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At Holiday Time, I Must Sound Like a Broken Record (A 78 LP)

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Last week, as I was trying to do a rare bit of Christmas shopping, I ran into a second cousin that I hadn’t seen in years.  As we chatted, her first question was, “Hey Wes, are you still doing karate?”  I answered in the affirmative and realized that this same inquiry always comes up when I run into old friends and relatives.  I think that it’s what must come to mind when they see me.  Yes, I’m still doing it, although some of you may not know that I briefly “quit” karate three times over the last 48 years.  Aha!, I had found my inspiration for my holiday note to you all.  It was about quitting karate, and about returning to karate (Question: Which do you think is easier?)  Anyways, as the keyboard started tapping out my seasonal ruminations, I began to slow down and realize that this all felt so familiar.  Looking back over old notes, I found that I had actually written (extensively!) on the same subject, at the same time of the year, back in 2010 and back in 2007.  Man, am I a broken record or what? (kids, your parents will tell you what a 33 [...]

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Shihan Kenneth Funakoshi

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Recently, I came across a very short video of Shihan Kenneth Funakoshi on YouTube. As you know, our old sensei had moved to the mainland back in 1986. This brief interview, interspersed with glimpses of his jyu-kumite combinations, was filmed at the JCCH in Honolulu on a visit he made 2001. At the time, he would have been 63 – a few years younger than your sensei’s are today – but still exhibited the power and speed that we always associated with him. Sensei Peter, Wayne and I spent many years training under his direct tutelage. Probably the most unique skills we inherited from him were the jyu-kumite combos he demonstrates, which look very much like stutter-sprinting across the dojo, firing well-timed punches. We have heard that these particular movements were created by Shihan and we have never come across these in other Shotokan dojos unless they were affiliated with him. The leg movements for these are very fast and dynamic, versus what we share with color belts; but if we can still execute these in our late sixties, you younger members should be able to learn them when you get to the brown/black belt level. The last time I [...]

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Exam Thoughts

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Thoughts about the purpose of exams I wanted to make a few personal observations about exams and promotions, especially as these apply to HIS Karate-Do.  As you know, we try not to place any undue emphasis on exams/promotions or preparing for these.  In certain dojos, exams are a major source of income (exam fees are substantial and can run into hundreds of dollars for black belt testing for various organizations).  The exams and promotions can also be a method of keeping students enrolled, in a carrot-on-a-stick marketing strategy.  Some schools will actually add on extra color ranks and striping within the same color belt, which actually increases the number of steps (and exams) enroute to a black belt.  I’ve even heard of places where one must keep on showing up for training/teaching and paying dues in order to keep one’s black belt – sort of like paying to keep one’s license active.  I know of dojos that spend a large part of their training between exams…training solely for the next exam.  I know it’s hard to believe, but those are the extremes that exams and rank promotion can evolve into – taking on a life of their own. Obviously, HIS Karate-Do doesn’t [...]