Tag Archives: Academy of Goshin-Do Karate

Hatsu Bon For Sensei Nick D’Antuono

11 Sep

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

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

 

HATSU BON POEM

Please don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am
Nor am I sleeping for eternity
SEE!!
I am already part of the breezes
numbering a thousand
I am part of the light
that brightens this world
Like a diamond glittering in the snow
Like the sun that coaxes seeds to sprout
And in the Fall I become the gentle rain
that nurtures all.
When you open the window in the morning
I am the breeze
That causes your hair to flutter;
And at night, I am the star
That watches over your sleep.
So, please . . . don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am.
I am not dead.
I have been born anew.

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

Sincerity in sweat, rest in peace, Sensei.

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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

Origins Of My 1 Day / 1 Lifetime Kata – Killing Time On A Saturday

24 Jul

   At a recent Kata-RX For Wellness & Mindfulness seminar I was asked where I got the inspiration to create my 1 Day / 1 Lifetime Kata.© I answered that there were many sources, but the root source occurred about forty-seven years ago. More specifically, it was during the last fifteen minutes of Saturday morning karate classes. What do I mean? Well, lets take a trip down kata memory lane.

But first, let’s look at a sneak peak of my unique, groundbreaking kata, filmed on a beautiful summer day in Asbury Park, NJ:

   Forty-seven years ago I was well into my first year at Sensei Tom DeFelice’s Academy Of Goshin-Do Karate in Palisades Park, New Jersey.

At ten years old I was enrolled in the “Junior Division” for students under eighteen years old. The chief instructor of the junior division was Sensei Nick D’Antuono, one of Sensei DeFelice’s senior black belts.

Sensei Nick, myself, Shihan Don Nagle, Circa: 1975

The last class of the week was the Saturday morning class. The last fifteen minutes of this class subconsciously molded my views on kata. A bit of kata background.

The first kata a student learns is the Taikiyoku Kata. The word “Taikiyoku” translates as “To build the body (Tai) and the spirit (Ki).” The kata is a series of three numbered kata. The series involves a simple sequence of one of three blocks with a counter punch. The three different kata interchanged the three basic blocks of the Goshin-Do Karate style. Thus, Taikiyoku number 1 (or Taikiyoku Sho-dan) incorporated the low block. Taikiyoku number two (Nidan) utilized the middle block and Taikiyoku number three (Sandan) incorporated the high block. The pattern of the kata traces the letter “I” on the floor.

The last fifteen minutes of the Saturday morning class, we, as a group, would perform the three Taikiyoku Kata as Sensei Nick called out the cadence. This usually took about five minutes. In the ten remaining minutes, Sensei Nick would then call out differing numbers of Taikiyoku to perform. For example, Sensei might say, “next Taikiyoku number thirty-eight.” One of us would raise our hand asking, “Which one is that Sensei?” Sensei would reply, “That’s with a open parry block and a hammer-fist strike.” We would perform the kata using the same basic “I” pattern simply substituting the dictated block and counter. In this manner, we would do various versions of the Taikiyoku, each with a made-up number, until class ended. There was a simple practical reason for the Taikiyoku variations. Little did Sensei Nick know the full impact of this practicality.

As I advanced to the Dai-Sempai (“Oldest Brother”), the highest ranking student in the junior division, I began to help Sensei Nick teach the Saturday morning beginner’s class. I asked them about the tradition of Taikiyoku Kata during the last fifteen minutes of the class. The answer I received was mundane. Its impact was profound.

First, the mundane. The Saturday morning class was the last class for the week. Sensei Nick worked full time during the week and taught karate part time. So, the Saturday morning class was his last “official” work related function before he could enjoy his weekend. As I soon learned by assisting him, the last fifteen minutes of a class were the most difficult. In so far as the pleasures of the weekend lay immediately ahead they tended to drag out. Sensei Nick used the Taikiyoku variations to basically kill those last fifteen minutes. He would simply make up a combination of a block and a counter strike, give it a number, et voila, time would fly by. The kata were simply created in the mind of Sensei.

Now, the profound. This simple little exercise to kill time opened students imagination. For me it expanded my thoughts and conceptions about kata. It ultimately led me to “Think-Sweat & Experiment” ™ fully with kata. The penultimate result of this process being my 1 Day / 1 Lifetime Kata which you can learn online.

So, I guess you can say that it was the need for Sensei Nick to kill the last fifteen minutes of Saturday morning classes that was the catalyst to my creation. Like lightening for Doctor Frankenstein, it that lit the spark for my quest to explore kata and create a kata for you, the non-martial artist that desires the mind-body benefits of kata.

Here is a little preview of the first course which teaches the core physical movements and internal processes of the kata.

You can use this link to view the full curriculum and click the “enroll” button if you would like to start your class. https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation

See you in class,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Hatsu Bon For Shihan Wayne Norlander

15 May

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

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

Each year I post a Hatsu Bon in his honor and dedicate my kata to his eternal spirit. Please join me in dedicating our training on May 18th 2016 to his eternal spirit. May his spirit find our training and poem worthy.

Shihan Wayne Norlander with friend & comrade, Shihan Peter Urban, circa 1970’s, West New York, NJ

HATSU BON POEM

Please don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am
Nor am I sleeping for eternity
SEE!!
I am already part of the breezes
numbering a thousand
I am part of the light
that brightens this world
Like a diamond glittering in the snow
Like the sun that coaxes seeds to sprout
And in the Fall I become the gentle rain
that nurtures all.
When you open the window in the morning
I am the breeze
That causes your hair to flutter;
And at night, I am the star
That watches over your sleep.
So, please . . . don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am.
I am not dead.
I have been born anew.

With Shihan Norlander, Ku-dan, Menkyo Kaiden, USA Goshin-Ryu Karate-Do, at his Bogota, NJ dojo.

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

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

My graveside Sanchin memorial to Sensei Wayne:

Sincerity in sweat, Sensei.
Sensei John Szmitkowski

©Copyright 2019 Sensei John Szmitkowski and Issho Productions

The Kunchaba Kata Sensei Wayne shared with me:

Hatsu Bon For Shihan Paul Recchia

10 Apr

April 10th, 2019 marks the sixteenth anniversary of the passing of Sensei Paul Recchia. Please join me in performing a kata at sunset on this date in memory of Sensei Paul and all whom we have lost. The following Hatsu Bon Poem, together with the above training, are offered to his spirit.
May Sensei’s spirit find our training and poem worthy.

Sensei Paul Recchia at age 60 years old. Circa 1975.

HATSU BON POEM

Please don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am
Nor am I sleeping for eternity
SEE!!
I am already part of the breezes
numbering a thousand
I am part of the light
that brightens this world
Like a diamond glittering in the snow
Like the sun that coaxes seeds to sprout
And in the Fall I become the gentle rain
that nurtures all.
When you open the window in the morning
I am the breeze
That causes your hair to flutter;
And at night, I am the star
That watches over your sleep.
So, please . . . don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am.
I am not dead.
I have been born anew.

The last time Sensei Paul (in wheelchair) was at the Issho Dojo (January, 2000) with (L-R), Sensei Walter Byrne, Sensei Kim Szmitkowski, Sensei John Szmitkowski, Sensei Jimmy DiMicelli, Sensei Bobbie Gumowski. I will never forget that this was the first time in almost eighteen months that Sensei Paul, confined to his in home hospital bed, left the comfort of his home to honor all who were elevated that day in the black belt promotion ceremony.

Sincerity in sweat, you are not forgotten, Sensei.

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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

Hatsu Bon For Sensei Jeff Tyne

6 Apr

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

Hatsu Bon Poem

Please don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am
Nor am I sleeping for eternity
SEE!!
I am already part of the breezes
numbering a thousand
I am part of the light
that brightens this world
Like a diamond glittering in the snow
Like the sun that coaxes seeds to sprout
And in the Fall I become the gentle rain
that nurtures all.
When you open the window in the morning
I am the breeze
That causes your hair to flutter;
And at night, I am the star
That watches over your sleep.
So, please . . . don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am.
I am not dead.
I have been born anew.

Sincerity in sweat, Sensei.

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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

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

Do Away With Kata Formalities – Part 2: Not Quite

13 Mar

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

Do away with kata formalities – Part 2: Not Quite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

      

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

 For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory and “THINK * SWEAT * EXPERIMENT” using this convenient link: https://senseijohn.me/kata-lab/

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

Do Away With Kata Formalities – Part 1

20 Feb

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.

%d bloggers like this: