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VIRTUES OF KATA

31 Jul

This article is submitted, with neither my editorial, nor comment, simply to spark your contemplation. While set forth in terms of Karate-Do Kata, with a little imagination, you can extend it to your own personal endeavors, sports, hobbies and interests. For your contemplation, I submit “The Ten Virtues Of Kata.” (See Endnote # 1).

Kanji for “Kata”

THE TEN VIRTUES OF KATA

1.  IT PURIFIES MIND AND BODY;

2.  IT REMOVES SPIRITUAL UNCLEANLINESS;

3.  PRACTICED EVERY DAY, IT WILL DO NO HARM.

4.  IT KEEPS ONE ALERT;

5.  ONE’S AGE DOES NOT CHANGE ITS EFFICACY;

6.  WHEN PERFORMED IN ABUNDANCE, ONE NEVER TIRES OF IT;

7.  WHEN PERFORMED SPARINGLY, ONE IS SATISFIED;

8.  IN THE MIDST OF BUSY AFFAIRS, IT BRINGS A MOMENT OF  SOLITUDE;

9.  IT IS A COMPANION IN THE MIDST OF SOLITUDE;

10.  IT BRINGS COMMUNICATION WITH THE TRANSCENDENT UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS.

As you train your Kata, or perform your life endeavors, see if you can aspire to capture and embrace each of the above virtues.

Until the net submission, I remain a virtue of Kata practicing Kata for virtue,

HANKO-wood

 

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Here is a link for a promotional video about my Sanchin Kata & Jiriki Kata-Do DVD filmed in the Tonto National Forest. Arizona. Please see the “SANCHIN DVD & BOOK” page tab above for information on how to purchase the DVD.

LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE

ENDNOTES:

1. A word about the Kanji for Kata. The Kanji is Sumi-e ink on rice paper. It was hand drawn in 1998 as part of the Kanji for the Goshin-Do Kata-Jitsu five volume series by Sensei Szmitkowski. “Kata” is interpreted loosely as “form”, extended to be translated as “Formal exercise.” I prefer the figurative translation, to wit: “Clay-in-the-mold.”

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

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 weblog, or my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com.

You may wish to view my blog dedicated to the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fly-fishing and fishing in general by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com

On The Road With Sensei John – Part 4: Western Dojo

9 May

In this final installment of my “On The Road With Sensei John” series, I want to discuss the lessons of the various Dojo I visited while traveling west of the Mississippi 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. The following is submitted for the benefit of all travelers of the road of life.

On Sunday, April 18th, the second day of our journey, Chloe and I crossed the mighty Mississippi River. For me, the Mississippi is the line of demarcation between the “citified” east and the wild west. Crossing “Olde Man River” also signifies that I am indeed returning home. On this western leg of our trip, Chloe and I would drive through the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and finally arrive in Arizona. Although we would visit several more “Dojo” along the way, the main focus of this and the next day was to “burn miles”.

The first Dojo that Chloe and I visited was located in Arkansas. I named this Dojo the Rest Area Dojo. It is located at a rest area slightly west of exit number 242 on Interstate Highway 40. We arrived at the Rest Area Dojo in the early afternoon hours. Since we started our day early, both Chloe and I were a bit tired. To refresh ourselves, we spent a half hour taking in the full benefits of this Dojo. The Rest Area Dojo is composed of a beautiful garden and tree filled meadow area. It’s natural beauty was in stark contrast to the mundane blandness of the Interstate. I was overcome by a sense of imagination. It is for this reason that lesson of the Rest Area Dojo is Imagination. Upon entering the Dojo, I was immediately drawn to a tiered entrance to the formal garden area. The entrance was shrouded by a beautiful flowered lattice trellis. I knew that I needed to perform the Sanchin Kata to begin the process of rejuvenating myself. The tiered garden entrance was the perfect location.

The Trellis at The Rest Area Dojo, Arkansas

As I proceeded up the tiered entrance, I performed Sanchin Kata as spontaneously modified by my imagination. I performed one movement of the Kata on each step of the tier. I did not step back as called for in the Sanchin Kata. I performed all six steps of Sanchin moving forward and up the tiers. In this manner, I advanced into the formal garden area. Chloe and I took a few minutes to enjoy seeing and smelling the various indigenous wildflowers. We then walked through the formal garden into a tree-filled meadow. The shade from the trees and the fresh cut grass provided Chloe with a very nice corner to lay down and rest a bit. For me, this was the perfect location to perform the Gojushiho Kata. The Kanji for the Gojushiho Kata is interpreted as Fifty-four Steps.

Kanji For Gojushiho (Kata). The medium is Sumi-e ink on rice paper.

As I performed the Kata, I imagined the fifty four steps as symbolic of the steps that lay ahead of me in my journey home. It was time for Chloe and I to return to the truck. As we did so, we walked down a slight hill. I was filled with another burst of imagination which manifested a desire to perform a modified Seienchin Kata up the hill. The Kanji for the Seienchin Kata is commonly interpreted as “Calm in the Storm; Storm in the Calm.”

Kanji for Seienchin (Kata). The medium is Sumi-e ink on rice paper.

There is also a less common interpretation of the Kanji which is “To Walk Far To Quell And Conquer.” Many years ago, I sought to capture this interpretation of Seienchin. To do so, I modified and elongated the performance of the Kata. At the Rest Area Dojo, I started my elongated Seienchin Kata at the bottom of the hill. During the performance of my version of the Kata, I worked my way up and down the hill (See Endnote # 1).

The Seienchin Hill at The Rest Area Dojo, Arkansas

Seienchin Kata completed, Chloe and I were once again ready “To Drive Far To Arrive Home And Relax.” We continued to burn the miles and concluded our day in Shawnee, Oklahoma (just east of Oklahoma City). I prefer to end my final day on the road with as short a drive as possible. Tomorrow would be our last full day on the road. So, tomorrow Chloe and I would once again start out early and really have to pound the pavement.

Chloe and I woke early Monday, April 19th and were driving west by 5:00 am. After driving a few hours, we arrived in the state of Texas. As the saying goes, “Every thing is bigger in Texas“; even the Dojo. I had intended to visit another favorite Dojo called the Big Texan Dojo located in Amarillo, Texas. Chloe and I arrived in Amarillo around three o’clock in the afternoon. I knew that we still had a few hundred miles to drive this day. I therefore decided to cancel my planned visit to the Big Texan Dojo (See Endnote 2). Within no time at all (basically we drove an hour but we gained an hour crossing time zones) , Chloe and I were in the State of New Mexico. We soon arrived at another Dojo located in Tucumcari. Even though we still had many miles to drive, we needed to stop at this Dojo for gasoline. This Dojo is the only franchise-type Dojo that I regularly visit on my road trips. During this trip, Chloe and I already visited this franchise Dojo four times. I call this franchised Dojo the Flying-J Dojo. We had already visited the local Flying-J Dojo in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas. The Flying-J Dojo is located in the Flying-J Truck Stops.

Standard insignia and lawn of the Flying-J Dojo. This one is in Tucumcari, NM.

Since the Flying-J Dojo is located in almost every state we traveled in, it is readily available for training. The lesson of the Flying-J Dojo is Opportunity (in training and in life). The Dojo not only has training “facilities“, but a well stocked store with everything a traveler could need and very clean restrooms. The Flying-J Dojo is not a Dojo were one lingers. Rather, one does what one has to and moves on down the road. Training at the Flying-J Dojo is minimalist and follows a very well scripted routine designed to facilitate the process of getting back on the road. The training process, almost without modification, is as follows. One pulls adjacent to an available gas pump and begins the task of selecting and pumping the appropriate gas into your vehicle’s tank. As one does this, one performs Sanchin Kata. When Sanchin is complete and the gas tank full, one drives to an available parking space adjacent to the standard lawn found at every Flying-J Dojo. One enters the Flying-J Travel Center, answers the “call of nature” and procures all needed supplies. Upon concluding business at the Travel Center, one utilizes the lawn to perform any number of Kata. As is the case with any franchised Dojo, the training time at the Flying-J Dojo is strictly monitored. Training is concluded in about fifteen minutes and one is again on the road. Training at the Flying-J Dojo isn’t pretty, but it is training nonetheless. The key is to take the opportunity to train, and thereby better yourself, when and wherever it presents itself. Remember this lesson each and every day, look for opportunity to better yourself at every available moment.

Chloe and I ended our last full day on the road in Holbrook, Arizona. We had driven over nine hundred miles and again gained another hour of time. We arrived at our hotel just slightly before sunset. Our last night was one wherein we would be blanketed in the comfort of being home early the next morning. After checking in, I took Chloe for her nightly walk. I also performed my final training session during this road trip. The training at this Holbrook Dojo is best characterized by one of Comfort. On this night, my personal comfort was derived from knowing that the past three months were filled with seeing family, financially fulfilling work, comradeship of seeing my Karate-Do brethren and finally knowing that tomorrow’s dawn would signify my return home. Similar to when one eats so called comfort-food to symbolically wrap themselves in a warm, cozy emotional blanket, I decided to perform the “Comfort-Kata” of Goshin-Do Karate-Do. The Comfort-Kata are those Kata that represent historical significance to the Goshin-Do Karate-Do style. These Comfort Kata define who we, as Goshin-Do Karate-Ka (practitioners), are. These Kata provide comfort to Goshin-Do Karate-Ka by defining the specific branch of the Goshin-Do Karate-Do family tree to which they belong. The Comfort-Kata are unique to noteworthy Sensei of Goshin-Do Karate-Do (See Endnote # 3).

Holbrook, AZ Dojo located in the rear of our motel.

The Comfort-Kata were completed, memories rekindled and spirits comforted with the road traveled thus far and the road yet ahead. Chloe and I prepared for bed and closed our eyes with dreams of San Tan Valley, Arizona dancing in our head. Our road journey ended Tuesday, April 18th at 9:30 am when, at long last, we arrived home. What happens next shall remain for another day.

The road journey was over. Each Dojo visited enlightened me to a valued life lesson: spontaneity, self-discipline, inspiration, imagination, opportunity and comfort. Lessons relearned, life’s journey continues. Each journey is but a path. An integral component of life’s path is that the ability to learn abounds. I hope you enjoy the lessons learned on my road trip.

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 journeyman honored to learn as I travel on the road of life.

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
 
 
 

 

 

ENDNOTES:

1. For readers familiar with the Seienchin Kata, the Seienchin that I teach as a Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kata remains unchanged. In so far as any reader that knows the Kata may wish to try my modification intended to symbolize the interpretation of “To Walk Far To Quell And Conquer”, it is as follows. The performance of the three opening movements of the Kata, which are performed in a side stance, is tripled. Thus, instead of performing three side stance movements, one would perform nine. So as to achieve positional coincidence, the two movements wherein you perform an “archers” block in a side stance is also tripled. Therefore instead of performing two archers blocks, you perform six. For me and subsequently my students, this modified performance of the Seienchin Kata breathed life into the ideology, “To Walk Far To Quell And Conquer.”

2. The Big Texan Dojo is located at the Big Texan Steakhouse located in Amarillo, Texas. From a culinary standpoint, it is infamous for its offer of a “FREE” 72 ounce steak dinner. This offer is advertised on billboards as far away from Amarillo as four hundred miles. In order to get the free steak dinner, you must eat the 72 ounce steak and all accouterments, including a baked potato, dinner roll, soda, shrimp cocktail, all within an hour. If you don’t complete the task, then you pay for the dinner. My culinary preference at this Dojo is a truly delicious hamburger made from Buffalo meat and a dish known as “Rocky Mountain Oysters”, deep fried bull testicles (they taste like good quality veal and really are delicious). The Big Texan Dojo, like Smiley’s Dojo is one of self-discipline. Owing to the fact that Chloe and I needed to get closer to home, we bypassed this Dojo.

3. The Comfort Kata, and the distinctive individuals they represent are:

Kanto Kata: Kanto Kata was developed by Shihan Frank Van Lenten, at the request of his primary instructors, to represent of Goshin-Do Karate-Do as a distinct style of Okinawa Karate-Do. Thus is symbolizes the trunk of the Goshin-Do Karate-Do family tree;

Ten-Ni-No Kata and Chi-Ni-No Kata: These two Kata were added to the Goshin-Do Karate-Do style by Shihan Thomas DeFelice. They are unique to students that studied Goshin-Do directly under Shihan DeFelice. Thus, they symbolize a branch growing from the Goshin-Do tree trunk, and;

Chin-retsu Kata,alternately named Nami-Kiribi Kata: This Kata was developed by me as a requirement for Yon-Dan, 4th degree Black Belt. It is a senior Black Belt Kata. As such, I have taught this rare Kata to only four other individuals that have studied directly under me. It is emblematic of a blossom born of Sensei DeFelice’s branch of the Goshin-Do family tree.

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“.

For a complete directory of the Kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do, please see the Mokuroku No Kata Category.

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“.

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“.

On The Road With Sensei John – Part 1

16 Apr
Once again, it is April and time to make the road trip home to Arizona (USA) from New Jersey (USA). I have made this almost 2,600 mile “commute” over 20 times since 2004, including 14 times by motorcycle with my dog, Chloe (her picture may be found on the “Meet Sensei” page of this site). It is my custom that a few days prior to each trip, I re-read some of the great literary tales of travel and journey.
 
The one book that accompanies me on every road trip is a dog-eared copy of On The Road by Jack Kerouac (Penguin Books, New York, NY, 1959). Now, as I pack this epic tome for yet another road trip, I thought it would be appropriate to share some of Kerouac’s musings with you and to encourage you to contemplate Kerouac in light of your Karate-Do and martial ideology. Again, the within is not intended to be the sole province of those fortunate to have knowledge of Karate-Do. Rather, the within can be viewed in terms of any art form or ideological endeavor.
As with the earlier “Dojo Experiments” this article does not provide answers. Rather, through dialogue, the experiment prods you along the path of Karate-Do and life. And so, it is time to be, On The Road.
 
Except Number One: 
 Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven. Naturally, now that I look back on it, this is only death; death will overtake us before heaven. The one thing we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death. But who wants to die? Id. At 124.
Take Kerouac’s observation, train earnestly and while secreting the sweet sweat of your efforts, ask yourself:

1. If death is pursuing us through life, why do we insist on taking each day for granted? Make a decision to live the ideology of Ichi-Nichi-Issho (One Day-One Lifetime) which provides, inter alia, that today is your life. When added to yesterday, today forms links of a chain that is collectively known as a lifetime. So, if you want to train, train today. If you love your spouse, or child, tell them so today. Death is pursuing so grasp a hold of the “Now” and fulfill it – NOW.

2. Once adopted as a component part of your personal ideology, would the ideology of Ichi-Nichi-Issho make you “sigh and groan with a lost bliss?”;

3. If you practice your Karate-Do with a pure heart, can you now manifest and achieve the bliss that Kerouac feels is only reproducible in the womb? Is not Karate-Do the womb that incubates your persona to a blissful level?

Excerpt Number Two:

We had longer ways to go. But, no matter the road is life. Id. At 212.

Consider the road of Karate-Do, or your other art form. Does the road continue? Does it stop? Does it contain diverging paths? To be sure, if you have an open mind and a pure heart, Karate-Do is the road to life. As Miyamoto Musashi observed in Go Ron No Sho (A Book of Five Rings) “You must learn this well.”

Excerpt Number Three:

No matter where I live, my trunk’s always sticking out from under the bed, I’m ready to leave or get thrown out. I’ve decided to leave everything out of my hands. Id. At 251.

With the above passage in mind contemplate how Karate-Do has prepared you to have your trunk’s packed; to be ready to spontaneously meet life’s challenges so as to enjoy its rewards.

As my excitement of being on the open road soon approaches the crescendo moment when the key is turned and the engine roars to life, I have also re-read the following from the memoirs of General George S. Patton. I believe this passage also has insights into artful pursuits.

All members of our oil-daubed civilization think of roads as long slabs of concrete or black-top, or at least as dragged and graded thoroughfares full of wheel ruts. As a matter of fact, roads, or it is better to call them trails, existed thousands of years before the earth- shaking invention of the wheel was even dreamed of, and it was along such roads that our sandaled or barefoot progenitors moved from place to place. . .

It takes little imagination to translate the nomad on his white stallion and the men and women on donkeys into the Canterbury pilgrims, while the footman, equipped with large staff and poniard, can easily be mistaken for Friar Tuck, Little John or Robin Hood. This similarity applies not only to their dress, but also to their whiskers, filth and probably to their morals; and they are all talking, always talking. They have no recourse. There are no books, newspapers or radios to distract them. From War As I Knew It: The Battle Memoirs of “Blood & Guts”, General George S. Patton, Jr. (Houghton Miller 1947) pp. 44-45.

As you train, and specifically, as you perform your Kata (or other art form) in a modern Dojo, or studio, consider the early ancestors of your art form as they trained, in sandals or barefoot, in nature. Consider how the art of these primordial practitioners compares to your art as it exists today.

I hope the within Dojo experiments spur in you a reflective desire to contemplate and evaluate your Karate-Do or other chosen art form. Karate-Do is merely the mechanistic means of discovering that which we all desire – to know who we in fact are.

And so, as I am about to drive north to south, east to west on (US) Interstate Highway numbers 78, 81 and 40, I will be thinking of you sincerely sweating, pondering, blissfully enjoying, your Karate-Do. I will visit a few Dojo along the way. Upon my return to Arizona, I will post a travel-log and pictures for your enjoyment and contemplation. Until then, I remain, on the road . . . of life.

 Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
 For information on my application of the martial arts and Kata to daily life, please feel free to visit my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com

An expanded discussion of my methodology & ideology may also be found in my new book The Dynamic Meditation Rite Of Sanchin: Gateway To The Three Battles To The Plateau Of Human Serenity. Please see the “Sanchin Book” page of this site.

You may also find additional information on Jiriki Kata-Do, by reading my article herein dated December 15 , 2009. Entitled “Kata evolves into a methodology and ideology …”

Revisit Your Conclusions On Patton, Horse Gyrations & Kata

25 Jan
This post is a continuation an earlier post filed under “Dojo Experiments”. Prior to reading the within, please read “General Patton, Horse Gyrations and Kata” filed in the category “Dojo Experiments” below. After reading the earlier post, please embark on the “experiment” and contemplations set forth therein before moving on to the within post.
In part one of this Dojo Experiment, I purposefully omitted the last paragraph of General Patton’s observations. That paragraph is as follows.

After lunch, General Walker arranged for us to witness one of the exhibitions (of horsemanship), which was extremely interesting and magnificently performed. However, it struck me as rather strange, that in the midst of a world at war . . .(some fifty men) had spent their entire time teaching a group of horses to wiggle their butts and raise their feet in consonance with certain signals from the heels and reins. Much as I like horses, this seemed to me wasted energy. On the other hand, it is probably wrong to permit any highly developed art, no matter how fatuous, to perish from the earth – and which arts are fatuous depends on the point of view. To me the high-schooling of horses is certainly more interesting than either painting or music. General George S. Patton., Jr., War As I Knew It: The Battle Memoirs of “Blood ‘N Guts”, (Bantam Books, 1980), p. 311.

   Patton On Horseback

Based upon your analysis of the first part of this experiment, how would your analysis change, if in fact it would change, in light of the above? Do you feel that Kata is glorified as an end in and to itself? If so, how does that impact Karate-Do? To what extent does the “modernization” of Karate allow it to “not perish from the earth” as the general would say. Does the term “modernization” equate with “evolution“, “development” or “innovation”? Or, as some “Masters” assert, does any change (including evolutionary processes) dilute the art? To what extent do modern gymnastic-type Kata impinge upon the traditional Kata? Does the “forgotten” aspect of Bunkai dilute the Kata? If so, how? To be sure, there is no correct answer as it depends on one’s point of view.
For me, the proverbial “Gyrating Horses”, lead to an intense study of Kata and (of course) Bunkai which, after much sweat, resulted in my book – Koryu Kata-Jitsu: Ancient Style Art Of Kata. Many years later, after continued practice, study and self-reflection, I began to conceptualize and develop my methodology and ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do – The Way Of (attaining) Inner Salvation Through Kata. The foundation of this methodology is to be found within the heretofore hidden and undiscovered teachings of the Sanchin Kata. These secrets are then carried forward through certain other unique Karate-Do Kata which I have incorporated into the system of Jiriki Kata-Do. The hidden teachings of Sanchin Kata are set forth in my newest book on Sanchin Kata which is described on the Sanchin Textbook page of this blogsite.

I hope this Dojo “experiment” has given you pause to consider your personal feelings as to Karate-Do or other martial art you may practice. Look for more Dojo Experiments in future posts on this blogsite.

Please feel free to view the page herein on my new Sanchin textbook.

You may also find additional information on Jiriki Kata-Do, by reading my article herein dated December 15 , 2009. Entitled “Kata evolves into a methodology and ideology …”

General Patton, Horse Gyrations & Kata

18 Jan
I am often asked by those who either attend my seminars or read my newest book on Sanchin, how I evolved my ideology and methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do from within the confines of the Karate Dojo. Karate-Ka (those who study Karate) and particularly those that enjoy Kata are the most curious. While I offer a series of seminars that methodically and ideologically guide attendees through the evolutionary process, I will post a few concepts herein for your consideration and experimentation. These submissions will all be filed under the category – Dojo Experiments.

My approach as a Sensei is to lead a student through a process of self-discovery. Sensei Thomas DeFelice was often fond of saying “A technique taught will often be forgotten whereas a technique discovered will not”. With that in mind, the articles filed under “Dojo Experiments” will offer guidance for you in your practice. The articles will not offer answers. You are to discover your own answers after experimentation, consideration, reflection and sweat (the oil of the machinery of Karate according to Maestro Peter Urban).. For additional information on the contextual paradigm shift in Kata, please see the category below entitled “Kata as enlightened meditation”.

One of the first experiments you can conduct is based upon an observation made by United States General George S. Patton,. Jr. during World War II.

Many are familiar with the exploits of General George S. Patton, Jr. during World War II. Many are even familiar with the motion picture entitled “Patton” in which George C. Scott gave a remarkable and memorable portrayal of the General. What many of you may not know is that during World War II Patton kept a diary. After many years, the United States Army declassified the diary and it was subsequently published. Many, many years ago, I was very fortunate to have purchased a copy. There is a passage in the diary which inspired many of my experiments with Karate-Do in general and with Kata (and Bunkai) in particular. For the non-martial artist reader, Bunkai is the practical experiment conducted with a partner (who serves as an attacker) that tests the self-defense hypothesis set forth in the Kata. My experiments with Kata and Bunkai lead to my discovery of the heretofore metaphysical aspects of certain unique Kata codified in my system of Jiriki Kata-Do.

In May, 1945 when General George S. Patton, Jr. made the following observations which he contemporaneously recorded in his personal diary. General George S. Patton., Jr., War As I Knew It: The Battle Memoirs of “Blood ‘N Guts”, (Bantam Books, 1980), pp. 310-311).

On arrival at General Walker’s Headquarters, we found that XX Corps had captured intact, at an adjacent chateaux, the whole of the Imperial Spanish Riding Academy which had left Vienna on the approach of the Russians. This Academy had been running in Vienna since the time of Charles V of Spain.

Originally, the gyrations taught the horses were of military importance. That is, the “courbette”, or half-rear, was for the purpose of letting the horse come down at the same time the sword was swung, so as to give the latter more force; the “volte” or “demi-volte”, was for the purpose of avoiding attack; while the leap into the air, striking out fore and aft with the feet, was for the purpose of extricating the rider from too close contact with the enemy, and so on.

With the passing of years and changes in the art of war, the purposes of this form of equitation was forgotten, and the movements were taught as of value in and of themselves. In other words, people began, as in many other arts, to glorify the means rather than the end which the means were supposed to produce.

The first Dojo experiment that will guide you along an understanding of Karate-Do, Kata and the manner in which I evolved Jiriki Kata-Do is to consider Patton’s observations of the gyrating horses as you practice in your own Dojo. Consider whether the observation applies to Karate-Do, in general and to Kata (and Bunkai) in particular. If you feel that it does apply, then consider the manner in which it applies and whether the true essence of Kata is found within or without of the confines of the observation. This is the first step in understanding the evolution of my Jiriki Kata-Do. As Miyamoto Musashi said in Go Rin No Sho (The Book Of Five Rings), “You must consider this well.”

For additional information on my new book entitled: The Dynamic Meditation Rite Of Sanchin: Gateway To The Three Battles To The Plateau Of Human Serenity, please see the Sanchin Book page herein or feel free to visit my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com

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