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Have a God Day

I am a real estate attorney and teach Karate for love of the art. I do not make my living from Karate, thank goodness. If I did, I certainly would be poor.

Anyway, every time I send a document to a client, I write "Have a good day," in my email. But I have noticed that quite often I make a typo and write instead "Have a god day."

I do not know if the origins of "good day", "good night," and "goodbye" originally were based on "God," but I think so.

In any event, it is funny how a typo can sometimes be profound.

My own name is funny, "Charles C. Goodin." I sometimes think of it as an urging to me to see the good in people and events.

"Sensei," is interesting too... "Sense I."

Just thinking.


Charles C. Goodin (I try to)

Like Your Instructors

This is a story.

A Karate Sensei met a student who had trained with five noted instructors. "You are so much like your instructors," said the Sensei.

The student was elated and smiled from ear to ear.

"Yes," explained, the Sensei. "You are lazy like your first instructor, a drunkard like your second instructor, a chain smoker like your third instructor, foul mouthed like your fourth instructor, and dishonest like your fifth instructor." "Why have you come to see me?"

"Actually," replied the student, "I was looking for my sixth instructor."

You have to be careful what you copy. All instructors are human and we all have our faults. What makes any Karate student exceptional is long term dedication to working to improve himself. Hopefully, a Sensei has many positive character traits to go along with his skill in Karate. A good Sensei inspires his students.

What should you do if you have an instructor with a bad character? I cannot tell you. However, you should remember that an instructor does not only teach technique -- all instructors also teach by their example.

Don't be like the student in the above story.


Charles C. Goodin

One Word to Describe "Karate"

If someone asked me to use just one word to describe Karate, I might say, "fishing."

I know that this does not make much sense. But to me, that word is as good as any other word, and it makes no sense to me to try to describe Karate in one word, two words, a sentence, or even a paragraph. Any description is only of a part or an aspect, and no description comes close to the real thing.

If you want to understand Karate, you have to train. You have to experience Karate, not just think about a word or words. Many people think they understand Karate.

If someone asked me to use just one word to describe Karate, I might say, "I do not accept your premise."

But I do enjoy fishing and I do enjoy practicing Karate. So maybe fishing is a good word.


Charles C. Goodin

Errors -- Like Nuts

I am a real estate attorney. As such, I regularly review documents. I am even on a committee that prepares forms used by real estate professionals here in Hawaii. In short, I do a lot of very technical proofing.

One of the unspoken rules of proofing is this: if you find an error, look for the others. The fact that there was one error indicates a lack of care that suggests that there might be other errors.

I also do a lot of yard work. I am pretty skilled a weeding. A similar rule applies: if you find one weed, look for the others. If there is one weed, there will surely be others. And if you are sitting on the grass picking weeds, don't forget to look where you were sitting!

So how does this apply to Karate? When I see an error in an Karate student, it makes me look for other errors. One error suggests that there may be others. An error rarely occurs alone.

There is a weed that we call "nutgrass" here in Hawaii. I think it is actually called nutsedge. When you find it in the grass, you will just see a green shoot, possibly with a few leaves. It looks easy to pick. But actually, that shoot is just the top of the weed. It is connected to a nut in the soil, and that nut is connected to others. Picking the shoot doesn't do any good. You have to kill the nuts. The way you do this is to use the shoot as a delivery device for poison. Through the shoot you can poison the nuts.

Technical errors in Karate are a lot like nut grass. You only see the shoots, but there are nuts beneath the surface. You could correct errors all day, but it won't do any good unless you get the nuts.

You have to get the nuts.

There is another thing about errors. An error in one area can also indicate errors in others. In particular, if I find a student who does not properly observe courtesy, it makes me question his technique (and other aspects of his training). On the other had, if I find a student who properly observes courtesy, I will suspect that his technique (and other aspects of his training) will be just a good.

When I find an advanced student or instructor who is out of shape, I wonder about his training. If he trained well, would be be out of shape?

Like I said, you have to get the nuts. The errors you see are usually just on the surface. You have to dig down to get the nuts. Otherwise, the weeds just spread.

When a student makes an error, you have to ask yourself, "Why is he making this error?" Does he raise his shoulders because he thinks that is a good way to generate power? If so, it would be best to show him how to generate power with his core, rather than just yelling "Lower your shoulders." Even if he lowers his shoulders, this will not help him to properly understand power generation, unless you teach him.

Dig beneath the surface for the source of the problem. If you can get to the source, you can solve all the problems arising from it.


Charles C. Goodin

Content Rich Expression of Karate

I have friends and know instructors who can explain the mechanics/body dynamics of any movement of any kata they know, and demonstrate it without rehearsal, actually without even thinking about it. Walking through a kata, they can demonstrate the applications and meanings of the movements, and multiple variations depending on changing circumstances. And they can show the relationship of any movement to other movements in that kata and other kata of their curriculum.

Please take a minute to re-read the above paragraph.

Basically, I am saying that I know people who are fluent in their kata. Their kata is not just a hollow imitation or show -- it is a content rich expression of their understanding of Karate.

To me, that is one of the ideals of Karate training.


Charles C. Goodin

Use of "Sensei"

This is mostly for my own students.

My own students usually refer to me as "Sensei" in conversation or possibly "Goodin Sensei" in a more formal context. They are very good about this. I also follow the same formalities with my Sensei. My students would also address my Sensei as "Sensei."

The point I want to make is that my students would also address my friends who are Sensei of other styles or Japanese martial arts as "Sensei." They would not address them as "Bob" or "Sally" as this would be impolite.

In our own style, heads of dojo are usually addressed as "Sensei." Thus, if a person was the head of dojo in Florida and visited our dojo here in Hawaii, we would refer to him or her as "Sensei."

In our own dojo, we have three generations of "Sensei." There are times when my Sensei in Hawaii, myself, and my son, who is the head of our dojo, are all present at the same time. In that case, the students could refer to any of us as "Sensei." To avoid confusion, the students could use our name, such as "Goodin Sensei." However, since my son and I are both "Goodin Sensei," and since my son is only 25, students might sometimes refer to him as "Charles Sensei." This might not be the best protocol, but it works in our dojo.

For a student, it is always better to err on the side of politeness. I think this is true in life too.

To me, "Sensei" is not just a title, it is a term of respect and affection. To me, to be a good Sensei is the highest accomplishment in Karate... like being a good parent.


Charles C. Goodin

Make Your Karate More Okinawan

This is a story.

A Karate Sensei was speaking to his students. "As you are all aware, Karate was developed in Okinawa. If you want to understand Karate, you should learn about the Okinawan culture. As an assignment, I want each of you to learn more about the Okinawan culture and do one thing to make your Karate more Okinawan. You have one week."

A week passed and the students returned to class, eager to show their Sensei what they had done to make their Karate more Okinawan.

The first student walked to the front of the class. She had printed her gi with bingata (beautiful Okinawan stencil dye).

The Sensei shook his head. "Will textiles make your Karate more Okinawan?"

The second student walked to the front of the class. "Before I came to class today, I ate andagi (sweet, deep fried Okinawan pastries).

The Sensei shook his head. "Will food make your Karate more Okinawan?"

The third student walked to the front of the class. "Hai sai gusuyo," he said. I am learning Uchinaguchi (the Okinawan dialect).

"Well, that is a good start," said the Sensei. "But will language make your Karate more Okinawan?"

Just then, another student rushed into the dojo, bowed apologetically, and joined the line of students.

"You're late," said the Sensei. "Did you do the assignment?"

"I'm sorry," began the student. "I took my elderly grandmother to the park today. She enjoyed it so much and the time just flew. I am sorry for being late."

The Sensei clapped his hands. "Now that is the answer!" exclaimed the Sensei. "Okinawans treasure and deeply respect their elders, particularly their grandparents. You have demonstrated this by spending time with your grandmother. Okinawans treasure the young as well. In fact, Okinawan treasure and celebrate life itself, which is viewed as a precious treasure. As such, we practice Karate to preserve and enhance life, not to take it."

What can you do to make your Karate more Okinawan? Time for some andagi!


Charles C. Goodin

Koshi: Transferring Power Up And Down

One of the very useful things about the proper use of the koshi (and body alignment), is that power from the lower body can be freely transferred and directed to the upper body. Power from the feet and legs, for example, can be transferred to the arms and hands for a strong punch. Since the lower body is much stronger than the upper body, this is very helpful.

Although we don't speak about it much, power from the upper body can also be freely transferred and directed to the lower body. This is noticeable when we kick in a whip-like manner (as opposed to a large, trusting type kick). It is also noticeable when we use the koshi to step, raise the leg, or shift positions.

Have you ever watched a television show about dinosaurs? They certainly make them look real. When you see the raptors running, you will always notice that their tails act as counterweights. This is true of other animals, but it is really noticeable with dinosaurs (at least to me).

I think that our arms act as a sort of counterweight that allows us to step, raise our leg, kick, etc. more effectively. In such cases, the upper body's power is transferred through the koshi to the lower body.

The koshi, thus, works as a two way street. Power from the lower body can be transferred and directed to the upper body and power from the upper body can be transferred and directed to the lower body... usually in a crisscross manner.

Such a good thing, the koshi.


Charles C. Goodin

Learning the System

This is a story.

A Karate student said this to his Sensei. "Sensei, I have now learned all the kata of our system. Now I know it!"

The Sensei laughed hard and replied, "It is good that you have learned the kata. Please think about this. You are like a chef who has gone to the market and assembled all the ingredients for a fine meal. Now you have to go back to the kitchen and cook!"

There is a big difference between a shopping cart full of ingredients and a fine meal. There is also too much emphasis today on being able to simply "do" a kata rather than learning the kata, working on the body dynamics, working on the connection of the movements to each other and in other kata, working on the variations, understanding the applications, etc. Learning the kata is step 1. Imagine that there are 10 steps. Don't just complete step 1 and move on to another kata. You still have 9 steps to go!

Simply being able to "do" a kata is like memorizing a passage in a foreign language without know what any of the words mean. That is sort of like a person receiving a dan certificate in Japanese which actually talks about beer or sake. Don't laugh. It happens.

Kata is not something you "do," it is something you work on... for a very, very long time (and then continue to do so). You don't "do" the kata, they do you.


Charles C. Goodin