Tag Archives: Life Is A Kata

Do Away With Kata Formalities – Part 2: Not Quite

13 Mar

In Part One of this article, https://senseijohn.me/2019/02/20/do-away-with-kata-formalities-part-1/ I set forth my idea that in so far as after Sho-dan grade, one must practice both the spontaneity of kata and the phenomenon that kata reside within you twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, one must do away with the formalities of kata. (see Endnote # 1 for a video example) These formalities, represented by the three step process of rei (bow), mukso (meditation) and ready posture inhibit the process of kata as a ritual that resides within you percolating under the surface until needed. Or, do they? Perhaps the formalities symbolize a higher meaning of kata. So now, here’s the conclusion of that article. 

Do away with kata formalities – Part 2: Not Quite

As I began to advocate my concept of doing away with the formalities decades ago, my answer was yes, they should be done away with as a condition precedent to beginning and ending a kata. Just do the kata and be done. Now, as I get older (maybe wiser?) I have rethought the concept. I have once again incorporated the acts of preparation into my kata – just not as you may think.

To understand what I propose, one must appreciates the “Three Battles” of kata. Specifically all kata involve three aspects or battles. While they exist in all kata, they are emphasized and harmonized in the Sanchin Kata. By name, Sanchin, represents three battles.

Kanji (Japanese calligraphy) for “Sanchin” – Three Battles – or – Three Aspects of Life

Throughout time and from karate style to karate style, Sensei have defined the three battles in various, sometimes euphemistic ways. For my part, I define the battles, on a fundamental level as breathing, bodily movement and state-of-mind. Once a kata-ka has trained kata from the standpoint of these battles, they are ready to appreciate my more advanced definition of the three battles, to wit: a physical battle (breathing and bodily movement), spiritual battle (psyche, mental states and emotions) and an environmental battle (the outside world wherein the kata is performed and how you interact with same). (For more on this topic, please see endnote # 2) You can readily see that whether you adopt the fundamental definition or the more advanced, the three battles, symbolized by Sanchin, are present in each and every kata.

By extension you should then acknowledge that the three battles are present in each and every moment of life itself. You must breath to live. Your body must move each and every second to live. Yes, you may be immobile during times of sleep or even unconsciousness, but your blood must flow, cells must metabolize, organs function and the like. Similarly as you live your life, you will interact with and be affected by the outside environment. Thus, I conclude and submit that “Life is a kata.” ™

Once I came to the understanding that “Life is a kata,” ™ I began to rethink my position on the formalities. Instead of doing away with the formalities, I now advocate that they should be performed before and after each kata. What, a complete reversal? Not quite. The issue is no longer whether to perform the formalities, but when does kata start and end. My conclusion is that my kata starts the moment I get out of bed, the new day, another day of life, is the beginning of my kata. I need not perform a kata as soon as my feet touch the floor. I do; however perform the three formalities. I look out my bedroom window and rei (bow), mukso (meditation) and assume a ready posture for a moment or two and then start my day – my kata, my life. Surely, before fully engaging my day, I perform my daily routine of Sanchin, Seienchin and Suparunpei Kata and my own personal kata, Yurei-Te Kata (Ghost Hand Kata). I go about my day, including training my other kata. At days end, I perform the three formalities in reverse order and settle in to bed. My Life is my kata.

To be sure, this is but the best I can do to symbolize my acceptance of my own life as a kata. Had I thought of my concept fifty-seven years ago, I would have had a much greater symbolism, but I lacked the training, knowledge and experience to do so. The greatest symbolism would have been to perform the formalities only twice in my life. The first immediately after exiting my mother’s womb. The second time I would the perform all three in reverse order at the moment immediately before my death – the ultimate symbol of my life, my kata. Perhaps, notwithstanding I did not start life in that way, I am still be able to perform the formalities (in reverse order) at the end of my life – my kata. But – that will only be half the symbol. Maybe once I enter what comes after death I will stand tall in the next world, and bow, mediate and be ready for the kata-yet-to-come.

Here’s 2 screen shots of my soon-to-be-release Yurei-Te (Ghost Hand) Kata video and book, enjoy!

 

 

      

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

ENDNOTES:

1. In my forthcoming Kata Laboratory book I have set forth many unique training concepts to explore the esoteric aspects of kata including my assertion that kata resides within you twenty-four hours a day seven days away percolating util such a time it bursts forth. If are interested in this topic, you may see this introductory article and video. https://senseijohn.me/2018/01/31/kata-lab-3250-kata-within-you-intermediate/

2. For more on the three battles of kata, and by association, bunkai (the analysis of kata), you may refer to this article from my Kata Laboratory, https://senseijohn.me/2013/05/20/kata-lab-101-three-states-of-bunkai/

 For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!

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

© Copyright 2019 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Time Modification Of Kata – Rhythmic Adaptation – Seisan Kata Example

8 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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


Move # 2: Rotate hand and “grab” (S);


Move # 3: reverse punch (K)

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

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

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

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

Move # 2: rotate hand and “grab” (S).

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

K-S / K-S / K-S

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

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

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

      For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!
   For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory and “THINK * SWEAT * EXPERIMENT” using this convenient link: https://senseijohn.me/kata-lab/

ENDNOTES:

1. To understand the basic concept of the three basic dimensions of lenght, width and height as they relate to the martial arts and the fourth dimension of time, please click this link:
https://senseijohn.me/2015/11/23/underground-bunkai-sneak-peak/

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

Sequence Adaptation – Kanto Kata Example:

https://senseijohn.me/2017/10/11/time-modification-of-kata-kanto-example/

Interim Movements – Fuku/Gekisai Example:

https://senseijohn.me/2017/10/25/time-modification-of-kata-interim-movements-fukugekisai-kata-example/

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

3. Reverse Seienchin video

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

5. Please use this convenient link for a discussion of the three aspects of bunkai:
https://senseijohn.me/2013/05/20/kata-lab-101-three-states-of-bunkai/

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

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

Why Are You Practicing That Kata?

27 Sep

“Life is a kata.” ©

A recent day at work once again illustrated how my saying is true.

Working at the garden center is physically demanding. According to my FitBit, during a nine hour shift, I would walk an average of 11.7 miles and burn around 3,100 calories. In addition to walking, activity includes loading and unloading 40 pound bags of garden product (soils, mulches, and the like) and carrying tanks of propane for barbecuing. During a normal shift, I’m paired with a part-timer for about four hours. Usually my co-worker is a young college student. This particular day, I was with Dave (a fictional name).

At Work

It was a particularly hot day, sunny day. This type of day is difficult as there is little to no shade. Dave and I just finished loading a customer with twenty-four bags of mulch (each weighing forty pounds). Before returning to our normal duties, Dave went and sat down for a minute or two. I went to get my water. Just then, the owner decided to leave the comfort of his air conditioned office and take a leisurely walk outside.

As he walked past me, he saw Dave sitting. He commented, “It drives me crazy when people sit and do nothing.” I told him that not only was that the first time Dave had sat down, but we also just finished loading a relatively large order. In less than five minutes both of us would be back to the physical task of our normal work. The owner’s reply was simply, “I didn’t know, thanks.” And that’s the point, the owner saw fit to observe and judge without knowing all the facts. He presupposed that he needed to correct the situation without knowing the totality of the circumstances.

Throughout the years I’ve encountered similar scenarios in the Dojo. One such instance is burned deeply into my memory. So deeply is it burned that it changed the way I interacted with my own students. From that day forward I pledged to always ask a student, “Why are you practicing that Kata?” “What is the purpose for doing the Kata?”

The time was the early 1990’s.I just finished a particularly bad day at work, It seemed nothing went according to plan. Additionally, I was having difficulty in my personal life.It seemed I could do nothing right.

Except, my kata. Even back then, kata sustained and nourished me. So I went to the Dojo. It was an “off” night; no classes were scheduled. I had the key to the Dojo and knew I would have it to myself. I entered, changed into my Gi and began to run through my kata. My mind was cluttered and my emotions were frazzled. This greatly affected my kata. I knew my kata wasn’t fully on par, but that was okay. The kata were special and historical treasures. Kata is not known by the average person. Knowing them and being able to perform them made me feel unique. Could I actually be doing something above and beyond a normal person? Could I be ding something “right.” “Yeah, I feel good”, began to fill my thoughts.

After a while I heard the lock turn and door open. Sensei had stopped by the Dojo. He paused and watched a bit. The first words out of his mouth were, “Your timing is off and your focus isn’t quite there; you’d best concentrate.” No “Hello”, no greeting, no “Hey I saw your motorcycle outside and stopped in.” Just a presumption that Sensei needed to correct my kata – and – that I wanted correction at that exact moment. “Well, so much for doing something right”, snapped into my mind. Had Sensei asked, I would have acknowledged that my kata was a bit off. I wasn’t trying to improve my kata, I was simply trying to enjoy myself at something that was unique to me. End of story. With that, I thanked Sensei, changed, left the Dojo and took a long motorcycle ride. I found a quiet wooded area and alone, again, performed my kata.

The point is first find out the totality of the circumstances before judging another and presuming they want an answer. From that day forward, whenever I observed a student perform a kata, I would ask the student “Why are you performing the kata?” Depending on the answer, I would offer correction, if appropriate.

So, before judging or correcting someone, find out the totality of the circumstances. Often this means asking the person “Why.” Why are you resting at work?” Why are you not joining the party?” “Is everything okay?”

If you do so, you will greatly improve your kata that is life. After-all, as I say, “Life is a a kata.”

This week’s featured video:

 

Respectfully Submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

     For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!

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

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

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

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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