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1650+ Posts... and Counting

Control and Power

In Karate, we usually concentrate on learning to generate power. We talk about one inch punches and devastating striking power.

But of equal, if not greater importance, is developing control -- the ability to accurately control where and how hard we hit. From a self defense perspective, we have to be able to use the level of power that is appropriate for the situation. Defending against a knife weilding attacker is different than defending against an unruly child, and the power we would use would differ accordingly.

It is especially important for us to develop control in the context of our dojo training. We must be careful not to injure our training partners. Otherwise, we would soon run out of partners. An uke is defenseless and must rely on the nage's control.

Therefore, it is important to practice control. Examples of this include striking pieces of paper and cloth. In one school I attended, we would attach a sheet of paper to the wall with a single piece of tape at the top. We would practice striking the paper to make it fly off the wall. Of course, you have to be very careful. We would often hit the wall and hurt our knuckles.

I also used to practice kicking clothes pins. I would put a couple of dozen clothes pins on the line, and go down the line kicking each one. At one point, I could pretty accurately kick a person's ear lobes... really.

With proper control training, it is possible to control the depth of a strike: to hit the skin, flesh, or even the bones. We used to say that we should practice hitting people lightly and practice hitting the makiwara and heavy bag hard.

When we are the sensei, out students might be reluctant to complain when we hit them a bit too hard. It is especially important for instructors and assistants to be aware of how hard and where they strike students and to exercise great care. The students will learn by their example.

A good Karate person has power but all great Karate people have control.

Because it is difficult, if not impossible, to gauge the control of visitors, I usually will not allow them to make contact in my dojo.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Sam-Ryu

Ten Karate enthusiasts got together. They all had trained for many years and had roughly the same level of skill. They wanted to promote the art and get together to train. Sam offered his place. The other nine agreed and they all met regularly at Sam's place.

They trained for many years. One by one, some of the members had to leave the group, whether because of work, health, or family obligations. They still remained friends, but the group became smaller and smaller. Some members even died. Decades went by.

Eventually only Sam was left. His students decided to honor him by calling the art he taught Sam-Ryu. Sam was embarrassed, but allowed his students to do this because he did not want to disappoint them.

The years continued to go by. Sam eventually passed away. His students told stories about how Sam had trained, about his teachers, about his great accomplishments.

One day, one of Sam's old friends stopped by and spoke to the seniors of the Sam-Ryu Dojo. They were eager to tell the visitor stories about their great teacher. The visitor listened politely, and then asked about the other 9 Karate enthusiasts who had originally gotten together to train with Sam.

"What 9 Karate enthusiasts?" asked the students? "We practice Sam-Ryu. He was our master."

Karate never evolves in a vacuum. It never evolves as the result of just one person. Arts tend to promote one person and one name, but there are usually many great people who contributed to the development of the art. Karate hermits do not promote the art -- they hide it. A dojo is usually great because it features many fine instructors, each with their own special skills.

Remember that for every Sam you hear about, there are probably 9 others you don't hear about. It is in some students' vested interest to promote the memory of their master, their Sam. But don't forget David, Bill, Sally, Margaret, Mark, Matt, Aaron, Brandon, Sue.... Without them there would be no Sam-Ryu.

Sam might have just had the best place to train.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Dancing & Karate

This Guest Post is by Natasja T. Goodin, a student in the Hikari Dojo. The daughter of Charles and Nayna Goodin, she is an 8th grader at Moanalua Middle School.

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Almost all my life I have been a ballet dancer and a Karate student, which are two very similar practices. You'd generally think that they have nothing in common, but you'll be surprised to know that they are alike in many ways.

As a Karate student you are very concerned about your technique and you always try to apply yourself. Surprisingly, in dance we are told the same.

One thing that I find most interesting about Karate and dance is that I am told to engage my lats (latisimus dorsi) in both. In Karate we are told to do so because we're not just using our arms, but we're creating tension for our koshi, and it helps you to generate power. We are taught to do this in dance because when you are turning, you have to feel as if you're a rubberband that's being pulled because like in Karate, it creates tension. Also it helps you balance.

Dancing and Karate also include a lot of determination and dedication. To become good at both, you have to want it and you have to be willing to practice and be a hard worker.

Both, Karate and dance have made me a better person. In both classes we are not treated as students, but we're treated as equal humans.

Respectfully,

Natasja T. Goodin

Avoiding the Ground

I recently watched a DVD by Bas Rutten (see BassRutten.tv) entitled Lethal Street Fighting. Mr. Rutten is a competitive martial arts fighter and a tough grappler. He showed many useful techniques in his DVD.

One thing he mentioned caught my attention. He said that in a street fight, you should avoid going to the ground. He mentioned two reasons. The first, of course, is that the attacker could have friends who could attack you once you were tied up with groundwork. The other was that you could become injured by the ground itself. The street is made of asphalt, not tatami. I think that he gave very practical advice.

I learned ground techniques studying Judo, Aikido, and Kenpo. No matter how skilled you are at ground techniques, it is true that you have to watch out for additional attackers. If you are pinning one attacker, you cannot easily defend against another. The other attackers might even be hiding, just waiting for an opportunity.

At the same time, it would not be good to learn Karate without practicing any groundwork. It is always possible that we could be tripped, thrown, or pulled to the ground, or even just fall. We have to be prepared for these possibilities. If we are skilled at ground work, it will help us to escape and get back to our feet as quickly as possible.

When I recommend that my students avoid the ground in a fight, it probably sounds theoretical. When grapplers like Mr. Rutten say it, it sounds very practical.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Saturdays

After almost 10 years, my dojo training schedule is changing from Wednesdays/Saturdays to Mondays/Wednesdays. Family events and commitments, and travel, made it increasing difficult for me to teach on Saturdays.

When I discussed this will my family, my second son mentioned that he had not had a free Saturday (except on holidays) for 15 years. He has trained with me from the age of 5, at another dojo before we opened our Hikari Dojo. He has given up of part of his Saturdays for 3/4ths of his life.

When I discussed this with my friend, who is an Aikido Sensei, he mentioned that he has not had a free Saturday (except for holidays) for 34 years! That's 34 years!

Of course, we teach because we love the art, whether it is Karate, Aikido, or other arts. But we also have to consider the time commitment not only that we make, but that our family makes, as do our students and their families.

I am still a practicing attorney. One day, when I retire, I hope to be able to teach three or four times each week. Ideally, I would also like to teach bojutsu as a separate class. But until that day, I will do my best, now on Monday and Wednesday evenings.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Teachers are People

Sometimes a person will tell me that their sensei is a black belt. I imagine a black belt (a physical object) teaching them.

Sometimes a person will tell me that their sensei is a hanshi. I imagine a hanshi certificate teaching them.

Sometimes a person will tell me that their sensei is a champion. I imagine a trophy teaching them.

Sometimes a person will tell me that they train at a magnificent dojo. I imagine a building teaching them.

Sometimes a person will tell me that they belong to a large organization. I imagine administrators teaching them.

Sometimes a person will tell me that their sensei is a master. I wonder why anyone would want to have a master over them? I value freedom. I don't want a master or king or emperor telling me what to do.

I am really impressed when a person tells me that their sensei is a great person.

Being skilled at Karate is meaningless unless a sensei is also skilled at humanity.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Just One Movement

I recently observed a friend of mine perform a kata. Afterwards I commented that I thought she did very well.

She replied that she was embarrassed because she had left out one of the movements. At her level, this was a major error.

I replied that missing a movement or even a sequence of movements does not matter, particularly at her level. What matters, to me, is how the person generates and transfers power, how they move from one position to the next, how they shift their weight, how they protect their sechusen (center line), their focus, and their composure (among other factors).

You can get a very good idea of a person's level of skill by observing just one movement, assuming that they are performing the movement honestly and not concealing their true motion. The value of kata is not in specific movements or sequences but in giving us the opportunity to move in a variety of ways and to refine our skills.

It is for this reason that I emphasize kata in my dojo. I would rather have the class perform many kata than spend a great deal of time on stationary basics. Stationary basics are good for beginners, but advanced students do better by practicing kata, by learning how to move.

Remember that your skill can be evaluated by just one movement. So do it well -- and be aware of who is watching.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Bunkai -- Three's

We often see sequences of triple movements in kata. In Pinan Nidan, for example, there are three jodan uke (high blocks) done in sequence toward the front and three jodan tsuki (high punches) done toward the back. There are three chudan shuto uke (middle knife hand blocks) done toward the front in Pinan Shodan. Threes are common in many kata. Why is this?

One explanation is that these represent important techniques that should be repeated for practice purposes.

Another explanation is that the three movements should be interpreted differently. For example, the first two jodan uke in Pinan Nidan may be high blocks but the third might be a rising strike under the attacker's jaw. For any sequence of three identical movements, the first two are usually interpreted the same but the third is interpreted differently.

Triple movements also present opportunities for body mechanic exploration. The first movement, for example, might be emphasized (somewhat fixed), but the second and third might flow together.

There is also another explanation. Each movement actually represents a range of movement. A jodan uke, for example, is not only a high block, but a downward block, middle block, high block, and all levels in between. The jodan uke, then, is like a wild card. We practice the kata with three jodan uke, but should be able to execute all blocks in the wild card range (low to high).

There are no simple kata -- only simple views and explanations. Each kata contains a wealth of information if we are willing to look carefully.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Don't Learn Karate for Self-Defense

This Guest Post is by Charles T. Goodin, a sandan and instructor in the Hikari Dojo. The second son of Charles C. Goodin, he is a senior at the University of Hawaii.

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Karate to many people, is a great form of self-defense. I've been doing karate for almost all of my life. Could I protect myself using Karate? Sure. Would I? Of course. But the only reason that I can say this is because I've been doing it for 16 years now. One thing that must be set straight is the simple fact that Karate should not be learned so that you can protect yourself.

Many new students feel that studying Karate will help them defend themselves against attackers. Sadly, Karate is not a very effective means of protection unless you are very skilled at it. How long does this take? It could be months, it could be years, or it could even a lifetime. This all depends on the student, the sensei, and the style of Karate. What good is knowing how to do 18 kata if you can only defend yourself against predetermined attacks. In order to protect yourself using Karate, your movements must become instinctive. Using Karate must become second nature in order for anyone to use Karate effectively.

If this is the case, then why do so many people still take Karate? Well, the fact is, most people believe that learning Karate gives them the ability to use it effectively. In my eyes, 95% of all Karate students have no chance of protecting themselves against a real attacker if they use their Karate. Ninety-five percent! What does this mean? It means that Karate as a whole is not very effective. But, if you learn it the right way, and you practice it long enough, it becomes extremely effective. Most students don't study for a long enough time to see their time and effort pay dividends. As I stated above, the time that is required to become skilled differs with every student, every teacher, and every style, but I can safely say it takes at least five years.

Eventually, students will learn how to protect themselves, but when they reach this point, they should also know that using Karate to defend yourself can be too dangerous. If someone is trying to rob you, is it ok for you to kill them? If someone is calling you stupid, is it ok for you to beat them up? The answer to both of these questions are obviously no. This is what every student should learn from taking Karate.

Karate should not, under any circumstances be learned for self-defense. Karate helps students develop better hand/eye coordination. Karate teaches self discipline. And above all, Karate should make students and teachers better people. Karate teaches respect. Whether it's for your sensei, your parents, your peers, or for yourself, respect is the most important thing anyone can learn from Karate.

Respectfully,

Charles T. Goodin

Patient Training (and Teaching)

Each person learns at his or her own rate. No two people learn in exactly the same manner or at the same rate. Some students learn very quickly but then lose interest. Others learn slowly, but keep going for their entire lives.

One of my teachers used to say that you should not learn like paper. Paper lights easily but burns out equally quickly. He said that you should learn like a big log. It is harder to light, but burns for a long time.

For those of us who have trained since we were children (I started training at about the age of 7), we will go through many phases in our lives. As we progress from elementary school, to intermediate school, to to high school, to college, to post graduate studies, through various jobs, to our chosen career, from dating, to marriage, to children, to purchasing our first home, to seeing our children graduate from college, to seeing our grandchildren -- our Karate training will have many highs and lows.

I can honestly say that I did not have much time to practice Karate while I was studying for the bar examination. But once my law office was established, I had more time and could open a dojo.

If you met me during my bar studies, you would probably think I was a neglectful Karate student. If you meet me now, you might think that I go overboard sometimes. But I am the same person.

My point is that as our training progresses, has high and low points, it changes over our life. When you are teaching a student, you have to ask where that student is in their Karate life at that moment? Are they trying their best but barely have time to practice? Are they at the point when their years of training is suddenly starting to make sense and come together? Are they trying to get back into training after many years of absence?

We have to be able to teach each student at his or her stage of training at that specific moment in their life. Sometimes we have to tell the student to take some time off to deal with family and work matters. Sometimes we need to encourage the student to try harder -- the best way to do this is usually to try harder ourself (set a good example).

Some students appear to be lazy. Sometimes this is because they are exhausted. Sometimes it is because they do not really want to be in class. If the student is forced to learn Karate by his or her parents, I will speak to them and say, "well, let's make the best of it." My expectations won't be too high, but I will try to give the student something to feel good about -- learning a new technique or kata, helping a younger student, etc.

You really can't teach a student, you can only help them to learn -- to ignite their interest and then feed it. And they won't learn if they are not in class. When you feel like telling a student to quit, you should remember the times it was difficult for you to train. What if you quit then?

Many of the best instructors where not the best students when they started. Many of the best instructors had to overcome many problems to gain their skills -- to earn their skills. At some point in their lives, a sensei inspired them and gave them the motivation to keep going. We are at our best when we inspire our students.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Koshi -- So, So , So , So!

My second son, Charles, just published a Guest Post entitled: "Koshi."

My comment is so, so, so, so! That's it!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Koshi

This Guest Post is by Charles T. Goodin, a sandan and instructor in the Hikari Dojo. The second son of Charles C. Goodin, he is a senior at the University of Hawaii.

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For most people, Karate is about using brute strength. They try to hit as hard and as fast as possible, using mostly the wrong muscles, and emphasizing their blocks and strikes at the wrong time and position. We are extremely fortunate to have learned from Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato. He is a perfect example of how Karate is supposed to be practiced and performed. What I took from him the first time I saw him was the simple fact that you don't have to be young and in great shape to be good at Karate. Granted, Shinzato Sensei is in great shape, but he is also up there in age. Considering the fact that he is three times older than I am, physically I am much stronger and I should also be much faster. When I first saw him in person, I was absolutely dumbfounded at how fast and dynamic he was.

After having his movements broken down, and practicing them over and over for the past couple of years though, I have an idea of how he gets his speed and power with so little effort. I can't move nearly as fast or as dynamically as Shinzato Sensei can, but my movements are decent because I learned to use my koshi. Koshi is just your hip, but for our class, koshi is so much more than just hip. Koshi is using your hip, while connecting it to your extremities, and tying it all together with your lats, correct breathing, and correct timing. Using your koshi allows for fast fluid movements, creating more power than just using your muscles.

If you use your koshi correctly, when you move, you whip. Moving correctly is very similar to whipping with a towel. The movement is not strong because of the force going out, it's strong because it whips at the end with the recoil. The recoil is what causes the whip! In order to understand this, all you need to do is learn how to whip with a towel. Whipping is not just hitting, it has to crack when you whip correctly. If you were to whip someone with the towel correctly, you can actually break the skin and cause them to bleed. This is how you have to move with your body. When you hit someone, you create power using your whole body (especially your core muscles) and whipping.

What I have also learned is that in order to learn to whip, you have to figure it out on your own. You can be shown how to whip a million times, but if you just try to copy you won't accomplish anything. The reason for this is because everyone is different. We all have different body types, and different skill levels, so if I were to copy my dad, I wouldn't be able to whip the same just because I'm much taller and have a longer reach. You have to find one movement that you can whip very well and then try to translate that to all your other movements. I first learned to whip using shuto, and I used the same hip I use for shuto on everything else.

Learning to use your koshi is a long and never ending process. Even Shinzato sensei says that he is always still learning, and you can really tell because he is always changing a few things here and there because he finds a better way to do them. Even though no one may ever really master using their hips, you can come pretty close. We should all strive to become better than Shinzato sensei, even if that's pretty far fetched. Every student has a certain amount of potential. Moving the traditional way that is taught in most schools only lets you tap into about 30% of your potential. Using your koshi though, allows you to fulfill your full potential.

Respectfully,

Charles T. Goodin

Guest Post: Alertness

This Guest Post is by Ikaika Chock, a shodan in the Hikari Dojo. Ikaika's younger brother and cousin also train in the dojo.

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One thing that anyone should always have is alertness, or awareness of your surroundings. Knowing what's going on around you and your family could keep them safe from harm.

It's not difficult: when you step into the street, look for cars. If it's dark, make sure you can see your family. Look around; watch dark corners and doorways. If you enter a room, make sure you know where the doors are.

Paranoia is not required, just open eyes. If you always know what's going on in your surroundings, events won't take you by surprise.

Sincerely,

Ikaika Chock

Never Underestimate An Attacker

Being a martial artist, it is possible to fall into the trap of overconfidence -- thinking that our skills will make us superior to an attacker. It is important to avoid this and, in fact, to think just the opposite. We must ask ourself:

Is the attacker alone? Does he have friends that we can see, or not see?

Is the attacker armed? Does he have a concealed knife or gun. Is he holding a bottle or glass in his hand?

Is the attacker skilled in a martial art, street fighting, boxing, etc.?

Is the attacker drunk, drugged, or deranged?
Even an unskilled attacker can get in a lucky punch. It will be difficult for us to defend ourselves if we are injured and impossible if we are unconscious.

We have to take every attacker seriously and consider all our options. What is the best escape route? Are there any potential weapons in the area? Can we get help from someone?

Never underestimate an attacker. Be prepared in case there is more than one -- the one you don't see might hit you in back of the head with a brick! And don't get carried away. Look for the earliest opportunity to get away from the conflict.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Ping-Pong Anyone?

This Guest Post is by Dexter Chun, a sandan and instructor in the Hikari Dojo. Dexter is an elementary school teacher and an avid golfer.

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From Ping-Pong to Karate, I believe it is never too early to focus on learning a physical activity. As a school teacher, I notice a difference between students who are physically active and those that are not involved in sports activities. There are various opportunities for children to participate in individual or team sports. I feel that children receive positive benefits from almost any physical activity that is of interest to them.

Tennis is valuable in promoting improved eye-hand coordination. Basketball helps to produce increased self-esteem. Dance encourages creative expression. Karate helps build physical and mental discipline. I believe sports, dance, and martial arts are all positive steps that help an individual reach one’s goals.

I feel fortunate to have participated in Ping-Pong Competitions, Hip-Hop Dance Performances and Golf Tournaments, which have improved my skills in Karate. And in turn, Karate is helping me to accomplish my personal goals in other sports activities and in everyday life.

Dexter Chun

When Is Enough, Enough?

I was speaking to one of the adult black belts in our dojo recently. He described a fight he witnessed. In a nutshell, he saw a martial artists on top of a young man. The young man had apparently attacked him and the martial artist was letting him have it pretty good. Bam, bam, punches, kicks, knees.... Bam, bam, bam!

People were telling the martial artist to let the young man go. Finally, the martial artist got off and stepped back. The young man sprung to his feet and immediately tried to kick the martial artist. It appeared that the young man was unhurt, despite the severe pounding he had taken.

As it turned out, the young man was on ice.

My friend, Professor Kimo Ferreira always says to watch our for the 3 D's: attackers that are drunk, drugged, or deranged. Things that work on a normal person might not work on an attacker that is drunk, drugged, or deranged.

It is possible that the young man was in fact injured -- he just could not feel it. He might feel it later, but was still ready and able to fight.

Another friend of mine mentioned that if you knock someone out, they will often attack as soon as they regain consciousness. They are not aware of the passage of time. To them, the fight is still on. But if you break their arm or leg, then they will have a harder time attacking.

I am not suggesting that we should break people's bones. But if they are drunk, drugged, or deranged, we have to recognize that it will take a lot to stop them. Just ask the police. How many police officers does it take to restraint a drugged up person, especially if the police are trying not to injure him?

When is enough, enough? It depends on the attacker. We must examine the techniques used in Karate in light of this.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Pouring Tea

When I started to eat lunch with a group of Karate seniors (aged 79, 79 and 62), I noticed that the 62 year old would always pour tea (at Japanese or Chinese restaurants) for the seniors. He would then offer to pour tea for me.

After a few lunches, I gradually realized that I, a 48 year old, was the junior and it was my place to pour the tea, or at least to sincerely offer to do so.

Then I noticed that when we went to a buffet line, the 62 year old would always walk ahead and hand plates to the seniors and then to me.

After a few lunches I realized that I should do this.

The other day, we went to lunch and I got some clam chowder. I noticed that the older sensei did not get any soup, so I offered to go get some for them. It is hard to carry soup and plates when you are older. I made sure to bring back some crackers too.

We have to look for opportunities to assist. We train to see punches and respond to attacks. But we must also train to respond to the needs of those around us, particularly our seniors. It should not matter that a person is a Karate sensei or has high rank. We should be courteous and helpful to all our seniors.

The 62 year old who helped me to realize this, through his example, is Sensei Pat Nakata, who practices the principles of Karate even at lunch!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate: A Humble Tradition

I started out calling this post "Karate: A Proud Tradition." After some thought, I decided that "Humble" better expresses the tradition.

I do feel that Karate has a proud tradition and that we should all feel very honored to be able to study the art. But when you speak to the seniors, they do not express pride as much as they express humilty. Every senior I have spoken to feels that he could have learned more and trained harder. Every senior looks up to his own sensei and feels that he still has a long way to go. Karate, to them (the seniors), is a lifelong pursuit. Daily life is the true dojo.

When you think of the Japanese samurai, pride does come to mind. Samurai were warriors and belongs to a privileged class.

Karate evolved in a different culture. While there were classes in the Ryukyu Kingdom, including a warrior class, Karate seemed to belong to the common man, particularly after the Meiji Restoration. People like Choki Motobu and Chotoku Kyan came from noble families, but by the time they were adults, their families had lost their stipends and much of their holdings.

If you are training in the samurai mold, then you have to find your place in a vertical hierarchy that goes all the way to the emporer. Whether in budo or business, a "samurai" is distinctly aware of his place and that of those below, equal to, and above him.

A Karate student can act like a samurai, just like he can act like an English knight or American Revolutionary soldier. A Karate student can act like anyone he choses. However, if the Okinawan mold is followed, the student will not act like a samurai -- he will act like an ordinary person with an extraordinary ability.

There is a phrase: "kakure bushi." This means a "hidden bushi." A kakure bushi could be hidden in a cave or mountain retreat, but more commonly he was hidden in plain sight. A kakure bushi could be the cook at the restaurant, the tax driver, your dentist. That man at the pharmacy may be a great Karate master, but you could never tell. He could even be that Mr. Miyagi-like gardener!

Karate is a humble tradition, a great humble tradition, and well kept secret. You show it by not showing it.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate and Street Fighting

What is the connection between Karate and street fighting? This may sound like a strange question, but it is not.

I have heard it said that Karate was the systematization of Okinawan street fighting. While I agree that Karate was influenced by street fighting in Okinawa, we must not forget that Karate is a defensive art. Karate is not a fighting system -- it is a not fighting system. Karate teaches how to defend oneself, which is quite different from fighting.

But, I have often heard that zealous Karate students would test out their "self defense" techniques on the rough streets of Naha, a seaport. The same thing also happened in Honolulu, another seaport. Seaports tend to have two things: foreigners and alcohol. This presents many "opportunities" for testing martial skills. I have even heard that Karate students would walk in seedy areas of Honolulu with money showing in their shirt pockets, just to attract conflict. While I would never condone this, it does seem to have happened.

After a fight, a student would compare notes with his friends. What worked well? What did not?

Martial arts all have this in common -- that the art was tested on the battlefield, or in the bars, somewhere. A martial art was not merely theoretical. We must admit, that at least in the old days, the great Karate figures were also great "fighters". I use the word "figures" because not all great fighters would necessarily be teachers. As time went on, I think that it was possible for a martial artist to become a great teacher even if he was a poor fighter.

My point is this -- Karate is a reflection and a response to street fighting. Whether in Naha, Tokyo, Honolulu, Chicago, or London, Karate has no self defense value unless it can be used against the type of street fighting present in the student's area.

The last time I looked, street fighters do not punch and kick like Karate students. They follow a simple rule: no rules (and try not to get caught). Have you watched full contact matches either live or on television, cable, DVDs, etc.? While these events are still controlled by certain rules, they probably come closer to how people fight on the streets.

Almost every "real" fight I have seen goes like this -- punch, punch, roll around on the ground. The punches are usually wild and the groundwork is untrained. Often, the first punch is a "false crack" (a punch to the back or side of the head without warning).

This has very little similarity to "kumite." On the street, people punch like bad boxers, use weapons, and fight dirty. And they gang up. As soon as a defender goes to the ground, the attacker's friends might start kicking him in the head and body. Fighting codes vary by time and location. When my father was a teenager growing up in Florida, the fight stopped when someone fell to the ground. It was against the "code" to kick and punch someone on the ground. Today, that code seems to be ignored. As a result, we have to know how to defend against such actions.

We have to know how to defend against the unexpected (but predictable) acts that could be used against us on the street. We have to be aware of street fighting to be able to defend against it.

Is Karate a fighting art? No. Does a Karate student have to understand fighting? Yes.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Renovating Websites

Aloha from Hawaii!

Sorry for not posting for the last few days. I have been busy renovating our various websites. Please see Seinenkai.com, for example, and put your cursor over the navigation bar under the Diamond Head graphic.

There is a wealth of information in that navigation bar that should make it easier to navigate our websites. The links drop down vertically and then expand horizontally. Now, for example, links to the different decades in our Rare Book Collection are accessible on all our main pages.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Writer Placement

I recently edited our Karate Thoughts Blog by creating a separate page for the Guest Writers with a link on the righthand corner of our main pages (above the search box).

I did this because the previous placement of the writers' names was in our blog main template, meaning that every time I added a name or link, I had to republish every one of the posts (literally hundreds). By making a separate page for the names, I can edit that page separately without republishing the entire blog. This reduces the risk of accidentally deleting or corrupting the blog!

I am very grateful to all of the writers who have contributed posts. In my own dojo, I have been encouraging students to try their hand at writing.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate Thoughts Blog Guest Writers

International:

Hikari Dojo:

  • Dexter Chun
  • Cael T. Goodin
  • Charles T. Goodin
  • Natasja T. Goodin
  • Peerawut Kamlang-ek
  • Ikaika Chock
  • David Takahashi
  • Jennifer Takahashi

Thank you very much to all our Guest Writers!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Teachers are the Best Students

This Guest Post is by Charles T. Goodin, a sandan and instructor in the Hikari Dojo. The second son of Charles C. Goodin, he is a senior at the University of Hawaii.

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Most people think that the most important part of Karate is learning. What I've learned from my experiences over the past 16 years though is that so much more is gained by teaching. When you teach, you are forced to break everything down, step by step, move by move, and if you don't know exactly how it's supposed to be done, you have to either figure it out yourself or ask one of the senior students or one of the sensei to assist you. I've been teaching the beginning students since the dojo opened up in 1997, so I have more experience than most at teaching. I'll admit, at first, teaching is pretty boring. I definitely would have rather been training with the rest of the class. But after doing it at every class for the past 9 or 10 years, it is something that I have come to embrace and enjoy.

Teaching others has made me a much better Karate student. I have learned much more about koshi through teaching than I have from having it shown to me by others. You can only learn so much from watching and copying, but by teaching, you are forced to learn it the right way so that you can pass it on to others. I've taught everyone in my class, with the exception of my dad and his sensei, and just knowing that you've helped improve the Karate of someone is very satisfying. Even though I've been able to really tap into the potential of some students, I've gained much more through teaching than any of the students I've helped. It's been said before that "those who can't do, teach." I feel though, that those who teach, learn to do.

Respectfully,

Charles T. Goodin

Positional Coincidence?

In some styles of Karate, such as Matsubayashi-Ryu, it is said that the kata begin and end on the same spot (referred to as "positional coincidence"). Matsubayashi-Ryu founder Shoshin Nagamine wrote about this in his first book, The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do. I have heard that failure to end on the same spot is a reason to fail a student who is testing for rank in some schools.

I have wondered whether this is true -- that kata are meant to begin and end on the same spot. After speaking to some seniors in various styles I believe that it is not necessarily the case. While kata generally end near the same spot, it is unlikely that they were all designed to end on exactly the same spot.

I believe that some sensei, such a Nagamine Sensei, might have been influenced by Okinawan dance principles. In Karate, I do not believe that it is necessary for there to be identical beginning and ending points. This might make it easier to give demonstrations, but has no relationship to actual self defense and fighting which require free flowing adaptability.

It is sometimes argued that positional coincidence reflects the balance of the kata. It is true that modern kata tend to be symmetric. Nagamine Sensei's Fukyugata Ichi is a good example of this. But older kata -- arguably the best ones -- are asymmetric. Kata like Rohai, Passai, Wankan, and Chinto (the Tomari versions), are all asymmetric. As such, it should not be expected that they would necessarily begin and end on the same spot.

It is possible to manipulate the ending point of any kata by taking a larger or shorter step here or there. But is this really necessary?

I believe that kata teach us applications -- or are the embodiment of applications. I do not believe that there is any metaphysical significance to kata. They are meant to be useful -- not perfect. What matters most is that the student understands the kata -- how to move and what each movement means -- not that he ends at the exact beginning point.

I performed a kata once at a friend's dojo. It was Gojushiho (not my favorite kata). Anyway, I got confused during the kata and somehow ended up facing the opposite direction from when I started. This was awkward since I would have had to bow with my back to the audience.

Could it be that this type of problem influenced the design of kata? I think so, particularly when Karate became public. It would not look very good to bow with our back to dignitaries. But again, in a real self defense situation such concerns are irrelevant.

I respect that great sensei such as Shoshin Nagamine may have understood something about positional coincidence that I have yet to learn.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate Titles -- Enough Already

My friend, David Chambers, publishes Classical Fighting Arts Magazine. In Issue No. 7, he wrote an excellent editorial entitled Titles in the Martial Arts, which is available online.

David describes the development of titles in the martial arts. Of course, today there is a proliferation of high ranks and titles. I am reminded that in Judo and Kendo there are no living 10th dan today and a 9th dan is exceptionally rare. I wonder how many 10th dan there are in Karate and related arts. Reservedness is a fundamental and necessary trait of any martial artist. David very accurately describes how martial artists should "use" titles:

The matter in which the claimant uses these titles also gives an indication of his authenticity. They should only be used in official lists relating to martial arts instructors, published books, or scholarly articles written about the holder—never in publicity material. Outside of this they are rarely used by the recipient as this would be considered immodest in Japanese society, and therefore impolite.

One never uses one’s title when speaking in the first person as it is a breach of etiquette that would serve to demonstrate the ignorance of the speaker. If you have trained for forty years in a legitimate martial art, a basic understanding of Japanese etiquette and customs is expected. In Japanese society, physicians and other doctors, lawyers, and other highly educated individuals are addressed as “Sensei,” but never refer to themselves as such. Regardless of rank therefore, the martial arts instructor is always referred to as Sensei.
I am an attorney, my wife has a travel agency, and her family had a real estate company for many years. There is a saying: "if you can't give an employee a raise, give him a title." In Karate, there is a modern tendency to use Japanese business titles to describe dojo and association positions. It seems odd to me to hear instructors referred to (in Japanese) as chairman, president, boss, etc.

Everything outside of the direct sensei/student relationship is foreign to Karate (in my opinion). Business titles belong in the business world, not in Karate. As David wrote: "...the martial arts instructor is always referred to as Sensei."

Our goal should not be to obtain titles, but to develop a good character and as much skill as possible while we a healthy enough to train vigorously.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate: What I Do

Although I am an attorney by profession, I spend quite a bit of time practicing, teaching, writing, researching, interviewing, etc. about Karate. One of the Okinawan history researchers here in Hawaii called me "Karate bakka (crazy)." He explained that he was "Okinawan history bakka."

But I always try to keep in mind that Karate is something that I do, it is not who I am. Karate is an activity, a thing, a study, an object. It is not a living thing in and of itself. You could say that Karate comes alive when it is practiced. But that is romantic. Karate is an art, a skill. It is not a person.

We do not learn Karate from Karate. We learn from people, from our sensei.

I am a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a worker, an employer, a friend... many things. Being a Karate student and teacher is also an important part of my life -- because I enjoy it. Karate makes me happy. I think that being happy makes me healthier and a better person. I also hope that Karate training helps me to age more gracefully. In a year and a half I will be fifty. In Okinawa, a fifty year old instructor is still considered young.

There are many excellent reasons to practice Karate. I have met many inspiring people during my training. I look up to my Sensei (in Karate and other arts). Still, Karate is something that I do, not who I am.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Family Karate

One of my greatest gifts is that my family also practices Karate with me. My wife, Nayna, and children, Chris, Charles, Cael, and Natasja, have all practiced with me. All are active currently, except Chris, who just graduated from law school and took the BAR. He will start work as an attorney next month. Chris and Cael are also active in Kendo.

Many sensei have commented that I am very lucky to have a family that trains with me.

My friend and senior Joseph A. Bunch of the Hawaii Okinawa Karate-Do Shudokan is even more lucky! His wife, daughter, three sons, son-in-law, and five grandchildren all practice with him! Bunch Sensei is the Secretary/Treasurer of the Hawaii Karate Kodanshakai and a member of its Ranking and Titles Committee. He was a Marine and studied Karate in Okinawa under Seijiro Maehara, Seikichi Odo, and Eizo Shimabukuro. He sponsors the Aloha State Traditional Karate Championships, which will have its 24th annual event this Sunday, August 6, 2006, at the Aliamanu Military Reservation.

My friend Hisae Ishii-Chang heads the Island Ki dojo. Her daughter trains with her. Her dojo is very family oriented.

Paul Ortino heads the Okinawa Kenpo Karate Dharma-Ryu Dojo. He has been the President of the Hawaii Karate Congress for many years. His wife, Daisy (who just gave birth to their son, Angelo), also trains with him.

Former Honolulu Chief of Police Lee Donohue, Sr. teaches Karate at the American Karate Kai with his son, Lee Donohue, Jr., who is also a policeman, heads the Kick-Start Karate program, and teaches classes at the Honolulu Police Academy.

I am always very happy to see families that practice Karate together.

Some people ask me how I got my children to come to class with me. It was very easy. I said, "let's go to class." And off we went.

One thing I did learn was that it is not good to eat fast food before training. At one time, I trained almost every day. Because there was little time, I would take my kids to hamburger places and buy whatever was 99 cents. It turns out that hamburgers and fast food are full of fat! It is much better to eat healthy food, especially if you are training.

It is also important to be willing to miss class -- and let your family members miss class -- when it is necessary. School and work must come first. Everyone needs a break sometime, even the sensei.

When I started my dojo, the only students were my three sons and one of their friends. Now I have many adult students who are yudansha and can even take short vacations with my wife. This is a real luxury!

As I have mentioned before, always remember to put your family first. And if you are very lucky, your family might also train with you. I will have to keep working and maybe one day my grandchildren will train with me too like Bunch Sensei!

In Okinawa, the eldest grandson was called the chonin. It was a tradition that a sensei would always teach his chonin. I would extend this to all grandchildren -- boys and girls alike.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

More Degrees Than A Thermometer

I was speaking to my friend yesterday about the tendency of some martial artists to join many organizations for the purpose of obtaining rank. For example, a person might join one organization and obtain a 4th dan, join another one and obtain a 5th dan based on his recent 4th dan in the first organization, etc. In this way, a person can advance very quickly.

Of course, legitimate organizations will carefully screen their members and verify their credentials and training history.

Anyway, my friend commented on this type of rank shopping martial artist by saying:

"That guy has more degrees than a thermometer!"
I was floored. What an accurate description.

I have seen advanced yudansha waiting for promotion like workers waiting for their Christmas bonuses before they quit their jobs. Sure enough, as soon as the yudansha were promoted they were off to other organizations.

There are many reasons to join martial arts organizations and many reasons to leave them. Rank is unfortunately a relevant factor to some martial artists.

Rank has no merit in and of itself. An attacker will not ask your rank before he punches you in the nose! In the "old" days, teachers were often challenged. Anyone who wanted to teach publicly had to be willing to take on all challengers. Students who could not handle themselves would not teach, or would quit soonafter they were challenged.

Today, it is much easier to hide behind rank and titles... and much easier to obtain rank and titles.

I am a member of an organization made up of senior karate instructors. New members in the organization cannot obtain rank for a minimum of two years and titles for a minimum of five years. This reflects the conservative attitude of the organization and its members. Such minimums help to prevent rank and title shopping.

As students, we should try to become our best. Rank and titles are incidental. They are not the goal. Skill is the goal. We should try not to look bad rather than trying to look good. We should try not to let your sensei down. Martial arts skill cannot be shown in material things such as certificates, business cards, and belts. The true reflection of our martial arts skill is in our daily lives.

Don't be like a thermometer.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin