Tag Archives: Kata Outdoors

Origins Of My 1 Day / 1 Lifetime Kata – Killing Time On A Saturday

24 Jul

   At a recent Kata-RX For Wellness & Mindfulness seminar I was asked where I got the inspiration to create my 1 Day / 1 Lifetime Kata.© I answered that there were many sources, but the root source occurred about forty-seven years ago. More specifically, it was during the last fifteen minutes of Saturday morning karate classes. What do I mean? Well, lets take a trip down kata memory lane.

But first, let’s look at a sneak peak of my unique, groundbreaking kata, filmed on a beautiful summer day in Asbury Park, NJ:

   Forty-seven years ago I was well into my first year at Sensei Tom DeFelice’s Academy Of Goshin-Do Karate in Palisades Park, New Jersey.

At ten years old I was enrolled in the “Junior Division” for students under eighteen years old. The chief instructor of the junior division was Sensei Nick D’Antuono, one of Sensei DeFelice’s senior black belts.

Sensei Nick, myself, Shihan Don Nagle, Circa: 1975

The last class of the week was the Saturday morning class. The last fifteen minutes of this class subconsciously molded my views on kata. A bit of kata background.

The first kata a student learns is the Taikiyoku Kata. The word “Taikiyoku” translates as “To build the body (Tai) and the spirit (Ki).” The kata is a series of three numbered kata. The series involves a simple sequence of one of three blocks with a counter punch. The three different kata interchanged the three basic blocks of the Goshin-Do Karate style. Thus, Taikiyoku number 1 (or Taikiyoku Sho-dan) incorporated the low block. Taikiyoku number two (Nidan) utilized the middle block and Taikiyoku number three (Sandan) incorporated the high block. The pattern of the kata traces the letter “I” on the floor.

The last fifteen minutes of the Saturday morning class, we, as a group, would perform the three Taikiyoku Kata as Sensei Nick called out the cadence. This usually took about five minutes. In the ten remaining minutes, Sensei Nick would then call out differing numbers of Taikiyoku to perform. For example, Sensei might say, “next Taikiyoku number thirty-eight.” One of us would raise our hand asking, “Which one is that Sensei?” Sensei would reply, “That’s with a open parry block and a hammer-fist strike.” We would perform the kata using the same basic “I” pattern simply substituting the dictated block and counter. In this manner, we would do various versions of the Taikiyoku, each with a made-up number, until class ended. There was a simple practical reason for the Taikiyoku variations. Little did Sensei Nick know the full impact of this practicality.

As I advanced to the Dai-Sempai (“Oldest Brother”), the highest ranking student in the junior division, I began to help Sensei Nick teach the Saturday morning beginner’s class. I asked them about the tradition of Taikiyoku Kata during the last fifteen minutes of the class. The answer I received was mundane. Its impact was profound.

First, the mundane. The Saturday morning class was the last class for the week. Sensei Nick worked full time during the week and taught karate part time. So, the Saturday morning class was his last “official” work related function before he could enjoy his weekend. As I soon learned by assisting him, the last fifteen minutes of a class were the most difficult. In so far as the pleasures of the weekend lay immediately ahead they tended to drag out. Sensei Nick used the Taikiyoku variations to basically kill those last fifteen minutes. He would simply make up a combination of a block and a counter strike, give it a number, et voila, time would fly by. The kata were simply created in the mind of Sensei.

Now, the profound. This simple little exercise to kill time opened students imagination. For me it expanded my thoughts and conceptions about kata. It ultimately led me to “Think-Sweat & Experiment” ™ fully with kata. The penultimate result of this process being my 1 Day / 1 Lifetime Kata which you can learn online.

So, I guess you can say that it was the need for Sensei Nick to kill the last fifteen minutes of Saturday morning classes that was the catalyst to my creation. Like lightening for Doctor Frankenstein, it that lit the spark for my quest to explore kata and create a kata for you, the non-martial artist that desires the mind-body benefits of kata.

Here is a little preview of the first course which teaches the core physical movements and internal processes of the kata.

You can use this link to view the full curriculum and click the “enroll” button if you would like to start your class. https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation

See you in class,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Kata RX For Wellness & Mindfulness Course # 2 Opens For Enrollment

10 Jul

Today’s the day!
The second course in my three part “Kata For Wellness & Mindfulness” online classes is now open for enrollment. You can view the course and full curriculum using this link: https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/full-kata-rx-for-wellness-mindfulness
The second course is available to all students that have completed the first course. For a limited time the second course is available for a one payment option of $ 55. or a two payment option for $ 30. each. As always, if you are not completely satisfied, there is a 30 day money back guarantee.
You can view the course description and full curriculum using this convenient link: https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/full-kata-rx-for-wellness-mindfulness

Attention New Students:
Please remember you MUST start with the first course.
For a limited time you can enroll in the first course for only $ 10. with a full 30 day money back guarantee. You can use this link to view the full curriculum and click the “enroll” button if you would like to start your class.
https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation

Here’s a few more screen shots from the most recent videos filmed at Ringwood Manor, NJ.

I look forward to seeing you in class,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Online Kata-RX For Wellness Course Number 2 – Opens July!

26 Jun

My three part Kata For Wellness and Mindfulness online course takes the next step with course number two.

The first course has already opened for enrollment. https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation
The second course is well underway to opening in the next ten days. This second course will teach the full, enhanced movements of the three kata presented in the first course. More significantly this course will teach more of the internal processes found within the kata. The Ghost Hand Gaze, Ghost Hand perception, Mushin state of mind, contracting and expanding bio-energy and Nenjuushin (the everyday mind) to name a few of the internal processes.

To date all that remains is editing and final tweaking. So, it looks like the second course will launch around July 4th. In the meantime, here’s a few screen shots from the videos. I hope you enjoy them.

From the Ghost Hand Kata Gaze class

 

From the Mushin-No-Shin mindset class

 

Practice your Ghost Hand Kata with me – a unique approach

 

Practice your Sanchin Kata & Mushin-No-Shin mindset with me

Please remember that new students must start with the first course. The second course builds on the core techniques and internal principles taught in the first course. This course has already opened for enrollment. Welcome to all the new students!

The first course teaches the core movements of three kata: my Ghost Hand Kata (Yurei-Te Kata), the Sanchin Kata and the 1 Day / 1 Lifetime Kata (“Ichi-Nichi / Issho” Kata). It is the starting point for all students. For a limited time you can still enroll for only $ 10. (that’s a savings of $ 15 off the regular price) & there’s a 30 day money back guarantee if not completely satisfied. You may view the entire curriculum and enroll, if you choose to do so here: https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation

I look forward to seeing you in class. My best to all,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

 

Buddha Nature Of Kata, Or Is It Just Me?

26 Sep

The morning flew by as I diligently worked on my new kata as moving meditation book (you can read a release about it here ( https://senseijohn.me/2018/07/25/dont-read-this-unless/ ). It was time for a break. I needed to stretch my old muscles. I and my dog, Maharet, went outside to the backyard. She would do her doggie kata (run around like a nut chasing squirrels and birds) and I can do mine.

Maharet

Naturally, this involves the meditative kata I developed and am writing about and traditional karate-do kata. Rejuvenated, Maharet and I returned inside. Cracking open the laptop, I was about to resume writing.

First a bit of a distraction. I took the opportunity to cruise Facebook while Maharet took the opportunity to contemplate her existence, a/k/a take a nap.

Scrolling through my newsfeed I saw a meme that caught my attention.

Made sense to me. I routinely use my kata to cut off thinking and clear my head. Whether I’m at home, at work, at the shore or out for a ride, my kata, particularly the meditative  ones are always with me. When needed, they reset my body and mind.

But, I was also perplexed. “If you cut off all thinking for one minute, then you become a Buddha for one minute,” how can there not be a multitude of karate-do Sensei teaching the Buddha nature of Kata? In my thinking the meme clearly provided a link to the Buddha nature of Kata. Clearly, as I would like to sell my latest book, I’m not going to go into great detail about this concept here. Suffice it to say, for me the Buddha nature of kata is clearly self evident. I am some sort of aberration?

I learned my first kata in 1971. Since then, I have always enjoyed kata. Although some martial artists have disparaged the “practical utility” of kata, I saw not only the martial utility, but the higher purpose of kata. Am I reading too much into kata? I can’t say. But, I can say kata enriches my life. Even now, forty-seven years after I first learned my kata, it not only keeps my proverbial sword sharp, it balances me. It gets me through my day.

I can’t say whether my views on kata are some sort of anomaly or that I read too much into my kata. I can say this simply and directly – without my kata, I would not be the person I am. Period. So, “Thank-you kata and the Sensei that taught me them.”

To gain insight into the deeper utility of kata, take a look at and ponder my “Ten Virtues Of Kata” article ( https://senseijohn.me/2011/07/31/virtues-of-kata/ ).

This week’s featured video illustrates the concept of spontaneously creating your own Kata. Enjoy.

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

   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/

© Copyright 2018 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 –
   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

Kata Lab # 1240: Kata – A Flowing River

28 Mar

“You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.” – Heraclitus

Background:

This is the only Kata Lab that will be be able to complete. You will fail at the objective. Not for lack of skill, or desire. It is utterly impossible to perform this Kata Lab.
There is a maxim in karate-do, “Perfect your kata.” Many teachers and masters utter this to their students who do no more than nod their head like a bobbled head on a car dashboard. The students then go and set about to perfect their kata. What rubbish. I submit that you can never perform the exact same kata twice. Thus, a kata cannot be perfected. You can perform a reasonable facsimile of the same kata. “Top-rated” tournament kata practitioners may achieve a level of performance similarity in their chosen one or two tournament kata. But, they too, will fail in trying to perform the exact same kata twice. The unsophisticated kata practitioner, particularity those that train one or two kata for tournament similarity will disagree, perhaps vehemently with my statement. Why? “Does not the fact that they consistently win trophies with their few chosen tournament kata demonstrate that their level of performance is homogenous? Perhaps, but only to those who only understand kata superficially.

If you understand kata within the context of the three aspects that I submit are present in kata, then you can see how it is utterly impossible to perform the same exact in the exact same manner twice, even in a lifetime. Also true is the idea that performing a kata that is mostly (90 percent or more) similar is a profound accomplishment.

Experimentation:

You may wish to video tape yourself performing this experiment. After your practice, you can then refer to the video and take notes as to each performance. You should note any dissimilar areas during each performance. The less dissimilar areas, the closer you are to having performed the same kata twice. (Alternatively, you may wish to take notes after each kata performance for your later review.)
Select your favorite kata to practice;
Over a period of a few days or a week, practice the kata two or three times, trying to perform a kata exactly the same way;
After doing so, analyze each performance. Take notice of those areas of the kata that differ from one performance to the next. How close did you get to performing the same kata twice?

Regardless of whether or not you notes indicate that you came close to performing the same kata in the exact same manner (very few notes as to dissimilar areas). You utterly failed this kata lab. Worse is if your notes indicate that all areas of the kata were similar on at least two occasions; for you truly do not understand my three levels of kata.

First and foremost (as my father would say), “I bet you a dollar to a donut” that your list only addresses the physical movements of the kata. A block or strike that may have been off target, a stance that was less than perfect or a kata cadence that lacked the correct timing. As such, you only understand and thus, addressed one-third of the overall kata experience. (You may wish to pause and refer to my article on the three aspects of kata using this link: https://senseijohn.me/2013/05/20/kata-lab-101-three-states-of-bunkai/

Second, my spiritual aspect of kata (the manner in which kata affects your state-of-mind, emotions and psyche and vice-versa) is fatal to your performing the exact same kata twice. Our mental state is too much in flux to maintain it through various kata performance. Yes, you may convince yourself that during your kata you maintained all the applicable martial arts mind states. Sure, you may feel you achieved, Mushin, Zanshin, Nenjuushin and all the other “shins” of kata. But, you’re fooling yourself. Your emotions and psyche change from one moment to the next within a single kata performance, let alone from one kata performance to the next. (Endnote # 1 describe an example)

Third, my environmental aspect of kata (how the external environment affects your kata and vice-versa) will frustrate your attempts to perform this kata lab. If you practiced your kata in different locations, then by definition, you did not perform the exact same kata twice. If; however, you performed this lab in the exact same location, you still performed in in a different external environment and therefore failed to perform the exact same kata twice. You cannot control the temperature, humidity, dust and dirt on the floor, clothing (yes, different clothes affect you kata, even your gi, which may be dry at the start of practice and soaked with sweat at the end will produce a different performance).

Now, having the benefit of the above, try to perform the exact same kata twice and see how utterly impossible it is.

Conclusion:

You can perform the same kata twice, but no two will ever be exactly alike. This is not an error, but a unique phenomenon of kata. Thus, you can never perfect your kata. You can; however, achieve a goal set by Coach Vince Lombardi for his Green Bay Packers football team, “We will strive for perfection knowing full well we will never achieve it, but in the process we will find excellence.” So, rather than perfect your kata, excel at your kata.

In a lifetime no kata will be exactly the same.
To perform a kata the exact same way twice, you must repeat, without change all three aspects:
physical aspect – all movements performed with kime intensity, speed, tempo, etc;
spiritual aspect – all movements performed with the same emotion (at the same point in the kata each time), with the same state of mind, with the same transition from emotion to emotion or state-of-mind to state-of-mind (this may even be required by the specific kata)
environmental aspect – the environment within which your kata is performed must remain constant (absent a “clean” room) this is impossible – air changes and flows, light changes, temperature varies even slightly. Even if such factors are “controlled”, nature will win out (for example, it takes 8 seconds for a photon of light to leave the Sun and reach earth, therefore, lighting for each kata will be different.

The key of this Lab is to understand that each and every kata performance is as fleeting and rare as each and every moment of life itself. You cannot take a kata for granted. The same is true of each and every moment of life.

Please remember, the mandate of the kata laboratory is

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

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Featured video from my “Underground Bunkai” series:

   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!

© 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 & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

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

Kata Lab # 3250 – Kata Within You – Intermediate

31 Jan

As a scientist I’d rather have questions I can’t answer than answers I can’t question.” – Max Tegmark, Physicist (appearing on “How The Universe Works,” Season 6, Episode 1: “Are Black Holes Real?”)

Background:

This Kata Lab builds on the concepts I set forth in Kata Lab # 2250 – Kata Within You – Introduction – https://senseijohn.me/2017/08/30/kata-lab-2250-kata-within-you-introduction/

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. This kata lab explores that actuality.

In September 2017, had my annual visit to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. As always, I combined my vacation with training, writing and video of kata. I decided to spontaneously create a kata that would represent my feelings being on Cape Cod. As you can see in the video below, the bay that day was calm; however, the day before was windy and the bay was filled with white caps. I wanted to perform a kata t capture that feeling.

The easy choice would have naturally been Seienchin (“Calm in the storm / Storm in the calm”) but that would not have been a spontaneously created kata. I did; however want to incorporate a movement or two from Seienchin but not let it over-power the kata created. I thought I would uses sequences from Sanchin, Suparunpei and Seipai Kata to round off a symbolic kata. A deep breath and – P’Town Kata (for Provincetown where I was staying) was born. I hope you enjoy the video.

Now, how to do the – – –

Experiment: (To assist you I have a video that follows the protocols):

  • Review my comments in above, use it as a guide to formulate what you hope to “accomplish” in performing the kata.
  • Do not pre-select a specific kata for this lab; rather think about a few sequences from kata that you may wish to randomly group together;
  • Do not “spontaneously” perform your “favorite” kata. To do so defeats the 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. Group the sequences that you had thought to combine – just let i it
    flow! For now don’t worry about symmetry or positional coincidence. Just let the
    kata flow;
  • The kata that bursts forth from within you should be as random as possible based
    upon your physical and psychological needs at the time.

Conclusion:
This Kata Lab is designed to bridge te gap between the Introductory Kata Lab contained in the “Background” and a more advanced Kata Lab (which will be released at a later date).

I think it will be fun and challenging and give you a look in to my Kata Lab motto of – “Think-Sweat-Experiment” with Kata

This week’s featured video provides another example of spontaneously performing kata. It is a kata I created on cold morning during my 2013 road trip from Arizona to New Jersey. It is the first kata on the video below and was filmed by my truck’s headlights; enjoy.

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

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/

© 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 & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

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