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1650+ Posts... and Counting

Too Many Kata

My friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, just shared an email with his students and our Kenkyukai group that included the following:
"Chibana Sensei said that too many Kata are detrimental to understanding the essence of any one Kata, but if the number of Kata is too limited then one's scope is too narrow. Too many times, many teachers become Kata collectors, so they can retain students by constantly teaching them new Kata. They need to do this because they have no concept of refining and improving their Karate through the practice of Kata. This is also the reason that many schools turn to Kumite, because they do not know the combat application and effectiveness of the Kata and that Kata practice is more realistic for combat than Kumite"
As usual, Nakata Sensei has said -- in very few words -- exactly what I have tried to express in many words.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Most Advanced Kata

At a recent Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai training session, we were asked to demonstrate and explain the most advanced kata in our respective Karate systems/styles. This was an interesting assignment because each of us had to determine what the most advanced kata in our own system/style is.

One way to approach this question is to ask what kata a student will learn last. In our dojo, the last kata a student will learn is probably Kusanku or Chinto -- it depends. In our dojo, we practice a total of 18 kata. At the shodan level, a student might practice 10 or 12 of these kata. A student might not practice all 18 of the kata until the sandan level. So, a student in our dojo might have studied for many years before he even learns Kusanku or Chinto.

But does the fact that a kata is learned last make it the most advanced? In our system, Kusanku, Chinto and Gojushiho are usually learned last and are also the longest kata (in terms of the number of movements). Are they advanced because they are learned late, or because they are long?

Or is it because the kata contain complicated or "advanced" techniques? Is the Kusanku kata technically more difficult than the Pinan or Naihanchi series of kata?

Late, longest, or more complicated? What makes a kata the advanced in a system?

Or does it depend upon the degree of difficulty or points that would be awarded for a particular kata in a tournament?

So what kata do you think that I performed for our training session?

Initially, I said that I would perform Kusanku because it is one of the two last kata taught in our system (generally). I thought about it, and decided I would perform Chinto, because it is also taught late and contains difficult/complicated techniques. Then I decided that the essence of body dynamics in our system is taught via the Naihanchi series of kata.

Finally, I decided that I would perform Fukyugata Ichi. Do you know why?

It is because Fukyugata Ichi is such a simple kata, one that is learned very early. It only contains about 20 movements (depending on who you count them) and not even one kick!

I picked Fukyugata Ichi because it is the most difficult kata to do well -- there is no room to hide weak techniques or mistakes. In Chinto, if one or two techniques are done poorly they might be hidden or overshadowed by the rest of the kata. In Fukyugata Ichi, if one technique is done poorly, it will show!

I also find that it is difficult to perform Fukyugata Ichi with a compressed koshi. If you perform the kata with a big koshi, the kata will look strange (wobbly). To maintain the simple and clean lines of the kata, the koshi has to be compressed and thrown very late -- it can almost look as if no koshi is being used at all. This can be very challenging.

Why didn't I pick Naihanchi? We learn koshi through Naihanchi. The "shape" of the kata is ideal for learning and applying koshi. The Naihanchi stance is ideal for us.

Fukyugata Ichi has no Naihanchi stances. Instead, it uses zenkutsu dachi and shizen dachi. Additonally, we use a hanmi "slant" in just about all our movements (in these stances). It is one thing to move from side to side in Naihanchi dachi. Moving from one side to another in zenkutsu dachi and shizen dachi is quite different -- and can be challenging.

So I performed Fukyugata Ichi as the most advanced kata in our system. I realize that I could have performed any kata, but I wanted to explain why I chose that particular one.

If you can do one kata well, you can do all kata well (if you practice hard). Being able to do a kata well is what counts -- not whether a kata is considered to be advanced, intermediate or for beginners. (Plus, don't forget that we are all beginners.)

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Koshi Percentage

OK, this is a serious post.

If you would like to have a few very talented Karate students with exceptional body dynamics, teaching koshi is the way to go. If you do not mind spending many years (even decades) teaching and working on the fine points of body dynamics, power generation, power transfer, weight shifting, body alignment, body shifting, timing, focus, recoil, and other fascinating subjects (not to mention all the other practical aspects of Karate), then koshi is the right path for you.

But if you would like to have a large school/dojo with 100, 500, 1,000, or even more students, then you might want to think about another approach.

Let me clarify this. If you just want to have many students, that is one thing. But if you would like for them to be very talented with exceptional body dynamics, that is quite another thing. For example, you probably do not want to have 1,000 students but only 3 who are talented.

I think that it is fair to ask: "If you teach a koshi/body dynamics oriented class, what percentage of students can be excepted to become talented?"

I will be honest. I think that the answer is somewhere between 5% and 1%.

A higher percentage will learn the principles and may even become able to apply them to some extent -- but only a very small percentage will get the principles, apply them to all the movements in the curriculum, develop the physical coordination and body strength (in the bones, muscles, tendons, etc.), and be fast and strong enough to become truly talented with exceptional body dynamics.

Actually, I think that 5% may be too high.

I also do not think that after a certain point, the skill of the Sensei makes much of a difference. If a Sensei is skilled in koshi/body dynamics, it does not make much difference if he is skilled, or really, really, really skilled. What I am trying to say is that a great teacher of koshi/body dynamics will probably also be limited by the 5%/1% rule.

My Sensei in Okinawa is fantastic (in my opinion), certainly many times more skilled and knowledgeable than me. However, even he, even his own instructors, did not produce a large number of exceptional students. Please don't get me wrong -- they certainly did produce some truly exceptional students, just not that many of them.

If you want to teach 1,000 students (or more) who will be able to successfully "get" and perform the curriculum, you really have to limit the curriculum. You have to teach in a way that an average student who goes to school or works and only has a limited amount of time (and patience) for practice, will be able to do "well". You have to teach in a way that students can be promoted and encouraged, and stick around long enough to help you to maintain and expand the school.

You have to be able to teach in a way so that a student can one day realize his dream of wearing a "black belt."

You have to be able to teach in a way so that your students can move together and look alike -- like a unified group.

I'm sorry, but if this is your goal, a curriculum focusing on koshi/body dynamics is not the way to go. My dojo, for example, is small and my students all move differently (of course). In a typical class, we might have 12 to 15 people, which includes three or more instructors. We do not award any kyu ranks, only rarely promote at the yudansha level, and charge only $5 per month tuition.

My Sensei's dojo in Okinawa is not much different. He does not have a large class. Often, he spends time concentrating on only one, two or three students. He spends much time helping visitors.

Let's say that my Sensei in Okinawa is 10 times more skilled that me. That does not mean that he will have 10 times more students. In fact, I believe that the more skilled a Sensei is, the fewer students he will choose to teach -- so that he can concentrate on the details and focus on a few students who can rise to the exceptional level.

Actually, now I think that 1% may be too high.

And guess what happens when my students perform kata at a demonstration? We all tend to move differently. This is fine if we are performing solo, but in a group, this will probably look disorganized and strange to the audience. But let me ask you this -- should people of different size, weight, strength, and skill level move exactly the same? If they did so, would they be moving in the best way possible for each student -- or would they be sacrificing for the sake of uniformity?

And I have a tiny dojo! How would it look if I have 100 students or even more? They probably would knock each other off the stage!

So if you would like to have a large school that "looks good", a koshi orientation is probably not the way to go.

Given that, would I change the way I teach? Not in the slightest. I want to give each student the chance to become the very best he or she can become -- to the best of and limits of my ability. Having tried a "conventional" approach for many years and reaching a frustrating and seemingly impenetrable barrier, I found that a koshi/body dynamics approach opened the sky for me. Since then, some of my students have also "ignited" and surpassed me (particularly in speed and strength).

I would not feel honest teaching 1,000 students so that they could reach the same barrier I had experienced -- even if they were happily promoted to high ranks and perceived as being skilled in Karate.

When you really think about it, 1% is not that bad. Look at any talented artist. Thank about singer/song writers. What percentage does someone like Billy Joel represent? I'm certain that he is something like 1% of 1% of 1%.

Any truly talented artist or athlete is an exception -- perhaps one in a million. It shouldn't be any different in Karate.

However, I feel that it is important to present the student with a curriculum that gives him the opportunity to become exceptional -- even if it is statistically unlikely.

As a Sensei, we pour all our effort, sweat, heart and soul into our students. As parents, we do the same for our children. We want to give our children every opportunity to become the best they can be. We should want the same for our students. Every student has great potential.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Thinking About What We Practice

This Guest Post is by one of the adult students in our dojo (Hikari Dojo), Peerawut Kamlang-ek. He has trained with us for about a year and a half.

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Thinking About What We Practice

“Repetition is the mother of skill!”

I’m sure that many Karate students and people in any practice probably have heard this phrase before. I believe it serves its purpose for motivation and improvement. Therefore, if two students started Karate at the same time, Karate student A who practices a movement 100 more times than Karate student B should be better at that movement.

In my belief that’s not always the case.

Surely, Karate student A might have a higher chance of being more skilled at that movement, but what if Karate student B thinks more about what he’s doing with the movement when he practices? He might not repeat the movements as much as Karate student A, but he slows down, pauses, and rewinds his movements while practicing in front of a mirror. He might also be analyzing his koshi during the process.

I can’t be certain about what other students in the Kishaba-Juku style think, but I find the style challenging in many aspects. The articulating portion of ‘catching’ the mechanics of koshi would be one of these challenges. It is definitely not an exaggeration to say that it could get frustrating during the process of applying the mechanics, especially the bo kata.

Trying to copy the instructor’s and senior student’s movements without thinking about what I’m doing with mine will limit my chances of using and understanding koshi. They can do it, but how are they doing it? What can I do to move like that? I have to emulate them with constant reflection. Interestingly, due to the nature of a small privatized training environment, everybody’s movements and koshi in our dojo are somewhat personalized and different because of our body size and strength.

One thing the Marine Corps is used to doing is reflecting on training, we call it debriefing. Within our platoon, we would do countless amounts of reaction drills to different attacks from simulated enemy troops. The squad and team leaders supervise and points out what could’ve been better in the exercise and encourages his Marines to think about how they could do better.

I try to apply such experience to my individual Karate pursuits.

Before we practice movements we must make sure that what we’re practicing is correct. It’s good that a student consistently trains, but they could also be developing bad habits if they are not thinking about what they are practicing. Consulting our Sensei and fellow students also helps a lot (I always do, especially because I’m a beginner).

With all being said, I believe that there’s always something we could improve on if we choose to incorporate the mental effort, not only in Karate, but in any endeavor.

Respectfully,

Peerawut Kamlang-ek

Guest Post: Domo Arigato Gozaimasu, Sensei

This Guest Post is by one of the adult students in our dojo (Hikari Dojo), Peerawut Kamlang-ek. He has trained with us for about a year and a half.

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Domo Arigato Gozaimasu, Sensei

I believe that many Karate students like their Sensei not only because their Sensei is skilled, but because their Sensei is also courteous and respectful to them.

Our Sensei always ends his emails with something like this:
“Thank you very much for your support of our dojo. Please train hard and try your best.

Respectfully,

Charles”
Sensei always says “thank you” to us. I am already in awe by Sensei’s character because he is always polite, courteous, and is a great husband and father. Therefore, when he continues to verbally say “thank you” over and over to us students, I am even more impressed! Sensei always thanks us for coming to class, thanks us when we clean... come to think of it, he literally thanks us for every good thing we do!

I sometimes ponder to myself, “Shouldn’t I be the one telling Sensei thank you for accepting me as I am?” or “Shouldn’t we be saying thank you to Sensei for teaching us Karate while giving advice on refining our character?” (Character is first, second, and third in Karate. Please see http://karatejutsu.blogspot.com/2006/04/character-1-2-3.html ). Yet, I often hear Sensei say “thank you” to us more than we do to him.

If you read this far into my writing you might be thinking, “People thank each other all the time, is this worth writing about?”, “You sound a little biased, son”, or “He is just bragging about his Sensei, big deal!”

I beg to differ.

How many times have you encountered a boss who never showed any appreciation towards his employees, yet demandingly wave his finger and expects people to willingly perform a task? How many times have you seen people who are put into a leadership position and end up treating other people like they own them, instead of encouraging them? Better yet, how many times have you heard the word “thank you” as a counterfeit instead of a genuine gesture?

I could honestly tell you that I’ve seen/heard countless examples of a power trip and lack of appreciation for people’s efforts.

I believe that it is one issue to be new to a leadership position and not know where to start, as long as the person has good intentions, is willing to grow, and continues to develop himself. I was definitely the biggest rookie the first time I was put into a leadership position as a young service member and I am still working to strengthen my leadership traits. However, I am sure that most people would agree that it can be demoralizing to not receive any appreciation from your employer.

Therefore, if you encounter such misfortunes at your job or are involved with a Sensei that puts you down, what are you going to do? Even worse, if your friends, siblings, or loved ones were unfortunate to be around such people, what are you going to say?

I would politely resign and stay away from such people.

Even though a person should strive to be better despite circumstances, there should be no point in creating unnecessary obstacles by staying in a place where self improvement and development are ultimately restricted. I am sure that there are other Sensei and employers who are willing to treat you with respect and expand on your skills.

In our dojo, some of the students in our class (including me) might not verbally express our thankfulness as much as our Sensei does to us. But I believe that everyone of us who are still around thank him in other ways such as trying our best in class (in daily life also), helping out other students, and refining our character with the goal of becoming better than yesterday.

We all must show our appreciation to our Sensei and seniors in our own way, just like we show our appreciation to our parents, siblings, friends, and loved ones.

Have you recently shown your appreciation towards your Sensei and seniors in your own way?

Respectfully,

Peerawut Kamlang-ek

My Tough Son Does Not Brag

I have three sons and a daughter who were raised on Arnold movies. Instead of Disney, as little kids they watched Predator, Terminator, Raw Deal, Commando, Aliens, you get the idea.

I'm afraid that this upbringing made my sons pretty cocky. If they were watching Predator or Alien(s), they would say, "I could beat that monster." If my sons watched a show about crocodiles, they would say the same thing. Bears, sharks, you name it, the could beat it.

So when my third son started learning Brazilian Ju Jitsu a couple of years ago, I expected him to be equally full of bravado. My third son is very strong. If my first two sons and I tried to wrestle my third son at the same time, I'm not sure that we could win. When I have "rolled" with him and he just played with me, I had to tap out so quick it was really sick.

Anyway, my third son is pretty cocky and probably still thinks he can beat just about anything. So one day I asked him, what about BJ Penn or George St. Pierre? All of a sudden my son's attitude changed. "Dad, you have to understand that they are professionals. They are in great shape. They would literally kill me."

No bravado. No hype. None.

No matter how much I might prod him, my third son has nothing but the best things to say about MMA professionals. Even when someone loses in a match, even when the guy is beaten badly, my son is careful to tell me that even that guy would destroy him, that the professionals are so skilled, so conditioned, so awesome.

This is a far cry from beating the Predator or Aliens. When it comes to MMA professionals, my son shows respect.

I met an MMA student who trains with a noted teacher. I asked him about this -- why MMA and Ju Jitsu students are generally respectful like this. He said, "it is because we've all been beaten." They all have gone up against skilled opponents and been beaten. They know what it means to be beaten and they know when someone deserves respect.

One of the old Karate Sensei here in Hawaii told me that in the old days, when you had a dojo you had to be willing to accept challenges. If someone showed up and wanted to challenge you, you had to accept. If you could defeat the challenger, you could keep teaching. If you were beaten, then I guess that might be another thing.

This Sensei told me that the good thing about this system was that people generally did not brag. If a person was good, he knew it and so did everyone else. But today, anyone can teach, and without challenges, anyone can brag and say whatever he wants. There is no challenge process to keep people honest.

I think that this is why MMA people are generally respectful, especially of their seniors and professionals.

I am glad that my third son has learned to respect others. Young men his age tend to be full of themselves. He is too, but knows his limits when it comes to MMA professionals. He has nothing but respect for them.

Now about dojo challenges, I am glad that such things are no longer common. I am a peaceful person and if someone wanted to challenge me, I would have to give up. If pressed, I guess that I would have to call the police. I am not a fighter and do not practice and teach Karate to fight, but for self-defense only. I have nothing to prove... I am a grandfather already.

But then if the Predator or an Alien came to the dojo, I think I could beat them... or at least my sons or daughter could!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

What Have You Done Lately?

Sometimes Karate instructors will tell me about their accomplishments 40 or 50 years ago. That is great, but I wonder, "What have you done lately?"

As soon as I do something, I forget about it. It is over. It is time to do the next thing. What I have done is done. What I am doing is what counts.

I do not want someone to ask me, "Didn't you use to be that Karate instructor?"

I told my son once that an instructor had mentioned his accomplishment over 40 years ago. My son said, "He should get over it."

We should not let anything hold us back, even our accomplishments. We should "get over it" and "get on."

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

My Student is Better Than Me!

This is a story.

Two Sensei were were eating dinner together discussing their lifetime of teaching Karate. At one point, the first Sensei started to sob, "Several of my students are better than me! I feel like I a failure."

The second Sensei began to sob as well, saying, "None of my students are better than me! I feel like a failure!"

Which was correct?

I feel that several of my students are better than me (and several others will become so), and I feel like a success!

I have four children and a granddaughter. I want the very best for each of them. With my blessing and support, I want them to surpass me in every way. I will be their greatest fan!

The same is true of my students. My greatest pleasure is to learn from them!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Replacement

Over the years (decades), I have seen many people come and go in Karate and other martial arts. In organizations, it is not unusual for people to leave or quit. If they hold office, I have noticed that there is usually a pretty smooth transition -- someone else takes or is elected to their position.

One way to think of this is to picture an annual seminar in which the heads of the organization line up an a stage. From year to year there may always be the some number of officers/directors, but the people change. One year, this person is the president, the next year it is someone else.

What I am getting at is that positions generally stay the same. A person can be a president, a vice president, a treasurer, a secretary, an director, or whatever. A change in the personnel is not really much of a change. The organization itself remains more or less the same. It will go on running according to its internal documents (articles, by-laws, etc.).

But when a dojo loses its Sensei, then that is something altogether different. Someone else may become the Sensei, but it is not the same. I think back to Sensei Sadao Yoshioka (who taught Aikido). When he passed away there was no way to replace him. He was a "one and only." Of course, the dojo will have a successor Sensei (one or even many), but there will never be another Yoshioka Sensei.

The same is true in all martial arts. A Sensei is more than a position or office. A Sensei is a lifetime of training and self development. When a Sensei passes away, who will have his skill and knowledge? Perhaps his students will have bits and pieces -- and that is often the best scenario. Often, so much is lost when a Sensei passes. So much knowledge and wisdom is lost.

A position can be filled, but a lifetime of training and self development cannot.

I know many Sensei. But I have reached a phase in my life when I "know" more Sensei who have passed away than are living. And in so many cases, the Sensei who have passed away seem so much wiser and skillful to me. Perhaps this is just the gloss of time. Our image of those who have passed away is somehow elevated. We remember only the best. We remember the good times and their great lessons. Any shortcomings fade away.

To a Sensei, his students are great treasures.

But to a student, the Sensei is the greatest treasure -- a treasure that does not last forever.

If you are fortunate enough to have a fine Sensei, please take every opportunity to ask your questions, ask for corrections, listen to the old stories... drink in every moment to the fullest. If you can assist your Sensei, do so without obligating or imposing upon him. Observe how he "is."

A Sensei lives on through his students. If the Sensei is truly fortunate, the art itself grows. But in many cases, I think that the loss of a Sensei lessens the art.

You cannot replace a Sensei.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

No Mention of Rank

For several years, one of my senior friend's students has visited from the mainland. My friend usually invites me to lunch when his student visits and I have looked forward to seeing him each year to observe his progress in training and to just talk about Karate. This year I realized that I did not know the student's rank, which is not an important thing, but was sort of unusual because I had met the student several times over the years.

So this year, I asked him about his dan level. The student answered and I was surprised to learn that he was ranked pretty high. Actually, we are only one dan level apart from each other.

I should say that I was surprised and pleased. Too often, people cannot wait to tell me that they were a green belt 10 years ago, or that they are a 9th dan in this or that organization. But this student had never mentioned his rank and only did so because I asked.

Since I am friends with his Sensei, he probably had to answer my question ( a student usually treats his Sensei's friends with the same respect he shows to his Sensei). Otherwise, I am certain that he would have never mentioned it at all.

To find someone who just concentrates on training and improving himself is refreshing, and makes me think, "Hey, there are serious Karate students out there!" They may be rare, but they exist!

Last night, one of my sons asked me what rank his brother was (in our own dojo). It is pretty good when brothers who train together all the time do not even know each other's rank. It becomes so irrelevant. What you can do is more important than a subjective rank.

Here is a joke.

A Karate student told his friend, "Today I was promoted to 8th degree black belt!"

"But I thought you were a 3rd degree black belt," said the friend. "How did you get promoted to 8th?"

"They were having a 2 for 1 sale!" explained the friend. Instead of 4th dan, he was promoted to 8th dan.

Your rank is something that is best not mentioned, unless you are asked.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Categorizing Karate Students -- Training

Over the years, I have distinguished Karate instructors/students by various factors, including:

Those who focus on tournaments... and those who do not.

Those who focus on the commercial aspect of Karate... and those who do not.

Those who are born in Japan or Okinawa and feel this is somehow special and makes their Karate somehow better... and those who do not.

Those who focus on rank and titles... and those who do not.

Those who focus on the organizational aspect of Karate (politics, associations, etc.)... and those who do not.

Recently, I have rethought this and now distinguish Karate instructors/students by the following factor:

Those who focus on training... and those who do not.

If you focus on training, Karate is hard in one way and easy in another. It is hard because training takes a lot of time and effort. It is easy, because if you focus on training, everything else should fall into place. People who focus on training usually do not have time for politics, do not want to be bothered by organizational details, put little emphasis on or faith in rank and titles, concentrate on increasing their level of skill rather than winning trophies, and realize that skill in Karate comes from hard work, not where you are born.

The way to get better at Karate is to train. Train, train and train some more. Do not be satisfied with the way you were yesterday. Try to get better every day.

Those who train get better. Those who don't, well what do they do?

There is no "I" in training... there are two of them!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Avoidance & Escape

In Avoidance is 100% Effective, I wrote about how avoiding a physical conflict is the only way to be 100% safe. Any Karate technique can fail, and even if it works, you could be injured. Even the best fighter can get caught with a punch. I was watching MMA with my sons this afternoon. In the main event, this point was illustrated. The champion won, but only barely and near the end of the fifth round.

So we should try our best to avoid the use of Karate techniques. We should use Karate techniques only as a last resort -- when we have tried our best to avoid the attack but are left with no other way to protect our life or the life of a loved one.

I should add that I would not use Karate techniques to protect a physical object, such as my car. I have insurance for that, and my life is more valuable than my car.

But let's say it has become a last resort and I have to use Karate techniques to protect my life. Then what? What is my intention then?

My intent is to defend myself the best I can. If an opportunity to escape safely arises, I will take it. I will say this again. If I can safely escape, I will do so. In fact, my selection of techniques, if I have the time and opportunity to make a selection, will be geared toward escape. I want to get away. I want to run away. I do not want to fight and I am not trying to make a point.

Hey, if this guy is attacking me, he is committing a crime. I am an innocent victim. I am not fighting, I am defending myself. Once I decide to stay and fight (rather than take the opportunity to safely escape), I am no longer just defending myself. In fact, at this point, if I kill or injure that attacker I might have committed a crime and/or be liable for civil damages. The laws in various states and countries on that matter might differ. I am not trying to give you legal advice. But I hope you see the point. If I am defending myself as a matter of last resort and try to escape if it is possible to safely do so, that is one thing. But if I get caught up in the situation, do not take the opportunity to safely escape, and stand and fight, then that is another thing entirely.

I realize that it is difficult to determine whether a person is just defending himself or has gone beyond that -- this is something the courts would have to determine. And I suspect that a person's expertise in martial arts might be a factor.

Some people might be thinking -- "Hey, running away is a chicken thing to do, particularly for a Karate expert!"

Let me ask such people this. "Am I the judge and jury and perhaps even the executioner for the attacker?" If I decide to stay and fight when I could have safely escaped, and it so happens that I accidentally kill the attacker (he falls and hits his head on a fire hydrant), was I legally or morally authorized to do so?

Don't get me wrong. If my life is on the line and I cannot escape, or if my loved ones' lives are on the line and I cannot help them to safely escape, then I say you have to do what you have to do, and I would accept the consequences. In heaven, I think the angels would say, "What else could you have done? It could not be avoided."

And as I wrote earlier, if I decide to stand and fight rather than escape when I could have done so safely, who says that I will be successful? I could get injured or even killed. The attacker's friends might show up and then I would probably wish that I had run away when I could have.

So I think we have to teach our students that fighting is not the object. The strategy is not to fight, not even to defend ourselves-- if it is possible to avoid it. And then if we have to defend ourselves, and it becomes possible to safely escape, we should do so. Call it a "strategic retreat." This is not only the smart thing to to, and the right thing to do (legally and morally), it is the thing a Karate expert would do.

It is said that Karate begins and ends with respect. I would add that Karate is also characterized by a sense of restraint.

I want to add that Karate is a civilian art of self defense. A policeman does not have the luxury of avoiding an attack or escaping. A policeman has to protect the public. A person in the military has different objectives too. People in the military have to accomplish the given mission and protect themselves and their fellow soldiers. I know that I am over simplifying this but I am trying to clarify that my views about avoidance and escape are intended for the civilian situation.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Avoidance is 100% Effective

No Karate technique is 100% effective. There is always a margin for error. A punch or kick might miss or not have the intended effect. A person high on drugs might not even feel a good kick to the groin.

And even if a technique is executed properly, it remains possible to be hit, kicked, bit, scratched, or stabbed in the process.

In short, even the best technique is not a guarantee. Perhaps that is one reason that Karate is only used "as a last resort." One rationale for this is to prevent unnecessary violence and the use of force. We do not even want to injure an attacker. However, another reason might be that even a good Karate technique can fail. It is safer -- much safer -- not to use Karate and the scales only tip in favor of its use, "as a last resort."

One thing is 100% effective -- that is avoidance. If you can avoid a problem you have avoided the risks that a technique might fail and that you could become injured. If you cross the street because you see someone lurking in the shadows, that might prevent the attack from materializing. And if the attacker follows you across the road, at least you will have tried to avoid the attack, and will have some time to judge his intent and movements. But if you just walk in front of him and he attacks, then what?

I was teaching recently as was asked about striking to the throat. The questioner had been told that a strike to the throat was effective. My third son, Cael, was there. He practices Brazilian Ju Jitsu and MMA (as well as Karate). He said, "I get punched in the throat all the time. We can take it."

I tried striking Cael's throat area and sure enough, he could take it. He is very strong anyway, but has been conditioned to tense his throat when he is hit. He explained further that they get hit in face too.

A strike to the throat might be effective or it might not. I recognize that there are ways to strike the throat that a person actually could not take, at least not very easily. But even such a strike could fail.

Avoiding an attack is 100% effective -- if you can do it.

Avoiding an attack does not only mean crossing a dark street when you see someone lurking in the shadows -- it also means avoiding being in the dangerous situation to begin with. Why are you alone on a dark street? Could you have taken a safer route? Could you have waited for someone to accompany you?

Avoidance is not just a "last minute" thing. You should plan for safety.

Of course, attacks can happen, even to a careful person who has tried to avoid danger. In the case of the last resort, I say that you have to just open the can and let the monster out -- meaning you have to do everything and anything to protect you life and the lives of your loved ones. There is no holding back. A technique might work -- or it might not -- but you will have to try your very best. At the point of "last resort" there is not further possibility of avoidance. There is no weighing the likelihood of success and failure. There is only the necessity to act to protect yourself.

But if you can avoid such a situation, it is a good strategy to do so.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Treating Guests

Occasionally, we have guest students from within our style (Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu). When we do, I try my very best to work with them, and also have my sons and senior students work with them. Sometimes it may seem that we go a little overboard and pay too much attention to guests.

I wanted to explain why this is so.

When I went to Okinawa in 2002, Shinzato Sensei and his students were extremely kind to me, and patient too (especially with all my bad habits and errors). When I did even one movement partially correct, Shinzato Sensei was so happy. His joy and enthusiasm were infectious. He trains and teaches for the love of the art. He truly enjoys what he is doing.

When I get a guest, particularly one who really wants to learn, I try my best as a way of paying back Shinzato Sensei and his students for their kindness. I can do very little for them, but I can show my gratitude by trying my best with guests and visitors within our style.

If it were not for Shinzato Sensei's kindness and patience, I think I would have quit Karate in 2002 and practiced Kendo or Aikido instead. Physically and technique-wise, I was literally at the end of my rope. But thanks to Shinzato Sensei, my Karate life entered a new phase and I have enjoyed every minute of training ever since.

So it is a very small thing for me to try my best with guests.

We have a guest from the mainland right now. For those of you who are his friends, I want you to know that he is doing great!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Teaching Karate to Miss Hawaii USA Contestants

Aloha

On Saturday (July 31st), my sons (Charles and Cael) and I gave a Karate session to the Miss Hawaii USA and Miss Hawaii Teen USA contestants. For that pageant, there is going to be a 12 part series of 1/2 hour shows showing the different things that the contestants did. One segment will be about Okinawan Karate. That should be shown on Fox 2 (in Hawaii) in October or November.

There is a short Youtube segment at:


The Youtube segment is different than the program. For the program, BJ Penn's film crew did the work. The video clip is dark and grainy.

I thought you might like to see this. Earlier this year, my daughter participated in the Miss Hawaii's Outstanding Teen pageant. Eric Chandler and Takeo Kobayashi were very helpful to her, so when they asked us to help with this Okinawan Karate lesson for their contestants, we could not refuse. Tasja also demonstrated kata with my sons.

My main lesson to the girls was that Karate might work in a self defense situation, but avoidance is 100% effective. If you can see a problem and avoid it, that is the best thing. Also, I mentioned that learning Karate for 90 minutes is like learning hula for 90 minutes -- you can only learn so much. Both are lifetime pursuits. I also tried to show the Okinawan roots of Karate and its rich history here in Hawaii. That is not shown in the video clip, but hopefully will be shown in the 1/2 hour program.

I was impressed by the contestants. They were in good shape and learned quickly. One actually wore a gi because she is learning Karate.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin