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1700+ Posts... and Counting

Backyard First

I have been working on my son's yard for over a year now. Just recently, I started work on the front yard. Until this time, I have only worked on the back and side yards.

You might wonder why I did the back and side yards first, which cannot be seen from the front of the house. My reasoning is as follows: if I worked on the front first and someone stopped by and said, "Oh, the yard looks nice," I would then have to explain that the back and sides are not yet done. But if I did the back and side yards first, and then did the front, and then someone stopped by, I could invite them to come see the back and side yards too. Then, the whole yard would be done, not just the part that is visible from the road (front).

A friend of mine said that there is a saying, "don't wave the flag while you are raising it." First you raise it then you can wave it.

When I teach Karate, I follow the same approach. In our system, the last kata a student will usually learn are Chinto and Kusanku. Of the two, to me Chinto is more advanced (but this is subjective). To me, these are front yard kata.

By the time I teach Chinto and Kusanku to a student, I want the student to have finished work on the back and side yards. By the time a student can perform Chinto and Kusanku, the yard should be complete. These are the finishing touches. If someone asked to see the rest of the kata that the student knows, they should be pretty good. He should not have to apologize for them being incomplete or poor.

Chinto and Kusanku are advanced kata. By the time a student learns them, he should already be advanced. He should be able to perform these kata in an advanced way.

As you can guess, I do not believe in teaching a student all the kata in our system by the time he is shodan or even nidan. It is better to do a few kata well than many kata poorly. Knowing many kata means nothing in and of itself. In fact, knowing too many kata can be a burden.

By the time a student learns the most advanced kata in a system, he should be able to do all the kata well. Advanced kata do not make students advanced. An advanced student can perform a basic kata in an advanced way.


Charles C. Goodin

Tsunami Warning In Hawaii (A Review)

We knew about the 8.8 earthquake in Chile on Friday evening. Of course, we were concerned about the destruction and loss of life in Chile, but our thoughts quickly turned to the possibility of a Pacific tsunami. In 1960, a 9.5 earthquake in the same area produced a tsunami that killed 61 people in Hilo, Hawaii (on the Big Island).

Luckily, a tsunami takes time to travel from Chile to Hawaii. At first we were under a tsunami watch which soon became a tsunami warning, meaning a tsunami was likely. In fact, they knew the more or less exact time when it would first arrive in Hawaii -- 11:19 a.m. This later change to 11:05 a.m., but the main thing was that we had a long time to prepare.

In Hawaii, we are always ready for hurricanes. Preparing for a tsunami was pretty similar for those of us who live inland (away from the shore). My house is on pretty high ground, about a mile form the Aloha Stadium. Getting ready for the tsunami, in my case, meant stockpiling water. My family already had everything else required for hurricanes (and then some). In fact, I had just redone my hurricane kits and bought two large, heavy plastic, storage cases for all the supplies.

I filled eight, 7 gallon water carriers, and a 55 gallon water barrel, in addition to numerous other smaller water containers. This sounds like a lot, but there were concerns that a tsunami could damage our water system. I believe that there was talk about turning the water off on some islands. After watching recovery efforts in Haiti, I decided that having clean drinking water was really important. I also purchased water purification systems (filters and pills) so that we could purify, if necessary, the 200 gallons of water in our four, 55 gallon rain barrels. Plus, we could boil water and use bleach.

Here on Oahu, there was no disruption of any of our utilities.

Also, we were really lucky that the tsunami warning was on a Saturday, when most people were at home, and our weather was really nice (sunny, with little wind). It actually was a beautiful day.

Evacuating people from the shore area (inundation zones) seemed to be the focus of the emergency effort. Sirens sounded at 6 a.m. to alert people. I can't remember when the sirens were sounded, except for tests. It was a little chilling, except for the fact that we already had been watching the news since the previous night. Sirens were also sounded periodically as the arrival time neared.

Actually, at 3 a.m, my wife and I went to our office to get copies of certain files (in case the office building was closed due to a tsunami). On the way home, we stopped for gas and there were already lines. An hour later, my wife and I went to top off another car, and the lines were longer. People were also going to stores to buy emergency supplies (mostly water and food).

Government workers closed roads and restricted access to the shore areas. This did not affect my family, since we just stayed home.

As you probably know, the tsunami did arrive but was smaller than predicted. Some people will say that the civil defense and tsunami workers overreacted, but I would disagree. It is far better to be safe than sorry. Given the previous loss of life here, I think that the steps taken were prudent. They were also a good test of the system and good practice for all of us.

One interesting thing was watching the shore at Hilo via a webcam at the BJ Penn website. This was shown on the local and national stations. Way to go BJ!

Living on islands, we have to be prepared for disasters. We can't just drive to another state. Hopefully, our experience yesterday will make people realize the need to be even more prepared. Whether for hurricanes, tsunami, earthquakes, or pandemics, we need to have good emergency kits. If they say that you should have 3 days worth of supplies, I would prefer to have 2 weeks worth (for each person in the family).

This might be because my father was in the military. Growing up on military bases, we always took emergency preparedness seriously. Military people don't complain in such situations -- they get to work and focus on the situation. Emergency preparedness becomes the mission and you concentrate on the mission until it is completed. You don't complain and you don't waste time. I also was a Boy Scout, and we essentially had the same attitude as military people. The motto is "Be prepared." That is a good motto for everyone.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Chile and the region. I also want to thank the emergency and government workers who worked hard to keep us safe here in Hawaii. I think they did not sleep for two days. If a similar event happened again, I hope that they will work just as hard. The fact that the tsunami was smaller than expected should not make any difference. We should be just a prepared and just as cautious the next and every time. The first time we let our guard down will probably the time the disaster is real.

As Karate students, we prepare for an unexpected attack. We should also be prepared for disasters.

So now I have a lot of stored water. It cost nothing and I will use it to water plants over the next few weeks -- until the next time.


Charles C. Goodin

Olympic Gold

It seems the older we get, the more my wife and I enjoy watching the Olympics. The athletes are so talented, skilled and dedicated. They train so hard and give up so much to represent their respective countries. In many events, they risk injury and even death.

It makes me think that we should give Gold Medals to the men and women in the various branches of the military serving our country who put their lives on the line each and every day. How talented, skilled and dedicated they are! How much they sacrifice for each and every of us!


Charles C. Goodin

Fast Food Karate

I was speaking to a friend about Karate and he mentioned that in some places, martial arts schools are like fast food restaurants. I got the impression that they were "fly by night" operations.

Hearing this made me really sad. Here in Hawaii, I know many martial arts instructors. While there are some commercial schools, I would not call them fast food restaurant-like.

Most of the martial arts instructors I know are truly sincere, hard working, student oriented, and committed to a lifetime of martial arts training and teaching. They are the real deal. Most make little or nothing from teaching. Some actually spend their own money so that their students will have a place to learn.

We are really lucky here in Hawaii. You can find excellent instructors of just about any martial art, not only the Japanese/Okinawan arts but the Chinese, Filipino, and others too.

I am truly grateful to martial arts instructors everywhere who positively represent their arts.

In Karate, we are not serving fast food.


Charles C. Goodin

Look First, Then What?

In my last post, Look First, I wrote about how you have to look before you move.

In many schools, students are taught to move in the following order: eyes, feet, hands. I remember learning this when I first started Shorin-Ryu.

With koshi (whole body torque), the sequence might be: eyes, feet, koshi, hands; or possibly eyes, koshi, feet, hands.

Personally, I do not use either pattern. Typically I use: eyes, koshi/hands, feet.

I know that this may seem odd to some readers -- feet last? But it is true. Actually, my koshi moves my hands and feet... but my feet usually move last.

Freedom of movement and timing are characteristics of our system.

But I do still look first.


Charles C. Goodin

Look First

Last night at class I mentioned that the first thing that usually moves at the beginning of a kata is your eyes (and head) -- first you must look in the direction you will move.

In Fukyugata Ichi, for example, you look to the left. Of course, as you look you are also beginning to move your hands and body. You do not just move your head in isolation.

I should note that this does not apply in kata where you are moving forward in the first motion. In Gojushiho, for example, you move forward. Since you are already looking forward, there is no need for a special movement. However, you would still "look" to make sure where you are going.

The idea is that you look before you are committed to moving.

I remember in high school. We were goofing around on the bleachers at the football field. Once of my friends executed some Karate movement (which I can't remember) and stepped off the bleacher with one foot. His foot and leg scrapped down the rough edge of the wood. Lucky he did not fall off, but it was pretty painful to be sure.

He should have looked first.

I always remember that incident. Before you move in any direction, you have to look first to make sure that it is safe. You might step into a hole (or off the side of the bleachers). What if a truck is coming at you? You can't just block -- you have to be able change direction!

So it is important to be aware as you move in any kata. You can't just dance around daydreaming. Of course it is usually safe and clear in the dojo. The floor is flat and there are few, if any, obstructions. But outside there are unexpected obstacles and people trying to hit you. It could be dark and hard to see. You have to "look" hard. You have to be aware.

It is like the expression, "look before you leap." Look before you move in kata.

One other thing. We always say look with your nose. This means that you have to turn your head when you look, not just look with your eyes. In Fukyugata Ichi, for example, if your keep your head facing forward and just look to the left with your eyes, you will have a big blind spot on your left side. But if your turn your nose to the left, you will be able to see completely without any blind spots. Turning your nose is another way of saying turn your whole head -- do not look side-eyed.

I also like to say that this "turning the head" and "looking" are like changing lanes when you drive. You quickly look first -- it is not an exaggerated movement. Just a quick look to make sure it is safe, and bam! -- you move.


Charles C. Goodin

Lucky To Live Hawaii

I worked in the yard today. It was about 80 degrees and no vog.

In Hawaii, the following all make perfect sense and mean the same thing:

yeah, yeah?
yeah, no?
no, yeah?
no, no?

Sugar coated, chocolate filled malasadas. Yum!

Lucky we live Hawaii.


Charles C. Goodin

Armed MMA?

I was thinking... how would MMA be different if the competitors each had a 6 inch knife? What difference would that make? A taller competitor would have a longer reach, but also more body to protect.

Now how would MMA be different if the competitors each had a 6 foot sword? A taller and stronger competitor would have the advantage.

Now how about crossbows?

What about body armor?

You could go on and on. The rules and weapons shape the results.

When I was benching with my son, Cael, he mentioned that it is easier to bench if you have shorter arms. This makes sense.

In Karate, we do not have to think about rules or advantages/disadvantages. There are no rules and we have to prepare for an unexpected attack. We do not get to pick the attacker or even the time of the attack (except to the extent we can avoid it). We do not have a choice of whether the attacker is armed or not.

We do not get three rounds or five rounds. Maybe we have three seconds or five seconds, if that.

We do not even get to face our attacker -- he might attack from behind with no warning.

To tell the truth, that is the advantage of Karate. We train for this unfair uncertainty.


Charles C. Goodin

My Karate Philosophy

I am serious when I write this post.

I do not have a Karate philosophy, except to train. I train, and that is it.

When I train, I do not think about philosophic matters, gods or angels. I do not think about Zen or sutras, or saying at all. I just train.

If I think about such things, I will not be concentrating completely on training. During training, I have no room for stray thoughts, whether they be of religion or any other subject. Imagine something that is so fast and requires so much attention, that if you blink, you will miss it. If you dream, you will fail. Even if you focus 99%, that missing 1% will be your downfall.

During training, I train. I train -- no extra thoughts, no verbalization.

When I train, I am not training to get to heaven or become enlightened -- not that these are not noble goals. It is just that they are not my goals during training. During training, I train. Afterward, there is time for pursuing goals.

When I train, I concentrate on training.

I have no philosophy of Karate and do not pursue Karate as a religion. Karate is Karate and religion is religion.

I do have certain codes of conduct for Karate, such as using Karate techniques in defense only. These guide how I would use or not use Karate, but are not a religion or philosophy.

My training is simple: learn how to move optimally and learn how to apply the movements. During training, I train. When the mind and body are concentrated completely on training... then that is a special thing indeed! No gaps.


Charles C. Goodin

Next Rank -- Follow-up

I want to thank the readers who sent words of encouragement about my last post, Next Rank. It seems to have struck a chord.

As I have written before, rank without skill is meaningless and with skill, rank is not necessary.

We should try our best at everything we do -- Karate included. I am trying to be a good grandfather to my granddaughter, who will be four months old tomorrow. There is no rank for that, or for most important things.


Charles C. Goodin

Next Rank

I've often written about rank related issues. After one of my posts, I was contacted by a reader who related that after any promotion, he immediately had to begin working on the next rank.

I have also seen this. Even before receiving a certificate, I have seen students who are already working or angling for the next "dan". In some organizations, rank is not simply based on dedicated training and skill. Hosting seminars, having a large enrollment, working for the organization, and many other factors are also taken into consideration (formally or informally).

We should all work hard to become skilled in Karate. We should all work hard to be in good physical condition. We should all work hard to refine our movements, to optimize our body mechanics, and to understand the applications of all techniques.

If we are promoted, we should thank our Sensei and seniors, and continue to work hard.

When I have been promoted, I have not thought about the next rank -- I have thought about trying to earn the rank I had just received and not doing anything to make my Sensei look bad for having promoted me. I don't like to talk about a promotion for a few years... just in case. And even then, it is generally not something to talk about.

When you are promoted, don't look forward, just keep your head down and your nose to the grindstone.


Charles C. Goodin