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Kata RX – A Perfect Summer 2020 Souvenir (Part 1)

22 Jul

Learn Kata For Wellness for FREE in the comfort of your home, at your convenience! Use this convenient link to join the FREE online course:   https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/core-kata-course

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Summer, 2020.

What a year its been so far. And what more is to come?

It is at this time of year that I historically would encourage you to use your Kata-Rx For Wellness to collect summer souvenirs. Well, now with the Coronavirus still upon us and the various COVID-19 restrictions on travel, large gatherings and the like, it seems that this summer will be – different. That’s not to say though that you cannot explore and enjoy the “souvenir-effect” of your Kata-RX experience.

Before I guide you upon this “new normal” Kata-RX experience, I’d like to take a look back at the Kata-Rx souvenir experience as it existed pre-COVID-19. In my own personal Kata-RX journey there is a fortiori to the COVID-19 restrictions. The journey this year in the midst of the pandemic has been more introspective. It has afforded me the opportunity to more fully engage, explore and understand my Kata-RX. To borrow the motto from my Kata Laboratory project, I “Think *Sweat * Experiment” with my Kata-RX. 

So, before I discuss the new souvenir-effect experience, let’s take a look at summer, one year ago.

=== from Summer, 2019 ====

Ah, summer is here!

A time when many of us travel. Whether we journey to an exotic location for an extended stay, simply indulge ourselves in a long weekend, or take the refreshing day trip, a hallmark of summer is travel. In an effort to preserve our experiences, such travel usually involves the ritual of obtaining souvenirs. Here is a simple way to collect a souvenir for no financial cost; the sole cost may be expressed in terms of a little sweat.

Seienchin Kata, Badlands, SD, Circa 2004 – Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Since I was first introduced to the concept at ten years old by Sensei Nick D’Antuono, I have always enjoyed performing kata outdoors in any location. I can unabashedly admit that I prefer to perform kata in the magnificence of Nature’s Dojo instead of the relative sterility of a traditional dojo. To be sure, the traditional dojo carries an aura and mystique for me, but, I carry such a dojo in my heart and prefer to exhibit it in nature.

Tensho Kata practice, Cape Cod, MA, circa, 1999

For decades, I have collected kata souvenirs of my many travels. Much like looking through a photo album, I am able to revisit my travels by recalling them while performing my kata. Regardless of my present location, I can perform a kata and recall a memory of performing the kata at a different time and in a different place.

A Sanchin pontoon boat ride with Miko (R.I.P.), Lake George, NY circa 1999

Here is a video of my most last kata souvenir filmed in 2014 amongst the wild horse herd at the Lower Salt River in the Tonto National Forest, Arizona.

Here are a few tips to assist you in collecting your own kata souvenirs.

  • Wherever you travel perform your kata. For those readers that acquainted themselves with Sanchin Kata, perform Sanchin. (You may use this convenient link to acquaint yourself with Sanchin Kata https://senseijohn.me/sanchin-book/ ) Karate practitioners, please see the recommendations of the the “Kata Sommelier” below);
  • During your performance note the experience of your surroundings, what are the sights and smells? If barefoot, how does the ground feel (is it sandy, rocky, watery, etc). Pay attention to the weather conditions; was it hot, sunny, cold, rainy?
  • Remember the time of day of your performance; sunrise, midday, sunset, etc. Take notes of your experiences before and after the kata performance so that they will be associated with the kata;
  • If you are with someone, recall their presence during your kata;
  • If possible, to assist you, take a photo of a pose from your kata, video record the performance or simply jot down a few notes for future reference;
  • Remember that you interact with the environment during your kata performance, therefore, you leave a part of you in the environment. Thus, a part of you will always remain “on vacation” at that location.
  • Kata Sommelier: For my karate colleagues I would recommend that you perform a different kata at each of the various locations you visit this summer. This way a specific kata will be associated with a specific location, thus giving you a lasting “souvenir.”

Sanchin at the Lower Salt River, AZ

Good luck and have a great summer collecting Kata souvenirs! Once again, the online course is FREE  https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/core-kata-course

 

Donations are appreciated!

If you enjoy the FREE posts, videos, or have tried my FREE Kata-RX course & have the ability to donate, please feel free to do so & help defray the costs of same. Thank-you & please try the FREE course.

$5.00

Sensei John Szmitkowski

       Bonus FREE course for all martial artists who perform Kata – FREE Kata Laboratory mini-course (Time as a fourth dimension of distance) – learn conveniently, safely at your own pace in the comfort of your own home using this convenient link     https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/course-1-kata-laboratory-introduction

 

Kata RX – A Perfect Summer Souvenir & FREE offer

24 Jun

Learn Kata For Wellness for FREE in the comfort of your home, at your convenience! Use this convenient link to join the FREE online course:   https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/core-kata-course

Ah, summer is here!

A time when many of us travel. Whether we journey to an exotic location for an extended stay, simply indulge ourselves in a long weekend, or take the refreshing day trip, a hallmark of summer is travel. In an effort to preserve our experiences, such travel usually involves the ritual of obtaining souvenirs. Here is a simple way to collect a souvenir for no financial cost; the sole cost may be expressed in terms of a little sweat.

Seienchin Kata, Badlands, SD, Circa 2004 – Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Since I was first introduced to the concept at ten years old by Sensei Nock D’Antuono, I have always enjoyed performing kata outdoors in any location. I can unabashedly admit that I prefer to perform kata in the magnificence of Nature’s Dojo instead of the relative sterility of a traditional dojo. To be sure, the traditional dojo carries an aura and mystique for me, but, I carry such a dojo in my heart and prefer to exhibit it in nature.

Tensho Kata practice, Cape Cod, MA, circa, 1999

For decades, I have collected kata souvenirs of my many travels. Much like looking through a photo album, I am able to revisit my travels by recalling them while performing my kata. Regardless of my present location, I can perform a kata and recall a memory of performing the kata at a different time and in a different place.

A Sanchin pontoon boat ride with Miko (R.I.P.), Lake George, NY circa 1999

Here is a video of my most last kata souvenir filmed in 2014 amongst the wild horse herd at the Lower Salt River in the Tonto National Forest, Arizona.

Here are a few tips to assist you in collecting your own kata souvenirs.

  • Wherever you travel perform your kata. For those readers that acquainted themselves with Sanchin Kata, perform Sanchin. (You may use this convenient link to acquaint yourself with Sanchin Kata https://senseijohn.me/sanchin-book/ ) Karate practitioners, please see the recommendations of the the “Kata Sommelier” below);
  • During your performance note the experience of your surroundings, what are the sights and smells? If barefoot, how does the ground feel (is it sandy, rocky, watery, etc). Pay attention to the weather conditions; was it hot, sunny, cold, rainy?
  • Remember the time of day of your performance; sunrise, midday, sunset, etc. Take notes of your experiences before and after the kata performance so that they will be associated with the kata;
  • If you are with someone, recall their presence during your kata;
  • If possible, to assist you, take a photo of a pose from your kata, video record the performance or simply jot down a few notes for future reference;
  • Remember that you interact with the environment during your kata performance, therefore, you leave a part of you in the environment. Thus, a part of you will always remain “on vacation” at that location.
  • Kata Sommelier: For my karate colleagues I would recommend that you perform a different kata at each of the various locations you visit this summer. This way a specific kata will be associated with a specific location, thus giving you a lasting “souvenir.”

Sanchin at the Lower Salt River, AZ

Good luck and have a great summer collecting Kata souvenirs! Once again, the online course is FREE  https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/core-kata-course

In closing, I remain collecting my kata summer souvenirs.

 

Donations are appreciated!

If you enjoy the FREE posts, videos, or have tried my FREE Kata-RX course & have the ability to donate, please feel free to do so & help defray the costs of same. Thank-you & please try the FREE course.

$5.00

Sensei John Szmitkowski

 

Hatsu Bon For Shihan Wayne Norlander

18 May

Today marks the 9th 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

My graveside Sanchin memorial to Shihan:

Sincerity in sweat, Sensei.


Sensei John Szmitkowski

Hatsu Bon For Sensei Jeff Tyne

11 Apr

April 11, 2020 marks the fifth anniversary of the passing of Sensei Tyne. Sensei Tyne was one of the two examiners who in 1976, when I was age fifteen, failed me on my first attempt to earn fifth-kyu, green belt in the adult division, but in doing so helped to forge my unrelenting spirit. Thank-you for doing so Sensei. Today’s training and kata are offered to his eternal spirit.

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.

Sincerity in sweat, Sensei.

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Endnotes:
1. During the camelot years of the Academy Of Goshin-Do Karate-Do (roughly in the 1970’s), there were four Goshin-Do Karate-Do dojo under the leadership of Shihan Thomas DeFelice:
The Hombu dojo of Shihan DeFelice located in Palisades Park, NJ;
Shibu (branch) dojo located in:
Maywood, NJ under Sensei Jim Kingston,
Lodi, NJ under Sensei Jeff Tyne,
Teaneck, NJ under Sensei Steve Malmoud.

© Copyright 2019 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Hatsu Bon For Shihan Paul Recchia

10 Apr

April 10th, 2020 marks the seventeenth 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 Recchia at age 60 years old. Circa 1975.

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

© Copyright 2020 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Perfect Christmas Gift – Kata-RX Online Classes For FREE!

4 Dec

Donations Welcome

If you enjoy my blog, please consider a small donation to help defray costs. Thank-you

$5.00

Kata-RX For Wellness makes the perfect Christmas Gift! ANYone, ANYwhere, ANYtime can use Kata-RX for physical wellness and mental well-being and mindfulness. Since the first course is free, why not also treat yourself?

First, Wow, Course # 1 in my Kata-RX For Wellness & Mindfulness is now FREE! Use this link to join for FREE – https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation

Second, you can enhance your Kata-RX For Wellness & Mindfulness with the next, more advanced course. This course is only $ 55 (or a two payment option of $ 30. each). Either way, there’s a full refund in thirty days if not completely satisfied!

Third, there is nothing else to but! I designed Kata-RX for wellness and mindfulness not as a “brand”, “marketing scheme” or “merchandising opportunity.” All you need is within you twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Fourth, its EASY. You need not be athletic. You can even perform Kata-RX while sitting or in bed!

Fifth, it takes very little of your precious time!

Literally, there is NO EXCUSE to not try Kata-RX for wellness and mindfulness this Holiday Season!

Checkout the video below and see for yourself. CAUTION – once you see the video you will realize you have NO EXCUSE to not try Kata-RX for wellness and mindfulness.

See you in class, start for FREE
Use this link to join for FREE – https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Hatsu Bon For Sensei Nick D’Antuono

11 Sep

On September 13th, 2010, Sensei Nick D’Antuono was taken from us. Todays training training and the following Hatsu Bon Poem are offered to his spirit. Should you so desire, please join us and perform a kata of your choice in memory of Sensei Nick and a fallen comrade you may wish to remember on that date. May Sensei’s spirit find our training and poem worthy.

Sensei Nick D’Antuono, Myself, age 15 (a Junior Division Green belt) & Shihan Dan Nagle, Circa 1976

 

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.

Memories Circa 1973: myself & others with Sensei Nick D’Antuono & my first trophies for kata (Gekisai) & kumite.

Sincerity in sweat, rest in peace, Sensei.

Sensei John Szmitkowski

© Copyright 2019 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Karma Tests Me – Old School Marketing

19 Jun

    The first course in my three part “Kata For Wellness & Mindfulness” school has opened for enrollment (see link below). Now, there’s quite a few new items added to the my “to do” list. Naturally, the second course needs to be ready for enrollment by the end of this month. I also have to do a bit of marketing. I’m still learning about digital marketing so I decided to do a bit of old school marketing.

To that end, I designed a few information cards and flyers. I carry them with me at all times ready to talk with people I meet, hand out cards or hang flyers wherever I can. One such day, I realized that karma was testing me.

My local Shop Rite grocery store has a community bulletin board. A perfect location for one of my flyers. After asking permission (which wasn’t needed) at the courtesy counter I hung a flyer.

Two days later, I again went grocery shopping. I noticed my flyer was no longer hanging. In its exact place was a handwritten (in female cursive) flyer advertising caregiver services. My flyer was nowhere to be found. I was furious but I had groceries to buy. While shopping I stewed. The audacity of someone to take down my flyer to put up their own. I finished shopping, paid and then stared at the rudely placed flyer.

I was thinking about removing the flyer, a little tit-for-tat. Then I noticed the push pins holding the offending flyer in place. I had previously purchased “unique” push pins that would standout. Lo and behold the four push pins holding down the caregiver flyer were my unique ones! The offender didn’t even bring her own push pins! Now, I was more than mad – the audacity not only to remove my flyer but also use my own push pins! Hmmm, what to do? I had an idea.

Rather than remove the flyer, I ripped off a tag with the phone number. I was going to call her to “chat” about the matter. Number in my pocket, I walked home, and unpacked. Thankfully I realized I need to follow my own advice – time to go outside and do my kata. After a thirty minute extended kata session not only did I feel better, I realized that karma was testing me.

I fulfilled my destiny by making my Kata For Wellness and Mindfulness course available to the public with the launching of the Kata-RX school. https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation. True I’ll need to do some promotion and advertising, but my real destiny was to create the online school. Good karma and fate would determine whether or not the concept is ultimately successful. My mind, unclouded from my kata, saw the bigger picture.

Maybe that rude person already invoked bad karma by doing what she did. If I acted, then I would interfere with karma’s plan for not only her but myself as well. Maybe karma will guide someone to see her flyer, call her, book her service, and pay her. For a moment she will be happy, a new customer! But, perhaps, fate has a different plan. What if during the course of that job something will go wrong. Something will happen under her care. Something she is accountable for. She may even get sued. Maybe she suffers a financial loss as a result of her mistake. Ultimately the loss can be traced back to removing my flyer, using my push pins and hanging her own flyer in its place. Karma had a lesson to teach. So I decided let it be.

The next day I walked back to Shop Rite and hung a new flyer. I felt so good I even dabbled in a little digital marketing. Lo and behold, as I post this, I now have a few students. Good karma.

I can honestly thank my 1 Day / 1 Lifetime Kata for once again reminding me that I’m on the right path. Life is a kata! Enjoy it, don’t sweat the “bad” stuff.

Hope you have a good day and I look forward to “meeting” you in my class.

You can view the syllabus for the first course (where all students must start) which teaches the core kata movements and internal processes using this convenient, secure link: https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation (take advantage of the limited time offer using the “Enroll Now” button).

The second course teaching the full kata and internal processes is on track to open from enrollment on or before July 1st.

In the meantime, here’s the introduction to my class on proper breathing. Enjoy.

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Exciting News – Sensei’s Online Kata-RX School

7 Jun

MARK THE DATE – MONDAY, JUNE 10TH

My Online Kata For Wellness & Mindfulness Course will officially launch!

Get Ready Kata-RX.Teachable.Com goes live on Monday!

To mark the occasion, the first course is being offered at a spectacular low price. Enrollees will also be invited to join a private FaceBook group for one-on-one interaction with me upon payment. (click on the flyer below for more detail)

In addition, I am honored and delighted to announce that I have received permission from the Estate of my friend and karate-do comrade, Shihan Wayne Norlander to use his memorial design on the site. 

Designed by Shihan’s family to commemorate the first anniversary of Shihan’s passing on May 18th, 2011, with a memorial motorcycle run, the design was featured on T-shirts given to all participants.

 

In 2009, Shihan Norlander graciously wrote the forward to my Sanchin Kata Book. Now, I am privileged to honor his eternal spirit with the design via my online course.

Here’s a sneak peak at a promotional flyer marking the launch incorporating the design. (click for larger image) – You may even want to enroll on Monday – you have nothing to loose.

6-10-19: School’s Open – enroll now to save!

https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation

 

I look forward to seeing you in the first online course,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Coming June 2019 – Sensei John’s Online Kata Course For Anyone

22 May

Karma has shined down upon me. (check out the sneak peak video at the end).

I completed my newest kata for wellness and meditation project. In it I introduce non-martial artists to two kata I specifically created for the project, the highly meditative “Ghost Hand Kata” (Yurei-Te Kata) ™ and the penultimate “1 Day / 1 Lifetime Kata” (Ichi-nichi- Issho Kata). ™ The manuscript is fully written and I am almost finished filming video.

I’ve developed kata before, including the Shibumi Kata to help my wife endure chemotherapy. https://senseijohn.me/shibumi-kata/

I’ve provided insight into the process by developing a Kata Lab devoted to the means of creating a kata. https://senseijohn.me/2018/01/31/kata-lab-3250-kata-within-you-intermediate/

Creating a kata was never a problem. The problem was on of an online platform to get the kata out. Then karma smiled upon me – I found a platform that allows me to open an online school! More correct is that the platform actually found me, how exciting! So for two weeks I’ve been out filming, editing and uploading to be able to offer my kata course to the public.

The school name that I am toying with is “Kata-Rx.” ™ Naturally, I’ll announce the opening, which will include full support on social media via a private FaceBook group, new You-Tube channel, Instagram and Twitter (before this I thought only birds tweeted). My target date is June 1st or as close to that as possible.

I promise a unique learning experience. You can get a sample from the teaser video below. Move over Yoga! Step aside Tai-Chi! The gym – forget-about-it! The time for Kata for wellness & mindfulness has come – and Sensei John is the innovator!

As you may know all martial arts and all kata start with – – – yup, you guessed it – – – BREATHING. So naturally the teaser gives a look into the first class in the curriculum, proper breathing. Take a look and enjoy the “Dojo” and the teaching “props.”

More to come!

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Hatsu Bon For Shihan Wayne Norlander

15 May

May 18, 2011, Shihan Wayne Norlander was taken from us.

Sensei Wayne, Ku-Dan (9th degree black belt) promotion. Photo: Shihan Don Nagle, Sensei Wayne, Shihan Peter Urban)

Each year I post a Hatsu Bon in his honor and dedicate my kata to his eternal spirit. Please join me in dedicating our training on May 18th 2016 to his eternal spirit. May his spirit find our 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, Ku-dan, Menkyo Kaiden, USA Goshin-Ryu Karate-Do, at his Bogota, NJ dojo.

In the years since his passing, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my friend. Each time I throw a leg over my motorcycle, I think, “Come on Wayne, let’s go for a ride.” Each Wednesday (May 18th, 2018 the day of his passing was a Wednesday) I perform the Kunchaba Kata (a non-Goshin-Do Karate Kata I learned from him) in dedication to his spirit. His spirit remains eternal in the wind in my face and in the kata. A video of the Kata appears at the end of this article.

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

My graveside Sanchin memorial to Sensei Wayne:

Sincerity in sweat, Sensei.
Sensei John Szmitkowski

©Copyright 2019 Sensei John Szmitkowski and Issho Productions

The Kunchaba Kata Sensei Wayne shared with me:

Hatsu Bon For Shihan Paul Recchia

10 Apr

April 10th, 2019 marks the sixteenth 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 Recchia at age 60 years old. Circa 1975.

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

© Copyright 2019 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Hatsu Bon For Sensei Jeff Tyne

6 Apr

April 11, 2019 marks the fourth anniversary of the passing of Sensei Tyne. Sensei Tyne was one of the two examiners who in 1976, when I was age fifteen, failed me on my first attempt to earn fifth-kyu, green belt in the adult division, but in doing so helped to forge my unrelenting spirit. Thank-you for doing so Sensei. Today’s training and kata are offered to his eternal spirit.

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.

Sincerity in sweat, Sensei.

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Endnotes:
1. During the camelot years of the Academy Of Goshin-Do Karate-Do (roughly in the 1970’s), there were four Goshin-Do Karate-Do dojo under the leadership of Shihan Thomas DeFelice:
The Hombu dojo of Shihan DeFelice located in Palisades Park, NJ;
Shibu (branch) dojo located in:
Maywood, NJ under Sensei Jim Kingston,
Lodi, NJ under Sensei Jeff Tyne,
Teaneck, NJ under Sensei Steve Malmoud.

© Copyright 2019 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Do Away With Kata Formalities – Part 2: Not Quite

13 Mar

Donations are appreciated!

My Kata Lab posts, representing my almost five decades of experience, are shared here free. If you would like to donate to help defray costs, your generosity is appreciated. Thank-you & THINK-SWEAT-EXPERIMENT with kata.

$5.00

In Part One of this article, https://senseijohn.me/2019/02/20/do-away-with-kata-formalities-part-1/ I set forth my idea that in so far as after Sho-dan grade, one must practice both the spontaneity of kata and the phenomenon that kata reside within you twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, one must do away with the formalities of kata. (see Endnote # 1 for a video example) These formalities, represented by the three step process of rei (bow), mukso (meditation) and ready posture inhibit the process of kata as a ritual that resides within you percolating under the surface until needed. Or, do they? Perhaps the formalities symbolize a higher meaning of kata. So now, here’s the conclusion of that article. 

Do away with kata formalities – Part 2: Not Quite

As I began to advocate my concept of doing away with the formalities decades ago, my answer was yes, they should be done away with as a condition precedent to beginning and ending a kata. Just do the kata and be done. Now, as I get older (maybe wiser?) I have rethought the concept. I have once again incorporated the acts of preparation into my kata – just not as you may think.

To understand what I propose, one must appreciates the “Three Battles” of kata. Specifically all kata involve three aspects or battles. While they exist in all kata, they are emphasized and harmonized in the Sanchin Kata. By name, Sanchin, represents three battles.

Kanji (Japanese calligraphy) for “Sanchin” – Three Battles – or – Three Aspects of Life

Throughout time and from karate style to karate style, Sensei have defined the three battles in various, sometimes euphemistic ways. For my part, I define the battles, on a fundamental level as breathing, bodily movement and state-of-mind. Once a kata-ka has trained kata from the standpoint of these battles, they are ready to appreciate my more advanced definition of the three battles, to wit: a physical battle (breathing and bodily movement), spiritual battle (psyche, mental states and emotions) and an environmental battle (the outside world wherein the kata is performed and how you interact with same). (For more on this topic, please see endnote # 2) You can readily see that whether you adopt the fundamental definition or the more advanced, the three battles, symbolized by Sanchin, are present in each and every kata.

By extension you should then acknowledge that the three battles are present in each and every moment of life itself. You must breath to live. Your body must move each and every second to live. Yes, you may be immobile during times of sleep or even unconsciousness, but your blood must flow, cells must metabolize, organs function and the like. Similarly as you live your life, you will interact with and be affected by the outside environment. Thus, I conclude and submit that “Life is a kata.” ™

Once I came to the understanding that “Life is a kata,” ™ I began to rethink my position on the formalities. Instead of doing away with the formalities, I now advocate that they should be performed before and after each kata. What, a complete reversal? Not quite. The issue is no longer whether to perform the formalities, but when does kata start and end. My conclusion is that my kata starts the moment I get out of bed, the new day, another day of life, is the beginning of my kata. I need not perform a kata as soon as my feet touch the floor. I do; however perform the three formalities. I look out my bedroom window and rei (bow), mukso (meditation) and assume a ready posture for a moment or two and then start my day – my kata, my life. Surely, before fully engaging my day, I perform my daily routine of Sanchin, Seienchin and Suparunpei Kata and my own personal kata, Yurei-Te Kata (Ghost Hand Kata). I go about my day, including training my other kata. At days end, I perform the three formalities in reverse order and settle in to bed. My Life is my kata.

To be sure, this is but the best I can do to symbolize my acceptance of my own life as a kata. Had I thought of my concept fifty-seven years ago, I would have had a much greater symbolism, but I lacked the training, knowledge and experience to do so. The greatest symbolism would have been to perform the formalities only twice in my life. The first immediately after exiting my mother’s womb. The second time I would the perform all three in reverse order at the moment immediately before my death – the ultimate symbol of my life, my kata. Perhaps, notwithstanding I did not start life in that way, I am still be able to perform the formalities (in reverse order) at the end of my life – my kata. But – that will only be half the symbol. Maybe once I enter what comes after death I will stand tall in the next world, and bow, mediate and be ready for the kata-yet-to-come.

Here’s 2 screen shots of my soon-to-be-release Yurei-Te (Ghost Hand) Kata video and book, enjoy!

 

 

      

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

ENDNOTES:

1. In my forthcoming Kata Laboratory book I have set forth many unique training concepts to explore the esoteric aspects of kata including my assertion that kata resides within you twenty-four hours a day seven days away percolating util such a time it bursts forth. If are interested in this topic, you may see this introductory article and video. https://senseijohn.me/2018/01/31/kata-lab-3250-kata-within-you-intermediate/

2. For more on the three battles of kata, and by association, bunkai (the analysis of kata), you may refer to this article from my Kata Laboratory, https://senseijohn.me/2013/05/20/kata-lab-101-three-states-of-bunkai/

 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 2019 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Do Away With Kata Formalities – Part 1

20 Feb

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My Kata Lab posts, representing my almost five decades of experience, are shared here free. If you would like to donate to help defray costs, your generosity is appreciated. Thank-you & THINK-SWEAT-EXPERIMENT with kata.

$5.00

Do away with kata formalities – Part 1: Understanding the formalities

Every karate-ka (practitioner of karate) is familiar with the formalities of kata. Whatever form they take, these formalities may be summarized as three procedures before and after each kata. I submit, they are “outside” of the kata and are not part of the actual kata. (See endnote number 1) In this article, I make the argument that at the dan rank (black belt) level, they should not be performed at all, save one exception.

Kanji for “Kata”

Generally speaking the kata formalities may be parsed into the following three steps. Step one is the “rei” or formal bow. This step symbolizes respect. Respect first and foremost is for the solemnity of the kata itself. Respect then expands to include the individual that created the kata, those that maintained it throughout history and preserved it in its present form. You can extend the concept of respect ad infinitum, such as respect for the dojo, your Sensei, karate in general and the like. As my own Sensei, Shihan Thomas DeFelice, was fond of saying, “All kata begins and ends with respect.”

The second step is one of “mukso” or meditation. This step has many effects, including, inter alia, the need to clear your mind of all preconceptions, dilatory psychological states (extraneous thoughts) and emotional effects (anxiety, fear, depression and the like). Unchecked these dilatory states would impose themselves on the kata. As the karate Sages would say, you need to “Part the clouds to see the moon.” This state of mind is called “Mushin” or “mind no mind.” You perform mukso after the kata to facilitate the state of mind known as “Zanshin” (“remaining mind”) to imbue yourself with the physical and spiritual by-products of the kata.

Lastly one assumes a “ready” posture. This is a physically neutral posture that takes many forms. Examples include standing with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, hands low, feet together with hands touching at groin level and the like. Regardless of the exact posture, it is always neutral. The neutral posture ends upon starting the kata.

After the kata, the kata-ka (my term for a performer of kata) then performs the formalities in reverse order. 

Okay, so far so good. The formalities clearly have a purpose and are relatively innocuous in so far as they are neither physically demanding or spiritually negative. So, you may wonder why I advocate that you do away with these relatively noble acts of respect, purifying your spirit and readiness before kata. Well, lets see.

First, it must be completely understood that the formalities are of significant importance to the student below Sho-dan (first degree black belt). To those of numansha grade (under black belt) they must be performed before and after each and every kata. Period. (caveat – see endnote # 2) After sho-dan, one must begin a transition into a fuller understanding and appreciation of kata. To this end, the formalities should be dispensed with.

I would like to begin by looking at the nature of the formalities. To reiterate, they prepare you physically and mentally for the kata. On a purely physical level, it is axiomatic that the kata symbolizes a battle, a physical attack scenario. At a basic, almost Planck Scale-like level, kata is a ritualized shadow-boxing dance. It represents a fight. A karate-ka trains to put the odds of surviving such an encounter in their favor by employing the techniques of the kata with the proper mental state.That being said, if you are attacked you do not hold up you hand, stating “Please wait” while you bow, meditate and assume a ready posture. So, why train this way? I am reminded of the following humorous scenario. 

In the mid-1990’s I was officiating and competing as a young San-dan (third degree black belt) in Sensei Ed DiNardo’s (RIP) annual karate tournament at the Wayne (NJ) P.A.L. building. We just concluded the officials meeting presided over by both Sensei DiNardo and Hanshi Frank Van Lenten (RIP). This was one of the handful of times I met the founder of the Goshin-Do Karate style and association. Sensei DiNardo’s tournament always began with the black belt competition in kata, kobudo and kumite. This allowed the competing black belts to be free later for officiating when the lower ranks competed. Before we adjourned the meeting, Sensei DiNardo turned to Hanshi Van Lenten and asked,”Should we give the black belts a few minutes to stretch out and get ready to compete?” Hanshi Van Lenten put his left arm around Sensei’s shoulder and looked him dead in the eye, “If I jumped on your back right now, would you ask me to let you stretch out?” And thus, lightening struck and awakened my subconscious thought as to the formalities of kata. Much like you would not perform the acts prior to an actual encounter, you should train to perform your kata utterly spontaneously. You must develop the concept that all your kata reside within you at all times – twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.. They simmer within you, percolating, ready to be released when you need them to burst forth. (See endnote # 3) To perform the formalities before and after each and every kata obfuscates this spontaneity. 

This phenomenon of kata within you can be trained with the aid of a Sensei who understands the heart of kata (and not simply the rhetoric of kata). You can, and should, specifically train your body and spirit so as to be aware of the kata within you and let it burst forth. This is first accomplished by training the immediacy of self defense scenarios within the kata. In my Kata Laboratory project, I have multiple training concepts. One example, “Kata To Modify Emotions” is set forth in endnote # 3. Another example is “Kata Lab – Dr. Jekyll’s Potion. You may see the details of this kata lab using this convenient link  https://senseijohn.me/2014/02/09/kata-lab-122-kata-dr-jekylls-potion/  and also this video example.

I therefore humbly submit that you must train your kata to be deployed at a moments notice in times of need. The formalities become an unnecessary impediment to the spontaneity of such performance. Removing the symbolic formalities is the first and necessary step to accomplish this spontaneous transition form one’s normal everyday world to the world represented by the kata. Again, this includes a physical world (attack and physical health scenarios) and a spiritual world (mental, psychological and emotional states). Thus, the need for the formalities is nullified. You must be prepared at all times. You must act with respect, maintain a clear mind and be ready in a noncommittal manner so as to act when it is time to act. In essence, like kata, the formalities simply blend into and simmer within us. Respect becomes part of our lives. Mushin, a clear mind and spirit, becomes our default mental state. We remain neutral until the time to act is appropriate then we act swiftly and decisively. If the goal is full integration of kata within ourselves, why symbolize the formalities when we begin and end each and every kata? So, do we simply get rid of the acts of preparation?

I’m going to let you chew on this a bit. Let the concept percolate within you as you practice your kata. See what you think. In my next post, I’ll give you my insights and how after forty-seven years of kata, I incorporate the formalities into same.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

ENDNOTES:

1. There may be others that disagree with my assertion that the kata formalities lie outside of the kata itself. Frankly, that is fair, but wrong. Simply ask any instructor to teach you the first three moves of a new kata (or think back to when you learned a new kata), I bet you, as my father would say, “A dollar to a donut” that they do not show you (for the N’th time) the three formalities. Rather, they show you the first three movements of the actual kata. Thus, impliedly, agreeing with my assessment.

2. During my training in Sensei DeFelice’s Goshin-Do Karate dojo, the formalities were, at times, summarily performed. That is to say that when a kata-ka was asked to perform several kata, such as during testing or class, they would perform the formalities before the first kata, perform all kata asked and the perform them again after the last kata. Thus, avoiding performing the formalities before each kata in the series. I also observed this summary performance at other dojo including the former Bogota (NJ) dojo of my friend and comrade, Shihan Wayne Norlander, RIP. I note that this experience may have subconsciously infused my mind with the idea that the kata formalities should be done away with entirely.

3. Please notice I do not say “ready for when you may be attacked.” I deliberately chose my words to reflect the idea that kata are more than physical self-defense. They are also of great benefit in developing your spiritual self. They are moving meditation than produce a heightened mental and perceptive state when fully understood. But, that is beyond the ken of this article. It is; however, the entire subject of my next book. To tease you a bit on this topic, you may see how kata can be used to modify your emotions using this link and video.https://senseijohn.me/2013/10/06/kata-lab-221-kata-as-an-emotional-modifier/   here is the accompanying video:

  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 2019 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

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