Karate Thoughts Blog

Contents   /   Email  /   Atom  /   RSS  /  

1700+ Posts... and Counting

Support Network

Last one on cancer for a while.

I read a report that people undergoing treatment for cancer who have a support network (family and friends), live longer than people who do not. Both receive the same treatment but those with a support network live longer.

I believe this to be true. When I have seen people undergoing treatment who have someone with them, they seem more positive and healthy. It is not just the help they receive, it is the love and encouragement. Also, having someone else helps when navigating the sometimes confusing and always frightening treatment regimen and options.

This is my way of saying that we should do our best to support our loved ones and friends when they are in need.


Charles C. Goodin

Curly Hair

Continuing on the subject of breast cancer, in the last few months my wife has sometimes complained that her hair has grown back very curly in places. When she does this, I remind her that there was a time during chemotherapy when she had no hair. Her head was actually shiny because there were no hairs at all!

So curly hair is not such a big problem, at least it is hair.

And even with no hair, she still looked beautiful!

This is what I mean when I say that something like breast cancer can change you perspectives.

Hair is such a little thing when you are worried about life itself.


Charles C. Goodin

Co-Survivor 2 (And Counting)

Recently, I attended a Susan G. Komen luncheon with my wife, Nayna. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know that she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, and underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. She continues Tamoxifen treatment. The good news is that all test have shown her to be cancer free!

At the luncheon, my wife wore a name tag with her name and "Survivor 2." Other people in the room had name tags with "Survivor" and a number but some had "Co-Survivor" and a number. The event had started earlier in the morning and I only attended the luncheon. As a result, I did not get a name tag. But I learned that I was a "Co-Survivor 2." I am a Co-Survivor for 2 years of my wife's breast cancer.

Being diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer was a life altering experience for my wife. It was for me too.

My wife has told me several times that I have become a better person because of the experience. I always told her "no no," but actually, I have to agree with her. I have become a better person.

Cancer really stops you in your tracks. We all have to worry about business, finances, school, etc. But with cancer you have to suddenly worry about living. My family had to deal with the real thought of losing my wife. I have always tried hard at work and to save money. Don't get me wrong, money is a very good thing to have. It helps to be able to afford medical treatment -- which can be very expensive, even with insurance. But we often hear about rich celebrities or politicians who suffer and die from cancer and other diseases. It is not a matter of money. These people have access to and can afford the best medical treatment in the world. But with cancer, there is a big unknown. You can only seek the best treatment possible and hope for the best.

Hope and pray. I don't think I ever really appreciated prayer until my wife's cancer. I prayed a lot. Worried, studied, prayed, and worked out. Our family and friends offered their prayers. But even strangers, when they saw my wife with no hair and wearing a scarf or hat, would come up and pray for her. It was amazing.

And it helped.

I discussed with my wife how I seemed to be a better person as a result of her cancer. She always tells people how I was always there for her and tried my best to help her through the grueling, frightening, and confusing medical process. To me, that is what any spouse would do (although I learned that some spouses cannot handle it and even leave their loved one when the diagnosis is made). Trying my best was nothing special. My wife would have done more for me.

But as a result of the process I did change. I have become more patient, perhaps because cancer puts things in a different perspective. Things that seemed big before cancer don't seem quite as big now. I have also become more sympathetic for people who are suffering from illnesses or diseases, such as cancer.

I have written this before and it may sound strange. My second son bought a Toyota Tacoma. It was a great truck. Suddenly, we noticed lots of Tacomas on the road. They seemed to be everywhere. Because our son had one, we noticed them.

After my wife was diagnosed with cancer, we suddenly noticed other women with breast cancer in particular, and people with cancer in general. It was like seeing Tacomas on the road. Of course, the people were always there, we just didn't notice or perhaps did not want to notice. But with my wife's cancer, we discovered many people who had suffered from breast cancer and others who were currently under treatment.

I have to say that I think we did not want to think about cancer because we were afraid that thinking about it would make it happen. Ignoring cancer, to the extent possible, was our superstitious way of warding it off. You can't ignore it when it is in your own family, and of course, you shouldn't ignore it anyway.

I can't tell you how much I suffered for my wife, while at the same time trying to be strong for my children, mother, and extended family. Like I said, I worried all the time, then I tried to research all the time (while worrying), while also keeping up with work. In desperation, I turned to working out more as a way to escape. When I could not take worrying or researching any more, I would lift weights, ride a stationary bike, walk on a treadmill, all while still teaching and practicing Karate. Thank goodness for my sons who exercised me. Otherwise, I think I would have stressed myself to death. And thank goodness for our extended family and friends who all pitched in to help and just be there for us.

So as a result of seeing what my wife went through, and what I went through trying to help her, as well as what our family and friends went through, I am much more sympathetic when I hear that someone or their loved one is ill or suffering from a disease. I can feel for them, not just intellectually acknowledge their situation.

I feel bad that it took something like my wife's breast cancer to make me a better person. That is why I have taken so long to write about it. I feel that we should always try our best and work on our character. But I have to say that life tests us and in the process we learn and change. I am better because of something that happened to my wife.

I am a Co-Survivor 2. I hope to see that number grow larger and larger. And I hope the same for all Survivors and other Co-Survivors.

And for the husbands, boyfriends, sons, and fathers out there, when I have gone to breast cancer events with my wife, there are too few men! Breast cancer does not only affect women. Men can get it too. But for those of us with wives, mothers, daughters, loved ones and friends with breast cancer, we have to be there for them.

Men should not feel awkward going to a breast cancer event. Take it from me, Survivors, Co-Survivors, and the great people who work in organizations such as the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Cancer Society, are the nicest people you could meet. You don't catch breast cancer by going to these events, you catch humanity.

For everyone who has asked, my wife is doing great! And I'm not as stressed out anymore, but still work out. I just got a Total Gym 1700, but that's another topic.

And for anyone out there with cancer or any other disease or illness, my prayers are with you.


Charles C. Goodin

Knives You Don't See

One of my hobbies, one that most people do not know about, is collecting knives, folding knives in particular. No, I am not a hardcore collector, like my son's good friend Darin who got me started. But I do have several knives of different sizes (from 3 to 9 inches when open) and types (lockback, liner lock, credit card, etc.).

Many knives can be easily opened and even closed with one hand. And these are not even spring assisted or butterfly knives (which are illegal in Hawaii). These are just regular folding knives.

So what is my point? It does not take much skill or training at all to conceal a folding knife and open it very quickly. A regular knife does not even have to be opened.

If a person wanted to attack you with a knife, you would not be able to see it coming. Unlike television shows and Karate demonstrations where the knife attacker makes big, slow motions, a real knife attack will probably be lightning fast and at close quarters. No big slashes or swings. The knife will be opened and the attack will be made, almost certainly before you can see it. A twitch of the wrist and you will be cut... and skilled knife fighters know where to cut do the most damage in the least time. You could be cut several times before you could even react.

One of my Karate teachers also taught eskrima. He often warned us to be extremely careful when an attacker brushes back his hair, rubs his neck, or reaches for a back pocket, because these could all be movements to get a concealed knife. He taught that you have to react to the movements of the attacker, not to the knife itself. By the time you see the knife -- if you even see the knife -- it will be too late.

You have to react to the attacker and it would be prudent to assume that he is armed whether you know it or not.

I know that this is difficult. I am not saying that you should use a regular Karate-type block to defend against a knife. The teacher I mentioned above used to teach us how to use folding chairs and other items for defense, even umbrellas. You have to be aware of the environment and alert to things that could be used for defense.

As much as we practice Karate, there are other martial artists who train with knives and other weapons. You have to assume that they can become as skilled as us! If you think that you are good at Karate, can you imagine being attacked by someone just as good (or better) at knife fighting? That is not a pleasant thought!

It doesn't matter that you are skilled at Karate if you are wounded or killed before you can use it. Therefore, being aware of the situation has to be the most important part of Karate, because without awareness, there will be no opportunity to use any techniques at all.

Sometimes I see martial artists who are cocky about their fighting skills. Confidence is a good thing but overconfidence can make you miss things... like a concealed knife.

Just to be clear, I collect knives and use them for utility purposes (like cutting plants and cord). I do not carry knives. That does not mean that other people don't carry knives... you have to assume that at least some do.

In Karate we learn to defend against an unexpected attack. That attack could be with a knife, a knife that might not be seen until it is too late.


Charles C. Goodin

One Of Six

Sensei Mitsugi Kobayashi told me that when he went for his first meeting with Sensei Seko Higa, there were five other prospective students. They all started training together. One by one, however, the other students quit, leaving Kobayashi alone to train with Higa Sensei.

When I first heard this, I thought it was pretty amazing. Out of six students, only one remained?

But then I realized that for every Sensei, there may be dozens, even hundreds of students who started training but quit. For very senior Sensei, there could have been thousands of students!

Those of us who teach Karate, at whatever level, are the ones who did not quit, who stuck it out. In my case, I am certain that I was not the most talented, intelligent, or physically gifted student. Certainly not! I might just have been the most determined or even obsessed student, and also was lucky enough to have a family and lifestyle that allowed me to continue to train.

My dojo is small. We usually have only about twenty-five students and not all attend every class. But those students include several yudansha. When I see them, I do not just see one yudansha, I also see all the students who had trained but quit. Each yudansha represents so many students! When we have ten students and four or five yudansha at class, the dojo seems positively crowded!

Think back to when you started learning Karate and all the students who have come and gone since then. Ten? Fifty? A hundred? A thousand?



Charles C. Goodin

The Best Teacher...

This is a story.

A rich man and woman brought their 12 year old son to Miyagusuku Sensei (a made up name), who was regarded as the best Karate teacher in all of Okinawa. They arranged for their son to live and train with Miyagusuku Sensei for one year.

A year passed and the parents returned, anxious to see their son's progress. A demonstration was quickly arranged. To their surprise, it appeared that their son had learned nothing at all.

The parents were shocked and confused. Finally they asked, "Miyagusuku Sensei, you are the best Karate instructor in all of Okinawa... how is it that our son learned so little?"

"I do not know if I am the best Karate instructor in Okinawa," said Miyagusuku Sensei, "but I am certain that your son is the worst Karate student!"

Even a great Sensei needs a great student. The Sensei can set the plate, but the student must eat and digest what he is taught.

No matter how great the Sensei is, the student must also exert great effort to learn and refine his Karate.


Charles C. Goodin

Ring, Ring, Ring!

This is a story.

A group of Karate students were practicing kumite. Because space in the dojo was limited, they were in close proximity. These students trained hard and were pretty good at kumite... but they all wore jewelry.

Sally executed a flying side kick. Her toe ring got caught on David's earring. As Sally landed on the ground, David's head smashed on the cement floor. Sally tripped over his body and hit June in the back. June's necklace flew up and her pendant poked her partner Sam in the eye and became snagged on his eyebrow ring. When Sam reached up in pain, it tugged June forward. She bent forward and Sam flipped over her back, landing on Sally and David, who screamed in pain. Their Sensei, William, came running. Because by now there was blood on the floor, he slid into the group, his tongue stud becoming caught in Catherine's watch. Catherine had come to help too. As she tried and tried to pull her watch off her Sensei's tongue stud, her belt flipped up. A medal on her belt (earned at a recent tournament) popped loose and the sharp pin beneath it poked her Sensei on the nose. Just then, Bob showed up and started trying to help people up. Because everyone's jewelry was tangled, they yelled in pain. Sally pushed Bob to try to stop him from lifting her up. She hit him with such force that his heavy black ear gauges flew out, right into Sally's mouth. She instantly started choking.

Finally, the twisted mass of injured, bleeding, snagged, and poked Karate students got to their feet, but fell out a window right into a volcano (because they were here in Hawaii).

The moral of the story is... if you wear jewelry when you practice Karate you will fall into a volcano.


Charles C. Goodin

No Jewelry

Sometimes I repeat things that I think are important (or because I have forgotten that I already said them). Here is another repeat subject.

When you practice Karate, you should not wear any jewelry. This is primarily for safely issues but also out of a sense of modesty and austerity.

Would you like to wear earrings when you train? If so, how will you feel when your earring gets stuck to someone's gi and your earlobe is ripped off or torn? How will you feel with an ugly scar? How will you feel when you have to pay for it?

Would you like to wear a ring? If so, how will you feel when you scratch your partner's eye? Or when your ring gets caught on your partner's earring and you rip his/her hear lob off? And then, when the blood is dripping from your partner's ear, how about when he/she goes into shock, passes out and hits his/her face on the corner of a wall and knocks out some teeth? It happens.

Would you like to wear a necklace? I think you see where this is going.

And with any injury there is the issue of blood. Let's just say that in today's world, another person's blood is the equivalent of toxic waste -- don't touch it.

When you train, you should wear no jewelry at all.

And when you wear your gi in non-training situations, you should not wear any jewelry either. It is just not right. Your gi is not a Halloween costume. When you are dressed in your gi, you are dressed for training, so wear no jewelry. Are you afraid that you will look less attractive? Why are you worried about this when you are wearing your gi? Shouldn't you be worried about developing skill, refining your character, assisting your Sensei, and helping your fellow students?

I don't wear a watch or ring. The only metal I wear are my glasses. Why no watch? Because my cellphone always has the time.

I don't wear any jewelry because in my mind, I am always practicing Karate.

Man, woman, boy or girl -- wear no jewelry when training and/or wearing your gi.


Charles C. Goodin

Our Logo Is...

Our dojo has a logo. It is "no" logo.

Our dojo has a patch. It is "no" patch.

Our belts have special writing. It is "no" writing.

Our dojo has a dojo kun (sayings). It is "no" dojo kun.

When someone asks, "What is your Karate?" I say, "What?"

When someone asks, "Where is your Karate?" I say, "Where?"

When someone says, "You've said nothing." I say, "That's it!"

Karate comes down to skill, conditioning and character, not logos, patches, sayings, or writing on the belt (or all over the gi). Everything in Karate is inside you. If you can buy it -- that's not it.

If someone attacks you, will you be wearing any patches or logo? I don't think so. And even if you are wearing patches or logos, will that deter the attacker?

This is a joke. I saw a Karate student wearing a plain gi with no patches. I thought to myself, "he must belong to my dojo!"


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: About Not Hitting Women

I received the following comment from Fiona regarding my last post, Do Not Hit Women. Fiona has her own blog, gai.ninja. Thank you very much Fiona for your perspective!

Hi Sensei,

I hope you are well.

I have a comment in response to your latest post, so thought I'd send it over.

I also feel that women should not hit men, unless it is self-defence. There is an increasing number of cases of violent female partners, where women take their anger out on their partners, who are powerless to defend themselves, not wanting to hit a woman.

I used to fight with my sisters all the time when we were kids. I usually won so before I was old enough to know it was wrong and get a grip on my ego I used to do it all the time. But my mum always said people used violence as they weren't smart enough to use words, and when I was old enough to understand that, I changed my ways.

I feel everyone should try and attain that standard - solve problems with words, not violence - and not just men.

Thank you, as always, for your blog - I really enjoy your wise words :) And many congratulations on becoming a grandfather.

Kind regards,


Do Not Hit Women

Sometimes as Sensei we have to state the obvious.

Men should not hit women. This is particularly true for Karate students.

If a man is angry at a woman, he should walk away rather than resort to violence. Even if the woman starts a fight, the man should try his very best to avoid contact.

Husbands should not hit wives. Boyfriends should not hit girlfriends.

Of course, the reverse is also true. Women should not hit men. But in modern society, there is something of a presumption that the woman is the victim.

OK, if a group of ninja women were to attack a man, I would say that the man could fight back. I would. But how often do you hear about this? It is much more common to hear about a man getting mad and punching or choking his wife or girlfriend. Alcohol and drugs are often contributing factors.

My daughter has three older brothers who are martial artists (and pretty big) and me as her father. We tend to make it clear to young men that she is to be treated respectfully, or else.

Again, as Sensei we need to state these types of this things. You never know, some of our students may come from homes with domestic violence. Young men might grow up seeing the men in the family hitting or abusing women. We need to make it clear that this is wrong and not something a Karate student should do, or tolerate.


Charles C. Goodin

Capernicus Was Wrong

Capernicus (Nikolas Capernicus, 1473-1543) was wrong. The Earth is the center of the universe. To be more specific, wherever my granddaughter is on the Earth is the center of the universe... at least for my family


Charles C. Goodin

Karate In A Sentence

A person came to interview me a few weeks ago. At one point he asked, "Can you describe Karate in one sentence?"

I said "no." He looked a little surprised and asked if I could do so in a few sentences. Once again, I said "no."

I explained that anything I could say would be incomplete. I could say something that sounds nice, but what good would that be?

As I have gotten older I have learned that sometimes the answer is, "no."


Charles C. Goodin

No Categories -- A Mugger

This is a story.

A Karate student who had trained for only a couple of years was walking down a deserted a street on a dark night (you know this is bad already). Out from behind some bushes, a mugger jumped out and demanded the student's money.

"Wait," said the student. "Let's talk first."

Since this is just a story, the mugger agreed.

"First," said the student, "I weigh 140 pounds and I'd guess that you weigh 225."

"250," said the mugger.

"So you see, we're in different weight categories. You can't mug me."

"I don't follow any rules," said the mugger as he prepared to punch the student.

"Wait," said the student. "I have been practicing Karate for a year and a half. How long have you been a mugger?"

"About 10 years confessed the mugger."

"So you see," said the student, "I'm just novice. We're in different divisions. You can't mug me."

"I told you that I don't follow any rules," said the mugger. "I don't care about your weight or years of Karate experience."

"Well," said the student. "You can understand that I am not ready for this mugging. Can you give me a couple of weeks to prepare and then mug me? By then I'll be ready."

"Nope," said the mugger. "This is not some tournament or test you can prepare for. I'm mugging you exactly because you were not ready for it. What an idiot you were to walk down this street on a night like this."

"Well at least let me warm up!"

"Forget it," said the mugger.

"This is so unfair," exclaimed the student.

"You think that's bad," said the mugger, "I've got a knife in my pocket and two friends standing behind the bushes who are even bigger than me!"

There are no categories, divisions, set times, or rules in self defense. You have to be ready for an unexpected attack from someone who might be bigger, stronger, more skilled at fighting than you, and even armed. And there may be more than one of them!

It is really unfair, but that is how it is. That is why when Karate is used as a last resort, anything goes.


Charles C. Goodin

Who Is Your Teacher?

This is a story.

A Karate Sensei went to a seminar and observed a young adult black belt student. The Sensei noticed that the student had ten stripes on his belt and could not imagine what this might represent, so he asked the young man.

"Oh these," said the student, "these are names of the ten associations I belong to." "I have been certified and approved by ten ranking and review committees. My Karate is authentic. I am a real Karate man, not an amateur."

"Ten associations," replied the Sensei, "who is your Sensei?"

"Uh, my Sensei, er, I, well, I used to..., but then, you know... I belong to 10 associations! That means something!"

"I'm sure it does," replied the Sensei.

"It must," said the student, "it's costing me an arm and a leg!"

We learn from our teachers. This is a personal relationship. You don't wear your Sensei on your belt -- you live the lessons he has taught. Having a good Sensei means more than being a member of 100 associations!


Charles C. Goodin

Kata Appropriate To Level

I believe that it is important to teach the student each kata thoroughly and deeply. That does not mean that I would show the same body dynamics and applications to a new student and a san dan. There is "new student deep" and "sandan deep".

In particular, I would not show certain applications to newer students (who I do not know well enough yet to trust) or to younger students (who should not yet learn certain dangerous techniques).

Karate should be taught appropriately based upon the age, experience, and level of the student.

And even if a student learns a kata thoroughly and deeply, that does not mean that he will not be taught variations and deeper mechanics and applications as he progresses over the years. Just the opposite is true! The more advanced the student becomes, the more he will learn the kata he already knows.

I have written this before, but it is worth repeating. When you have Windows installed on your computer, you will periodically receive updates. Various aspects of the operating system will be updated to keep it current.

We do the same in our dojo. One change to a movement in a kata will apply to all other identical movements in other kata, and to all other similar movements in other kata. A change in hip motion (koshi) could apply to just about every movement in all the kata. It is like updating the Karate operating system.

The Sensei will not show each change to each movement. That is up to the student -- and this takes intelligence, motivation, and hard work. You can spoon feed some students and they will not get it. You can give just a hint to other students, and they will catch the idea and run with it -- and apply the principle to all their techniques.

Teach appropriately based upon the age, experience, and level of the student.


Charles C. Goodin

Shallow Kata -- Deep Kata

This is a follow up to my last post, Shodan Kata? In that post I wrote:

"In particular, I feel that Kusanku, Chinto, Gojushiho, and even Passai and Wanshu should be reserved for more advanced students..., maybe even Wankan."
A reader asked what "Wankan" meant. Looking back, I realize that the use of the term was a little ambiguous. "Wankan" is a kata practiced in our system. It is fairly common in Shorin-Ryu schools, and is also known as "Okan". It is a Tomari-Te kata (at least it is they way that we practice it).

Now the follow up.

In my experience, if a student learns many kata too quickly, it will be almost impossible for him to ever learn the kata properly and in depth. If you start shallow, it stays shallow. It is possible for a student to move to the depths of the kata, but this takes a great deal of introspection and effort. Also, there will be many errors to correct.

But if a student learns fewer kata and learns them in greater depth, then he will probably go on to learn all kata properly and in depth. And if you think about it, many of the movements in one kata are common to others. So if a student learns one kata in depth, he will be learning movements that will also be present in other kata. When the time comes to learn those kata, he will already know the common movements... already know them in depth.

But a student with a shallow understanding will rush on to other kata. The mistakes of his first shallow kata will be repeated in the later kata. The first kata will be shallow and the others will be too. Shallowness will infect the kata.

The idea is not to learn many kata -- there is no benefit to this -- the idea is to learn to move properly and defend yourself. Kata are not like trophies or medals. They have no value unless you understand them well.

In some schools, kata are the basis for rank. Some schools will have different training days and times for certain kata, or level of kata. So to train in a certain class, the student will have to learn all the earlier kata that are a prerequisite for the more advanced training. I can understand this approach, but I do not follow it. One kata is as good as the next (except for Naihanchi Shodan which is like a cornerstone upon which all other kata are built in our system).

In some schools, more advanced kata are given a higher degree of difficulty in kata competition. There is thus an incentive to learn these more advanced kata. I do not follow this approach either. All kata are difficult and all kata are easy. There are no degrees of difficulty. Is Chinto harder than Fukyugata Ichi? I have heard some senior instructors say that Fukyugata Ichi is more difficult because there is no room to hide -- a seemingly simple kata is actually harder to do well. Any mistakes will be obvious.

I have written this before -- and it is true (to me). If a student is very good at the Naihanchi kata, then all subsequent kata will have a Naihanchi flavor. They will look very strong. But if a student has a weak Naihanchi, the subsequent kata will be similarly weak. The Pinan kata should look like Naihanchi, not the other way around. I am mentioning this because some instructors treat Naihanchi as a very basic kata (with a very low degree of difficulty).

If you can do Naihanchi well, that is enough. The remaining kata are basically just to entertain you.

Back to my original post. In my school, shodan are not expected to know 18 kata. How many should they know? It depends on what I feel (and my second son feels, since he is the dojo cho). We do not have specific requirements.

This brings up another issue. In some schools, students are expected to know specific kata for each rank (dan and kyu). In these schools, you will sometimes find students who say, "I know Pinan Sandan now so am I a green belt?"

I feel that it is important not to tie kata to specific ranks. Instread, it is important to tie kata to specific skill sets, specific body mechanics, specific applications, etc.

Of course, I have a small dojo and do not teach commercially. I have the luxery of trying to craft "custom" students. I could not teach the same way with 500 or 5,000 students -- there simply would not be enough time.

In any event, I recommend that kata not be rushed -- it is far better to learn a few kata deeply rather than many kata shallowly. If you know a few kata deeply, you can easily learn many kata. But if you only know kata shallowly, no matter how many kata you learn, it will not help -- actually it will only make things worse.


Charles C. Goodin

Shodan Kata?

I am often surprised by how many kata a shodan (1st degree black belt) will know in different Karate systems, including my own. When I ask a shodan how many kata he knows, the answer will often be, "all of them." This is often said with the connotation of, "why all of them, of course." Like why would I even ask?

Should a shodan know all the kata of a system or ryuha of Karate? I know that this is up to the Sensei, but in my dojo, I do not expect shodan to know the 18 empty handed kata that we practice. In particular, I feel that Kusanku, Chinto, Gojushiho, and even Passai and Wanshu should be reserved for more advanced students..., maybe even Wankan.

Of course, it is easy to learn these kata. They may be longer than many of the other kata. That is not the point. Anyone can learn just about any kata. I could teach Chinto to a brand new student -- that doesn't mean that he will be able to do the kata properly, with the correct body mechanics, and with a proper understanding of the possible applications. Just copying the form of the kata means very little. That would be like memorizing a speech in a foreign language without understanding the language.

To me, it is better for a shodan to concentrate on the core basic kata of a system. This does not mean that they are beginner kata. The first kata a student will learn in my dojo is Naihanchi Shodan. That does not mean that it is a beginner's kata. In fact, it is a beginner kata, an intermediate kata, and an advanced kata. It is a kata that the newest student will practice and the most advanced students and instructors will continue to on.

When I hear that a shodan knows many kata, I will think that he knows them in shallow sense. In my experience, this usually is true. When a shodan learns a more concentrated curriculum, he usually knows the material more in depth.

Knowing many kata means nothing at all in and of itself. Knowing even one kata very well means a lot.

Quality, not quantity.


Charles C. Goodin

Two Week Birthday

Today is my granddaughter's two week birthday. Happy birthday Madeleine!

More and more people have started calling me "grandpa."

Coincidentally, a guy came to the office to see my wife at her travel agency (my wife and I share offices). She was out for a few minutes, so I took his name and told him that she would call him.

Later, he spoke to my wife and said that when he came to the office, he met the "older gentleman."

So now I am the "grandpa" and the "older gentleman."


Charles C. Goodin

Flu Precautions

I just sent the following email to the students in our dojo:


The H1N1 (Swine Flu) is present in Hawaii and the seasonal flu is expected to increase in the upcoming weeks and months. Please be considerate of other students and stay home if you have any cold or flu symptoms. These can include:
  • fever
  • cough
  • runny nose or stuffy nose
  • sore throat
  • body aches
  • headache
  • chills
  • fatigue or tiredness
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
If in doubt, seek medical attention, and stay home. There will always be another class (and you can practice at home if you feel well enough). Come back to class about one week after you are completely better and your doctor says that it is OK to safely resume physical activity.

I have already gotten my seasonal flu shot. Please discuss the seasonal and H1N1 shots with your doctor.

Let's all try our best to be healthy!


Charles C. Goodin
Hikari Dojo

Tournament Kata -- Prancing

I was recently watching footage of a "traditional" Karate tournament. Where and when is not really relevant. But the main thing is that it was a traditional tournament with traditional kata.

A competitor walked out to the center of the ring, where she came to attention and shouted out the name of the kata. I have written before that I dislike the shouting of kata name. But that's another blog subject.

What got me about this performance, was the way the young woman (gender is not the issue here, but the person I watched was a woman) pranced (or strutted) out to the center of the ring. She almost looked like a gymnast preparing to do a floor routine. Her steps and arm swings were precisely coordinated and elongated. Her toes and fingers were pointed.

My point is that even the act of walking out to the center of the ring was ritualized. It was not a natural walk. The competitor was already trying to impress the judges and the audience.

Like shouting out the name of the kata, I really dislike this. I have used the word "dislike" because children may be reading this.

Karate should be a natural thing. We are preparing for an unexpected attack. While walking down the sidewalk, someone jumps out from the bushes and attacks. Bam! We must defend ourselves. We are walking down the sidewalk... not prancing.

I don't think we would say to ourselves, "Look, a mugger in the bushes up ahead. I think I will prance so that he will be scared and not attack me."

And don't get me wrong. Men prance too. The tournament format seems to encourage an artificial, ritualized walk.

It should not be surprising that a system that does this to the simple act of walking, does pretty much the same thing to the kata itself. The kata become ritualized, crystalized, exaggerated, posed, staccato, stiff, punctuated by theatric kiai, etc. The crowd loves it!

Again, don't get me wrong. The competitors are doing exactly what they have been taught and coached to do, and they are very good at it. They are in excellent shape and their movements are amazingly precise.

But is this Karate? Is this how Sokon Matsumura did it? Is this how Kanryo Higashionna did it?

And if not, why not? Are we doing it better today than they did?

I always think that the place to do kata is inside an elevator, crowded with other people. No room to prance.

Given a choice, I would always pick ugly kata over pretty kata.


Charles C. Goodin

Do You Understand? (Really?)

Today I went to lunch with my good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, who officially became a senior citizen (65 years old) last week. I hope that in 14 years, I will be training as dilligently as he does!

I took the lunch opportunity to ask Nakata Sensei to explain to me the subtleties of the the word "understand" in Japanese. Although I am half-Japanese and my mother was born and raised in Japan, I speak Japanese only well enough to mess it up! I eat Japanese (except natto), not speak it.

Nakata Sensei was kind enough to explain this to me.

If your Sensei teaches you something and asks you if you get it, you might say, "Yes, I understand."

In Japanese, there are different ways to express this. The two main words for "understand" are "wakarimasu" and "shirimasu."

I did not know this. I only heard the word "wakarimasu" when learning Japanese in elementary school (as part of a language program at Misawa Air Force Base) and thought it would be used whenever you wanted to say that you understood, comprehended, or got something.

But according to Nakata Sensei, "wakarimasu" and "shirimasu" have different connotations, which are very important for Karate students.

If your Sensei shows you something and asks if you understand, you would use "shirimasu" if you get what was taught -- that you have seen or heard what was taught. It is almost like saying, "yes, I received your instruction."

You would only use "wakarimasu" if you got what was taught and understood it experientially. That is like saying, "yes, I received your instruction, understood it, have grappled with it intellectually and experientially, and can say that I get it... and perhaps can do it."

See the difference? Do you understand?

Most of the time, we students should probably use "shirimasu" rather than "wakarimasu." I know that I certainly should.

Sometimes I will tell Nakata Sensei that I have heard or read what he has told me, but am still thinking about it and working on it. I "received it" but do not yet "get it." It is almost like saying, "yes, I heard you, and I intellectually understand the words that you used, but I do not yet get the whole concept and cannot apply it physically."

I have to admit that when my Sensei over the years have asked if everyone "gets it," I have often been the lone student who raised my hand and said, "No Sensei, I'm sorry but I do not."

The difference between "wakarimasu" and "shirimasu" are relevant in English. When your Sensei asks if you understand something, you have to be careful about your word choice. If you say "yes," he might think that you mean that you understand the subject experientially (which you probably don't).

Let me use an analogy. If a farmer gives you a tree seed it would be one thing to say, "I have received the seed." It would be quite another thing to say, "I received the tree seed, planted it in my yard, watered it and fed it for many years, and now can take a nap under its majestic branches and leaves on a hot summer day!"

Now let's apply this to Karate. Your Sensei shows you a koshi method. Your Sensei shows you how to osae (press) during a kata transition. Your Sensei shows you how to relax. Do you get it? Or have you observed and received the instruction and will work on it? Do you get the words, or the meaning? Do you get the words or can you do it?

Nakata Sensei told me today that sometimes when he is doing kata, he will realize something about a movement and say to himself, "Chibana Sensei, wakarimasu!" He now understands something experientially that his Sensei taught him over 40 years ago. Until then, he could have said "shirimasu" but not "wakarimasu."

Perhaps we could say that "shirimasu" indicates a work in progress while "wakarimasu" indicates a sense of completion.

For me, Karate continues to be a very enjoyable work on progress.

Do you understand? Really?


Charles C. Goodin

Testing Alert

OK, this actually is a testing alert for students in our dojo.

We will be conducting kyu and dan testing. So please train hard all the time, both in the dojo and in daily life. Help the other students. Try to improve yourself, both in technique and character.

Be a good student and a good son (daughter), husband (wife), father (mother), friend, worker...

Remember that you are tested all the time, even when no one is looking.

Whatsoever you do, try your best. As such, make sure that the things you do are worthwhile.

Remember that with skill and character, rank does not matter. And without skill and character, rank is irrelevant.

So get ready for the test!


Charles C. Goodin

Heavy Koshi

Back to mechanics.

In Kishaba Juku dojo, we work hard on body dynamics. That is an understatement!

Sometimes I say that we are like racing car mechanics. We are trying to customize our students (and ourselves) for maxim speed, power... dynamics.

Sometimes I will see a student who has worked on developing a good koshi movement, which essentially is the use of whip-like (core driven torque) mechanics in all Karate movements. But some students are like a firecracker that sizzles -- just a dud. The whip is there but there is no power (or very little).

Most of the time, the reason for this lack of power is because the student has not yet learned to put his weight behind the block, strike or other movement. The "crack of the whip" is there, but it is just fluff.

It is important for our movements to be light and heavy. We move lightly, but at the moment of explosion and power transfer, all or much of our weight should be behind the movement. This is usually accomplished by shifting weight in different ways. Imagine a whip with a hammer at the end.

My point is that koshi is just part of the formula. It is an important part, but not the whole thing. Usually, when an advanced student has struggled for years to overcome the limitations of linear mechanics, koshi is the answer... at that particular moment. But it is the coordination of movement principles (body shifting, weight shifting, body alignment, delay, koshi, etc.) that leads to results.

Move lightly but hit heavy.


Charles C. Goodin

Soke Detector

By profession, I am a real estate attorney. I prepare documents to convey real property from one person to another. So I spend a lot of time reviewing real estate contracts. Because of the nature of my work, I am always reading and also looking for errors.

One term found in the Purchase Contract generally used here in Hawaii is "smoke detector". If a property includes smoke detectors, this item would be checked. But I recently realized that with the deletion of a single letter, this term would become "soke detector."

"Soke detector?" That got me thinking. How many soke, hanshi, and/or 10th dan of Karate are there in the world? Of course, some people could have one or more of these titles.

I honestly don't know the answer to this question, but I would bet that there are quite a few. Perhaps 20 to 30? Even more? 100?

Now how many soke, hanshi, and/or 10th dan of Judo and Kendo are there in the world? While I believe there are several hanshi, I do not believe there are any living 10th dan. I think that they stopped giving that rank. And I do not think they generally use the soke term either.

So why has Karate garnished so many high titles and ranks? And I have only scratched the surface on titles. There are so many... and countless variations and combinations. And each organizations seems to be free to bestow their own brand of honors.

Well, so far there is no N0bel Prize for Karate. Hawaii did well this year with the peace prize. Perhaps one day we could win the Karate award too!

In my book, the highest and most esteemed title in Karate, one we should all work very hard all our lives to deserve, is "Sensei."

It is funny how the first five letters of this Japanese word spell "sense" in English.


Charles C. Goodin

What I Would Like to Remember

Yesterday, I wrote about How Would You Like to Be Remembered?

I would like to confess that when I leave my office for an appointment, my wife and/or my paralegal ask me three questions:

  1. Is your zipper up?
  2. Do you have your cell phone?
  3. Do you have any aluminum foil on your shirt buttons?
I should explain the last question. When we take my Aloha shirts to the dry cleaner, they wrap the buttons in aluminum foil to protect them. Sometimes I forget to remove the foil. I have gone out on appointments and even given legal talks with foil on my buttons!

When Shoshin Nagamine came to Hawaii in 1996, he gave a very special speech at the Kahala Hilton entitled Karate and World Peace. I was fortunate to attend the speech and the formal dinner that followed, and had to purchase a new suit for the occasion. Halfway through the dinner, I realized that I had not removed the tag from the left sleeve of the suit jacket!

So it is important to do good things so that you will create a legacy and be remembered. But as we age, it is also important to just remember!

I am convinced that Karate training stimulates our brains and helps us to think quickly and to remember things... but maybe not about foil covered buttons.


Charles C. Goodin

How Would You Like to be Remembered?

I wrote recently about Honoring A Sensei.

I am a Sensei. You may be a Sensei too, or you may assist your Sensei. One day we will all pass away. How would you like to be remembered?

This is a serious question. It is one thing to honor a Sensei when he or she passes away. That is a good thing. But at that point, it would be good to ask yourself, how would you like people to remember and honor you? And if you would like people to remember that you did certain things, then you will have to do them!

What I am saying is that we have the power to create our own legacies. We can work at it. Our legacies don't have to happen by accident. From this moment, and in every moment of our lives, we can do something meaningful... something worth remembering.

Of course, good deeds are noble and worthwhile whether people remember them or not. I don't mean to say that we should try to pile up accomplishments just so that we will get credit. The reward for a good deed is the action itself.

Not too long ago I went to the funeral for my second son's girlfriend's grandfather. Jamie is the eldest of 10 grandchildren. At the funeral, a video was shown. Each of the 10 grandchildren said something, shared a memory, of their grandfather. They each had something good to say. It was obvious that they deeply loved their grandfather.

I thought to myself, "That's the kind of grandfather I want to be!" (This was before my granddaughter was born.)

The grandchildrens' memories were not earth shattering. For the most part, they were of special moments with their grandfather... going on trips, driving somewhere, just talking at the house. The special moments weren't special because they were spectacular, they were special because they represented quality time with their grandfather.

We have the opportunity to create special moments, to be part of quality time with our loved ones, friends, and students.

Or we can just let life pass us by.


Charles C. Goodin

Announcing Our Next Testing

I wanted to announce the next testing schedule for our dojo. Oops! I can't since we do not have any scheduled or formal testing. We just observe the students all the time and when it seems shameful not to promote someone (because they are so qualified), then we might do so.

We do not charge to test, or to issue a certificate, or to maintain rank from year to year, or for a belt...

In fact, when a student becomes shodan we ask them to kindly stop paying the $5 per month tuition.

Boy, we sure don't know how to run a business!


Charles C. Goodin

Brazilian Ju Jitsu

During the last year or so, my third son, Cael, who is an assistant instructor and ni-dan in our dojo, has taken up the practice of Brazilian Ju Jitsu under Terrence Matsuno at Shoot Fight Hawaii. He also recently started practicing at O2 Martial Arts Academy. Cael is 20.

I could not be happier! Cael did not have the opportunity to study Judo for very long when he was young, and I am grateful for the opportunity for him to learn about grappling and to develop his "ground game." This has already made him a much more well rounded Karate student.

If Cael decides one day that he wants to teach Ju Jitsu, I will be very happy. To me, martial arts are all good... if the person practicing it is good. Karate is good. Ju Jitsu is good. Actually, Cael went to Kendo practice last night. He has practiced Kendo too. Kendo is good. All martial arts are good... if the person practicing it is good.

Some people might wonder why I don't want Cael to only practice Karate since I teach Karate. When I was younger I practiced several martial arts. I limited myself to Karate only because I did not have the time to continue the other arts. Also, multiple arts presented the risk of multiple injuries, particularly as I got older. But I really like all martial arts. If I had the time, I would also study Escrima, sojutsu, Ju Jitsu... I respect other martial arts and the people who teach and practice them.

Cael is young and he seems to be able to handle the rigors of practicing Karate and Ju Jitsu (as well as weightlifting). I am very proud of him, and I want people to know that I respect Brazilian Ju Jitsu. I am really impressed with its ranking system. A purple belt in Ju Jitsu is really skilled. A black belt seems to be the equivalent of a 4th or 5th dan in some Karate schools.

Cael has a tournament this weekend. Gambatte Cael (and be safe)!


Charles C. Goodin

My Granddaughter Has Potential

I just got back from my son's house where I visited my newborn granddaughter, Madeleine. I think she has good potential for Karate because she kicks very well!


Charles C. Goodin

Honoring a Sensei

Sometimes I am asked by students what the best way is to honor a Sensei who has passed away. Over the years, I have heard and seen different approaches.

One is to raise a monument to the Sensei.

Another is to promote him posthumously.

Another is to have a magnificent ceremony.

Another is to write books and articles about him.

But the way that I would recommend is to sincerely practice what he has taught. Monuments just take up space and birds will make a mess on them. Posthumous promotions are irrelevant. A ceremony is good, as long as it is a celebration of the Sensei's life and accomplishments rather than a political event. Books and articles may be good, again if they celebrate and document the Sensei's life and accomplishments.

Sometimes, students try to build up their Sensei in order to build up themselves. I have even been asked if the death of a Sensei automatically results in the promotion of all students by one level. Of course not!

When a Sensei dies, we should honor his life and memory by practicing what he taught, both in the dojo and in our daily lives. That is the greatest tribute.

Before he passed away in 1998, I had the privilege of meeting Sensei Tomu Arakawa only one time (at the Blaisedale Center during an Okinawan expo when Mr. Nakasone from Shureido was visiting). But today I get to meet him every time I meet and train with his senior students, such as Sensei Alan Lee and Sensei Kyle Nakasone. Because they carry on his teachings, I can meet Arakawa Sensei through them. They honor their Sensei each and every day by their actions. This makes me think that Arakawa Sensei was truly a great Sensei. His students are his monument!

One last thing, you certainly don't have to wait for your Sensei to die to do this. While he is living you can honor him through your sincere and dedicated practice.


Charles C. Goodin

Promoted to Grand...

I am very happy to announce that on October 7th I was promoted to... Grandfather!

My granddaughter, Madeleine Sunahara Goodin, the first child of my eldest son, Christopher, and his wife, Michelle, was born. Our family could not be happier. The photo above shows my wife Nayna, and me, with Madeleine.

I think that I will begin to teach my granddaughter Karate when she is about five.

I apologize for my lack of posts recently. I began intense preparations for the Hawaii Karate Museum exhibit at the University of Hawaii in April/May, had the exhibit from July through August, immediately had another exhibit at the Okinawan festival in early September, and then had to prepare my office (which includes the museum) for renovations in the next month or so. Plus we were very consumed in the weeks leading up to the birth of my granddaughter.

I finally feel like I can breathe!

Well, I am going next door to see my granddaughter (my son and his wife live right next door to my house)!


Charles C. Goodin