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1700+ Posts... and Counting

A Japanese Karate Instructor

This is a story.

A Japanese Karate instructor thought that he was better than instructors from other countries, since after all, Karate is from Japan (remember, this is just a story). So one day, as he was walking around a residential neighborhood handing out brochures for his Karate class, he stopped and knocked on a door. A young boy answered.

The instructor introduced himself and described his class. The boy, not being very sophisticated, asked, "Why should I learn Karate from you?"

The instructor replied proudly, "I am Japanese and learned Karate in Japan."

The boy invited the instructor into his house and took him to the living room. The instructor followed, certain that he had a new student. The boy stopped at a large television in the living room and said, "Can you please fix this?" he asked. "It is broken."

The instructor was confused. "I am a Karate instructor," he said, "not a television repair man!"

"Well," said the boy," if you're good at Karate because you're from Japan, I figured that you could fix this television because it's from Japan too."

Being from Japan does not make one any better at Karate than anyone else, just as being from the United States does not make one better at baseball. It all comes down to hard work and perseverance... period.


Charles C. Goodin

Telegraphing Movements

The first time I visited Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato in Okinawa, he demonstrated an uncanny ability to know where a punch or kick would come from. He asked me to stand in front of him and try to punch or kick him. As soon as I would begin to move he would point to the attacking arm or leg.

What was uncanny was his ability to do this before I had moved very much, or perhaps even before I had actually started moving at all. When he pointed to my arm or leg, it stopped me from moving.

That was several years ago. I have thought about it often, but only recently have begun to understand how he did this (or at least I think so).

First, at that time I did not understand how to generate power with the koshi. I had no idea at all! As a result, my movements, whether punches, kicks, or any other type of movement, were powered from the extremeties. For example, if I wanted to punch with my right hand, I would pull back with my right arm and raise my right shoulder. Quite obviously, I was telegraphing my movements. It must have been very easy for Shinzato Sensei to read my intentions and movements.

When power comes from the koshi (the core of the body), it is much harder to anticipate a movement. The core is activated and a movement could be executed using either hand or either foot, or other parts of the body. When you pull back your right arm, the odds are that you are going to throw a right punch (or some other right handed technique). When you "squeeze" or "twist" your koshi, a movement could come from anywhere.

At first, the activation of the koshi is obvious. Students twist their arms and waist, sometimes in exaggerated ways. But with practice, the koshi can be twitched on. Perhaps it is always ready. My point is that with such a koshi, it is hard to know that the koshi is ready and that a movement is imminent.

Of course, I'm pretty certain that Shinzato Sensei could still tell what I am about to do. Perhaps that's why it is better not to attack first, especially against someone who is very skilled.


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Repeated Rambling on Kata

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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Repeated Rambling on Kata

After I completed performing some of our Karate Katas, Murakami Katsumi Sensei said, "Yappari, Chibana Sensei no Karate wa kirei ne" (After all Chibana Sensei's Karate is very clean). Chibana Chosin Sensei often emphasized that a clean Kata was a strong Kata. In a clean Kata, blocks will be viewed as a block and not confused as a strike, strikes viewed as a strike and not a thrust, and thrusts viewed as a thrust and not a strike. Chibana Sensei explained that if one had to alter a waza or movement in the Kata to match the meaning (application), the meaning is incorrect.

Chibana Sensei never talked about combinations within his Katas, because most of the techniques should be decisive (ippon kowashi no waza [one technique to destroy]). When I asked Chibana Sensei on how I could improve my combat ability, he said to practice Kata. He went on to explain that there are no secrets in Karate, but through the practice of Kata, one would discover the true meaning of Kata. Each Kata must be practiced 10,000 times before one can start to learn the true meaning. He often said, "Karate wa karada de narau koto" (one learns Karate with one's body). Knowledge (shirimasu [I know]) can come from intellectualizing, but understanding (wakarimasu [I understand]) comes from experiencing/training. True Karate knowledge and understanding is empirical.

When one studies the strong (fighters) Karateka of yesteryears, one discovers that these strong Karate masters did not practice too many Katas. Most of the old masters talked of refining one's Kata, which was the doing away with unnecessary movements and excessive strength. Chibana Sensei said, "Honto no Karate no chikara wa waza kara deru" (true Karate power comes from technique). So refining of one's Kata is the refining of the techniques within the Kata.

Chibana Sensei said, although much of the Shuri-te techniques within the Katas are from Ti or Tuite, which encompasses many grappling applications, one should first concentrate on developing strong punches, strong strikes, strong kicks, and strong blocks. All the thrust, strikes, kicks, and blocks should be done with ippon Kowashi no waza. In many cases, a strong thrust, strike, kick, or block will set-up the opponent for an effective grappling technique, but then if the thrust, strike, kick, or block was strong enough, there would be no need to grapple. Chibana Sensei never turned to theatrics in demonstrating Karate, it was always thrust, strike, kick, or block. Most of the time it seemed too simple; close the distance (osae [press in]) and destroy the opponent with a single technique. Kata should be done with a natural fighting timing, which is one's breathing rhythm (iki no hyoshi). Chibana Sensei felt that learning too many Katas distracts from refining the Kata, because one would just be practicing movement with no time to work on refinements. On the other hand a limited amount of Katas is also detrimental, in that one would lack versatility.

When Chibana Sensei approached Itosu Anko Sensei about limiting the Katas for his teaching curriculum, Itosu Sensei told him to use the 12 core Katas, which were: Naihanchi Shodan, Naihanchi Nidan, Naihanchi Sandan, Pinan Shodan, Pinan Nidan, Pinan Sandan, Pinan Yondan, Pinan Godan, Kusanku Sho, Kusanku Dai, Chinto, and Patsai. After watching Chibana Sensei perform the Matsumura no Patsai that he had learned from Tawada Sensei, Itosu Sensei told Chibana Sensei to retain both Patsai. Itosu Sensei said, his Patsai should be called Patsai no Kata Sho and the Matsumura no Patsai be called the Patsai no Kata Dai. Chibana Sensei and many of his contemporaries called this curriculum the orthodox Shuri-te. Chibana Sensei maintained that Shuri-te techniques are from the indiginous Okinawan art of Ti, which in a distant past had its start from the Chinese martial arts. Later, Chibana Sensei developed a very basic series of Katas, which he called: Kihon no Kata Shodan, Kihon no Kata Nidan, and Kihon no Kata Sandan. This brought his complete Kata curriculum to 16 Katas.

I was told a story about Miyagi Chojun Sensei (founder of Goju-ryu) going to see Itosu Sensei to learn some Shuri-te Katas, namely the Pinan Katas. Itosu Sensei supposedly told Miyagi Sensei that he should modify and perfect his Naha-te Katas, rather than add Shuri-te Katas to his curriculum. Itosu Sensei continued, saying that if Miyagi Sensei tried to mix his Naha-te with Shuri-te, doing both may weaken his Naha-te and the Shuri-te will never be strong.

Chibana Sensei never confirmed this story, but spoke of his interchange with Miyagi Sensei about limiting the number of Katas in their respected curriculums. Miyagi Sensei agreed and said he would do the same for his curriculum.

The Kata contains the recorded history of fighting maneuvers and strategies of the past masters, mainly the original creator. Also, Kata is a prearranged set or drills against multiple opponents. When there are multiple opponents, each blow must be decisive. In other words, each blow, be it a thrust, strike, kick, or block, must have kime/kikomi for maximum effectiveness. This type of unrestrained blows can only be practiced in a Kata or with a makiwara. The Karate Kata is not static, making it ideal for practicing moving into an opponent, from one technique to another, or from one opponent to another. This movement or transition is vitally important in the effectiveness of the application. About the most important aspect of this transition as taught by Chibana Sensei, is the osae (press).

In the early days of Karate (60s and 70s), Karateka were labeled as fighters or Kata persons. A Kata person was a non-fighter who could perform Kata well. After studying this dilemma, it became noticeable that the truly good fighters, also did good, strong Katas. A Kata person that was not a good fighter, had a 'dead' Kata. A strong Kata, which was alive was performed with kimochi (feeling) and fighting spirit. This kimochi and/or fighting spirit is difficult to explain, but is recognizable when one sees it. This kimochi and fighting spirit gives the Kata a certain seriousness and connotes something deadly and primal. Fighting is fighting. Kata is Kata. One starts to understand Karate when one sees that fighting is fighting, Kata is Kata, and Kata is fighting. As it was said earlier, understanding is empirical. One reaches this understanding of Kata through diligent training.

Pat Nakata

Memories of Karate by Chotoku Kyan

I received the current issue of Classical Fighting Arts today. One of the article is Memories of Karate by Chotoku Kyan. It is a translation of a May 1942 Ryukyu Shinpo newspaper article that was either written by Kyan or was an interview of him. My friend, Kiko Asai-Ferreira (wife of Prof. Kimo Ferreira) was the translator.

This may be only the second such article ever found with the words and thoughts of Kyan Sensei. If you are interested in Kyan and the experts of his age, I highly recommend that you obtain a copy. The article also has several historic photos of Kyan. There are also other historic photos accompanying other artices in the issue.

I would purchase a journal for just one historic photo. This issue is filled with them.

I did not write an article for this issue. Actually, I was interviewed about the Hawaii Karate Museum and our establishment of the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection at the University of Hawaii. It was a little strange to be the interviewee.


Charles C. Goodin

Deceptively Simple

I was speaking to David Chambers today. He is the publisher of Classical Fighting Arts, a journal for which I often write articles. David mentioned a fine Japanese calligraphy he had seen and said that it was "deceptively simple."

I replied, "Like the best Karate experts."

Wouldn't it be great to be deceptively simple?


Charles C. Goodin

How Long Will It Take?

Sometimes I am asked by potential students who have already earned dan ranking in other styles of Karate how long it will take for them to earn the same dan ranking in my dojo (which teaches Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu).

I think that it would be better for such potential students to ask how long it will take for them to learn our basics, our system of body dynamics, our approach to movement in general, the meaning of the movements in our kata, our view of Karate as being part of daily life, etc.

There are so many more important things to ask than when equivalent rank could be earned.

If pressed, I usually recommend that the student remain in his particular style of Karate if he is so attached to the rank he has earned. Why seek to learn from me when his heart is so attached to a belt? A student, of any age, should want to learn.


Charles C. Goodin

Higaonna Sensei

I just heard that Sensei Morio Higaonna (see iogkf.com) was promoted to 10th dan. I wanted to mention this, and offer my congratulations and respect. Higaonna Sensei is one of the most dedicated and skillful Karate instructors I have ever had the privilege to meet. He certainly "walks the walk." I think he trains all the time.

He has also been very generous to and supportive of the Hawaii Karate Museum, and to me personally in my research efforts.

When I have met Higaonna Sensei, he always says, "I am just a student." Irrespective of dan level, I am sure that he is trying to improve himself each and every day. What an example for us.


Charles C. Goodin

Rank Fee Schedule

I thought I would list our dojo's schedule of dan ranking related fees.

  • Testing Fee:
  • Belt Fee:
  • Certificate Fee:
  • Annual Renewal Fee:
  • Retesting Fee:
  • Reissuance of Lost Certificate Fee:
  • Recertification Fee:
  • Title Fee:
  • Fee to Have Certificate Signed by Dignitary:
  • Fee to Have Photo Taken With Dignitary Awarding Certificate:
The reason you don't see any dollar amounts listed above is because we do not charge any such fees! But I am pretty sure that you have seen similar fees over the years, and perhaps some others that might get pretty creative. It is amazing how many ways people can come up with to charge money!

I think that rank is something you earn by sincere hard work, not something you can purchase. And the idea is to develop skill and a good character.

There was a Karate instructor. He was so good that his gi made a loud noise whenever he executed a technique... "ka-ching, ka-ching!"

Three students were arguing about which of them was the best.

"My instructor is the most famous," said the first, "so I am the best!"

"My instructor is a great champion," said the second, "so I am the best!"

"I have you both beat," boasted the third. "I am certainly the best."

"But your instructor is neither famous nor a champion," said the first.

"And to tell the truth, he is not very skilled," said the second.

"That may be true," conceded the third, "but he charged me a fortune for my shodan certificate!" "I must be the best!"

The best things in life are free.


Charles C. Goodin

Parking Lot Courtesy

If you and your Sensei are parked side by side or near to each other, and you are both in your cars and about to leave the parking lot at the same time, what should you do?

You should wait for your Sensei to pull out of his parking lot first. After he leaves, then you can pull out of your parking lot and leave.

In the dojo, you would not cut in front of your Sensei. You should show courtesy. The same applies in the parking lot, and anywhere for that matter. I only referred to the the parking lot scenario because it is something you are likely to experience frequently.

I follow the same rule if my wife and I are leaving a parking lot at the same time. I always let her leave first. If we are both going home, I will follow behind her.

I know that some of you are thinking, "She must be your Sensei!"

Actually, I do this so that I will be in a better position to assist my wife if she has car trouble, an accident, or some other driver gives her trouble. If I am behind her, I can easily stop and help. If I were in front of her, I might not see the problem and continue on home.

My secondary point is that the courtesy we show to our Sensei is the same courtesy that we can show to other people. The real dojo is daily life.


Charles C. Goodin

Punching Speed Contest

I was teaching the class on Monday night and wanted to explain something about punching. I wanted to show that using the koshi makes it easier to punch fast.

My third son, Cael, was there. Cael is 19 and very fast. I think he is the fastest of my sons, and also the strongest. He practiced Kendo for several years and became very quick. You would think that he should be able to punch much faster than me, since I am 51.

We began to punch to my wife's count. Of course, my son wanted to hold back so as not to embarrass me. But I urged him to try his best. We were going at about the same speed, but eventually he started to pass me by perhaps 10% to 15%.

So here is my point. Cael was not able to punch twice as fast as me. He could only beat me by a little. A 19 year old should have a greater advantage. Plus, Cael is not an average 19 year old. He has trained in Karate since he was 5 and is really quick. So why couldn't he move much faster than me -- to smoke his dad?

First, I believe that there is some sort of natural speed limit to koshi driven movement. If I put 4 students in front of the class who are all pretty good at koshi and have them punch as fast as they can, one might be a little ahead, but generally they all punch at about the same speed. I think this is because whips all go at about the same speed.

Also, with respect to Cael there is another factor. His hands and arms are faster than mine, but my koshi is faster than his. I can twitch my koshi faster (with a smaller torque) than him, and this helps me to get my punch off a little faster. He pumps or floats a little when he initiates his koshi. I do much less so.

As a result, my punch gets off a little faster. Cael then catches up and passes me during the punch because of his arm and hand speed. If he had a faster koshi, he really would smoke me.

I have observed another thing about speed. When someone is really skilled at koshi, it is not simply the speed of one technique that counts -- you have to also look at the speed of combinations. A fast person might be able to throw one technique quickly but a skilled koshi person can throw a combination with no wasted time between the techniques. The two techniques take only a little longer than a single technique. And the first technique might be a part of the second, a parry for example.

So there is a difference between raw speed and effective speed.

And don't forget that koshi allows one to generate power in a very short distance. Thus, a punch or strike can be thrown close and a close technique will generally be faster than a long range one.

At 51 I like to challenge younger, faster students. If I can come close, that is good. If I can come close to Cael, that is great! I want to become faster (and stronger) as I grow older.

And honestly, I am much slower than my Sensei, who is now almost 70!

With koshi, progress as one ages is possible. Without koshi, we will naturally become slower and weaker with age. Who wants that?


Charles C. Goodin

Skill and Intelligence

I recently wrote about Skill and Conditioning. In that post, I stated:

It is important to hone your skills. It is also important to condition your body to provide the best vehicle possible for the expression of such skills. The two go hand in hand.
I would like to add a third factor. You must get into good shape to provide the best vehicle possible for the physical expression of your skill. You must also train your mind in order to provide the best vehicle possible for the understanding and expression of your skill, particularly when teaching the art.

You do not want to be a Karate brute. Instead, you want to be a cultured gentleman (or lady), skilled in both the physical and the mind.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not saying that you should not be in great shape. You should. It is just that you should also be in great mental shape.

For young students, I would urge them to try to get the best education possible. Ideally, a student should strive to obtain a college degree. I urge my own children to strive for a graduate degree as well.

I know that this is not always possible, but it is a good goal to work toward. If Karate training helps a student to be determined, it should also give him the determination and drive to pursue higher education. In addition, a good education could help the student to obtain a job that will enable him to further pursue his Karate training throughout his life.


Charles C. Goodin

The Loudest Supporter/Critic

Over the years I have noticed that the most vocal supporter for a Sensei, while he trains with him, sometimes becomes the loudest critic of the Sensei, when he leaves him.

The student who shouts "My Sensei is the best", might later yell, "That man is the worst!" Of course, these things happen in all things, not only in Karate.

But because of my observation, I now pay closer attention when a student or instructor is very vocal in his support for his Sensei. Why is he doing this? Is he sincerely sharing his view about his Sensei, or is he actually trying to draw attention to himself? Is he really saying, "Look at me!"

Being too loud is not a good thing. If a student is too vocal in his support of his Sensei, his Sensei will feel uncomfortable and probably scold him. But then again, some Sensei might enjoy the praise! Then the student and Sensei would seem to deserve each other.

I will tell you another observation I have made. When a student finds a truly great Sensei he might actually want to keep it quiet!


Charles C. Goodin

A Great Artist

This is a story...

A man had a reputation as a great artist. One day, an art professor from a major university visited him accompanying by a film crew. Of course, the artist was very pleased and eager to demonstrate his skill.

The artist took the professor and the film crew to his studio and took out a coloring book. Opening the book to the first page, he carefully began to trace the outlines of the pictures with a crayon.

The professor was dumbfounded. "Why, why, this is something that a 5 year old child would do," he exclaimed.

"Yes," admitted the artist. "But you see, I have been doing it for 30 years!"

Just as there is much more to art than merely tracing the outlines of pictures, there is much more to kata than merely performing the movements.


Charles C. Goodin