Tag Archives: Karate

FREE Online Kata Lab Course

3 Jun

Donations Welcome!

If you enjoy my FREE Kata Lab experience, please consider a small donation to help defray costs. Thank-you & remember to THINK – SWEAT – Experiment with your Kata.

$20.00

FREE Online Kata Lab Mini Course is now open! Enroll for FREE, learn in your home, at your pace using this convenient link: https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/course-1-kata-laboratory-introduction

This in-depth FREE Kata Lab course analyzes your Kata from the standpoint of “Time As A 4th Dimension Of Distance.” Using three analytical tools, Sensei John shows you how understand that as your physical speed diminishes with age, you can become quicker through a deep understanding of efficient use of time. All found within your Kata! Understand how time affects distance through the lens of Kata’s
– interim movements;
– sequence analysis, and;
– rhythmic analysis.

Enroll for FREE, learn in your home, at your pace using this convenient link: https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/course-1-kata-laboratory-introduction

Martial mythology contains tales of the “old masters” who seemingly without moving can defeat an aggressor. Now you can grasp how they simply understood the efficient use of time to offset the dilatory physical effects of age.

There’s nothing to loose and 100% satisfaction guaranteed.
How? It’s FREE!
Why? Sensei John is so certain you will not have analyzed your kata from the standpoint of time and the such an examination will be a catalyst for more Kata Lab experimentation, that after you finish the course you will want to make a small donation. If not that’s okay, the knowledge Sensei passes along, it, ultimately FREE. Learn at your own pace in the comfort of your own home.

        Enroll for FREE, learn in your home, at your pace using this convenient link: https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/course-1-kata-laboratory-introduction


Sensei John Szmitkowski

         you may also enjoy Sensei John’s other FREE online course Kata-RX For Wellness & Mindfulness, please use this secure link to enroll for FREE: https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/core-kata-course

The (Un)Blink Of An Eye

18 Aug

A short submission (you can read it in the blink of an eye), for your contemplation –

During the civil wars in feudal Japan, an invading army would quickly sweep into a town and take control. In one particular village, everyone fled just before the army arrived – everyone except the Zen master. Curious about this old fellow, the general went to the temple to see for himself what kind of man this master was. When he wasn’t treated with the deference and submissiveness to which he was accustomed, the general burst into anger.“You fool,” he shouted as he reached for his sword, “don’t you realize you are standing before a man who could run you through without blinking an eye!” But despite the threat, the master seemed unmoved.“And do you realize,” the master replied calmly, “that you are standing before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?”

I hope you enjoyed this martial arts tale, respectfully,

HANKO

Sensei John Szmitkowski

  CIMG3583  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/category/kata-laboratory/

Ringwood Manor, 2012  For details on how to “cyber-participate” in Sensei John’s most recent group Sanchin Kata session, please use this link: https://senseijohn.me/category/a-sanchin-pilgrimage/

NOW AVAILABLE – SANCHIN VIDEO SERIES designed specifically for the NON-MARTIAL ARTIST who desires to learn & unlock the secret treasure of Sanchin. Here is a convenient link a promotional video about the Sanchin DVD filmed on location at various scenic locations throughout Arizona. LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE

** If you experience any difficulty in purchasing online using the above links, please contact me via a “comment” on this blog & I will e-mail you instructions on how to purchase a Sanchin product using a check or money order ***

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 – the Goshin-Do Karate blog at WWW.DeFeliceRyu.Com and this one dedicated to the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fly-fishing and fishing in general WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com

Kata Lab Central Theme: Three States Of Bunkai

20 May

KATA LAB

Master, their meaning is hard for me.” 

And he to me, as one who understands, 
“Here, let all fear be left behind, let all cowardice be dead . . .”
“We have come to the place I have told you . . . “
And when he had placed his hand on mine,
With a look from which I took comfort,
He lead me amongst 
the secret things – 
(Citation, see Endnote # 1)

secret-1

With the above quote, the poet Virgil led Dante Aligheri through the portal to Hell. I thought it a fitting way to introduce the overriding theme of my Kata Laboratory where I will guide you amongst the “secret things” of kata.©

Background:

After almost four and a half decades of the study of karate-do, it is my firm belief that kata exists in and are performed in three defined states, namely a physical state, a spiritual state (which includes state-of-mind, emotions, psychological factors) and an environmental state (the manner in which the external environment affects kata and vice-versa).
For many martial artists, this simple concept will be difficult to understand. Even more difficult is my proposal that given that kata embraces the three above states, bunkai, the analysis of kata, must also include these states. I designed my Kata Laboratory to provide you with specific training tools and techniques to enhance your kata experience. My Kata Laboratory is not style specific. Thus my methods include any and all kata from any style of karate-do or martial arts other than karate-do. Allow me to begin by guiding you through the three states of kata.(See Endnote # 2 for an important caveat). Historically, the term kata has been amorphously defined. I submit that a full understanding of kata is achieved not by attempting to define kata, but by first simply parsing kata into its most fundamental elements and second, regrouping the fundamental elements into the larger states of kata. On an elemental level, the two elements of kihon (basic techniques) and the two elements of zazen (seated meditation) combine to form the three elements of kata.

KIHON  elements +   ZAZEN elements  =   KATA elements

KIHON  elements           + ZAZEN  elements          =     KATA elements
Breathing Breathing Breathing
Bodily Movement N/A (see Endnote # 3) Bodily Movement
N/A (see Endnote # 4) State-Of-Mind State-Of-Mind

Thus, on an elemental level, kata is moving meditation. Combining the fundamental elements so as to form a larger, systemic expression of kata, we find that kata contains a physical state (breathing and bodily movement) and a spiritual state (see Endnote # 5 for examples). These two states express kata as it is contained WITHIN the individual performer. It is fundamental fact that the kata performer does not perform kata in a vacuum. Kata is performed in an external environment (parenthetically I note it is unfortunate that the majority of practitioners perform kata exclusively in the sterile environment of an enclosed Dojo. Hint: Get out into nature!) Thus, the performer interacts, connects and synchronizes with the external environment during the performance of kata. Therefore, kata exists in two states internal to the performer and one state external to the performer. I call this third state the metaphysical state. These states are derived from the three basic elements of our existence. By extension, these three states are not only present in each and every kata, they are present in each and every human activity. I call my ideology that kata exists in the three aforementioned omnipresent states “Jiriki Kata-Do” (The way of attaining salvation from within oneself using kata). As the three states are readily apparent in the kata Sanchin, that kata is the cornerstone to the ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do. The physical state of kata has been analyzed, ad infinitum (and I submit ad nauseam). Such widespread analysis looks only at the “practical self-defense application” of kata. Each and every individual kata yields a wide variety of physical self-defense techniques unique to the kata being analyzed. Practitioners ignore the spiritual and environmental states of kata analysis. These states when properly (and finally) subjected to analytical scrutiny (bunkai) will yield a rich and diverse understanding of kata. Thus, bunkai (the analysis of kata) must be extended to include not only the common and familiar analysis of the physical state of kata, but also the lesser analyzed spiritual and environmental states of kata (the “secret things”)
The term “Bunkai” has been commonly, and improperly, interpreted as “practical application” or “application”. Not only is this interpretation misleading, it tends to confine one’s analysis of kata solely to physical applications. A more correct translation of bunkai is “analysis” or “disassembly”.
Preliminarily, it is interesting to note that the improper translation of “practical application” or “application” infers a passivity to the study of bunkai. By this I mean that one may be taught an application of a kata by another. Thus, the student need not expand any intuitive effort. The student need only learn, and robotically copy the application as taught by the teacher. Analysis, on the other hand, demands action, one cannot be passively taught analysis. One must actively analyze.
As previously submitted, the vast majority, if not the totality, of bunkai study has been geared towards determining the application of the physical movements of kata. This is because the analysis of the physical movements of kata, while demanding intuition and commitment, is relatively “comfortable.” We spend the totality of our time experiencing the physical world and relish our physical experience of such world. Thus, the analysis of the physical aspect of any subject (including kata) is “commonly comfortable.”
To be sure, physical bunkai is as difficult as a practitioner decides to make it. To date, the physical bunkai of kata has been expressed as three increasingly difficult levels. Without shrouding these levels in mythological and debatable terms derived from the Japanese language, they are:
1, basic bunkai (apparent analysis, for example, usually based upon a storyboard approach, a strike is a strike, a block is a block),
2, intermediate bunkai (covertly apparent, a block could be something else, a joint application for example, a turn in a kata could be a throw and the like) and
3, hidden, or as I like to say “introspectively-intuitive” bunkai (deeply covert and highly subjective, technique is discovered by and works for the individual performer). A practitioner is free to engage in the depth of bunkai as he sees fit. It is a question of personal satisfaction as to how superficially or deeply one desires to study kata and physical bunkai, if at all. As one progresses from basic to intermediate to advanced the level of individual commitment, toil, self-discovery and introspection increases. In my experience, few practitioners are sufficiently committed to this arduous process.
Given the increasing level of commitment, physical energy, mental acuity and intuition required to progress from the basic physical bunkai to the intermediate and introspective-intuitive physical bunkai, it is not surprising that a select limited number of practitioners have endeavored to conceive, yet alone explore the spiritual bunkai (analysis) of kata. It is commonly recognized that the masters of old expressed the concept that the highest aspiration of karate-do is spiritual in nature. (See Endnote # 6). In my kata laboratory, it is fundamental that once you have engaged in a deep, and prolonged exploration of the physical bunkai of kata, the spiritual bunkai begins to be revealed. This phenomenon; however, only begins to manifest itself with continuos, progressive, intuitive and demanding analysis of physical bunkai in a never ending, but always expanding process. Simply put, it is not a practice that develops over-night, when it is convenient or without thinking, sweating and experimenting over many years. It is an arduous journey.
This manifestation of spiritual bunkai commences with a basic level. As in the case of physical bunkai, spiritual bunkai has the same three progressive levels of basic, intermediate and introspectively-intuitive (hidden).
In a similar fashion, environmental bunkai (the manner in which one interacts with the external environment) will begin to manifest itself at a basic level. That is to say that when a practitioner continuously explores both the physical and spiritual bunkai of kata, the environmental bunkai will begin to be self-evident.
It is therefore mandatory to train and experiment with bunkai not just within the physical state, but also on all states of the kata itself. Thus, since kata exists in the three states of the physical, the spiritual and the environmental, bunkai must also exist in the same three states. Bunkai, must be conducted on all three levels commencing with the readily discernible physical stage to the difficult spiritual stage and the environmental stage. To this end, future submissions in my kata laboratory category will guide you.

Recommended Reader Experimentation:

First, begin your kata practice session by performing Sanchin Kata so as to augment your awareness of the three battles, or states of Sanchin, namely a physical state (breathing and bodily movement), a spiritual state (state-of-mind) and an environmental state (interconnection with the external environment).

Next, proceed to practice your other kata, paying particular attention not only to the physical state of the kata, but also being aware of the spiritual state (state-of-mind) enveloped within that specific kata. You should pay particular attention to discovering the state-of-mind to be found within each different kata.

Finally, when you have sufficiently practiced this, begin to be cognizant of the manner in which each specific kata functions on an environmental state – how the kata specifically compels you to interact with your external environment and how such interaction differs from kata to kata. This will lead you on the path of Jiriki Kata-Do which exists integrated, but hidden, within your own style of karate-do or martial art; the “secret things.”

Closing:

It is mandatory that bunkai (analysis) of kata progress from the physical state to explore the spiritual and environmental states of kata. Thus, bunkai (analysis) will exist within the three states of kata. Given that bunkai is limited by the majority of practitioners to the physical aspect of kata, the uncommon nature of the spiritual and metaphysical aspect of bunkai makes them the “secret things” worthy of analysis. Future editions of Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory will contain defined analysis as to how to accomplish the task of analyzing kata on three levels, the physical, the spiritual (state of mind) and the environmental (synchronizing with the external environment).
Please remember, the mandate of the kata laboratory is

☑ Think   –  read and reflect on the narrative of each kata experiment

☑  Sweat  – work, again and again, the protocol of the experiment as set forth. This aspect is crucial. I wholeheartedly invite commentary and yes, even criticism but please SWEAT FIRST, do not pontificate. Comments such as “That’s not the way we do it”, or, “That’s not traditional”, “That’s not pure in our system” and the like are not only egotistical and insulting, but will show the depth of your hubris, and laziness. 

☑  Experiment  – after sufficiently working the specific protocols, begin to experiment with your own thoughts and variations. Do not be afraid of failure – the only failure is not thinking and sweating for yourself but being a slave to dogma.

Cum superiorum privilegio veniaque (With the privilege & permission of the Superiors),

HANKO

Sensei John Szmitkowski

 Please note that, as with most Kata Laboratory submissions, the following is a highly digested and summarized version of my seminar and several of my works. For seminar information, please use the following link: https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/

© Copyright 2006 and 2013 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

ENDNOTES:

1. Alighieri, Dante, Inferno, Canto III.

2. Caveat: the term kata is not restricted solely to kata of karate-do, by functional necessity, the term must also include the kata of all martial arts regardless of nomenclature. Thus, the within applies to the kata of Tae Kwon Do, Kung-fu, Kendo, Kobudo and the like equally.

3. By definition, zazen (seated meditation) does not have the element of bodily movement.

4. Though others may take exception to the following statement, I submit that during the practice of kihon or basic karate technique, the novice performer does not have a clearly defined state-of-mind. In martial terms, the sole expression of a state of mind may be termed a clouded state. That is to say that the novice is solely concerned with and mentally concentrates on the proper copying 9or performance) of basic technique as directed by his instructor. This is the clouded “Shu” stage of Shu-Ha-Ri. It is also the basis by which the practice of martial arts endeavors, inter alia, to “uncloud” the mind. For those unfamiliar with the concept of Shu, Ha, Ri, you may acquaint yourself with same using the following convenient link http://defeliceryu.com/2012/10/07/shu-ha-ri-a-different-perspective/

5. States of mind include not only martial arts states of mind, for example Mushin (mind-no-mind), Nenjjushin (everyday mind) and Tomaranu Kokoro (unstoppable mind), states of mind also include the common, non-martial states of mind such as depression, anxiety, alertness, joy, sorrow, envy, greed and the like.

6. For a detailed explanation of the interrelationship of Jiriki Kata-Do to Goshin Do Karate-Do, please use this convenient link: (Jiriki Kata-Do An Epiphenomenon Of Goshin-Do Karate-Do) – https://senseijohn.me/2011/10/02/jiriki-kata-do-an-epiphenomenon-of-goshin-do-karate/

While the three states exist in every kata, they are codified and amplified in the kata Sanchin. Close scrutiny of the three battles of Sanchin illustrates the inconsistency and redundancy within which the battles have commonly been defined. My research into, practice of and examination of the three battles of Sanchin results in the commonly accepted three battles being rejected and redefined as the physical battle, the spiritual battles and the environmental battle. The term “battles” as represented by the kanji for Sanchin, is representative of the “states” of human existence. Thus the three battles of Sanchin represent the three states of human existence.

For seminar information, please use the following link: https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/  For information on my Sanchin DVD and Book, please see the notes below.

8. A full dissertation of the masters expression as to the spirituality of karate-do is beyond this article. Quite frankly, if the reader does not comprehend this concept, then, unless it is too late, he or she needs to acquaint him or herself as to this concept.

Sensei John is now on Facebook, under – FLY FISHING DOJO, you are invited to send a Facebook friend request.

You may wish to view the Goshin-Do Karate blog at WWW.DeFeliceRyu.Com or my blog dedicated to the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fly-fishing and fishing in general by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com

HIDDEN TRAITS OF 8 PRIMORDIAL PRINCIPLES

11 Mar

This week’s article is an abbreviated excerpt from a chapter in my forthcoming DVD and book, “The Dualism Of Seienchin Kata: Part Two in the Jiriki Kata-Do Series.” (See Endnote # 1)

It has been said that there are eight primordial principles that envelope the martial arts. These principles have been delineated in an ancient martial text called “The Bubishi”. The principles are also inferred within the martial work known as the “Eight Poems Of The Chinese Fist.” (See Endnote # 2 for the full text of the poems). The eight primordial principles are:

  • To float;
  • To sink;
  • To swallow;
  • To spit;
  • To burst;
  • To rebound;
  • To spring;
  • To lift.

All eight principles are found within the Seienchin Kata which is derived from the Fujian white crane system of Kung-Fu. Fujian white crane style was developed by Xie Zhing Xiang. The style contains the four elements of whooping crane, flying crane, eating crane and sleeping crane. The four stylistic elements formed the basis of the Seienchin Kata found within Karate-Do.

Seienchin Kata, Badlands, SD, Circa 2004

The Seienchin Kata is the second protocol of my dynamic ideology, Jiriki Kata-Do. It is derived from the Seienchin Kata of the Goshin-Do Karate DeFelice-Ryu style of Karate. (See Endnote # 3)

Kanji for “Seienchin”, sumi-e ink on rice paper

Traditionally, only the martial arts based physical applications of the principles have been explored and discussed. In my dynamic ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do, the spiritual connotations associated with the principles are delineated.

Four of the eight principles contained within Seienchin Kata are present within Sanchin Kata. (See Endnote # 4) To provide insight into the physical and hidden spiritual aspects of the eight principles, I submit the following brief discussion of the four principles found within Sanchin Kata.

Kanji for “Sanchin”, sumi-e ink on rice paper

The four principles found within Sanchin and the associated martial arts application, are as follows.

  • TO FLOAT – Unbalancing an opponent by one’s movement, depriving him of a firm footing and thereby defeating him.
  • TO SINK – controlling an opponent by making him feel heavy or clumsy;
  • TO SWALLOW – “to swallow” is a euphemism for the phrase “to absorb.” It means defeating an opponent’s attack by diverting and absorbing it;
  • TO SPIT  – “to spit” is a euphemism for the phrase “to reject.” It involves using explosive power to strike or push away an opponent with such force that he is defeated.

In my Seienchin DVD and Book, I submit that in addition to the above physical traits of the principles, there are hidden spiritual traits found within Sanchin and Seienchin Kata. These hidden spiritual traits remain concealed from all but a few enlightened practitioners of the Kata. The dynamic ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do is the express mechanism to uncover the hidden spiritual and meta-physical traits hidden within the eight primordial principles. As to the four principles found within Sanchin, I submit that the hidden spiritual traits are as follows.

  • TO FLOAT: After a practitioner of zazen, seated meditation, attained a level of proficiency, he was next required to learn “To Float”. Within this meditative practice, “To Float” means that one must allow one’s force to synchronize with and to flow with the general forces that exists in nature. (See Endnote # 5) One could not float by simply sitting in meditative zazen. One had to combine zazen with bodily movement; a dance. It is through the dance that the body could perform naturally and thus free the mind, or spirit, for meditation. Thus, passive, seated, meditation, was combined with the active, physical movement, in the manner of harmony of opposites, as in the concepts of Yin and Yang. It is my unfettered opinion that there is no greater form of “dance” than Karate-Do Kata. Thus, Kata are the ultimate mechanism for the phenomenon known as “To Float.”
  • TO SINK: this spiritual concept involved rooting one’s Chi, or bio-energy, as I call it, to the Earth during the dance so as to permit one’s energy to flow freely within the confines of one’s body and subsequently synchronize one’s internal energy with the external universal energy. If one’s internal bio-energy was not sufficiently rooted to the Earth, it would spill forth haphazardly into the external universal energy and be dissipated and dispersed thereby.
  • TO SWALLOW: This spiritual concept involves opening and extending oneself to the external universal energy. Through this process, one not only swallows, or absorbs, the universal energy into oneself, but also extends one’s bio-energy into the universe. Through this process one blends into the universal energy in such a manner as to unite with this external energy so as to produce a fully integrated state of being.
  • TO SPIT: This spiritual concept is a moral imperative. The universe is in complete balance and exists entirely in a state of harmony. The nature of the universe dictates that the universe is composed of a positive aspect and also contains a negative aspect. Harmony in the universe is achieved by balancing these opposing and chaotic elements. The spiritual concept “To Spit” is the process whereby one consciously is aware of the negative component of the universal essence, or spirit. Being thus aware of this negative aspect, the practitioner of either Sanchin Kata or Seienchin Kata who seeks to synchronize and unite with the universal essence, consciously desires to unite with the positive aspect and spit out, or reject, the negative aspect. This does not mean that the practitioner is out of harmony with the universe. The negative aspect will continue to exist, but such existence is limited to the universe in general. Though continuing to exist, the negative aspect is not unified with the practitioner’s individual essence and self. The result is an integrated positive self that exists within a harmonious universe of positive and negative aspects. The negative aspect tends to be absorbed by those unenlightened persons who incorporate negativity into their level of existence. These non-integrated, unenlightened humans, are often physically ill and spiritually bankrupt.

The physical and hidden spiritual traits of all eight principles are fully analyzed in my forthcoming DVD and Book, “The Dualism Of Seienchin Kata: Part Two in the Jiriki Kata-Do Series.” The anticipated release date for the DVD and Book is August 1, 2012.

In closing, I remain, floating, sinking, swallowing, spitting, bursting, rebounding, springing and lifting,

HANKO

Sensei John Szmitkowski

ENDNOTES:

  1. Part One of Jiriki Kata-Do can be found in my Sanchin DVD and Book: “Sanchin, Gateway To The Plateau Of Serenity.” Here is a convenient link a promotional video about the Sanchin DVD filmed on location at various scenic locations throughout Arizona. LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE
  2. The “Eight Poems Of The Chinese Fist” are as follows:
  • 1. Jinshin wa tenchi ni onaji. The mind is one with heaven and earth.
  • 2. Ketsumyaku wa nichigetsu ni nitari. The circulatory rhythm of the body is similar to the cycle of the sun and the moon.
  • 3. Ho wa goju no donto su. The way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness.
  • 4. Mi wa toki ni shitagai hen ni ozu. Act in accordance with time and change.
  • 5. Te wa ku ni ai sunawachi hairu. Techniques will occur in the absence of conscious thought.
  • 6. Shintai wa hakarite riho su. The feet must advance and retreat, separate and meet.
  • 7. Me wa shiho womiru wa yosu. The eyes must not miss even the slightest change.
  • 8. Mimiwa yoku happo wo kiku. The ears listen well in all eight directions.

3. I have chosen the name “Goshin-Do Karate DeFelice-Ryu” to designate the Goshin-Do Karate style as taught by my Sensei, Shihan Thomas DeFelice so as to distinguish it from the various other martial arts styles that utilize the “Goshin-Do” nomenclature. The Kanji for the style translates as, “Self-defense way of the empty hand, DeFelice style.”

4.I have made the benefits of Sanchin Kata available to everyone with my one hour Sanchin DVD and 116 page book. You can find information on how to purchase a Sanchin DVD & Book by clicking the following convenient link: http://www.dynamic-meditation.com/references.html

5. For example, In the Hindu meditative practices, the phrase used to describe this phenomenon is, “To allow one’s Atman to become one with the universal Atman.”

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 blog dedicated to the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fly-fishing and fishing in general by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com

THE (Indescribable) PERFECT PUNCH

7 Nov
In an article dated July 19, 2010, entitled Practice does NOT make perfect, I explored the maxim that perfect practice makes perfect. That maxim was derived from oral tradition in our Goshin-Do Karate-Do Dojo. Related to the maxim is the tale of the “Perfect Punch.“ The tale concerns a Karate Master that espoused his goal of training in Karate-Do as seeking to develop the perfect punch. (See Endnote # 1). I first heard this tale as a teenage young purple belt. Upon hearing the tale, myself and the rest of the class nodded our heads knowingly. We acknowledged the idea that here was a great Karate master, who devoted his life to the art. After decades of devotion, he desired to perfect that which a lowly white belt was first taught – a simple punch.
It is easy to extend the tale of the perfect punch to many of life’s pursuits. One may envision the perfect fly fishing cast, the perfect dart throw, the perfect yoga pose, perfect free throw in basketball, etcetera, ad infinitum.
Now, decades after I first knowingly nod my head, I find my head shaking almost side-to-side as I wonder, “What was this infamous Karate Master talking about?“ It can certainly be argued that the beauty and magnificence of the statement is its simplicity, to wit: a perfect punch. After reflecting upon the statement all these years, I now maintain that the simplicity of the statement is also its downfall.
By understanding the manner in which the tale of the perfect-punch is inadequate in terms of conveying a full expression of an aim of Karate-Do, we can understand how the quest for perfection within life’s pursuits may also lack definition. This is not to say that we should not desire to improve or perfect that which we practice, or even in fact, the type of person we may be. It is to say that such desire must be clearly defined. To understand this point, we must examine the tale of the (indescribable) perfect-punch.
Our analysis must start with the fundamental definition of a punch. The dictionary definition of punch is, in essence; a blow delivered with the hand or fist. Clearly, the definition itself is broad. In fact, when one understands the fundamentals of Karate-Do, one appreciates that there are several types of a blow with the hand, or a punch. There are, inter alia, a full horizontal punch, a vertical punch, an upper cut, a one knuckle punch, a shuto (side hand strike), ura-ken (back fist), ridge hand strike, palm heel strike, and the list goes on. So the first ambiguity contained in the tale of the perfect punch lies in the fact that the punch sought to be perfected lacks definition. Not only is this the first ambiguity, it is also the most fundamental.

The fundamental ambiguity of the tale lies in its failure to define not the mechanics of the punch, but in its failure to adequately define the function of the punch to be perfected. The core question, which is not addressed in the tale, is “What type of punch is to be perfected?“ To illustrate, I proffer the following punches conceived in the recesses of my mind.

 

The Perfect –

Technical punch. This punch conforms to the technical standards of a given style or system of martial art as objectively judged by a third person who is capable of evaluating such technical criteria;

Aesthetic punch. This punch is one that is appeals to the artistic sense of a third person observer regardless of the observer’s technical knowledge of the punch;

Practical punch. This punch can be utterly devoid of either technique or aesthetics however, when utilizes against an aggressive opponent. It dispatches the opponent so that the one executing the punch is safely outside of harm’s way.

Archetype punch. Unlike the previous punches which are objectively determined, this punch may or may not meet the criteria established by such third person observer; however, subjectively, this punch is the model punch in the mind of the puncher;

Spiritual punch. Similar to the Archetype punch, this punch need not meet the standards of technical accuracy or aesthetics, it is simply a punch that is pleasing on a subjective level;

Satori punch. This punch satisfies all objective and subjective criteria. It is the ultimate punch that once executed is lost and may not be capable of duplication.

Ku punch. Named for the stage in martial arts learning where all is simultaneously known and unknown. This punch is the physical realization of the satori punch that upon execution is cast into the realm of conceptual reality.

I trust that after reviewing and considering the above conceptual punches, you can understand that the tale of the perfect punch lacks substance. I submit that the tale, as told in oral tradition, should be entitled the riddle of the perfect punch. I know from years of martial training that the best punch is the one that is never executed. It is the punch that, as Karate master Chotoku Kyan, would say, “remains within the sleeve.” (See Endnote # 2).

Chotoku Kyan (1870 – (1945)

The best punch defeats an opponent without ever manifesting itself. I also understand that, unless clearly defined, the perfection of “A” punch is utterly impossible.

In closing I remain, no longer seeking perfection, but seeking definition and clarity, I remain,

 

 HANKO-master

 

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do

ENDNOTES:
1. The tale of the Perfect Punch is highly steeped in oral tradition and history. The statement within the tale was attributed within the Goshin-Do Karate-Do Dojo to the late Isshin-Ryu Karate master Tatsuo Shimaboku. I have often attempted to find the tale in literary references. Here is one such reference Furuya, Kensho, KODO: Ancient Ways (O’Hara Publications, Santa Clarita, CA, 1996) p. 74.
2. The following saying is attributed to the Shobayashi Shorin-Ryu Karate master Chotoku Kyan. “A punch is like a treasure in the sleeve. It should not be used indiscriminately.”
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 weblog, or my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com.

 

 

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ERASE FUTANREN WITH PREPARATION

24 Oct
Since Sensei Thomas DeFelice first opened the door to his Goshin-Do Karate-Do in May, 1965, his style of Karate has not only been dedicated to improving the human condition, but also exploring aspects of our nature that transcend karate. In my stewardship of Goshin-Do Karate-Do, I have attempted and continue to attempt to evolve and further this exploration. This journey has led me to identify aspects of Karate-Do protocols and ideology that enrich and enhance all life participants. The following explores one area of my exploration.
 
FEAR. For some, the spoken word inflicts upon the listener that which it defines. Simply, fear imposes fear. Through the exploration of Goshin-Do Karate-Do, three sources of martial, combat oriented, fear have been identified. They are
 
  Kiki Oji: Fear of an enemy’s reputation;                                                               Mikuzure: Fear of an enemy’s appearance;                                                         Futanren: Fear of inadequate training.

While all three sources of martial fear can be used to analyze the fear we encounter in our daily lives, only one source of fear will be addressed in this article. The first two sources of fear are derived from sources external to ourselves. Despite the external basis of Kiki Oji and Mikuzure, both are entirely subjective and are defined by each individual person. Fear derived from either Kiki Oji or Mikuzure is not easily mitigated. The basis for the fear lies deep within one’s individual psyche. Thus, mitigation and elimination requires a deep level of introspection acknowledgement of the source of fear and resolution. Such an analysis is beyond the scope of this article.

In contrast to Kiki Oji and Mikuzure, the fear derived from Futanren is entirely within our control to understand, acknowledge and resolve. It is the one source of fear that is entirely within our control. To understand Futanren, we must explore its roots in Goshin-Do Karate-Do. Within the Goshin-Do Karate-Do Dojo, each individual training session was unique in and of itself. One had to obtain the maximum benefit from each session. The most basic benefit of training in Goshin-Do Karate was the element of self-defense. One trained as if one would be required to defend oneself immediately. This attitude recognized the fleeting nature of training. That is to say that if one trained less than earnestly, the training session was wasted. Such waste could be at one’s peril. If one was required to actually defend oneself, one could not rewind time to the last training session at dojo and train harder or more earnestly. The same is true with life in general.

We do not necessarily train to engage in life. We can; however, prepare ourselves to engage in life. Such preparation is the cornerstone of mitigating Futanren which, in this context, can be described as fear of inadequate preparation. We are required to regularly prepare ourselves for life’s challenges. Thus, we routinely are called upon to engage in life events that place demands upon our physical, mental and emotional well being. The key to mitigating the stress, or fear, of such demands is preparation. Perhaps the most common example in which we have all experienced Futanren is in grade school. We all were required to pass various tests and exams in order to pass a class. How many of us sat down to take a test and wished we had spent an extra one half hour in earnest study? This is an example of Futanren. By extension, we can envision many life scenarios where we have advance knowledge of a demand to be placed upon us. Whether we prepare for and address that demand and the sincerity within which we prepare to meet the demand will dictate whether or not we experience the stress or fear of Futanren.

The epiphenomenon of Futanren are ignorance (failure to address a situation), procrastination, and self-compromise (as in acceptance of a less than full preparation). These epiphenomenon result in a deleterious attack upon our sense of well being and contentment. They rob us of any feeling of accomplishment. In order to experience life to its fullest, we must conduct our lives in such a manner as to irradiate Futanren from our catalogue of emotions. There is a saying derived from Western sports that bears upon the martial ideology of Futanren: The will to win is not nearly important as the will to PREPARE to win. (See Endnote # 1). This is the foundation to preparing for life’s demands. We must always be mindful of the preparation so as to erase Futanren.

In closing, I remain,

 

 
 

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do

 

ENDNOTES:1. There are many sources of this saying including, inter alia, basketball Coach Bobby Knight. 
 
 

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RESPONSE TO CHALLANGE – AN ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK

10 Oct
My study of the Goshin-Do Karate-Do style of Shihan Thomas DeFelice is an interesting experience. On the one hand, it is physical, arduous and satisfying all at once. On the other hand, it is a test of one‘s spirit and determination. In an unusual twist, it also offers an intellectual, philosophical challenge. After years of practicing and contemplating the Kata (formal exercises of Karate), an understanding of the manner in which a martial artist responds to an attack was synthesized into an analytical framework. After further reflecting on this analytical framework, I understood that such a framework extended beyond the scope of the martial arts into the realm of daily life. I realized that the framework provides an analytical tool for evaluating one’s response to everyday life challenges. Such life challenges may be categorized as a type of attack upon our well being. Thus, challenges such as important job deadline, unpleasant tasks that require attention, daily interactions and situational confrontations, familial relationships and the like are potential stressful attacks on our sense of well-being. By understanding the manner in which we respond to such scenarios, we can seek to improve our lives. The model for improvement can be found within the following framework.
 
In the martial arts, once your opponent attacks, you have the following choices:  
1. GO NO TE (After, later-hand): blocking the opponents attack, no counter attack.                                                                                                                                            2. GO NO SEN (after, later-before): block & counter attack.                                 3. SEN NO TE (before-hand): block and counter attack are in one movement(simultaneous).                                                                                                    4. SEN SEN NO TE (before-before-hand): Attacker starts to move, but defender beats opponent to the attack. Defender intercepts the attack; no blocking is done.                                                                                                                       5. SEN SEN NO SEN (before-before-before): defender reads the opponent’s intention to attack and attacks first.

In essence, the above describes three broad spectrum responses to an attack: block and counter (1,2,3), interception (4,5) and evasion (involved potentially in all the above). These three general categories can be used to analyze your response to any given challenge that life lays before you. We can imagine any number of challenging scenarios derived from the work environment, familial relationships, and normal daily interactions. There are an infinite number of challenges we encounter that require our attention, action and resolution. To facilitate our understanding of the mechanics by which we confront and address these challenges, we can look to the above stated martial conflict resolution framework.

In the case of a scenario described by the martial arts concept of block and counter, it is understood that the concept involves a direct approach to the challenge. Using the block and counter concept, one does not act until such a time as the challenge presents itself, is encountered and demands immediate, swift resolution. In this scenario, time is of the essence. Once encountered, you must aggressively meet the challenge resolutely (the block). During this stage, you would perceive and evaluate the challenge, the consequences of various responses and decide upon which response is appropriate. You would then execute the appropriate response (the counter). The block and counter approach is immune to physical, spiritual or mental discomfort that may be encountered during the resolution of the challenge. That is to say that once the challenge has manifested, it must be directly resolved regardless of one’s physical, mental or emotional discomfort.

The case of a scenario described by evasion is somewhat misleading. The name does not imply that you avoid your responsibility to resolve the challenge. Rather, evasion means that you do not take a hard, direct approach to the challenge. In the evasion approach, you would read the challenge as it begins to manifest itself. You would act prior to the challenge reaching the stage where it must be resolved at all costs. The critical difference is the block and counter mandates immediate and direct action at the time the challenge already presents itself and has reached a critical stage. The evasion scenario calls for action at the very instant the challenge first manifests prior to the critical stage. It is at this moment that the resolution of the challenge may be address or deferred to a later date. The key is to address the challenge prior to the resolution reaching a critical stage. You have therefore evaded and mitigated the harsh impact of resolving the challenge at all costs.

In the case of the interception concept you will have anticipated that the challenge would manifest itself and seek to resolve it before it even becomes a challenge. Thus, you anticipate and address a situation before it is even born. Thus, a challenge never really existed in the first place.

In Goshin-Do Karate-Do, there is a protocol called “Bunkai.” Bunkai is the practical application of Karate technique. Let us examine on example of Bunkai using the analytical framework. Imagine that you have just woken from your sleep and are about to start a very hectic day. You have to help the children prepare for school, insure that they safely arrive at school and then go to work where you are expected to deliver a very important presentation. As you walk into your kitchen to make coffee and try to fully awaken, you notice that there is a small puddle of water on the floor below the sink. Upon further examination, you discover that a pipe located in the cabinet below the sink has ruptured and is leaking water. In the block and counter scenario (GO NO SEN), you immediately turn off the water supply to the sink so as to stop the leak and begin to mop up the mess. These actions represent the “block.” You then see that the children are prepared for school and make travel arrangements for them. Simultaneously, you locate a plumber and make arrangements for an emergency repair later in the day. After telephoning work to advise them you may be delayed, you make arrangements with a neighbor to provide the plumber access to your home and leave for work. Thus, the “counter” has been executed. At the end of the day, and after giving a successful, but not quite the best presentation, you arrive home and discover that the repair has been successfully completed. Although you are tired from the extra stress of the day, the children need help with their homework. You also contemplate the plumber’s invoice which is rather expensive given the nature of the emergency. Thus, the situation has been resolved, but the resolution has taken a toll on your well being. 
 
The evasion scenario (a hybrid of SEN SEN NO TE & SEN SEN NO SEN), would have provided a less stressful resolution. In this scenario, prior to the above fateful date, you would have noticed the problem before it became critical. Perhaps you would have been rummaging through the cabinet under the sink and noticed that the pipe was corroded and wet to the touch. You would then call a plumber and schedule a mutually satisfactory appointment so that the situation can be diagnosed and resolved.
 
The interception scenario (SEN SEN NO SEN) encapsulates the idea that prevention is the best medicine. You would have understood that you live in an older home with original plumbing. One day, you open the cabinet. You notice that the pipe is somewhat discolored and starting to corrode. You appreciate that it is prudent to call a plumber to arrange a convenient appointment to resolve the potential problem. Thus, the cost of the repair in terms of money is cheaper than an emergency repair. In terms of well being, the cost is less stress encountered.

  The next time you are confronted with a challenge, take a moment, and analyze your response to it. I believe you will learn something about your self and benefit from such experience.

Until the next article, I remain enveloped in my study of martial sciences, in a state of SEN-SEN-NO-SEN,

HANKO-reverse

 

 Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
 
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ALL START AT THE BOTTOM

7 Sep
Now that the Summer of 2010 is over and we are all back to our usual means of conducting our lives, it is time to welcome you all back to a new semester of blogging Jiriki Kata-Do; The Way Of Attaining Inner Salvation Through Kata. Once again, through the medium of Jiriki Kata-Do, I will help you explore the methods, protocols and ideology of Karate-Do and the martial arts within the context of daily life.
To launch this new semester of blogging, I want to begin with the most basic maxim of Dojo etiquette. This maxim was especially significant in the Goshin-Do Karate-Do Dojo of Shihan Thomas DeFelice. Not only is it an appropriate means of reading future articles on my blog, it should be integrated into and remembered in our daily lives. The concept is “All start at the bottom and nothing is free.” In order to understand how this concept may benefit our daily lives, it is necessary to understand it’s function within the Goshin-Do Karate Dojo.
The first part of the maxim is self-explanatory. Upon entering Sensei’s Dojo for the purposes of training in Goshin-Do Karate-Do, everyone was the “new guy”. As the newest student, you lined up at the end of the student line; down at the bottom. You wore a plain white Gi (uniform) and a white belt. (See Endnote # 1). A student was, at all times, judged by his or her accomplishments within the Dojo.
 

 

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

External accomplishments, those that existed and defined you outside of the Dojo, were of no import at all on the training floor. In fact, the purpose of having all students wear a plain white Gi was to emphasize this fact. Thus, someone who had an economic advantage outside of the Dojo, could not distinguish themselves within the Dojo with the purchase a fancy Gi. In today’s modern Dojo, this ideology is completely lost and in fact prostituted. Those students that have the economic ability to commit to long-term contract or purchase special training privileges, such as the “Black Belt Club”, “masters Club”, “Demonstration Team” and the like, are rewarded. Such affluent students can purchase the right to wear a “special” uniform, usually colorful or otherwise ostentatious. I submit that such a prostitution of core values within the Dojo is readily reflected in our western society today. For a price, anything can be purchased; except of course for integrity and honor. But, then again, for a price, digressions of from such values can be “overlooked”. Clearly, then we can all benefit from remembering that we all start(ed) at the bottom. Whether we be a Karate Master, a corporate C.E.O, an internet dot-com mogul, or just self-absorbed, we need to remember our lowly roots.

Every “accomplishment” within Sensei’s Dojo was earned with perseverance, determination, sweat and sometimes blood, NOTHING was free.

My transfer from the Junior Division to the Adult Division at age 15 was EARNED - and then some.

It is true that within the Dojo, accomplishments are recognized by a certificate of achievement and reflected outwardly by the color of one’s obi (Karate belt). Such colored obi merely recognize man’s general need for a symbol of accomplishment. The obi were nothing more than a convenient means of categorizing students by their respective levels of learning and in no way reflected transient mastery of Goshin-Do Karate. This includes the coveted black belt. It is said that upon attaining a black belt, a student merely has learned the means of studying true Goshin-Do. Not withstanding the color if one’s momentary obi, one could not flaunt accomplishment. The simple fact is there was always some-one better, more capable than you. In fact, accomplishment itself was illusory in s far as you were only as good as you last training session. To be sure, the ultimate shame was to be out performed on any given night by some one of lesser rank. Further, if Sensei DeFelice felt we were all too enamored with the status of our obi, he would have us remove our obi during training sessions.

The obi can teach us about your daily lives. It is a simple fact of the human condition that we need our symbols of self-worth. The point is we must bear the burden of our symbol. A symbol of wealth, such as jewelry is devoid of any sense of worth if while wearing the symbol one turns their back to another in need of a basic requirement such as food. By way of an absurd example, I once saw television show on the Food Network concerning ice cream extravagances. There is an ice cream parlor in New York (I will not name them, for truly they should be ashamed) that offers a $ 1,000 ice cream sundae. As part of the broadcast, a woman treated herself to this $ 1,000 ice cream extravagance for her birthday because she “so deserved it.“ She purchased the ultimate transitory extravagant symbol. Instead of treating herself to a feeling of true humanism by consuming a less expensive ice cream treat and then perhaps donating $900 to a homeless shelter, or feeding another hungry person or, the victims – to this date- of Hurricane Katrina, she purchased a very expensive, even absurd symbol of her “wealth”. I submit that in the final analysis she treated herself to a truly wasteful and spiritually debilitating BOWEL MOVEMENT. I hope this distasteful example gives you pause to consider the Dojo concept that “All start at the bottom and nothing is free.“ In this regard, rethink and re-examine your symbols, there is always some one better; and I do not mean in economic terms.

We all start(ed) at the bottom and moved “upward”. We also endow ourselves with symbols of our accomplishments along the way. Such success and symbols are relative and transitory.

I am very excited about the new on-line semester of blogging Jiriki Kata-Do. In doing so, I will start at the bottom and progress upwards to a greater understanding of myself, the human condition and the universal environment within which we reside. I invite you to join me.

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do

 

ENDNOTES:

1. There were limited exceptions to this policy. For example, if one was a visiting dignitary, particularly one of a recognized black belt rank, the concept would not apply for purpose of the visit. On a very limited basis, Yudansha (those of black belt rank) in another style of Karate that desired to learn Goshin-Do Karate-Do would be permitted to wear their Black Obi (belt) of that style. Such a determination was the sole province of Sensei DeFelice, and then myself at the Issho Dojo.

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Welcome Back From Summer Vacation

23 Aug
Summer. At the Issho Dojo, summer was a quiet time. Due to vacation schedules, the student body would diminish for the two and a half months of New Jersey’s summer season. After Labor Day, the corps of students would return to full strength and be augmented by new students seeking to learn the secrets of Goshin-Do Karate-Do.
I have learned that the same is true for the readership of my blog. With summer upon us, people turn away from their laptops in favor of experiences outdoors in nature. This is a good thing. Now that summer winds down and readership levels are returning to normal, I will once again begin to post substantive articles that explore the means by which Karate-Do physical protocols and martial ideology enhance daily life.
With that in mind, I want to post the within as a “Welcome Back” banner to my faithful readers. Below is a Canto from Dante’s Divine Comedy.
  
Through me you enter the woeful city,
Through me you enter eternal grief
Through me you enter among the lost.
 
Justice moved my High Maker:
The Divine Power made Me.
The Supreme Wisdom and the Primal Love.
 
Before Me nothing was created
If not eternal and eternal I endure
Abandon every hope, You who enter.
 
These words of obscure color I saw inscribed over a portal; wherein I said: “Master, their meaning is hard for me.” and he to me as one who understands,”Here let all cowardice be dead….” and when he placed his hand on mine, with a cheerful look from which I took comfort, HE LED ME AMONG THE SECRET THINGS.
  
I hung the Canto in the Issho Dojo not as the a-typical warning for which the Canto is known for. Rather, I displayed the Canto as a means of reminding the students that they embark upon a journey into heretofore unknown aspects of themselves as individuals, the so-called “secret things” referred to in the Canto. The mechanism by which the journey was undertaking within the confines of the Issho Dojo is the sometimes hellish dictates of Goshin-Do Karate-Do.  
 
 
  

The Torii Symbolizes a path or journey. Shinmei Torii at Benton Shrine, Kamakura, Kanagawa Perfecture.

 
The mechanism of this secret journey in terms of this blog is the many lessons of the Issho-Dojo as articulated by the art of Goshin-Do Karate-Do. In the spirit of my Sensei, Thomas DeFelice, Ku-Dan (9th Degree Black belt), Menkyo Kaiden, through the mechanism of this blog, I offer this secret journey to you. Discover yourself, if you dare.
 
So, now that summer is over, WELCOME BACK, to all my faithful regular readers, the journey once again begins. New articles begin after Labor Day.

 
 

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do

ENDNOTES:

1. Alighieri, Dante, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto III

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.

Please feel free to shop my online store featuring unique Sanchin Logo products at http://www.cafepress.com/sanchin-logo.

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Practice Does NOT Make Perfect

19 Jul
We have all had teachers, instructors, coaches, and similar mentors repeatedly tell us that “Practice makes perfect.“ Such mentors uttered this phrase as a form of axiomatic inspiration whereby we were encouraged to reach the unknown height of perfection. In the past, whenever this phrase was chanted like a mantra, all those under the tutelage of their mentor would try harder, sweat abundantly, study more and otherwise reach into their inner most self to produce a level of achievement which they believed was incapable of manifesting. The time has finally come to rebel against this axiomatic dogma. It is time for every one that reads the within to firmly stand their ground. The next time some one tells you that “practice makes perfect”, look them directly in the eye and tell them they are wrong.
That is correct, look the dogmatic mentor in the eye and tell them to stop universally uttering such nonsense. After your mentor recovers his or her composure, inform them that their concept of practice is not only incomplete, but also lacks intuition. Practice does not make perfect. Rather PERFECT practice makes perfect. Imperfect or half-hearted practice only nurtures and fosters complacency and imperfection. Remember this well the next time you set out to practice (or otherwise engage in) your favorite hobby, sport, past-time, art form or other activity. In fact, remember it well as it applies to life in general. PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. (See Endnote # 1).
 
Until the next article, I remain attempting always to perfectly practice.  
HANKO-master
Sensei John Szmitkowski
 
Here is a link for a promotional video about my Sanchin Kata & Jiriki Kata-Do DVD filmed in the Tonto National Forest. Arizona. Please see the “SANCHIN DVD & BOOK” page tab above for information on how to purchase the DVD.LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE

ENDNOTES:

1. I wish to make it abundantly clear that the concept that “Perfect practice makes perfect” is in no way my own. I have heard it many times in the Dojo of both Shihan Thomas DeFelice, Ku-Dan (9th Degree Black Belt), Menkyo Kaiden, Goshin-Do Karate-Do and Shihan Wayne Norlander, Ku-Dan (9th Degree Black Belt), Menkyo Kaiden, USA Goshin-Ryu Karate-Do. Their oral tradition attributes this concept to the late Karate Pioneer, Shihan Peter Urban, Ju-Dan (10th Degree Black Belt) USA Goju-Ryu, who was a friend to them both.
 
Coming Soon: Sensei John’s newest Blogsite – you are invited to click this link for a preview: WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Wordpress.Com. 
On-Line Store: Please feel free to visit Sensei John’s new online store containing various Jiriki Kata-Do products with the unique logo of Sanchin. The Sanchin logo depicts the three battles of Sanchin in a new contextual paradigm. You may find Sensei’s store by clicking the following link http://www.cafepress.com/sanchin_logo.
 
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“.

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do

The Martial Arts Learning Process Of SHU, HA, RI

20 Jun
The following is a continuing example of how martial arts ideology and concepts can be used to enhance various aspects of daily life.
Many of us pursue extra-curricula activities, hobbies and sports. My favorite pursuit is Karate-Do. Regardless of the activity, there is a learning process associated with any teacher – student relationship. I submit that in order to fully understand your chosen activity, it is necessary not only to understand the fundamentals associated with the pursuit, but also process whereby such technical knowledge is transmitted and assimilated. To this end, one may look to the following concept from Karate-Do, specifically Goshin-Do Karate-Do. It is ironic that although the following is derived from the martial arts, few martial artists are aware of the within learning analysis.
The following stages have been ascribed to the process of learning the martial arts. By extension, the following applies to any pursuit transmitted from teacher to student. There are three stages of the learning process which are generally accepted and a fourth, more esoteric stage. The three generally accepted stages are the stages of “SHU”, “HA“, “RI“.  

The Kanji for Shu – Ha – Ri

Each particular stage is described as follows.

SHU (pronounced “Shoe”) means to correctly copy all of the techniques of one’s instructors;

HA (pronounced “Ha”) means the liberty allowed to a student to develop his own way of executing techniques based upon the demands of his own physical stature and his own individual understanding of Karate;

RI (pronounced “Rhee”) means “transcendence” or “mastery”, when a student can perform all of the techniques automatically and becomes a teacher himself.

The following symbolism has been ascribed to each stage. Such symbolism may assist you in further understanding the three stages of transmittal and learning.

SHU is symbolized by an egg. The first stage is hard, the form or shape of the technique must be mastered or protected, just like a mother protects her egg.

HA is symbolized by the breaking egg. The basic form is broken into its infinite applications. It means the fundamentals are now mastered and are applied in all situations.

RI is symbolized by the fully released chick that has matured and flies away from the nest. The student forgets all forms and masters the formless technique, leaving old ideas behind him. He has fully matured in his training.

Over time, a fourth, more esoteric, stage of the process of learning the martial arts has come to be identified. This stage is called the “KU” (pronounced “Cue”) stage. 

KU is the stage of emptiness. It means everything is gone and no trace is left behind. The student has reached the highest level and no one can trace his movements or capture his techniques.

The aim of my ideology and methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do is to take the physical methods and spiritual concepts of the Karate-Do and illustrate to non-martial artists the benefits derived from applying them to daily life. In accord with that aim, I submit that the learning process of Shu, Ha, Ri and Ku applies to any art form or activity that is transmitted from one individual, acting as a teacher to another who is the student. Thus, it applies to a great many human activities. To be sure, these concepts need not extend solely to recreational pursuits. The learning stages apply to any pursuit, including business matters, the formal educational process of children, religions and the like involving a mentor or teacher and a recipient of knowledge.
 
One additional point concerning Shu, Ha Ri needs to be addressed. Many endeavors involve levels of knowledge. This is true of Karate-Do. The stages of Shu, Ha, Ri apply to the overall endeavor (such as Karate) and also the individual levels of knowledge attributed to the endeavor. I will illustrate this point with one aspect of Karate and my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do. Within Karate, there are martial protocol known as “Kata”. One such Kata is the Kata called Sanchin. Sanchin, which translates as “Three Battles” is the cornerstone of my ideology and methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do. In Jiriki Kata-Do the three battles of Sanchin are the physical, spiritual and metaphysical aspects of human existence. During the course of learning and practicing Sanchin, a practitioner will have attained various stages of Shu, Ha, Ri for each individual aspect of Sanchin. Thus, a practitioner may have attained the Ri stage as to the physical battle, the Shu stage as to the spiritual battles and may be unaware of the metaphysical battle. Eventually, a practitioner will attain the Ri, or even the Ku, stage for the entire Sanchin. The same is true of any multi-level endeavor. Thus, a student will at any given time possess the attributes of either the Shu, Ha or Ri stage of the individual components of the overall endeavor. Eventually, the student will attain and subsequently transcend the overall mastery of the endeavor itself.
 
Understanding the various stages of learning is beneficial to both the teacher and the student. Such an understanding provides a roadmap for the subsequent transmission of knowledge. The stages also provide a degree of satisfaction and achievement in the manner in which the subject has already been learned. Additionally, the stages point to an incentive for future understanding of the subject being transmitted. An understanding will ultimately enhance your learning and assimilating the subject of your learning.
 
Until the next article, I remain assimilating and living the lessons of my teachers,
HANKO-reverse
 
 Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
 
Please feel free to visit Sensei John’s new online store containing various Jiriki Kata-Do products with the unique logo of Sanchin. The Sanchin logo depicts the three battles of Sanchin in a new contextual paradigm. You may find Sensei’s store by clicking the following link http://www.cafepress.com/sanchin_logo.

MONSTERS INSIDE ME

6 Jun
A confluence of events came together to bring you the following submission. Ultimately, the events helped bring me back from the edge of an internal abyss. It was from the edge that I crept back into a welcome feeling of normalcy; however that term is defined. I hope you find the within beneficial.
It all started Memorial Day weekend. For most people, Memorial Day weekend is a celebration. It signifies the start of summer and all the natural wonder that summer entails. When I lived in New Jersey, that is what memorial Day symbolized for me. It held a special place in my heart. It meant that winter was over, the days would be longer and I could once again look forward to enjoying all that life had to offer. There would be visits to the Jersey Shore, the tip of Cape Cod, outdoor workouts at the Dojo (some in my backyard at home to the light of Tiki torches), barbeques, motorcycle rides and many other such pleasures. To be sure summer was a good time. Now here in Arizona, for me anyway, Memorial Day weekend represents the start of the oppressively hot season. The days of summer will be characterized by daytime temperatures in excess of one hundred and ten degrees, UV indices exceeding a factor of thirteen (the extreme UV index) and ozone level air quality alerts. Summer is no longer good. Rather, it is something to be reckoned with, and even battled.
Rather than celebrate Memorial Day weekend, I decided to work. The quid pro quo for working during the holiday was to be a day off on Thursday. I used Sunday to prepare for an upcoming lecture. The subject was to be an extension of my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do as it applied to the following commentary by Friedrich Nietzsche.
 
He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you. (See Endnote # 1).

Friedrich Nietzsche, in Basel, 1875.

In the past, I had used this passage as a reference to monsters that were external to our own selves. By way of example, during my career as a criminal defense attorney, I often cited this passage in condemnation of police brutality and instances of prosecutorial misconduct. Recently I had seen an advertisement for a television show about parasitic human invaders called “Monsters Inside Me”. The advertisement had given me pause to re-examine Nietzsche’s commentary in light of the insidious emotional monsters that lurk in our psyche. This was to be the topic of the lecture.

As the week progressed, I worked diligently on the lecture and other matters that required attention. Soon it was Wednesday night and my day of rest would be upon me. There was only one major problem. The weather forecast for Thursday called for a high temperature of one hundred eight degrees. While I looked forward to spending my day off fly fishing for trout on the Salt River, I dreaded the idea of the extent to which the sun would impose itself upon me. That is the paradox of a summer day in the desert. The sun is shining, the sky is bluebird blue, but the severity of the heat removes all desire to be outside. This paradox often angers me. The result is that I am often paralyzed by my anger. This anger oozes from my very pores to such an extent that my desire to engage in outdoor activity stops. This is my internal monster. I was about to do battle with it.

I went to sleep Wednesday night with the monster quietly lurking in the dark recesses of my mind. On the one hand, I hoped a day of serene fly fishing would do wonders for my anger. On the other hand I did not anticipate being outdoors in the excessive heat. After a restless night’s sleep, I woke Thursday morning later than planned. Now angry and tired, I dressed in clothes with built in UV-50 sun protection and loaded the truck. I packed not only my fly-fishing equipment, but also a few old bass fishing rods and lures. By 8:00 am I had reached my favorite starting location on the river. As Chloe and I walked down the trail to the river bank, the sun was already sufficiently above the horizon to fully make its presence known. Upon reaching the water, my mood darkened further. I saw the remnants of slovenly float tubers who took advantage of the river over Memorial weekend. The spot was littered with beer bottles (no glass allowed, huh?), beer cans, cheese-wiz jars and cold-cut plastic containers. I had hoped to fish as a means of battling my internal summer born monsters. Now, I was furious. I took time to clean up after these two legged pigs. While Chloe chased minnows in the shallows, I prepared my fly rod. I tied on a small dry fly. Dry fly fishing, where the fly floats on the water, is subtle and seductive. It requires finesse. Naturally, this was in direct contrast to my emotional state of mind. Chloe and I waded to a sand bar in midstream. The water was cool on our legs and provided a bit of respite from the heat.

The location of my emotional battle on the Salt River

Still in a foul and dark mood I began to fly fish. I repeatedly cast and watched as my dry fly gracefully floated with the current. It was my hope that a trout would be tantalized by the dry fly and rise to strike it. Again and again I cast. My hope went unanswered. With each cast, my anger and frustration built. Slightly upstream a beautiful sleek, shining trout jumped. As I saw the fish completely clear the water, my heart quickened. I cast to the ripples of the trout’s rise with anticipation. My anticipation only sowed the seeds of frustration. My dry fly tantalized nothing. No trout struck at it. As the fly danced its solo dance, the seeds of my anticipation sprouted frustration. My frustration ripened to a renewed anger. My internal anger fully vented itself externally in the manner my fly casting. I wanted to catch that beautiful magnificent fish. I would release it anyway. As if insulted by my rude actions, the trout stayed away from my presentation. As a result of the ferocity of my casting technique, I snapped three successive dry flies off my leader. In one instance, I watched the disengaged fly float right past me. It was neither tantalizing nor seductive. It was pitiful. Enough was enough. I was done with the river that day. Perspiring from the effort of furiously casting spurned flies to magnificent trout, I splashed water about my neck and face. The ancient Egyptian Sun-God, Amman-Ra would have been pleased at the effect of its modern molten radiating ferocity upon my body and spirit.

I returned to my truck. It was only about eleven o’clock. I did not want to return to heat imposed house-arrest. I decided that I would drive about three miles to Saguaro Lake and try my luck at fishing for bass. Unlike the usual serenity of fly fishing for trout, my fishing for bass tends to be aggressive. Many years ago, my brother and I had fished on a national bass fishing tournament circuit.

Patch of the Bassing America Tournament Circuit, Circa 1991

Given the nature of tournament competition, I associate fishing for bass with competition, aggression and desire to succeed. I did an emotional inventory. I was still in a foul mood. I needed to not only battle my monster, but vanquish it. So time to fish for bass. I arrived at the lake. I found a fishing pier with an awning that provided shade from the glowing rays of the sun and settled in. As Chloe, lay down on her blanket, I tied on a rather large bass lure called a crank-bait (no pun intended, that is the name of the type of lure). Unlike the delicate nature of a small, less than a quarter inch dry trout fly, this lure was a hideous monster. It was about three inches long, orange and chartreuse in color. It resembled some psychedelic, prehistoric approximation of a gruesome baitfish. It was designed to cause a bass to angrily strike at it. If the bass was so tempted, its mouth would be skewered on one of two sets of treble hooks. This lure was not seductive like the dry fly I had fished with on the Salt River. This lure was dark and treacherous. This was the lure I needed to fish with. I hauled my rod back and with all my might cast the lure outward. The spool of the reel whirled and squealed. Once the lure hit the water, I reeled fast and furious. At last, a style of fishing to match my anger. As I reeled my lure in, it happened.

I saw a great blue heron fly across my field of view. I followed its graceful flight. The flight path directed my eyes towards the distant cliffs. There, in the middle of two cliffs was the half-moon. It was just now setting in the distance. The moon had withstood the heat of the rising nuclear inferno of the sun as it heralded the dawn. Victorious, the moon was setting to rest in the horizon. It had survived the awakening ancient sun-God. In a few hours, it would again vanquish Amman-Ra. Like a thunderbolt, I thought of Nietzsche’s commentary and my lecture. I had become a living personification of the angry monster inside it. I hoped that a day of fishing would battle my anger. In the process, I externally became the angry monster. I sat down with Chloe. That was enough fishing for one day. Angrily casting to the dark depths of the lake was over. Now, it was okay to physically and emotionally go home.

We all have our internal monster. These insidious emotional and spiritual attacks demand that we recognize, engage and even battle them. In engaging in the battle, we must recognize the inevitable withdrawal from the field of battle. In the case of our own internal battles this means that we must withdraw from the mental and spiritual battlefield to the Elysian Fields of spiritual well being. It is then that emotional and spiritual well-being will manifest itself externally into the world in which we inhabit.

Until the next article, I hope we all successfully battle our internal monsters and avoid becoming the monster itself.

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
 ENDNOTES:
1. Nietzsche, Friedrich, Beyond Good And Evil, Part Four: Maxims And Interludes, Number 146.
 
EXCITING NEWS!
 Please feel free to visit Sensei John’s new online store containing various Jiriki Kata-Do products with the unique logo of Sanchin. The Sanchin logo depicts the three battles of Sanchin in a new contextual paradigm. You may find Sensei’s store at http://www.cafepress.com/sanchin_logo.     
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“.

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
 
 
 

 

 

ENDNOTES:

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.

On The Road With Sensei John – Part 3: Eastern Dojo

2 May

In this installment of my “On The Road With Sensei John” series, I want to discuss the various Dojo that I visited during my three and a quarter day journey from New Jersey (USA) back home to Arizona (USA). I will classify and present the Dojo in terms of their geographic relation to the Mississippi River. In this installment, I will discuss the Dojo that are east of the mighty 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 and are submitted for the benefit of all my readers. I hope you enjoy reading about the various Dojo.

Since I began my study of Karate-Do in 1971 at age 10, I have had the pleasure and honor of visiting and attending many traditional Karate-Do Dojo. For my non-Martial Artist readers, the word “Dojo” translates as “Way-Place” or “The place of learning a (martial) Way or Path.”

Kanji for the word "Dojo"

While I have a fond place in my memory for these traditional Dojo, the treasured and warmest recesses of my past memories and my present day training are to be found in the plethora of non-traditional Dojo that I have trained in.

I was first introduced to a non-traditional Dojo by Sensei Nick D’Antuono (See Endnote # 1). My first training in a non-traditional Dojo occurred on a bright, sunny Saturday morning during the summer in or about the year 1972. It was the first time I trained outside the confines of Sensei DeFelice’s Goshin-Do Karate-Do Dojo which was then located at 125 Broad Avenue, Palisades Park, New Jersey. This non-traditional Dojo was, if memory serves me correct, located on Grand Avenue, again, in Palisades Park. The entire Junior Division, which then was represented by two separate classes (Beginners and Advanced Students) was to meet at the traditional Dojo. Sensei Nick instructed us to wear our Gi (Karate uniform) and sneakers. We would travel to the non-traditional Dojo by foot. At the appointed hour, the entire student body exited Sensei DeFelice’s Dojo and through a combination of walking and jogging proceeded along Broad Avenue. We then turned right, down a hill and arrived, about one-half hour later, at the non-traditional Dojo. It was indeed beautiful. It was, in fact, a park. This was to be my first training experience outdoors in nature. Since then I have had substantially many more such training experiences. In fact, though I trained weekly at Shihan Norlander’s Dojo in Bogota, New Jersey, when the weather permitted, I trained daily at my natural Dojo located in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.

At The Woodland Park Dojo to the sound of woodpeckers Chloe guards against squirrels.

Another natural, non-traditional Dojo that I trained at was the Ling Dojo in Hackensack, New Jersey. I had not planned on training at the Ling Dojo. My decision to train at this Dojo was utterly spontaneous. Therefore, the lesson to be learned from the Ling Dojo is Unqualified Spontaneity in training and in life. I was scheduled to start my road journey on Saturday, April 17th. My last training session at Shihan Norlander’s Dojo was the night of Wednesday, April 14th. At the conclusion of the training session, I said my formal “Goodbyes” to all. Though once I say good-bye, I do not tend to linger or dwell, I arranged with Shihan Norlander to have a late breakfast at a diner in Hackensack, New Jersey. The diner is located on the Hackensack River. I arrived a few minutes early. The day was beautiful and I was enraptured with the surroundings, the satisfaction of being ready to hit the road and the idea of returning home after many months away. I decided to celebrate by performing a few Kata as I waited. I looked around so as to locate a suitable Dojo and found the Ling Dojo directly adjacent to the Diner.

The USS Ling Dojo, Hackensack, NJ

The Ling Dojo is a park adjacent to and part of the USS Ling submarine which is permanently housed on the Hackensack River. As I knew Shihan Norlander would soon arrive, I decided to begin training with a relatively short Kata called “Seipai”. With my blood flowing and mind clear, I then proceeded to perform the shortest Kata in the Goshin-Do Karate-Do Mokuroku No Kata called Ananku. As always, I ended the training session with the Sanchin Kata (See Endnote 2). At the completion of the session, I walked across the parking lot. As I did so, Shihan Norlander drove into the parking lot. Invigorated by my spontaneous efforts, I joined him for a very satisfying breakfast and discussion. So, my dear readers, remember the lesson of the Ling Dojo – be spontaneous in not only your training, but also your life. To be sure, planning the present and the future has merit, but true beauty, imagination and fulfillment is to be found in those unplanned moments that are simply allowed to happen.

At long last, the time for Chloe and I to actually turn the ignition key and begin the drive home arrived. I said a final “Good-bye” to my Mom and Dad. At 5:00 am Saturday, April 17th Chloe and I drove west on Highway I-78. I had carefully planned my first day on the road so as to arrive at the first Dojo in the early afternoon. After about two hours of driving on I-78 West and one stop to refuel, Chloe and I turned South onto Highway I-81. The first Dojo is located on this Interstate Highway in Raphine, Virginia. We soon exited the State of Pennsylvania and quickly drove through Maryland and West Virginia. As I saw the “Welcome To Virginia” sign, my anticipation grew. I simply could not wait to arrive at the first Dojo of this trip; Smiley’s Dojo. By early afternoon Chloe and I finally reached exit number 205 and turned off the interstate. Smiley’s Dojo was less than a quarter of a mile away. My anticipation had reached a crescendo. I could tell by the way Chloe stood against the passenger door window frame and deeply breathed in and out that she too anticipated visiting Smiley’s Dojo. It is for this reason that the lesson to be learned from Smiley’s Dojo is Self-Discipline.

Smiley’s Dojo is located within the confines of Smiley’s BBQ Pit. At this point in my day, I had eaten a simple breakfast consisting of a few pieces of fruit and some water. I normally eat a fairly regulated diet. Smiley’s Dojo is one of the few culinary indulgences I will allow myself on this trip. I can wholeheartedly say that the Carolina-style BBQ available at Smiley’s is the best. Further, the sliced beef brisket is second to none I have ever eaten in all my travels. By the time, I drove into the parking lot, I was quite hungry; however, Smiley’s Dojo is one of self-discipline. So, I first filled the truck’s gas tank. I then drove to the rear of Smiley’s and walked Chloe. I poured her some water and while she drank and stretched, I performed the Kata Tensho, Gekisai and Chinto. My performance was appreciated by various truck drivers who interrupted their own BBQ lunch to watch. We chatted a bit. Finally, I entered Smiley’s and placed an order “to go”; one pulled pork sandwich and one sliced beef brisket both in the Carolina-style of BBQ (See Endnote # 3).

Smiley's Dojo, Raphine, Virginia

My order was cooked. With sandwiches and a souvenir jar of Pickled Okra and Picked Sweet Watermelon Rind in hand I walked back to join Chloe in the truck. You would think that I immediately partook of the flavorful bounty. No, I did not. Again, Smiley’s Dojo is all about self-discipline. Rather than allow my taste buds to wander wantonly amongst the smoky meat, I again drove south. A few miles down the interstate (around exit 199) is a rest stop with a very nice park. I exited the interstate and found a quiet parking space. To fully embrace the self-discipline of Smiley’s Dojo, I again delayed tasting my BBQ bounty. Chloe and I once again exited the truck with our BBQ treasure. We found a suitable tree-lined small meadow. I opened the bag and deeply inhaled the smoky, hallucinogenic fumes and immediately thought – I must perform another Kata. The question was, “Which Kata will adequately capture the self-discipline of deferring eating this intoxicating feast of smoky meat?” The only answer was to be found in one of the longest and most unique Kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do; Kanto Kata. The performance of Kanto Kata is long and rhythmically methodic. It is described by Goshin-Do Karate-Do aficionados as being like “A hibernating bear rudely awakened in his cave and sleepily walking into the daylight to pursue his interloper“ (Isn’t that right Sensei Bob?). In the meadow, I performed Kanto Kata. Finally, I opened both sandwiches, cut each in half and ate half of each type of sandwich. I saved the other half of each sandwich until later for dinner. Chloe and I took a few minutes to lay down on the grass and let the sun’s rays fall gently upon us. My lips still tingled from the delights of smoked meats, my muscles twitched with the exertion of Kata and my spirit was a-flutter with the joy of life. As Chloe and I sat up and walked back to the truck, a butterfly landed on the grass where we had just laid. I entered the truck and turned the ignition thinking, “Life is indeed good.” I hope we all can carry the lesson of Smiley’s Dojo with us each day and remember well the rewards of self-discipline.

Chloe and I ended our first day on the road in White Pine, Tennessee. We had driven about 825 miles and had a most enjoyable day. After finishing the remaining BBQ sandwich halves from Smileys, a walk for Chloe and a performance of Sanchin Kata, we soon settled in to bed. I wanted to begin the second day on the road at about 5:30 am the next day. Chloe and I would enter the state of Tennessee and turn west onto Interstate 40. We would also visit the Dojo of a famous country and western singer.

Chloe and I awoke early Sunday morning, April 18th. As planned, we were driving on the interstate highway by 5:30 am eastern standard time. After driving a few hours, and gaining an hour when we passed into the central time zone, we arrived at the next Dojo which is at exit 143 on highway I-40. Due to the fact we gained an hour of time, it was only about 7:30 am when we pulled into the parking lot of the Dojo located at Loretta Lynn’s Country Kitchen. Chloe and I did not enter into the restaurant to eat its many wonderful culinary offerings. We had many miles to drive today, so we stopped at this Dojo only to let Chloe walk a bit and so that I could perform Kata in this famous singer’s “Dojo”. Much like the story of Loretta Lynn, who rose from her humble beginnings as a “coal miner’s daughter”, a Kata performance at this Dojo, particularly in the early hours of a dawning new day is filled with inspiration. The lesson of the Loretta Lynn’s Dojo is Inspiration. Chloe and I found a suitable location for her walk and my performance adjacent to a statute of a mighty buffalo.

The Buffalo Statue at the Loretta Lynn Country Kitchen Dojo, Tennessee

I am particularly fond of performing the Goju-Ryu based Kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do in the early morning. So, as I performed my Kata, including Tensho, Seienchin, Seipai and, of course, Sanchin. I allowed the rising sun, dew-filled grass and clean fresh air to inspire me to manifest the most fulfilling day possible. Each day, remember the lesson of the Loretta Lynn Dojo and allow yourself the opportunity to look within yourself as a source of your own inspiration. Allow yourself to go out into the external environment inspired to produce and manifest the most satisfying day. This will allow you to live a life enraptured by the events you inspired and manifested.

The Loretta Lynn Dojo was the last “formal-natural” Dojo Chloe and I visited before we crossed the mighty Mississippi River. The crossing of “’Ole Man River” signifies the beginning of our western journey. The western portion of our trip will be discussed in the next installment of this series. Until then, please remember these parting words. The purest Dojo is located within the human heart and spirit. It is from within the pure Dojo that the truest Karate-Do (and an enlightened life) is to be found.

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 student of the Pure Dojo

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
 ENDNOTES:

1. Sensei Nick D’Antuono was my first Sensei in Goshin-Do Karate-Do. At the time I had started my road trip back home, he was hospitalized with complications due to medical treatments for cancer. As of this writing, Sensei is no longer hospitalized. I am happy to advise, he is home.

2. Please see the Mokuroku No Kata category for a complete list of all Kata in the Goshin-Do Karate-Do system of Shihan Thomas DeFelice, including the Kata incorporated by me at Senior Yudansha levels.

3. Smiley’s also offers “Kansas City-style” BBQ which is slathered in a rich and tangy sauce. My favorite is the Carolina-style in which the meat is covered in a light vinegar based sauce. This style allows the true flavor of the meat to be experienced.

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“.

On The Road With Sensei John – Part 2: NJ Reflections

25 Apr

After slightly more than three days on the road, I arrived back in Arizona (USA) at 9:30 am Tuesday, April 20th. All in all, it was a good road trip. I had trained along the way and enjoyed the 2,550 mile journey. It will take some time for me to compile all of my notes and photographs from the trip so as to be able to compose an article worthy of the journey. So, I thought I would submit an interim article reflecting back on those I visited with and trained with while still in New Jersey (USA). As I continue to compile my notes, I hope you enjoy the within. Again, although the within is written in terms of Karate-Do, I suggest that the concepts expressed apply equally to any human art form and in fact to life itself. It is my hope that you are able to incorporate the within thoughts into not only your Karate-Do training regime, but also into your life itself.

 I arrived in New Jersey on January 18th. As always, it was good to see family; my Dad, Mom, brother Rob and daughters Jess and (Sensei) Kim. It was especially good to see how big Jess’ son, my grandson, Stratton had grown since he was born on July 5th, 2009.

My first night of training in a formal Dojo was Wednesday January 20th when I visited the USA Goshin-Ryu Karate-Do Dojo of Shihan Wayne Norlander. On Monday, January 25th, Shihan Norlander and I paid a visit to the Dojo of a longtime friend, Sensei Tom Van Tassel (see Endnote # 1). I have the pleasure of knowing Sensei Van Tassel for many years. In and around the year 1995, Sensei Van Tassel, Sensei Fred Carrel and myself became the charter members of the Goshin-Do Okinawa-Te Association. Eventually, with the demands of time, the Association disbanded, but the bonds of Karate-Do and mutual friendship remain.

Patch of the Goshin-Do Okinawa-Te Association

It was good to again visit Sensei’s Dojo (which is located in Rockaway, NJ) and see not only him, but, his partner, Sensei Jack Kramer. I was also glad to see several Yudansha (Those of Black Belt Rank) from the Goju-Ryu style that regularly visit Sensei’s Dojo. The night was filled with an open, imaginative exchange of Kata, ideas and concepts. The visit to Sensei Van Tassel’s Dojo maybe best characterized as one of remembrance and comradeship.

When I saw Sensei Kramer, now a Yon-Dan, I was reminded of the time that I was an honored guest at his Sho-Dan examination which took place at Sensei Carrel’s All Okinawan Karate Institute, then located in Jefferson Township, NJ. As Bob Seger sang, “It seems like yesterday, but oh so long ago. . .” (see Endnote # 2).

Patch of the All Okinawan Karate Institute

Mental memories were not the only ones to be rekindled at Sensei Van Tassel’s Dojo. Physical memories were shared as well. I was very fortunate to take a walk down Kata memory lane with not only Sensei Van Tassel and Sensei Kramer, but also with Yudansha that had trained in traditional Goju-Ryu. I had exposure to traditional Goju-Ryu in the years I attended college at Fairleigh Dickenson University in Rutherford, NJ (1979 to 1984). It was nice to again perform and see the traditional Goju-Ryu Kata as a point of comparison to the Goshin-Do Karate-Do counterparts. At night’s end, hugs were exchanged, photographs from days passed viewed and new photographs taken. On the ride home, Shihan Norlander and I reminisced a bit more on these longtime relationships. It is my hope that you, my dear readers, remember those from your past well and with care for the memories you are entrusted with. I think that is the lesson of my visit to Sensei Van Tassel’s Dojo.

At the American Center For Martial Arts

Every Wednesday evening, I had the honor and pleasure of attending Shihan Norlander’s Dojo located in Bogota, New Jersey. This experience was rewarding on several levels. Shihan Norlander possesses a very rare capacity unique amongst Kancho (Kancho are the overseers or Chief Instructors of a Dojo). In my experience, within the sphere of their Dojo, Kancho tend to be autocratic in nature and disposition. Shihan is just the opposite. He is open and receptive and permits his invited guests to not only enter upon his training floor, but to also openly express and share ideas and concepts. So, on one level, my attendance at Shihan’s Dojo is characterized by an open sharing of Karate-Do. It was invigorating for me to again share and receive ideas, methods, concepts and Kata not only with Shihan, but also his Yudansha, Sensei Pablo and Sensei Scott (I had the distinct honor of hosting Sensei Scott’s Sho-Dan examination at my Issho Dojo in East Rutherford, NJ). Also present were Shihan’s Numansha (those of under Black Belt Grade) , Matt and Al (who did not formally train due to illness). During the training sessions I received from Shihan and his students many treasured Karate-Do gifts. I do not mean gaudily wrapped presents. Rather, the gifts of Karate-Do are honor, love, sweat , black and blue bruises, and even, at times, blood. Hopefully, I repaid their gifts by sharing my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do (see Endnote # 3) , various Karate-Do training methods, techniques and the Kata, Ufuichiku No Eaku, Suparunpei and Hakutsuru and my Jiriki Kata-Do Sanchin in Four Directions. Now that I am back in Arizona and again train in my backyard desert Dojo, devoid of human Karate-interaction, I miss this sharing. To share from the human heart is one of the most cherished capacities bestowed upon us. Karate-Do is but a means of accomplishing the end result of sharing. As such, it is my hope that all that read the within remember this well and openly share your own unique gifts with another.

Shihan Norlander’s Dojo also provided tremendous satisfaction on another level. Shihan’s Dojo became an informal gathering environment for several of my Goshin-Do Karate-Do brethren. Not only did I have the ability to see Shihan Thomas DeFelice on several occasions at Shihan Norlander’s Dojo, but many of my Goshin-Do brethren stopped by for a visit. It was good to once again “take the floor” with these individuals from my past. I enjoyed seeing them including Sensei Bob (who several years ago composed and presented me with an inspiring poem concerning the timeless teaching of Goshin-Do Karate-Do), Sensei Dave, Sensei Richie, Sensei Mike, Sensei Rudy (who cooked a particularly delicious breakfast for several of us one Sunday morning) and my Yudansha who earned Black Belt rank directly under me, Sensei Kim and Sensei Jimmy (one-half of the “Boangeres”, see Endnote # 4). Now, as I train in the presence of Chloe (See the “Meet Sensei“ page) and under the watchful eyes of my desert brothers, the coyote, javelina, hawk and lizards, I think of and miss my Goshin-Do brethren.

Sensei Scott - Shihan Norlander - Myself - Sensei Jimmy - Sensei Pablo

There was one less than happy aspect of my visit to New Jersey. In late March I learned that my first Sensei, Sensei Nick D’Antuono (see Endnote # 5) was hospitalized with complications from his treatments for cancer. I was able to visit Sensei Nick at the hospital on several occasions. I regretted having to leave New Jersey with Sensei still in the hospital. Little did I know that Sensei’s status would change.

Sensei Nick - Myself (age 14) - Shihan Don Nagle (Isshin-Ryu Karate) (Circa 1975)

And so, I began to prepare to leave New Jersey with fond memories, concern with Sensei’s hospitalization, sadness at leaving my brethren and a promise. Over two thousand years ago, a remarkable man broke bread and shared wine his followers. He asked his followers to “Do this in memory of me.” To this very day, I fondly recall how Sensei Nick would end the Saturday morning Junior Division training sessions with multiple performance of the three Takiyoku Kata. Therefore, I promised that during my first desert training session, I would dedicate my sincerest sweat produced by multiple performances of the Takiyoku Kata to Sensei Nick. I will do that in memory of him.

Until the next installment of this “On The Road With Sensei John” series, I remain, on the road, fondly remembering, not only mentally, but physically all who I encountered on my visit to the Garden State.

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
 
 For the first installment of the “On The Road With Sensei John” series, please click on the “Older Posts” icon at the bottom of this page.
 
ENDNOTES:

1. You may visit the website of Sensei Van Tassel at WWW.AmericanCenterForMartialArts.Com.

2. From the song Against The Wind, by Bob Seger,

3. Jiriki Kata-Do translates as “The Way Of (Attaining) Inner Salvation Through Kata“. It is my ideology and methodology of extending Karate-Do Kata, protocols and ideology to those that seek the benefits of same without embarking on learning a full Karate-Do curriculum.

4. When Sensei Jimmy, who is now a San-Dan (3rd degree black belt) earned his Sho-Dan (1st degree black belt) in January 2000, I had bestowed the name of Boangeres onto him and his brethren. Boangeres is a phrase from the ancient, Biblical Aramaic language. It was mentioned in the Gospels as the title Jesus bestowed upon the Apostles (and brothers) James and John. In Aramaic, the phrase translates as “Sons Of Thunder“.

5. In 1971 when I started training in Goshin-Do Karate-Do at age ten, Sensei Nick D’Antuono was my first Sensei. Sensei was then a Ni-Dan and was appointed by Shihan Thomas DeFelice as the chief instructor of the Junior Division of the Academy Of Goshin-Do Karate-Do. He was assisted by Sensei Dave. Sensei Nick was my first Sensei and I was, as he called it, a “pork chop”.

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“.

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