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1700+ Posts... and Counting

The Most Important First Lessons: Awareness and Preparedness

I am teaching my six year old granddaughter Karate.

One of the first lessons I taught her and repeat often is that you must be aware so that the can avoid a dangerous situation or attack.  Even if you cannot completely avoid an attack, if you can see it in advance, you will be in a better position to defend against it.

So the first thing is to be aware.  The second thing is to be aware.  The third thing is to be aware.  Then maybe the fourth thing is how to defend.  The fourth thing is certainly important, but the first three things are also important.

By extension, I want my granddaughter to be aware of the things around her as she plays in the yard, does homework at home, goes about her day at school, rides in a car, etc.  Being aware at all times is the goal.

The next step is to be prepared for whatever the threat may be.  We can practice for certain situations and make sure we have the necessary supplies for an earthquake, tsunami, or a simple injury.  We can also be prepared for an unexpected attack, but this is just part of overall preparedness.

To be aware and prepared.  These are the foundations for self-defense.  And these are some of the things I am teaching my six year old granddaughter.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Don't Pull Your Hand Back Empty

Last week I was teaching and I told my student the familiar saying:  "don't pull your hand back empty."  I'm sure that you have heard this many times in your Karate training.

In the most basic sense, the returning elbow can strike someone behind you.  That is probably the first application taught.

But generally speaking, you are defending against the person attacking you from the front (you would turn to face him, perhaps at an oblique angle or whatever).  There might not be someone behind you, and if not, it would not make sense to expend the effort and take the time to strike behind you with your elbow.

More generally, after you block or strike the attacker, the hand that has gone forward can grab something and pull back.  For example, you could punch the attacker in the face, and then grab him by the hair and pull back.  This would set him up for some other strike or kick or knee, or whatever.

You might pull back by grabbing with your fingers, using the outside of the hand and your wrist, using the inside of your hand (turned up) and your wrist, using the inside or outside, top or bottom of your forearm, your elbow, the upper arm area, etc.  The advanced aspect of applications is knowing how to pull, twist, lock, etc. when you pull, using different parts of your body.  It is not just a simple matter of grabbing and pulling.

You tend to see this more in Goju-Ryu and Uechi-Ryu nowadays, but in the old days, Shorin-Ryu also emphasized the "pulling hand".  Old forms of Shorin-Ryu still do.

The saying "don't pull your hand back empty" also applies to kicks.  After a kick with the tips of the toes, the returning heel can be used as a strike as well.  A kick can be followed by a trip or stomp or raking motion.  The kick does not simply drop uselessly.  There should be no wasted motion.  If a part of the body is extended for a block or strike, it should be used productively on the recoil or return.

It is also important to tailor your body dynamics to power the strike and recover the energy on the recoil or return.  You do not simply "throw" out and "pull" back as separate and disconnected movements.  The two are connected, as are the right and left sides of the body.  A movement on the right will have consequences/opportunities for movement on the left, and vice versa.

In Kishaba Juku, we often speak of a rotary engine as the way to envision the dynamics of the koshi.  The rotary type of movement powers strikes, blocks, and kicks (usually on outward movements) and also powers pulls, twists, tears, throws, and pulling-type strikes on the recoils and returns.

Sometimes you could punch or strike to the front with your right hand, and then turn and pull with an elbow strike, again to the front with your right arm.  By turning, the return is now to the front instead of the rear.  So one set of outward and returning movements can be used against the same attacker.

The point of all this is that there is much more to the saying "don't pull your hand back empty."  You have to know what parts of the attacker's body or clothes that you can "pull" and what techniques you can do either singly or in combination to have the desired effect (such as to inflict the maximum damage).

In a way, it is like music -- not so much in the beauty, but in the rhythm and flow.

Of course, we should avoid violence and defend only as a last resort.  That is always true.  But as a last resort, there is a whole lot more to "don't pull your hand back empty" than most beginners realize.

When I lift weights (I have a cable machine with a weight stack at home), I really like the do pulls.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

EDC Knife

I am a very peaceful and non-threatening person -- and I carry a knife just about all the time.  My EDC (everyday carry) knife of choice, at this time, is a black Heckler & Koch Ally, partially serrated folding knife with a glass break.

I like it because it is light, fits in my pocket well, and has a clip that holds it nicely in place.

I like partially serrated knives just in case I need to cut a seat belt.  There recently has a tour helicopter crash in Pearl Harbor.  One of the passengers was trapped.  A rescuer had to cut the passenger's seat belt, and mentioned that he was lucky to have had a serrated knife.  Sadly, the passenger subsequently died.

I am mentioning about my EDC knife, because if I carry a knife, just imagine how many other people also do so.  I carry a knife for safety in the event of an emergency, not self defense.  But I am sure that there are people who carry a knife for malicious reasons.  My knife is securely clipped in my pocket.  Others may have a knife that is more readily available.

In the past, I learned that you always should assume that an attacker is armed.  More and more, I believe this to be good advice.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

OPG

I wrote a little about the Okinawa Karate-Do Kaikan.  Since then, I have formally become a "Technical Adviser" to the museum/archive aspect of the project.

Communicating with different people about the Kaikan, I often heard the term "OPG".  I had to admit that I did not know what it referred to.

OPG means "Okinawa Prefectural Government".

How about that!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai -- Seisan

This is just a note to mention that I have resumed training with the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai.  It is very good to be back with my friends.  We had a training last Saturday (at Nakata Sensei's Campbell Avenue dojo, now under Yokota Sensei), and as usual, I learned a lot.

The subject for the training was the Seisan kata.  Since my "style" does not practice Seisan, I tried my best to learn the kata by watching Sensei Angel Lemus' fine video on Youtube, and I also visited his dojo and learned the basics of the kata from his wife, Sensei Judy Lemus.

I had asked permission to perform the kata during the Kenkyukai training with Lemus Sensei's group.  Of course, I messed it up both times!

The kata has a pretty simple format, and I can do it (poorly) alone.  But when I did the kata with Angel and Judy, I tended to mess up the footwork and throw in extra movements when I got confused.

I have no illusions that anyone can learn an excellent kata, such as Seisan, quickly.  Mostly I wanted to begin to learn the kata because I know that it was central to the teaching of Chotoku Kyan.  My "style" comes from Kyan Sensei (and Motobu Sensei), so I wondered about this important kata that we do not perform.

Also, now that I am 58, I find that learning something completely different is good from my mind.  Kata involves issues of timing, spatial placement, body alignment, footwork, weight distribution, applications, and so many different things.  A good kata is always a lifelong challenge.

I will write more about Seisan later.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Destroying the Attacker

I have written about this some, and will write about it more.

But in a nutshell, I do not believe that Karate is completely defensive.  It is defensive in the sense that a Karate student should not be the attacker.  A Karate student should avoid violence and certainly should never start a fight.

However, and this is an important however, my experience with some very skilled Karate people is that once the attacker initiates the attack, whatever form that may take, the Karate person will avoid to the extent possible, but lacking a way to avoid the situation, will switch into "destroy" mode.  In short, the Karate person will take steps to destroy the attacker.  The Karate person will not simply respond to the attack and block each punch, strike or kick.  Simply blocking is usually doomed to failure.  If you let me stand in front of you and attack you, and you just block (with no counterattack), I will eventually hit you.  You would do the same to me.

But if you hit me and I drop you to the ground, then you will have a much harder time trying to hit me again.  Depending on what I do, you might not be able to do anything at all.  Destroying the attacker ends the attack.

We tend to think about Karate as a totally defensive and passive art.  I agree that it is, right up until the point that it isn't.  Then, as a last resort, it can be intensely destructive.

The first part of Karate is learning and practicing defensive techniques.  The second part is learning and practicing to destroy the attacker.  Some people I have met are or were really skilled at the second.  If you attacked them, they would not fight with you -- they would destroy you.  It would be like grabbing a sharp knife by the cutting edge.

That is something I have been thinking about lately.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

No Patch... No Symbol

Recently, I visited a friend's dojo to learn the basic outline of a kata.  I actually wore a gi and belt that night.  Usually, I have been wearing a gi bottom and white t-shirt only.  But it tends to get cold at night, so I wore a gi top.

A student noticed that I did not have a patch.  I tried to explain, albiet briefly, that I do not want to be mentally attached to a patch or symbol, or anything that identifies or limits my conception of the Karate I practice.  That may sound "metaphysic" or overly intellectual or something, but it is true, at least for me.  Once I start to identify with a patch or symbol or words, or anything concrete, then my Karate is in a box.  It is hard to think outside of the box if I put myself on the box!

Shinzato Sensei told me once that it is difficult to move freely if your mind is fixed.  In organized Karate, we tend to have many ways of developing fixed minds.

So I wear no patch and have no writing on my gi.  It is just a little thing.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Angel Lemus' Seisan

My friend, Sensei Angel Lemus, has posted a video of his style's Seisan kata:


I believe that he films these videos with an i-phone.  I am amazed by the quality of the videos.  If only we had this technology when Kyan Sensei was teaching the kata at his home!

You can see many of Lemus Sensei's fine videos here:


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

One of My Student's Recent Accomplishment

I do not have many students at this time.

One of my students has trained with me for about 7 years.  During that time he has earned a Master's Degree at the University of Hawaii, been promoted to the rank of Captain in the United States Army Reserve (he previously served in active duty as a Marine), and just this last week was accepted for a Master's degree program at Georgetown University.  These are just some of the things he has accomplished since I have know him.

Of course, I cannot take any credit for his accomplishments -- they are all a result of his hard work and dedication.  However, I have tried to emphasize that Karate is not just what we do in the dojo, nor is it just self-defense.  An important part of Karate training is applying the lessons we learn to our daily lives.

And, for me, Karate should not be the best thing that you do.  If you are good at Karate and bad at everything else, then what kind of Karate student are you?  But if you are great at everything else and good at Karate, then what a Karate student you are!

As a "Sensei" (I don't like to call myself that), an important part of my "job" is to encourage students to strive for the best in their lives.  Karate training is hard.  Life is much harder.  If you can learn to discipline yourself for the rigors of Karate training, then perhaps you can apply that same discipline to other aspects of your life.  If you can be polite and respectful in the dojo, then you can do the same in school and work.  Karate should help you in your life.

So when my student was accepted to Georgetown University, I celebrate that -- at least in part -- as a Karate accomplishment -- as part of his broader training.

What a job well done!



Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Getting Into the Best Position

My eldest son practices Kendo, and has (on and off) since he was about 12.  He has been a member of Hawaii's team to the World Kendo Tournament three times.  I am sharing this to give you a feel that he is pretty serious about Kendo.

In fact, when he is at my house, he often goes through Kendo movements and stomps his right foot (like they do in Kendo).  I always have to tell him to stop because I am afraid that he will crack our marble floors.  I secretly think that he may have already done so.

Anyway, we often speak about Kendo and he always tells me about a new technique or strategy he is working on or just thought of.  I am always amazed because he has been practicing Kendo for a while.  Nevertheless, he always seems to have come up with something new.

Recently, he told me (I am paraphrasing) that he realized that Kendo is not as much about hitting as it is about getting into the best position to hit.

Now I have heard so many of these thoughts -- maybe hundreds over the years -- but this one made me think... Kendo is not as much about hitting as it is about getting into the best position to hit.

We talked about it.  It certainly takes skill to hit right in Kendo.  But most people who do hit are not in the best position when they do so.  As a result, their hit may be effective, or they may be hit themselves or countered.  There are a lot of considerations.  But when you are in the best position, your hit will probably be better and you will be in a stronger position.

I started to think about how this applies to Karate.  If Karate is about punching, blocking, kicking, etc., then it is certainly true that getting into the best position before we do these things is extremely important.  In some cases, getting into the best position could even make certain things unnecessary.

I am not very tall.  When I was a young student in Judo and later Karate, I was usually one of the shorter students.  As a result, getting in close was always a good strategy for me, and something I actively practiced.  Getting in close -- sometimes extremely close -- gave me an advantage and mitigated some of the advantage my taller partner/opponent might have had.

In Karate, we sometimes practice thousands of punches and kicks -- maybe tens of thousands over time.  But how often do we practice body positioning?  How often do we practice getting into the best position?  How often do we even consider it?

In any event, this is something that I thought about after speaking to my eldest son the other day.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Prepping For... A Zombie Apocalypse

I have mentioned that I am a prepper.  Some people study martial arts for self-defense in the event of a zombie apocalypse (marauding hordes of helpless people made desperate by some disaster).

Self defense is indeed a very useful and necessary skill and ability -- one that requires training and practice.

But... before you can apply self defense against the zombies (whatever that term may represent), you have to survive the disaster.  First comes the disaster, then the zombies.  You are going to have to go through and survive the same disaster that produced the zombies.

Take a serious earthquake.  In the aftermath of the shaking, fires, tsunami, etc., there may well be desperate times producing desperate people who want what you have.  But you will not get to that point unless you survive the shaking, fires, tsunami, etc.  Are you prepared for an earthquake?  Do you have the necessary supplies (water, food, medical supplies, etc.)?  Do you have a disaster plan for your family?  Do you have a bugout bag at home, and a get home bag at work and in your car?  Heck, I know people with secret supply caches buried in secret bugout locations.

If you are not prepared, the odds are that even if you survive the disaster you might become one of the zombies -- a helpless person made desperate by the disaster.  Then, what would you use your martial arts skills for?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Overview on Standardization

Going back to my original post on this this subject entitled:

Standardization of Kata/Kihon

Well, who was it that seems to have resisted the standardization process?  In the quote I cited, it was Chotoku Kyan.  How does he figure in the transition of the Ryukyu Kingdom to the Okinawan Prefecture?  His father, Chofu Kyan, was a member of the Sanshikan, the highest level of Ryukyu governmental authority under the King himself.  Chofu Kyan served Sho Tai, the last King of the Ryukyus, the one who was overthrown during the annexation.

In fact, Chotoku Kyan grew up in Tokyo as his father was assigned there to serve the King in his new position as a Japanese noble.

Chotoku Kyan had one of the closest and highest ties to the old Ryukyu Kingdom.  He resisted the standardization of Karate, as he learned and taught the "old way".  The "old way" was intimately associated with the Ryukyu Kingdom.  Standardized Karate was more tied to modern Japan and Okinawa Prefecture.  In some ways they were like oil and water.

Karate experts with ties to the Ryukyu Kingdom, such as Chotoku Kyan and Choki Motobu,  among others, were more likely to maintain the old way.  People without such ties were more likely to embrace the new form of Karate, which was a product of the modernization and assimilation process.

This may all seem like a historical footnote.   But it helps to explain how Karate came to be the way we find it today.  And it helps us to better trace its roots, to try and find the aspects of Karate that we lost during the standardization process.

Karate came to Hawaii in 1900 (or perhaps in 1896).  Karate in Hawaii was largely unaffected by these processes, at least until after World War Two.  In other words, Karate in Hawaii kept to the old way.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Criticisms of Old Style Karate

Ironically, some people who practiced the standardized form of Karate (whether they knew it to be that or not), had their own criticisms of "old style" Karate.  Some of these that I have heard over the years include the following:

1.  That is "old man" Karate.  The person doing the old style Karate was old.  That is why his body position was mostly upright and his stances were natural and shorter.  He could not take the long, lower stances that had become popular in "modern" Karate.  His pace was slower, and again, more natural.  He was such an "old man".

Reply.  Old style Karate was geared toward personal effectiveness.  Exaggerated movements avoided because they were not very effective.  Natural movements were favored, because self defense was usually done in response to a surprise attack.  Defense and counterattack had to flow from a natural stance and body position/

The "old guys" were not moving the way they did because the were old, but because they were skilled.

2.  It was primitive, village, boonies Karate.

Reply.  Actually, the "old style" Karate was practiced mostly by people from the mid to upper levels of Ryukyuan society.  After the overthrow of the Ryukyu Kingdom, the formation of Okinawa prefecture, and the Meiji Restoration, people in all levels of the society could practice the "new" Karate.  Sometimes the attack against the "old style" high class people was to characterize them as just the opposite.  People who only knew the modern form of Karate wore a cloak of "modernness" and innovation.  New was good and old was bad.


3.  It lacked standardization and consistency, lacked a vocabulary, lacked a testing and ranking system, was not suited for demonstrations and tournaments, in short, it was not modern and professional.

Reply.  Japanese people really liked to be organized and consistent.  The "Japanese spirit" at the time celebrated standardization across the nation/empire.  Being different was bad.  Sameness required standardization and consistency.  If you wanted to be different, you would be hit like a nail that sticks out.

4.  The lack of standards described in item 3 above, was indicative of it being so "Okinawan".

Reply.  Okinawans were different, and the process of assimilation was very painful for many people.  To become "Japanese", one had to conform and modernize.  Karate was sort of like the Japanese response to Western boxing.  But to function in Japanese society, Karate had to be improved and standardized.  That way, a student anywhere could learn the same "Karate"... the "new and improved Karate."

5.  Two people would do the same kata differently.  In fact, the same person might do the same kata different ways at different times.  It was as if the "old style" Karate person could not remember the kata!  Probably because he was so old!

Reply.  Old style Karate was suited to the specific student, at least at an advanced stage.  A kata had many variations and emphases.  An advanced student would perform a kata in the way that best suited him.  And actually, an advanced student might vary the kata depending on who was watching.  I often do this!  Sometimes I leave things out, add things, change my body mechanics, change my timing, etc.  An observer might thing that I messed up (which does happen sometimes) or was just an "old man".  Sometimes a performer of kata might be "dumb like a fox!"  Some of the brightest Karate (and bojutsu) people might feign absent mindedness.


In short, many of the criticisms of "old Karate" were greatly affected by the time period during which Karate "came out" to the public and spread to mainland Japan and the world.  In addition to the timing aspect, there was the Ryukyu, Okinawa, assimilation aspect.  "Old Karate" represented the old Ryukyu society.  To be modern and admired, one had to go along with the standardization process.

Today, we are very fortunate to be able to appreciate Karate, and its practitioners, with an educated, open mind.

To me, what matters most is whether the way a person practices Karate works.  The basis of Karate is self-defense and this must underlay everything.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Early Criticism of New Standardized Karate

Back in the early 1900's, some of the instructors and students who knew the "old" form of Karate, might have criticized the new standardized form of Karate as "children's Karate" or "baby Karate".

However, Itosu Sensei helped to introduce the new standardized form of Karate to the public school system of Okinawa for a reason -- at least in part to preserve the Ryukyu/Okinawan art of Karate in a prefecture that was administered and dominated by Japanese (who greatly preferred Judo and Kendo in the schools).  And Itosu Sensei had a certain respectable stature.

And when you think about it, the new standardized form of Karate was for children!

So if the old timers criticized the new standardized form of Karate, they probably did so quietly and realized that it was an expedient.  The good reason justified the standardization, at least at first.  After all, the school students could learn the new standardized version and later, when they became older, learn the old way.


Except that the new standardized form of Karate became prevalent and the old way became harder and harder to find.

But over the years, I have heard the new (1900) standardized form of Karate referred to as "children's Karate" or "baby Karate".  Or sometimes the critic would just make a hand motion to express "what can I say?"

But one of the most biting comments I personally heard was to the effect that the Karate people practice today is not the true, authentic Karate.  This was told to me by a long retired Goju-Ryu instuctor.  At the time, I felt a little hurt and insulted but turned the comment around:  "If instructors like you do not teach the true, authentic form of Karate, how are students like me supposed to learn it?"

But now, years later (that fine instructor, one of the most skilled I have ever met, has since passed away), I find myself agreeing with him more and more.

One last thing, many Okinawan instructors back in the 1920s and early 1930s felt that it was inappropriate to teach "authentic" (old style) Karate in mainland Japan or overseas (except perhaps to Okinawans), and that it was barely acceptable to teach the new standardized form.  Thus it was that early Japanese Karate students who visited Okinawa were largely either not received or were criticized by Okinawan instructors.  Chotoku Kyan was an exception in this regard, perhaps because he had been educated and lived for considerable time on mainland Japan.  He received and explained things to Miki Nisaburo and Mizuho Mutsu (both Japanese) from Tokyo Imperial University.  Mutsu visited Hawaii in 1933 (with Kamesuke Higashionna, an Okinawan).  See the Hawaii Karate Museum Newspaper Archive.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Early Standardization -- Two Forms of Karate

When did formal standardization of Karate happen in Okinawa?  Arguably, the most important event was the introduction of Karate to the public school curriculum around 1900 (or so) primarily by Anko Itosu.  School students had to learn a simpler form or Karate -- something that could be learned in just a few years at school.  For this, Itosu developed the five Pinan kata (one for each year).  Whatever the kata (plural) that Itosu may have used to formulate the Pinan may have been, it is pretty clear that the Pinan kata share a uniform set of basics -- each kata does not represent a different style or teacher's influence.  They are the same basics done to five different patterns (kata).

Itosu and his senior students taught the kata in the school.  At this point, there were two forms of Karate -- the original one and the new standardized one.  Itosu and his students knew both, but the public school students only knew the new standardized form.

For someone like Itosu (or his senior students), learning the simpler kata and basics must have been really easy.  They probably could have done so in a weekend or two.  Compare this to the Naihanchi kata, Passai, Chinto, etc.  These kata could be practiced for years and years, and the student would still be just scratching the surface.

Do you think that Itosu and his students practiced the Pinan?  I don't think so.  I'll bet that they did those kata only enough to remember how to teach them to the school students.  Back at their home dojo (or whatever place that might have been), they only practiced the old way because that was the only effective and useful form of Karate.  The new standardized form was just for kids.

I remember reading somewhere that Yabu Sensei used to say that if your know the Pinan kata and the Kusanku kata, you should just practice the Kusanku kata.  Makes sense!  The Kusanku kata -- the original form -- was not modified by the standardization process.  When you practiced Kusanku, you were practicing undiluted Karate, rich with meanings.

I am sure where I am going with this.

Flash forward a few decades.  Generations of Karate students were raised on the new standardized form only and never had the opportunity to learn the old way.  Given enough time, the new standardized way became the only way, and eventually was considered to be the "old way."  If an 80 year old instructor practiced a form of Karate for his or her whole life, that form will seem like the "old" way, even if it was in fact the new standardized form of Karate back in 1900.

And when such a student practiced the Kusanku or other "old" kata, they were done the new standardized way.  They were essentially just the pattern of the old kata with the new basics replacing the old varied and variable techniques.

And that 80 year old would swear the he or she was practicing the kata exactly as he or she learned them -- thus they were the old, original forms!  In this, he or she would be correct -- they were the original forms that he or she learned.

We have to remember that a person who is 80 years old today, was only 24 in 1960.

Oh my goodness!  It seems hopeless!

But the first step to recovery of the old form is the recognition of the problem.  I do not expect you to believe me.  I certainly did not come to this opinion overnight -- it was one of those things that gnawed at me for years and years.  As I grew older and became more and more dissatisfied with the new standardized form of Karate, I began to recognize and appreciate the traces of the old form of Karate that I was lucky enough to see in some elder Karate experts.

One thing.  When it comes to age, I am only 58 -- still a Karate child.  My friend, Sensei James Miyaji tells his students that 50 years of Karate training is a good start.  I still have years to go to just have a good start!

More to come.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Okinawa Karate Kaikan Flyer

Yesterday I met with representatives of the Okinawa Karate Kaikan and received the following flyer (in English).  I have provided it for your reference.  Click the small image for a pdf.

seinenkai.com/kaikan-flyer.pdf

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Standardization of Kata/Kihon

Today I was reading Shorin Ryu Seibukan Kyan's Karate (Coal Mountain Productions, 2014) by Zenpo Shimabukuro and Dan Smith, an excellent book.  I came across the following on page 27 (bottom):

"One of Kyan sensei's greatest contributions to Okinawan karate was that he kept the kata that he learned from these great masters without changing the basic movements for the purpose of standardization.  Many Okinawan teachers learned the pattern of the kata from different teachers and then standardized those kata to their own kihon.  Learning the pattern of the kata and then changing the kihon is one of the key reasons for there being so many variations of kata today."
This is one of the truest statements I have ever read about Karate.

I practiced Matsubayashi-Ryu for about 20 years.  Our second kata is Fukyugata Ni.  We learned that Shoshin Nagamine, the founder of Matsubayashi-Ryu, developed Fukyugata Ichi and that Chojun Miyagi, the founder of the Goju-Ryu form of Karate, developed Fukyugata Ni.  This was in 1940 or 1941.  See: The 1940 Karate-Do Special Committee: The Fukyugata "Promotional" Kata, by Charles C. Goodin (me).

Several years ago I got to see my friend, a Goju-Ryu instructor, perform their Gekkisai Dai Ichi kata (I believe), which is what we call Fukyugata Ni.  Anyway, I was surprised by how much his kata differed from mine -- both in form and meaning.

So... was I doing my Fukyugata Ni wrong or was he doing his Gekkisai wrong?   Since Chojun Miyagi developed the kata, and my friend was a senior instructor or Goju-Ryu, I had to conclude that his version was the original or closer to the original.

Upon closer examination, I realized that our Fukyugata Ni was essentially the pattern of his Gekkisai, but with his basic movements replaced by ours.  In other words, it appeared that we were performing the pattern of Gekki Sai with Matsubayashi-Ryu basics (kihon).  And at that, we were replacing the Goju-Ryu basics with post public school Karate (about 1900) basics.  Fukyugata Ni was a good example of a kata from one style being changed by standardization, just as Shimabukuro and Smith described.

From time to time, I have taught students from other styles one of the kata we practice in Kishaba Juku.  Almost inevitably, they perform our kata their way.  They perform the pattern of our kata using their basics.  Of course, the most important thing is to learn our basics, not just the pattern.  The pattern is just a convenient tool.  The basics -- the form, dynamics and applications of the movements -- are what really count.

If I learned someone else's kata, I would want to learn to move like they do.  Why should I learn their kata and still move my way?  That would be a waste of time.  I have too many kata anyway!

Later in the book, Shimabukuro and Smith write (on page 28):

Kyan's kata was thought to be "Inaka Di" or primitive, country methods.  The reason for the look of his kata was Kyan had kept the techniques as they were taught by his father, Sokon Matsumura and his other teachers."
I have also heard a Karate instructor's kata referred to "Inaka", "country", or "village", usually as a veiled insult.  Actually, the old way, the pre-standardization way, was the advanced way.  Now, I am extremely impressed when I have the rare privilege to see anyone who can perform basics or kata in the old way.

Zenpo Shimabukuro's father, Zenryo Shimabukuro, learned from Chotoku Kyan.  So did Shoshin Nagamine.  Some of the kata of Seibukan and Matsubayashi-Ryu have very similar patterns, but different basics.  Karate students of all styles might question the extent to which their own kata were modified by standardization.  [It does not help that just about everyone claims that their form of movement is the original!]

From with my interaction with senior Karate experts over the years, I firmly believe that the Karate masters of old were not using the standardized basics that we largely see today.  The key to understanding kata is the rediscovery of the old ways of moving.

And just doing or learning an "old" or "ancient" kata is not much help -- if that kata has already been changed by the standardization process.  Who knows if the Kusanku kata performed in many styles is done the same way that Mr. Kusanku originally taught it?


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Lifelong Progression

This new year, I am reminded of something that my friend, Sensei Pat Nakata, often said:  There is a difference between practicing Karate for thirty years, and practicing Karate for one year, thirty times.

Karate training should not be doing the same thing, the same way, over and over, year after year, decade after decade.  Karate training should be a lifelong progression.

And I am also reminded of something Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato often said.  He does not like to be seen in internet videos because he tries to improve each day.  Something he did yesterday will not look or feel right today, nor will what he is doing today look or feel right tomorrow.

Karate training should be a lifelong progression.  We should strive to improve each day.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Okinawa Karate Kaikan

Earlier, I wrote about the Okinawa Karate-Do Kaikan.  I have learned that the name of the facility is the Okinawa Karate Kaikan.  "Do" is not part of the name.  I am just clarifying this.  I believe that the facility is set for completion in the fall of this year (2016).

In the coming months, I hope to have more information about the Okinawa Karate Kaikan and my efforts to assist with its museum annex.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Clean Dojo?

In many martial arts schools, it is traditional to start the new year by cleaning the dojo.  I often did this over the years.

 However, I always say that your home should be cleaner than the dojo.  Don't get me wrong -- the dojo should be clean.  But you should not have a clean dojo and a dirty home.  Clean your home first -- then clean the dojo.

Someone who only cleans the dojo, but not the home, is sort of like a person who is pious only in church.

When you see a clean dojo, that should tell you that everyone in the dojo has cleaned their homes first.  When you see students practicing hard in the dojo, that should tell you that they have attended to their work and/or school work first.

Karate is something you should do well after you have done everything else you need to do well.  Being good at Karate and bad at everything else is not being good at Karate.

Happy New Year!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The Best Multitool

Some news.  I'm a prepper.  In Hawaii, it is prudent to be prepared for hurricanes, tsunami, earthquakes, pandemics, disruption of public services, shipping strikes, etc.

One question you will often hear in prepper circles is this:  "What is the best multitool?" The answer is that the best multitool is the one you have when you need it.

I have a lot of multitools.  Some can get pretty expensive.  But no matter how good a multitool might be, it is of no use if you don't have it when you need it.

Karate techniques are sort of like multitools.  What is the best Karate technique?  The one you can use when you need it.

I have written an article about kata bunkai called The Why of Bunkai: A Guide For Beginners. It originally appeared in Classical Fighting Arts.  If you read the article, you will begin to understand how my mind works: in writing about bunkai I break techniques down and apply them to different situations and see how the movements can be used in different ways.  One movement can have many meanings -- many.  In other words, it looks like I am viewing bunkai in a complicated way.

But what really matters is what works when it is needed.  Techniques are sort of like multitools.  Knowing a technique you cannot use is like having a multitool back at your house.


My best multitools don't have that many tools: a knife blade, saw, file, pliers, can opener, screwdrivers...  They don't have that many tools, but the tools work really well.  You could also imagine a multitool with so many tools that it would be too heavy and bulky to carry.  Again, this is a lot like Karate techniques.

I think that it is excellent to know the meanings of the movements of the kata.  But is is more important to have a small set of reliable go to techniques that you are really good at.  In self defense, you don't get higher marks for creativity.  There are no marks.  You win by surviving and avoiding injury.  What matters is what works.  And it doesn't have to be pretty to work.

So what is my favorite multitool?  In the front of my cars (in the driver side storage area in the door), I have a Leatherman Supertool 300, as well as a knife and strap cutter.  In the back of my cars, in my medical/get home bag, I have a Leatherman Wave and Micra.  I am also partial to the Leatherman Charge.  I would carry that on my belt in a bug out situation.  I also like the military versions of the Gerber multitool.

And my favorite Karate technique is to avoid the attack.  Failing that, I would get in very close and... use the Karate multitool.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate-Do Kaikan Location: Tomigusuku

I mentioned that the Karate-Do Kaikan is being constructed in Okinawa.  Its location is in Tomigusuku, on the grounds of the Tomigusuku Castle ruins, in South Western Okinawa.  Here is a link to a map:

https://www.bing.com/maps/default.aspx?q=tomigusuku+map&mkt=en&FORM=HDRSC4


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Merry Christmas From Beautiful Hawaii

Merry Christmas from beautiful Hawaii.  It is nice and sunny today after about a week of on and off drizzling.

I am planning to resume posting to my Karate Thoughts Blog.  For those of you who have inquired, thank you.  I am fine.  Now I am 58!

Next year should be very interesting and exciting with the planned completion of the Karate-Do Kaikan facility in Okinawa.  I have been having occasional meetings and updates on the project during the last two years.  Much more to come on this.

Let us all train sincerely.  My senior friend James Miyaji often told me that Karate training is like boiling water -- if you remove the heat it the water will become cold.  I believe that Gichin Funakoshi also said this, but regardless of the source, it is a good and true saying.  Karate cannot only be something you think about... it must be something you do (in your daily life).

Merry Christmas, as well, to my good friend Sensei Pat Nakata in Karate heaven, along with the many Karate seniors who passed away.  Great people rarely become that way without the inspiration of other great people.  Nakata Sensei, to me, was a truly great person, but you should have heard the stories he told about the Karate teachers who inspired him, particularly Choshin Chibana.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

First Day of the Okinawan Festival


Today was the first day of the Okinawan Festival.  Behind me are two panels from the Okinawan Sumo exhibit.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Okinawan Festival at Kapiolani Park

Aloha,

The annual Okinawan Festival will be held at Kapiolani Park on Saturday, August 31st and Sunday, September 1st.  Here is a link to the Okinawan Festival website:

http://www.okinawanfestival.com/

Here is a link to a map of the site:

http://www.okinawanfestival.com/images/map/Okifest%20Site%202013.pdf

Here is a link to the entertainment program for both days:

http://www.okinawanfestival.com/2013/program/Okinawan_fest_program_%202013.pdf

This year, I (the Hawaii Karate Museum) will be giving two exhibits: (1) the S. S. China steamship (the ship that brought the first Okinawans to Hawaii in 1900), and (2) Okinawan Sumo.   I will be exhibiting photographs and artifacts in the Cultural Tent.  There is no admission for the Cultural Tent.

Here is a link to my handout:  seinenkai.com/handout.pdf

I hope that you will be able to attend the festival.  It is a great cultural experience and lots of fun.  Karate is from Okinawa, so our art is part of Okinawan culture.  To better understand Karate, we should study Okinawan culture.  Please make sure to stop by and say hello at my exhibits.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Centipede Bite

Last night I was working in my garden in the back of my house.  It is cooler at night and the area is well lit, so I sometimes prefer nighttime gardening.

Anyway, when I was almost done re-potting some plants, I felt a sting on my left calf.  I looked down and there was a 4 inch centipede, not the big one with blue legs, but the smaller fast one.  I brushed it off but the damage was done.  I went inside to wash the bite, put rubbing alcohol, some neosporin, and some cortizone.  It burned for a few hours (like a jellyfish sting) but that was it.

So here is the point.  I looked down at that centipede on my leg and thought that is must be thinking: "Take that Karate man!  Block this!"  Just keeping it real.

I think this was my first centipede bite.  Lucky I am not allergic.  Most people don't know this but we have little scorpions here too -- I saw one a month ago in my eldest son's yard.  I will have to be more careful.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Update -- Nakata Sensei

Aloha,

It has been quite an active and overwhelming time since February when my very good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, passed away.  To be honest, it is still hard for me to believe that he is no longer with us.  He was such an active and generous person.  We ate lunch and dinner together at so many places that I always expect to see him.

I felt the same way about my Aikido Sensei, Sadao Yoshioka.  This was especially true when I recently went to a graduation party at the Natsunoya teahouse.  That was the place where Yoshioka Sensei has his kanreki (60th birthday) back in the 1980s.

With respect to Karate, I am at a loss without Nakata Sensei's guidance.  Whenever I had a question about a style or teacher, I would not look for the information in books -- I would simply call or see him.  He was literally a walking encyclopedia of Okinawan Karate.  He would either tell me about his personal experiences with the style or teacher, or share Chosin Chibana's recollections.  I was always amazed by Nakata Sensei stories.  I had the good fortune to hear some of the same stories many times over the years and they never changed.  His memory and attention to detail was phenomenal, even during the last two years when his health condition declined.

I also relied on Nakata Sensei whenever I wanted to know what a particular movement meant.  He practiced Chibana Shorin-Ryu and I practice Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu. Although our kata are not identical, they are similar enough for comparison (same but different).

I have watched a lot of people demonstrate the meaning (or "imi") of kata both live and on various DVDs and videos.  Nakata Sensei's explanations were always very down to earth and brutally effective.  There was no "fluff" or "puff" or guesswork.  Basically, there was just a lot of pain.

Once he told me about Chibana Sensei demonstrating a certain throw to him.  He had asked Chibana Sensei how the throw could be done if the attacker was not wearing a gi or strong clothes ("how would you grab?").  Chibana Sensei said "come, come" and demonstrated the answer.  I then said, "What did Chibana Sensei do?"  Nakata Sensei said, "come, come" with a gesturing motion of his hands.  I walked up to Nakata Sensei and he grabbed me by one ear and the side of my neck.  With a twist of his hands I was helpless and in a perfect position for him to throw me.  Chibana Sensei had demonstrated the same thing on him.

I had practiced Karate for quite a while when this happened, but I have to admit that I was not thinking about a counter at the time -- I was just flailing around and half-screaming.  Good thing that Nakata Sensei was my good friend and was only moving lightly.  I would hate to see him mad.

I actually did see him a little mad -- just once.  During one of our lunches with senior Sensei, I excused myself to go to the rest room so that I could pay for the bill.  Nakata Sensei almost always paid the bill and I wanted to pay for this lunch.  When the lunch finished and the waiter came, Nakata Sensei asked for the bill and was told that I had already paid it.  Nakata Sensei informed me in an especially firm tone that I should not do that again.  (I was honestly scared.)

Now I understand that the host pays the bill unless it is addressed in advance.  After that, I would offer to pay the bill before we got together and things were fine.  But even then, Nakata Sensei was the one who usually hosted and paid for everyone.  He was extremely generous, not jsut monetarily but of his time.  He would think nothing about driving half way across Oahu to pick up a Sensei so that he could attend a lunch.

Our lunches were really something -- two or three hours of nothing but Karate talk.  When other seniors would come, we would talk about their styles and experiences.  What an excellent overview of the arts!  I almost hated to return to work!

So it has been difficult for me since February.

But... during that time I completed the donation of the third increment of rare Karate and martial arts books, magazines, and multi-media to the University of Hawaii for the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection.  This increment was 10 boxes, and included some of the very oldest and rarest materials in the collection.

The third and final part of my article about Shozen Sunabe was published by Classical Fighting Arts and is now available.  Sunabe Sensei (a student of Chotoku Kyan) is another person I sorely miss.

I am preparing right now for the Okinawan Festival which will be held on the Labor Day weekend at Kapiolani Park.  This year I am giving two exhibits: the first on Okinawan Sumo and the second about the Pacific Mail Company's S. S. China, the steamship that brought the first Okinawan immigrants to Hawaii in January 1900.  I received grants for these projects from Hui O Laulima.  The exhibits will be in the Cultural Tent.  I will also write an article about the S. S. China (I have a ton of great material).

I am also teaching and studying Karate as usual.  The other night I told the students to always remember that they are students, and that I am the biggest student in our group because I have been studying the longest and continue to try to improve each day.  I will never brag about being a good instructor or about rank and titles.  If I ever brag, it will be about never giving up as a student.  So when it comes to Karate, I am still working at it.

Thank you very much to several readers who have inquired about my health.  I am fine, thank you.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: E Homai (Asking for Wisdom)

This Guest Post is by my friend, Sensei Angel Lemus, of the Zentokukai Okinawa Shorinryu Toude Association. Angel was a writer and editor of Bugeisha, one of the finest Karate journals ever published. He lives and teaches here in Hawaii.  Angel and I are members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai.

- - - - - - - - - -
E Homai (Asking for Wisdom)

Today I took part in a hike on the beautiful mountains on the windward side of Oahu.
 
The tour guide ended with a common Hawaiian chant called E Homai which asks for wisdom and understanding from above. It is a beautiful chant which I have heard many times before but this time it was different because of what our guide mentioned after the chant.

He was talking about the rainfall on the mountains which is the source of our drinking water and how in old Hawaiian folklore it was said that the sky father "Wakea" gave the water to mother earth "Papa" and thru this connection life is possible. Then he said that the old Hawaiians believed it was very important to have "knowledge and understanding" of things, but even more important is to have the "WISDOM" of what to do with this knowledge.

This made an instant connection for me with Karate and all the countless hours of practice that we spend year after year. Why do we continually practice karate? There are many reasons of course but I thought of myself when I was younger and of new students in general who want to learn the next kata, and the next, thus the accumulation of knowledge becomes an obsession and the goal. As if when you learned the last kata you are somehow transformed into something better (which you are not) and you are left with an empty feeling, because there is something very important that is missing. And what is missing is wisdom, something you certainly do not have when young or when first learning something.

The separation between knowledge and Wisdom is a vast chasm. This is why the old Okinawan Senseis would take their sweet time teaching their students, years just on one kata, they were in no rush, because it is truly pointless to accumulate knowledge that is unusable without the needed wisdom that can only be attained thru time and maturity.

We all need to seek Wisdom in order to make use of the knowledge we have. The Hawaiians express their humility every time they do this chant, the words are charged because they believe them with an open heart otherwise they are meaningless.

Next time we say "Sensei Onegaeshi Masu" lets make sure we really and humbly mean it (not just say the words out of habit), then and only then we may gain some wisdom because we are humble (and our cup is empty). And not just in the dojo but in our daily life where our Karate wisdom is put to use.

http://apps.ksbe.edu/kscholars/oli/ehoma

Nakata Sensei Demonstration

Aloha,

The demonstration in honor of Sensei Pat Nakata has been announced for Saturday, March 16th, from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., with lunch to follow.  The location is the Kaimuki High School Performing Arts Center.

For information, contact Sensei Alan Yokota at AYokota@CJSGroupArchitects.com.

Members of Nakata Sensei's dojo will perform each of the standard Shorin-Ryu and Kobudo kata in their curriculum.  Members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai will perform their own versions of Nakata Sensei's eight (8) optional kata.  I will be performing Gojushiho.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Here is the flyer (click to enlarge):

Passing of Sensei Pat Nakata

I am very sad to report that my good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, passed away last week, on Thursday, February 7th.  He was 68.  Words cannot express my sense of loss and also my deep respect for and gratitude to Nakata Sensei.

If his approach to Karate could be summed up in one word, it would certainly be: TRAIN.  You learn Karate by training.  Talking about Karate is OK after you have trained.  But you don't learn Karate by taking about it -- you learn Karate by training.  And for more than the last 50 years, Nakata Sensei certainly did train!  Tomorrow would have been the 50th anniversary of his dojo here in Hawaii.

If you are student of Nakata Sensei, you might want to contact Sensei Alan Yokota or John Oberle who are coordinating events for the dojo.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Students of Chotoku Kyan

I have met two students of Chotoku Kyan and actually both of them have been to my home: Shoshin Nagamine and Shozen Sunabe.  I have no doubt at all that these men studied with Kyan Sensei.  In the case of Sunabe Sensei, I am confident that he trained daily at Kyan Sensei's house for twelve (12) years, and then during the summers when he attended college on mainland Japan.

Come to think of it, I met one other man who trained with Kyan Sensei.  His name escapes me at the moment, but he is the Sensei of Kunio Uehara (he caught habu and spoke Hogen).  I was introduced to him by Uehara Sensei in 2002 during a visit to Okinawa.

But I do not have any proof of other students who trained with Kyan Sensei, except for what I have read or been told by other people.  I have no first hand evidence.  In short, I do not personally know who else might have trained with Kyan Sensei at this house or at other locations, such as the Agricultural School or the Kadena Police Station.

I do know know who else might have trained with Kyan Sensei and I do not know who did not train with Kyan Sensei.  I was born in 1957, about 12 years after Kyan Sensei died.  I simply am too young to have been there.

Some people get into heated arguments about who did or did not train with Chotoku Kyan and other Karate "masters" (I put the word in quotes because I doubt that Karate experts would describe themselves as such).  I want no part of such arguments.  It is not for me to say.

If anyone ever says that I said that a certain person did not train with Kyan Sensei, they are wrong.  Well, I can say with certainty that I did not train with him.

The style of Karate that I practice traces to Chotoku Kyan (among others).  Arguing about this lineage would be a waste of time.  If my Karate traces to Kyan Sensei, the question is how this is reflected?  Does the art I practice and teach reflect -- at least in part -- what Kyan Sensei taught?  That is the important thing.  If it does, then good.  If it does not, then practicing a style that traces to Kyan Sensei is irrelevant.  A lineage does not guaranty anything.

I respect all styles of Karate and am very grateful to Karate instructors and students who carry on the traditions of the art.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Meet your Canvas

My daughter, my eldest son, and I watch a show on Spike TV called Ink Master.  A group of tattoo artists work on a tattoo each week and one of the artists is sent home by the judges (a lot like cooking contests).  A winner is named at the end of the series.  I am not writing about tattoos.  What  caught my attention was something that was said to the contestants each week.  When the contestants were introduced to the people who had volunteered to receive tattoos, they were told "meet your canvases."

"Meet your canvases."  Doesn't that sound like our students in Karate?  Tattoos are pretty permanent, and so is what we teach our students.  Actually, bad tattoos can be removed with great difficultly or covered by a better tattoo -- there is actually another show on Spike TV for that called Tattoo Nightmares.

As permanent as tattoos may be, what we teach our students -- for good or bad -- is more permanent.  The techniques, strategies, attitudes, courtesies, and feelings we teach our students about Karate will last a lifetime.  And unfortunately, our mistakes, like bad tattoos, are very difficult to remove.

Our students are our canvases.  What a great responsibility we have to create masterpieces.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The Best Karate Book I Have Read in Years

I hope that the title of this post got your attention.  I should say that the book I am going to describe is one of the best Karate books I have ever read.


(image from Lulu.com)

A few weeks ago I received a package from Mario McKenna.  It was a donation to the Hawaii Karate Museum of his recent translation of  Morinobu Itoman's "The Study of China Hand Techniques" which was published in 1934.  This book captures the techniques, ideas, strategy and feeling of "old style" Karate.  By "old style" Karate, I mean the Karate of the turn of the 20th century (when Karate was introduced to the public in Okinawa).  We do not know much at all about Morinobu Itoman, but he writes about the Karate that I have heard about from the Karate pioneers here in Hawaii.  I encourage you to acquire this book and read.  I have read it twice so far and I am certain that I will be quoting from it in my future articles.

Mario McKenna is quite a Karate and Kobudo instructor and student, and a very generous translator.  He can read the old books in Japanese.  I and most Karate students cannot.  I actually saw a copy of Itoman's "The Study of China Hand Techniques" at a bookstore in Okinawa in 2002, but the owner would not sell it to me.  Now, you and I can read it in English!

I also had the pleasure of meeting Mario when he recently visited Hawaii.  What a nice person!  Now I have met Mario and Mark Tankosich.  I hope that one day I can meet Patrick McCarthy, Graham Noble, and Joseph Swift.  How fortunate we are for their research, articles, and books!

You can follow Mario's Kowakan blog at:


Mario also has a bookstore for the books he has translated and written.  Please see:


All of these books are very reasonably priced.  He has also translated Karate-Do Taikan by Genwa Nakasone (available in paperback and hardcover), The Study of Seipai: The Secrets of Self-defense Karate Kenpo, by Kenwa Mabuni, and Karate Kenpo: The Art of Self-defense, by Kenwa Mabuni.  In addition, he has written a book entitled Ryukyu Kobudo The Students of Shinken Taira.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year



Aloha and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

I am sorry that I have not written for some time.  I became ill in November and was sick for almost a month with respiratory problems that were triggered by vog from the Big Island.  Then I became very busy with end of year work at my office.  Last of all, I was behind in Part 3 of my article about Shozen Sunabe, which I finished on Friday night.  So now I am healthy and caught up (for now).

My family photograph (above) was taken in July during my second son Charles' wedding.  My first two sons are married, and I have a three year old granddaughter from my first son, Christopher. I am teaching her about the solar system.

I wish you and your family and dojo a very Merry Christmas (belated), and a very Happy New Year.

Who knows what Karate discoveries will be made in 2013!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

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.

Respectfully,

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.

Respectfully,

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.

Respectfully,

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.
Respectfully,

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.

Respectfully,

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.

Respectfully,

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.

Respectfully,

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.

Respectfully,

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.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

No Gi Is Fine With Me

My second son, Charles, is the head of our dojo.  I have mentioned that he does not like to wear a gi.  Most of the students in our dojo wear a white gi bottom and a white T-shirt (usually a Hawaii Karate Museum T-shirt).

Not Charles.  He just wears shorts and a T-shirt.  I think he wears basketball shorts.  He does not care about a gi at all.  Since he is the head of the dojo, what can I say?  He always tells me that I am the one who said that gi, belts, and rank are unimportant.

I still wear a traditional gi and belt, but that it probably half because I am an old fut, and half because I get cold easily.  It also helps with new students who wonder who is in charge.

But I agree that a gi is unnecessary.  The trappings of Karate often become traps.

If you eliminate the gi, belts, rank, titles, patches, embroidery, trophies, medals, plaques, certificates, positions, organizations, politics, commercial aspects, tournaments, and drama, what are you left with?

TRAINING.  And you do not need a gi to train.

Plus, I have always hated loud gi.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Warm-Up Exercises and Koshi

In most Karate schools a set of warm-up exercises are done before basics, kata, and other forms of training.   The set done in Matsubayashi-Ryu are pretty standard and are similar to those done in other systems.

Originally, most Karate warm-up exercises came from the Japanese military, which in turn got them from European military advisers in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

So here is my point -- the warm-up exercises often have very little to do with Karate.  In particular, with respect to our style (Kishaba Juku), the traditional warm-up exercises were not designed with koshi or koshi dynamics in mind -- they were not designed to improve the student's koshi.

This is important, at least to me.  One of the important aspects of training in Kishaba Juku is reshaping the body to be optimized for koshi/core driven mechanics.  Working the arms and legs is a very good thing, but working the core is also important.  And working the connections between the upper and lower body, and core and extremities, is essential.

The military advisers to the Japanese army over 100 years ago were not thinking about this.  We can.

I have been reformulating our warm-up exercises to help in the body reshaping process for our students.  I am still working on it.  I get this funny feeling that the exercises will make us more like Goju-Ryu and Uechi-Ryu students -- more alike physically and in posture.

And personally, once a student can do warm-up exercises properly, I would prefer that he warm up on his own so that we can get right into kata and training.  Kata is a preferable way to warm up, at least to me.  Why do  warm up before doing kata?  Why not just do kata to warm up?

But if we are going to teach warm-up exercises, it would be nice if the exercises could help us with body reshaping and body dynamics.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Nice Karate Dream

This Guest Post is by one of the adult yudansha in our dojo (Hikari Dojo), Peerawut "Peter" Kamlang-ek.

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Nice Karate Dream

This is a story.

A student joined the dojo for the very first time and he loved it since his very first day. He felt like this dojo was for him, he looked up to his Sensei, yudansha, and other students because they seemed like good people… he was the most beginner. That night himself as a Shodan from the future showed up in his dreams and told him, “I’m glad you feel like you like Karate, you should try your best, stay for a long time and train, just remember the two most important things are character and skill, everything else is just a distraction.” The young Karate student nodded and acknowledged.

He trained for several years and was promoted to Shodan, that night himself as a Sandan showed up in his dreams and spoke to him again, “I want to say congratulations but I think I should just say, good job... you continued to train, just remember the two most important things are character and skill, everything else is a distraction, especially rank.” The young Shodan agreed and trained even harder.

Several years later when the Yudansha was promoted to Sandan, the very same night himself from the future showed up in his dreams again… this time he said, “You don’t need to know what rank I am, I just want to reassure you that I am still practicing Karate and the two most important things are still and will always be character and skill.”

“What a nice dream!”-- he thought.

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What does rank in martial arts mean to you? I know a person who doesn’t even know where his black belt is... I’m dead serious. The other day a student at our dojo was promoted, I walked up to congratulate him and he seemed very uneasy, bowed humbly (not to me, just to the comment) and said thank you. This might sound bad to some people, but I don’t think anyone at our dojo cares about getting promoted at all...what I mean is it is not our goal. We just want to move at an optimal level and are hardcore about body mechanics. If there was a list then maybe rank is at the bottom, skill will precede that by many numbers, then what do you think is at the very top?.. You guessed it! Character! Character should always be number one. 

As a matter of fact, I take it back, rank is not even on the list.

I have met many respectable people who are humble and downplay everything and I have met too many people who have very little and blow it out of proportion.

I wish everyone a nice dream tonight.. and it doesn’t have to be about Karate!

Oyasuminasai!
 
Peerawut Kamlang-ek

Classical Fighting Arts

The new issue is out.   Mine came in the mail yesterday.  I have two articles this time.  I hope that you enjoy them (if you get the magazine).  I have written about Mitsugi Kobayashi and Shozen Sunabe (part 2 of a 3 part article).

Some of the photos in my articles are from our museum collection.  However, most were provided by David Chambers and some real treasures are included.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: No Stances...

This Guest Post is by my good friend, Sensei Angel Lemus, of the Zentokukai Okinawa Shorinryu Toude Association. Angel is the creator of One Minute Bunkai. The URL is oneminutebunkai.com.  He and I are members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai.

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No stances, strategy, and the relationship of the players/pieces involved

I love the pleasure of NOT worrying about stances, the liberation of that part of your consciousness that has to think of stance delivery as you travel through your kata.

Now I just step out there and not think of what my feet are doing, why?  Because I can. Because I'm not a beginner and I know that my feet, legs, and my lower body know what to do instinctively according to what my upper body is doing.

Its like my upper half and lower half are communicating with themselves checking with each other to ensure that everything is running in optimal condition assuring maximum power and results. Thus it leaves my higher functions to do their part, my eyes to see/gather input about situation surrounding me to allow my "instinct" adapt to the ever changing and chaotic nature of combat. My brain is put on shelf on standby mode so it can have a coffee break and look at the spectacle like someone watching a movie (but it does not butt-in).

Think of it like a tank crew, the tank commander is on the turret gathering intel, making command decisions and barking out orders putting the tank in a good offensive position while at the same time putting it in the best defensive position as possible. The tank driver only drives taking commands from the commander, the ordinance/fire chief aims and fires, the unit of 3 depend on each other, and one cannot possibly do it all at the same time. The commander is your self/instinct, your feet/legs are the driver, your hands/arms are the fire control.

I have found that by abandoning the focus on stances it is a liberating feeling that brings your awareness to a higher level that allows you to focus on the fighting while working kata. Your kata practice should feel like when you are attacked aggressively by your partner and you just move and do your thing. In partner work you don't stop to think for one second about stances. And if you do, that split second will cost you. In partner work your entire focus is (should be) on the attack aimed at your opponent, you just move in whatever "stance" you land in, and it will be correct and it does not need a name.

Going forward I will rely less and less on stance labeling when teaching my new students, at the beginning I will just say step here and there and bend your knees. I will say to them look at me and do what I do, "Mitori Geiko" learning by watching. I will just make minor corrections but not spend so much time (as I have done in the past) on making their cat stance look picture perfect. Because ultimately what matters is can they hit hard, not does the stance look pretty. And if the student is with you for many years he/she will figure it out over time. Of course this method will not work in sports karate because sport kata needs long pauses and the dramatic stances for judges to see the perfect balance and beauty of the presentation­ it is what it is.

In arriving at this juncture I now understand when I see videos of the old masters doing their kata and they always look like they move with a sort of abandonment of what stance they are in at any given time in their kata, the more experienced and older the less predominant stances are. When I wore my early karate diapers I used to see the old films and think, look at those old guys they can't do stances right anymore. Well now I'm wearing my advanced Karate Depends and loving it.

Learning a Long Kata (Yara Kusanku)

I am teaching a student the Yara Kusanku kata. I believe that it is the longest kata in our system -- so there are a lot of movements to learn.  I would say that it might take a student about one month to learn the kata.  I had one student who learned the kata in just a day or two -- but I think she practically has a photographic memory.

Anyway, as I was going over the kata with the student today -- and it seemed like such a long kata -- I said, "Learning the movements and sequence of the kata is only one percent (1%). Learning how to do the kata well is the other ninety-nine percent (99%)."

I added that anyone can learn a kata.  A kata has almost no value in and of itself.  Learning a certain kata does not make you better at Karate.  Being able to perform a kata well (with good body dynamics and power and with a good understanding of the meaning and applications of the movements) makes you better at Karate.

I added that many people know advanced kata and do them terribly.  So what!  Knowing an "advanced" kata does not make you advanced.  An advanced person can perform a "basic" kata and make it look extraordinary.  An unskilled person can perform an "advanced" kata and make it look horrible.  Actually, the hardest thing is to perform a "simple" kata well -- because there is no place to hide (as Robert "Snaggy" Inouye used to say).

Learning the movements and sequence of a kata is like tracing a picture, something any child could do.  Now take that tracing, color it, add dimensions, and turn it into a living, breathing thing!  Animate your kata.

Kata are not simply things to collect.  If you become better at one kata, your overall Karate skill should increase.  Each kata interacts in some way with all the others.

Yara Kusanku is an excellent kata.  However, I feel that Rohai, Passai, and Chinto best capture the feeling of our particular style.  Rohai and Chinto are frightening and Passai is beautiful.

"Learning the movements and sequence of the kata is only one percent (1%). Learning how to do the kata well is the other ninety-nine percent (99%)."

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

More Promotion Advice

Tonight I spoke to the student who was promoted Monday night.  I recommended that he (and other students) concentrate on skill and conditioning -- these are things that cannot be taken from you.  I told the student, "Monday I promoted you, today I could demote you.  Rank is an arbitrary thing."

If you are good at Karate you are good whether I say so or not.  Certainly a person who might attack you won't care about your rank -- he probably won't even know that you study Karate.

If you are promoted -- good!  Now keep training and help the other students.  Keep going.  Enjoy the moment and get back to work -- the work on yourself.  Hey, almost none of the students even wear belts in our dojo.  Most wear a gi bottom and T-shirt with no belt.  So the belt itself mean nothing.  It is the skill that counts.  Keep working on skill.

Would you rather be a 1st degree black belt with a skill level of 3, or a 3rd degree black belt with a skill level of 1?  It sounds like a ridiculous question but I am serious.  Rank is so arbitrary, particularly when you look at many schools.  Can you imagine being a 7th degree black belt with a skill level of 1?

If you are promoted -- good! Don't let it get in the way of your training.

If you are promoted -- good!  You are on the right track. You've learned a lot and there is a great deal more to learn!


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

What We Said When A Student Was Promoted

One of our students was promoted to shodan Wednesday evening.  My son and I basically said:

  • Good job.
  • Keep it up.
  • Help the other students.
I don't think there is much that should be added to that!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin