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1650+ Posts... and Counting

New Footage of Shinzato Sensei

One of the students in our dojo located this footage of Shinzato Sensei teaching a seminar in Okinawa earlier this year. Thank you Joseph!

It is only snippets, but you can still learn a lot by observing Shinzato Sensei's movement.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Beyond Style 8

My theme in this line of posts is that what matters most is who you learned from, what you learned -- and what you do with what you learned. That matters much more than the mere name of a style.

One of the things about styles is that one person is usually named as the founder and then there may be a line of instructors who succeed that founder. This makes it seem like the style owes its entire existence to the founder and his successors. This is a little bit like saying that American history is limited to its presidents alone.

It takes many people to make a style. Often, the founder is assisted by other seniors who might have trained with the same instructors as the founder. Often, other seniors, sometimes from other systems, also assist. Then there are the many students who become instructors over the years. Sometimes, the instructors are the ones doing most of the teaching.

If you are in the United States, the founder of your style, or his successor, might live in Okinawa or Japan. You might have never even met him!

Who did you learn from? I do not mean the head of the style, I mean your actual teachers. You probably learned from many people, even if only one signed your rank certificates.

I think about my Sensei and the many people who taught me over the years. I also think about their Sensei and theirs and theirs, all going back to the earliest Karate pioneers in Okinawa, and China before that. It is a great family of teachers.

Somehow this is lost, or at least not very well emphasized, when you define an art as a "style." There is more to Karate than the name of a style, a patch, a logo, signs, certificates, etc.

Remember who you learned from. Remember what you learned. And then ask yourself, what have you done with what you learned?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Promoted

This is a story.

A student was promoted to a high dan level and was naturally very happy. He told all his friends that he had been promoted and they all had the same question: "What rank were you promoted to?" The student gladly filled in the details.

But one of his friends knew something about Karate and asked, "By whom were you promoted?"

"What, don't you want to know my rank?" asked the student.

"Sure," replied the friend, "but who you were promoted by also matters. Does your instructor have a good reputation? Were you promoted by your own instructor or a committee? Were you promoted my an association, and if so, which one? What were the criteria for your promotion? How long have you trained? How regularly have you trained? What have you done to help in the dojo? What contributions have you made to the art of Karate? How do you apply the principles of Karate in your daily life? And do you know what the movements in your kata mean? Hey, for all I know you could have purchased a rank certificate on E-bay."

The student's face turned red with embarrassment.

But then again, this is just a story.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Beyond Style 7 -- Style is Not the Issue

Body mechanics are the central focus of the style of Karate I practice, Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu. We basically work on body mechanics all the time.

However, one of the things my Sensei has been very clear about is this: he can teach a student of another style to develop body mechanics using their own kata. It is not necessary for them to learn and practice our kata. What is important is learning the optimum way to move in whatever style you practice.

My Sensei routinely teaches students from other styles. I know that he often urges them to remain in their own styles and just work on applying the body mechanics principles to their own kata. I have also "coached" students in this way.

It is probably helpful for a student to learn our Naihanchi Shodan and the way we perform it. It is almost like our scales, using a music analogy. Once the student has learned our Naihanchi Shodan and our body mechanics as applied to each movement and combination, then it is a relatively simple process for the student map/apply the same body mechanics to his own kata in his style. In some ways, kata is just a convenient medium for learning how to move.

Despite good results, one problem that might arise is the displeasure of other students and instructors in the style when the student begins to move differently. Moving differently might be perceived as a sign of disloyalty... to the style. If you belong to a style you are supposed to move a certain way. The issue is not whether you have learned to move better -- you are not supposed to move better you are supposed to move the same.

An emphasis on style, in my opinion, is like elevating form over substance. What counts is how you move. Hey, we all punch, block and kick. Most of what we do is pretty similar. Good Karate is good Karate.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Beyond Style 6 -- Proliferation of Styles

Why are there so many styles of Karate? There does not appear to be as many different styles of Judo, Kendo, or Aikido. Why is it that styles of Karate have proliferated?

I have an observation. Within a style of Karate, there is usually only one 10th dan at a time. This creates something of a ceiling for the other senior instructors. There might be several 8th dan and some 9th dan, but there can be only one 10th dan.

If the 10th dan dies, one of the 9th dan might be elevated to 10th dan, and again, there will be only one.

So what happens, for example, when five of the 8th dan and three of the 9th dan break away from the style or organization and create their own styles or systems? All of the sudden there are eight new 10th dan! The ceiling is miraculously lifted.

And it is not only the highest dan holders who can benefit from this. Even a 5th dan who declares his own style might similarly declare that he is now a 10th dan. After all, each style must have its own head.

It is the structure of Karate styles that leads to an increase in 10th dan holders. And to some extent, this might also be one of the reasons there are so many styles. It is something of a vicious cycle.

Let me ask you this. Would an average consumer of Karate in the United States prefer to learn from an 8th dan or a 10th dan? If you were a senior instructor, would you rather be a 6th dan under an 8th dan, or a 6th dan under a 10th dan -- which situation presents the best opportunity for advancement?

Style is not only about rank (and titles). Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.

But you must admit that there certainly are a lot of 10th dan in Karate. I think that they have quit awarding 10th dan in Judo and Kendo altogether.

For me, what matters most is who you learned from and what you have done with what you learned. Your ability counts most, not the name of your style.

My good friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, learned from Chosin Chibana during the 1960s. Generally, students under Chibana Sensei say that they teach the Kobayashi-Ryu form of Shorin-Ryu. Nakata Sensei never says this. Instead, he says that be teaches "Chibana Shorin-Ryu." In doing so, he is acknowledging his Sensei, which I think is a good idea.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Response to Beyond Style 5

In response to Beyond Style 5, my good friend Jim Alexander (of Belleville, Illinois) wrote:

Reminds me of a story about teacher who had a visiting Okinawan sensei to instruct his class. In private moment, seeking to get some additional tidbit of useful information, he asked his senior, "Sensei, where is the correct place to complete the turn of the wrist in chudan uke; before contact, on contact or after contact is made with the opponent's arm? What is the correct answer, Sensei?" The Sensei thought for a moment, made a few blocks in the air to analyze the mechanics of the move, seeming to make an effort to be as precise as possible, then said "If you block the punch...then it is right".

We forget that Karate is not an arcane subject to be analysed..but an art to be performed. It is action, not style, that is most important. In the end, style, fashion, position, rank...means nothing. It's what you can do. One should be reminded that Miyamoto Mushashi was in his time, lacked formalized training, was dirty, uncouth, sloppy, a social reject. He was not samurai, or a refined gentleman or member of a fashionable ryu as was his most famous opponent Sasaki Kojiro...whom it is said he defeated with a single strike at Ganryu Island.

Jim Alexander

Response to Beyond Style 2 -- Who You Learned From

In response to Beyond Style 2 -- Who You Learned From, my good friend Jim Alexander (of Belleville, Illinois) wrote:

Very well said. It begs the question then (if perhaps you are a parent looking to get your child into martial training)...how do you know how to evaluate the teacher? Parents and students often look at "programs", size of schools, advertising, and other externals when looking to study a martial art.

I would simply add, look at the character of the teacher. Would you gladly have this person to your home or church? Would you consider this person in totality to be a role model for your child? In the old days a teacher was a venerated person in the community in most cases (perhaps Motobu in his early years might be an exception). I look forward to more on this subject.

Jim Alexander

Beyond Style 5

This is a story.

A Karate instructor was walking down the street late at night when he was stopped by a mugger who demanded money. Confident in his kumite skill, the instructor refused.

Without warning, the mugger kicked the instructor in the groin, took his wallet, and ran away.

The policeman who arrived later that night recognized the instructor and asked, "Sensei, what happened? You are a famous champion!"

"We don't kick the groin in my style," explained the instructor. "That was a foul!"

This was just a story. However, sometimes there is a tendency for students to become tunnel visioned by their styles. A style is a subset of Karate. Just because the curriculum of a style does not contain a certain technique does not mean that the technique does not exist or is not effective.

In self-defense, anything goes, whether it is included or allowed in a style or not.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Beyond Style 4

OK, some people feel that some styles are better than others. Is that true?

Before you answer, you have to ask, "better at what?"

If you want to teach children, my own style would not seem to be the best since very few students learn it in Okinawa. In contrast, there are other dojo in Okinawa that teach hundreds of children.

Are we talking about tournament success?

How about health? For health, are we talking about strength, cardio, or flexibility?

Are we talking about self defense or fighting?

Are we talking about training for the police or military?

Are we talking about character development?

Are we talking about body dynamics? (Something my own style concentrates on.)

My point is, what are we talking about when we ask how good (or bad) a style is? A style is probably not all things to all people. And sometimes, a style that may be good at one particular thing might lead the student to another style, that might be good at another thing. At different phases of a student's career, different styles or systems might be useful or appealing.

So, while I might feel that some styles might be good or bad, this is really an over simplification. When it comes down to it, I would ask, does it work? And again, I feel that good Karate is good Karate, and bad Karate is bad Karate. Style itself is not the real issue.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Beyond Style 3

This is a story.

Two Karate students from different styles were about to engage in a match.

Before they began, the first student said: "My style is far better than yours. My master is more well known, our dojo is bigger, we have more students worldwide, we are better than you in every way!"

The second student said nothing.

When the match began, the second student walked right in and punched the first student on the nose. The match was over.

When he was helped up from the ground by the referee, the first student asked, "What, what happened?"

The referee replied, "Your style may be great but your Karate is terrible."

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Compressing

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 two years. He is currently at Army Officer Candidate School on the mainland.

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Compressing

Early last year I was first exposed to the concept of compressing and decompressing our body, a technique in the Kishaba-Juku style which allows us to maximize the speed of our movements.

In one class Sensei compared the basics of compressing our body to holding a very big ball (Imagine the big bouncy ones we find at toy stores).

We held this imaginary ball close to our bodies in front of us with our arms parallel to the ground, elbows close to our bodies, and act as if we were pressing on the ball.

In the meantime we also press our shoulders down by squeezing our lats. The lower portion of our body presses up by tucking our koshi in order to tie our whole body together through compression.

From there, we kept our bodies compressed until we decompressed and threw a block or punch. The decompression combined with correct usage of koshi allows freedom of movement in any direction while also maximizing the speed of our block or punch.

When practicing on my own, I sometimes exaggerate the squeezing portion of the imaginary ball exercise so that I am more certain of the feeling of compressing. The compressed feeling on my body is almost like a buffer spring in a machine gun where the spring is pushed together so tight that it is dangerous to let it go in the direction of someone or something.

I can honestly say that since that class I have been squeezing my lats every single day. I could be waiting in a line, on the computer, or watching TV while practicing with the ultimate goal of keeping the feeling of compressing fresh in my mind and body.

The past three months and counting I've been training at Officer Candidate School which is very far away from our dojo, giving very minimal time to learn and practice Karate. However, I still squeeze my lats, practice the imaginary ball exercise, or practice a movement when I can, and found it to be useful in memorizing the feeling of compressing my body.

Time might not always be on our side but we can always do what we can to improve our Karate.

Respectfully,

Peerawut Kamlang-ek

Beyond Style 2 -- Who You Learned From

This is a follow up to my post, Beyond Style. In that post, I wrote:

Good Karate is good Karate, and the same is true about bad Karate. The style rarely makes much of a difference.
As I expected, some people agreed with this, while others disagreed.

Several years ago I was speaking to a senior Karate instructor who teaches here in the United States but was born and raised in Okinawa. He said (as best I can remember), "In Okinawa we do not ask about style or organization, we ask who your instructor is." I agree with this.

Who did you learn Karate from? At least in Okinawa (and here in Hawaii), as soon as you identify the instructor, you know a lot about the student. The lineage is well known.

Styles are a modern thing. When instructors taught only a few students in private, it was not important to define that teaching as a style. It was simply the Karate of that instructor.

When Karate became part of the Dai Nippon Butokukai (and other organizations), it became necessary to define the Karate of a member as a "style" so that it could be identified. That is, supposedly, why Chibana Sensei coined the term "Shorin-Ryu" and Miyagi Sensei called his art "Goju-Ryu." Before that, these styles might have been described as "Shuri-Te" and "Naha-Te". But in Okinawa, I'm pretty sure Chibana Sensei would have been known as the student of Anko Itosu and Miyagi Sensei would have been known as the student of Kanryo Higashionna.

To me, a style is an artificial thing -- who you learned from is real.

So why the emphasis on style? That is a good question!

I think that it has to do with our modern world and the commercialism of Karate. It is not enough to say that one practices Karate, a style is necessary. How will you classify and categorize a person's Karate unless you know the style?

But what happens when the head of style dies with 10 senior students? Usually, one will become the head of the style and many of the others with go off on their own and call their Karate a new style. The name of the style might be different, but you would think that the 10 senior students will have learned the same thing.

In fact, the successor of a style is often not the most senior student. A son or relative, for example, might become the successor, even if he is a junior. In that case, would the teaching of the most senior student or the son best represent the teaching of the original style?

I am just asking the question. There is no answer. My point is that what we call a "style" depends on more than who a person learned from and how much he learned. Political, commercial, and legal variables come into play.

I once told my Sensei that perhaps we should call our style: "Work in Progress." I was serious. What we practice is always a work in progress. We are not simply trying to remember or replicate what we have learned.

I have the greatest respect for my Sensei and try to teach the style we practice (Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu) to the very best of my ability. But if my Sensei told me that we now practice "Purple Dragonfly-Ryu," I would continue to train and teach exactly as I am doing. The name does not matter to me.

What matters is who I learned from and what I learned -- and what I do with what I learned.

I guess it is a little like being a "good Christian" -- does the system or sect of Christianity matter? But that is another matter.

Again, I will have much more to write about this subject.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Response to Black Belt vs. Teacher

In response to the Guest Post is by Theodore Kruczek (Black Belt vs. Teacher), my good friend Jim Alexander (of Belleville, Illinois) wrote:

For one to be a senior in the dojo, does not always mean in age, sometimes it is years in knowledge and training. Often a student from another discipline would make their way into our dojo and by virtue of their experience they would have much to contribute, though if they decided to stay in our dojo out of respect they would remove their rank and become a white belt again. (Initially we started out with colored belts, but wore them only for world meetings, otherwise we had white and black only) it was my belief that one's ability should project one's rank and not the other way around, thus eliminating any source contradiction to the naked eye.
I agree with Mr. Parker, regarding the last line and would add, when the student is ready (open to learning) the teacher will appear remains true.
Thank you Kruczek sensei for your article, there are few of us that have not learned a great deal from Goodin sensei's writings over the years

Jim Alexander

Beyond Style

I will have to write much more about this, but I have come to the point where I do not think about Karate in terms of style. Good Karate is good Karate, and the same is true about bad Karate. The style rarely makes much of a difference. What counts most is the dedication of the student and the hard work he puts in over a long time.

My Sensei teaches the Kishaba Juku form of Shorin-Ryu (as do I). However, I think of him as an excellent Karate Sensei (and person), not merely the head of a juku or style.

Practicing a certain style is helpful and necessary up to a certain point. But beyond that point it can be too limiting, and often too political. Like I said, good Karate is good Karate. If a style teaches good Karate, then it is good. If it does not, then what good is the style?

I am not saying that we should practice every Karate kata and every Karate technique. I am comfortable with the kata I practice in Kishaba Juku. However, what is important is that these kata embody good Karate, not that they are practiced in a certain style. After all, all of the kata practiced in my "style" are practiced in other styles. The unique thing is how we perform the kata (body mechanics) and our interpretation of the techniques (imi or bunkai).

I was training recently at a Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai session. At one point, I started to compare techniques with another member, who teaches Goju-Ryu. Our techniques were amazing similar. In fact, some of my techniques were more similar to his than to other Shorin-Ryu members. So what does that say?

Don't get me wrong. Style has its uses. But what style did Bushi Matsumura teach? What style did Kanryo Higashionna teach? Before you say Shuri-Te or Naha-Te, remember that those are geographic descriptions, not styles per se. It would be like me saying that I practice Hawaii-Te.

When you really come down to it, Karate is Karate. A skilled Karate instructor can read my movements and kata like an open book. And the same should be true vice versa. There really is no mystery. Like one of my sons commented when observing a student who was doing particularly well: "You don't get like that by accident."

Good Karate is the result of hard work. A good style helps you to get to "good Karate."

Again, I will have more to say about this.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Double Dangerous Obstacle Course

In Karate Obstacle Course I wrote about how dangerous it is to walk around while shopping at Costco. It takes all your Karate skill to avoid getting hit by a shopping cart.

The other day I faced an even greater challenge: pushing a baby in a stroller in Costco! My granddaughter is about 13 months old and my wife wanted to stop by and pick up some things at Costco the other day. We did not have the baby liner to put in the shopping cart, so my wife used the stroller.

Whoa! At first my wife was pushing the stroller, but I quickly took over the duty when I realized that a shopping cart could smash my granddaughter in the face! I became the bodyguard and protector for her. And was I ever paranoid, particularly with all the people rushing from aisle to aisle.

I made my wife push the shopping cart and I pushed the stroller behind her. That way, the stroller was protected in the front (by my wife), and I was blocking it from the back with my body.

I just had to make sure that no one rammed me in the Achilles Tendon!

You will be happy to know that we all made it out safely! But it was a truly challenging obstacle course. The only thing tougher might be doing the same thing in the dark.

Seriously, you have to watch babies and toddlers very carefully in stores. One of my sons fell out of a shopping cart once when he was a toddler (another one of my sons suddenly pushed the cart and my younger son flipped out). You have to act like an accident could happen -- because it could.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Black Belt vs. Teacher

This Guest Post is by Theodore Kruczek, who teaches Karate at the Air Force Academy. His blog is the Okinawan Karate-Do Institute: A Blog Centered Around the Teachings of Choshin Chibana and His Students.

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Black Belt vs. Teacher

Goodin Sensei has provided me a wealth of information on Karate-Do, and because of this, I am writing today in order to contribute back. I want to talk about the difference between a black belt and a teacher. Often the two are linked together at dojos, but there are many times when they are different.

Every style and school has different standards for what it takes to become a black belt. Some train for ten years and some for two. Black belts may be required to write ten page papers, answer questions in Japanese, break boards, and most commonly perform kata. In most cases, we as instructors are trying to ensure that our future black belt is capable of passing on the art accurately. The questions and the paper are testing their ability to explain things, the breaking of boards is a test of physical ability, and the kata is a test of technique and knowledge.

Does this mean that every black belt is a teacher? No. In some styles, a black belt means that someone knows the entire curriculum and then later they will be qualified as an instructor. I recall an article about a five-year-old black belt in India. Assuming she knew the curriculum, is she qualified to teach it? Probably not. Therefore, it can be agreed that not all black belts are teachers.

Next, consider the opposite question - are all teachers black belts? Again, no. People commonly believe that until someone receives a black belt in a style; they are not qualified to teach without supervision. I want to offer a story that contradicts this logic:

Upon first coming down to the Air Force Academy Karate Club, I was informed that classes would be led by a 6th Kyu. I came down for the first club meeting to realize the club consisted of two white belts, a 6th kyu gentleman leading classes, and myself. I had just recently tested for 3rd Dan , and I was the student in this club, not the teacher. I smiled and thought I would wait and see what would come of it. To my surprise, I was being taught a new kata called Wansu by the 6th kyu, and he continually asked me questions forcing me to expand my understanding of both his kata and my own karate.

The moral here, just because someone does not wear a black belt, does not mean they do not know something you would benefit learning from. Karate students have the potential to both learn and teach, regardless of their rank. Be open minded, and there is great potential for both the higher ranking and the lower ranking student to gain something. Teachers are everywhere, and often there is no belt to identify them.

Theodore Kruczek

Thick Skin

We often think about how important it is to have excellent Karate skills. Being able to punch, kick, and block effectively is important. It is something we work on for most of our lives.

However, Karate skill can be easily abused. We are taught that Karate should be used for self-defense and as a last resort only. Karate is not for fighting.

Before you even get into the application of Karate techniques, there is the issue of the student's ability to handle conflict, bullying, taunts, etc. I could see two problems. Some students might immediately react violently. Others might be so intimidated that they are unable to defend themselves properly. Both problems are serious and should be addressed during training.

A student should have thick skin. Little things should not bother him and he should not allow little things to escalate to violence. Even if a student is called terrible names, the objective should be to get out of that situation -- not to make a point.

Let's say that someone says that my Karate stinks. Is that something for me to fight about? Hey, I also think that I have to keep working to improve myself. I am not content with my level. There have been many time when I have thought that my Karate ability "stinks."

I should let it go. It is not something to get upset about or fight about.

Basically, to me, there is nothing worth fighting about except my safety and life, and the safety and life of loved ones (possibly innocent people too). I'm not going to fight because someone calls me names or says terrible/ridiculous things.

Let's say that my wife and I are walking in town late at night. Some guy starts insulting my wife. My objective at that point is to get my wife out of there and to safety. My objective is not to teach this nut a lesson. And who knows, there may be others lurking that I do not see. Getting away is the proper action -- not arguing.

Like I've written before, when the time comes to use Karate techniques for self-defense, then the can is open and everything goes. Karate, at that point, become a truly terrible thing. Until then, I would hope that I could have a "thick skin" and a calm demeanor so that I could avoid most conflicts.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The Main Thing -- Last Resort

Yesterday I asked my daughter (who is 17) what she would say if someone asked her what the main thing is in Karate. She replied, "it is used as a last resort only."

That was a good answer!

We also say "Karate ni sente nashi" or "there is no first attack in Karate." But not attacking first is not the same thing as a "last resort." If someone punches at me and I counter, that might satisfy the "no first attack" maxim. But was it "a last resort?" Could I have avoided the strike, blocked, or could I have taken action to prevent the attack in the first place (like crossing the street)?

If someone pushes me, should I kick him in the groin? Perhaps I should just let him push me and then walk or run away. I guess it depends on the push.

I know that situations are always different, but the way we teach the art, Karate is used as a last resort only. (And when it is truly "a last resort", the can is opened and anything goes.)

My daughter is correct. Good answer!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

500 Lumens Flashlight

Over the weekend, my wife and I went to Maui for a short vacation. We stayed pretty close to the Kapalua airport. I went fishing on the beach on two nights. On the second night I stayed late (high tide was at 11:30 p.m.) and the half moon eventually set behind Molokai, plunging the night into pitch darkness, except for the stars.

Of course, I had one of my new flashlights. This one was a 500 lumens version with a zoomable lens. Whoa! This flashlight was like a searchlight. When I shined it straight up, it looked like a pillar of light. I almost thought the light would reach Molokai, but of course it could not. But it did reach far enough to catch what I think was an owl flying high overhead.

Because it was zoomable, I could make a wider, softer beam for up close work, like tying knots.

I have ordered an 800 lumens flashlight which should arrive soon.

So get a good flashlight! I'll bet your father or grandfather would like one for Christmas (but let him pick it).

Here is my fishing tip. I put the flashlight in a baggy so that it would not get wet or stinky from the shrimp and squid I was using for bait. This worked pretty well. I could click it on and off while it was in the baggy.

Oh, and I caught 23 fish -- mostly small but a lot of fun.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Improving -- And You Didn't Even Know It

Sometimes students feel like they are not improving. They come to class, they practice at home, and yet they feel that they are stuck in a rut.

But then someone who has been away for a year or two will come to class and comment on how much the student has improved! The student's progress is amazing. It is like a grandparent seeing his or her grandchild after a year or two. The grandchild's growth is amazing.

It is hard to see progress on a day to day basis. But over the months and years, the progress is extremely clear.

The main thing is to come to class regularly and practice at home. Through continued practice, you will definitely improve. You might not see it, but others will. And gradually you will find that you can do things you couldn't do before, the movements will start to make more sense, and you will feel more comfortable in your training.

Just keep at it!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Response to "Perform Beginner Karate As Advanced"

In response to Perform Beginner Karate As Advanced, Joan (in Albuquerque) wrote:

Dear Sir,

As always, thank you for your blog. I really enjoy reading it. Your posting on "Perform Beginner Kata as Advanced" made me think of this experience.

A visitor came to our dojo. We are a very small school and so I know all the adult students. I could see him through the window as I parked my car, and of course I didn't recognize him. He was wearing a white belt, and was in the "waiting area" doing a little stretching. It seemed clear to me from his movements and his posture that he was a very advanced student, and I recall thinking "who is that advanced black belt, wearing a white belt, in our dojo?"

It turned out that he was a business man on a trip from a distant city, and was just visiting our dojo for one evening. One of our instructors met me in the "changing room" and told me that our visitor was very advanced and that I must treat him with as much respect as our Sensei; the visitor was just wearing a plain gi and white belt because he was being respectful to us, because he was not of our style.

So, this is a long story to illustrate that a very advanced student of karate can make even standing and stretching look advanced!

Thanks!

Joan (in Albuquerque)
Thank you Joan. I enjoyed your story.

Respectfully,

Charles

Perform Beginner Karate As Advanced

I was speaking to our students the other night and I said:

"If you are asked to do a demonstration and are assigned a beginner or intermediate kata, when you do it, make it look advanced. Doing a beginner kata like an advanced student is good. Doing an advanced kata like a beginner is bad."
Of course, the characterization of kata as "beginner", "intermediate" and "advanced" presents problems. But generally, kata are taught to students based on their level. Beginners learn certain kata, intermediate students learn certain kata, and advanced students learn certain kata. And just because a student is advanced, does not mean that he will quit working on "beginner" kata. We keep working on all the kata we know.

If a student is assigned to perform Fukyugata Ichi, he should do it the best he can. He should do it in a way that reflects his ability. A person watching him should think, "Wow, that advanced student is doing a great job!"

What looks bad is when a student performs an advanced kata poorly. Then, you might ask whether he should have performed a kata more in line with his ability. Did he select an advanced kata because of his ego? You do not want a person watching him to think: "Why is that beginner performing an advanced kata?"

An advanced student makes all kata look advanced. A beginner makes all kata look like they are for beginners.

In fact, you can tell a lot simply by observing a punch or block. You can pretty much tell the student's level from just one movement.

In our system, students learn Naihanchi Shodan first. But that does not make it a beginner's kata. Given a choice, even the most advanced student would appreciate the opportunity to perform that kata in a demonstration. But he might not get to -- because I would pick it first!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Alcohol More Dangerous Than...

British researchers have recently concluded that alcohol is more dangerous than many illegal drugs. See:


The above link is to msnbc.msn.com. The article was covered widely online and in print. At one point, the article states:
When drunk in excess, alcohol damages nearly all organ systems. It is also connected to higher death rates and is involved in a greater percentage of crime than most other drugs, including heroin.
I am not qualified to say whether alcohol is more harmful than cocaine, crack or heroin. But that is like comparing explosives -- they all could kill you!

The difference, however, between alcohol and illegal drugs, is that alcohol, within age and other limits, is legal. An adult who meets the age requirements of the law and who does not drive (say he remains in the safety of his home), can basically drink himself into a drunken stupor. But just because it is legal does not mean that it is not harming you physically -- or that it is not hurting the people around you.

I view alcohol, taken to excess, as a dangerous thing. It is a dangerous thing if you do it once, and it is a dangerous thing if you do it routinely.

A perfectly healthy person who works out and takes care of his body might still consume alcohol to excess -- as if there are no physical consequences to such action. As stated in the article, and the research it reflects, there are consequences and they are serious.

I personally believe that Karate students and experts should never be drunk because of the dangers posed by the destructive potential of misuse of the art.

But that is just my view. I'd rather buy flashlights.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Elections Over (Finally)

Yesterday (the whole day), I was glued to the computer and television watching election results. I am not going to share my political orientation here but I did want to write that I AM SO GLAD IT IS OVER!!!

I am 52, and I cannot remember when elections were more negative, both here in Hawaii and across the country. I am literally sick of it.

Now let's settle back and get ready for Christmas commercials (to take the place of all the political ads).

As a Karate instructor, I believe that politics should be kept out of the dojo. I respect our students' religious and political views, but these are private things. The same is true of my own religious and political views. In the dojo, we concentrate on Karate training and character development (a code of personal conduct required of people who study Karate).

Politics in Karate is another matter. This too, should be kept out of the dojo.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin