Karate Thoughts Blog


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1650+ Posts... and Counting

Ryu, Juku, or What?

I have written a little about whether the art I am very lucky to practice is a ryu (style) or a juku (private training group). Generally, we say that we are the latter.

However, if you were to ask me, even that is overly formal. I do not really consider myself to be part of a ryu or a juku or of anything. I consider myself to be a student. My relationship with my Sensei is what counts and what defines me in terms of my Karate life.

If my Sensei says that we practice a ryu, I would agree. If he says that we practice a juku, I would agree. If he says that we are just playing and having a good time, I would agree with that too. The words and titles don't matter.

When most people think about their Sensei, they might focus on his technical skill. You might hear that a Sensei is a master or a great technician.

When I think about my Sensei, I do not think about his technical skill first. My first thought is of how kind he was to allow me to become his student.

Some people might think: "but you are the head of the Hawaii Karate Museum and a Karate writer." I would say, yes, despite that my Sensei allowed me to become a student! How kind he was.

There is no Karate per se. There is only the relationship between Sensei and students. Karate is a result of that relationship.

I hope that you are fortunate enough to have a kind Sensei, one you can respect and learn from without reservations. If you do, the name of your system -- whether it is a ryu, a juku, or whatever -- will not matter.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Otherwise Equal...

Yesterday I tried to give a hypothetical to my students.

If there were two people who were the same age, same height, same weight, same strength, and in Karate were the same level and knew the same things, but one had good body dynamics and could move in a whiplike, explosive manner, who would win?

My second son, Charles, pointed out, "Then they are not the same."

He was right. They are as different as night and day.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Students of Itosu Sensei

I was just thinking: my friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, is a student of Chosin Chibana, who learned from Anko Itosu. It is a little remarkable to think that there are still students of Itosu Sensei's direct students. Nakata Sensei is a very active instructor here in Hawaii.

Time keeps passing. We should learn as much as possible from our Karate seniors while we have the opportunity to do so!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Push-Ups For Yawning

The other evening, one of our students yawned during class. I told the students that if anyone else yawned, I would make them do ten push-ups. I told everyone that they should yawn through their nose, and not cover their mouths with their hands -- because this could be a distracting movement.

Sure enough, a different student yawned a few minutes later and I instructed him to do 10 push-ups.

At the end of class, the student who had to do push-ups apologized to me in a very respectful manner. I said, "I did not give the push-ups to you, I gave them to the yawn."

With effort and attention, we can control things like yawning. We can learn to focus. We can learn to sit still and not itch. We can learn to listen for the small sounds that might warn us of an impending attack.

A yawn is a little thing, but learning to control it is the beginning of a big thing.

I don't usually give push-ups for bad behavior. With yawns, I am giving push-ups to the student's body.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Paying the Dojo

When I was a youth, I was a Boy Scout. One thing I remember hearing over and over whenever we went camping was that we should make the camping area cleaner when we left than how we found it. That has always stuck with me. Whenever I went fishing, I would try to pick up some litter or tangled fishing line. Even now, when I lift weights at home, I pick leaves and water plants between sets.

The same applies in the dojo. We pay the dojo by keeping it clean and neat. We really do not pay the Sensei. We pay the dojo itself.

We sweep the dojo before training and set out the chairs and fans. We put things away after training. We try to keep the dojo neat and organized. If the dojo is messy, our Karate will be messy.

The dojo also represents "us." We should keep the dojo clean just as we should keep ourselves clean. We should conduct ourselves in a respectable and reserved manner in the dojo. We should speak in a civil manner and avoid profanity, both inside and outside of the dojo. There are many ways that we pay the dojo -- by our effort and by showing respect.

Always leave the dojo cleaner than how you found it.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Character First

If you read my posts and articles, and even if you train with me, you might think that the most important thing to me, when it comes to Karate, is body dynamics (how to move). Certainly, that is very important.

However, first and foremost, the most important aspect of Karate is character. Character is the first, second, and third most important things, then comes technical skill. Without good character, nothing else matters. And without good character, nothing else should be taught.

Another way to say this is that character is the odd numbers and technique is the even numbers. Or you could say that character is the front and technique is the back. The two are inseparable.

Body dynamics may teach a student how to move, but character teaches a student how to be.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Kishaba Juku-ness

Most "styles" of Karate consist of a certain set of kata and a core group of basics. The kata and basics, and an emphasis on such things as kumite and kobudo, tend to identify the style. As with any curriculum, the students need to know what to do in order to do it. The style is a matter of "what."

I have mentioned before that Kishaba Juku, in my opinion, is not a style per se. It is a private training group. The emphasis of training is not on "what" but on "how." Essentially, Kishaba Juku is about learning how to move, how to generate power, and how to transfer power. Again, this is just my opinion.

Since the emphasis is on "how," the "what" is not so important. Shinzato Sensei has often said that the principles of Kishaba Juku can be applied to the kata of any style or system of Karate. In other words, the Kishaba Juku principles of movement could be applied to Shotokan, Shito-Ryu or Kyokushin. It is not necessary to learn Kishaba Juku kata in order to move the way that we do. The same movement principles could be applied to just about any kata.

Again, the emphasis is on "how" rather than "what."

In Kishaba Juku, we generally practice the kata that the senior instructors practiced before they formed their private training group. It was the movement principles applied to those kata that mattered, not the kata themselves.

Thus, a person could practice the very same kata we do but move in a completely different way -- a way unlike Kishaba Juku. And a person could practice completely different kata but move exactly like we do (to the extent that "we" in the juku move alike).

I can watch a person move and tell you very quickly whether they move like Shinzato Sensei or not. My seniors can say the same about Nakamura Sensei and Kishaba Sensei -- they can recognize their special way of movement.

You cannot tell this by the kata itelf or even the basics. What counts is how the person moves.

The format of Karate tends to require that students learn a certain curriculum. A student cannot achieve rank and seniority by simply being able to move.

But when it comes down to it, knowing a million movements means nothing at all if you cannot move well. And a person who can move well can make just about any movement work.

The other day, I attended a training session with some senior instructors here in Hawaii. When it comes to the form of kata, I am closest to Sensei Pat Nakata, who practices Chibana Shorin-Ryu. Our kata are similar.

But when it comes to movement, I move most like Sensei Alan Lee. He learned from Sensei Tomu Arakawa, who learned from Sensei Kanki Izumigawa, who learned from Sensei Seko Higa. Lee Sensei teaches Goju-Ryu. He is my senior and moves much better than I do, but our way of moving is very similar.

My form is closest to Shorin-Ryu but my movement is closer to a branch of Goju-Ryu.

This may sound strange, since I have only learned Shorin-Ryu, but with Kishaba Juku it makes perfect sensei. What is relevant is how to move, not whether we do Shorin-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, or some other style.

I am confident that I could teach a Shotokan student how to move like I do, using his own kata. Of course, this assumes that the student wants to learn this.

I am not a musician, but I imagine that there is teacher somewhere who can teach students how to play with more feeling and soul. That is a lot like what we do.

I have to qualify this post by saying that I can only speak from my own experience as a student of Kishaba Juku. I can speak for myself and my dojo, but not for others, and certainly not for Shinzato Sensei.

After a student learns what he is supposed to do, the question becomes how to do it. That is the essence of our group, in my opinion.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

"Catholic" Karate

I was raised as a Catholic (my mother attended Catholic school in Fukuoka before the war). Suppose I started each Karate class by having each of my students make the sign of the cross and recite a prayer? Before and after each kata we could say "Amen." There are many opportunities to integrate Catholicism into a Karate class. There are many opportunities to incorporate any religion into a Karate class.

I think that most readers would agree that it would be inappropriate to bring aspects of the Catholic religion into a Karate class. It would not be fair to students who are not Catholic -- and even students who are Catholic might not appreciate it. I would not like it if my children were in a class (such as dance or music) and were also being taught a religion. Honestly, I would get very upset. Religion is a private thing, something the family should do together.

Plus, I am not a Catholic priest. I am not qualified to teach Catholicism.

So here is my point. Some people integrate Zen into Karate. It might seem OK to some people. Zen has always been a part of Karate, right? No! Zen was really never a part of Okinawan Karate in Okinawa. Zen was a Japanese thing. When Karate went to mainland Japan, it was natural that some instructors there would incorporate aspects of Zen. It was part of martial culture on mainland Japan. But that does not mean that it was part of Karate.

Incorporating Zen into Karate is no different than incorporating any other religion. In my opinion, it is not appropriate to do so.

"Catholic" Karate would upset people but "Zen" Karate sounds so... Japanese.

To me, Karate is enough in and of itself. If something is missing in my Karate, I should train harder, not add something else. It is better to do one thing well rather than two things half heartedly.

Please don't get me wrong. I believe that religion is good. It is just that religion is a personal matter. I should respect my students' rights to believe or not believe what they wish.

And I should teach Karate to the best of my ability.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Teaching Structure

Someone asked me today why I retired from my dojo/teaching. He was referring to my appointment of my second son as the head of our Hikari Dojo. I had been the head of the dojo since 1997.

I am 50. My second son is only 22. I could have waited.

But really, nothing has changed. I am the same person. My son is the same person. The only thing that has changed is that he is primarily responsible for making dojo decisions. He has to plan what is best for the students. I am there to assist him and I teach just as much as before.

I did not want to be attached to the usual format of teaching in Karate. I did not want to wait until I was 60, 70 or 80 to give someone else the responsibility and opportunity to lead a dojo. I did not want to stunt my son or other other seniors in the dojo.

I have not retired or resigned. I am more active in Karate then ever.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Someone Better

Sometimes we meet Karate students or students who are better than us in one or many ways. Actually, when we are beginners just about everyone is better than us. As we gain experience over the years, we become more advanced. Even when we become instructors, we can still meet others who are better than we are -- in many ways or even in just one.

Personally, I am very happy when I meet such a person. Why would I want to learn from someone who is not better than me? I would not like to learn mistakes. A better person presents me with a golden opportunity to learn.

I am not intimidated by a person who is better than me. Intimidation usually reflects insecurity. Why should I be intimidated by someone who is better than me? He may have studied longer or more intensively. He may be more physically gifted. Learning is not a contest.

If someone is better than me, it gives me an opportunity to learn. I should be excited by that prospect, not bothered by it.

There is no shame in being less advanced than someone. The shame is in thinking you are more advanced when you are not.

I find that advanced Karate people tend to evaluate each other. Am I stronger or is he? This can take place in an instant, and may well be wrong. But martial artists want to know where they stand. I am not talking here about rank or titles, I am speaking about ability.

The issue of who is "better" is not straightforward. One person may punch harder, another may grapple better, another may be more agile. There is not just one measure. A person who can punch hard may have a difficult time getting a punch off when he is being choked. And a good grappler might not have the opportunity to use such skills if he is kicked in the groin first.

Even a person with a strength might have a weakness. And even a person who appears weak might have a strength that you might not see. So judging other people can be a very tricky thing.

There is another issue. Some people hide their strengths. They may seems perfectly ordinary, but they are not. Unless you are very careful, you would misjudge them.

I know some people who are good at this. I do it to some extent. For example, it is possible to move in a way what has good results but blurs mechanics. The movement will have speed and focus but it will be hard for a casual observer to understand how you did it.

I also know people who make mistakes on purpose. You might think that they don't know their art very well. But you would be misled by the error. If a person can move exceptionally, what they do is of little matter. How they move is what counts. If they miss a movement or change it, this might just be a trick to distract people who are attached to form.

Sorry to ramble. If someone is better than you, it presents an opportunity to learn. It is a time to be very focused and observant. Don't miss your chance, and don't be misled or tricked.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Demonstrating "My" Style

I study and teach the Kishaba Juku form of Okinawan Shorin-Ryu.

If someone were to ask me to demonstrate Kishaba Juku, I would have to decline. How can I demonstrate the art? I am just a student, even if I am also a teacher. What I do does not represent the entire art or even our particular style. What I do is simply my interpretation of Kishaba Juku.

I could say, "I will demonstrate my interpretation of Kishaba Juku at this point in time." That would be the best I could do. And I would also have to tailor the presentation to the audience, meaning that I would have to keep things pretty basic. Such a presentation would not fairly represent Kishaba Juku. It would be just a personal snap shot.

If someone asked me to demonstrate Shorin-Ryu, I would have to decline for the same reasons. My "expertise" in Shorin-Ryu is even more limited than it is in my own particular style. There are many forms of Shorin-Ryu. How could I demonstrate them all? All I "know" is just a small part of one line of Shorin-Ryu. It would be just a piece of a personal snap shot.

If someone asked me to demonstrate Karate... well, you can guess what I would say. Shorin-Ryu is just one form of Karate and my particular style is just one form of Shorin-Ryu. And my view and understanding of Kishaba Juku is just a small part of the overall system (at this point in time), and personal to me.

I have used the word "style" to describe Kishaba Juku for want of a better term. Kishaba Juku is a private training group, not a style (or ryu) per se. What matters is not the name of the style or group but the personal relationship between the Sensei and students. Our training is a personal rather than an institutional thing.

Can I demonstrate Kishaba Juku? Only a little.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

First Impression

I am an attorney by profession and over the years have had to review resumes from job applicants. There is a general saying that if there is a typographical or other error in the resume, the applicant will make errors in work too. That is why it is extremely important for resumes to be thoroughly reviewed and perfect by the time they are submitted.

First impressions are extremely important and, in my opinion, generally accurate.

What is the first impression we make in Karate? It is not our punches and kicks. Long before someone sees our techniques, they form an impression of us by the way we conduct ourselves -- by our courtesy and respect.

If a student has bad courtesy and respect, these are like errors in a resume. Our first impression is that the student is rude and/or poorly trained. This first impression will probably stick in our mind. It will be difficult for the student to ever change that impression.

That is why is it extremely important that students learn to present themselves in a courteous and respectful manner. Strong techniques can follow, but their manners will be our first impression.

Begin well and end well. As the saying goes, Karate begins and ends with courtesy (not just in form but in attitude as well).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Expert Village Website

Today I was contacted by a person regarding a website called Expert Village (http://www.expertvillage.com/). The idea is that "experts" post how-to videos in their subject area.

I did a quick search on "Karate" and "Kenpo" and the videos were interesting (kind of like YouTube). Of course, you must be skeptical about online experts (and any experts for that matter). Today, just about anyone can post videos on the internet. But I thought readers might find this website interesting.

Here is my disclaimer: I have no idea what the experts on that website might post, nor do I know their credentials. View at your own risk. (Sorry.)

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Kata Vs. Self Defense Drills

Something my good friend and senior Sensei Pat Nakata recently mentioned has stuck in my mind. I am paraphrasing him.

If you teach kata, it will take longer, but the student's potential is not limited. If you only teach self-defense drills or applications, the student can learn those techniques more quickly, but his potential will be limited.

I agree with this 100%.

Kata does take longer, and for a considerable time the student will probably not be able to use the self defense techniques contained in the kata. The student will, however, learn the proper basics and how to move well. Once this is attained, the applications are taught, and with good body dynamics, the student will be able to use the applications well. At least that is how it is supposed to be.

If someone grabs your throat with both hands (from the front), there are many techniques that will work. Quick. Review all the kata in your mind and think of the techniques that you could use.

Sorry, that does not work. If you are choked, you have to be able to react instantly, without thinking. Your body has to be able to react. This type of spontaneity does not come from kata easily. However, it is possible with drills and pairing off sequences.

If you practice choking drills, you will be able to defend yourself against a choke very well. But you will not know how to move in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Karate is much more than a string of techniques.

Learning drills alone is a little like stacking one brick upon another. One brick, two bricks, three brick. Bricks and mortar make a wall.

To me, kata is like mixing explosives. A little of this, a little of that, mix, mix, mix and you have a potential bomb. Bricks are quicker but explosives can do more if you have the time to mix them properly.

As Nakata Sensei often says (quoting his Sensei, Chosin Chibana), there is no Karate without kata.

Of course, there is another possible scenario. A student could learn kata but never learn any techniques or applications. Such a student will be unable to defend himself. In such a case, kata would be useless (from the perspective of self defense). It does not matter that the kata might "look good." If it can't be used, it is useless.

The cleanest kata and best body dynamics in the world will mean nothing if you don't know what to do when someone grabs your throat.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

MMA Fouls

As I've mentioned, my sons and I like to watch mixed martial arts (MMA) on cable television. Last night, my eldest son even rented a recent UFC DVD for us to watch. I have a lot of respect for the strength, conditioning and skill of these great athletes.

In a couple of recent matches there were two fouls that caught my attention. In the first, one of the competitors, while punching, either poked the other in the eye with his finger or thumb. It was accidental, but it did stop the match for a while. In the second, a kick to the inside of the leg glanced up and struck the groin. Again, it was accidental, but the match had to be stopped briefly.

So here is my point. Even with these great athletes -- truly awesome fighters -- pokes to the eyes and kicks to the groin seem to work or at least have some effect. Isn't that what we teach in Karate?

In fact, most MMA matches do have at least some rules. The rules may vary from group to group, but there are some rules. If you looked at the fouls, they would probably be pretty effective techniques.

For those of us who are ordinary humans (not ripped fighting machines), these are probably the types of techniques that will work best for us -- perhaps the only ones that will.

A 100 pound woman is not going to be able to lift up a 250 pound man, throw him to his back, and ground and pound him. It simply won't happen (or at least it will almost never happen). A 100 pound woman is unlikely to be able to disable a larger male attacker with a "bare naked choke." It is possible, but unlikely.

But a poke to the eye is another matter. With the finger or maybe a pen or umbrella, such a technique is possible. And even if it doesn't permanently disable the attacker, it might give the defender a few seconds to escape or attract attention to get help. Who knows?

I watch MMA for entertainment. I respect the competitors. But I observe the fouls to see what ordinary people might be able to do.

I am almost 5 feet 8 inches tall. There are many women out there who are taller, heavier, and stronger than me. There are also men and women who are shorter and lighter than me, particularly in Hawaii. As a teacher, I always have to ask myself whether a particular technique is likely to work for a specific student. If it will only work for a 250 pound man in great shape, then I should only teach it to him. Or at least, I should explain that when I teach the technique.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Judo Etiquette

On Sunday, I watched a highlight DVD of Judo championships. I won't mention the location.

Of course, the skill level of the competitors was extremely high. There were many amazing throws, pins, chokes, and submissions. But here is what really got me: many of the competitors would jump up and throw their arms up in victory as soon as they scored an ippon, and several of them stepped over their downed opponent. You have to remember that this is Judo, not football.

I was literally shocked. When I practiced Judo in Japan we would never think of doing such things. Our composure upon winning or losing would be the same. We did not show emotion and we would never step over our opponent (partner) -- we would step back and walk around them, never over them.

The competitors in the DVD had great techniques. I believe that some were world class Judoka. But how much harder would it have been for them to be composed and to show respect? It would have taken no effort at all.

If I was the judge, if a competitor scored one point for a clean throw and then threw up his arms in victory, I would take away two points. If he stepped over his opponent, I would expel him from the competition. That is just how I think. But then, I do not practice Judo.

In Karate, we would be extremely careful about stepping over a downed attacker. Throwing someone does not necessarily end the engagement. We would remain alert and vigilant until the threat was completely removed.

And if we showed happiness or cockiness upon scoring a point (delivering a technique), that might be the moment when the attacker's friend hits us in the back of the head with a brick!

Some people call this zanshin (lingering awareness). I only heard this term in Iaido. In Karate, we would simply remain aware. The fight is on until it is completely over.

Please make sure that you do not get me wrong. I think that world class Judoka have great techniques. They could throw me around like a rag doll. But composure and respect should be as much a part of any martial art as techniques. Otherwise it is just a sport... hmmmm.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Papayas

Today I planted five papaya seedlings in my backyard. I dug nice holes, loosened the soil, mixed in some potting mix, and planted the seedlings with care. I will water them regularly and apply some fertilizer from time to time. In a year or so, I am hopeful that we will have some delicious papayas.

This is how I feel when we have a new student in the dojo. We will all do a lot of work to train the student. We will do our best because we hope that the student will bear fruit.

I do not want five big papaya trees that just have leaves, nor do I want Karate students who will only keep their Karate to themselves. Just as a tree produces fruit, I always hope that a student will help to teach and pass on the art.

My father-in-law used to do an interesting thing when his papaya trees would not bear fruit. He would drive a stake though its trunk a few inches from the ground. Strange as it may seem, it worked. Lucky for Karate students that they are not papaya trees.

As Karate students, we all have to ask ourselves, "are we bearing fruit?"

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Motobu Versus The...

Most Karate students are aware that Choki Motobu faced and defeated a Western boxer around 1923. The King magazine article a couple of years later literally put Karate on the map.

The boxer, Jan Kentel, may have actually been an Eastern European wrestler. The King illustrations show the opponent wearing boxing gloves, but they also show Gichin Funakoshi rather than Motobu. So the illustrations are questionable at best.

But I wonder, if we could go back in time, what the result of the match would have been if Motobu Sensei had faced one of today's mixed martial arts champions -- say Chuck Liddell. I am serious. Do you think the result would have been the same?

Kentel apparently did not know that Motobu was a Karate expert. He probably did not even know there was such a thing as Karate. He had been taking on Judo/Ju Jitsu challengers and probably thought that Motobu was just another grappler, and a 50+ year old one at that!

Judo students were not trained to fight boxers. If the boxer did not wear a gi, it was hard for Judo students to get a good hold. They generally did not punch or kick.

But today's mixed martial artists can punch, kick, grapple... and everything in between. And the top MMA fighters are in great shape.

I mean no disrespect to the memory of Motobu Sensei. I just wonder how the fight would have gone. Without the fight and the King article showing a Japanese (Okinawan) defeating a westerner, who knows how Karate would have developed on mainland Japan?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Follow-Up On Synchronized Kata

In my post entitled Synchronized Kata, I mentioned that such kata in tournaments are "not my cup of tea."

I added that: "I dislike posing. I dislike "selling" movements. I dislike theatrics. I dislike screaming type kiai. I dislike it when people shake their hands to show power. I don't even like it when students announce the kata they will perform. It all seems too much to me."

I did not mean to suggest that people performing synchronized kata are posing, "selling movements, being theatrical, etc. I apologize if I gave that impression.

People performing synchronized kata might be doing such things or they might not. The same is true of solo kata. It all depends on the person/group.

My main point was that I did not particularly like synchronized kata as a category in tournaments. It is just not "my cup of tea." We all have our likes and dislikes. My own opinions are just that. I am just one voice among many.

I do like to watch people perform kata. I like kata when it is demonstrated, not performed. What I mean by this is I enjoy watching kata done in the way it is intended to be done, not necessarily the way that it is "best" or necessary to do in a tournament. I hope that you get what I mean. There are some kata that are done one way in the dojo and another for tournaments. I like to see the dojo version, which is usually the old way.

When I see a big gathering of senior instructors, I want to see each and every one of them demonstrate their kata. I don't mean that I want them to compete with each other. I simply want to see how they move and compose themselves. The older they are, the better. It is not about competition, it is about refinement.

Again, this is just my own view.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Scratching The Surface

If you know me, you will know that I think that I am still scratching the surface of Karate. I just turned 50 and have practiced Karate for over 30 years, and other arts before and during that.

But in recent weeks and months I have realized something -- the surface of Karate is much thicker than I thought! The more I "scratch" it, the more I find! The surface of Karate is not like the skin of an apple, it must be more like the skin of a thick orange. I am not sure since I have yet to make my way through to the core.

I am extremely fortunate to know many senior instructors who know much, much more than I do. A small fish in a small pond may think he is big. But a small fish in a large pond has to watch out for the larger fish!

My friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, has practiced Karate from about the year I was born. Our friend and senior, Sensei Bobby Lowe, has practiced Karate from about the year that Nakata Sensei was born (over 60 years). Knowing such fine Sensei makes it easy to be humble and possible to aim high.

2008. Another year of scratching the thick surface of Karate!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Zigzag Training

A while ago, I received an email from a reader who is in a common situation. Because of his job and life circumstances, it has not been possible for this person to train in one art consistently for many years. Instead, this reader has had to train in several places and styles over the years.

I sometimes call this "zigzag" training (no disrespect intended).

My father was in the Air Force. We lived in many places when I grew up. I had no choice in or control over the matter. Wherever my father was assigned, that was where we lived. Fortunately for me, two of his assignments were in Japan and Hawaii and I was able to practice martial arts there.

Hawaii is also a great place to practice martial arts. There are many schools, styles, and senior instructors. Hawaii may be the best place to learn martial arts in the world.

But I realize that there are many places in the United States where there are few, if any martial arts classes. The level of the instructors may also vary greatly.

As such, it might be very difficult for a student to learn a specific style of Karate. He will have to learn from whoever he can, whenever he can. He might also have to study other martial arts because Karate is not available.

After 30 years, a student who has trained hard and consistently in one style of Karate under one Sensei or dojo, will likely be a 5th dan (or so). But a person who has trained in a zigzag manner may be a shodan in this, an ikyu in that, etc.

Unless a student trains in one style consistently, it will be very difficult for him to attain a higher rank, and this will make it difficult for him to teach (because he will appear to lack authority and credibility). This is a real problem and I realize that many sincere students must deal with it.

I myself trained in many martial arts. From one perspective, every minute I trained another art was one less minute I practiced Karate. I guess that I could be higher ranking in Karate if I only practiced Karate.

But from another perspective, every other art I practiced made me a better Karate student. Every technique I learned in other arts gave me a better appreciation of the similar techniques in Karate. It made me a more well rounded martial artist.

But I also consistently practiced Karate while learning other arts. Karate was always there. I did not leave it or quit.

As a result, I gradually rose in rank in Karate. This, I must admit, has made it easier for me to teach. I must admit that rank does mean something in this regard. An attacker will not care about your rank, but the person who runs the facility where you want to teach might care about your credentials.

Zigzag training does make it hard to establish credibility for teaching.

I am afraid that I do not have a solution for this. In the past, when a student joined my dojo and had a lot of experience in another style, I would take this into consideration when awarding the initial rank. Now I do not do this. The style I teach is so different that experience in other arts is not too helpful. Learning our basics is difficult for a new student and more difficult for a student with experience in other styles generally and particularly if the other style is rigid and stiff. It is actually easier for students who have learned arts such as Tai Chi.

For readers who have to "zigzag" train, I would say that any martial arts training can be useful. The structure of a martial arts system where students rise to high rank and become the teachers is not the only one. It is useful to learn many arts.

I'm sorry that I do not have a good answer to this.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Synchronized Kata

One of the forms of kata competition you might see in tournaments today is synchronized kata -- two or more competitors performing a kata in unison. Some groups are extremely good at this, from the entrance, to the kata itself, to leaving the stage... everything is perfectly together. Such groups must spend countless hours practicing together to attain such precision and unison.

I must say that this type of kata performance is not my cup of tea. I do not care if a kata is done in unison in a group -- I care that each movement is done correctly. I care about power generation and transfer. I care about composure and focus. I care about the meaning of each movement.

I dislike posing. I dislike "selling" movements. I dislike theatrics. I dislike screaming type kiai. I dislike it when people shake their hands to show power. I don't even like it when students announce the kata they will perform. It all seems too much to me.

As for synchronized kata, it is important to me that the student himself is synchronized and coordinated -- that he is using his whole body in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

These are just my views.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Setting Your Mind

I did not want to write about this until the new year. Last year in July or so, when my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, I decided to start working out more. There were two reasons for this. First, it was a way to handle the stress I should say STRESS). Second, it was a way to stay in good shape. I knew that it would be a difficult time and I did not want to become weak.

I also did not want to become sick. When my wife started chemotherapy, it was extremely important that I not become sick, because I could get her sick. During chemotherapy, a little thing like a cold could become very serious and even require hospitalization. It could also disrupt her treatment.

So I worked out (Karate, lifting weights, and riding an exercise bike) and the good news was that I did not get sick at all and neither did my wife. During this same time, all four of our children and close relatives caught colds and other illnesses. My paralegal also got sick. I usually catch a cold or two, but this time I didn't.

My point is that I think that if you set your mind on something, you can do it. I think that it is possible to avoid getting sick. It is possible to set your mind on getting in shape. If you really try, you can do many things.

My wife is now done with chemotherapy. It is still important for us to keep her healthy and to avoid colds and other illnesses. I am continuing to work out so that I can remain strong and healthy and better able to help my wife with the remainder of her treatments.

During high school when I trained with Florentino S. Pancipanci, I remember that he said that we should get angry at ourselves if we became sick. Remaining healthy was part of our training. If we became sick, we could not work or attend training.

I thought that this was strange because I believed illnesses to be something that just happened. It was not something that we could control.

That was over 30 years ago, but I have realized that Mr. Pancipanci was right. We should believe that our health is also part of our training and under our control. We train to block punches and kicks. We should also train to remain healthy.

Getting in the best shape possible will help us to avoid many illnesses and enable us to do the things that we need to do. The first step is to set your mind on it.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Happy New Year 2008

The smoke from the fireworks still hangs lazily over my neighborhood. In the distance, across the freeway, a few aerials are still popping over the facility where our dojo holds classes.

Wouldn't it be sweet if the UH Warriors win today in the Sugar Bowl?

From my family and dojo to yours, best wishes for a very safe, happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year -- with good Karate training and progress too! May the world also be a more peaceful place.

Perhaps this year we will find originals of Motobu Sensei's two books for the Hawaii Karate Museum. That would also be very sweet!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin