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1650+ Posts... and Counting

Mixing Gas

Sometimes a student or instructor will ask to visit my dojo to train for a day, week, or perhaps the summer. Generally, I do not accept visitors for training unless they train with my direct Sensei or his senior students globally.

Some people might find this to be a rather restrictive policy, but there are many reasons for it. First, my dojo is small, and the instructors are concentrating on the students. Visitors take quite a lot of attention, meaning that we would have less attention to give to our regular students.

Second, the learning curve in our system is extremely long. Even if the student has trained for many years, it takes a long time to learn to use the koshi and for the body to adapt to the requirements of koshi driven movement.

Third, students typically ask to visit and train without consulting their own Sensei first. I certainly cannot have a student train with me without his Sensei's permission first. The Sensei himself should contact me rather than the student.

But then again, I would not generally accept a visiting student who is outside of my direct system under my Sensei, even if his Sensei asked (unless his Sensei is my good friend). I realize that this will also sound restrictive, but that is not the reason for my policy.

When I purchased my Corolla in April, the salesman took some time to explain the features of the car to me. Toward the end, he said, "Just make sure that you don't put diesel fuel in the gas tank!"

He explained that a customer had done so. The car's tank was half-full with regular gas and the customer accidentally filled the rest with diesel. Of course, the car would not work.

Worse than that, the gas had to be pumped out of the tank by a specialist. And because it was a mixture of regular gas and diesel, it had to be disposed of as a toxic substance. I think that the mixture had to be shipped to the mainland for disposal. All in all it cost thousands of dollars!

The moral of the story is not to mix regular gas and diesel.

That is why I generally do not accept visiting students or instructors from other styles. What I teach is pretty good by itself (at least I think so). But it does not mix well with other styles. Other styles are good. Our style is good (at least I think so). But a mixture is like regular gas and diesel fuel. It will wreck the car, ruin the tank, and cost a lot to dispose of.

And to make it even worse, if I teach a student from another style, his Sensei will probably have to undo everything I taught! What is right in our style could be a mistake in another.

I believe that I could teach just about any Karate student to move the way we do if I had one year to do so and the student tried hard. This is usually not possible with visitors. Without sufficient time, a visiting student would be stuck at a transitional stage, like a tadpole with legs. It would not quite be a tadpole or a frog.

So we rarely have visitors train in our dojo.

There is a saying that "you can't catch two rabbits." The rabbits tend to run off in different directions. For this reason, if a student wants to join our dojo, I would expect him to only practice our style of Karate. Practicing two styles at the same time is very difficult. You have to empty the bucket before you can fill it.

It is better to be good at one thing rather than terrible at two.

Also, I would worry that a student could injure people in the other dojo by accidentally using the mechanics or techniques we teach. Since we do not participate in tournaments, nothing we do is regulated or restricted by rules. A young koshi is hard to control. Even a more mature koshi tends to think and move on its own.

Pick one rabbit and chase it. If you catch it, you are really lucky! Most people don't even get to see one!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Husband of a Cancer Survivor

It has been about one year since my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Having undergone two surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, Herceptin treatment, estrogen blocking treatment, and countless tests and scans, my wife is now doing very well. Her hair is growing back (it is about 1 inch) and she has even given a talk about being a breast cancer survivor to a group of women organized by a church and medical group.

I have learned a lot and changed a lot during the process, which is still ongoing.

What I would like to say here is that it is extremely important -- more important than words can possibly convey -- for a husband to be supportive when his wife is diagnosed with cancer. I have tried to be supportive and to learn as much as I can about my wife's cancer and treatment options.

But I have been very sad to learn, by speaking to many women who have had or have cancer, that some husbands simply cannot handle their wife's illness and offer no support at all. This is more common than you might expect -- more than I had expected.

Everyone is different, and I can appreciate how difficult an illness can be. But as a husband I feel that the least I can do is to try my best to be supportive -- to be there for my wife. Cancer should not weaken our relationship -- it should be another thing that we go through together.

How can we practice Karate and claim to be strong if we are not strong enough to support our loved ones during a time of need? We have to be strong enough to be strong for someone else.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Missing

When a beginner misses class, he feels that he missed the opportunity to learn by being taught.

When an intermediate student misses class, he feels that he missed the opportunity to help by teaching.

When an advanced student misses class, he feels that he missed the opportunity to help, as well as the opportunity to learn by teaching.

Beginners need advanced students to learn and advanced students need beginners to learn too!

When I say "advanced students," I always also mean instructors. The highest instructors I have ever met always refer to themselves as "students" or "just students." We should all aspire to be such students!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Copy Me

The other day I was teaching a beginner how to punch in a stationary stance (jigotai dachi). It was pretty basic. Left, right, left, right...

When I teach, I generally punch with the student. If he punches ten times, I punch ten times. I try to teach by example. Who is the student going to copy if I just stand there and count?

So as I was squatting there in front of the student punching with him, I said, "copy me!"

When I punched, the student punched. That was good.

But then I explained, "Don't just punch when I punch, try to match my timing. Start your punch when I start my punch. Keep your elbow close to your side as I do. Don't turn your wrist until I turn my wrist. Extend when I extend and recoil when I recoil. Match my timing like a shadow."

I added, "When someone attacks you, you cannot simply move on your own timing. You have to be able to time the attacker's movements. If you can copy me, you will also be learning how to time other people. If you can match someone, you can block and strike him."

I also added, "When someone is leading the class, match his timing. If he is weak and the person next to you is strong, match that person's timing to push yourself. But always work on matching someone else's timing. Then you are not simply punching. Left, right, left, right..."

A simple thing can be done simply, in a limited way. It can also be done -- with just a little extra effort -- in a way that offers much more opportunity for learning and progress.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

No Koshi Makes Better Koshi

When I teach beginners, I have to be careful not to show koshi. I have to keep the movements simple and linear. If I show koshi, the new students will try to copy it before they are ready to do so. This will corrupt their movement and lead to bad habits and mistakes. Linear movement must come first.

It is my job not to use koshi when teaching beginners.

Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely), the less I use koshi, the nicer my koshi has become. One reason might be that my koshi has become smaller and more internalized.

But I think that another reason is that by practicing linear movement, I have been improving my basics. Just because I had studied Shorin-Ryu for many years before I started to learn koshi does not mean that my linear basics were good or optimized. I learned koshi with a certain understanding of linear basics. There is always more to learn.

So, when I spend time with beginners not using my koshi, an unexpected benefit has been that my movement has improved, both with koshi and without.

There are several ways to generate power. Koshi it only one "spin" on the subject. It is an important part of an overall process. If you can improve the other parts of that process, your overall power generation will improve.

It seems that the move advanced I become (relatively speaking), the more I learn by teaching beginners! So so so!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

No Use For Money

I went to lunch recently with two senior Judo Sensei. Their Sensei had been trained in Japan and came here to live and teach in Hawaii.

I wondered about how their Sensei had made a living, since the cost of living is so high in Hawaii, and Judo classes are usually very inexpensive.

One of the them said, "Our Sensei had no use for money."

That really sums up the attitude of some of the old time martial arts Sensei. They wanted to teach, not count money. They did not want to keep track of whether a student paid for the month or not. They were not interested in insurance, GET tax, income tax, rent, utilities, and other expenses. Their own comfort and financial security was not on their minds. Many of them would be offended if you tried to give them money.

They may sound out of touch. They may sound like they belong in another place and time.

I have been very fortunate to know such Sensei. And you may be surprised to know that many of them are still teaching today!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

"Bad" Samaritan - Part Two

In today's Honolulu Advertiser, there was a story about three recent cases here in Hawaii in which Good Samaritans were either killed or injured. See: Deaths Spur Witness-Response Debate.

Some of the topics parallel my post entitled "Bad" Samaritan.

I wanted to clarify the title of my post. Good Samaritans are certainly good. They represent the best of us, and risk their lives to save others. They are good. You don't hear about "Bad" Samaritans because they are by definition good and noble.

My point is that the people they are dealing with are not motivated by such lofty ideals. People who are fighting with each other, or attacking another person, are not bound by reason or morality. A mad person is unlikely to say, "You are right. Violence is wrong. I should stop fighting."

A person who is fighting is just as likely to fight an innocent bystander or a Good Samaritan. In fact, a Good Samaritan may appear to be poking his nose in someone else's business, which could make the angry person even angrier.

My point was that a Good Samaritan should consider this, as well as the fact that the person may be drunk, drugged, armed, supported by friends, etc. A Good Samaritan is risking his life and safety. Who will take care of his family if he is killed?

In the Honolulu Advertiser story, Honolulu Police Major Frank Fujii said:

"We realize that oftentimes the citizens need to make split-second decisions," he said. "If at all possible and if time allows, we always encourage people to call us, call 911 (color added), because we're trained and equipped to deal with all types of situations. In these cases, you can never tell when what appears to be a benign situation will go dynamic."
I think that is excellent advice.

I have practiced martial arts for most of my life. Although I do not consider myself a good fighter, I do consider myself to be knowledgeable about fights. In a perfect world there would be no fights. But we do not live in a perfect world.

As a martial artist, I know that it takes skill and conditioning to be able to defend yourself in a fight or surprise attack. It takes even more skill to be able to defend someone else. And it may take more skill to break up a fight than it does to stop (injure or incapacitate) the attacker. A martial artist realizes this, and acts accordingly. I would think that most Good Samaritans lack the benefit of martial arts training and experience.

Call 911.

If you have to intervene, if there is no other way, at least you should realize what you are getting yourself into. Realize that the person fighting may be drunk, drugged, armed, supported by friends, is certainly angry, may be mentally unstable, could have a communicable disease... His adrenaline will be pumping. He could be much bigger and stronger than you. He could be a good fighter. Actually, he has many advantages.

If you act as a Good Samaritan, you will be walking into a highly charged and extremely dangerous situation.

Call 911.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

"Bad" Samaritan

Did you ever notice that you never hear of a "Bad" Samaritan. You only hear about "Good" Samaritans.

Here in Hawaii, there was another tragic case of a Good Samaritan who was killed when he tried to stop a fight that was taking place between a man and woman at a bar. The facts of the case are not completely clear, but the Good Samaritan was stabbed and killed.

Here is my point. When people are fighting they are probably very angry. They might be drunk, on drugs, or both! They might be armed with knives, guns, or other weapons. They might also have friends nearby who are equally angry, drunk, drugged, armed, and ready to fight.

A Good Samaritan is walking into a loaded situation that can easily explode and turn against him. Good Samaritans are usually not angry, drunk, drugged, or armed, and they typically act alone. I would assume that they are not trained fighters either. Another thing I have noticed is that Good Samaritans don't tend to be 6 foot five men weighing 270 pounds.

Good intentions are a poor defense.

Please don't get me wrong. I think that there are times when common decency would require a person to become a Good Samaritan. It is just that the person should understand that he is risking his life. Perhaps the first thing a Good Samaritan should do, if possible, is call the police.

Two people usually get it in a fight: the innocent bystander and the Good Samaritan.

We live in a dangerous world. Good Samaritans deserve a special place in heaven.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Hurricane Season Started

June 1st was the beginning of hurricane season.

If you live here in Hawaii, a good website is the Hurricane Questions and Answers page of the Department of Emergency Management, City and County of Honolulu. It also suggests what you should prepare in your survival kit. Here is another Hurricane Checklist at KHNL Channel 8.

If you have not stocked your survival kit, now is a good time to do so. Do you have a NOAA Weather Radio with batteries?

A good place to bookmark is the website of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

The time to prepare for a hurricane is well before it happens. During an emergency, Karate students should be calm and focused. Family and friends should be able to rely on a Karate student. Does that describe you?

It is much easier to be calm and focused when you are prepared.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Eye Gouge

I was watching another mixed martial arts match recently. Two strong fighters were really going at it! I think that the fight was stopped in the third round because of an accidental eye gouge. One of the fighters tried to block a punch with his open hands and accidentally poked the other in the eye.

You have to keep in mind that these were professional fighters. They were in great shape and tough as nails.

But no matter how hard your body might be, your eyes are still soft.

Hitting each other as hard as they could, these fighters could not stop each other. But an accidental eye gouge stopped the fight. Actually, it was not even a gouge. It was more like a light poke. Can you imagine if the fighter actually intended to gouge the eyes? The opponent would almost certainly have been blinded.

Karate is an art of last resort self defense. It is not bound by rules. It is not fair fighting. It is about survival.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Light Weight

I have a student who weighs less than 100 pounds. When considering how one would do in a fight (self defense situation), size and weight are usually important factors.

So I said to the student, "even though you do not weigh much, how would you feel if someone hit you in the face with a 5 pound brick?"

100 pounds does not sound like much, but a 5 pound brick in the face sounds pretty heavy!

One of the goals of Karate is to be able to focus as much power as possible in as small an area as possible, striking with as small and solid a surface as possible. The actually pounds per square inch delivered can be great!

Which would do more damage -- being struck with a 5 pound mallet or a 5 pound pick?

Weight is relative.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Climbing the Mountain

A great Karate Sensei had a dojo at the foot of a mountain that was so high that its summit was always in the clouds. It could never be seen from the ground.

Four young men approached the Sensei and asked to become students.

"What do you seek?" the Sensei asked the first young man.

"I seek riches through Karate," replied the young man.

"Then climb the mountain and at the summit you will find riches beyond belief."

The young man left, climbed the mountain and was never seen again.

The second young man approached the Sensei and asked to become a student. "What do you seek?" asked the Sensei.

"I seek fame and glory through Karate," he replied.

"Then climb the mountain and at the summit you will find fame and glory beyond belief."

The young man left, climbed the mountain and was never seen again.

The third young man approached the Sensei and asked to become a student. "What do you seek?" asked the Sensei.

"I seek power through Karate," he replied.

"Then climb the mountain and at the summit you will find power beyond belief."

The young man left, climbed the mountain and was never seen again.

Finally, the fourth young man approached the Sensei. "What do you seek?" the Sensei asked him.

"Well, I would like to become skilled at Karate, like you," replied the young man.

"Then stay here and train with me," answered the Sensei.

The young man was a bit confused. "What did you find when you climbed the mountain?" he asked the Sensei, unable to contain himself.

"I never did," answered the Sensei. "That mountain has no summit. No matter how high you climb it seeking riches, fame and glory, or power, you will never reach the top. When I met my Sensei here when I was a young man, I asked to become skilled like him and he invited me to train with him."

The moral of this story is that skill in Karate comes from training. And if you are climbing a mountain seeking something, you should be very clear about that which you seek -- you may be chasing something in the clouds.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Pinan Sandan Kick/Punches

On the back side of Pinan Sandan there is a sequence where you are in a cat stance (nokoashi dachi) with a middle block (chudan uchi uke), execute a front kick (tsumasaki geri) with your back foot, step back into the nekoashi dachi, and punch twice. You do this twice, once to the left and once to the right.

When a new student learns this sequence, we teach him to kick, step back into the stance, and then punch twice.

As the student advances, we teach him to kick and throw the first punch so that it lands when the foot hits the ground (steps back into the stance).

As the student advances even more, we teach him to kick and throw the first punch, and then the second punch, so that the second punch lands when the foot hits the ground (steps back into the stance).

And actually, the timing is such that the recoil of the punch is timed with the foot hitting the ground.

Instructors will usually execute the sequence in the more advanced manner, but might do the first, second, or third version depending on who they are teaching (or who is watching).

As you can imagine, a student doing the first version will take longer than a student doing the second version, who will take longer than a student doing the third version. By the time a student doing the first version starts to throw the first punch, a student doing the third version will already be done with the second punch, and moving on to the next sequence.

Some students might say, "but throwing the punches before your foot is on the ground will be weak." This is true for a beginner, but not true once the student learns to use his koshi properly. With a more trained koshi, it is not necessary for both feet to be on the ground in order to generate power. One foot is sufficient with core torque.

This is just one example of variable timing combinations in kata. There are many in each kata we practice. This makes training very interesting!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Lucky Student!

Last night as I was leaving our Karate class, I walked down the hall and peeked in to say goodnight to the Escrima Professor who also teaches on Monday evenings. He was teaching a single student who seemed to have just started training.

I mentioned to the student that he was so lucky! To be the only student in a class is a very rare treat and honor. Of course, the student probably did not understand this yet.

Some of my fondest memories in my martial arts training where the rare days when I had the good fortune to be the only student.

I have also had the extremely good fortune to have had the finest and most generous Sensei, mentors, and seniors. I could not be more lucky!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Sensei's Role Is To Inspire

What is the Sensei's role? For most of my life, I have thought that it was to teach -- to teach the techniques, applications, body dynamics, history, culture, and traditions of the great art of Karate. I still believe that to be true.

However, I now believe that the more important role of the Sensei is to inspire the student to want to learn.

This is a bit subtle. I do not mean that the Sensei should be a cheerleader and work to encourage the student to learn. A Sensei could encourage a student many ways, by urging, by commanding, by shaming, by humiliating, by stroking and feeding the ego. Not all ways of encouraging a student are positive.

If a student is motivated by negative factors, his Karate will be negative. Period. Once negative, it is extremely difficult to change the student's outlook and motivation.

The Sensei must be very careful to positively motivate the student. The student must want to learn for the right reasons.

Should the student want to be high ranking like his Sensei? If so, that will direct his pursuit of the art. Should the student want to be powerful like his Sensei? Should the student want to have a fine reputation like his Sensei? Whatever the student is motivated by will shape and color his pursuit of the art and his training.

My senior friends have generally been motivated by a combination of their Sensei's skill and character -- the combination that makes one a Karate bushi.

The Sensei must be very careful to make sure that he does not get in the student's way. The Sensei should inspire the student and provide the basics of the art so that the student will reach the point where he can independently pursue the art.

To say it again, the Sensei wants to make the student skilled enough and strong enough to learn Karate himself.

I know many fine Karate instructors. I cannot think of any who got where they are by being taught each and every thing. They were not spoon fed Karate. Once they reached a certain level, they became so inspired by their Sensei that their pursuit of Karate could not be stopped. The difficulties of life, work, family, and a million other things, could not hold them back from pursuing their lifelong study of the art.

The Sensei inspires and the student strives. The best Sensei cannot teach a student who does not really want to learn. But once the fire of Karate burns in the student's heart, he can learn whether his Sensei is there or not. This is especially true here in Hawaii (and on the mainland), where many of us are separated by great distance from our Sensei in Japan in Okinawa.

When a student becomes self-sustaining, the Sensei has done his job. At that point, it does not matter whether the student pursues this particular style of that style. It does not matter. What matters is that the student has become alive to Karate.

That is the role of the Sensei.

Teaching techniques is important. Inspiring the student is the ultimate goal of the Sensei... or at least that is what I think at this particular moment.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Fukyugata Ichi Angles

This post is for Matsubayashi-Ryu students, and student of other styles who practice the Nagamine Shoshin version of Fukyugata Ichi.

The eighth movement of the kata is a right forward punch (chudan zuki) in a natural stance (shizentai dachi) -- the third punch of the first forward sequence. I'm sure you know which technique I am referring to.

The next movement is a left downward block (gedan barai) in a front bent leg stance (zenkutsu dachi). This block is to the back left diagonal (to the left after you have turned). From the front, you turn counterclockwise to the left to deliver the downward block.

So here is the question. Based upon the angles of your shoulders, how many degrees do you turn to deliver the downward block? Think about it for a minute. From the forward punch, how many degrees do you turn?

If your shoulders are square in the forward punch and downward block (this means that your koshi is pointing to the front), you would turn 225 degrees. But if you are in the hanmi position (with slanted shoulders), you would turn only 90 degrees! That is 90 degrees, less than half of the total with your shoulders square.

I hope that you can see this.

The turn from the forward punch to the downward block is difficult. It takes a lot of time and the block is usually too slow. An attacker in the back could easily kick you. But in hanmi, the black is incredibly fast. There is no comparison. It is not a matter of hand speed, it is a matter of turning speed. It is obviously faster to turn 90 degrees than it is to turn 225 degrees.

As Shinzato Sensei has taught me, Fukyugata Ichi provides many examples of this. Fukyugata Ichi can teach the student how to move more efficiently, and how to turn by slanting (with less actual turning).

Before learning Fukyugata Ichi in this manner, I disliked the kata. After learning it this way, I love the kata! Fukyugata Ichi, to me, is like origami -- neatly folding the body angles.

All this does not have to do with koshi dynamics. It is purely body angles and alignment. Koshi dynamics is still important, but less so. The koshi explosion only takes place after the body alignment and weight change, perhaps in the last 10 or 15 percent of the technique, or less.

Did Nagamine Sensei intend that Fukyugata Ichi be performed in hanmi rather than with square shoulders? I do not know, but the older photos I have seen of similar techniques are usually done in hanmi.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate Update

If your Sensei teaches you one technique, application, or way to move, and you only practice that one thing by itself, you will have learned one thing. But if you apply that one thing to all of your techniques, to the extent applicable, you may have actually learned dozens or even hundreds of things.

If you have Windows or an antivirus program installed on your computer, your program will routinely update itself. The update will install new versions of the programs, or parts of the programs. Learning from your Sensei is a bit like a Karate update. Each new thing you learn can be used to update and enhance your Karate.

Or you could simply learn that one thing and keep it separate, in which case you will have only learned that one thing.

Your Sensei teaches you one thing and you multiply it throughout your Karate, making it your own. You have to do the hard work.

Another way to look at this is to view the thing you are taught as an infection. The new technique, application, or way to move, will positively infect your Karate.

The worst thing that a student can do (aside from abusing Karate for violence), is to waste what he is taught by his Sensei. The Sensei plants a seed. A few weeks later, he will want to check on the growth of the seed. It is up to the student to water, fertilize, and tend to the plant.

The Sensei should not meet his student several years later and hear the student say, "Look Sensei, here are all the seeds you gave me. I have keep them safe in this jar!"

It is the student's responsibility to grow his Karate.

That said, I often see students who learn something and then ignore it. They have to be taught the same thing over and over again because they do not invest their own time and effort to understand and apply the technique. The same type of student will ask to be taught a new kata -- but will not improve his technique. A kata is good or bad because of the individual techniques, not because of the name or degree of difficulty of the kata. One good punch is a great kata, but a hundred lousy techniques will make a lousy kata.

It is better to do Fukyugata Ichi well than Kusanku poorly. But of course, it is better to do Kusanku well!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin