Tag Archives: Kanto Kata

Time Modification Of Kata – Sequence Adaptation – Kanto Kata Example

11 Oct

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Ah, I’ve just returned from a long weekend in Provincetown, Cape Cod. This annual sojourn gives me the time to think. And what better topic to think about than – time. Not the scientific concept of time, but time as it relates to martial arts.

Time is an ignored element of the martial arts. It is almost never considered in kata bunkai (analysis). Whether they realize it or not, most martial artist think in terms of distance as three dimensional. Distance is only defined as a function of the three dimensions of length, width and height. In reality, there is a fourth dimension that mandates exploration – time. Please see the resources in Endnote # 1 for an introductory discussion of this topic.

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).

The following two videos provide two examples.

The first is from the Gekisai kata. In the video the kata sequence whereby an open middle block followed by a front snap kick is manipulated. You can see how time is manipulated to gain an advantage over your opponent. This is commonly referred to as “speed.”

In the second video you see a sequence whereby a reverse punch is followed by a front snap kick; a very common sequence in many kata. In so far as one’s leg is longer than one’s arm, there is a distance problem (see the video). This is overcome by manipulating the timing of the punch and kick as show. Again, while the dimensions of length, width and height traditionally determine range to the target, the fourth dimension of time must be accounted for.

Once you begin to analyze your kata and practice kata with an awareness of time, you may be confronted with kata sequences that are not so readily manipulated. This results in a necessary change to the sequence of the kata to overcome the limits of the time dimension. An example may be found in the Kanto Kata of the Goshin-Do Karate system. (See Endnote # 2 for a video of this unique kata) Kanto translates as “Fighting Spirit.” It was created by Hanshi Frank Van Lenten to illustrate the techniques and ideology of the Goshin-Do Karate style. Within Kanto Kata there are sequences which are difficult, if not impossible, to achieve maximum time efficiency. One such sequence is as follows.

Move # 1: Stepping forward on a forty-five degree angle, a middle block is performed.

Move # 2: The blocking hand then executes a jab to the opponent’s nose.

Move # 3: This is then followed by a reverse punch.

To achieve maximum time efficiency in any kata, a block and a counter should be executed simultaneously. (see Endnote # 3) So in the above sequence, if not for the jab, it would be simple to execute the middle block and reverse punch simultaneously. The jab causes a problem. It is impossible to block and jab with the same hand simultaneously. To be sure, you can perform these two movements as fast as possible, but never at the exact same time. Further, if you perform the middle block and link the jab and reverse punch to hit simultaneously, you have achieved time efficiency with the two counter attacks, but you still have not linked the block and counter as simultaneous. To overcome this problem, you must modify the sequence itself.

You step forward and perform the middle block and reverse punch simultaneously (moves # 1 and # 3), then,

You perform the jab (move # 2)


In modifying the sequence, you will now counter attack as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Thus achieved efficiency in the fourth dimension of time. This concept can readily be applied to your other kata. I’ll soon post an article extending the concept to Seisan Kata.

You should strive to include the fourth dimension of time into your kata bunkai (analysis). I not only do this when I have a partner available to apply my bunkai, I also do this when practicing alone. I perform my kata using the traditional sequences and then perform the kata using the time modified sequences as above. In this manner you are performing bunkai solo while simultaneously performing your kata (more on this at a later time).

If you subscribe to the training maxim that kata is one tool that will help you achieve maximum efficiency in a self defense situation, then you must include this type of practice into you regime.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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1. Use this convenient link for a basic understanding as to how the three dimensions of distance – length, width and height apply to all karate technique and the necessity of understanding the fourth dimension of time –

2. Kanto Kata video

3. Those familiar with the five responses to attack will understand that transitioning from a block followed-up by a counter attack to a block and counter as one movement is a transition from the state of GO NO SEN (after, later-before): block & counter attack to a state of SEN NO TE (before-hand): block and counter attack are in one movement.

Promises, promises, broken promises “. . . That’s OK”

16 Mar

This week’s post is dedicated to my friend “Dean” who had both a set back in chemotherapy and a disappointment.


There are many ways that the Dojo is a microcosm of everyday life. One example may be found in the potential new student that walks into the Dojo. Let’s take a look at two hypothetical new students. With a nod towards one of my favorite childhood magazines, “Highlights Magazine”, let’s call these two potential students “Goofus and Gallant.”

goofus-gallant-1  Goofus. Goofus enters the Dojo excited and vocal in his desire to learn karate. As is my usual procedure, I tell him he must come back in thirty days. He promises to do so. In thirty days he returns and is proud to exclaim:

  • “See I passed the first test;”
  • “I wanted to learn karate all my life, I’ll start the next class, I promise I’ll bring my check;”

Goofus continues,

  • “I promise to attend every class and work hard;”
  • “I promise to listen to everything you say;”
  • “I promise to practice every free minute at home;”
  • “I promise to be your most devoted student.”

goofus and gallant Gallant. Gallant enters the Dojo and simply asks if it would be okay to quietly observe the class. When class is finished, Gallant thanks me and asks if it would be okay to visit again. I tell him, “Yes” and shake his hand.

Based upon my experience, Goofus will join the Dojo and quit in two to three months (definitely after his first bruise, physically or psychologically). Gallant will eventually join the Dojo and become a devoted student.

Similar stories have been told in varied ways (the most popular being the student that will work twice as hard to obtain a black belt; which will take twice as long). I chose the above to illustrate a specific point that fostered disappointment for my friend “Dean”  – The person that promises the most will be the one the does nothing and disappoints the most.


Promises, promises, empty promises “. . . That’s OK” (Online Kata)

As always, you can perform either the Sanchin Kata, my Shibumi Kata or any karate kata. For my karate brethren, the “Kata Sommelier” has a rare recommendation for this session.

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 in the proscribed manner.

Session Parameters:

Date: Starting Monday March 17th, 2014;

Time: Anytime another’s promises exceed their ability to execute them.

Location: Any location;

Salient Points:

  • As you perform your kata rise above the emptiness of the promises made to you;
  • Rely on your own inner strength and “fighting-spirit;”
  • Know that you are a far better person for doing, not for promising and avoiding;
  • In your own mind perform your triumphant kata symbolically “in-the-face” of the one who disappointed you:
  • You are a formidable force – while you welcome the assistance of others, their failure to make good on their promises is of no consequence – you will triumph while the promisor must always bear the knowledge of their failure.

Kata Sommelier: For my karate brethren, I would recommend Kanto, “Fighting Spirit” Kata. Since this kata is very rare, being created by Hanshi Frank Van Lenten to represent his Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kyokai, you may perform any kata within your syllabus with the “Fighting Spirit” of Kanto Kata. Be formidable, unconquerable, you have no need to rely on the empty promises of others; no matter how lofty they tout themselves.

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.” For information on the Zanshin state-of-mind, please use this LINK: https://senseijohn.me/2014/02/23/zanshin-remaining-mind-shibumi-project/

Once again, you may wish to not only perform this “. . . That’s OK” session as scheduled, but may also revisit the session as a regular part of your kata practice.

In closing I remain, doing, not promising,


Sensei John Szmitkowski

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Hatsu Bon For Hanshi Frank Van Lenten

1 Jul

Today marks the three year anniversary of the passing of Hanshi Frank Van Lenten, the founder of the Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kyokai and style of karate-do. Today’s training and the following Hatsu Bon Poem are offered to his spirit. Should today’s readers so desire, please join us and perform a kata of your choice in his memory. May Hanshi’s spirit find our training and poem worthy.

Hanshi Van Lenten

I have reconstructed several of Hanshi Van Lenten’s Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kyokai kata which were lost after he disbanded the kyokai in 1983; links to these kata follow the poem.

Goshin-Do Karate Kyokai patch


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.

Here videos of several of Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kyokai kata unique to Hanshi Van Lenten.

 Kanto  Kanto Kata – created by Hanshi Van Lenten at the request of his various Okinawa Sensei to symbolize his Goshin-Do Karate-Do style. The kata and style were approved by Hanshi’s several Okinawa Sensei as being Okinawa-based.

The following are Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kyokai kata (abandoned when the kyokai was disbanded in 1983) which I recreated using archival text, notes, photos and film also featured in the videos: (See Endnote # 2)

  sunsu-2 Sunsu Kata; Not only does this video feature footage of Hanshi Van Lenten performing his version of this hallmark kata of Isshin-Ryu Krate-Do, it also shows Shimaboku, Tatsuo Sensei’s recognition of Hanshi Van Lenten as a Ju-Dan, 1oth degree black belt. (See Endnote # 1)

  Jion Jion Kata: A very rare version of the traditional kata recreated at Goldfield Ghost Town, Arizona

  Jitte Jitte Kata: A very rare version of the traditional kata recreated at Goldfield Ghost Town, Arizona

Respectfully submitted,


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/

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1. Copy of Shimaboku, Tatsuo-Sensei’s letter to Hanshi Van Lenten as featured in the Sunsu Kata video (link is above).


2. My sincerest thanks to Shihan Thomas DeFelice (Ku-Dan Goshin-Do Karate-Do) for providing the text and photographs of Jion and Jitte Kata, and Hanshi Jerry Thompson (Arts Of Self-Defense), Shihan Ed DiNardo (Hachi-dan, Arts Of Self-Defense, New Jersey and Arizona) and Kyoshi Tom Van Tassel (Nana-Dan, American Center For Martial Arts, New Jersey) for providing the films of Hanshi Van Lenten.

On The Road With Sensei John – Part 4: Western Dojo

9 May

In this final installment of my “On The Road With Sensei John” series, I want to discuss the lessons of the various Dojo I visited while traveling west of the Mississippi River. In accord with my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do, each Dojo visit sets forth a lesson that applies not only to Karate-Do, but also life itself. Once again, while the within article is written in terms of Karate-Do, the concepts and ideas apply to life in general. The following is submitted for the benefit of all travelers of the road of life.

On Sunday, April 18th, the second day of our journey, Chloe and I crossed the mighty Mississippi River. For me, the Mississippi is the line of demarcation between the “citified” east and the wild west. Crossing “Olde Man River” also signifies that I am indeed returning home. On this western leg of our trip, Chloe and I would drive through the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and finally arrive in Arizona. Although we would visit several more “Dojo” along the way, the main focus of this and the next day was to “burn miles”.

The first Dojo that Chloe and I visited was located in Arkansas. I named this Dojo the Rest Area Dojo. It is located at a rest area slightly west of exit number 242 on Interstate Highway 40. We arrived at the Rest Area Dojo in the early afternoon hours. Since we started our day early, both Chloe and I were a bit tired. To refresh ourselves, we spent a half hour taking in the full benefits of this Dojo. The Rest Area Dojo is composed of a beautiful garden and tree filled meadow area. It’s natural beauty was in stark contrast to the mundane blandness of the Interstate. I was overcome by a sense of imagination. It is for this reason that lesson of the Rest Area Dojo is Imagination. Upon entering the Dojo, I was immediately drawn to a tiered entrance to the formal garden area. The entrance was shrouded by a beautiful flowered lattice trellis. I knew that I needed to perform the Sanchin Kata to begin the process of rejuvenating myself. The tiered garden entrance was the perfect location.

The Trellis at The Rest Area Dojo, Arkansas

As I proceeded up the tiered entrance, I performed Sanchin Kata as spontaneously modified by my imagination. I performed one movement of the Kata on each step of the tier. I did not step back as called for in the Sanchin Kata. I performed all six steps of Sanchin moving forward and up the tiers. In this manner, I advanced into the formal garden area. Chloe and I took a few minutes to enjoy seeing and smelling the various indigenous wildflowers. We then walked through the formal garden into a tree-filled meadow. The shade from the trees and the fresh cut grass provided Chloe with a very nice corner to lay down and rest a bit. For me, this was the perfect location to perform the Gojushiho Kata. The Kanji for the Gojushiho Kata is interpreted as Fifty-four Steps.

Kanji For Gojushiho (Kata). The medium is Sumi-e ink on rice paper.

As I performed the Kata, I imagined the fifty four steps as symbolic of the steps that lay ahead of me in my journey home. It was time for Chloe and I to return to the truck. As we did so, we walked down a slight hill. I was filled with another burst of imagination which manifested a desire to perform a modified Seienchin Kata up the hill. The Kanji for the Seienchin Kata is commonly interpreted as “Calm in the Storm; Storm in the Calm.”

Kanji for Seienchin (Kata). The medium is Sumi-e ink on rice paper.

There is also a less common interpretation of the Kanji which is “To Walk Far To Quell And Conquer.” Many years ago, I sought to capture this interpretation of Seienchin. To do so, I modified and elongated the performance of the Kata. At the Rest Area Dojo, I started my elongated Seienchin Kata at the bottom of the hill. During the performance of my version of the Kata, I worked my way up and down the hill (See Endnote # 1).

The Seienchin Hill at The Rest Area Dojo, Arkansas

Seienchin Kata completed, Chloe and I were once again ready “To Drive Far To Arrive Home And Relax.” We continued to burn the miles and concluded our day in Shawnee, Oklahoma (just east of Oklahoma City). I prefer to end my final day on the road with as short a drive as possible. Tomorrow would be our last full day on the road. So, tomorrow Chloe and I would once again start out early and really have to pound the pavement.

Chloe and I woke early Monday, April 19th and were driving west by 5:00 am. After driving a few hours, we arrived in the state of Texas. As the saying goes, “Every thing is bigger in Texas“; even the Dojo. I had intended to visit another favorite Dojo called the Big Texan Dojo located in Amarillo, Texas. Chloe and I arrived in Amarillo around three o’clock in the afternoon. I knew that we still had a few hundred miles to drive this day. I therefore decided to cancel my planned visit to the Big Texan Dojo (See Endnote 2). Within no time at all (basically we drove an hour but we gained an hour crossing time zones) , Chloe and I were in the State of New Mexico. We soon arrived at another Dojo located in Tucumcari. Even though we still had many miles to drive, we needed to stop at this Dojo for gasoline. This Dojo is the only franchise-type Dojo that I regularly visit on my road trips. During this trip, Chloe and I already visited this franchise Dojo four times. I call this franchised Dojo the Flying-J Dojo. We had already visited the local Flying-J Dojo in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas. The Flying-J Dojo is located in the Flying-J Truck Stops.

Standard insignia and lawn of the Flying-J Dojo. This one is in Tucumcari, NM.

Since the Flying-J Dojo is located in almost every state we traveled in, it is readily available for training. The lesson of the Flying-J Dojo is Opportunity (in training and in life). The Dojo not only has training “facilities“, but a well stocked store with everything a traveler could need and very clean restrooms. The Flying-J Dojo is not a Dojo were one lingers. Rather, one does what one has to and moves on down the road. Training at the Flying-J Dojo is minimalist and follows a very well scripted routine designed to facilitate the process of getting back on the road. The training process, almost without modification, is as follows. One pulls adjacent to an available gas pump and begins the task of selecting and pumping the appropriate gas into your vehicle’s tank. As one does this, one performs Sanchin Kata. When Sanchin is complete and the gas tank full, one drives to an available parking space adjacent to the standard lawn found at every Flying-J Dojo. One enters the Flying-J Travel Center, answers the “call of nature” and procures all needed supplies. Upon concluding business at the Travel Center, one utilizes the lawn to perform any number of Kata. As is the case with any franchised Dojo, the training time at the Flying-J Dojo is strictly monitored. Training is concluded in about fifteen minutes and one is again on the road. Training at the Flying-J Dojo isn’t pretty, but it is training nonetheless. The key is to take the opportunity to train, and thereby better yourself, when and wherever it presents itself. Remember this lesson each and every day, look for opportunity to better yourself at every available moment.

Chloe and I ended our last full day on the road in Holbrook, Arizona. We had driven over nine hundred miles and again gained another hour of time. We arrived at our hotel just slightly before sunset. Our last night was one wherein we would be blanketed in the comfort of being home early the next morning. After checking in, I took Chloe for her nightly walk. I also performed my final training session during this road trip. The training at this Holbrook Dojo is best characterized by one of Comfort. On this night, my personal comfort was derived from knowing that the past three months were filled with seeing family, financially fulfilling work, comradeship of seeing my Karate-Do brethren and finally knowing that tomorrow’s dawn would signify my return home. Similar to when one eats so called comfort-food to symbolically wrap themselves in a warm, cozy emotional blanket, I decided to perform the “Comfort-Kata” of Goshin-Do Karate-Do. The Comfort-Kata are those Kata that represent historical significance to the Goshin-Do Karate-Do style. These Comfort Kata define who we, as Goshin-Do Karate-Ka (practitioners), are. These Kata provide comfort to Goshin-Do Karate-Ka by defining the specific branch of the Goshin-Do Karate-Do family tree to which they belong. The Comfort-Kata are unique to noteworthy Sensei of Goshin-Do Karate-Do (See Endnote # 3).

Holbrook, AZ Dojo located in the rear of our motel.

The Comfort-Kata were completed, memories rekindled and spirits comforted with the road traveled thus far and the road yet ahead. Chloe and I prepared for bed and closed our eyes with dreams of San Tan Valley, Arizona dancing in our head. Our road journey ended Tuesday, April 18th at 9:30 am when, at long last, we arrived home. What happens next shall remain for another day.

The road journey was over. Each Dojo visited enlightened me to a valued life lesson: spontaneity, self-discipline, inspiration, imagination, opportunity and comfort. Lessons relearned, life’s journey continues. Each journey is but a path. An integral component of life’s path is that the ability to learn abounds. I hope you enjoy the lessons learned on my road trip.

For a video on Kata in nature, here is a link to an introductory video about my Sanchin Kata video series filmed at the Lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest. Arizona. Please e-mail me or contact me via this blog to purchase the video series. LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyaHCp2EoUk

Until the next article, I remain a journeyman honored to learn as I travel on the road of life.

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do




1. For readers familiar with the Seienchin Kata, the Seienchin that I teach as a Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kata remains unchanged. In so far as any reader that knows the Kata may wish to try my modification intended to symbolize the interpretation of “To Walk Far To Quell And Conquer”, it is as follows. The performance of the three opening movements of the Kata, which are performed in a side stance, is tripled. Thus, instead of performing three side stance movements, one would perform nine. So as to achieve positional coincidence, the two movements wherein you perform an “archers” block in a side stance is also tripled. Therefore instead of performing two archers blocks, you perform six. For me and subsequently my students, this modified performance of the Seienchin Kata breathed life into the ideology, “To Walk Far To Quell And Conquer.”

2. The Big Texan Dojo is located at the Big Texan Steakhouse located in Amarillo, Texas. From a culinary standpoint, it is infamous for its offer of a “FREE” 72 ounce steak dinner. This offer is advertised on billboards as far away from Amarillo as four hundred miles. In order to get the free steak dinner, you must eat the 72 ounce steak and all accouterments, including a baked potato, dinner roll, soda, shrimp cocktail, all within an hour. If you don’t complete the task, then you pay for the dinner. My culinary preference at this Dojo is a truly delicious hamburger made from Buffalo meat and a dish known as “Rocky Mountain Oysters”, deep fried bull testicles (they taste like good quality veal and really are delicious). The Big Texan Dojo, like Smiley’s Dojo is one of self-discipline. Owing to the fact that Chloe and I needed to get closer to home, we bypassed this Dojo.

3. The Comfort Kata, and the distinctive individuals they represent are:

Kanto Kata: Kanto Kata was developed by Shihan Frank Van Lenten, at the request of his primary instructors, to represent of Goshin-Do Karate-Do as a distinct style of Okinawa Karate-Do. Thus is symbolizes the trunk of the Goshin-Do Karate-Do family tree;

Ten-Ni-No Kata and Chi-Ni-No Kata: These two Kata were added to the Goshin-Do Karate-Do style by Shihan Thomas DeFelice. They are unique to students that studied Goshin-Do directly under Shihan DeFelice. Thus, they symbolize a branch growing from the Goshin-Do tree trunk, and;

Chin-retsu Kata,alternately named Nami-Kiribi Kata: This Kata was developed by me as a requirement for Yon-Dan, 4th degree Black Belt. It is a senior Black Belt Kata. As such, I have taught this rare Kata to only four other individuals that have studied directly under me. It is emblematic of a blossom born of Sensei DeFelice’s branch of the Goshin-Do family tree.

For more on either Sanchin Kata as meditation or my new book on Sanchin Kata, please feel free to visit the “Sanchin Book” page of this Blogsite, or my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com. For more information on my ideology and methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do, please review the articles herein filed in the category “Kata as enlightened meditation“.

For a complete directory of the Kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do, please see the Mokuroku No Kata Category.

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