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1650+ Posts... and Counting

A Gentle Nudge

I always watch science and nature shows on television. As a child I sat before the television watching Wild Kingdom, National Geographic, and Jacques Cousteau. Today there is so much more available on a wider range of subjects.

One of the subjects often covered is asteroids. Asteroids present a real risk to the Earth. In fact, it may have been an asteroid (or two) that lead to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Scientists have had to consider, what, if anything, could be done to protect us from an asteroid on a collision course with the Earth. The recent impact of a comet with Jupiter shows just how real this threat is.

Of course, most people's first thought is to send up nuclear bombs to destroy the asteroid. On several shows, scientists reported that such a plan would not work. The asteroids are simply too big. All the nuclear bombs on the Earth would not protect us, even if they all could be sent up to intercept the asteroid.

Think about it -- all the destructive force of all the nuclear bombs on Earth!

But then another scientist will say, "if you could intercept the asteroid when it is far enough away from the Earth, you would not need that much power to divert its course and make it miss the Earth." Such scientists state that a gentle nudge far enough in advance could save our planet.

"A gentle nudge" can save the Earth.

I thought about it. That is what we are as Karate instuctors. We give gentle nudges to our students. For the youth, these gentle nudges are hopefully far enough in advance to help shape their future lives, to help them avoid problems or troubles.

When a students is about to encounter a life crisis -- a crime, a serious illness or death in the family, divorce, a natural distaster -- it is too late. All the nuclear bombs on the Earth will not be enough because the events are already imminent.

But if we can give a gentle nudge to a student, perhaps years or decades later he or she will avoid committing a crime, will hold back rather than strike spouse or child, will stay out of a gang, will be prepared for challenges because he or she will have obtained a good education. What we say in class and more particularly, the example we set in class, may seem insignificant at the time. But who knows the potential consequences. Even if we never see it or know it, it may help to shape the lives of our students.

Don't wait until it is too late. A gentle nudge only works far in advance. When you see the asteroid it is too late.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Getting Hit With Your Own Arm

You might have seen movies where someone cuts off a person's arm and hits him with it. This type of thing is usually reserved for horror or zombie flicks.

But Florentino S. Pancipanci (I learned from him at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii), used to do something somewhat similar.

When you attacked, he would grab your wrist and twist your arm inward so that your elbow was pointed toward your body. Then he would thrust forward, striking you with your own elbow!

He was the only person I have ever seen who did this. Mr. Pancipanci used to say that you made the attacker hit himself. I was often on the receiving end of this technique and it really worked. Getting his with your own elbow completely disrupted the flow of your movement -- and it really hurt!

Of course we learned something similar in Aikido, but the striking thrust was replaced with a throw.

Mr. Pancipanci was an amazing instructor.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Getting It

In December I will be 50. I started practicing Karate at the age of 14, and had practiced Judo from the age of 8. I never did any sports. I have only practiced martial arts: Karate, Judo, Aikido, Kendo, Iaido, Tai Chi, and Kenpo.

I only thought I "got it" in Karate once.

About the age of 17 or 18, I thought I really understood Karate and was quite good. I already taught my own classes at Hickam Air Force Base. I felt fast, strong and skillful. This was the only time in my life I thought I "got it."

When I started to learn Shorin-Ryu from Sensei Rodney Shimabukuro (at Our Lady of the Mount Church in Kalihi Valley), I quickly learned that I did not get it at all. Maybe I got a very small part of it, but I realized that there was much, much more to learn. My sense of what "it" meant grew exponentially.

Time went on. I viewed "it" in terms of understanding the curriculum of the form of Karate I was practicing and teaching: Matsubayashi-Ryu. I thought that if I could learn the kata, basics, bunkai, kumite techniques, etc., I would get it.

"It" was elusive. The more I learned, the more it seemed that there was to learn.

But I was determined. I pursued "it" the same way that others pursued enlightenment.

More time. More effort. Less it.

I met many skilled Karate instructors, both inside and outside of my style. I came to realize that style was a good thing for beginners, but a dangerously limiting thing for advanced students. Karate is much bigger than any style, than any organization, and than any person.

As such, "it" was even bigger.

And yet I did not give up. More to learn, and still "it" did not come sharply into view.

Then I began to get the sense that I was starting to scratch its surface. As my ability grew, the basics began to make more sense. Kata began to be like origami, then like old friends. A block was a block, but also a strike, and much more. The form of Karate became punctuated by spontaneity.

I felt closer to "it."

But still, my movement was so limited. Age. Age became more than a factor. My body could not do the things that were easy in my 20s. Older, slower, weaker. Any yet I was not done. I still wanted to get it.

Then I met Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato. It was as if he had discovered the Karate fountain of youth. In his 60's he could do things I had never been able to do. If only I could learn to move like him -- I would surely get it.

Koshi, hara, tanden, gamaku, hanmi, whip, sink, explode, osae. "It" became a magnificient cathedral, and I a devoted parishioner.

Perhaps that it was why "it" was so hard to see. Maybe "it" was too big. You can only see the clouds in the sky above you but they extend beyond the horizon

More training. More thinking. Age was not such a factor -- in fact, it seemed manageable. But still the answer eluded me. Where was "it"?

When I stopped and looked closely, as closely as I could, I realized that there was a reason that I could not focus my eyes on "it." There was a reason that I felt limited to the surface of something inexplicable, the reason that the more I learned, even when I felt that I was making progress, still "it" was not there.

I was looking in the wrong direction.

"It" is not outside. "It" has to be inside each student. "It" is personal.

Karate provides a structure, a lens which allows introspection. I was trying to look inside myself with a telescope. It was like trying to feed a hunger by putting food on a table -- the hunger will only be satisfied if you eat.

You can never "get" it, you can only "be" it. Of course, this sounds too metaphysical. It is better not to speak about it at all.

But when I meet Karate instructors and we speak about our experiences, I often mention that I feel that I am just scratching the surface. They reply, "yes, yes," or "hai, hai."

Before I meant I thought that I was just scratching the surface of Karate. Now I mean that I am just scratching the surface of myself... scratching an "it"ch.

Ichi, ni, san... there is no end.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Graduating Students -- Some Advice

Several of the students in my dojo are graduating. Some are going on to college or technical training programs. Some are going from middle school to high school, and others from elementary school to middle school. I always find that this is a good time of the year to "encourage" my students. Some parents also ask me to do so.

It is extremely important for Karate students to try their very best in school. School comes first, Karate third or fourth. You should only practice Karate after you have completed your schoolwork, chores at home, and family obligations. If you are practicing Karate but falling behind in school, you should take a break from Karate training until you have caught up at school.

Most students will not become Karate instructors. Most Karate instructors, at least in Hawaii, do not do it for a living. So sacrificing your education for the sake of Karate does not make any sense. Even if you plan to become a fulltime Karate instructor (unlikely), a good education will help you. If Karate is a business to you, you better become very good at business! Otherwise, you will have a very difficult time making a living and providing for your family.

If you practice Karate as a form or self-defense, self-disclipline, or for health, then you should remember your reason(s) for practicing. School and work are more important. You should only practice Karate when you have the time to do so.

If you are really dedicated to Karate and strive to train regularly and dilligently, then good for you! You will have to try that much harder to keep up with school and work.

But here is the critical thing: training hard in Karate will help you to do better in school and in work. It will help you to do better in anything that requires effort, concentration, self-discipline, analysis, etc. Karate will/should help you to be better at just about everything.

Sometimes I had a very hard time finding time to practice martial arts, particularly when I was in college, business school, and law school. Sometimes I had to miss training (unless I was the instructor). But I found that even though I missed martial arts training, it did not always mean that I had more time. Missing training might have given me a couple of extra hours, but it also meant that I was not getting exercise. Without exercise, my mind was not as sharp. I also began to lack stamina. A couple of hours of training might have saved me many more hours because it made me more focused, efficient, and strong.

When it comes to school, students should strive for the best grades. How students do in school, particularly college, has a lot to do with the types of jobs they will be able to obtain.

I have never met a person who wished that they had gotten lower grades in school! I have never met a person who wished that they had learned less!

In life, there is a big difference between being first and second. But often, there is only a small difference in effort between being first and second. If you run in a mile race and lose by only five feet, you only lost by1/1000th of the distance. Sometimes a mere second separates first from second, third, and fourth.

This means that a little extra effort can really go a long way. You do not have to run twice as fast to win, only a few feet or a second faster.

In Karate, we always have to deal with people who are faster, stronger, heavier, even more skilled. But through our effort we can prevail.

In Judo, everyone was bigger than me when I was a kid. I got used to randori with bigger kids. It actually gave me an advantage (because my center of gravity was so low). It also made me try hard -- very hard. Sure I lost sometimes. But you should have seen the surprised looks when I won!

Karate training is training in effort. If you can try hard in Karate, you should be able to try hard at anything.

Some students would do anything to avoid disappointing me (as their Sensei). They should try harder not to disappoint their parents, and themselves.

Money is not everything. Having a good job does not mean that you will be a happy person. But having a poor paying job does not mean that you will be happy either.

I have never met a person who wished that they made less money. I never met a person who wished that they had provided less for their family.

Money is good. Being able to provide for your family is good. Even if you do not have children (yet), the time may come when you might have to provide for your parents. And don't forget, that are plenty of other people you can help in your community and the world.

So try your best in elementary school, in middle school, in high school, in college, in graduate school, in everything that you do!

Try to be the first. If you come in second, that is still great. Actually, in graduate school I noticed that being first, second or third is pretty much the same. That is because there is usually more than one reward. Good firms do not only hire the #1 graduate, they also tend to hire the top 10 percent.

Don't get me wrong, you should try to be #1. But by doing so, even if you come in less, you will still have a good reward.

But trying to fail, being lazy, giving up... these will certainly lead to nothing but failure.

I have a law office. My wife has a travel agency. We have had to hire and fire many people over the years.

Once in a while you find an employee who is literally one of the 20% who do 80% of the work. You find an employee who works like 3 people, who comes to work on time, who is self-directed, honest, hard working -- someone you can count on, a person who does what they say.

That is not only the kind of person you will want to hire, it is the kind of person you should want to be!

Try your best at school and work. If Karate helps you to do this, then Karate has a value that is infinitely greater than mere self-defense. You might have to defend yourself in life, hopefully not too often. But you definitely will have to get a job and support yourself. That is a certain. You almost certainly will have a family to support too.

The grades you get now mean something. What you learn now is important. What you learn later will depend on what you learn now. So do your best on every assignment, at homework, on every test!

It is your life. Make the best of it!

For my students... this means you! For other students... this means you too!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

All We Can Do...

Earlier today I was talking to my wife about a Karate situation involving inaccurate information and rather outlandish claims. Unfortunately, this is not that an uncommon a thing. The more you know about martial arts, the more you become aware of... inaccuracies (I am being nice).

My wife didn't seem to pay much attention (after all, she hears this kind of thing from me a lot). Then she said, "All we can do is to try the best we can at what we do."

All we can do is to try the best we can at what we do.

She could not be more right! It does not matter if other people might do this or that -- what matters is what we ourselves do and that we are trying our best. No one can try the best for me. Only I can do that!

I learned something today from my wife.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The Elephant and the Butterfly

Two great karate masters were giving a lecture about the art to a group of students. The first master explained how difficult it is for students to fully appreciate the art, and decided to borrow the parable of the elephant.

"Three blind men felt an elephant. The first felt the trunk. The second felt the legs. The third felt its tail."

"An elephant is like a great snake," said the first blind man. "No, it is like four great trees," said the second. "No, it is like a rope," argued the third.

"You see," said the first Karate master, "the three blind men were describing different parts of the same thing!"

Everyone contemplated the parable. Soon, they turned to the second master and wondered what he would have to say.

"The three blind men all started to learn Karate," said the second master. "After many years, their Sensei asked them to feel another animal."

"It is very small and round," said the first blind man. "No, it is a hairy worm," said the second blind man." "You are both wrong," said the third blind man. "It is delicate with powdery wings."

"You see," explained the second master, "the blind men were feeling different phases of the life cycle of a butterfly: an egg, a caterpillar, and the butterfly." "Karate will appear like very different things depending on your level of advancement."

Everyone contemplated the second master's parable. Soon their attention returned to the first master. What would he have to say?

"Three blind elephants felt a Karate student....!"

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

One Movement Well...

If you can do one movement well, you can do any movement well.

There are many movements in Karate. But really, the only one that counts is the one you are doing at any given moment. If you can do that movement well, you should be able to do any movement well.

I am serious about this.

If you can perform a punch well, that means that you have learned the body dynamics required to perform the punch. It means that you have broken the punch down into its component elements -- that you have learned how to break down the movement. It means that you can trace the line of power of the movement from the ground, through your body, to your knuckles. It means that you can transfer power, handle the recoil, and use the resulting vibration to initiate the next movement.

If you can do that, you can do the same for any other movement. Usually, about 80 to 90 percent of any movement is the same, when you consider it from the broad view of power generation, execution, delivery, recoil, etc. A punch is not that different than most blocks. Just the ending differs.

You might be thinking that some movements use a forehand or backhand type of koshi. Really, these are not that different either. Most techniques can be used using either, particularly at an advanced stage.

Here is the point. It is very hard to become skilled at all movements at the same time. But if you can concentrate on one or two movements, you will almost certainly become skilled at them. Then it is very easy to apply the same mechanics to all other movements. Really, it is very easy.

My second son worked very hard on learning how to execute a nice shuto. Once he could do that, he applied the same mechnanics to all other movements with great success.

Actually, gedan barai is an easier movement to learn as a base technique because of the natural downward movement. But if you look at it, gedan barai, shuto uke, chudan uke, jodan uke are really the same thing. The end points of the techniques may differ, but the greater part of the movements are the same.

Learn to do one movement well, and you will be able to do any movement well.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Double Movements

There are many points in kata where we execute double blocks or double strikes. The first movements of Pinan Shidan and Yondan are examples of double movements, as are the "split blocks" in the Naihanchi series.

We throw two punches to the side in the early sequence of Wankan and we execute two middle blocks near the end of Pinan 5. Naihanchi Shodan ends with two punches to the right. You can probably think of many examples in your own system.

The question is whether double movements should be executed simultaneously or slightly off timed. I have heard arguements in favor of and against both propositition.

I discussed this with my Sensei during my recent visit to Okinawa. We had also discussed this in the past. This post reflects what he advised on this subject and my application of his advice.

Of course, movements in any kata represent a range of movements, rather than just the specific movement performed in the kata. This also goes for double movements. Each of the movements (the right and and the left hand) represent a range of movements. As such, double movements can represent many movements (twice as many as a single movement).

But even if we limit ourselves to the set movements of a double movement, the issue of timing is still an interesting one. Take the first movement of Pinan Shodan. The left hand does a middle block (uchi uke) to the left and the right hand does a high block (jodan uke) to the front. Please not that I use the term uchi uke to refer to an "outward" block. Some schools reverse the "uchi" and "soto" designation. In any event, the first movement of the left hand in Pinan Shodan is a block to the left.

So do the middle block and the high block begin and end together? Or are the off timed?

In my case, the answer depends on who I am teaching. For a beginner, it is easier to teach them simultaneous movements. The hands move together.

But as a student advances, and becomes faster, he begins to realize that there is a "dead" moment after double movements, a moment when it is very difficult to move his body or execute another movement. Double movements create "dead" spots -- gaps in timing. Such gaps can create an opening for an attacker.

For advanced students, I teach that double movements are best performed slightly off timed. To a casual observer, the movements will appear to be simultaneous. They will look like double blocks. But actually, they are a split second off timed. It does not matter much whether the right or the left is first, and in fact, this may depend on your direction and the flow of your movement.

For Pinan Shodan, my left hand is slightly ahead of my right. This is true for each segment of the three-double movements to the left: the two blocks; the cross; and the left punch. You might wonder whether the "cross", and the left punch are double movements. They are. Even when you punch, if you pull back your other hand at the same time, it is a form of a double movement.

Again, to a casual observer, perhaps even another Karate student or instructor, the double movements will appear simultaneous -- but they are not.

Your body can feel the subtle difference between a double movement (which creates gaps) and a set that is off timed. In the shudder or vibration of the off timed recoils, there is the potential for further dynamic movement.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Nekko Ashi -- Jigotai

One thing my Sensei often advises is to try using jigotai dachi instead of nekko ashi dachi in kata. He does not mean that you should replace the nekko ashi, just that you should try the jigotai dachi to feel the difference.

The most obvious difference is that jigotai is a much stronger and more stable stance than nekko ashi. Some schools teach that in nekko ashi the weight distribution should be 90% (back foot) / 10% (front foot). This is pretty unstable and relatively weak. In jigotai, the weight distribution is usually 50% / 50%.

But there is another difference that is perhaps more important. In jigotai dachi, the tanden points in the same direction as it would in Naihanchi dachi. It does not point to the side.

Often, students will turn their tanden in the same direction as their nekko ashi. In Pinan Shidan, for example, students might turn their tanden (and koshi) to the left. But if they used a jigotai dachi instead, they would be more likely to keep their tanden (and koshi) pointing to the front (or close to that).

In our system, we view stances as transitions. As such, it is difficult to say exactly how much weight is on a particular foot at a given time because it depends on what you are doing at that time. But it would be fair to say that we do not use the 90% / 10% weight distribution for nekko ashi, unless we are about to kick. Generally, our nekko ashi is closer to 50% / 50%.

As an experiment, try performing all the Pinan kata using jigotai dachi instead of nekko ashi dachi. You might find that this is an interesting experience. You will notice differences in strength of stance, tanden (koshi) direction, and body alignment. When you have done this a few times, then try using nekko ashi again, but try to use it with a feeling of jigotai. If you can distribute your weight, point your tanden (koshi), and align your body like jigotai, then your nekko ashi will be more useful, and certainly stronger.

It is also very interesting to try jigotai in Wankan. The first few movements suddenly feel much better!

Again, this is just a training practice. I am not saying that you should change your kata.

However, I also understand that there are instances in some of our older kata, where movements using jigotai were changed to nekko ashi. The beginning of Chinto may be an example of this. We assume that our kata have existed in unchanged form since their creation. Generally, this is not true. It is more likely that kata have changed relatively little since they were shown in a book (cemented in print).

Nekko ashi may be an attractice stance, but it is weaker than jigotai and Naihanchi dachi. I believe that Choki Motobu said that he never used nekko ashi and that it really was not part of Karate.

Personally, whenever I practiced kumite with a person who liked to use nekko ashi, it would try to slip their kick and then crash into them. Usually, he would fall down, or be in a weakened position for a throw, trip or takedown!

This would not have worked if the other person had used a firmer nekko ashi, or a stance such as jigotai or Naihanchi dachi.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

"Boiling" Students

I had this discussion with my Sensei during my recent visit to Okinawa.

One of our tasks as Sensei is to motivate our students to try hard. Some instructors accomplish this by being very demanding, strict, yelling, imposing peer pressure, etc. Through such methods, the students will usually try hard.

Some instructors give lots of external motivations -- rank, titles, awards, etc. Again, some students will respond to this.

But this is a bit like boiling water. While you apply great heat, the water will boil. But as soon as you remove the heat, the water will stop boiling very quickly. I believe that Gichin Funakoshi also wrote about this.

And after a while, it will take more and more to continue to motivate students who have grown used to being prodded or flattered.

As Sensei, it is not enough for us to simply apply heat to our students in order to make them boil. If we are not there -- or giving them things -- they will quickly stop boiling.

Instead, we should do our best to encourage our students to light their own fires so that they will boil themselves -- whether we are there or not. We need to ignite our students so that their fires will be self-sustaining.

How do we do this? Most of all it is by our example. If we are on "fire" with Karate, they too might catch this fever. Our interest and enthusiasm could be contagious.

If we set a good example, they might strive to practice Karate for a lifetime... long after we are gone.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Body Posture 3

In Basic Posture (December 17, 2006), I wrote:

  1. Slightly tuck your chin.
  2. Lower your shoulders.
  3. Squeeze your lats.
  4. Tuck your koshi.
  5. Slightly bend your knees.
In Basic Posture 2 (December 31, 2006), I added:
  1. Keep your elbows close to your body.
  2. Shift your weight in the direction you will move, then move.
  3. Protect your sechusen (centerline).
  4. Move as if on a tightrope.
  5. Move from place to place at a walking pace -- time your strikes and blocks to arrive when you get there.
  6. Squeeze out your air -- almost all of it, but not quite -- in synch with the timing of your strike or block.
  7. Hit on the recoil of your koshi.
  8. Recover the energy/power of the recoil for the next movement.
  9. Train to move freely in any direction.
  10. Kicks and strikes are like stabbing.
After my recent trip to Okinawa (March 30 - April 8, 2007) to visit and learn from Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato (and his fine students), I would like to add:
  1. Keep your elbows close to your body and after a block or strike, generally return your elbows to or near the sides of your body (a little in front of that).
  2. Never punch or block directly to your sides (the side centerline of your body). You should block or strike more in line with your chest. This will give you more power and make it harder for the attacker to apply joint locks or throws.
  3. Lower your shoulders, and drop them a little extra before a block or strike.
  4. In all kata and movements, maintain the tanden/koshi alignment of the Naihanchi kata (or close to it).
  5. The rear foot in most stances is at a 90 degree angle (rather than a 45 degree angle).
  6. Maintain a hanmi body alignment.
  7. In a hanmi body alignment with a 90 degree rear foot, your stance can be narrower (even on a straight line). This makes it easier to move and also protects your centerline.
  8. Even if the upper body rotates, keep the lower body in the Naihanchi alignment. Even in kosa dachi (a crossed stance) your koshi is in the Naihanchi alignment (your koshi will be in the same direction as your front big toe).
  9. Do not be limited by the "specifics" of stances. All stances are transitions. The weight shifts throughout and even the length of the stance changes. There are no fixed stances. I only learned to appreciate this recently. I was paralyzed by the specifications of a Karate book I had practically memorized.
  10. Drop your body as you execute a block or strike. The "drop" is really like a spiral (not only in a downward direction).
  11. When you "drop" there will be a rebound. Use it.
  12. Move like a whip -- but not the end of a thin whip. The whip includes your entire body with the base at your feet (usually). Move like a thick whip.
  13. Blocks must "enter." You do not simply hit an attacking arm or leg -- you also enter toward the attacker. Your block jams in a combination of a striking and pressing manner. The block also has an osae feeling. When you block or strike in this manner, you will be very close to the attacker and able to counterattack or strike again.
  14. Osae (press) between movements. If you do not osae, you will create an opening for the attacker.
  15. Tuck your koshi. If you look at yourself in a mirror from the side, the line of your belt will show your "tuck." If your belt slants down, your koshi is probably not tucked. When your koshi is tucked, your belt will be horizontal. This is difficult to see if the student ties his or her belt too high around the waist. Then it will be horizontal even when the koshi is not tucked.
  16. Tuck your koshi when you block or strike. Before the next movement, your koshi may drop. Tuck it again when you perform the next block or strike. You can also keep your koshi loosely tucked between movements.
  17. Another way to say "tuck your koshi" is to say that "your belly button points up." My Aikido Sensei used to say the same thing!
  18. In the process of lowering your shoulders, tucking your koshi, and squeezing your lats, you can create a tension that is called "gamaku." But the name is not important -- the tension is what counts because you can use it.
  19. Delay your strikes as long as possible. When performing elbow strikes, for example, move your body and adjust your weight, holding off on throwing (or igniting) your elbow strike as long as possible. This is like the idea of a whip snapping -- the actual "crack" at the end is delayed.
  20. Overload your weight in the direction you wish to go. In the "bump" that occurs, you have an opportunity to move easily. Drop your weight and shoulder at this moment.
  21. Learn to take "neutral" body positions between techniques. In this way, you can move easily, freely and in any direction. This generally means bringing your feet together. But even with your feet together, keep your Naihanchi alignment. When you keep long stances, your directional choices are more limited.
  22. Fight sideways. Your shoulders should not be "square" to the front.
  23. Work to feel the connection between each movement. Each movement should connect to the next. There should be no "dead" spots, or places where you drop your connection. An entire kata can be done in this connected manner. But the idea is not that you could do the specific movements of a kata but rather that you could connect any movements you desire at any time. Do not go, stop, go, stop. Just go, go, go.
  24. The recoil or "reaction" of one movement can be used to generate the next movement. Don't waste it.
  25. Fully extend your blocks and strikes. If you "choke up," you will not properly penetrate (kikomi) and you will have less recoil or reaction to use.
  26. Horizontal or angular rotation of the trunk is "koshi." Vertical rotation of the trunk is "hara." Koshi gives speed, hara gives power. (I am still working on articulating this.)
  27. Your weight should not be on your heels, nor should it be on the balls of your feet either. Your weight should be naturally distributed over the soles of your feet so that you can move easily in any direction.
  28. It is much easier to move when you are already moving. A great deal of energy is required to move from a stationary position. Once you start moving, don't stop until you are completely through with whatever you are doing (including escape).
  29. There are many ways to move, depending on your body type, age, and level of skill. As such, the elements of Body Posture that you will emphasis will change as you progress and age. Generally, beginners learn to use fixed stances and move in a staccato manner. Advanced students learn to use flexible stances and to move freely in a connected matter.
  30. When returning to the formal or "ready" position at the end of a kata, you must maintain your awareness and body posture elements so that you are ready to move in an instant. The kata is not done until you complete the bow -- and even then you should remain prepared.
  31. Kicks and strikes are like stabbing -- with a sword, not a little knife.
These points are presented for your consideration and reflect what I am learning and teach in my dojo. Other styles and even other dojo in my own style might emphasize different things.

I did not make these things up (and do not claim any credit for doing so). I am very fortunate to have very fine Sensei and mentors in Karate. They in turn had very fine Sensei. We are each just a point on the great line of Karate.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Benefits of Learning

Just back from Okinawa and still reeling from the experience (I am finally back on Hawaii time), I noticed two things about learning:

1. Learning makes you younger. No matter how old you might be, learning something new makes you feel younger. I think that your brain renews itself when you learn. If we can keep learning, we can stay young -- or at least younger than we would be otherwise.

2. When you are busy learning, you have no room in your brain for petty things such as politics. You are too busy learning! Come to think of it, people who have room in their brains for politics, probably stopped learning a long time ago.

The act of learning itself is a good thing. If you can learn an excellent form of Karate from a Sensei with an equally execellent character, how much better!

But even if we cannot learn Karate (perhaps we are stationed on a ship without a dojo, or many other reasons), we should still learn something. Everything we learn makes us that much better -- and perhaps younger.

Here's something to learn that might improve your Karate -- juggling. Seriously.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Finding Time to Blog

I am often asked how I find the time to write posts for this blog. The answer is that I don't find the time, I make the time.

If we want to do some thing badly enough, we can make the time to do it. Don't forget -- that includes practicing Karate.

We also have to make the time to do nice things for our loved ones. Family must always come first.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Re: "Brain Freeze"

I received the following email in response to my post entitled "Brain Freeze." I liked it so much that I asked the writer for his permission to post it here. -- Charles

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I had to laugh out loud and tried not to spit out my coffee while reading your blog article on brain freeze. Not laughing at you but at myself. It seems that I have a brain freeze on a daily basis when training at my dojo or even here at home. I can relate so much and agree with you that it seems we can only take in only so much information.

Last night while training one on one with my teacher in Tai Chi Chuan I could not for the life of me get the right hand movement. My teacher even grabbed my hand and like scolding a 10 year old said "No, no, no....like this" and proceeded to move my hand through the movement himself. We both laughed over that scene. Luckily, it finally dawned on me what to do.

Thank you for the article and letting me know I'm not the only one that gets the dreaded Brain Freeze.

Sincerely,

"S. S."
Akron, Ohio

Bottles of Awamori

Don't try to carry bottles of awamori in your carry on luggage. I had no problem going from Naha to Kansai. But in Kansai when I switched to the international terminal and went through the security scanners, they almost acted like I was carrying a... something very bad. I had two bottles of awamori and two bottles of non-alcoholic drinks, each of which violated the new airline security rules.

So it was back to the check-in counter to check in my carry on bag. They even wrapped it in a plastic bag. Luckily I had lots of time before my flight.

I only wanted to carry the awamori carefully!

Looking back, it was pretty funny and I was pretty dumb for forgetting the carry on rules. And the security personnel at Kansai were very polite. They even gave me a nice "SECURITY" badge to wear when I went back to the check-in counter and let me return to the security area through a special door (to bypass the lines).

The good news is that there was no problem carrying on boxes and boxes of mochi!

So remember, no big bottles on international flights (domestic flights too most likely).

Come to think of it, I had made sure to put my little tube of toothpaste and small bottle of mouthwash in a quart sized plastic bag.

We live and learn.

Respectfully,


Charles C. Goodin

Beginner's Mind

Following up on my last post about "Brain Freeze", there is a type of mind that we should maintain -- a beginner's mind.

We should always have the attitude of a beginner. In this way, we will be open and receptive to new things and corrections. When we wear our rank in our minds, we tend to miss things.

When I met my Sensei in Okinawa during my recent visit, I began by privately saying something like this:

"Sensei, I am here to learn. Please teach me whatever you wish and please feel free to correct me in front of your students or other instructors. Please do not hold back. If I am doing something incorrectly it is only because I do not understand the correct way yet."
I am serious. I always make it a point to ask my Sensei to teach and correct me. I am not visiting him to show him what I know (or think I know). I am visiting him to learn.

Over the years, I have seen many people miss great opportunities to learn because they lacked a begginer's mind or heart. Sometimes a senior instructor feels that he has to put on a certain face in front of his students or peers. He might feel embarrassed by corrections. Some instructors might actually be looking for praise or approval from their senior... or even for a promotion.

I can understand that. I have seen it happen enough that I think it must reflect an aspect of human nature.

But I am more greedy than that. My desire for learning exceeds my pride or want of approval. Every minute with my Sensei is precious and perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity. I cannot let "myself" get in the way of that!

The funny thing is that the greatest sensei I have ever met all seem to have a "beginner's mind." They are always seeking to improve their techniques and themselves.

I will share a funny incident. One of Sensei's students is 20 years younger than me but is truly gifted. I am his senior in age and in number of years training (I think I have trained 4 times as long). When I was training, this student would sometimes observe my incorrect technique and mildly shake his head. He would then demonstrate the correct way of moving.

I would try again. Sometimes, when I got it right (or just a little better), he would point his finger and give a little nod.

I am almost 50, have 4 children (two already adults), run a law office, head a Karate museum, have a master's degree, wrote a real estate book, wrote about 50 Karate articles, blah, blah, blah. But in the dojo my spirit was lifted and I was tremendously encouraged by watching a student (who could be my own son in age) point and nod!

I was a beginner.

Standing in front of my own students in my dojo, I am also still a beginner. Writing these line, I am still a beginner.

Since there is no end to learning, we are always beginning. Once we cease to have a beginner's attitude, we begin to decline.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Brain Freeze

I will begin to share some thoughts about my recent training visit to Okinawa.

I first trained with Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato in 2002. He visited me in Hawaii twice since then. My recent visit was thus my fourth time training with him.

No matter how much I train and try to keep up, there is no way that I will be in sync with the students who regularly train at his home dojo. Each time I train, Sensei teaches or emphasizes new things and I then work on these and other matters until I see him again. It is natural that I will progress somewhat in my own way -- at least until my next training.

Well, this visit was like my previous three experiences -- after the first day I was already confused and suffered from "brain freeze." What I mean by this is that the conflict between what I understood (or thought I understood) and what Shinzato Sensei was teaching (or emphasizing) caused my brain to overload and shut down. I could follow along but not absorb very much.

Thank goodness for video and Sensei's permission to take it. In the weeks and months following my earlier training sessions, I watched the videos I had taken many times. I must have watched certain sequences dozens of times. I picked up many things that I had missed during training because of "brain freeze."

Let me put it another way. Let's say that your mind can absorb 3 things in a day's worth of training. After those 3 things, everything else will be ignored or missed. When I meet with Shinzato Sensei, I think I often learn 10 or more things in just a few hours. I am not taking about kata or techniques -- I am talking about movement principles. I am very lucky if I can learn and absorb even 3 things!

And I notice that this gets worse as I grow older. I will be 50 this year. I have students who can learn many things very easily. As I grow older, I think I learn things in a deeper way but cannot learn as many things in a short time.

There may be other words to describe it, but I have grown to recognize when "brain freeze" sweeps over me like a thick blanket. There really is no way to avoid it. The best thing is to just relax and go along. There will be time to review the footage later.

Sometimes, even if your brain is frozen, your body might be able to learn. I try to follow along and let my body take the lead. Sometimes, this leads to amazing results. In my case, my brain is my main problem -- I overthink. When my mind is spent, there have been times when my body seemed to move on its own. I think that Sensei might say that my koshi was moving on its own.

However you say it, relaxing the mind is as important as relaxing the body. Explanations tend to be complicated. Moving tends to be pretty simple -- or at least involves a set of simple principles.

Shinzato Sensei often says that you cannot move freely when your mind is fixed.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Learning The Process

I mentioned that I first visited Okinawa in 2002 and just returned from my second visit on Sunday. I began learning Karate about 1973 and am still learning!

But during this visit to Okinawa I realized something very important (at least to me). For all of my Karate life, I have tried to imitate people, usually my Sensei. Most recently, in 2002, I became a student of Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato. To the best of my ability, I have tried to imitate his movements to the exclusion of all others. My mission has been to learn to move like him. Of course, I have not succeeded -- I cannot move like him -- but have made some progress.

Shinzato Sensei is a very challenging person to imitate. He does not stand still and is constantly refining his movements. He has told me that he feels uncomfortable watching any film of himself because he always feels that he could have done better, and may actually have modified his emphasis since the filming date.

I finally realized that it is virtually impossible for me to imitate Shinzato Sensei. I am always imitating how he was, not how he is. Even if I spend time with him, I will be outdated in just a few days.

My realization was that I should not be imitating Shinzato Sensei. Instead, I should learn the process he follows to refine his movements. I should follow the same or a similar process.

Let us say that I am at stage B. I need to move to stage C. How can I do this? I could copy someone who is at stage C, but that would be just an imitation. If, however, I follow the process of questioning, experimentation, and refinement that leads from one stage to another, then I might be able to move to stage C, and even to stages D, E, F.

There is also a big problem. If I am at stage B, the senior I learn from may actually be at stage G. If I copy him, I will get to neither stage C or G. I will probably just get confused!

Think about it. No one becomes great by imitation alone. Imitation is just an early level and can at best give us a good foundation. Anyone who who has become great has done so by his own hard work. A sensei can help us to gain a good foundation, but we have to build our own house. It is good to copy the early stages. It is practically impossible to copy the more advanced stages.

Don't get me wrong, I will still try to imitate my Sensei. If he does something, I will try my best to do it too. But I will also ask myself how I can improve myself, overcome my limitations (which change with age), move optimally, etc.?

I will try to learn the process rather than just imitate the result.

I think that this is one of the most important things I have ever realized in my Karate training.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate in Okinawa

Sensei Pat Nakata was very kind to accompany me during my visit to Okinawa. This really helped, since he has been to Okinawan many times since the 1960's, knows many Karate seniors, and speaks Japanese. This was my second visit (my first was in 2002).

Nakata Sensei said that there was recently a survey conducted in Okinawa to determine the number of Karate dojo and classes on the island. The answer was about 400, which is pretty amazing. Okinawa is about twice the size of the island of Oahu. Here, we have many classes, but relatively few full-time dojo. We tend to teach in gyms, recreation centers, churches, and schools. They do the same in Okinawa, but there are more full-time dojo (buildings used exclusively for Karate or Kobudo training).

I was suprised to discover that the Jundokan dojo was right behind our hotel (which was right by the Asato monorail station).

One of the things that distinguishes Okinawan dojo and classes is the seniority of their instructors. It is not unusual to meet 8th and 9th dan (usually men or women in their 60s or older who have trained since childhood). In some ways, Okinawan dojo and classes are like a law firm with many senior partners and few associates. They are extremely top heavy. You also have to remember that a dojo with a 10th dan or 9th dan, will also usually have a group of seniors in the 6th to 8th dan range. Any of these seniors could also head a dojo or group of dojo.

I was surprised to learn that there are many Goju-Ryu dojo in Okinawa. I heard that there may be more Goju-Ryu dojo (and related styles) than there are Shorin-Ryu dojo. On Oahu, we really have only two Goju-Ryu dojo.

During our stay, we were very fortunate to be invited to Sensei Morio Higaonna's dojo, which was not far from the Asato monorail station (actually it is closer to the Makishi station). Higaonna Sensei is one of the most senior Goju-Ryu instructors in the world (see IOGKF.com). His students showed us their hojo undo training with chishi, sashi, kame, makiwara, iron geta, kongo, a big log, a rock, and a heavy striking pad (there might be other tools I do not remember). I had never seen such training and was grateful to learn how the supplementary equipment is used in Karate. We have some of these items in the Hawaii Karate Museum.

Higaonna Sensei also took us out for lunch and to a used bookstore to look for old Karate books. I did not find any for the Hawaii Karate Museum, but did find one that Higaonna Sensei acquired for his collection. Higaonna Sensei is planning to open a Karate museum on the third floor in the building where his dojo is located. I am always happy to see efforts to preserve and perpetuate Karate's history and traditions and look forward to cooperatiopn and sharing between Higaonna Sensei's museum and the Hawaii Karate Museum. I have said that our museums will be like brothers -- I'll be the younger brother.

After watching Higaonna Sensei's students rigorously train and perform kata, I asked them to please remember that I am their sensei's friend!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Back From Okinawa

Aloha from Hawaii,

I returned home safely from Okinawa yesterday morning. I slept most of the day (the couple behind me on the plane were very sick and coughed the entire flight) and I am catching up with work today. As soon as I can I will begin to share my thoughts about my visit and training.

I will mention two things that changed since my first visit to Okinawa in 2002: Naha now has a very convenient and modern monorail system connecting the airport and Shuri; and my hotel (near the Asato monorail station) had a heated toilet seat -- now regular toilet seats feel so cold! Honolulu is considering a fixed rail transportation system. I hope that it is as nice as Naha's!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: An Obvious Insight

This Guest Post is by my friend, Mark Tankosich, who has dan rankings in both Sho-ha Shorin-ryu karate and Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei jodo. Along with the martial arts, his passions include the Japanese language. He currently lives and teaches in Hiroshima, Japan.

Mark is the author of Karate Ni Sente Nashi: What the Masters Had to Say and Japanese Ego Negation and the Achievement of Self, which are hosted at the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai website. He recently translated Practice Karate Correctly by Kenwa Mabuni (Classical Fighting Arts, Vol. 2, No. 11, Issue #34).

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A while ago, I happened to be looking at myself in the mirror, and I noticed something. I won’t go into the details here, but I realized that, in a certain way, I had begun to physically resemble my teacher, John Hamilton Sensei. “Hmmm,” I thought, “must be one of the effects of karate training.”

Immediately following this thought, it “hit” me that karate training has – or at least should have – a certain kind of effect on not only the karate-ka’s body, but also on his or her mind / spirit / personality / character.

Anytime that I’m lucky enough to have this kind of personal insight, I try to jot something down that, in the future, will help me to remember what I’d learned. Here is what I wrote this time:
“Think about it. A primary reason for walking a Way is that, over the years, it molds you into a certain kind of person. As you progress down the path, who you are should be gradually changing in ways that are consistent with the ideals of your Way.”
Through your karate training, are you changing in ways other than those that are physical? I’d like to believe that I am, but occasionally rereading the short passage above helps me to insure that I don’t stray too far from the right path.

Mark Tankosich