Karate Thoughts Blog


Contents   /   Email  /   Atom  /   RSS  /  

1650+ Posts... and Counting

Hanmi -- Correction

In my last post I should have written:

Today, we execute the same punch in the same stance, but with our shoulders almost at a diagonal and our tanden facing about a 45 degree angle (to the left). We call this position hanmi. Our shoulders are not square to the direction of the punch.
I had accidentally written "(to the right)".

Sorry, I still get my right and left confused!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

An Introduction to Hanmi

Let us consider a junzuki (right punch) with our feet in a right shizen dachi (natural stance). This is the position you are in when you execute the first punch in Fukyugata Ichi.

When I first started to learn Matsubayashi-Ryu around 1975, we stood with our shoulders square and our tanden (below the belly button) facing the front (the direction we were punching). Our shoulders were essentially at a right angle to our punch.

Today, we execute the same punch in the same stance, but with our shoulders almost at a diagonal and our tanden facing about a 45 degree angle (to the left). We call this position hanmi. Our shoulders are not square to the direction of the punch.

With our shoulders and tanden in hanmi, it is easier for us to narrow our stance. With our shoulders square, our stance must be a little wider -- otherwise our thighs will pinch our groin. In hanmi, a narrower stance is possible.

A narrower stance allows us to move more quickly because it is possible to step closer to the center line. The more we have widen our stance (widen, not lengthen), the more we have to deviate from the centerline, and the more we waste energy.

In hanmi, we also punch deeper. In a diagonal alignment, our punch is longer, and thus can penetrate deeper.

Hanmi also gives us a better chance to slip a punch. In a square alignment, a punch will hit us straight on. In hanmi, it is more likely that a punch will glance off. It is like stealth technology. Airplanes avoid detection by presenting little or no flat surfaces for radar to reflect back from. In a similar way, hanmi avoids flat surfaces for an attacker to cleanly hit.

Not only is our upper body better protected in hanmi, our groin is less susceptible to a front kick. In fact, we can "hide" behind our front leg, particularly with a narrower stance.

When I practiced Aikido, I believe that we pronounced the word "hamni." It may have been a different word. But I have confirmed with Shinzato Sensei that the proper pronunciation is "hanmi."

Blocks are also executed in hanmi. I have only described a punch to simplify the discussion.

I will have more to write about this subject.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Cut Your Toenails

This is a very practical post. Cut your toenails.

The other week, my third son went to Kendo. He and his partner jammed their toes together during a match. His partner had long toenails and as a result, his partner's big toenail bent back 90 degrees (straight up). Ouch!!!

My son was very lucky that he was not cut. Toenails are often dirty and cuts from them can lead to infection.

As Karate students, we must always think about safety. We should also be considerate of our training partners. Keeping our toenails and fingernails neatly trimmed is one of our responsibilities.

When I see Karate students or instructors with long nails, I think that they must not be practicing.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Not Needing Anything

One of the nice things about teaching Karate is that we do not need any special equipment -- we can teach in any open room. We do not need mats (like Judo and Aikido), weapons (like Kendo), or protective equipment. We can do very well in any open room.

I have taught on cement, tile, and carpeted floors and currently use a matted room for my Monday evening class. We can train on any type of floor.

Of course, it would be ideal to have a nice wooden floor and a high ceiling. But we cannot pick and choose where we will have to defend ourselves either.

Karate can also be taught outdoors. I personally do not like this, as I prefer to teach in a more private area.

A Karate Sensei carries everything he needs to teach inside himself. Nothing else is needed -- except the students.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Block the Root

It is difficult to defend against a flurry of fists and feet. They come toward us so fast. That is why it is important to block the root rather than the branches, so to speak.

To control the fist, block the area of the upper arm/shoulder. To block the foot, block the hip/thigh.

When we block the fist, the technique can easily be flipped into an uraken (backfist) or hiji ate (elbow strike). When we block the foot, a mae geri (front kick) can be flipped into a mawashi geri (roundhoulse kick).

But when we block the root, it is difficult for the attacker to flip or change the technique.

There is another important reason to block the root: it allows us to quickly counterattack because we are already so close to the attacker. A open hand technique to jam the shoulder, for example, can easily transition into an age shotei ate (rising palm heel strike), almost in a ricochet manner. The jamming block and palm heel strike can almost be thrown as a single technique.

Another way to view this is a follows: when you cut down a branch, you also cut off all the stems. This means that a block to the root precludes many techniques, not just one.

Here is an example. You need to pick oranges. There are hundred on the the tree. You could pick each orange one at a time, or cut off a branch with dozens of oranges on it. This might not make too much sense with oranges, but it does with attacks.

All of this gets back to the basic principle of defending your sechusen (vertical centerline) and attacking the opponent's sechusen. The attacker's sechusen is the root of his movement.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Can I Help You?

Sometimes when I am working in the yard, my children will ask me "Do you need any help?"

I will usually reply, "No. I don't need any help."

Based on my response, they will usually go about their business. Most men my age and older will think, "I do not need any help. I can do it myself."

But my children are asking the wrong question. They should ask, "Can I help you?"

To this, I might reply, "You can help if you would like to."

Or better yet, they should just starting helping without saying anything at all.

I have found that same applies in many situations in life. Especially with Sensei, it is best to help or at least ask if you can help. Don't ask if your Sensei needs any help, because he will probably say, "no."

At work, take the initiative and do what needs to be done. Don't wait to be asked. By then, someone else might have taken the assignment.

When I practiced Aikido with Sensei Sadao Yoshioka, we were taught to respond to a need not only before you were asked, but before the person in need even thought of asking for any help. If you waited until you were asked, it was already too late. Perhaps this is an example of sen sen no sen. See Making Sense of "Sen."

If we can respond to a need before the person is aware of his or her need, perhaps we can also respond to an attack before it is initiated. Anticipation is a great skill in Karate.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Discipline Not to Think

We often say that Karate teaches self-discipline. There are many forms of self-discipline: to work hard, to avoid vices, to not complain, etc.

One form of self-discipline is to control one's thoughts and thought process. For example, if you are doing your homework but keep thinking about surfing or videogames, you will probably not do your best. Whether in school or work, we need to be able to control our thoughts and focus on the task at hand.

Kata practice is a good way to develop such control. Kata are very complex when you consider all the techniques, angles, body dynamics, and other facts involved. But they are also very simple.

When we practice kata, we do not think about the techniques or all the details. We just move. It is a little like driving on the freeway. We can drive many miles without thinking.

In the same way, we can perform kata without detailed thought, but a keen sense of awareness and focus. This is hard to describe. We cultivate a non-verbal form of thinking. It is sensory based. One of my Aikido friends described it as being like a ball floating in a fast moving stream.

Some people say that sitting zazen is a good way to calm or minimize your thoughts. I think of kata as being moving zazen. But kata has the additional benefit of being useful -- both in practical self-defense and exercise. If we are going to "tame" our conscious mind, kata is a more productive way to do so (rather than just sitting still all day). At least that is my opinion.

Mental self-discipline requires that we be able to not think about one thing when we should be thinking about another. Whether this is kata or work or our children, we need to be able to concentrate and focus.

During an emergency, we need to be able to summon all our mental and physical strength to deal with the emergency. This may give the appearance of superhuman strength, but it is actually just high focused human strength.

Try this. Stare at the red asterisk below and do not think about anything for one minute:

*

Hard no? It is hard to even stop thinking for 10 seconds.

But it is easy to not think when you are doing something that occupies your attention -- like concentrating on breathing, listening for distant sounds, feeling the vibration on the floor of a person stepping across the room, etc.

It is really not possible to not think. What we need to be able to do is to think about the appropriate thing at the appropriate time. For me, it is like watching the end of your fishing pole when you are about to get a bite. If you look away, you might miss the fish!

Karate training gives us such mental discipline, and we can use this in our daily lives.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Crashing the Lines

How do you hit hard? This is such a simple question, but one that every student will ask himself many times during his Karate career. The answer will differ for a beginner, intermediate and expert student. The answer will also differ depending on the style you are learning, who you are learning from, and a host of other factors.

It almost seems too obvious a question -- how to hit hard?

First, it isn't always necessary to hit hard. There are many ways to transfer power. Hitting is just one -- and there are many different ways to hit. How much power is needed to poke an eye? How much power is needed punch someone in the center of his chest? How much power is needed depends on what you are hitting and how you are hitting it (or gouging, poking, ripping, twisting, pulling, pushing).

We usually think about hitting with our fist/knuckles by punching. This is not my favorite way to hit, but for purposes of discussion, how can we punch harder?

There are many factors: (1) minimizing the striking surface to concentrate the hit; (2) bracing when we hit so as not to lose power; (3) hitting as fast as possible; (4) accelerating into the target; (5) secondary penetration, etc.

But one factor that isn't always discussed is the idea of crashing the lines. The idea is not to stand in front of the attacker and punch him with our fist. The idea is to almost crash into his vertical centerline with our vertical centerline. We are going to crash into him -- and through him. In the process, we will strike him with something (our fist, elbow, foot, knee, shoulder, etc.).

Our vertical centerline is called the seichusen. It is also the center of our weight, usually.

When we strike with our centerline, we are striking with all our weight, multiplied by the speed and acceleration of our body. Thus, the idea is not only to punch very fast but to move our bodies very fast as well -- to move very fast into the target.

My brother-in-law used to try to teach me how to play chess. One of the strategies he often mentioned was to occupy the center -- we should try to position our chess pieces to control the center of the board.

I believe that the same strategy applies in Karate -- we should try to control the center. By this I mean that we should protect our centerline, and maneuver to the most advantageous position from which to attack the opponent's centerline. And then we should try to unsettle his centerline -- generally to tilt it back so that the opponent will be off balance in unable to attack or counterattack strongly.

When we hit the attacker, we are not aiming for the surface of his body. We are literally targeting behind him (or possibly inside of him). By the time our centerline reaches the point where his centerline was, he will likely have been pushed back somewhat. Thus, we might even be moving through (beyond) the initial location of his centerline.

In any event, the moment of contact is like a controlled crash. We are crashing into him, and focusing all of our weight and power into our desired striking implement (fist, foot, etc.).

This may sound out of control . Ironically, we gain stability by crashing into the attacker. We are actually more out of control when we hit the air (as in kata practice).

Crashing into the attacker is a lot like ukemi (breakfalls). If you know how to fall well, you start to view the ground, and walls, as allies.

Of course, there is usually more to a successful technique than a single punch. With the crashing momentum, the punch could be followed by an elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, throw, etc. The punch might just be the initial point of contact for a sequence of movements powered by the momentum of your body.

The next time you are wondering about how to hit harder, think about crashing the centerlines.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate "Accents"

I live in Hawaii, where we have our own accent, or pidgin. I also lived in Florida, Chicago, Maine and New Jersey, where they too have their own regional accents. A person from Hawaii and person from Florida have a noticeable accent (at least many people do).

There are also Karate accents. The way we move reflects where and from whom we learned. I experienced this first hand, when I went to Toronto, Canada, for a seminar. During one training session, a senior instructor from Okinawa asked me to perform the Gojushiho kata. About three other Sensei from Okinawa were watching.

At one point (the side to side stepping sequence that we tend to do in a somewhat drunken manner), one of the Sensei pointed to me and said "Heshiki".

He was referring to Sensei Zenko Heshiki, who lives here in Hawaii. I never trained with Heshiki Sensei, but at the time was training under Sensei William Rabacal, who was good friends with Heshiki Sensei. I learned the Gojushiho kata from one of Rabacal Sensei's students, and I suspect that he had learned the kata or been tutored on it by Heshiki Sensei.

Before the nukite strikes, I "scooped" with my other hand before placing it on my hip. This was apparently something that Heshiki Sensei did.

Again, I did not learn from Heshiki Sensei, but his particular technique gave my movement an "accent" that a Sensei from Okinawa could recognize.

As the time, I thought this was surprising, but now I can often recognize ways of moving that indicate where and from whom a student learned.

There is a joke that some students learn every mistake that their teacher ever made. What I mean is this -- a sensei might generally have terrific technique, but also have a quirk or slight defect. Maybe the sensei always tilts his head to the side, or blinks when he punches, or raises his shoulders too much. Rather than learning the good techniques, the student picks up the quirks. Sometimes a student picks up the quirks of other teachers too. Soon he is a walking billboard of mistakes.

We should be aware of our own "accent." Have we picked up our Sensei's best techniques and way of moving, or have we only learned his quirks. If we have particular techniques, such as the Gojushiho scoop, do we understand why we are practicing them? Do they belong in our kata, or are they a variation that might better be practiced in bunkai?

I always ask my Sensei to please correct any errors that I may be making -- and to not hold back. See Enryo Suru. I explain that I am only moving the best that I can, and that my desire is to move like my Sensei -- not to hold onto quirks or errors I may have picked up over the years. If I do have an accent, I want it to be same dialect as my Sensei.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

How Many Elbow Strikes?

In the Naihanchi Shodan kata, how many elbow strikes are present by the time you execute the first kaku zuku?

Close your eyes and think about it.

The answer is 6 or 7.

1. When you execute the first open handed strike with your right hand, your left hand pulls back. This is an elbow strike (to the rear).

2. The left elbow strike is obvious.

3. When you bring your hands back together on your right side, this is a right elbow strike (to the rear).

4. When you execute the left gedan barai, your right arm pulls back to your side. This is an elbow strike (to the rear).

5. When you execute the right kaku zuki, the right arm also executes an elbow strike/forearm smash (to the front).

6. When you execute the right kaku zuki, your left arm pull back. This is an elbow strike (to the rear).

7. The possible seventh elbow strike was when you executed the left gedan barai. On the way down, the left elbow could be used as a strike.

8. In the same way, the elbow could be used during the very first strike.

Just about any block or strike contains a potential elbow strike.

It is important to realize how many elbow strikes are present in the kata. Elbow strikes are the strongest arm technique and can also be used as blocks and defenses against grabs.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A New Student

Tonight, a new adult student joined my dojo. Every time an adult joins my dojo, I have the same thought: "I hope that this person becomes a teacher!"

I teach all of my students with that objective in mind. Of course, I want the students to become skilled in Karate, but my long range goal is that they learn to teach.

There will be no art of Karate if no one teaches it.

My hope is that each of my students (children and adults alike) becomes a teacher one day. The more the better!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Joining My Dojo

This is a hypothetical. Assume that you are an active yudansha (black belt holder) in another Karate dojo here in Hawaii and you would like to jon my dojo. What should you do?

Think about it. Think about it very hard. If you were in this situation, it could determine your future in Karate.

You should speak to your Sensei and ask him or her to contact me about your desire to join my dojo. I would discuss the situation with your Sensei, and then make a decision about discussing it further with you. I might even go to lunch with your Sensei.

Suppose that you do not want to discuss this with your Sensei and just want to join my dojo. What do you take me for? Do you think that your Sensei will not find out that you have joined my dojo? Do you think that I would not discuss it with him or her? How would it look if I accepted you as a student without showing the proper courtesies to your Sensei? What kind of Sensei would I be?

You may not know it but your Sensei might be my friend. I may know your Sensei very well. Your Sensei may be my senior. I might look up to and respect your Sensei. Your Sensei might know my Sensei!

Even if I do not know your Sensei, even if he or she is my junior, I would show respect. As a Sensei, he or she deserves this.

The saying that Karate begins and ends with courtesy is not just a saying. It is not something that we do only when people are looking. Courtesy is the root of Karate. It guides all of our actions. Courtesy comes first, second, third, and last.

I do not look for new students. I do not seek out experienced Karate yudansha to join my dojo. Actually, just the opposite it true. I would rather have a student who knows no Karate at all! But the most important factor is the student's attitude. Showing the proper courtesies to your current Sensei will show me a lot about your attitude and your understanding of Karate.

If you would join my dojo without showing the proper courtesies to your Sensei, I would expect you to do the same thing to me one day.

Now it may be that you have a horrible Sensei, a tyrant, someone that no one can talk to. I would consider this to be a rare situtation. In the overwhelming number of cases, I would recommend the procedure I have outlined above. In this very rare case, another approach might be appropriate.

I should also add that the above applies to active yudansha. A student who has discontinued training with a Sensei for a sufficient time period can usually begin training with another Sensei more easily. But even here, I would err on the side of being courteous to your former Sensei.

Be very careful -- and polite -- when you seek to train in a new dojo. One day you may have your own students who will learn by your example.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Creating a New Kata

Once in a while I will break my students into groups and ask them to create a new kata. This is to make them think about the process that went into the creation of the kata that we practice.

Sometimes the students will come up with some very novel sequences of movements. But generally, they come away feeling that their kata are not as good as the ones we practice.

And that is the point -- or at least one point I am hoping that they will get. My students cannot make kata that are as good as the kata we practice. I cannot make kata that are as good as the kata we practice. I dare say, that almost no one can accomplish this.

From time to time I will see a "new" kata that was made by a sensei, usually a famous sensei. Some famous sensei feel the need to make a new kata, perhaps so that their students will feel good about practicing a special kata. So far, I have not seen a "new" kata that was impressive. In fact, most are quite terrible!

I am aways moved when I practice kata such as Naihanchi, Rohai, Passai and Chinto, among other kata. Passai, in particular, is such a beautiful kata. We practice the Tomari version of the kata, which is especially beautiful. It is as if the creator studied both Karate and Okinawan dance.

How can any kata I create compare to Passai? It would be far better for my students to practice Passai than any kata I could create.

Somewhere I read that Yabu Sensei used to say that if you know the Kusanku kata, you should practice that rather than the Pinan kata. To him, the Pinan kata were new ones, created by his Sensei, Anko Itosu, to teach in the public school system. Itosu Sensei was certainly great, but can his Pinan kata compare to Kusanku (or Passai)?

Kata are like DNA sequences. Our job is to recreate the animal from these sequences. They are building blocks. The idea is not to collect many kata, but to grow one to adulthood.

And why start over with "new" kata when we already have such rich and beautiful kata?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Pinan -- Attack Direction

Imagine the first movements of Pinan Shodan through Godan. You are standing facing the front. Where is the attacker?

Think about it for a moment. A punch is coming. Where is it coming from? What direction?

According to at least one "classical" bunkai interpretation I have seen, the attacks are all coming from the left. The attacker is standing to your left and steps forward with a punch. You react by stepping slightly forward to avoid the line of attack and pivot to the left with a block (depending on which Pinan kata you are performing).

But it always bothered me that the attacker is somewhat out of range in this scenario. Take Pinan Godan, for example. If you block his left punch with your left block, you are out of range for your right punch -- unless you are really, really close to him when you block.

If, however, the attack is coming from the front, then the distance is better. In the case of Pinan Godan, the attacker's left ribs are now in range for the punch, and the following kaku tsuki can actually be a nice elbow strike to the front of his ribs.

I think that all of the Pinan kata work very nicely with frontal attacks.

Of course, we can pivot in any direction. The attack might be coming from the rear. Or, if it comes from the right, we could use the mirror image of the first movement as our defense. The idea is to be able to respond to an attack from any direction -- an unexpected attack at that.

But it is a mistake to rigidly think that the Pinan attacks are only from the left. This limits our range of movements and techniques.

Formalizing the bukai of the Pinan or any kata into a prearranged set of movements done to entertain an audience (or for testing purposes) can make them very rigid and thus, useless. There are no fixed attacks and no fixed responses.

And why do we assume a nekoashi dachi in the first movements of the Pinan and yet do not kick? I wonder what Itosu Sensei was thinking?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate-No! Program

Aloha,

I am very happy to announce the Karate-No! Program, a drug and alcohol abuse prevention program sponsored by the Hikari Institute, the parent of the Hawaii Karate Museum.

Please visit our website at Karate-No.com.

Several Karate instructors have provided statements for us about the importance of personal responsibility, making healthy decisions, and avoiding drug and alcohol abuse. We have also provided links to drug and alcohol awareness and prevention websites and resources.

This program was made possible, in part, by a grant from Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann's Task Force on Drug Use.

Please let your students know about our website. I will be making a banner soon that you can display on your websites, if you would like, to link to the Karate-No! Program.

Thank you very much.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Rubber Sai

People are always sending me funny martial arts film clips (there certainly is no shortage of these on the internet). But I find humor in little things. I see advertisements all the time for rubber sai. Now that really gets me.

If you are not old enough to practice with "real" sai, then why practice with rubber sai? There is no rush.

The way we practice sai in our dojo, I suspect that a pair of rubber sai would be more dangerous than real sai. We tend to "whip" the sai and a rubber pair might snap out of control.

My favorite sai are the old iron, blacksmith made ones. The iron has a gritty texture, unlike the modern chromed varieties. The older ones also tend to have no wrapping around the grip or handle. Again, the iron provides a nice, gritty grip.

The only thing that gets me more than rubber sai is belt racks (for your old belts). Now don't get me going on belts.

Respectfully (in good humor),

Charles C. Goodin

Patient Sensei

One of the greatest virtues of a Sensei is patience. It takes a long time to teach the basics of Karate. Some students learn quickly but forget quickly too. Some students learn slowly, but retain the information. All students are different.

A Sensei only has a student for a few hours each week. A student may be having difficulties at work, school, or home. He may even be having medical problems. A Sensei has to deal with many problems that can distract or weaken a student.

Through it all, the Sensei must be patient and encouraging. Most students do not react well to anger and yelling. I always say that if you have to yell at the student, the student does not actually want to learn. If the student really wants to learn, you can just whisper.

Sometimes a student will come to my dojo when he or she is obviously exhausted from a long day of school or work. What can I do in this situation? My attitude is to be understanding. Perhaps the student will feel better the next class.

We teach best when we teach by our own example. If we are enthusiastic about training, our students will be inspired to try harder. If a student does five wrong things and only one right thing, we should find the time to praise that one right thing. Perhaps next week the student will do two right things! Little by little the student will improve until he is doing five right things and only one wrong thing. Who knows, he might even do six things right!

Young instructors are usually very enthusiastic but sometimes not very patient. Patience seems to come with age.

In my case, I was such a slow student and did so many things wrong, that I am very sympathetic to students who might find it difficult to learn. Actually, I feel very confident in my ability to deal with students' mistakes, because I have made many of the same ones myself!

My two Shorin-Ryu Sensei, Prof. Katsuhiko Shinzato and Rodney Shimabukuro, have been so patient and encouraging. In Shimabukuro Sensei's case, he has been that way with me for over thirty years. In all that time, he has never yelled or gotten angry at me, nor has Shinzato Sensei. I know that I have made the same mistakes countless times, and both Sensei have calmly shown me again (and again), urged me to try, and praised my microscopic progress.

When I improved a tiny bit when I visited Shinzato Sensei in Okinawa for the first time, he was so excited and happy that I wanted to improve even more! He was happy for me -- and that made me want to try even harder.

He could have said, "I'm afraid you are hopeless," and that would have been it. I would have probably given up. His encouragement gave me hope.

There are many times in life when we might want to give up. Thank goodness for patient and encouraging Sensei. I know that I am very thankful to my Sensei.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Unlocking Koshi

A few days ago, I described an interview during which I had to sit in a chair with my feet on the ground and my back straight. See Locked Koshi. I wrote:

"With my feet planted on the floor and my back straight against the back of the chair, my rear end was also firmly planted on the seat of the chair. This effectively "locked" my koshi."
In this position, I found that I could not use my koshi. One solution was to raise my feet off the ground. I have found another solution -- to raise my rear end off the seat.

It is as if our two feet and rear end are the three points of a triangle. When all three points are fixed, it is impossible or at least very difficult to use the koshi. But if one, two, or all three points are not fixed, then the koshi can be used very easily. Actually, to me, it seems that it is easiest to generate power with any two points fixed and one point free.

You might wonder how all three points could be free (aside from standing on your hands). All three points are free when you hop off the ground.

I am still working on this. It seems that if you can find out what locks koshi -- makes it difficult to use it -- you can also discover what facilitates or unlocks it.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: How I Practice Karate Part 2

This Guest Post is by my friend, 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 teaches at the Ninchokan Dojo, in Los Angeles, California. See Part 1 of this article.

- - - - - - - - - -

PART 2: Higher level mental processes.

I will refer to this thought process in terms of how computers works, much like our brains are very powerful computers.

The checklist below is a set of higher level mental processes that the mind should go through to process all the data collected above in steps 1 through 20.

1. Actively scan all parts of the body continuously. Partition pieces of your brain to multi task and have for example a chunk of your awareness looking at your stance all the time to make sure it not too high, another chunk looking at your chambered fist to make sure it is not sticking out. Partition as many pieces as needed to monitor all parts of your body and so they can send "corrective" commands to those body parts independently of each other. Beginners usually can only handle a couple of these at a time, but as you expand your consciousness through experience in the Dojo you should be able to monitor dozens of body parts simultaneously.

2. Relay this info back to the central data processor.

3. Determine if the data gathered reveals anything new, different, or in some way to raise a flag about a movement or fraction thereof.

4. If nothing is detected, continue, continue, continue.

5. If something is detected and you did something that felt better, faster, smoother, grab on to it, and try to repeat it.

6. Find out what you did to make that movement feel good/better to you than in the past. Pinpoint specifically what part(s) of your body, and internal processes contributed to this discovery.

7. Isolate the body parts and internal processes, and dig in to it immediately to understand mentally how those worked better this time. When I say internal I mean things like your energy, effort, breath exhaling etc) don't put it off, for these discoveries I have found have a short lifespan and they will disappear (like being able to recall a dream when you first wake up, and minutes later you don't remember it very well or not at all).

8. After you discover what made the movement better, paint a mental picture of it that you can easily "at a glance" retrieve from long term storage, and can easily command yourself to repeat. If you can repeat it continuously, then you are on the way to internalizing it.

9. Once something is internalized, you should be able to do that movement in the new improved fashion consistently.

10. REPEAT THE WHOLE PROCESS again, until you improve the same movement, and you re-internalize the new version. Each "new and improved" version immediately overrides, and replaces the older "lesser" version, and every new time that you practice the movement it will be executed based on the new version. This is so important for if you cannot do step #10, you will be in a constant limbo and it is a hit and miss scenario. You cannot go through your practice NOT knowing why you do something poorly, it is difficult to improve it if you cannot find the cause of the problem. Some people do not analyze their movements during active practice and never think about Karate outside the dojo. A beginner may not apply the mental processes I am describing above, for they are usually using all their faculties just to figure out their left side from their right side, and that is natural for a short while. But a beginner will forever remain a beginner if he/she does not exercise the brain and apply some kind of analytical process to bring the body and mind together, so that the mind eventually becomes the MASTER of the body. I have seen Black Belts that do not practice any mental training, they just don't think about stuff (in or out of the dojo, they just mindlessly repeat movements), in my eyes they will remain beginners.

The entire above process, both parts 1 and 2 really only happen in fractions of a second. Our brains are more powerful and capable than the most advanced computers today, but like any other muscle it must be exercised. If you do not invest time with some kind of process like the one described above, your progress will be very, very slow, you must take charge of your progress in Karate and become an active participant and make yourself improve, you cannot idly standby in this path and take the passenger seat, you must sit on the drivers side and take the wheel.

I have to make a disclaimer here, for there is an opposite side to all of this - There are some people who are OVERLY brainy, they think too much about everything, over analyze and over think until their eyeballs are coming out the backs of their heads, and are incessant "beard scratchers". Everything I mentioned above only applies while you are considered to be an active Karate-ka. I'm not saying get off the dojo floor and practice karate with your brain.

Angel Lemus

Guest Post: How I Practice Karate

This Guest Post is by my friend, 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 teaches at the Ninchokan Dojo, in Los Angeles, California.

- - - - - - - - - -

A recent conversation with another karate-ka got me thinking and I wrote this for it is something I felt is important to share.

"How I Practice Karate"

It is a really difficult task to convey to someone else what internal mental, psychological, and physical processes one has going on inside of them while practicing. I have broken down systematically below an outline of how I approach practicing and what goes on inside my noodle. I hope my "processes" help you think about how you practice (internally and externally) and if anything you can compare your internal learning processes to someone else's. I have found that the old mantra of "Karate is 10% physical and 90% mental" is so true. Over the years I have noted how many of my "revelations" come to me during a time after a training session when I am thinking about what just happened, and other times they are right at the time that I execute a movement, like being hit with a lightning bolt. When I say practicing, I do not refer to mere repetitions of something, to me practice is not the right word, for it is vague at face value, more appropriate words that describe the process of practicing are words like:
a. Observation
b. Analysis
c. Discovery/Revelation
d. Interpretation
e. Adaptation
f. Internalization
I believe that this whole process is done in 2 parts:

PART ONE (what you actually do when you practice).

I have put together a 20 point checklist, Im sure we could think of more, but for our purposes here lets leave it at 20. Take a movement, part of a kihon, or a part of a kata, or even hitting the makiwara, work it like this:

1. Do it slow, break it down.

2. Study the upper quadrant of the body.

3. Isolate and do the the arms/hands.

4. Study the lower quadrant of the body. Isolate the hip joints, knees, ankles, foot, toes.

5. Do the same with the right and left quadrants (hands, legs, shoulders, chest etc.)

6. Focus and observe your stance see how it feels (strong, weak, painful, not sure?)

7. Isolate the large/small joints and work them loosely within the context of the movement you are trying to study. Are you using Gamaku or the region above the waistline?

8. Apply "Koshi" or body dynamics to all parts of the body to enhance the movement.

9. Repeat many times as fast as possible (during each repetition increase the speed each time until you burn out) take what you felt during this exercise during the rep that was the smoothes and fastest and classify it in some way in your brain (i.e- call it speed), then apply this "speed" mechanism from now on, it becomes the standard for when you want to really do things in "REAL TIME".

10. Study the timing of your breath during execution (are they timed, are you actually exhaling or holding breath, are you keeping quiet in your exhale or allowing your body's natural accelerated exhale to make its sound?).

11. Are you rigid? Is your body stiff? Are some parts loose while others stiff? Some need more muscle tone than others, analyze, note and correct.

12. Are your joints loose? Is your skeleton being pulled or pushed as it is being moved throughout space in your movements? It should be mostly pulled not pushed, by the larger joints adjoining the center mass.

13. Are you using natural momentum, inertia, in your movement? Or are you using raw muscle to push things around?

14. Are you using an taking advantage of mother natures gift to us - GRAVITY?

15. Are you applying the universal martial arts principles?

16. Are you aware of the different energies being used in any one movement? Sometimes you can use all of them depending on the movement or only a few, you must be aware of each one, otherwise you may be missing a critical one (i.e.- dropping, bumping, leaning, shifting, rotation, vibrating, shaking etc.)

17. Is your mind wandering off, or is it actively guiding and focusing on the task at hand?

18. Is your mind guiding your Ki (or Chi), towards the current goal, is your INTENTION ahead of the force traveling within the body part (s) you are using?

19. Are you applying KIME or FOCUS past the imaginary target at the time of the imaginary impact (assuming you are doing solo practice in the air)? Without awareness of the concept of "impact" even when you are not really hitting something, it is impossible to practice things like punching, blocking, striking in a way that truly mimics the real thing. In order to know this, you must first be adept at makiwara training so this feeling can be applied to "imaginary impacting". In simpler terms, in order to know what it feels like to hit things, you must hit things. We cannot practice karate in the air all our lives.

20. Finally if you do not feel that you own the movement, if it is not 100% natural to you, like breathing, or walking, then it is not yet internalized. Only when something is internalized will you be able to fully employ it "on demand". If not internalized you must continue to seek through the process (above) towards the goal of internalizing it.

PART TWO will be the next post.

Angel Lemus

Good Name and Word

My eldest son, Christopher, was recently sworn into the Hawaii bar by the Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court. My wife and I attended, as did the friends and relatives of all the recent admitees.

The Chief Justice gave an excellent speech to the new lawyers. One of the things he emphasized was that the most valuable thing a lawyer has is his good name and his good word. People should be able to count on a lawyer and trust that a word given is a word kept. A lawyer should do everything possible to maintain a good reputation.

The same is equally true for Karate instructors and students.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Locked Koshi

Yesterday I was interviewed at the Hawaii Karate Museum for a possible creative project. The interview was pretty long, and I had to sit in a chair with my feet firmly on the ground and my back straight. At one point during the interview, I want to show a block using koshi. To my surprise, I was unable to do so. My block was quite "ordinary."

I continued with the interview, but this bothered me. Later, I recreated the situation and tried to block again.

With my feet planted on the floor and my back straight against the back of the chair, my rear end was also firmly planted on the seat of the chair. This effectively "locked" my koshi. There was no way to twist or move from side to side. As such, there was no way to transfer power from my lower body to my upper body, and my block was limited to arm power alone.

I wondered how I could use my koshi while seated in a chair. As an experiment, I raised my feet a few inches off the floor, and found that I could use my koshi with no trouble at all. But with my feet planted, my koshi was locked and frozen.

One of the important concepts of Karate is not to have fixed stances and kamae, but to react and move freely. Stability is the enemy of free and fast movement.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Showing Respect to Beginners

I often meet seniors who have practiced Karate for well over 40 or even 50 years. There is so much to learn in Karate. Aside from technique, kata, and body mechanics, there are the culture, history, and traditions of the art.

When I meet new students, or people who are simply interested in learning Karate, I have to remember that it is important to show as much respect to them as we do to senior Karate Sensei. In 40 or 50 years, a beginner will become a senior. We are seeing people at a moment in time. Our encouragement and respect, particularly as they enter the path of Karate training, can help them a lot. On the other hand, discouragement or disrespect, could make them loose their enthusiasm for the art. Even our indifference could negatively influence them.

We have to remember that we were once beginners too. Even Matsumura and Itosu were once beginners.

I feel that we are never greater than when we show respect and provide encouragement to children.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Improving

The other night, my first Shorin-Ryu Sensei mentioned that he thought that I had improved. I readily agree, but not because I thought that I was any better.

I said, "I think that I must be improving because I am beginning to understand things you told me twenty-five or thirty years ago!"

Some of the things I learned as a new student are only beginning to make sense to me now. My Sensei might have told me the same thing many times. He told me and I missed it. This happened over and over. But thank goodness that he did not give up.

When we teach, our students do not necessarily understand right away. It might take years or even decades for things to become clear or to reveal themselves.

I mentioned this to my friend and senior who learned in Okinawa in the early 1960s. He said the same thing. Even now, well over 40 years after he learned, he will realize things that his Sensei had taught him long ago.

When this happens to me, I am always filled with a sense of gratitude to my Sensei.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Finding A Sensei -- Part 10

All good things must come to an end, and this series too must finish -- so I can write about other things. I hope that I have made the point that finding a Sensei is an incredibly important matter -- one worthy of your time, effort, and careful consideration.

My wife posted a list a sayings on our refrigerator. Over the years, she has reprinted it and posted it again and again. The first saying is that 90% of your happiness in life comes from finding the right spouse. 90%!

I think that the same is true in Karate life. Finding the right Sensei is 90% of your happiness as a student. The right Sensei will do much more than properly teach you techniques, kata, kumite, and body dynamics -- he or she will set you on a lifelong path of Karate training and introspection.

The opposite, sadly, is also true. The wrong Sensei will bring nothing but disappointment and grief.

I will tell you something I have observed in my studies. Excellent Sensei tend to have had excellent Sensei themselves.

Good luck to you. I hope that you find an outstanding Sensei!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Finding A Sensei -- Part 9

Another consideration is whether a school or dojo belongs to an organization. Sometimes, students must also pay association fees, which are usually quite reasonable but can add up. I was speaking to an instructor about the association fees his group of dojo paid each year. He mentioned that the fees were about the price of a nice car. Many dojo owners would prefer to pay for equipment and other items rather than pay for association dues or ranking fees-- unless they get back something positive and worthwhile in return.

Having a governing association also adds a potential layer of politics that can become a nuisance (and much worse), particularly as a student advances and become an instructor himself. Sometimes adminstrators run things rather than skilled instructors.

Don't get me wrong. Some Karate organizations raise the level of the art and do an excellent job. Some do not. When you join a dojo or school, you should try to find out which situation will apply to you.

I am an attorney. I practice Karate to get away from work, not for more of the same headaches! I practice Karate because I enjoy it. If I did not enjoy it, why would I continue to train?

Some of the happiest Sensei and students I have ever met, train in the smallest dojo. I am thinking right now about a very happy Sensei who has taught in his garage for many years. You do not need to have a magnificent training hall, hundreds of students, high rank, high titles, and a big association to learn Karate. What do you need? A good Sensei -- and you must be willing to be a good student.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Finding A Sensei -- Part 8

Now I think that it is fair to consider cost. Having established that the character of the Sensei is the most important thing, and that style or even type of martial art is not as important as the Sensei's character, it is wise to consider the costs.

First, there is the financial cost. Does the instructor charge $5, $30, or $150 per month? Does he charge for every little thing (tests, belts, certificates, the right to learn new or "special" things), or is the fee all inclusive?

Can you afford the tuition? Can you afford to pay for ranking fees? I have heard of some students who paid thousands of dollars for higher ranks.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know that I do not have a commercial orientation -- just the opposite. But I have been blessed in life by fantastic Sensei who did not have to teach for a living. They taught because they loved the art and wanted to pass it on. Part of this may reflect that I have trained mostly in Japan and Hawaii (and a little in Chicago).

But if the only available schools in your area are commercial and expensive, then you must consider this factor. There are also costs associated with entering tournaments and traveling to and from them (sometimes internationally).

Honestly, I have had students join my dojo because they could not afford the fees and costs they were paying elsewhere. I like to think that students will pay much more in the long run by their hard work, effort, and dedication.

When I went to Chicago for graduate school, I called a dojo that also had a branch in Hawaii. The Hawaii branch charged $3 per month at the time, while the Chicago branch charged $30 (a lot back then). I asked about the price differential and was told, over the phone, that in Chicago they were "professionals." Actually, the instructors there were far junior to the Hawaii instructors. Ever since then, I have never wanted to be considered a "professional" Karate instructor.

I am a part-time Karate instructor, and like it that way.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Finding A Sensei -- Part 7

You might consider the age of the Sensei. I know that it is not proper to discriminate based upon age, but you might want to consider the following.

A very young Sensei will be very energetic and enthusiastic, but will still be learning the art. When you learn from a young Sensei, you will grow with him, and may find that that his emphasis and even basics change over the years.

An older Sensei will usually have reached a deeper and more stable understanding of the art and how best to teach it to a wide range of students. However, if the Sensei is too old, a new student will not have many years of training with him to look forward to. In fact, a senior Sensei might restrict his new students to ensure that he will have the time to complete their training.

I have trained with several Sensei, most much older than me (over 50 years) and some closer to my own age (about 9 years difference). I am 48 and have learned from my first Shorin-Ryu Sensei for over 3o years. He is only 9 years older than me, but was "old" in the art at a very young age.

I, on the other art, am pretty young at the art at an older age!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin