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Hatsu Bon For Shihan Wayne Norlander

19 May

May 2018 marks the 7th 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

 

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

My graveside Sanchin memorial to Shihan:

Sincerity in sweat, Sensei.


Sensei John Szmitkowski

Sanchin & Cigarettes

26 Apr

I’m at work one day when I notice two people standing in a far corner of ‘the porch.” I stash my backpack with water and energy snack and motorcycle helmet in this far corner, so when I saw two people standing their, my attention increased. At first I thought the were either two customers that innocently wandered off the path or not so innocently were drawn to my stash. But, it was simply two of our employees taking a cigarette break.

 

My little corner of “The Porch”

That’s when it hit me – “Let’s combine Sanchin Kata and smoking cigarettes.”

For decades now, workers are no longer allowed to smoke in the workplace. Smoking can only take place is designated areas, usually outdoors. Going to such an area to smoke results is a free-bee. You still get paid during a smoke break. Unfortunately, those of that do not smoke do not take such a break. But we can. Better yet, we can turn our (non)smoke-break into a Sanchin break.

I have long advocated that “Anybody, anyplace, anytime can (and should) do Sanchin Kata.” (See this week’s featured video). Using a cigarette-break is an easy way to remind you to recharge and rejuvenate yourself physically and mentally with Sanchin. When others take a break to smoke, you should find a quiet outdoor location and perform Sanchin. In fact, in less time that it takes others to smoke one cigarette, you would have performed one Sanchin Kata.

My quiet space for “Kata-breaks”

With practice, you can then incorporate other kata into your “Kata-break.” My favorite routine is to start with Sanchin, then on the next break perform Seienchin and finally Suparunpei on my last work “Kata-break.” I have no problem doing this as in a normal shift, many co-workers smoke three or more cigarettes necessitating three or more (paid) work breaks.

So, the next time your coworkers take a cigarette break, treat yourself to a smok’in good Sanchin break.

Featured Video (Sanchin Kata – Anybody, anyplace, anytime):

Sensei John Szmitkowski

     For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!
   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 2018 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
   my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

My Black Belts Stole From Me – A Thieving Tradition

28 Feb

A Black Belt must have the utmost integrity. Having said that, I will confess that my students “stole” from me. After the “theft” they still earned a black belt! Further, the “theft” was committed with my blessing.

In my opinion the worst form of “paying” for the gift of karate-do education is money, currency, cold-hard cash (or debt card in these modern times). I’ve had students that could not afford monthly dues, help teach, clean the dojo and even cook a few dinners. In this way, my students became equal with me as Sensei in that we each gave of ourselves. This is more valuable than the cheapness of currency.

But, is it proper to steal from Sensei?

Sometime in 1998, I made a decision concerning a group of four brown belts training at the Issho Dojo. In order for them to pass their test for ni-kyu, (brown belt, two stripes) they would have to learn Gojushiho Kata. In devious fashion, I told them that I would not teach them the kata.

This posed a problem. They had to learn the kata for the next rank. If I would not teach it to them, how would they learn it?

In those days, there were no You-tube GDK-D Gojushiho videos (like this one featuring archival footage from the 1960’s to 2012 where I perform Gojushiho in a snowstorm):

The four arrived at the dojo for the next class. Before class, I casually mentioned that I was going to the nearby park to “clear my head.” I did this for the next three classes. The brown belts became curious.

One night after I went to the park, they waited about ten minutes and followed. They stood at the edge of the park and watched me. They saw me repeatedly practice a kata that they did not know. I noticed them and practiced the first four moves of the kata again and again After fifteen minutes of performing the opening sequence, I walked to the edge of the park. Together, we silently walked back to the Dojo.

The next night I repeated my routine. Again, they waited and walked to the park. I repeatedly practiced the first four moves. This time they only watched for about ten minutes and hurried back to the dojo. After about fifteen minutes I returned to the dojo but did not enter. I surreptitiously peaked into the Dojo window. The four of them were hard at work practicing what they observed me doing. Each watched the other and reached a consensus as to the correctness of what they saw.

On my next pre-class visit to the park, I would slowly and in an exaggerated manner practice movements that they did not quite “steal” correctly. I would also slowly add movements and sequences.

During class, I would give them “strange” kumite drills, self-defense and heavy bag combinations. These drills and combinations came from future kata sequences. They were using kata applications to steal the kata.

This went on for about five months. They were stealing from me; however, they did not know exactly what they were stealing. One night during formal class, I asked the four brown belts to join me in performing Gojushiho Kata. The brown belts looked at each other. “But Sensei, you told us that you would not teach us the kata.” “That’s true,” I said, “But I did let you steal it from me.” “Now, let’s see what you stole.” The four brown belts joined me in performing the kata.

They learned Gojushiho Kata by “stealing” it. They were the first kata-thieves of GDK-D.

Shihan DeFelice first opened the door in May of 1965 and since then GDK-D has been continuously taught. Many students walked into the dojo. Less than thirty made black belt. So, compared to the overall number of students that started GDK-D, very few learned Gojushiho Kata. I could not allow myself to teach such a rare kata for something as worthless as money, but, I could allow it to be stolen from me.

The four brown belts were promoted to sho-dan (first degree black belt) in January, 2000. I made each of them promise me that they would not teach any future student Gojushiho Kata. It must always be stolen. With that promise, a new tradition was born – a future black belt must be a thief; and Gojushiho Kata is the desired object.

Shihan Paul Recchia, Myself & The “Kata-Thieves” at their Black Belt Promotion

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

 

     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/

Here’s my latest Kata Lab video filmed 0n beautiful Cape Cod bay

© Copyright 2018 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
   my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

The Last Thing You’ll Read Before You Die

14 Feb

This is the last sentence you will read before you die.
No?
Let’s try – after reading this sentence you will contract a life changing illness. Hmmm, still healthy? Okay so, you’re not dead and still healthy, good. But, what have we learned from reading these last few sentences?
You begin to understand a concept that existed at the time of the samurai. It is found within traditional Eastern-based martial arts to this day. That principle is “Ichi-nichi-Issho” or “One day, One Lifetime.” The samurai lived with the idea that they could die (hopefully in combat) at any time. They trained to be ready for this contingency and incorporated it into their daily regime. Each day they woke could be their last. Each hour they lived could be their last. Each minute, each second, therefore could not be taken for granted. A lifetime was not measured in the number of years (as we do in modern times). Rather, it was measured in terms of one day to the next; the sum being a lifetime.
Imagine living your life in this manner. Would you savor your next meal knowing it was (or could be) you last? If you would never see your family again, what would you say? To adopt an ideology of Ichi-nichi-issho means that no single moment, or event, or conversation, personal interaction during your day can be taken for granted or wasted. You may not have another.
So, since you did not die after reading this, or did not receive a call from your doctor with life threatening news, then, go out and live the next moment of your life as if it will be your last. Really live it that way. Believe (because it is true) that you can never recapture that moment, or opportunity again. Then extend that to the next moment, the next minute, hour, and day.
There is an inevitable truth that you cannot escape. At some point, after having read this you will die. The gap in time may be one second later of decades later, but you will do so. Now, live knowing that what you do in between reading this and your death will define that gap.

This week’s featured video:

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

     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 2018 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
   my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

Merry Christmas – 2017

20 Dec

To all my readers, please accept my sincerest wishes for a joyous, peaceful, familial Christmas Season.

Each year at this time, I remind myself of the lyrics from the eternal John Lennon song, War Is Over;
“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over and a new one has begun.”
Please join me in reflecting back on our deeds, thoughts and emotions of the last year and where necessary make adjustments in the forthcoming year.
Let us embrace the simple concept that giving is better than receiving. In doing so, we benefit not only the recipient, but also our own sense of self and self-worth.
My very best wishes that we may embrace this Christmas with joy and hope as the path of the forthcoming year begins to unfold.

I remain,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Featured Video:

© Copyright 2017 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
   my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

(Wish’in I was) “On The Road (again) With Kata”

22 Nov

Ah, the call of the open road.

For as long as I can remember, I ride my motorcycle every day regardless of weather. Not; however when the roads are covered in snow or black ice. But give me clear asphalt and I’m on two wheels logging the miles. Even if its “just” my daily commute, the trip is always something new.

Dojo (Winter) – circa 2001

Still, I find myself missing a nice long road trip. A few days on the road, nights in a cheap motel meeting people along the way, changing scenery. When I lived in Arizona, I logged at least two road trips a year to New Jersey to work or see family. Since I’ve moved back to my home state, that “need” is gone.

Yup, I’ve got the itch to burn the miles. Unfortunately, its the busy season at work and a few days off is impossible. So, what to do?

The answer – Kata!

My last road trip was the return trip back to New Jersey after the Arizona house sold. I made that trip alone as my wife flew out ahead of me and my road companion Chloe had passed.

Chloe on the road – circa 2006

I started the trip the Monday of Thanksgiving week 2014 and arrived in New Jersey Thanksgiving Day. Too late for either Thanksgiving dinner or pumpkin pie. But it was another safe road trip in the books.

Naturally I used kata along the way to enhance the pleasure of being on the road and to refresh myself physically and mentally during the four day, 2,600 mile trip. As I knew it would be my last long trip for a while, I videoed my kata and journey. Looking at my videos, I realized I can again enjoy the memory of the journey through my kata. So, Monday of this week, I began to perform my “On The Road Kata.” As for this writing, I’ve completed the first two days (Monday and Tuesday) kata and am working on day three (Wednesday) as this is posting. Tomorrow, I’ll symbolically end my journey.

Come along, try a kata or two (some I recreated based upon my needs during the trip) and watch the videos. Here’s the journey:

Day 1: Monday – San Tan Valley, Arizona to Shamrock, Texas ( 789 miles)

1. Takiyouku Shodan modified to use Sanchin Kata method on the blocks – last kata performed in my house

2. Wansu Kata – Route 66 Casino/Truckstop west Albuquerque, New Mexico

3. Seipai Kata – slow to stretch my muscles Flying C Ranch Truck-stop, west of Santa Rosa, New Mexico

4. Sanchin Kata Hybrid – Best Western Motel, Shamrock Texas

Day 2: Tuesday – Shamrock, TX to West Memphis, Tennessee (1,169 miles traveled)

1. Hybrid Kata – using Seienchin, Suparunpei and Sanchin Kata to get the “blood flowing” (5:30 a.m. illuminated by truck headlights)

2. Ananku Kata – Truckstop Shawnee, Oklahoma

3. Fuku Kata – Rest Area, Altus, Arkansas

Day 3: Wednesday – West Memphis, TN to Salem, Virginia

1. Hybrid Kata 5:30 a.m. using Suparunpei and Hakutsuru Kata)

2. Kunchaba Kata – my weekly Wednesday Kata tribute to Shihan Wayne Norlander filmed at Loretta Lynn’s Country Kitchen, Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. (See Endnote # 1 for a video which includes a touching soundtrack by Warren Zevon).

3. Gekisai Kata (Deconstructed) – Comfort Inn Motel, Salem, VA. Kata on the road like this led to my “Kata Laboratory.”

Day 4: Thursday, Thanksgiving Day (2014) Salem, VA to Bergen County, New Jersey

1. Sanchin Kata (Shobu version) at a gas station on highway I-78 in Pennsylvania.

Thanks for reading and watching. Have a really Happy Thanksgiving, 2017.

Sensei John Szmitkowski

     For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!

ENDNOTES:

1. My video tribute from the road to Shihan Wayne Norlander featuring the song, “Keep Me In Your Heart” by Warren Zevon. I miss the Karate-Do training we shared and motorcycle rides we took.

 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/category/kata-laboratory/

© Copyright 2017 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
   my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

Time Modification Of Kata – Rhythmic Adaptation – Seisan Kata Example

8 Nov

This article is a continuation of my exploration of time as a fourth dimension of distance. For those unfamiliar with this concept there are several video and other resources in Endnote # 1. Simply put, most martial artists think of distance as a function of the three dimensions of length, width and height. To do so omits the all important fourth dimension of time.

Time as a fourth dimension of distance is easily appreciated when you practice your kata. Exploration of the time dimension is facilitated by expanding your kata bunkai (analysis) to include consideration of time. How does time affect kata and its application is a subject limited only by the imagination of the karate-ka (practitioner).

Kata bunkai is a continuing on-going process. It is limited only by your imagination. The within article is a good example of that process. I was practicing my Fuku and Gekisai Kata by modifying certain interim movements. Specifically, I was exploring the block, lunge punch block sequence (see Endnote # 2 for a full discussion of this concept). Traditionally, the three movements are performed with kime (focus). To facilitate my study, I found it helpful to perform the last block in the series not with kime, but, with breathing and dynamic tension as in Sanchin Kata. I was studying had the corollary effect of modifying the rhythm of the sequence.

In the past, I had briefly explored a modification of kata rhythm using the Seienchin Kata as an example. (See Endnote # 4 for a video of same). This exploration was but a fundamental step in my on going process. I began to utilize the opening of the Goshin-Do Karate Seisan Kata to explore how the concept of time as a fourth dimension of distance can result in a corollary rhythmic modification of a kata. (See Endnote # 5 for a video of the Seisan Kata and a bonus – historical footage of Hanshi Frank Van Lenten performing Seisan!). Using the opening of Seisan Kata, I began to understand the corollary rhythmic modification. To illustrate the concept, the abbreviation “K” will signify that the movement is performed with kime (focus- hard and fast). “S” will signify the movement is performed with Sanchin breathing and dynamic tension. Using the photos below you can see the time modification of combining the block and counter and the resulting corollary rhythmic modification.

Let’s look at the traditional sequence of Seisan Kata of Goshin-Do Karate. Due to time constraints, I had to take the photos during a break at work. But, a fortiori, the photos illustrate my concept that kata does not require a gi (uniform) or a dojo. Kata is anyplace and anytime. As I say “Life is a kata.” ©

Move # 1: Open hand ridge hand block (K);


Move # 2: Rotate hand and “grab” (S);


Move # 3: reverse punch (K)

As this series is repeated three times in the Kata, the resulting rhythm is:

K-S-K / K-S-K / K-S-K

In the time modified sequence, whereby the block and counter is combined into one move, we can see the corollary rhythmic change:

Move # 1 (move # 1 and # 3 combined) : Open hand ridge hand block with simultaneous reverse punch (K);

Move # 2: rotate hand and “grab” (S).

The corollary rhythmic change for the three move sequence is then:

K-S / K-S / K-S

Exploring how the change in rhythm affects not only the kata but your bunkai (analysis) is full of possibilities. For the inquisitive practitioner it affords the ability to see into the full range of bunkai available from not only a physical aspect but also a spiritual and environmental aspect. (See Endnote # 6 for a full discussion of the three aspects of bunkai).

Understanding the fourth dimension of time as a component part of your kata will provide you with a rich and more complete understanding of not only your kata, but, also yourself. It is fertile ground limited only by the boundaries of your own imagination.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

      For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!
   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/

ENDNOTES:

1. To understand the basic concept of the three basic dimensions of lenght, width and height as they relate to the martial arts and the fourth dimension of time, please click this link:
https://senseijohn.me/2015/11/23/underground-bunkai-sneak-peak/

To view the first two articles in this series please use these two convenient links

Sequence Adaptation – Kanto Kata Example:

https://senseijohn.me/2017/10/11/time-modification-of-kata-kanto-example/

Interim Movements – Fuku/Gekisai Example:

https://senseijohn.me/2017/10/25/time-modification-of-kata-interim-movements-fukugekisai-kata-example/

2. Please use this link for my article on Time as a function of interim kata movemens: https://senseijohn.me/2017/10/25/time-modification-of-kata-interim-movements-fukugekisai-kata-example/

3. Reverse Seienchin video

4. Seisan Kata Video BONUS: This video features historical footage of Hanshi Frank Van Lenten

5. Please use this convenient link for a discussion of the three aspects of bunkai:
https://senseijohn.me/2013/05/20/kata-lab-101-three-states-of-bunkai/

© Copyright 2017 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.
“Life is a kata.” separately copyrighted.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
 my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

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