Simmering With Sanchin Kata

6 Jun

I was simmering and never knew it.
In fact I was not alone.
Both I and my wife were simmering.
Actually for us, simmering is a normal everyday occurrence. My wife and I constantly, hold hands, hug, give each other small kisses and similar behavior. Then, one day while watching t.v., we learned that such conduct has a name, to wit: simmering. So what is simmering? A quick google search revealed that simmering is part of a nouveaux trend –

A core sex therapy technique that helps couples cultivate sexual arousal even when they don’t have time or energy for sex. It involves simple hugging, kissing, holding hand, gazing into your partner’s eyes and other similar conduct.

“Well, what do you know,” I said to my wife, “We’re trend setters!” To us, this was simply normal behavior for us; even after over twenty years together, we simmer.

Then it occurred to me – “What other behavior that I consider routine behavior was trendy?”

For decades, I have long advocated that not only should Karate-Ka (practitioners of karate) practice Sanchin Kata at least once a day, but everyone, even non-martial artists (what heresy!) should learn and practice Sanchin as a form of daily moving meditation. In fact, that idea is what started this blog. For example, this link provides a series of articles offering methods to practice Sanchin Kata regularly https://senseijohn.me/category/a-sanchin-pilgrimage/

It was (and still is) my belief that Anybody (male/female, young/old ,rich/poor) should practice Sanchin Kata Anytime (no special clothes required, no extra training equipment) and Anyplace (indoors/outdoors, work/play). Here’s one video example of Sanchin during a motorcycle ride

The simple fact is “You are Sanchin and Sanchin is you” – https://senseijohn.me/2014/06/15/3-states-of-sanchin-katas-3-battles/

With that said, daily Sanchin is a means of Kata-Simmering. In addition to having benefits in and of itself, such daily practice of Sanchin stimulates the desire to practice your other kata both in and out of the dojo. Not only does this kata-simmering stimulate the desire to practice your other kata, it also stimulates you to innovate.

Here are two video of my own Sanchin innovations:

Four Direction Sanchin (filmed in the cooling waters of the Lower Salt River, Arizona)

and Shobu-Sanchin (filmed with vultures)

My Kata Laboratory project ( https://senseijohn.me/kata-lab/ ) was, perhaps stimulated by my own personal Sanchin-simmering. It fostered a desire for me to “Think – Sweat – Experiment” ™ with Sanchin, and eventually all my other kata.

So, give Sanchin-Simmering a try. Use it to build a desire for not only more kata practice but also more innovative, imaginative ways to enjoy your kata – in other words to – “Think – Sweat – Experiment”

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/

© 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

Hatsu Bon For Shihan Wayne Norlander

19 May

May 2018 marks the 7th anniversary of the passing of my friend and karate-do comrade, Shihan Wayne Norlander. To his eternal spirit I offer my training this month and the following Hatsu Bon poem. May his spirit find my training and poem worthy.

Shihan Wayne Norlander with friend & comrade, Shihan Peter Urban, circa 1970’s, West New York, NJ

HATSU BON POEM

Please don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am
Nor am I sleeping for eternity
SEE!!
I am already part of the breezes
numbering a thousand
I am part of the light
that brightens this world
Like a diamond glittering in the snow
Like the sun that coaxes seeds to sprout
And in the Fall I become the gentle rain
that nurtures all.
When you open the window in the morning
I am the breeze
That causes your hair to flutter;
And at night, I am the star
That watches over your sleep.
So, please . . . don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am.
I am not dead.
I have been born anew.

With Shihan Norlander after a spirited workout. Circa 2008

 

Ground Zero Motorcycle Run – myself, my wife, Dianne, Sensei Jimmy Dimicelli, Shihan Wayne Norlander, Bergen County Courthouse, circa 2002

My graveside Sanchin memorial to Shihan:

Sincerity in sweat, Sensei.


Sensei John Szmitkowski

Sanchin & Cigarettes

26 Apr

I’m at work one day when I notice two people standing in a far corner of ‘the porch.” I stash my backpack with water and energy snack and motorcycle helmet in this far corner, so when I saw two people standing their, my attention increased. At first I thought the were either two customers that innocently wandered off the path or not so innocently were drawn to my stash. But, it was simply two of our employees taking a cigarette break.

 

My little corner of “The Porch”

That’s when it hit me – “Let’s combine Sanchin Kata and smoking cigarettes.”

For decades now, workers are no longer allowed to smoke in the workplace. Smoking can only take place is designated areas, usually outdoors. Going to such an area to smoke results is a free-bee. You still get paid during a smoke break. Unfortunately, those of that do not smoke do not take such a break. But we can. Better yet, we can turn our (non)smoke-break into a Sanchin break.

I have long advocated that “Anybody, anyplace, anytime can (and should) do Sanchin Kata.” (See this week’s featured video). Using a cigarette-break is an easy way to remind you to recharge and rejuvenate yourself physically and mentally with Sanchin. When others take a break to smoke, you should find a quiet outdoor location and perform Sanchin. In fact, in less time that it takes others to smoke one cigarette, you would have performed one Sanchin Kata.

My quiet space for “Kata-breaks”

With practice, you can then incorporate other kata into your “Kata-break.” My favorite routine is to start with Sanchin, then on the next break perform Seienchin and finally Suparunpei on my last work “Kata-break.” I have no problem doing this as in a normal shift, many co-workers smoke three or more cigarettes necessitating three or more (paid) work breaks.

So, the next time your coworkers take a cigarette break, treat yourself to a smok’in good Sanchin break.

Featured Video (Sanchin Kata – Anybody, anyplace, anytime):

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/

© 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

Hatsu Bon For Shihan Paul Recchia

10 Apr

April 10th, marks the anniversary of the passing of Sensei Paul Recchia. Please join me in performing a kata at sunset on this date in memory of Sensei Paul and all whom we have lost. The following Hatsu Bon Poem, together with the above training, are offered to his spirit.
May Sensei’s spirit find our training and poem worthy.

Sensei Paul, age 60

HATSU BON POEM
Please don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am
Nor am I sleeping for eternity
SEE!!
I am already part of the breezes
numbering a thousand
I am part of the light
that brightens this world
Like a diamond glittering in the snow
Like the sun that coaxes seeds to sprout
And in the Fall I become the gentle rain
that nurtures all.
When you open the window in the morning
I am the breeze
That causes your hair to flutter;
And at night, I am the star
That watches over your sleep.
So, please . . . don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am.
I am not dead.
I have been born anew.

The last time Sensei Paul (in wheelchair) was at the Issho Dojo (January, 2000) with (L-R), Sensei Walter Byrne, Sensei Kim Szmitkowski, Sensei John Szmitkowski, Sensei Jimmy DiMicelli, Sensei Bobbie Gumowski. I will never forget that this was the first time in almost eighteen months that Sensei Paul, confined to his in home hospital bed, left the comfort of his home to honor all who were elevated that day in the black belt promotion ceremony.

Sincerity in sweat, you are not forgotten, Sensei.

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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

Kata Lab # 1240: Kata – A Flowing River

28 Mar

“You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.” – Heraclitus

Background:

This is the only Kata Lab that will be be able to complete. You will fail at the objective. Not for lack of skill, or desire. It is utterly impossible to perform this Kata Lab.
There is a maxim in karate-do, “Perfect your kata.” Many teachers and masters utter this to their students who do no more than nod their head like a bobbled head on a car dashboard. The students then go and set about to perfect their kata. What rubbish. I submit that you can never perform the exact same kata twice. Thus, a kata cannot be perfected. You can perform a reasonable facsimile of the same kata. “Top-rated” tournament kata practitioners may achieve a level of performance similarity in their chosen one or two tournament kata. But, they too, will fail in trying to perform the exact same kata twice. The unsophisticated kata practitioner, particularity those that train one or two kata for tournament similarity will disagree, perhaps vehemently with my statement. Why? “Does not the fact that they consistently win trophies with their few chosen tournament kata demonstrate that their level of performance is homogenous? Perhaps, but only to those who only understand kata superficially.

If you understand kata within the context of the three aspects that I submit are present in kata, then you can see how it is utterly impossible to perform the same exact in the exact same manner twice, even in a lifetime. Also true is the idea that performing a kata that is mostly (90 percent or more) similar is a profound accomplishment.

Experimentation:

You may wish to video tape yourself performing this experiment. After your practice, you can then refer to the video and take notes as to each performance. You should note any dissimilar areas during each performance. The less dissimilar areas, the closer you are to having performed the same kata twice. (Alternatively, you may wish to take notes after each kata performance for your later review.)
Select your favorite kata to practice;
Over a period of a few days or a week, practice the kata two or three times, trying to perform a kata exactly the same way;
After doing so, analyze each performance. Take notice of those areas of the kata that differ from one performance to the next. How close did you get to performing the same kata twice?

Regardless of whether or not you notes indicate that you came close to performing the same kata in the exact same manner (very few notes as to dissimilar areas). You utterly failed this kata lab. Worse is if your notes indicate that all areas of the kata were similar on at least two occasions; for you truly do not understand my three levels of kata.

First and foremost (as my father would say), “I bet you a dollar to a donut” that your list only addresses the physical movements of the kata. A block or strike that may have been off target, a stance that was less than perfect or a kata cadence that lacked the correct timing. As such, you only understand and thus, addressed one-third of the overall kata experience. (You may wish to pause and refer to my article on the three aspects of kata using this link: https://senseijohn.me/2013/05/20/kata-lab-101-three-states-of-bunkai/

Second, my spiritual aspect of kata (the manner in which kata affects your state-of-mind, emotions and psyche and vice-versa) is fatal to your performing the exact same kata twice. Our mental state is too much in flux to maintain it through various kata performance. Yes, you may convince yourself that during your kata you maintained all the applicable martial arts mind states. Sure, you may feel you achieved, Mushin, Zanshin, Nenjuushin and all the other “shins” of kata. But, you’re fooling yourself. Your emotions and psyche change from one moment to the next within a single kata performance, let alone from one kata performance to the next. (Endnote # 1 describe an example)

Third, my environmental aspect of kata (how the external environment affects your kata and vice-versa) will frustrate your attempts to perform this kata lab. If you practiced your kata in different locations, then by definition, you did not perform the exact same kata twice. If; however, you performed this lab in the exact same location, you still performed in in a different external environment and therefore failed to perform the exact same kata twice. You cannot control the temperature, humidity, dust and dirt on the floor, clothing (yes, different clothes affect you kata, even your gi, which may be dry at the start of practice and soaked with sweat at the end will produce a different performance).

Now, having the benefit of the above, try to perform the exact same kata twice and see how utterly impossible it is.

Conclusion:

You can perform the same kata twice, but no two will ever be exactly alike. This is not an error, but a unique phenomenon of kata. Thus, you can never perfect your kata. You can; however, achieve a goal set by Coach Vince Lombardi for his Green Bay Packers football team, “We will strive for perfection knowing full well we will never achieve it, but in the process we will find excellence.” So, rather than perfect your kata, excel at your kata.

In a lifetime no kata will be exactly the same.
To perform a kata the exact same way twice, you must repeat, without change all three aspects:
physical aspect – all movements performed with kime intensity, speed, tempo, etc;
spiritual aspect – all movements performed with the same emotion (at the same point in the kata each time), with the same state of mind, with the same transition from emotion to emotion or state-of-mind to state-of-mind (this may even be required by the specific kata)
environmental aspect – the environment within which your kata is performed must remain constant (absent a “clean” room) this is impossible – air changes and flows, light changes, temperature varies even slightly. Even if such factors are “controlled”, nature will win out (for example, it takes 8 seconds for a photon of light to leave the Sun and reach earth, therefore, lighting for each kata will be different.

The key of this Lab is to understand that each and every kata performance is as fleeting and rare as each and every moment of life itself. You cannot take a kata for granted. The same is true of each and every moment of life.

Please remember, the mandate of the kata laboratory is

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

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Featured video from my “Underground Bunkai” series:

   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!

© 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

2018 Kata Laboratory “Guest List”

14 Mar

I’m no genius. I am; however, curious. Since I was a youth my curiosity led me to books and a love of reading. Now with the internet there is a wealth of resources at my fingertips. I’m almost as addicted to reading as I am to kata. Both are an integral part of my day, and therefore myself. It seems I can’t simply enjoy a book, or for that matter, watch a video. While doing so, my mind invariably begins to incorporate what I’m reading or watching into my practice of kata and the philosophical and ideological beliefs derived from same.

When I first began my Kata Laboratory project over a decade ago, I set forth a simple mandate – “Think – Sweat – Experiment” with kata. The thinking part comes from not only internal sources, namely my own mind, through a process called “Bunkai” (analysis). “What is the practical application of a kata sequence?” “How does this kata make me feel?” “What impact does a kata have on my state of mind?” “What would it be like to do a kata in a snowstorm, at the beach, or in the rain?”

The thinking part is also stimulated by external sources. For me thats what I read or watch. To this end, many karate-ka disregard, or are unaware of the impact of other disciplines, on their kata experience. By disciplines I do not mean other martial arts or styles of karate. Rather, I mean disciplines like science, philosophy, psychology and others.

I find it extremely intriguing and rewarding to incorporate ideas and concepts from the sciences and arts into my study of karate. Thus the second and third aspect of my Kata Lab motto – “sweat” and “experiment” (try new things). The results of which I sometimes write about but mostly, perhaps selfishly, keep to myself.

If I choose to write about it, particularly here on this blog, I do so by “inviting” the author to my Kata Laboratory. One such “guest” was the eminent physicist Dr. Richard Feynman. Now, of course, Dr. Feynman did not actually visit my Kata Laboratory. In fact he had already passed away; but, his concepts were “invited” and applied to kata and especially, bunkai (analysis) of Kata. Here are two of his visits. The first is when Doctor Feynman and the chess grandmaster Emanuel Lasker “visited” to add insight int the fleeting nature of kata bunkai –
https://senseijohn.me/2015/09/28/dr-richard-feynman-visits-senseis-kata-lab-part-1/

The second is when the good doctor visited to provide insight the “correct and only bunkai” you may have had to learn from your Sensei – https://senseijohn.me/2015/11/09/kata-bunkai-a-temporary-triumph-dr-feynman-visits-the-kata-lab-part-ii/ .

So, after fulfilling my 2017 GoodReads challenge of reading 36 books last year, I drew up a “Guest-List” of invited speakers. I’d like to share not only that list but also some of the topics that they may, or may not provide insight on. Incidentally, I highly recommend each and every book. All are truly insightful on a wide range of subjects – and, I submit ALL can provide deep insight into your kata. In other words using these resources to help you “Think” you will most certainly be motivated to “Sweat.” Those two independent processes will encourage you to “Experiment” and find new, untapped, hidden insights into kata. At least they did so for me (and still continue to do so). Hey, if you read these authors and have your own insights, let me know, we can compare notes. Or, you can keep doing the same old thing that has been done for centuries in the martial arts because that’s “tradition.” But then again, at least your doing something other than the majority that sit home on the couch eating Cheetos while surfing the web.

So here’s the guest list:

  • Eckhardt Tolle and his book “A New Earth” (Penguin Books, New York, New York, 2005, 2016);
  • Shelly Kagan and his book “Death” book (Yale University Press, 2012) and video lecture series;
  • Victor Frankl – “Man’s Search For Meaning” (Beacon Press, Boston, MA, 2014)
  • Jospeh Campbell – “Myths To Live By” (Campbell Foundation, San Anselmo, CA 2011);
  • Neil De Grasse Tyson – “Astrophysics For People In A Hurry” (W.W. Norton & Co. New York, NY 2017)
  • Adam Frank – “About Time” (Simon and Schuster, New York, NY 2011)
  • In addition, I’m deepening some of my thoughts in light of seeing a video of the very esoteric Gassho-No-Kata of Goju-ryu.

So look for these gusts to appear in my Kata Laboratory in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, “Think – Sweat – Experiment” with your kata!
Featured Video:

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowsski

   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/

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

Sensei John is now on Facebook, under – FLY FISHING DOJO, you are invited to send a Facebook friend request.

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

My Black Belts Stole From Me – A Thieving Tradition

28 Feb

A Black Belt must have the utmost integrity. Having said that, I will confess that my students “stole” from me. After the “theft” they still earned a black belt! Further, the “theft” was committed with my blessing.

In my opinion the worst form of “paying” for the gift of karate-do education is money, currency, cold-hard cash (or debt card in these modern times). I’ve had students that could not afford monthly dues, help teach, clean the dojo and even cook a few dinners. In this way, my students became equal with me as Sensei in that we each gave of ourselves. This is more valuable than the cheapness of currency.

But, is it proper to steal from Sensei?

Sometime in 1998, I made a decision concerning a group of four brown belts training at the Issho Dojo. In order for them to pass their test for ni-kyu, (brown belt, two stripes) they would have to learn Gojushiho Kata. In devious fashion, I told them that I would not teach them the kata.

This posed a problem. They had to learn the kata for the next rank. If I would not teach it to them, how would they learn it?

In those days, there were no You-tube GDK-D Gojushiho videos (like this one featuring archival footage from the 1960’s to 2012 where I perform Gojushiho in a snowstorm):

The four arrived at the dojo for the next class. Before class, I casually mentioned that I was going to the nearby park to “clear my head.” I did this for the next three classes. The brown belts became curious.

One night after I went to the park, they waited about ten minutes and followed. They stood at the edge of the park and watched me. They saw me repeatedly practice a kata that they did not know. I noticed them and practiced the first four moves of the kata again and again After fifteen minutes of performing the opening sequence, I walked to the edge of the park. Together, we silently walked back to the Dojo.

The next night I repeated my routine. Again, they waited and walked to the park. I repeatedly practiced the first four moves. This time they only watched for about ten minutes and hurried back to the dojo. After about fifteen minutes I returned to the dojo but did not enter. I surreptitiously peaked into the Dojo window. The four of them were hard at work practicing what they observed me doing. Each watched the other and reached a consensus as to the correctness of what they saw.

On my next pre-class visit to the park, I would slowly and in an exaggerated manner practice movements that they did not quite “steal” correctly. I would also slowly add movements and sequences.

During class, I would give them “strange” kumite drills, self-defense and heavy bag combinations. These drills and combinations came from future kata sequences. They were using kata applications to steal the kata.

This went on for about five months. They were stealing from me; however, they did not know exactly what they were stealing. One night during formal class, I asked the four brown belts to join me in performing Gojushiho Kata. The brown belts looked at each other. “But Sensei, you told us that you would not teach us the kata.” “That’s true,” I said, “But I did let you steal it from me.” “Now, let’s see what you stole.” The four brown belts joined me in performing the kata.

They learned Gojushiho Kata by “stealing” it. They were the first kata-thieves of GDK-D.

Shihan DeFelice first opened the door in May of 1965 and since then GDK-D has been continuously taught. Many students walked into the dojo. Less than thirty made black belt. So, compared to the overall number of students that started GDK-D, very few learned Gojushiho Kata. I could not allow myself to teach such a rare kata for something as worthless as money, but, I could allow it to be stolen from me.

The four brown belts were promoted to sho-dan (first degree black belt) in January, 2000. I made each of them promise me that they would not teach any future student Gojushiho Kata. It must always be stolen. With that promise, a new tradition was born – a future black belt must be a thief; and Gojushiho Kata is the desired object.

Shihan Paul Recchia, Myself & The “Kata-Thieves” at their Black Belt Promotion

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/

Here’s my latest Kata Lab video filmed 0n beautiful Cape Cod bay

© 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

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