The Last Thing You’ll Read Before You Die

14 Feb

This is the last sentence you will read before you die.
No?
Let’s try – after reading this sentence you will contract a life changing illness. Hmmm, still healthy? Okay so, you’re not dead and still healthy, good. But, what have we learned from reading these last few sentences?
You begin to understand a concept that existed at the time of the samurai. It is found within traditional Eastern-based martial arts to this day. That principle is “Ichi-nichi-Issho” or “One day, One Lifetime.” The samurai lived with the idea that they could die (hopefully in combat) at any time. They trained to be ready for this contingency and incorporated it into their daily regime. Each day they woke could be their last. Each hour they lived could be their last. Each minute, each second, therefore could not be taken for granted. A lifetime was not measured in the number of years (as we do in modern times). Rather, it was measured in terms of one day to the next; the sum being a lifetime.
Imagine living your life in this manner. Would you savor your next meal knowing it was (or could be) you last? If you would never see your family again, what would you say? To adopt an ideology of Ichi-nichi-issho means that no single moment, or event, or conversation, personal interaction during your day can be taken for granted or wasted. You may not have another.
So, since you did not die after reading this, or did not receive a call from your doctor with life threatening news, then, go out and live the next moment of your life as if it will be your last. Really live it that way. Believe (because it is true) that you can never recapture that moment, or opportunity again. Then extend that to the next moment, the next minute, hour, and day.
There is an inevitable truth that you cannot escape. At some point, after having read this you will die. The gap in time may be one second later of decades later, but you will do so. Now, live knowing that what you do in between reading this and your death will define that gap.

This week’s featured video:

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

     For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory and “THINK * SWEAT * EXPERIMENT” using this convenient link: https://senseijohn.me/kata-lab/

© Copyright 2018 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
   my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

Kata Lab # 3250 – Kata Within You – Intermediate

31 Jan

As a scientist I’d rather have questions I can’t answer than answers I can’t question.” – Max Tegmark, Physicist (appearing on “How The Universe Works,” Season 6, Episode 1: “Are Black Holes Real?”)

Background:

This Kata Lab builds on the concepts I set forth in Kata Lab # 2250 – Kata Within You – Introduction – https://senseijohn.me/2017/08/30/kata-lab-2250-kata-within-you-introduction/

Kata is always within you.
In fact, you intentionally train to have kata within you. If a time comes when you are confronted by an attacker, kata rises to the surface and you can successfully defend yourself. The kata sequences that you instinctively use in your defense will vary based upon a great number of circumstances. This kata lab explores that actuality.

In September 2017, had my annual visit to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. As always, I combined my vacation with training, writing and video of kata. I decided to spontaneously create a kata that would represent my feelings being on Cape Cod. As you can see in the video below, the bay that day was calm; however, the day before was windy and the bay was filled with white caps. I wanted to perform a kata t capture that feeling.

The easy choice would have naturally been Seienchin (“Calm in the storm / Storm in the calm”) but that would not have been a spontaneously created kata. I did; however want to incorporate a movement or two from Seienchin but not let it over-power the kata created. I thought I would uses sequences from Sanchin, Suparunpei and Seipai Kata to round off a symbolic kata. A deep breath and – P’Town Kata (for Provincetown where I was staying) was born. I hope you enjoy the video.

Now, how to do the – – –

Experiment: (To assist you I have a video that follows the protocols):

  • Review my comments in above, use it as a guide to formulate what you hope to “accomplish” in performing the kata.
  • Do not pre-select a specific kata for this lab; rather think about a few sequences from kata that you may wish to randomly group together;
  • Do not “spontaneously” perform your “favorite” kata. To do so defeats the As
    you go about your day be aware of the fact that your kata is brewing
    inside you,waiting to let itself out;
  • At a random point in time (you may also use a timer as in previous kata labs), let
    the kata out. Group the sequences that you had thought to combine – just let i it
    flow! For now don’t worry about symmetry or positional coincidence. Just let the
    kata flow;
  • The kata that bursts forth from within you should be as random as possible based
    upon your physical and psychological needs at the time.

Conclusion:
This Kata Lab is designed to bridge te gap between the Introductory Kata Lab contained in the “Background” and a more advanced Kata Lab (which will be released at a later date).

I think it will be fun and challenging and give you a look in to my Kata Lab motto of – “Think-Sweat-Experiment” with Kata

This week’s featured video provides another example of spontaneously performing kata. It is a kata I created on cold morning during my 2013 road trip from Arizona to New Jersey. It is the first kata on the video below and was filmed by my truck’s headlights; enjoy.

Cum superiorum privilegio veniaque (“With the privilege and permission of the superiors”)

Sensei John Szmitkowski

  For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/

© Copyright 2018 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
 my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

Sneak Peak: Provincetown Kata Video (Kata Lab # 3250)

17 Jan

January 4th, 2018, the east of coast of the United States was experiencing what the media was calling the snow “bomb cyclone;” a snowstorm of epic proportions. In between shoveling the mounting snow, I was working on my Kata Lab project.

Using video I shot over the summer on Cape Cod, MA, I was finalizing a three part series on my idea that, at all times, kata resides within you. Kata percolates waiting to be released. The ultimate expression of this release is a completely spontaneous kata. Released sua sponte, without rehearsal. I had filmed an example on the shores of Cape Cod Bay. As I worked on the project, I took time out from writing and editing to perform the kata that I improvised that day. As I performed the kata again and again, I found that I was transformed back to that warm, grey morning on the shore of Cape Cod Bay. The sand was again underfoot, the smell of the ocean was in the air. A Taste of salt on my lips and the sound of waves softly lapping the shore brought me back to the Cape.

For a few glorious minutes I was transported. Away from the snow “bomb cyclone.” I was once again, warm and comfortable. Thanks to – kata. Once again.

Here’s a sneak-peak at the video that warmed me that day and for many days to come. Soon I’ll post the Kata Lab (Lab # 3250 – Kata Within You – Intermediate). You can; however, few the introductory article (which is part one of the series) using this convenient link. https://senseijohn.me/2017/08/30/kata-lab-2250-kata-within-you-introduction/

Until the Kata Lab is ready, remember that you can use your kata as a means of remembering people you trained with, places you been and other good memories from your past.

I hope you enjoyed the video, look for the Kata Lab soon. Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

     For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/

  For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory and “THINK * SWEAT * EXPERIMENT” using this convenient link: https://senseijohn.me/category/kata-laboratory/

You may wish to view my other blogs –
 my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

© Copyright 2018 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

2018 – The Year Of The Dirty White Belt

3 Jan

In New Years past, I’ve advocated viewing the coming year with the “mind of a white belt.” That is to say to look towards the coming year without preconceptions of either thought or emotion. This year is different. This year I suggest you view the coming year with the mind of a dirty white belt.

   There is a Goshin-Do Karate percept, “Observe with the mind of a white belt.” It served as a reminder to advanced students and particularly those of black belt rank to constantly view their karate with an intellectual ”innocence.” The while belt, worn by novice students, is said to symbolize purity and innocence in terms of preconceptions as to Karate. When a Karate-Ka (student of Karate) first enters the Dojo, the neophyte observes without preconceived thought or emotion. Thus, one observes every detail, even the most minute, with the pure eyes of a child. In doing so, one is able to capture the inner most aspect of a Karate-Do technique and incorporate it into one’s personal repertoire.

So, what is a dirty white belt?
Prior to the advent of modern colored belts, a Karate-Ka would wear the same belt (a white belt) during his entire training. Although the Karate uniform would be laundered  regularly, as a sign of respect, the Karate-Ka would not wash his belt. The belt would even be used to wipe the sweat from one’s brow after training. Thus, the belt would become discolored, “dirty”. This “dirt” symbolized not only one’s physical progression and learning but also emotional and psychological development in Karate-do. Eventually, the belt turned completely black from use, wear and tear. This is the humble birth of the all too coveted black belt. Thus, the dirty white belt symbolizes innocence tempered by experience.
In years passed, I think my advice was sound. For this coming year, it is time to adapt a mindset of a weathered, worn, thus “dirty” white belt. For 2017 I advocate a mindset of an unclean white belt; one that while still representing a lack of preconception, bears the mark of its past experiences. 2017 should be viewed warily. Do not pre-conceive, but do not be cajoled into complacency with an innocent mindset. De open but be skeptical of that which seems out of order. It usually is. When necessary, be willing and ready to act. Then act.

   My original black belt – now returning back to its whiteness. Perhaps now more and more like my hair and beard, a “grey-belt.”

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Featured video: Seienchin Kata translates as “The calm in the storm, storm in the calm.” I think this is one representation of the dirty white belt concept. This video was filmed during a spontaneous appearance of a herd of wild horses on the Lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest, Arizona. Please enjoy.

© Copyright 2018 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
   my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

 

Merry Christmas – 2017

20 Dec

To all my readers, please accept my sincerest wishes for a joyous, peaceful, familial Christmas Season.

Each year at this time, I remind myself of the lyrics from the eternal John Lennon song, War Is Over;
“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over and a new one has begun.”
Please join me in reflecting back on our deeds, thoughts and emotions of the last year and where necessary make adjustments in the forthcoming year.
Let us embrace the simple concept that giving is better than receiving. In doing so, we benefit not only the recipient, but also our own sense of self and self-worth.
My very best wishes that we may embrace this Christmas with joy and hope as the path of the forthcoming year begins to unfold.

I remain,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Featured Video:

© Copyright 2017 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
   my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

(Wish’in I was) “On The Road (again) With Kata”

22 Nov

Ah, the call of the open road.

For as long as I can remember, I ride my motorcycle every day regardless of weather. Not; however when the roads are covered in snow or black ice. But give me clear asphalt and I’m on two wheels logging the miles. Even if its “just” my daily commute, the trip is always something new.

Dojo (Winter) – circa 2001

Still, I find myself missing a nice long road trip. A few days on the road, nights in a cheap motel meeting people along the way, changing scenery. When I lived in Arizona, I logged at least two road trips a year to New Jersey to work or see family. Since I’ve moved back to my home state, that “need” is gone.

Yup, I’ve got the itch to burn the miles. Unfortunately, its the busy season at work and a few days off is impossible. So, what to do?

The answer – Kata!

My last road trip was the return trip back to New Jersey after the Arizona house sold. I made that trip alone as my wife flew out ahead of me and my road companion Chloe had passed.

Chloe on the road – circa 2006

I started the trip the Monday of Thanksgiving week 2014 and arrived in New Jersey Thanksgiving Day. Too late for either Thanksgiving dinner or pumpkin pie. But it was another safe road trip in the books.

Naturally I used kata along the way to enhance the pleasure of being on the road and to refresh myself physically and mentally during the four day, 2,600 mile trip. As I knew it would be my last long trip for a while, I videoed my kata and journey. Looking at my videos, I realized I can again enjoy the memory of the journey through my kata. So, Monday of this week, I began to perform my “On The Road Kata.” As for this writing, I’ve completed the first two days (Monday and Tuesday) kata and am working on day three (Wednesday) as this is posting. Tomorrow, I’ll symbolically end my journey.

Come along, try a kata or two (some I recreated based upon my needs during the trip) and watch the videos. Here’s the journey:

Day 1: Monday – San Tan Valley, Arizona to Shamrock, Texas ( 789 miles)

1. Takiyouku Shodan modified to use Sanchin Kata method on the blocks – last kata performed in my house

2. Wansu Kata – Route 66 Casino/Truckstop west Albuquerque, New Mexico

3. Seipai Kata – slow to stretch my muscles Flying C Ranch Truck-stop, west of Santa Rosa, New Mexico

4. Sanchin Kata Hybrid – Best Western Motel, Shamrock Texas

Day 2: Tuesday – Shamrock, TX to West Memphis, Tennessee (1,169 miles traveled)

1. Hybrid Kata – using Seienchin, Suparunpei and Sanchin Kata to get the “blood flowing” (5:30 a.m. illuminated by truck headlights)

2. Ananku Kata – Truckstop Shawnee, Oklahoma

3. Fuku Kata – Rest Area, Altus, Arkansas

Day 3: Wednesday – West Memphis, TN to Salem, Virginia

1. Hybrid Kata 5:30 a.m. using Suparunpei and Hakutsuru Kata)

2. Kunchaba Kata – my weekly Wednesday Kata tribute to Shihan Wayne Norlander filmed at Loretta Lynn’s Country Kitchen, Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. (See Endnote # 1 for a video which includes a touching soundtrack by Warren Zevon).

3. Gekisai Kata (Deconstructed) – Comfort Inn Motel, Salem, VA. Kata on the road like this led to my “Kata Laboratory.”

Day 4: Thursday, Thanksgiving Day (2014) Salem, VA to Bergen County, New Jersey

1. Sanchin Kata (Shobu version) at a gas station on highway I-78 in Pennsylvania.

Thanks for reading and watching. Have a really Happy Thanksgiving, 2017.

Sensei John Szmitkowski

     For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!

ENDNOTES:

1. My video tribute from the road to Shihan Wayne Norlander featuring the song, “Keep Me In Your Heart” by Warren Zevon. I miss the Karate-Do training we shared and motorcycle rides we took.

 For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory and “THINK * SWEAT * EXPERIMENT” using this convenient link: https://senseijohn.me/category/kata-laboratory/

© Copyright 2017 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
   my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

Time Modification Of Kata – Rhythmic Adaptation – Seisan Kata Example

8 Nov

This article is a continuation of my exploration of time as a fourth dimension of distance. For those unfamiliar with this concept there are several video and other resources in Endnote # 1. Simply put, most martial artists think of distance as a function of the three dimensions of length, width and height. To do so omits the all important fourth dimension of time.

Time as a fourth dimension of distance is easily appreciated when you practice your kata. Exploration of the time dimension is facilitated by expanding your kata bunkai (analysis) to include consideration of time. How does time affect kata and its application is a subject limited only by the imagination of the karate-ka (practitioner).

Kata bunkai is a continuing on-going process. It is limited only by your imagination. The within article is a good example of that process. I was practicing my Fuku and Gekisai Kata by modifying certain interim movements. Specifically, I was exploring the block, lunge punch block sequence (see Endnote # 2 for a full discussion of this concept). Traditionally, the three movements are performed with kime (focus). To facilitate my study, I found it helpful to perform the last block in the series not with kime, but, with breathing and dynamic tension as in Sanchin Kata. I was studying had the corollary effect of modifying the rhythm of the sequence.

In the past, I had briefly explored a modification of kata rhythm using the Seienchin Kata as an example. (See Endnote # 4 for a video of same). This exploration was but a fundamental step in my on going process. I began to utilize the opening of the Goshin-Do Karate Seisan Kata to explore how the concept of time as a fourth dimension of distance can result in a corollary rhythmic modification of a kata. (See Endnote # 5 for a video of the Seisan Kata and a bonus – historical footage of Hanshi Frank Van Lenten performing Seisan!). Using the opening of Seisan Kata, I began to understand the corollary rhythmic modification. To illustrate the concept, the abbreviation “K” will signify that the movement is performed with kime (focus- hard and fast). “S” will signify the movement is performed with Sanchin breathing and dynamic tension. Using the photos below you can see the time modification of combining the block and counter and the resulting corollary rhythmic modification.

Let’s look at the traditional sequence of Seisan Kata of Goshin-Do Karate. Due to time constraints, I had to take the photos during a break at work. But, a fortiori, the photos illustrate my concept that kata does not require a gi (uniform) or a dojo. Kata is anyplace and anytime. As I say “Life is a kata.” ©

Move # 1: Open hand ridge hand block (K);


Move # 2: Rotate hand and “grab” (S);


Move # 3: reverse punch (K)

As this series is repeated three times in the Kata, the resulting rhythm is:

K-S-K / K-S-K / K-S-K

In the time modified sequence, whereby the block and counter is combined into one move, we can see the corollary rhythmic change:

Move # 1 (move # 1 and # 3 combined) : Open hand ridge hand block with simultaneous reverse punch (K);

Move # 2: rotate hand and “grab” (S).

The corollary rhythmic change for the three move sequence is then:

K-S / K-S / K-S

Exploring how the change in rhythm affects not only the kata but your bunkai (analysis) is full of possibilities. For the inquisitive practitioner it affords the ability to see into the full range of bunkai available from not only a physical aspect but also a spiritual and environmental aspect. (See Endnote # 6 for a full discussion of the three aspects of bunkai).

Understanding the fourth dimension of time as a component part of your kata will provide you with a rich and more complete understanding of not only your kata, but, also yourself. It is fertile ground limited only by the boundaries of your own imagination.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

      For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!
   For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory and “THINK * SWEAT * EXPERIMENT” using this convenient link: https://senseijohn.me/kata-lab/

ENDNOTES:

1. To understand the basic concept of the three basic dimensions of lenght, width and height as they relate to the martial arts and the fourth dimension of time, please click this link:
https://senseijohn.me/2015/11/23/underground-bunkai-sneak-peak/

To view the first two articles in this series please use these two convenient links

Sequence Adaptation – Kanto Kata Example:

https://senseijohn.me/2017/10/11/time-modification-of-kata-kanto-example/

Interim Movements – Fuku/Gekisai Example:

https://senseijohn.me/2017/10/25/time-modification-of-kata-interim-movements-fukugekisai-kata-example/

2. Please use this link for my article on Time as a function of interim kata movemens: https://senseijohn.me/2017/10/25/time-modification-of-kata-interim-movements-fukugekisai-kata-example/

3. Reverse Seienchin video

4. Seisan Kata Video BONUS: This video features historical footage of Hanshi Frank Van Lenten

5. Please use this convenient link for a discussion of the three aspects of bunkai:
https://senseijohn.me/2013/05/20/kata-lab-101-three-states-of-bunkai/

© Copyright 2017 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.
“Life is a kata.” separately copyrighted.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
 my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

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