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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