Tag Archives: Kata

Kata Lab # 3210 – Kata To Modify Emotions

1 Jul

 

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Je pense que donc je suis. (I think therefore I am)  -Jean Paul Sartre

KATA LAB

Welcome to this installment in my Kata Laboratory Series, Kata Lab # 2130: Kata As An Emotional Modifier” ©

Background:

Our emotions are the most identifiable aspect of our spiritual state of being. Daily events routinely shape and alter our emotions. We can also directly modify our emotions from within.

Most of us seek to suppress negative emotions in the hopes that a positive emotional state will manifest. This kata lab uses kata to modify emotions, not by repressing them, but by acknowledging and expelling them so as to embrace a more positive emotional state.

Kata is uniquely capable of serving as an emotional modifier. The bunkai (analysis) of this phenomenon of kata is a foundation for understanding the spiritual aspect of kata. (See Endnote # 1) This edition of the kata laboratory utilizes my kata deconstruction procedure explained in Kata Laboratory # 2130 to explore how kata can modify our emotional state. It is therefore necessary for you to be familiar with the kata deconstruction procedure. There is a link to the article provided above and a video below.

I submit that certain kata, due to their essential qualities, are natural emotional modifiers. Examples of such kata include, but are not limited to, my Sacred Trinity of Kata (Sanchin, Seienchin, and Suparunpei), Hakutsuru, Gekisai, Kanto and others. All kata; however can be utilized to modify emotions. See Endnote # 2) The kata deconstruction technique provides an excellent platform upon which to construct bunkai (analysis) of the spiritual aspect of any kata.

Once you begin to understand the manner in which kata modifies emotions, you open the door to understanding the spiritual nature of kata. Emotions functions as the gateway to understanding this spiritual state.

I have created two types of emotional deconstruction techniques, the “General Emotional Deconstruction “ and the “Targeted Emotional Deconstruction.”

The general method is very basic. In my experience, I find that while this method is fun, it is extremely fundamental. As such, I have relegated the exact methodology of this procedure to Endnote # 3.

The Targeted Emotional Deconstruction is more difficult and requires more advance preparation than the general method; however, the benefits of performing this deconstruction protocol are profound.

In this type of deconstruction you start with an emotion, and progress through the kata deconstruction so as to end with the opposite of that emotion. The emotion you commence with would be representative of your emotional state at the time of practice. For example, assume that you have had a difficult day and are aggravated. To start the procedure, you would take the state of aggravation and expand it to its highest emotional state. In the example shown below, this state may be represented by an emotional state of fury. This step is crucial in so far as it does not repress your negative emotional state; rather it, acknowledges and expands it. This allows you to fully acknowledge the emotion so as to ultimately dispel it.

You would then identify the opposite of this state so as to target the desired ending emotional state. In this example, tranquility would represent a desired state opposite to the state of fury. You then deconstruct the kata so as to work your way through the range of emotions between fury and tranquility. The table below provides an example using the eight sequences shown in the deconstruction of Gekisai kata.

Example:

Targeted Emotional Deconstruction  – using the state of aggravation as the existing emotional state, the following example starts with the emotion of fury and ends with the emotion of tranquility. The chart below uses the eight sequences of Gekisai Kata identified in the video example.

SEQUENCE # EMOTION
1 Fury
2 Aggressiveness
3 Anger
4 Aggravation
5 Slow Burn
6 Calm
7 Placid
8 Tranquil

As you gain proficiency in this technique, you no longer have to perform the kata as deconstructed. Eventually, you can perform the kata within the traditional pattern and express the various emotions as you do so.

Kata Laboratory (Recommended Reader Experimentation):

The following is my procedure to utilize my kata deconstruction procedure to modify your emotional state. The within allows you to begin to experience kata not as a physical endeavor, but as a spiritual art. Using the table above as a guide,

1. Identify either your current emotional state or choose an emotion you wish to explore. Using the Gekisai example, let us use “aggravation” as such an emotional state;

2. Identify the extreme manifestation of that emotional state. Again using the Gekisai example and the state of “aggravation”, the extreme state might be “fury”;

3. Identify the extreme opposite emotional state. In the example, this state may be a state of “tranquility”;

4. Based upon the number of sequences in the kata you wish to perform, identify the same number of transitional emotional states between the two opposite states. In the Gekisai example, the above table shows these states;

5. Now, perform your kata, deconstructing each sequence. As you progress through the sequences, perform each sequence so as to symbolize each emotional state. To the casual observer, your emotional state associated with each sequence should be readily apparent in the manner in which you perform the sequence.

6. Repeat as often as you like, experimenting with differing emotions and different kata to see how kata affects your emotions.

Here is a video to assist you with your experiment in using kata to modify emotions

Closing: 

Using my kata deconstruction method to explore the manner in which kata can modify your emotions has direct, positive and tangible effects. It also has intangible benefits awaiting your discovery.

  • you can use kata to modify negative emotions when they creep into your life;
  • you can increase the health effects of positive emotions by increasing them through your kata practice;
  • you recognize the effect your emotional state has on your physical self;
  • you begin to understand how emotions affect your overall state of being;
  • your understanding of the above acs as a foundation for your continued exploration into your spiritual state of being.
  • most importantly, you begin to practice kata bunkai (analysis) in both the physical state and the spiritual state.

Please remember, the mandate of the kata laboratory is

lab-collage-6

 

HANKO-master

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

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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ENDNOTES:

1. Please remember:

First, the spiritual bunkai of kata does not refer to religious, or supernatural states. Rather, spiritual bunkai refers to the method by which kata affects internal non-physical process which include, but are not limited to emotions, states-of-mind (mushin, zanshin, nenjuushin and the likes) and internal states of awareness.

Second, exploring the spiritual bunkai of kata is markedly different from exploring the physical bunkai of kata. One area of divergence is that physical bunkai always requires a partner whereas spiritual bunkai need not require a partner, but always requires visualization.

2. If you fully understand the three states of kata, namely, the physical, spiritual and metaphysical states, then you can readily understand how any kata can modify emotions. For example, the translation of the kanji for the Gekisai Kata in our example can demonstrate the three states. Gekisai translates as “To destroy”. Applying this to the three states we see that:

physical state – to destroy your opponent in battle;

spiritual state – to destroy your own negative mental and emotional states;

environmental state – to destroy your preconception that you exist independent of your external environment.

Each and every time you perform Gekisai (or any other kata) you are simultaneously present in each of the above three states.

3. The General Emotional Deconstruction is performed as follows:

General Emotional deconstruction)

using kata deconstruction technique:

  • start with an emotion
  • perform the first sequence so as to emulate and reflect that emotion
  • after the sequence, walk a few steps in any direction, as you walk, be “mindful” of different emotion,
  • perform the next sequence so as to emulate and reflect that emotion
  • repeat until the kata is complete
  • Example:

General Emotional Deconstruction  – the following example illustrates the wide variety of emotions that can be used in the deconstruction process. The emotional range is limited only by the imagination of the performer.

The chart below uses the eight sequences of Gekisai Kata identified in the video example.

Sequence # Emotion
1 normal emotion
2 caution
3 trepidation
4 anger
5 serenity
6 seriousness
7 giddiness
8 serenity

 

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Do NOT Perfect Your Kata

7 Dec

“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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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 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

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LIFE IS A KATA

9 Mar

Why do I so strongly advocate the idea that everyone should practice Sanchin Kata? Simple, “Life is a Kata.” Sanchin is a gateway to comprehending the basic elements of life.To facilitate learning Sanchin, anyone can freely acquaint themselves with Sanchin Kata using the “Try Sanchin Kata” page tab above.

life=kata-YOU-

Sanchin Kata (meaning “Three Battles’) examines the three aspects necessary for each and every moment of life, namely, breathing, bodily movement and state-of-mind. Clearly, you cannot live without breathing. Even during times of physical inactivity your body is moving; your heart pumps blood, your lungs expand and contract, digestive organs function, even your minute cells go abut their metabolic processes. Though state-of-mind is a bit more amorphous, you always maintain a state of mental activity. If you do not, then you are clinically “brain-dead;” time to proverbially “pull-the-plug.”

Through the regular practice of Sanchin you explore these three aspects and gain insights into:

  • The specific nature of each of life’s three individual aspects;
  • The manner in which the individual aspects of breathing, bodily movement and state-of-mind, interact, blend and combine to produce – You;
  • The effect whereby you simultaneously exist in the three distinct states of a physical self, a spiritual self and a metaphysical self (connected with your environment).

In addition to the “Try Sanchin Kata” page, throughout this blog, there are articles and videos that guide you in exploring the three aspects in greater detail. You will also enjoy the my free Shibumi Kata which you can explore using the “Try Shibumi Kata” page tab.

Remember my simple concept that “Life is a Kata” and Sanchin is the gateway to understand how to improve each aspect of life.

In closing I remain, advocating Sanchin for everyone in the life that is a Kata,

HANKO

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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Kata Lab # 2230 – Kata: Dr. Jekyll’s Potion

9 Feb

KATA LAB

All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil. (Endnote # 1)

Welcome to this teaser from my Kata Laboratory Series,

 Kata Lab # 2230 – Kata: Jekyll-Hyde’s Potion ©

Background:

The need to defend oneself occurs in a heartbeat.

In that instant, you must not only execute the physical techniques of self-defense, more importantly, you must be able to psychologically transform your mental state. You must instantaneously be able to convert from your mental state immediately prior to the attack to a life-or-death mental attitude; in less time than a beat of your own heart.

In the fictional story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the mild mannered Dr. Henry Jekyll used a potion to transform himself into his antithesis, Mr. Hyde. Similarly, in an attack scenario, you must be able to transform from your mental state prior to an attack, a Dr. Jekyll state, to a mental state of self-preservation (at all costs if necessary), a Mr. Hyde state.

Unlike the fictional Dr. Jekyll, there is no potion you can take advantage of to facilitate this transformation.

Or, is there?

Subject to one caveat, I submit that the transformative potion is kata. The sole caveat is that, like the experiments of Dr. Jekyll, you must experiment and develop a protocol for the transformation. For almost four and a half decades, I have already experimented. The result is this kata laboratory.

Kata Lab Experiment: (Recommended Reader Experimentation)

I suggest you keep the following preliminarily notes in mind,

  • This lab works best with a partner; however, if one is not available, a timing device with an alarm may be substituted;
  • This lab should NOT be part of a formal karate class (as physical energy levels & emotional acuity in class should be already be elevated, such time is not appropriate);
  • You may wish to preselect a kata to perform prior to commencing. With practice, you can have your partner call out a specific kata to perform as part of his/her command. This will add to the elements of surprise, spontaneity and transformation. Eventually, the performance of a specific kata should be completely spontaneous based upon your attendant circumstances and environment.
  • As to environment, same may dictate that your kata be performed using my deconstruction technique (please see above precursor reading). For example, if you are in a closet or tight space when your partner gives the command, or the alarm goes off, perform the kata in that space! What? You don’t think you can be attacked in an elevator, or other tight environment?!

Procedure For Practice:

  • Prior to beginning, ask a partner to arbitrarily give a command for you to perform a kata. (if a partner is not available, arbitrarily set an alarm on a timing device);
  • Go about your normal routine (but do not practice karate), talk, walk, read, play, anything but karate-do training. Do not confine yourself to one room. Go about a “normal” routine. During this time, do not anticipate the command to start kata. Rather, maintain your usual relaxed state of mind (the Dr, Jekyll state). Thus, the more distracting the activity prior to kata, the better;
  • When the command is given (or the alarm sounds), immediately begin your kata as if your life depended on overcoming an attacker. In the blink of an eye, you must transform your mental state into one of “kill-or-be-killed” (the Mr. Hyde state) Again, environment may require that the kata be deconstructed or pattern otherwise adjusted;
  • Once your kata is finished, you must have accomplished your goal of surviving the attack. Then, after assuring yourself that all threats have been neutralized (a brief Zanshin state of mind), you MUST then immediately transform back to your normal, relaxed state-of-mind (again, the Jekyll state).
  • Repeat the process of using kata to transform from a mental Dr. Jekyll state to a Mr. Hyde mental state and returning to a Dr. Jekyll state.

Here is a video I made to assist you. For your viewing enjoyment, it was filmed in the beautiful Lost Dutchman State Park and Lower Salt River, both in Arizona.

Benefits of performing kata as Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde:

This kata laboratory is designed to foster an immediate transformation to a defense-orientated combative state of mind. Without such an attendant state of mind, physical technique is quasi-impotent. Therefore, like the involuntary adrenaline induced reflexive “fight or flight” response, you must be able to transform your mental state. You must then be able to transform out of the defensive state and return to your default state of mind. With diligent practice, you can gain proficiency in this transformation.

Closing:

Using kata as a transformative potion to modify and shape your state of mind is a fundamental concept to my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do (Wellness from within though kata). Once proficient in this transformation, the utility of modifying your psychological state through kata is unlimited.

You may at last begin to see not only the life-taking (Satsugen No Kata) properties of kata, but also the life-giving (Katsugen No Kata) properties as well. Maybe.

Please remember, the mandate of the kata laboratory is

lab-collage-6

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

HANKO

Sensei John Szmitkowski

  secret-1 For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/

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! Here are ONLY SOME of our support products:

Shop-cups-home

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

ENDNOTES:

1. Stevenson, Robert, Louis, The Strange Case Of Doctor Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (Vintage Books, New York, NY 1991) p.80.

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Kata Lab # 3210 – Kata To Modify Emotions

6 Oct

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October 22, 2014: UPDATE: I filmed a video to assist you with this lab. It was filmed in the stunning scenery of the Lower Salt River, Arizona and a New Jersey snow storm. Enjoy

–   –   –   * * * * * –   –   –   –

Je pense que donc je suis. (I think therefore I am)  -Jean Paul Sartre

KATA LAB

Welcome to this installment in my Kata Laboratory Series, Kata Lab # 2130: Kata As An Emotional Modifier” ©

Background:

Our emotions are the most identifiable aspect of our spiritual state of being. Daily events routinely shape and alter our emotions. We can also directly modify our emotions from within.

Most of us seek to suppress negative emotions in the hopes that a positive emotional state will manifest. This kata lab uses kata to modify emotions, not by repressing them, but by acknowledging and expelling them so as to embrace a more positive emotional state.

Kata is uniquely capable of serving as an emotional modifier. The bunkai (analysis) of this phenomenon of kata is a foundation for understanding the spiritual aspect of kata. (See Endnote # 1) This edition of the kata laboratory utilizes my kata deconstruction procedure explained in Kata Laboratory # 2130 to explore how kata can modify our emotional state. It is therefore necessary for you to be familiar with the kata deconstruction procedure. There is a link to the article provided above and a video below.

I submit that certain kata, due to their essential qualities, are natural emotional modifiers. Examples of such kata include, but are not limited to, my Sacred Trinity of Kata (Sanchin, Seienchin, and Suparunpei), Hakutsuru, Gekisai, Kanto and others. All kata; however can be utilized to modify emotions. See Endnote # 2) The kata deconstruction technique provides an excellent platform upon which to construct bunkai (analysis) of the spiritual aspect of any kata.

Once you begin to understand the manner in which kata modifies emotions, you open the door to understanding the spiritual nature of kata. Emotions functions as the gateway to understanding this spiritual state.

I have created two types of emotional deconstruction techniques, the “General Emotional Deconstruction “ and the “Targeted Emotional Deconstruction.”

The general method is very basic. In my experience, I find that while this method is fun, it is extremely fundamental. As such, I have relegated the exact methodology of this procedure to Endnote # 3.

The Targeted Emotional Deconstruction is more difficult and requires more advance preparation than the general method; however, the benefits of performing this deconstruction protocol are profound.

In this type of deconstruction you start with an emotion, and progress through the kata deconstruction so as to end with the opposite of that emotion. The emotion you commence with would be representative of your emotional state at the time of practice. For example, assume that you have had a difficult day and are aggravated. To start the procedure, you would take the state of aggravation and expand it to its highest emotional state. In the example shown below, this state may be represented by an emotional state of fury. This step is crucial in so far as it does not repress your negative emotional state; rather it, acknowledges and expands it. This allows you to fully acknowledge the emotion so as to ultimately dispel it.

You would then identify the opposite of this state so as to target the desired ending emotional state. In this example, tranquility would represent a desired state opposite to the state of fury. You then deconstruct the kata so as to work your way through the range of emotions between fury and tranquility. The table below provides an example using the eight sequences shown in the deconstruction of Gekisai kata.

Example:

Targeted Emotional Deconstruction  – using the state of aggravation as the existing emotional state, the following example starts with the emotion of fury and ends with the emotion of tranquility. The chart below uses the eight sequences of Gekisai Kata identified in the video example.

SEQUENCE # EMOTION
1 Fury
2 Aggressiveness
3 Anger
4 Aggravation
5 Slow Burn
6 Calm
7 Placid
8 Tranquil

As you gain proficiency in this technique, you no longer have to perform the kata as deconstructed. Eventually, you can perform the kata within the traditional pattern and express the various emotions as you do so.

Kata Laboratory (Recommended Reader Experimentation):

The following is my procedure to utilize my kata deconstruction procedure to modify your emotional state. The within allows you to begin to experience kata not as a physical endeavor, but as a spiritual art. Using the table above as a guide,

1. Identify either your current emotional state or choose an emotion you wish to explore. Using the Gekisai example, let us use “aggravation” as such an emotional state;

2. Identify the extreme manifestation of that emotional state. Again using the Gekisai example and the state of “aggravation”, the extreme state might be “fury”;

3. Identify the extreme opposite emotional state. In the example, this state may be a state of “tranquility”;

4. Based upon the number of sequences in the kata you wish to perform, identify the same number of transitional emotional states between the two opposite states. In the Gekisai example, the above table shows these states;

5. Now, perform your kata, deconstructing each sequence. As you progress through the sequences, perform each sequence so as to symbolize each emotional state. To the casual observer, your emotional state associated with each sequence should be readily apparent in the manner in which you perform the sequence.

6. Repeat as often as you like, experimenting with differing emotions and different kata to see how kata affects your emotions.

Here is a video to assist you with your experiment in using kata to modify emotions

Closing: 

Using my kata deconstruction method to explore the manner in which kata can modify your emotions has direct, positive and tangible effects. It also has intangible benefits awaiting your discovery.

  • you can use kata to modify negative emotions when they creep into your life;
  • you can increase the health effects of positive emotions by increasing them through your kata practice;
  • you recognize the effect your emotional state has on your physical self;
  • you begin to understand how emotions affect your overall state of being;
  • your understanding of the above acs as a foundation for your continued exploration into your spiritual state of being.
  • most importantly, you begin to practice kata bunkai (analysis) in both the physical state and the spiritual state.

Please remember, the mandate of the kata laboratory is

lab-collage-6

 

HANKO-master

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

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Help support Sensei’s Kata Lab 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:

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© Copyright 2006 and 2013 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

ENDNOTES:

1. Please remember:

First, the spiritual bunkai of kata does not refer to religious, or supernatural states. Rather, spiritual bunkai refers to the method by which kata affects internal non-physical process which include, but are not limited to emotions, states-of-mind (mushin, zanshin, nenjuushin and the likes) and internal states of awareness.

Second, exploring the spiritual bunkai of kata is markedly different from exploring the physical bunkai of kata. One area of divergence is that physical bunkai always requires a partner whereas spiritual bunkai need not require a partner, but always requires visualization.

2. If you fully understand the three states of kata, namely, the physical, spiritual and metaphysical states, then you can readily understand how any kata can modify emotions. For example, the translation of the kanji for the Gekisai Kata in our example can demonstrate the three states. Gekisai translates as “To destroy”. Applying this to the three states we see that:

physical state – to destroy your opponent in battle;

spiritual state – to destroy your own negative mental and emotional states;

environmental state – to destroy your preconception that you exist independent of your external environment.

Each and every time you perform Gekisai (or any other kata) you are simultaneously present in each of the above three states.

3. The General Emotional Deconstruction is performed as follows:

General Emotional deconstruction)

using kata deconstruction technique:

  • start with an emotion
  • perform the first sequence so as to emulate and reflect that emotion
  • after the sequence, walk a few steps in any direction, as you walk, be “mindful” of different emotion,
  • perform the next sequence so as to emulate and reflect that emotion
  • repeat until the kata is complete
  • Example:

General Emotional Deconstruction  – the following example illustrates the wide variety of emotions that can be used in the deconstruction process. The emotional range is limited only by the imagination of the performer.

The chart below uses the eight sequences of Gekisai Kata identified in the video example.

Sequence # Emotion
1 normal emotion
2 caution
3 trepidation
4 anger
5 serenity
6 seriousness
7 giddiness
8 serenity

 

A New Intriguing Feature

5 May

Announcing 

a new featured blog category – 

KATA LAB

In this regularly featured category, Sensei John will provide unique and innovative insights, thoughts and “experiments” on kata and bunkai so as to inspire and challenge you to deeply practice and reflect on the kata of your particular style of karate-do. While the material is presented using the kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do, the hypothesis, experiments, tests and conclusions are NOT contingent upon the specific kata of any one style. As such, this category is designed for any martial artist, regardless of style, geographic or national origin of the style and kata contained therein.

CIMG3936

In Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory, kata and bunkai theory and hypothesis will be presented not for the purpose of having the same routinely accepted by the reader. Rather, Sensei John will present his unique insights so as to invite you to test and analyze them for yourself (in other words work and sweat!) If, after your own experimentation,  you agree with Sensei John’s theories that is satisfactory. If; however, your own experimentations lead to conclusions that differ from those of Sensei John, then that is even better; such divergent and differing conclusions will ultimately invite debate and more experimentation so as to raise the total kata and bunkai experience of all to greater heights.

think

A word of caution is appropriate. You should not simply read the submissions in Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory. To do so would not only result in a wholly unsatisfying experience, but would also violate the intention of experimentation, namely discovering new concepts for yourself.  Instead, you should (in fact must) read the submissions in the category and then apply the motto of Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory;

in equal parts you must:

Think           Sweat          Experiment 

Look for more in this category in the near future to guide and transform the manner in which you experience kata.

Sincerity in sweat,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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! Here are ONLY SOME of our support products:

Shop-cups-home

 

 

 

 

 

 

ENDNOTES:

A very big “Thank-you” to Chandra at ProMed Apparel in Mesa, Arizona WWW.ProMedApparel.Com for her assistance in providing the official “Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory” lab coat.

ProMed Apparel – 6610 E Baseline Road, Suite 101, Mesa, AZ

Image

The idea for a lab coat started jokingly at the USA Goshin-Ryu Karate Dojo of Sensei Pablo Peneque and Sensei Scott Zamora in Bogota, NJ. On April 3rd, 2013 as we were in the process of videotaping a kata and bunkai session, I hinted at the idea of a “kata laboratory” wherein I would wear a lab coat over my gi. I guess the idea stuck.

HIDDEN TRAITS OF 8 PRIMORDIAL PRINCIPLES

11 Mar

This week’s article is an abbreviated excerpt from a chapter in my forthcoming DVD and book, “The Dualism Of Seienchin Kata: Part Two in the Jiriki Kata-Do Series.” (See Endnote # 1)

It has been said that there are eight primordial principles that envelope the martial arts. These principles have been delineated in an ancient martial text called “The Bubishi”. The principles are also inferred within the martial work known as the “Eight Poems Of The Chinese Fist.” (See Endnote # 2 for the full text of the poems). The eight primordial principles are:

  • To float;
  • To sink;
  • To swallow;
  • To spit;
  • To burst;
  • To rebound;
  • To spring;
  • To lift.

All eight principles are found within the Seienchin Kata which is derived from the Fujian white crane system of Kung-Fu. Fujian white crane style was developed by Xie Zhing Xiang. The style contains the four elements of whooping crane, flying crane, eating crane and sleeping crane. The four stylistic elements formed the basis of the Seienchin Kata found within Karate-Do.

Seienchin Kata, Badlands, SD, Circa 2004

The Seienchin Kata is the second protocol of my dynamic ideology, Jiriki Kata-Do. It is derived from the Seienchin Kata of the Goshin-Do Karate DeFelice-Ryu style of Karate. (See Endnote # 3)

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

Traditionally, only the martial arts based physical applications of the principles have been explored and discussed. In my dynamic ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do, the spiritual connotations associated with the principles are delineated.

Four of the eight principles contained within Seienchin Kata are present within Sanchin Kata. (See Endnote # 4) To provide insight into the physical and hidden spiritual aspects of the eight principles, I submit the following brief discussion of the four principles found within Sanchin Kata.

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

The four principles found within Sanchin and the associated martial arts application, are as follows.

  • TO FLOAT – Unbalancing an opponent by one’s movement, depriving him of a firm footing and thereby defeating him.
  • TO SINK – controlling an opponent by making him feel heavy or clumsy;
  • TO SWALLOW – “to swallow” is a euphemism for the phrase “to absorb.” It means defeating an opponent’s attack by diverting and absorbing it;
  • TO SPIT  – “to spit” is a euphemism for the phrase “to reject.” It involves using explosive power to strike or push away an opponent with such force that he is defeated.

In my Seienchin DVD and Book, I submit that in addition to the above physical traits of the principles, there are hidden spiritual traits found within Sanchin and Seienchin Kata. These hidden spiritual traits remain concealed from all but a few enlightened practitioners of the Kata. The dynamic ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do is the express mechanism to uncover the hidden spiritual and meta-physical traits hidden within the eight primordial principles. As to the four principles found within Sanchin, I submit that the hidden spiritual traits are as follows.

  • TO FLOAT: After a practitioner of zazen, seated meditation, attained a level of proficiency, he was next required to learn “To Float”. Within this meditative practice, “To Float” means that one must allow one’s force to synchronize with and to flow with the general forces that exists in nature. (See Endnote # 5) One could not float by simply sitting in meditative zazen. One had to combine zazen with bodily movement; a dance. It is through the dance that the body could perform naturally and thus free the mind, or spirit, for meditation. Thus, passive, seated, meditation, was combined with the active, physical movement, in the manner of harmony of opposites, as in the concepts of Yin and Yang. It is my unfettered opinion that there is no greater form of “dance” than Karate-Do Kata. Thus, Kata are the ultimate mechanism for the phenomenon known as “To Float.”
  • TO SINK: this spiritual concept involved rooting one’s Chi, or bio-energy, as I call it, to the Earth during the dance so as to permit one’s energy to flow freely within the confines of one’s body and subsequently synchronize one’s internal energy with the external universal energy. If one’s internal bio-energy was not sufficiently rooted to the Earth, it would spill forth haphazardly into the external universal energy and be dissipated and dispersed thereby.
  • TO SWALLOW: This spiritual concept involves opening and extending oneself to the external universal energy. Through this process, one not only swallows, or absorbs, the universal energy into oneself, but also extends one’s bio-energy into the universe. Through this process one blends into the universal energy in such a manner as to unite with this external energy so as to produce a fully integrated state of being.
  • TO SPIT: This spiritual concept is a moral imperative. The universe is in complete balance and exists entirely in a state of harmony. The nature of the universe dictates that the universe is composed of a positive aspect and also contains a negative aspect. Harmony in the universe is achieved by balancing these opposing and chaotic elements. The spiritual concept “To Spit” is the process whereby one consciously is aware of the negative component of the universal essence, or spirit. Being thus aware of this negative aspect, the practitioner of either Sanchin Kata or Seienchin Kata who seeks to synchronize and unite with the universal essence, consciously desires to unite with the positive aspect and spit out, or reject, the negative aspect. This does not mean that the practitioner is out of harmony with the universe. The negative aspect will continue to exist, but such existence is limited to the universe in general. Though continuing to exist, the negative aspect is not unified with the practitioner’s individual essence and self. The result is an integrated positive self that exists within a harmonious universe of positive and negative aspects. The negative aspect tends to be absorbed by those unenlightened persons who incorporate negativity into their level of existence. These non-integrated, unenlightened humans, are often physically ill and spiritually bankrupt.

The physical and hidden spiritual traits of all eight principles are fully analyzed in my forthcoming DVD and Book, “The Dualism Of Seienchin Kata: Part Two in the Jiriki Kata-Do Series.” The anticipated release date for the DVD and Book is August 1, 2012.

In closing, I remain, floating, sinking, swallowing, spitting, bursting, rebounding, springing and lifting,

HANKO

Sensei John Szmitkowski

ENDNOTES:

  1. Part One of Jiriki Kata-Do can be found in my Sanchin DVD and Book: “Sanchin, Gateway To The Plateau Of Serenity.” Here is a convenient link a promotional video about the Sanchin DVD filmed on location at various scenic locations throughout Arizona. LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE
  2. The “Eight Poems Of The Chinese Fist” are as follows:
  • 1. Jinshin wa tenchi ni onaji. The mind is one with heaven and earth.
  • 2. Ketsumyaku wa nichigetsu ni nitari. The circulatory rhythm of the body is similar to the cycle of the sun and the moon.
  • 3. Ho wa goju no donto su. The way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness.
  • 4. Mi wa toki ni shitagai hen ni ozu. Act in accordance with time and change.
  • 5. Te wa ku ni ai sunawachi hairu. Techniques will occur in the absence of conscious thought.
  • 6. Shintai wa hakarite riho su. The feet must advance and retreat, separate and meet.
  • 7. Me wa shiho womiru wa yosu. The eyes must not miss even the slightest change.
  • 8. Mimiwa yoku happo wo kiku. The ears listen well in all eight directions.

3. I have chosen the name “Goshin-Do Karate DeFelice-Ryu” to designate the Goshin-Do Karate style as taught by my Sensei, Shihan Thomas DeFelice so as to distinguish it from the various other martial arts styles that utilize the “Goshin-Do” nomenclature. The Kanji for the style translates as, “Self-defense way of the empty hand, DeFelice style.”

4.I have made the benefits of Sanchin Kata available to everyone with my one hour Sanchin DVD and 116 page book. You can find information on how to purchase a Sanchin DVD & Book by clicking the following convenient link: http://www.dynamic-meditation.com/references.html

5. For example, In the Hindu meditative practices, the phrase used to describe this phenomenon is, “To allow one’s Atman to become one with the universal Atman.”

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

You may wish to view my blog dedicated to the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fly-fishing and fishing in general by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com

VIRTUES OF KATA

31 Jul

This article is submitted, with neither my editorial, nor comment, simply to spark your contemplation. While set forth in terms of Karate-Do Kata, with a little imagination, you can extend it to your own personal endeavors, sports, hobbies and interests. For your contemplation, I submit “The Ten Virtues Of Kata.” (See Endnote # 1).

Kanji for “Kata”

THE TEN VIRTUES OF KATA

1.  IT PURIFIES MIND AND BODY;

2.  IT REMOVES SPIRITUAL UNCLEANLINESS;

3.  PRACTICED EVERY DAY, IT WILL DO NO HARM.

4.  IT KEEPS ONE ALERT;

5.  ONE’S AGE DOES NOT CHANGE ITS EFFICACY;

6.  WHEN PERFORMED IN ABUNDANCE, ONE NEVER TIRES OF IT;

7.  WHEN PERFORMED SPARINGLY, ONE IS SATISFIED;

8.  IN THE MIDST OF BUSY AFFAIRS, IT BRINGS A MOMENT OF  SOLITUDE;

9.  IT IS A COMPANION IN THE MIDST OF SOLITUDE;

10.  IT BRINGS COMMUNICATION WITH THE TRANSCENDENT UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS.

As you train your Kata, or perform your life endeavors, see if you can aspire to capture and embrace each of the above virtues.

Until the net submission, I remain a virtue of Kata practicing Kata for virtue,

HANKO-wood

 

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Here is a link for a promotional video about my Sanchin Kata & Jiriki Kata-Do DVD filmed in the Tonto National Forest. Arizona. Please see the “SANCHIN DVD & BOOK” page tab above for information on how to purchase the DVD.

LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE

ENDNOTES:

1. A word about the Kanji for Kata. The Kanji is Sumi-e ink on rice paper. It was hand drawn in 1998 as part of the Kanji for the Goshin-Do Kata-Jitsu five volume series by Sensei Szmitkowski. “Kata” is interpreted loosely as “form”, extended to be translated as “Formal exercise.” I prefer the figurative translation, to wit: “Clay-in-the-mold.”

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

For more on either Sanchin Kata as meditation or my new book on Sanchin Kata, please feel free to visit the “Sanchin Book” page of this weblog, or my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com.

You may wish to view my blog dedicated to the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fly-fishing and fishing in general by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com

SEDONA – TAIRIKI CAPITAL OF ARIZONA

26 Sep

A visit to Sedona, Arizona during the Labor Day weekend gave me pause to reflect upon two competing ideologies that govern how we seek to improve ourselves. The two ideologies are Jiriki representing salvation derived from sources within oneself and Tairiki, representing salvation derived from sources external to and independent of oneself. It is the tension of theses conflicting ideologies that provided the foundation for my Goshin-Do Karate-Do inspired ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do. To understand the nature of these two opposing ideologies, let us first examine the most commonly represented ideology of Tairiki.

 My visit to Sedona was replete with examples of Tairiki. The ideology of Tairiki is dependant upon a source external to and independent of oneself as a catalyst to inner salvation. In this instance inner salvation is a euphemism for well-being, an enhanced life experience, inner peace and other such jargon. Tairiki depends upon the either third-party human intervention of an interloper such as a priest, spirit guide, or shaman or the aid of an object, such as a crystal, an energy-vortex, or a talisman as a facilitator of the salvation experience. With perhaps the greatest number of spirit guides, shaman, energy-vortex guides, self-help assistance, life coaches, and even alien hunters per capita, Sedona provided the perfect backdrop to my period of reflection.

Salvation attained through Tairiki practices is generally more understood and accepted by the general public. There are many reasons for this phenomenon. The first is the concept accepted by the majority of people that we, ourselves, lack the power, or ability to enhance ourselves and our life experience. We simply doubt that we have that capacity. This is further facilitated by a form of mass marketing campaign by those that can, for a price, provide the means by which salvation can be attained. This leads to the second reason that Tairiki, in all its forms, is generally accepted. That reason is simple economics. There is money to be made by first convincing the population that the ability to improve oneself is external to one self and that the proverbial “keys to the kingdom” can be found through an external method, symbol, or path that can be purchased for a price. An economic offshoot of Tairiki is what I call the fortuitous ancillary market. This fortuitous ancillary market provides one with the external, implied mandatory trappings for inner salvation. To understand this market, let us look at Yoga. Yoga, like my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do appears to require nothing more than one’s own body and spirit for participation. As to Yoga, this may have been true at one time. In modern times, Yoga has enveloped itself with external trappings and extravagance. One may now purchase the latest designer Yoga clothing, practice mats, shoes, incense and tote bags. Of course, I omitted the numerous books, videos, DVD’s seminars and the like. In the final analysis, Tairiki practices were once born of a purity of intent and evolved into a massive financial conglomerate. It is good to be the King, or at least appear to hold the Keys to the Kingdom.

Jiriki based salvation is derived entirely from within oneself. To be sure, one requires guidance in the means of attaining the providence of salvation. The key differential is the extent and duration of such guidance. The guidance provided in Jiriki based salvation is temporary and transcendental. Once one is shown the methods of Jiriki salvation, the teacher or mentor terminates the relationship. The student then become the self-guide for the remainder of the journey for salvation. To understand this point, we may look at the first rite or meditative practice of my system of Jiriki Kata-Do. That protocol is the moving meditation of Sanchin which is directly derived from the Sanchin Kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do. Once I, as Sensei, teach you the physical mechanics, spiritual state of mind and metaphysical aspect of Sanchin, my relationship as mentor ends. It is then entirely up to the student to solemnly practice Sanchin so as to derived the salvation benefits. The salvation benefits of Sanchin are directly proportionate to one’s own solemn, earnest practice of the Sanchin. The entire mentor relationship is of very short duration, thus, there is very little economic benefit to the mentor. A student may choose to progress and learn additional rites and protocols, but that decision rests entirely with the student. Such a decision is uniquely personal and based upon the salvation expectation of a student, the need for further amending one’s lifestyle, either physically or spiritually and unique problems experienced by a particular student. The main point is that after the learning process, the “keys to the kingdom” are surrendered by the mentor and transferred forever to the student.

For your enjoyment, I have the following slideshow from my visit to Sedona. The slideshow is a tongue-in-cheek look at how I employed Chloe to “sniff-out” the mystical experience in the Tairiki capital called Sedona.

  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  
Until my next article, I remain hopeful that you will begin to understand the tremendous true potential that lies within you,
 
 Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
For more on Sanchin, please see my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com.
You may purchase Sanchin logo products from my online store at http://www.cafepress.com/sanchin_logo.
You are invited to read my other blog at WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Wordpress.Com.
 

 

CARETAKERS OF THE WAY

4 Jul
Many of us sacrifice aspects of our lives in pursuit of our chosen art, hobby, sport or other such endeavor. There are times when we seek to understand the cause of such sacrifice. Perhaps our desire is merely motivated by self-indulgent reasons. We may attribute our desire to explore such pursuits to a quest for self-exploration as a path to self-improvement. Perhaps. But, as my computer keyboard spews these words to you at 3:21 in the morning, I submit there is perhaps more to our sacrifice.
 
I was once given a gift that sheds light upon the path of sacrifice, dedication, devotion and obsession that has come to represent my quest in Karate-Do. The gift is a poem. It has transcended time to remind me that there is more to my exploration of Karate-Do than just the “Me” aspect. The poem was given to me many years ago at the Dojo which was then located at 500 Tenth Street in Palisades Park, New Jersey. The author is a unique person in my Karate lineage. His words shed light upon my Karate-Do “raison d’etre“. I submit the poem to you in the hopes you may come to understand that the sacrifices you make in pursuit of your art are not all attributed to self-indulgent needs.
 
 There is a time when a practitioner evolves into that which is practiced. The evolutionary process imposes a trust upon the practitioner. A form of bond evolves whereby the practitioner becomes a guardian of that which was once practiced for selfish reasons. In Karate-Do, the personification of this evolutionary process, is referred to by the title “Sensei”. I hope you appreciate the words of one such Sensei.   

AS YOU TRAVEL IN TIME TEACHING KARATE-DO

 REMEMBER IT BELONGS TO NO MAN

WE ARE ONLY THE CARETAKERS OF THE WAY

IT WAS PASSED ONTO US SO THAT WE MAY PASS IT ONTO OTHERS.

DO NOT LET EGO GUIDE YOUR WAY IN KARATE-DO

RATHER LET THE WAY GUIDE YOUR EGO. (see Endnote # 1).

To all those that have evolved into caretakers of that which they practice, I hope you appreciate the above. It has a special place in my heart.

Until the next article, I remain a Sensei, a mere caretaker, hoping that I continue to measure up to the task entrusted upon me.
HANKO-reverse
 
 Sensei John Szmitkowski
 
ENDNOTES:
 1. From my private collection and reproduced in Szmitkowski, John, Goshin-Do Kata-Jitsu, Volume One: The Basic Kata, (Issho Publications, East Rutherford, NJ 1997).

Please feel free to visit Sensei John’s new online store containing various Jiriki Kata-Do products with the unique logo of Sanchin. The Sanchin logo depicts the three battles of Sanchin in a new contextual paradigm. You may find Sensei’s store by clicking the following  link http://www.cafepress/sanchin_logo..

For more on either Sanchin Kata as meditation or my new book on Sanchin Kata, please feel free to visit the “Sanchin Book” page of this Blogsite, or my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com.

For more information on my ideology and methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do, please review the articles herein filed in the category “Kata as enlightened meditation“.

The Martial Arts Learning Process Of SHU, HA, RI

20 Jun
The following is a continuing example of how martial arts ideology and concepts can be used to enhance various aspects of daily life.
Many of us pursue extra-curricula activities, hobbies and sports. My favorite pursuit is Karate-Do. Regardless of the activity, there is a learning process associated with any teacher – student relationship. I submit that in order to fully understand your chosen activity, it is necessary not only to understand the fundamentals associated with the pursuit, but also process whereby such technical knowledge is transmitted and assimilated. To this end, one may look to the following concept from Karate-Do, specifically Goshin-Do Karate-Do. It is ironic that although the following is derived from the martial arts, few martial artists are aware of the within learning analysis.
The following stages have been ascribed to the process of learning the martial arts. By extension, the following applies to any pursuit transmitted from teacher to student. There are three stages of the learning process which are generally accepted and a fourth, more esoteric stage. The three generally accepted stages are the stages of “SHU”, “HA“, “RI“.  

The Kanji for Shu – Ha – Ri

Each particular stage is described as follows.

SHU (pronounced “Shoe”) means to correctly copy all of the techniques of one’s instructors;

HA (pronounced “Ha”) means the liberty allowed to a student to develop his own way of executing techniques based upon the demands of his own physical stature and his own individual understanding of Karate;

RI (pronounced “Rhee”) means “transcendence” or “mastery”, when a student can perform all of the techniques automatically and becomes a teacher himself.

The following symbolism has been ascribed to each stage. Such symbolism may assist you in further understanding the three stages of transmittal and learning.

SHU is symbolized by an egg. The first stage is hard, the form or shape of the technique must be mastered or protected, just like a mother protects her egg.

HA is symbolized by the breaking egg. The basic form is broken into its infinite applications. It means the fundamentals are now mastered and are applied in all situations.

RI is symbolized by the fully released chick that has matured and flies away from the nest. The student forgets all forms and masters the formless technique, leaving old ideas behind him. He has fully matured in his training.

Over time, a fourth, more esoteric, stage of the process of learning the martial arts has come to be identified. This stage is called the “KU” (pronounced “Cue”) stage. 

KU is the stage of emptiness. It means everything is gone and no trace is left behind. The student has reached the highest level and no one can trace his movements or capture his techniques.

The aim of my ideology and methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do is to take the physical methods and spiritual concepts of the Karate-Do and illustrate to non-martial artists the benefits derived from applying them to daily life. In accord with that aim, I submit that the learning process of Shu, Ha, Ri and Ku applies to any art form or activity that is transmitted from one individual, acting as a teacher to another who is the student. Thus, it applies to a great many human activities. To be sure, these concepts need not extend solely to recreational pursuits. The learning stages apply to any pursuit, including business matters, the formal educational process of children, religions and the like involving a mentor or teacher and a recipient of knowledge.
 
One additional point concerning Shu, Ha Ri needs to be addressed. Many endeavors involve levels of knowledge. This is true of Karate-Do. The stages of Shu, Ha, Ri apply to the overall endeavor (such as Karate) and also the individual levels of knowledge attributed to the endeavor. I will illustrate this point with one aspect of Karate and my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do. Within Karate, there are martial protocol known as “Kata”. One such Kata is the Kata called Sanchin. Sanchin, which translates as “Three Battles” is the cornerstone of my ideology and methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do. In Jiriki Kata-Do the three battles of Sanchin are the physical, spiritual and metaphysical aspects of human existence. During the course of learning and practicing Sanchin, a practitioner will have attained various stages of Shu, Ha, Ri for each individual aspect of Sanchin. Thus, a practitioner may have attained the Ri stage as to the physical battle, the Shu stage as to the spiritual battles and may be unaware of the metaphysical battle. Eventually, a practitioner will attain the Ri, or even the Ku, stage for the entire Sanchin. The same is true of any multi-level endeavor. Thus, a student will at any given time possess the attributes of either the Shu, Ha or Ri stage of the individual components of the overall endeavor. Eventually, the student will attain and subsequently transcend the overall mastery of the endeavor itself.
 
Understanding the various stages of learning is beneficial to both the teacher and the student. Such an understanding provides a roadmap for the subsequent transmission of knowledge. The stages also provide a degree of satisfaction and achievement in the manner in which the subject has already been learned. Additionally, the stages point to an incentive for future understanding of the subject being transmitted. An understanding will ultimately enhance your learning and assimilating the subject of your learning.
 
Until the next article, I remain assimilating and living the lessons of my teachers,
HANKO-reverse
 
 Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
 
Please feel free to visit Sensei John’s new online store containing various Jiriki Kata-Do products with the unique logo of Sanchin. The Sanchin logo depicts the three battles of Sanchin in a new contextual paradigm. You may find Sensei’s store by clicking the following link http://www.cafepress.com/sanchin_logo.

A Cat In A Tree Outlives A Fox On The Ground

23 May
The following submission is based upon an ancient Zen fable. While it is a treasured tale amongst martial artists, it is submitted for the benefit of all who wander along life‘s path. As with any other fable that is told for the benefit of us humans, the most impact is made when the chief characters of the tale are members of the animal kingdom. Our human attributes are cast upon these unknowing creatures so that we may learn from them. It is only then that we humans can appreciate the folly of our ways. The Zen fable is as follows (See Endnote # 1).
One fine summer day a cat and a fox where enjoying a leisurely afternoon on a sunny countryside hilltop. They were shading themselves under the boughs of a magnificent oak tree. As a cool breeze blew, the two discussed their repertoire of self-defense techniques. The fox was quite boastful. “You see my dear cat”, the fox bragged, “I have many techniques at my disposal.” The fox stroked its chin as it continued. “I can easily list thirty defensive maneuvers that I am capable of.“ “How many can you think of?“ The fox asked the cat. The breeze caused a cold shiver to run up the cat’s spine. The cat looked quite worried. “My dear fox, it seems that I can only think of one defense, so I do hope that we are not attacked.”
As in all good fables, it was at this juncture that fate intervened. As soon as the cat concluded his statement, a pack of hungry, wild dogs appeared. The cat and the fox took notice of the threat to their safety. The dogs poised themselves for a vicious attack upon the two conversationalists. The dogs snarled. The fox, looking curiously confident, said to the cat, “I think I shall out run these dogs, or maybe I shall hide in those bushes, or maybe I shall run into that burrow, or maybe …“ As saliva dripped down their jowls, the snarling, wide-eyed, dogs closed in on the cat and the fox. The cat immediately and instinctively performed the one defensive maneuver it knew; it jumped up onto the trunk of the oak tree. It’s claws providing a firm grip, the cat climbed up the trunk and into the high branches of the mighty oak. The cat was safe and secure. It inhaled deeply to relax and contently looked down from its secure perch.
 

The cat saw the snarling, drooling pack of dogs encircle the fox and bare their teeth. The cat yelled down to the fox to defend itself. The pack of dogs was focused on the kill. The fox was frozen in place. The dogs snarled and leapt high into the air so as to pounce on the fox. As the dogs were in midair, time seemed to move slowly. The cat heard the fox utter its very last words, “I cannot decide which of my many self-defense techniques I should perform.” With that, the fox disappeared under a mass of snarling, biting, clawing mass of frenzied dog. After the attack, the satiated pack of dogs licked the remnants of the blood from their mouths and lazily strolled down the hilltop. The cat climbed down from the tree and gathered up the torn clumps of fur and bone that was once the fox. The cat buried the earthly remnants of the fox on the hilltop, beneath a large sunflower, and whispered a final goodbye to its friend. As the cat sauntered home, he thought, “What a terrible waste of all that knowledge”. That evening, over a nice saucer of milk, the cat thought fondly of his lost friend.

The lesson of the Zen fable in terms of the martial arts is easily extrapolated (See Endnote # 2). The fable also contains a life lesson that is particularly applicable in the modern “do it all” world. The fox knew a multitude of defensive maneuvers in a superficial manner. To the fox, more was better. His more is better ideology resulted in a terrible fate. Similarly, an entire generation now exists as a personification of the catch phrase; multi-task. The fox’s desire to superficially know many defensive maneuvers produced a false sense of security. The human desire to multi-task is shrouded in a misguided perception of achievement. One perceives that the more tasks one can accomplish in a finite time period, the greater one’s achievement. Achievement, in the ideology of the multi-task, is defined on a hierarchical scale whereby the number of tasks performed is inversely proportionate to the finite time period. Thus, it is perceived that the more tasks one has performed in the shortest time period, the greater the sense of achievement. Such a definition provides a warped and distorted sense of achievement. In this warped definition of achievement, the quality of the tasks performed is irrelevant.

One consequence of this misguided multi-task process is one of the most invasive attacks upon a sense of well being. I call this invader “perceptual stress“. Perceptual stress is an artificial condition that is derived entirely within one’s emotional self. Perceptual stress is a consequence of an internal, self-fulfilling prophecy of failure shrouded in an expectation of achievement. This self-fulfilling prophecy of failure originates in our sub-conscious mind. One who practices a multi-task ideology subconsciously increases the number of tasks to be achieved while simultaneously decreasing the finite time period within which the tasks are to be completed. During this sub-conscious process, one fools oneself into believing that one is capable of achieving the impossible goal of completing all the tasks. One‘s intuition tells one that such achievement is utterly impossible. Perceptual stress is born from the tension caused by the self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

Perceptual stress differs from actual stress. Actual stress is a condition of physical, mental or emotional strain that is derived from direct, external situational encounters (See Endnote # 3). Perceptual stress is entirely derived internally within one’s own psyche. The cure for perceptual stress is found within the lesson of the above Zen fable.

At the heart of the cure is an acknowledgment of the complexity of the modern world environment. This modern world environment calls for one’s ability to address and resolve a plethora of tasks and situational demands. Such complexity is represented in the Zen fable by the pack of snarling dogs. The fox represents one who has adapted a multi-task ideology. Such adoption leaves the fox paralyzed (similar to the effects of perceptual stress). The dilatory effect of the fox’s inability to act is death. Similarly, the multi-task ideology has a dilatory effect on the physical, emotional and spiritual well being of the human species. The remedy is found within an ideology I call the “UNI-TASK”. The unit-task ideology is symbolized by the cat in the Zen fable. The uni-task ideology is an affirmation that one is often required to address a multitude of tasks or changing situations; however, one can only address one task or situation at a time. The uni-task ideology is accomplished when each circumstance is acknowledged, processed through a hierarchical triage whereby the resolution of each circumstance is assigned a value as to the necessity of its completion and then the resolution process is commenced so that the specific circumstance is addressed. The task or situation is addressed in a qualitative manner and once completed, one progresses onto the next circumstance requiring attention. Thus, by utilizing a uni-task modality, one achieves a pure, pragmatic sense of qualitative (not quantitative) accomplishment and achievement. To be sure, a smiling cat in a tree is better than a fox paralyzed on the ground.

To further illustrate the uni-task ideology, I offer the following anecdote. I am very fond of the inspirational phrase, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” A corollary to this phrase is the acknowledgement that “A journey of a thousand miles is accomplished one step at a time.” Thus, the ideology of the uni-task is called into play. The moral of the Zen fable and my anecdote may be further illustrated by means of a more modern example. This example is found in the genre of modern film. There is an illustrative scene from the movie City Slickers. In the movie, a middle-aged man (played by Billy Crystal) is riding horseback on a cattle drive. He is accompanied by a grizzled old cowboy (played by Jack Palance). As they ride along, Billy Crystal’s character questions the substance and quality of his life. His “city slicker” lifestyle (which I submit is beset by a multitask ideology) is in stark contrast to the lifestyle of the old cowboy. The grizzled old cowboy looks at him and asks if he knows what the problem is. Bill Crystal’s character shakes his head to indicate “No.“ The cowboy offers a solution and points his index finger upwards, seemingly at sky.

The Answer To The City Slicker's Multi-task Lifestyle

Billy Crystal’s character jokingly replies, “What, the answer is up?” To which the cowboy offers an interpretation of the ideology of the uni-task, “Find one thing you are good at and do it well.“

The ideology of the uni-task has immediate benefits to one‘s state of being. The benefits include, but are not limited to, eliminating perceptual stress, reducing actual stress, and promoting a sense of true achievement. Such a state of being fosters an enlightened human condition.

The next time you are challenged by the demands of life, take a moment to gather your thoughts. You may even remember my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do and perform Sanchin. Then, smile like a cat in a tree. While smiling, complete one task at a time. The uni-task ideology will result in a more fulfilling life experience.

Until the next article, I remain like the cat in the fable, uni-tasking. I sit on a tree branch of life, smiling down upon the tattered emotional remnants of those that believe they are accomplished “successful” multi-taskers,

 Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
  
Breaking news
 Sensei John’s new online store has officially opened!!
Please feel free to visit my new online store containing various Jiriki Kata-Do products with the unique logo of Sanchin. The Sanchin logo, designed by the renowned graphic designer, Kelly Kwiatek, depicts the three battles of Sanchin in a new contextual paradigm. You may find the store by clicking the following link http://www.cafepress.com/sanchin_logo. 
 ENDNOTES:
1. There are many versions of this Zen fable. The version set forth herein is my retelling of the version that was told within the Dojo of Shihan Thomas DeFelice. Like a storyteller-Shaman of old that spun a yarn while sitting around a nocturnal campfire, Shihan DeFelice could spin a Zen fable that would captivate the mere mortals that entered the door of Dojo. 

May, 2010 is the 45th anniversary of the Dojo. Above is the 40th (May, 2005) anniversary commemorative patch.

2. Regular, earnest, perfect practice of one self-defense application will make that technique instinctive. To be sure, there is a need to initially study a variety of martial art based defensive technique. The utility of such a self-defense buffet is multifaceted. It provides an individual with a means of comparing techniques so as to ascertain which are successful to the individual based upon his or her own unique, physical, mental and emotional characteristics. Further, studying a plethora of technique allows one to subsequently teach the techniques, categorized as a system or style of martial art, to other individuals. Thus, the cycle of learning, adapting and transmitting a martial art is repeated.

3. The classic examples of actual stress are the death of a close family member, loss of a job, divorce and other stressful events encountered through forces external to oneself over which one perceives they are powerless to alter.

On The Road With Sensei John – Part 4: Western Dojo

9 May

In this final installment of my “On The Road With Sensei John” series, I want to discuss the lessons of the various Dojo I visited while traveling west of the Mississippi River. In accord with my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do, each Dojo visit sets forth a lesson that applies not only to Karate-Do, but also life itself. Once again, while the within article is written in terms of Karate-Do, the concepts and ideas apply to life in general. The following is submitted for the benefit of all travelers of the road of life.

On Sunday, April 18th, the second day of our journey, Chloe and I crossed the mighty Mississippi River. For me, the Mississippi is the line of demarcation between the “citified” east and the wild west. Crossing “Olde Man River” also signifies that I am indeed returning home. On this western leg of our trip, Chloe and I would drive through the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and finally arrive in Arizona. Although we would visit several more “Dojo” along the way, the main focus of this and the next day was to “burn miles”.

The first Dojo that Chloe and I visited was located in Arkansas. I named this Dojo the Rest Area Dojo. It is located at a rest area slightly west of exit number 242 on Interstate Highway 40. We arrived at the Rest Area Dojo in the early afternoon hours. Since we started our day early, both Chloe and I were a bit tired. To refresh ourselves, we spent a half hour taking in the full benefits of this Dojo. The Rest Area Dojo is composed of a beautiful garden and tree filled meadow area. It’s natural beauty was in stark contrast to the mundane blandness of the Interstate. I was overcome by a sense of imagination. It is for this reason that lesson of the Rest Area Dojo is Imagination. Upon entering the Dojo, I was immediately drawn to a tiered entrance to the formal garden area. The entrance was shrouded by a beautiful flowered lattice trellis. I knew that I needed to perform the Sanchin Kata to begin the process of rejuvenating myself. The tiered garden entrance was the perfect location.

The Trellis at The Rest Area Dojo, Arkansas

As I proceeded up the tiered entrance, I performed Sanchin Kata as spontaneously modified by my imagination. I performed one movement of the Kata on each step of the tier. I did not step back as called for in the Sanchin Kata. I performed all six steps of Sanchin moving forward and up the tiers. In this manner, I advanced into the formal garden area. Chloe and I took a few minutes to enjoy seeing and smelling the various indigenous wildflowers. We then walked through the formal garden into a tree-filled meadow. The shade from the trees and the fresh cut grass provided Chloe with a very nice corner to lay down and rest a bit. For me, this was the perfect location to perform the Gojushiho Kata. The Kanji for the Gojushiho Kata is interpreted as Fifty-four Steps.

Kanji For Gojushiho (Kata). The medium is Sumi-e ink on rice paper.

As I performed the Kata, I imagined the fifty four steps as symbolic of the steps that lay ahead of me in my journey home. It was time for Chloe and I to return to the truck. As we did so, we walked down a slight hill. I was filled with another burst of imagination which manifested a desire to perform a modified Seienchin Kata up the hill. The Kanji for the Seienchin Kata is commonly interpreted as “Calm in the Storm; Storm in the Calm.”

Kanji for Seienchin (Kata). The medium is Sumi-e ink on rice paper.

There is also a less common interpretation of the Kanji which is “To Walk Far To Quell And Conquer.” Many years ago, I sought to capture this interpretation of Seienchin. To do so, I modified and elongated the performance of the Kata. At the Rest Area Dojo, I started my elongated Seienchin Kata at the bottom of the hill. During the performance of my version of the Kata, I worked my way up and down the hill (See Endnote # 1).

The Seienchin Hill at The Rest Area Dojo, Arkansas

Seienchin Kata completed, Chloe and I were once again ready “To Drive Far To Arrive Home And Relax.” We continued to burn the miles and concluded our day in Shawnee, Oklahoma (just east of Oklahoma City). I prefer to end my final day on the road with as short a drive as possible. Tomorrow would be our last full day on the road. So, tomorrow Chloe and I would once again start out early and really have to pound the pavement.

Chloe and I woke early Monday, April 19th and were driving west by 5:00 am. After driving a few hours, we arrived in the state of Texas. As the saying goes, “Every thing is bigger in Texas“; even the Dojo. I had intended to visit another favorite Dojo called the Big Texan Dojo located in Amarillo, Texas. Chloe and I arrived in Amarillo around three o’clock in the afternoon. I knew that we still had a few hundred miles to drive this day. I therefore decided to cancel my planned visit to the Big Texan Dojo (See Endnote 2). Within no time at all (basically we drove an hour but we gained an hour crossing time zones) , Chloe and I were in the State of New Mexico. We soon arrived at another Dojo located in Tucumcari. Even though we still had many miles to drive, we needed to stop at this Dojo for gasoline. This Dojo is the only franchise-type Dojo that I regularly visit on my road trips. During this trip, Chloe and I already visited this franchise Dojo four times. I call this franchised Dojo the Flying-J Dojo. We had already visited the local Flying-J Dojo in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas. The Flying-J Dojo is located in the Flying-J Truck Stops.

Standard insignia and lawn of the Flying-J Dojo. This one is in Tucumcari, NM.

Since the Flying-J Dojo is located in almost every state we traveled in, it is readily available for training. The lesson of the Flying-J Dojo is Opportunity (in training and in life). The Dojo not only has training “facilities“, but a well stocked store with everything a traveler could need and very clean restrooms. The Flying-J Dojo is not a Dojo were one lingers. Rather, one does what one has to and moves on down the road. Training at the Flying-J Dojo is minimalist and follows a very well scripted routine designed to facilitate the process of getting back on the road. The training process, almost without modification, is as follows. One pulls adjacent to an available gas pump and begins the task of selecting and pumping the appropriate gas into your vehicle’s tank. As one does this, one performs Sanchin Kata. When Sanchin is complete and the gas tank full, one drives to an available parking space adjacent to the standard lawn found at every Flying-J Dojo. One enters the Flying-J Travel Center, answers the “call of nature” and procures all needed supplies. Upon concluding business at the Travel Center, one utilizes the lawn to perform any number of Kata. As is the case with any franchised Dojo, the training time at the Flying-J Dojo is strictly monitored. Training is concluded in about fifteen minutes and one is again on the road. Training at the Flying-J Dojo isn’t pretty, but it is training nonetheless. The key is to take the opportunity to train, and thereby better yourself, when and wherever it presents itself. Remember this lesson each and every day, look for opportunity to better yourself at every available moment.

Chloe and I ended our last full day on the road in Holbrook, Arizona. We had driven over nine hundred miles and again gained another hour of time. We arrived at our hotel just slightly before sunset. Our last night was one wherein we would be blanketed in the comfort of being home early the next morning. After checking in, I took Chloe for her nightly walk. I also performed my final training session during this road trip. The training at this Holbrook Dojo is best characterized by one of Comfort. On this night, my personal comfort was derived from knowing that the past three months were filled with seeing family, financially fulfilling work, comradeship of seeing my Karate-Do brethren and finally knowing that tomorrow’s dawn would signify my return home. Similar to when one eats so called comfort-food to symbolically wrap themselves in a warm, cozy emotional blanket, I decided to perform the “Comfort-Kata” of Goshin-Do Karate-Do. The Comfort-Kata are those Kata that represent historical significance to the Goshin-Do Karate-Do style. These Comfort Kata define who we, as Goshin-Do Karate-Ka (practitioners), are. These Kata provide comfort to Goshin-Do Karate-Ka by defining the specific branch of the Goshin-Do Karate-Do family tree to which they belong. The Comfort-Kata are unique to noteworthy Sensei of Goshin-Do Karate-Do (See Endnote # 3).

Holbrook, AZ Dojo located in the rear of our motel.

The Comfort-Kata were completed, memories rekindled and spirits comforted with the road traveled thus far and the road yet ahead. Chloe and I prepared for bed and closed our eyes with dreams of San Tan Valley, Arizona dancing in our head. Our road journey ended Tuesday, April 18th at 9:30 am when, at long last, we arrived home. What happens next shall remain for another day.

The road journey was over. Each Dojo visited enlightened me to a valued life lesson: spontaneity, self-discipline, inspiration, imagination, opportunity and comfort. Lessons relearned, life’s journey continues. Each journey is but a path. An integral component of life’s path is that the ability to learn abounds. I hope you enjoy the lessons learned on my road trip.

For a video on Kata in nature, here is a link to an introductory video about my Sanchin Kata video series filmed at the Lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest. Arizona. Please e-mail me or contact me via this blog to purchase the video series. LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyaHCp2EoUk

Until the next article, I remain a journeyman honored to learn as I travel on the road of life.

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
 
 
 

 

 

ENDNOTES:

1. For readers familiar with the Seienchin Kata, the Seienchin that I teach as a Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kata remains unchanged. In so far as any reader that knows the Kata may wish to try my modification intended to symbolize the interpretation of “To Walk Far To Quell And Conquer”, it is as follows. The performance of the three opening movements of the Kata, which are performed in a side stance, is tripled. Thus, instead of performing three side stance movements, one would perform nine. So as to achieve positional coincidence, the two movements wherein you perform an “archers” block in a side stance is also tripled. Therefore instead of performing two archers blocks, you perform six. For me and subsequently my students, this modified performance of the Seienchin Kata breathed life into the ideology, “To Walk Far To Quell And Conquer.”

2. The Big Texan Dojo is located at the Big Texan Steakhouse located in Amarillo, Texas. From a culinary standpoint, it is infamous for its offer of a “FREE” 72 ounce steak dinner. This offer is advertised on billboards as far away from Amarillo as four hundred miles. In order to get the free steak dinner, you must eat the 72 ounce steak and all accouterments, including a baked potato, dinner roll, soda, shrimp cocktail, all within an hour. If you don’t complete the task, then you pay for the dinner. My culinary preference at this Dojo is a truly delicious hamburger made from Buffalo meat and a dish known as “Rocky Mountain Oysters”, deep fried bull testicles (they taste like good quality veal and really are delicious). The Big Texan Dojo, like Smiley’s Dojo is one of self-discipline. Owing to the fact that Chloe and I needed to get closer to home, we bypassed this Dojo.

3. The Comfort Kata, and the distinctive individuals they represent are:

Kanto Kata: Kanto Kata was developed by Shihan Frank Van Lenten, at the request of his primary instructors, to represent of Goshin-Do Karate-Do as a distinct style of Okinawa Karate-Do. Thus is symbolizes the trunk of the Goshin-Do Karate-Do family tree;

Ten-Ni-No Kata and Chi-Ni-No Kata: These two Kata were added to the Goshin-Do Karate-Do style by Shihan Thomas DeFelice. They are unique to students that studied Goshin-Do directly under Shihan DeFelice. Thus, they symbolize a branch growing from the Goshin-Do tree trunk, and;

Chin-retsu Kata,alternately named Nami-Kiribi Kata: This Kata was developed by me as a requirement for Yon-Dan, 4th degree Black Belt. It is a senior Black Belt Kata. As such, I have taught this rare Kata to only four other individuals that have studied directly under me. It is emblematic of a blossom born of Sensei DeFelice’s branch of the Goshin-Do family tree.

For more on either Sanchin Kata as meditation or my new book on Sanchin Kata, please feel free to visit the “Sanchin Book” page of this Blogsite, or my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com. For more information on my ideology and methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do, please review the articles herein filed in the category “Kata as enlightened meditation“.

For a complete directory of the Kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do, please see the Mokuroku No Kata Category.

On The Road With Sensei John – Part 3: Eastern Dojo

2 May

In this installment of my “On The Road With Sensei John” series, I want to discuss the various Dojo that I visited during my three and a quarter day journey from New Jersey (USA) back home to Arizona (USA). I will classify and present the Dojo in terms of their geographic relation to the Mississippi River. In this installment, I will discuss the Dojo that are east of the mighty river. In accord with my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do, each Dojo visit sets forth a lesson that applies not only to Karate-Do, but also life itself. Once again while the within article is written in terms of Karate-Do, the concepts and ideas apply to life in general and are submitted for the benefit of all my readers. I hope you enjoy reading about the various Dojo.

Since I began my study of Karate-Do in 1971 at age 10, I have had the pleasure and honor of visiting and attending many traditional Karate-Do Dojo. For my non-Martial Artist readers, the word “Dojo” translates as “Way-Place” or “The place of learning a (martial) Way or Path.”

Kanji for the word "Dojo"

While I have a fond place in my memory for these traditional Dojo, the treasured and warmest recesses of my past memories and my present day training are to be found in the plethora of non-traditional Dojo that I have trained in.

I was first introduced to a non-traditional Dojo by Sensei Nick D’Antuono (See Endnote # 1). My first training in a non-traditional Dojo occurred on a bright, sunny Saturday morning during the summer in or about the year 1972. It was the first time I trained outside the confines of Sensei DeFelice’s Goshin-Do Karate-Do Dojo which was then located at 125 Broad Avenue, Palisades Park, New Jersey. This non-traditional Dojo was, if memory serves me correct, located on Grand Avenue, again, in Palisades Park. The entire Junior Division, which then was represented by two separate classes (Beginners and Advanced Students) was to meet at the traditional Dojo. Sensei Nick instructed us to wear our Gi (Karate uniform) and sneakers. We would travel to the non-traditional Dojo by foot. At the appointed hour, the entire student body exited Sensei DeFelice’s Dojo and through a combination of walking and jogging proceeded along Broad Avenue. We then turned right, down a hill and arrived, about one-half hour later, at the non-traditional Dojo. It was indeed beautiful. It was, in fact, a park. This was to be my first training experience outdoors in nature. Since then I have had substantially many more such training experiences. In fact, though I trained weekly at Shihan Norlander’s Dojo in Bogota, New Jersey, when the weather permitted, I trained daily at my natural Dojo located in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.

At The Woodland Park Dojo to the sound of woodpeckers Chloe guards against squirrels.

Another natural, non-traditional Dojo that I trained at was the Ling Dojo in Hackensack, New Jersey. I had not planned on training at the Ling Dojo. My decision to train at this Dojo was utterly spontaneous. Therefore, the lesson to be learned from the Ling Dojo is Unqualified Spontaneity in training and in life. I was scheduled to start my road journey on Saturday, April 17th. My last training session at Shihan Norlander’s Dojo was the night of Wednesday, April 14th. At the conclusion of the training session, I said my formal “Goodbyes” to all. Though once I say good-bye, I do not tend to linger or dwell, I arranged with Shihan Norlander to have a late breakfast at a diner in Hackensack, New Jersey. The diner is located on the Hackensack River. I arrived a few minutes early. The day was beautiful and I was enraptured with the surroundings, the satisfaction of being ready to hit the road and the idea of returning home after many months away. I decided to celebrate by performing a few Kata as I waited. I looked around so as to locate a suitable Dojo and found the Ling Dojo directly adjacent to the Diner.

The USS Ling Dojo, Hackensack, NJ

The Ling Dojo is a park adjacent to and part of the USS Ling submarine which is permanently housed on the Hackensack River. As I knew Shihan Norlander would soon arrive, I decided to begin training with a relatively short Kata called “Seipai”. With my blood flowing and mind clear, I then proceeded to perform the shortest Kata in the Goshin-Do Karate-Do Mokuroku No Kata called Ananku. As always, I ended the training session with the Sanchin Kata (See Endnote 2). At the completion of the session, I walked across the parking lot. As I did so, Shihan Norlander drove into the parking lot. Invigorated by my spontaneous efforts, I joined him for a very satisfying breakfast and discussion. So, my dear readers, remember the lesson of the Ling Dojo – be spontaneous in not only your training, but also your life. To be sure, planning the present and the future has merit, but true beauty, imagination and fulfillment is to be found in those unplanned moments that are simply allowed to happen.

At long last, the time for Chloe and I to actually turn the ignition key and begin the drive home arrived. I said a final “Good-bye” to my Mom and Dad. At 5:00 am Saturday, April 17th Chloe and I drove west on Highway I-78. I had carefully planned my first day on the road so as to arrive at the first Dojo in the early afternoon. After about two hours of driving on I-78 West and one stop to refuel, Chloe and I turned South onto Highway I-81. The first Dojo is located on this Interstate Highway in Raphine, Virginia. We soon exited the State of Pennsylvania and quickly drove through Maryland and West Virginia. As I saw the “Welcome To Virginia” sign, my anticipation grew. I simply could not wait to arrive at the first Dojo of this trip; Smiley’s Dojo. By early afternoon Chloe and I finally reached exit number 205 and turned off the interstate. Smiley’s Dojo was less than a quarter of a mile away. My anticipation had reached a crescendo. I could tell by the way Chloe stood against the passenger door window frame and deeply breathed in and out that she too anticipated visiting Smiley’s Dojo. It is for this reason that the lesson to be learned from Smiley’s Dojo is Self-Discipline.

Smiley’s Dojo is located within the confines of Smiley’s BBQ Pit. At this point in my day, I had eaten a simple breakfast consisting of a few pieces of fruit and some water. I normally eat a fairly regulated diet. Smiley’s Dojo is one of the few culinary indulgences I will allow myself on this trip. I can wholeheartedly say that the Carolina-style BBQ available at Smiley’s is the best. Further, the sliced beef brisket is second to none I have ever eaten in all my travels. By the time, I drove into the parking lot, I was quite hungry; however, Smiley’s Dojo is one of self-discipline. So, I first filled the truck’s gas tank. I then drove to the rear of Smiley’s and walked Chloe. I poured her some water and while she drank and stretched, I performed the Kata Tensho, Gekisai and Chinto. My performance was appreciated by various truck drivers who interrupted their own BBQ lunch to watch. We chatted a bit. Finally, I entered Smiley’s and placed an order “to go”; one pulled pork sandwich and one sliced beef brisket both in the Carolina-style of BBQ (See Endnote # 3).

Smiley's Dojo, Raphine, Virginia

My order was cooked. With sandwiches and a souvenir jar of Pickled Okra and Picked Sweet Watermelon Rind in hand I walked back to join Chloe in the truck. You would think that I immediately partook of the flavorful bounty. No, I did not. Again, Smiley’s Dojo is all about self-discipline. Rather than allow my taste buds to wander wantonly amongst the smoky meat, I again drove south. A few miles down the interstate (around exit 199) is a rest stop with a very nice park. I exited the interstate and found a quiet parking space. To fully embrace the self-discipline of Smiley’s Dojo, I again delayed tasting my BBQ bounty. Chloe and I once again exited the truck with our BBQ treasure. We found a suitable tree-lined small meadow. I opened the bag and deeply inhaled the smoky, hallucinogenic fumes and immediately thought – I must perform another Kata. The question was, “Which Kata will adequately capture the self-discipline of deferring eating this intoxicating feast of smoky meat?” The only answer was to be found in one of the longest and most unique Kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do; Kanto Kata. The performance of Kanto Kata is long and rhythmically methodic. It is described by Goshin-Do Karate-Do aficionados as being like “A hibernating bear rudely awakened in his cave and sleepily walking into the daylight to pursue his interloper“ (Isn’t that right Sensei Bob?). In the meadow, I performed Kanto Kata. Finally, I opened both sandwiches, cut each in half and ate half of each type of sandwich. I saved the other half of each sandwich until later for dinner. Chloe and I took a few minutes to lay down on the grass and let the sun’s rays fall gently upon us. My lips still tingled from the delights of smoked meats, my muscles twitched with the exertion of Kata and my spirit was a-flutter with the joy of life. As Chloe and I sat up and walked back to the truck, a butterfly landed on the grass where we had just laid. I entered the truck and turned the ignition thinking, “Life is indeed good.” I hope we all can carry the lesson of Smiley’s Dojo with us each day and remember well the rewards of self-discipline.

Chloe and I ended our first day on the road in White Pine, Tennessee. We had driven about 825 miles and had a most enjoyable day. After finishing the remaining BBQ sandwich halves from Smileys, a walk for Chloe and a performance of Sanchin Kata, we soon settled in to bed. I wanted to begin the second day on the road at about 5:30 am the next day. Chloe and I would enter the state of Tennessee and turn west onto Interstate 40. We would also visit the Dojo of a famous country and western singer.

Chloe and I awoke early Sunday morning, April 18th. As planned, we were driving on the interstate highway by 5:30 am eastern standard time. After driving a few hours, and gaining an hour when we passed into the central time zone, we arrived at the next Dojo which is at exit 143 on highway I-40. Due to the fact we gained an hour of time, it was only about 7:30 am when we pulled into the parking lot of the Dojo located at Loretta Lynn’s Country Kitchen. Chloe and I did not enter into the restaurant to eat its many wonderful culinary offerings. We had many miles to drive today, so we stopped at this Dojo only to let Chloe walk a bit and so that I could perform Kata in this famous singer’s “Dojo”. Much like the story of Loretta Lynn, who rose from her humble beginnings as a “coal miner’s daughter”, a Kata performance at this Dojo, particularly in the early hours of a dawning new day is filled with inspiration. The lesson of the Loretta Lynn’s Dojo is Inspiration. Chloe and I found a suitable location for her walk and my performance adjacent to a statute of a mighty buffalo.

The Buffalo Statue at the Loretta Lynn Country Kitchen Dojo, Tennessee

I am particularly fond of performing the Goju-Ryu based Kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do in the early morning. So, as I performed my Kata, including Tensho, Seienchin, Seipai and, of course, Sanchin. I allowed the rising sun, dew-filled grass and clean fresh air to inspire me to manifest the most fulfilling day possible. Each day, remember the lesson of the Loretta Lynn Dojo and allow yourself the opportunity to look within yourself as a source of your own inspiration. Allow yourself to go out into the external environment inspired to produce and manifest the most satisfying day. This will allow you to live a life enraptured by the events you inspired and manifested.

The Loretta Lynn Dojo was the last “formal-natural” Dojo Chloe and I visited before we crossed the mighty Mississippi River. The crossing of “’Ole Man River” signifies the beginning of our western journey. The western portion of our trip will be discussed in the next installment of this series. Until then, please remember these parting words. The purest Dojo is located within the human heart and spirit. It is from within the pure Dojo that the truest Karate-Do (and an enlightened life) is to be found.

For a video on Kata in nature, here is a link to an introductory video about my Sanchin Kata video series filmed at the Lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest. Arizona. Please e-mail me or contact me via this blog to purchase the video series. LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyaHCp2EoUk

Until the next article, I remain a student of the Pure Dojo

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
 ENDNOTES:

1. Sensei Nick D’Antuono was my first Sensei in Goshin-Do Karate-Do. At the time I had started my road trip back home, he was hospitalized with complications due to medical treatments for cancer. As of this writing, Sensei is no longer hospitalized. I am happy to advise, he is home.

2. Please see the Mokuroku No Kata category for a complete list of all Kata in the Goshin-Do Karate-Do system of Shihan Thomas DeFelice, including the Kata incorporated by me at Senior Yudansha levels.

3. Smiley’s also offers “Kansas City-style” BBQ which is slathered in a rich and tangy sauce. My favorite is the Carolina-style in which the meat is covered in a light vinegar based sauce. This style allows the true flavor of the meat to be experienced.

For more on either Sanchin Kata as meditation or my new book on Sanchin Kata, please feel free to visit the “Sanchin Book” page of this Blogsite, or my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com. For more information on my ideology and methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do, please review the articles herein filed in the category “Kata as enlightened meditation“.
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