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Seeing

It is almost impossible to see something different from what you understand. With a fixed mind, you cannot see clearly.

When I first met Professor Katsuhiko Shinzato, he started to work on my basics, migrating them to his form of body dynamics. One of the first techniques we worked on was a simple gedan barai (downward block).

I always had a very bad problem with my shoulders rising. This was because I was generating power from my arms, shoulders and chest, which was all I understood until that time.

Shinzato Sensei would show me how he would squeeze his lats, twist his blocking arm, and lightly throw the block using power from his lower body, boosted and directed by the action of his rotary motion koshi (this is really an oversimplification).

I would respond by raising my shoulders and blocking using my chest and arms!

Shinzato Sensei would show me again, breaking down every aspect so that it should be clear.

I would do my same old block.

Now I am not an unintelligent person (hopefully) and I had travelled all the way from Hawaii to Okinawa to specifically learn this from Shinzato Sensei. I really wanted to be there and do my best.

But I just could not see what he was doing. Fortunately, I took a video of the training and over the next few weeks and months I would watch it again and again, until it started to become clear. I could see Shinzato Sensei's method of generating and directing power... at least I could begin to see it and even begin to do it. I must have watched the video more than 100 times in just a couple of weeks.

This made me realize a very important thing -- not that I was a slow learner (which I was) -- but that we can only see what our minds will allow us to see.

When Shinzato Sensei moved, I was trying to interpret his movement by what I knew. I only knew how to move in a rigid manner. Using that framework, what he did made no sense. It was as if his movement was "magic" -- so powerful, fast and explosive with seemingly no effort. With my fixed perception, he was just a magician.

Only in microscopic steps was Shinzato Sensei able to coax me out of my dreamlike state. After a few days with him, I was still terrible, but his magic started to look more like a reality to me -- his fantastic movement was the result of the skillful application of sound body dynamic principles.

Later, I observed a video of Shinzato Sensei teaching a group of Goju-Ryu students. Our style has Fukyugata Ni (Gekkisai Dai Ichi) in common with them, so he chose that kata to work on.

No matter how he moved, they moved in the way they to which they were accustomed -- like Goju-Ryu students. He was trying to show them how to move in a different way, but they could not see it or allow themselves to do it. I am not criticizing them -- I did the same thing.

Again, it is very difficult to see something that is outside of your experience, frame of reference, expections, mindset, etc.

There is another issue. Suppose you have a camera that can take fantastic photos. It can generate 10 megapixel images (that's really big). Unfortunately, you have a really bad printer that can only print crude black and white images. In this case, it does not matter how magnificent the images you take are because they will come out poorly from the printer.

In my case, Shinzato Sensei was a 10 megapixel image and I was a junky old printer. Just about everything he did was beyond my resolution.

But that's Ok. That's how it always is. The sensei has to drop his movements down to our level of perception and then coax and build us into greater levels of resolution.

Please remember that it is difficult to see what a gifted sensei is doing. You have to look as hard as a drowing man gasping for air! See?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin