On The Road With Sensei John – Part 3: Eastern Dojo

2 May

In this installment of my “On The Road With Sensei John” series, I want to discuss the various Dojo that I visited during my three and a quarter day journey from New Jersey (USA) back home to Arizona (USA). I will classify and present the Dojo in terms of their geographic relation to the Mississippi River. In this installment, I will discuss the Dojo that are east of the mighty river. In accord with my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do, each Dojo visit sets forth a lesson that applies not only to Karate-Do, but also life itself. Once again while the within article is written in terms of Karate-Do, the concepts and ideas apply to life in general and are submitted for the benefit of all my readers. I hope you enjoy reading about the various Dojo.

Since I began my study of Karate-Do in 1971 at age 10, I have had the pleasure and honor of visiting and attending many traditional Karate-Do Dojo. For my non-Martial Artist readers, the word “Dojo” translates as “Way-Place” or “The place of learning a (martial) Way or Path.”

Kanji for the word "Dojo"

While I have a fond place in my memory for these traditional Dojo, the treasured and warmest recesses of my past memories and my present day training are to be found in the plethora of non-traditional Dojo that I have trained in.

I was first introduced to a non-traditional Dojo by Sensei Nick D’Antuono (See Endnote # 1). My first training in a non-traditional Dojo occurred on a bright, sunny Saturday morning during the summer in or about the year 1972. It was the first time I trained outside the confines of Sensei DeFelice’s Goshin-Do Karate-Do Dojo which was then located at 125 Broad Avenue, Palisades Park, New Jersey. This non-traditional Dojo was, if memory serves me correct, located on Grand Avenue, again, in Palisades Park. The entire Junior Division, which then was represented by two separate classes (Beginners and Advanced Students) was to meet at the traditional Dojo. Sensei Nick instructed us to wear our Gi (Karate uniform) and sneakers. We would travel to the non-traditional Dojo by foot. At the appointed hour, the entire student body exited Sensei DeFelice’s Dojo and through a combination of walking and jogging proceeded along Broad Avenue. We then turned right, down a hill and arrived, about one-half hour later, at the non-traditional Dojo. It was indeed beautiful. It was, in fact, a park. This was to be my first training experience outdoors in nature. Since then I have had substantially many more such training experiences. In fact, though I trained weekly at Shihan Norlander’s Dojo in Bogota, New Jersey, when the weather permitted, I trained daily at my natural Dojo located in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.

At The Woodland Park Dojo to the sound of woodpeckers Chloe guards against squirrels.

Another natural, non-traditional Dojo that I trained at was the Ling Dojo in Hackensack, New Jersey. I had not planned on training at the Ling Dojo. My decision to train at this Dojo was utterly spontaneous. Therefore, the lesson to be learned from the Ling Dojo is Unqualified Spontaneity in training and in life. I was scheduled to start my road journey on Saturday, April 17th. My last training session at Shihan Norlander’s Dojo was the night of Wednesday, April 14th. At the conclusion of the training session, I said my formal “Goodbyes” to all. Though once I say good-bye, I do not tend to linger or dwell, I arranged with Shihan Norlander to have a late breakfast at a diner in Hackensack, New Jersey. The diner is located on the Hackensack River. I arrived a few minutes early. The day was beautiful and I was enraptured with the surroundings, the satisfaction of being ready to hit the road and the idea of returning home after many months away. I decided to celebrate by performing a few Kata as I waited. I looked around so as to locate a suitable Dojo and found the Ling Dojo directly adjacent to the Diner.

The USS Ling Dojo, Hackensack, NJ

The Ling Dojo is a park adjacent to and part of the USS Ling submarine which is permanently housed on the Hackensack River. As I knew Shihan Norlander would soon arrive, I decided to begin training with a relatively short Kata called “Seipai”. With my blood flowing and mind clear, I then proceeded to perform the shortest Kata in the Goshin-Do Karate-Do Mokuroku No Kata called Ananku. As always, I ended the training session with the Sanchin Kata (See Endnote 2). At the completion of the session, I walked across the parking lot. As I did so, Shihan Norlander drove into the parking lot. Invigorated by my spontaneous efforts, I joined him for a very satisfying breakfast and discussion. So, my dear readers, remember the lesson of the Ling Dojo – be spontaneous in not only your training, but also your life. To be sure, planning the present and the future has merit, but true beauty, imagination and fulfillment is to be found in those unplanned moments that are simply allowed to happen.

At long last, the time for Chloe and I to actually turn the ignition key and begin the drive home arrived. I said a final “Good-bye” to my Mom and Dad. At 5:00 am Saturday, April 17th Chloe and I drove west on Highway I-78. I had carefully planned my first day on the road so as to arrive at the first Dojo in the early afternoon. After about two hours of driving on I-78 West and one stop to refuel, Chloe and I turned South onto Highway I-81. The first Dojo is located on this Interstate Highway in Raphine, Virginia. We soon exited the State of Pennsylvania and quickly drove through Maryland and West Virginia. As I saw the “Welcome To Virginia” sign, my anticipation grew. I simply could not wait to arrive at the first Dojo of this trip; Smiley’s Dojo. By early afternoon Chloe and I finally reached exit number 205 and turned off the interstate. Smiley’s Dojo was less than a quarter of a mile away. My anticipation had reached a crescendo. I could tell by the way Chloe stood against the passenger door window frame and deeply breathed in and out that she too anticipated visiting Smiley’s Dojo. It is for this reason that the lesson to be learned from Smiley’s Dojo is Self-Discipline.

Smiley’s Dojo is located within the confines of Smiley’s BBQ Pit. At this point in my day, I had eaten a simple breakfast consisting of a few pieces of fruit and some water. I normally eat a fairly regulated diet. Smiley’s Dojo is one of the few culinary indulgences I will allow myself on this trip. I can wholeheartedly say that the Carolina-style BBQ available at Smiley’s is the best. Further, the sliced beef brisket is second to none I have ever eaten in all my travels. By the time, I drove into the parking lot, I was quite hungry; however, Smiley’s Dojo is one of self-discipline. So, I first filled the truck’s gas tank. I then drove to the rear of Smiley’s and walked Chloe. I poured her some water and while she drank and stretched, I performed the Kata Tensho, Gekisai and Chinto. My performance was appreciated by various truck drivers who interrupted their own BBQ lunch to watch. We chatted a bit. Finally, I entered Smiley’s and placed an order “to go”; one pulled pork sandwich and one sliced beef brisket both in the Carolina-style of BBQ (See Endnote # 3).

Smiley's Dojo, Raphine, Virginia

My order was cooked. With sandwiches and a souvenir jar of Pickled Okra and Picked Sweet Watermelon Rind in hand I walked back to join Chloe in the truck. You would think that I immediately partook of the flavorful bounty. No, I did not. Again, Smiley’s Dojo is all about self-discipline. Rather than allow my taste buds to wander wantonly amongst the smoky meat, I again drove south. A few miles down the interstate (around exit 199) is a rest stop with a very nice park. I exited the interstate and found a quiet parking space. To fully embrace the self-discipline of Smiley’s Dojo, I again delayed tasting my BBQ bounty. Chloe and I once again exited the truck with our BBQ treasure. We found a suitable tree-lined small meadow. I opened the bag and deeply inhaled the smoky, hallucinogenic fumes and immediately thought – I must perform another Kata. The question was, “Which Kata will adequately capture the self-discipline of deferring eating this intoxicating feast of smoky meat?” The only answer was to be found in one of the longest and most unique Kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do; Kanto Kata. The performance of Kanto Kata is long and rhythmically methodic. It is described by Goshin-Do Karate-Do aficionados as being like “A hibernating bear rudely awakened in his cave and sleepily walking into the daylight to pursue his interloper“ (Isn’t that right Sensei Bob?). In the meadow, I performed Kanto Kata. Finally, I opened both sandwiches, cut each in half and ate half of each type of sandwich. I saved the other half of each sandwich until later for dinner. Chloe and I took a few minutes to lay down on the grass and let the sun’s rays fall gently upon us. My lips still tingled from the delights of smoked meats, my muscles twitched with the exertion of Kata and my spirit was a-flutter with the joy of life. As Chloe and I sat up and walked back to the truck, a butterfly landed on the grass where we had just laid. I entered the truck and turned the ignition thinking, “Life is indeed good.” I hope we all can carry the lesson of Smiley’s Dojo with us each day and remember well the rewards of self-discipline.

Chloe and I ended our first day on the road in White Pine, Tennessee. We had driven about 825 miles and had a most enjoyable day. After finishing the remaining BBQ sandwich halves from Smileys, a walk for Chloe and a performance of Sanchin Kata, we soon settled in to bed. I wanted to begin the second day on the road at about 5:30 am the next day. Chloe and I would enter the state of Tennessee and turn west onto Interstate 40. We would also visit the Dojo of a famous country and western singer.

Chloe and I awoke early Sunday morning, April 18th. As planned, we were driving on the interstate highway by 5:30 am eastern standard time. After driving a few hours, and gaining an hour when we passed into the central time zone, we arrived at the next Dojo which is at exit 143 on highway I-40. Due to the fact we gained an hour of time, it was only about 7:30 am when we pulled into the parking lot of the Dojo located at Loretta Lynn’s Country Kitchen. Chloe and I did not enter into the restaurant to eat its many wonderful culinary offerings. We had many miles to drive today, so we stopped at this Dojo only to let Chloe walk a bit and so that I could perform Kata in this famous singer’s “Dojo”. Much like the story of Loretta Lynn, who rose from her humble beginnings as a “coal miner’s daughter”, a Kata performance at this Dojo, particularly in the early hours of a dawning new day is filled with inspiration. The lesson of the Loretta Lynn’s Dojo is Inspiration. Chloe and I found a suitable location for her walk and my performance adjacent to a statute of a mighty buffalo.

The Buffalo Statue at the Loretta Lynn Country Kitchen Dojo, Tennessee

I am particularly fond of performing the Goju-Ryu based Kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do in the early morning. So, as I performed my Kata, including Tensho, Seienchin, Seipai and, of course, Sanchin. I allowed the rising sun, dew-filled grass and clean fresh air to inspire me to manifest the most fulfilling day possible. Each day, remember the lesson of the Loretta Lynn Dojo and allow yourself the opportunity to look within yourself as a source of your own inspiration. Allow yourself to go out into the external environment inspired to produce and manifest the most satisfying day. This will allow you to live a life enraptured by the events you inspired and manifested.

The Loretta Lynn Dojo was the last “formal-natural” Dojo Chloe and I visited before we crossed the mighty Mississippi River. The crossing of “’Ole Man River” signifies the beginning of our western journey. The western portion of our trip will be discussed in the next installment of this series. Until then, please remember these parting words. The purest Dojo is located within the human heart and spirit. It is from within the pure Dojo that the truest Karate-Do (and an enlightened life) is to be found.

For a video on Kata in nature, here is a link to an introductory video about my Sanchin Kata video series filmed at the Lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest. Arizona. Please e-mail me or contact me via this blog to purchase the video series. LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyaHCp2EoUk

Until the next article, I remain a student of the Pure Dojo

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
 ENDNOTES:

1. Sensei Nick D’Antuono was my first Sensei in Goshin-Do Karate-Do. At the time I had started my road trip back home, he was hospitalized with complications due to medical treatments for cancer. As of this writing, Sensei is no longer hospitalized. I am happy to advise, he is home.

2. Please see the Mokuroku No Kata category for a complete list of all Kata in the Goshin-Do Karate-Do system of Shihan Thomas DeFelice, including the Kata incorporated by me at Senior Yudansha levels.

3. Smiley’s also offers “Kansas City-style” BBQ which is slathered in a rich and tangy sauce. My favorite is the Carolina-style in which the meat is covered in a light vinegar based sauce. This style allows the true flavor of the meat to be experienced.

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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