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1700+ Posts... and Counting

Merry Christmas 2010!


Top: Chris, Madeleine, Charles (Dad), Cael & Charles
Bottom: Michelle, Nayna, Natasja & Tomoe

Merry Christmas from Hawaii!

This is the first year in a long time that I stood in the back row for our family photo. You can see how much taller my sons are!

And my granddaughter, Madeleine, is now 15 months old. She is such a joy. Our whole family revolves around her.

From our extended family to yours, best wishes for a very safe, happy, healthy and prosperous holiday season. And in the coming year, I hope that your Karate training is safe and rewarding.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Ippon Kowashi and the Walk-in

At the last Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai training session, Sensei Pat Nakata explained his theories of Ippon Kowashi and the Walk-in. His student, John Oberle, summarized his talk and posted it at his Bujutsu Blogger blog. Please see:


I missed that training session. Thank you to Nakata Sensei and John for sharing the materials.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Does Your Karate Training...?

At year end, it is a good time to reflect. Does your Karate training...


Make
you happy?

Make you feel honest?

Make you feel more humble?

Allow you to excel at all things?

Make you feel good physically?

Make you a calmer, more centered person?

Fill you with respect for life and for other people?

Give you a sense of responsibility for your actions?

Make you feel grateful for your instructors, the
other students, and the people with whom you train?

Make you feel like your skill is both a treasure and a potentially
dangerous thing?


Move you to the point of wordless wonder when you execute a technique almost properly?

Make you happy? (I know
that I asked this before,
but when it comes down to it,
if Karate training does not
make you happy, you should
find something that does.)


Merry Christmas!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Christmas Party Resolutions

Aloha from Hawaii!

Last Wednesday, we had our dojo Christmas party.

This year, I began the party by asking the students and instructors to introduce their guests (parents, spouses, friends, etc.). Then, after we ate, I asked each student to stand up and describe one important thing that they learned (about Karate) this year, and one thing that they would like to work on during the coming year.

I had a couple of reasons for this. Some students rarely get to speak in public. Introducing people and making a statement gives them this opportunity.

In addition, describing what you have learned and what you would like to work on makes you stop and think. Out of all the things you learned this year, which one do you want to describe? And out of the all the things you could learn in the coming year, which one is most important to you? What do the other students say? What is the Sensei's response?

You would be surprised. The students come up with some pretty interesting things! And each has his or her own special focus. I don't think any of the students said the same thing.

I always say that if you have a plan or objective, you might accomplish it, but if you don't have a plan or objective, you will certainly float around aimlessly. If you aim for nothing, you will probably get just that! Getting better at Karate takes hard physical work and intense intellectual work too.

When you are lighting charcoal, you have to put lighter fluid (unless it is pre-soaked), light matches, and blow on the coals to get them going. If the coals are wet, it is almost impossible. But at a certain point, the coals catch fire with a "whoof" and then they are burning on their own.

It is pretty much the same with students. We try our best to teach them. Sometimes it is hard, sometimes it is easy. But at a certain point, the students catch fire with Karate and are learning on their own. Then we can sit back and watch them cook!

It is good for students to think about and state what they have learned and what they want to concentrate on in the coming year. This helps to get the charcoal going.

One thing about our dojo -- none of the students mentioning wanting to earn a certain rank or win a tournament as these are things we do not emphasize (actually, we do not participate in any tournaments). Most of the students described different aspects of body mechanics they wanted to work on.

Our dojo in on break for the year. I know that it is more hard core to train right through the holidays, but I think it is important for the students to spend time with their families and friends. By doing so, they are practicing their Karate. Training in the dojo is just the tip of the iceberg.

Merry Christmas to you and your family, dojo, students, and friends in Karate!

What have you learned this year and what would you like to concentrate on in the coming year?

My wish for you is that accomplish all your objectives -- so make sure that they are worthwhile ones.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Aloha From Sunny Hawaii

Today it was sunny with a high of 79 degrees here on Oahu -- shorts and t-shirt weather. I spoke to a couple of people on the mainland where it was literally freezing. One person told me that they had 18 degrees below zero weather. Well, we did have rain last week.

We often say, "Lucky you live Hawaii." How true!

If you've watched episodes of Hawaii 5-0, that's really how it looks here -- even in the winter. But they do tend to make up place names. And I wonder if they will change the Governor character? We recently elected Neil Abercrombie, so the character should have a beard and mustache.

I you would like to visit the beautiful islands of Hawaii, you might want to check out my wife's travel website: tanega.com. She specializes in Hawaii travel and honeymoon packages.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Fat Bump and Being Ordinary

Tonight at class, I had a horrible experience -- I felt completely ordinary.

Last Thursday I had a minor operation to remove a fat ball that had formed under the skin about 4 inches in from my right floating rib. It wasn't that big, but I often bumped it with my returning hand when I punched or blocked. I asked the doctor, and the bump wasn't caused by this contact. Anyway, I had it removed and got two stitches which will be removed this Thursday.

As a result, I had to be careful at class tonight because I did not want to tear the stitches or open the incision. But I still trained (of course).

Wow, I felt really terrible. I had to slow down my right, returning hand. I also had to make sure that it did not brush or rub hard against the wound which seriously threw off my compression.

Naturally, the speed of my left hand was affected by the returning speed of my right hand. So I was overall slower and my timing was also off. Instead of striking with my left and timing the step on the recoil, I was stepping on the extension, with the returning hand off timed. This also meant that the energy of the recoil was not being recycled and put into the next movement, meaning that I had to re-initiate the next movement. All my movements where thrown off. I actually was more sweaty and tired than normal.

In a nutshell, I sort of felt how I did before I learned how to use koshi -- ordinary. Punch, block, strike, with no enhanced body dynamics. It was horrible! It was like driving a car with flat tires dragging a load of bricks.

It may sound like I am exaggerating, but without compression (torquing the body) and proper timing, things just don't work right and require much more energy.

Thank goodness the stitches come out on Thursday. After that, we're on break until the New Year, so I'll be completely healed and ready to go for our first class.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

An Amazing Feat at Honolulu Marathon

Yesterday was the Honolulu Marathon, an event that draws thousands of runners from around the world. During the news yesterday I saw something that was truly amazing. Several military men (I think that they were in the Army) ran the marathon wearing 60 pound rucksacks. For the local people, that's three bags rice!

Running the marathon is difficult enough (I never tried it), but doing so wearing 60 pound rucksacks is simply incredible. But then again, these are the same men who would undoubtedly carry a fallen comrade that far or even farther.

The older I become the more I appreciate the saying, "Freedom isn't free." Thank God for the men and women in uniform who have paid for and continue to pay for our freedom. We should never take that for granted.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Beyond Style 9: Style Glasses

Sometimes an emphasis on style is just an excuse to dismiss the excellent things that people in other styles can do. I don't know about you, but the conditioning feats of some of the Uechi-Ryu and Goju-Ryu people are pretty amazing and intimidating. I actually had Higaonna Sensei in my dojo and home. Meeting an expert who is so skilled and conditioned (have you ever seen his hands and arms) is both frightening and challenging.

Can I dismiss Higaonna Sensei's conditioning by simply saying, "Well, he is in Goju-Ryu and I am in Shorin-Ryu"? Heaven forbid, what would I do if someone with that kind of conditioning and strength were to attack me (not Higaonna Sensei, of course, as he is a gentleman)?

A style should not be a pair of glasses that allows you to ignore people outside of your own style. Karate is Karate. If someone can do something, I need to be able to either do it and/or know how to defend against it.

My first and third sons practiced Kendo. My first son was actually pretty skilled and did well in tournaments. When I attended Kendo tournaments, I was always amazed at the speed of the competitors. It made me think: "When I practice bo, I have to remember that I have to be able to defend against and defeat people this fast." I did not dismiss the speed of Kendo just because it was a different martial art.

Let me say this again, if someone can do something, I have to either be able to do it myself or know how to defend against it. I cannot simply ignore it because it is from another style.

This does not mean that I have to try to be as strong as a big Karate expert. We all have limits. Sometimes speed beats strength. Sometimes timing beats speed. And sometimes strength beats timing. It all depends. I have to be able to defend myself against unknown attackers with unknown skills and strengths, who attack without warning (and might have friends and/or be armed). It is certainly a challenging task!

We need to recognize how difficult this is and be realistic about it. We cannot only consider the limits of our own style. We have to consider all styles, and for that matter, attackers who have no style at all but are skilled at street fighting.

We have to take off the style glasses.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Getting Better Requires Regular Training

As a Karate instructor (ever since I was about 17), this is an observation I have made: those students who train regularly get better and those who do not, generally do not.

Students who train regularly, even if they are not that athletic, become familiar with the basics, techniques and kata. Once they are familiar with these, they can move without thinking about all the details -- and they will improve.

However, students who do not train regularly will always be trying to remember what comes next, where to turn, when to kiai, etc. Instead of just moving they will be thinking. Sometimes a student will never get beyond this point, even if he trains for many years. I have actually seen black belts who always have this look on their face of "what comes next?" They are just barely able to perform a kata.

If you are a parent of a child in Karate, please make sure that he attends class as regularly as possible. This is the only way your child will improve. Otherwise, he or she will always be playing catch up and will feel frustrated. Of course, school and family obligations must come first, and students who are ill should stay home. But as much as possible, students should attend class regularly, year round.

I feel that I can teach just about anyone Karate -- if he will attend class regularly, pay attention, try hard, and practice at home. I could not even teach an Olympic athlete Karate if he would not do these things (of course, an Olympic athlete would be disciplined enough to train successfully). It is not just about being in shape and coordinated. Improvement in Karate requires familiarity with the curriculum and ingraining this into the body so that the movements become instinctive and reflexive.

Next year will be here very soon. This is a good time to dedicate yourself to serious Karate training in 2011 (and for the rest of your life)!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Late Birthday Wish

My birthday was last week, but I would like to express a later birthday wish (just putting it out there).

I would like to one day obtain originals of Gichin Funakoshi's first book (Ryukyu Kenpo Toudi, 1922), Choki Motobu's two books (Okinawa Kenpo Toudi Jutsu Kumite-Hen, 1926, and Watashi no Karate Jutsu, 1932), and Karate-Do Taikan (1938), so that they can be added to the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection at the University of Hawaii.

It would also be very nice to obtain the lost Karate text of Admiral Kenwa Kanna, but that may be lost to history.

For myself, I would just like to keep training with my children and excellent students.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Birthday Gift -- Whales

Today is my birthday! I am 53.

In some sports and activities, 53 is old. But in Karate, that is still a "young boy" age. When I go out with my senior friends, I am still the youngest. I get to eat all their leftover food and desserts! I am still like a kid -- at 53.

Today I got a special birthday gift -- a Sea Sherherd T-shirt! I am at work (I am an attorney), but I am wearing my new T-shirt.

The world would be a much better place if there were no commercial murder of whales and dolphins. Native peoples hunting for subsistence is one thing, but commercial murder is just that.

The shirt has the skull logo. I never noticed until now that the graphic in the skull is a whale and a dolphin. I always thought that the design was just the shape of the skull.

There are so many things that I am grateful for. I try to share my Karate activities, discoveries, and thoughts through this blog. One thing I cannot adequately share are all the great, skilled and kind people I meet, know, train, and eat with. A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with three Karate Sensei in their 80s and one Karate Sensei in his mid-60s. Just sitting and listening to their stories (some about Karate, some not) was such a treasure. We laugh and laugh.

All of us are lucky to practice Karate. I enjoy Karate each and every time I practice. I am also so fortunate to have a supportive family and great students -- we all learn together.

And I also have my brand new Sea Shepherd T-shirt. Save the whales. The world is a vampire....

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

About Shinzato Sensei Footage

Yesterday, I posted a link to film clips of Shinzato Sensei teaching a seminar in Okinawa earlier this year. Every time I have spoken to Shinzato Sensei about film footage of him, he felt dissatisfied with it. I am not talking about the film or audio quality.

Actually, I think that Shinzato Sensei is dissatisfied because he feels that he could have done better.

This might make sense if the footage is several years old. After all, his technique will have evolved during that time. Even if the footage is several months old, there could have been a change. But I believe that Shinzato Sensei will be just as critical of film taken yesterday, or even this morning. Even if I took footage and showed it to him right away, I think he would feel that he could have done better (in his mind).

So I am pretty sure that Shinzato Sensei will feel dissatisfied with the footage in the link I just posted. So why did I post it? Because it helps people to learn. I noticed things in the footage that reinforced things he had taught me. Just watching him move is a such a learning opportunity.

Shinzato Sensei is very demanding of himself. He is certainly more demanding of himself than he is of any of his students. He is constantly working on himself. Year after year, day after day, minute by minute.

That is one of the things I have learned from him.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

New Footage of Shinzato Sensei

One of the students in our dojo located this footage of Shinzato Sensei teaching a seminar in Okinawa earlier this year. Thank you Joseph!

It is only snippets, but you can still learn a lot by observing Shinzato Sensei's movement.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Beyond Style 8

My theme in this line of posts is that what matters most is who you learned from, what you learned -- and what you do with what you learned. That matters much more than the mere name of a style.

One of the things about styles is that one person is usually named as the founder and then there may be a line of instructors who succeed that founder. This makes it seem like the style owes its entire existence to the founder and his successors. This is a little bit like saying that American history is limited to its presidents alone.

It takes many people to make a style. Often, the founder is assisted by other seniors who might have trained with the same instructors as the founder. Often, other seniors, sometimes from other systems, also assist. Then there are the many students who become instructors over the years. Sometimes, the instructors are the ones doing most of the teaching.

If you are in the United States, the founder of your style, or his successor, might live in Okinawa or Japan. You might have never even met him!

Who did you learn from? I do not mean the head of the style, I mean your actual teachers. You probably learned from many people, even if only one signed your rank certificates.

I think about my Sensei and the many people who taught me over the years. I also think about their Sensei and theirs and theirs, all going back to the earliest Karate pioneers in Okinawa, and China before that. It is a great family of teachers.

Somehow this is lost, or at least not very well emphasized, when you define an art as a "style." There is more to Karate than the name of a style, a patch, a logo, signs, certificates, etc.

Remember who you learned from. Remember what you learned. And then ask yourself, what have you done with what you learned?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Promoted

This is a story.

A student was promoted to a high dan level and was naturally very happy. He told all his friends that he had been promoted and they all had the same question: "What rank were you promoted to?" The student gladly filled in the details.

But one of his friends knew something about Karate and asked, "By whom were you promoted?"

"What, don't you want to know my rank?" asked the student.

"Sure," replied the friend, "but who you were promoted by also matters. Does your instructor have a good reputation? Were you promoted by your own instructor or a committee? Were you promoted my an association, and if so, which one? What were the criteria for your promotion? How long have you trained? How regularly have you trained? What have you done to help in the dojo? What contributions have you made to the art of Karate? How do you apply the principles of Karate in your daily life? And do you know what the movements in your kata mean? Hey, for all I know you could have purchased a rank certificate on E-bay."

The student's face turned red with embarrassment.

But then again, this is just a story.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Beyond Style 7 -- Style is Not the Issue

Body mechanics are the central focus of the style of Karate I practice, Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu. We basically work on body mechanics all the time.

However, one of the things my Sensei has been very clear about is this: he can teach a student of another style to develop body mechanics using their own kata. It is not necessary for them to learn and practice our kata. What is important is learning the optimum way to move in whatever style you practice.

My Sensei routinely teaches students from other styles. I know that he often urges them to remain in their own styles and just work on applying the body mechanics principles to their own kata. I have also "coached" students in this way.

It is probably helpful for a student to learn our Naihanchi Shodan and the way we perform it. It is almost like our scales, using a music analogy. Once the student has learned our Naihanchi Shodan and our body mechanics as applied to each movement and combination, then it is a relatively simple process for the student map/apply the same body mechanics to his own kata in his style. In some ways, kata is just a convenient medium for learning how to move.

Despite good results, one problem that might arise is the displeasure of other students and instructors in the style when the student begins to move differently. Moving differently might be perceived as a sign of disloyalty... to the style. If you belong to a style you are supposed to move a certain way. The issue is not whether you have learned to move better -- you are not supposed to move better you are supposed to move the same.

An emphasis on style, in my opinion, is like elevating form over substance. What counts is how you move. Hey, we all punch, block and kick. Most of what we do is pretty similar. Good Karate is good Karate.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Beyond Style 6 -- Proliferation of Styles

Why are there so many styles of Karate? There does not appear to be as many different styles of Judo, Kendo, or Aikido. Why is it that styles of Karate have proliferated?

I have an observation. Within a style of Karate, there is usually only one 10th dan at a time. This creates something of a ceiling for the other senior instructors. There might be several 8th dan and some 9th dan, but there can be only one 10th dan.

If the 10th dan dies, one of the 9th dan might be elevated to 10th dan, and again, there will be only one.

So what happens, for example, when five of the 8th dan and three of the 9th dan break away from the style or organization and create their own styles or systems? All of the sudden there are eight new 10th dan! The ceiling is miraculously lifted.

And it is not only the highest dan holders who can benefit from this. Even a 5th dan who declares his own style might similarly declare that he is now a 10th dan. After all, each style must have its own head.

It is the structure of Karate styles that leads to an increase in 10th dan holders. And to some extent, this might also be one of the reasons there are so many styles. It is something of a vicious cycle.

Let me ask you this. Would an average consumer of Karate in the United States prefer to learn from an 8th dan or a 10th dan? If you were a senior instructor, would you rather be a 6th dan under an 8th dan, or a 6th dan under a 10th dan -- which situation presents the best opportunity for advancement?

Style is not only about rank (and titles). Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.

But you must admit that there certainly are a lot of 10th dan in Karate. I think that they have quit awarding 10th dan in Judo and Kendo altogether.

For me, what matters most is who you learned from and what you have done with what you learned. Your ability counts most, not the name of your style.

My good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, learned from Chosin Chibana during the 1960s. Generally, students under Chibana Sensei say that they teach the Kobayashi-Ryu form of Shorin-Ryu. Nakata Sensei never says this. Instead, he says that be teaches "Chibana Shorin-Ryu." In doing so, he is acknowledging his Sensei, which I think is a good idea.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Response to Beyond Style 5

In response to Beyond Style 5, my good friend Jim Alexander (of Belleville, Illinois) wrote:

Reminds me of a story about teacher who had a visiting Okinawan sensei to instruct his class. In private moment, seeking to get some additional tidbit of useful information, he asked his senior, "Sensei, where is the correct place to complete the turn of the wrist in chudan uke; before contact, on contact or after contact is made with the opponent's arm? What is the correct answer, Sensei?" The Sensei thought for a moment, made a few blocks in the air to analyze the mechanics of the move, seeming to make an effort to be as precise as possible, then said "If you block the punch...then it is right".

We forget that Karate is not an arcane subject to be analysed..but an art to be performed. It is action, not style, that is most important. In the end, style, fashion, position, rank...means nothing. It's what you can do. One should be reminded that Miyamoto Mushashi was in his time, lacked formalized training, was dirty, uncouth, sloppy, a social reject. He was not samurai, or a refined gentleman or member of a fashionable ryu as was his most famous opponent Sasaki Kojiro...whom it is said he defeated with a single strike at Ganryu Island.

Jim Alexander

Response to Beyond Style 2 -- Who You Learned From

In response to Beyond Style 2 -- Who You Learned From, my good friend Jim Alexander (of Belleville, Illinois) wrote:

Very well said. It begs the question then (if perhaps you are a parent looking to get your child into martial training)...how do you know how to evaluate the teacher? Parents and students often look at "programs", size of schools, advertising, and other externals when looking to study a martial art.

I would simply add, look at the character of the teacher. Would you gladly have this person to your home or church? Would you consider this person in totality to be a role model for your child? In the old days a teacher was a venerated person in the community in most cases (perhaps Motobu in his early years might be an exception). I look forward to more on this subject.

Jim Alexander

Beyond Style 5

This is a story.

A Karate instructor was walking down the street late at night when he was stopped by a mugger who demanded money. Confident in his kumite skill, the instructor refused.

Without warning, the mugger kicked the instructor in the groin, took his wallet, and ran away.

The policeman who arrived later that night recognized the instructor and asked, "Sensei, what happened? You are a famous champion!"

"We don't kick the groin in my style," explained the instructor. "That was a foul!"

This was just a story. However, sometimes there is a tendency for students to become tunnel visioned by their styles. A style is a subset of Karate. Just because the curriculum of a style does not contain a certain technique does not mean that the technique does not exist or is not effective.

In self-defense, anything goes, whether it is included or allowed in a style or not.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Beyond Style 4

OK, some people feel that some styles are better than others. Is that true?

Before you answer, you have to ask, "better at what?"

If you want to teach children, my own style would not seem to be the best since very few students learn it in Okinawa. In contrast, there are other dojo in Okinawa that teach hundreds of children.

Are we talking about tournament success?

How about health? For health, are we talking about strength, cardio, or flexibility?

Are we talking about self defense or fighting?

Are we talking about training for the police or military?

Are we talking about character development?

Are we talking about body dynamics? (Something my own style concentrates on.)

My point is, what are we talking about when we ask how good (or bad) a style is? A style is probably not all things to all people. And sometimes, a style that may be good at one particular thing might lead the student to another style, that might be good at another thing. At different phases of a student's career, different styles or systems might be useful or appealing.

So, while I might feel that some styles might be good or bad, this is really an over simplification. When it comes down to it, I would ask, does it work? And again, I feel that good Karate is good Karate, and bad Karate is bad Karate. Style itself is not the real issue.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Beyond Style 3

This is a story.

Two Karate students from different styles were about to engage in a match.

Before they began, the first student said: "My style is far better than yours. My master is more well known, our dojo is bigger, we have more students worldwide, we are better than you in every way!"

The second student said nothing.

When the match began, the second student walked right in and punched the first student on the nose. The match was over.

When he was helped up from the ground by the referee, the first student asked, "What, what happened?"

The referee replied, "Your style may be great but your Karate is terrible."

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Compressing

This Guest Post is by one of the adult students in our dojo (Hikari Dojo), Peerawut Kamlang-ek. He has trained with us for about two years. He is currently at Army Officer Candidate School on the mainland.

- - - - - - - - - -

Compressing

Early last year I was first exposed to the concept of compressing and decompressing our body, a technique in the Kishaba-Juku style which allows us to maximize the speed of our movements.

In one class Sensei compared the basics of compressing our body to holding a very big ball (Imagine the big bouncy ones we find at toy stores).

We held this imaginary ball close to our bodies in front of us with our arms parallel to the ground, elbows close to our bodies, and act as if we were pressing on the ball.

In the meantime we also press our shoulders down by squeezing our lats. The lower portion of our body presses up by tucking our koshi in order to tie our whole body together through compression.

From there, we kept our bodies compressed until we decompressed and threw a block or punch. The decompression combined with correct usage of koshi allows freedom of movement in any direction while also maximizing the speed of our block or punch.

When practicing on my own, I sometimes exaggerate the squeezing portion of the imaginary ball exercise so that I am more certain of the feeling of compressing. The compressed feeling on my body is almost like a buffer spring in a machine gun where the spring is pushed together so tight that it is dangerous to let it go in the direction of someone or something.

I can honestly say that since that class I have been squeezing my lats every single day. I could be waiting in a line, on the computer, or watching TV while practicing with the ultimate goal of keeping the feeling of compressing fresh in my mind and body.

The past three months and counting I've been training at Officer Candidate School which is very far away from our dojo, giving very minimal time to learn and practice Karate. However, I still squeeze my lats, practice the imaginary ball exercise, or practice a movement when I can, and found it to be useful in memorizing the feeling of compressing my body.

Time might not always be on our side but we can always do what we can to improve our Karate.

Respectfully,

Peerawut Kamlang-ek

Beyond Style 2 -- Who You Learned From

This is a follow up to my post, Beyond Style. In that post, I wrote:

Good Karate is good Karate, and the same is true about bad Karate. The style rarely makes much of a difference.
As I expected, some people agreed with this, while others disagreed.

Several years ago I was speaking to a senior Karate instructor who teaches here in the United States but was born and raised in Okinawa. He said (as best I can remember), "In Okinawa we do not ask about style or organization, we ask who your instructor is." I agree with this.

Who did you learn Karate from? At least in Okinawa (and here in Hawaii), as soon as you identify the instructor, you know a lot about the student. The lineage is well known.

Styles are a modern thing. When instructors taught only a few students in private, it was not important to define that teaching as a style. It was simply the Karate of that instructor.

When Karate became part of the Dai Nippon Butokukai (and other organizations), it became necessary to define the Karate of a member as a "style" so that it could be identified. That is, supposedly, why Chibana Sensei coined the term "Shorin-Ryu" and Miyagi Sensei called his art "Goju-Ryu." Before that, these styles might have been described as "Shuri-Te" and "Naha-Te". But in Okinawa, I'm pretty sure Chibana Sensei would have been known as the student of Anko Itosu and Miyagi Sensei would have been known as the student of Kanryo Higashionna.

To me, a style is an artificial thing -- who you learned from is real.

So why the emphasis on style? That is a good question!

I think that it has to do with our modern world and the commercialism of Karate. It is not enough to say that one practices Karate, a style is necessary. How will you classify and categorize a person's Karate unless you know the style?

But what happens when the head of style dies with 10 senior students? Usually, one will become the head of the style and many of the others with go off on their own and call their Karate a new style. The name of the style might be different, but you would think that the 10 senior students will have learned the same thing.

In fact, the successor of a style is often not the most senior student. A son or relative, for example, might become the successor, even if he is a junior. In that case, would the teaching of the most senior student or the son best represent the teaching of the original style?

I am just asking the question. There is no answer. My point is that what we call a "style" depends on more than who a person learned from and how much he learned. Political, commercial, and legal variables come into play.

I once told my Sensei that perhaps we should call our style: "Work in Progress." I was serious. What we practice is always a work in progress. We are not simply trying to remember or replicate what we have learned.

I have the greatest respect for my Sensei and try to teach the style we practice (Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu) to the very best of my ability. But if my Sensei told me that we now practice "Purple Dragonfly-Ryu," I would continue to train and teach exactly as I am doing. The name does not matter to me.

What matters is who I learned from and what I learned -- and what I do with what I learned.

I guess it is a little like being a "good Christian" -- does the system or sect of Christianity matter? But that is another matter.

Again, I will have much more to write about this subject.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Response to Black Belt vs. Teacher

In response to the Guest Post is by Theodore Kruczek (Black Belt vs. Teacher), my good friend Jim Alexander (of Belleville, Illinois) wrote:

For one to be a senior in the dojo, does not always mean in age, sometimes it is years in knowledge and training. Often a student from another discipline would make their way into our dojo and by virtue of their experience they would have much to contribute, though if they decided to stay in our dojo out of respect they would remove their rank and become a white belt again. (Initially we started out with colored belts, but wore them only for world meetings, otherwise we had white and black only) it was my belief that one's ability should project one's rank and not the other way around, thus eliminating any source contradiction to the naked eye.
I agree with Mr. Parker, regarding the last line and would add, when the student is ready (open to learning) the teacher will appear remains true.
Thank you Kruczek sensei for your article, there are few of us that have not learned a great deal from Goodin sensei's writings over the years

Jim Alexander

Beyond Style

I will have to write much more about this, but I have come to the point where I do not think about Karate in terms of style. Good Karate is good Karate, and the same is true about bad Karate. The style rarely makes much of a difference. What counts most is the dedication of the student and the hard work he puts in over a long time.

My Sensei teaches the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu (as do I). However, I think of him as an excellent Karate Sensei (and person), not merely the head of a juku or style.

Practicing a certain style is helpful and necessary up to a certain point. But beyond that point it can be too limiting, and often too political. Like I said, good Karate is good Karate. If a style teaches good Karate, then it is good. If it does not, then what good is the style?

I am not saying that we should practice every Karate kata and every Karate technique. I am comfortable with the kata I practice in Kishaba Juku. However, what is important is that these kata embody good Karate, not that they are practiced in a certain style. After all, all of the kata practiced in my "style" are practiced in other styles. The unique thing is how we perform the kata (body mechanics) and our interpretation of the techniques (imi or bunkai).

I was training recently at a Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai session. At one point, I started to compare techniques with another member, who teaches Goju-Ryu. Our techniques were amazing similar. In fact, some of my techniques were more similar to his than to other Shorin-Ryu members. So what does that say?

Don't get me wrong. Style has its uses. But what style did Bushi Matsumura teach? What style did Kanryo Higashionna teach? Before you say Shuri-Te or Naha-Te, remember that those are geographic descriptions, not styles per se. It would be like me saying that I practice Hawaii-Te.

When you really come down to it, Karate is Karate. A skilled Karate instructor can read my movements and kata like an open book. And the same should be true vice versa. There really is no mystery. Like one of my sons commented when observing a student who was doing particularly well: "You don't get like that by accident."

Good Karate is the result of hard work. A good style helps you to get to "good Karate."

Again, I will have more to say about this.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Double Dangerous Obstacle Course

In Karate Obstacle Course I wrote about how dangerous it is to walk around while shopping at Costco. It takes all your Karate skill to avoid getting hit by a shopping cart.

The other day I faced an even greater challenge: pushing a baby in a stroller in Costco! My granddaughter is about 13 months old and my wife wanted to stop by and pick up some things at Costco the other day. We did not have the baby liner to put in the shopping cart, so my wife used the stroller.

Whoa! At first my wife was pushing the stroller, but I quickly took over the duty when I realized that a shopping cart could smash my granddaughter in the face! I became the bodyguard and protector for her. And was I ever paranoid, particularly with all the people rushing from aisle to aisle.

I made my wife push the shopping cart and I pushed the stroller behind her. That way, the stroller was protected in the front (by my wife), and I was blocking it from the back with my body.

I just had to make sure that no one rammed me in the Achilles Tendon!

You will be happy to know that we all made it out safely! But it was a truly challenging obstacle course. The only thing tougher might be doing the same thing in the dark.

Seriously, you have to watch babies and toddlers very carefully in stores. One of my sons fell out of a shopping cart once when he was a toddler (another one of my sons suddenly pushed the cart and my younger son flipped out). You have to act like an accident could happen -- because it could.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Black Belt vs. Teacher

This Guest Post is by Theodore Kruczek, who teaches Karate at the Air Force Academy. His blog is the Okinawan Karate-Do Institute: A Blog Centered Around the Teachings of Choshin Chibana and His Students.

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Black Belt vs. Teacher

Goodin Sensei has provided me a wealth of information on Karate-Do, and because of this, I am writing today in order to contribute back. I want to talk about the difference between a black belt and a teacher. Often the two are linked together at dojos, but there are many times when they are different.

Every style and school has different standards for what it takes to become a black belt. Some train for ten years and some for two. Black belts may be required to write ten page papers, answer questions in Japanese, break boards, and most commonly perform kata. In most cases, we as instructors are trying to ensure that our future black belt is capable of passing on the art accurately. The questions and the paper are testing their ability to explain things, the breaking of boards is a test of physical ability, and the kata is a test of technique and knowledge.

Does this mean that every black belt is a teacher? No. In some styles, a black belt means that someone knows the entire curriculum and then later they will be qualified as an instructor. I recall an article about a five-year-old black belt in India. Assuming she knew the curriculum, is she qualified to teach it? Probably not. Therefore, it can be agreed that not all black belts are teachers.

Next, consider the opposite question - are all teachers black belts? Again, no. People commonly believe that until someone receives a black belt in a style; they are not qualified to teach without supervision. I want to offer a story that contradicts this logic:

Upon first coming down to the Air Force Academy Karate Club, I was informed that classes would be led by a 6th Kyu. I came down for the first club meeting to realize the club consisted of two white belts, a 6th kyu gentleman leading classes, and myself. I had just recently tested for 3rd Dan , and I was the student in this club, not the teacher. I smiled and thought I would wait and see what would come of it. To my surprise, I was being taught a new kata called Wansu by the 6th kyu, and he continually asked me questions forcing me to expand my understanding of both his kata and my own karate.

The moral here, just because someone does not wear a black belt, does not mean they do not know something you would benefit learning from. Karate students have the potential to both learn and teach, regardless of their rank. Be open minded, and there is great potential for both the higher ranking and the lower ranking student to gain something. Teachers are everywhere, and often there is no belt to identify them.

Theodore Kruczek

Thick Skin

We often think about how important it is to have excellent Karate skills. Being able to punch, kick, and block effectively is important. It is something we work on for most of our lives.

However, Karate skill can be easily abused. We are taught that Karate should be used for self-defense and as a last resort only. Karate is not for fighting.

Before you even get into the application of Karate techniques, there is the issue of the student's ability to handle conflict, bullying, taunts, etc. I could see two problems. Some students might immediately react violently. Others might be so intimidated that they are unable to defend themselves properly. Both problems are serious and should be addressed during training.

A student should have thick skin. Little things should not bother him and he should not allow little things to escalate to violence. Even if a student is called terrible names, the objective should be to get out of that situation -- not to make a point.

Let's say that someone says that my Karate stinks. Is that something for me to fight about? Hey, I also think that I have to keep working to improve myself. I am not content with my level. There have been many time when I have thought that my Karate ability "stinks."

I should let it go. It is not something to get upset about or fight about.

Basically, to me, there is nothing worth fighting about except my safety and life, and the safety and life of loved ones (possibly innocent people too). I'm not going to fight because someone calls me names or says terrible/ridiculous things.

Let's say that my wife and I are walking in town late at night. Some guy starts insulting my wife. My objective at that point is to get my wife out of there and to safety. My objective is not to teach this nut a lesson. And who knows, there may be others lurking that I do not see. Getting away is the proper action -- not arguing.

Like I've written before, when the time comes to use Karate techniques for self-defense, then the can is open and everything goes. Karate, at that point, become a truly terrible thing. Until then, I would hope that I could have a "thick skin" and a calm demeanor so that I could avoid most conflicts.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The Main Thing -- Last Resort

Yesterday I asked my daughter (who is 17) what she would say if someone asked her what the main thing is in Karate. She replied, "it is used as a last resort only."

That was a good answer!

We also say "Karate ni sente nashi" or "there is no first attack in Karate." But not attacking first is not the same thing as a "last resort." If someone punches at me and I counter, that might satisfy the "no first attack" maxim. But was it "a last resort?" Could I have avoided the strike, blocked, or could I have taken action to prevent the attack in the first place (like crossing the street)?

If someone pushes me, should I kick him in the groin? Perhaps I should just let him push me and then walk or run away. I guess it depends on the push.

I know that situations are always different, but the way we teach the art, Karate is used as a last resort only. (And when it is truly "a last resort", the can is opened and anything goes.)

My daughter is correct. Good answer!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

500 Lumens Flashlight

Over the weekend, my wife and I went to Maui for a short vacation. We stayed pretty close to the Kapalua airport. I went fishing on the beach on two nights. On the second night I stayed late (high tide was at 11:30 p.m.) and the half moon eventually set behind Molokai, plunging the night into pitch darkness, except for the stars.

Of course, I had one of my new flashlights. This one was a 500 lumens version with a zoomable lens. Whoa! This flashlight was like a searchlight. When I shined it straight up, it looked like a pillar of light. I almost thought the light would reach Molokai, but of course it could not. But it did reach far enough to catch what I think was an owl flying high overhead.

Because it was zoomable, I could make a wider, softer beam for up close work, like tying knots.

I have ordered an 800 lumens flashlight which should arrive soon.

So get a good flashlight! I'll bet your father or grandfather would like one for Christmas (but let him pick it).

Here is my fishing tip. I put the flashlight in a baggy so that it would not get wet or stinky from the shrimp and squid I was using for bait. This worked pretty well. I could click it on and off while it was in the baggy.

Oh, and I caught 23 fish -- mostly small but a lot of fun.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Improving -- And You Didn't Even Know It

Sometimes students feel like they are not improving. They come to class, they practice at home, and yet they feel that they are stuck in a rut.

But then someone who has been away for a year or two will come to class and comment on how much the student has improved! The student's progress is amazing. It is like a grandparent seeing his or her grandchild after a year or two. The grandchild's growth is amazing.

It is hard to see progress on a day to day basis. But over the months and years, the progress is extremely clear.

The main thing is to come to class regularly and practice at home. Through continued practice, you will definitely improve. You might not see it, but others will. And gradually you will find that you can do things you couldn't do before, the movements will start to make more sense, and you will feel more comfortable in your training.

Just keep at it!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Response to "Perform Beginner Karate As Advanced"

In response to Perform Beginner Karate As Advanced, Joan (in Albuquerque) wrote:

Dear Sir,

As always, thank you for your blog. I really enjoy reading it. Your posting on "Perform Beginner Kata as Advanced" made me think of this experience.

A visitor came to our dojo. We are a very small school and so I know all the adult students. I could see him through the window as I parked my car, and of course I didn't recognize him. He was wearing a white belt, and was in the "waiting area" doing a little stretching. It seemed clear to me from his movements and his posture that he was a very advanced student, and I recall thinking "who is that advanced black belt, wearing a white belt, in our dojo?"

It turned out that he was a business man on a trip from a distant city, and was just visiting our dojo for one evening. One of our instructors met me in the "changing room" and told me that our visitor was very advanced and that I must treat him with as much respect as our Sensei; the visitor was just wearing a plain gi and white belt because he was being respectful to us, because he was not of our style.

So, this is a long story to illustrate that a very advanced student of karate can make even standing and stretching look advanced!

Thanks!

Joan (in Albuquerque)
Thank you Joan. I enjoyed your story.

Respectfully,

Charles

Perform Beginner Karate As Advanced

I was speaking to our students the other night and I said:

"If you are asked to do a demonstration and are assigned a beginner or intermediate kata, when you do it, make it look advanced. Doing a beginner kata like an advanced student is good. Doing an advanced kata like a beginner is bad."
Of course, the characterization of kata as "beginner", "intermediate" and "advanced" presents problems. But generally, kata are taught to students based on their level. Beginners learn certain kata, intermediate students learn certain kata, and advanced students learn certain kata. And just because a student is advanced, does not mean that he will quit working on "beginner" kata. We keep working on all the kata we know.

If a student is assigned to perform Fukyugata Ichi, he should do it the best he can. He should do it in a way that reflects his ability. A person watching him should think, "Wow, that advanced student is doing a great job!"

What looks bad is when a student performs an advanced kata poorly. Then, you might ask whether he should have performed a kata more in line with his ability. Did he select an advanced kata because of his ego? You do not want a person watching him to think: "Why is that beginner performing an advanced kata?"

An advanced student makes all kata look advanced. A beginner makes all kata look like they are for beginners.

In fact, you can tell a lot simply by observing a punch or block. You can pretty much tell the student's level from just one movement.

In our system, students learn Naihanchi Shodan first. But that does not make it a beginner's kata. Given a choice, even the most advanced student would appreciate the opportunity to perform that kata in a demonstration. But he might not get to -- because I would pick it first!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Alcohol More Dangerous Than...

British researchers have recently concluded that alcohol is more dangerous than many illegal drugs. See:


The above link is to msnbc.msn.com. The article was covered widely online and in print. At one point, the article states:
When drunk in excess, alcohol damages nearly all organ systems. It is also connected to higher death rates and is involved in a greater percentage of crime than most other drugs, including heroin.
I am not qualified to say whether alcohol is more harmful than cocaine, crack or heroin. But that is like comparing explosives -- they all could kill you!

The difference, however, between alcohol and illegal drugs, is that alcohol, within age and other limits, is legal. An adult who meets the age requirements of the law and who does not drive (say he remains in the safety of his home), can basically drink himself into a drunken stupor. But just because it is legal does not mean that it is not harming you physically -- or that it is not hurting the people around you.

I view alcohol, taken to excess, as a dangerous thing. It is a dangerous thing if you do it once, and it is a dangerous thing if you do it routinely.

A perfectly healthy person who works out and takes care of his body might still consume alcohol to excess -- as if there are no physical consequences to such action. As stated in the article, and the research it reflects, there are consequences and they are serious.

I personally believe that Karate students and experts should never be drunk because of the dangers posed by the destructive potential of misuse of the art.

But that is just my view. I'd rather buy flashlights.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Elections Over (Finally)

Yesterday (the whole day), I was glued to the computer and television watching election results. I am not going to share my political orientation here but I did want to write that I AM SO GLAD IT IS OVER!!!

I am 52, and I cannot remember when elections were more negative, both here in Hawaii and across the country. I am literally sick of it.

Now let's settle back and get ready for Christmas commercials (to take the place of all the political ads).

As a Karate instructor, I believe that politics should be kept out of the dojo. I respect our students' religious and political views, but these are private things. The same is true of my own religious and political views. In the dojo, we concentrate on Karate training and character development (a code of personal conduct required of people who study Karate).

Politics in Karate is another matter. This too, should be kept out of the dojo.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The Whale People

I received an email from the author of The Whale People blog at http://www.thewhalepeople.com/. I thought you might like to visit it.

Like I said, to me, whales and dolphins are basically people. Here in the United States, if someone tried to do to dogs what commercial hunters do to whales and dolphins, our whole nation would be up in arms.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Whales and Dolphins

This post is a bit off topic for my blog, but I know that some of my readers are interested in my general thoughts.

I have come to the point in life where I believe that whales and dolphins are basically humans and intentionally killing them for commercial reasons should be a crime. I am not commenting upon the practices of native peoples, just commercial slaughtering of these intelligent beings.

Now back to Karate!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Flashlight as a Weapon

My friend Jim Alexander mentioned the use of a flashlight as weapon. I know that some people purchase flashlights for this reason and also train in such use. Some flashlights come with a strobe or flashing feature that can temporarily blind an attacker.

My comments about flashlights are limited to their use for safety, basically for illumination. I do not teach their use in self defense -- but I am open to the idea.

However, I do advocate the use of anything available in self defense situations -- a folding chair, backpack, umbrella, pen... whatever is available. Please keep in mind that I view Karate as something to be used as a last resort only. In that situation, the use of improvised weapons would be appropriate.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

One More About Flashlight

Today I went to Costco and Home Depot and both were selling very reasonably priced tactical flashlights (under $20). Please make sure that you have flashlights for your car, home, office, etc.

OK, you can actually spend some serious money on flashlights. The one I saw today at Costco came in a 3 pack and was 100 lumens. I bought two of those in the past and it seems that once you get into tactical flashlights, you keep wanting brighter and brighter ones. In my car, I have 240 lumens flashlights currently (with zoom lenses), and have just ordered a pair of 500 lumens ones.

Now I have been looking at 1000 and 1200 lumens models.

A good flashlight and a good knife are nice things to have. A good gun too (in my opinion), but I have never bought one yet.

Here's an idea -- for Christmas you can buy nice tactical flashlights for your family members and loved ones.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

About "Flashlight"

In response to my post, Flashlight, my good friend and Shorin-Ryu instructor Jim Alexander, of Belleville, Illinois, wrote:

I know you are speaking of preparedness here...but actually a good flashlight is a great self-defense tool. I taught H2H and anti-terrorist technique to American Airlines flight crews after 9-11. And one of the few things flight crews could... have on their persons was a small flashlight to assist passengers looking for lost or misplaced items during the evening portion of long flights when cabin lights are permitted to be dimmed. I recommend the scorpion tactical light. Used in breech entries by SWAT team and cops all over. It is incredibly bright, so bright that in a dark environment ( think parking garage, alley, etc. ) it can stun an attacker into looking away and subsequent optic overload ( white of purple spots before your eyes) allowing the defender to strike back or better yet run , during the temporary blindness. It easily fits in a purse, even a small one, or pocket and has a rubberized metal housing.
PS it also makes a great striking implement when the butt is placed firmly into the closed fist and applied to the temple or base of the nose :-)
PPS...the other thing was a steel barreled ball point pen sold at Sharper Image Stores....absolutely lethal, and writes well too!

Flashlight

If you are sitting down in a safe place (not driving), I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you are driving your car. Your hands are on the steering wheel. Now reach for your flashlight. Do you know exactly where it is? Can you readily reach it?

Is it buried in your glove compartment or somewhere in your trunk? What if it is completely dark? Could you find it? After all, you cannot use a flashlight to find it... because you are looking for your flashlight!

And how are you reading this? You are supposed to have your eyes closed! Just joking.

It is important to have a good flashlight in your car. I like the tactical versions, but any good flashlight will do. And don't forget to change the batteries once in a while.

Here in Hawaii, we are always worried about hurricanes, so we have lots of flashlights. I actually have one next to me when I sleep. In my car, I have one within easy reach and another in the trunk. Actually, I have three or four in the trunk. I don't know how many I have a home (plenty).

Karate is more than punch, kick, block -- it is also about being careful and safe, and being prepared for emergencies.

OK, you can open your eyes now.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

MMA Thought

Have you ever watched a MMA (mixed martial arts) fight between a fighter in his prime (usually the famous one) and an older fighter (usually not so famous or perhaps he used to be famous)? Sometimes after nearly three, four or five hard fought rounds, the younger fighter will win and everyone will cheer! He is the winner and the other fighter is the loser -- even if there are only 10 seconds left in the final round.

When I see that, I ask myself this: "In a real fight, could the winner have knocked out the other guy in 10 seconds?" Obviously, the answer would usually be "no"-- after all, it took so many rounds for him to win. A real fight does not last that long. Some fights are over very quickly.

Some of the MMA fighters who lose fights are terrific fighters who can take tremendous punishment. I dare say that an average person, even an average martial artist, could beat on such fighters all day long and do little or no damage. They are just too strong and too skilled.

What I am saying is that real fights are usually over quickly. Some people, especially trained fighters, can take a lot of punishment. And they will not just be standing there -- they will be doing their best to beat the crap out of you.

To make matters worse (at least in my case), if you fight in an ordinary way, then size and weight matter. Since I am only 5 feet 8 inches tall, many fighters are taller and heavier than me. If I try to match them in raw power, I will almost certainly lose. And I am a grandfather too. I am probably way older than most fighters.

So what is a martial artist to do?

One day I asked my third son, who is quite strong and much taller than me, if he could take me in a fight. He started to have that certain grin indicating that he was certain that he could. But before he could answer, I added, "I have a knife and you don't". His expression instantly changed. A knife? That's a different story.

Karate is like having a knife. Karate strikes are almost surgical in their focus. The targets are very specific points.

Would this work on a trained fighter? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps it could give you the split second necessary to block an attack and escape.

But when you feel pretty good at Karate, you should watch a hard fought MMA match. It is a good reality check. Now imagine that the fighter is armed, or has friends. Yikes! Now imagine that you are attacked without any warning. That is exactly what we are training for.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Me and My Grandaughter


Here is a photo of me with my granddaughter, Madeleine. It almost looks like she is punching me in the chin, no?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Observation Changes the Results

Borrowing a principle from quantum physics, the mere act of observation changes the results (this is generally known as the uncertainty principle). So how does this affect a student who is demonstrating a kata in front of an audience? Does the observation by the audience change the performance of the kata?

OK, I realize that this situation is not one of quantum physics. But I think that most Karate students and instructors will agree that the audience does have an effect.

The audience will probably make new students nervous. Thus, they make mistakes and speed up their performance.

Advanced students will probably not get nervous as they will have had experience performing for an audience. But will they change the way they do things in order to get the audience's approval? Will the advanced students change their timing, the focus of their strikes, jump higher and yell louder than normal, etc.? And even if they do not do so consciously, will they do so subconsciously.

Even the dojo can be affected. After years of performances, the Sensei will know what the audience likes and what it does not like. He will know what other dojo have done. And he will probably want to do things that will get the audience's approval -- at least so that the dojo will be invited back the next time. There are also ways to perform that get more media attention.

So the observation effect is more than just a hypothetical. It is a real concern. It is something I think about a lot.

I also think this: if the crowd likes the way I perform a kata or demonstrate a technique, what does that mean? The crowd does not understand Karate. If I am seeking the approval of people who do not understand what I am doing, then what am I doing?

Performing for my Sensei or seniors is one thing, performing for people who cannot possibly understand what I am doing, how I am doing it, and why I am doing it, is quite another.

When someone says, "That was great!", I remind myself that: (1) they might not understand what I was doing; and (2) they might just be being polite. How often have you performed a kata and had a spectator say, "that was terrible, the worst ever?" Spectators are almost always polite and complimentary.

As you can probably tell, I do not like giving demonstrations. I would much rather practice and teach privately. That is just me. I realize the need for demonstrations, and I have had to coordinate some and ask my Karate friends to participate (these were for cultural/educations events). But I generally do not like to give or participate in demonstrations.

Going back the the effect of observation, there is another form of observation that can result in changes -- self-observation. When you do something and are aware of yourself doing it, and are also aware of yourself observing yourself doing it, that can change things too. In contrast to the changes caused by an audience observing you, which are generally negative, the changes resulting from your observation of yourself are generally positive. While practicing Karate, we should not only be aware of our movements, we should also be aware of our thoughts and feelings, and of ourselves observing these. That is not a bad idea for daily life either.

Be aware of yourself.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Demonstration Advice -- Don't Rush

Today I got to watch a Karate demonstration. Normally, I am conducting the demonstration or being the emcee, so I cannot actually watch the performances. But today I had the luxury of being a guest.

Here is my advice. I think it applies to anyone performing a kata anywhere.

Don't rush.

I know that it sounds like simple advice. I am serious -- don't rush.

It is good to punch, block, or kick fast. It is not good to rush from one position to the next. It is not good to punch before you are set or move on before your strike has focused.

There is nothing good about finishing a kata quickly. It is not a race. What counts is performing each movement properly. A properly performed kata has a composed pace.

Don't get me wrong. I know that everything moves at a different pace when you are in front of an audience, particularly if you are nervous. It can seem like time slows down. But knowing that, it is important to move with proper timing.

Don't rush.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Passai Night

At training last night, my second and third sons attended, as did another adult yudansha (black belt holder). Because the class was small, I got to spend the entire class working with the yudansha on the Passai kata (my sons taught the other students).

What a pleasure!

I honestly feel that Passai is the most beautiful kata in our curriculum. We practice the Tomari version of Passai. I have learned about three slightly different versions of the kata -- all beautiful.

If I could only practice three kata, I am sure that Passai would be one, Naihanchi Shodan would be another, and the third would either be Chinto, Kusanku, or Fukyugata Ichi... I'm not too sure about that third kata. But Passai would be one of the kata for sure.

When I practice a kata, I ask myself what the creator of the kata was thinking -- what was he trying to preserve and teach. I did the same thing in school. Instead of just answering the questions on tests, I asked myself what the tester was thinking -- what was it that he wanted the students to know and thus answer.

What was the creator of Passai (at least our Tomari Passai) thinking? What did he want to preserved. What techniques did he want the students to know? How did he want the students to move? What was his sense of direction and changing directions? What was his muti-level approach (usually at least three levels of applications for each movement)? What was his approach to transitions?

Here is my answer to these questions -- the creator of Passai was "way out there", way beyond my level in Karate. He was a real artist! Practicing Passai is like catching glimpses of genius. Even if we cannot perform the kata correctly, just trying makes us better.

Think about the kata. If you could, would you change even one movement? Would you change the techniques or change the order of the techniques? Does anything feel out of place? To me, the kata is perfect. I would not change anything.

Our own Kishaba Juku approach to the kata, and all kata for that matter, is for each movement to be core (koshi) driven. To perform the whole kata in this manner is a challenging thing of beauty.

And this may be a strange thing to say -- I feel happy when I perform Passai. I always have. It does not feel dark or heavy. Chinto does not make me feel happy -- that kata makes me wince. Naihanchi does not make me feel happy -- that kata makes me feel rooted and powerful (like a metal whip). Fukyugata Ichi does not make me feel happy -- it makes me feel precise (like origami). Kusanku does not make me feel happy -- it makes me feel like I am on a tour (going here and there). But Passai makes me feel happy.

So being able to work on Passai all last night was a real pleasure! I'm still happy.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

My Granddaughter is 1 Year Old Today!

My granddaughter, Madeleine, became one year old today! She is the daughter of my eldest son, Christopher, and his wife, Michelle, who live right next door.

I cannot adequately put into words how happy I am to be a grandfather. It is both a joy and a responsibility -- just like teaching Karate.

Some people have asked when I will start teaching my granddaughter Karate. Actually, I think I would like for her to learn how to properly fall first. I have started that, a little. As for Karate training, I think maybe I will wait until she is 5.

But martial arts training will definitely be a part of her life. My son, Chris, was very active in Kendo. Maybe Maddy will practice Kendo too.

We'll see!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

We Need to Be Better!

This is a story.

The head sensei of a very large and successful dojo called all the instructors together. "Our students need to be better! I want each of you to give me your recommendations."

The first instructors said, "We need to teach more hours."

"But we already teach 7 days each week all day and all night," replied the head sensei.

The second instructor said, "We need better facilities."

"But we already have the best dojo facilities in the entire country," replied the head sensei.

The third instructor said, "We need more kata to teach."

"But we already teach 150 kata gathered from the best Karate systems," replied the head sensei.

The fourth instructor said, "We need more trophies in our frontage windows."

"But we already put on tournaments every two months and have trophies up to the ceiling," replied the head sensei.

Finally, the fifth instructor, who was also the dojo's lawyer gave his suggestion, "We need to redefine better."

"What do you mean?", ask the head sensei.

"We need to redefine what it means to be 'better.' I suggest that we promote all the students by one rank and then charge them higher tuition. We promote them to make them feel better and we charge them more because they are better."

The first four instructors started to protest but the head sensei said, "Wait, let's think about this."

No, let's not. If you want to get better you just need to train (regularly, intensely, and with attention paid to details). Training and refinement are the keys to improvement, not tricks.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Beginner Kata

One of the problems caused by systematizing a style of Karate is deciding what is beginning, intermediate and advanced. Even these categories present problems in and of themselves. If you look at a sphere spinning in many directions, where is the top, middle and bottom?

But it is common for the kata curriculum of a style to be divided by rank. A 5th kyu might learn a certain kata, a 4th kyu another kata, and so on. The most advanced kata might be reserved for a certain dan level. If a system has 18 kata, these are split up and assigned by rank. The same applies for a system with 60 kata. So the number of kata a student would be expected to learn depends on the system, and the assignments made by the Sensei.

Let me ask you this -- if one system has 18 kata, and another system has 60 kata, when students in both systems learn a total of 18 kata, should they be at equal levels? Of course not! In an 18 kata system, a student might not learn the 18th kata until he is a sandan (3rd degree black belt). In a 60 kata system, a student might learn 18 kata (or even more) while still in the kyu ranks.

So are the kata equivalent? Is the value of each kata the same? It all depends on how you teach them.

One of the things I do not like to hear is when a student refers to a certain kata as being for "beginners." This is probably because the student learned that kata when he was a beginner. But that certainly does not mean that the kata is only for beginners. It is a dismissive comment.

Take Naihanchi Shodan. Students usually learn this kata fairly early in their training. In our dojo, it is the first kata that a student learns. But that does not mean that it is a beginner's kata. Naihanchi is practiced by all students in our dojo, irrespective of their level. It is a kata for all levels.

A beginner should do Naihanchi Shodan like a beginner, an intermediate level student should do the kata like an intermediate level student, and an advanced student should do the kata like an advanced student. How the student does the kata depends on the student's level.

It is kind of like a musical instrument. You could have three people play the same violin and it will probably sound entirely different. It all depends on the level of the musician.

In Karate, it all depends on the level of the student.

With kata, it is important for students to understand that their level when they learn a kata does not mean that the kata is for that level only. The timing is just part of the approach followed in the dojo. There are no beginning, intermediate, and advanced kata -- there are just beginning, intermediate, and advanced students.

It is truly awesome to see someone perform Naihanchi Shodan with strength, speed, focus, timing, power, and composure. A student will never learn to do this if he views the kata as being only for "beginners." He will probably want to move on and perform an "advanced" kata.

In the old days, the emphasis was not on learning many kata. In fact, a student who went around learning many kata was looked down upon -- because he was learning many kata rather than perfecting even one. One good kata is better than a hundred poor ones.

If you can do one kata well, you can easily learn to do 100 kata well. But if you cannot do one kata well, then you are wasting your time with 99 more! You don't learn Karate by learning new kata -- you learn Karate by working on the details of the kata you already know (or already think you knew).

And that is the problem in too many dojo today. As soon as a student learns a kata and can basically "do" it, he is rushed on to the next kata -- probably so that he can test for his next rank. There is no rush. There is no reason to associate kata with rank, except in a general sense. The emphasis should always be on learning each kata properly.

As you improve in one kata, you improve in all the other kata you know. It is a cumulative process. When you finally reach the most advanced kata in your system, it is then that you might begin to appreciate the first kata you learned.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Promoted and Crying

This is a story.

At a gathering of all the students in a particular style, the head Sensei called everyone to attention and announced that Sam was being promoted to 8th dan and awarded the title of Kyoshi. Sam's eyes welled up with tears and he began to sob.

"I know it is great honor," said the Sensei.

"That's not it," said Sam.

"I know that you do not feel worthy," said the Sensei.

"That's not it," said Sam.

"I know that you feel it is a great responsibility," said the Sensei.

"That's not it," said Sam.

"Well I don't understand," said the Sensei. "Why are you crying?"

"I can't afford it!" cried Sam.

The way I look at it, the student has paid for his rank and title by his hard work and the attainment of skill.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

30 Years Training

I am often reminded of a saying my friend and senior Sensei Pat Nakata is fond of: "There is a difference between practicing Karate for 30 years, and practicing Karate for 1 year 30 times.

Now, I have practiced Karate for over 30 years -- about 35 or 36 years. So it is easy for me to say that "I have practiced Karate for 35 years!" But have I really practiced Karate for 35 years, or have I practiced Karate for 1 year 35 times? Hmmmm?

The truth is probably somewhere in between. Each of my first few years were probably separate years, but I am sure that there were many years when I was stuck and doing the same things over and over again with little or no results. In that sense, these were "1 year over and over" years. I was stuck for a long time.

Then, in 2002, I was lucky enough to get unstuck, thanks to the help of many people and fine Sensei. Every year since then has definitely been a separate year -- no repeats.

So some of my 35 years have been separate years and some have been repeats. And I think that it is a natural thing. We all go through periods when we are learning and improving. We also go through periods when we reach a plateau and feel stuck. Sometimes we might even feel like we are moving backward.

During these difficult and frustrating times, the main thing is to keep practicing and not give up. If we give up, then it is all over. But if we keep working at it, we have the chance to reach the point where we can move forward.

In my case, I reached a point where my frustration was so great that I was figuratively dying for a solution. And when I had the opportunity to learn and move forward, my pent up frustration was turned into determination to practice hard, study what I had learned, and keep moving forward.

If things had always been easy for me, I don't think I would have had such determination. I probably would have taken things for granted.

It is not good to practice for 1 year 30 times. But it is pretty rare to be able to practice for 30 years straight with constant progress. Sometimes we reach plateaus and that is the time to work even harder and to examine what it is that is holding us back. Sometimes the mountain cannot be reached until you have crossed the plateau. Maybe crossing the plateu makes your legs strong enough to climb the mountain.

One of my sons was talking to me about Karate. He told me that he admired me for something. This was a little surprising to me because my sons and I generally tease each other and they are all stronger, faster, and in many ways better at Karate than me.

My son told me that he admired that I never gave up. As a result, I learned a new way to move (new to me) and so did my sons. If I had given up, my sons would not have learned how to move either, nor would our students.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Commitment

What does it take for a student to become truly skilled at Karate? There are several things, but one of the most important is commitment.

Karate is very easy to start but very difficult to finish (actually, there is no finish as it is a lifelong pursuit). Many students begin Karate training filled with enthusiasm. But then they find that Karate training is hard work, not just for a few weeks or months, but for many years. I sometimes say that it takes about 10 years for a student to become pretty good at Karate. By this, I mean that the student will probably be comfortable with the curriculum by that time (know the basics and kata) and will probably be in pretty good shape. But this is just the starting point for continued training and refinement. Ten years is just a good start!

If that is true (that 10 years is just a good start), then the commitment required to learn Karate is pretty great, far greater than most students understand when they begin training.

Many Karate students are not athletic or even coordinated. Some are in bad shape, some are overweight, some have physical limitations or challenges, some begin training when they are older and aches and pains are part of everyday life. But a committed student, despite his challenges or limitations, will gradually improve. I have seen students overcome all kinds of problems and become quite skilled, confident, disciplined, and composed in the process. But it takes time and effort and in order to devote this much time and effort, the student must be committed.

Have you ever heard of a "mosquito student?" Here in Hawaii, that means a students who just shows up at class from time to time, like a mosquito buzzing in your ear. I don't know why, but I have also heard such students referred to as "mosquito fish." It is extremely hard for a student to learn if he does not attend class regularly and practice at home. It takes both. You come to class to learn and you practice at home.

My second son saw a student at our class. The student was doing very well. My son said, "You don't get like that by accident." It was obvious that this student, who attends class regularly, was also practicing diligently at home. Remember, you don't become skilled in Karate by accident, it takes time, effort, and commitment.

You might be thinking at this point that I mean commitment to the class, dojo, style, or association. No, I mean commitment to training -- commitment to Karate itself. Commitment to the other things might also be important, but skill comes from commitment to training (advancement may come from commitment to the other things).

In addition to "mosquito" students, there is also another kind. This student starts at one dojo, quits, joins another, quits, starts another style, quits, goes back to the first dojo, quits, starts/quits, starts/quits, on and on and on. Obviously, this will not lead to skill in Karate. The student may be able to superficially discuss Karate and other martial arts very well, but that is it.

A little Karate training is like being a little smart -- it is enough to get you in trouble but not enough to avoid trouble or get you out of it. This is important. Please remember it. A little Karate training is a dangerous thing.

I know many skilled Karate people. Some of the people I have met are truly amazing, despite the fact that they look and act like ordinary people. When people with minimal/shallow Karate experience, but a "big head" in Karate, meet and speak to such skilled Karate people, I always cringe. It would be like me talking to Einstein about physics. It would be like a child going up to a tiger and hitting it on the nose with stick. I just cringe.

But if the student is sincere and committed, more advanced students and instructors will always be understanding and supportive. "Just keep training," they will say, "and you will get it."

That is true. Just keep training. You will get it. The "secrets" of Karate are revealed to the student through training, particularly through training in the kata.

It takes time, effort, and commitment. If a student puts in the time and effort, and is committed, he will certainly improve and eventually become skilled in Karate. It will be no accident. It is certain to happen. But it will take a long time and buckets and buckets of sweat.

So attend your classes regularly (after you have attended to your work, school, and family obligations) and practice at home. You will make it. Try your best! And don't forget to encourage your juniors as you advance.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

All Different Karate

There are many ways to teach Karate (or any martial art for that manner). The way you might teach a 6 year old differs from the way you might teach a soldier in a hand-to-hand combat course. While I do not like tournaments and competitive forms of Karate, I do appreciate the dedication and hard work that many students devote to such events.

I respect many different ways to teach and practice Karate. My own approach is the one I feel most comfortable with at this point in my training and at this point in my life. I'm sure that my views will change and grow (hopefully) as I continue to mature in the art.

There are so many aspects to Karate. We all pursue a certain mix of these aspects. I work a lot on body dynamics, particularly the use of the koshi to generate and direct power. However, this is just one aspect of Karate. Body dynamics, by itself, is not Karate -- it is just one of many aspects (albeit an important one).

A diamond has many facets. That is what makes it beautiful.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

DUI

Sometimes I hear about people who are caught driving while intoxicated. Here in Hawaii, that is called a "DUI".

I have noticed that people who are caught and charged with a DUI tend to complain about it -- how unfair it is. Sometimes they hire attorneys to try to get them out of the charge. They are not saying that the charges are untrue, just that it is somehow unfair. They will privately admit that they were drinking and were drunk -- they just don't want the DUI on their record.

It seems to me that a person who was caught driving drunk should get down on his hands and knees and thank the police officer for potentially saving his life and the lives of innocent people! Who knows what could have happened just a few minutes later?

A DUI is a terrible thing. It is an expensive and inconvenient thing. But that is to deter drunk driving. A DUI is bad, but killing yourself and others is far worse.

The way to avoid a DUI is to not drive when you have been drinking. And you know my feeling -- it is better not to drink at all.

Now if you were not drinking and were charged with a DUI wrongfully, then by all means you should fight it. But if you were guilty of the crime, you should face up to it and change your ways.

Just my two cents.

Oh, and if you are convicted of a DUI, when you eventually get your license back guess what happens to your insurance premiums?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Clear Headed

One more on drinking.

If I allow myself to become drunk, how can I defend myself or loved ones if it becomes necessary to do so? Some of you might be thinking that a drunken Karate expert can still use his skills. While I do not necessarily agree with that (being drunk would affect one's physical control), there is another issue.

Karate is used for self defense as a last resort only -- correct? If I become drunk, will my judgment be clouded such that my determination of "last resort" can be called into question? Will my drunkenness make me more prone to fight or react in anger?

Let's say that I am drunk and am attacked. Will my actions be considered self defense? Will the fact that I am legally drunk factor into this question? I am pretty certain that it will.

How am I supposed to be able to determine whether or not a situation presents a "last resort" when I cannot walk in a straight line and say my name clearly? I suspect that the police would also arrest me for fighting and if the attacker was injured or killed, I could be charged with a crime.

That is one reason why a Karate student always has to be clear headed enough, not only to be able to defend himself and loved ones, but to make the determination of "last resort" and to know when enough is enough (when to terminate the use of force).

Changing the subject a little, have you ever heard of a Karate student or instructor coming to class after drinking alcohol or when drunk? In our dojo, I can say with certainty that any student who did so would be sent home immediately. And if an instructor did so, we would probably expel him (or her). There are children in our class and that is no place for alcohol.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Armed and Dangerous Drinker

Let's say that a policeman goes to work. Naturally, he carries a gun (as part of his job). You wouldn't want this policeman to stop by a bar on the way home and get drunk while still carrying his weapon. You wouldn't want any drunken person to be carrying a gun!

The problem with Karate students is that we are always armed and dangerous. We are always carrying a weapon, so to speak. We cannot leave our Karate in the car, at work, or in a locker. It is with us 24 hours a day. Our Karate is with us when we are sober, and remains with us when we are drunk (or otherwise under the influence).

We have to control our drinking not only to protect ourselves, but in order to protect others from what we could do.

As Karate students, we are held to a higher standard of personal conduct... or at least we should be.

OK, you can blame me on this post too.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Designated Driver

Sometimes I hear about people who are going out drinking. Usually, one of the members of the group is named the designated driver. That person will not drink and is responsible for driving the others home safely. As far as it goes, that sounds like a good idea. Certainly, people who have been drinking should never drive.

But does having a designated driver mean that you can drink all you want without any concerns?

What if on the way home, there is an accident? What if the designated driver and others are injured? Will you be sober enough to rescue them?

What is your group is attacked in the parking lot of the bar?

What if the designated driver has a heart attack?

What if, what if, what if?

My point is that by putting your trust in a designated driver, you are giving up your own responsibility. You should always be your own designated driver. You should not rely on someone else when it comes to safety.

If I went out drinking with my wife and she was the designated driver, how could I protect her? If I were drunk, would I be clear headed enough and in control of my senses and body to defend her, and other loved ones?

I think not. I am responsible for myself and also for my family. That is not something I would delegate to anyone else. If I go out with my family, I am responsible for them. Each of my children is also responsible for themselves and the entire family. We are responsible for each other. We are not going to designate anyone to take that responsibility.

We live in a culture where drinking is glorified -- because the people who sell alcohol spend countless millions of dollars conditioning us to believe that drinking will make us somehow better, more attractive, cool, etc. The radio plays songs specifically about drinking. People have bought into the marketing.

I am always the designated driver of my own life. I cannot let alcohol or drugs interfere with that responsibility. And with Karate skills, being sober and in control of one's senses is even more important. Can you imagine a drunk Karate (or other martial arts) student losing control?

We are responsible for our actions. As Karate students, we have to be in control of ourselves at all times -- all times. That is the only way to ensure that should we have to use the destructive aspects of Karate, it will only be as a last resort -- not a drunken response.

For parents of teenagers and young adults, please feel free to share this post with them. You can blame it on me!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin