Karate Thoughts Blog


Contents   /   Email  /   Atom  /   RSS  /  

1650+ Posts... and Counting

50+ Catch 22

This post is not about Karate.

I am now 52. I try to be pretty healthy... so I drink a lot of water. They tell you drink a lot of water, right? And when you drink a lot of water, you go to the bathroom fairly often.

But if you watch television, so many commercials make it seem that if you are over 50 and go to the bathroom a lot, you must have a prostate problem (and need to take whatever herb or medicine they are selling).

If you drink a lot of water you go to the bathroom a lot -- if you go the bathroom a lot you must have a prostate problem. It is a vicious circle.

Hey, sometimes if you go to the bathroom a lot it is because you drink a lot! It is hot in Hawaii. We need to drink a lot.

Now I have to go the bathroom again!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Try Hard in 2010!

Tomorrow is a new year. Here are my thoughts for fellow Karate students.

Try hard in 2010! Trying hard does not only mean that you exert yourself physically when you train. It means that you train regularly. You eat every day. You need to train every day too.

Don't miss class and don't forget to practice at home. The old saying is "come to class to learn, practice at home."

If you train hard once a month, that is not as good as training with less intensity once a week or every day. Just sweating on the dojo floor once in a while means little. Constant progress is what counts... you must progress every day from the time you start learning Karate until the day you die. High rank does not mean that you are done learning -- just the opposite!

You have to try to become better at Karate each and every day. If you are not better today than you were yesterday, then you are actually worse because you are older. Each day that you grow older, you are growing weaker and slower. To compensate for this, you have to learn to move better -- to improve your body mechanics. You must constantly seek to refine and optimize your movements and eliminate unnecessary movements -- to do more with less. If you try to move like a 20 year old when you are 50, you will probably fail. But if you move like a smart 50 year old, you may be able to out perform a 20 year old!

No one becomes skilled in Karate by just thinking about it -- but no one becomes skilled in Karate unless they think about it. Study your art in earnest, including its history and traditions.

I knew a man. He had practiced Karate but stopped for some reason. He told me that his Karate bag was packed and ready to go. He kept is at his office. He said that he looked at it every day and thought, "Maybe today I will go back." This went on for years.

I felt like saying, "Just go back already!" Stop wasting energy thinking about it. Just go!

When you train, train. Don't think about anything else. Leave the world in your slippers (outside the dojo). Train 100%. When you are done training, live 100%! Train 100%. Live 100%.

And actually, even when you are not training in the dojo, you are training in daily life.

Each day, each minute, training... constantly improving yourself.

This is not to get ahead of other people. That is a shallow measure. Seek to become the best you can become. Then comparisons are not necessary. If you are the best you can be, what more could you be? And if you are not, what are you doing? Get to work.

If you are a Sensei, you are the advertisement for your dojo. For good (and for bad), you are what the students will want to become. Are you in shape? If you are not, do you think that the students will want to train to become like you? Are you a refined gentleman (or lady)? If you are not, do you think that the students will want to train to become like you?

Trophies in the window mean very little (and they just gather dust). You are the trophy. You are the title. You are the rank. You are the measure of your Karate.

And about politics... just spend your time on productive things. If you are full of productive work, you will have no time for politics. And if you are embroiled in politics, just look at the heads of your organization... do you really want to become like them? If not, spend time on productive things! Politicians are usually good at talking and bad at Karate.

Let's all train hard in 2010 and work to become our very best. Life is short. Time is running out. Each day, each moment is an opportunity to improve ourselves -- don't miss it!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Christmas Grab Bag -- Canned Goods

My family had our Christmas party on Saturday. Usually, we have a $2 grab bag. We've been doing this for a long time, so we pretty much get the same types of grab bag gifts each year.

So this year, my wife had a better idea. We did away with the grab bag and asked our guests to bring canned goods which we would donate to the local food bank. My third son delivered the canned goods that were donated at the party (plus some more) yesterday.

My wife comes up with some really good ideas!

They say that behind every great man there is a great woman (and vice versa). I know that in my case, I would not be able to do very much at all were it not for the support of my wife and family. My wife makes it look like I know what's going on, when actually I am usually concentrating on Karate. She plans all the parties, trips and important family events. I just have to show up. She does all the work and I often get all the credit.

I am not a great man by any means. But my wife is a great woman... especially during the hectic holiday season. Between cooking, buying gifts, wrapping them, hosting parties, attending parties, working, and cooking some more, I don't know how she has any time at all. But then she is also helping me with my Karate (and law firm) Christmas cards and letters and again, doing everything that makes it look like I really know what's going on.

I want you to know that the great woman behind everything I have done (and am doing), is my wife and high school sweetheart, Nayna. Next month will be our 32nd anniversary and we were engaged when we were only 17 (I was teaching Karate back then too).

So for anyone who came to our family's Christmas party, the canned goods were her idea.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Happy Holidays From Hawaii!


Merry Christmas from sunny Hawaii!

From our (growing) family to yours, best wishes for a very safe, happy, healthy and prosperous holiday season.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Bo Staff

Sometimes I hear people talking about their bo staff. That is like saying bo bo or staff staff. You would not say gi uniform.

I would just say bo... but that is just me.

Of course, the Okinawan term is kon anyway.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Some Amazing Videos

There are many amazing Karate videos at the YouTube site of Sensei Patrick McCarthy:


He recently uploaded three very old film of Kodenkan Hawaiian Jiu-Jitsu.

My favorite (at least today), is an old film of Sensei Yuchoku Higa performing the Matsumura Patsai kata:


Can you see his koshi movement? It reminds me of...

McCarthy Sensei has been a very generous contributor to the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Museum's Christmas Letter

Aloha,

Each year, our museum sends out Christmas letters to some of our friends, clients and patrons. It is very hard to keep up with everyone.


A link to this year's letter is above in pdf format. Of course, the big news this year is Hawaii Karate Museum Collection at the University of Hawaii.

From our extended Karate family to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from sunny Hawaii!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Welts

A thoughtful reader from Maryland was very kind to point out a typo in my post Testing Results (can you catch it?):

I do not give certificates (just a letter for yudansha) and I do not present an embroidered belt to yudansha, just a plain black welt (like I wear). I do not throw a party!
It is so funny and Freudian too! I do give a plain black belt, not a plain black welt. Although that sounds good too!

I did kumite with a senior once. When I went home, I had these figure 8 black bruises on my chest, in the shape of his two knuckles! They were so perfect!

Thank you for catching my unintended error.

But now I have the idea that welts may be better than belts! Just kidding (not really).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Great News About the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection!

Aloha!

Yesterday, I received some very good news from the University of Hawaii. As part of the Hamilton Library's Asia Collection, an Okinawan Collection was recently established.

See http://www.hawaii.edu/asiaref/okinawa/index.html

An important part of the Okinawan Collection is the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection, which we donated to the university last fall.

See http://www.hawaii.edu/asiaref/okinawa/collections/karate/index.html

Right now, there are 260 titles in the rare portion of the collection.

See http://www.hawaii.edu/asiaref/okinawa/collections/karate/karateSpecial.pdf

These titles are in closed shelves and can only be accessed in a secure room after showing an appropriate ID. Some of the earliest Karate books are in this section. The library has also published its access policy for this part of the collection.

See http://www.hawaii.edu/asiaref/okinawa/collections/karate/access_policy.html

The larger portion of the collection (418 titles) is in general circulation and can be checked out by Karate students and enthusiasts.

(See http://uhmanoa.lib.hawaii.edu:7008/vwebv/search?searchArg=%22hawaii+karate+museum%22&limitTo=none&searchCode=HKEY^&recCount=25&searchType=1&page.search.search.button=Search

These books should also be available for loan between libraries, in the United States and internationally.

A digital archive has also been established. Right now the complete text of ten (10) titles are online.

See http://www.hawaii.edu/asiaref/okinawa/digital_archives/karate_museum.html

It is planned that many more titles will be added. The complete text of four of Gichin Funakoshi's and Kenwa Mabuni's earliest books are already online.

We are very happy to see the progress of the collection and look forward to its growth over the years. Now, the collection will have a life that extends well beyond any of our own. It will have a permanent existence in a secure and climate controlled environment, as well as the expertise of Japanese language specialists.

Our museum has continued to collect rare Karate books and periodically donates them to the collection. People can either donate books directly to the collection at the university, or to our museum and will then donate them.

I feel that the universities are the best place for the collection and preservation of rare Karate books and artifacts. I hope that similar collections will be established around the world. In particular, the universities are in the best position to make digital archives of rare titles available free of charge to the general public.

Without the help of so many Karate Sensei, students, and their families around the world, the collection would not have been possible. If you donated books or materials to the collection, thank you very much!

Can you please let you friends and students know about this collection?

And if by chance anyone has originals of Motobu Sensei's 1926 and 1932 books...

Respectfully,

Charles
-------------------
Charles C. Goodin
Hawaii Karate Museum

Age of Karate

I was watching a science show recently and it was mentioned that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and the universe is about 14.7 billion years old.

By comparison, Karate does not seem very old at all!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Severe Testing

I was just thinking... could you imagine testing in the Cobra Kai Dojo depicted in the Karate Kid movies? Of course, that is a fictional dojo, but what a stressful and negative atmosphere that would be.

But then again, the Karate dojo on mainland Japan in the years leading up to World War II would have been many time worse. I have heard that they were severe and savage. Failure in a test would mean that you let your comrades down, that you failed the group. I have heard that students who wanted to leave a dojo would have to kumite all the seniors first, and some did not survive.

I would not want to have trained in either type dojo. Savagery begets savagery and violence begets violence. Fortunately, my own Sensei have been enlightened saints by comparison.

I just want the students in our dojo to try to make themselves the best they can be. My friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, likes to say that I am a very nurturing Sensei. I think this is even more so now that I am a grandfather. I have found with my own four children that being strict has its place, but being encouraging and supportive works the best -- and to teach by example rather than by edit.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Testing Results

Although I do not have formal testing of my students, I often hear from students of other dojo who have recently tested. I always urge students to try their best and give my best wishes when I hear that they are promoted. Even if they are not promoted, I pretty much do the same thing.

I recognize that there is a place for testing, particularly in classes with many students or where testing is required because the class is part of high school or college. But since my dojo is small and personalized, there is no compelling reason for a formalized testing system. Instead, we are always observing and testing our students.

I do not charge my students to test, nor do I charge them when they are promoted. I do not give certificates (just a letter for yudansha) and I do not present an embroidered belt to yudansha, just a plain black welt (like I wear). I do not throw a party!

I have heard of schools where a black belt is guaranteed in a certain time period. Now we are talking about contracts: if you comply with the terms specified in the contract (train for the specified time period (and pay the required fees), you have a rightful expectation that you will be promoted. If you comply with the terms of the contract and are not promoted, then there will be a problem ( a breach of contract).

I do not promote students to shodan (first degree black belt) until they are 17. However, being 17 does not mean that a student will be promoted to shodan. A student can expect to train for several years before becoming shodan (my second and third sons trained for 12 years). Some will take longer than others (and vice versa). My students understand that it will take an unspecified time period.

On good thing in our dojo is that students are promoted (at the yudansha level because we give no kyu ranks) as a surprise. Basically, we say, "Surprise, you are promoted!"

This way, a student is not disappointed by failing a test. Failure has such a negative connotation. We want to pass, not fail. If a student comes home from school with an "F", he will be in trouble with his parents. Students want to get an "A".

So when a student fails a Karate test, he will have all that emotional baggage and feel terrible. He will feel like a failure and a loser... at least some students will.

Of course, other students will be motivated to try harder, which is a very good thing. But there will be some students who will feel badly, and I imagine that at least some instructors have received calls from parents wanting to know why their child had "flunked."

I am fortunate to be able to avoid this -- because I avoid the testing process itself. I do not get complaints from parents when I promote their 17 year old to shodan (something that has happened only rarely). Instead, they are pretty happy. Adults who are promoted seem pretty happy too -- although those who understand the process feel a weighty sense of responsibility instead of jubilation.

You have to watch out for quid pro quo (literally something for something). If a student pays for something, he expects something in return. My students do pay tuition and the expectation is that we will teach them the best we can. There is no formal expectation of promotion. I make clear that I do not award kyu ranks and that all mudansha wear white belts. When black belts from other schools or styles want to join our dojo, I tell them that I do not recognize rank outside my own juku (Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu) and that in some cases it could take 3 years or so just for the student to get back to zero and start learning from me cleanly (without past habits and mechanics). So generally, people seeking rank do not join our dojo -- people seeking to train and learn do).

Here is my advice for students who take tests in other schools or dojo. If that is what you Sensei wants, then you should try your best, not only for you but for the other students. Take the test seriously and be thoroughly prepared. If you pass, good. Be humble and quiet about it and try harder. If you do not pass, find out why and try your best again. Don't complain.

Don't worry about why someone else might have passed and you did not. Karate is at least partially an art of self defense. If you are attacked, other students won't be there and testing results won't matter. Testing and rank will be the last thing from your mind.

I want to add something else about testing. In school (through graduate school), I was always one of those students who tested better than my ability. I was a really good guesser and sometimes could figure out the answer by getting into the head of the test writer. This is not necessarily a good thing (although it was useful to me), but it has enabled me to see that there might be some students who test better than their ability, and others who test below their ability. What counts is their ability in Karate, not their ability in testing.

Testing is necessary because of rank. Rank is necessary because... why is rank necessary? My point is that we should not assume that testing has always existed and is a necessary thing. When there was no rank, I'll bet that there was no testing -- at least not they type we have today. I think that the testing in the old days was shobu, a challenge match.

To me, the best test of Karate is how the student conducts himself in daily life and in the dojo.

By the way, for my own students I want to announce that the next test will be... all the time, as usual.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

I Like Goju-Ryu Too

In our Hikari Dojo, we were very fortunate to have Goju-Ryu Sensei Mitsugi Kobayashi, Morio Higaonna, Rodney Hu and Solomon Kupahu as visiting instructors. I also get the chance to train with Sensei Alan Lee, Sensei Kyle Nakasone, and their fine students, who are members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai.

There are many things that I respect and like about Goju-Ryu, thanks to the excellent impressions made by these fine Sensei.

If I had not studied Shorin-Ryu, I would have liked to have learned Goju-Ryu from Sensei Tomu Arakawa. Actually, he was teaching at the Jikoen Temple which is on the corner of School Street and Likelike Highway. I did not know it back then (in the mid-1970s), but when I used to go up the Our Lady of the Mount Church in mid-Kalihi to learn Shorin-Ryu, I used to pass right by the Jikoen Temple.

Shorin-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, Shotokan, Kenpo... what matters is the character and skill of the Sensei.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

What Dan Are You?

I meet and speak to many Karate students and instructors. Quite often I am asked, "What dan are you?"

I wish that I could come up with a funny answer, like "No, my name is Charles, not Dan."

It seems that one's dan ranking has become the primary indicator of one's accomplishments in Karate.

If you say, "Nidan," the questioner will probably say, "Oh" (like that is not too good).

If you say, "Hachidan," the questioner will probably say, "Oh" (like that is impressive).

If you say, "I'm sorry, but I feel that numerical indicators of one's level in Karate are very shallow and often inaccurate measures," the questioner will probably think, "Not very high, eh?"

You can't win.

When I speak to people, I am more interested in who their Sensei is/are and how long they have trained. I respect that hard work that goes into dan ranking, but also recognize that many dedicated and fine students have lower or no ranking, while the opposite can also be true (unfortunately).

I also find it interesting when someone asks me, "How long have you practiced Karate?" When I say 35 years (or whatever), they then usually ask, "So you are a black belt?"

I feel like saying, "Not yet, but in a few more years maybe!"

Skill is what counts. With skill, rank is irrelevant. Without skill, rank is meaningless.

Just checking... what dan was Itosu Sensei? Oh yeah, they didn't have dan grades back then. Dan grades were a modern invention borrowed from the sport of Judo (which may have borrowed it from the the Japanese board game of go).

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Can't Block This

This is a story.

A tough Karate student was driving down a road when a car sped up and cut in front of him. The windows of both cars were open. The student could not control himself and yelled out an obscenity as he honked his horn, shook his fist, and gave a one finger salute.

Now this student was very tough. He could fight well even before he started training in Karate. In fact, earlier that day he had won a tournament.

The front car slammed on its brakes and the student could barely stop in time. The cars were only inches apart.

Out from the the front car stepped a rather short and skinny fellow wearing a long coat. He walked calmly up to the car, stuck a shotgun through the window and blew the Karate student's head off.

Wait! That's not fair.

That's right! Lucky this is just made up.

Before you challenge or provoke someone in a car (truck or other vehicle), you should consider that the occupants could be armed. They could also be drunk, high on drugs, or just mad at the world.

I always say that if someone wants to change lanes in front of me, I am happier to have them in front of me rather than behind me. If they are behind me, they are harder to avoid. At least if they are in front of me, I have a chance to change lanes or otherwise avoid them.

Even if a driver is not armed, a car is a deadly weapon in and of itself.

An angry driver could also follow you to your home or work and attack you later.

So think twice or three times before you curse at another driver, shake your fist, salute with one finger, honk, or otherwise show your displeasure. Remain calm and continue on safely. Karate students should be calm and in control of their speech and body motions.

And the final moral of the story is that even a skilled Karate student cannot block a shotgun blast.

When I was a Kenpo Karate student, we actually practiced defenses against punches or grabs through a car window... but not against shotguns.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate Magazine Covers

I want you to think about every Karate magazine cover you have ever seen. Go to Ebay and search for "Karate magazine".

Here is what I noticed. If there is only one person on the cover, he (usually a man) is executing a Karate technique. If there are two people, one is attacking and the other is executing a Karate technique. Techniques depicted tend to be pretty spectacular. There is an emphasis on dramatic facial expressions. Hey, since when do we kiai with our mouths wide open?

How many times have you seen a magazine cover of a Karate expert escaping or avoiding a confrontation? How many times have you seen a cover of a Karate expert talking an attacker out of it?

How many times have you seen a cover of the ambulance arriving after the Karate expert has executed a deadly technique or of the police filing a report afterward?

How many times have you seen the Karate expert jumped by the attacker's friend(s) while he was executing his spectacular technique?

How many times have you seen the Karate expert kicking straight up, and getting kicked in the groin himself by the attacker?

Everything looks so good on magazine covers. Sometimes they might have to take dozens or even hundreds of photographs to get the cover shot. But in life, we only get one take under conditions that are changing and not ideal.

Oh, and they can touch up a cover photograph. You can do some amazing things with a photo editor!

They say that you can't judge a book by its cover. I also don't think that most magazine covers give a realistic depiction of Karate. Of course, my magazine covers would be very boring and not sell many copies. Oh well!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

If I Were Motobu Sensei

We have all heard of the match between a Russian (or Estonian) boxer (or wrestler) and Choki Motobu (Motobu "Saru") in Kyoto in the 1920s. The boxer had been defeating Judo and Ju Jitsu people and basically putting down the Japanese. Up comes Motobu Sensei and in pretty short order, the boxer was either knocked out or killed, depending on who writes the story. But Motobu won, and Karate, an obscure art from Okinawa, became famous overnight (about three years later when an article appeared in King Magazine).

But here is my point. It was not a matter of life or death or the last resort. Motobu was apparently fighting for pride (of the Japanese or perhaps his own). I tend to think that it might have been a staged event, but in any case, it showed Karate as a spectacular thing rather than the form of self defense that it is.

If I were Motobu Sensei, I would not have fought the boxer. Now if the boxer attacked me on a dark street, that is another thing. But I would not accept a public challenge. And what if Motobu did kill the boxer? Was that justified? I don't think that the boxer was killing people.

You have to be careful about legends and "great" events. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the moment. To me, wrong is wrong and this was not a good use of Karate.

My own form of Karate traces part of its roots to Motobu. Still, that does not mean that we should glorify the sensational and unnecessary use of Karate.

A hand is a treasure in the pocket.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

More Speed Tricks

I just thought of some other things that can make us seem faster.

Imagine that you are going to punch someone in the face (as a last resort, of course). He punches. You block with your left hand and punch him in the face with your right.

Now compare that to this. He punches. You block with your left hand and with that same hand, reach behind his neck. Then you pull him forward as you punch with your right hand.

The speed of the punch might be the same but it will seem much faster because you are pulling him forward into the punch, thus lessening the distance. It will also be stronger because he won't be able to dodge or slip it.

Here is a faster scenario. He punches. You block with your left hand and immediately punch him in the face with that same left hand. It is a little like skipping a rock. It is a block-punch.

And how about this? He punches and you immediately punch him in the face taking the inside line. Your punch lands but his is diverted slightly, making it miss. This punch will be faster still.

And how about this one? He punches and you jump into a time machine and emerge two seconds ago, where you let him have it before he punches. OK, that one would be difficult.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Getting Faster

We all want to be faster.

Imagine you have a car that goes 60 miles per hour. How can you make it go faster? One way would be to make the engine stronger. With more horsepower, the car will go faster. Another way is to eliminate the things that are slowing the car down.

As humans, we can't really get bigger engines. We can get in good condition and make ourselves as strong as possible, but ultimately we will reach a limit. As we age, we will also become slower and weaker.

A good strategy therefore, is to eliminate the things that are slowing us down.

What slows us down in Karate? The first thing is being too tight, stiff or rigid. This sound like an easy thing to eliminate but it actually is surprisingly difficult. Why? Because people want to be fast and strong and they feel that being tight makes them stronger.

Power, at least in Shorin-Ryu, comes primarily from speed. If you can make your fist (or other object) go very fast, and brace it on contact, you will be very powerful. But if you are too tight, you will not be fast enough to generate much power.

The second thing is weight shifting. If you shift your weight while you are striking, the speed of the strike will be limited by the speed of the weight shift. It is better to pre-shift your weight and delay your strike, then strike like a mouse trap closing -- pow!

Another thing that slows us down in decelerating at the point of contact rather than striking through it. Your punch should accelerate through the object, not slow down. Why do people slow down? Mostly because they are clenching their fists (or other body parts). My Sensei often told me that punching and kicking are like stabbing. Try punching with an open hand. It will usually be pretty quick.

In the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu, we move in a whiplike manner. Whips are very fast. They are also very pliable (not stiff). If you can move like a whip, you will be pretty fast. But if you move like a heavy club, then...

Another good way to make a strike faster is to make it shorter. A punch that has to travel 20 inches it will be slower than a punch that only has to travel 10 inches, and a punch that only has to travel 1 inch will be faster still. My Sensei often told me to strike from where your hands are -- do not pull them back.

I'm sure that there are many others things that will make a strike faster. My point is that we can't always become faster per se. We can make our strikes faster by making them less slow, by eliminating the things that are slowing us down.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The Emperor's New Kata

This is a story.

The emperor, who was also the head Karate instructor of a ryuha and wanted to be remembered, created a new Karate kata (named after him, of course). He called all the students and other instructors together and performed the new kata for them.

The kata was terrible! The emperor obviously had only a shallow understanding of Karate and the kata reflected this. It was the worst kata ever!

The emperor finished the kata and took a very long and dramatic bow. "Now that you have seen my magnificent new kata," he announced, "I would like to hear your impressions."

The gathering of students and instructors was about to erupt with their frank assessments...

"And let me also say that you are all promoted one dan or kyu rank in honor of this auspicious occasion!" added the emperor.

"Bravo!" yelled the crowd!

"Magnificent!"

"Genius!"

"The best kata ever!"

While the emperor might not have been very good at Karate, he was great at controlling people. After all, he was the emperor.

A person does not become great because of incentives. Wait, sometimes they do.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Buyers and Sellers

This post is important.

If you want to buy something, there will be someone willing to sell it to you. That is pretty straightforward.

Here is the twist. The person who wants to sell something, will do things to make you want to buy it. That is called marketing. Again, this is pretty straightforward.

But here is the catch. The people who market things are pretty sophisticated. They prey on your emotions and feelings.

Why drink beer? Because it will make you popular and hot women will like you.

Why smoke? Same answer.

Why drive expensive sports cars? Same answer.

Your wife will love you more if you give her a big diamond ring. She'll love you even more if you give her a diamond necklace too.

Every day, all day, we are bombarded by messages, some subtle and some not so subtle, designed to make us want to buy things.

Karate. The same applies.

You need to buy this special Karate gi because it will make you popular and hot women will like you. OK, well maybe that is not quite right. But if you buy this gi you will look legitimate and skilled because only legitimate and skilled people wear it.

You need to be certified by such and such association so that you will be legitimate and people will respect you.

You need this special title -- same reason.

You need to join this certain dojo because only the winners go there.

You need to enter tournaments (and spend time and money doing so) because it will make you a winner, legitimate, respected, etc.

It goes on and on. Day after day, all the time.

If you want to buy something, there will be someone willing to sell it to you. The person who wants to sell something, will do things to make you want to buy it.

If you need something, you need to buy it. There is nothing wrong with that. I buy things all the time. But you should ask yourself, "Why do I need this and why do I want this particular product... what do I expect to get by buying it?"

You need to examine your motivations. Are you buying it because you need it or because someone has made you think that you need it? This is hard.

In Karate, you have to ask why you are doing what you are doing and buying what you are buying. We know why people sell, but do we know why we buy?

If you join this dojo, you will be a winner because the head instructor won a big tournament many years ago. OK, we all want to be winners, right? But can you go back in time and win the same tournament? Can you expect to win tournaments today? And if you do, will that make you a winner? What if the head instructor is also a drunk, drug addict, philanderer, liar, cheat...? Do you want to be those things too, or just a winner? A winner of what?

You can take almost any aspect of Karate and there will be a possible buy/sell aspect to it. In some ways you cannot help it -- but you can be clear about it. You can be clear about why you are doing things.

There are people who want to sell Karate things. There are also many fine, dedicated and sincere Sensei who teach out of the kindness of their hearts and charge only a reasonable tuition. They are not trying to sell anything -- it seems more like they are giving it away. Business is a necessity. There is nothing wrong with it. But there is a big difference between selling good medicine and snake oil (kids: in the old days, traveling salesmen would sell snake oil as a cure for all ills).

Again, if you want to buy something that is entirely up to you. I buy lots of things. What I am saying is that you should be clear about why you are buying it. You should be clear about the marketing that might have influenced your purchase. You should make sure that you are doing what you want to do based on a rational assessment of the product and its value to you.

How much is a dojo license worth to you? How much is a dan certificate worth to you. How much is a pair of sai worth to you? What are your expectations about purchasing these items? Will they make you better somehow? If so, how?'

How, why? Ask yourself questions. Try to be aware of the marketing that has been directed toward you.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Apple and Eggs

My sons and I just spent some time looking at photographs of Ronnie Coleman. Do a Google search and look at the images. He has to be one of the greatest bodybuilders ever.

Then one of my sons said to look up the world's strongest man, Mariusz Pudzianowski, who is supposed to be making a MMA debut. You might want to do a search for him too.

These men are huge. I think their arms are bigger than my waist!

My sons are pretty big but they look like scrawny children compared to these monsters.

I could never match these men in strength. And yet in martial arts, we cannot chose the attackers against whom we must defend. We can't say, "I'm sorry, you are too big and strong."

I cannot match a bigger and stronger attacker. My arms and legs are not as strong. But -- and this is a very important but -- my entire body is stronger than any man's eyes. The concentrated power of my body is stronger that the weak points of any man. That is why I entitled this post "Apples and eggs." A attacker may have stronger arms than me, but he still has weak eggs (if you get what I mean).

How much can your eye take? How much can your groin take? How much can your knee take? I am leaving our many kyusho (vital or weak spots). But the point is, a strong man still has weak points. Think for a moment about all the MMA matches you've watched and the ones that were stopped by fouls/disqualifications. Sometimes a weak looking accidental jab to the eye stops the match (and results in permanent injury). How about those strikes to the back of the head?

We should not try to match apples to apples, we should match apples to eggs.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

First Attack?

I was recently asked about Karate ni sente nashi and the idea of there being no first attack in Karate. Does this mean that we have to wait and get hit before we can defend? I do not believe that the maxim means this at all. Instead, I think that it means that we do not start or initiate fights.

In my mind, the fight does not start when the attacker hits you -- it starts when the attacker initiates the aggression.

This is a fine line and you would not want to be seen as the aggressor (by striking first). But at the same time, you would not want to be injured or killed either. I cannot tell you what you should do in any situation. I can only say what I think I would do.

In May 2006, I wrote, Making Sense of "Sen". I have presented it again below as it addresses this subject.


You may have heard of these expressions:

go no sen

sen no sen

sen sen no sen

Basically, "go no sen" means to respond to an attack -- to counterattack. Someone attacks you and in response, you block (or do some other technique). First the attack and then the response. There is a delay.

"Sen no sen" means a simultaneous response. Someone attacks and you counter at the same time. There is no gap.

"Sen sen no sen" basically means a preemptive movement or technique. The opponent is about to attack and you prevent it. This may seem to violate the maxim that "Karate ni sente nashi" -- "there is no first attack in Karate," but really it does not. It all depends on how you look at it.

Someone walks up to you and without warning pushes you. You catch your balance just in time to see a right punch coming. In response, you block with your left hand. This is go no sen.

You know what's coming next. Simultaneously, you both throw punches (his left and your right), but you take the inside line and punch him in the face. This is sen no sen.

In this position, the attacker intends (hopes) to kick with his left foot. Before he can begin his movement, you prevent it by kicking him him the groin and taking him down to the ground. Your kick preempted his. This is sen sen no sen.

Viewed as part of the ebb and flow of the confrontation, the "sens" begin to make more sense.

Actually, we use many techniques that would be classified as sen sen no sen. For example, when we enter and strike to the face, we also trap or pin the opponent's leg. He has not even thought of kicking yet, but you have prevented it.

When Sensei Chosei Motobu visited my dojo with his friend and assistant Takeji Inaba, he emphasized the importance of multiple simultaneous movements. For example, in one of the Motobu Choki Juni Hon Kumite forms that he teaches, you block up with your right hand, check a punch with your left hand and bump the attacker with you right knee. The block is go no sen, the check may be sen no sen or sen sen no sen, and the bump (or trap) would be sen sen no sen as it prevents a leg movement. All of these happen at the same time, overwhelming the attacker's senses and making it extremely difficult for him to respond effectively. Taking advantage of this short circuit, you strike down with your right elbow. As a counterattack, this would be go no sen but it followed a simultaneous flurry of "sens."

Sorry for making "sen" plural, but I hope you get my idea.

You are walking along a dimly lit street and see someone lurking in the shadows ahead. You cross the street and walk around the threat. Wouldn't this be sen sen no sen? You have preempted the possibility of the attack by avoiding contact.

A person calls you an idiot. Rather than lose you temper and react, you remain calm. You diffuse the conflict. Sen sen no sen again?

In most of our kata, the first movement is a block and the second movement is a strike of some sort. You block and then counterattack. This seems like go no sen. But what if the block breaks the attacker's arm or disables it? Then it is preemptive as well as defensive. Thus, even a sequence that appears to be go no sen, can actually be sen sen no sen, especially as we advance in our training.

Make sense?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Pearl of Wisdom

Here is a pearl of wisdom -- something I learned from my own personal experience.

Don't drink two extra large drinks right before a concert. You will inevitably end up sitting in the center of the aisle and have to shuffle out in front of irritated fans when you have to go the the restroom before the intermission -- and then make your way back to your seat in front of those same irritated people.

Now if I can only remember this!

Here is the Karate connection: a full bladder is a weak spot (target). Remember that many Okinawan styles execute front kicks with the tips of the toes in a stabbing/piercing manner.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

More Polite MMA Fighters

In My Favorite MMA Fighters, I mentioned that I liked the polite competitors. As an example, I mentioned Anderson "The Spider" Silva.

I received some responses to this post, agreeing that skilled and successful fighters can also be polite. Another example cited by some people was George St. Pierre. I have to agree with that.

So what do Anderson Silva and George St. Pierre have in common, besides their skill, success, and courtesy? They are foreign -- not American. So I think it would be good to compile a long list of skilled, successful and polite American fighters.

I realize that MMA is a sport and big business. People don't necessarily shell out big bucks for pay per view to see polite fighters. Hype sells tickets and I'm sure that some fighters who make it seem that they want to kill or maim each other are really friends. But young people might believe the hype and also believe that this is an acceptable way for a martial artist to act.

We should all remember that as martial artists we are training to be gentlemen (and ladies), not brutes and thugs.

I am glad that there are positive examples and role models in MMA, like Anderson Silva and George St. Pierre.

And when it comes to a match or championship, I will always say, "Go BJ!"

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

This is a Story

I start my stories with "This is a story."

I do so to make clear that I am making the story up, not writing about someone I know. Nevertheless, people sometimes ask me if I am writing about them. I am not.

Some people ask how I make up these stories. It is interesting. I really do not make them up, at least not most of them. I will be doing my work or playing in the yard and I will see/hear the story start to unfold. It runs like a short movie. If I remember it, I will post it later that day. Too bad I forget some of them!

So I think that my subconscious makes these stories up, probably based on what I am experiencing in my Karate training, teaching and researching.

So for once, this is not a story.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Landscaping A Yard

I might have mentioned that my oldest son purchased the house next to mine last year. As a present, I have been landscaping his yard. Whenever I have have a free afternoon or weekend, I try to do some work.

Someone recently asked me, "What do you get for doing all that?"

At first, I really could not even understand the question, let alone respond to it. Our family is very close. Working in my son's yard is not something I think about as a big thing, even though it does entail a lot of work. It is just something you do when you are a parent.

It is like teaching Karate. You teach a student day after day, week after week, year after year, and what do you get for it? It is like working in your son's yard. You don't teach because you expect something in return. You are not paid for your time, not really. It is like you are trying to grow something. When I work in my garden and grow a really nice plant, I don't say to it, "Now it is time for you to pay me."

When I really think about it, teaching Karate is a lot like working in the garden. I feel good when I grow plants and they have babies. I take good care of them. My reward is seeing them grow and thrive, just like teaching Karate. When I see a student improving I feel great! When I see a student teaching well, I am ecstatic!

I would like to say that we teach Karate for free. But I think that it is more true that we teach Karate because it makes us feel good. It makes me feel good to make a nice yard for my granddaughter to play in.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Photo Op

This is a story.

A student traveled the world and studied with 10 of the greatest living Karate Sensei. When he returned home, he showed his photo album to his friend. There were dozens of photographs of him with each of the famous Sensei.

The friend asked, "So what did you learn?"

"Learn?" said the student.

Training with seniors is an opportunity to learn, not a photo opportunity.

Hahahaha!

Would you rather have a photo with a senior Sensei or would you rather learn something valuable from him (or her)?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Worst of the Best

I have a strategy. I would rather be the worst of the best group rather than the best of the worst group. I am not trying to be judgmental. I am just being honest.

If I train with the best, even if I am the worst of the the group, that may still be much better than being the very best of the worst group. In the best group, I might be easily beaten. I might be the weakest and slowest. But I will have so many great people to learn from. There is only one way for me to go... up!

I will give you an example. When I lift weights with my sons, I have no chance to beat them at anything. They are so much stronger than me. But by training with them, I will push myself much more than I would do if I trained alone. Being the worst among them is much better than being the best by myself.

I have had several fine Sensei visit our dojo here in Hawaii. I have no reservation about saying that these Sensei are much better and senior to me in every way. I am just lucky that they came to visit us... and I got to learn and experience so much, as did my students.

I and my dojo are members of the Kishaba Juku (Shorin-Ryu). Again, I am just happy to be a part of this group. I am just happy to be a student of my Sensei. How lucky I am!

I do not worry about being the best. I only worry about trying my best.

When you associate with the best, some of it rubs off.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Birthday Gift... and Teacher

I have written about my third son who is learning Ju Jitsu. For my 52nd birthday I asked him for a special present. I asked him to show me a Ju Jitsu/MMA technique every day for the next year (but to take it easy on me).

The first technique he showed me was a classical arm bar from the guard. Wow is he strong! (See, I know the term "guard".)

Today, I showed him a basic standing arm lock often seen in Karate. He countered it and escaped so quickly that I was left just standing there dumbfounded. If he wanted to, he probably could have ripped my arm off.

I have a lot to learn from my youngest son!

The moral of this post is that a teacher might be right under your nose. I am my youngest son's father and Karate Sensei. I am also grateful to be his student.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Critiquing Some Students

This is a story.

A senior Sensei was visiting from Okinawa. The head of the local dojo asked him to privately review the kata of four students, one after the other.

The first student performed his kata and the visiting Sensei said, "Very good!"

After the first student left the room, the host Sensei asked, "Sensei, it seemed to me that the student was weak. Why did you say, 'Very good!'"?

"Because with time and practice I am certain that he will improve," replied the senior Sensei.

The second student performed her kata and the visiting Sensei said, "Very good!"

After the second student left the room, the host Sensei asked, "Sensei, it seemed to me that the student was too slow. Why did you say, 'Very good!"?

"Because with time and practice I am certain that she will improve," replied the senior Sensei.

The third student performed his kata and the visiting Sensei said, "Very good!"

After the third student left the room, the host Sensei asked, "Sensei, it seemed to me that the student was unsure of his movements. Why did you say, 'Very good!"?

"Because with time and practice I am certain that he will improve," replied the senior Sensei.

Finally the fourth student performed her kata and the visiting Sensei said nothing at all.

After the student left the room, the host Sensei asked, "Sensei, that was my best student. She was strong, her timing was good, she knows the kata very well. Why didn't you say anything?"

"Because you could see arrogance in her movements," replied the senior Sensei. "She was so full of herself. Time and practice will probably make it worse. I did not want to say anything to feed her ego."

"I see," said the host Sensei.

Later that day, the host Sensei met privately with the fourth student. "I want to explain what happened earlier today," he began.

"No need," declared the fourth student condidently. "My performance was obviously so good that the senior Sensei was speechless!"

The moral of the story is that the ego will feed on anything -- what someone says or even what someone does not say. An arrogant student deserves a good kick in the groin (figuratively)... like the saying, "No matter how tall you are you will be humbled (bow down) when you are kicked in the testicles." I realize that women do not have testicles, but I think that such a kick will make them bow down too.

Sometimes we describe an arrogant student as "tantaran," which is sort of like a student who performs a kata and then says, "tada!"

There is no "I" in kata, student, or Karate for that matter. (Sorry, I really do not like "There is no "I" statements, but it fit this story pretty well.)

And there are two "I's" in training. (Sorry again.) And four "I's" in Mississippi!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Birthday Thought

As I mentioned yesterday, I am now 52. I was born in 1957.

My friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, started practicing Karate right around when I was born.

Our mutual friend and senior, Sensei Bobby Lowe, starting practicing Karate around when Nakata Sensei was born (1944).

I could never compare myself, as a Karate student or instructor, to Nakata Sensei or Lowe Sensei. We are generations apart. They are so senior to me.

I could never compare myself to them. I am just happy to be able to say that I know them and also train with them. Nakata Sensei is like my older brother (or uncle) in Karate and Lowe Sensei is like my grandfather. We are all also members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai, with fine instructors such as Sensei Fumio Nagaishi, Sensei Alan Lee, Sensei Hisae Ishii-Chang, Sensei Angel Lemus, Sensei Sean Roberts, and Sensei Mark Tankosich.

Even though I am 52, in Karate I am still just a kid!

It is easy to be humble when you know many great people. There is no shame in being a junior. In time, we become the uncles and grandfathers in Karate. There is no rush.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Knife in the Pocket

I am at work right now. This afternoon I am going to a beach where there are some wild plants that I like. I plan to snip off a few pieces to plant in my garden. Because of these plans, I am carrying a small folding knife in my pocket.

When I went out to pick up lunch, I happened to reach into my pocket (the one with the knife in it). At that moment, a security guard walked by. Of course, nothing happened, but I was struck by the fact that I was standing there with my hand in my pocket where that knife was. In fact, I was touching the knife.

I'm sure that the security guard thought nothing at all.

How many times have we passed by people who were carrying knives, even standing there with their hands in their pockets holding a knife? Who knows? It is a scary thought.

I guess this just reinforces the idea that you cannot defend against the knife, you have to defend against the person. You have to defend against a person who is about to draw a knife (and determine this based on his body language and the overall situation). There simply is not enough time to react once the knife is drawn.

An attacker is not going to announce, "I have a knife in my pocket and now I am going to reach for it!" No. He will be just standing there or walking toward you, and "zip," the knife will be slashing or stabbing.

And a pocket is not necessarily the best place to conceal a knife. I don't want to go into it, but a person can hide a knife many places. A knife fighter will have a knife ready to draw in an instant.

Certainly not everyone has a knife in their pocket. But today I did, and I'm a nice guy who only wants to cut some plants for the garden.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

My 52nd Birthday

Today I am 52!

I have been a grandfather for 2 months.

I put my son in charge of the dojo 2 years ago.

I have been studying koshi (whole body dynamics) for 7 1/2 years (when I met Shinsato Sensei in Okinawa and became his student).

I have been a father for 28 years.

I have been married for 31 years.

I have practiced Karate for 36 years.

I started practicing martial arts 44 years ago (Judo, in Japan).

And I have 48 years before I am 100!

I feel that 52 is the new 32. Thanks to Karate training and exercise, and learning koshi/whole body dynamics which makes everything in Karate much easier, I hope to be able to train to the age of 100 and beyond! I joke that I am chasing my Sensei. He is about 18 years ahead of me.

Every day, I am grateful for my family, friends, health, and many blessings.

I am so fortunate!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

My Favorite MMA Fighters

As I've written, I watch MMA with my sons. We have a little ritual. When fighters are introduced, we each pick one (just for fun).

OK, who do you pick, the Ju Jitsu expert or the Karate expert (except Lyoto Machida)?

Who do you pick, the big guy or the little guy?

Who do you pick, the guy with lots of tatoos (mean looking ones) or the guy with no tats?

The guy with a killer nickname, or the guy with a plain name?

Who do you pick, the gnarly looking guy who seems that he might actually be a werewolf, or the normal looking guy?

Who do you pick, the guy with jacked up ears or the guy with normal looking ears.

We have tried all sorts of variables, and generally are not good pickers. It does seem to me that the fighters who are really good at Ju Jitsu have an advantage if they are also good strikers.

But that is not my point. I want to describe my favorite fighters. I am serious. I like certain fighters, not because they are big, bad, tatooed, have twisted ears, or anything like that. I like the fighters who are really skilled and also very polite.

Anderson "The Spider" Silva comes to mind. Many times during a match I have seen him reach down to help up his opponents. This is during the round when they are supposed to be fighting. I asked my sons, "was he really offering to help or was he going to punch the guy?" They assured me that he was honestly offering to help the other guy up. He is so skilled and so polite. I like that. I respect that.

I guess that a poor fighter who was polite would not be well known. But it is nice to know that there are winners who are also polite. I'm sure that Anderson Silva is not the only one and I don't mean to exclude others.

A last thought. I am 5 feet 8 inches tall and weigh 168 or 169 pounds. How is it that MMA fighters my weight are so much taller than me... and more muscular too? I know the answer, but it just gets me.

There is a saying that "Karate begins and ends with courtesy." The same applies to all martial arts.

To all the polite MMA competitors out there, good job! You make all martial artists look good.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Reluctance, Restraint... Because

I often state that the most important traits for a Karate student are reluctance, restraint, and overriding intent to "hold back" and not use Karate techniques unless and until it is truly a last resort. I seem to be in a small crowd when I say or write this.

I do not mean this as a general or aspirational thing. I really mean it. To me, the student needs to learn to hold back his hand, not to extend it unnecessarily. It is like saying that the best place for a sword is in its sheath (saya), not being waved around. People here in Hawaii said, "A hand is a treasure in the pocket." Exposed, it is a terrible thing.

But I have come to realize why some people do not feel such a need for reluctance, restraint, and holding back. If Karate is taught as a sport or simply for health, then deadly and dangerous techniques are not taught. Sport Karate is rule bound. Heath Karate is aimed at improving the body.

Old time Karate was not a sport and was not simply for health. Old time Karate was deadly. Students did not learn to punch "legal" targets. Students learned to strike, punch, poke, tear, rip, kick, stomp, and gouge the most vulnerable targets with death or serious injury as the likely consequence. Punches and kicks in Karate were like stabbing with a knife, both in mechanics and result.

Put simply, old time Karate was serious. Students learned to defend themselves seriously. When it was a last resort, the sword was drawn, the hand came out of the pocket. The can was open and anything went.

A simple throw? No. An attacker might be thrown into a fire hydrant or the corner of a cement wall. A simple punch? No, a punch might actually be a poke to the eye followed by pulling the attacker using his eye sockets like the holes of a bowling ball.

Sound terrible? It was... and that is why reluctance, restraint and an intent to "hold back" was so important.

Imagine a policeman learning to shoot and then running around waving his gun and taking pot shots for fun. Policemen protect and serve the public. A policemen would never endanger the public by acting so irresponsibly. Only in the line of duty would he discharge his weapon.

The same goes for Karate students. At least the same should go.

Learning Karate is a serious responsibility. The deadly and dangerous techniques of the art must be restricted and controlled. That is why holding back is so important. It is not a sport or a game. It is a matter of life or death. Really.

I may sound overly dramatic. Perhaps it is just the Karate people I have known and know.

The more dangerous a Karate student becomes the more he or she must learn to hold back, unless and until it is a last resort.

Respectfully,


Charles C. Goodin