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1650+ Posts... and Counting

A Day in the Life...

I recently went to the funeral of a family friend, a man who was 101. He led a full and rich life, so the funeral was really a celebration.

Like many funerals, the family had made a photo collage showing photographs from the man's long life. A caption read: "A day in the life of a great man."

A life is made up of so many years, so many days, so many hours, so many minutes, so many seconds. When we get caught up in the day to day pressures and deadlines, we tend to lose sight of this. We let time slip by.

If a photo was taken of your life today, would the caption read: "A day in the life of a great man"?

Or would it read, "Too busy," "Not enough time", or "Maybe tomorrow"?

What would the caption read?

We can't change the captions for our yesterdays, but we do have editorial control of our tomorrows. We can try our best to make each day, "A day in the life of a great man!"

... like my family friend who lived to 101!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Most Important Weapon

Various weapons arts are practiced in Karate. They include arts covering the use of the bo, sai, tonfa, nunchaku, tinbe, tekko, and many other weapons. Some of these are improvised type weapons (such as the bo and nunchaku). But others are weapons per se (such as the sai, which was a policeman's weapon).

The idea, in Karate, is to be able to use whatever is at hand as a tool for self defense and escape.

In this regard, one of the most important "weapons" we can carry is a cellular phone. I made sure that my children had them so that they could contact me, or emergency personnel, in case of a problem.

If you are driving and a stranger is following you, you can call the police and drive to the nearest police station. Or, if someone was lurking outside you house, you could call for help.

We often think about weapons as things we can hit or cut with. But they are also things that help us to avoid or escape danger. A cellular phone is an essential weapon.

In a strange coincidence, my cellular phone is a Katana. Ha!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Not A Good Fighter

This is a story.

A hot headed Karate student asked a senior about the fighting skills of a particular person. The senior replied, "He is not a good fighter."

Filled with confidence, the student went up and challenged this person. When the person refused, the student launched an attack, sure that he could beat him. But with a single punch the person dropped the student and knocked him out.

When he awoke, the student protested to the senior saying, "You said he wasn't a good fighter!"

"He isn't," answered the senior. "He's a great fighter!"

Actually, I have heard about this kind of thing happening. Such a hot headed student is really lucky that he wasn't killed. But this was just a story.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Belts and Rank?

If you have read this blog for a while you know my view about belts and rank. I probably sound like a one note song on this subject.

Krista De Castella, a student at Sensei Morio Higaonna's Naha dojo recently wrote about this subject at her Memoirs of a Grasshopper blog. See:


I remember that when Higaonna Sensei visited my dojo, he asked why so many students wore white belts. When I explained that I give no kyu ranks and that all students wear white belts until they become shodan, he gave a big happy smile.

Last night at our dojo, we used belts in an excercise to "twist and wind" when beginning a block. Two people held belts and a student pulled on the belts using his lats and back muscles. This is almost like lifting weights with a cable machine... but with belts and partners instead of weights.

Now to me, that's a good use of belts!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

How Long For Black Belt?

A prospective student met with a Karate Sensei and asked, "How long will it take for me to become a black belt?"

The instructor thought about it and replied, "It really depends, but it could take about 10 years."

"But I have already practiced another style of Karate for 5 years and have a black belt in that style," clarified the prospective student.

"In that case it could take 20 years!" declared the instructor.

It can take 10 years to undo the bad habits formed in 5 years. In other words, it might take 10 years to get the student back to zero.

Besides, who asks about belt issues? There are so many more interesting and important issues to discuss. When I am asked about belts, my eyes glaze over. Perhaps that is why we often wear no belts at all in our dojo. Students can train in a gi bottom and T-shirt, in which case they wear no belt. If they wear a gi top they really should wear a belt, but my second son, who is in charge of the dojo, doesn't care.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Could Have Done Better

A student was taking video of his Sensei performing kata.

"Sensei," the student asked, "May I put video of you doing kata ten years ago on the internet?"

"No," answered the Sensei. "I am not satisfied with that video because I have learned since then."

"How about film from last year?"

The answer was the same.

"How about the film I am taking right now? Surely that must be OK."

"No, tomorrow I will have realized that I could have done better."

Some Sensei -- the best ones in my experience -- never seem to be satisfied with themselves. They are not satisfied even with what they are doing right now... it could be better.

Other instructors, I have observed, seem to talk and talk about their accomplishments from years, even decades ago. Looking back too much, one might strain his neck!

There is no end to learning in Karate. One step leads to another and another. But this requires constant work.

Don't be satisfied. Everyone can do better.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Kvetch Your Lats

I am taking a little break from Karate literature and reading a book on Yiddish. Perhaps we could say, "Your lats you might kvetch!" or "Too much would it be for you to kvetch your lats now and then?"

I actually am quite fond of the tried and true "squeeze your rats."

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Getting More Students

This is a story.

An aging Karate instructor -- a master at that -- called his senior students together to discuss a grave problem. "Our enrollment is declining," he reported. "I have called you together to discuss what we can do. I have also asked a business consultant to sit in our meeting."

Various suggestions were made by the senior instructors but the consensus was that having fewer students was actually better in that more time could be spent with each student. Quality was preferable to quantity.

The instructor looked disappointed and asked the business consultant for his opinion.

"Well, I have observed your dojo for several weeks. You have an excellent product. Your Karate is top rate. In fact, that is the problem. Your standards are too high and you are too tough on students. That is why so many students quit after only a few weeks."

"So what are you saying?" asked the instructor?

"Cut your standards in half and you will double your enrollment and your retention rate."

The seniors erupted in outrage! It got so bad that the instructor had to ask them to leave the room. Finally he was alone with the business consultant.

"Let me get this right. We cut our standards in half and we double our enrollment?"

"Definitely."

"What if we cut our standards by 90%?" asked the instructor.

"Why then your enrollment will increase tenfold and hardly any students will quit before they earn their black belt, which you could offer after just 6 months of training, for a hefty fee, of course."

"But what about the seniors? They would never go for this."

"Fire them all. Expel them from the dojo and promote lower black belts to higher ranks. They will be happy and won't know any better. Of course, you can charge them hefty fees too."

"Let me get this straight," said the instructor, "the more I lower my standards the more successful I will be?"

"Exactly right. And you can charge higher tuition and belt fees too. People like to feel like they are improving. You will be helping them to do that."

So what do you think that the instructor did?

This is just a story, thank goodness! What would you do in this situation?

Many years ago, one of my good friends was encouraged by other instructors to increase his tuition. He promptly cut his tuition in half!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Okinawa Survey -- Please Help

Aloha,

One of my Sensei's students is conducting a survey on behalf of Okinawa Prefecture to ascertain overseas people's interest and the availability of information on Okinawa. The survey is at:

http://www.my3q.com/home2/264/benson_jp/49299.phtml

It should only take a few minutes to complete. Can you please help by taking the survey and passing on the address to anyone who might be interested? It would really help my Sensei's student.

Thank you very much!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Replace A Bad Habit With A Good Habit

This is very important (at least it is to me).

I have a student who raises his shoulders too much. This is a very common problem, especially among men who tend to put too much strength into their movements. They raise their shoulders in an effort to generate more power -- but in the process, actually slow themselves down and generate less power.

I am always telling this student, "lower your shoulders," "lower your shoulders," "lower your shoulders," ... I must seem to say it all the time.

I had the same problem so I can sympathize. My shoulders were always raised.

But it suddenly dawned on me -- when I was working in my son's yard -- that I should not repeat "lower your shoulders" over and over. That would be like picking weeds but not planting grass.

You can pick all the weeds in a yard, but unless there is good grass to grow in its place, you will just get more weeds. You have to also plant good grass.

So instead of saying, "lower your shoulders," I am now saying, "squeeze your lats."

When you squeeze your lats, it is just about impossible to raise your shoulders. Try it. And when you raise your shoulders, it is also just about impossible to squeeze your lats. The two are mutually exclusive.

So the point is that you have to replace a bad habit with a good habit -- you have to dig out the weeds but also plant grass. You can't just say "stop, stop, stop". You have to also teach the student how to do the correct thing.

Instead of stopping the bad habit of raising the shoulders, you should encourage the good habit of squeezing the lats. One is negative, the other positive.

Like I said, this is important to me, because I do not like being negative.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Charles Goodin Promoted!

Read about it here:

http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/20090311/GETPUBLISHED/903110429/-1/neighborhoods04

(Scroll down)

















That is my second son, Charles, who is the head of our dojo. I am his proud assistant.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Annual Sugar Cunsumption

How much sugar do you think the average person consumes in the United States each year:

  1. 7 pounds
  2. 25 pounds
  3. 150 pounds
  4. 1 ton
Actually, I could not find a current answer, but in the 1990s, the answer was about 150 pounds! Remember that just one Pepsi each day would add up to about 33 pounds in a year.

And I am not sure if that 150 pound figure is for total sugar (including sugar naturally occurring in foods) or just added sugar.

How much sugar does your body need to be healthy? Have you ever thought about it? Think back to the food charts you had to study in school. I don't think that sugar was one of the food groups.

I also understand that carbohydrates, such a bread and rice, are converted to sugar in the body. I don't think that such converted sugars are included in the 150 pound figure.

I have tried to cut out all sugar in my drinks -- except for a little fruit juice, which I dilute. But that was just the start. Last weekend I did a strange thing (for me). I did not put syrup on my pancakes, because it just tasted too sweet. I used to pour the syrup on my pancakes all the time. Now it is too much.

So less sugar is my new motto. There has also been an unexpected benefit -- we have less soda cans to recycle. I brew my tea, which means there are no bottles to deal with. And that means that fewer cans or bottles have to be made in the first place.

For me, it all comes down to control. As a Karate student, I try to become skilled and get into good shape. Controlling my diet is just as important as training regularly. If I can't control my sugar intake, then how strong am I? Am I just a victim to a sweet tooth? If I can train hard in Karate, then I can watch my diet too.

By the way, if the 150 pound figure is right, that means that an average person would consume 1,500 pounds in ten years. I don't know about you, but at my age, 10 years seem to go by pretty quickly.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Fighting Sugar Update

In Fighting Sugar, I described my battle with sugar. I stopped drinking soda about 5 months ago, after a near lifetime of addiction. As I mentioned, if you drink just one Pepsi each day, that's about 33 pounds of sugar in a year. I could drink more than one, particularly at the movies.

I realized that much of my sugar intake was in drinks. So I stopped drinking soda and instead drank brewed iced tea with only one tablespoon of honey in a large pitcher. About 3 weeks ago I noticed that the tea tasted really good so I asked my wife how much honey she put in the pitcher that time. She replied that she had forgotten to put any honey. I finally was tasting just the tea.

So now I drink iced tea with no sugar or honey at all... and I like it. I will drink some fruit juice once in a while, but I usually dilute it because it tastes too sweet.

I have thought about it and I now think that sugar is like a drug. The sugar producers want us to consume as much of it as possible. However, I have never heard a doctor say, "You need more sugar in your diet." Just the opposite.

Recently, my good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, sent me an email with information about how sugar causes cancer cells to grow. This makes a lot of sense. I think that sugar must be like fertilizer for all sorts of harmful things.

So why do we consume so much? Probably because we just do not think about the consequences.

As Karate students, we should try our best to be healthy and in good shape. Every serious weightlifter or body builder I have ever met has said that diet is just as important as working out. Serious athletes carefully watch what they eat.

So should we. What good is self defense if we destroy ourselves with a reckless diet?

I still enjoy some cake here and there, especially if my wife or daughter make them, but I do not crave or miss sugar. I think that my immune system has been working better too, which would make sense if sugar is basically a fertilizer for sickness and disease.

I will keep you informed of my progress.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Fukyugata Ichi Movement Principles

Later this week, I am going to guest teach a class of a friend of mine. the subject will Fukyugata Ichi Movement Principles. Here is my outline:

  • To block/strike from where the hands are
  • To move by falling
  • To turn without turning
  • Hanmi (slanted body alignment)
  • To fold/squeeze the body, delayed
  • To draw the feet (zig zag)
  • To move on a line (as with a bo)
  • Timing of block/strike and foot placement/shifting the weight
  • Elbows as if tied with rubber bands
  • Bounding energy
  • Koshi...
To me, Fukyugata Ichi is like origami!

I enjoy guest teaching, as it gives me an opportunity to work on the way I explain and demonstrate the principles of movement and body dynamics.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Memoirs of a Grasshopper Blog

I recently was introduced to Krista de Castella's Memoirs of a Grasshopper blog. She is a student of Sensei Morio Higaonna at his dojo in Naha, Okinawa.

I visited Higaonna Sensei two years ago, and it was good to see photos of Higaonna Sensei and his students at the blog.

I had actually met Ms. de Castella at the dojo of Sensei Jann Aki here in Hawaii. What a small world!

I recommend that you visit the Memoirs of a Grasshopper blog.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Makiwara

This Guest Post is by my friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata. Nakata Sensei is the head of the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate Association in Hawaii. He was a student of Chosin (Choshin) Chibana in Shorin-Ryu, and also studied Ryukyu Kobudo under Sensei Fumio Nagaishi. When he was a young man, he studied Wado-Ryu Karate under Sensei Walter Nishioka.

- - - - - - - - - -

Makiwara

Makiwara translated is rice straw (wara) that is bound or tied together (maki). Most Karateka today think of makiwara as being a planted wrapped post that is used for striking, but there are many different types of makiwara. In the old days, there were vertically hanging makiwara (like a heavy bag), horizontally hanging makiwara, the standing post makiwara, and round standing post makiwara normally used for blocking. For this discussion, I will use the term makiwara referring to the standing post.

Makiwara is more a Japanese term and in Okinawa it is machiwara, but Chibana Chosin Sensei and most of the other Okinawan teachers in the 1960s called it makiwara. The Okinawan teachers considered makiwara training an essential tool for developing strong punches, but it could also be used for kicks, strikes, and blocking development. Ninety percent of the time it was used for working on one's punches.

The standard makiwara is a tapered 2X4, which in height is about one's solar plexus, but there was a tendency to place it higher. The taller the makiwara, the more flex. Many of the old masters were short, but had high punches. The shoulder height punches were suppose to be punches to the solar plexus (kosen) or the solar plexus line (kosen no sen). These high punches is readily seen in film clips of the old teachers performing Kata. This is a direct result of punching makiwara that is too high.

Regardless of height, a good makiwara must have some flex. Chibana Sensei would say that one may not want to hit a stiff makiwara, but one would be more willing to punch a softer makiwara. He cautioned that a stiff or too rigid makiwara was detrimental to one's health. If a makiwara did not give with a punch because it was too stiff, the power or shock wave would reverse back into the person hitting the makiwara. A makiwara must have flex, but with some resistance.

The Chibana method of punching the makiwara is when one punches the makiwara and bends the makiwara, one must hold the bend of the makiwara with that punch. If one hits a makiwara that is too stiff, one could develop 'kime', but without penetration. In other words, too much of an instant focus (lockup) on contact results in the punch being only a surface hit. A flexible makiwara with a spring like resistance, enables one to develop 'kikomi', which is kime with penetration. To develop a strong kikomi, one must hit the makiwara integrating the timing of a strong upright posture with body mechanics (koshi [hips] and/or hara [pelvic carriage or lower abdominal]), concise breathing, and a strong stance. When one punches a stiff makiwara without trying to penetrate, this practice just hardens the knuckles and strengthens the wrist.

In executing a punch, the fist is held at a palms up position until the elbow is straightened. As the elbow straightens, the fist is twisted instantaneously to a palms down position dropping in the knuckle, which straightens the force that is being transmitted. If one turns the fist too early, keeps the fist in a palms up position, or use a standing fist while fully extending the arm, the power of the punch will be lost at the elbow.

I was originally taught that in hitting the makiwara, muscle lockup (kime) occurs simultaneously as the hip (koshi) twists to full face at the point of contact. I tried hitting Chibana Sensei's makiwara in this manner and could not hold the bend or even bend it. I watched Chibana Sensei punch the makiwara with a far shorter stance than mine, which appeared to be less stable, but his delivery was smooth and almost effortless. The makiwara bent backward about 8 inches with him holding it at that bend. As he continued punching, on close inspection, I noticed his hips did not twist forward until the instant of contact. His stance also planted, transmitted power from the legs into the punch. I realized then that I was spending the power from my hip movement before I hit the target. I learned that kime was the focus and timing of the whole body. The reason why I had no real punching power was because I was just extending my arms without correct timing. I had speed but no power.

After a few years of intensive makiwara training, my punch was stronger, but I had lost mobility in attacking or moving into an opponent with a punch. I tried stepping into or attacking the makiwara as I delivered the punch, but the punch felt more like a push and without any concussion. I started to experiment with a heavy bag. With the heavy bag I could practice a punching attack. Using the heavy bag, one needs a coach that can differentiate between penetration (kikomi), surface hitting, and pushing.

After my trip to Ventura, California, where I had the opportunity to practice hitting a 6 foot heavy bag, I purchased one for the dojo. With this longer, heavier bag we could now practice punches to the head (also low kicks, low strikes, kicks to the head, strikes to the face and head, etc.). All 6 feet long heavy bags are 100+ pounds in weight. Using a100+ pound heavy bag is good training, because if one did not punch correctly, the "bag will hit you back." It will give you good feedback on the correctness of your punch.

Another supplemental equipment for contact training is the hand contact pad, which to some extent resembles a baseball glove. An experienced person holding the contact pad can give feedback on whether the punch or hit is penetrating, surface hitting, pushing, the degree of impact, and whether there is knuckle penetration. The hand contact pad is a supplement to a makiwara or a heavy bag and not an alternative. Ideally, it would be very beneficial to practice with all three; makiwara, heavy bag, and hand contact pads.

Hitting the makiwara is good for power and strength development. I have seen many teachers with punches that were technically incorrect, but were still powerful, because of their dedicated makiwara training. I often wonder about how much more powerful their punches would be if they were technically correct?

As Bob (Snaggy) Inouye said, "Many of the students don't like hitting the bag (or makiwara) and avoid punching the bag, because when they do, they feel 'junk'." Karate is a hitting art. One must hit to understand hitting.

Pat Nakata

Depth of Kata

This is a story.

A Karate expert observed two Karate students perform the same kata. The students were very anxious to receive his comments.

To the first he said, "They way you practice, you will never penetrate even the surface of the kata."

To the second he said, "The way you practice, there will be no end to the depths you can attain from the kata."

As a Karate expert, how would you assess you own practice -- shallow or deep?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Hawaii Rules!

The last issue of Classical Fighting Arts had three articles with Hawaii connections:

Stanley Henning wrote Thoughts on the Origins and Transmission to Okinawa of Tongchun Boxing (page 23);

Kiko Asai Ferreira (wife of Prof. Kimo Ferreira) translated Memories of Karate by Chotoku Kyan (page 48); and

I was interviewed in An Interview with Charles C. Goodin of the Hawaii Karate Museum (page 55).
Way to go Hawaii!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Goal of Training

The goal of Karate training, in my opinion, is to learn: (a) the optimal way to move for your body type and physical condition; and (b) the meanings and applications of each and every movement in the kata of your system.

That said, I find that many Karate students only learn to move the same as all other students in their school (one size fits all), and have little or no idea of the meanings and applications of the movements in their system. Such Karate offers little practical advantage. Of course, a student can get in good shape by training hard, but without optimized body dynamics and skill in applications, a larger, stronger and faster opponent will always have the advantage.

In traditional Karate, size does not matter. A Karate expert, even when not armed is armed.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin