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Guest Post: Stepping Back

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.

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Stepping Back

Otsuka Hironori Sensei, the founder of Wado-ryu Karate stated, "The natural instinct is to step or jump back when attacked. One of the primary purposes of training is to break that tendency." Mas Oyama Sensei, the founder of Kyokushin Karate, in his writings always urged one to keep moving forward in a fight. Chibana Chosin Sensei coached me to always press (osae) into the opponent and never reach in with your punch, strikes, or kicks.

It is like life. If we have definiteness of purpose we keep moving forward without stepping back. Never reach for anything beyond your grasp. Just keep moving forward until you reach your target.

This is the way of Karate, training. We keep moving forward with our training, many times taking small steps, but moving forward nonetheless. We may never reach the destination, but we would have traveled a great distance.

Pat Nakata

Controlling the Temper

In Karate, we often say that the student must be able to control his temper. One reason for this is so that the student can hold back, and not unnecessarily harm other people. A hot headed student is much more likely to initiate or be drawn into fights.

Karate is a self defense art. It is not offensive. But it is not quickly defensive either. Students should not be looking for reasons to defend themselves. They should want to avoid the use of the destructive aspects of Karate unless it is truly the last resort -- not the next to the last resort.

I mentioned the "destructive aspects of Karate" because there are many techniques that can be used without unduly harming the attacker. Escape is a technique. Dodging and slipping an attack are techniques. Not all techniques involve the use of deadly or crippling force.

Getting back to the temper issue, rage also clouds the student's judgment and ability to think clearly. Like an enraged bull, an angry student is more likely to miss things (like the facts that the attacker is carrying a weapon or has friends lurking nearby) and rush into a bad situation. A cool headed student is better able to evaluate the situation and react with the best defense.

So a student should learn to control his temper. If someone bumps into him, this is not a reason to get mad. If someone says an unkind thing or yells, the student should learn to keep his temper in check. When he feels his face getting red, his blood rushing, and his heart pounding, he must learn to slow his breathing and remain alert.

A student should learn to control his temper.

But also, as a student matures things should not bother him as much. It is not just that his temper is controlled -- it is that the student becomes more calm. It should be harder and harder for someone to upset and anger the student.

One reason for this is that with time, the student will have seen more and more ridiculous situations. What used to make him angry when he was young will seem trivial with the benefit of time and experience.

An advanced student does not have to control his temper as much because he is a more calm person -- cool and calm.

Personally, I would rather deal with an angry attacker than one who is cool, calm, and focused on harming me. The same applies in defense.

When a student is young, petty thing might seem more important. People sometimes get into Karate fights over silly things: your teacher is no good, you did not earn your rank, you are a fake, you made a bad call in judging.... It all sounds like a bad Kung Fu movie where the lackey says, "you insulted my Master!"

Students should learn to control their tempers. With time, they should learn to become so calm that the temper does not rise up, or does so only in very serious situations.

The next time something or someone makes you really mad, try to see if you can remain calm. Maybe you will succeed, maybe you will not. But the effort is useful. With practice, you will get better at it. And with time and experience, things that made you mad will start to seem less and less important.

Please do not get me wrong. In a life and death situation I am not suggesting that the student should not react. I am saying that he should act in a determined and controlled manner -- not in a blind or uncontrolled rage.

By the way, this also applies in business. If an employee gets mad at his boss or client, he will most likely lose his job. An employee needs to be able to keep his temper in check and act professionally and courteously. If the student can learn to control his temper and cultivate a calm manner in Karate, he can also apply this in the business world and his social interactions.


Charles C. Goodin

Perfect Karate Body

During the Olympics, I often heard that this person has a perfect body for a swimmer, that person has a perfect body for a sprinter, etc. You can tell that certain body types and frames seem to be best for certain sports. You generally do not see a skinny person competing in the shot put.

Is there a perfect body for Karate?

This is an interesting question. If we view Karate as a sport, it would seem that a certain height, weight and frame might be considered best or optimum.

But in Karate, we have to take ourselves as we are. The objective is to defend our own bodies -- not some perfect body. If we are short, we have to defend ourselves. If we are tall, we have to defend ourselves. Whatever our build, whatever our limitations, we have to defend our own bodies.

Perfect or not, our bodies are our bodies.

Of course, we can try to get into the best shape possible. We can try to overcome our limitations and maximize our strengths.

We are how we are. So are the attackers. They have weaknesses too. A short attacker, a tall attacker, a very strong attacker, we have to be able to defend ourselves against whoever might attack us. We have no choice.

Elder Okinawans here in Hawaii told me a saying. In English is goes like this: "No matter how tall and strong you are, you will bow down and become short if you are kicked in the testicles." Some added that this is the reason the Naihanchi kata begin with your hands sort of covering your groin -- to protect your testicles.

There are no weight or age categories in self-defense. It is an open tournament with no rules.

The perfect Karate body for you is the one you have. The only question is whether you have optimized it and know how to defend it.


Charles C. Goodin

Thank You!

From time to time I receive email and messages from readers of this blog. Some are from Karate instructors who mention that this blog gives them some ideas for things to discuss in their own classes. Some are from students of other martial arts, who indicate that some of the subjects discussed here also apply to their arts.

I am very grateful for the positive feedback.

This blog started out because I wanted to write down some of the things I heard my own Sensei (plural) say in their classes over the years. It evolved to include many of the things I say in my own classes, or just think about.

While they are still in your mind, please do not miss the opportunity to write down the pearls of wisdom you have heard from your own Sensei. Trust me, the time will come when your memory will dim. It is a little like writing down your dreams when you wake up -- at first your memories are vague and incomplete, but soon you will be able to fill pages and pages. The process of thinking about what you learned re-activates the memories.

Please write it down for future generations of students.

We all basically learn the same thing.


Charles C. Goodin

Same Old Posture Advice

Whenever I teach a student, particularly an advanced student, I find myself giving the same old posture advice:

  • Lower your shoulders
  • Keep your head straight (ears in line with your shoulders)
  • Tuck your koshi (press out the curve in your lower back)
  • Slightly bend your knees.
  • Place the weight in the center of your feet (not on the balls and not on the heels, but in the middle).
Unless the student does these things, it will be very difficult for him to move properly -- particularly to connect the energies of the upper and lower parts of the body. If I owned my own dojo (we train in a gymnasium), I think I would make big signs giving this advice!

The funny thing is that when we do this, we look a little like Goju-Ryu students!

But please pay attention to this advice. Whatever your style may be, without proper posture (as defined in your style), proper movement is very difficult, if not impossible. Without proper posture, your body will be constantly fighting itself.


Charles C. Goodin

1,000 Repetitions

A college physics student was having a hard time. The final exam was fast approaching and he knew that he was not properly prepared. He feared that he would flunk. Finally, in desperation he went to see the professor.

"Professor," he said, "I have been studying hard every day and still nothing makes sense." "I fear that I will fail your class."

"You study hard every day?" asked the professor.

"Yes, every day without fail."

"And you still do not get the subject?"

"No, not at all," confessed the student.

The professor thought about it. Finally he asked, "tell me how you study."

"I yell 'e=mc2' 1,000 times each day!"

Obviously, that is not the way to study physics, nor is it necessarily the best way to study Karate or any other martial art. The martial arts require critical thinking and examination of each and every detail of movement and the transfer of energy. Movements must be viewed under a mental microscope. Mere repetition, while helpful to a certain extent, is not enough.


Charles C. Goodin

Relative Dan Scale

In my post on Doubling Skill, I showed the numeric values that would apply if there was a doubling of skill from one dan level to another.

To be clear, I should state that I do not believe this to be true in a literal sense. I do not believe that skill can be quantified, nor do I think that skill is the only factor considered in dan ranking. On the later point, I recognize that factors such as contributions to the art mean more and more as a student advances.

But I do like the idea of a doubling. Is shows that it does not take a little to progress from one level to another -- it takes a lot. The actual numeric value is not important -- it is the idea.

Also, I mentioned in a follow-up post that I am not jealous of seniors' rank or skill. 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, suggested that a better word might be "envious". I agree.

Imagine when Koichi Tohei first visited Hawaii. How do you think that the local Judo instructors felt when he started to demonstrate his Aikido techniques. Many of them were inspired to begin the study of Aikido.

My Aikido Sensei was Sensei Sadao Yoshioka. His Judo instructor was Yamamoto Sensei, who was a 6th dan when Tohei Sensei first visited. Despite his decades in Judo, Yamamoto Sensei became a student of Aikido. Can you imagine that? And so did Yoshioka Sensei.

Tohei Sensei was so inspiring. Rather than being jealous or envious, I believe that the people observing him were amazed.

I am not a fan of rank, I am a fan of skill and character. Someone can give you rank, but you have to earn your own skill and shape your own character. Rank does have its place, but it is just a piece of a greater puzzle.


Charles C. Goodin

Finding the Hawaii Student

This is a story.

A Japanese Karate instructor had three new students who looked exactly alike. His friend told him that one of the students is Japanese, one is Okinawan, and one is from Hawaii, and added, "If you can tell me which is which without speaking or asking them any questions, I will give you $10."

The instructor agreed and ordered the three new students to sit before him in the seiza position. Then he got a wooden stick and went up the first student and hit him hard on the shoulders three times. "Thank you Sensei," yelled the student bowing. "Please do it again!"

"He is from Japan," said the instructor to his friend.

Next he hit the second student on the shoulders three times. The student just took it and did not say anything.

"He is from Okinawa," concluded the instructor.

Finally he went up to the third student and raised the stick. "Listen punk," said the student, "if you hit me with that thing, I'm going to broke your ass."

"How was your flight from Hawaii?" asked the instructor.

There is nothing stronger than a pissed off Hawaii student. And it does not matter what ethnic group we belong to -- Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Caucasian, mixed -- when we get "upset", particularly by a cheap shot or arrogant cruelty, we become local Supermans, grab the offender, and say "Listen punk...." Really.


Charles C. Goodin

1,000 Punches

In some schools of Karate, it is common for students to engage in lengthy kihon (basics) practice. Sometimes the students will do 1,000 punches, 1,000 blocks, 1, 000 kicks, etc. Day after day, year after year, the students practice seemingly endless kihon.

I recently spoke to a senior about this. To me, it would seem that while kihon has its place, the time might be better spent practicing kata.

This senior replied to me, "we are training our bodies and our spirits."

Of course, we know this to said be true about Karate training in general. But the point was that there is a spiritual benefit to thousands of punches, blocks and kicks. The traditional metaphor is the pounding, heating, and folding of metal to form a samurai sword. Our spirits, like raw metals, must endure the endless practice of kihon to gain strength, patience, and perseverance.

Is this true? Does kihon strengthen our spirits?

Personally, I do not think so, or at least not that much. The presumption is that our spirits need conditioning. For military recruits, I could see that repetitive drills could be useful. Soldiers must be willing and able to follow orders, to act immediately.

But to be honest, Karate is the opposite of military training -- at least it was not so in Okinawa. The traditional Okinawan model is a very small training group in which the Sensei tries to make each student the best he can be. Uniformity is not stressed. Group dynamics are downplayed. Things are pretty informal.

It is not that kihon is not useful, it is that kihon is only useful to a certain extent. Beyond that usefulness, other forms of training are more useful, particularly to advanced students. Beginners need kihon. Advanced students need some kihon too. But an advanced student might be better served practicing 20 minutes of kihon and 2 hours of kata rather than vice versa.

In kindergarten and 1st grade, a child learns the alphabet. Each letter is practiced over and over. The strokes must be in the right order. The shapes must be correct. But in later grades, the child will learn words, how to read and write... to express himself. College students do not need to practice writing the alphabet -- college students use computers!

Endless kihon is supposed to be aimed (at least in part) at working on the spirit. Is the intent to strengthen and control the spirit? I don't know. It seems to me that kata practice is an expression of the spirit. Through the focusing of the mind and body through kata training, the spirit is expressed. We do not beat down or control the spirit -- we somewhat create the opportunity for it to be expressed and perceived.

Of course, this can also happen with kihon. But kihon offers only limited opportunities for learning. Kata, because of the movements, changing directions, transitioning from one movement to another, etc., offers considerably more opportunities for learning.

I appreciate students who practice thousands and thousands of kihon drills. I do not doubt that kihon training can produce good techniques. And perhaps in large groups, it is be best way to train.

But in small groups, particularly advanced groups, there are other layers to Karate training that can produce excellent results. A large group cannot be run like a small group, and a small groups does not have to be run like a large group.

And I have to just say it -- in my opinion, Okinawan Karate is not and was not aimed at training the spirit per se. This very notion depends on a separation of the body, mind and spirit, that may not be natural in Okinawa thought, particularly in the old days. Okinawan Karate may have been aimed at training the character and instilling certain gentlemanly traits -- traits that were considered necessary for Karate experts. But these were social and character traits, not spiritual things.

The notion of training the spirit through rigorous physical training is a Japanese thing. The harder the training the better! The more it hurts, the more your spirit improves. Says who?

For an Okinawan man, after a long day of work, a good evening would be a good meal and getting together with friends to drink some awamori, play the sanshin (Okinawan samisen), and sing songs. That would be a great evening! (This has been told to me by many older Okinawans.) Karate was something like that -- an enjoyable form of expression with useful self defense and health benefits. It was not a form of spiritual punishment.

Just my opinion.

And please remember, I did not say that students should not train hard. I only suggested that kihon is not the only or necessarily the best way for advanced students to spend their limited training time. And anyway, kata is comprised of basics.


Charles C. Goodin

Setting the Bar High

It is hard to be more skilled than other people. It is hard to double your skill. Sometimes it is hard to become even 5% better.

My own bar is set ridiculously high. My Shorin-Ryu Sensei in Hawaii has always advised me to make sure that my Karate training is not less than my work for the Hawaii Karate Museum. Because of the generosity of many people in Hawaii and around the world, the museum has done very well indeed.

So how is my Karate training supposed to be just as successful?

It means that I will have to work extremely hard for the rest of my life. Then I also have to try to become as skilled as my own Sensei here in Hawaii and in Okinawa. Now that is impossible! And I am very fortunate to know so many skilled Sensei. How can I ever hope to come close to them?

It is good to challenge yourself, to set the bar extremely high.

If you aim for 5 you might get it. But if you aim for 100 and fail, you might still get to 99! Let's aim for 1,000!


Charles C. Goodin

Jealous Of...

This is a follow up to my last post about Doubling Skill.

When I meet someone who is higher ranked and more skilled than me, I am never jealous of his rank -- I am jealous of his skill. And since skill can only be earned by our own hard work, I think to myself, "I must work harder to be like this fine Karate Sensei!"

I realize that "jealous" is the wrong word. Meeting a fine Sensei is inspiring, motivating, humbling.

Also, I am never ashamed to be less skilled than a fine Sensei. When Sensei Morio Higaonna visited my dojo, I am sure that my students must have been extremely impressed -- I certainly was. If one of my students had said to me, "Sensei, I think that Higaonna Sensei is more skilled than you," I would have said, "You got that right!"

The issue is what we are to do about it. The answer is that we must train harder to earn the skill of such fine Sensei. It is not something to complain about.

I should add one thing. I would feel bad if I felt that I was less skilled than someone who had trained much less than I have. From time to time, we meet such students. If they are my own students, I say, "I get credit for their skill too!" (Only joking, sort of.)

But if a student is more skilled than me and has trained much less, I will try to figure out what it was about his training curriculum that enabled him to develop such skill. Is there something I can learn from his experience?


Charles C. Goodin

Doubling Skill

Growing up in Karate, I have always heard that from one dan level to the next, the student's level of skill should double. That would mean that...

  • A 2nd dan is twice as skilled as a 1st dan.
  • A 3rd dan is twice as skilled as a 2nd dan, and 4 times as skilled as a 1st dan.
  • A 4th dan is twice as skilled as a 3rd dan, 4 times as skilled as a 2nd dan, and 8 times as skilled as a 1st dan.
  • A 5th dan is twice as skilled as a 4th dan, 4 times as skilled as a 3rd dan, 8 times as skilled as a 2nd dan, and 16 times as skilled as a 1st dan.
  • A 6th dan is twice as skilled as a 5th dan, 4 times as skilled as a 4th dan, 8 times as skilled as a 3rd dan, 16 times as skilled as a 2nd dan, and 32 times as skilled as a 1st dan.
  • A 7th dan is twice as skilled as a 6th dan, 4 times as skilled as a 5th dan, 8 times as skilled as a 4th dan, 16 times as skilled as a 3rd dan, 32 times as skilled as a 2nd dan, and 64 times as skilled as a 1st dan.
  • An 8th dan is twice as skilled as a 7th dan, 4 times as skilled as a 6th dan, 8 times as skilled as a 5th dan, 16 times as skilled as a 4th dan, 32 times as skilled as a 3rd dan, 64 times as skilled as a 2nd dan, and 128 times as skilled as a 1st dan.
  • A 9th dan is twice as skilled as an 8th dan, 4 times as skilled as a 7th dan, 8 times as skilled as a 6th dan, 16 times as skilled as a 5th dan, 32 times as skilled as a 4th dan, 64 times as skilled as a 3rd dan, 128 times as skilled as a 2nd dan, and 256 times as skilled as a 1st dan.
  • A 10th dan is twice as skilled as a 9th dan, 4 times as skilled as an 8th dan, 8 times as skilled as a 7th dan, 16 times as skilled as a 6th dan, 32 times as skilled as a 5th dan, 64 times as skilled as a 4th dan, 128 times as skilled as a 3rd dan, 256 times as skilled as a 2nd dan, and 512 times as skilled as a 1st dan.
I hope that my math was correct.

So what does this mean?

For younger students, it means that you have to train hard and try your best because there is much to learn and even more to refine. It does not take a little to move up in rank -- it takes a lot.

For seniors, it means that there is a lot to live up to. If a 10th dan should be 512 times as skilled as a shodan, that is quite a high expectation! Seniors have to live up to high standards and high expectations.

And as you know I will always say, it is the skill that counts, not the rank. Rank is supposed to be a reflection of skill (and other factors). A person without rank can have skill, and unfortunately, a person without skill can have high rank.

But really, if a 10th dan is supposed to be twice as skilled as a 9th dan, think about how much that entails. A 9th dan has nearly a lifetime of experience (hopefully). How can he double his skill? It would seem to be nearly impossible!

Of course, there are other standards for rank. Depending on the organization, rank could simply be a reflection of age and years trained. Or it could reflect the number of students, tournament wins, the size of the dojo, political connections, fame, wealth.... any numbers of factors.

Growing up in Karate, however, I always heard that each dan level represented a doubling of skill.

When my second and third sons became shodan, they had each already trained for 12 years. In our dojo, the minimum age for shodan is 17. Being twice as skilled as a student with 12 years of regular, diligent training is pretty difficult to do. But that is what is expected of us.

A last thought. Numbers like 256 and 512 may sound daunting. But if you are like me, you have probably met Sensei who you would say are 1,000 times better than you (certainly than me). It is all relative. When you watch someone and think to yourself "I could not move like that in a million years," then you begin to realize that there truly is a wide range of skill levels in Karate.


Charles C. Goodin

That Was Great!

I give talks on Karate from time to time. I also give talks about real estate law (I am a real estate attorney).

Recently I gave a talk to about 100 real estate professionals. It seemed to go very well. Afterwards, my wife asked about the comments I received after speaking. I reported that the comments were very positive.

But I added that people generally say nice things after someone gives a speech or teaches on a subject. It is common courtesy to show appreciation for the speaker's time and effort.

I am sure that most people mean what they say, but I am also sure that some people might think that the talk was no that great, but keep it to themselves. People with something nice to say are more likely to do so.

I have never given a talk and had someone say, "Man, you have no idea about what you're talking about and you're a lousy speaker!" People might have thought it, but kept it to themselves.

What is the point? When we talk about Karate or demonstrate Karate, there is a likelihood that people will say nice things. They might be correct, they might be wrong, or they might just being polite.

That kata you just performed may be the best ever, or it might be the worst ever. More than likely, it is somewhere in between.

I often tell my children that if you live for the approval of other people, then they are controlling you. You are putting your happiness or sadness in the hands of others. It is far better to take control yourself. You are the best judge of your effort. Try your best. If someone says that you did well, say "thank you" but realize that they may be right, wrong, polite, or even lying. If someone says that you were terrible, the same applies. Who knows if they are correct?

We are often taught that if we do not have something good to say, it is better to say nothing at all. If you give a talk or demonstration to 100 people and 10 people say you did great, you might feel pretty good. But what about the other 90? Perhaps they had nothing good to say.

I have never seen a senior perform a kata and feel 100% good about it. The more senior the person is, the more he feels that he could have done better. My own Sensei is never satisfied because he is so demanding of himself. In his mind, I think he is saying, "I could have done better. I still need to work on myself."

When I perform kata, I am happy if I do one movement well. Two movements done well is a reason to celebrate!

My own children are very critical. If they compliment me on even one movement in a kata, I feel great!

Imagine, I do Pinan Shodan and one of my children might say, "that one shuto was good." One shuto out of an entire kata? Ouch! I have created critical children. (You have to realize that I have brought my children to class with me from the time they were 5 years old, so they have seen a lot of kata.)

Anyway, the next time someone says that you are "great", or whatever, you might think in the back of your mind: "I wonder if they really mean it? Are they just being polite? Do they have the requisite skill to accurately evaluate my movement? How do I think that I did? Could I have done better? If so, how?"

Also remember that if someone attacks you, he probably will not know who you are and will certainly not be impressed by you. Compliments and a reputation will not defend you -- you will have to do that yourself.


Charles C. Goodin

Gi Top Optional

My second son, Charles, is the head of our Hikari Dojo. On Monday, he announced that wearing a gi top is now optional. If the student prefers, he may wear a plain white T-shirt, or our Hawaii Karate Museum T-shirt. When a T-shirt is worn, the student does not wear a belt.

The student can still choose to wear the standard gi top and belt. It is up to him.

My son told the class that he does not care about belts or gi. They are not important to him. He also mentioned to me that he does not like it when students try to snap the sleeves of their gi, as this leads to artificial movement. The sound is also irritating -- like saying, "pay attention to me!"

I am very proud of my son's attitude. At a young age, he realizes that technique and character are what count, not what the students wear.

In this regard, we are following in the footsteps of my friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata. I think that he and his students started wearing T-shirts 30 years ago or more.

I actually prefer to teach wearing a T-shirt now. It makes it easier for the students to see how I am moving (the gi top tends to hide the movement). And it is quieter. It is also easier to wash T-shirts than gi tops.


Charles C. Goodin

Ready, Set...

Go! (http://record.museum.kyushu-u.ac.jp/karakinmou/contents6.html)

Amazing no? And what is even more amazing is that our Hawaii Karate Museum has just acquired another printing of the same volume of this excellent book, an encyclopedia of Chinese things (Tang -- see the first character of the title), originally printed in 1791! The one above is at Kyushu University.

The more we prepare to transfer our collection to the University of Hawaii, the more we seem to find!


Charles C. Goodin

Kata "Files"

Please bear with me on this one.

If you view them a certain way, kata are like files -- packets of information, in this case, movements. There are many ways to view files. Think about the way you view them on your computer (I use a Windows based system).

First, you could view the files as a simple list of names. These names could be alphabetized or organized other ways (most recently edited, by file type, etc.). The simple list of names would not give much information, just as the simple names of the movements that make up a kata do not convey much information either.

You could next view the files with accompanying information about each file. You would see the file name, the size of the file, when it was last modified, and information about the file type. In kata, this would be like seeing the basic information about each movement, not just the name.

If you turned on the "thumbnail" feature, you could see a small image of each file. If the file is a photo, you would see a small version (called a thumbnail) that would help you to readily identify the file. These would be like the photos you see in a book of the movements of a kata. Additionally, if you were to click on the photo, it would enlarge to its maximum size, limited by your screen size.

If you have activated the "Filmstrip" feature, you would see the thumbnails of the files aligned across the bottom of your screen. If you place your cursor over a thumbnail, a larger image with appear above it. If you double click the thumbnail, the image would enlarge to its maximum size, limited by your screen size. You could also zoom into parts of the image (enlarge it).

The photo type features would also work with video files, so that you could open videos by clicking on them.

How does this relate to kata? You mind is much like a computer operating system. Just as a computer operating system must organize information of all types, you must organize and deal with the information contained in kata.

At the simplest level, a kata is just a sequence of movements. If you know each movement, it is a simple matter to string them together in a certain order. But this does not tell you much about each movement. You need additional information.

What type of movement is it? Is it a block, a strike, a stepping or sliding movement, etc.? What is the movement -- and why are you doing it?

A movement is a sequence. When you see a photo or photos of a kata in a book, you are only seeing a very few frames of the overall movement. Thumbnails of each movement are just like a cover of a book. What takes place between the covers is what counts, not just the beginning and the end.

For some people, simple images of the movements is about all they know. But if you could zoom into each movement, activate a video of each movement, click on it to see more information about it, its variations, the multiple levels of interpretation, the defenses to it, the counters to the defenses, etc. then you would be practicing Karate through kata.

Imagine thumbnails that would each activate a discourse on a movement -- a summary of everything the Sensei in your style have taught on that particular movement. Now that would be something!

Where is this fantastic operating system? -- in your own mind of course! You program and expand the system through years and years of practice. Practice is the feedback that allows you to process more and more information about each movement and kata as a whole.

Each kata is broken down into its individual files. Each kata is separated into its own folder. All in your mind.

Click, click, click!

I know that it sounds a bit far fetched (or possibly not so to some of you). But I have, and perhaps you have, seen Sensei teaching a kata and explaining a certain movement, then pausing for a second or two as he reviews the entire system of kata to draw a parallel to a movement in the same or a different kata. You can almost hear his hard drive (mind) buzzing.

In a split second it is as if the Sensei is seeing all the movements in all the kata all at once. And the greater his ability (skill and experience) the more information he can summon for each movement or all movements instantly.

It is not possible to do this if you view the movements of a kata as a simple list of names. You need access to much greater information about each movement, which comes by longterm diligent practice.

One last thought. I spend a lot of time working with images for the Hawaii Karate Museum. The resolution of an image means a lot. A small image with high resolution can be enlarged. But a small image with low resolution, will just look like a bunch of boxes if you enlarge it too much. With images, we use dpi, or dots per square inch. I believe that the normal resolution for the internet is 72 dpi. Most images you see online are saved at that resolution.

But it is possible to scan an image at much higher resolution, for example, at 1200 dpi.

If you put two postage stamp sized images online, one at 72 dpi and the other at 1200 dpi, they would look pretty much the same on a standard monitor. The 1200 dpi image would be much larger (in terms of megabytes), but the images would look alike until you zoomed in on them.

As soon as you zoomed into the 72 dpi image, it would pixelate (be boxy). But you could zoom way into the 1200 dpi image. There is much more to the image, more resolution and information.

Is your kata made up of 72 dpi movements or 1200 dpi movements? How much resolution do you have?

Some Karate Sensei seem to have nearly infinite resolution. What a goal for us Karate students!

Part of improving our Karate is working on the operating system (and software).


Charles C. Goodin

Sensei George Donahue's Articles

If you will look at the Links section on the right hand side of this page, you will notice that I have added a link to Sensei George Donahue's articles at FightingArts.com.

It was George who kindly introduced me to Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato. What a life changing introduction!


Charles C. Goodin

Best At Worst

I was watching a commercial for the U.S. Coast Guard recently. The catch-line for the commercial (as I recall) was "when things are at their worst, we are at our best!"

What a perfect saying for Karate students.

When things are at their worst, that is the time for each of us to be at our best. It is the time for us to be calm and focused, to be able to summon all our strength, to be able to evaluate the situation, to be able to do what needs to be done.

Karate training is not only useful to defend against an attack. It should also help us during any natural disaster or emergency. Then Karate training is truly useful!


Charles C. Goodin

"Hidden" Kata

Let's assume that the creators of kata intended to "hide" the meanings of the movements in the kata. By "hide" I mean that a civilian (non-Karate student) who observed the kata would not know what the movements meant, or would be able to know so only superficially.

If that was the intent, I think that the creators were a bit too successful because it seems that many Karate students either do not know or only have a superficial understanding of the meanings of the movements in kata. I mean no offense. Certainly some students understand a lot. But you have to admit, if you ask most Karate students what a movement in a kata means, they will either not know or will only know a shallow meaning. Very few students will: (1) know multiple levels of meaning; (2) be able to connect a movement to the movements preceding and following the movement; (3) be able to connect the movement to other movements in the kata; (4) be able to connect the movement to other movements in the kata series; and (5) be able to connect the movement to other movements in other kata of the system.

Have you read Prof. Rick Clark's 75 Down Blocks? That book is just about one block! One block!

Honestly, the meanings of many movements seem hidden from the Karate students themselves, rather than from civilians. In some cases, the movements of kata have become so exaggerated or crystalized (rigid) that the original meanings might no longer apply. In fact, some kata movements, as done by some students, probably have no useful meanings at all.

It is really up to the instructors to enlighten the students to the meanings of the movements of kata. Kata were not designed for tournaments -- either for performance or for kumite. Thus, a tournament emphasis will usually reveal little about the meaning of kata.

In my opinion, the only way to learn to understand the meaning of movements is to pair them off. An intellectual understanding is not enough. You have to apply the techniques in order to be able to understand the techniques and to develop the muscle memory that will enable the movements to be used spontaneously.

When you begin to know the meanings of the movements in kata, they will no longer be hidden to you -- they will seem so obvious. And if you do not know the meanings, at least some of them, how do you know what you are doing and how you should be doing what you are doing?

One interpretation of the term "Karate" is "open hand." It is all open, nothing is hidden, at least not from serious Karate students.


Charles C. Goodin

My Own Olympic Medals

If I could, I would like to give Olympic medals to some people...

To all the Sensei who have taught Karate in their garages and carports so that they could teach for free or keep their fees very low for their students.

To all the Sensei who never earned a dime teaching Karate, and actually spent a fortune on their students and guests from the orient and the mainland.

To all the Sensei who taught week after week, missed vacations, and arranged their lives around teaching their students.

To all the Sensei who taught that values are more important than techniques, and that character is more important than mere conditioning.

To all the Sensei who made their students feel that they belonged and were valuable human beings.

To all the Sensei who taught that Karate should be studied together with Okinawan culture and values.

To all the family members who supported their Karate Sensei fathers, uncles, brothers, etc.

To all the students who attended class regularly, tried their best, applied what they learned in the dojo in their daily lives, and sold sweatbread and Portuguese sausage to raise funds for demonstrations, trips, and visitors.

To all the students who held their temper, avoided fights, and tried to help rather than hurt others.

To all the instructors and seniors who were patient with beginners, and gave them a chance, even if they did not learn quickly.

And personally...

To all my Sensei and seniors, who have always been supportive of my training, research, and Hawaii Karate Museum efforts.

To everyone who has helped me with Japanese translation -- since I do not speak or write Japanese (ironic, no?).

To all the Sensei and their family members who have donated so many priceless books, photographs, weapons and artifacts to the Hawaii Karate Museum. Very soon, those books will have a new home at the University of Hawaii.

To my wife, who has never made me feel bad about be Karate bakka (crazy).

Of course, I am not a fan of medals or trophies, so good thoughts and gratitude will have to do.


Charles C. Goodin

Hurray For the Olympics!

My family loves to watch the Olympics. My wife and I are old enough now to be parents of most of the athletes and we are always very proud of the way that they try their best to represent their countries.

Last night we were watching the final event in the men's gymnastics team competition and I noticed something interesting. The Chinese team had three Chinese guys, the Japanese team had three Japanese guys, and the American team (in the pommel horse competition) had three Americans who appeared to be Chinese, Indian and Russian. We are truly a land of immigrants!

When I was young, I think I would cheer for the Americans and hope that everyone else did poorly. Now I just hope that everyone does their very best and is safe -- and that the Americans win (of course).

Good luck to everyone participating in the Olympics!

Do I think that Karate should be an Olympic sport? Sorry, but no. I do not view Karate as a sport or performance art.


Charles C. Goodin

Ending Direction of Kata

I recently wrote about kata assumptions and mentioned that kata usually begin and end facing in the same direction (usually the front).

I should have added that I tend to violate this generalization when I perform Gojushiho (54 Steps). I was asked to demonstrate the kata once at the dojo of my friend, Sensei Hisae Ishii-Chang, and sure enough, I ended the kata facing the back! Luckily, my friend teaches Shotokan so perhaps the students thought that our Shorin-Ryu version ends differently than theirs.

But really, does it matter? In Karate -- and all martial arts for that matter -- we have to be able to move in all directions.

Well, Gojushiho is a Naha-Di kata anyway (it is a number kata, which is indicative of Naha-Di kata), so that explains why it confuses me so much!


Charles C. Goodin

Saying Goodbye to Sensei

I recently wrote about Greeting Sensei. It is equally important to politely say goodbye to your Sensei when you leave the dojo. This also gives your Sensei an opportunity to encourage you and suggest how you can improve your training.

It is very poor form to leave the dojo without politely saying goodbye to your Sensei.

Students might also politely say goodbye to their seniors, particularly seniors who had taught them during that class.

Of course, this same courtesy applies outside of the dojo when we greet and part with our parents and seniors. We must be courteous at all times, not only in the dojo.

Begin and end with courtesy, and be courteous in the middle too!


Charles C. Goodin

Assumptions About Kata

I have been thinking a lot about kata (the forms we practice in Karate, such as Naihanchi Shodan and Passai). If you were going to argue with someone about a certain subject, you might ask that person to state his assumptions. What facts does he accept as true as part of his argument?

Let's argue about kata (not really argue, but think about the subject in a critical way). What are our assumptions about kata -- what facts do we accept as true when we practice and discuss kata? Actually, we tend to make many assumptions. Some of these might apply to you and some might apply to other Karate students.

Each kata was made by a certain person in a certain way. For example, we know that Anko Itosu developed the Pinan kata. That was in modern times, so it is easy. But things get harder with the older or "ancient" kata. Who made the Naihanchi kata, for example?

And what about Passai? There seems to be several different versions. Did the creator make different versions or did people who learned the kata modify it? The answer is probably "yes" to both questions.

While it is possible that a person could have created a kata and only taught it that way all his life, I think it is more probable that the person worked on a set of movements that evolved into what we call a kata. At different times -- at different times of his life -- he probably taught it differently. He probably tried to improve it as he himself improved.

Kata were taught the same to all students. I don't think so. This only matters when you teach a big class. When you have only a few students, you will probably customize the kata for each student's strengths and weaknesses, and these strengths and weaknesses will change during the student's life. So one kata could be taught differently to different students, and differently to a single student as he advances.

Each kata has a special name. I think this is true of the famous kata. But I suspect there were many kata that have been forgotten. Okinawans were not "into" terminology in the same way as Japanese. Techniques were often "like this" and kata probably could have been "that one" or "the first one."

After a while, I think that people knew which kata were more or less "famous" and tied to teach those. It was a sign of status to teach Shuri kata because that was the castle town and the home to "high class" people. I suspect that many people modified Shuri kata with the flavor of their own techniques so that they could say that they taught "Shuri Karate" or "Shuri-Di."

This Shuri fixation is very important. Some people called Naha Karate "low class" (because Naha was a seaport and the place for working people) and also put down other styles by calling them "village Karate." Now it was true that some styles of Karate came from certain villages and there was nothing inaccurate about that. But Shuri was the "high class" place and Karate from Shuri was "the best." I do not believe this to be true. I think it all depended on the teacher and students of the specific style. I respect all styles of Karate. But it would be naive to believe that status and the perception of status did not have at least some role in the development of Karate and the kata practiced in each style.

For the record, I am not Okinawan. And the best Karate in the world comes from... wherever it is practiced sincerely.

Kata have Kanji. I do not speak or write Japanese but I do know that Japanese use Katakana to write foreign words. The names of most older kata were Chinese. Thus, Japanese would use katakana to write the names of those kata.

However, for Karate instructors, it seemed poor, less "high class," or more foreign to use Katakana. So they sought out kanji that sounded the same as the kata names and used those. Of course, those kanji had a certain meaning (or multiple meanings), so those became the meanings of the kata. Let's say that "Passai," for example, sounds like a kanji (is pronounced the same) as a word that means "divine." Great! "Passai" now means a "divine kata." This is not the case, but just an example of word smithing (making up or shaping words for a purpose).

The farther back you go in Karate history, the more you find that Hiragana is used, rather than kanji.

I once asked my Sensei what "Shuji" means in the Yamani-Ryu kata, "Shuji Nu Kun." He said that "Shuji" means nothing -- it is simply the sound "Shuji."

Kata begin and end in the same spot. Not really. I think that this was a modern convention and could have come about because of two things: (1) instructors who also took Okinawan dance an applied dance principles to kata; and (2) it was necessitated by performing kata in groups in public. I do believe that kata usually begin and end facing the same direction, but I will bet that there are even exceptions to this.

Kata have fixed kiai points. As I have written recently, I do not believe so. I believe that this is modern convention. Modern kata may have fixed kiai points, because when they were created, instructors had already starting adding fixed kiai points to the older kata.

Kata represent fighting techniques. Yes, but just some fighting techniques. No kata is complete in terms of a Karate curriculum. Older kata seem to be based on key or signature fighting techniques. Modern kata were often formed to teach basics. In modern times, people were more "intelligent" and "scientific" in their approach to kata formulation. That is why the ancient kata are always so much better!

Kata were originally based on two-man sets. Sensei Patrick McCarthy often writes and teaches about this. I believe it to be true when the kata were formulated in China, but that it was mostly if not completely lost when the kata were transmitted to Okinawa. Even then, there are many Chinese arts where pairing off takes place rarely, at least apparently. I think that kata present the form and that the form was tested in "kumite" or "tegumi," which was generally not very structured. I admire McCarthy Sensei research and work in this area.

Kata have different degrees of difficulty. Come on! There are no numbers associated with kata. Actually, the simpler a kata appears to be, the more difficult it actually is. I tend to teach kata in a certain order because they present materials in a logical way. Naihanchi are a good set to begin with, because after several months or years, the student becomes stronger and thus better able to learn and do other kata.

Kata were not created for performance in public or in tournaments. They were for fighting, essentially, or non-fighting, in a deeper sense.

Even though kata are not rated in terms of difficulty or "highness", people tend to do them in accordance with their rank, at least in public. In some styles, Kusanku is the highest kata. The "highest" person will tend to do that kata in a performance. This is really silly to me. Also, the nature of public performances dictates that different people do different things. Otherwise, the audience will get bored. But in Karate, it would make perfect sense for each person to the same kata or the same small group of kata. There is no need to "run the curriculum."

Karate has been ruined by catering to the public's wants, desires and needs. Karate has been ruined by "applause."

When someone does Karate well, you should not feel like clapping your hands, you should feel like getting out of the way. "Good" Karate is not impressive, it is terrifying.

Each technique in a kata has a specific meaning. Wrong. Each technique in a kata has many meanings and represents a range of movement rather than a single, specific technique only. Pretend that each movement in a kata is a playing card (a five of diamonds, for example). Fixed Karate teaches that each movement is a specific card. More open Karate teaches the students how each movement can be a wild card. If someone attacks you, there is no time to look for the five of diamonds. You have to be able to throw the wild card.

There are three levels of meaning for each movement in a kata. I believe this to be true.

Kata begin and end with a bow. Only in modern times. This probably was a concession to Japanese martial arts, which are bound by greater formalities.

Kata begin with the student yelling out the name of the kata. Oh come on! That really gets me. Actually, I have seen kata performances where this was the best part.

The meanings of the movements in kata are hidden. True, sort of. I believe that kata present a neutral or middle set. Body shifting, foot shifting, dodging, ducking.. variables so to speak, are usually not shown. These come out in the applications.

The plural of kata is katas. One kata, two kata, three kata...

It is not necessary to understand what the movements in a kata mean -- you can just do the kata. That is a little like giving a speech in a foreign language you do not understand. It would just be jibberish. If you are going to put time and effort into doing kata, you should also put time and effort into understanding them, no?

The most beautiful kata is Passai. True (just to me, in my opinion).


Charles C. Goodin

One Cent School Supplies

Children have gone back to school here in Hawaii. Every year, the office supply stores have back to school sales and this time, two of the stores had one cent sales. At one, for example, plastic rulers and boxes of crayons were just one cent each (limit of three per purchaser per day). Other stores have other specials.

My wife, daughter and I went to the stores several times and acquired quite a pile of supplies, which we gave to one of the instructors in our dojo who is a third grade teacher at a public school here in Hawaii.

What if martial arts students around the world did this? How much school supplies could we give to public schools in our neighborhoods?

How about it?


Charles C. Goodin

A Special Book

This is a story.

A Karate student purchased an extremely rare Karate book that was naturally very expensive. He was certain that this special book would teach him the secrets of Karate.

One day, he got into a fight and was easily defeated. He could not believe it because he had read every word of the book and memorized every technique. He went to his instructor and described what had happened. His instructor tactfully said that the techniques of Karate cannot be learned from books, but only by diligent practice.

"But you don't understand," complained the student, "the book was a first edition and signed by the author!"

Do you see? The issue is not the cost or rarity of the book. It could be printed with golden ink on silk pages and it still would make no difference. The book of Karate is written in sweat -- your own sweat.


Charles C. Goodin


I have practiced martial arts since I was a little kid (about 8). When I became an adult, it became more and more difficult to make time to attend training. My wife and I were married young, so family obligations were also a consideration. We have four children every 4 years after we were married.

But I still found time to practice martial arts, and at one time, practiced Karate, Judo, Iaido and Kendo all at once. Honestly, it was too much for me. If everything went perfectly well in a week, I could handle the schedule. But if someone got sick, if there was extra work, or if there was some family event (party, wedding, funeral, etc.), it could throw off the schedule.

But no matter how much I trained, or how busy it was, I never trained on Friday nights. That was and continues to be reserved for my wife. It is a night for us to go to a movie, or go shopping, or just do nothing. But my wife knows that it is not a training or teaching night for me.

For ten years, I taught on Saturday afternoons. A couple of years ago, I switched that training to Moday evenings. Now my weekends are also free, which is better for my family obligations (and yard and house work).

The point I am trying to make is that martial arts training must fit into your life. In my particular case, I have a close and pretty large family. Being a good husband and father is important to me. While I enjoy martial arts training, I cannot afford to neglect my family responsibilities. If I did so, what kind of martial artist would I be?

It is not possible to be a good martial artist and a poor father. Think about it for a moment. It simply is not possible. If you are a good martial artist, you must first be a good father. If you are a good martial artist, you must first be a good son. If you are a good martial artist, you must first be a good husband. Martial arts excellence cannot come first and has little or no value by itself. Martial arts excellence must follow excellence in life, which is your first duty. If you are good at martial arts but miserable at everything else, then what?

Sometimes I will hear about someone who is only good at martial arts. Seniors will sometimes describe such a person as being childlike. He may be a fierce fighter, but has no life skills. It is as if he never advanced beyond the 1st grade. How is such a person supposed to live in a modern world?

So I have always kept Fridays free for my wife and now my weekends free for my family. I am serious about Karate training, but I am more serious about my family obligations. First things first.


Charles C. Goodin

Who Is The Strongest?

I have three sons who are 26, 22 and 19. They are all 5 foot 10 or 5 foot 11 and very strong. My second and third sons are in excellent shape.

I work out too, but certainly cannot lift as much as them, and I am not quite 5 foot 8. So they think that they are stronger than me.

But when there is a big cockroach in the house, who do you think that everyone calls? My sons? No way! They are big chickens. My wife and daughter are naturally excused from the chore.

I am the only one in the family who can deal with the problem. So despite being smaller and weaker than my sons, I think that I am the strongest! I am the cockroach executioner.

If you do not live in Hawaii, you have to understand that our tropical conditions produce some super cockroaches we call B-52s. Of course, we do not say "cockroach", we say "cock-a-roach." And while the B-52s are bad, the softer striped ones are even worse -- because they are more gooky when you hit or squash them!

Being strong is a relative thing. True strength is being able to deal with what needs to be dealt with.


Charles C. Goodin

Greeting Sensei

This is for newer students.

It is very important to show the proper respect.

If you are already in the dojo when the Sensei arrives, you should stop what you are doing and greet the Sensei. It is best to go up the the Sensei and bow and say, "Hello Sensei" (or something like that).

If you arrive in the dojo and the Sensei is already there, you should put down your bag (or whatever), and go greet the Sensei (as above).

If the class has already started, you should follow your dojo's protocol. In our dojo, the student should go stand to the side of the dojo and wait for the Sensei to make eye contact or give some other signal so that the student can join the class. At that point, the student should bow and join the class.

Of course, a student should show similar courtesy to his own parents and seniors in life. Proper greeting is part of proper courtesy.

If the Sensei's Sensei is also in the dojo, the same courtesies should be shown. Personally, I think that the courtesy should be shown to the Sensei first and then to his Sensei. Other people might feel that the respect should be shown to the senior first. I would show respect to the Sensei of the dojo first, in his or her dojo. Outside of the dojo, I would probably show respect to the senior first. But the main thing is to show respect.

The details are not that important in Okinawan Karate styles (which tend to be relaxed), but may be more emphasized in Japanese Karate styles (which tend to be more highly structured). It all depends. Here in Hawaii we are pretty relaxed about things -- but students should still try their best to be sincerely respectful.


Charles C. Goodin

No Kiai

Last night I had the good fortune to practice in the dojo of my good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, who teaches Chibana Shorin-Ryu. Because a student was visiting from the mainland, the class practiced each of the kata in the style's curriculum. This was a great opportunity for me to get to see the kata and the way that they are performed.

Although I also practice Shorin-Ryu, I practice the Kishaba Juku form, which is based on some of the same and several different kata. But even our kata that are the same, are different.

So I followed along in the back of the dojo, like a little child you might see at a dance performance dancing away on the side to music of his own creation. All together, we practiced the various kata a total of 50 times overall. This took 2 1/2 hours, with a short break and periodic corrections.

Nakata Sensei is an excellent Sensei and has a very serious and organized approach to teaching. And he practices each kata with the students all the time. Not once did he stand on the side and command or simply watch the students. As one of his students mentioned to me, "Nakata Sensei leads from the front." That is good advice for all instructors.

What I would like to address in this post, is the issue of kiai. There were no kiai in any of the kata that Nakata Sensei lead. None. What I mean by this is that there were no designated places in the kata where the student is supposed to kiai (or yell, sort of).

Instead, Nakata Sensei and his students expel their breath with a hiss-like sound for each movement, and tighten their bodies. In essence, they kiai for each movement.

We do the same in Kishaba Juku, but we also kia for certain movements (for those movements, we kiai rather than hiss).

Practicing the kata a total of 50 times was quite a workout for my lungs!

I asked Nakata Sensei about the kiai issue and he told me that there are no kiai in their kata, except for the breath hissing (not his term, just my observation). I asked him whether Chibana Sensei taught any specific kiai points and he said "no." Then I asked if Itosu Sensei taught any specific kiai points, and he said that he did not believe so.

So where did the kiai come from? In my style, we practice the Pinan kata, for example, and there are kiai points. If Itosu Sensei created the Pinan, you would think that he would have been clear about the kiai. Chibana Sensei learned from Itosu Sensei directly, so I an confident that his version of the Pinan is authentic and unaltered, or at least less altered than other styles.

And when you compare different styles of Karate, the kiai in the same kata are often in different places.

One last observation. We always hear that in the really old days, Karate was practiced late at night at the Sensei's family hakka (tomb). At such a place and time, I am pretty sure that the students would not be yelling.

So where did the kiai come from?

My own theory is that specific kiai were added in modern times for performance purposes -- essentially to surprise and impress a crowd. If you think about it, if there are 30 movements in a kata, and the student is supposed to kiai only for two of those movements, what about the other 28? Of course, the answer is that in a real situation, the student will kiai when it is appropriate to do so.

But I do not think that a "loud" kiai is necessary, or even preferable. When you see students kiai with their mouths wide open, you might think that this is unsafe, and that their jaws could easily be broken if hit. They could also bite off their tongues and shatter their teeth.

I prefer the method of using a kiai (the hissing type) for each movement. This also ensures that the students will not hold their breath (on the 28 movements, for example, without a loud kiai).

If you practice kiai all the time, you will likely do so when attacked. If you only practice kiai for performance reasons, you will probably not do so.

These are just my observations and thoughts. If you feel attached to a specifically placed kiai, that is fine. Some people were taught by their instructors that the founder of their style had maintained the kata in unaltered form from ancient times. So the kiai is a special thing... since it must be ancient.

Then again, if all these founders did not change anything, why are there so many differences? Kiai are just the tip of the iceberg on this much larger issue.

I am very grateful to Nakata Sensei and his students for always making me feel at home in their dojo. They have helped me to appreciate and respect Karate even more.


Charles C. Goodin

No Good Martial Arts...

From time to time, I am very fortunate to receive email from people who read this blog. Most study Karate, but some study other martial arts, such as Aikido, Judo, Kendo, or other arts. I really appreciate the kind words from people from other martial arts.

As for the title of this post, I believe that there are no good martial arts, only good martial artists. Karate is a martial art but it is not good or bad by itself. Karate only exists when it is practiced by someone. Karate is judged -- for good or bad -- by the people who practice it and who have practiced it.

Can you show me Karate in the abstract? A photograph of a Karate technique is not Karate and a book about Karate is not Karate. The same goes for Aikido. You can only see Aikido by observing the lives of Aikido students.

Two people can learn a martial art identically. One might use it for peace, understanding and health, the other for violence, egotism, and destruction. The art is the same but the expressions of it differ greatly.

I really enjoy Karate training. I like the fact that I do not need any equipment at all and that both sides of my body are worked out more or less equally. I like the history and traditions of the art, particularly in the early days in Okinawa. But I also like and admire other arts and have practiced some. I think that I could have become equally skilled in other arts if I had practiced them for as long and with as much effort as I have put into Karate. Anyone can become skillful in any art, with hard work.

But I never really had the time to be able to train in multiple martial arts at the same time. Ultimately, I could only muster the time to be able to practice one art in a dedicated manner, and decided on Karate. That does not mean that I like or respect any other arts any less.

And as I wrote above, it is the artist that makes the art.

When I meet a martial artist with a good character, it makes me think highly of that martial art and the student's teachers. The opposite is also true.

For good or bad, we represent the martial arts we practice. Aikido is not only judged by the life of Ueshiba Sensei, but by the lives and actions of each student who practices Aikido. Kano Sensei represents Judo, as does each Judo student. Karate does not have one founding teacher -- it has several major teachers -- but each Karate student forms the impression of the art of Karate for other people.

There are no good martial arts, only good martial artists. Each of us has to try our best to positively represent and reflect upon our chosen martial arts.


Charles C. Goodin

Access to Rare Karate Books

Someone asked me how I will access the books in the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection after our museum transfers them to the University of Hawaii.

I will access them the same way as everyone else -- through the Hamilton Library's usual circulation procedure for most books and through the closed shelf procedure for rare books.

While this will be more difficult for me personally, it will be many times more convenient for everyone else. The idea of creating the collection was to share it with the public, not keep it locked up. In addition, for most visitors to Hawaii, it is easier to visit the University of Hawaii at Manoa (roughly straight toward the mountains from Waikiki) than it is to visit Aiea where our museum is located (roughly mountain side of the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor).

I look forward to the day -- hopefully very soon (after archival and indexing)-- when the entire collection will be accessible to the public!

Now I have to get back to packing boxes.

If anyone has originals of Motobu Sensei two books (1926 and 1932), this would be a great time to include them in the collection.


Charles C. Goodin

Hawaii Karate Museum Collection at UH -- Update

Last week I signed a donation document for the transfer of the Hawaii Karate Museum's book and periodical collection to the University of Hawaii. The collection will be known as The Hawaii Karate Museum Collection and will be housed at the Hamilton Library on the Monoa Campus of the university. The actual transfer will take place in about one month. I have already begun the process of preparing and boxing the collection for the transfer.

The collection will be maintained permanently. The items cannot be sold, and must be offered back to the Hawaii Karate Museum (free of charge), before they can ever be transferred elsewhere.

The Hamilton Library offers excellent archival and preservation services, 24 hour climate control, Japanese language expertise, security, and circulation procedures.

The rare portion of the collection will be housed in closed shelves. The public may access the rare books only under supervision and the books cannot leave a secure room. The rest of the collection can circulate. This will make the collection available to far more Karate researchers, students and enthusiasts than we ever could. That was always our idea -- to collect the rare Karate books and make them available to as many people as possible.

The public will be able to continue to donate books to the collection directly at the university, or through the Hawaii Karate Museum. And I will continue to acquire rare titles for the foreseeable future. In fact, I acquired some excellent new materials just this week, and am working on some others right now (literally right now on another screen on my computer)!

So I feel that this is a win/win for our museum and the university. We can see the collection safeguarded into the future and the university gets a great collection that generates a lot of public interest. And we are happy to see Karate as a subject worthy of preservation and study at the university level. Happy is not a strong enough word!

In addition, this donation/transfer helps to support the new Center for Okinawan Studies at the university which was opened just last month. Our collection was one of its first projects, and I am certain that the center will treat Karate as an important aspect of Okinawan culture here in Hawaii, in Okinawa, and the world. Next July (2009), we will present an exhibition at the university to mark the one year anniversary of the center and to celebrate the collection.

I will let you know more in the coming weeks. For all the donors, thank you very much and please rest assured that the collection will be preserved and protected. We will also maintain our Hawaii Karate Museum Rare Book Collection website, which has become a reference tool for Karate researchers around the world. Our website will continue to indicate the donor for each book that was donated to the museum, and maintain the existing links.

Could this serve as a model for the creation of other university collections? Let's hope so!

Do you have rare Karate books that you would like to submit to the collection? Now is the time because all the materials will be processed (including freeze drying to kill any mold and organisms) and indexed (including Japanese language indexing for Japanese titles) together. Please contact me (goodin@hawaii.rr.com) if you would like your book to be part of the inaugural Hawaii Karate Museum Collection!


Charles C. Goodin

Weapons Price -- All Relative

A while back, I bought a used pair of Shureido natural finish sai for about $180. They are really nice and I bring them to class, rather than my blacksmith made pair. I don't want to risk losing the antique pair.

$180 may seem like a lot of money for a pair of sai. But my mother has spent $400 for a single golf club. At least sai come in pairs. And my mother needs many different golf clubs.

One of my relatives is learning to play the ukulele. Guess what? He is buying a nice one for $3,000! That's 3 thousand dollars. He's not even a professional musician.

So $180 is really not that much for a nice pair of sai. A good pair should last for your entire life, and you can even leave them to your children or students. I really like the older Shureido sai, particularly the natural finish and stainless steel versions.

I'll tell you what was more expensive than the sai themselves. Many years ago I tore my rotator cuff using a pair of sai incorrectly -- flip, flip, rip! The surgery and recovery were really expensive!


Charles C. Goodin