On The Road With Sensei John – Part 2: NJ Reflections

25 Apr

After slightly more than three days on the road, I arrived back in Arizona (USA) at 9:30 am Tuesday, April 20th. All in all, it was a good road trip. I had trained along the way and enjoyed the 2,550 mile journey. It will take some time for me to compile all of my notes and photographs from the trip so as to be able to compose an article worthy of the journey. So, I thought I would submit an interim article reflecting back on those I visited with and trained with while still in New Jersey (USA). As I continue to compile my notes, I hope you enjoy the within. Again, although the within is written in terms of Karate-Do, I suggest that the concepts expressed apply equally to any human art form and in fact to life itself. It is my hope that you are able to incorporate the within thoughts into not only your Karate-Do training regime, but also into your life itself.

 I arrived in New Jersey on January 18th. As always, it was good to see family; my Dad, Mom, brother Rob and daughters Jess and (Sensei) Kim. It was especially good to see how big Jess’ son, my grandson, Stratton had grown since he was born on July 5th, 2009.

My first night of training in a formal Dojo was Wednesday January 20th when I visited the USA Goshin-Ryu Karate-Do Dojo of Shihan Wayne Norlander. On Monday, January 25th, Shihan Norlander and I paid a visit to the Dojo of a longtime friend, Sensei Tom Van Tassel (see Endnote # 1). I have the pleasure of knowing Sensei Van Tassel for many years. In and around the year 1995, Sensei Van Tassel, Sensei Fred Carrel and myself became the charter members of the Goshin-Do Okinawa-Te Association. Eventually, with the demands of time, the Association disbanded, but the bonds of Karate-Do and mutual friendship remain.

Patch of the Goshin-Do Okinawa-Te Association

It was good to again visit Sensei’s Dojo (which is located in Rockaway, NJ) and see not only him, but, his partner, Sensei Jack Kramer. I was also glad to see several Yudansha (Those of Black Belt Rank) from the Goju-Ryu style that regularly visit Sensei’s Dojo. The night was filled with an open, imaginative exchange of Kata, ideas and concepts. The visit to Sensei Van Tassel’s Dojo maybe best characterized as one of remembrance and comradeship.

When I saw Sensei Kramer, now a Yon-Dan, I was reminded of the time that I was an honored guest at his Sho-Dan examination which took place at Sensei Carrel’s All Okinawan Karate Institute, then located in Jefferson Township, NJ. As Bob Seger sang, “It seems like yesterday, but oh so long ago. . .” (see Endnote # 2).

Patch of the All Okinawan Karate Institute

Mental memories were not the only ones to be rekindled at Sensei Van Tassel’s Dojo. Physical memories were shared as well. I was very fortunate to take a walk down Kata memory lane with not only Sensei Van Tassel and Sensei Kramer, but also with Yudansha that had trained in traditional Goju-Ryu. I had exposure to traditional Goju-Ryu in the years I attended college at Fairleigh Dickenson University in Rutherford, NJ (1979 to 1984). It was nice to again perform and see the traditional Goju-Ryu Kata as a point of comparison to the Goshin-Do Karate-Do counterparts. At night’s end, hugs were exchanged, photographs from days passed viewed and new photographs taken. On the ride home, Shihan Norlander and I reminisced a bit more on these longtime relationships. It is my hope that you, my dear readers, remember those from your past well and with care for the memories you are entrusted with. I think that is the lesson of my visit to Sensei Van Tassel’s Dojo.

At the American Center For Martial Arts

Every Wednesday evening, I had the honor and pleasure of attending Shihan Norlander’s Dojo located in Bogota, New Jersey. This experience was rewarding on several levels. Shihan Norlander possesses a very rare capacity unique amongst Kancho (Kancho are the overseers or Chief Instructors of a Dojo). In my experience, within the sphere of their Dojo, Kancho tend to be autocratic in nature and disposition. Shihan is just the opposite. He is open and receptive and permits his invited guests to not only enter upon his training floor, but to also openly express and share ideas and concepts. So, on one level, my attendance at Shihan’s Dojo is characterized by an open sharing of Karate-Do. It was invigorating for me to again share and receive ideas, methods, concepts and Kata not only with Shihan, but also his Yudansha, Sensei Pablo and Sensei Scott (I had the distinct honor of hosting Sensei Scott’s Sho-Dan examination at my Issho Dojo in East Rutherford, NJ). Also present were Shihan’s Numansha (those of under Black Belt Grade) , Matt and Al (who did not formally train due to illness). During the training sessions I received from Shihan and his students many treasured Karate-Do gifts. I do not mean gaudily wrapped presents. Rather, the gifts of Karate-Do are honor, love, sweat , black and blue bruises, and even, at times, blood. Hopefully, I repaid their gifts by sharing my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do (see Endnote # 3) , various Karate-Do training methods, techniques and the Kata, Ufuichiku No Eaku, Suparunpei and Hakutsuru and my Jiriki Kata-Do Sanchin in Four Directions. Now that I am back in Arizona and again train in my backyard desert Dojo, devoid of human Karate-interaction, I miss this sharing. To share from the human heart is one of the most cherished capacities bestowed upon us. Karate-Do is but a means of accomplishing the end result of sharing. As such, it is my hope that all that read the within remember this well and openly share your own unique gifts with another.

Shihan Norlander’s Dojo also provided tremendous satisfaction on another level. Shihan’s Dojo became an informal gathering environment for several of my Goshin-Do Karate-Do brethren. Not only did I have the ability to see Shihan Thomas DeFelice on several occasions at Shihan Norlander’s Dojo, but many of my Goshin-Do brethren stopped by for a visit. It was good to once again “take the floor” with these individuals from my past. I enjoyed seeing them including Sensei Bob (who several years ago composed and presented me with an inspiring poem concerning the timeless teaching of Goshin-Do Karate-Do), Sensei Dave, Sensei Richie, Sensei Mike, Sensei Rudy (who cooked a particularly delicious breakfast for several of us one Sunday morning) and my Yudansha who earned Black Belt rank directly under me, Sensei Kim and Sensei Jimmy (one-half of the “Boangeres”, see Endnote # 4). Now, as I train in the presence of Chloe (See the “Meet Sensei“ page) and under the watchful eyes of my desert brothers, the coyote, javelina, hawk and lizards, I think of and miss my Goshin-Do brethren.

Sensei Scott - Shihan Norlander - Myself - Sensei Jimmy - Sensei Pablo

There was one less than happy aspect of my visit to New Jersey. In late March I learned that my first Sensei, Sensei Nick D’Antuono (see Endnote # 5) was hospitalized with complications from his treatments for cancer. I was able to visit Sensei Nick at the hospital on several occasions. I regretted having to leave New Jersey with Sensei still in the hospital. Little did I know that Sensei’s status would change.

Sensei Nick - Myself (age 14) - Shihan Don Nagle (Isshin-Ryu Karate) (Circa 1975)

And so, I began to prepare to leave New Jersey with fond memories, concern with Sensei’s hospitalization, sadness at leaving my brethren and a promise. Over two thousand years ago, a remarkable man broke bread and shared wine his followers. He asked his followers to “Do this in memory of me.” To this very day, I fondly recall how Sensei Nick would end the Saturday morning Junior Division training sessions with multiple performance of the three Takiyoku Kata. Therefore, I promised that during my first desert training session, I would dedicate my sincerest sweat produced by multiple performances of the Takiyoku Kata to Sensei Nick. I will do that in memory of him.

Until the next installment of this “On The Road With Sensei John” series, I remain, on the road, fondly remembering, not only mentally, but physically all who I encountered on my visit to the Garden State.

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
 
 For the first installment of the “On The Road With Sensei John” series, please click on the “Older Posts” icon at the bottom of this page.
 
ENDNOTES:

1. You may visit the website of Sensei Van Tassel at WWW.AmericanCenterForMartialArts.Com.

2. From the song Against The Wind, by Bob Seger,

3. Jiriki Kata-Do translates as “The Way Of (Attaining) Inner Salvation Through Kata“. It is my ideology and methodology of extending Karate-Do Kata, protocols and ideology to those that seek the benefits of same without embarking on learning a full Karate-Do curriculum.

4. When Sensei Jimmy, who is now a San-Dan (3rd degree black belt) earned his Sho-Dan (1st degree black belt) in January 2000, I had bestowed the name of Boangeres onto him and his brethren. Boangeres is a phrase from the ancient, Biblical Aramaic language. It was mentioned in the Gospels as the title Jesus bestowed upon the Apostles (and brothers) James and John. In Aramaic, the phrase translates as “Sons Of Thunder“.

5. In 1971 when I started training in Goshin-Do Karate-Do at age ten, Sensei Nick D’Antuono was my first Sensei. Sensei was then a Ni-Dan and was appointed by Shihan Thomas DeFelice as the chief instructor of the Junior Division of the Academy Of Goshin-Do Karate-Do. He was assisted by Sensei Dave. Sensei Nick was my first Sensei and I was, as he called it, a “pork chop”.

For more on either Sanchin Kata as meditation or my new book on Sanchin Kata, please feel free to visit the “Sanchin Book” page of this Blogsite, or my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com. For more information on my ideology and methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do, please review the articles herein filed in the category “Kata as enlightened meditation“.

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