Tag Archives: Karate

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 ***

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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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