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1700+ Posts... and Counting

Where My Stories Come From

From time to time, I am asked where my stories come from.

The stories I write, and often the blog posts themselves, appear almost like daydreams and I write them down. I usually do not plan them. I will be doing something and the story or post will start to play in my mind (all the parts at the same time, sometimes in words, but usually not). If I find them interesting, I will write them down (sculpt the thoughts with words).

I don't think this is very unusual. The creative process is often a spontaneous thing, with sometimes complex and extensive ideas perceived in an instant.

Of course, I practice and teach, and conduct a fair amount of research. Since I spend so much time on Karate, it is natural that my thoughts and daydreams will sometimes focus on the subject.

But it is not like I say: let's come up with a story or post. They just seem to sprout, like weeds in my garden. I don't have to plant them either!


Charles C. Goodin

My Christmas Wish

I told my kids that my Christmas wish was for world peace. One of them said that such as wish was a cliche. It sounds like something a contestant would say at a beauty pageant.

But this is really my wish -- world peace.

Since I cannot control the world, I should seek peace in my own daily life, in my family, in my dojo, with my friends, and with my business contacts. If I do this, it will have at least a small impact. An if everyone did so, the result would be World Peace.

I practice and teach Karate as a way to avoid physical violence. A peaceful person is unlikely to provoke a fight and a vigilant person is more likely to recognize and avoid a violent situation. If, as a last resort, the use of Karate's destructive techniques is necessary, then that cannot be avoided and anything goes. But if it is possible, I would run away. I am a pacifist who has practiced martial arts for over 40 years!

My goal for 2012 is to win the Nobel Peace Prize for teaching Karate. That would be something! But prize or not, I will work to promote peace through Karate.


Charles C. Goodin

My Best Student

I have written about this before, but it deserves repeating.

My best student is the student I am teaching. The only caveat to this is that the student must be trying. I have very little time for a student who does not try, but almost unlimited time and effort for a student who sincerely tries.

I try to teach a beginner how to punch, block and kick with the same attention to detail and enthusiasm as when I teach an advanced student or instructor. And I learn a lot in both cases. In fact, I often learn more when I am teaching beginners. When I am teaching the fundamentals, any new realizations or discoveries will have a major impact on everything I do.

I believe that all students are special. Honestly, I think that a teacher is very lucky to have a good student. A student is lucky to have a good teacher, but I think that the teacher is actually luckier. For a teacher, passing on the art is almost a biological imperative.

My best student is the student I am teaching. And because I learn by teaching, if my student is the best I am also learning from the best.


Charles C. Goodin

Another Martial Art

If could study another martial art, which one would it be?

  1. Ju Jitsu
  2. Sojutsu (spear art)
  3. Naginata jutsu
  4. Escrima
  5. Kenjutsu
Scroll down for the answer.

The answer is D, Escrima. I think that Escrima would compliment my Karate training very well. I am a fan of the Filipino martial arts. I would like to study the other martial arts as well, but Escrima is on the top of my list.


Charles C. Goodin

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

From our family to yours, best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! You can click the image to enlarge it.


Charles C. Goodin

At What Cost?

So let's say that you are a Shodan. It will take some work to earn your Nidan. It is not just a question of staying in Karate. It will take effort.

Rising from Nidan to Sandan will be even more difficult.

In fact, the higher the rank, the steeper the mountain becomes! The climb becomes more and more difficult.

Well, actually, I think that most of us enjoy training, so it is not really that difficult.

But I want to ask a question. If you have already reached the 99% level among Karate students, how much is it worth to you to strive for that remaining 1%? Let's say you are already proficient at self-defense. If so, it is worth expending considerable time and effort to become a little bit more proficient?

When I was in high school, I took a driver's education class. Then I got my driver's license. Since then, I have driven pretty well. I haven't had to take any additional classes. I am not a race car driver. For my personal driving, I seem to have learned what was necessary.

How much is necessary when it comes to Karate? I started practicing Shorin-Ryu about 37 years ago. That is quite a long time. I'm glad that I haven't had to go to 37 years of driver's education classes!

Don't get me wrong -- I really enjoy practicing and teaching Karate. Actually, my emphasis is on teaching. But I continue to try to improve my Karate skills too.

It is not like I am looking for a higher rank or titles so that I can draw more students. The opposite seems to be true -- the more skilled I become (over a long time), the fewer students I want to teach. My idea of an ideal class is one in which I teach a single student in depth! I don't need a higher rank or titles to do that.

And the point I am getting at is this: if you enjoy Karate training, than that is reward enough. If you do not enjoy Karate training, then external rewards such as rank and titles will probably not be enough. An unhappy 7th dan will probably become an unhappy 8th dan -- and make his students unhappy too.

But there is another point. How much time and effort are you willing to put in to improve just a little?

One of my sons was lifting weights and broke his previous record by 10 pounds. I mentioned this to a serious lifter who replied that a his level, lifting even a pound or two more would be very difficult. The more advanced you become, the harder it is to progress even a little.

If you are not interested in rank and titles, and are only interested in skill, how much time and effort would you be willing to expend to improve 1% or 2%? And is that margin of improvement really relevant when it comes to self defense?

I do not know the answer, but I thought it was an interesting question.

For me, training and teaching is worth it. I enjoy training and I enjoy teaching and helping students. It is sort of like gardening. I grow vegetables in my home garden. Nothing makes me happier than giving eggplants, okra, cucumbers, and avocados to my relatives and friends. Often, there is more than my immediate family can eat. My avocado tree had about 400 fruits this year. It seemed like the more I gave away, the more fruits there were.

I feel exactly the same about teaching. It makes me happy and it seems that the more I teach, the more there is to teach.

I think that improvement is a byproduct of the process, not necessarily the goal.


Charles C. Goodin

90th Percentile

My two year old granddaughter is at the 90th percentile in height for her age. She is a tall girl.

I started to think. What would the 90th percentile be for Karate? Please go along with the question. I realize that numbers and Karate don't quite mix.

Let's set up the question a little. We will only count adults, not children. And we will only include Karate students who have trained for at least a year. That will eliminate students who start and quit right away, or in just a few months.

So if you take all of the living adult Karate students who have trained for at least one year, what would represent the 90th percentile? Let's ask this in terms of rank -- and I fully realize that rank is a subjective and imperfect thing, but we need something to use as a basis.

What rank would a 90th percentile adult Karate student who has trained for at least one year be? Please keep in mind that this would cover students who have trained from 1 year to nearly a lifetime. What is your answer?

Here is my answer/guess: Shodan (1st degree black belt).

90% only means that you are in the top 10%. If you look at all Karate students, I would say that about 1 in 10 become Shodan -- maybe more, maybe less. But if you have 10 students who train for at least 1 year, it would be pretty good if at least one of them eventually became a Shodan (certainly not in a year, but at some later time).

What would 95% be? Maybe Nidan (2nd degree black belt).

How about 99%? I would guess 4th or 5th dan.

So when you see a 9th or 10th dan, that person probably represents the top 99.99 percent -- like one in a million!

So being at the 90th percentile in Karate is not such an unusual thing. If there are 100 people, you would be among the 10 who have reached this level.

I will come back to this point in a later post. But for now, I think that it is good to appreciate the accomplishment of students who rise to the heights of Karate training as evidenced by their character, skill, conditioning, contributions to the arts, etc., all of which might be represented by their rank (maybe so or maybe not, but hopefully so).

My granddaughter may be at the 90th percentile for height, but she is one in a billion to me!


Charles C. Goodin

The Secret of Karate Is...

The secret of Karate is... to train. You learn by training, and by training you learn.

Thinking, talking, and writing about Karate is OK if you are training and can physically do it. Otherwise, it is just a mental exercise. If you can do it, there is really no need to say much about it (except to try to help others).

How much of the time you spend on Karate is actual "training"?

Let's all try to train more in the coming year!

And, of course, there are no secrets in Karate -- only things you can learn by training.


Charles C. Goodin

Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol

I saw Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol tonight with my wife and mother.

We all gave it a 10!


Charles C. Goodin

Mada, Mada, Mada

The other day, after a Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai training, I complimented my friend's student on his progress. The student responded, "Mada, mada, mada."

That was very well said!

See: Guest Post: Mada, Mada, Mada, by Sensei Pat Nakata, who happens to be the student's Sensei.


Charles C. Goodin

Dojo Guests

From time to time, we have visitors to our dojo from within the Kishaba Juku family. I always enjoy meeting other students. Usually, I try to teach them, to the best of my ability.

Initially, I try to get a feel for where they are in their training, what their strengths are, and what their weaknesses might be. Of course, we are all learning. I have weaknesses too. Perhaps that is a poor word. We all have areas where we need more work.

Usually, I will watch a student perform the Naihanchi Shodan kata. That is enough to get a good feel. You cannot fake Naihanchi. You can either do it, or you cannot it. It will reveal quite a lot about the student's strengths and weaknesses (areas that need work).

After that, I will usually work with the student using the Naihanchi Shodan kata. All students in Kishaba Juku know this kata, so it is a good choice.

The subject I will concentrate on will almost always be koshi. There is always work to be done on koshi. I also seem to have a simplified koshi pattern among Kishaba Juku instructors.

But... the point of this post is not about what I try to teach visitors. The point is what I do not get to teach.

In the rush to teach during a short visit, I have to concentrate on technical things. But if I had more time, I would spend just as much time and effort emphasizing two things:

  • That our effort in Karate has to be just as intense to avoid fighting and having to defend ourselves. We have to be careful, be aware, and defend only as a last resort. We have to do everything reasonably possible to avoid defending (not fighting). We do not initiate. And we try to avoid having to respond -- because the defensive techniques of Karate can be extremely destructive.
  • That our effort in Karate training is shallow if it is limited just to Karate. If the self discipline of Karate translates into our daily life, then Karate training is truly meaningful and useful. Being able to defend ourselves is good, but being a good person is even better.
Unfortunately, I am in such a hurry with visitors, and am so enthusiastic about trying my best to help them in a limited time, that these lessons are neglected. My regular students hear these types of lessons more often.

Visitors might get the impression that I am a body dynamics freak -- which is only partially true.

But I am comforted by the fact that our visitors will have certainly heard the above lessons or admonitions back in their home dojo. Kishaba Juku is not a commercial or political style. We emphasize traditional values -- and tend to be body dynamics freaks (in a good way).


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: My Experience with Sensei Goodin and the Hikari Dojo

This Guest Post is by Eli Jones, a student of Sensei Bill Lucas at the Tallahassee Karate Club. Lucas Sensei also teaches the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu.

Eli visited our dojo here in Hawaii recently. This is his summary about his training and is published with his permission. We really enjoyed having him visit us! I think that he is also a good writer.

My Experience with Sensei Goodin and the Hikari Dojo

It was about 9:30 PM on Wednesday when our plane touched down in Honolulu. I checked the time as we were collecting our carry-ons and moving toward the aircraft’s exit, and was immediately thinking to myself … “Ah man, guess I won’t be able to make it to Sensei Goodin’s class tonight.”

I, of course, realized this would be the case as Sensei Goodin holds class from 5:00 – 6:00, and our flight wasn’t scheduled to arrive in Hawaii before 9:00. Even so, the privilege of training with another Kishaba sensei was something I kept thinking about since two months earlier when Sensei Lucas informed me of the arrangements. So needless to say, contacting Sensei Goodin was the first order of business for the following day.

Even before meeting him in person, this sensei captured my fascination with his extensive knowledge and philosophies of martial arts just through our initial phone conversation. One of the first things to be addressed was my vitae as far as Kishaba Juku and any previous training went. He asked me what kata we practice in our dojo, so I, with my ever-failing memory, fumbled through the list as best as I could. “Let’s see … we do two Naihanchi, sometimes three, and five Pinan. Oh yeah, we also do the two Fukyugata. There’s also Passai, Rohai, Wankan, Gojushiho, and um … Yara no Kusanku and Matsumura Kusanku, and there’s probably a few more in there that’s not immediately coming to mind.” – There were. Sensei Goodin then replied, “You do two Kusanku in your dojo?” I simply answered, “Yes,” to which he responded, “Interesting …”

On a side note: when an intelligent person bears witness to a situation, or hears someone utter a certain combination of words, to which their only response is “interesting,” I, myself, find that to be very … interesting.

Nevertheless, I definitely appreciated the fact that Sensei Goodin wanted to learn a little more about me, and do believe that it’s important to know what kind of outside student a sensei is exposing his/her core students to. In terms of being someone from another dojo, I’ve always considered myself open-minded and not particularly resistant to new information. I do, however, have a lot of old habits that seem to play an unwelcomed, yet recurring role in my training which was noted in our discussion about koshi, tachi, and general body mechanics.

As we continued talking he touched on various principles, gave me the training schedule, explained how class is conducted at the Hikari Dojo, and went on to tell me a few accounts of his personal experience with Shinzato Sensei. All of this only went to further my excitement as I realized this opportunity was going to be more than just the chance to attend class in a different state; it was going to be an all-around learning experience.

The first night I attended class was on a Monday. Being as my father-in-law works only a couple blocks up from the Hikari Dojo, he decided to stop by and watch after work. I really appreciated his encouragement and support for my karate passion, but also felt the situation warranted an explanation. “Uh Mr. Gildea (I still formally address my in-laws) … my sensei in Florida spoke to Sensei Goodin and requested that he not only give me a few pointers, but uh … ‘pick apart’ my techniques, so uh … I’m not really sure what you’re expecting, but uh … yeah.” – Eloquence at its finest, ne?

In spite of the carefully-worded forewarning, Mr. Gildea was eager to watch a class and seemed genuinely interested in learning a little bit about karate – which was great! He came to the right place, and Sensei Goodin certainly has a vast wealth of knowledge on the subject. Unfortunately, I knew that with these two men, whose opinions I greatly respect, watching my every move … the potential mistake factor would be significantly increased.

Well to begin with, I wasn’t sure where fellow male karateka went to change into their gi as I walked into the women’s bathroom and began donning my attire. An observant Sensei Goodin noted this error as he rounded the corner and stated, “Dude! You know you’re in the girl’s bathroom right?” while maintaining a cautious distance from the facility’s entryway. With a reflective tone I replied, “No, I didn’t … I couldn’t see the sign that said …” “Right here,” he pointed to the sign. Yep, sure enough, there it was. Seemingly tickled by my lack of observation, he directed me to the men’s bathroom where I proceeded to change into my gi while considering my immediate blunder.

First impressions are lasting right? Well if that’s the case, my ability to observe, and perhaps even my level of literacy, was already put into question … or at least that’s what I was thinking as I stepped onto the tatami mat. Once class started, we lined up and began with kata.

Now there were a number of things that I needed to, and even now need to, work on in terms of my understanding and application of Kishaba Juku. Quite a bit actually, but I’m going to just touch on a few of the more outstanding key points for the sake of blog length:

Stances: As I recall, one of the first things to be addressed was my tachi. They were, in fact, too long. This is actually one of my long-time habits; I’ve always been bad to exaggerate stances which wouldn’t provide a promising outcome in a realistic combat situation. Nevertheless, Sensei Goodin explained why stances need to be height appropriate in order for koshi, connection, and overall technique to come together. In my case this meant using shorter tachi.

Hikite: Next, the issue of what I’ve always referred to as my “chamber” hand came into question. During techniques that involved an affirmative strike or block, my hikite often found itself hovering over the arch of my hip. This is, of course, not correct as it doesn’t sufficiently protect the side of one’s torso. It was explained to me that the hand needs to sit approximately in the area of one’s floating rib to effectively guard, and serve as an ideal position for the hips to drive a strike forward with power and efficiency.

Movement with the lats: As it turns out, I was largely using my arms and shoulders to punch which is also incorrect. In order for any technique involving the upper limbs to maintain the proper connection, the movement must come from the latissimus dorsi (not excluding koshi of course). This gives the individual the ability to drive a strike, make a connection with the opposing party, and recoil accordingly. The recoiling aspect of a technique is specifically important as it allows the business end of a strike to work like a whip, drawing the technique back in such a way as to immediately strike again, and again, and again … as many times as needed. It was equally stressed that timing is essential, being sure to have both the execution point of a strike and stepping movement into a stance coincide in order to generate both speed and power.

Breathing: It didn’t take Sensei Goodin very long to notice that I wasn’t exhaling to the same extent as his other students. As a matter of fact, I was holding my breath! Another habit that I developed somewhere along the way was to limit my breathing. I think I always believed that it would make my center tighter, should I absorb an incidental strike to the mid-section. Well … nope, that’s not how it works. If anything, I would’ve dropped like a bag of bricks if someone were to hit me with my current breathing technique, or lack thereof. Sensei Goodin noted the importance of correct breathing; that it is necessary to expel air upon the execution of a technique, and tighten the hara in the event of that “incidental strike.” He explained that if you’re holding your breath, then there’s air to be knocked out of you. And much like a kiai, the expulsion of air serves to focus one’s energy into the technique being executed. It is, therefore, important to exhale assertively at the completion of each movement.

Koshi: Last, and most definitely not least, koshi! Being as my goal was to create a significant amount of power with as little movement as possible, I was sure to use small koshi movements … Only one “small” problem, I wasn’t creating significant power. Actually, I wasn’t creating any power at all. Sensei Goodin understood what I was trying to do; I was attempting to emulate an advanced technique where smaller koshi motion can generate the same level of power as larger koshi motion, but without prior understanding or development/augmentation of the basics. He explained:

“You’re using smaller hip and body motions, but you don’t really have the basis to generate the amount of power required for the [advanced] technique. You have to establish yourself in the basics: learn how the koshi works, learn how to apply the body mechanics, and understand how to generate power first. Practicing the technique as you are, you have less movement, but there’s nothing backing it up beyond that. Granted, the goal is to eventually be able to execute the technique with less movement … but full power.”

With other areas of interest being explored, these were among the major focal points we worked on for the two nights I was able to attend. With that said, the second night I attended class was on the following Wednesday. I’m not sure how much attention everyone on the mainland paid to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, but suffice it to say that it’s kind of a big deal if you live on Oahu. As it turns out, this year President Obama participated in the event which resulted in increased security on the island. Among the precautions taken to insure the president and other politicians’ safety was the closing, and police-monitoring of certain streets. The reason I mention this is because a great deal of the roads that were closed surrounded the area that Erika and I were staying in.

Well Sensei Goodin, as well as friends and relatives, had given me sufficient warning regarding the magnitude of the event and the impact it would have on driving. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan my travel time well for the second night of class. We left the apartment we were staying at with what I thought was plenty of time to make it to class EARLY … which ultimately ended in my calling Sensei Goodin to make sure I could still come to class late. Apologetically I said, “Goodin Sensei, we’ve been on the road for forty-five minutes now and the traffic is just inching along. I’m not entirely sure when we’ll make it to Aiea but …” Sensei Goodin very understandingly replied, “Just get here when you get here, we’ll be training.” I was immensely thankful for his patience and willingness to still allow me to train that evening, when in truth I probably deserved an “I told you so, better luck next time kiddo” instead.

So I finally make it to class, bow onto the floor, and begin training with the other students – by the way, his students are incredible, very gifted martial artists and extremely nice people on top of that. After a certain portion of kata, Sensei Goodin had his students work with each other and he took me to the back of the dojo to work on that which was eluding me so – the basics! To begin with, he had me work on my koshi motion in front of a mirror so that I could see exactly what I was doing. Soon after, he added strikes and blocks to the hip movements so that I could get used to the motion of executing techniques with koshi. This worked perfectly for my learning style as I pick things up much easier in an ABC format. After I had practiced the movements for a while, it was time to put the techniques together in a way that made sense … and what better way to that than through Naihanchi Shodan!

As we went through Naihanchi Shodan, the focus was on all of the aforementioned key points: stances, hikite, use of the lats, breathing, and koshi. Sensei Goodin explained how everything must be integrated for speed and power. He then gave me an example of how a beginner might start off going through Naihanchi, and then demonstrated a more intermediate way followed by an advanced set of techniques. Thinking that I had the 411 on what he was explaining I boastfully stated, “Ah that’s the kaisho, gyousho, and sousho way of going through Naihanchi, huh.”

He said, “No.” - Yeah, I would’ve probably giggled if it were someone else trying to look smart, but it was me … so … it is pretty funny though isn’t it?

He gave me a more thorough example of how a kaisho, gyousho, and sousho form would appear as it pertains to Naihanchi, which was as informative as it was cool. It wasn’t long after that that class, sadly, had to come to a close. Just as it is in our dojo, we all stood in a circle so that everyone could see each other. Sensei Goodin told us about the importance of Kishaba students from different dojos training with each other; that it’s good to see how other dojos train, and that Shinzato Sensei himself encourages us all to learn from each other. He told his students that if they ever found themselves in Florida they should train with Sensei Lucas, and very graciously extended a future welcome to any yudansha from the Tallahassee Karate Club. After a very warm farewell from the Hikari Dojo students, Sensei Goodin and I had one final chat … then I was on my way home to reflect and work on what I had learned.

It’s hard to sum up the gratitude I have for Sensei Goodin’s willingness to have me in his dojo and share the invaluable information that he sent me home with. In short, I am deeply honored, and truly appreciative for the experience. I am also thankful to Sensei Lucas for making the request and being an open-minded sensei who encourages constructive criticism from other, though familiar, sources; a willingness to consider others’ viewpoints is among the many important facets that make up the true spirit of karate.

Eli Jones

Pinan Yondan - Part 16

By now you've certainly realized my point about the first movement of Pinan Yondan. I could have just as easily used the first movement of any kata, or the second, third, etc.

Any movement can teach you a great deal about Karate. What you learn is cumulative. What you learn in Pinan Yondan will improve your Pinan Shodan. And when you improve your Pinan Shodan, your Pinan Yondan will improve too.

Each movement is like Karate DNA. The building blocks of each movement are essentially the same. And the principles of movement are essentially the same too.

The ending form of movements may differ, but the methods of generating power, of moving, of shifting, of hitting, etc. are essentially the same, especially at the koshi/core level.

Don't you think so?

Do I think that Itosu Sensei intended this for school children? No I don't.

But I do believe that this was inherent of the kata system that preexisted the "modern" kata such as the Pinan and Fukyugata, when Karate masters taught a small group of students, in depth, with an emphasis on the fine points, customized for each student.

Is this relevant today? It is if we make it so.

All it takes is a movement, such as the first movement of Pinan Yondan (you probably knew that I was going to say that).


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 15

When you have performed the first movement of Pinan Yondan, you are in nekko ashi dachi (a left cat stance) with a combined chudan and jodan shuto uke or uchi. The next movement is the mirror image, to the right.

But you could perform the same movement to the left, back, right, front, or any angle. You could move clockwise or counterclockwise.

You could execute the mirror image first. There is no difference between the right movement or the left movement. You could even execute the left movement to the right and the right movement to the left. There is no difference.

And if you can execute a chudan/jodan combination, you could also execute any other useful combination. You could execute a standard chudan shuto, or a gedan shuto, or a jodan/gedan combination. And these could also be executed in any direction, clockwise or counterclockwise.

And why does it have to be a shuto? It doesn't.

And why does it have to be in a neko ashi dachi? It doesn't.

Once you understand the first movement and learn how to execute it well, the idea is not to do that movement only, but to use that knowledge to enable you to do any movement in any direction, as needed.

And if the second movement is to the right, it could just as easily move forward to the left, or in any direction. It isn't limited either.

Each movement you learn is an invitation to many movements. It is like playing cards with a handful of wild cards.

Of course, many people cling to a literal interpretation of fixed kata and fixed movements. But we are preparing for the unknown -- an unknown attacker or attackers, at an unknown time, from an unknown direction, with an unknown technique. We are not preparing for a fixed attack -- that would be pretty easy. We are preparing for the unexpected.

To respond to the unexpected, you have to be able to adapt and move freely.

Learning kata can either help you or hinder you in this regard. In most cases, I would say that it hinders people because kata are taught in a rigid and fixed way. At first this is necessary, but students should be advised that the ultimate goal is fluency of motion.

A hard, rigid kata may look good to some people. This gets back to my earlier pretend question: "Would you like to look good at Karate or be good at Karate? Looking good and being good can be two different things. And what looks good to a layman will usually differ from what looks good to an expert.

The first movement of Pinan Yondan is an invitation to fluency of movement.

Another way to visual this is to say that each movement is an intersection point for an infinite (or at least large) number and variation of movements.

In English, we have just 26 letters. But using those letters, if we are fluent, we can form words and sentences to respond to any question.

And don't forget. If you are fluent at movement, the idea is to be just as fluent at application.


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 14

The recoil of the first movement of Pinan Yondan, initiates the second movement, and so forth.

Through the use of recoil with koshi dynamics, a portion of the energy of each movement is recovered, and recycled, so to speak, into the next movement.

That is one reason a person skilled a koshi dynamics does not get as tired during kata -- he or she is expending less total effort. The idea is to get more done with less. And real skill is getting a whole lot more done with a whole lot less.

It is like bouncing a ball. It does not take much energy to keep it bouncing... if you time it right.


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 13

The first movement of Pinan Yondan is like... an uncontrolled sneeze.

Imagine that you are standing there, ready, and you suddenly sneeze. That is how the first movement feels.

Have you ever thought about a sneeze? It is a very powerful thing. Why? Because it comes from your core. You don't sneeze with your hands and feet. It comes from your lungs. Your whole body tenses, with very little effort.

Moving in Karate is like that, or at least it can be like that.


You wind up on the "ah" and strike on the "choo."

That is kind of funny. We are talking about "ah choo" when our art comes from "Loo Choo."

Ha ha ha!

Another way to describe the sneeze is like a "core twitch." When you are skilled at koshi dynamics and your body is conditioned, you simply twitch it and movements appear. If it sounds easy, it should be easy.


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 12

When you execute the first movement of Pinan Yondan, you are in a left neko ashi dachi (cat stance with your left foot forward). From the ready position, you move/drop into this stance.

But how? This is an important question.

Many people say that movements follow this pattern: eyes, feet, hands.

This is always true, however, it also not always true. It is not that rules are made to be broken, it is that rules are made for beginners.

If you first look to the left, then step slightly forward with your right foot, then turn into nekko ashi dachi, then execute the two hand movements (as described in earlier posts), you will be too late. The attacker will surely hit you.

Personally, I rarely move my feet first. I usually move my hands and feet together. They move together because of an important point: the feet and hands are powered by the same, koshi (core driven) body movement. I do not move my feet with one body motion and my hands with another. The same body motion (internal torque) powers both.

Since there is only one body movement, my feet and hands move together, but are slightly off timed.

When my feet reach the neko ashi dachi position, my hands will be recoiling from the strikes. It will look like my feet and hands are moving together. But actually, my hands are slightly ahead, and they too are off timed.

Again, when my feet are in position, my hands will have already struck. It will not be a case of stance first, then hand movements. And there will not be two or more body movements to power these movements. There will be only one body movement with multiple effects. And this is all timed with the body drop, as previously described.


Charles C. Goodin

Look Good or Be Good?

I'm taking a short break from Pinan Yondan but will return to it soon.

This is a story.

A Karate Fairy Godmother appeared to a student and asked him:

"Would you like to look good at Karate or be good at Karate?

The student was about to answer, when the Karate Fairy Godmother added:

"There is a catch. If you pick 'look good at Karate', you will look good to the public but will not actually be good. If you pick 'be good at Karate', you will actually be good but the public will not think so."

This is actually a very interesting choice. How would be pick?

In my own experience, the better a Karate instructor is, the more difficult it is for the public to recognize his skill. And sometimes the greatest skill is intentionally hidden. Remember that many 10th dans learned from no-dans, who learned from unknown hermits. Who is more skilled, the 10th dans or the hermits?

I think that the proper answer to the Karate Fairy Godmother would be:

"Skill at Karate comes from training, not making wishes. And in any event, looking good is not the issue, being skilled is. So if you don't mind, I will just train."


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 11

I wanted to pause for a moment to say that what I am describing with respect to the first movement of Pinan Yondan is how I teach in our dojo, which is part of Kishaba Juku, which is a form of Shorin-Ryu, which is one of the styles of Okinawan Karate. I might teach differently than other instructors in our own dojo, differently than other Kishaba Juku instructors, differently than my own instructors, and we all teach differently than other instructors in other styles.

I might teach differently on Monday and Tuesday, or even at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.! And I certainly might teach two different students differently.

I would teach the same cumulatively, but it takes a long time to get the cumulative. During that time, my own thinking will have evolved.

So if what I am describing differs from what you have been taught or teach, then welcome to the club!

If it was fixed and static, I would be bored. As it is, Karate is always interesting and exciting to me. It is always new.


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 10

Of course, you exhale with the strikes (in the first movement of Pinan Yondan). You do not hold your breath.

Squeezing out the air is also an important part of the koshi process. It makes the body firmer (less filled with pockets of air) and better able to generate torque driven, whip-like movements.

It also makes sense to exhale or kiai with strikes because you could get hit. If you are close enough to block, the attacker is close enough to hit you.

We tend to exhale through the mouth with a "hiss" sound. Essentially, we kiai this way for all movements. So we kiai all the time.

Making a kiai that can be heard is good for training. That way, I can make sure that the students are doing it. In a self defense situation, the kiai might be silent, or another sound, or even a yell, like "Stop!" or "Help!"


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 9

When you have performed the first movement of Pinan Yondan, you are in nekko ashi dachi (cat stance) with combined chudan and jodan shuto uke or uchi. The next movement is the mirror image, to the right.

But that does not mean that the second movement naturally follows the first. It might, but there are a lot of other things you can do from the first movement.

Even though it is not always present in the kata, you can always kick from nekko ashi dachi. Amazingly, in our kata, when you are in nekko ashi dachi, you usually kick with the back foot in kata, even though the front foot might have less weight on it (depending on what weight distribution you follow).

You might try kicking after you have performed the first movement. Imagine that you are holding or grabbing the attacker with your hands. Where and how would you kick him?

I have heard that if Chotoku Kyan grabbed your arms with his hands, he could kick you in the throat. His legs were almost like arms.

It is good to explore the kicks that could be thrown from any movement in a kata. Although they might not be present in the kata, they are always present in the bunkai (applications) or imi (meaning).


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 8

Let's not forget the drop. You start off in a standing position with your knees only slightly bent. In the first movement, you drop into nekko ashi (with the weight being 50/50 or perhaps 60 [back]/40 [front]). The drop from standing to nekko ashi is not haphazard. It is timed with the strikes.

For me, the "hit" of the drop is timed with the "hit" of the right hand (jodan shuto uchi). This transfers power from the body to the strike(s).

So there are three hits and recoils -- the left hand, the right hand, and the drop into nekko ashi dachi. It is an orchestra of movement designed to generate and transfer power, to draw it back in, and to transfer it to the next movement.

And we have not even addressed koshi (whole body, core driven, body dynamics).

I should add that with the "drop", the right side of your butt can be used to strike and unbalance the attacker. And your right foot could be stomping on the attacker's foot, your left foot could be trapping, etc.

There is a lot going on... and we are not done yet.


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 7

So with your left arm/hand, you execute a chudan shuto uke (middle knife hand block) or chudan shuto uchi (middle knife hand strike) to the left, and with your right arm/hand you execute a jodan shuto uke (upper or high knife hand block) or jodan shuto uchi (upper or high knife hand strike) to the front. This is a very nice combination. I cannot think of another kata in which it appears.

My point here is that your two hands work together. There is a saying that your hands should work together like man and wife. Obviously, two hands working together are stronger that two hands working separately.

The movements are executed simultaneously... but they are not simultaneous. This sounds contradictory. The movements start together but the focus of each movement is not at the same time. The way I do it, the chudan shuto is slightly ahead of the jodan shuto. This is by design.

If the movements "hit" at the same time, they will cancel out and my body movement will split or stall. If the movements are slightly off timed, the strikes and recoils will allow me to move freely.

We say that simultaneous movements are never simultaneous. To the untrained eye, they would appear to be simultaneous. But if you "know," you will see that they are off timed. In this case, my left hand is slightly ahead of my right. My left hand hits and recoils. At about the time of the recoil, my right hits and recoils... which is about when I will ride the recoils to initiate the next movement to the right. In slow motion, you would see waves of motion.

The first movement of Pinan Yondan is not stiff, rigid or fixed. It is dynamic, fluid, and explosive. Do you think that Anko Itosu would have designed it any other way? You have to remember that Itosu Sensei learned from Sokon "Bushi" Matsumura. Can you imagine Matsumura Sensei being stiff, rigid and fixed?

Come to think about it, the first movement of Pinan Yondan looks like a crane spreading its wings... very light and maneuverable -- like our Tomari Passai.

And any way, why should any movement be stiff, rigid and fixed?


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 6

With your right arm/hand, you execute a jodan shuto uke (upper or high knife hand block) or jodan shuto uchi (upper or high knife hand strike) to the front. Because you have turned to the left (without turning), it might seem that the high block/strike is to your right (from the point of view of the left). But from the starting position, you are blocking straight up, to the front.

Almost any movement can be executed as a block or a strike. In kata, I execute almost all movements as strikes.

So with my right hand, I am striking, not blocking. Typically, I visualize that I am striking up under the attacker's jaw or hitting the neck when I execute a jodan shuto uke.

With any shuto, you can hit with the side of your hand. But typically, I am hitting with the side of my forearm (radius). That way, after I hit, I can quickly grab. When you hit with the side of the hand, it might be more difficult to grab. Also, I feel that I can strike very hard with my radius, which has become conditioned over the years. Plus, I am pretty boney.

In addition, when I hit with my radius, the position of my hand is more forward. My striking point is in line with my sechusen (vertical center line). Since I have turned my head, this is in line with my right ear (approximately). So, my the striking point on my radius is in line with my right ear. If the striking point was on the edge of my hand, my right arm would be too far back (to the right). This is just my opinion.

And, of course, you could be striking with your elbow, or a combination of the above.

But one point I want to make is that I am not blocking or striking up the the left. Sometimes I see people turn their shoulders completely to the left and execute the jodan movement overhead... to the left. This seems awkward to me. Again, this is just my opinion. Plus, if you do this, it will take a long time to turn all the way to the right for the next movement.

When you turn to the left without turning, it will be very fast to turn to the right without turning.

We execute most movements in hanmi, naihanchi, or something like that.


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 5

In my last post, I wrote: "With your left arm/hand, you execute a chudan shuto uke (middle knife hand block) or chudan shuto uchi (middle knife hand strike) to the left."

Almost any movement can be executed as a block or a strike. In kata, I execute almost all movements as strikes.

So with my left hand, I am striking, not blocking. Typically, I visualize that I am striking the attacker's neck when I execute a chudan shuto.

While I execute most movements as strikes in kata, that does not mean that I would execute them the same way in a self defense context. There are many interpretations for each movement, and how you do them depends on what you think that you are doing. The response depends on the attack.

My kata performance typically reflects a striking interpretation. I would not alter it to reflect grappling interpretations, but I would practice such applications... and others. The kata will generally look the same but the applications will differ. See: The Why of Bunkai: A Guide For Beginners.


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 4

With your left arm/hand, you execute a chudan shuto uke (middle knife hand block) or chudan shuto uchi (middle knife hand strike) to the left. (I am not addressing the right hand in this post). Because you are striking to the left, many people assume that you must also turn your body to the left. In other words, some people turn their shoulders so that they are square to the left. This means that you would turn 90 degrees to the left.

I believe that this is a misunderstanding, caused originally by the terminology that developed in modern Karate. Take a yoko geri, for example. When you hear this, what do you visualize? Most people think about a side kick -- a kick with the side of the foot. However, in early Okinawan Karate, a yoko geri simply meant a kick to the side, not a kick with the side of the foot.

The first kick in Pinan Shodan, for example, even though it is done with the tip of the toe (tsumasaki), is a yoko geri (side kick) because it is executed to the side. However, you will often see this kick executed with the side of the foot, because early books described it as a yoko geri. In my style of Shorin-Ryu, there are hardly any kicks in kata with the side of the foot (the only one I can think of is in Passai). Most kicks are done with the tips of the toes.

In the same way, when people think that the first movements of the Pinan kata are done to the left side, they might also think that you must turn to the left.

Let me ask you this... if someone suddenly and unexpectedly punched you from the left side, would you turn into the attack and execute a block or strike? Or would you simply block or strike without turning?

One of the first things you learn about body dynamics is that blocking or striking to the side is fast, while turning to the side is slow by comparison.

In addition, if you turn your shoulders to the left, you present a cross section of your body which is easier to attack. And you are also presenting your vertical centerline (sechusen), which is very vulnerable to attack.

All this is my way of explaining why I strike to the left, but do not turn to the left. When I am in the ready position at the beginning of the Pinan kata, my bellybutton (tanden area) is facing the front. When I execute the first movement, my belly button and shoulders might be only slightly turned to the left, perhaps only 20 degrees or less. If a full turn to the left is 90 degrees, I am only turning about 1/5th of that (or less).

One result of this is that I can block very quickly. I do not have to spend time turning my body 90 degrees. In addition, when I execute the second movement to the right, I only have to turn a little. If I had turned 90 degrees to the left, I would then have to turn 180 degrees to get to the right. That would take a long time.

So the idea is to block to the side without turning to the side... like the Naihanchi kata.

This brings up something I often tell my students -- the Pinan kata should look like the Naihanchi kata, not vice versa. In fact, all the kata should look like the Naihanchi kata.

For people who relegate the Naihanchi kata to simple drills or "basic" kata, this might not make sense. But we (in my dojo and style) view Naihanchi as the foundation for all movement.

Some people might think that a block without body turning would be weaker than a block with body turning. Without going into detail, we use koshi (full body torque) to generate power, which is not based on rotational body turning. In addition, we work on very short power generation like the proverbial "one inch" punch. With such mechanics, tremendous power and speed can be generated with very little external movement.

To summarize, the first movement of Pinan Yondan (and the other Pinan kata as well) is executed to the left without turning to the left.


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 3

Kate are an excellent way to learn important aspects of Karate. However, the very structure of kata is also a major problem. Kata are prearranged sequences of movements. Students learn and repeat the sequences over and over -- literally for decades. It can become like saying a prayer at dinner -- if you say the same prayer over and over there is a danger that you are only repeating the words without the meaning. The same thing can happen with kata. Kata can lose their spontaneity.

Self defense is all about spontaneity. How will you react to an unexpected attack? Will you respond by starting a kata? I don't think so.

Kata are good for learning Karate but can be bad for self defense.

Therefore, as you prepare to perform the first movement of Pinan Yondan, you should think about how the self defense techniques that it encapsulates would work. What are you defending against? How are you defending? What are you doing?

And most importantly, you need to be able to perform the technique as a reaction rather than a prearranged sequence. It has to become like touching a hot stove -- you don't stop to think about it before you pull your hand away. It is just a natural and spontaneous reaction.

When you perform a kata, it should not look like you are are thinking: "this is movement 1, this is movement 2, next comes movement 3." Instead, it should look like suddenly there is movement 1, movement 2 erupts, movement 3! It does not look prearranged or intended.

The first movement of Pinan Yondan should almost look like a body twitch.


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 2

Before you can properly perform the first movement of Pinan Yondan, you have to have the correct posture and idea about body movement. I am reposting Body Posture 3 (from April 14, 2007) to help with this. It combines three posts on the subject.

In Basic Posture (December 17, 2006), I wrote:

  1. Slightly tuck your chin.
  2. Lower your shoulders.
  3. Squeeze your lats.
  4. Tuck your koshi.
  5. Slightly bend your knees.
In Basic Posture 2 (December 31, 2006), I added:
  1. Keep your elbows close to your body.
  2. Shift your weight in the direction you will move, then move.
  3. Protect your sechusen (centerline).
  4. Move as if on a tightrope.
  5. Move from place to place at a walking pace -- time your strikes and blocks to arrive when you get there.
  6. Squeeze out your air -- almost all of it, but not quite -- in synch with the timing of your strike or block.
  7. Hit on the recoil of your koshi.
  8. Recover the energy/power of the recoil for the next movement.
  9. Train to move freely in any direction.
  10. Kicks and strikes are like stabbing.
After my recent trip to Okinawa (March 30 - April 8, 2007) to visit and learn from Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato (and his fine students), I would like to add:
  1. Keep your elbows close to your body and after a block or strike, generally return your elbows to or near the sides of your body (a little in front of that).
  2. Never punch or block directly to your sides (the side centerline of your body). You should block or strike more in line with your chest. This will give you more power and make it harder for the attacker to apply joint locks or throws.
  3. Lower your shoulders, and drop them a little extra before a block or strike.
  4. In all kata and movements, maintain the tanden/koshi alignment of the Naihanchi kata (or close to it).
  5. The rear foot in most stances is at a 90 degree angle (rather than a 45 degree angle).
  6. Maintain a hanmi body alignment.
  7. In a hanmi body alignment with a 90 degree rear foot, your stance can be narrower (even on a straight line). This makes it easier to move and also protects your centerline.
  8. Even if the upper body rotates, keep the lower body in the Naihanchi alignment. Even in kosa dachi (a crossed stance) your koshi is in the Naihanchi alignment (your koshi will be in the same direction as your front big toe).
  9. Do not be limited by the "specifics" of stances. All stances are transitions. The weight shifts throughout and even the length of the stance changes. There are no fixed stances. I only learned to appreciate this recently. I was paralyzed by the specifications of a Karate book I had practically memorized.
  10. Drop your body as you execute a block or strike. The "drop" is really like a spiral (not only in a downward direction).
  11. When you "drop" there will be a rebound. Use it.
  12. Move like a whip -- but not the end of a thin whip. The whip includes your entire body with the base at your feet (usually). Move like a thick whip.
  13. Blocks must "enter." You do not simply hit an attacking arm or leg -- you also enter toward the attacker. Your block jams in a combination of a striking and pressing manner. The block also has an osae feeling. When you block or strike in this manner, you will be very close to the attacker and able to counterattack or strike again.
  14. Osae (press) between movements. If you do not osae, you will create an opening for the attacker.
  15. Tuck your koshi. If you look at yourself in a mirror from the side, the line of your belt will show your "tuck." If your belt slants down, your koshi is probably not tucked. When your koshi is tucked, your belt will be horizontal. This is difficult to see if the student ties his or her belt too high around the waist. Then it will be horizontal even when the koshi is not tucked.
  16. Tuck your koshi when you block or strike. Before the next movement, your koshi may drop. Tuck it again when you perform the next block or strike. You can also keep your koshi loosely tucked between movements.
  17. Another way to say "tuck your koshi" is to say that "your belly button points up." My Aikido Sensei used to say the same thing!
  18. In the process of lowering your shoulders, tucking your koshi, and squeezing your lats, you can create a tension that is called "gamaku." But the name is not important -- the tension is what counts because you can use it.
  19. Delay your strikes as long as possible. When performing elbow strikes, for example, move your body and adjust your weight, holding off on throwing (or igniting) your elbow strike as long as possible. This is like the idea of a whip snapping -- the actual "crack" at the end is delayed.
  20. Overload your weight in the direction you wish to go. In the "bump" that occurs, you have an opportunity to move easily. Drop your weight and shoulder at this moment.
  21. Learn to take "neutral" body positions between techniques. In this way, you can move easily, freely and in any direction. This generally means bringing your feet together. But even with your feet together, keep your Naihanchi alignment. When you keep long stances, your directional choices are more limited.
  22. Fight sideways. Your shoulders should not be "square" to the front.
  23. Work to feel the connection between each movement. Each movement should connect to the next. There should be no "dead" spots, or places where you drop your connection. An entire kata can be done in this connected manner. But the idea is not that you could do the specific movements of a kata but rather that you could connect any movements you desire at any time. Do not go, stop, go, stop. Just go, go, go.
  24. The recoil or "reaction" of one movement can be used to generate the next movement. Don't waste it.
  25. Fully extend your blocks and strikes. If you "choke up," you will not properly penetrate (kikomi) and you will have less recoil or reaction to use.
  26. Horizontal or angular rotation of the trunk is "koshi." Vertical rotation of the trunk is "hara." Koshi gives speed, hara gives power. (I am still working on articulating this.)
  27. Your weight should not be on your heels, nor should it be on the balls of your feet either. Your weight should be naturally distributed over the soles of your feet so that you can move easily in any direction.
  28. It is much easier to move when you are already moving. A great deal of energy is required to move from a stationary position. Once you start moving, don't stop until you are completely through with whatever you are doing (including escape).
  29. There are many ways to move, depending on your body type, age, and level of skill. As such, the elements of Body Posture that you will emphasis will change as you progress and age. Generally, beginners learn to use fixed stances and move in a staccato manner. Advanced students learn to use flexible stances and to move freely in a connected matter.
  30. When returning to the formal or "ready" position at the end of a kata, you must maintain your awareness and body posture elements so that you are ready to move in an instant. The kata is not done until you complete the bow -- and even then you should remain prepared.
  31. Kicks and strikes are like stabbing -- with a sword, not a little knife.
These points are presented for your consideration and reflect what I am learning and teach in my dojo. Other styles and even other dojo in my own style might emphasize different things.

I did not make these things up (and do not claim any credit for doing so). I am very fortunate to have very fine Sensei and mentors in Karate. They in turn had very fine Sensei. We are each just a point on the great line of Karate.


Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Yondan - Part 1

I mentioned that I recently spent most of a class teaching a student the first movement of Pinan Yondan (4). I wanted to share some of my thoughts about this kata and the opening movement.

First, Pinan Yondan is a very elegant kata. In some ways, it reminds me of our Passai, which is the Tomari version of the kata. To me, Passai is the most beautiful Shorin-Ryu kata.

According to my friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, Itosu Sensei originally created Pinan Shodan when Karate was introduced to the Okinawan school system. It appears that the students would have already known one or more of the Naihanchi kata. The Pinan Shodan kata was developed as a relatively simple kata for the school children to learn during a school year. In private Karate schools or dojo, students might be taught Passai, Kusanku, and Chinto. These are pretty advanced, long, and difficult kata. The Pinan Shodan kata obviously borrows from the Kusanku kata, with an emphasis on a relatively short 8-direction pattern. Remember that the Japanese ran the Okinawan schools at the time. Itosu had to get their approval. An 8-direction kata would play to Japanese budo sentiments (unlike the side to side Naihanchi kata which looks very "Chinese").

After the first year, Itosu needed to create a second Pinan kata. This went on until there were a total of five Pinan kata, which we still have today. I sometimes say that Chotoku Kyan's Ananku (as we sometimes practice in Kishaba Juku) is like a sixth Pinan kata because it is also relatively simple.

To me, Pinan Shodan, Pinan Yondan, and Pinan Godan are pretty difficult, while Pinan Nidan and Pinan Sandan are pretty simple. Of course, this is relative. It can be argued that simpler kata are actually more difficult because there is no room to hide any errors. Robert "Snaggy" Inouye used to say this about Pinan Nidan, which is a pretty linear kata, and has elements that are similar to Fukyugata Ichi.

In any event, the fourth Pinan kata is pretty advanced, and has elements of the Tomari Passai kata (at least to me).

The first movement of Pinan Shodan is actually a series of movements:

From the the ready position (with the feet about shoulder's width apart and the hands down to the front in fists), the student will:

  1. Look to the left; and
  2. Step or shift and sink into a left nekko ashi dachi (cat stance) facing to the left; and
  3. Strike to the left (chudan shuto uke) with his left hand; and
  4. Block or strike to the front (jodan uke) with his right open hand.

This, in a nutshell, is the first movement of the kata. I do not believe that the exact hand position appears in any other kata in Kishaba Juku, but it does in transitional movements. For example, you can see it in the second movement sequence of Passai, right after the hands are raised overhead (like the opening movement of Kusanku).

"Movements" are more or less an arbitrary thing in Karate. Who is to say where one movement ends and another begins in a flowing sequence? "Movements" are a forced convention, probably required for the early Karate drawings and photographs. While they seem necessary, they are also inherently limiting, both in body dynamics and potential applications. They are far to literal for fluent Karate students.

As I have outlined it, the first movement of the kata is actually a series of movements. Or you could say that it is compound movement.

The first two elements of the movement are the same for all the Pinan kata. They all begin with a look to the left and a left nekko ashi dachi. Pinan Shodan and Yondan have compound movements (blocks or strikes with both hands), while Pinan Nidan, Sandan and Godan begin with a single left hand block or strike.

Let's begin to analyze each element.

1. Look to the left.

In all the kata (as I do them), you look first when you change directions. I like to say that this is like changing lanes when you drive -- you have to look first. It makes no sense to simply block to the left unless you know who and what you are blocking. What if it is a truck? If it is a truck, you have to jump out of the way.

In some styles of Karate, the students do not look first. Instead, they shift direction, block and shift at the same time. I think this is designed to make the movement look cleaner. But again, what if it is a truck? You will feel pretty silly blocking a truck. You have to look first.

Now I don't mean a dramatic "look." I mean that you quickly turn your head and look to the left, with your eyes set to see the periphery as much as possible (in other words, as much of a 180 degree view as possible).

You look at about eye level. You do not look up or down.

Many students tend to turn their heads only part of the way (looking side eyed). I remember seminars with Sensei Toshihiro Oshiro. He would say, "Point your nose." When your nose is pointing to the left, your head will be properly facing the left.

When a student fails to turn his head completely to the left, his peripheral vision to the left (to the back from where he originally started) will the incomplete and he will open to an attack from that direction.

So, the first movement is a look to the left. The remaining three movements will follow just a split second behind. By this I mean just a hair's breadth. The "look" will be almost imperceptible. But it will be there.

In the next increment, I will discuss the next element(s) of the first movement of Pinan Yondan.


Charles C. Goodin

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from Hawaii.

I am very thankful for my Sensei and fellow students in Karate, and for all my brothers and sisters in the martial arts around the world.

I am also very thankful for the people (many already in heaven) who have supported the Hawaii Karate Museum and our Hikari Dojo.

And I am thankful that Karate is an art that is always new, always interesting, always challenging, and always rewarding. After 37 years, I am still just scratching the very thick surface!

I will be 54 next week. As the years have gone by, I have also become more and more thankful for the health benefits of Karate.

Finally, thank you very much to the readers of this blog around the world. We certainly have shared many Karate thoughts! Hopefully there will be many more to come.


Charles C. Goodin

Teaching One Movement

At a recent class, I spent just about the entire time teaching a student the first movement of Pinan Yondan... just that first movement.

At another recent class, I spent just about the entire time teaching a student shuto... just shuto.

I could not have been happier! As a teacher, I am happiest when I am teaching something that the student needs to learn at that point in his or her training, when I have the time to concentrate on that student, and when the student gets it. Sometimes it takes a whole class, or even several classes, to work on a single movement.

If the student starts to get it, I will try to reinforce the movement and then give him or her time to work on it. I will not immediately move on to other movements or techniques. There is no sense confusing the student.

I always say that if a student can get one movement, he or she can get any other movement. By this I mean that if the student can learn the form of a movement and the body dynamics applicable to that movement, then learning other movements is basically a matter of just learning the form -- the body dynamics will be pretty much the same.

I started to learn the basics of Kishaba Juku body dynamics through gedan barai (downward block). My second son, Charles, started to learn through chudan shuto uke. Once we learned that movement, we applied the body dynamics to all other movements. And really, there is no difference between gedan barai and chudan shuto uke. Essentially, they are the same movement.

So if I can show a student how to do a single movement, that is a really big thing. From that one movement, the student can learn everything else. And I have found that such moments of critical teaching usually take place one on one. It does not happen when I am teaching a group and offer corrections, suggestions, or examples. Group teaching is necessary and important, but real progress happens one on one, with a focus on the fine details.

For this reason, I would prefer to teach a small group, and even then, look for opportunities when a student is ready to learn a certain movement. My job is to be aware at that time, and then to teach just enough for the student to "catch" the idea. Then it is up to the student to work on the movement, the body dynamics applicable to it, and then to apply that to other movements. If everything works right, it is as if the student catches on fire. So, so, so!


Charles C. Goodin

Ichariba Choodee -- Brothers and Sisters in Karate

This is an excerpt of my Editorial in the current issue of Classical Fighting Arts (Volume 2, Number 21, Issue #44), about how we are all brothers and sisters in Karate. It is a subject I believe in wholeheartedly. I also conducted a pretty extensive interview with Sensei Pat Nakata about his teacher's (Chosin Chibana's) memories of Anko Itosu. I hope that you will read the magazine and the many fine articles written by other authors.
There is a saying in Okinawa, "Ichariba choodee," which means, "Now that we've met and talked we're brothers." You might have read this saying in a book or at one of the many Okinawan culture websites. I first heard it at a coffee shop on the way to Yonabaru. I had arrived to Okinawa to visit and train with Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, the head of the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu. He was kind enough to meet me at the airport and was driving me to an inn conveniently located close to his home where he teaches a small group of students.

Before we reached the inn, Shinzato Sensei suggested that we stop at the coffee shop so that we could talk and become better acquainted as this was our first meeting. During the conversation he explained the saying, "Now that we've met and talked we're brothers." The thing is, it was not just a saying to him -- he meant it.

When I trained with Shinzato Sensei I felt like a member of his Karate family. I know that I was a visitor and guest. Shinzato Sensei and his students graciously went out of their way to help me get around and with necessities. But I never felt like a stranger or a foreigner, a beginner yes, but never an outsider. I found that Shinzato Sensei and his students welcomed me the same way we do here in Hawaii, with Aloha.

This is not an editorial about me. My story is neither special, nor unusual. The point I am making is that Karate students are welcomed in Okinawa, as brothers. When I mentioned this recently at a Karate demonstration for which I was the emcee, I was reminded that I should not only say brothers, but brothers and sisters! I wrote to Shinzato Sensei about this and he confirmed that choodee means siblings in Uchinaguchi (Okinawan), while ikiga choodee means brothers and inagu choodee means sisters.

We Karate students are brothers and sisters.

Shinzato Sensei mentioned another thing to me at the coffee shop. Japan in generally viewed as a vertical society in which every person knows his place. Okinawa is more of a horizontal society based on mutual respect and assistance. "When the typhoon came," Shinzato Sensei explained, "even the King needed help." This was represented symbolically at the dojo, where the students did not line up in the traditional rows facing the Sensei. Instead, all of the students, including Shinzato Sensei, formed a circle and bowed to each other as a sign of mutual respect.

* * *

I am reminded again of something Shinzato Sensei told me during my first visit and has repeated many times over the years since. He said, "We can learn together." He did not say, "I am the teacher and you are the student," or "I am the head and you are the lowly slave." He said, "We can learn together." No titles, no positions, no politics. The basis for our relationship is learning and that comes from one thing -- training. You learn by training and by training you learn."
Last week, we had a visitor at our dojo. He had come all the way from Florida, where he also studies the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu. It was my pleasure to tell him that "Now that we have met and talked, we are brothers and sisters in Karate." I was not just saying this. I meant it.


Charles C. Goodin


I watch a lot of documentaries about Word War II.

When England was attacked by German bombers and submarines, the problem was not just having the firepower to destroy the attackers -- the problems was locating the attackers and having the time to direct the proper resources to intercept and destroy them.

The answers were radar and sonar.

How does this relate to Karate?

Most advanced Karate students have the firepower to defend themselves. But we are preparing for a surprise attack ( a false crack). We do not know who will attack us, where, or when -- and for that matter, we do not know how many attackers there will be and whether they will be armed. But firepower is not the main problem -- identifying the attacker(s) and having time to react to it is.

We might not have radar and sonar, but we can increase our awareness of our surroundings, particularly if we are in a potentially dangerous environment. We can also try our best to avoid dangerous situations, such as places where a lot of drinking takes place.

I always say that avoidance is 100% effective, but that even the best Karate expert can get hit and injured. No technique is 100% effective. There is always a margin for error and a lucky punch could connect. And again, it is very hard to defend yourself against a surprise attack. The time to use Karate is not after you are already hit and possibly injured. The time to use Karate is in advance, when there might be time to avoid the attack or at least prepare for it.

Awareness is the key, particularly in a potentially dangerous environment (such as walking at night in a dangerous part of town). If you can't avoid being there, you must turn up your human radar and sonar, and try your best to avoid an attack.

Ironically, a person who thinks he is good at fighting might be less aware. His confidence might blind him. Even a great fighter can get knocked out or killed, particularly if he is blindsided.

I am reminded of Choki Motobu, a "great fighter" in Karate's 20th century history. He did fight from time to time, but many of the stories about him involved him running away and hiding from a mob (sometimes in a tree or hanging onto ceiling rafters). Even he realized that there is a time to fight and a time to run.


Charles C. Goodin

Fight or Attack?

This is a story.

Sally was speaking to her Sensei, about another student, Jane.

"Sensei," asked Sally, "if Jane and I were to spar, who would win?"

"You would surely win," answered the Sensei.

Sally smiled.

"But," continued the Sensei, "if you were to attack Jane she would surely kill you. You are good at sparring. Jane is good at Karate. You have the advantage when there are rules. She has the advantage when there are none."

Karate is self-defense as a last resort. At that point, there are no rules and anything goes. Most forms of sparring are bound (limited) by rules. Most of the effective techniques of Karate would be illegal in sparring.

The moral of the story is, don't mess with Jane.


Charles C. Goodin

Speaking Ill of Others

This is a story.

Four senior black belts, Bill, Sam, David, and Mark, were up for promotion. Only one would be promoted and their Sensei was interviewing them.

"Why should you be promoted?" he asked Bill.

"Because I am better than Sam, David, and Mark," answered Bill.

"Why should you be promoted?" he asked Sam.

"Because I am better than Bill, David, and Mark," answered Sam.

"Why should you be promoted?" he asked David.

"Because I am better than Bill, Sam, and Mark," answered David.

Finally he asked Mark, "Why should you be promoted?"

"I shouldn't," answered Mark. "Bill, Sam, and David are my seniors. I have learned a lot from them."

"What did you learn from them?" asked the Sensei.

"To respect my seniors and not to speak ill of others," answered Mark.

"And why do you think that you should not be promoted?" asked the Sensei.

"That is not up to me, Sensei. All I want to do is train and help the other students."

So who do you think the Sensei promoted?

If it were me, I would have kicked out Bill, Sam, and David. If a student is arrogant, it is my fault. If a student speaks ill of others, it is my fault. At some point, you have to correct such students or allow them to go their own way. If you keep promoting such students, then it is your own fault.

And this is very important, a student never improves by speaking ill of others. Improvement only comes from dedicated training. You can't build a house by criticizing other houses.

Speaking ill of others only shows your own weakness.


Charles C. Goodin

Kenpo.Me For Sale

I do not sell many things, but I have listed the Kenpo.Me domain name for sale at Ebay. Please see:

If you teach Kenpo, in particular, this might be a good domain name for you. The proceeds will go to our non-profit's projects.

Currently, the domain goes to the opening page of our various websites. See:

I may also sell some duplicate copies of books we are holding, including a nice copy of the massive Uechi-Ryu book and three or four books authographed by Sensei Morio Higaonna. Please contact me if you are interested.

Again, all proceeds will go to our non-profit's projects.


Charles C. Goodin

Kalihi Machete Attack

Please read this short article:

I often tell my students that you have to think that an attacker could be armed. We can't simply train to block a punch.

I'm not saying that we are capable to defending against a machete attack without getting injured. What I am saying is that we have to think that an attacker could use a machete or other weapon. A small knife could easily be concealed. Because of this, avoiding the conflict, if possible, if the best strategy. And being aware of the situation is essential. Even a second or two of advance warning could be critical. It could give you the time to escape or use something in the environment as a shield or self defense weapon.


Charles C. Goodin

Making a Mistake in Kata

I am a member of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai (Study Group). We have some pretty amazing members, one of whom is Sensei Angel Lemus of the Okinawa Shorinjiryu Toude Zentokukai.

A few months ago during one of our training sessions, Lemus Sensei performed a tonfa kata. About half-way through the kata he stopped, smiled, and said, "I'm lost." He started again and completed the kata with no problem.

We all had a good laugh.

Lemus Sensei could have easily covered up the fact that he was lost. We do not know his kata. He could have moved on and finished the kata and we would not known any different.

My point is that he was both honest and good humored. He did not get angry or irritated. He actually laughed, which made it OK for us to laugh too. And after all, each of us have gotten lost in kata. My favorite error is when I start one kata and end with a different one.

At our last Kenkyukai training, one of the members was performing a kata and appeared to get lost. Right away, Lemus Sensei said, "That's nothing. You should have seen me." Once again, we all laughed.

We have some pretty senior members in our group. Elder Sensei also come to observe. But we have a light atmosphere with the focus on training and learning from each other. Mistakes happen. What matters is that we learn from them and keep going. I like the saying, "fall down six times but get up seven."

In our group, if we make a mistake, we know that it is OK. And one of the first instructors to laugh and encourage us to go on will be Lemus Sensei. I consider him to be one of the most skilled Karate Sensei I have ever met. And his applications are truly amazing. He plays an attacker like a musical instrument.

So it is OK to make mistakes.


Charles C. Goodin

Children and Education

I've written this before but it remains true.

I've never met a person who said he wished that he had spent less time with his children, nor have I met a person who said that he wished that he had less education.

But I have met many people who have said just the opposite.

Time spent with your children is a treasure indeed! Grandchildren too!


Charles C. Goodin

Directory of Okinawa Karatedo and Kobudo

I came across this website, which appears to be at the Okinawan Prefectural website:

It is mostly in Japanese, but there is enough in English to make it somewhat understandable. The listings are broken down by style and also area. It is pretty amazing to see how many active Karate dojo and instructors there are in Okinawa.


Charles C. Goodin

Is Koshi "Hard"?

From time to time, actually more often lately, I find myself trying to explain "koshi" to people from other styles or dojo. I did so recently, with a verbal explanation and short demonstration of koshi movement, and the person I was speaking to said, "That must be hard." I think that it looked like it must be hard to use koshi motion in all techniques all the time.

The fact is that if koshi was hard or difficult, I probably would not do it! In fact, koshi is very, very easy, and it makes it much easier to move freely, with speed and power. It does not take more effort to use koshi. In fact, it is more difficult (strenuous), in my opinion, to move without koshi -- to just use the power of your arms and legs rather than your core (koshi). Koshi-less movement makes me really tired. But with koshi, I have been able to keep up with Karate as I have aged (I am a 53 year old grandfather).

And Koshi is a very natural movement -- like walking and breathing. If it was awkward or unnatural, once again, I probably would not do it. I am not unusually coordinated. I am a terrible dancer. So if I can do koshi motion, anyone can do it... really.

Koshi is also a simple movement. There are not different koshi patterns for each movement. Basically there is just left and right koshi and possibly center, but really these are just the same thing. Once you can apply koshi to one movement, you can learn to apply it to all other movements.

So koshi is not hard in terms of physical exertion, difficulty, or complexity. If it were, I probably would not do it. It is easy, and it makes moving much easier.


Charles C. Goodin


This is a story.

A visiting Sensei from Okinawa was observing advanced Karate students perform kata. After each finished his kata, the Sensei would make a few comments in Japanese or broken English. He was accompanied by a younger instructor from Okinawa who would translate his comments.

The last student to perform was the highest ranking in the dojo but was very egotistical. After he proudly competed his kata, the visiting Sensei said, "Nokuru."

All the student in the dojo, including the last one who had performed the kata looked at each other. None of them understood the word.

The translator whispered into the visiting Sensei's ear because he did not understand either.

The visiting Sensei repeated, "Nokuru." He then spoke to the translator in Japanese who nodded several times and then addressed the students.

"I'm sorry," began the translator. "I thought that Sensei was speaking in Japanese, but he was speaking in English. He say that this student (pointing to the advanced student), has 'No clue'. His kata is like an empty dance and has no meaning at all. No clue."

The visiting Sensei nodded in agreement and repeated, "Nokuru."

The moral of the story is: being egotistical often makes you blind to your own cluelessness.

We should study and practice Karate with a sense of humility. Then we can more easily identify and work on our faults.


Charles C. Goodin

"I Trouble"

I was a friend of Shihan Bobby Lowe, who recently passed away. I was not his student and was a member of his "lunch buddies." Even though I was 30 years his junior and his junior in Karate by just as much (or more), I got to speak with him on a comfortable level, because he respected that even though I was a junior, I was the Sensei of my own dojo. Sensei tend to treat other Sensei as equals. At lunch, we all addressed each other as "Sensei," which could sometimes get a little confusing. I was also a member of the Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai and Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai with Lowe Sensei.

I am explaining this as background. I got to speak freely with Lowe Sensei, even though I was his junior.

In all my conversations with Lowe Sensei, I never heard him speak negatively about another Karate instructor or student. Never. He said good things about people, but never anything bad.

I'm sure that he met all kinds of Karate people, some good, some bad. But if he had a negative impression, he kept it to himself.

The only thing he ever said was that a certain person had "an eye problem." At least that is what I heard. So I inquired about this person's eye.

Then Lowe Sensei explained, "that person is always talking about I, I, I. He has an 'I' problem."

Lowe Sensei was funny like that. But his comment was very to the point. The lesson: don't be egotistical.

In his last years and months, Lowe Sensei would often call me to ask about the health of other Sensei. He would also always ask about my wife, who had suffered from breast cancer in 2007. He always thought about other people, even when his own health was failing.

Lowe Sensei was one of the most senior post World War II Karate Sensei in Hawaii. He was a great supporter of the Hawaii Karate Museum, and a mentor and example to young instructors such as myself. We both also liked tapioca pudding, which I'd get for him at buffets.

I will certainly miss Lowe Sensei... and continue to learn from his life and example.

I'm sure that there is lots of tapioca pudding in heaven.


Charles C. Goodin

Picking A Kata

This is a funny thing sort of and something that is not spoken about much. If I am asked to participate in a demonstration, the kata I will decide to perform depends on who else is performing kata. If a Karate instructor who is senior to me is also performing kata, I will generally not select an advanced kata. As a courtesy to my senior, I will generally perform a basic kata, such as one of the Naihanchi or Pinan kata.

Of course, these are excellent kata and in my "style," the Naihanchi kata are simultaneously the most basic and the most advanced kata. But in most systems, they are considered (incorrectly in my opinion) to be kata for beginners.

But let's say that my senior (even if in another style) performs Gojushiho. If I then peform Kusanku or Chinto, it might appear that I think that I am senior to him (in that I have selected a kata that could be considered to be more advanced). There could be hurt feelings. So it is much safer for me to perform a more basic kata.

There is an exception to this. If my senior (even if in another style) has asked me to perform a specific kata, then I will generally do so. If someone asks, I should be able to perform any kata in my system at any time. I should not have to rehearse something I should be expected to already know (hopefully reasonably well).

But then, if my seniors are present, I will hold back and not go all out when I perform a kata, whatever kata that might be.

This is like performing a kata in a group. My movements will always be a split second behind my seniors. I will never move first or end first. My movements will be barely perceptible shadows of my senior's movements. Again, I do not limit this to my style. A senior is a senior.

But wait, it gets even more interesting. If my senior performs first and makes a mistake, I might make an error too -- just to join the club.

In any event, I would never perform a kata "all out" in public because there is little reason to do so. How I perform a kata depends on what I am trying to get across. And in any situation, one thing I am always trying to get across is courtesy and respect.


Charles C. Goodin

What You Think You Are Doing

I have written about this before but it deserves repeating. "How" you perform a kata depends on "what" you think you are doing. If you have no idea about what you are doing, it will be very difficult to perform a kata with feeling and focus.

You can tell a difference between a student who is "just going through the movements" and one who understands what he is doing. No matter how well a student "just goes through the movements," the performance will feel/look shallow and lifeless, like a copy. The more he tries to yell and emphasize movements for dramatic effect, the worse it will become.

But when a student understands what he is doing, the kata comes alive. You can see that he can see!

And as we advance in Karate, our understanding of "what" we are doing will grow. This will be reflected in our performance of the kata.

When you understand "what" you are doing (imi or bunkai), you can then optimize your body mechanics to accomplish those specific objectives.

You don't get medals or trophies for that.


Charles C. Goodin

Relative Humility

I have been fortunate to meet many senior Karate instructors.

I have met 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th dan who are so humble and unassuming that you might not even know that they practice Karate.

I have also met green and brown belts who are so full of themselves that you can only shake your head.

And have you met the shodan who acts like his Sensei's rank? Yikes! His Sensei is a hachidan so he acts like a hachidan too. I guess that is rank by association.

When it comes down to it, it all depends on the person. That sounds nice, but it really isn't. I hold senior yudansha to a much higher and more demanding standard. An arrogant brown belt might be forgiven. He still has a lot to learn. But an arrogant senior yudansha has already learned a lot, and it has done no good.

We all should hold ourselves to a very high standard, and practice character as much (actually more) than we do kata or techniques.

Come to think of it, they don't give belts or titles for character. Just be a good person.


Charles C. Goodin

Scales at the Gate 2

This is a follow-up (variation) to my post, Scales at the Gate.

This is another story.

A 10th degree black belt in Karate was standing at the gate of heaven. The angel who guarded the gate sat next to a large pair of scales, balanced by a golden chain.

"Welcome to heaven," said the angel. "Can you tell me a little about yourself?"

"Well," said the judan, "there's not much to say. I lived and tried my best."

"But aren't you a 10th degree black belt in Karate? A hanshi, shihan, grand master... I mean great grand master. You know more than any other Karate instructors. Basically, you are the very best."

"Those things don't matter," said the judan. "I did practice Karate, but I tried my best at whatever I did in life. Being a good husband, father, grandfather, and friend was much more important to me."

"But you've won hundreds of awards, been inducted into numerous Halls of Fame, been featured in countless magazine articles, appeared on a dozen television specials, and had a special day named for you in your home town," continued the angel.

"Can I tell you something?" asked the judan. "When I taught Karate I always emphasized that rank and titles without skill are meaningless, and that destructive skill without character is dangerous. In Karate, character comes first. Then it comes second. Then it comes third. Character is what counts."

The angel could not speak for a moment. Standing before him was an honest, humble, accomplished person. "Well come right in," he finally said.

"What about the scales," asked the judan.

"Never mind. I'm afraid you would break them," replied the angel.

In the End, your character is what speaks most loudly about you. And not just in the End. In the Beginning and Middle too.


Charles C. Goodin