Karate Thoughts Blog


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1650+ Posts... and Counting

Kenpo Karate Days... Long Ago

I have posted some high school photos of when I practiced Kenpo Karate and Tai Chi Chuan/Gung Fu uner Florentino S. Pancipanci at Hickam Air Force Base. My friend, Garrick Saito, had posted some photos at his Facebook page, and I decided to do so too. Some of the photos are the same as Garrick's, but some are different. The old photos were all taken by our friend and fellow student, Mike Schenaker. I believe you should be able to see the photos, even if you are not a Facebook member. Please see:


Man, when I was in high school, I really thought I understood Karate! I am grateful to my teachers for being so patient and forgiving!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Upcoming Events

In the upcoming issue of Classical Fighting Arts, I wrote the editorial and an article about teaching Karate. I believe the article will have two photographs of Shinzato Sensei recently taken in Okinawa. Strange as it may seem, this may be the first article in the journal about teaching Karate.

In September, our museum will exhibit some Karate photographs and weapons at the Okinawan Festival in the Hui O Laulima Cultural Tent. The festival will be on Saturday and Sunday, September 5th and 6th, at Kapiolani Park, in Honolulu. This year, we will emphasize the weapons.

And finally in October, if all goes well, I will be promoted to grand... father!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Keeping It Real

Today I left work before lunch time to meet a representative of the primary financial sponsor of our exhibit, Karate: From Okinawa to Hawaii. I was grateful to the sponsor, and wanted to personally show the exhibit to its representative.

As we began the tour, just after the first few photographs, a visitor to the exhibit walked up and started to explain to me that Karate might be a good exercise, but is not a good form of self-defense. Karate students simply do not know how to use the movements. For real self defense, he suggested that I learn Shaolin Kung Fu, which is 2,000 years old. Fortunately, the representative was speaking to a university staff member at the time and did not hear the visitor.

So what did I do?

I found myself sounding just like my Sensei, and said, "Oh really?" (with an innocent intonation rather than a sarcastic one).

The visitor wandered off and I was able to successfully continue the tour.

But the visitor gave me a reality check. Here we were at a historic Karate exhibit -- a truly beautiful presentation of many one-of-a-kind treasures, and this man could only say that Karate is not effective. I'm sure that he did not know that I created the exhibit, or that I am a Karate student/instructor. He was just speaking his mind, which I respect.

But the main issue, to me, was doing a good job of showing the exhibit to the representative of the sponsor. I could not let the visitor distract or irritate me. Actually, it was sort of amusing... like when someone asks how many years you've practiced Karate, and when you say 30+ years, they then ask, "so are you a black belt?" When I hear this, I want to say, "I would hope so!"

It was an interesting day.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Koshi Dynamics

Here is link to posts on this blog having to do with koshi dynamics, body dynamics, "whole body" movement, and generally the way that we move (or try our best to move) in the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu:


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Got Flu Masks?

Remember the flu masks I wrote about on July 8th? Today I got 120 N95 "Health Care Particulate Respirator and Surgical Masks" (3M brand, #1860) in the mail. This was to add to my earlier stockpile.

If you needed such masks for your family, are you prepared?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Confrontation Objective 2

Regarding my post Confrontation Objective, my third son Cael properly pointed out that the response to an attack depends on whether you are alone or with a loved one, such as a wife or daughter. He correctly said that you cannot very well run away and leave your loved one in danger.

Then I tapped him out! Only joking.

I was glad to see my son carefully considering attack situations.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Confrontation Objective

If someone unexpectedly attacks you, what do you want to do:

  1. Tap him out
  2. Punch him out
  3. Knock him out
  4. Defend yourself and escape as quickly as possible.
Your training should reflect your objective. The first three objectives would lead to a much different form of training than the fourth.

What is your objective?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The Courtesy of Eye Contact

This post is about courtesy in the context of eye contact.

When you are a student, it is important to show the proper courtesy to your Sensei (and seniors). It is important to try your best to be polite. However, the courtesy followed in Karate is a mixture of Okinawan, Japanese, and other observances.

One aspect of courtesy is eye contact. This one is difficult because here in the United States we all are equal and we should look everyone in the eye. Not looking in the eye might give the impression that you are uncomfortable or hiding something.

But in Karate, a student usually does not look the Sensei in the eye exactly. Of course, the student does look at the Sensei, but when bowing (something that it done often, even if in a minimized form), the student is careful to glance downward. It is very rude for a student to look at the Sensei in the eye while bowing.

Let me give you an example in the context of a conversation. If the Sensei tells the student, "You should try your best," the student should bow, glance downward, and say "Yes, yes," (or something similar). The student would not look the Sensei in the eye and say, "Okay."

If the student looks the Sensei in the eye during moments when courtesy dictates a downward glance, this will give the impression that the student either disrespects the Sensei, thinks that he (the student) is very good, or is very poorly trained. In my experience, the third reason is usually the source of the problem.

The student should show the same courtesy to his Sensei's peers as he would show to his Sensei. Thus, the rules about bowing and eye contact apply to these peers. Students should be careful to make sure that their eye contact with their Sensei's peers (and seniors) is polite.

This issue is especially important for students in the thirties and younger. That generation might not have had contact with elders and might follow the general rules of eye contact applicable in a general social context rather than a martial arts context. Again, I realize that this is a difficult subject. However, for a dedicated Karate student, or a student of any martial art for that matter, it is best to pay attention to such "minor" details. A student might train very hard for years, even decades. But improper eye contact, even for just a second or two, could unnecessarily give the wrong impression. A sincere student should show sincerity, and this requires the navigation of a sometimes complex and unwritten set of courtesy rules. Eye contact is just one example.

Bowing correctly, with a lowered glance, is easy to do... so easy that if a student does not do so, it can call into question his overall Karate training as well as that of his Sensei. In fact, when a student acts discourteously, other Sensei will often comment, "Look at his Sensei." This means that by seeing the student, you are also seeing his Sensei.

A final note -- one should always look downward when bowing. It is not polite to look in the other's eye and in fact, this could be perceived as a challenge. But in the context of interactions with a Sensei (or a Sensei's peer), bows are done in a minimized or subtle form many times during the course of conversation. Each time, the proper eye contact or downward glance is also important.

Students who violate the rules of courtesy are often described as having "no shame." This means that if they knew that what they were doing was wrong, they would feel shame for their breech. But since they do not know, they feel no shame. But since they are expected to understand such things, they should feel shame, but obviously do not.

Get it? Hard no?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Demonstration Feedback

After our demonstration, I told all our students and instructors that they did great!

But of course, we all made many mistakes, myself most of all. Doing great is one thing. Doing a kata correctly is quite another. We all have a lot to learn and working on ourselves is a never ending process. Karate is always a "work in progress."

Over the last ten years, I have probably told my second son Charles (the head of our dojo) that his arms are held too low about a thousand times... really. I always tell him, "your arms are too low, your arms are too low." Since he is taller than me, I tell him that he cannot copy my arm positions since I am shorter. He has to move according to his size, not mine.

My son never seemed to get it. I know that it is hard to listen to your own father.

But when he watched the video of the demonstration, the first thing he said was, "My arms are too low!" He could see it for himself.

My wife and I had to laugh because I had told him the same thing so many times.

So don't be satisfied if someone tells you that you did great. Critique yourself mercilessly. Observe your errors and correct them. Keep working on yourself! Seek improvement day by day.

And son, see I was right about your arms (smile).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Thoughts on Demonstrations

Our Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai gave a demonstration at the University of Hawaii on July 12th. I was very grateful to all the dojo and members who came out. It helped me very much, as the University had requested the demonstration in connection with my exhibit (Karate: From Okinawa to Hawaii) at the Hamilton Library.

I was in an awkward position -- I generally do not like demonstrations but here I was coordinating one. My own dojo also participated.

My line of Shorin-Ryu here in Hawaii has never participated in tournaments and only participated in demonstrations rarely. It is not that we are secretive, we just like to practice. Our focus is on individual progress, not performing in a group. I always say that it is not natural for people of different sizes, builds, levels, etc. to move at the same time.

Also, I feel that an audience is generally a poor judge of Karate. People applaud for and enjoy certain things. If you yell loud and jump around, some people are impressed. But if you are controlled and hide your power generation/transfer, an audience might think you are weak. An audience is just not properly trained to properly evaluate a Karate performance.

But after our demonstration, I have to say that I have come to appreciate demonstrations more.

First, some of the students in our dojo tried really, really hard to prepare. I could see their progress in just a few weeks. This showed me that some students will work extra hard for an event. If that is what it takes for some students, then an event is a good thing. Of course, I feel that students should work hard whether there is an event or not.

Second, demonstrations are a good way to introduce the public to Karate. Who knows? A young person in the audience might be inspired to begin training.

Also, I found that some students in the audience who might have practiced in commercial/competition based systems, might begin to have a better appreciation for traditional systems. If we do not demonstrate traditional ways, how will anyone ever see it?

For myself, I do enjoy watching students and seniors in other arts perform their kata and techniques. I can learn more about my own system by seeing how it compares to others -- how do they generate and transfer power, how do they breathe, how do they move, how do they focus, etc.

There is a young boy in our dojo He is actually our youngest student. When I announced that we would be participating in a demonstration he promptly volunteered to perform a pretty difficult kata. I respected his confidence and "go for broke" attitude. At the demonstration, he performed the kata by himself in front of over 200 people. He did great! If he can apply the same hard work and attitude in school and his daily life, then that is really something.

So my attitude about demonstrations is changing, a little.

And as I have experienced in a past demonstration, it is hard to do a kata when you are the emcee. Before, I found it physically difficult. Now that I have learned to move in a more relaxed manner, it is still hard for me to switch gears from introducing/narrating to moving. I will have to work on that.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

YouTube Tour of Exhibit

I had posted a Facebook video tour of the exhibit, Karate: From Okinawa to Hawaii. I was not aware that you had to be a Facebook member to see the video. One of the settings was to make the video visible to "everyone", but it turned out that "everyone" meant everyone on Facebook. So I have now also uploaded the tour to YouTube. Enjoy!



Click here for the Full Sized YouTube Video

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Video Tour of Exhibit, Karate: From Okinawa to Hawaii

I know that many of you are not in Hawaii and cannot visit our exhibit. So here is a little video tour! I really like my new Vado HD video camera!



Click here for the Full Sized Video

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Demonstration Things to Remember

Our demonstration at the University of Hawaii is this Sunday (July 12th). Here are some things I have been saying to our students as we prepare. Our dojo demonstrates very rarely -- only about 3 times in the last 12 years. So we are not very experienced at it. And honestly, we do not like to demonstrate because we prefer to concentrate on kata and body mechanics/dynamics.

Demonstration Things to Remember:

  • Arrive early.
  • Make sure your gi is clean and neat. Make sure your strings are neatly tied and the ties of your gi bottom are tucked in (not hanging out).
  • Do not wear any patches or labels on your gi.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the program so that you will know when you must get ready and perform.
  • You must be on your best behavior at all times -- not only when you are on stage.
  • If you are on stage in a group, and must observe another student perform, stand neatly and pay attention. Do not let your eyes wander, fix your gi, yawn, etc.
  • When you perform a kata, try your best.
  • If you make a mistake, just keep going. The audience will not know that you made a mistake and even students or instructors of other styles might not realize you made a mistake because their kata may differ. Also, if you stop or make a face when you make a mistake, this could disrupt other students who are performing. Making a face tells the audience that you made a mistake.
  • Bowing politely is very important. When you bow, do so neatly and completely. Don't "half" bow or start walking when you are on the way up from a bow.
  • When you leave the stage, do not turn your back to the audience.
  • It is good to practice hard so that you will do your kata properly during a demonstration. However, you should always practice hard whether there is a demonstration or not. You should not need a demonstration, testing, promotion, a visit by a senior instructor, etc. to try hard. Just try hard all the time.
  • Remember that other people performing may be junior to you or very senior to you. Each person performs at his or her level of ability. If you do better than someone else, don't feel good. If you do worse than someone else, don't feel badly. Just do your very best. The main thing is to try to improve each and every day.
  • You cannot let me down. If you do well, I am happy. If you make mistakes, I am happy and hope that you do not feel badly. The test of Karate is in daily life and in surprise attacks, not in demonstrations. Just try your best.
  • I mess up kata too. I think everyone does. For years, I would start off with Pinan Yondan and switch into Pinan Godan without realizing it. I gave a demonstration of Gojushiho at a friend's dojo. I ended up facing the wrong direction!
  • Observe other dojo's performance of kata so that you can get an idea of their method of moving. Even if you do not know the sequence of their kata, you can "catch" or "feel" their movement. In my experience, there are few styles that move in a more natural and relaxed manner than our Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu (and in Matsubayashi-Ryu generally).
  • Even if you are not performing in a demonstration, come out to help your dojo and fellow students. There are many things that need to be done.
  • Don't leave your valuables laying around. Sadly, wallets and even weapons such as sai are stolen at demonstrations and even tournaments.
  • Don't come to the demonstration if your are ill. You will just get sicker and could make other people ill too. Please call me if you will not be able to attend so that I can have another student take your place.
  • When you perform in a demonstration, you will be "amped" up and move faster than you think. So you have to hold back a little. This is especially true if you will use sai or nunchaku. I tore my rotator cuff during a sai demonstration. One of my senior firends also tore his rotator cuff using sai. So be especially careful with sai!
  • Do not move too close to the audience. If your kata moves forward too much, you might have to step in place or even back step. Practice this.
  • I believe that Chojun Miyagi said that a Karate instructor should be prepared at any time, without notice, to give an 8 hour Karate demonstration. Can you? Can you do all your system's kata and techniques, explain them, pair off the applications, and narrate? That's a pretty hard thing to do.
  • Remember that the audience, generally, does not know Karate. What impresses the audience may not be good Karate. And, in fact, many Karate students exaggerate or even change kata techniques to impress the audience. Don't do this. Do the kata correctly.
  • Remember that some really "impressive" people can't fight worth beans and some people with really ugly kata are tough as nails.
  • When I see a kata done really, really well, I am not impressed, I am frightened. I think, "I would not want to stand in front of that person."
  • Do not look at audience members in the eyes. Either look over their heads, between them, or don't focus your eyes on the people. If you look at someone in the eyes, they might make you laugh of lose your composure.
  • If you are going to kiai, do so strongly.
  • Do not wear any jewelry at all! Personally, I feel that it is OK to wear glasses.
  • Don't smile or look smug on the stage. Just look focused.
  • Don't rush. You will probably move faster than you intend. This will make it hard or impossible for you to "set" your movements (to have proper kime).
  • When you perform kata in a group, you have to follow the timing of the leader or senior. It is not a race. You don't get points for finishing first.
  • Remember that you represent your dojo and your Sensei. So always be on your best behavior.
  • Be aware that there may be senior Sensei and students in the audience, or the families of current or former Sensei. You might not even know that they are Karate people. So always be very polite.
  • If for any reason you have a problem during the demonstration, let your Sensei handle it, particularly if it involves other dojo.
  • Someone in the audience might be motivated or inspired by you. So try your best. You might be changing the course of someone's life!
  • Remember that no matter how perfect, strong or good you are, the audience will clap the most for the youngest child and the oldest person.
  • Have fun and learn from the experience.
  • Drive home safely.
  • After the demonstration, don't criticize other students or dojo. Just try to improve yourself. We are all trying to learn. A kind word can inspire and a cruel word can cause others to stumble.
I'm sure that there are many other issues. Again, I am not very experienced at demonstrations.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank my own students for their hard work preparing for the demonstration, and to all the members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai who will perform. I have been so focused and overwhelmed with the exhibit (Karate: From Okinawa to Hawaii) that it has been hard to focus on the demonstration.

I hope that you can come to the demonstration! It is open to the general public and free of charge.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Flu Masks

Yesterday I went shopping for flu masks... just in case things worsen (which I suspect they will). It is not flu season here in Hawaii, but it seems that many people are catching the flu (or something).

Just for the sake of argument, I assumed that it would be nice to have a "N95 respirator" type mask. So I started calling around. To make a long story short, I could only find one supply company here in Honolulu that had any for sale. One store said that they had sold out. Another said that they stopped carrying such masks because people were not buying them. I probably missed some stores, but the masks simply were not that widely available.

I went to the store I found and purchased 100 individually wrapped N95 respirator masks for about $120. I also purchased 120 more (better ones) online.

I am giving 5 masks to each of my family members to put in their cars. These are for unexpected use. I also have more at home and work.

Here is my point. I am just one person. If everyone suddenly starting looking for these things, I think there would be a problem. I don't think that the government will just hand them out. And regular masks that you can get at the hardware store might not be good enough. (See the cdc.gov website for its guidelines.)

And one mask can only be used once. They are not good for repeated use. Let's say I have a family of six. In one month, if each person used a mask each day, that is 180 masks! So buying 100 does not sound like that much.

The main thing in Karate is to be prepared (just like Boy Scouts). The time to look for something is before you need it. I have a feeling that buying the right masks if the swine flu pandemic worsens will be like trying to buy a generator during a hurricane. In Hawaii, we know how hard that can be!

Plan ahead.

A last thought. Paying $120 for 100 masks sounds like a lot. But some of the toner cartridges I buy for work cost that much. When you need them, you will probably be willing to pay a great deal... if you can find any. Cost is relative... think about your relatives.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Exhibit Photos Posted!

The Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Hawaii has posted photographs from our exhibit, Karate: From Okinawa to Hawaii. Please see:

http://www.hawaii.edu/cjs/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&catid=45%3Anews&id=216%3Akarate-exhibition

and

http://www.hawaii.edu/cjs/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=219:karate-photos&catid=45:news


The photos came out very nice. When I took photos, I had problems with reflection and glare.

Our demonstration and reception is this Sunday. Almost there!

I hope that you can attend! Just a note. Video will not be allowed at the demo. We are having two professionals and an events crew from a local program.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

2 Right - 2 Wrong

I have noticed that when a new student performs a kata and does 2 things right and 98 things wrong, I am very happy for the 2 things.

But when an advanced student performs a kata and does 98 things right and 2 things wrong, I am very upset about the 2 things. By upset, I don't mean mad -- just that I really want to fix those things.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Drinking Theme in Music

I am rushing getting ready for all the exhibit events, but wanted to write about something I've noticed. I'll bet you have too.

Lately I have heard many songs on the radio that have an alcohol theme. Basically, they are songs about drinking and getting drunk. The obvious implication is that this is a cool thing to do.

Remember back to the Cheech and Chong movies? They were always smoking marijuana... as if that was a cool thing to do.

Children have a hard enough time growing up without songs and movies showing them exactly what "not" to do.

Drinking (to excess) and taking illegal drugs are not cool -- they are stupid and harmful. I think that those of us who have the opportunity to speak to children in our Karate classes, should make this point.

Karate is about personal responsibility (among other things).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin