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Do Away With Kata Formalities – Part 1

20 Feb

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.

Kata Based Short Story

16 Jan

I had hoped to post a notice that my Ghost Hands Kata book was finished. https://senseijohn.me/2018/11/07/new-book-update-ghost-hands-revealed/ Maybe even post an excerpt and a video. While I’ve made substantial progress, the final stages of refining the draft and editing have been difficult.

Video shoot, Cape Cod, 2018

Extraneous circumstances have drained a good amount of my mental and emotional energy. I eluded to these dilatory matters in my Christmas blog. https://senseijohn.me/2018/12/18/christmas-2018/

My daily kata still keeps me sustained despite the drain; just not enough to motivate me to finish the Ghost Hands book- at least not today. I came a contest for new writers. So, I’ve channeled my energy into a fact-based short story for a new writers contest.

It is a true story based upon otherworldly events that happened to me a few years ago. I never published it; thus making it eligible for the contest. Additionally, except for the people in the story, I’ve only told one other person of the event. That was Shihan Wayne Norlander. I often confided the otherworldly result of my esoteric kata practices to him. He would patiently listen and offer suggestions. With his untimely passing seven years ago, those conversations ended. Nevertheless he continues to inspire and help – but, that is another story for another day.

With Shihan Norlander after a spirited workout. Circa 2008

Naturally, the story has a kata element. Each day I practice my kata, including the Ghost Hands Kata, and write. My esoteric experiments with kata allowed me to experience the unexplainable, otherworldly event told in the story. So, since I don’t have an update on the Ghost Hands Kata book – just yet, I thought I would share with you the opening of my short story. Hopefully it will win the contest and be published, if not, well then I’ll be able to post it here and share it with you.

   And so, the story begins – – –

The Umbrella

Sensei buried his father. It was a troubled time.

The day of the funeral and several days before, it rained so hard Noah would have built an ark.The dreary, soul drenching weather reflected both the funeral and the last three weeks of his father’s life. Rod Stewart sang, “Its late September and I really should be back in school.” Well, it was September 30th and Sensei’s father did not have to die so soon. But, he did. That was yesterday, the past. In the present, Sensei was ready to go home.

Three months ago, Sensei and his wife, Dee-dee, locked their house in Arizona. With their dog, a miniature pincher named Zoe, they started their Toyota Tundra and began a four day road trip to New Jersey. They were going to visit family, especially their five year old grandson, Sheldon. They intended to stay for two weeks. Once they arrived, Sensei’s father’s health began to fail. Sensei’s father had been on oxygen for the last two years; even that did not deter his smoking. Now with advanced lung cancer, each day his lungs failed more and more. After three months, of increasing immobility and pain, Sensei’s father’s life ended. And so did Sensei and Dee-dee’s visit. But, before they would once again enter their front door, Sensei would make an otherworldly discovery. Sensei would find an umbrella.

Sensei wasn’t his name. His given name was John. Sensei, pronounced Sen-say, is a title. John earned it decades ago when he was promoted to the karate rank of Sho-dan, first degree black belt. Sensei’s black belt was the result of eleven years of progressing through the lower ten student ranks. John walked into his Sensei’s karate dojo in Palisades Park, New Jersey a shy ten year old boy. There is a saying in the martial arts, “It was my mother who bore me, but my Sensei who made me a man.” At twenty-one years old, John was a man, and aSensei. The word itself is formed by two root word. “Sen” meaning “before.” and “Sei’ meaning “being” as in a physical presence. Sensei, therefore literally means“Before-being” or “One who has knowledge before another;” in western terms, a teacher. Sensei’s style of Okinawan Karate is Goshin-Do Karate. The english translation of the style meant “Strong-heart way of the empty hand.”Sensei forged a strong heart and an iron spirit. Now, at fifty-seven years old he holds the advanced rank of nana-dan, seventh degree black belt. The forty-seven years since he tied on his first belt, a white belt, seemed like both the blink of an eye and a lifetime ago, as if it was in a past life.

For the past twenty years, Sensei covertly explored a hidden, esoteric path of karate. He delved into the highly guarded, secretive, non-physical aspects ofthe the rituals of karate known as “kata.” Kata are the martial forms, like deadly dances, designed to hone not only the practitioner’s physical combat skills, but also produce a heightened state of mind and spiritual awareness. Sensei took kata a major step further. His kata revealed an otherworldly realm. Kata became Sensei’s version of the Shaman’s ayahuasca, the Native American’s peyote ritual and dances, the Yogi and Guru’s esoteric practices and other such otherworldly rituals. Sensei’s kata opened the portal to an understanding of the nature of the physical and non-physical realm beyond the ken of the average person. As his title implies, Sensei came to this knowledge before any other past practitioners of the Goshin-Do style. In all the world, you could count on your fingers the number of practitioners that understood the reality in which Sensei lived.

Because of his secret, esoteric skills, Sensei found the umbrella. It is both my pleasure and my curse to tell you the story of his discovery.

   As the contest is for unpublished stories, that’s all I can post for now. I’ll keep you posted as to whether it wins or not.

Yours in kata,

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 2019 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Christmas, 2018

18 Dec

Merry Christmas, 2018

If Christmas was “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge would be redeemed and Tiny Tim would be healed.

If Christmas was “A Wonderful Life,” George Bailey is touched by an angel.

If Christmas was a Hallmark Channel movie, love is found, the Christmas factory / inn is saved, child’s parents are reunited, a lonely woman finds love, the magic of Christmas. Better still, the female star wins the ginger bread competition and falls in love! Two for one.

Its actually rather frustrating. Christmas can hardly live up to the promises of books, t.v. and the movies. It hardly ever works out in the end.

Reality requires us to understand that although the Christmas spirit can be carried in the hearts of all, it doesn’t mandate a miracle. Its simply Christmas; the day of comfort and joy. But, still just one day. And, no day is certain, no day is set aside for the foibles of life to be at bay. Therein lies the conundrum – unrealistic expectations, a/k/a, a “Christmas Miracle.” For me this Christmas brings home that point more than ever.

In my own little world, there is imbalance and uncertainty. I can battle life’s demons with my meditative kata and other spiritual releases. My warm, weathered comfortable “sweater” of kata helped through my recent loss of a job (the garden center was sold and closed). I can shrug off such foibles. But, that only works for me, not those around me. They battle each and very day until Christmas and each day thereafter. One is denying, but nonetheless battling addiction. Another is their partner, the coddling enabler. One is tethered to an oxygen device due to a short lifetime of smoking. Another faces major brain surgery immediately after Christmas. And yet another wrapped in a burdensome blanket weaved from the loom of possible recurring cancer.

Unlike Scrooge, these are shadows of the present and my actions now and in the future cannot alter them. I can; however, make Christmas as enjoyable as it can be for those affected. For them, Christmas is a milestone – they and their burdens can make it to that day. The rest, well like all living creatures, is unknown. Its like I say – One day (Christmas) – One Lifetime. Ichi-nichi Issho (One Day, One Lifetime).

Once again, five years after the Christmas that almost wasn’t (2013), I am reminded that for many, Christmas is but a goal. An uncertain milestone. That year two weeks before Thanksgiving my wife was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. An immediate eleven hour surgery and weeks being bedridden, we looked forward to chemotherapy in the New Year. But, oh wait, there’s Christmas before that. So with a three foot artificial table top tree (with a depleted immune system, my wife couldn’t have a real tree) we celebrated Christmas, one day, that we had each other – and some hope for what was to come.

So for each of those in my sphere, I first hope they make it to see the day. Thereafter, knowing that the chance is slim to none, dare I wish for a Christmas “miracle?” Dare I wish that the addict hits rock bottom; that level of readiness to accept that “Yes, there is a problem.” Dare I wish that the enabler understands that addiction exists notwithstanding their refusal to see it. Is wishing for a Christmas miracle in a successful brain surgery too bold a wish? Can another gain the miracle of peace of mind? Maybe.

I do believe one thing though. That if there is a chance for a Christmas miracle, the odds of the miracle being worthy are greater when it is asked for someone other than yourself. It should be selfless. A wish where your sole fulfillment comes in knowing any person deserved and got a break. Nothing big, just a plain old break in their favor. One. A chance.

So as I sit here typing this blog, I look at little Chloe’s Christmas dress that hangs in her memory by the fireplace.

Maharet sits by the Christmas tree not sure what this “invader” is doing in “her” living room.

I watch the lights on our Christmas tree. They start off white, fade to off, then relight in multi-colors, then repeat. They seem to capture the light of life, sometimes dimmed circumstances that make the world go dark. But, if you can look through the darkness and battle your way through it, the world will not only once again be light, it will be filled will the colorful palette of gratitude for the day that dawns, again and again. For that’s all we get – one day. One day – One lifetime. And, there’s no guarantee we get that.

And so, we come to my hope for all reading this that your Christmas be merry. Though there may not be a miracle, that’s okay, just take the day for what it is.

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/

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

Kata – Becoming A Thanksgiving Tradition?

21 Nov

Becoming a tradition?
Once again, it’s Thanksgiving time.
Once again, I’m romanticizing the thrill of the open road.
Once again, I can connect both with Kata.
As I do so, let’s revisit this theme I originally posted about last Thanksgiving in an article I called, “(Wish’n I was) ‘On the road again with kata.”

===============

(Wish’n I was) “On The Road (again) with Kata”

Ah, the call of the open road.

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.

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.

Chloe on the road – circa 2006

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. 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)

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, 2018.

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/category/kata-laboratory/

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

New Book Update – Ghost Hands Revealed

7 Nov

As I’ve been teasing about my newest kata as moving meditation project (https://senseijohn.me/2018/07/25/dont-read-this-unless/), including hinting at the Buddha nature of kata, (https://senseijohn.me/2018/09/26/buddha-nature-of-kata-or-is-it-just-me/), I thought I would update the status to date. Let’s say a “Sanchin For Everyone, version 2.0.”

I’ve returned from spending Halloween in Cape Cod, MA where I filmed video and still photos for the project. Writing the book is about ninety percent complete, give or take. It seems just when I think I’m done, there’s a new avenue I wish to explore and reveal. I guess that’s an inherent problem with a project that you not only wish to educate people about, but also practice daily. There’s always a new insight, twist or nuance you find. In general a good thing, but a nightmare for deciding what to share and include in a book or video at any specific point.

So, as things move along with a tentative January 1, 2019 deadline in mind, I give you a few more teasers.

 

This updated version of my 2009 Sanchin Kata as Dynamic Meditation project, combines the insights and nuances I garnered from the last decade of practicing what I preach. Also I’ve incorporated a new meditation technique that I encountered years ago and still practice. I have taken an esoteric kata from ancient karate-do called, “Gassho No Kata.” Now, don’t go searching this kata online. I did and I did not find the kata I am referring to. There are other kata with this name on line, but not the one I will share in the book. Further, based upon my experience in performing the kata, I modified it. I stress; however, that I did NOT modify the physical movements of the kata. Rather, I modified the perception and visualization of the kata. This modification provides a mental, emotional and psychological reset for your mind. This modified kata I am tentatively calling “Kami-Te Kata” or “simply “Ghost-hand Kata.” While it provides a daily reset for your mind, I felt more was needed.

I began to practice my Ghost-hand Kata in conjunction with Sanchin Kata and the results were staggering. The visualization and reset of the Ghost-hands Kata when combined with the spiritual and physical benefits of Sanchin (too numerous to list here) produced a most rarefied meditative experience.

 

I then realized that by incorporating physical techniques and spiritual aspects of the Seienchin Kata (translated as “Calm in the storm, storm in the calm”) and the Suparunpei Kata (“108 Hands”) I had discovered a well rounded, yet relatively simply method for daily meditation and rejuvenation.

The end result does not require a major commitment of time. The whole moving meditative process took less than five minutes. It could, therefore be performed anytime throughout the day as often as needed. As I emphasized in 2009 with my Sanchin project, no special equipment is required, no uniform or unique clothing and no dojo, school or structure was required. Simply put, it can and should be performed by anybody, anytime and anyplace. This is the true nature of my moving meditation process I call, “Jiriki Kata-Do,” “Wellness from within you through kata.”

Enough teasing for now, back to writing and video editing. More to come during this very exciting and enlightening time.

This week’s featured video – from 2012, AnyBody, Anytime & Anyplace can do Sanchin Kata! (filmed in San Tan Valley, Arizona)

Respectfully,

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

Buddha Nature Of Kata, Or Is It Just Me?

26 Sep

The morning flew by as I diligently worked on my new kata as moving meditation book (you can read a release about it here ( https://senseijohn.me/2018/07/25/dont-read-this-unless/ ). It was time for a break. I needed to stretch my old muscles. I and my dog, Maharet, went outside to the backyard. She would do her doggie kata (run around like a nut chasing squirrels and birds) and I can do mine.

Maharet

Naturally, this involves the meditative kata I developed and am writing about and traditional karate-do kata. Rejuvenated, Maharet and I returned inside. Cracking open the laptop, I was about to resume writing.

First a bit of a distraction. I took the opportunity to cruise Facebook while Maharet took the opportunity to contemplate her existence, a/k/a take a nap.

Scrolling through my newsfeed I saw a meme that caught my attention.

Made sense to me. I routinely use my kata to cut off thinking and clear my head. Whether I’m at home, at work, at the shore or out for a ride, my kata, particularly the meditative  ones are always with me. When needed, they reset my body and mind.

But, I was also perplexed. “If you cut off all thinking for one minute, then you become a Buddha for one minute,” how can there not be a multitude of karate-do Sensei teaching the Buddha nature of Kata? In my thinking the meme clearly provided a link to the Buddha nature of Kata. Clearly, as I would like to sell my latest book, I’m not going to go into great detail about this concept here. Suffice it to say, for me the Buddha nature of kata is clearly self evident. I am some sort of aberration?

I learned my first kata in 1971. Since then, I have always enjoyed kata. Although some martial artists have disparaged the “practical utility” of kata, I saw not only the martial utility, but the higher purpose of kata. Am I reading too much into kata? I can’t say. But, I can say kata enriches my life. Even now, forty-seven years after I first learned my kata, it not only keeps my proverbial sword sharp, it balances me. It gets me through my day.

I can’t say whether my views on kata are some sort of anomaly or that I read too much into my kata. I can say this simply and directly – without my kata, I would not be the person I am. Period. So, “Thank-you kata and the Sensei that taught me them.”

To gain insight into the deeper utility of kata, take a look at and ponder my “Ten Virtues Of Kata” article ( https://senseijohn.me/2011/07/31/virtues-of-kata/ ).

This week’s featured video illustrates the concept of spontaneously creating your own Kata. Enjoy.

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/

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

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

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

Sanchin In The Outermost House

22 Aug

There are many things I enjoy about summer; kata outdoors, going to the beach, riding my Indian (without freezing), and revisiting my annual “summer-reads.” There are a few books I enjoy re-reading during the summer, Hemingway’s “The Old Man and The Sea”, Nick Lyons’ compilation, “Hemingway On Fishing”, Thoreau’s “Cape Cod” and Henry Beston’s “The Outermost House.”

Recently I was at the beach in Asbury Park, NJ. My toes in the sand, time stood still. Hour after hour I floated in the cool blue waters of the Atlantic, performed Sanchin Kata in the sand and in the surf (a Sanchin Surf-N-Turf). Resting on my blanket under the shade of my umbrella, I re-read Beston’s “The Outermost House.” As always a few passages resonated deep within me. Including this one:

 “The world today is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot.” (See Endnote # 1)

Time marched forward and all too soon it was time to pack and return home. There are certain inevitable natural and man-made forces that simply can’t be avoided. On such example is traffic on the Garden State Parkway. Somewhere around exit 130 it started. It was going to be a long trip home. Rather than let this inevitable fact dampen my beach rejuvenated spirit.

Asbury art – my “third-eye”

I reflected on how, over the years Sanchin Kata (and others) have maintained my connection with the natural environment. Unlike those other’s on the Parkway that angrily sat hating their fate, disconnected from nature, I am refreshed by my kata and elemental things.

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

Let me share a few photos and videos with you. It is my hope that this will inspire you to learn not only Sanchin Kata, but also my method of moving meditation I call “Jiriki Kata-Do” (“The way of self-wellness through kata”). Hint – hint – I hope to have the latest manual on the newest techniques available by year’s end. Curious? Check out this link: https://senseijohn.me/2018/07/25/dont-read-this-unless/

Videos can be found on my FlyFishingDojo You-tube channel or the video page above.

 

Performing Sanchin I see a seagull fly past, Cape Cod, 2016

Highland Light Overlook, Cape Cod, 2014

I hope you remain connected to the elemental things.
Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Endnote:

1. Beston, Henry, The Outermost House ( Henry Holt & Co, New York, NY, 1928) p. 10.

Seienchin Kata during Sturgis Bike Week, Badlands State Park, 2003

   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.

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