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1700+ Posts... and Counting

Bunkai Article Translation

My article, The Why of Bunkai: A Guide For Beginners, has been translated into Spanish. Please see:

The translation was done by Víctor López Bondía, with my permission. He was very polite to ask in advance and then let me know when the translation was posted.

I studied Spanish in high school and college, but did not do very well in it. It is very rewarding to see my article so expertly translated in Spanish.

I was just reading the translation. Cada Movimiento Tiene Muchos Significados. They certainly do!

I will let you in on a little secret. When I read my articles, it is almost as if someone else wrote them. I feel disconnected from them... now even more so in Spanish. I may write a lot, but it all comes down to one thing -- training.


Charles C. Goodin

A Slip During A Bo Kata

I mentioned that I recently observed a Karate tournament. At one point, a teenage girl (I think she was a teenager, but she might have been a young adult) performed a bo kata. It was a pretty standard kata and things were going as expected. But then she lost the grip of the bo with her right hand. For a split second, the rhythm and flow of the kata was broken.

There she was, hold the bo with her left hand only. Her right hand was empty, and the bo momentarily floated in the air.

Of course, she quickly regained her grip and continued with the kata. But for that split second, the kata became interesting. It was alive and unscripted. I almost expected her to charge forward with a Kendo men (strike to the head)! That would have been good.

I was in Kendo class one day (a long time ago). The Sensei was practicing with a student and at one point the student lost his right hand grip. Without a moment's gap, the Sensei charged and slapped at the shinai (bamboo sword) so that the student could not regain his grip. The student backed up but the Sensei followed and slapped the shinai maybe twice more before hitting the student with a strong men!

When you lose your grip, you create an opening and could easily lose the match (or be injured). People do lose their grip. Fighting is not clean. But in those rare moments when you lose your grip, there is an opportunity to improve. There is a spontaneous moment. The kata comes alive!



Charles C. Goodin

Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai Update

On Sunday (August 14th), our Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai had a special one year memorial demonstration for Mrs. Diane Satoko Nagaishi at the Hawaii Kotohira Jinsha Temple. It was a good opportunity to take a photograph of all the dojo heads, except for Sensei Bobby Lowe who could not make it that day due to his health. Lowe Sensei is shown on the second photograph on the page (from an earlier training).

If you visit the Kenkyukai website, the first photograph is the one taken that day. I am in the back row, far left. In the caption, there is also a link to the program we used that day.

Here is a list of the instructors shown:

Front row (from left): James A. Miyaji, Walter Nishioka, Fumio Nagaishi, Pat Nakata, George Sasano, Herbert Ishida.

Back row (from left): Charles C. Goodin, Angel Lemus, Hisae Ishii-Chang, Alan Lee, Sean Roberts.

Of course, many of the Sensei have senior students who have trained and taught much longer than I have. The top photograph was only of the dojo heads present that day. My point is that even though I may be a dojo head and considered to be a "Sensei," I never forget that my friends' students are senior to me in both age and training. Plus, they are stronger than me too!

The basis for the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai is study and training. Actually, it is training. The study of Karate is training. You study by training, and by training you study. The only way to improve in Karate is by training. We get together to train and learn from each other.


Charles C. Goodin

One Thing to Make Your Dojo Better Part 2

So here is my answer to the question: "Can you think of one thing to make your dojo better?"

Of course, the answer is that if you improve, your dojo will be better. If you become more skilled, if you understand the applications/meanings of the kata better, if your understand body dynamics better, if you become a better teacher, if you get in better condition, if you attend class more regularly... all of these things will make the dojo better.

A dojo does not improve with a bigger or better space or better equipment. A dojo improves when its members or students improve.

And besides, you are the only thing that you can control. You can try your best to help other students, but you are completely responsible for your own progress. I am not talking about advancement (rank, titles, etc.), I am talking about your personal progress and development as a Karate student. I am talking about what you see when you look in the mirror.

Improvement always starts with yourself. And if you can help other students, that is even better (you will also improve in the process).


Charles C. Goodin

One Thing to Make Your Dojo Better Part 1

Can you think of one thing that would make your dojo better?

This is a serious question, so I will give you some time to think. I will give my answer in the next post.


Charles C. Goodin

More On Tournament Kata

This is a follow up on my last post, Tournament Kata.

My point in that post was that it appears that at least some people, when they perform kata at a tournament, do not appear to understand the meanings/applications of the techniques they are doing.

I am following up to make two additional points.

First, it is natural that beginners will not understand the meanings/applications of the techniques, at least not when compared to intermediate or advanced students, or to instructors. It should be expected that as a student advances, his understanding will increase.

Should it be expected? Really?

Far too often, I see cases where as soon as a student learns a kata well enough to perform it (just do the movements), he is taught another kata! Instead of working on the first kata -- its body dynamics and meanings/applications -- the student is already learning another one. Somehow, the body dynamics and meanings/applications are just never taught.

In my opinion, there is no value at all in just learning kata. One kata is not really higher than another. If you can do one kata well, you can probably do other kata just as well, once you learn them. Hey, a good punch is a good punch and a good kick is a good kick. The opposite is also true. A bad technique is a bad technique, even if it done during an "advanced" kata.

Of course, the learning process is ongoing. A student will be learning kata, body dynamics, and meanings/applications all the time. And things he learns in Passai, for example, will also apply to earlier kata that he has learned. It is a cumulative process.

My second point is this. I really think that some people do kata for performance only. I think that some people do not know what the techniques of the kata mean, and they do not want to know. Perform for performance only.

The problem with this is that performance separated from meaning/application can easily lead to distortions. Movements can be exaggerated, punctuated, and dramatized in ways that have nothing at all to do with the actual meanings/applications. Movements can be sped up or slowed down for visual effect, rather than for practical application. And don't even get me going about snapping the gi and stomping the floor for sound effects!

The meanings/applications are a necessary reality check. In order to know how to move, you should understand what you are doing. And this process will continue as you advance in Karate, until you become fluent in the kata. See: Content Rich Expression of Karate.

Trophies and medals are nice but skill and knowledge are priceless. (Also, as a father of four children -- now all adults -- I have had to deal with trophies. Where do you put them all? I just taught my children that trophies were meaningless. At least the house was neater.)

My trophies are the accomplishments of my students.


Charles C. Goodin

Tournament Kata

Not long ago, I was watching kata performances during a tournament. I kept thinking to myself, "Do these people know what they are doing?"

I don't mean that they do not know how to do the movements of the kata -- the steps. I mean that I wonder if they understand the meanings of the movements of the kata -- the applications. In many cases, I strongly suspect that the contestants were merely going through the steps with little or no appreciation of the meanings.

Tournaments are bound by rules, even for kata. Generally, it appears that each movement must be precise and clean. There also seems to be a dramatic flare to the performances. Pauses in the kata are often accompanied by dramatic facial expressions and exaggerated kiai.

When I perform a kata, I sort of visualize/feel what I am doing. It is purely self defense. I have already failed -- the fact that I am defending myself means that I have been unable to avoid the violent situation or did not foresee it at all. I have been attacked. Having failed, I must now resort to self defense, which could injure or kill the attacker. I could become injured or killed too. It is not a good situation. My main thought is to get away safely as quickly as possible.

There is no element of drama here. If I poke the attacker in the throat or eyes, I am not going to put on a dramatic face. If I kick him in the groin or attempt to break his spine, I am not going to smile like a movie star. I am horrified that I have had to resort to violence, and I am paranoid that there may be other attackers, who may be armed, I have not yet seen. I want to get out of there -- not put on a show.

Performing a kata is not a great or magnificent thing. There should be no theatrics or flare to it. It is a rehearsal for an unfortunate, grave situation.

Knowing what you are doing makes you not want to have to do it. You can see this on the faces of some people when they perform kata, but not many -- regret.


Charles C. Goodin