Karate Thoughts Blog


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1650+ Posts... and Counting

No Patches

I have written on this subject before, but would like to make the point again.

I do not like patches and we do not wear any in our dojo. I do not like any brand symbols on my gi. I remove them and urge my students to do the same.

I do not like writing on my belt. I wear a plain black belt. When it gets tattered, I buy a new one. My sons prefer to wear no belt at all.

I do not like snappy gi. The sound hurts my ears!

I do not like to associate my dojo or my understanding of Karate with any symbols, colors, designs, patches, names, sayings, dojo kun, or the like.

Karate is in the training. What counts most is the relationship between the Sensei and his or her students (not associations or organizations). If my Sensei is kind enough to consider me his student, that is more than enough for me -- and I feel extremely lucky for it!

Karate training is more than enough, without embellishment.

If you train well, you need nothing else. If have everything else (the embellishments), but do not train well, is that really Karate?

If you need a patch, let it be your character.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Frustration

Learning can be frustrating. Frankly, it usually is.

I have almost always been frustrated from the time I started learning Karate over 30 years ago. I always want to do my best, and I always feel that I am not doing it. At first, there is so much to learn. But over the years, as you learn more and more of the curriculum, there is so much room for improvement. It is not a question of simply knowing a certain number of kata or techniques -- it is being able to do them properly. And even then -- when you can do some things somewhat properly -- there is room for refinement.

At all phases, there is room for more, room for improvement, room for refinement... room.

So it can be frustrating. I realize that this word has negative connotations. Perhaps a better word is "challenging." Karate training can be very challenging.

If you feel frustrated or challenged, that is a good thing. If you don't, if you are simply content with your Karate training, that is probably not a good thing.

I have never met an extraordinary Karate sensei who was content with his ability. In fact, such sensei are usually the most demanding of themselves, the most challenged by their Karate training.

If you are trying to get to 10, 9 feels pretty good. But if you are trying to get to 1,000, 9 is really frustrating! And if you are trying to progress beyond numerical measurement, then...

I am not saying that we should feel good, great, or extraordinary. Who can say if this is true, and who knows is they are right? But we can say that our effort is good, great, or extraordinary. We can try to try harder than anyone else.

Actually, Karate does not challenge us, we have to challenge ourselves. A little frustration can be a good thing.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Striking Range

Some measures for striking:

If you can reach the attacker with your outstretched foot, you should run away.

If you can reach the attacker with your outstretched fist, you should kick.

If you can reach the attacker with your outstretched elbow, you should punch.

If you can reach the attacker with your shoulder, you should strike with your elbow.
You must be able to strike through the attacker. Striking his outer surface will do little or nothing. When you strike the chest, you have to aim through to the back. That is why you must be pretty close to strike. You are not aiming at the front -- you are aiming at the back.

When you are extremely close, it helps to know how to grapple.

My Sensei explained to me that when you punch, you should have the feeling (or idea) of crashing your body into the attacker's. Another way to express this is to say that you punch (or strike) with your body, not your arm.

Most people do not practice crashing into each other. This is much like taking hard falls in Judo or Aikido.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Chinese Martial Arts Lecture -- Feb. 28th

Aloha,

I received the following announcement from my friend and senior, Stanley Henning, an expert on Chinese martial arts. I have been to his home, and he has as much or more material on Chinese martial arts as the Hawaii Karate Museum does on Karate... really.

I have spoken to Stan many times about the connection between Chinese martial arts and Karate. To learn about early Karate, we need to examine Chinese martial arts. Stan practices the art of Hsing-i.

I plan to attend Stan's talk and am looking forward to it. Here is the announcement:

HSPLS - OAHU TEEN PROGRAMS

Stanley Henning, an independent scholar, has studied the history of martial arts for many years, both in the United States and in China. Henning will discuss Chinese martial arts, a major element of Chinese traditional physical culture over the centuries, to present day. Chinese martial arts have served as a source for the modern martial sports of Japanese Judo and Karate, and Korean Taekwondo. This one-hour program is suitable for ages 16 to adults.

CHINESE MARTIAL ARTS

AIEA PUBLIC LIBRARY
99-143 Moanalua Road
Aiea, HI 96701-4009

Thursday, February 28, 7:00 p.m.
Ph. 808-483-7333
Please let your friends and fellow martial artists know. I hope to see you there!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

906th Post

It is hard to believe, but this is the 906th post of this blog.

Thank you very much to all the readers, around the world, and to all the excellent guest writers. I appreciate all the kind words of support I have received.

I feel very fortunate to be able to learn, teach, and write about the noble art of Karate.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Weight Placement and Pivoting -- Part 10

This should be it -- really.

The shape of the drop is not linear. The weight usually drops in a spiral.

If the weight drops in a vertical line (straight down), it will bounce back in another vertical line (straight up). If it drops in a spiral, it will bounce back in a spiral, which is easier to redirect.

The drop is made using the koshi, which has a rotary motion (not simple rotation in a horizontal plane). The shape of the koshi motion translates into a spiral drop. You can sometimes see this in the movement of the knees.

I hope that this has helped to make the subjects of weight placement and pivoting a little clearer. I should add that I would not teach this to beginners or even intermediate students. I would wait until the student was fairly advanced. In my opinion, it is best for beginners to develop clean and strong linear basics first.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Weight Placement and Pivoting -- Part 9

One thing about dropping the weight -- it is not necessary to "drop" very far in order to bound or float. Whether you drop an inch or a foot (12 inches), the reduction in weight is the same (as long as the speed of the drop is the same).

The more skilled one becomes at it, the smaller the "drop." That is why it is so hard to observe this in advanced students and instructors. The drop is not obvious, particularly when it is integrated with horizontal movement, body shifting, and koshi dynamics. Advanced students and instructors can drop with little more than a flex of their knees.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Weight Placement and Pivoting -- Part 8

Sorry, I thought of something that is essential to add to this discussion.

One of the first things that Shinzato Sensei taught me is that "you cannot move freely if your mind is fixed."

Many people who move like robots believe that they are supposed to do so. Perhaps that is how they learned or how their seniors move.

You cannot fly like a bird if you think that you have to hop like a toad or crawl like a snake.

Before you can move freely, you have to let go of the stiff (fixed, rigid) attitudes you hold in your mind. Really. This is one of the most profound things I ever learned.

By extension, you cannot move freely if you are hung up on rank, titles, championships, money, power, etc. How could you?

"You cannot move freely if your mind is fixed."

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Weight Placement and Pivoting -- Part 7

So that, in a nutshell, is how to move on the center of your feet.

I find it easiest to teach this to my students when they are practicing bo (Yamani-Ryu bojutsu). The bo gives the students a greater appreciation and recognition of the centerline. When you move off the centerline, the bo pulls (like a gyroscope). Hmmm, the bo does spin like a gyroscope.

I cannot emphasize enough that movement and koshi are connected. They are not two things.

When I initially drop, I do not just relax my knees. My koshi is connect to my knees. It is as if my left lat (latissimus dorsi) is connect to my right knee and vice versa. In order to bend my knees to drop, my lats will pull on my knees. This is not simultaneous. I will pull on the knees one after the other, not at the same time. In this way, there is greater potential for direction.

We almost never do two things at the same time. Two things that appear to be simultaneous usually are not.

My lats pull on the opposite knees. This creates a tension in my koshi and this tension is usable.

The energy used to "drop" creates energy for movement and striking (or blocking). One thing fuels the other. And the strike (or block) also creates energy for another technique or movement. One movement fuels the next. It is like perpetual motion, but not quite.

This will complete this subject, which is a brief overview. I must admit that I have only begun to be able to express this in words in the last few weeks. I could move like this, but could not come up with the proper words to describe it.

I am the type of person who needs to be able to articulate something. I do not like to teach by example only. I like to combine example with explanation.

Some students respond well to a physical example. Some need words. Some need "hands on" to put them in the right positions.

I also want to add that I have not made this up. I am not that talented. I am very fortunate to have an excellent Sensei who has taken a great deal of time to show me how to move and generate power. I am one of those students who needed an example, words, and hands on to bend me into position. In short, I was probably the most difficult type of student... but I keep working on the things that I learn.

If I have described things correctly then it is to the credit of my Sensei. If I have described things incorrectly, it is entirely my fault.

OK, try this. Stand as if you are about to shoot a free throw in basketball. When you bend you knees and bring the ball close to your chest --- MOVE!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Weight Placement and Pivoting -- Part 6

In my last post I stated:

The opposite is also true. When you move down (drop or sink), initially there is less weight on your feet for a moment, but then there is more weight, followed by a bounce (momentarily slightly less weight). It is good to move when there is less weight on your feet and good to strike when there is more.
This is one of the keys to movement. You cannot easily pivot when your full weight is on your feet. By dropping, you reduce the weight on your feet and can easily pivot on the ball of your foot, your heel, or even the center of your foot. And when you pivot on the center of your foot, you will not shift from side to side -- you will be able to maintain your centerline as your advance or retreat. So, so, so, so!

Shinzato Sensei refers to this dropping as bounding. This is not a word we use very much in English. I think he means bouncing, but I am not sure.

Shinzato Sensei teaches that a controlled drop can be used to initiate and enable movement. This is combined with "falling" or overloading your weight in the direction you would like to go. Movement can be in any direction, not only forward. This is why the weight is usually placed on the center of the feet.

The feeling I get is that the center of the foot is sort of like a suction cup. There is a natural arch to the foot. You need to try to make your whole foot make contact with the ground.

Then, when you pivot, you do so on this center part of the foot. You could not do so if it did not make contact with the ground. There has to be some contact in order to pivot. Otherwise, you would have to jump (no ground contact).

When we drop, the body feels lighter. From one point of view, you drop. The resulting feeling is one of "floating." When your body feels lighter, you could say that you are floating. When you are floating, it is very easy to move your feet.

This is a simplified view of things. You do not simply bend your knees and drop you weight. You could do so, but the resulting change in weight is not that useful. If instead, you drop your weight and also set up a squeezing feeling in your koshi (as if you are pressing down on a large rubber ball in your koshi and also as if as your koshi drops, it is pressed from the ground up), then the resulting tension is a very useful thing!

Your koshi is integrated with dropping your weight, the initial feeling of floating, the following heaviness on your feet, and the resulting "bounce." I believe that this entire process is what Shinzato Sensei calls "bounding," but I am not sure about this.

When I ask Shinzato Sensei about what we should call something, he often says, "perhaps you could come up with a term for it."

Getting back to moving, when you drop you can pivot on the center of your feet. When your weight hits, you can use that energy to initiate movement in any the direction your desire. And when the following bounce hits, you can move (forward, backward, right, left, etc.).

This takes very little time and can be hidden. All this movement can be concealed inside your gi. As such, people who do understand this form of movement will wonder how you are moving so easily without pushing off on your feet.

It all starts with a bounce, even a little bounce.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Weight Placement and Pivoting -- Part 5

As you move forward, there is another consideration (in addition to unintended side to side movement).

If you move from a low stance to a higher stance, you put more weight on your feet.

If you move from a high stance to a lower stance, you take weight off your feet.

Try it. It helps to move briskly.

I want to repeat this because it is so important:

If you move from a low stance to a higher stance, you put more weight on your feet.

If you move from a high stance to a lower stance, you take weight off your feet.
This applies whether you are standing still or moving. When you move up (rise), you press down. When you move down (sink or drop), you weigh less.

This affects how you can pivot on your feet. When there is more weight on your feet, it is more important to pivot on the ball of your foot or heel. It is hard to pivot on the center of the foot. When there is less weight on your feet, you can pivot more freely -- on the ball, heel, or on the center of your foot.

There is another consideration. When you move up (rise), there is a moment at the top of the movement when you become lighter. At that moment, you are less stable (unless you also have movement is a horizontal direction).

Try this. Stand comfortably. Now jump up a couple of inches. At first, you press down on your feet. But at the top of your jump, you become weightless for a moment. And then the weight returns to your feet.

The opposite is also true. When you move down (drop or sink), initially there is less weight on your feet for a moment, but then there is more weight, followed by a bounce (momentarily slightly less weight). It is good to move when there is less weight on your feet and good to strike when there is more.

So the timing of your movement (in the horizontal plane) and the effectiveness of certain techniques are great affected by vertical movement (rising or sinking).

In fact, vertical movement can and is used in our Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu to initiate movement or boost the power of techniques. I am sure that it is used in other styles as well. But in Kishaba Juku, vertical movement is elevated to an invisible "ballet" of sorts that takes place during and in between all of our movements. We are always moving in three dimensions, externally and internally. (By internally, I mean inside our body -- not metaphysically.)

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Weight Placement and Pivoting -- Part 4

In Weight Placement and Pivoting -- Part 2, I wrote:

"If you pivoted on the balls of your feet, you will now be to the left of the line. If you pivoted on your heels, you will now be to the right of the line. Either way, you are no longer on the line. Your body has shifted.

Now that is OK if you intended to shift, but if you did not, what happened?

Either way (shifting to the left or right of the line) it took energy to move off the line. It would have been more efficient to move straight on the line."
I thought of an example to demonstrate this. Imagine that as you step forward (either shifting slightly to the right or left of the line), you hold a spinning gyroscope near your stomach (hara area). If you move straight ahead, you will not feel the gyroscope pulling you either to the left (as you move right) or to the right (as you move left). Remember that the gyroscope resists in the opposite direction of your movement.

The gyroscope will also resist your forward movement, but this would happen whether you moved straight ahead, or ahead and from side to side.

If the gyroscope resists side to side movement, your body is obviously subject to some resistance as you do this. It is more efficient to move straight ahead.

There is a saying in bojutsu that you should hide behind your weapon. I first heard this from Sensei Toshihiro Oshiro, but the same applies in weapon arts such as sword and spear. As you face your opponent, the point of your bo (sword or spear) should be aimed directly at his centerline. If he moves toward you, he will be stabbed by the point. To attack your centerline, he will have to deal with your point first.

The same principle applies in empty hand arts (you should hide behind your block or strike). When you move from side to side while advancing, you are changing this line of protection and attack. A skilled opponent could exploit this.

Of course, lateral movement may be used to avoid or slip an attack. If this is the intention, then such a movement makes sense. But you should not move from side to side unless you intend it.

Otherwise, there will be inefficiency and resistance.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Weight Placement and Pivoting -- Part 3

How you pivot is affected by your weight placement.

If your weight is on the balls of your feet, it is hard to pivot on your heels. If your weight is on your heels, it is hard to pivot on the balls of your feet.

Try it. In order to pivot (either way), you have to shift your weight first. This takes time and a skilled person can see your movement. It telegraphs your intentions.

And if you are going to pivot half-way on the ball and the rest on your heel (or vice versa), you have to shift your weight twice. This is even harder and more obvious.

So it is not simply a matter of pivoting one way or the other (or a combination). You also have to consider your weight placement.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Weight Placement and Pivoting -- Part 2

Should you pivot on the ball of your foot or on the heel?

In Shorin-Ryu, I have always assumed that we should pivot on the ball. However, in Tai Chi and Gung Fu (which I studied in high school), I distinctly remember that we pivoted on the heel. When you pivot on your heel, you can trap the attacker's foot with your own (the ball and mid part of your foot would rotate on top of the attacker's foot).

How you pivot will affect the line you take. Imagine a straight line extending on the floor in front of you. Take a jigotai dachi (or similar stance) on the line with your right foot forward. You should now be facing to the left. Adjust your position so that the line runs through the center of your feet (between the toes and heel) and your body's side sechusen (centerline). The balls of your feet should be to the left of the line and your heels should be to the right. Do you have it?

OK. Now pivot on your right foot and step forward into a left jigotai dachi. You should now be about one body space forward.

Look down at your feet.

If you pivoted on the balls of your feet, you will now be to the left of the line. If you pivoted on your heels, you will now be to the right of the line. Either way, you are no longer on the line. Your body has shifted.

Now that is OK if you intended to shift, but if you did not, what happened?

Either way (shifting to the left or right of the line) it took energy to move off the line. It would have been more efficient to move straight on the line. Shifting off the line makes you somewhat vulnerable to being thrown or pushed one way or the other. And if you are using a weapon (such as a bo or spear), you would have lost your line of attack.

Shifting on the balls or heels of your feet requires you to move off the line.

Of course, you could pivot half-way on the ball and then switch to the heel, but that is a little difficult to do. Doing so, however, would keep you on the line.

Is there an alternative?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Weight Placement and Pivoting -- Part 1

This is a subject that has bothered me for many years. When I say "bothered," I really mean it. I wrote an article about body mechanics for Classical Fighting Arts. It was intended to be a three or four part article but I reduced it to only one part. The reason was that I was stuck on the second part. Writing about koshi and body dynamics in general did not give me a problem. It was the second part that stopped me. The second part was on the placement of the weight on the feet and pivoting.

When you stand in a Karate stance, where do you place your weight -- on the balls of your feet, your heels, distributed equally on the soles of your feet, or something else? Try it. Go through any kata and feel your weight placement.

For myself, I have always assumed, first as a student of Matsubayashi-Ryu and later as a student of Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu, that the weight was placed on the balls of the feet (or at least mostly on the balls of the feet). I can't remember my sensei over the years telling me this, exactly, but it was something I took as gospel.

Perhaps I learned this as a Judo student. I remember learning that you should be able to place a piece of paper under your heels when you are doing Judo. You slide your feet, with the weight mostly on the balls. However, in Judo you are grappling with an opponent who is in front of you most of the time, grabbing you by your collar and sleeve. You are trying to avoid being thrown. Placing the weight on the balls of the feet makes sense in this situation. But Karate involves a greater range of movement, and we are usually not engaged in grappling, particularly when performing kata.

I believe that the weight is also placed on the balls of the feet (mostly) in Kendo. Again, the opponent is usually in front of you. Motion is usually forward, which is facilitated by placing the weight on the balls of the feet.

In Karate, we have to be able to move in any direction. There is not only one opponent. We could be attacked by multiple opponents from any direction. We have to be able to move in any direction, as quickly as possible.

If we are poised to move forward, it will be harder for us to move backward or to the sides. When we place our weight on the balls of our feet, we typically lean a little forward. To move backward, we have to first shift our weight back, which takes time.

For the above reasons, I have recently come to question my belief that the weight is supposed to be on the balls of our feet (or mostly). I may have misunderstood this principle from the beginning, or latched on the a rule that best applies to beginner and intermediate students. I am not sure. But I now believe that there is a better way to position the weight and to move.

I will discuss this more in the next part of this post.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Extinguishing A Candle

A while back, one of my sons was trying to extinguish a candle by punching the flame. The candle was on a table and he was punching diagonally down toward the flame. He was having a hard time.

I walked over and extinguished the flame with an uraken (back fist). My son looked a little surprised but I explained that there is more wind with an uraken so it is naturally easier to extinguish a flame.

If someone offered you money to extinguish a candle with one punch, you could just punch the wick and squash it into the liquid wax. That would put the flame out!

People tend to be fascinated with things like extinguishing candles. There is some skill to it, but it is mostly a trick. You could develop good focus and control by practicing striking a hanging towel or piece of cloth.

If you really want to extinguish something, you should work on extinguishing bad habits! (Me too.)

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Barefoot Okinawans and Stone Structures

On his last visit to Japan, my good friend, Professor Kimo Ferreira, brought back a book entitled Natsuhashiki Okinawa (Remembrances of Okinawa), by Katsuo Notamura. November 23, 2000. 160 pages. Japanese language.

The book presents photographs that were taken during the visit of a Japanese gentleman to Okinawa before World War Two (looks like the 1930s). It contains two photographs of Kentsu Yabu and one of his students practicing Karate.

There are many photographs of the scenery, architecture, and people of Okinawa. I found a couple of things to be very interesting.

The first is the architecture. Okinawans lived in very modest houses. Okinawa was the poorest prefecture in Japan before the war, and it showed. However, the castles, tombs, and bridges were usually magnificent stone structures. It appears that most of this stone was coral rock (as opposed to the volcanic rock we have here in Hawaii). The Okinawan carved the stones with straight edges and fit them together like beautiful puzzles that remind me of some of the walls seen in the temples of Mexico and Central America.

It was the contrast that was so striking. Many people, particularly the poor, lived in simple wooden huts. But nearby would be a magnificent stone bridge. And the people buried their dead in stone tombs (and caves). The tombs cost many times the price of a house.

Many of the stone structures looked very old. They were most likely constructed during the Golden Age of Okinawa, when the Kingdom prospered as a hub of trade between China and Japan. Only a wealthy government could invest so much money in its infrastructure.

The other thing that I noticed was that just about all of the common people were barefoot -- not just the children, everyone. Of course, for formal photos where the visitor to Okinawa was wearing a suit, the Okinawans tended to be better dressed and wore shoes or slippers. But in the candid photos, the people on the roads and in the villages were all barefoot.

I mentioned this to my mother, who was born and raised in Fukuoka, on the Island of Kyushu. She said that as a child, she always wore shoes (she went to a Catholic school). But during the war, all the children went barefoot. This was to show support for the soldiers who were fighting in the war. The public had to make sacrifices.

But in Okinawa, it seemed that going shoeless was more a factor of poverty. We often hear that the ground in Okinawa is very rocky. I noticed this during my two visits. Despite the rocky terrain, the people wore no shoes. They must have developed very strong feet and toes!

I wonder if this is a reason why we kick with the tips of our toes in Shorin-Ryu? For people with callused feet and toes, this would make sense. I have worn shoes all my life. In Hawaii, you would say that I have "haole feet." The local people here also went barefoot much of the time and developed tough feet. "Haole feet" means that one's feet are tender.

Some of the Okinawans who did wear footwear, wore getta. With getta, you have to grip the center strap with your toes. This also strengthen the toes.

Whether because they were barefoot or wore getta, Okinawans probably had much tougher feet than we do today. This would have enabled them to kick with their toes and the edges of their feet.

Today, modern Karate schools tend to teach the use the ball of the foot and the heel to deliver kicks. Is it because we have tender feet (or because we would usually have to kick while wearing shoes)?

Just a couple of things I noticed in that book of old photos from pre-war Okinawa.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Emphasize Peace

Because of my work with the Hawaii Karate Museum and the articles I have written, I am sometimes consulted by people in various aspects of the media about my views on Karate. Most of this is never reported.

I get all kinds of questions. Who was the best fighter? Who had the strongest punch or kick? What was the best weapon? Who defeated the most opponents? The list goes on and on, but you are probably catching the flavor of the questions. There is an element of violence in most of them.

Most of these questions cannot be answered properly. They are subjective. Was Choki Motobu the greatest fighter ever? How could we know?

Whatever the question may be, I try to redirect the subject. I typically say the following:

Karate is a civilian art of self defense. It is not a fighting art. It is an art to defend yourself and loved ones. The greatest virtue in Karate is to avoid violence. When violence cannot be avoided, Karate techniques are used as a last resort, and then only to the extent necessary to escape and protect life.

If you ask me who was the greatest Karate man, one name I would mention is that of Shosei Kina. In the ending days of the Battle of Okinawa, he risked his life to go out and speak to the advancing American troops. The Americans suspected that Japanese soldiers were hiding in the village. If so, they would have the village bombed or targeted for artillery. Kina Sensei was an expert of both Karate and Kobudo. We went out and met the Americans. An interpreter was called. It was a young man who had been born in Okinawa but raised in Hawaii. The interpreter instantly recognized Kina Sensei as his former Sunday School teacher.

Because of Kina Sensei's bravery, the village was spared. He risked his life -- it was known that other Okinawans who ventured out to speak to the Americans were killed.

Kina Sensei was a great Karate man because he risked his life to save the lives of others. He was great because he placed peace above violence.

One of the maxims of Karate is that "The hand is a treasure in the pocket." Gichin Funakoshi often said that "There is no first attack in Karate." Sokon Matsumura said that "Karate teaches one how not to use the hand and feet in a fight." How not to use.

The greatest Karate man is one who could avoid violence and preserve life. The greatest Karate man is one who valued peace.
As Karate students and instructors, we should always emphasize peace. When violence cannot be avoided, then Karate techniques must be used to the extent necessary. But this is a last resort. Karate people should not be looking for an excuse to fight.

Who is the best fighter? Perhaps it is the person who can fight against injustice, bigotry, and discrimination.
You can see why my quotes don't usually make it into shows about Karate.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Hitting Pads

We purchased three large football blocking pads/dummies for our students to kick and punch in our dojo. The pads/dummies were for children, so they are not quite strong enough for adults to hit hard. But they still are very good.

I have noticed that children get pretty excited when they get to kick and punch pads. Many adults do too. It appears to be a combination of fun and a release of aggression. Of course, everyone is different.

Here is my point. I do not get excited at all when I hit pads or the heavy bag. To me, it is just like hitting a makiwara or anything else. I guess that the excitement and aggression lessen with age and years of training. I guess that I do not have any excitement or aggression left.

When I hit, I feel "cold" and controlled. I am neither happy nor sad. I expect that a real situation would be different and that emotions would be harder to control. But I believe that this control factor is an important part of Karate training.

I often tell my children (three of whom are adults) that if they ever have to hit someone, they should feel neither good or bad. It would simply be inevitable. If you have to hit, you have to hit. You should try to avoid it, but once it becomes the last resort, then you cannot hold back.

When you have to hit, you have to hit. You should feel neither excitement nor aggression.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Some Thoughts About Alcohol Abuse

I have to admit that some of the Karate instructors I have met over the years were heavy drinkers. Drinking seems to have been an accepted thing in Japan, particularly for businessmen.

However, abusing alcohol can lead to illness and even death. As Karate students, we should be careful to avoid behaviors and things that are bad for our health or can lead to unsafe situations. Here are some things that might be avoided by not drinking alcohol:

  • You will not get drunk. You will not wake up the next morning having forgotten what you said and did the night before. Even if you forget, others will remember. Some people might forgive your drunken behavior. Others will remember it and hold it against you.
  • You will not get ticketed for drunk driving and lose your license. You will not drive drunk and endanger others and yourself. Even if you only injure yourself, your injuries could make you lose your job or have to drop out of school.
  • You might avoid dangerous locations. Places where people drink can easily become violent. One of my son's has two friends. Not long ago, they were attacked by twelve mem outside a nightclub. One of the old time Karate students here in Hawaii told me that his Sensei always warned him against drinking for this reason.
  • You will not get into a situation where drunkenness diminishes your discretion. It is not possible to estimate how many young women become pregnant due to drunken behavior. Teen pregnancy does not only affect the young woman. It also affects the father, the couple's families, and the child. Unprotected sex as a result of drunkenness can also lead to sexually transmitted diseases, some of which could even be fatal.
  • Here is a story. A high school girl got drunk and as a result got pregnant. She was extremely smart. However, due to the pregnancy she dropped out of high school. Her boyfriend dropped out of school too and took a low paying job. Neither got to go to college and had a hard time making ends meet. They could not provide for their child in the way they would have liked to -- in the way they might have if they had been able to stay in school and get better jobs. Don't let this be your story.
  • You will save a lot of money. Alcohol is expensive. It is better to save money for your education.
  • You will not progress from one form of alcohol to another, and to drugs. Beer can lead to hard liquor. Alcohol can lead to marijuana and hard drugs. Drug use is illegal and can lead to a criminal convictions. The best way to avoid alcohol and drug abuse is not to start.
  • You will not neglect or abuse your family.
  • You will not have to make excuses and miss work.
  • You will not have to spend time with a bunch of friends who drink all the time. If you drink because your friends do, perhaps you should think about the company you keep. You should not have to become a drunk just to be with other drunks.
  • A limited amount of alcohol consumption, by adults, at the right time, under controlled situations, may be acceptable. But how much, when, under what situations? Karate students are not "normal" people. Experts in self defense and "fighting" have unique, dangerous skills and must avoid losing control. It is not possible to maintain such control when drunk.
  • You will not set a bad example for your own children. We had a guest speaker come to our dojo in November 2007. He was from the Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii. One of the things he said stuck in my mind. He said, "what is your child supposed to think when the beer is in the refrigerator next to the beer?" That's right. What is your child supposed to think? If you were that child, what would you think?
  • You will not spend time drinking and can use that time for healthy and productive activities.
There are many better things to do than drinking alcohol, such as practicing and teaching Karate!
Please visit our Karate-No! Program (Karate students say No! to drug and alcohol abuse) website.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

50 -- One More Thing

I forgot. When I turned 50 I also got to join AARP. And there is an article pending about my research for the Hawaii Karate Museum in the HMSA's Island Scene journal. I think it will come out in the summer. For those of your outside Hawaii, HMSA is a medical insurance company.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Getting Older

I mentioned that I turned 50 last month. Even though 50 is the new 30, I have since experienced two things that remind me that I am getting older.

My doctor has scheduled me for a colonoscopy. Turns out that it is a right of passage when you hit 50.

This morning my wife could not open a jar of salsa. She tried and tried, and then asked me to open it. I tried and tried, but it was really stuck. So my wife asked our 18 year old son, Cael, to try and pop! -- he opened it on the first try.

Growing older is inevitable, but Karate training can help to keep us younger for as long as possible.

As a side note, I probably could not have opened that jar even when I was younger. My sons are much stronger than I ever was.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Excellent Post on Naihanchi Shodan

Sensei Bill Lucas of the Tallahassee Karate Club recently posted an article about the Naihanchi Shodan kata entitled The Kata We Practice - Naihanchi Shodan. He describes how and when Naihanchi Shodan is practiced in his dojo.

He mentions that in his dojo, new students with no prior Karate experience learn Fukyugata Ichi first. If new students have prior experience they learn Naihanchi Shodan first. In our dojo, all students learn Naihanchi Shodan first. We teach all three Naihanchi kata before introducing the two Fukyugata kata. I believe that many Kishaba Juku schools skip or omit Naihanchi Sandan.

I believe that the Naihanchi kata teach koshi while Fukyugata Ichi can be used to teach the hanmi (slanted) body alignment.

I agree with Lucas Sensei that "There are so many obvious self defense techniques in Naihanchi that a practitioner could train in this kata exclusively for their entire karate life and never get bored."

I once asked Shinzato Sensei what three kata he would practice if he could only practice three. His first choice was Naihanchi Shodan.

At the end of Lucas Sensei's post, there is a link to a video of Shinzato Sensei performing Naihanchi Shodan. I'm sure that Shinzato Sensei is uncomfortable with that video (excerpted from the Uchina Kibun television show done a few years ago). However, I feel that any video of Shinzato Sensei is still very instructional and inspiring.

Most of us would be extremely happy to be able to move the way that Shinzato Sensei did 20 years ago!

I would also like you to view another post in Lucas Sensei's blog. See: Thinking of Okinawa: In the Dojo. There is a great photo of Shinzato Sensei at his dojo in his home in Yonabaru, Okinawa. He is standing with Sensei Paris Janos (on the right). Please click on the photo to enlarge it and look at Shinzato Sensei's expression (and Janos Sensei's too).

That's how people look when they truly enjoy practicing and teaching Karate!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Beautiful and Terrifying Kata

Today I mentioned to a Karate student that I considered the Yamani-Ryu version of Sakugawa Nu Kun to be the most beautiful bo kata I have ever seen, and Shirataru Nu Kun to be the most terrifying.

In a similar way, I would say that the Tomari version of Passai is beautiful, while Rohai and Chinto are terrifying.

To me, Kusanku and Wankan are nice, while the Naihanchi kata are deep. The Pinan kata are primarily derivative of Kusanaku, with a little Passai, and thus are nice.

Ananku is essentially Pinan 6.

Wanshu and Gojushiho are a bit unusual.

Fukyugata Ichi is like origami, while Fukyugata Ni is a bit odd (because it is a Goju-Ryu kata that has been modified to the Shorin-Ryu format).

Sakugawa Nu Kun and Passai could be done as dances without modification.

These are just my impressions.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Old Style or New Style?

In our school, we practice a form of Shorin-Ryu known as Kishaba Juku. The roots of the art can be directly traced to such leading figures as Sokon Matsumura and Tode Sakugawa. In this regard, we could say that we practice an "old" style of Karate.

However, I would also say that our form is very modern -- incredibly modern. Our form of Karate evolves moment by moment. It is not fixed. We are not doing things the same way that Sokon Matsumura and Tode Sakugawa did. Even if they were great, even if we could go back in time and observe their movements, I feel that we would not be content to simply mimic their movements. Even if they are greater than we could ever be, we should not only try to copy them. We should strive to be the very best that we can be and never be content to rest on what we have or anyone else has accomplished.

Our art evolves moment by moment.

I am confident that my Sensei would be critical in the afternoon of the progress he has made that morning.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Our Styles Are Almost The Same

Sometimes when I observe other styles of Karate, I mention to the other students that our styles are almost the same. Our movements generally begin and end the same -- it is just that everything in between is different.

If you took photographs of our movements -- the beginning and ending positions -- and made a book, our styles would look very similar. But if you watched the actual movements, they would look very different.

Are styles are "almost" the same.

I'm using the term "style" here for convenience.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Teaching Koshi

Last week I was teaching a segment of Fukyugata Ni to four students. Fukyugata Ni is a challenging kata. Designed by Goju-Ryu founder Chojun Miyagi, the kata, as we practice it, is a Shorin-Ryu interpretation of a Goju-Ryu kata, done with Kishaba Juku body dynamics. To me, it is a fighting kata, not merely a collection of basics.

The dynamics of Fukyugata Ni are challenging, and I spent some time on it with the students. Of course, it will take months and years for them to really feel comfortable with the kata, and we will have to continue to work together.

After we finished, I mentioned to the students that with four of them I could teach body dynamics. If there had been four hundred students, I would have had to teach the kata in a very basic and linear manner.

Koshi, and koshi powered body dynamics, are best taught in small groups or even one on one. They must be taught in a hands on manner. That is why our type of Karate is almost always found in small classes.

Even our Sensei, who is way beyond all of us, usually teaches only a small group.

Success in our art is not measured by the total number of students in our classes. Quite the opposite! One student who can move well is a great accomplishment!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Sensei Toshihiro Oshiro

Today I had the opportunity to stop by and pay respect to Sensei Toshihiro Oshiro, who is visiting Hawaii to conduct bo and sai seminars for Sensei Kiyohisa Hirano's Japan International Karate Center. In recent years, I have observed Hirano Sensei's students performing Yamani-Ryu kata in local tournaments.

Even if only briefly, it was a real pleasure to observe Oshiro Sensei teaching. I also admire how dedicated the instructors and students in attendance were to learning the beautiful art of Yamani-Ryu bojutsu. I hope that they realize how fortunate they are to be able to learn from such a fine instructor as Oshiro Sensei.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Outtakes

I have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating. When you watch a DVD or video, you do not know how many times a scene was repeated to get it right. The final version looks perfect. But there may have been 10 or even 20 outtakes that you did not get to see.

Demonstrations usually look perfect because the demonstrator knows exactly when and how he will be attacked.

Real life is not so predictable and we do not get to delete the outtakes.

I watched a demonstration. The performer looked so great and strong! But when he walked of the stage, behind the curtain, he started panting for breath. The audience could not see this.

We are all human. It is easy for you to realize that you are human. But you also have to realize that all the "great" Karate experts and celebrities are also just as human. Don't let the gloss of rank, titles, or fame blind you. Karate is a skill attained through hard work, not a super power or magic.

If he or she can do it, so can you!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin