Karate Thoughts Blog

Contents   /   Email  /   Atom  /   RSS  /  

1700+ Posts... and Counting

Hard, But Not Impossible

I remembering watching a television show about these large rock spheres in Costa Rica or some other tropical land. Anyway, these spheres are pretty big and close to being perfect. Given the technology of the inhabitants, some researchers had speculated that they must have been created by... you guessed it, aliens.

But it turned out that there was a more earthbound explanation. The inhabitants, using pretty primitive tools and their shaping skills, worked at it very hard for a long time.

You could not shape these stones in a day or a week -- that would be impossible -- but if you had lots of time and kept working at it, it could be done.

I remember the first time I saw visiting Okinawan Sensei at a seminar. They were so skilled, so strong, so fast, and they made it look so easy. Of course, it seemed like they must have had a special secret. I heard speculation that their secret was that they were Okinawan! They were so skilled, so strong, so fast, and they made it look so easy because they were Okinawan.

Of course, that was not the explanation. The explanation was more earthbound -- they had worked hard, trained hard, and kept working at it. Like the mysterious stone spheres, they had seemingly done the impossible. It is true that it would have been impossible to develop such skill in a short time, but they had put in lots of time and kept working at it.

Sometimes, things that seem impossible are actually just hard and take a lot of time and effort. Karate is like that.

I know many highly skilled Karate instructors. In most cases, I weigh more than them, am taller, and am younger. I have not excuses! Their skill is not because they have some physical advantage over me, or because they are of a certain ethnic background -- their skill is the result of hard work over a lifetime.

My attitude is that if someone can do something, I can too if I am willing to put in as much work as they have done. I don't mean that I could slam dunk like an NBA star (unless they lowered the hoop a couple of feet), but in Karate, I should be able to become as skilled as other experts if I am willing to work at it like they have done.

And that is the heart of the matter. How many people are truly willing to work at something that hard and for that long?

Of course, there a many aspects to Karate and we have to pick the areas in which we wish to specialize. We cannot be good at everything. But if we focus our efforts and work really hard at it, we can shape ourselves, like mysterious rock spheres.


Charles C. Goodin

Like Religion

A Sensei once told me that the way a person does and understands a kata is a bit like a person's religion. We should not give our opinion or offer corrections unless we are asked to do so.

Even if it seems obvious to us that the person is doing the kata or interprets the applications incorrectly, we should be respectful and remain silent -- unless asked. Even if we are 100% certain.

It does not matter if we are right. What matters is that we are respectful of the other person's understanding and interpretation.

And I always try to keep in mind that what is right in my style/system might be wrong in another style/system. What appears to be wrong to me, might be correct to another person.

But even in my own style/system, I try to be careful about offering corrections, particularly with visitors. I will try to clarify with them if they are visiting to merely train or if they are visiting to learn. If the person is a student of another dojo, I will usually ask his or her instructor if it is permissible to me to offer corrections, particularly if the instructor is my senior in rank or age.

My own Sensei is very sensitive to these issues. When I train with him, he often prefaces a correction by "You might try it this way". He never says, "That is wrong!", even if it is obviously wrong. And I have to say that my errors tended to be pretty obvious!

I also try to keep in mind that my own views about kata and their meanings have changed a great deal over the years and decades. We are all at different points in our Karate journeys.


Charles C. Goodin

Hawaii Okinawa Today Program Online!

The Karate program that recently appeared on Hawaii Okinawa Today, is now available online.

Please see: Hawaii Okinawa Today Episode 335

The program will be shown again on on 'Olelo, Oceanic Channel 53, on Saturday, February 26th at 5 p.m. It is about 1 hour long.

The program begins with an interview conducted back in 1999, and then moves forward to my lecture at the University of Hawaii in 2009, in connection with the establishment of the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection at the Hamilton Library. There is also interview footage shot just this month. So I am shown in 1999, 2009, and currently, in case you notice that I look different.

During my lecture, I showed historic Karate images on a screen as part of a Powerpoint presentation. The video crew included the actual images in their show, so the images are very clear.

If you watch the video online, you can click on the video and zoom to full screen.

I am very grateful to Henry H. Isara and the video crew at Hawaii Okinawa Today, as well as the staff and volunteers at the Hawaii United Okinawan Center. They have helped us to share information about Karate in Hawaii with viewers here, and now around the world via the internet.

Mr. Isara was actually the cameraman for the 1999 interview. That interview was conducted by Wayne Miyahira, who passed away not long ago. Mr. Isara conducted the interview earlier this month, and was also present at the University lecture (he is sitting in the front, to the left).

The producers of the current video were Henry H. Isara and Steve Arashiro. The editors were Henry H. Isara, Steve Arashiro, and Ronald Miyashiro.

I am also deeply indebted to the many Karate instructors and their families who donated photographs that became part of the video.


Charles C. Goodin

58 Updates

Earlier this week, I reactivated a desktop computer I had not used for a year or so. When I ran the Windows update, there were 58 of them! I think it took over an hour to download and install them all!

58 updates.

I imagine that it would feel that way if you missed Karate class for a year or so. But the updates would take considerably longer than an hour to process!


Charles C. Goodin

Ads in this Blog


I have signed up for Google Ad Sense and will soon start having ads in this blog. Before you worry that I've "sold out", please rest assured that I will use all the ad revenue, if any, to purchase books for the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection at the University of Hawaii.

So when the ads appear, please click like crazy! Maybe we will be able to acquire originals of Motobu Sensei's two books (and have the university put them online). Wouldn't that be something?


Charles C. Goodin

Remembering a Basic Kata

I remember, a long time ago, that we were practicing a basic kata (I think it was one of the Naihanchi kata). We had a visitor with us. The visitor was quite advanced and said that he would have to practice (review) the kata because he had not done so for a long time because it was so basic.


That is like saying, "I need to practice writing the letter "A". You need to remember all the letters. In Karate, you do not forget or neglect a kata just because it is considered to be a basic or beginner kata.

I do not view kata that way. Our students learn Naihanchi Shodan first. In that respect, it is a basic kata. However, we practice it at almost every training session. In many ways, it is one of the most technically difficult and advanced kata. It is not basic at all.

Kata only seem basic. Fukyugata Ichi is an easy kata to learn but a very difficult kata to do well. If you make any mistakes, they will be obvious. Mistakes are easier to hide in more complex kata.

If you have to remember a "basic" kata, I would say that you know too many kata. Kata are cumulative. The second one is added to the first one. Now you know one longer kata. You keep adding and adding. They are separate, but together they are like one kata. You cannot neglect any part.

It is like the blood circulation in your body -- if the blood does not circulate to your feet they will die. Blood has to circulate throughout your body.

Don't neglect any kata. If it is worth learning, it is worth practicing.


Charles C. Goodin

Unzipping a Kata

Last week at our dojo, I taught training variations of Naihanchi Shodan and Fukyugata Ichi, in which the kata is done in a straight line moving forward only.

Take Fukyugata Ichi. The first movement is a left gedan barai (downward block) to the left. So begin the kata by standing facing to the right (rather than the front of the room). When you do the first movement, you will now be facing toward the front.

The second movement is a right chudan zuki (middle punch). So step forward and throw the punch.

Next, you are supposed to turn in the opposite direction and execute a right gedan barai (downward block). Instead, without taking a step, just slide forward and execute the block.

Whenever you are supposed to change directions, don't. Just keep moving forward with the techniques of the kata.

This is not a new kata or even a variation of the kata. It is simply a different way to practice the kata -- to experiment with it. It is sort of "unzipping" the kata.

There are two benefits to this practice. First, it makes students think more about the design of the kata. Students who are familiar with the kata should have an easy time changing the directions and flow of the kata. Students who are not that familiar with the kata, or generally just follow along with the other students, will have a harder time. This practice makes the student visualize the normal kata and also visualize the modified version. Both versions have to be in the student's mind.

What I like most about this practice is that it introduces different transitions and footwork. In the third movement of the kata, you normally change directions and step forward with a right gedan barai. In the training version, the gedan barai is thrown without changing stances (except that you shift forward in to zenkutsu dachi). At other places in the kata, techniques are thrown in half steps or half stances. The normal kata does not have such footwork. Actually, such footwork is usually found in the more advanced kata.

Students in our dojo learn Fukyugata Ichi within the first year or so of training (after the Naihanchi kata). It is not a difficult kata to learn but it is a difficult kata to do well. Any kata is difficult to do well. "Unzipping" a kata can give the students more insight into a kata they might think they already understand. In this way, they will never take a kata for granted, even it might be considered to be a basic kata or one that they learned when they were beginners.

Another way to look at this is to imagine that each technique in a kata is like DNA. The kata has the pieces of DNA is a certain sequence. By changing the sequence, things change, even though the parts remain the same.

Now I am not suggesting that kata variations are something you would do for tournaments or demonstrations. And I mentioned to my students that if a senior is visiting, we would never do this in front of him (or her). This is for our own private training.

I want our students to learn the kata correctly, but then be creative with them. Look at the kata from front to back, up and down, right and left, even in changed sequences. Look for the connections between the movements -- even between movements that are not contiguous. How does the first movement relate to the last movement? How does movement 3 relate to movement 4, and to other movements? And don't forget the mirror image of techniques.

Sometimes we should unzip the kata, shake them up, and see what happens!


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: And The Winner Is...

This Guest Post is by one of the adult yudansha in our dojo (Hikari Dojo), Peerawut "Peter" Kamlang-ek.

- - - - - - - - - -

And The Winner Is...

This is a story.

Two best friends were hanging out and decided that they both wanted to learn Karate. They promised each other that they will take training seriously and will meet in ten years to test each other's skill out and see who would win.

The first young man had a lot of money so he joined the most famous dojo that is linked to a big organization and held world tournaments. The dojo charged him for lessons, gi, belts, promotion, membership fee, and seminars.

The second young man didn't have that much money so he ended up joining a dojo that no one has ever heard about near his parent's house. The Sensei didn't charge him a dime and only asked that he come in early to help clean the dojo.

Ten years later the first karate student got really skillful and became the rising star, featured in many magazines, television shows, and was known as the "world champion". Remembering his promise to meet up with his friend he finally decided to show up at the dojo where his friend trains.

The world champion showed up while his buddy was cleaning. With a big smirk full of arrogance the world champion took a fighting stance and exclaimed, "It has been ten years old pal! I am the world champion now, attack me with anything!"

The student paused for a second, looked at the broom in his hand, and calmly walked over to the world champion. He put the broom in his friend's hand and politely said, "I'm so sorry old friend, I remember our promise but Karate is not for fighting. Now help me clean the dojo, our Sensei and the students will be arriving soon."

The second student won.


Peerawut Kamlang-ek

Articles By George Donahue

I recommend any articles written by George Donahue, also of Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu. You can find several of his articles at the FightingArts.com website. About 10 years ago, George was very kind to introduce me to koshi and Kishaba Juku body dynamics. Please see:

I like his recent article, Koshi/Yao: An Introduction.


Charles C. Goodin

Why Nigeria?

This is off subject, but it has been on my mind.

What makes people think that if they send me an email notifying me that I won 10 million dollars in a lottery or that a former dictator wants to deposit money to my checking account, that I would be more likely to respond to them if they are in Nigeria?

Have you ever noticed that you never get any of these messages from Okinawa? At least I have not.


Charles C. Goodin

Karate "Thoughts" -- Floating Symbols

Well, since we have compared Karate to language, we might as well go a step further.

When learning Karate, we think in terms of words and phrases. Over the years and decades, we learn the language of Karate and become fluent in it (hopefully).

Then, we no longer think in terms of words strung together in a linear fashion. Complex concepts (movement, application, and response patterns) become symbols to us -- three dimensional, animated, colored and/or textured objects that appear and disappear, as needed, in our minds.

It might take quite a while to say 100 words, 500 words, or 10,000 words, but a symbol embodying the totality of their meaning can be thought/seen/perceived in an instant.

It is like the way some autistic savants can quickly perform complex mathematical computations in their minds. They don't always see the literal numbers. The equations and solutions are sometimes expressed/visualized in novel ways (shapes, colors, sounds, heat, even smells).

I wanted to mention this because the language analogy, while correct to a point, is also a bit limited. We have to "think" in terms of language in a broad sense, which includes symbols containing/representing huge packets of information (movement principles, techniques, applications, etc.). A Karate expert thinks, but probably not in the way you might think he thinks.

Also, when you think this way, the kata fit together in very novel ways. The symbols of each kata (however you visualize them) sort of float and bump/touch/overlap into each other, revealing the connections of movements and sequences in ways that most people might not readily see. And the answers just appear -- without words (in English, or any other language for that matter).

Do you see?


Charles C. Goodin

More on Becoming Fluent in Karate

This is a follow-up to my post, Becoming Fluent in Karate.

There are so many similarities between learning a language and learning Karate.

In writing, we must first learn our alphabet (basics or kihon).

Then we learn words (techniques or waza).

Words are assembled to form sentences (multiple step applications or yakusoku kumite).

Sentences are combined to form paragraphs (kata).

Paragraphs form chapters and eventually a book (a style of Karate or ryuha).

In our native language, we can speak without thinking about which words we should use. The words just flow naturally. As I said, the language does not get in the way of expression.

In Karate, we learn to respond to attacks instinctively, without thinking. If we have to think, "He is punching with his right, so I should block with my left" (for example), we will never have time to defend ourselves. We have to be able to react from muscle memory imprinted from years of training, and only afterward realize what we have done.

Words can have multiple levels of meaning. So can techniques. One technique can have multiple levels of application -- a simple strike, a parry and strike, a joint lock, a dislocation, a take down, etc. Some people express themselves in Karate with an amazing level of sophistication. Others are still at the "baby talk" phase.

My wife likes to tell out children that, "It is not what you say, it is how you say it." This also applies in Karate. "It is not what you say, it is how you say it." "It is not what you are doing, it is how you are doing it."

If Karate is like language, you could say that some Karate people say a lot but don't say much at all, and other Karate people say very little but those few carefully chosen words speak volumes.

I know some people who are not only fluent in Karate, they also speak other languages. You have to watch out for multi-lingual Karate experts!

Analogies to language are not limited to English. Asian languages also have multiple writing systems. Please see: Kata, Bunkai & Calligraphy, by George Donahue. Our Sensei, Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, compares movement in Karate to the kaisho, gyosho, and sosho calligraphy forms -- and he expresses this beautifully in movement.

If Karate is like language, then you better be very careful about what you say. Choose your words carefully, and say something useful.


Charles C. Goodin

Becoming Fluent in Karate

When you are fluent in a language, you can easily express yourself. You do not have to struggle with words. They come easily. Language does not get in the way of expression.

We are working to become fluent in Karate. First, we must seek fluency of motion -- the ability to move freely and to execute techniques in any required direction. We must also seek fluency of application -- the ability to apply the appropriate technique freely and effectively.

If someone attacks, we must be able to respond quickly without thinking, as if casually carrying on a conversation.

Most of us are fluent in at least one language. Are you fluent in Karate?


Charles C. Goodin

More About Improvement In Higher Dan Ranks?

This is a follow-up to my post, Improvement In Higher Dan Ranks? I received several comments on this at my Facebook page. My blog posts become notes at my Facebook page.

In a way, my post confuses two separate subjects: improvement and rank. One can seek improvement without any thought of rank, and sometimes one can earn a higher rank without regard to improvement. However, in a perfect world, in my opinion, rank would be a reflection of improvement.

As Karate students, we should always be seeking to improve ourselves at all levels -- technique, knowledge of the art, teaching ability, character, etc.

However, we should not expect that the indicators of improvement would be the same for a shodan (1st degree black belt) as it would be for a hachidan (8th degree black belt) . For a shodan, learning the next kata may be required. A hachidan will have learned all the kata in his system decades ago. For a shodan, being able to do a certain number of push-ups or punches might be relevant. A hachidan, if he is elderly, certainly will not be getting stronger in terms of push-ups and how many pounds he can bench press.

My point is that the indicators of improvement will change with advancement. So what might be looked for as signs of advancement in higher ranks? Please allow me to speculate (I am still a student and beginner).

A shodan might consider how hard he can hit. But most of his effort will be wasted. Of all the power he generates, very little will make it into his fist (if that is what he is hitting with) and even less will make it into the attacker. And even then, a shodan will probably hit the attacker in a less than ideal place. A hachidan, in contrast, will be much more efficient. Generating power with his "whole body", he will efficiently transfer and boost this power through his body, to his fist, to a single knuckle, with which he will strike the attacker at a vulnerable spot designed to do the most damage with the least effort. The hachidan may not be as physically strong as the shodan, but he will be able to do a whole lot more with less.

A shodan is learning what to do. A hachidan is far along in the process of refining what he has learned. See Karate Refinement. For a shodan, it is an additive process. For a hachidan the process involves stripping away unnecessary and inefficient movements.

But the process is not limited to movement alone. As one advances, the ability to read the attacker also improves. An advanced Karate student can more clearly see what the attacker is doing and about to do -- perhaps even what he plans to do. Because the advanced student can read the attacker, he can do more to preempt the attacker's movements, not just respond to them. See Making Sense of "Sen". A shodan might block a punch (if he is lucky). A hachidan might be able to stop the punch at its root by jamming the shoulder (just as an example). From there, it is just a short distance to strike the attacker in the neck, face, etc. Again, the hachidan will be able to do much more with less.

But it goes further than reading the attacker. As one advances, one's ability to sense an imminent threat should also improve, so that one can better avoid an attack entirely. As I have written, any technique can fail but avoidance is 100% effective.

So as one advances, the indicators of this advancement will change. A shodan should not be evaluated by the standards applicable to a hachidan, and vice versa.

And certainly, the more one advances, the more one's character should improve. See Okinawa's Bushi: Karate Gentlemen.

As students, we should always seek improvement, keep working at it, and then work at it some more. This attitude should guide us throughout our lives.


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Until I Get It Right

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

- - - - - - - - - -

Until I get it right

My neighbor's daughter is 8 years old. She has been playing the piano for just about a year. During the course of the year, we were amazed by the progress she has been making. The other day my daughter-in-law being impressed with her piano playing, asked her how long she practiced every day? She responded, "Until I get it right." Wow! Until she gets it right. There were no time limits. It was until she got it right. This 8 year old girl already knows what it
takes to excel.

Imagine if we approached our Karate training in the same way: Until we get it right. We practice and never seem to improve. As Snaggy (the late Bob Inouye) used to quote the legendary basketball coach, Bobby Knight, "Practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent." We must practice correctly and in the right way. It is a matter of focus and awareness.

We are made aware of our mistakes and we try to correct it by training harder. We see students who have been training for 20 years and are still making the same mistakes from their first year of training. They trained hard from the time they started, but they accomplished 1 year of training repeated 20 times. We should not only look at training harder, but practice until we get it right.

My mother would remind me about doing things right and I would respond, "Yea Mom, you already told me that a thousand times." She would come back with, "Yes, I'm going to tell you this a thousand and one time and maybe this time I'll get through to you." So, rather than just training, practice to get it right and maybe this time you will get it right.

How do you know when you get it right.? There is the concept of "Shirimasu" and "Wakarimasu". Shirimasu means I know. Wakarimasu is I understand. Someone may explain something to you, so you have knowledge: Shirimasu. Understanding though comes from empirical knowledge or experiencing: Wakarimasu. When you practice and work on getting it right, and when you do get it right, you will know. You now understand. Then you realize the value of "Until I get it right."

Pat Nakata

¿Mejora En Los Grados Dan Más Altos?

My post, Improvement In Higher Dan Ranks?, has been translated into Spanish. Please see:

at Blog de Víctor López Bondía.

Thank you very much to Bondía Sensei.


Charles C. Goodin

Luxury Shoes

Imagine that you are going to buy a pair or really expensive luxury shoes. These babies cost $10,000! (If that does not sound like a lot to you, then they cost $1 million!)

Now everyone wears shoes. To spend that much, these shoes have to be special -- really special. Of course, they have a luxury brand name. You are not just paying for the shoes, you are paying for the brand and the right to show off that you are wearing that brand.

Just any brand will not do. This brand is really special. Here in the US, that means it must be from some exotic land or Europe or something. It has to be something really different -- otherwise why would you pay so much? (Personally, I would buy American.)

And these shoes, this brand, is somehow possessed by a special power that will make you more attractive to the opposite sex and envied by your peers. When you wear these shoes, you will not just be something, you will be someone!

These are not just shoes -- these are life changing receptacles for your feet. Kings and queens would have been lucky to wear them, but you will be the one to get them, for the measly price of just $10,000.

So what is the point?

Don't treat Karate like luxury shoes. Karate is not really something you can purchase. It is something you become skillful at by training, by your own hard work. And if anyone tries to sell you Karate the way someone might sell luxury shoes, you should remind them that you don't need to wear shoes when you practice Karate. You leave your shoes outside the dojo (or in the hall). Leave the world in your shoes (or slippers) and just train.

I wear a $20 gi that has lasted me years (actually, I wear a few of them). I wore out expensive gi pretty quickly. The cheaper one turned out to be better quality.


Charles C. Goodin

Folding Chair

On Wednesday, we practiced using a folding chair as a defense against a club (stick) attack. From a sitting position, we practiced pulling the chair out between our legs, grabbing the seat and back, thrusting the legs toward the attacker's face several times while spinning the legs somewhat to parry the club, and throwing the chair (just pretend so that we did not damage the chairs or flooring) to create an opening to escape.

I will tell you this. I felt pretty vulnerable when I was the attacker. The four legs of a folding chair are a pretty good weapon.

Part of self-defense is being aware of your surroundings and identifying items that can be used for protection. Another thing I emphasized to our students is being aware of avenues of escape. There's a big difference between running for an exit and running into a closet.


Charles C. Goodin

Improvement In Higher Dan Ranks?

Here is a question I was asked (I am paraphrasing it):

"Are higher dan ranks awarded for technical improvement or for other factors, such as contributions to the art and teaching?"
It is certainly true that higher ranks, such as 7th dan through 10th dan, do take into account the awardee's contributions to the art, teaching, and similar factors. However, in my opinion, a person should improve from one dan level to the next. This applies to higher ranks as well.

Thus, in my opinion, a 7th dan should be more skilled than a 6th dan, an 8th dan should be more skilled than a 7th dan, etc. A Karate student should never reach a level where he no longer improves. I am sure that there are 80 and 90 year old Karate experts who are still "working at it." The work never ends and neither does improvement.

Now I am not saying that you can necessarily compare a 7th dan in one style or dojo to another 7th dan in another style or dojo. Ranking is a pretty subjective thing with wide variations. But within one dojo or organization, you would expect to see some uniformity of ranking. And in this situation, I would expect there to be a qualitative difference between holders of higher ranks. In other words, I would not expect an 8th dan to simply be an older version of a 7th dan. An 8th dan should be more skilled and more technically advanced.

I have written before that the passage of time and the attainment of a certain age should never be the basis of rank. Improvement should be the basis of rank, and improvement comes from one thing and one thing only -- training.

I've also written that what's important is not being better than other people but being better than yesterday (quoting Jigoro Kano). It is also true that if you have not improved today, you have gotten worse (because you have gotten older). We must constantly seek improvement.

I am fortunate to know many skilled Karate instructors who have dedicated their lives to training. They train to improve, not to be promoted. Actually, I do not know any skilled Karate instructors who seek promotion -- they are too busy training and working on themselves.

Skill is the result of training. If skill increases, that is a reward in and of itself. An acknowledgment from a ranking committee is not necessary. It is also true that rank without skill and ability means nothing at all.

So I feel that a person should improve from one rank to the next, and this applies from the earliest ranks to the highest. But the goal is improvement, not rank. If rank comes, it should be accepted with a sense of humility, gratitude, and increased responsibility (to the other students).

I would also like to relate something I often experience. I meet many Karate instructors who are more skilled that me. I am never intimidated by this. Instead, I am inspired to train harder so that I can improve. I am 53 and my Sensei in Okinawa is 72. I say to myself, "I will try to be as skilled as he is when I am his age." And then I think, "At least I have some time to try to catch up." I have mentioned this to my Sensei many times. He replies that "We can try to improve together."

That is exactly how I feel about my own students. "We can try to improve together."


Charles C. Goodin

Evaluating a Movement

When I see a student perform a movement, I feel like saying:

  • Generating power the way you are doing it, your movement has a potential of 3 (out of 10).
  • Transferring power the way you are doing it, your movement has a potential of 2.
  • Executing the technique the way you are doing it (the shape and pattern), your movement has a potential of 5.
  • Executing the technique with your understanding of the meaning of the technique, your movement has a potential of 3.
Of course, the numbers will change. But the relevant questions are:
  • How does the student generate power?
  • How does the student transfer power?
  • What is the range of applications based on the form of the movement?
  • What is the range of applications based on the student's understanding of the movement?
Each step of this analysis affects the next. If a student can generate a lot of power but cannot transfer it effectively, then the power is wasted. If the student can generate a lot of power and can transfer it effectively, but moves in a limited way, then that power will also be limited. But if the student has a lot of power, can transfer it effectively, moves in a way that provides an acceptable range of applications, and the student also understands those applications, then he can hope to accomplish something.

Take a simple punch (chudan zuki). First, the student needs to know how to get power into the punch (whole body dynamics). Next, the student needs to know how to transfer that power through the punch into the attacker (striking surface, kime, kikomi). If he punches in a very linear and limited way, he will probably only be able to execute a very linear and limited punch. But if he understands that the punch presents a range of possible movements, then the doors are opened. And if he knows where and how to hit most effectively, then that is really something. For example, a punch to the center of the attacker's chest might have a certain effect. If the student has a great deal of power and can transfer it effectively, he might be able to knock down the attacker. But there are many other places to hit in that general area that will have a much greater effect with much less effort. A skilled Karate expert is a little bit like a surgeon. He will hit or strike for maximum effect -- and the won't waste the recoil of the punch or the location of his fist after the punch either.

So... there are a lot of things to consider.

When I see a student or instructor who rates high on all of the four questions I presented at the beginning of this post, I think, "watch out for him (or her)!"


Charles C. Goodin

First Kendo Practice

My granddaughter is a year and a half old. Today, she came up to me with the cardboard roll from wrapping paper and tried to hit me!

I was so proud. (I blocked, if you are wondering.)

My eldest son practices Kendo, so we anticipate that my granddaughter will too -- Kendo and Karate. I'll bet that my third son teaches her Ju Jitsu too.


Charles C. Goodin

More on Vicious Techniques

This is a follow-up to my post, Vicious Techniques. My friend, Sensei Jim Alexander, also posted a Guest Post on this subject.

I do not believe that Karate is for fighting -- it is for defense only. Karate does not make you a good fighter, it makes you a good defender, hopefully.

As Sensei Alexander pointed out, attackers do not follow any rules. And some of them are very good at fighting/beating people up because they get a lot of practice.

In Karate, we should learn to defend against the types of attacks we might experience. I am afraid that attackers are not going to use a chudan zuki. And if the attack ends up on the ground, they are not going to call time out so that you can both stand up. NO RULES. NO TIME OUT. NO TROPHIES.

As Karate students we should avoid conflict unless it is the last resort -- to defend your life or the life of a loved one. Talk your way out of it if you can, walk away if that does not work, run away if you have to. AVOID, AVOID, AVOID. I would rather give up my wallet than risk my life.

But if there is no other way, and you have to defend yourself -- and this is the key point -- you need to be prepared to defend against real attacks. The techniques that might receive points in a tournament are probably not going to work. And, in fact, the techniques that will probably work best are also probably illegal in tournaments (most of the techniques I would use certainly are).

That is why I wrote about vicious techniques -- you need to know what dirty is in order to defend against dirty.

And if you do have to defend against a vicious technique, you are probably going to have to be more vicious, not to win, but to survive and get away.

Winning and losing are for sports. My good friend, Professor Kimo Ferreira, likes to say that in self defense, it is not who is first but who is last (as in the last one standing).

Please do not get me wrong. I am one of the most peaceful people you could meet. I am not a fighter at all and will always try my best to avoid conflict unless self defense becomes the last resort. But I do realize that as Karate students we have to keep it real. We have to learn to defend against the types of real attacks we might experience. You cannot hope to defend against something you have never even seen.


Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: About Vicious Techniques

In response to my post, Vicious Techniques, my good friend, Sensei Jim Alexander (of Belleville, Illinois) wrote:

"First rule of real combat....there are NO rules. Second rule; NOBODY WINS , Everybody gets hurt. Third rule...the one who gets hurt least gets to walk away.

I'm totally against the teaching of ideas that give a student any delusions about winning an encounter... training may improve your odds, but there are no guarantees and anyone that has had real life experience, in the military or the police will tell you, the only way to guarantee an outcome, is don't be a participant to [in] violence.

I had a friend once, from a dojo I was involved with, that went to Vegas on business, got mugged and beaten severely. He was a brown belt at the time. He felt from all his training it was worth resisting the two guys that demanded his wallet (it had credit cards and a considerable amount of cash in it). Instead of turning it over he took a defensive stance... when he returned from the trip he was totally demoralized. He complained to his sensei... what good is all this training if I can't even defend myself? His sensei responded... "You didn't listen when I told you to walk away from danger, run if possible and do not fight unless it is your life or the life of a loved one."

To this I always add, when teaching a community service class on self defense... It may be your first fight... but you can bet it is not your attacker's first attack. Bad guys get PLENTY of practice...that's why good guys should practice MORE, and practice like it is for real. Better to get a bruise on your forearm in the dojo than one on your brain in the street.

I sincerely hope your students listen more closely to you than my friend did to his sensei.

Thank you Jim. I appreciate your views and experiences. -- Charles

Vicious Techniques

The other night I was showing a series of techniques that ended with a takedown. Then, with the attacker on the ground, I showed a couple of basic strikes/kicks followed by a technique I will not mention, but suffice it to say that it was particularly vicious, terrible, horrible, etc.

I then explained to the students that they need to be aware of such techniques, because if they are taken down to the ground, these are the types of things an attacker might try to do to them. This is an important point -- it is very difficult to defend against attacks and techniques you have never seen. But if you have practiced these attacks and techniques, you will be better prepared to defend against them.

I used to practice Kenpo Karate here in Hawaii. When I am taken down, I never leave my legs open (one leg always protects my groin). In some grappling arts, stomping on or kicking the groin is not allowed. In Kenpo, it is assumed that an attacker will attack your groin, head... anything possible. Anything goes, so you have to be ready to protect everything. You certainly do not leave your legs open and your groin area exposed.

Learning vicious attacks makes you more aware of the need to carefully defend yourself and not to take anything for granted.


Charles C. Goodin

One More About Anderson Silva

It is late here in Hawaii, and I just had this thought.

If I were in an MMA match with Anderson Silva (which could never happen and I am probably old enough to be his father), the match would start and the next thing I would know is that Anderson was kneeling over me, bowing, and being really nice.

I would be thinking, "Oh no! Anderson Silva is being nice. It must be over!"

I really respect fighters like Anderson Silva who are polite to their opponents. My third son, Cael, told me that there might be a fight between Anderson Silva and George St. Pierre. Now that would be something! And they are both very polite.

As I have mentioned before, because my son Cael practices MMA (Brazilian Ju Jitsu), I have come to better understand (just a little) and respect the art. Often at our Karate class, I will begin a technique and ask Cael to explain how he would finish it, or how he might respond to the same attack. For some reason, he usually wants to take the attacker down. Having "rolled" with Cael very lightly, the ground is certainly not a place I would like to be with a grappling expert.


Charles C. Goodin

About that Kick

Here is an interesting article at the CNN website about Anderson Silva's front kick to Vitor Belfort's jaw:

In UFC fight, mixed martial arts and brain science collide

I have been thinking... I don't think that most people would throw a kick to the jaw if kicks to the groin were allowed. Well, perhaps Anderson Silva would.

In my style, kicks are generally no higher than the waist and are usually aimed at the groin or knee areas.

My Kenpo friends like to say, "If you want to kick to the head, take the attacker down first (then stomp him)." Not that I would necessarily do that... just that I have heard that. Of course, I would do everything possible to avoid an attack.


Charles C. Goodin

The Most Important Karate Book Ever

As the head of the Hawaii Karate Museum, I am blessed with access to some of the rarest Karate and martial arts books in the world (almost all of which we have donated to the University of Hawaii). After years of research, I have decided to name the most important Karate book ever written. Do you know what it is?

It is the attendance book at your dojo.

No book can compare in importance to a book that lists the weeks, years, and decades of your practice. Whether it is an actual book, or just one that you keep in your mind (and your Sensei's mind) doesn't matter. The best Karate book -- your Karate book -- is written in sweat.

Print books are nice too, but they only become relevant if Karate has become alive in you through dedicated training.


Charles C. Goodin

Mae Geri is a Great Kick

This evening I watched UFC 126 with my sons and some of their friends. Of course, the big match was Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort.

For all my students at our dojo, "See, I told you that mae geri (front kick) is a great kick!"

Then again, I think that Anderson Silva could make any technique work and look good.


Charles C. Goodin

Win A Fight, Then What?

From time to time, I hear about incidents that go something like this:

Two guys get into an argument at a bar or club. A fight ensues (usually in the parking lot). One guy beats up the other. The loser leaves. Later, the loser drives to the other guy's house with a gun...
There is always a bad ending to this story, often with one or both of the fighters or innocent bystanders being killed.

My point is that the fight at the bar or club is not necessarily the end. And winning the fight does not mean that you are safe or that the fight is over. The loser could come back later with a gun or with a bunch of friends (who might also have guns). Or he might just run you over with his car!

This is probably not on the minds of the fighters when they are in the parking lot, but it is certainly a possibility.

A skilled Karate student/instructor might have a good chance in the parking lot, particularly against an untrained aggressor. But even the best Karate expert cannot block bullets.

That is why it is so important to avoid the fight in the first place. If the fight is avoided, the subsequent shooting will also be avoided (hopefully). Karate is only used as a last resort. Avoiding a fight is the best technique. If it cannot be avoided, then that is another thing. But we should always remember that parking lot glory can be quickly followed by tragedy.


Charles C. Goodin

Learning by Teaching

I was speaking to a young man who was promoted to shodan (1st degree black belt) in our dojo earlier this week. I told him:

"You learn 20% from your teachers and the other 80% by teaching others. The first part is easy, all you have to do is follow instructions and apply it to yourself (and train hard, of course). Teaching others is hard, because everyone is different. You cannot assume that a student will just be able to copy you, or that he will necessarily understand what you teach him. Some students learn well by listening, others by observing, others by the "feel" of the movement. Since they are all different, you will have to figure out how to teach each student the best way possible. But by doing so, you will truly understand what you have learned."
Years ago, I thought that the ratio was 50% (what you learn from your teachers) and 50% (what you learn by teaching). Now I think it is 20% and 80%. One day I might think it is actually 1% and 99%!

We learn the most by teaching. So if you are ever asked to teach (whether the entire class or just one student), please keep this in mind -- you are learning by teaching and you can only learn by teaching.


Charles C. Goodin

Hawaii Okinawa Today Program on 'Olelo -- Okinawan Karate

Hawaii Okinawa Today, a cable program on 'Olelo, Oceanic Channel 53, will feature Okinawan Karate, specifically the donation of the Hawaii Karate Museum rare book collection to the University of Hawaii, along with the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai's demonstration to celebrate the event, and my lecture on the early history of Karate in Hawaii at the Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaii. The program will premiere on Monday, February 21st at 7 p.m., and be shown again on Saturday, February 26th at 5 p.m. It will be one hour.

I hope that you can watch it!

The program is sponsored by the HUOA (Hawaii United Okinawa Association) and was created by Mr. Henry Isara, who came to my office earlier this week to film an interview. I was first interviewed by Hawaii Okinawa Today back in 1999. At that time, Mr. Isara was the cameraman and the interviewer was Wayne Miyahira (who passed away not so long ago). Mr. Isara now conducted the interview and edited the program. I really appreciate his hard work and dedication to Okinawan culture.

We all practice Okinawan Karate. Let's not forget to study the "Okinawan" in Okinawan Karate!


Charles C. Goodin