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1650+ Posts... and Counting

Elbows! Elbows! Elbows!

I just posted a guest post for my good friend, Angel Lemus, entitled Elbow Exercise in the Form of a Karate Kata.

If you know me, I get excited when I find old Karate photos from the 1920s and 1930s, or a rare old book or weapon. It is very rare for me to be interested in something new.

Angel's "new" kata has really grabbed my attention. (I put "new" in quotes because the formulation may be "new" but the techniques are quite old.)

For one thing, I love elbows. I am only 5 feet, 7 1/2 inches tall. It is to my advantage to be close to the attacker. At that range, elbows and knees are my best defense (or offense). I have always paid special attention to elbow techniques in the kata I practice.

So I am interested in the subject of Angel's kata -- elbows.

But there are so many kata out there. In my school, we practice 18 kata, but really only emphasize 15. I do not like to practice too many kata.

But when was the last time someone you knew developed a new kata and then made it freely available to the public, without asking for anything in return? Angel did not name the kata after himself. He just developed it and was generous with it. By doing so, he subjected himself to fans and critics alike. That takes guts if you ask me.

I am a little older than Angel, but consider him to be my senior in Karate. He is one of a very few people I would call a "Karate genius", particularly of my generation.

He is an artist, in addition to being a gifted martial artist. His film and DVD creation skills are amazing, as was his work with Bugeisha, a great journal.

Angel traces his Karate primarily to the legendary Chotoku Kyan. I'm sure that Kyan Sensei valued elbow techniques as well given his short height and slight stature. Angel has also trained with Sensei Toshihiro Oshiro. As such, his background and mine are intertwined as my early training in Matsubayashi-Ryu was derived, in part, from Kyan Sensei, and my Sensei, Katsuhiko Shinzato, also learned from the same Sensei as Oshiro Sensei. Angel also has practiced Tai Chi in depth. When I started Karate, we also practiced Tai Chi. My Karate teacher taught both arts.

But I am not a fan of Angel's work just because he is my friend and our backgrounds overlap. I am a fan because he truly promotes the art of Karate in a professional, artistic, and humble way -- for love of the art, not money.

Now if I can only remember his kata!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Elbow Exercise in the Form of a Karate Kata

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.

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Elbow exercise in the form of a Karate Kata

by Angel Lemus


I have always felt that Elbows are not emphasized enough in traditional Karate, sure one can find them hidden here and there in some movements of Kata but they are not very common. In the big 3 of Okinawan karate, Goju-ryu has the most, followed by Uechi-Ryu and last are the Shorin styles. Having grown up in Judo, and practiced a couple variations of Jujitsu and some Aikido, I always appreciated close quarter strategies and felt comfortable being "cheek to cheek". When I came to Karate I always felt that once the long, and middle ranges turn into close range, the "classically trained" Karate-ka shuts down and does not know what is going on and is basically a fish out of water. This has been proven many times over by the UFC and close quarter fighting phenomenon we see today. Of course Sports karate for the past 30 years has not helped as close quarter fighting is no allowed thus completely eliminating any possible skills to be learned by those who practice sport karate in this range (which if you think about it, it is really the only range there is in any real fight).

I have seen and practiced different elbow exercises from many styles but they all seemed to be kind of lame and insignificant. Usually done in a stationary stance where you just go through the motions of moving your arms mimicking elbow strikes without any "real intent". I have always had an admiration for Muay Thai and absolutely love the purity of intent in its practice, there is nothing "pretended' or hidden, nothing is pulled, or watered down. To me, Thai boxing is the best example of elbow application and I have always modeled my elbows after Muay Thai style.

I decided to put together an elbow form to teach my dojo and my fellow brothers in our group to supplement their training and fill the "elbow void". This form can be done fast with intent, with real world movement and it gives you a workout, it is fun, and stretches your upper body so you can loosen up and really make those elbows flow smoothly. I follow the "classical" kata model so that it is mirror imaged so you do both sides (23 moves each side), and you end up pretty much on the same spot.

I have always felt if you do not practice something you cannot employ it on demand when needed. Close quarter fighting is not about punching or kicking, it is forearms, elbows shoulder strikes, head butts etc.. you need to get into that zone in live it in order to understand it.

Aloha,

Angel Lemus

Okinawan Festival This Weekend! (Brochure)

See our Photo Archive Brochure (in pdf format).
We will be handing this out at the Festival.

The Hawaii Karate Museum will present a historic Karate photograph exhibit at this year's Okinawan Festival to be held at Kapiolani Park in Honolulu on September 1st and September 2nd. We will be in Hui O Laulima's Cultural Tent. This will be our third appearance at the Okinawan Festival.

You can find more information at okinawanfestival.com and at huoa.org.

Please contact me if you have any historic Karate photos with a Hawaii connection that you might want us to display. You can contact me at goodin@hawaii.rr.com or at 808-488-5773. We are especially seeking photos of Karate in Hawaii before World War II.

If you come to the festival, please stop by and say hello. We will be close to the calligraphy table (with Mrs. Tomu Arakawa).

And please don't forget to check out our Photo Archive Brochure (in pdf format). If you come to the festival, please be sure to ask for one.

Thank you very much.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

My Craftsman Tool Chests

A couple of weeks ago I bought two beautiful Craftsman tool chests for my back lanai area. These are really nice ones, on wheels, and I had been looking at them for months. Finally they went on sale and I bought them.

Anyway, I suddenly had more space for my scattered tool collection and set about to organize them. I found an old toolbox full of wrenches I had inherited and started to put them in one of the drawers of the tool chest. I gradually realized that I had no idea about what many of the wrenches were used for. I am not very mechanically inclined, and I think that some of the wrenches were for auto work.

So I had tools but did not know what they were used for.

Sound familiar?

In Karate, our movements, whether in kata, kumite drills, or otherwise, are tools. They are the tools of Karate. If you had the opportunity to organize your Karate "tool" collection, would you know what each of them mean or can be used for?

I have to admit that I don't know what everything means. I do understand some things and often ask my senior friends what they think certain movements mean. Karate is a constant learning process.

When the movements are scattered in our general curriculum, we do not have to really think about each one. But when we sit down and try to organize all of them, some questions might arise.

Since Karate has evolved over at least a few hundred years, we also have to deal with the fact that some movements might have made more sense at the time and in the cultural context in which they were developed. For example, today we do not wear kimono (or similar clothes) and do not wear metal spikes (jiffa) in our hair. Movements based on the use (or restrictions on use) presented by such items might not make much sense today. And three hundred years ago, people did not have cell phones or cars.

I feel tempted to throw away some of the wrenches I might never use. But who knows, maybe I will learn their proper meaning and use them one day... like some of the movements in Karate I might not quite understand yet.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Human Weapon Comment

This show brings up many issues that I am sure martial artists are discussing.

One is that the rules of any competition largely shape the outcome. High kicks work very well, unless kicks to the groin or knee are allowed. Grappling works well unless punches and kicks are allowed (it still works pretty well for some people even with punches and kicks).

In a self defense situation, there are no rules. There is also no official "winner" and "loser". If someone attacks you, you generally "win" if you can defend yourself, escape, or even talk the attacker out of attacking you.

When two competitors square off, there are rules and a way to determine the winner -- whether it is by points or who is left standing at the end of the match.

I had a teacher once. He told me about how he was picked on as child. Several boys would get together and beat him up. The best he could do was cover up and take the punches, or run away.

But later, he would wait to get each of his attackers alone. Then he would get even.

One on one, he was more than a match for any of the attackers. But as a group, they could beat him.

So his strategy was to survive the gang attack and wait to get even.

I am not saying that I agree with fighting. I am a very non-violent person. But the idea that there must be a winner and loser in a conflict is based on the sport version of Karate (or other martial arts). Once you buy into this premise, the self defense purpose of Karate is lost.

I also tell my students that you cannot beat a Judo expert using Judo, a boxer using boxing, or a Kyokushin fighter using Kyokushin principles. Unless you are simply superior, you must attack your opponent's weaknesses with your strengths and avoid his strengths.

If you simply stand there and punch and kick it out with a Kyokushin fighter, you will probably lose -- I am certain that I would! Similarly, I would not want to roll around on the ground with a Judo or Ju Jitsu expert. And if I were to fight an escrima expert with sticks, I would throw the sticks away and run as fast as I could!

The strength of Karate is that it truly was a mixed martial arts during its early day. Karate included a wide range of martial skills and techniques. It was broad enough to give its practitioners an advantage over most untrained fighter, and the ability to use a variety of skills against a trained fighter (to be able to grapple a puncher or punch a grappler, for example).

I am pretty sure that the final matches in Human Weapon wold be quite different if they allowed the hosts to use any techniques they desired from any martial art. Limiting the "fight" to the system of the opponent deprives you of any advantage.

Also, it is better to conceal your martial arts expertise. The opponent should not really know that you are a Karate or other expert until he is hit (or taken down, restrained, etc.).

I am often reminded that Karate was a jutsu (art) before it was a do (way). I do not see how sport fits within either framework.

Again, I like the Human Weapon series, particularly because the hosts are very respectful -- exactly how all martial artists should be.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Mini-Review of Human Weapon

Like many of you (I'm sure), I have been watching the Human Weapon series on the History Channel. The show is hosted by Jason Chambers and Bill Duff who travel the world. Each week they learn a different martial art and at the end of the show, one of them challenges an expert of the art using the skills he (Jason or Bill) acquired in that art.

What I like most about the show is this: first, they approach each art with an open mind; and second, they are respectful of each art and of its teachers and students.

I hope that the show makes more people want to sincerely study the martial arts -- and I suspect that it will.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Back To School

For most students in Hawaii, schools have started for the Fall. Two of my sons started their classes at the University of Hawaii today and my daughter started her high school classes two weeks ago.

Karate is important, but students should always do their best in school first. School must come first. You should not hit the makiwara until you have hit the books! Keep up with your assignments and homework and be prepared for tests and projects.

Never let your school suffer because of your Karate training. Do your schoolwork first. Get the best grades possible. Your education will help you to get a good job and provide for your family. But what will happen if your fail at school? You might have to settle for a job that you do not enjoy and that makes it difficult for you to pay for life's expenses.

You should not spend more time playing video games than you do studying! And playing video games does not make you healthier. You should exercise instead. Exercise will strengthen your body, help you to resist illness, and keep your mind sharp.

If you are good at Karate you should be better at school! I am not only speaking as a parent, I am also speaking as someone who went to college for 8 years. I know how hard it can be to be a student.

Karate is a lifelong pursuit. Sometimes you might have to miss Karate class because of school assignments or tests. That's OK. Being a diligent student is part of Karate training. When you are studying properly, that is Karate.

School must come first! Try your best. I never heard a person complain that their grades were too good.

Remember, there are two "A's" in Karate. (Sorry about that.)

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Right and Wrong

It is very important to keep in mind that what might be considered "right" in one style of Karate may well be considered "wrong" in another style. One style, for example, may require its students to keep their muscles tense and to move in a linear manner. Another style may require just the opposite -- that students relax (until the moment of contact) and that they move in a more circular fashion.

For this reason, it is very difficult to comment on another style of Karate. However, this usually does not stop people.

I always try to remember that others could be very critical of the way that I move. I'm sure that if I could go back in time 20 years and demonstrate a kata for myself, my 1987 alter ego would think that my current self was terrible! And of course, looking back at myself, I see nothing but errors.

I admire Sensei Morio Higaonna very much. He is my senior in every way. However, we do not move alike. His approach and my approach are pretty different. This does not diminish my admiration of him or his method of Goju-Ryu.

I also try to keep in mind that when I observe someone, particularly my seniors, they might be moving in a way that I do not yet understand. I may think that their movement is strange, unusual, or "wrong" because I simply cannot see (understand) what they are doing.

In our Kishaba Juku form of Karate, we develop the use of the koshi. For beginners, we make this motion large (so that they can see and copy it). However, at an advanced stage, the motion of the koshi is very small or even invisible (the koshi motion is all internal). A student who has studied koshi for a year or two might look at a koshi expert and incorrectly conclude that he is not using his koshi. Actually, the novice simply cannot see and appreciate the refined movement.

Right and wrong are relative to style and to stage of learning.

And we should not forget that even something that looks wrong, ugly or crude is right if it works. We should always evaluate movements based on their function... right?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Preparing For A "False Crack"

The other night I attended a party with my original Shorin-Ryu Sensei here in Hawaii. Two of my friends from the mainland who also practiced Shorin-Ryu (one an instructor and the other a former student) met my sensei for the first time. I was busy attending to other guests, but I got to overhear my sensei discussing Karate with my two friends. He told them things I had often heard before, but hearing his words again made me appreciate how wise and thoughtful he is.

One of the things he said is that Karate involves preparing for a "false crack" -- essentially when someone comes up and attacks you without warning. You are just standing there minding your business when someone punches you in the head! Most likely, you will not be able to see him coming. He might come up from behind or pop out from behind a corner.

As such, you will not have time to prepare for the attack. If you are lucky, you might be able to throw up a block or counter, but you certainly will not have time to take up a defensive stance or position. You will have to move, block and counter from wherever you are, as you are. You will not even have time to bend your knees!

In kata, we tend to take fixed stances. In the "false crack" situation, we will have not such luxury. Whether we are standing, sitting or even lying down, we will have to defend ourselves as we are without preparation.

And you might get hit first -- before you can react. You might have to take the first punch or strike (because you did not see it coming).

So is it hopeless? I think not. With proper training, we can learn to increase our awareness and decrease our reaction time. Perhaps we can even get better at taking punches (to some extent) or slipping them.

I am sorry that I cannot explain all this as clearly as my sensei. I am still working on that! But I feel that it is useful to evaluate our practice of Karate with the thought of a "false crack."

To some extent, Karate involves preparing for something which cannot be prepared for.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Raining Toads?

This week, Hawaii was very lucky that Hurricane Flossie basically missed the state and fell apart. At the same time, we had a big brush fire on Oahu, an earthquake on the Big Island, and a brief tsunami scare after the earthquake in Peru.

What's next? Will it rain toads?

I hope not!

We cancelled our Wednesday night Karate class because we were concerned about Hurricane Flossie. We did not want our students to have to drive in heavy winds and rains. As it turned out, it was a very calm evening with no rain to speak of. However, we always feel that it is better to be safe than sorry. A little change in course and a little increase in winds, and Hawaii could have had serious problems.

As Karate students, we should be prepared for things, not just unexpected attacks, but even hurricanes, brush fires, tsunami, and perhaps even falling toads!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Don't Buy Gas Late At Night

A couple of weeks ago I did a very stupid thing. I was coming home from a party in Waikiki. My wife and mother were in my car, a Lexus RX-330. I knew that I was going out the next morning and noticed that I was low on gas.

Although it was near midnight, I decided to stop at a gas station not too far from my home.

Sure enough, this "crazy" man walks up and starts to give me trouble. I say "crazy" because I believe that he was very high on drugs. He may have also had a mental problem, but he was certainly high on drugs. He may have been drunk too.

He was older than me and did not appear to be armed. Fortunately, he was alone. As soon as my wife noticed that the man was loud and standing close to me, she locked the car doors.

I have often said that you have to be very careful if an attacker is drunk, drugged, or deranged. In this case, the guy may have been all three!

So what did I do?

You have to consider the possible consequences. If the guy pulled a gun or knife and killed me, then what would happen to my wife and mother? If he grabbed a brick in something and hit my car, then that would be quite expensive. And what if there were others lurking that I did not see?

So I reached into my wallet and gave the guy $5. He still was ranting and raving, but this seemed to satisfy him. He walked off into the darkness.

So was I a weak Karate person because I gave him money? I certainly could have hit or kicked him -- but honestly, I am not sure that he would have felt it. I think he could have run through a glass door without feeling it.

Giving him money was just my first level of defense. If he had attacked, I was planning to hit him in the face with the gas nozzle (so that he would have a hard time seeing), and then maybe kick him or something. But then I would have injured him. Even if I "won" by "beating" him, then what? Perhaps I would have been arrested. Certainly, I would have had legal problems. How would my wife and mother have felt if they saw me beating up this poor guy? They could have been traumatized, particularly my mother (my wife practices Karate and probably would have come out to help if the guy attacked me -- which would have put her at risk of injury). And I actually did not want to hurt him. I felt sorry for him.

So I felt that $5 was very reasonable, at least to buy some peace of mind.

But the moral of the story -- the reason that I am writing this -- is to say that you should not buy gas late at night. I should have waited for the morning. Midnight seems to bring out dangerous people -- those who might be drunk, drugged or deranged (or all three). I should have just gone home, especially with my wife and mother in the car. That is the moral.

Fill up your gas tank when it is safe. Don't wait until after a late party in Waikiki.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

My Son Cael

I just published a Guest Post by my third son, Cael. See: Karate: Teaching is Learning. He writes about his experiences teaching Karate.

Cael began learning Karate at the age of 4. His older brothers are 4 and 8 years older than him, respectively. Despite their early size and weight advantage, Cael has always tried (and usually succeeded) in playing and competing with them.

Cael, like my eldest son Christopher, also practices Kendo under Sensei Arnold Fukutomi. Kendo has helped Cael to become very fast, and this is also apparent in his Karate.

Cael is now 18. I do not allow students to become shodan until they are 17. So in Cael's case, this took 13 years. I always feel that there is no rush in earning (or awarding) ranks. The emphasis should be in developing skill.

I am very glad that Cael has found that he is learning about Karate and himself by teaching others. Isn't that one of the main reasons why we all teach?

Way to go Cael! And thank you for always helping with the class.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Karate: Teaching is Learning

This Guest Post is by Cael T. Goodin, a shodan in the Hikari Dojo. The third son of Charles C. Goodin, he is a freshman at the University of Hawaii.

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Karate practice was every Tuesday and Saturday at the Aiea Taiheiji. I was four years old when I first put on my Karate gi and was ready for practice. I stood there in line like a soldier waiting for his orders. My sensei came forth and we all bowed to him and immediately class commenced. Warming up was always first then came punching and blocking, then kata usually followed, then finally we would do some paring off drills or even kumite/sparring. The black belts in my class were all so much better then the lower ranking color belts. I always wanted to become a black belt so that I too could be good like them. My older brother Charles was a mere green belt and already he moved better then most black belts did. It was then that I realized that the belt color did not matter, but it was indeed the person under the gi that was the in control of how good they were or weren’t. Charles was always teaching people and I would sit there on the side watching him. As time progressed Charles was showing great improvement in his Karate, whether it was punching, shuto, power, or even his raw speed. I then realized that it wasn’t that someone was there coaching him to do the right things to get better, more it was him questioning himself constantly as he taught newer people which made him improve so much.

Finally the years passed and I was seventeen. My father had opened his own dojo about 9 years earlier. I was now a black belt eager to teach new people. The thought of me being able to teach brought a smile to my face. The first time I had to really teach someone I was so clueless. I stood there in front of them not knowing what to teach them. I finally made up my mind to teach simple punching and blocking. As I began to analyze the new student’s movements I stared at them with a puzzled look on my face. I knew that something was wrong with the way that they were moving yet I just could not decide how it was supposed to be done the right way. I finally murmured out what I thought was right but a couple seconds later I began to question myself whether I was really right or not. Puzzled, I finally had to ask another black belt how they would do the movement. Embarrassed that I had to ask for help from another person I stood there and hoped that the new student did not think that I was junk. So with the proper form of the movement I showed the student how to do it, but just as I thought I did not need any more help I found myself questioning whether the next move was right. For the first six months of being a black belt it seemed like a constant cycle of me questioning myself whether I was right or wrong. For the longest time I thought of myself as a really junk teacher who really couldn’t teach, but as time went no I started to develop my own answers to if I was right or not.

I was now teaching every class and any age group. My students ranged from ten year old children to sixty year old men. Teaching such a broad range of ages, I began to learn that you have to approach people much different from each other. In some cases I could be the goofy teacher who is constantly looking for a laugh but keeps a strict demeanor about myself yet in other cases I have to be a slow teacher who teaches step by step and breaks down the movements to the simplest form there possibly is. One thing that I always keep in mind is that I know that I might not always feel like teaching, but in the end it is what makes you grow not only in Karate but in general as a person; because in life you will not always get what you want and sometimes you will just need to suck it up for that time being and just do your best. Through my Karate experiences thus far I have really learned that in order to really begin to understand what you are doing you have to eventually teach others. By teaching I feel that I have personally grown far more then I would have grown if I was just being taught, whether it was doing a movement the correct way or just learning to be a little more patient I feel that I have grown.

Respectfully,

Cael T. Goodin

Thank You Very Much!

I want to thank the many readers of this blog who have sent their best wishes and prayers regarding my wife's condition. We both appreciate it very much. I also was touched to hear of readers whose wives, mothers, and loved ones have also experienced breast cancer.

This week has been very hectic as we attend to all the details necessary to prepare my wife for chemotherapy, which will begin next week. It seems like we have appointments every day. However, I got to attend Karate class last night and it was great to train!

Then afterwards, my second son and I lifted weights at home for about an hour. I actually bench pressed 175 pounds. That may not be very much, but my previous records was... 65 pounds. And at least it was more than my body weight -- by just a little.

I have been lifting with my sons for about two months and really like it. Of course, they are monsters. I always have to take off half the weights (or more) after they lift!

Thank you all very much again. I have many Karate Thoughts to write and will get to them very soon.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Breast Cancer

A little over a month ago, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. As some of you have noticed, I have not been posting as much since that time. I appreciate the email I received asking if I am alright. I am.

My wife and I are 49. Each year, my wife has a routine mammogram. As usual, this year's test was clear. However, my wife's OBGYN felt something during a visit and requested that the mammogram be repeated. Once again, it was clear. This time, the OBGYN requested a biopsy and it confirmed the existence of cancer.

If not for my wife's OBGYN's sensitive touch and persistence, we would not have known about the cancer. We probably would not have discovered it for at least another year, that is if the next mammogram would have shown it.

Thankfully, my wife's cancer was caught early. Just a week after the biopsy, surgery was done to remove the tumor. The next week, a second surgery was done to increase the margin (clear zone) around the area where the tumor was.

My wife is very strong and handled the surgeries very well. I was amazed that she took no painkillers at all.

Although the diagnosis and surgeries were very traumatic for my wife and me, as well as our extended family, we felt that the hard part was over.

That is when we really started to learn about breast cancer. Removing the tumor is just the tip of the iceberg. Tests began to determine exactly what type of tumor it was, how it responds to estrogen, its genetic characteristics, and other factors.

We quickly learned that the most important thing is to prevent the cancer for recurring, not just in the breasts but anywhere else in the body.

We knew that my wife would have to undergo radiation treatment to kill any remaining cancerous cells in the area of the tumor. But we learned that there are other treatments designed to minimize the risk of recurrence. In particular, there are chemotherapy, hormone blocking, and antibody treatments.

My wife is now scheduled to begin treatments on the 21st of this month.

Of course, I have been trying to learn as much as possible about breast cancer and the possible treatments. That is one reason I have not been blogging. I have also been accompanying my wife to all of her appointments and plan to do so as much as possible.

The next few months will be very challenging and her various treatments will continue for the next year or so. I mentioned to my wife that I wish that I could take the treatments for her. She replied that she thinks that she can handle them better than I could. I am pretty sure that she is right.

This is an ongoing learning process. One thing I would like to say is that I have a much greater appreciation for the members of the medical profession who save lives and help us to be healthy.

I am still practicing and teaching Karate. I feel that my Karate training helps me to be a better husband and supporter of my wife. I have tried to train hard in Karate since I was a teenager. I will try to do even more to assist my wife through this process. On January 7th, we will celebrate our 30th anniversary. Her chemotherapy is scheduled to be completed a week later.

Thank you again for the emails checking on my health. Thank you also for thoughts and prayers of those of you who might have already known about my wife's condition.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin