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Squeeze Your...

Last night at class I was concentrating on compression. I wanted the class to see the places in Naihanchi Shodan where we compress our bodies, expand, and re-compress.

I spoke about lowering the shoulders, squeezing the muscles in the back, sides, chest, abs, thighs, buttocks... We pretended to hold a big ball in front of our chest and lower stomachs, and practiced squeezing down and up on it. We practiced using the koshi in a rotational way, not like a Lazy Susan (flat rotation), but rotating in angles.

We worked on this for each movement in Naihanchi Shodan. Over and over. Again and again. I tried everything I could to get the students to feel it and experience it.

After class, one of the seniors came up to me and said, "You forgot to say squeeze your lats."

He was right. After all that, I said everything except the most basic thing!

Tuck your koshi and squeeze your lats.


Charles C. Goodin

Laughing At Kata

At our dojo, we tend to laugh when we make a mistake during kata. Sometimes I laugh when I see a student -- particularly an advanced student -- make a mistake.

This may seem rude or improper (if you come from a very strict dojo), but it tells you something about our dojo's view about kata. Karate are devices that help us to learn body mechanics. Kata are the encapsulation of various self-defense techniques. They are not sacred. They are not magic. They are tools.

It is important to train seriously. But an error on kata is pretty trivial. If a student does a movement wrong (blocks low rather than blocks high), I will ask, "how well did he block?" If the mechanics were good, then that is good. If the mechanics were bad, then that is bad. The movement itself does not matter very much at all. When an attack comes, you have to be able to respond instinctively to changing circumstances. You will not respond with a kata.

One of our students recently went off to the mainland for college. We always laughed when she made a mistake because she hardly ever made any mistakes. So when she did, it was reason to celebrate!


Charles C. Goodin

Back to School -- Get Ahead

I think that most students are back to school for the fall. I went to college and graduate school for eight years, so here is a small piece of advice:

Get ahead and stay ahead!

If you get ahead, it is easy to stay ahead. But if you fall behind, it is very hard to catch up. Work hard during the first few weeks of the semester and the last few weeks will be easier.

You should also try to get the best grades possible during the beginning of your high school or college years. If you get a 4.0 the first year, it is not so hard to maintain it. But if you get a 1.0, you will be saying, "If I can just get straight A's for the next 3 years, I might be able to bring my average up to a 3.25." It is very hard, and stressful, to play catch up.

So get ahead and stay ahead.

This also applies in other aspects of life, particularly in work. If an assignment is due next Friday, why not have it ready by next Wednesday? That way you will have some time to improve it or change it if necessary. But if you wait until the last minute, there will be no leeway.

I am reminded of Chotoku Kyan's saying that if another student practices three times, he would practice seven times. Kyan Sensei was very small but became a very powerful and skilled Karate expert... by his effort.

As a Karate person, I am very passive. But as a college student, I was very aggressive, particularly with tests. Attack schoolwork with the ferocity of a top MMA fighter! Choke those assignments out! Make tests tap out!

Get ahead and stay ahead! Don't fall behind and stay behind!


Charles C. Goodin

Back to School -- Time to Be Careful

Students around the country are going back to school. My daughter resumed high school yesterday and I think that my third son starts college soon too.

Last night, I mentioned to our students that they should be very careful when they go back to school. I recommended that they each purchase a small container of hand sanitizer and that they take care to wash their hands often. It is possible that the swine flu will spread more readily in the schools. I also explained that if they touch something that is contaminated, and then touch their own mouth or eyes, they could become infected. Frequent hand washing is a good way to prevent this.

I also mentioned that this is not only for their own health and safety. If they become ill, they can make their family members ill too. Even if they can recover, elderly or sickly family members might not be so fortunate. So trying to avoid getting sick is also a way to help others -- not just ourselves.

We train hard in Karate, at least in part to learn to defend ourselves. It makes sense that we should also be vigilant when it comes to our health and defending ourselves against disease.

I am not a doctor but it seems to me that one of the best ways to avoid getting sick is to be in the best shape possible. A healthy person can resist and recover from an illness better than a sick or weak person. At least that is how it seems to me.

I also told my students that anyone who feels sick should stay home and not return to class until they are full recovered. No coming to class with a fever or cough. Again, this is to be considerate of the other students.

I teach at a City and County of Honolulu gym. Obviously, if the gym is closed due to the flu, our classes will be canceled. If that happens, we will simply have to practice at home (which we do already). No sense getting upset about such things. As we often say, "If can, can. If cannot, cannot."

As Karate instructors, we have the ability to help advise our students about many issues. It is easy for us to recommend that they follow safe hygiene methods, like washing their hands frequently and using hand sanitizers when they cannot wash.


Charles C. Goodin