Karate Thoughts Blog

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1700+ Posts... and Counting

Some Posts in Romanian

Raul Sandu , a blogger in Romania, has begun to translate some of my posts into Romanian. See, for example:

Somehow, it is very cool to see something you have written translated into another language. Thank you Raul!


Charles C. Goodin

Thankfulness and Gratitude

On Thanksgiving day, we remember the things that we are thankful for. Sometimes these are material possessions. Sometimes it is our health and prosperity.

While it is good to give thanks, it is also important to remember the people who helped us to acquire our material possessions, who helped us to be healthy, who helped us to be prosperous. It is important to be grateful and to show gratitude to those who helped us.

In Karate, we should be grateful to our teachers, seniors and fellow students. Without them, how could we learn Karate?

I deal with many Karate teachers, students, and their family members who are in their 70s and 80s (rarely in their 90s). You have to show gratitude to people while they are here to receive it. You can't do much once they have passed on.

Don't forget the people who have helped you. Make time to show them your appreciation. This is a good time of year to be thankful and to show your gratitude.

Thank you very much for your support of this blog. It has helped me to formulate and organize my thoughts about Karate.


Charles C. Goodin

The Champion

This is a story.

A Karate champion was walking down a dark street at night. Out from the bushes jumped a mugger. Before the champion could even take a ready position, the mugger beat the crap out of him. The champion crumpled to the ground as the mugger took his wallet.

"But, but... I'm the best Karate competitor in the state," moaned the champion. "I've never been beaten."

"I guess they did not invite me to that tournament," replied the mugger.

Whether you are the county, state, regional, national or world champion, that only means that you were declared the best of those who competed. There are almost 7 billion people in the world. Do you really think that anyone can say that they are the best Karate competitor or fighter of all those people?

I was thinking about having a tournament at my dojo. I would not tell anyone about it except my two sons and my daughter. We would all compete. I would be the dojo champion, my daughter would be the state champion, my third son would be the national champion, and my second son would be the world champion. And of course, my wife would be the universal champion because we all listen to her!

Just be a champion of your own life. That is enough.


Charles C. Goodin

Trying "Your" Best

This is a story.

A Sensei was conducting class. As the group began, he said, "Everyone try your best. I'll be watching."

The senior student was clearly stronger and more skilled than the others. He moved faster than the others and his movements were cleaner.

At the end of class, the Sensei spoke to each student. He praised most of them and encouraged the others. But when he got to the senior student he said, "Not so good."

The senior student did not understand. "But I am clearly stronger than the rest of the class," he said. "I did more kata. I'm cleaner. I'm faster. How can you say not so good? I did better than everyone else!"

[OK, this student is a real pain, but please just go along with the story.]

The Sensei shook is head and took a long breath. "I told everyone to try their best. I did not tell you to try the best of the rest of the class, I said to try your best. Stop comparing yourself to others. They tried their best. You did not. You don't get ahead by passing others, you get ahead by surpassing your own best!"

Try your best.


Charles C. Goodin

Not Yet, Not Yet, Not Yet...

I remember when I first learned from Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato in Okinawa. When I would move from one position in a kata to the next, he would say, "not yet, not yet, not yet..." Then, when I had shifted so much weight to one leg in the direction I was going to move that I thought I would literally fall down, he would say, "now!"

Since there are many movements in a kata, I would hear, "not yet, not yet, not yet..." many times.

I first met Shinzato Sensei seven years ago. I remember that the Winter Olympics were on. The Japanese television would show all the Japanese competitors, even if they were in 40th place.

When we move, there is a tendency to move and shift weight together -- 1, 2, 3. But when we do this, our movement will be slow because it takes time to shift weight. The way to move quickly is to shift the weight but delay the execution of the technique as long as possible ("not yet, not yet, not yet..."). By the time we execute the technique, the weight will already be shifted (or mostly). The execution of the technique is like tripping a mouse trap. Snap!

The rhythm of shifting the weight is slow. The rhythm of executing a technique can be very fast. By pre-setting the weight shift, the execution of the technique is freed.

Hearing Shinzato Sensei say, "not yet, not yet, not yet..." was one of the first things I heard and learned from him. It is still something I think about and teach all the time, thanks to him.

Don't rush. Take your time. "Not yet, not yet, not yet..."


Charles C. Goodin

Robert "Snaggy" Naoto Inouye

I would like you to read the post about Robert "Snaggy" Naoto Inouye at the Bujutsu Blogger. Snaggy passed away on July 3rd. He was a senior student of my good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata. The Bujutsu Blogger is also written by one of Nakata Sensei's students.

I had the good fortune to meet Snaggy many times, usually at lunches. I never trained with him, but got to speak to him about many Karate subjects as we ate with Nakata Sensei and sometimes other guests.

The first time I met Nakata Sensei was the Okinawan Festival. Snaggy accompanied him. This was around the year 2000 and Snaggy was healthy then... and big. I thought he was Nakata Sensei's bodyguard! What a solid bodyguard! But he was not Nakata Sensei's bodyguard, he was his dedicated student.

Snaggy had practiced Karate much longer than me and was much more advanced, skilled, strong, etc. Once in a while I would call him "Sensei" and he would instantly correct me. "I am not a Sensei," he would say, "I am a student." Yes, and quite a student. He was an example of how a student should be. He was an example of loyalty. He was an example of a student who taught and encouraged the other students.

One time I asked Snaggy, "How many Karate people have you seen outside of your dojo who osae?" Osae means "press" but is much more than that. It is a critically important control aspect of movement.

Snaggy thought deeply for several seconds. Then he said, "None."

That was hard to believe, but I'm sure that he had seen many Karate people and was keenly aware of such things. Over the years, I have found that he was right. It is very hard to find a Karate student or teacher who maintains osae.

Snaggy was very polite to me because I was his Sensei's friend. In terms of protocol, I was at his Sensei's level (as his friend) and Snaggy showed me the same respect he would show to his own Sensei. Of course, I am not at Nakata Sensei's level and I was not at Snaggy's level. But Snaggy's politeness showed me how a student should act. He was the best example of a student -- a student who was also a great teacher.

We tend to pay attention to Sensei. Books are written about them. But just as "behind every great man there is a great woman" (and vice versa), behind every great Sensei there is a great student.

When I went to the reception for Snaggy's funeral, it was a celebration of life. They brought his Harley Davidson and put his folded gi on the seat. It was really something.

Snaggy died from cancer. In his final months, I know that he was in great pain. But he never complained and was just as loyal and supportive as ever.

I could write much more. Snaggy is one of the people I truly admire in Karate. I wish that I could be as good a student as he was. That will be my goal.

One day in heaven, I hope that I can pour a cup of tea for Snaggy. At lunches, he was always the first to pour tea for the seniors (including me). I gradually learned what he was doing and tried to beat him to it. But it was hard, because he was such a conscientious student and person.


Charles C. Goodin

Just OK

This is a story.

A student performed a kata for his Sensei.

"Excellent!" exclaimed the Sensei.

The next day, the student performed the same kata again for his Sensei.

"Hmmmm, OK," said the Sensei.

The student was confused. "Sensei," he began, "yesterday when I did the kata you said 'excellent' but today you only say 'OK'. I did the kata exactly the same."

"That's the point," answered the Sensei. "Yesterday was an improvement. Today you have simply repeated the performance... there was no improvement. Yesterday it was excellent. Today it is just OK. Tomorrow, unless you improve, it will be terrible!"

We have to improve each and every day. If we are not getting better, we are getting worse. We have to aggressively seek to better ourselves -- not to be better than others, but the best that we can possibly be.


Charles C. Goodin

Drinking and Fighting

First, I know it must seem that I am a "goody two shoes" -- no drinking, no smoking, no cursing. It is not religion based, I just don't see any value in those things. And I do curse sometimes.

So here is my thought...

I was speaking to one of my students (actually, one of my sons). He was going to a nightclub, where naturally, people are drinking. One of his friends got jumped in a parking lot at a nightclub a while back and I have warned my son that public drinking and fighting go hand in hand. It is more complicated than just alcohol. There is also the issue of men fighting over women, gangs fighting over whatever, and thieves trying to steal cars, money, etc.

My son told me not to worry about him going to a nightclub because he was not going to drink. His logic was that since he would not drink, he would not get into a fight.

So I asked him, "What would you do if some guy made a move on your girlfriend or said something rude to her?" My son gave me that look, like he would beat the crap out of the guy.

Then I asked what he would do if someone or a group jumped one of his friends. He gave me the same look.

This is the same son that once told me that he wanted to fight a basketball team in high school... the whole team.

So he would not fight... unless someone messed with his girlfriend or his friends. In other words, there was a real risk of a fight, even if he did not drink at all.

The only way to avoid this risk, in my thinking, is to avoid that place. Anytime you go to a place where people, young people in particular, are drinking, there could be trouble. You have to remember that people might also be doing drugs. Drinking, drugs, and lots of raging hormones. It is a formula for violence.

It may seem like I am too old fashioned. But you have to remember that my sons are martial artists. They have trained since they were five, and my third son is very active in MMA. They have been trained to avoid the use of martial arts unless it is the last resort. Going to a place where fighting is likely conflicts with this.

I am biased. I don't like drinking. I don't like fighting either. The two make me want to curse, except I'd rather not do that either. Tomorrow I think I better work in the yard. I am so grand pa.


Charles C. Goodin

Recarpeting (Switching Styles)

My wife and I and our sons spent yesterday and today moving furniture so that our office could be painted and carpeted. It has been ten years since we've done this (because there are only 3 of us in the office) so it was a big job. Our furniture fits perfectly and it all had to be moved out of the office into the hallway today. Then the carpeting people could do their work.

So here is the Karate analogy. Teaching students who previously learned another style is like recarpeting an office -- you have to move all the furniture before you can install the carpet. The furniture is good, it just all has to be moved.

A new student is like an empty office. You can paint and install carpet easily -- there is nothing to move or in the way. But with transfer students, you have to work hard just to clear things.

For transfer students, just go along with the process. Don't worry, the furniture is brought back in. It is not thrown away. But it must be moved so that the new carpet can be installed -- so that the basics can be taught. Don't be attached to what you learned before. You can't install a new carpet with a big desk sitting in the middle of the room -- even if it's a great desk.

Tomorrow we have to bring back all the boxes we put into storage. What a big job! Ten years ago I had to do a lot myself. Thank goodness my sons have grown up and can help now (and are much stronger than me).


Charles C. Goodin

Karate "god"

Once in a while I hear people talk about this person or that in such exaggerated terms that they seem to think he or she is a Karate "god" or somehow superhuman.

I have written before that what makes a great Karate expert great, is hard work, dedication and deep thought. It takes a swimming pool full of sweat and a lifetime of effort. I don't think that anyone becomes truly skilled at Karate easily.

I recently said to one of my friends (after discussing the Karate "god" phenomenon), that if I were a "god" I would heal the sick and feed the hungry, not practice Karate.

I know many fine Karate Sensei. They all put their pants on one leg at a time, and I'm sure that they would admit that their farts stink too (as in the local expression, "What, your farts no stink?"). In other words, they are all human.

Karate is for people. Great Karate skill is a sign of hard work, not divinity. We should respect great Karate experts, not deify them.


Charles C. Goodin

Cursing 2

I thought about it. We should not curse in the dojo, whether children are present or not. Cursing could offend adult students too and create an uncomfortable atmosphere.

I have an idea. Before you curse in the dojo, drop and do 100 push ups. I'll bet most people would think of a better way to express themselves.


Charles C. Goodin

Cursing in the Dojo (Don't)

What do these words have in common? The f-word, the s-word, the d-word, and the a-word (among others). They have no place in the dojo or in Karate events with children present.

I recently attended a Karate function where the punchline of a story was a compound swear word ("bs"). Children were present at this event, pretty young children.

As Karate teachers, assistants, and students, we have to observe rules of courtesy. But even common courtesy would tell you that swearing in the presence of children is not a good thing. It reflects negatively on the swearer, his or her Sensei, fellow students, and dojo.

There are so many positive ways to express yourself. The small handful of swear words are such a tiny part of the English language. Unfortunately, they seem to be a big part of some people's vocabulary.

Don't get me wrong. If a werewolf jumped out on a dark night and was about to attack me, I probably would curse.

But in the dojo and at Karate functions with children, we should be on our best behavior.

If a yudansha or senior in my dojo continually cursed in front of children and would not stop despite my requests, I would expel him... really. I want the children to look up to and emulate the yudansha and seniors, not learn how to swear.

I also understand that an accidental swear word might slip out (like when someone gets kicked in the groin). Accidents happen. I am concerned about people who swear as part of conversation. But even when hit, students should be courteous and in control of themselves.

If you get kicked in the groin, remember this old saying: "Even a tall man will bow down when he is kicked in the testicles." (I think it sounded better in the Ryukyu dialect.)


Charles C. Goodin

Why Some Say Jewelry Is OK

When I wrote No Jewelry, I expected to hear from some people defending the wearing of jewelry in Karate class. I was surprised that no one made such arguments. Perhaps this blog attracts more traditional Karate students.

But just for discussion's sake, here is the rationale: It is OK to wear jewelry in Karate classes where the students make no contact with each other.

Of course, I would not agree with this. A student wearing earrings could snag them on the sleeve of his or her own gi. Jewelry can easily injure the wearer (and others).

But the point that I thought was interesting is that there are Karate classes where the students do not make contact with each other. What? Karate with no contact?

It gets better. I have also heard of Karate classes where the students do not need to know the meaning of kata.

No contact, no meanings? What do the students do, just go through the motions? Exactly!

But I guess that they could look good with their jewelry. (Again, I would not recommend wearing jewelry in Karate class at all, contact or not.)

In my dojo, we do not even wear patches. I recently saw students with patches running all the way down both sides of their gi bottoms -- both sides. That's a lot of patches.

Don't forget -- when you see students wearing many patches, someone is selling them (the patches). One patch would seem enough to me, and even that is one too many.


Charles C. Goodin

More On Nails

This is a follow up on Fingernail Courtesy. I received an email from a reader in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She read about a case there in which a person was blinded in one eye as a result of an injury with a toenail.

Could you imagine getting kicked in the eye by a person with long toenails?

If a student has long nails, perhaps nothing bad will happen. But say that once out of 100 times there will be an injury. Then it is just a matter of time. And if you have 100 students with long nails, someone will get hurt at each training (1 out of 100).

Now imagine 100,000 students in the United States. If they all have long nails, 1,000 injuries will result in just one training day.

It is a numbers game. When an unsafe condition exists, people will get hurt.

Keeping your nails short and clean is a safety issue. It is also an issue of courtesy because you do not want to injure your fellow students. Courtesy rules often have an underlying safety rationale.

So keep your nails short and clean! It is a good idea to have the seniors periodically check the nails of the students.

Except... there is an exception in some dojo permitting women to have longer fingernails, because they can be used in the self defense context. This is up to the dojo heads. I am not giving any advice about this. But even then, it is important to keep the nails clean and properly trimmed.

Talking about nails, I had a Filipino grandpa (calabash by marriage) who kept one thumbnail really long and sharp, presumably for use as a weapon if needed. It was almost like a small knife. This is something to watch out for.


Charles C. Goodin

Kapakahi Stance

Last night I was teaching and blocking and striking pattern in naname zenkutsu dachi (both feet are diagonal and you lean to one side with your weight about 70/30% -- like the second movement of Kusanku (the Yara version).

Anyway, many students have a hard time with this stance, particularly when we shift from side to side. We pivot on the balls of our feet but there are always students who pivot on their heels, or one ball and one heel, or "any kine" way. Naturally, some students end up with their feet not parallel.

Last night I told one of students, "your stance is all kapakahi."

That's the thing about living in Hawaii. We use all sorts of words from many languages. I think this one is actually Hawaiian and I even found a definition for it online at Encarta (see http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_561536158/kapakahi.html).

Anyway, it means all mixed up, or messed up, or jammed up... wrong. A kapakahi stance is not a good thing.

Kapakahi Karate would be pretty bad too!


Charles C. Goodin

Itosu Sensei Returns!

This is another story.

Oh my goodness! Itosu Sensei returned from the past, this time to my dojo here in Honolulu, Hawaii, and by coincidence you are here too! How about that? As before, he miraculously speaks English.

What an opportunity! We each get to ask him a question... only one question. So think hard. What will you ask him. I will tell you what I would ask. You will have to scroll down to see my question.

I would ask, "Itosu Sensei, can I get you anything?"

You have to remember that Itosu Sensei was quite elderly when he passed away. He has taken a long trip through time and space to come all the way to Hawaii. First things must come first. My obligation as a senior in our dojo is to show courtesy to our guest. So that would be my first and only question.

Of course, this is just another story. But there will be times when Karate seniors visit your dojo. What will you ask them?

But if I had a second question, I think I would ask, "Don't you think that the opening sequence of Pinan Shodan is pretty hard for young students? And there are so many shuto uke techniques in nekko ashi dachi. Couldn't you have made a simpler kata series?"


Charles C. Goodin

No Training, But We Have Class

I mentioned to our students tonight that we do not have training this coming Wednesday evening because of the Veteran's Day holiday. Our facility is closed. But we do have class.

Class is something you have all the time. It is important for our students to conduct themselves as ladies and gentlemen. Our students need to show respect to themselves and conduct themselves accordingly. Please see: Okinawa's Bushi: Karate Gentlemen.

I try to be careful when I give notices of holidays to say that we will not have training on a certain day, rather than we will not have class.

It is a small thing, but another opportunity to emphasize a point to the students.


Charles C. Goodin

Fingernail Courtesy

If you are going to Karate class on Monday, you should cut your fingernails (and toenails) on Sunday. If you cut your fingernails right before class, the edges will be sharp and you could scratch one of the other students.

This is an example of courtesy -- you should think ahead to help avoid injuring and inconveniencing others.

You should also make sure that your hands, feet and nails are clean. Dirt in your fingernails or toenails could cause an infection if you scratch someone. With flu being a global problem, keeping your hands and feet clean can also help to prevent the spread of disease.

If a student follows common courtesy with respect to his fingernails and toenails, he will probably also do so in other ways. The opposite is also probably true.


Charles C. Goodin

Sorry 'Bout That

OK, I realize that sometimes I seem a little sarcastic, dark, perhaps even twisted. Or maybe I seem schizophrenic: one minute writing about Karate techniques and values, and the other putting Itosu Sensei in a time machine.

It is just that I meet many people, some of whom are the best Karate people you could possibly hope to meet, and some who are... colorful in their interpretation of Karate. The people I meet are part of the pallet with which I write.

I will try to stay more on the positive path because I realize that writing about bad situations -- such as the over commercialization of Karate -- accomplishes very little. Traditional people tend to get together and talk about the woes of commercialism and commercial people probably get together and take about how "old fut" and weak the traditional people are. Neither position is entirely correct.

And I am sure that if Itosu Sensei did appear today in my dojo, he would wonder about out Pinan and Naihanchi kata. I am certain that he would ask who changed them. My friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, learned from Chosin Chibana who learned from Itosu Sensei. When I observe Nakata Sensei's Naihanchi and Pinan, I am pretty sure that they have changed very little from Itosu Sensei's time. Chibana Sensei learned from Itosu when Itosu was elderly and Nakata Sensei learned from Chibana Sensei when Chibana Sensei was elderly. Chibana Sensei and Nakata Sensei tried very hard to preserve their kata.

My own kata have taken a less direct path through more generations of Karate teachers since Itosu Sensei's time. Some of my own teachers have been know to experiment with techniques -- so have I. If my Sensei tells me to change a movement in a kata, I will do so until he tells me to change it back. No problem. The kata are not like the Ten Commandments to me. I will experiment with kata for movement's sake, but not for tournment's sake. I care about how a kata "moves", not how it looks to other people.

And I also interpret each movement in a kata as representative of a range of movements... not just a single movement with a single interpretation. Each kata movement represents a range of movements, each of which has a range of interpretations.

So who is modern and who is traditional? Compared to Nakata Sensei, I must seem very modern. And yet, I think of myself as being very traditional (or at least I am trying to be so). It all is relative. Traditional or modern, commercial or teaching for free.

We all are practicing Karate.

I don't have a time machine and cannot summon Itosu Sensei. Fortunately, I have many senior friends who can share their interpretations and those of their teachers.

I will try to write more positively... at least a little.


Charles C. Goodin

Reinstating Itosu Sensei

This is a story.

A magical time machine was found in a Karate dojo and presto, out stepped Itosu Sensei who had been transported to the present. Also by magic, he spoke perfect English. Realizing he was in a dojo, he was curious to see how the art had developed.

But before he could go inside to watch an ongoing class, the dojo manager stopped him. "Are you interesting in learning Karate?" he asked.

"Why of course," said Itosu.

"Are you a new student or returning?"

"I guess I would be returning. I trained a long time ago."

"Well," said the dojo manager, "we have this policy for returning students."

"Oh, what is it?" asked Itosu.

"You have to pay monthly dues and dan promotion fees and annual certification fees from when you stopped training until the present. What rank were you?"

"I did not have a rank," replied Itosu, "but it seems that most of my students and even theirs have become 10th degree black belts."

"Fine," said the dojo manager, "we will say that you are a ten dan." "When did you train last?"

"That would have been in 1915," answered Itosu.

"1915! Well this is certainly my day. To reinstate you at your dan ranking, with the back tuition, back promotion fees, back annual certification fees, title fees, and of course back interest and late fees computed to 1915, that will be 10 million dollars!"

"10 million dollars just to watch your dojo?" asked Itosu.

"Fair is fair," explained the dojo manager, "we just can't have returning students pop up or come in from other organizations. We have to maintain the quality of Karate."

"Is that what you're doing?" asked Itosu. "Karate certainly has changed."

"Oh," said the dojo manager, "how much did you charge in your time?"

"Nothing at all. Students paid by their hard work and dedication over their entire lifetimes. I only had a few students."

"Well you see," said the dojo manager, "we are professionals now." "I have an MBA! Oh, and don't forget that you'll need to purchase a gi from our dojo store and the appropriate patches. A red belt will have to be special ordered. Don't worry, we get a quantity discount on those. But the embroidery will cost you extra."

With that Itosu Sensei stepped back into the time machine and returned home to Okinawa. And the dojo manager went back to work.

The end. Lucky that this is just make believe.


Charles C. Goodin

Starting Over

This is a story.

A new student was getting ready for his first class at a Karate dojo after training for 10 years in another style. As he got ready, he spoke to an older man who was also getting ready for the class.

"First time here?" asked the older man.

"Yep," said the student. "Even though I trained for 10 years in another style of Karate and I already know a lot, I want to start over."

"Me too," said the man.

"Is today your first class?" asked the new student?


Just then, a senior student called the class to attention. The older man took his place and the students all bowed to him.

The new student did not know what to say. He was so embarrassed. When the other students had left after class, he went up to the Sensei and asked, "Why did you say that you are starting over when you are the Sensei?"

"After ten years you are starting over today with us," answered the Sensei. "I start over each and every day. Each day I am a new student trying to learn, trying to understand Karate. I am always starting over. What I did yesterday seems so wrong... I see nothing but errors. Today I am starting over. Right this minute I am starting over."


Charles C. Goodin

Reacting Before the Attack

My point about knives is that there is no time to react to the blade. People don't stab or slash from far away. They tend to get close and attack when you are not looking. By then, it is almost certainly too late to defend, and after you are cut your ability to defend will be lessened (to say the least).

But it is the same with a punch. Generally, an attacker is not going to announce that he is going to punch you. You might only get to see the first punch when it is about to hit you. Or you might get falsecracked and not see it at all... you will just feel it.

Whatever the attack might be, we have to try our best to be alert enough to react to the body motions or signals that are given before the attack. You have to be able to perceive when a person is going for his knife or about to throw a punch. I grant that this is not an easy thing. Some people might attack with no visible warning at all. But generally, I think that there might be some signals or warning signs.

I remember that my Aikido Sensei, Sadao Yoshioka, used to say that we have a third eye at the back of our heads, and with this, we could sense when someone was attacking from the rear. I'm sure that he did not mean that we have an actual eye, but rather that we can cultivate a keen sense of awareness through practice.

When something does not look right, it probably isn't. If someone is approaching and you get this "funny feeling", perhaps it is time to step a little to the right or left, to cross the street, to look around to see who else might be lurking nearby, to take in inventory of nearby objects that could be used as obstructions or weapons, etc. But if you are talking or texting on your cell phone, you probably will not even notice the person until he is right up on you. By that time, he could draw a knife or other weapon, or punch you.

Karate is little like an airbag. When you are in an accident, the airbag helps a lot. But the most important thing in driving is not just to have a good airbag, but to drive safely and avoid accidents. You don't want to count on your airbag and you should hope not to have to use your Karate techniques.

Karate is not just a last resort because it is dangerous, it is a last resort because you should have exhausted all methods of avoidance first.

Awareness is the most important part of Karate. To be aware means to be watchful, mindful, vigilant. The antonym is to be oblivious. No matter how skilled you might be, you will not get to use any self defense techniques if you are oblivious to your surroundings and the people around you.

It is also important to be aware of how you conduct yourself in daily life. Are you polite and respectful of others, or are you oblivious to that too?

Through awareness, we might have an additional second or two to react to an attack. That might make all the difference. Or if we are lucky, we might be able to take steps to prevent the attack (by moving, for example).

Be... * A * W * A * R * E *


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Posts: More on Knives You Don't See

In response to my post about Knives You Don't See, I received the following from Sensei Don Roberts. You can read an article by Roberts Sensei in the The Oku Technique. Roberts Sensei has written a fine series of books about bunkai that I really admire. They are called Tigikai: Theories and Analyses of Isshin-Ryu Karate Do Kata. If you would like to order books in the series, you can contact Roberts Sensei at Gambatteisshin@aol.com.

I had the pleasure of meeting Roberts Sensei and Mrs. Roberts here in Hawaii. Here is his response:

Hi Charles-san,

I saw on your face book site that you were knife collector. Me too, especially fighting knives. There is just something about them that is fascinating. We also teach defense against the knife, as well as some techniques using the knife. I have a little story about our training I think you might be interested in.

I used to have a young policeman come by the dojo in the morning before he went on shift. In addition to standard training, we worked on things he might encounter during his work day. One thing we emphasized was observing body language, especially if the subject turned so as to hide his strong hand. This could indicate he was reaching for a knife carried in the back pocket (which is how most people carry them down here). One day he responded to a call to assist EMT's as they attempted to escort an "unbalanced" person to the hospital. As the EMT's were leading the person to the ambulance, my guy noticed the body language we had worked on in class. Immediately he drew his gun, and loudly yelled "Knife!" The EMT's leaped to the side just as the individual produced a hooked linoleum knife. The knife was dropped and the guy was cuffed. My guy's quick thinking saved the situation without anyone being hurt.

Take care and keep up the good work.

Don Roberts

Easier to Teach Goju-Ryu Students

Sometimes I get students who have studied other styles. I have found that it is generally easier for me to teach a Goju-Ryu student than a Shotokan or Shorin-Ryu student. Do you know why?

The techniques and kata I teach are somewhat similar to Shotokan or Shorin-Ryu. When I teach a student with a background in such styles, he sees me but interprets what I teach in light of what he has already learned. Actually, he doesn't see me -- he sees his own projection of me.

When I teach a Goju-Ryu student, my techniques and kata are pretty different from what he has learned. So when he sees me, he can actually see me. There is less a chance of him seeing his own projection of me.

Does this make sense?

Changing styles is a very challenging process and takes a great deal of commitment, hard work, and time. It also takes a sharp eye. You have to be able to actually "see" your instructor, not your own projection of what he is doing based on your prior training.

Do you know who I have found learns our style most easily? People who have studied hula.


Charles C. Goodin

Four Great Gifts

This is a story.

A great Karate Sensei had four senior students who had each trained with him for most of their lives. Each day he would tell them, "I am going to leave you a great gift when I die."

Because the Sensei lived to be quite old, he repeated this promise this many, many times. The first three students became lazy and greedy, and constantly dreamed about the great gift they would receive when their teacher passed away. The fourth just kept training.

Finally, the Sensei passed away. A special meeting was held at the dojo. The Sensei's good friend, the head Sensei of another dojo, called all the students together and before them all, presented the gifts to the four top students.

He called the first student to the front of the dojo. "Your Sensei have given you this dojo building."

The first student was so happy that he ran outside and went to town to celebrate.

The second student was called. "Your Sensei has given you his association."

The second student was so happy that he ran outside and went to town to celebrate with the first student.

The third student was called. "Your Sensei has given you his only daughter's hand in marriage."

The third student was so happy that he ran outside and went to town to celebrate with the first and second students.

Finally, The fourth student was called. "Your Sensei apologizes. He has no possessions left. The only things he could give you are his techniques and teaching methods. But these are not things to give, these are things that you earned by your own hard training. So he gives you nothing but his compliments and best wishes."

The fourth student bowed and went back to his training.

Time passed.

The first student found out that the dojo building was heavily mortgaged. He had to sell it just to pay of the debt. He was so upset he quit Karate altogether.

The second student found that all the members of the association quit when the Sensei died. Because there were no dues, he had to close it. He was so upset he quit Karate altogether.

The third student actually inherited the Sensei's remaining possessions because of his marriage to his daughter, but she was lazy and liked to buy expensive things. He was broke by the time he divorced her. He was so upset he quit Karate altogether.

The fourth student just kept on training and teaching and was very happy. Seeing what had happened, he told his students each day:

"I have nothing to give you except what I am teaching. If you enjoy Karate training, you will always be happy. If you are looking forward to anything else, you might as well quit now."


Charles C. Goodin

My Son, the Dojo Cho

If you've read this blog for a while you will know that I put my second son, Charles, in charge of the dojo a couple of years ago. Charles will be 24 this month. Since we share the same first name, we would call him "Baby Charles" and "Little Charles" when he was young. Now he is 6 feet tall and I am only 5 feet 8 inches tall. So I am the little one!

I was speaking to a senior instructor recently and he asked me, "So how is that going?"

I replied that it was going great. And it is.

It is just that it is not the conventional thing to do. Traditionally, an instructor tends to remain in charge of his dojo until he is quite old, or even until he dies. Then, depending on the situation, the students have to go through a stressful period of adjustment. Sometimes dojo and organizations are even split.

For me, the value and joy of Karate is in the training. I can do that whether I am the head of the dojo or someone else is the head. My position does not change my ability to train and teach. And in any event, I am still the senior in the dojo and my son and other instructors consult with me when they have questions.

When I put my son in charge of the dojo, he became the dojo cho, and I became his dad. I did not put him in charge so that I could acquire a greater title. I just put him in charge. He runs the dojo and makes the decisions. If he wants to promote someone, he can.

To tell the truth, he is a tougher promoter than me. He is a real technician and an excellent teacher. He also has excellent body dynamics. I often have to urge him to teach in a simple way first (particularly with respect to koshi). His koshi movements have become pretty compressed.

I, on the other hand, tend to teach koshi simply and compress (shrink and streamline) the movements only as the student progresses.

Anyway, I feel that if you do things the same way as everyone else, you will probably get the same results. The succession process in Karate dojo is often poorly coordinated and unnecessarily stressful. By putting my son in charge when he is young and I am relatively young too (51), I have time to work with him and give him (and the other instructors) support.

When I put my son in charge of the dojo, it was like I become the dojo grandfather. Now I am an actual grandfather too!


Charles C. Goodin

The Cost of Karate

Sometimes I hear about Karate classes that are pretty expensive and dan promotion fees in the many thousands of dollars. Karate can be expensive.

My Karate class is not very expensive at all. However, the real cost for any Karate student is not just the tuition paid but the opportunity cost. The student is not just paying money, he is also losing out on other things that he could be doing. For example, instead of learning Karate, the student could be learning Judo, boxing, or a foreign language, or even pursuing a graduate degree. Or he could be working at a part time job, or even writing a novel. Or he could be tending an elderly parent or caring for a newborn child.

My point is that tuition and even promotion fees are not the only costs in Karate. Come to think of it, some people also spend quite a lot of money to participate in tournaments in their own hometowns, in other parts of their country, or even internationally.

The cost of Karate also includes what else you could be doing.

Of course, many people study Karate and also do many other things successfully. Practicing Karate does not mean you cannot do other things. But during the time you are practicing Karate, you usually cannot be doing other things -- things that could be quite worthwhile.

For me, Karate training is more than worth the actual costs and opportunity costs involves. When I train, it is exactly what I want to be doing.

My teachers here in Hawaii taught me from an early age that I should never expect to get rich (financially) from Karate. The rewards of Karate training and teaching, to me, are not financial -- they are personal. Getting in good shape and developing self defense skills are also a benefit.

The form of Karate I practice, Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu, is also intellectually and physically challenging to me. Each time I practice and teach it is always new. Sometimes I watch my sons, daughter, and students and marvel at their movements and dynamics.

I hope that all Karate students are doing what they want to do. Life is too short to miss out on opportunities.


Charles C. Goodin