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Private Lessons

From time to time I am asked whether I teach private lessons. I usually just invite the person to join our class. After all, the monthly tuition is just $5 per month (the same as when I began training in Shorin-Ryu in the 1970s).

But if the person persists, I respectfully decline. I guess that I might consider giving private lessons if someone would make a big donation to the Hawaii Karate Museum, but otherwise, I have no interest.

But if I did give a private lesson, I wonder what I would teach? A student might expect to learn something advanced, particularly if they are paying a lot of money. They might want to learn Chinto or Kusanku or an advanced bo kata.

But I am pretty sure that I would decline. Instead, I would probably teach them how to relax, how to shift their weight, how to align their body, how to overload their weight in a direction in order to be able to move in that direction, how to step, how to shift/change their body alignment, and maybe if there is time, how to begin to use their koshi. That would probably take a few days just to begin.

I am sure that a person paying a lot of money would not want to learn such basic things. How could he tell his friends that he came all the way to Hawaii to learn to "step" or "relax." It would seem so trivial.

But the essence of Karate is in the basics. The more you break the movements down, the more the essence is revealed. Learning a kata such as Chinto, a student is dealing with complexity -- many advanced techniques. It may seem advanced, but really the "advanced" aspect of the kata is in the details, in the basics.

I like to think that all my students are receiving private lessons. I always try to teach what each student needs at his or her particular stage of learning. My class is very small, so there is a private feeling to it.

Would I teach someone Kusanku? Probably not. It is not my favorite kata.

I should add something that is very important. My two Shorin-Ryu Sensei have spent countless hours with me over the years (decades between them) -- and never accepted a penny (or yen) for their time or considerable effort. I was a very difficult student. It must have been very challenging for them. But they gave and give everything to me completely free of charge. I am just a student. They are real teachers.

How could I accept payment for private lessons when I have such fine and generous Sensei? It would be bachi.

It still would be OK is someone wants to make a gigantic donation to the Hawaii Karate Museum. We could name a wing after them! And they could always join our class.


Charles C. Goodin