Tag Archives: Jiriki Kata-Do

Kata – A Perfect Summer Souvenir

21 Jun

Ah, summer is here!

A time when many of us travel. Whether we journey to an exotic location for an extended stay, simply indulge ourselves in a long weekend, or take the refreshing day trip, a hallmark of summer is travel. In an effort to preserve our experiences, such travel usually involves the ritual of obtaining souvenirs. Here is a simple way to collect a souvenir for no financial cost; the sole cost may be expressed in terms of a little sweat.

Seienchin Kata, Badlands, SD, Circa 2004 – Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Since I was first introduced to the concept at ten years old by Sensei Nock D’Antuono, I have always enjoyed performing kata outdoors in any location. I can unabashedly admit that I prefer to perform kata in the magnificence of Nature’s Dojo instead of the relative sterility of a traditional dojo. To be sure, the traditional dojo carries an aura and mystique for me, but, I carry such a dojo in my heart and prefer to exhibit it in nature.

Tensho Kata practice, Cape Cod, MA, circa, 1999

For decades, I have collected kata souvenirs of my many travels. Much like looking through a photo album, I am able to revisit my travels by recalling them while performing my kata. Regardless of my present location, I can perform a kata and recall a memory of performing the kata at a different time and in a different place.

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

Here is a video of my most last kata souvenir filmed in 2014 amongst the wild horse herd at the Lower Salt River in the Tonto National Forest, Arizona.

Here are a few tips to assist you in collecting your own kata souvenirs.

  • Wherever you travel perform your kata. For those readers that acquainted themselves with Sanchin Kata, perform Sanchin. (You may use this convenient link to acquaint yourself with Sanchin Kata https://senseijohn.me/sanchin-book/ ) Karate practitioners, please see the recommendations of the the “Kata Sommelier” below);
  • During your performance note the experience of your surroundings, what are the sights and smells? If barefoot, how does the ground feel (is it sandy, rocky, watery, etc). Pay attention to the weather conditions; was it hot, sunny, cold, rainy?
  • Remember the time of day of your performance; sunrise, midday, sunset, etc. Take notes of your experiences before and after the kata performance so that they will be associated with the kata;
  • If you are with someone, recall their presence during your kata;
  • If possible, to assist you, take a photo of a pose from your kata, video record the performance or simply jot down a few notes for future reference;
  • Remember that you interact with the environment during your kata performance, therefore, you leave a part of you in the environment. Thus, a part of you will always remain “on vacation” at that location.
  • Kata Sommelier: For my karate colleagues I would recommend that you perform a different kata at each of the various locations you visit this summer. This way a specific kata will be associated with a specific location, thus giving you a lasting “souvenir.”

Sanchin at the Lower Salt River, AZ

Good luck and have a great summer collecting Kata souvenirs!

Here is a video of my Shobu Sanchin Kata while being watched by vultures.

In closing, I remain collecting my kata summer souvenirs.

Sensei John Szmitkowski

     For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory using this convenient link: https://senseijohn.me/category/kata-laboratory/
  Sensei John is available his Kata Laboratory seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/

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

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

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

The Mountain Path – Part 3: The Journey Down

26 Apr

“Many paths lead from the foot of the mountain, but at the peak we all gaze at the single bright moon.” (See endnote number 1)

A few articles back, I started an examination of the three stages of the path up the mountain. Stage one; The path Up The Mountain (https://senseijohn.me/2017/03/01/the-mountain-path-part-1-the-path-up/ ) and stage two: The View At The Top ( https://senseijohn.me/2017/03/15/the-mountain-path-part-2-the-view-at-the-top/ ).

Like all journeys, this examination will end. It is time to look at the path down the mountain. No one contemplating Ikkyu’s saying really thinks about the path down. The path down is almost an afterthought. Except for true mountaineers, as evidenced from this excerpt from Jon Krakauer’s great book, Into Thin Air:

Reaching the top of Everest is supposed to trigger a surge of intense elation. . . But the summit was really the halfway point. Any impulse I had toward self-congratulation was extinguished by overwhelming apprehension about the long, dangerous descent that lay ahead. (See Endnote # 2)

I was also guilty of that omission. It was not until a many years ago when I re-read Albert Camus’ Myth Of Sisyphus, that the idea even dawned upon me. Sisyphus was the Greek Titan that defeated death. In punishment for his impudence, for all eternity Sisyphus was sentenced to roll a stone up a mountain. Upon reaching the top, the stone would only fall back again. In analyzing the ordeal of Sisyphus, Camus noted:

. . . then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward the lower world when he will have to push it up again toward the summit.
He goes back down to the plain.
It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me.
That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious.
One must imagine Sisyphus is happy. (See Endnote # 3)

It is that passage that first gave me pause to think about the journey down the mountain inferred in Ikkyu’s quote. What can we learn from the path down the mountain? How is it characterized?

Here are my thoughts as to the characteristics of the path down the mountain:

  • Zanshin – The martial state of mind of Zanshin (the remaining mind) plays an important role in this part of the journey. Having endured the path up the mountain and achieved the goal at the top, the journeyman must keep the intangible aspects of the goal with him throughout his days. He must draw upon it in times of need. He can use to to enrich the good times. He must never forget the experience.
  • Responsibility – This is the objective manifestation of the subjective Zanshin. Having achieved the goal, the journeyman agrees to bear the burden of the successful journey. As the journeyman is better for having achieved his results, he must conduct himself in accord with that betterment at all times. For example, one may have endured the path of attaining a black belt, and subsequently achieved the goal. From that day forward, regardless of whether training in the martial arts continues, one must always conduct oneself as a black belt.
  • Moving on the path (the next mountain) – this aspect is very important. One must eventually move on to the next mountain. A failure to do so will result in stagnation. Given the conquering of the previous mountain, I submit that the next mountain will always be a more difficult mountain. If not, it would seem to be a waste of effort to climb a lesser mountain. To climb a lesser mountain falls into a human pitfall described by the philosopher Frederick Nietzsche: “Our vanity would like what we do best to pass precisely for what is most difficult to us.” (See Endnote # 4)
  • Symbols and/or Entitlements – having achieved the goal, one may be entitled to distinguish oneself from those that did not by way of a symbol or entitlement. These aspects, in my opinion, are somewhat superfluous and superficial but are present nonetheless. Examples include wearing the black belt, or a college degree, a title, etc. As to entitlements I recently saw an interesting entitlement. I was watching coverage of the 2017 Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka, Japan. The coverage included a mini-documentary of newly promoted Yokozuna Kisenosato. Having attained Yokozuna status, Kisenosato is the first to eat at his training center. He eats alone and when finished the remaining wrestlers can then eat in accord to their rank. Simply put, “The pilgrim wants confirmation.” (see Endnote # 5).

With that, I’m going to move onto my next mountain. I’m sure over time I’ll have some new thoughts and ideas on this topic, but for now there’s a new mountain waiting.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

ENDNOTES:
1. Though not referenced as a source of the quote at the time, the quote seems to come from the Zen-master Ikkyū (1394-1481). It is; however, also found in other sources and contexts. Two examples are:

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same”, a Chinese proverb, and

“There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.” A Hindu proverb.

2. Krakauer, John, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account Of The Mount Everest Disaster, (Anchor Books, New York, NY, 1997) p. 332 (last paragraph in Chapter Thirteen). Please note, page references are to my the E-book which has adjustable type and may be different depending on the setting, thus they and may not be exact. Please see the Chapter reference in the body of this article.

3. Camus, Albert, The Myth Of Sisyphus And Other Essays, (Translated By Justin O’Brien) E-Book. p 121-124.

4. Nietzsche, Frederich, Beyond Good and Evil, Maxims and Interludes, Maxim # 143.

5. This quote is from another book I highly recommend by Jack Hitt, Off The Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down The Pilgrim’s Route Into Spain (Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 1994 & 2005) Chapter Eleven, page 733. Please note, page references are to my the E-book which has adjustable type and may be different depending on the setting, thus they and may not be exact.

   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 2017 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

Hatsu Bon For Shihan Paul Recchia

28 Mar

April 10th, 2017 marks the anniversary of the passing of Sensei Paul Recchia. You may review his memorial here https://senseijohn.me/memorial-page/

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

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.

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

      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 2017 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

The Mountain Path – Part 2: The View At The Top

15 Mar

“Many paths lead from the foot of the mountain, but at the peak we all gaze at the single bright moon.” (See endnote number 1)

Let us continue our examination of the three stages of the path up the mountain (https://senseijohn.me/2017/03/01/the-mountain-path-part-1-the-path-up/). Let’s look at the view from the top of the mountain. I characterize the view as the goal. It is why one would undertake the arduous trek up the mountain. It is the raison d’etre.

What then is the goal? Before attempting to define the goal, it is important to understand some of its fundamental elements. This analysis will apply to any goal. I submit the goal, or view at the top of the mountain is (must be):

  • Desirable;
  • Worthy of our effort;
  • Attainable – this is to say that only the effort to obtain the goal can be quantified. The goal itself can never be impossible. I wonder, though, if the goal can be temporally improbable (such as landing a man on the moon)?
  • Sustainable – once obtained, the resulting goal, or the memory of it, must remain with you,
  • Subject to a “condemnation” for failing – even if only subjective, there must be a form of castigation for not attaining the goal,
  • Best if the goal is subjectively imposed – “I want to” (e.g. go to college) than objectively imposed “You will” (e.g. go to college);
  • Standard to attain the goal my be subjective – (improve my mental well-being) or objective (I lost weight),

With these points in mind, what then is the goal? The specific goal is best determined by the person undertaking the path. To illustrate this point, lets look at the karate-do example of Ikkyu’s saying. When used to illustrtate the idea that regardless of the style of karate studied, the goal of study is the same, the only person who can answer “What is the goal?” is the student himself. Sensei can only provide guidance as to possible answers, to protect oneself, to develop a strong spirit, to have good physical health, and the like. As such, Ikkyu’s saying merely provides a visulaization for the student that allows him or herself to fill in the answer.

A corrolary to the above is that the goal may be temporary. Goals change over time. In the karate example, a student may start with the goal of learning self-defense. After time, this may transform to a goal of deeper spiritual and empotional understanding. Using the goal of a college degree, as a second example, we may see that the attainment of a degree is the goal until attained. Then, what becomes of the goal? It morphs into a new goal. Having a college degree may mean earning more money, for others it may mean starting a business, or even having a more fulfilling job.

Perhaps, the true nature of the goal is, in the end, to simply keep you on the path, constantly climbing the mountain. I think that once all our goals are attained, we simply would cease to be. To borrow a quote for a certain American motorcycle manufacturer, “Its not the destination but the journey.”

In the last part of this series, we’ll explore the path down the mountain, perhaps the most treacherous path of all. Until then, enjoy the view of the moon.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

ENDNOTES

1. Though not referenced as a source of the quote at the time, the quote seems to come from the Zen-master Ikkyū (1394-1481). It is; however, also found in other sources and contexts. Two examples are:

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same”, a Chinese proverb, and

“There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.” A Hindu proverb.

    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 2017 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

Inauguration Day – That’s “OK”

18 Jan

Welcome to the first OK (Online Kata) cyber group session of the New Year!

January 20th, 2017, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the forty-fifth President Of The United States Of America. For some it is a cause of concern warranting protest. For others, it is a cause of celebration. I submit we should all catch our breath and do neither. We should simply let the ceremony take place.

There is no motive to protest the swearing in. First is the election itself. The people of this country have spoken via the election process. That must be respected. As to any actions warranting protest or celebration, to date, all the President-elect has “accomplished” is hypothetical. True, a cabinet was appointed; however, many of the key positions require confirmation. Additionally, no policy has been set requiring a protest. Until such a time as a situation arises where action, non-action or policy demands protest, then conserve your energy. When an action calls for celebration, then do so. See Endnote # 1)

To symbolize our need to simply catch our breath during the inauguration and to conserve our energy (physical and mental), I offer this “Inauguration Day – That’s OK” (Online Kata) session. What better way to catch your breath than with Sanchin Kata?

Kanji (Japanese calligraphy) for "Sanchin" - Three Battles - or - Three Aspects of Life

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

 

Those unfamiliar with Sanchin can acquaint themselves with the kata by clicking this link to access free text and videos. https://senseijohn.me/sanchin-book/

Alternatively, those unfamiliar with Sanchin may perform another type of mediative endeavor, such as Zazen (seated mediation), Yoga, or simply contemplate the ceremony in a relaxed atmosphere.

Remember, the group dynamic is not fulfilled by all of us being geographically present, rather, it is fulfilled by each of us performing our kata within the online kata session parameters.

Session Parameters:
Date: January 20th 2017
Time: during the swearing-in ceremony
Location: a quiet location would do best
Salient Points: see above discussion.

The last requirement of this “. . . That’s OK” session is to remain in a positive physical, emotional and mental state throughout the day by way of the concept of “Zanshin” (the “remaining mind.”)

One final thought – – – –

Sanchin Kata in the snow, Hasbrouck Heights, NJ, Winter, 2012

Sanchin Kata in the snow, Hasbrouck Heights, NJ, Winter, 2012

Respectfully submitted,

HANKO-master

Sensei John Szmitkowski

This week’s featured video: Sanchin Kata (Shobu (combat) version) with Vultures:

Endnotes:

1. It is true that both the Senate and the House have, as of this writing, without first having a replacement plan, have taken drastic initial steps with regards to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act; however, these actions are not actions of the President-elect. If you disagree with this attend a rally, as in the case of the nationwide #FirstStand rallies sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders or vontact your State legislators in this regard. For purposes of this article, it is his actions or inactions that warrant Presidential-protest. The ball is in his court and time is running out, after he is sworn in, it is, as in popular jargon, “on him.”

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: https://senseijohn.me/kata-lab/

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

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 to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
DOJO STICKER-1 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

Merry Christmas 2016

5 Dec

Merry Christmas 2016

invincible summer

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

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

I remain,

HANKO-master

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Featured Video:

snowflake  To all my readers who have acquainted themselves with Sanchin Kata & my karate-do comrades. You are cordially invited to join me in a cyber-group Christmas Sanchin Kata session. Let us all perform Sanchin Kata prior to retiring for the night and Christmas Eve and also perform Sanchin Kata again as our first act on Christmas morning.

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: https://senseijohn.me/kata-lab/

© Copyright 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.

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