the perfection of their positions rather than the effectiveness of their movement.
  • Books. The photo thing.
  • Fighting. Many modern instructors do not know how to fight and think of Karate within the arena of Karate movements and rules, rather than street attacks with no rules.
  • Movies. Fixed positions look cool to the audience.
  • Magazine covers. Same as movies.
We have to learn movement in a fixed way to that we can get them right. That is like tracing the outline of a picture (remember when you were a little kid?). But once we learn to move correctly, we have to learn how to move into and out of that movement freely.

In fact, that is the main thing -- to be able to move freely. Once we accomplish the block or strike, we have to move into the next technique or escape. There is no time or use for posing.

In the words of the great movie Talladega Nights (paraphrasing it), we have to learn to "come at you like a Spider Monkey!"

We have to learn to move freely. This also requires that we can think freely. A fixed mind leads to fixed positions. Rigid thinking leads to a rigid body. A relaxed, free mind, leads to a relaxed, free body.

No fixed positions (kamae), no fixed stances, no fixed responses. Without hesitation or conscious thought, we have to be able to move appropriately and directly. It is like turning on a light. There is no perceptible gap between the light leaving the light bulb and striking the floor.

I have thought of another analogy. Think about an Olympic swimmer. He takes a fixed position at the start and he reaches out to touch the wall at the end of the race. In between there is only motion, no fixed or rigid positions. The same goes for sprints and other races.

Is Karate any different?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Grab What?

When Sensei Chosin Chibana explained that turning in kata often represented throws, my friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, asked him what you are supposed to grab if the attacker is not wearing a gi. This was a logical question. In Judo, the gi is integral to many types of throws.

Chibana Sensei promptly demonstrated how to throw without a gi. He grabbed two parts of Nakata Sensei's body. Do you know or can you guess, what parts of the body Chibana Sensei grabbed? Can you name other parts of the body that could be used? Let's leave out the arms and legs to make it more interesting.

I am going to create a large white space and put the answers below (please scroll down).







































Answers:

Chibana Sensei grabbed Nakata Sensei by the side of the neck and the ear.

Throws, take downs, and other control techniques can also be applied using the following (among others):

  • hair
  • inside of the cheek
  • eye sockets
  • nostrils (especially from the back)
  • chin
  • the entire neck (as in a wrap)
  • the armpit area
  • the groin
Old Karate tegumi (grappling) techniques were not limited by sport-type rules and the objective was not simply to put the attacker on the ground. After a tegumi technique, the attacker was usually severly injured.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Leadership

I was in Army ROTC when I started college. One of the things that I remember very clearly was the definition of leadership we were taught at a class:

"Leadership is accomplishing the mission, and keeping the group together in the process."
I'm sure that there are many other definitions, but I would like to offer this one for discussion by Karate instructors.

It is not enough that we are skilled at Karate and skilled at teaching Karate. We must also consider the dynamics of the group. If we yell at or belittle our students, how will that help to keep the group together? If our mission is to teach, leadership requires that we also consider the group.

You could apply this to anything. In a game of tennis, you might feel good if you win. But if you act badly and belittle or argue your opponent, what chance is there that the two of you will want to play again? You might have won the game, but lost the group.

In some dojo, the Sensei is like a god -- what he says goes, period. This is not leadership at all. As soon as the Sensei dies or resigns, the group will probably fall apart, or a new dictator will emerge, purge the seniors, and act like a new god.

We have to accomplish the mission (however that may be defined), and keep the group together in the process.

The Sensei should be the example for his students. He should inspire his students more than he commands them. For me, I hate to be told what to do, and will resent it even if I comply. But when I am inspired, I will try my very best to move mountains.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Nakata Sensei's Guest Posts

I just posted a new guest post by my friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata. I invite you to read all of his guest posts:

I am very grateful to Nakata Sensei for taking the time to share his thoughts and experiences about Karate. Nakata Sensei learned from Chinbana Sensei, who learned from Itosu Sensei. Most of us are several generations (or more) removed from Itosu Sensei and his generation. Itosu Sensei is like Nakata Sensei's grandfather in Karate. Perhaps that is why Nakata Sensei's posts have such an "old Karate" feel.

Nakata Sensei's students are very fortunate, and I am fortunate to have him as my older brother in Karate.

I will ask Nakata Sensei to write more guest posts from time to time.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin