Tag Archives: Kata Analysis

FREE Online Kata Lab Course

12 Oct

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

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

Do NOT Perfect Your Kata

6 Jun

“Perfect your kata.”

You’ve heard it in the dojo, you’ve read about it in books, magazines and blogs. It’s mentioned in videos on You-Tube. Heck, I even posted an article concerning the idea that “Practice makes perfect.” https://senseijohn.me/2010/07/19/practice-does-not-make-perfect/

Well, I say “Do NOT ‘perfect’ your kata!”

To ‘perfect’ means to, “make (something) completely free from faults or defects, or as close to such a condition as possible.” Kata is one “something” that it is utterly impossible to perfect. Consider the following.

First, let’s start with the kata itself. I submit it is impossible to perfect a kata. Initially, how is a perfect kata to be defined. Is it one that is technically correct, free from faults or defects? If so, then a perfect kata is one that is merely pretty and lacks any functional utility. It must be remembered that kata is a dance, the highest form of dance in my opinion, but a dance nonetheless. What differentiates kata from all other forms of dance is one crucial element. Kata has at its core a martial purpose. It is designed to facilitate self-defense (see endnote # 1) So, to consider a kata as perfect merely based upon technical correctness of the performance is incomplete. Surely, a performer that performs a perfect kata in the dojo or a tournament but cannot defend him or her self with the sequences and techniques from the kata is but a perfect dancer.

Second, kata exists merely as a concept. It is enlivened only through the actions of a performer. In so far as the performer is an imperfect being (as is all humans), the kata can never be perfected. As to this point, I am reminded of a saying from one of my instructors, “Kata is to be thought of as clay in a mold.” Even assuming, arguendo, that the mold (the kata) is itself perfect, the clay (the performer) contains individual imperfections. Through the performance of the kata, repeatedly subjecting the clay to the mold, one hopes to remove as many perfections as possible; however, given the nature of flux of the imperfections, this is impossible. (See Endnote # 2)

Third, as regular readers are aware, I steadfastly maintain that kata contains three individual aspects, a physical aspect, a spiritual aspect (the manner in which kata affects your state-of-mind, emotions and psyche) and an environmental aspect (the manner in which kata is affected by environment and vice-versa). When most teachers talk of “perfecting” your kata, they limit themselves to only the physical aspect of kata. By doing so, they avoid the most difficult aspect, the spiritual aspect. This aspect is difficult on several fronts. To start, I submit each kata contains within it a specific state-of-mind required for the performance. A full discussion of this point is beyond this article; however, you may gleam an idea of a specific kata’s proscribed statement of mind from the translation of its name. Examples include, the Kanto (Fighting Spirit) kata of Goshin-Do Karate, Taikiyoku (To build the body and the spirit) Geikisai (To Destroy) and Seienchin (Calm in the storm / storm in the calm). Thus this state of mind must be “perfected” within the kata – a monumental task at best. One’s mind, states thereof, including emotions and psyche can never be “perfected.”
In addition, even though a kata is relatively short in duration, it is exceeding difficult for the human mind to maintain itself in a “perfect” mental, emotional and psychological state for such a duration.

Fourth, looking at my environmental aspect of kata, two points must be borne in mind when considering the notion of “perfecting” your kata. It must be remembered that a kata was once a creation of its inventor. You can easily research the inventor’s physical characteristics at the time of creation. You may also discover insight into his general mental state (such as whether history tells us he was depressed, quick to anger, starving as in the case of a few post WWWII masters, or an alcoholic). You may not be aware of the impact of the creator’s environment on his kata creation. The kata would have been created taking such terrain into account. As such, the only way to “perfect” such kata is to perform it in its intended (read “perfect”) environment. Not sure? Take any of the various Kobudo oar kata as an immediate example. Most contain sequences involving using the oar to throw sand and /or soil into the eyes of the kata opponent. True, the kata can be performed in a dojo; however, such performance can not be “perfect” unless sand or soil is actually thrown and not merely simulated. Additionally, while you may “perfect” a kata within the sterile environment of a dojo, you may not be able to duplicate such perfection outside of the dojo, on uneven terrain, in clothes and shoes, with variations of temperature and climate.

So, if, as I say you should NOT “perfect your kata,” what then should you do. Let us turn to that great “master of Okinawa football” (hey, now-a-days, if it isn’t Okinawa, it’s not “authentic”), Coach Vince Lombardi of the Greenbay Packers (the team was originally from Okinawa and imported by US servicemen after WWII). 😇
Coach Lombardi once told his team,

We will relentlessly chase perfection knowing full well we will not achieve it, but we will relentlessly chase it and in the process, we shall find excellence.

Applying this to kata, I urge you to forget “Perfect your kata” and instead, “Excel at your kata.” To excel takes into account all the variables contained within my three aspects of kata. You can excel at kata regardless of your age, health and physical limitations. You can excel at kata even if you are not in an ideal mental or emotional state. In fact, I submit you should use kata to modify your dilatory emotional state https://senseijohn.me/2013/10/06/kata-lab-221-kata-as-an-emotional-modifier/ You can excel at kata in any physical environment, terrain or climate. By doing so, you will understand not only the martial aspects of kata and be able to defend yourself (with kata sequences) in the process, but also the “life-giving” aspects of kata. (See Endnote # 3)

So, stop accepting axiomatic advice and “Think * Sweat * Experiment for yourself. Don’t perfect your kata.” “Excel at your kata.”

This week’s featured Kata Laboratory video:

Bonus video: Here is a sneak peak at the newest video series “Underground Bunkai” which features my senior black belt, Sensei Jimmy DiMicelli, Go-Dan, Karate-Do NO Renshi.

Respectfully submitted, Cum superiorum privilegio veniaque (“With the privilege and permission of the superiors”)

HANKO-master

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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sunsu-2      For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!

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

ENDNOTES:

1. Within the concept of self-defense, I include not only the obvious defense against an aggressor, but also physical health, and mental and emotional health.

2. This concept is the same as a chapter in my Kata Laboratory Book that addresses my concept that it is impossible to perform any kata exactly the same way twice. As of this writing, I have not released a free “teaser” of this chapter. This chapter discusses the multitude of variables and state of flux referred to in the article in great detail.

3. I draw a kata analogy to a concept from kendo (the art of the sword), “Satsujin no Ken (the sword that takes life) and Katsujin no Ken” (the sword that gives life”). I submit that the same applies to kata; Satsujin no Kata and Katsujin no Kata.

© Copyright 2015 – 2016 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

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

You may wish to view my other blogs –
LOGO-WEBSITE  my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
DOJO STICKER-1   the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

Underground Bunkai – Sneak Peak

23 Nov

I am pleased to announce a new project – “Underground Bunkai.” Underground Bunkai is a series of articles and videos that will support my Kata Laboratory project. Kata Laboratory offers specific training methods to allow you to explore my three aspects of kata (See Endnote # 1). The Underground Bunkai project will show specific applications of the Kata Laboratory methods as they apply to various kata.

The approach of Underground Bunkai is unique. It provides you with insight not only as to the specific kata sequence analyzed, but also as to how to use that analysis to aid in your practice of the kata of your style of martial art. The videos will prominently feature my senior black belt, Sensei Jimmy DiMicelli, Go-dan, Karate-Do No Renshi.

Here is a sneak peak at a video that shows the concept of time as a fourth dimension of distance. A detailed discussion of time as a component of distance is contained in my full Kata Lab project (See Endnote # 2). Generally we think of distance in terms of three physical dimensions of length, width and height (see footnote # 3). We disregard the element of time, which is the fourth dimension of distance. The video uses the Goshin-Do Karate Kata Gekisai to illustrate how time affects distance. Enjoy.

Respectfully submitted, Cum superiorum privilegio veniaque (“With the privilege and permission of the superiors”)

HANKO-master

Sensei John Szmitkowski

  dreams-seisan   For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/

My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!

ENDNOTES:

1. My three aspects of kata are: the physical aspect (which includes practical application of kata technique and methods to integrate kata analysis within your martial arts regime), the spiritual aspect (the manner in which kata affects your mental state, emotions and psyche, and vice-versa) and the environmental aspect (the manner in which the environment affects your kata). Videos within the Kata Lab project provide a visual guide to supplement the written training methods.

2. The exact concept is the subject of Kata Lab # 3130: Maai – The 4th dimension – Introduction and Kata Lab # Maai – The 4th Dimension – Advanced Concepts. I have not posted “teasers” of these two labs on this blog.

3. To understand the three dimensions as they apply to distance in the martial arts, let’s look at a straight right punch that starts in chamber and ends at your opponent’s nose.

angle  You think of the distance in terms of an angle from your right chamber to your opponent’s nose.
1 copy  In fact, it is a three dimensional path described by the angle as follows:
2 copy  Length is the distance directly from your right chamber position to your opponent’s left side of the body;
width  Width is the distance from the chamber position directly to your opponent’s center mass;
height  Height is the distance from your right chamber position to the height of the nose along your opponent’s left body line.
These three distances merge into one path that is represented by a straight line, in the form of an angle, from chamber to nose.

© Copyright 2015 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

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

You may wish to view my other blogs –
LOGO-WEBSITE   my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
DOJO STICKER-1 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

Kata Bunkai – A Temporary Triumph (Dr. Feynman visits The Kata Lab – Part II)

9 Nov

KATA LAB

So, you just finished a kata seminar with the latest karate-do Master. Long in advance of the seminar, you pre-registered and paid your $ 100 plus dollar fee. The Master showed those select few of you his or her previously undisclosed, “hidden” application of kata sequences. According to the Master, “You now know the final bunkai for the kata.”

Well, not true on several fronts.

First and foremost, the word “bunkai” does not mean the physical application of kata sequences. It means analysis. Analysis is an on-going process;
Second, what was shown to you was an application of a kata sequence. You learned. You did not analyze anything yourself. You merely mimicked someone else’s application;
Third, what you learned is merely a physical application of kata sequences. You have not investigated my remaining two aspects of kata (and by extension, kata bunkai). Namely, the spiritual aspect (the manner in which the kata affects your state-of-mind, emotional state and psyche and vice-versa) and the environmental aspect (the manner in which your surroundings affect the kata and vice-versa).

The second point self-explanatory and the third is answered by my entire 200 plus page Kata Lab project. So, lets look at the first point. To aid my answer, I would like to once again “invite” the eminent physicist Dr. Richard Feynman into my Kata Lab. (See Endnote # 1).

FEYNMAN  Dr. Feynman once observed:

An experiment that confirms your theory does not prove that it is right, only that it is simply not proved wrong. It can never be proved right. Because in the future there could be a wider range of experiments that proves your theory wrong.* So, we are never sure we are right. We can only ever be sure we are not wrong.
* (reference was made to Newton’s law of planetary motion which was accepted correct until 100 years later when the planet Mercury’s motion proved it wrong).

So, for your seminar fee, what exactly did you get in terms of bunkai (analysis of kata)? You received something (see point two) that is not only inconclusive (see point three), but also, temporary, momentary and subject to change. Dr. Feynman would say you were shown an application that, for now, is “not wrong”.

How is this so?
The application you were shown is based upon the Master’s understanding of the kata sequences. This understanding factors in his or her physical limitations and abilities. Your use of the application is affected by your own physical capabilities and skills (which differ from those of the Master). Based upon your own individual characteristics the Master’s application may be utterly useless to you. Unless, of course, you, “Just keep practicing, one day you’ll get it right.” Even if you are able to perform the application, as your physical health changes your ability to perform that application will change. Thus what you learned as, ahem, “bunkai” needs to be revisited. If you do not revisit the application and make necessary adjustments, including finding an entirely new application, you will reach a point of stagnation. “I could perform this application in my younger days, or when my knees weren’t so bad.” Such statements are ridiculous.

Kata is not meant to be stagnant. It is meant to be fluid. It changes according to the performer. An analogy is the “Clay in the mold” interpretation of kata. Kata is the mold which will form you, the clay. As each lump of clay is different and will change over time, the mold (kata) will affect each lump differently. As to bunkai (analysis of kata), I submit that Dr, Feynman’s observation be modified as follows.

A bunkai (analysis) that confirms your understanding (of kata) does not prove that it is right, only that it is simply not proved wrong. It can never be proved right. Because in the future there could be a wider range of bunkai that proves your understanding incomplete. So, we are never sure that our bunkai is right. We can only ever be sure we are not wrong. (Sensei John Szmitkowski modifying Dr. Richard Feynman).

Thus, there are no absolutes in kata bunkai (analysis). Any analysis is merely temporary. It is subject to the changing dynamics and needs of the individual practitioner. Your changing health, age and capabilities all affect your analysis. Your non-physical characteristics may have a more profound impact on your kata analysis. Your mental state, emotions and psyche play a major role in how you analyze your kata. (See Endnote # 2) Further, there is a greatly overlooked and often entirely missed factor that contributes to your analysis. This factor is the manner in which the environment affects your kata. The impact of terrain, weather, temperature and other such environmental factors cannot be discounted.

My “visit” with Dr. Feynman now concluded, it is time once again for me to “Think * Sweat * Experiment” with my kata. Maybe one day I’ll get it “right.”

Featured video: Kata Lab #2230 – Kata: Dr. Jekyll’s Potion. Full article:
https://senseijohn.me/2014/02/09/kata-lab-122-kata-dr-jekylls-potion/

HANKO-master

Respectfully submitted, Cum superiorum privilegio veniaque (“With the privilege and permission of the superiors”) Sensei John Szmitkowski

   300-cactus.jpg  For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/

Endnotes:

1. Dr. Feynman’s earlier visit to my Kata Lab maybe viewed using this convenient link
https://senseijohn.me/2015/09/28/dr-richard-feynman-visits-senseis-kata-lab-part-1/

2. Kata can and should be used to modify emotions link https://senseijohn.me/2013/10/06/kata-lab-221-kata-as-an-emotional-modifier/

and video:

Help support Sensei’s experiments – Come visit my store on CafePress! all items have a minimal mark-up of only $ 0.75 to $ 1.00 over base prices!

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 –
LOGO-WEBSITE   my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
DOJO STICKER-1  the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

© Copyright 2015 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Dr. Richard Feynman “Visits” Sensei’s Kata Lab – Part 1

28 Sep

KATA LAB

BUNKAI--beauty of move copy  “On the chessboard lies and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of lies; the merciless fact, culmination in checkmate, contradicts the hypocrites.”  Chess Grand-master (GM) Emanuel Lasker  

sanchin-tonto forest  “With Kata bunkai lies and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of lies; the merciless fact, culmination in self-realization, contradicts the hypocrites.” Sensei John adapting GM Emanuel Lasker.

The 2015 Sinquefield Chess tournament recently ended. In a field of eight of the highest rated chess GM’s GM Levon Aronian emerged victorious.

GM ARONIAN

 

The tournament was broadcast live on You-Tube. As I watched the matches, I thought about the similarities between chess analysis and kata analysis (called “bunkai”). Being familiar with his analogy between chess and scientific experimentation, I thought to “invite” the preeminent physicist, Dr. Richard Feynman, to my Kata Laboratory.

FEYNMAN

Here is the result of his “visit.”

Dr, Feynman’s analogy presupposes that you don’t know the rules of the game of chess but can observe it. Similarly, I presuppose that you may know the sequences of a kata, but not understand their purpose. Summarizing Dr. Feynman,

Observing a chess game, we may notice that there are two bishops that move on a diagonal, one is on the black squares and one is on the white squares and they d0 not change its color. This observation becomes a law or rule of the game. If the observer understands the law but wants a deeper understanding of it, then something unusual happens — the thing that doesn’t fit the rule is the most interesting.

Observing more, we may see that there could be three bishops or one of the two bishops could have changed colors so you could have two bishops on either the white or black squares. So, after this observation, we must ask, “How did this happen?” Based on the observations, we noticed that a pawn may have crossed the chessboard to the other side and thus became a new bishop. And so we have a new rule, that is a pawn is not sacrificed and crosses the chess board, it becomes a bishop and based on the colored square of the pawn, that bishop moves diagonally on squares of that color.

The same is true with kata and bunkai. When you first analyze a kata, your observations lead you to the most basic applications (Dr. Feynman’s“rules”). Those karate practitioners that dismiss kata will never get beyond this point. More often than not, their analysis results with a conclusion that, “Kata is useless in a “real” fight.” In the chess analogy, this would be akin to saying, “Pawns in chess are useless minor pieces.”

With time and deeper analysis, you see that those initial Kata “rules” (analysis) were basic and superficial. You begin to see a richer picture. Such deeper analysis is similar t the observation of a pawn being promoted to a bishop. Once kata bunkai (analysis) goes beyond the basic, the specter of ego and hubris may is appear. If your analysis is deeper and richer than that of a person of higher rank, including your Sensei, you may be met with systemic dogma. Chess provides a perfect example. “In our style of chess (karate), pawns are always meant to be sacrificed and therefore do not cross the board to become a new bishop.” Thus your (innovative) analysis of the game of chess (kata) is flawed in that it violates the dictates of the system as imposed upon its “leader.”

Continuing Dr. Feynman’s analogy one step further. A prolonged observation of the chess game would require a new rule to replace the old rule that a pawn can be promoted to a bishop. A promoted pawn can become a any new piece, be it a bishop, queen, knight, or rook, based upon the needs of the game. Thus, the pawn, which is the most basic piece, at all times hides an advanced piece within – as long as it is not sacrificed early in life and can be promoted on the last rank.

Again, this directly applies to kata analysis. New, richer deeper and dare I say even previously undiscovered applications may be found. In my personal practice, these applications extend beyond the mere physical applications. Through deep analysis, I have discovered spiritual applications of kata (how kata affects your state-of-mind, emotions and psyche) and environmental applications (how kata is influenced by and influences your external environment). More importantly, I have been able to formulate training exercises to assist others in discovering these hidden fields of application. This is the heart of my 40,000+ word “Kata Laboratory” project.

I have shared snippets of my Kata Laboratory with many comrades and masters within my karate-do sphere. The majority have commented in a positive manner. There are some; however, that due to their own lack of kata bunkai exploration, allow their ego and hubris to skew there comments. Their comments range from the “That is not part of kata” to the most disingenuous, “Of course.” Those you give the latter comment have then been known to go home to study the observation and conclusions (never having previously taken the time to do so) and teach it to their students as if its it their discovery. But, that is all part of the game of chess, I mean kata bunkai.

For those readers that would like a preview sampling of my 40,000+ word Kata Laboratory project, please visit the page tab above, or use this convenient link
https://senseijohn.me/kata-lab/

Remember when it comes to kata bunkai it is always time to:

lab-collage-6

Please check back again as I apply more of Dr. Feynman’s observations to kata bunkai in Part Two of this submission.

Respectfully submitted,

HANKO-masterSensei John Szmitkowski

If you enjoy this post please help support this blog, visit my store and help support my experiments –

Come visit my store on CafePress!

all items have a minimal mark-up of only $ 0.75 to $ 1.00 over base prices!

dreams-seisan   For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/

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/

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 –
LOGO-WEBSITE   my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
DOJO STICKER-1  the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

© Copyright 2015 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Newest Kata Lab Videos

23 Nov

With family health issues and my relocation to New Jersey from Arizona, I fell behind in creating videos. I have finally caught up with a backlog of videos; particularly videos in my Kata Laboratory category. To better serve you and enhance your understanding of some of my previously posted Kata Labs, I added a few videos.

But first, I think it is worth to again share with you my most profound kata experience among one of the herds of wild horses that call the Lower Salt River, Arizona home. Enjoy

These videos represent some of the last ones filmed in stunning Arizona scenery.

KATA LAB

AZ-RIVER  This video which features footage filmed at the spectacular Lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest, Arizona, was added to the article Kata Lab – Dr. Jekyll’s Potion – Link to article: https://senseijohn.me/2014/02/09/kata-lab-122-kata-dr-jekylls-potion/

 

AZ-RIVER  This video which features footage filmed in a snowstorm and New Jersey and at the spectacular Lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest, Arizona, was added to the article Kata Lab – Kata To Modify Emotions – Link to article: https://senseijohn.me/2013/10/06/kata-lab-221-kata-as-an-emotional-modifier/

 

sunsu-2 This video which features footage filmed at the spectacular Lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest, Arizona, was added to the article Kata Lab – Kata – Kumite Ichi – Link to article https://senseijohn.me/2014/01/26/kata-lab-211-kata-kumite-ichi/

I have also posted a few new Kata Labs, also with videos. They are

KANJI SANCHIN-SMALL Kata Lab: Reverse Sanchin Kata – Link to article: https://senseijohn.me/2014/10/20/kata-lab-reverse-sanchin-kata/

 

BUNKAI--beauty of move copy  Kata Lab: Random Sanchin Kata – Link to article: https://senseijohn.me/2014/11/03/kata-lab-random-sanchin-kata/

 

The idea for the Random Sanchin Kata Lab had recently occurred to me while watching a chess tournament online. You can read the background story in the article “Kata: My Curse?” using this convenient link: https://senseijohn.me/2014/09/22/kata-my-curse/

I’ll soon be on the road back to New Jersey and will have more articles and videos (always filmed outdoors, in Nature’s Dojo). Until then enjoy and thank-you for following my blog.

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Sensei John Szmitkowski

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Kata Lab # 2170: Blink-Of-An-Eye Bunkai

4 May

“Life and death in the street occurs in the blink-of-an-eye.” 
(Shihan Thomas DeFelice)

“Therefore kata bunkai (analysis) should include the blinking-of-an-eye.”
(Sensei John Szmitkowski)

KATA LAB

Welcome to this teaser from my Kata Laboratory Series, Kata Lab #2170: Blink-Of-An-Eye Bunkai ©

Preface:

For a behind-the-scenes look at how this Kata Lab developed, please refer to this article using this convenient link:

Sensei John’s Kata Lab: “The Process” – Link:
https://senseijohn.me/2014/04/20/kata-lab-the-process-of-making-a-kata-lab/

Analyzing Ananku Kata in the Kata Lab

Analyzing Ananku Kata in the Kata Lab

Background:
There are numerous karate-do techniques involving any number of striking surfaces with the hands, feet, knees, elbows, fingers and the like. These techniques are combined with any number of stances to form a posture.

These postures are linked together in a cohesive manner to form sequences which are combined to form a unified pattern called kata. This is the physical aspect of kata.

Bunkai (analysis) is used to understand the kata. The majority of practitioners limit their bunkai to the overt moves and sequences in kata. The transition from sequence-to-sequence, posture-to-posture that occur with a kata are often ignored in bunkai.
This Kata Lab looks at the physical aspects of those transitional movements.

Kata Lab: (Recommended Reader Experimentation)

To assist you in the process of this Kata Lab, I have a video after the procedural outline.

  • Select a kata that you are familiar with utilizing bunkai to perform the physical applications of;
  • Perform the kata slowly, paying particular attention to the transitions between movements;
  • As to the transitions, notice the shifting of weight, body movements, and hand positions;
  • Exaggerate the transitions so as to identify and define postures within these transitions, define a stance, and hand position;
  • Again perform the kata slowly, this time inserting the transitional postures into the kata as if they themselves were overt moves;
  • Perform the kata full speed, once again, insert the hidden postures into the kata as if they were overt moves. Does the kata maintain it’s “flow” when performed in this manner? If so, then your identification of the hidden postures was accurate.
  • Analyze the kata transitional positions with a partner, pay particular attention to your previous analysis to determine the extent to which the transitional postures enrich your application. The transitions should allow you to see new self-defense application possibilities.

Closing:
Including the transitional postures in your bunkai (analysis) of kata will enrich your understanding of the application of the physical movements. You will begin to see new possibilities. Better still you will see self-defense possibilities that those who do no analyze the transitions will be ignorant of. Thus, your arsenal of defensive possibilities surpasses theirs.
Additionally, the understanding of the physical aspect of the transitional movements will begin to foster a desire to understand the transitional postures from a spiritual (psychological, emotional and stat-of-mind) aspect and a metaphysical (the manner in which the kata connects you to the environment) aspect.

Please remember, the mandate of the kata laboratory is

lab-collage-6

 

HANKO
Cum superiorum privilegio veniaque (With the privilege and permission of the superiors)

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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Kata Lab: The Process Of Making A Kata Lab

20 Apr

“Come into the Lab and see what’s on the slab.” (See Endnote # 1)

KATA LAB

Welcome to this teaser post and video from my Kata Laboratory Series, “Kata Lab: The Process Of Making A Kata Lab” ©

Background:
I thought it would be interesting to take you behind the scenes into the making of a Kata Lab. I have already written many of the lab “experiments,” my training is a continuing, daily process. Therefore all lab experiments can never truly be written; many remain unwritten and pending discovery.

Recently, I had an idea that led to a new addition to my Kata Lab syllabus. The working title is “Blink-Of-An-Eye Bunkai.” Here’s how this future Kata Lab submission developed. I’ll outline the general process and then provide the working example of how training Ananku Kata led to the development of the Blink-Of-An-Eye Kata Lab.

Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory Development Process:

Step One: Train!
Without exception all Kata Labs, in fact all posts on this blog, begin with kata training. It is utterly impossible to create a kata lab sitting idly at the computer. There must be daily, even hourly, kata training. I regularly take a ten to fifteen minute “kata-break” from my work routine.

sensei_johns_kata_lab_vintage_clipboard          I always have a clipboard loaded with blank paper and index cards, a voice recorder and sometimes, even my laptop handy.

As kata training is for the sake of training and not writing, I do not develop an idea during such sessions. Rather, I simply spontaneously record something that I may notice about a particular kata or an idea that may simply pop into my mind. These notations are either a few words or a sentence or two. After the session, I pin the index card to a large cork board for future development.
Working Example: I was performing the Goshin-Do Karate-Do (hereinafter “GDK-D”) Ananku Kata. A thought came to mind. I grabbed my clipboard, made a brief note on an index card and continued training. The thought pertained to the transitional stages that occur in the first four moves of Ananku Kata. These transitions from one kata move to the next contain brief, almost hidden, postures. These brief postures are worthy of bunkai (analysis). The movements are described in Endnote # 2 and # 3. There is also a video below.

Step Two: Think & Sweat:
Prior to a training session, I’ll look over my note cards. Some more than others tend to grab my attention. These notes stay at the forefront of my thoughts as I practice. If any ideas develop from the brief notes they are written down. Over time, I hope that the idea developed from one specific kata will ripen into a generalized concept that applies to any kata.
Working example: Intrigued by my notes on hidden postures in transitional moves, I practice my kata very slowly, paying particular attention to the transition from one kata movement to the next. An awareness as to postures that result from the combination of body shifting, hand and foot postures occur when moving from one kata movement to the next. These postures occur very briefly, in the blink-of-an-eye. They occur so quickly that they may not even be postures in the truest sense of the word. As they occur within the “blink-of-an-eye” practitioners are not even aware of their existence. No attention at all is paid to them. They are often ignored in in both kata and kata bunkai (analysis) in favor of the more overt or apparent kata movements.

Step Three: Experiment:
Now that I have developed a concept, I must determine how it relates to kata outside the GDK-D curriculum. If the concept does not apply to a broad based audience, it cannot become a Kata Lab topic.
I am fortunate to have been exposed to kata from styles of karate-do other than GDK-D, most notably Goju-Ryu and some Matsumura Shorin-ryu kata. In addition, I have learned fifteen kobu-do kata (Matayoshi-Ryu, Yamani-Ryu and Uefuichiku Kata). I use this kata base to test the concept developed with the GDK-D Kata.

It is at this stage that the overall kata laboratory starts to take shape. Through these extraneous kata (including the kobudo kata) I strive to find a procedure for anyone to analyze my concept using the kata of their particular style of karate-do.

Working example: I begin to slowly and methodically practice the kata outside of the GDK-D system. Again I pay particular attention to postures that occur when moving from one kata movement to the next. With this particular kata lab, kobudo kata with the bo were extremely helpful. I can only speculate that the length of the bo, which magnifies hand movements exponentially under normal circumstances, helped to intensify the effect of these hidden postures.

Step Four: Design a Practice Procedure For Others To Follow

I document the steps that any kata practitioner can use to analyze their own specific kata and still be able to understand the overall concept and subject of the Kata Lab. I also consider whether a video would be helpful to the reader. If so, production on the video begins.

Working example:
Here is the video I produced as a companion to the “Blink-Of-An-Eye Bunkai” Kata Lab.

Step Five: Administrative Matters Of Writing a Kata Lab

Now is the time to write up the Kata Lab itself. This process is similar to writing a monthly lesson plan for the Dojo where each class is designed to form a cohesive whole. The Kata Lab must be given a name which conveys the subject of the lab. Hopefully, the name of the lab will contain a catch-phrase that makes it easy to remember. Once the lab is written it must be fit within the overall kata lab syllabus. The numbering of the Kata Lab is determined from this step.

Working example: With continued practice and thought, I understood two things, first, practitioners concentrate bunkai (analysis) on the overt, apparent moves of the kata, not in the transitional postures and second, these postures occur so briefly (in the blink-of-an-eye) that they were hardly present at all. So, how to convince practitioners that movements that occur in the “blink-of-an-eye” are worthy of bunkai (analysis)? Simple. I’ll use a phrase that was embedded into my psyche throughout my training in the GDK-D style.

According to Shihan Thomas DeFelice, Ku-dan (9th degree black belt) Karate-Do No Hanshi, Goshin-Do Karate-Do,

“Life and death in the street occurs in the blink-of-an-eye.”

Thus, if the above was correct, it is logical and necessary that our bunkai (analysis) must extend to the kata movements that also occur in the blink of an eye. For, surely, if one’s own life depended upon such a brief interval, then one’s analytical attention must be drawn to it.

Step Five: Finished

If all is done correctly, a Kata Lab that a reader can practice themselves has developed and been uploaded to my blog. A reader can use the Kata Lab to assist his or her own kata experience. Better still, the reader may desire to use the Kata Lab as part of a class within their Dojo.

And that is how the forthcoming “Blink-Of-An-Eye” kata lab came to be. Look for it to be posted in a short time. Once posted, I will provide a link here.

Step Six: Oops, Not Quite Finished:

The last step is to extend, if possible, the Kata Lab into the remaining aspects of bunkai. You may recall that I submit that there are three aspects to kata and that bunkai (analysis) must extend to those aspects. The three aspects are the physical aspect (combat applications), the spiritual aspect (state-of-mind, emotional and psychological concepts) and metaphysical aspect (the performer’s connection with his natural environment).

Working example: The “Blink-Of-An-Eye” Kata Lab above is a physical Kata Lab. My next task is to extend the “Blink-Of-An-Eye concept to the spiritual and metaphysical aspects of kata. And, so, the entire process begins anew, again. And, again. And, again.
Please remember, the mandate of the kata laboratory is

lab-collage-6

HANKO
Cum superiorum privilegio veniaque (With the privilege and permission of the superiors)

Sensei John Szmitkowski

If you enjoy this Kata Lab, help fund more with one of our unique products encouraging you to “Think * Sweat * Experiment” with kata.

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© Copyright 2013 and 2014 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

ENDNOTES:

1. Dr, Frank N. Furter (The Rocky Horror Picture Show)

2. The first four overt movements of the GDK Ananku Kata are (facing North) in ready posture (you may also refer to the above video):

  • pivot West to a cat stance, raise hands to the challenge position;
  • pivot East to a cat stance, raise hands to the challenge position;
  • mawate 180 degrees facing West to a left front stance with a left open middle block followed by two punches to the solar plexus;
  • mawate 180 degrees facing East to a right front stance with a right open middle block followed by two punches to the solar plexus;

3. The brief, hidden postures that came to mind are (You may also again refer to the above video):

  • pivot West to a cat stance, raise hands to the challenge position;
  • First hidden posture: as you begin the next move, you rotate back to North with both open hands lowered as in hache-dache position, then you continue to
  • pivot East to a cat stance, raise hands to the challenge position;
  • Second hidden posture: as you prepare to pivot, you look over your left shoulder to West, transfer your weight from your left leg to your right leg, lower your left open hand and bring to your right open hand to semi-center line (to cover your left middle block) – equals: a left cat-stance-like posture with left hand low, right shoulder height*
  • mawate 180 degrees facing West to a left front stance with a left open middle block followed by two punches to the solar plexus;
  • Third hidden posture: as you prepare to pivot, you look over your right shoulder to East, transfer your weight from to your left leg, lower your right open hand and bring to your left open hand to semi-center line (to cover your left middle block) – equals: a right cat-stance-like posture with left hand low, right shoulder height*
  • mawate 180 degrees facing East to a right front stance with a right open middle block followed by two punches to the solar plexus;

* the exact stance that is inferred in the posture depends on how far the front foot is retracted in relation to the rear foot, full retraction with feet touching (an implied heisuko-dache, ready stance), partially back (an implied kokutsu-dache, back stance), no retractions (an implied rear-leaning stance).

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You may wish to view my other blogs –
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Kata Lab # 2130: Kata Deconstruction – An Introduction

9 Jun

KATA LAB

What did I know best that I had not written about and lost? What did I know about truly and care for the most? There was no choice at all. (See Endnote # 1)

CIMG3570

Welcome to the second installment in my Kata Laboratory Series, Kata Lab # 2130: “Introduction To Kata Deconstruction” ©

 

Preface:

I’ve come to identify several deficiencies with the commonly accepted method of kata training and bunkai (analysis) associated with kata. I do not use the word “deficiencies” as a criticism of the commonly accepted methodology utilized by my karate-do brethren. Rather, I use the word simply to describe areas of established training methods that were insufficient from my personal perspective.

One area of deficiency is the foundation upon which kata bunkai (analysis) is based. Often the first method of introducing a student to the application of kata (not bunkai, see Endnote # 2) is a scripted, choreographed practice of kata techniques with a partner. While this approach is extremely important for the student at beginner and intermediate levels. It is wholly inadequate for the advanced student. As such, it must ultimately be supplemented. This realization has led me to one of the maxims of my Kata Lab, namely,

“When Kata is lost, the nuances of kata begin to manifest.” 

 This installment of the Kata Lab sets forth my basic procedure to allow the advanced student can go beyond the commonly accepted choreographed kata applications. This procedure can then be built upon with more complicated kata and bunkai protocols.

Background:

The commonly accepted manner of introducing a student to the subject of application of kata usually involves three general procedures. I call these procedures the “drill procedure”, the “storyboard procedure” and the “kumite procedure”.

In the drill procedure students learn various choreographed drills in addition to and as a supplement to kata training. For purposes of this submission, I reject the drill procedure as a kata procedure. It does not rely upon kata and is taught in addition to and unrelated to the kata, thus it is a separate part of the overall karate-do curriculum. The storyboard procedure involves the use of partners who attack the kata performer as he performs the kata sequences within the established pattern of the kata. (See Endnote # 4) Within the Goshin-Do Karate-Do Dojo, this was a common approach.
In the kata storyboard, the performer would stand ready to perform the kata. A number of students, acting as attackers, would position themselves around the performer, in front, back and left and right sides. In turn, as determined by the pattern of the kata, each attacker would attack the performer with a pre-determined technique directed at the appropriate target. The performer would perform the normal kata sequences and pattern responding to each choreographed attack. The essence of this procedure is that the performer executes the kata sequences and PRESERVES the kata pattern.
The kumite procedure involves the performer executing the kata sequences but REJECTS the kata pattern in favor of a linear pattern. Thus the kumite procedure involves only two individuals, the kata performer and his partner (who serves as an attacker). For those readers familiar with a classical Goju-Ryu curriculum, examples of this procedure are the Gekisai-Dai-Ichi kumite set and the Gekisai-Dai-Ni kumite set. Within the former Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kyokai, such kumite procedures existed as the Fuku kumite and the Gekisai kumite (please see Endnote # 5 for the unique origin of Hanshi Van Lenten’s Gekisai Kata). Archival photographs of Hanshi Van Lenten and Sensei Wesley Evans performing the Fuku Kumite and HISTORIC video of them performing kumite drills may be found in Endnote # 6.

Scanned Image 110320000

Need for my method of Kata Deconstruction:

Once again, the above procedures are important for the beginner and intermediate student; however, due to various limitations, they are inadequate for advanced study. These limitations include, but are not limited to:

  • The attackers must “learn” the sequence and manner of attack, therefore, additional extraneous training is required. A failure to adequately memorize the attacker’s role results in a wholly non-functional and frustrating procedure and learning experience;
  • Though commonly referenced as such, neither of the above approaches should properly be termed “bunkai” (analysis of kata) as they do not require analysis, rather they require rote memorization;
  • Both approaches are limited by a lack of spontaneity in the methodology of attack and kata. As such, they are susceptible to predictable boredom with repeated practice over the long term.

For these reasons, and others, I developed the concept of kata deconstruction as a foundation upon which to build more advanced kata bunkai (analysis). My procedure is a very simple procedure for any student to utilize and subsequently build upon based upon individual needs.

Method of Kata Deconstruction: (Recommended Reader Experimentation)

While kata deconstruction can (and eventually must) be practiced with any and all kata, I suggest beginning with the kata you are most comfortable and familiar with. You deconstruct the kata as follows:

  • identify and be absolutely familiar with the sequences of the kata; that is to say those movements that are identifiably linked together and usually followed by a pause in the kata before proceeding to the next sequence; (an example is contained in the video below);
  • practice your kata as you normally would to familiarize yourself with the kata sequences and pattern;
  • now deconstruct your kata by performing the first sequence, when done, pause like you normally would
  • instead of performing the next sequence, turn in any direct and walk a few steps
  • stop walking and perform the next sequence of the kata, pause when this sequence is complete,
  • again, instead of performing the next sequence, turn in any direct and walk a few steps
  • stop walking and perform the next sequence of the kata, pause when this sequence is complete,
  • repeat until you have performed the entire kata. note: it does not matter that you neither end facing in the same direction that you started nor that positional coincidence (see Endnote # 7) is preserved.

NOTE: As you can see from the video below, while the pattern of the kata is ignored, it is of the utmost importance to pay attention to the accuracy of the kata sequences as if they were performed within the kata pattern. That is to say, one must follow from the other.

To assist you with the above, I have created a video of Gekisai Kata performed normally and as deconstructed with sequences identified. 

Benefits of my Kata Deconstruction:

I submit that there are many benefits to this simple, introductory deconstruction procedure which include the following (even with decades of practice, there are probably more I have not discovered – – yet):

  • First and foremost, more advanced procedures are built using this simple procedure. For one, simple, example, ippon kumite is inserted into the procedure in lieu of the walking seen in the video.
  • Deconstruction can be practiced individually as shown on the above video
  • Deconstruction can be supplemented with a partner;
  • The partner does not have to learn anything new, such as the sequence of a storyboard or the sequence of a kumite drill.
  • Deconstruction develops spontaneity in kata itself and subsequently in the execution of the technique of kata in combat
  • On a more advanced level, deconstruction allows the performer to begin to understand the spiritual underpinnings unique to each specific kata.

Closing: 

By supplementing routine kata practice and commonly accepted partner applications with my kata deconstruction – a simple exercise that preserves the kata’s sequences but ignores the kata pattern, – a foundation is established whereby more detailed bunkai (analysis) can be conducted. These more advanced procedures will be set forth and discussed in future submissions in the Kata Laboratory.

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

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ENDNOTES:

1. Hemingway, Ernest, A Moveable Feast (Simon and Schuster, New York, NY, 1996) p. 76.

2. It is worth reiterating the misuse of the word “bunkai.” The word bunkai is commonly misused to mean “practical application of kata”, or simply “application” of kata. The correct translation of bunkai is actually “analysis” thus, “analysis of Kata.” For more, please use this link: https://senseijohn.me/2013/05/20/kata-lab-101-three-states-of-bunkai/

3. Extremely rare and unique archival photographs of Hanshi Van Lenten performing one such drill – “Kumite set number 2” – (please click on thumbnail to enlarge and use the “back browser” to return here).

kumite-1    kumite-2

4. The storyboard procedure was analyzed and critiqued in my work: Koryu Kata-jitsu: Ancient Style Art Of Kata (Issho Publications, East Rutherford, NJ 2001).

5. Sensei Van Lenten’s Gekisai Kata (which is preserved in the Goshin-Do Karate-Do style of Shihan DeFelice) is the unique Gekisai-Dai-San Kata of Sensei Seikichi Toguchi who, in addition to Sensei Masanobu Shinjo, taught Sensei Van Lenten Goju-Ryu Karate-Do.

6. Extremely rare and unique archival photographs of Hanshi Van Lenten performing Fuku Kumite: – (please click on thumbnail to enlarge and use the “back browser” to return here).

fuku kumite-1   fuku kumite-2

fuku kumite-3   fuku kumite-4

fuku-end

VIDEO:

7. Positional coincidence is a concept, found in “modern’ (post 1940) kata, that requires the kata to begin and end at the same point.

Filming the Kata Deconstructed video was bittersweet – it was a “first” on many fronts: the first in my Kata Laboratory category but also the first video without little Chloe (who passed away February 14th, 2013) as part of the video crew.

Little Chloe (R.I.P.) Issho Dojo, East Rutherford, NJ. Circa 2005

Little Chloe (R.I.P.) Issho Dojo, East Rutherford, NJ. Circa 2005

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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

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