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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:

© 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
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at

Do NOT Perfect Your Kata

6 Jun

“Perfect your kata.”

You’ve heard it in the dojo, you’ve read about it in books, magazines and blogs. It’s mentioned in videos on You-Tube. Heck, I even posted an article concerning the idea that “Practice makes perfect.”

Well, I say “Do NOT ‘perfect’ your kata!”

To ‘perfect’ means to, “make (something) completely free from faults or defects, or as close to such a condition as possible.” Kata is one “something” that it is utterly impossible to perfect. Consider the following.

First, let’s start with the kata itself. I submit it is impossible to perfect a kata. Initially, how is a perfect kata to be defined. Is it one that is technically correct, free from faults or defects? If so, then a perfect kata is one that is merely pretty and lacks any functional utility. It must be remembered that kata is a dance, the highest form of dance in my opinion, but a dance nonetheless. What differentiates kata from all other forms of dance is one crucial element. Kata has at its core a martial purpose. It is designed to facilitate self-defense (see endnote # 1) So, to consider a kata as perfect merely based upon technical correctness of the performance is incomplete. Surely, a performer that performs a perfect kata in the dojo or a tournament but cannot defend him or her self with the sequences and techniques from the kata is but a perfect dancer.

Second, kata exists merely as a concept. It is enlivened only through the actions of a performer. In so far as the performer is an imperfect being (as is all humans), the kata can never be perfected. As to this point, I am reminded of a saying from one of my instructors, “Kata is to be thought of as clay in a mold.” Even assuming, arguendo, that the mold (the kata) is itself perfect, the clay (the performer) contains individual imperfections. Through the performance of the kata, repeatedly subjecting the clay to the mold, one hopes to remove as many perfections as possible; however, given the nature of flux of the imperfections, this is impossible. (See Endnote # 2)

Third, as regular readers are aware, I steadfastly maintain that kata contains three individual aspects, a physical aspect, a spiritual aspect (the manner in which kata affects your state-of-mind, emotions and psyche) and an environmental aspect (the manner in which kata is affected by environment and vice-versa). When most teachers talk of “perfecting” your kata, they limit themselves to only the physical aspect of kata. By doing so, they avoid the most difficult aspect, the spiritual aspect. This aspect is difficult on several fronts. To start, I submit each kata contains within it a specific state-of-mind required for the performance. A full discussion of this point is beyond this article; however, you may gleam an idea of a specific kata’s proscribed statement of mind from the translation of its name. Examples include, the Kanto (Fighting Spirit) kata of Goshin-Do Karate, Taikiyoku (To build the body and the spirit) Geikisai (To Destroy) and Seienchin (Calm in the storm / storm in the calm). Thus this state of mind must be “perfected” within the kata – a monumental task at best. One’s mind, states thereof, including emotions and psyche can never be “perfected.”
In addition, even though a kata is relatively short in duration, it is exceeding difficult for the human mind to maintain itself in a “perfect” mental, emotional and psychological state for such a duration.

Fourth, looking at my environmental aspect of kata, two points must be borne in mind when considering the notion of “perfecting” your kata. It must be remembered that a kata was once a creation of its inventor. You can easily research the inventor’s physical characteristics at the time of creation. You may also discover insight into his general mental state (such as whether history tells us he was depressed, quick to anger, starving as in the case of a few post WWWII masters, or an alcoholic). You may not be aware of the impact of the creator’s environment on his kata creation. The kata would have been created taking such terrain into account. As such, the only way to “perfect” such kata is to perform it in its intended (read “perfect”) environment. Not sure? Take any of the various Kobudo oar kata as an immediate example. Most contain sequences involving using the oar to throw sand and /or soil into the eyes of the kata opponent. True, the kata can be performed in a dojo; however, such performance can not be “perfect” unless sand or soil is actually thrown and not merely simulated. Additionally, while you may “perfect” a kata within the sterile environment of a dojo, you may not be able to duplicate such perfection outside of the dojo, on uneven terrain, in clothes and shoes, with variations of temperature and climate.

So, if, as I say you should NOT “perfect your kata,” what then should you do. Let us turn to that great “master of Okinawa football” (hey, now-a-days, if it isn’t Okinawa, it’s not “authentic”), Coach Vince Lombardi of the Greenbay Packers (the team was originally from Okinawa and imported by US servicemen after WWII). 😇
Coach Lombardi once told his team,

We will relentlessly chase perfection knowing full well we will not achieve it, but we will relentlessly chase it and in the process, we shall find excellence.

Applying this to kata, I urge you to forget “Perfect your kata” and instead, “Excel at your kata.” To excel takes into account all the variables contained within my three aspects of kata. You can excel at kata regardless of your age, health and physical limitations. You can excel at kata even if you are not in an ideal mental or emotional state. In fact, I submit you should use kata to modify your dilatory emotional state You can excel at kata in any physical environment, terrain or climate. By doing so, you will understand not only the martial aspects of kata and be able to defend yourself (with kata sequences) in the process, but also the “life-giving” aspects of kata. (See Endnote # 3)

So, stop accepting axiomatic advice and “Think * Sweat * Experiment for yourself. Don’t perfect your kata.” “Excel at your kata.”

This week’s featured Kata Laboratory video:

Bonus video: Here is a sneak peak at the newest video series “Underground Bunkai” which features my senior black belt, Sensei Jimmy DiMicelli, Go-Dan, Karate-Do NO Renshi.

Respectfully submitted, Cum superiorum privilegio veniaque (“With the privilege and permission of the superiors”)


Sensei John Szmitkowski

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sunsu-2      For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link
My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!

KATA LAB    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:


1. Within the concept of self-defense, I include not only the obvious defense against an aggressor, but also physical health, and mental and emotional health.

2. This concept is the same as a chapter in my Kata Laboratory Book that addresses my concept that it is impossible to perform any kata exactly the same way twice. As of this writing, I have not released a free “teaser” of this chapter. This chapter discusses the multitude of variables and state of flux referred to in the article in great detail.

3. I draw a kata analogy to a concept from kendo (the art of the sword), “Satsujin no Ken (the sword that takes life) and Katsujin no Ken” (the sword that gives life”). I submit that the same applies to kata; Satsujin no Kata and Katsujin no Kata.

© Copyright 2015 – 2016 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 –
LOGO-WEBSITE  my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing
DOJO STICKER-1   the Goshin-Do Karate blog at

New Videos Coming Soon

24 Aug

I’m pleased to announce filming has begun on new videos. After relocating back to my native New Jersey, I’ve visited several locations that provide beautiful outdoor scenery for the next series of videos. Filming occurred not only in New Jersey, but also on Cape Cod, MA. The Cape is one of my favorite locations, beautiful and inspirational. I find that these locations allow me to present to you my very best efforts.

The plan is to complete the filming of all Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kata videos. The entire catalogue of kata will then be complete. In addition, I hope to add a few more recreated (“lost”) kata of Hanshi Frank Van Lenten’s Goshin-Do Karate- Kyokai. Using rare archival footage of Hanshi Van Lenten, I have been practicing a few of these lost kata, including, but not limited to his variation of the Kusanku kata, Kusanku Sai kata and another sai kata. I’ll also begin preliminary filming of several more videos to augment my well-received “Kata Laboratory” project. Who knows, I may even be able to film a second series in my “On The Road With Kata” video series.

All-in-all, it should be a very productive few days at the Cape.

In the meantime, you may wish to enjoy a few of our kata playlists using the links below:

KATA LAB  Kata Laboratory (see above page tab) playlist – link:

dreams-seisan  Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kata playlist – link:


Hanshi Van Lenten

Recreated “Lost” Kata of Hanshin Frank Van Lenten’s Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kyokai playlist – link:

KATA GLASS  “On The Road With Kata” series – playlist – link:

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy this blog and our videos.



Sensei John Szmitkowski


sunsu-2  For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link

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 –
LOGO-WEBSITE  my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing
DOJO STICKER-1 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at

© Copyright 2015 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Sensei Jeff Tyne Memorial

20 Apr

Heavy rain this morning heralds in this post of the passing of yet another Goshin-Do Karate-Do Yudansha (black belt). Sensei Jeff Tyne passed away on April 11th, 2015. During the camelot years of the Academy Of Goshin-Do Karate, Sensei Tyne, a Ni-Dan operated one of the four dojo teaching Goshin-Do Karate-Do under the leadership of Shihan Thomas DeFelice.

Sensei Jeff Tyne

I first learned of Sensei’s passing shortly after posting the memorial of Shihan Paul Recchia’s passing on April 10th 2003. I waited a week before posting news of Sensei Tyne’s passing out of respect for both he and Shihan Recchia. So now, each year I have another memorial for a fallen Goshin-Do comrade to add.

As the rain pelts the window to my writing room, I look out at the cherry blossom tree in the yard. How strange is my duty? I take great pride in the fact that I am one of the few in Sensei DeFelice’s dojo to have known each and every one his his black belts. Now decades later, my duty is to simply remember them.

And so, here is the first hatsu bon memorial poem for Sensei Tyne, 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.

Hatsu Bon Poem

Please don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am
Nor am I sleeping for eternity
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.

HANKO-master Sensei John Szmitkowski

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.

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