Tag Archives: Kata Laboratory

My Black Belts Stole From Me – A Thieving Tradition

28 Feb

A Black Belt must have the utmost integrity. Having said that, I will confess that my students “stole” from me. After the “theft” they still earned a black belt! Further, the “theft” was committed with my blessing.

In my opinion the worst form of “paying” for the gift of karate-do education is money, currency, cold-hard cash (or debt card in these modern times). I’ve had students that could not afford monthly dues, help teach, clean the dojo and even cook a few dinners. In this way, my students became equal with me as Sensei in that we each gave of ourselves. This is more valuable than the cheapness of currency.

But, is it proper to steal from Sensei?

Sometime in 1998, I made a decision concerning a group of four brown belts training at the Issho Dojo. In order for them to pass their test for ni-kyu, (brown belt, two stripes) they would have to learn Gojushiho Kata. In devious fashion, I told them that I would not teach them the kata.

This posed a problem. They had to learn the kata for the next rank. If I would not teach it to them, how would they learn it?

In those days, there were no You-tube GDK-D Gojushiho videos (like this one featuring archival footage from the 1960’s to 2012 where I perform Gojushiho in a snowstorm):

The four arrived at the dojo for the next class. Before class, I casually mentioned that I was going to the nearby park to “clear my head.” I did this for the next three classes. The brown belts became curious.

One night after I went to the park, they waited about ten minutes and followed. They stood at the edge of the park and watched me. They saw me repeatedly practice a kata that they did not know. I noticed them and practiced the first four moves of the kata again and again After fifteen minutes of performing the opening sequence, I walked to the edge of the park. Together, we silently walked back to the Dojo.

The next night I repeated my routine. Again, they waited and walked to the park. I repeatedly practiced the first four moves. This time they only watched for about ten minutes and hurried back to the dojo. After about fifteen minutes I returned to the dojo but did not enter. I surreptitiously peaked into the Dojo window. The four of them were hard at work practicing what they observed me doing. Each watched the other and reached a consensus as to the correctness of what they saw.

On my next pre-class visit to the park, I would slowly and in an exaggerated manner practice movements that they did not quite “steal” correctly. I would also slowly add movements and sequences.

During class, I would give them “strange” kumite drills, self-defense and heavy bag combinations. These drills and combinations came from future kata sequences. They were using kata applications to steal the kata.

This went on for about five months. They were stealing from me; however, they did not know exactly what they were stealing. One night during formal class, I asked the four brown belts to join me in performing Gojushiho Kata. The brown belts looked at each other. “But Sensei, you told us that you would not teach us the kata.” “That’s true,” I said, “But I did let you steal it from me.” “Now, let’s see what you stole.” The four brown belts joined me in performing the kata.

They learned Gojushiho Kata by “stealing” it. They were the first kata-thieves of GDK-D.

Shihan DeFelice first opened the door in May of 1965 and since then GDK-D has been continuously taught. Many students walked into the dojo. Less than thirty made black belt. So, compared to the overall number of students that started GDK-D, very few learned Gojushiho Kata. I could not allow myself to teach such a rare kata for something as worthless as money, but, I could allow it to be stolen from me.

The four brown belts were promoted to sho-dan (first degree black belt) in January, 2000. I made each of them promise me that they would not teach any future student Gojushiho Kata. It must always be stolen. With that promise, a new tradition was born – a future black belt must be a thief; and Gojushiho Kata is the desired object.

Shihan Paul Recchia, Myself & The “Kata-Thieves” at their Black Belt Promotion

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

 

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

Here’s my latest Kata Lab video filmed 0n beautiful Cape Cod bay

© Copyright 2018 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

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

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

Kata Lab # 2250: Kata Within You – An Introduction

23 May

A dream is an answer to a question we have not yet learned to ask. Fox Mulder, The X-Files, (Paper Hearts episode, S4, E 10)


KATA LAB

Background:

Kata is always within you.
In fact, you intentionally train to have kata within you. If a time comes when you are confronted by an attacker, kata rises to the surface and you can successfully defend yourself. The kata sequences that you instinctively use in your defense will vary based upon a great number of circumstances. Nonetheless, your training in kata will pay dividends in an actual street scenario. This kata lab explores that actuality. This Lab also functions as an introduction to the advanced concepts contained in Kata Lab # 4210: Kata Within You – Advanced.

Experiment:

  • Do not pre-select a kata for this lab. Your kata should be as spontaneous as possible;
  • Do not “spontaneously” perform your “favorite” kata. To do so defeats the purpose of this Kata Lab.
  • As you go about your day be aware of the fact that your kata is brewing inside you, waiting to let itself out;
  • At a random point in time (you may also use a timer as in previous kata labs), let the kata out;
  • Perform the kata as you require at that specific time. For example, in Kata Lab number 2230, you performed the kata in a “life and death” scenario. This time, perform the kata as your specific needs may require, examples include, performing the kata to rejuvenate yourself if you are tired, or performing the kata to “stretch your legs” and “get your blood flowing” if you’re lethargic;
  • The kata that bursts forth from within you should be as random as possible based upon your needs at the time.

Conclusion:

This is a very basic kata lab to acquaint you with the idea that at all times, you are your kata and your kata is you. As you go about your day, kata simmers within you waiting to be called forth to help you through your day.
This lab also provides a firm foundation for Kata Lab # 4210: Kata Within You – Advanced and for other more advanced labs that follow.

This week’s featured video is

Bonus video from my new “Underground Bunkai” series

 

HANKO-master
Cum superiorum privilegio veniaque (“With the privilege and permission of the superiors”)
Sensei John Szmitkowski

   sunsu-2   For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/

 

© Copyright 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

Kata Lab – Reverse Seienchin Kata

1 Jun

“What becomes authentic (traditional) when you live in Purgatory?”
(Chef Roy Choi interviewed on Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown: Last Bites)

KATA LAB

Background:

With the popularity of my Kata Lab: Reverse Sanchin Kata, link: https://senseijohn.me/2014/10/20/kata-lab-reverse-sanchin-kata/ and my Kata Lab: Random Sanchin Kata, link: https://senseijohn.me/2014/11/03/kata-lab-random-sanchin-kata/ , I wanted take the concept even further. To do so we can use Seienchin Kata as a means to understand the concept on both a physical level but also a spiritual level.

Unlike the Reverse Sanchin Kata Lab where the movements of the kata were reversed and the breathing pattern remained the same, in this lab, the breathing patterns will be reversed and the movements remain the same. Why Seienchin and not Sanchin Kata for this lab? Simple, as you can see in the analysis below, there is a unique concept that applies to Seienchin Kata that makes it highly qualified for this type of experiment. Seienchin allows you to begin to understand how the physical movements of kata impart a mental aspect to kata.

Kanji for "Seienchin", sumi-e ink on rice paper

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

  • Experimental analysis (Recommended Reader Experimentation):
    Perform Seienchin Kata as you normally would;
  • Take a moment and reflect on the two interpretations of the kata, specifically paying attention to the manner in which they are enlivened by the movements of the kata;
    Interpretation # 1: “Calm in the storm, storm in the calm”
    Interpretation # 2: “Walk far to quell & conquer” (see endnote # 1)
  • Perform Seienchin but time reverse the slow and fast sequences. For example, the opening sequences which are normally, slow, deliberate and with dynamic tension, must now be performed fast and with kime (focus). Movements which are fast and with kime must now be performed slow, deliberate and with dynamic tension;
  • After your performance, deeply consider how the reversal impacted your earlier conclusions as to how the kata enlivened the two interpretations of the kanji.

To assist you with this Kata Lab, I have created the following video.

Conclusion:

This kata lab affects two of the three battles (aspects) of kata (See Endnote # 2). The two aspects are the physical and spiritual aspect.

Both components of the physical aspect (bodily movement & breathing) are affected. First, by reversing the method of performing the movements, hard movements soft and vice-versa, the component of bodily movement is affected. Second, by reversing the manner of breathing, this component is also affected.

The spiritual aspect is affected initially by reversing the symbology of the storm and the calm within the kata. Seienchin, performed in the traditional manner, begins with the calm (Sanchin kata-like opening sequences) and encounters the storm (hard and fast sequences). The kata continues by alternating between the calm and storm, ending with the calm.Reverse Seienchin makes the performer immediately encounter the storm, transcends to the calm and ends with the storm. This produces a shift in mental attitude. You should consider how this effect impacts martial fighting theory and life attitude theory of conflict resolution.

In addition, the concept to “To walk far to quell and conquer” is significantly affected. The result is to “Conquer and subsequently quell.” This has significant ideological connotations worthy of further study.

One final comment as to the third aspect of kata, the metaphysical aspect. Although not directly affected by this kata lab, the aspect is always present anytime a kata is performed.

Remember, the mandate of my Kata Laboratory – Think * Sweat * Experiment!

HANKO-master
Cum superiorum privilegio veniaque (“With the privilege and permission of the superiors”)
Sensei John Szmitkowski

 If you enjoyed this Kata Lab, help fund my future experiments & get a unique product from my online store: Come visit my store on CafePress!

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ENDNOTES:

1. Naturally, the interpretation of a kata is systemic in nature. I am not suggesting you abandon your system’s interpretation of Seienchin Kata. I do ask that, for purposes of this Kata Lab, you initially consider the interpretation of Seienchin Kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do (DeFelice-Ryu) and then apply your conclusions to the interpretation of your system of karate-do.

2. You may recall my definition of the three battles of Sancin Kata, which are present in every kata, as:
Physical Battle, the physical movements of the kata;
Spiritual Battle, the manner in which a kata affects your mental, physiological and emotional state;
Environmental Battle, the manner in which kata connects you with your external environment and how same affects you.

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  this one dedicated to 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 Lab # 1150: Kata – Makiwara – Kata

23 Mar

“A pond which is not fed by a fresh stream becomes stagnant and will die and so will an ardent karate-ka continually modify their art.” —- Chosin Chibana

KATA LAB

Kata Lab: Kata with makiwara or heavy bag

Background:
Too often kata is viewed as either an individual pursuit limited to performing the kata or one requiring a partner (bunkai practice). The purpose of this Kata Lab is to introduce you to the idea that you can begin to expand your kata practice and bunkai (analysis) by yourself, without a partner, beyond the scope of the kata itself.

Experimental analysis (Recommended Reader Experimentation):

Select a favorite kata that you are very familiar with and can perform technically well. Practice the kata using the following procedures:

procedure # 1 (full kata-heavy bag):
Perform the kata with the appropriate speed and power with a state-of-mind that you are in a real fight; (at the end of your kata, you must have “survived” the fight);
Immediately after the kata, use either a makiwara or heavy bag (practice only basic technique – simple reverse punches, front kicks and the like) full speed and power,
Immediately after that, perform your kata slowly, paying attention to executing the movements;
during the kata performance, recall how your body felt as you hit the heavy bag – what your knuckles or ball of the foot felt like, what the bag itself felt like as you impacted it, how your stance felt at the moment of impact and the like;
try to recall this feeling into your future kata practice.

procedure # 2 (kata interrupted by bag, return to kata):
This will require either a partner or a self-timer. If using a timer, set the timer to ring at about halfway through your kata;
Begin your kata ;
At a random point in the kata performance, the partner calls out a command (or when the timer rings);
At that signal, interrupt your kata and practice on the makiwara or heavy bag as in procedure # 1 for about 30 to 45 seconds
After the time limit stop the makiwara or heavy bag work, remain where you are and in whatever direction they are facing;
Then return to performing your kata, but you must begin at the point where you left off and finish the kata;
Advanced version: during the time you are striking the heavy bag, use strikes, kicks and combinations from the kata itself.

I have filmed the following brief video to illustrate the concept of kata interrupted. The video was filmed at the spectacular Lower Salt River, Arizona.

Conclusion:
The above procedure will help you begin to expand your kata practice beyond the scope of the kata itself. This will enable you to advance to more difficult procedures both without the need of a training partner and with a partner when one is available.

Please remember, the mandate of the kata laboratory is

lab-collage-6

Respectfully submitted,

HANKO-master

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

If you enjoyed this Kata Lab, please visit the online store to help fund more kata experiments.

Come visit my store on CafePress!

all items have a minimal mark-up of only $ 0.75 to $ 1.00 over base prices! Here are ONLY SOME of our support products:

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

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 combining martial arts protocol with fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com

and

DOJO STICKER-1  the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

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

If you enjoyed this Kata Lab, please visit the online store to help fund more kata experiments.

Come visit my store on CafePress!

all items have a minimal mark-up of only $ 0.75 to $ 1.00 over base prices! Here are ONLY SOME of our support products:
Shop-cups-home

dreams-seisan   For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
NEWS sanchin  For details on how to participate in Sensei John’s most recent cyber-group Kata session, please use this link: https://senseijohn.me/category/thats-ok/

© Copyright 2014 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 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

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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 –
LOGO-WEBSITE  my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
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