Karate Thoughts Blog

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Not Useful Unless...

I lift weights at home.  I am 54 and it is necessary for me to lift in order to maintain muscle mass and tone.  However, I don't just lift because it makes me look better or healthier.  I have noticed that since I started lifting about 5 years ago  I am stronger.  I can lift heavier things -- like a lawn mower, or rocks, or dirt, or a heavy suitcase, or my granddaughter.  My point is that getting in better shape helped me to be able to do more work.  It was not just a matter of looking better -- it was a matter of being able to do more.

What does Karate training help you to do?  Of course, there is a self defense value.  It is certainly useful to be able to defend yourself.  But what more is there?  Aside from self defense, how does Karate training benefit your life?  Does it enable you to do more?

I believe that this is a really important question.

In my own case, I know that the discipline of Karate training has helped me in my work as an attorney, and in all of the other things that I do.  This sounds simple but it is not: to be able to work when you should work and concentrate 100% on the task at hand.  Most people cannot do this.  In Karate, we learn to become focused.  We might be focused on a punch aimed at our face or a kick aimed at our groin.  But for that moment, we pay attention 100%.  If we extend that to our work, we can focus 100% on the task at hand, and put other things aside until the task is completed -- no matter how long or how much effort it takes.  How many workers do you know who can do that?

My point is that Karate should not just be for vanity.  It is nice to be in shape.  It is nice to be able to defend yourself.  It is nice to feel confident.  However, what more can you do with this?  What can you do to help and contribute to your family and society?  Are you just a tough guy?  So what?  There are lots of tough people.  But how many people use that toughness to help others, stand up against injustice, etc.  Karate must have meaning beyond the immediate benefits of self defense, getting in shape, etc.

Karate is practiced in daily life.  The measure of your Karate is how you are doing in daily life.


Charles C. Goodin

Missing Class

One of my students recently had to miss class because he had to study for a college course.  When I spoke to him, I mentioned that if he was studying for his college course, that is what he was supposed to be doing -- that is Karate.  If he came to Karate when he should have been studying for his college course, then even though he would have been at Karate class, that would not have been Karate.

Doing what we are supposed to be doing is the nature of Karate training.  I should add that doing what we are supposed to be doing -- and doing it well, to the best of our ability -- is Karate training.

We should not do things in a weak or halfhearted way.  We should always try our best.  This also means that we should be careful to do things that are worthwhile and positive.


Charles C. Goodin

My Strong Sons

A couple of posts ago I mentioned how my second son Charles could easily lift me up and put me on this shoulder.  My sons are very strong, each in their own way.  So is my daughter.

My response when they best me in strength, creativity, intelligence, etc. is that I am their father and get credit for their abilities.  So if they are strong, I am strong.  If they are creative, I am creative.  If they are intelligent, I am intelligent.

At least that is what I tell them.

And as for my second son, when he was a baby, I carried him on my shoulder all the time.  So let's call it a draw.


Charles C. Goodin

How It Looks

I will give you an example of a student who has been taught poorly:

When the student cares more about how a movement looks than how it works.

Charles C. Goodin

All Students Deserve The Best Sensei

Most students are very lucky to have their Sensei.  Ideally, the student tries very hard and is taught by a sincere and skilled Sensei.  Of course, not every student tries hard.  Many students quit after a sort time.  Even if a student trains for 5 years, that is basically just an introduction to Karate.  It takes many years to learn the basics and many more to learn the advanced aspects of the art.  Many of us say that Karate requires a lifetime of training -- and even then there is more to learn.

One of the saddest things I see, as a Karate instructor, is a sincere student who has trained for many years but seems to have gained only the most basic understanding of the art.  Sometimes I think to myself, "That student deserved a better instructor."  That is a  very hard and sad thing to think or say.  But I do see this. Honestly, I see it more than I want to admit.

When I get a new student, I want to teach him to the best of my ability, with no limits.  I will teach him for as long as I can.  As long as he tries, I will try.  I will do my very best to show him the the basics, body dynamics, applications, advanced techniques... -- everything I know.  I will also try to constantly improve myself so that I will be the best Sensei I can be.

Once I help the student to "ignite" or become a self-aware and self-motivated Karate student, I will also try to get out of his way.  I will be there to help, but will encourage his own self discovery and growth.

Every student deserves this.  Every student deserves an instructor who will try his best, without limits.  Every student deserves an instructor who is honest, who loves the art, and who lives it in his daily life.  Every student deserves an instructor who can help him to grow in the art -- and not become stuck or frozen at a beginner's or incomplete level.

It is extremely sad to me when a student deserves a better instructor than he had -- especially if the instructor took the student for granted or did not try himself.

Taking a student is a great responsibility.  It is not about tuition or enrollment.  It is a lifelong commitment.  Taking a student can be like having a child.  Many of us train with our Sensei for decades.  They become part of our families and lives.

It is easy to talk about lazy or unmotivated students.  But it is hard to talk about instructors who do not try hard enough for their students, or who care more about how many students they have rather than how far they help their students to progress.

All students deserve the very best Sensei.


Charles C. Goodin

Strength -- Keeping It Real

The other day I was playing around with my second son, Charles, who is 26.  He weighs about 180 pounds and is almost 6 feet tall.  I weight about 173 pounds and am 5 foot 8 inches.

We were kind of playing Sumo -- trying to push each other around the living room.  When I get down lower, I have a little advantage.  But I know that Charles is much stronger.

We were going back and forth, when Charles decided he had enough and picked me up and put me on his shoulder.  He would not put me down until I gave up, which I promptly did.

The thing is that he picked me up so easily.  He also held me on his shoulder (upside down) with no problem.  I really was helpless.

Now I know that I could have hit him, or poked his eyes, or bit him on the neck... but my point is that he is so strong -- way stronger than me.  In a contest of strength, he would win and I would lose for sure.  And he is not that strong!  I think that he can bench about 275 pounds.  He had a friend in high school who could bench 500 something!  My third son can bench 300 something.

When we speak about self defense, we have to keep it real.  There are strong people out there.  If Charles could pick me up that easily, he could have just as easily slammed me down on a fire hydrant or on a curb.  And I weigh 173 pounds.  Imagine how easily he could have lifted or thrown a 100 pound person.

Good thing we were just playing around.


Charles C. Goodin

Kendo Demonstration

Yesterday, I participated in a Kendo demonstration with my eldest son Chris (age 30), at his daughter's (my granddaughter's) preschool.  Chris explained the basics of Kendo to the children and I, in full bogu, stood by so that he could point out the striking targets (men, kote and do).  After his talk, the children took turns hitting me!

I actually studied Kendo and took Chris with me when he was only about 3 or 4.  It must have made an impression because he still practices Kendo.  He was a member of Hawaii's team to the world tournament twice and actually will participate in a tournament on Kauai this weekend.

Chris, Maddy and Grandpa

So even though we were speaking to children who were only 3 of 4, it is possible that they will be inspired to study Kendo or another martial art -- even Karate -- one day.

I was never very skilled at Kendo, but I think that I could have defeated these kids -- except this one who hit me like a pinata!

By the way, the bogu I am wearing is actually one I purchased a couple of years ago for kobudo practice.  I thought that it might come in handy when we practice bo.


Charles C. Goodin

Look First...

In kata, I often tell my students that they have to look first when changing directions.  The explanation I usually give is, "What if it's a truck instead of a person... you can't block a truck!"

But the other day, I thought of another explanation.  You have to make sure that you are blocking or striking the right person.  You would not want to block or strike your friend or a loved one.

In Karate, we learn to use techniques that certainly can injure others.  Even though we only use such techniques for self defense, we still have to be careful not to injure the wrong people.  Hey, if  someone is trying to injure of kill me, I think he or she deserves to get hurt (or worse).  But I absolutely do not want to hurt an innocent bystander.

So look first.  It might be truck or an innocent bystander.

And when you look, just look.  Don't do it for dramatic effect.  I hate that.  Just look -- like when you change lanes when driving.


Charles C. Goodin

Passing of Sensei Walter Rowden

I have learned that Sensei Walter Rowden of Belleville, Illinois, passed away on October 2nd.  He was 76.

I met Rowden Sensei three times when I attended Matsubayashi-Ryu Seminars in Toronto, St. Louis, and Los Angeles.  I also met him when he came to Hawaii and visited with Sensei William Rabacal.

Rowden Sensei was always very kind to me.  He was a gentleman.  We corresponded over the years on the subject of bunkai.  He was always curious about applications and exploring different ways to interpret the meanings of the movements in kata. He was very open minded, and would even discuss things with a youngster like me.

I was inspired by Rowden Sensei's constant desire to learn and improve himself.  That is something we call can learn from.

To all students -- please do not take your Sensei for granted.  Life is very short and unpredictable.  Learn all that you can while you can, and let your Sensei know that you appreciate them.


Charles C. Goodin