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Koshi 10% - Cheating Energy and Age

When I started to learn about koshi, it took 100% of my Karate attention. It became the single focus of my training. Often I would be thinking about koshi at home or work and my body would involuntarily twitch.

Koshi, koshi, koshi.

I certainly became koshi crazy!

As time has gone on and I have become more comfortable with koshi (coordinated, whole body) mechanics, my views about it have changed. For one thing, it is no longer the focus of my training. It is still part of the focus, but one of several connected things.

I have written this before, but I believe that it deserves repeating. If you do not know how to use koshi and have reached a point where just trying harder provides negative results, then, at that point, koshi will deserve 100% of your Karate attention. At that point, it is the missing link -- something that will connect your body and Karate and make your training much easier and much more productive.

At that point you will be like a drowning man gasping for breath.

But once you become more comfortable with koshi mechanics, you will certainly see that it is part of the overall dynamics of Karate. Maybe it is like the transmission in a car engine. The car won't run right without a transmission, but certainly there is more to a car engine than a transmission. I'm sure that you could think of many similar examples.

But in a nutshell, koshi is essential but not the whole thing. While you really cannot do Karate without koshi (coordinated, whole body) mechanics, it is also true that you can't do Karate with koshi only. It is a connector, amplifier, and director (and makes things much easier).

Of course, when I first started to learn about koshi, I overestimated its importance. Again, at that time it was 100% to me. That number has declined steadily over the years. There are two reasons for this.

First, as you train more with koshi, the size of your koshi motion reduces, until sometimes it is probably impossible for an untrained person to realize what you are doing. A trained person will probably recognize it. I understand that a really skilled person can completely internalize the koshi motion so that it is not detectable at all, except by its effects. This is something we are all working on in Kishaba Juku.

My point is that in the early phase, when koshi seems 100% important, the koshi motion is large. As the student progresses, the koshi motion shrinks. At times, it can seem like the student is not using koshi at all.

That is why a good teacher is necessary. If a teacher shows a new student (at least new to the koshi concept) by demonstrating a very small or internalized koshi motion, the student will never get it. Never. Thus, the teacher exaggerates his koshi motion and reveals it. Sometimes we say that he "opens" his koshi. He does not really "open" it, he just makes the motion obvious enough for the student to observe and copy it. Then the teacher probably resumes his usual minimized form of motion.

Actually, demonstrating an open koshi is probably uncomfortable for a teacher, because it is less efficient, slow, and takes more energy. Plus, there is always the chance that an observer will think: "That is too slow! I could hit that guy." Well, of course he could! An open koshi is like training wheels on a bicycle.

I like to go fishing. Tying knots is something you have to do all the time. When you read books about tying knots in fishing line, the illustrations are always big and easy to follow. The knots, before they are tightened, look really big. But when you are fishing, the real knots are small (and tied in the dark with hands slimy from the bait). The instructional picture are big so that you can learn. The real thing is tight.

Just like koshi.

So in the beginning, when koshi requires 100% of the student's attention, koshi looks big. As time goes on, it becomes smaller and either minimally detectable or undetectable (hopefully).

The second reason that the relative importance of koshi decreases over time is because koshi alone simply does not work. You need it, but you also need other things.

Two examples are body alignment and weight shifting. These are just two examples, but if your body alignment and/or weight shifting is wrong or weak, then no amount of koshi expertise will help you. Koshi does not make a bad Karate student good -- it makes a good Karate student better. This is really important. Without good fundamentals, koshi will just make a bad student worse. (Looking back at what I just wrote, I am shocked by the truth of the statement.)

Let's use a fishing example. A student with good fundamentals and good koshi is like a barracuda. Have you ever seen how a barracuda accelerates toward its prey? It is really awesome (and a good example of whole body mechanics)! But a student with bad fundamentals and a weak koshi (or exaggerated koshi), is like a jelly fish. All fizzle and no pop.

There are many fundamental processes involved in Karate. I won't go into them here, but I am sure that you know what I mean. In a physical sense, koshi brings them (the fundamental processes) all together, amplifies energy/power, and enables the student to direct it, as needed.

I now would say that koshi is about 10% of the overall process. This is not because I believe that koshi is unimportant but because I recognize that many things are important.

And it is probably wrong to break things up in percentages. Karate is not accounting. Everything is important and each aspect interacts with the others. The whole is what is important and koshi is part of that whole.

I just thought of a good example. What percentage of your body is your heart? Whatever that percentage is, you certainly cannot live without your heart, nor could you live with your heart alone. The heart is an essential part of the whole body.

When I move now, I do not emphasize koshi unless I am teaching students who need to see an "open" koshi. Moving on my own, I feel like I am not even using my koshi, except for maybe a small twitch now and then. I say the "less the better," but by this I mean that a tight, compressed koshi is better than an exaggerated, loopy one.

About a month ago, I demonstrated a kata and used no koshi at all. I do not mean that I used a small or internalized koshi, I mean that I completely turned my koshi off. This took some work because it is not natural for me to move without koshi now. Anyway, do you know what happened?

The kata looked somewhat crisp and powerful... and I was gassed (ran out of energy). Wow! It took so much more energy to move that way. I suddenly remembered how hard it was for me to practice Karate before I started to learn about koshi. I could not do several kata back to back. I needed a day to recover between training because of muscle strain. I hurt and was frustrated. Which made me like a drowning man in need of... koshi.

Moving with koshi is almost like cheating compared to the way I used to move. Now I see why Shinzato Sensei could move with such apparent ease when I first met him. He was cheating (in a mechanical sense).

Perhaps that is what we do in Kishaba Juku. We cheat energy and age -- at least we try our best to do so.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Repost: Heavy Koshi

I am reposting this blog post from October 17, 2009. Again, it is so that I can discuss the subject further.


Back to mechanics.

In Kishaba Juku dojo, we work hard on body dynamics. That is an understatement!

Sometimes I say that we are like racing car mechanics. We are trying to customize our students (and ourselves) for maxim speed, power... dynamics.

Sometimes I will see a student who has worked on developing a good koshi movement, which essentially is the use of whip-like (core driven torque) mechanics in all Karate movements. But some students are like a firecracker that sizzles -- just a dud. The whip is there but there is no power (or very little).

Most of the time, the reason for this lack of power is because the student has not yet learned to put his weight behind the block, strike or other movement. The "crack of the whip" is there, but it is just fluff.

It is important for our movements to be light and heavy. We move lightly, but at the moment of explosion and power transfer, all or much of our weight should be behind the movement. This is usually accomplished by shifting weight in different ways. Imagine a whip with a hammer at the end.

My point is that koshi is just part of the formula. It is an important part, but not the whole thing. Usually, when an advanced student has struggled for years to overcome the limitations of linear mechanics, koshi is the answer... at that particular moment. But it is the coordination of movement principles (body shifting, weight shifting, body alignment, delay, koshi, etc.) that leads to results.

Move lightly but hit heavy.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Koshi -- Who Would Have Imagined?

I am certain that I would not have learned to use koshi (whole body mechanics) if I had not met Shinzato Sensei. OK, I might have been able to learn from one of his senior students if I was lucky enough to meet one of them, but there were none in Hawaii (we are 3,000 miles from just about anything).

But I am absolutely certain that I would not have discovered it myself or learned to use koshi from reading books and articles on the subject. I've even written articles on the subject and I am sure that they would not have helped me at all. If you learn something about koshi, it is easy to write about it. If you have not learned something about koshi, reading and writing about it are not very helpful (except to make you want to learn it).

I would even say that the videos I had watched about koshi would not have been helpful. Before I learned to use koshi, I just dismissed videos I was lucky enough to watch as "magic". This was true of the videos I watched, first of Oshiro Sensei, and then of Shinzato Sensei. They looked great and I could "see/understand" none of it. Now I can appreciate what they are doing and how they are doing it (to the extent of my understanding).

Basically, nothing except learning from a real teacher of koshi would have helped. It takes hands on training and someone to observe and copy (or at least try to copy).

I first watched a video of Shinzato Sensei about 15 years ago. He was doing Pinan Shodan on some grainy video. I kept watching the first movement over and over. It was impossible to anyone to move like that! More correctly, it would have been impossible for me to move like that the way I was moving. No amount of extra effort or extra power would have helped. I already had reached the point were "more" was producing less.

Then, about 10 years ago, I was fortunate to meet Shinzato Sensei. The "wow" factor was multiplied by 100 in person. How could he move like that? And how could he perform kata over and over and not seem to get tired (he's 19 years older than me)? And how could he keep smiling and laughing? How? How? How?

After about a day of training, I told him that if I could only learn to perform shuto I would be happy (I realize that is still arrogant). I thought that if I could learn to do just one movement correctly, that would be more than enough for me to work on for a long time. How lucky I was! By accident I had discovered the right approach. Trying to learn to do everything he did would have been impossible. Even learning three things would have been impossible for me. But a single movement might be possible.

I actually only learned part of shuto because I had recently undergone shoulder surgery. Shuto hurt. But I did learn gedan barai (downward block). I could do that (sort of) with my shoulder.

So when I returned to Hawaii after training in Okinawa, I worked on gedan barai. Over and over and over. Again and again and again, for about a year and a half, until I could "throw" the block with my koshi (whole body using koshi, lats, torque, recoil, etc.). Then I applied that mechanic to all other movements. I am serious. I tried doing a chudan uke with the same mechanic. I tried doing a shuto with that mechanic. Punch, kick, any block, any strike... I eventually applied my gedan barai mechanic to everything. If you watch me and understand koshi, you might see the gedan barai flavor in my movement. (My second son, in contrast, has a shuto flavor.)

And guess what? There is only one koshi motion. There are not different koshi motions of each technique. If you can apply koshi correctly to one movement, you can learn to apply that same mechanic to all movements... even movements you do not currently know.

Koshi teaches you how to move. Whatever movement or technique that you know or might learn, koshi will apply to it.

I would never had expected this, and I certainly would not have begun to learn koshi mechanics were it not for Shinzato Sensei, who I only admired in grainy videos 15 years ago. I think I wore that tape out!

I give credit to Shinzato Sensei. He gives credit to Kishaba Sensei and Nakamura Sensei, among others. I am sure that they also gave credit to the seniors from whom they learned and the fellow students with whom they trained -- probably many Karate experts no one has heard of.

It was an unlikely chain of events that led me to Shinzato Sensei and it was my misfortune and good luck that my recent shoulder surgery made me lower my sights to learning a single movement (rather than the whole curriculum!).

Who would have imagined?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

My Transition to Kishaba Juku

Next February will be my 10 year anniversary as a student of Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato and a member of the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu. While I still have a very long way to go (an endless pursuit, actually), I feel comfortable with the Kishaba Juku forms of movement and have applied them, to the best of my ability, to all of the movements, techniques and kata of our system. It has become so second nature, that I can only remember my earlier form of movement like a distant dream.

I wanted to reflect on why I had a chance to transition from one form of Shorin-Ryu (which I had practiced for about 25 years or so) to another (which I have now practiced for almost 10 years). This is an important subject. In the last 10 years, I have seen many people visit our "style" but very few transition completely to it.

The first reason I had a chance, was because I really wanted it. I had come to a point where it was either "find it" or quit. When I met Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, I realized that he was "it." I firmly decided to learn from him to the best of my ability, or to fail miserably trying. There was no holding on to what I had previously learned. There was no, "a little of this and a little of that." It was 100% or nothing.

The second reason I had a chance was that Shinzato Sensei is an extraordinary Sensei and technician. I would say "magician," but that is just what I thought at first. I would say, "Karate genius," but we reserve that for Nakamura Sensei. So I will just stay that Shinzato Sensei is amazingly skilled at body mechanics, makes it look very easy, and can explain it to anyone who is willing to spend the time and effort to learn and practice. He is also very forgiving of slow students, such as myself. He also entertains questions, which is a good thing in my case.

The third reason I had a chance was that I was the head of my own dojo and belonged to no organization. I had no one telling me not to learn what Shinzato Sensei was teaching me. My Sensei in Hawaii encouraged me to learn at every step of the way. This is very important. I think that many people have a hard time transitioning to Kishaba Juku either because their dojo or association prohibits it or discourages it. Another reason is because some people try to keep one foot on this bank of the river and the other foot on the other bank. I just jumped and took a leap of faith (and/or desperation). I jumped and no one blocked me from learning. My own students accepted it and became my guinea pigs so to speak. In fact, many of them could learn from me faster than I was learning from Shinzato Sensei. I had to hurry to move along!

Being isolated in Hawaii, there were no other Kishaba Juku dojo here. This was a good thing. I only had Shinzato Sensei as my example. I had not learned from Kishaba Sensei or Nakamura Sensei. I did not have their examples in my mind. I only had Shinzato Sensei. Trying to be like one of these Sensei is really hard. Trying to be like them all or a combination, would have been too much for me. In addition, I did not have anyone telling me, "No, Kishaba Sensei did it like this," or "Nakamura Sensei did it like that." I did not have to deal with the memory of these teachers, or anyone else's recollections of them, except for Shinzato Sensei.

Finally, Shinzato Sensei has been very helpful to me during my transition. He would entertain my questions, read my draft articles, offer his comments, and give his encouragement. More than anything else, he has offered his example. I am inspired, not just by the way that he moves, but by his approach and dedication to training. Karate is not just an intellectual pursuit to him (although it includes that) -- Karate is about training to him.

I joke with Shinzato Sensei that I am trying to catch up to him. This may sound like a rude thing to say. In a Japanese sense, it is. However, what I mean is that as he trains, I will also train. As he improves, I will try my best to improve. I am not just trying to be a duplicate of him -- I am trying to copy his approach and they way that he pursues Karate. If I do this, I know that I will not be exactly like him. That is not my intent. He is not like his teachers and they were not like theirs. But they all were very dedicated to and had an approach to training, learning, and teaching.

I am also aware of the fact that I am a long distance student. I cannot train with Shinzato Sensei very often. If I try to literally copy him, I will always be copying a version that will have changed. In his case, this is a real problem, since I think he changes his technique and mechanics not just from day to day, week to week, month to month, or year to year, but from morning to afternoon sometimes! If I try to move the way that I remember he did, I will always be out of date.

But if I move forward from where and when he taught me, then I have a chance. If I follow his plan for advancement, then I have a chance.

I have also commented to Shinzato Sensei that he is very extraordinary because what he teaches progresses on its own. If you practice what he teaches you and apply it to what you know, additional lessons present themselves, and you repeat the process. It is like planting a seed. A seed does not simply replicate another seed. From a little seed, a great tree can grow and eventually produce its own seeds.

My point is that if you copy Shinzato Sensei and later show him your one perfect copy of that technique, I think he would think, "Is that all?" But if you learned from him and that set you on a course that leads to your own advancement/progression/learning, then I think he would be quite happy.

The last reason I think that I had a chance to learn and transition to Kishaba Juku, is that I am a rather obsessive person. And once I put my mind on something, I rarely change it. Once I saw how Shinzato Sensei moved and they way be approached Karate training, and the strength of his character, and how much he enjoyed Karate and encouraged others, that was it. If anything, my admiration and pursuit of him has only increased over the years.

I joked with him, not long ago, that I felt that I was catching up to him, but when I looked he had run farther ahead.

So where am I now? Much better than before and with a long, long way to go. After all, I am chasing a moving target.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Repost: Kishaba Juku-ness

I am reposting this blog post from January 21, 2008. That way, I can more easily write some follow-ups to it.


Most "styles" of Karate consist of a certain set of kata and a core group of basics. The kata and basics, and an emphasis on such things as kumite and kobudo, tend to identify the style. As with any curriculum, the students need to know what to do in order to do it. The style is a matter of "what."

I have mentioned before that Kishaba Juku, in my opinion, is not a style per se. It is a private training group. The emphasis of training is not on "what" but on "how." Essentially, Kishaba Juku is about learning how to move, how to generate power, and how to transfer power. Again, this is just my opinion.

Since the emphasis is on "how," the "what" is not so important. Shinzato Sensei has often said that the principles of Kishaba Juku can be applied to the kata of any style or system of Karate. In other words, the Kishaba Juku principles of movement could be applied to Shotokan, Shito-Ryu or Kyokushin. It is not necessary to learn Kishaba Juku kata in order to move the way that we do. The same movement principles could be applied to just about any kata.

Again, the emphasis is on "how" rather than "what."

In Kishaba Juku, we generally practice the kata that the senior instructors practiced before they formed their private training group. It was the movement principles applied to those kata that mattered, not the kata themselves.

Thus, a person could practice the very same kata we do but move in a completely different way -- a way unlike Kishaba Juku. And a person could practice completely different kata but move exactly like we do (to the extent that "we" in the juku move alike).

I can watch a person move and tell you very quickly whether they move like Shinzato Sensei or not. My seniors can say the same about Nakamura Sensei and Kishaba Sensei -- they can recognize their special way of movement.

You cannot tell this by the kata itelf or even the basics. What counts is how the person moves.

The format of Karate tends to require that students learn a certain curriculum. A student cannot achieve rank and seniority by simply being able to move.

But when it comes down to it, knowing a million movements means nothing at all if you cannot move well. And a person who can move well can make just about any movement work.

The other day, I attended a training session with some senior instructors here in Hawaii. When it comes to the form of kata, I am closest to Sensei Pat Nakata, who practices Chibana Shorin-Ryu. Our kata are similar.

But when it comes to movement, I move most like Sensei Alan Lee. He learned from Sensei Tomu Arakawa, who learned from Sensei Kanki Izumigawa, who learned from Sensei Seko Higa. Lee Sensei teaches Goju-Ryu. He is my senior and moves much better than I do, but our way of moving is very similar.

My form is closest to Shorin-Ryu but my movement is closer to a branch of Goju-Ryu.

This may sound strange, since I have only learned Shorin-Ryu, but with Kishaba Juku it makes perfect sensei. What is relevant is how to move, not whether we do Shorin-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, or some other style.

I am confident that I could teach a Shotokan student how to move like I do, using his own kata. Of course, this assumes that the student wants to learn this.

I am not a musician, but I imagine that there is teacher somewhere who can teach students how to play with more feeling and soul. That is a lot like what we do.

I have to qualify this post by saying that I can only speak from my own experience as a student of Kishaba Juku. I can speak for myself and my dojo, but not for others, and certainly not for Shinzato Sensei.

After a student learns what he is supposed to do, the question becomes how to do it. That is the essence of our group, in my opinion.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

I Must Be Good

This is a story.

Two men were talking.

"Are you good at Karate?" asked the first man.

"I'm sure that I am," answered the second man.

"How are you so certain?" asked the first man.

"If only you knew how much I've paid for lessons!" declared the second man. "I must be good!"

I'm sure that many parents have found themselves in this position. They paid so much for Karate lessons over the years. Plus there were the tournament fees, testing fees, certificate fees, travel, gis, embroidery, weapons... For that much money, their child must be good.

There is a saying that you get what you pay for. I agree with this. However, in Karate you do not just pay by money. You pay by your dedication and hard work. Money is usually just a token.

Paying a lot for Karate just means that you have paid a lot. It does not mean that you are good or bad at it. Some people pay a lot, some people pay a little, and some people pay nothing at all. It all comes down to your dedication and hard work. Karate skill comes from training, and most of that will be on your own.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

No "Do"

Karate-Do?

What is the "Do" in Karate-Do supposed to teach a student? Is it supposed to show him how to be a good person? Really? And if so, what kind of person?

Historically, the "Do" in Karate-Do was a change, designed to make the Okinawan art more acceptable to the Japanese, and more importantly, to Japanese officials who controlled the education system in Okinawa after its forced annexation. (The character for Karate was changed too, from "China or Tang Hand" to "Empty Hand.")

In the "old days", Karate was just "Karate", or "Tudi," or just "Di". There was no emphasis of a "Do" or "Tao," or "Way". In fact, it was more common for Karate to be written as "Karate Jutsu" (art or skill).

I remember once reading about how Karate students were "samurai." Really? I think that someone confused the countries. Early Karate students learned their martial art from Chinese instructors, either in China or in Okinawa. Karate generally is not derived from Japanese sources, at least not before World War II.

My point is that post War, Japanese Karate was designed to make "good" Japanese citizens at that time. I don't know about you, but I am not interested in that. I am half-Japanese by birth, but I do not practice Karate to learn to be a good Japanese person. I live in Hawaii. I speak English. I want to be a good person in the context of my life, where I live, now.

I know that this is a difficult point so let me tell a story.

A man went to a carnival. It was filled with rides, amusements, tents, balloons, and bright lights. There was food, drinks, everything you would expect to see in a carnival or amusement park. What a fun time! But after a while, he started to notice that things were "strange." The rides had religious themes and the workers were not just selling food and tickets, there were selling religious views.

All of a sudden, the carnival did not seem like such a fun place

Karate can be like that. Don't just look at the rides and bright lights. You have to ask what the workers are really selling (and why they are selling it).

If they are sharing a traditional form of self defense and self discipline, then good! But if they are selling a hidden agenda, a world or religious view, then you should be aware of it.

The "Do" in Karate-Do does not just mean "character." At least historically, it meant a certain type of character in the context of Japanese (Yamato) culture and the forced assimilation of countries such as the Ryukyu Kingdom and its people. Okinawan Karate instructors did not go along with the "Japanization" of Karate because they thought it was a good idea. I think it was more a matter of "go along or get left behind."

Please do not get me wrong, I am not saying that Karate students should be Okinawan either. I am saying that Karate students should be aware of what they are learning, and that Karate instructors should be clear about what they are teaching. You will not become skilled at Karate by acting Japanese or Okinawan. You will only become skilled at Karate by training hard, for a long time, and applying what you learn in your daily life as well. Karate training should make you "better" at being yourself, not someone else.

Anyway, that is why I just teach "Karate" and not "Karate-Do." In fact, I tend to use the term "Karate Jutsu."

Now let me clarify a point. There are many great things about Japanese culture. It is a wonderful culture and there are wonderful Japanese people. But the Okinawan culture is also excellent. The American culture is excellent. English culture, great! German, excellent! Argentina, fantastic! Korean, yay! Here4 in Hawaii, we are a melting pot of people from around the world. We celebrate each others' cultures.

There are excellent aspects of all cultures and outstanding people around the entire world. Good people are good people. If "Do" is directed toward that, then I am all for it. Help to make a student the best he can be in the context of his culture and surroundings. If you ask me, that takes practical wisdom... and real Karate skill.

Here is another story. Two instructors were comparing rank. They were the same dan level and had been promoted on the same day at exactly the same time."

"But I am Japanese!" said the first instructor.

Obviously, this does not make an ounce of difference.

Here is another story. A well known Karate instructor (Okinawan) was walking down the street when a robber ran up and kicked him in the groin.

A bystander helped the instructor up. "Did that hurt?" asked the bystander?

"I am Okinawan," said the instructor, "not Superman!" "Of course it hurt!"

We all put our pants on one leg at a time, and no matter how high we may be, we will bow down if kicked in the groin.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Courtesy and Being Considerate

I was looking up "courtesy" at dictionary.reference.com.

The first definition there is "excellence of manners or social conduct; polite behavior."

The second definition is: "a courteous, respectful, or considerate act or expression."

If you look at the first definition, "courtesy" is all about how you act. It is about manners and being polite. However, as we all know, a person can follow all the rules of courtesy (reigi) and still be "stink" (a bad person). A person can act right but actually be bad. He could bow perfectly but inside be thinking, "I do not respect you at all."

Formal courtesy can be a very shallow thing. It can be a false face, just a mask.

Of course, a sincerely courteous person will also try to follow generally accepted rules of courtesy. But in his case, the outer form of courtesy will actually reflect his feelings. It is true courtesy.

It is hard to tell if a person is exhibiting sincere courtesy or is just faking it. This is particularly true when you first meet someone. He can be all "nice, nice" but actually have bad motives. You might say that he looks right but smells wrong. In Tagalog, I think this might have to do with his "ugali." You just get a feeling that something is wrong. You might get a bad taste in your mouth, the hairs on your head or neck might stand up, you might see ugly, offensive colors, etc.

In Karate, we practice pretty formal rules of courtesy. Some people are very good at it! They will bow right, use the correct titles, keep the proper distance, look or not look in the eye properly, etc. They do everything properly, but that does not mean that they are right (sincere)?

There are also people who seem to do everything wrong. I was very good at this when I was an Aikido student. The rules of courtesy in Aikido are very deep and strict, much more so than in Karate. I used to do everything wrong, but with a good heart. My Sensei explained to me one day that even an act with good intentions can still be wrong. I was good and wrong. It is better to do something good and right.

Which gets me to the subject of being "considerate." A considerate person does good/kind things for others. An inconsiderate person does just the opposite. To me, it is easier to think in terms of being "considerate" instead of just being "courteous" or "respectful." Ideally, these will all coincide. But generally, a considerate person acts from his heart. His actions reflect his true intentions. "Courtesy" and "respect" might be true or they might not be. You have to know the person well to know the truth.

Just remember, a person could bow politely and be thinking, "I sure would like to stab you in the back with a knife!" At the same time, a person could bow incorrectly but have the heart of a saint.

So the issue is not the bow. It is the person.

So let's try to be considerate of others.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Toner Cartridges

I received an email from the TSA about my question about bringing toner cartridges on domestic flights. It stated:

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) no longer restricts passengers from carrying toner and ink cartridges on domestic and international passenger flights to the United States. This provision also applies to certain inbound international air cargo shipments. Toner and ink cartridges are now permitted in carry-on bags and checked luggage.
Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

An Interesting Article

I found an article, about... me. I had forgotten about it, but found it online. I actually like it because of the message. Please see:


Strangely, I feel somewhat disassociated with the articles I write and the articles that are occasionally written about me or my research. "Charles Goodin" seems like someone else... that writer.

But I did like the message of this particular article.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate and Dancing

I have had three students who are excellent dancers. They are exceptional. Naturally, the movements of Karate are pretty easy for them to learn (they are used to learning complicated movement patterns. Flexibility is not an issue. They are more flexible than any other students. And they are in good shape too, with great muscle tone and stamina.

So what is the difficulty? Dancers do not have to hit and get hit. They generate power for movement. We, in Karate, have to learn to generate power so that we can transfer it to an attacker. We have to learn to avoid or absorb the attacker's power (strikes).

In Karate, we don't exactly want kick like a dancer -- we want to kick like a horse!

But a dancer should have an advantage in learning Karate, if they can learn to hit and take a hit.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Law, Karate, Fishing

I am an attorney. When I practice Karate, I don't think about law.

I practice, teach, and conduct research on Karate. When I go fishing, I don't think about Karate (or law).

So what do I think about when I go fishing? Nothing much, which is about what I have been catching lately!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

TSA's Rules Concerning Martial Arts Weapons

I visited the TSA website today because I will be taking a couple of interisland flights in the coming months. I wondered whether laser printer cartridges are still prohibited.

I found a page on Prohibited Items. While many items are prohibited in carry on bags, what is allowed in checked baggage is pretty amazing to me. You might want to check out that page. Here is a link to a pdf brochure.

There is also a section on Self Defense and Martial Arts Weapons. You cannot bring billy clubs, black jacks, brass knuckles, kubatons, mace/pepper spray, martial arts weapons, night sticks, nunchakus, stun guns/shocking devices, or throwing stars in your carry on bags. But it appears that they are permitted in checked bags, as are sabers, swords, axes and hatchets, cattle prods, and crowbars, among many other potentially dangerous items.

When I travel, I do not bring any martial arts weapons. But come to think of it, if I visited Okinawa I would probably bring some back, in my checked bags.

I'm still not positive about laser printer cartridges. I think they are OK, but I am looking for written confirmation. I guess only an attorney would travel with a laser printer!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Cost of my Class

Our dojo still teaches class for $5 per month. This sounds very inexpensive.

But I expect students to attend regularly, help to clean the dojo, help other students, practice at home, work on their body dynamics, learn the meanings of each movement, and to apply Karate in their daily lives.

Actually, our class is pretty expensive!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Do You Know What That Means?

Sometimes when I watch a Karate student performing a movement in a kata, I will ask him, "Do you know what that movement means?"

Often, the student will answer that he does not. This is not too surprising. But what gets me is that most students do not seem to think that they are supposed to know that a movement means (how it can be used). They seem to think that just doing the movement is enough.

[Please remember that in this blog, I use the term "student" to include anyone who studies Karate. This includes students and instructors. We are all students.]

This is my view:

You should try to learn to meanings of each and every movement of each and every kata you learn. Otherwise, you are just mimicking the kata. The physical movements of the kata are meaningless without the associated meanings. Kata have no value at all if they just "look good." They only have value if they "work well." It is better for kata to look bad and work well, than to look good and not work at all.
Always ask yourself, "How can I use this?" If you don't know or are not sure, you might politely ask your Sensei and seniors.

Please see: "The Why of Bunkai: A Guide For Beginners."

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Getting in Shape

I often see Karate students who are in poor shape. Sometimes these include yudansha (black belt holders and even instructors).

Getting in shape is part of Karate training. We often say this. However, I do not mean that students can only get in shape by Karate training.

In fact, I would say that Karate training is just part of getting into shape. Students also have to watch their diet and eat healthy foods. Student should avoid smoking, alcohol, and illegal drugs. Students should get enough sleep. These are all normal parts of a healthy lifestyle.

I was discussing this with my second son, Charles (age 25). My second and third sons are in really good shape. When I mentioned "getting in shape," Charles replied that we do not only practice Karate. We also lift weights.

That is true. I probably lift weights 3 or 4 times a week. My sons lift more than that, and they also do other physical activities. They also watch what they eat.

My point is that there is more to getting into shape than just practicing Karate (unless you train in a dojo that also does quite a lot of conditioning on a regular basis).

But whatever approach you take to get into shape, the important thing is that you get into shape. That is part of Karate training. However you want to approach it, Karate training requires that you try to get into shape. It is not just a matter of learning new kata and getting promoted from time to time. If you are not getting into shape, you should concentrate on that for a while. There will be time for new kata later. If you get into shape, you will be able to execute the techniques better. You will be able to train harder and longer, and you should be able to defend yourself, if need be, more effectively.

Getting into good shape is even more important as you grow older. I am a grandfather. I cannot compete physically with 20 and 30 year old men in their prime. In order to move more effectively than them, I have to optimize my body mechanics, avoid all wasted energy, and also be in the best shape possible. I have to learn to do more with less. If I am in the best shape possible, at least I will have more to work with.

And I am only 53. My Sensei in Okinawa is 72. He is in excellent shape.

Don't get me wrong -- being able to do 100 pushups in a row does not mean that you will be skilled at self defense. But if you are skilled at self defense, being in good shape will give you a definite advantage.

And I would think that you would be healthier too.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Gi at Store

Today I was at a home improvement store. As I walked the aisles, I saw a Karate student who had obviously just come from class. The boy was about 10 or 11 and was wearing his gi bottom and top with his green belt slung around his neck. Of course, I did not say anything, but I wanted to say:

"Don't wear your belt outside of the dojo, ever. And don't wear your gi top either. Your gi is for the dojo. If you wear it outside the dojo, it will reflect negatively on your Sensei."
These are just my views. I am sure that some Sensei encourage their students to wear their gi outside of the dojo, particularly if the dojo name is written prominently on the back. This could be viewed as a readily available form of inexpensive advertising.

Here in Hawaii, there was a time when Sensei closed the windows and doors to the dojo during training to keep out prying eyes. While not a secret, Karate was certainly a private matter and one could only become a student if someone the Sensei respected gave a positive recommendation. Students didn't talk about being in a Karate dojo. This was a private matter. And talking about training in Karate could evoke a challenge from another martial artists, boxer, wrestler, or street fighter. Karate was not a secret, but it was private. Additionally, Karate skill was best kept as a surprise for use in unavoidable self defense situations.

When Karate instructors came to Hawaii and started to make a living from teaching, they found that they had to advertise to get students. They also found that having 100 students today does not mean that they would have 100 students the next month. They constantly had to advertise to attract new students in order to replace students who quit, and also to make the enrollment grow. You don't advertise by hiding your art, so the "private" attitude about Karate was replaced, in some schools, by a new "public" attitude. Karate became a product -- more correctly, Karate lessons became a product. Belts, patches, certificates, titles, trophies, embroidered clothing, and a seemingly endless line of products could be bought from people and companies that were eager to sell them to aspiring students.

If they wanted 100 students, instructors found that it is extremely hard to find 100 dedicated adults. It was much easier to find 100 willing children (or 100 parents willing for their children to take Karate lessons). So classes and the curriculum became tailored to children. Adults could learn too. And if a child earns a black belt, well that is just great.

Tournaments help to increase enrollments too. So the focus of training naturally shifted to success in this format. Karate became "performance" oriented. By this, I do not mean performance in terms of the student's performance envelope (speed, power, timing, etc.), I mean performance in terms of "show." Karate had to look "good," whatever that means to whoever if evaluating the performance. Whatever happened to effectiveness in self defense?

So these are some of the thoughts I had, in just a few seconds, as I walked past a boy wearing his Karate gi with his belt slung around his neck at a home improvement store.

Well, I also wondered who this boy's Sensei is. Hmmm.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Not Very Good

This is a story.

A visiting student was watching the regular students practicing in the dojo. An old timer was sitting nearby and the visitor asked him about a particular student.

"He's not very good," replied the old timer.

Boosted by the remark, the visitor challenged the student to a kumite match. It was over in just a few seconds. The student easily floored the visitor.

After he recovered, the visitor went back to the old timer. "You said that guy wasn't very good," he protested.

"He isn't," replied the old timer, "he's fantastic!"

The moral of the story is this: take care when you hear someone's assessment of another person's skill. It is easy to misunderstand what they say, and are you sure that you can trust them? Besides, it is reckless to challenge someone like that!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Distinction of Naihanchi

Do you know who wrote this:

"The most important and significant distinction of Naihanchi lies not in developing fighting skills of offense and defense, but in training the lower parts of the body such as the waist and legs through slow and steady sideward movements with maximum strength, and also in building up those muscles indispensable to karate training."
The author was Shosin Nagamine in The Essence of Okinawan Karate -Do, Chapter V, page 148.

I have to say that I seem to view this series of kata, quite differently, especially with respect to the first part of the sentence. To me (in my humble opinion and with all respect to Nagamine Sensei), Naihanchi is rich with "fighting skills of offense and defense," perhaps more than any other kata or series of kata. To me, Naihanchi is the king of the other kata. I would like all my other kata to look like Naihanchi, rather than vice versa.

But that is just me.

In Kishaba Juku, Naihanchi Shodan and Nidan are usually the first two kata taught to beginners. They are the most basic kata, and in many ways, also the most advanced.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate Bakka!

Some people might say, "Charles, all you do is talk and write about Karate. You are Karate bakka (crazy or fanatical)."

Well, I only write about Karate in this forum. I am also an attorney, but I do not write about legal matters here. This is one of my Karate "places," so it is natural that I would write about Karate here. As for 1500+ posts, I have to admit that is a little crazy, but it has been since 2006.

If someone said that I was "Karate bakka," I would say, "thank you!"

Of course I am "Karate bakka!" -- perhaps more than some and certainly less than others. It is good to be a little crazy about something (provided it is worthwhile).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Enjoying Karate

I enjoy practicing Karate with people who enjoy practicing Karate. As an instructor, I do not feel that it is my place to try to make students "enjoy" Karate by yelling at them, imposing discipline, or shaming them. If they enjoy Karate, good. If they do not, there are so many other things they could do.

Also, if I am very stern and strict, this will taint the student's Karate mind and body. Their attitudes will be tainted, as will their feelings. So will their physical movements and kata. Their very movements will show that they have a stern and strict instructor.

And I am sure that as soon I was was not there, the students' true feelings would be revealed. In my presence they would "love" Karate, but when I am gone they might "hate" it. This is not right.

If anything, I hope that my own enjoyment of Karate is infectious. I hope that my attitudes and movements reveal my true feelings about Karate, and that students will be influenced by this.

Another way to say this is that I try to teach by my example, rather than by my words alone (hopefully my example and my words are consistent with each other).

Just as I enjoy practicing Karate with people who enjoy practicing Karate, I also do not enjoy practicing Karate with people who hate or are being forced to practice Karate. If someone enjoys Karate, they will find a million reasons to do it. If someone hates Karate, they will find a million reason to miss training. In fact, a person who hates Karate will often feign or exaggerate injuries just to avoid training or to justify quitting. (Of course, there are many students with real injuries, illnesses, or diseases that can disrupt their training.)

Life is short. If you can, find what you enjoy (assuming it is worthwhile) and do it.

Respectfully (and enjoying Karate),

Charles C. Goodin

Biggest Naihanchi Shodan Mistake

To me, this is the biggest and most common mistake students make while performing Naihanchi Shodan:

During the elbow strikes, the back leg buckles.

Take the opening sequence of the kata, the first left elbow strike. I often see the left leg of students buckle during this elbow strike. The same is true of the right elbow strike later in the kata, except with the right leg.

The whole idea of Naihanchi is to have a firm base. The stance must be strong and rooted. The stance is destroyed when the leg buckles. To prevent this, the student must learn to press the leg out (or spread the hips) during the elbow strike.

The legs are not supposed to buckle during any part of the kata. I know this to be true because I did it wrong for many, many years. Now I am more careful about this. It is not a hard problem to overcome -- it just requires attention.

If your leg buckles, someone could stomp or kick it.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Coming To Class Late...

Sometimes a new student will ask me about our policy on coming to class late, leaving early, or missing class.

I always tell them that work, school and family come first. If you have to come to class late, it is OK. If you have to leave class early, it is OK. If you have to miss class, it is OK. There are certain protocols to observe, but coming to class late, leaving early, or missing class are not bad things. There is no moral element to it. They are not acts that should result in guilt or shame.

If you can come to class, come. If cannot, cannot.

I also tell new students that our dojo is Okinawan, not Japanese. We do not go overboard with formalities. My formality is this -- be nice and train hard (or train hard and be nice). All the formalities in the world don't matter unless you train hard, and if you are a jerk, then why are you still in Karate? Train hard and be nice. Be respectful of other people.

Our class is Okinawan, not Japanese. Living here in Hawaii, it seems to me that Okinawans are like "local" people, just like us.

I also tell students that it is better to come to class late than not to come. It is better to leave early than to miss class. And if you have a work, school or family obligation that needs to be attended to, you should not be at class! Hey, we only charge $5 per month. What is that -- 60 cents per class? It is no big deal.

Come to class to learn and practice at home. Don't come to class to practice. That is a waste of time. Come to class to learn and practice at home. If you miss a class, continue to practice at home. It is no big thing.

I am not a strict teacher. I am a strict student. I am strict about my own training and conditioning. That is what I like to do. If other students like to train and work on themselves, then I will be happy to assist them. But I am not going to yell or punish Karate into them, and I do not believe in teaching by shame and guilt. Life is too short for that.

There are many more important things in life than coming to class late, leaving early, and missing class. Train hard and be nice.

I will tell you this -- it is much easier to learn and practice Karate if you enjoy it. If you enjoy it, you will try to find ways to come to class early, to stay late, and not to miss class. If you enjoy it, you will try your best to learn and will also diligently practice at home.

I was infected by my own Sensei's enjoyment of Karate. His Karate is joy in movement (and terrible only if it needs to be so).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin