Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

Enroll Now – Online Kata For Wellness & Mindfulness Starts Today!

10 Jun

Todays the day! My online school Kata-Rx For Wellness & Mindfulness is open for enrollment!

In it I offer a 3 course plan to learn my “1 Day / 1 Lifetime” Kata I created for non-martial artists to use to achieve physical and mental well-being. For those that prefer kata names in Japanese it is the “Ichi-nichi Issho” Kata. While this kata is designed specifically with the non-martial artist in mind, karate-ka can benefit too – it is a unique kata that is not available anywhere else. Not only did I create the kata with you in mind, no-one else is providing the insights I disclose in the 3 courses.

LIMITED TIME OFFER:
Learn more, view the course syllabus & enroll now to save using this convenient, secure link to Sensei’s Kata-Rx school: https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation

For a limited time the 1st course teaching the core physical movements & introductory states-of-mind is only $ 10. with a full refund in 30 days if not satisfied. Upon payment, you also can join a private FaceBook group for one-on-one interaction.

Please feel welcome to check it out and see the full curriculum – what a bargain for only $ 10 – that’s right 48 years of training resulting in a kata created just for you and you can start learning for less than the cost of a pizza.

The second course which will teach the full kata will be available in 2 weeks for a price of $ 55. (one time payment) or a 2 payment option of $ 30. each, also with a 30 day money back guarantee.

The third course teaching advanced topics will launch two weeks after the second course. This course will teach insights into kata that, I promise, no-one else is teaching these insights into kata for wellness and mindfulness. The price will be between $ 25 and $ 30 so that the entire 3 course kata program will be less than $ 100.

Thanks for checking it out.

I remain

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Still not convinced – here’s a sneak peak at the start of the class on breathing – you will enjoy each class – promise! Then click here to enroll:
https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation

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:

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.

Hatsu Bon For Sensei Nick D’Antuono

12 Sep

On September 13th, 2010, Sensei Nick D’Antuono was taken from us. That days 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, myself, Shihan Don Nagle, 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.

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

Hatsu Bon For Shihan Paul Recchia

10 Apr

April 10th, marks the 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, age 60

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

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

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

Memorial Day Kata

24 May

Memorial Day soon approaches. It is a solemn day of remembrance for everyone who has died serving in the American Armed Forces. The holiday, originally known as Decoration Day, started after the Civil War to honor the Union and Confederate dead.May 24, 2015

With that in mind, I propose that in addition to your BBQ, parades, picnics and other activities, you engage in one solemn practice. For martial artists, I sugeest you dedicated one kata in memory of those that have died serving in the American Armed Forces. From Memorial Day, 2015, my Sanchin Kata footprints, North Truro, Cape Cod, MA:

Session Parameters:
Date: Memorial Day, May 29th, 2017
Time: any quiet time during your day;
Location: any location, but, as you know, I prefer an outdoors in nature;
Salient Points:
During kata, reflect upon and remember that have died in the service of our country. Through your honor, their memory will not be lost.

Thank-you for your participation,

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 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

%d bloggers like this: