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1650+ Posts... and Counting

Kime -- Explosive Power

This Guest Post is by my friend and mentor Sensei Pat Nakata. Nakata Sensei is the head of the Okinawa Shorin-Ryu Karate Association in Hawaii. He was a student of Chosin (Choshin) Chibana in Kobayashi-Ryu Shorin-Ryu, and also studied Ryukyu Kobudo under Sensei Fumio Nagaishi. When he was a young man, he studied Wado-Ryu Karate under Sensei Walter Nishioka.

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It is said that karate without kime is not karate. Kime is seen as the explosive power at the end of the technique. Those who do not know how kime transfers power call it snap. So how does kime transfer power?

Kime (focus) is the timing of the transmission of power generated by movements of the body (torque, momentum, etc.) by locking all the muscles, ligaments, tendons, etc. of the whole body ( body, legs, arms, fingers,toes, etc.) as contact occurs, without any (or as minimal as possible) recoil.

The transmission of power is through the limbs (arms and legs). In general, use of our limbs are classified as two major techniques. The first is tsuki waza (thrusting technique) and the second being uchi waza (striking technique). Tsuki waza is force transmitted in a straight line. Uchi waza is force transmitted in an arc.

Again, kime is the timing of power generated by the body and the hitting limb simultaneously brought together on impact and penetration.

Also integral to kime is breathing (kokyu). At the point of impact, one exhales, which brings about the locking up process of the body.

Kime is the intensive concentration of power.

Pat Nakata

A Recommendation to New Students

I have generally observed that half of new Karate students quit within one month and half of the remainders quite within three months. If a student makes it to the three month mark, the chances are pretty good that he or she will stay for a while.

Why do so many new students quit? There may be many reasons (perhaps I am a poor instructor), but the one I notice most often is that the students discover that they do not have sufficient time to attend class and practice at home. Attending class is not enough. If a student only attends class, he or she will always be behind other students who also practice at home.

So if you are thinking about joining my class, or any martial arts class for that matter, please make sure that you have time to both attend class and practice at home.

Remember that you cannot really pay for martial arts instruction. Your "payment" is your effort.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Dai Nippon Butokukai Collection

Aloha,

I have been somewhat quiet because I have been working on this:


Please see the Hawaii Karate Museum's new Dai Nippon Butokukai Collection. The collection includes a large collection of booklets donated by Sensei James Davenport (chitoryu.com), in memory of Sensei George Van Horne. The collection also includes medals, certificates, sake cups, and other items.

If you know anything about the items we have listed, particularly the medals, could you please let me know?

I have also listed the full text of two 1898 and 1932 Butokukai booklets. The 1989 booklets shows some of the medals we have displayed.

I hope that you enjoy our display! I have not announced it at the museum website yet.

As always, if you have Butokukai (or any Karate items) items that you might want to donate so that we can display them, I would be very grateful. For example, it would be great to obtain Miyagi Sensei's Butokukai certificate! (Just dreaming)

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

One Year Anniversary!

The Karate Thoughts Blog celebrated its one year anniversary on February 21st! Thank you very much for reading and for the many words of encouragement. Including guest posts, we have had over 500 posts since our inception. Thank you very much to our guest writers.

The purpose of this blog is simple -- to write down many of the things I have heard over the last 30+ years from my sensei (plural), as well as some of the things I say in my own dojo. I hope that others are inspired to write down what their sensei taught them, as well as their own thoughts.

I have been very happy to have been contacted by some of my friends, fellow students, and former students who have found this blog on the internet. I was most happy to hear from some active duty military personnel who read this blog while assigned in Iraq and Afghanistan. My respect to you, and my thanks for your service to our country.

What will the next year bring? Who can say? Since Karate is something that you practice in your daily life, I think that there always be something productive to write.

Thank you again for your support of this blog.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Turning Your Back

In my last post, I mentioned An Impressive Uke who was careful to avoid stepping in front of his sensei after each technique.

Afterwards, one of my friends happened to mention the Sanchin kata. This kata is practiced in Goju-Ryu and some other styles as well. My friend mentioned that when Chojun Miyagi was near the end of his life and in poor health, he would sit on a chair in front of the class and observe his students performing kata.

In the Sanchin kata, the students would move forward, turn, move in the reverse direction, turn again, and finish the kata. Forgive me if I have described this incorrectly as I do not practice the kata.

The students felt uncomfortable moving toward their Sensei, and then turning their backs to him. So they modified the kata. Instead of turning, they simply moved backward to the starting position.

Should the kata have been changed? We often hear that kata should never be changed. Was it right to change the kata so as not to offend Miyagi Sensei?

What do you think?

In my opinion, it was right for the students to do this. A kata is important but being respectful to your sensei is far more important. It would not have been right for the students to turn their back to their sensei, whether it was Miyagi Sensei or any other sensei. Respect is respect.

Of course, if Miyagi Sensei had insisted that they preserve the turn, then they should have listened to him. It would not be right to disobey your sensei. But if he allowed the kata modification, it would be perfectly proper and respectful for the students to have done so.

What is my point? Kata are a means toward an end -- skill in Karate. Kata are not sacred. They are very useful, but we should never lose sight of their purpose.

Besides, the kata we know today may have been modified many times in the past. There is no guarantee that they have never been changed. Even if we know how a kata was performed in the 1940s, that does not mean that it was never changed before that time. How was the kata performed in China?

Kata might change, but being respectful must not.

That said, I sometimes like to observe my students performing kata from the back. It helps me, in particular, to notice when they improperly raise their heels during a technique.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

An Impressive Uke

In my last post, I mentioned an impressive Aikido demonstration. I also like to watch the interaction between the instructor and his uke (attacker or attackers). There is an almost universal sign language used to signal the uke where, how and when to attack. Sometimes the signals are very hard to see, but they are usually there.

During the several demonstrations, I noticed that one uke was particularly good. He attacked seemlessly -- there was very little delay between the instructor's signals and his attacks. Also, after each throw, the uke was very careful to return to his starting point (in this case, the left side of the mat from the audience's viewpoint) by passing behind the instructor. All of the other uke seemed to return to their starting place by taking the shortest past (sometimes passing in front of the sensei). Only one uke took care not to cross in front of his sensei.

It is best to avoid passing between the sensei and the audience. This is to show respect to both -- don't forget that there are probably very senior instructors in the audience.

Such an attention to detail and courtesy is the mark of a fine student -- and the fine sensei who taught him.

Watching the uke respond to the instructor's hand signals, I am reminded of Sensei Sadao Yoshioka. He used to say that at first the uke learns to respond to the sensei's hand signals, but that the sensei will make these signals smaller and smaller as the uke advances. Eventually, the uke learns to respond to the sensei's body language (body position, expression, eye movements). But at the advanced stage, the sensei should just be able to think and the uke will respond appropriately.

In life too, we must learn to respond to the needs of others before they can even signal their need. In fact, we must learn to respond to such need before the other person is even aware of the need himself.

Yoshioka Sensei said that this was the true test -- seemless response.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Very Impressive Demonstration

My friend let me borrow a DVD of an Aikido demonstration that took place in Tokyo in 1985. All of the demonstrators were senior instructors of the art.

Each of the demonstrations was impressive but one caught my attention. The instructor demonstrated for about 20 minutes and had two uke (attackers). He wore a wireless microphone and spoke throughout the demonstration to explain things to the audience.

The demonstration was pretty brisk. He paused only briefly between techniques and continued to speak as he threw his uke. This is what impressed me. The pace and tone of the instructor's voice did not change whether he was just talking or in the middle of a technique throwing the uke across the mat.

I would estimate that the instructor was in his 50s. He demonstrated for at least 20 minutes, but it just looked like he was taking a leisurely walk.

I have been the MC for several Karate demonstrations. A few times, I have had to demonstrate and then immediately return to MC duties. I always found myself somewhat short of breath.

I could not demonstrate techniques briskly for 20 minutes and talk throughout the process. I am sure that I would soon be out of breath.

Could you do this?

You might be thinking that Aikido requires less energy than Karate -- that Aikido is easy by comparision. I would agree that the Aikido instructor I observed was using relatively less energy, but this was because his movements were refined and efficient. He did not waste energy. But he was very active during the demonstration -- and could talk the whole time.

It was very impressive.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Torquing In Blocks

It is very important for blocks to torque (twist) at the point to contact. When you block upwards (jodan uke), for example, your radius bone (on the pinky side of your forearm) faces down until the split second before contact, at which point it torques (twists or spins) upward. The more advanced you are, the more delayed the torque will be.

The same goes for other blocks.

Because your forearm is not round, the torquing at the moment of contact gives an extra "kick" and can make the block almost feel as it if cuts into the attacker. I am reminded of a saying by Sensei Chosin Chibana that Karate involves striking with the bones. This was told to me by Chibana Sensei's student, Sensei Pat Nakata.

Another reason for a delayed torque is to help the student learn to generate power in a short distance. Anyone can block linearly (without torque) if they have enough distance to get their arm up to speed. But we must be able to block from wherever our hand may be. If it is only an inch from the attacking hand, we must block in only an inch.

Torquing allows us to generate power in a very short distance. Short distance makes the block fast, and more difficult for the attacker to react to or counter.

I also emphasize that all blocks should recoil back toward our centerline. The arm itself recoils, but not at the elbow. Instead, most of the recoil is in the lats. It feels as if the recoil is in your side and back, not your arms.

When the recoil of blocks and strikes is back toward your centerline, you can quickly strike or block again. Your power recyles.

In addition, recoiling toward your centerline helps you to protect your centerline. When your block bounces off to the side or at an angle, you are more open to attack and will find it difficult to strike of block again.

Torquing makes it easier to direct the recoil back toward your centerline. A non-torquing block is more likely to bounce in the opposite direction of the block.

When you recoil (with your lats), you feel like you pull your elbow from the bottom. I do not mean that you flex your elbow (which is often a mistake), but that you pull your elbow toward your body by perhaps and inch or so. This also makes it easier to strike again.

There is a world of difference between Karate students who block and strike with torque, and those who move in a more linear or flat manner. The next time you watch your class, try to see if you can observe the difference between students. Watch students in a different dojo. Do they torque the same or differently?

Relaxing until the last moment and torquing into contact are two every important principles. Another is properly regenerating power by using the recoil, and directing that recoil back toward your centerline so that it can be used again in your koshi.

It may sound complicated, but actually it is relatively easy to do -- even children can do it. Most people move linearly simply because they have been taught that way.

I should add another factor to consider. Blocks should "strike" into the oncoming punch (or strike). They generally should not hit the punch from the side. When you block, the attacker's arm should not simply bounce to the side, it should be jammed and somewhat pushed back. You are blocking into the punch, not simply meeting it on the side.

I mention this because torquing works best in a jamming manner.

Of course, there are many ways to block. If you intend to lightly deflect the punch to the side, then that is what you should do. Sometime you block with a gentle touch, sometimes with a sticky touch, sometimes with a cutting feeling, and sometimes as if you are going to try to knock the flesh off the attacker's arm. It all depends.

And what counts most is what your sensei teaches you. The above is simply something that I am working on with some of my students.

There are layers upon layers to Karate training... which makes it very interesting!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

It Just Takes Time

One of my students recently told me that he felt bad because it takes him a long time to learn new movements. Many of my new students have told me the same thing over the years. I have felt the same way myself.

Almost all new students feel bad that it takes them time to learn new movements and that their instructors and seniors have to take time to teach them.

But even instructors were new students once. Even the highest sensei was a beginner. There is a starting point for everyone.

It is natural that it takes new students time to learn. I often say that you cannot bake a 2 hour cake in 5 minutes. It takes 2 hours to bake a 2 hour cake. If you rush it, you will ruin the cake!

If you rush new students, you will teach them poor basics and allow them to form many bad habits. Sometimes it takes years to undo a few months of rushed training. Honestly, there are some Karate instructors with poor basics. Once a person reaches an advanced level, it is extremely difficult -- almost impossible -- for him to correct his basics.

Some students do learn faster than others. That does not necessarily mean that they will become skilled at Karate. Some students learn fast and forget fast too! Some students learn fast but only know the surface of the movements. One of my instructors used to say that such students "burn quickly like paper."

It is best to take the necessary time to learn correctly. For instructors, it is best to take the necessary time to teach correctly. Sensei Shoshin Nagamine said that Karate is a lifelong marathon, not a sprint. Viewed in the context of a lifelong pursuit, there is no rush to learn.

Learn each movement correctly and the next will be easy... it just takes time.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Size Does Not Matter

We often say that in Karate, size does not matter.

There are no weight divisions in self defense. Your size is a given. You do not know who might attack you. You have to deal with whoever might come your way.

If a tall person attacks you, you cannot say, "Wait, you are too tall. Please substitute someone my size."

Your size is a given. It does not change very much over the years once you become an adult. The important thing is to find the self defense strategy that is optimum for your size, build, strength, and speed. For most of my students, the strategy is to get close to the attacker (unless you can run away). Okinawan Karate generally involves in close "fighting" or self defense. In close, a taller attacker's advantage is reduced or even eliminated.

At arm's length, you cannot use your elbows. Up close, you have more striking options and are close enough to reach the attacker's most vulnerable points.

But if you are tall, your reach is an advantage. So it all depends on you. You must find the optimum strategy for you.

Your size does not matter because you cannot change it. The attacker's size does not matter because you cannot change it either.

What you can change, through hard training, is your level of skill and degree of physical conditioning.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Circle & Sphere

I have mentioned many times that in my dojo (the Hikari Dojo), we form a circle at the beginning and end of each class. We bow to each other as a sign of mutual respect -- there is no separate bow to the sensei. I learned this way of opening and closing class from my Sensei, Professor Katsuhiko Shinzato, who lives and teaches in Yonabaru, Okinawa.

Whether there are 10 students, 20 students, or 30 students, the circle is a circle. There is no highest position nor a lowest position. All positions are equal.

If the circle had 1,000,000 students in it, everything would still be the same. That would be some circle!

If you extend this principle, imagine the students lining up on the surface of a sphere. Each position would still be equal. There would be no highest position nor a lowest position. All positions would be equal.

As human beings, we are each points on the surface of the Earth. Each of us is created equal. No one is higher and no one is lower. We are a dojo with billions of students.

If equality applies in the dojo, it also should apply in the world.

It is not enough to show respect to our fellow students in the dojo, we should must also show respect to our fellow human beings.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

You Are Only As Big As...

You are only as big as the smallest thing that upsets you.

Your wife (or husband) makes you late to a party and you get angry. That is how big you are.

Someone cuts you off on the road and you get angry. That is how big you are.

Your child writes on your best gi with a permanent maker and you go crazy. That is how big you are.

The other day, my three sons were playing tennis with one of their friends. It was a doubles match. My third son hit the ball hard at the net. It bounced off the ground and hit my first son in the face.

From what I heard, my first son got mad, which made my third son mad. They spoke about who could beat up who, at which point my second son claimed that he could beat them both.

My three sons, all of whom are close to six feet tall, were as big as... a tennis ball.

I told my oldest son that the next time he feels himself getting angry about something, he should try to laugh about it. I know that it is not always possible to laugh off a problem, but when the problem is small it might be a good way to prevent it from growing out of proportion.

You are only as big as the smallest thing that upsets you.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Bumping Heads

Some people respond to every problem and confrontation with violence or anger. They always "bump heads." Every little problem escalates to become a big problem with these people.

Sadly, some Karate students believe that this is the Karate way -- that a Karate student should never back down. There is a twisted saying that some aggressive people never met a fight they didn't like.

Karate should not make a student aggressive. The goal of Karate is to avoid conflict. Being skilled at self-defense does not mean that one should seek opportunities to prove it.

Ultimately, people who "bang heads" lose. A person might win this fight or that fight, but ultimately there will be someone stronger, faster, more skilled... or armed.

Discretion is usually the better part or valor.

It is one thing to fight to defend the life of a loved one. I agree with that. When your loved one's life is at stake, there is no holding back.

But too many people fight over trivial things. Your master is weak! You do not deserve your rank! You cheated in the tournament. You are an idiot!

Who cares what a crazy person says? And will fighting make his statement any less false?

I discussed this with my friend, who is an Aikido Sensei. I mentioned that I do not like to "bump heads" and would prefer to "slip" conflict if possible. He said, "that is because you were an Aikido student."

I do not think so. I believe that avoiding or slipping conflict is the way of all martial arts -- or at least it should be.

If you always bump heads, you will always have a sore head! And you will increase the likelihood that you will lose. It is better to slip the confrontation if possible.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin