Why Are You Practicing That Kata?

27 Sep

“Life is a kata.” ©

A recent day at work once again illustrated how my saying is true.

Working at the garden center is physically demanding. According to my FitBit, during a nine hour shift, I would walk an average of 11.7 miles and burn around 3,100 calories. In addition to walking, activity includes loading and unloading 40 pound bags of garden product (soils, mulches, and the like) and carrying tanks of propane for barbecuing. During a normal shift, I’m paired with a part-timer for about four hours. Usually my co-worker is a young college student. This particular day, I was with Dave (a fictional name).

At Work

It was a particularly hot day, sunny day. This type of day is difficult as there is little to no shade. Dave and I just finished loading a customer with twenty-four bags of mulch (each weighing forty pounds). Before returning to our normal duties, Dave went and sat down for a minute or two. I went to get my water. Just then, the owner decided to leave the comfort of his air conditioned office and take a leisurely walk outside.

As he walked past me, he saw Dave sitting. He commented, “It drives me crazy when people sit and do nothing.” I told him that not only was that the first time Dave had sat down, but we also just finished loading a relatively large order. In less than five minutes both of us would be back to the physical task of our normal work. The owner’s reply was simply, “I didn’t know, thanks.” And that’s the point, the owner saw fit to observe and judge without knowing all the facts. He presupposed that he needed to correct the situation without knowing the totality of the circumstances.

Throughout the years I’ve encountered similar scenarios in the Dojo. One such instance is burned deeply into my memory. So deeply is it burned that it changed the way I interacted with my own students. From that day forward I pledged to always ask a student, “Why are you practicing that Kata?” “What is the purpose for doing the Kata?”

The time was the early 1990’s.I just finished a particularly bad day at work, It seemed nothing went according to plan. Additionally, I was having difficulty in my personal life.It seemed I could do nothing right.

Except, my kata. Even back then, kata sustained and nourished me. So I went to the Dojo. It was an “off” night; no classes were scheduled. I had the key to the Dojo and knew I would have it to myself. I entered, changed into my Gi and began to run through my kata. My mind was cluttered and my emotions were frazzled. This greatly affected my kata. I knew my kata wasn’t fully on par, but that was okay. The kata were special and historical treasures. Kata is not known by the average person. Knowing them and being able to perform them made me feel unique. Could I actually be doing something above and beyond a normal person? Could I be ding something “right.” “Yeah, I feel good”, began to fill my thoughts.

After a while I heard the lock turn and door open. Sensei had stopped by the Dojo. He paused and watched a bit. The first words out of his mouth were, “Your timing is off and your focus isn’t quite there; you’d best concentrate.” No “Hello”, no greeting, no “Hey I saw your motorcycle outside and stopped in.” Just a presumption that Sensei needed to correct my kata – and – that I wanted correction at that exact moment. “Well, so much for doing something right”, snapped into my mind. Had Sensei asked, I would have acknowledged that my kata was a bit off. I wasn’t trying to improve my kata, I was simply trying to enjoy myself at something that was unique to me. End of story. With that, I thanked Sensei, changed, left the Dojo and took a long motorcycle ride. I found a quiet wooded area and alone, again, performed my kata.

The point is first find out the totality of the circumstances before judging another and presuming they want an answer. From that day forward, whenever I observed a student perform a kata, I would ask the student “Why are you performing the kata?” Depending on the answer, I would offer correction, if appropriate.

So, before judging or correcting someone, find out the totality of the circumstances. Often this means asking the person “Why.” Why are you resting at work?” Why are you not joining the party?” “Is everything okay?”

If you do so, you will greatly improve your kata that is life. After-all, as I say, “Life is a a kata.”

This week’s featured video:


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!

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© 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
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

One Response to “Why Are You Practicing That Kata?”

  1. southfloridasamurai September 28, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

    I liked your story. In general, people will seem to point out what’s wrong rather than ask a question first.
    I have found myself wanting to do the same thing. When I’m aware of wanting to say something what might come across as a “negative comment”, I’ll rephrase into a question. I think that approach gives the other person an opportunity to say, “I was trying to perform a kick but my balance wasn’t there or I don’t feel good about the technique, how can I improve.”

    Question for you Sensei:
    Have you ever taken part in the
    100 Kata Challenge ?
    If so I would just like to get your perspective on the challenge.

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