Tag Archives: Kunchaba Kata

Katannabis – Designing Your Kata Syllabus: Level II Kata

21 Feb

Detail of levels

Level II Kata

Level Two is an interesting level. The kata you choose for this level will not be selected for its physical characteristics. That being said, the Kata must be one that is, again, performed with Kime (focus) and not one with exaggerated breathing and dynamic tension. Don’t worry, such kata will play a very important role in the levels to come.

The kata in this level will be one chosen for its non-physical properties. The kata must be associated, linked, intertwined with a memory. The memory may be one of a place, event, or person. The goal of level two is to call to mind the non-physical properties of kata. Each kata contains a mental state, emotion, psyche all found within the performer. This level wants the Katannabis practitioner to awaken him or her self to the non-physical properties of kata. This is particularly so with the ability of kata to link us to past events, persons or places with still reside within our psyche.

My chosen Kata provides an excellent example.

The Kata I use for the level is Kunchaba Kata (See below for a video featuring Hanshi Frank Van Lenten). It is a kata that is not part of the Goshin-Do style I learned. It was incorporated into the style after Shihan DeFelice left the Goshin-Do Kyokai. A member of the Kyokai that became a great friend in my later years was Shihan Wayne Norlander. Shihan Norlander, or “Sensei Wayne,” as I knew him attained the rank of  Ku-Dan, ninth-degree black belt at the time his untimely death on May 18th 2011. Sensei Wayne, and I would share many thoughts, ideas, theories and yes, even kata. One such kata he shared with me was Kunchaba. In exchange, I taught his two senior Yudansha the Ufuichiku No Eaku (Oar) Kata.

Sensei’s passing, May 18th, 2011, was a Wednesday. Every Wednesday, since that melancholy day, I have performed Kunchaba in his memory. This had two effects. First, in the thirteen years, more than 676 Wednesdays, since that day, the Kunchaba Kata has been inextricably linked to Sensei’s memory and honor. In essence, it is imbued with his spirit; almost to a point of personification. Second, Wednesday has effectively become a sacred, almost “holy” day for me. Many strange events have taken place on a Wednesday – even having my life saved, you can read about that here  https://senseijohn.me/2017/02/01/a-deceased-sensei-saved-my-life/ . Thus, for my Katannabis, it is the perfect kata for level two.

Do not despair if you do not presently have such a kata in your repertoire. You can also “manufacture” the personal connection. For example, you can use a kata that you 

  • Have a special memory or story attached to, especially if it pertains to your instructor or the learning of the Kata;
  • A favorite Kata that you performed on vacation, or for a special event that would invoke a memory of that special place;
  • A Kata you otherwise enjoy that you could imbue with memory by performing regularly throughout you daily life;
  • Gasp!! A Kata you perform at tournaments. Yeah, being no fan of the superficiality of tournaments, I’m grasping at straws here to get you started on your Katannabis meditation journey.

As Katannabis ritual meditation uses the physical battles of Kata as a catalyst to explore the Non-physical Battles, to wit: the Spiritual (psyche, emotions, etc) and the Metaphysical (higher frequency and dimensional environments), it is at this level that the non-physical components of a Kata needs to move to the forefront. Choose your Kata wisely and imbue it with as much non-physical energy as you can. This will only increase in efficacy as your walk further down the path of your Katannabis journey. Most recently, I have rearranged my Katannabis Kata syllabus to begin my session with my level two Kata – Kunchaba. It has become that powerful. Though not a plant, kata is almost an entheogen in and of itself. 

Cum Superiorum Privilegio Veniaque

Sensei John Szmitkowski


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Hatsu Bon For Shihan Wayne Norlander

15 May

May 18, 2011, Shihan Wayne Norlander was taken from us.

Sensei Wayne, Ku-Dan (9th degree black belt) promotion. Photo: Shihan Don Nagle, Sensei Wayne, Shihan Peter Urban)

Each year I post a Hatsu Bon in his honor and dedicate my kata to his eternal spirit. Please join me in dedicating our training on May 18th 2016 to his eternal spirit. May his spirit find our training and poem worthy.

Shihan Wayne Norlander with friend & comrade, Shihan Peter Urban, circa 1970’s, West New York, NJ


Please don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am
Nor am I sleeping for eternity
I am already part of the breezes
numbering a thousand
I am part of the light
that brightens this world
Like a diamond glittering in the snow
Like the sun that coaxes seeds to sprout
And in the Fall I become the gentle rain
that nurtures all.
When you open the window in the morning
I am the breeze
That causes your hair to flutter;
And at night, I am the star
That watches over your sleep.
So, please . . . don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am.
I am not dead.
I have been born anew.

With Shihan Norlander, Ku-dan, Menkyo Kaiden, USA Goshin-Ryu Karate-Do, at his Bogota, NJ dojo.

In the years since his passing, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my friend. Each time I throw a leg over my motorcycle, I think, “Come on Wayne, let’s go for a ride.” Each Wednesday (May 18th, 2018 the day of his passing was a Wednesday) I perform the Kunchaba Kata (a non-Goshin-Do Karate Kata I learned from him) in dedication to his spirit. His spirit remains eternal in the wind in my face and in the kata. A video of the Kata appears at the end of this article.

Ground Zero Motorcycle Run – myself, my wife, Dianne, Sensei Jimmy Dimicelli, Shihan Wayne Norlander, Bergen County Courthouse, circa 2002

My graveside Sanchin memorial to Sensei Wayne:

Sincerity in sweat, Sensei.
Sensei John Szmitkowski

©Copyright 2019 Sensei John Szmitkowski and Issho Productions

The Kunchaba Kata Sensei Wayne shared with me:

A Deceased Sensei Saved My Life

1 Feb

He died more than five years ago, but recently my friend and comrade, Sensei Wayne Norlander, saved my life.

Remember the day of the week; Wednesday.
Remember the date; January 18th, 2017.

It started like any other, Wednesday. Well, almost. For the past three weeks I was fighting a loosing battle with the flu. So I thought. Three days before I had gone to an Urgent Care facility and received a prescription for a heavy-duty antibiotic and an expectorant to help clear my lungs of fluid. I woke Wednesday morning about three a.m. This had become my habit over the past three weeks. I was so congested and coughing that I rarely slept more than three or four hours.

Three a.m. is a cold, dark, lonely time of night. I would try to kill time by reading or surfing the web. But in those dark hours, you didn’t kill time, you endured it. Around six a.m. I would begin my normal routine. This included my morning kata and always Sanchin Kata to keep my lungs working as best they could.

Wednesday morning was a little different in that I had to perform Sanchin and Tensho twice at only half power to keep from having a coughing fit. This being a Wednesday, I also performed Kunchaba Kata. Kunchaba is not within the Goshin-Do Karate-Do syllabus. I learned it from Sensei Wayne. The day he passed was May 18th, 2011, a Wednesday. Every Wednesday since, I perform Kunchaba in his memory. I have never missed a Wednesday Kunchaba.

This ritual is important for two reasons. First it honors and memorializes Sensei. More importantly and more esoterically, the kata ritual keeps me connected with Sensei’s eternal spirit. See for example the Hatsu Bon poem found at https://senseijohn.me/2016/05/09/hatsu-bon-for-shihan-wayne-norlander-2/

Shihan Wayne Norlander with friend & comrade, Shihan Peter Urban, circa 1970's, West New York, NJ

Shihan Wayne Norlander with friend & comrade, Shihan Peter Urban, circa 1970’s, West New York, NJ

During Kunchaba, I noticed that my shins and feet did not “feel” right. Raising my pant leg, I saw that they were swollen. “Damn!” I thought. “I must be having a reaction to the flu medication.” I decided to soldier on, took my shower and got dressed for work. As the workplace is casual, I selected Sensei Wayne’s memorial motorcycle ride T-shirt. A funny choice as future events will show. I packed my backpack, laptop, lunch and was ready to leave for work. I stopped at the back door and had a thought. “Maybe I should get this reaction checked out?” I paused for a few minutes. I called work and told them I’d be late as I was stopping at Hackensack Hospital Emergency Room to have the meds checked to halt this reaction. I thought I would be out of the E.R. by early afternoon and back at work.

Long and short of it, I spent eight days in the hospital with congestive heart failure. I had two procedures, one a shock to the heart to get the rhythm back and when that didn’t work a three hour surgical procedure (an “electronic ablation” procedure to scar the heart and interrupt the errant beat).

So, why do I attribute this to Sensei Wayne saving my life? Anyone that knows my views on kata either through this blog or my seminars know I explore the spiritual aspects of kata. I believe kata is a pathway to opening you to a heightened sense of perception. I believe I have an awareness of things that others simply cannot understand. With that in mind, lets look at some background facts that cause me to attribute my “decision” to go to the hospital.

With Shihan Norlander after a spirited workout. Circa 2008

With Shihan Norlander after a spirited workout. Circa 2008

First, Sensei Wayne passed on Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 from a sudden and massive heart attack. My cardiologist told me that if I waited another twenty-four to forty-eight hours to go to the E.R. I would have had some sort of a cardiac event, including a possible heart attack.

Second, I cannot explain my “choice” of wearing Sensei Wayne’s memorial motorcycle ride T-shirt. Was I thinking of him? Or, was I subconsciously aware something was wrong with me? But, how could I know my congestion was due to a heart situation? Or, was it because of the day of the week (see below)?

Third, the day was a Wednesday, the day of the week that Sensei passed away. It is the day that I keep Sensei most in mind and dedicate a Kunchaba Kata to his memory. As I knew Sensei died of a massive heart attack on a Wednesday, was this something that added to my decision? Or, was it the date?

Fourth, The date was the 18th. Not just any 18th day of the month, but a Wednesday. The exact day and date Sensei passed. Weird, not sure. But then again;

Fifth, the last time the 18th day of the month fell on a Wednesday prior to this time was Wednesday May 18th 2016 – five years to the very day and date that Sensei passed!

Wearing Sensei Wayne's Memorial T-Shirt leaving the hospital. The same one I wore to E.R.

Wearing Sensei Wayne’s Memorial T-Shirt leaving the hospital. The same one I wore to E.R.


Post Script (April 5th, 2017): There was an unforeseen development whereby I needed a second surgery. It was originally scheduled for Friday, March 24th, 2017. Two weeks before, the hospital called to tell me the date was changed to March 29th, 2017 – – – a WEDNESDAY.

Incidentally, the style of karate I’ve studied since I was ten years old is Goshin-Do Karate-Do. The kanji is written to translate as “Self-defense way of the empty hand.” At one time the kanji was written to translate as “Strong-heart empty hand way.” Fitting.

I don’t know if the above would count as an enhanced perception derived from spiritually practicing kata. Is it just hooey? Who knows. But I do know this. Every Wednesday I think of my friend and will continue to do so. He was taken suddenly and without warning. Somehow my decision to memorialize him with kata impacted my sub-conscious thought that I’d better get myself to the E.R. right then and there. To that end, I will always believe in my (now electronically stable) heart of hearts that Sensei Wayne Norlander saved my life! To that I say “Thank-you my friend.”

Featured Video: Kunchaba Kata (in honor of Sensei Wayne):


And a big “Thank-you” to all the doctors and nurses that looked after me in their very special and compassionate way. Without them, I never would have made the great recovery that I did.

Respectfully submittd,


Sensei John Szmitkowski

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

© Copyright 2017 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
LOGO-WEBSITE  my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
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On The Road With Kata Video Series

12 Jan

Even though I lived in Arizona for the past ten years, family and seasonal work in New Jersey meant one fact, the road trip. Though I do fly, I prefer to ride the highways and byways of the American road. I made at least two road trips a year; sometimes in my truck, sometimes on my Harley. Each and every trip I’ve had two items “packed” with me in my travel bag. The first is my dog-eared copy of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. The second is my kata. I use kata to keep me alert and mitigate the effects of long distance travel. I’m not one to travel leisurely. I burn the miles like the fictional Dean Moriarty. The trip usually only takes me three and a half day. My personal best as far as quickest trip was in 2008 when I did it in three days; and that was on a Harley-Davidson Electra-glide, with my dog Chloe (a Min-pin)!

After ten years living in the “Valley Of The Sun”, I planned to relocate back to my home state of New Jersey. With final preparations and renting out the house in Arizona complete, it was finally time to make my last cross-country journey. In the past, I had previously documented my kata journey (See Endnote # 1 for applicable links). Since I first wrote of my kata on the road, I’ve become more video savvy. For this trip, I wanted to film my personal kata. So, on Monday, November 24th, 2014, with the camera and tripod on the front seat. I started the truck for the three and a half day, twenty-five hundred mile trip back to the Garden State. During the trip I performed my kata in truck stops, beautiful surroundings, while pumping gas, in cheap motels, and nice motels, in the early hours filmed by the headlights of my truck, and more.

What follows is my video series, “Sensei John’s On The Road With Kata.” Here is the introduction to the video series. I hope you enjoy the videos.

More importantly, I hope the videos inspire you to:

  • Perform your kata whenever and wherever you desire or need to perform them;
  • Use your kata to enhance your daily activities (See Endnote # 2 for my Virtues Of Kata article);
  • Understand kata from the mindset of Nenjuushin (“Everyday Mind”);
  • Adapt your kata to your specific needs at any moment in time;
  • And, maybe, just maybe, actually enjoy your kata experience.

With that, here is my video introduction to the On The Road series.

Day 1 (Monday): This video takes us from my home in San Tan Valley to Shamrock, Texas, over 750 miles. It includes four kata, including my final kata in the house (a modified Taikiyoku), ending with a rejuvenating variation of Sanchin Kata in my motel room after a long day on the road.

Day 2 (Tuesday): In this video, I travel from Texas, through Oklahoma, Arkansas and into Tennessee. It sounds like a far distance, but, its only 649 miles for the day. Thanks to construction and bumper-to-bumper traffic in five separate areas of Arkansas that was the extent of the day’s journey. Kata includes a hybrid of Suparunpei, Seienchin and Shobu-Sanchin Kata filmed by my trucks headlights, Ananku Kata and Fuku Kata in a scenic location.

Day 3 (Wednesday): This video takes place throughout Tennessee and north into Virginia. It contains two important videos filmed in motel rooms. These hotel room kata sessions led to the development of my Kata Deconstruction technique (here is a link to the article and video Link: https://senseijohn.me/2013/06/09/kata-lab-201-introduction-to-kata-deconstruction/ ) Every Wednesday since the passing of my deceased friend and colleague, Shihan Wayne Norlander, I perform a Kunchaba Kata in his honor. This day was no exception. There is a footage of this performance and Hatsu Bon poem contained on the video.

Day 4 (Thursday – Thanksgiving Day, 2014), I was eager to pound the miles and reach my destination in northern New Jersey. I knew I would not arrive in time for Thanksgiving dinner, but, I was hoping to be there for coffee and pumpkin pie. I filmed one kata in the most unusual setting and circumstances. I think it is the ONLY time in history that a kata has been filmed in this manner. This video will put to shame anyone who has ever said, “I don’t have time to practice a kata.” Watch and see.

That concludes my “On The Road With Kata” Thanksgiving, 2014 video series. To mark my relocating from Arizona, here is one of my most profound kata video experiences, Seienchin Kata filmed with a herd of wild horses at the Lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest.

In the next few weeks, I’ll settle down in New Jersey. After the Holidays, look for new and exciting things to come on this blog, including new and innovative Kata Labs.

In the meantime, my best to you all,


Sensei John Szmitkowski

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

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


1. Here are the links to my first “On The Road With Sensei” series of articles:
Part 1: https://senseijohn.me/2010/04/16/on-the-road-with-sensei-john-part-1/
Part 2: https://senseijohn.me/2010/04/25/on-the-road-with-sensei-john-part-2-nj-reflections/
Part 3: https://senseijohn.me/2010/05/02/on-the-road-with-sensei-john-part-3-eastern-dojo/
Part 4: https://senseijohn.me/2010/05/09/on-the-road-with-sensei-john-part-4-western-dojo/

2. Here is the link to my “Virtues Of Kata” article:https://senseijohn.me/2011/07/31/virtues-of-kata/

Sensei John is now on Facebook, under – FLY FISHING DOJO, you are invited to send a Facebook friend request.
You may wish to view my other blogs –
LOGO-WEBSITE  my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
DOJO STICKER-1  the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

© Copyright 2014 and 2015 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Okinawa Karate Song

1 Sep

Submitted for your enjoyment and consideration, is the Karate-Do Sanka (Empty-hand way song) written by Shihan Shoshin Nagamine (founder of Matsubayashi-Ryu). The sanka was utilized during the memorial service for Hanshi Frank Van Lenten who passed away July 1st, 2010. (See Endnote # 1 for videos featuring Hanshi Van Lenten)

Scanned Image 110310000

English translation:  (Please see Endnote # 2 for the original Japanese version)

Ah, beautiful islands of sunlight,
And the color of the sea,
The proud fighting spirit of the islanders 
And the empty handed Sword of Justice,
Training spirit and training body,
Ah, This is Okinawa Karate-Do!

Oh, but if an enemy should happen to attack us,
And the method of courtesy proved to no avail
If he should cut our flesh with his iron weapon,
Even then will we punch through to his bones,
Courtesy and defense together,
This is Okinawa Karate-Do!

Oh, ever since the mythical ancestry of Japan,
The bell of peace has been ringing continually in Okinawa,
The way of courtesy and the five bodily weapons of Karate together,
To make a straight character and good etiquette,
This is Okinawa Karate-Do!

Respectfully submitted,

HANKO Sensei John Szmitkowski

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

For details on how to “cyber-participate” in my most recent group Sanchin Kata session, please use this link: https://senseijohn.me/category/a-sanchin-pilgrimage/


1. For several videos with archival footage of either Shihan Van Lenten, or members of his Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kyokai (Association), circa the late 1960’s to early 1970’s please visit the “Kata Syllabus” page tab above.

Here are two additional videos of Hanshi Van Lenten that are not included on the Kata Syllabus page:

2. The original Japanese version of the Karate-Do Sanka

Aa sanjento hi no hikari
Myo gunjorno umi no iro
Saekeki shima no tokonga
Saegigaumishi mute no ken.
Kokoro o Kitau, mi o kitau
Aa, Okinawa no, Karate-do!

Aa ware osou tekki araba
Shurei no kuni ni shingiari
Tetsu no kobushi wa kanzento
Niku o kirasete, hone no utsu
Kokoro o mamaru, Mi o mamaru.
Aa, Okinawa no, Karate-do!

Aa tensenshi kodai yori
Hewa no kane wa naritsutau
Semeru ni arazu fusegu waza
Gotai ga bukizo kono karate
Kokoro o tadasu, mi o tadasu
Aa Okinawa no Karate-do!

NOW AVAILABLE – SANCHIN VIDEO SERIES designed specifically for the NON-MARTIAL ARTIST who desires to learn & unlock the secret treasure of Sanchin. 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

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Sensei John is now on Facebook, under the user name – 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

You may also wish to view the Goshin-Do Karate-Do blog at WWW.DeFeliceRyu.com


22 Apr

And so, another trip to the Garden State comes to an end.

As in the past, such a trip involves a wide range of interactions and emotions. As always, seeing and spending time with family is the greatest highlight. Spending time with my little grandson is an experience that can not be expressed by mere words.

At such times, words cannot do justice to the experiences of the past three and a half months.

So too with my Karate-Do interactions and relationships. Relative to the martial arts, here are a few of my Karate-Do reflections.

It was with great excitement that my Sensei, Shihan Thomas DeFelice, I and my Goshin-Do Karate brothers embarked upon a project chronicling the history and development of our branch of the Goshin-Do Karate tree. To experience this distinct historical and intuitive experience, simply click the following link: WWW.DeFeliceRyu.Wordpress.Com

In addition to the above project, training with my Karate-Do comrades provided satisfaction on a regular basis. Most Wednesday nights I found myself at the USA Goshin-Ryu Dojo of Sensei Pablo Peneque and Sensei Scott Zamora in Bogota, New Jersey. I say most Wednesday nights because, unfortunately, external factors dictated that my attendance was less than regular. While I always find it pleasurable to visit with Sensei Pablo and Sensei Scott, I found I was somewhat crestfallen. While the spirit of Shihan Wayne Norlander bountifully roams the Dojo, I miss his joie d’ vive. Every Wednesday, I dedicated a performance of his Kunchaba Kata (derived from the Uechi-ryu Kanshiwa Kata) to his spirit. During one training session at the Dojo I had the good fortune to meet Shihan Ken Zuck of Isshin-ryu Karate-Do (Left to right in the photo below are: Sensei Bob, Sensei Pablo, myself, Shihan Zuck & Sensei Scott).

The Wednesday night training sessions were a great lead-in to Sunday morning training sessions with Shihan DeFelice and the yudansha. These sessions were punctuated with in-depth analysis of Kata and the associated bunkai and provided not only satisfaction but imaginative insight was well.(Left to right in the photo below, Sensei Rudy, Shihan, myself, & Sensei Dave).

I was also once again fortunate to visit the Dojo of Shihan Thomas Van Tassel and Sensei Jack Kramer in Rockaway, New Jersey (http://www.americancenterformartialarts.com). During the visit, Shihan Van Tassel and Sensei Kramer debuted their new patch design as shown below.

With a heavy heart, I paid respects to the gravesite of Shihan Wayne Norlander. These gravesite visits marked a solemn time of reflection on the life of a true Karate-Ka.

And so once again I find myself geographically apart from family and training in the “dry” heat of the low desert of Arizona amidst the hummingbirds, coyote and lizards. More to follow.


 Sensei John Szmitkowski

NOW AVAILABLE – SANCHIN VIDEO SERIES designed specifically for the NON-MARTIAL ARTIST who desires to learn & unlock the secret treasure of Sanchin. Here is a link to a FREE promotional video on You-Tube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE

You can find information on how to purchase a Sanchin DVD r Book by clicking the following convenient link:http://www.dynamic-meditation.com/references.html

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