Tag Archives: Kata Innovation

Time Modification Of Kata – Rhythmic Adaptation – Seisan Kata Example

8 Nov

This article is a continuation of my exploration of time as a fourth dimension of distance. For those unfamiliar with this concept there are several video and other resources in Endnote # 1. Simply put, most martial artists think of distance as a function of the three dimensions of length, width and height. To do so omits the all important fourth dimension of time.

Time as a fourth dimension of distance is easily appreciated when you practice your kata. Exploration of the time dimension is facilitated by expanding your kata bunkai (analysis) to include consideration of time. How does time affect kata and its application is a subject limited only by the imagination of the karate-ka (practitioner).

Kata bunkai is a continuing on-going process. It is limited only by your imagination. The within article is a good example of that process. I was practicing my Fuku and Gekisai Kata by modifying certain interim movements. Specifically, I was exploring the block, lunge punch block sequence (see Endnote # 2 for a full discussion of this concept). Traditionally, the three movements are performed with kime (focus). To facilitate my study, I found it helpful to perform the last block in the series not with kime, but, with breathing and dynamic tension as in Sanchin Kata. I was studying had the corollary effect of modifying the rhythm of the sequence.

In the past, I had briefly explored a modification of kata rhythm using the Seienchin Kata as an example. (See Endnote # 4 for a video of same). This exploration was but a fundamental step in my on going process. I began to utilize the opening of the Goshin-Do Karate Seisan Kata to explore how the concept of time as a fourth dimension of distance can result in a corollary rhythmic modification of a kata. (See Endnote # 5 for a video of the Seisan Kata and a bonus – historical footage of Hanshi Frank Van Lenten performing Seisan!). Using the opening of Seisan Kata, I began to understand the corollary rhythmic modification. To illustrate the concept, the abbreviation “K” will signify that the movement is performed with kime (focus- hard and fast). “S” will signify the movement is performed with Sanchin breathing and dynamic tension. Using the photos below you can see the time modification of combining the block and counter and the resulting corollary rhythmic modification.

Let’s look at the traditional sequence of Seisan Kata of Goshin-Do Karate. Due to time constraints, I had to take the photos during a break at work. But, a fortiori, the photos illustrate my concept that kata does not require a gi (uniform) or a dojo. Kata is anyplace and anytime. As I say “Life is a kata.” ©

Move # 1: Open hand ridge hand block (K);

Move # 2: Rotate hand and “grab” (S);

Move # 3: reverse punch (K)

As this series is repeated three times in the Kata, the resulting rhythm is:

K-S-K / K-S-K / K-S-K

In the time modified sequence, whereby the block and counter is combined into one move, we can see the corollary rhythmic change:

Move # 1 (move # 1 and # 3 combined) : Open hand ridge hand block with simultaneous reverse punch (K);

Move # 2: rotate hand and “grab” (S).

The corollary rhythmic change for the three move sequence is then:

K-S / K-S / K-S

Exploring how the change in rhythm affects not only the kata but your bunkai (analysis) is full of possibilities. For the inquisitive practitioner it affords the ability to see into the full range of bunkai available from not only a physical aspect but also a spiritual and environmental aspect. (See Endnote # 6 for a full discussion of the three aspects of bunkai).

Understanding the fourth dimension of time as a component part of your kata will provide you with a rich and more complete understanding of not only your kata, but, also yourself. It is fertile ground limited only by the boundaries of your own imagination.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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


1. To understand the basic concept of the three basic dimensions of lenght, width and height as they relate to the martial arts and the fourth dimension of time, please click this link:

To view the first two articles in this series please use these two convenient links

Sequence Adaptation – Kanto Kata Example:


Interim Movements – Fuku/Gekisai Example:


2. Please use this link for my article on Time as a function of interim kata movemens: https://senseijohn.me/2017/10/25/time-modification-of-kata-interim-movements-fukugekisai-kata-example/

3. Reverse Seienchin video

4. Seisan Kata Video BONUS: This video features historical footage of Hanshi Frank Van Lenten

5. Please use this convenient link for a discussion of the three aspects of bunkai:

© Copyright 2017 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.
“Life is a kata.” separately copyrighted.

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 my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
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Dr. Richard Feynman “Visits” Sensei’s Kata Lab – Part 1

28 Sep


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.



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.


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

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


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

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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/

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