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1650+ Posts... and Counting

Pulling With the Back

My third son works out every day at 24 Hour Fitness. He is in great shape. So I asked him to help modify my weight routine, since I had plateaued with the routine I have followed for the last year or so.

Today he was explaining bent over dumbbell rows to me. This is where you lean on a bench and pull up a dumbbell with one hand. There is a good photo of this here.

Dumbbell rows are a pretty simple exercise and I had done them already. But my son explained today, "try not to pull up with your arm, at first pull with your back."

By pulling in this way, the back muscles are exercised. I tried it an realized that I had been pulling incorrectly just using my arm.

Here is the point. Once I started pulling with my back muscles, I realized that it feels just like hikite (pulling hand). When you punch, the hand you pull back to your body is the hikite.

You could pull using your arm muscles, but this would be wrong. You need to pull with your back and lats, just like the dumbbell rows. This is in keeping with the saying that "you punch with your back" (as opposed to your arms, chest and shoulders).

Lifting weights makes it easier to feel isolated muscle groups.

If you can learn to pull with you back and lats, your Karate movements will be much stronger and more stable. In essence, you will be pulling with your body rather than just your arms.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

My Cold -- A Reason

I am still recovering from my cold. But I found out something interesting, something many of you might have suspected.

When I developed shingles about a month ago, that lowered my immunity, which made it easier for me to catch a cold. I did not think of this, but my allergist mentioned it during a routine visit.

Since then, many people have told me, "Oh yeah, I figured that's what happened."

So in hindsight, while I was recovering from shingles (all better now), I should have been extra careful.

What does this have to do with Karate? Our bodies are our weapons, so to speak. We have to care for them just as we would care for greatly needed weapons. If we do not take care of our bodies, how can be defend them?

Have you ever known anyone who owned a precious samurai sword? If so, you know the great care with which the sword is treated and maintained. Our bodies deserve even more conscientious care.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Being Told What To Do

Most people do not like being told what to do. I do not.

But if a job needs to be done and a person does not do it, someone will have to tell him to do it. This might be done in person or even by a note. The longer it takes for the person to get on the job, the more often and urgently he will be told to do it.

If you do not like being told what to do, you have to take the initiative to do what needs to be done before some can ask you to do it. It is not enough to dislike being told what to do. You have to also take the initiative.

Actually, your goal should be to do what needs to be done before anyone even has the idea of asking you to do it.

This applies in the home, school and at work. It also applies in Karate. In Karate too we need to be able to seize the initiative -- to move in a way that disrupts or even preempts an attack.

I have owned my own business for 21 years. When an employee has to be told what to do, that is just average. I have to do work in order to get that employee to work. It is double effort. That person can be replaced. But when an employee is self directed, that is someone special, someone you want to keep on your staff.

If you don't like being told what to do, don't just sit there -- do what needs to be done. Seize the initiative.

If you are not sure what needs to be done, you can always ask. A person who seeks work usually gets the good jobs. A person who just sits there, gets what's left over.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Saved By Tonfa

Sensei Fumio Nagaishi asked me if I heard the story of the Karate Sensei who was saved by a pair of tonfa? I told him that I had not.

Nagaishi Sensei said that near the end of the war as American troops advanced through a village (I believe it was Awase Village), a military pastor stopped in front of a house and looked in. On the wall was a pair of tonfa, mounted back to back with the handles on the upper side. Can you visualize this? You might have seen tonfa hanging like this in various dojo.

To the pastor, the tonfa looked like the Christian cross and he raised his hands to pray.

This was the house of Sensei Shosei Kina. Nagaishi Sensei learned kobudo from Kina Sensei's student, Sensei Shinyei Kyan (the Okinawan politician and a senior who taught in Sensei Shoshin Nagamine's dojo). Nagaishi Sensei also met Kina Sensei, who lived to be 100.

I do not think that Kina Sensei intended for the tonfa to look like a Christian cross, but you never know. Kina Sensei was in fact a Christian as were many of the villagers in Awase.

I found an interesting article online that mentions Shosei Kina and his remarkable path to Christianity. See: The Village That Lived By The Bible. I also wrote about Kina Sensei in Emphasize Peace.

Nagaishi Sensei, who is now in his 80s, lived in Okinawa for 30 years before returning home to Hawaii. He practiced both Karate (under Chosin Chibana) and Kobudo (under Shinyei Kyan and Shinken Taira) in Okinawa and taught Kobudo here in Hawaii.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Hit Me Anywhere...

A Karate student returned to Hawaii after training in Okinawa. This was in the 1960s. The student had practiced Kenpo and Okinawan Karate here in Hawaii, and went to Okinawa for additional training.

When he returned, an Aikido instructor, who was not very impressed by Karate, told the student to hit him anywhere. The Karate student said that he did not want to, but the Aikido instructor took a ready position and insisted. So the Karate student kicked him in the groin! The Aikido instructor, apparently, was not ready for that, and doubled over in pain.

This story was told to me by the student, and I believe it to be true.

The point is that the Aikido instructor was probably ready for the kinds of attacks he was used to seeing in Aikido. He probably would have been ready for most types of punches, but the kick came as a complete surprise. You have to remember that this was in the 1960s and Karate was not that well known. Of course, I am sure that there are many fine Aikido instructors who could have handled the kick easily. The martial art is not the point.

Today, everyone knows that when someone says you can hit him anywhere, you should watch out for a kick to the groin. It is an easy attack, can be launched from a long distance, and can be easily modified into a kick to the knee, a sweeping kick, or other technique.

And if you ever tell someone to attack you anywhere, don't be surprised if you get kicked in the groin -- or today you might have to watch out for a Superman Punch!

A word of caution -- I would never advise inviting anyone to hit you anywhere.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Not Stepping Back 2

I wish to address Sensei Pat Nakata's Guest Post, Not Stepping Back. I believe that his post got many people to think about their karate techniques. I agree that it is best to move forward into the attacker, rather than step away. Modern self defense techniques often begin with a step back. This can be explained in different ways -- yielding to a powerful attack, creating a space for a counter, giving the attacker a chance to change his mind --but it differs from the "traditional" approach.

In my opinion, once the engagement begins, the traditional approach is to quickly enter and destroy the attacker. It is self defense only until a certain line is crossed -- then the defense becomes very aggressive. You almost want to move through the attacker.

But my point is a little different. With multiple attackers and surprise attacks, we cannot always move forward. The attackers may be all around us or we may be caught by surprise from the rear or sides. We do not always have the time to face the attacker.

Thus, we have to move "forward" with whatever part of our body is facing the attacker. We might attack to the back with reverse elbow strikes or back kicks. We might attack to the side with Naihanchi type movements. We might move to the various diagonals.

We have to be able to move freely in any direction, and to execute defensive and attacking techniques freely in any direction. Again, once the line is crossed, defense includes attacking, whether is it pure attacking or counterattacking.

We also should be able to move vertically, particularly to and from the ground. This is often neglected in modern Karate training but was an integral part of the old Karate (Tudi) in Okinawa.

There is also an occasion when we might move back -- when we run away. When you read the colorful exploits of figures such as Choki Motobu, you find that even though he was a tough fighter, he often ran away, particularly from mobs. He seemed to be very good at hiding in trees and on roofs. Sometimes it is necessary to stand and fight. Sometimes it may be wiser to run away and fight another day.

One of my Sensei was the victim of gangs as a child. He could not defeat a gang by himself, so he would run away and wait for opportunities to confront the gang members one on one. That was his strategy. If he stood his ground, he would certainly lose. By running away, he could defeat the gang one at a time.

So I agree that we should not step back. We should move into the attacker, whatever direction he may be. We must be able to execute techniques freely in all directions.

To do that, we need to learn to use our whole bodies to generate power. But that is a different subject.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Mad At Myself For A Cold

Well, my shingles are just about all gone... so I caught a cold. I have not caught a cold since June of last year, when my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. I told myself that I could not afford to get sick. She is doing very well now, but that is no excuse for getting sick.

My Kenpo Karate instructor, Mr. Florentino S. Pancipanci, used to tell us that we should get mad at ourselves if we got sick. If we got sick, it would interfere with our work and training so we should not allow ourselves to become sick. He wanted us to feel that our health was within our control. I also think that by getting mad at ourselves, we were telling our subconscious that we did not approve of getting sick.

We should not simply view getting sick as an accident. It is something that we have at least some control over.

Control or not, I got sick and spent most of the last two days sleeping. I even missed training tonight. Arghhh!

But I realize that even Karate instructors are human. Since I know many older Sensei, I have seen that they too suffer from illnesses and disease -- just like all humans. I would say that most are in better shape than ordinary people, but not necessarily in better shape than other athletic people of their age. What I mean is this: a 70 year old Karate Sensei may not be in better shape than a 70 year old swimmer, runner, or Yoga practitioner. The Karate Sensei may be in better shape or he may not. It all depends.

Of course, you could argue that the Karate Sensei could defend himself better than the others. But is his health any better? I wonder.

For myself, I want to remain as healthy and active as possible as long as possible. At 50, I still have time to tailor my Karate training and exercise regimen to accomplish this.

I guess that the point I am trying to make is this: training in Karate for self defense motivations is not enough for me -- I also want it to enhance my health and longevity. These goals should go hand in hand.

There is a saying that Shorin-Ryu instructors live to at least 85. I am glad that I practice Shorin-Ryu! But I know that we cannot simply rely on a saying. We have to work at it. We have to exercise, watch our diet, watch our stress, etc.

But for today, I am mad at myself for catching a cold. I will have to be more mindful so that I can avoid it the next time.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Slovenian Interview With Shinzato Sensei

A very nice interview with Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato has appeared in a Slovenian newspaper after his recent visit there.

Here is link to the online version:


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Okinawan Dialect

I am not an expert at the Okinawan language but I have learned a few things during my Karate studies.

"Shiro" means "castle" in Japanese. In the Okinawan dialect, this would be "Gusuku."

Thus, the name Miyashiro would have been Miyagusuku, and Shiroma would have been Gusukuma.

There are no "e" and "o" sounds in the Okinawan dialect. Thus, they would not have said "Karate." In the Okinawa dialect, the word for the art would have been "Tudi." Japanese might have said "Tode" or "Tote," but Okinawans would not have used the "e" and "o" vowels.

"Tudi" meant "Tang hand" with Tang representing a great dynasty of China, and thus China in general. Tudi thus meant China hand. China could also be pronounce "Kara" but Okinawans would not have said "Karate," they would have said "Karati."

So when we say that Karate was an alternative pronuncian of Tote, that is only partially correct.

Our Yamani-Ryu bojutsu kata show these pronunciation patterns:

Shuji Nu Kun
Sakugawa Nu Kun
Shirataru Nu Kun

Do you notice that there are no "e" and "o" vowels. The Japanese pronunciation for the second and third words in usually "No Kon."

The name Higaonna is also a Japanese pronunciation. I spoke to an elderly Okinawan woman here in Hawaii and she pronounced it "Hijaunna" with the "j" sound like a buzzing "z."

I do not understand the Okinawan dialect, or Japanese for that matter, but these word and pronunciation patterns are very interesting. I think that it would be useful to have a comprehensive glossary of Karate terms in the Okinawan dialect(s).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Best Fighter?

It might be good to be the best fighter in the world, but...

  • On a good day, the second best fighter might be able to defeat the best fighter.
  • The 10th and 11th best fighters working together can almost certainly defeat the best fighter.
  • Being the best fighter doesn't mean much if you are hit in the back of the head with a brick or stabbed in the back.
  • Even an untrained attacker could get lucky.
  • Even if the best fighter wins a fight, he could get injured or contract a disease.
  • The time will come (with age) that the best fighter will not be the best fighter any longer.
  • What does best mean? What are the criteria? Best fighter with rules, in a certain weight division, in the whole world? What?
Wouldn't it be better to be the best person in the world?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Referring An Instructor

Sometimes I am contacted, usually by email, with a request to refer a potential student to a Karate instructor, either here in Hawaii or elsewhere in the world. As time has gone by, I have developed a policy generally not to give such referrals.

Usually, the person asking me for a referral gives me very little information about himself, sometimes not even his last name. It is one thing to recommend a restaurant -- it is quite another to recommend a Karate instructor. If I refer a student, I will be responsible for that student in the eyes of the instructor. As such, I can really only refer a student if I know him.

If you refer a person to a restaurant or store, those businesses usually want customers. They sell something. A Karate instructor -- at least the Karate instructors I know -- do not sell anything. They are not advertising for students. Usually, students only come to them from referrals from other instructors, students, or close friends. And to be honest, a student would have to be very lucky to be referred to a fine Sensei.

The relationship between Sensei and student can last a lifetime. It is not something to be entered into lightly.

This is why I generally do not refer prospective students to Karate instructors unless I know the student pretty well. I do not mean to show any disrespect to the student. It is just that we have different attitudes about what such a referral means.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Kamae-Gamae

This Guest Post is by Halford E. Jones, a frequent reader of this blog, and the donor of the Halford E. Jones Filipino Martial Arts Collection at the Hawaii Karate Museum.

- - - - - - - - - -

Kamae-Gamae

Dear Charles,

Your recent blog (No Fixed Positions) prompts me to take perhaps a different viewpoint from that presented on your blogs concerning kamae. While I fully understand and appreciate your thoughts and those of Pat Nakata (Guest Post: Kamae) and those of others, I think that historically there is a reason for such postures or poses or stances, etc. Namely, that in times past, with books and scrolls perhaps not as prevalent at might have been wished, the emulation of such by learners was important.

My thoughts on all this are prompted by the various statures and stone carvings found in various cultures of martial activities, and some of which are either Hindu or Buddhist in orientation. Namely that by a study of such and assuming such positions one could learn some things. Granted there were not ways to capture such things on film or DVD then to show motions, but these things, the kamae, are, as you have all pointed out, ways to 'capture the transitions', etc.

Although there is no need to point this out to you or others, but the late Mas Oyama presented a whole series of kamae in one of his massive books, which I have, and also some of the possible uses and applications of such.

There is also another aspect to all this: namely, that the holding of such postures and poses are a type of 'yoga' and accustoming the body to develop along certain ways and need not interfere exactly in actual fights or movements in kata, etc. In others words, I think that in countries where heat and cold are rather harsh at times, the holding of such postures is a form of body training and discipline, not merely a way to fight or whatever.

Going back to yoga and various 'styles', schools, etc. that exist, aside from the trendy ones that are on nearly every street corner now, the ancients took hundreds if not thousands of years to perfect such things and, in most cases, when possible, left detailed descriptions of what would occur in the body on such things,which, unfortunately many moderns do not realize or even know about, more concerned with achieving physical perfection and doing exercise, etc. and not knowing what the full results will be by a lifelong practice.

Naturally, static positions are not the end all, be all, but they are, nevertheless, important to perhaps make certain that angles and body can be employed in certain situations more efficiently than merely making rapid, non-concentrated gestures and motions. Thanks for your time and keep up the good work.

Yours in martial arts,

Halford E. Jones

Hurricane Dynamics in Karate

With all the recent hurricanes, I have been watching a lot of cable news. This is weird to say, but when I see reports about hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, I think of boarding up my windows here in Hawaii (really I do).

I used to live in Florida, in a trailer, and we were always worried about hurricanes and tornadoes. Here in Hawaii we get our share of hurricanes too.

One thing I often hear is that the strongest part of the hurricane is the front, eastern quadrant. Getting hit by this part of the hurricane is the worst. At least this is what I have heard.

In our system of Karate, we move in a whiplike manner. In essence, we are moving like a hurricane (perhaps the movements are circular, elongated, or almost straight). But all of our movements can be envisioned as portions of a moving circle, like a hurricane.

Of course, our movements might be clockwise, counterclockwise, or rotating in a vertical or other plane.

But if hurricanes have a stronger quadrant, do our movements also have a stronger portion or section? When we execute a chudan shuto uke or uchi, for example, is there a portion or section of the movement that is strongest or best for hitting?

I believe so. And it tends to be the front eastern quadrant (if rotating counterclockwise) or the front western quadrant (if rotating clockwise).

I do not have the mechanical or physics background to explain or confirm this, but it seems right to me.

Another hurricane analogy. No matter how fast we might be moving at the extremities, our center remains very calm. Tension builds up around the center and radiates outward (tensing and releasing).

I do not mean to make light of hurricanes, not at all. It is just that there might be something we can learn from them about whiplike and rotational movement.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Always Someone...

My second son, Charles, is almost 6 feet tall. I am only 5 foot 8 inches tall, so he is much taller than me. My other sons are about 5 foot 11 inches tall. They all tower over me.

But the other day, my second son was playing basketball and had to guard a person who was 6 foot 6 inches tall, much taller and heavier than my son. He towered over my son.

My point is that there is always someone bigger, always someone heavier, always someone faster. If you compete head to head (based on size, weight, speed, etc.), you might win or you might lose. If you are my size, the odd are that you will lose.

And you never know when an attacker might have a weapon. You might be taller, heavier, and faster than him, but a knife or other weapon has a way of changing the equation, especially if you do not see it.

But even a taller person has weak eyes. Even a heavier person has weak testicles. Even a faster person has knees that can be strained or broken. It is possible to exploit a stronger person's weaknesses.

It is easy for me to keep in mind that there are always taller, heavier, faster and stronger people out there. My sons have to keep this in mind too. Even a person who is 6 foot 6 inches tall may encounter a bigger attacker. And even a giant has to worry when there are two or more attackers.

When I was a child in Misawa Air Force Base, Japan, I studied Judo. When I started, I was among the shortest students. The only way I could win was to get in close. From that time until today, I consider that to be one of the most important principles in martial arts. It certainly applies to Karate. When I say close, I mean literally crashing into the attacker -- trying to move through him. At that range, my height is actually an advantage.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Things You Do Not Want To Hear...

This is basically a joke, so please take it as such. Karate can be funny too.

Here are some things you do not want to hear when you perform a kata for an expert in your style:

  • Your gi looks very good
  • Your patch was sewn on very well
  • Your gi was very loud
  • You pronounced (shouted) the name of the kata very well
  • I like the way that you kiai
  • When you kiai, you really are not supposed to actually say "kiai"
  • I like the way that you bow (actually, that is a compliment)
  • Are you really supposed to slap your hands on your sides like that when you come to attention?
  • What kata was that?
  • You appear to be in very good shape
  • I have never seen a kata performed like that
  • You move from movement to movement too quickly
  • You have no feel for the kata
  • That was like an artificial flower, it looks like a flower but has no smell
  • What rank did you say you are?
  • Who is your Sensei?
  • Do you practice our style of Karate?
  • Are you OK? I thought that you were having convulsions.
  • You must have learned from a book because that kata has only 16 movements but you did it with 35 movements, the number of photos in the book
  • Do you have any idea what the movements in that kata mean?
  • The good news is that you can only improve after that
  • I am so glad that you are finished
  • I give you a 10... out of 100
  • I am literally speechless
  • Very pretty
Although this is basically a joke, I think that I have heard some of these comments in my life! Have you? And sometimes I wonder what people who observe kata are really thinking!

My Sensei here in Hawaii would sometimes try to do the kata like I had done it. It would be so frustrating for him to try to move incorrectly, but it was almost a little humerous to see him straining to do so. Actually, I found moving incorrectly to be very easy!

When I observe kata, I usually say, "Good, good, keep working on it." And when I first started learning from Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, he would almost throw a party every time I got a movement even 10% (maybe 5%) correct. He would say, "So, so, so!" and give a huge smile. He gave me so much encouragement!

If you are an instructor, it might be a good idea to avoid the comments on the list above. There are better ways to encourage students. And if you have to say one negative thing, try to say two postive things. My Sensei here in Hawaii, Sensei Rodney Shimabukuro, always said this, and he said that his Sensei, Sensei Tommy Morita, said the same thing too.

"Good, good, perhaps you can work on this..."

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Encyclopedia

I am writing this post primarily to members of Kishaba Juku and students of Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato. However, it may also interest Karate students of all styles.

After many years of hard work, the Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Encyclopedia (746 pages) has recently been released. Shinzato Sensei was a member of the committee that worked on the book, and he is listed as one of the three primary authors.

The committee members were (to my knowledge, and not in any order): Shigeru Takamiyagi, Keicho Tabaru, Morio Higaonna, Toru Kadekaru, Miwa Kanazawa, Tokumasa Miyagi, Kiyoshi Tsuha, Katsuhiko Shinzato, Masahiro Nakamoto, and Masaru Agarie. I'm sure that you will recognize many of these great Karate Sensei. On my last visit to Okinawa, I was fortunate to meet Takamiyagi Sensei and Nakamoto Sensei, and to see Higaonna Sensei again (he had visited Hawaii earlier).
Shinzato Sensei wrote several of the Karate masters profiles in the book and other articles, including articles and profiles that appear on:

  • pages 104~110
  • pages 168~169
  • page 179
  • page 184
  • pages 209~223
  • pages 236~239
  • pages 376~377 (Arakaki, Ankichi)
  • pages 386~387 (Itarashiki, Chochyu)
  • pages 395 (Iraha, Choko)
  • page 396 (Ueshiro, Ansei)
  • page 407 (Ohama, Nobumoto)
  • page 408 (Omine, Chotoku)
  • pages 412 (Kaneshima, Shinsuke)
  • pages 413 (Kana, Kenwa)
  • pages 413 (Kishaba, Chokei)
  • pages 417 (Gima, Shinjo)
  • pages 418 (Kyan, Shinei)
  • page 418 (Kyan, Chotoku)
  • pages 419 ~420 (Kyan, Chofu = Chotoku's father)
  • pages 425~426 (Kushi, Jokei)
  • pages 430~431 (Kojo, Kafu)
  • page 435 (Shima, Masao)
  • pages 441~442 (Shimabukuro, Taro)
  • pages 448~449 (Shinjo, Heitaro)
  • pages 484~485 (Nakasone, Genwa)
  • pages 487~488 (Nagamine, Shoshin)
  • page 489 (Nakamura, Seigi)
  • page 490 (Nakamura, Yoshio)
  • pages 492 (Narahara, Shigeru)
  • pages 516~517 (Makabe, Choken)
  • pages 527 (Miki, Jisaburo)
  • pages 529~530 (Miyagi, Shikichi)
  • pages 537 (Mutsu, Mizuho)
  • pages 542~543 (Yagi, Meitoku)
  • pages 544~545 (Yabu, Kentsu)
  • pages 557~559
  • pages 702~725 Karate chronology
Kishaba Juku students will recognized many Sensei in our lineage (and others). There are also many excellent photographs of these Sensei, including Nakamura Sensei, both Kishaba Sensei(s), and Shinzato Sensei.

Unfortunately, for many of us, the encyclopedia is in Japanese. However, it is hoped that there will be an English translation. But for me, the photographas are great! The list price of the book is 15,000 Yen (about 150 US dollars). I do not have information about where and how the book can be purchased yet. I received a copy as a donation to the Hawaii Karate Museum. When I get more information, I will post it.

I know that Shinzato Sensei and the other committee members have worked very hard on this project for many years. I feel that we, in Kishaba Juku, are very fortunate to have a Sensei who is not only technically amazing, but a scholar are well -- not to mention one of the nicest people you could ever have the good fortune of meeting. Also, many of us are so lucky that he is so fluent in English (at least for myself, I do not speak or write Japanese). Shinzato Sensei is just back to Okinawa after teaching in Slovenia.

Shinzato Sensei was also very considerate to include photographs and information about some of the great Karate master who visited and lived in Hawaii. I was personally very moved to see these.

I hope that you will have the opportunity to acquire or view the new Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Encyclopedia. Our museum's copy will soon be a part of the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection at the Hamilton Library of the University of Hawaii, Manoa Campus.

Congratulations and a big Mahalo (thank you) to all the writers and contributors to the new Okinawan Karate and Kobudo Encyclopedia!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

No Fixed Postions

I want to piggyback on the guest post by my friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, entitled Kamae. I think that in Shorin-Ryu (all the different branches) we have learned that there are no fixed positions, or kamae. When we move, we move. We do not take up certain postures.

However, if you were to look at a book showing kata photographs, it would seem that each movement of the kata is fixed. You punch and hold it. You block, and hold it. You kick, step down, and hold it. We take certain stances and hold our hands in certain positions -- at least it looks so in books.

But in actuality, the photos in a book are just snapshots. If a kata is made up on 1,000 photos, a book might only show 20. It is showing just the highlights. If the 1,000 photos were shown, it would take a whole book for just one kata. So we are only seeing 1 out of 50 photos.

These snapshots seem fixed, but really they are not. We hit and move, and block and move, and kick, and move. We move.

Have you noticed that most kata begin with the hands held down? I believe that this is to represent the most natural position. Usually, we do not walk around or stand with our hands held above our heads, or even at our chest level. Usually, our hands rest naturally.

I was working on a set of yakusoku kumite patterns for our dojo. I consulted my Sensei in Okinawa, Sensei Katsuhiko Shinsato, about the patterns. He recommended that they begin with the hands resting naturally on the thighs. He did not want the hands to be held up in a fixed postition.

Shinzato Sensei has also made the point that we must learn to be able to block from wherever our hands may be. If they are down by our thighs, we block from there. If they are crossed on our chest, we block from there. If they are on top of our head, we block from there. Wherever they are, we block from there. We do not adjust.

Of course, the same goes for striking, kicking, whatever. We move from where we are. From that point, we move directly into the block or strike. We do not waste time taking a position or pulling our hands back. The movement must be direct -- otherwise there is wasted time, and in that time you will be hit.

Imagine two people. One pulls his hand back before punching. The other one punches directly. By the time the first one pulls his hand back, the other one may already have completed his punch.

Using the koshi (whole body dynamics), it is possible to generate considerable power in a short distance. So blocking or striking without pulling back or taking a fixed position is possible.

If a person takes a fixed position -- this is very important -- there is moment, a split second, when he cannot move. In his mind, he is moving to a fixed or rigid position. He is not zig zagging -- he is moving to a certain position. If you know this, you can attack at that moment.

And if you do this (take a fixed position), the attacker can attack you at that movement.

When an attacker stands in front of you with his legs open, I like to tell my student to "make a wish". This refers to what you say when you break the wishbone at Thanksgiving and other family events. If a person is dumb enough to stand in front of you with his legs open (an unintended kamae probably), you should just kick him in the groin as quickly and as hard as you can. It is like breaking the wishbone... "make a wish."

As Nakata Sensei mentioned, taking a kamae telegraphs your intention. It also shows that you know some form of Karate. A skilled Karate person will be able to gauge your ability by your composure and the type of kamae you take. You will be giving away something.

Think about wild animals attacking a prey. Once a lion charges, it takes no fixed position until it has the prey firmly in its jaws. It is just a blur of motion.

Actually, animals only take fixed positions in mating rituals. Otherwise, they move quickly to attack or escape.

Why have fixed positions become so common in Karate? I think that there are several answers, including:

  • Tournaments. Competitors are judged by the perfection of their positions rather than the effectiveness of their movement.
  • Books. The photo thing.
  • Fighting. Many modern instructors do not know how to fight and think of Karate within the arena of Karate movements and rules, rather than street attacks with no rules.
  • Movies. Fixed positions look cool to the audience.
  • Magazine covers. Same as movies.
We have to learn movement in a fixed way to that we can get them right. That is like tracing the outline of a picture (remember when you were a little kid?). But once we learn to move correctly, we have to learn how to move into and out of that movement freely.

In fact, that is the main thing -- to be able to move freely. Once we accomplish the block or strike, we have to move into the next technique or escape. There is no time or use for posing.

In the words of the great movie Talladega Nights (paraphrasing it), we have to learn to "come at you like a Spider Monkey!"

We have to learn to move freely. This also requires that we can think freely. A fixed mind leads to fixed positions. Rigid thinking leads to a rigid body. A relaxed, free mind, leads to a relaxed, free body.

No fixed positions (kamae), no fixed stances, no fixed responses. Without hesitation or conscious thought, we have to be able to move appropriately and directly. It is like turning on a light. There is no perceptible gap between the light leaving the light bulb and striking the floor.

I have thought of another analogy. Think about an Olympic swimmer. He takes a fixed position at the start and he reaches out to touch the wall at the end of the race. In between there is only motion, no fixed or rigid positions. The same goes for sprints and other races.

Is Karate any different?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Grab What?

When Sensei Chosin Chibana explained that turning in kata often represented throws, my friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, asked him what you are supposed to grab if the attacker is not wearing a gi. This was a logical question. In Judo, the gi is integral to many types of throws.

Chibana Sensei promptly demonstrated how to throw without a gi. He grabbed two parts of Nakata Sensei's body. Do you know or can you guess, what parts of the body Chibana Sensei grabbed? Can you name other parts of the body that could be used? Let's leave out the arms and legs to make it more interesting.

I am going to create a large white space and put the answers below (please scroll down).







































Answers:

Chibana Sensei grabbed Nakata Sensei by the side of the neck and the ear.

Throws, take downs, and other control techniques can also be applied using the following (among others):

  • hair
  • inside of the cheek
  • eye sockets
  • nostrils (especially from the back)
  • chin
  • the entire neck (as in a wrap)
  • the armpit area
  • the groin
Old Karate tegumi (grappling) techniques were not limited by sport-type rules and the objective was not simply to put the attacker on the ground. After a tegumi technique, the attacker was usually severly injured.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Leadership

I was in Army ROTC when I started college. One of the things that I remember very clearly was the definition of leadership we were taught at a class:

"Leadership is accomplishing the mission, and keeping the group together in the process."
I'm sure that there are many other definitions, but I would like to offer this one for discussion by Karate instructors.

It is not enough that we are skilled at Karate and skilled at teaching Karate. We must also consider the dynamics of the group. If we yell at or belittle our students, how will that help to keep the group together? If our mission is to teach, leadership requires that we also consider the group.

You could apply this to anything. In a game of tennis, you might feel good if you win. But if you act badly and belittle or argue your opponent, what chance is there that the two of you will want to play again? You might have won the game, but lost the group.

In some dojo, the Sensei is like a god -- what he says goes, period. This is not leadership at all. As soon as the Sensei dies or resigns, the group will probably fall apart, or a new dictator will emerge, purge the seniors, and act like a new god.

We have to accomplish the mission (however that may be defined), and keep the group together in the process.

The Sensei should be the example for his students. He should inspire his students more than he commands them. For me, I hate to be told what to do, and will resent it even if I comply. But when I am inspired, I will try my very best to move mountains.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Nakata Sensei's Guest Posts

I just posted a new guest post by my friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata. I invite you to read all of his guest posts:

I am very grateful to Nakata Sensei for taking the time to share his thoughts and experiences about Karate. Nakata Sensei learned from Chinbana Sensei, who learned from Itosu Sensei. Most of us are several generations (or more) removed from Itosu Sensei and his generation. Itosu Sensei is like Nakata Sensei's grandfather in Karate. Perhaps that is why Nakata Sensei's posts have such an "old Karate" feel.

Nakata Sensei's students are very fortunate, and I am fortunate to have him as my older brother in Karate.

I will ask Nakata Sensei to write more guest posts from time to time.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Kamae

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

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Kamae

Chibana Chosin Sensei said, "There is no kamae in a Karate kata, except for the beginning and end of the kata. Everything else is transition and application." This concept of no kamae is not unique to the Chosin Chibana Shorin-ryu Karate, other schools advocate a simliar concept.

Kamae most often is a guard or a ready position (dead, no movement). Chibana Sensei, also, meant that no kamae was no cocking. Example; anytime one drew the hand back for blocking, striking, or punching this was a kamae (cocking).

Some schools consider the finish position of each technique in a kata a kamae (pose). Example; in Shotokan, many times an instructor will call a "gedan barai no kamae" (low sweeping block postion) or in Wado-Ryu, the instructor will call a "jyunzuki no kamae" (a same side [with the front foot] or corresponding punch position).

To repeat, there is no kamae in a Karate Kata. Every minute movement has a meaning and application. There is no posing (set position/posture), because after completing a technique there is an immediate transition into the next technique (the transition may also be the technique in itself). Cocking will stop the flow of the technique, and thus, stop the transition.

The flow and the tempo should be smooth, with no holding of your breath, exhaling or inhaling. This is done with a natural breathing rhythm (iki no hyoshi), leaving no room (space) for kamae.

This is the reason why Chibana Sensei said, "we do not take stances, but rather the 'foot work' ends up in a position that is moving the body weight (or hara) for the transmission of the technique." With this reasoning, Chibana Sensei used the term "ashi" (stepping) more than "dachi" (stance).

Besides breaking the flow, kamae will telegraph your intentions. In the ultimate level of kata practice, there is no kamae, because we are always flowing while timing an opponent.

Pat Nakata

Sharp Elbows

The other day, I was pairing off with my third son, who is much stronger and faster than I am. I was pretty fast when I was young (at least I thought so). But my third son is much faster than I ever was. I attribute this to his Kendo training in addition to Karate training. I was never as strong as he is. In the language of people his age, he is sick strong.

So as we were pairing off, I started to go faster. No matter how fast I attacked, he could block faster. It was a blur. But all of a sudden he pulled back. His palm (the flashy area below his thumb) had struck the tip of my elbow. It seemed that the tip of my elbow had penetrated almost to the bone. It was great!

I was just punching and not trying to clip him with my elbows. He struck my elbow, not vice versa.

My point is that elbows are great! Even if the opponent is stronger and faster, they can help us to make a point. (Sorry)

I am very fortunate that all four of my children have practiced Karate with me, and my three younger children (aged 22, 19 and 15) still do. My oldest son (aged 26) is always there for dojo events and practices Kendo when he can.

I can't wait to have grandchildren to teach Karate!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Don't Wait -- Do It Now

I went to two funerals recently. I will write about one soon. But here are some thoughts.

When I go to funerals for Karate Sensei or their spouses, the other instructors and I always seem to shake our heads and say, "We shouldn't have to get together like this." This is true and sad. Karate instructors and students should be able to get together at other times than funerals. But aside from dojo events, association meetings or tournaments, there do not seem to be many opportunities for Karate people from other dojo, associations, and styles to get together... except for funerals.

The other thing is that people say such nice things about the person who died. Often, those outside of the family know so little about the person. We might have seen them from time or knew that they were married or related to someone we know, but that might be all we know. Then at the funeral we get to see photo boards covering their lives, from childhood until the time of their death.

People we only knew as "old", were once happy children, handsome or beautiful young adults, proud parents of newborns, business owners, grandparents.... Their lives were so full. Then we hear the eulogy and statements by family and friends. These great people had talents, these great people overcame hardships, these great people were examples for all of us.

But in their old age, we might have only known that they were elderly, or sick, or both.

By the time some of us get to begin to appreciate the person, it is too late. We cannot tell them that we admire them. We cannot tell them "thank you." We cannot ask them questions. We cannot look over their family photos with them, and ask them who all the children in the photo were with the model "T" truck. It is too late.

When they are gone, we can only think fondly of them and say a prayer for them. But it is too late for us to do anything for them, to ask them if they need any help, to take them to lunch or just take them out. It is too late.

What can we do for our elderly Sensei? Whatever we can do, we have to do it now. If we wait, it might be too late.

Do not miss the opportunity to tell your Sensei, "thank you." Do not miss the opportunity to ask your Sensei questions. Do not miss the opportunity to ask for your Sensei's advice. Do not miss the opportunity to offer to help your Sensei. When it is too late, you might find yourself at a funeral with other students and instructors, saying that it is too bad that you have to get together at funerals. It would be too bad.

Perhaps you can arrange to take your Sensei to lunch. If he cannot drive, offer to pick him up and return him home. If he cannot leave home because he has to take care of his elderly wife, perhaps you can offer to bring food for the two of them. You can do something if you give it some thought. I have learned a great deal about this from my friend and senior Sensei Pat Nakata. He is a true example of how we students can and should show respect to our elders.

Karate begins and ends with courtesy, which is the way of showing respect. There is nothing more important than the respect we show to our elders. Particularly in Karate, where would we be without our elders, our seniors and Sensei?

And, of course, we should be just as respectful and concerned about our own parents and grandparents, our family elders. As we do in Karate, so too do we do in daily life.

Do not wait until it is too late. Do it now.

And don't forget -- we will be elderly one day too. How we show respect to our elders may be the way that our juniors treat us. Hopefully that will be a good thing.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Mental Clarity -- Not Verbalizing

I went to college and earned three degrees -- an undergraduate degree, a master's degree, and a law degree. That is no big deal, but it did give me many opportunities to read books, lots of books -- tons of books.

When you read a book, do you hear the words? Do you verbalize the words as you read them? Are you doing that right now? Are you hearing these words? Dog, cat, chicken, goat.

It is hard not to verbalize words as you read them. But I found that such verbalization limits the speed at which you can read -- you can only read as fast as you can verbalize. In graduate school, I found that if I tried, I could read without verbalizing. It is a little strange at first and you might think that you would not be able to remember anything. But actually, it is not that hard. You just turn off the "inner voice." You read the worlds and process them without verbalizing them.

Recently I had a strange experience. I was writing a letter and noticed that I was not verbalizing as I was writing. I was writing without saying the words in my mind. They were just appearing on the screen as I typed them.

I know that this happens when people type. A person can type a page without really reading it.

But I was drafting the letter, not merely typing it. I was drafting and typing without verbalization. It made it much easier and faster.

I cannot do this all the time. And for certain things I read, I prefer to verbalize and visualize.

But at times, I can read and write without verbalizing... sometimes.

You probably can too.

Here is the point (I really had a point in writing all this). In Karate, my mind feels the same as when I read and write without verbalizing. It is a funny thing. I cannot describe exactly how it feels. It would be easy to say that it feels "clear" but that is not quite correct. There is content, but no words or symbols. The information simply is processed, whether it be words or movement.

For me, my mental training in school and work, and my physical training in Karate, go hand in hand. They are not separate. If I improve in Karate, I improve in other aspects of my life. If I improve in other aspects of my life, I improve in Karate.

As you know, I am 50. At 50, I am training harder now than ever. I do not only mean physically -- I mean in terms of being a well rounded person. There is no end to training as long as we keep trying.

But despite my training, my shingles, which have gotten much better, still itch!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Book Donation Very Close!

The Hawaii Karate Museum is very near to its book donation to the University of Hawaii to establish the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection at the Hamilton Library. I estimate that we are within 2 weeks of the transfer -- just sorting and indexing the final books. We will have almost 50 boxes of books in all!

But as we prepare for the transfer, we continue to purchase books and receive donations. Please see our Seinenkai.com website and click on What's New? In the last month, we have received book donations from Ian Ferguson, Sensei Don Roberts, and Grand Master Fusei Kise. We receive many books as donations, which enables us to concentrate on the very old and rare titles. The 13 part Goju-Ryu series we just acquired is very hard to find (we were very lucky).

When our donation is complete, we will continue to acquire and receive books, which we will in turn add to the university collection. Our new goal is for this collection to be the most complete collection of historic Karate materials in the world (yes, the world).

With your help, I am certain that we can succeed.

If you have already donated books to the collection, a heartfelt thank you! Soon it will be part of one of the only university level Karate collections in the world.

And if you happen to have Motobu Sensei's two books and Karate-Do Taikan... please....

And if anyone happens to have a million dollars or so, we can round out the book collection very nicely! (smile)

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

An Excellent Karate Book

I was going through my bookmarks and came upon an excellent old Karate book that is online:


Look at the techniques. All of them are things we do in Karate!

This book is at the excellent Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences website.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Not A Broken Rib

Last week, on Saturday, I woke up at 3:30 a.m with problems breathing. Every time I took a breath, my left lower rib would hurt. I thought I must have a broken or badly bruised rib. My back rib also hurt, which often happens when the front rib is injured.

The funny thing was that I did not have a bruise in the area that hurt and I could not remember being punched or kicked there (at least not recently). I did, however, have a small area with a rash. Hmmm.

So I was off to the emergency room.

The doctor looked at my rib area. I was sure it was broken, cracked, or at least bruised inside. Can you guess what the problem was?

Shingles. The rash gave it away.

When you have chicken pox as a child (which I did), it is possible for the same virus to recur when you are an adult. This usually happens on only one side of the body, as it did with me.

Fortunately, I sought treatment right away, and the doctor was able to prescribe an antiviral. This helped to keep the rash area from spreading.

But the reason I thought that my rib was broken was that shingles really hurts. It feels like a combination of an itchiness and a burning feeling, not just on the surface but deeper. Ouch! A week later and it still hurts.

But I am telling you all this because as I have found, shingles is a pretty common thing. There is a vaccine, but it is usually given to people over 60 (I am only 50). Also, if you ever have shingles, it helps to get treatment as quickly as possible.

I also found out that shingles tends to be triggered by stress. As you know from reading this blog, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer last year in June. Since that time, and especially during her chemotherapy, radiation, and subsequent treatment, I have tried my very best not to get sick. And I have not caught a cold or flu since that time. So getting shingles really upset me -- but it was probably stress triggered.

While I feel that I could, at least somewhat, work to stay healthy and avoid colds and the flu, I was not as successful in avoiding stress. My wife's diagnosis and treatment certainly caused a lot of stress. Fortunately, practicing Karate regularly, and lifting weights and cardio exercise, helped to relieve stress. But apparently not enough to avoid triggering shingles.

We all are human. None of us are Superman or immune to sickness and aging. Through regular Karate training, however, we can stay in the best shape possible, which will help us to stay healthy and fight off illnesses, at least some.

Since I have turned 50 I have had a colonoscopy and shingles. I also joined AARP. How about that!

By the way, my wife has been doing very well. Cancer diagnosis and treatment really makes you appreciate each and every day.

OK, here is the irony in my case. I have been working on the roof of my house in preparation for reroofing. I was painting the eves and installed gable vents. I have also been getting quotes for different types of roofing (new roof versus elastomeric coating). My roof has asphalt shingles -- and I got shingles.

Also, when I went to the emergency room, the doctor asked me how much my rib hurt on a scale of 1 to 10. I said 2. He said, "only 2?" I said, "yes, if a 10 is having your arm ripped off." It turns out that you are not supposed to compare a 10 to having your arm ripped off. Karate students don't like to complain, so a Karate student's 2 is probably a normal person's 6.

No matter how tough we might be (or thing we are), getting prompt medical attention is important. In my case, it probably made the shingles much less worse that it could have been.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin