Tag Archives: Meditation

Exciting News – Sensei’s Online Kata-RX School

7 Jun

MARK THE DATE – MONDAY, JUNE 10TH

My Online Kata For Wellness & Mindfulness Course will officially launch!

Get Ready Kata-RX.Teachable.Com goes live on Monday!

To mark the occasion, the first course is being offered at a spectacular low price. Enrollees will also be invited to join a private FaceBook group for one-on-one interaction with me upon payment. (click on the flyer below for more detail)

In addition, I am honored and delighted to announce that I have received permission from the Estate of my friend and karate-do comrade, Shihan Wayne Norlander to use his memorial design on the site. 

Designed by Shihan’s family to commemorate the first anniversary of Shihan’s passing on May 18th, 2011, with a memorial motorcycle run, the design was featured on T-shirts given to all participants.

 

In 2009, Shihan Norlander graciously wrote the forward to my Sanchin Kata Book. Now, I am privileged to honor his eternal spirit with the design via my online course.

Here’s a sneak peak at a promotional flyer marking the launch incorporating the design. (click for larger image) – You may even want to enroll on Monday – you have nothing to loose.

6-10-19: School’s Open – enroll now to save!

https://kata-rx.teachable.com/p/preview-kata-as-moving-meditation

 

I look forward to seeing you in the first online course,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Buddha Nature Of Kata, Or Is It Just Me?

26 Sep

Donations are welcome!

My Kata Lab posts, representing my almost five decades of experience, are shared here free. If you would like to donate to help defray costs, your generosity is appreciated. Thank-you & THINK-SWEAT-EXPERIMENT with kata.

$5.00

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

Maharet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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

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

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

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“.

On The Road With Sensei John – Part 1

16 Apr
Once again, it is April and time to make the road trip home to Arizona (USA) from New Jersey (USA). I have made this almost 2,600 mile “commute” over 20 times since 2004, including 14 times by motorcycle with my dog, Chloe (her picture may be found on the “Meet Sensei” page of this site). It is my custom that a few days prior to each trip, I re-read some of the great literary tales of travel and journey.
 
The one book that accompanies me on every road trip is a dog-eared copy of On The Road by Jack Kerouac (Penguin Books, New York, NY, 1959). Now, as I pack this epic tome for yet another road trip, I thought it would be appropriate to share some of Kerouac’s musings with you and to encourage you to contemplate Kerouac in light of your Karate-Do and martial ideology. Again, the within is not intended to be the sole province of those fortunate to have knowledge of Karate-Do. Rather, the within can be viewed in terms of any art form or ideological endeavor.
As with the earlier “Dojo Experiments” this article does not provide answers. Rather, through dialogue, the experiment prods you along the path of Karate-Do and life. And so, it is time to be, On The Road.
 
Except Number One: 
 Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven. Naturally, now that I look back on it, this is only death; death will overtake us before heaven. The one thing we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death. But who wants to die? Id. At 124.
Take Kerouac’s observation, train earnestly and while secreting the sweet sweat of your efforts, ask yourself:

1. If death is pursuing us through life, why do we insist on taking each day for granted? Make a decision to live the ideology of Ichi-Nichi-Issho (One Day-One Lifetime) which provides, inter alia, that today is your life. When added to yesterday, today forms links of a chain that is collectively known as a lifetime. So, if you want to train, train today. If you love your spouse, or child, tell them so today. Death is pursuing so grasp a hold of the “Now” and fulfill it – NOW.

2. Once adopted as a component part of your personal ideology, would the ideology of Ichi-Nichi-Issho make you “sigh and groan with a lost bliss?”;

3. If you practice your Karate-Do with a pure heart, can you now manifest and achieve the bliss that Kerouac feels is only reproducible in the womb? Is not Karate-Do the womb that incubates your persona to a blissful level?

Excerpt Number Two:

We had longer ways to go. But, no matter the road is life. Id. At 212.

Consider the road of Karate-Do, or your other art form. Does the road continue? Does it stop? Does it contain diverging paths? To be sure, if you have an open mind and a pure heart, Karate-Do is the road to life. As Miyamoto Musashi observed in Go Ron No Sho (A Book of Five Rings) “You must learn this well.”

Excerpt Number Three:

No matter where I live, my trunk’s always sticking out from under the bed, I’m ready to leave or get thrown out. I’ve decided to leave everything out of my hands. Id. At 251.

With the above passage in mind contemplate how Karate-Do has prepared you to have your trunk’s packed; to be ready to spontaneously meet life’s challenges so as to enjoy its rewards.

As my excitement of being on the open road soon approaches the crescendo moment when the key is turned and the engine roars to life, I have also re-read the following from the memoirs of General George S. Patton. I believe this passage also has insights into artful pursuits.

All members of our oil-daubed civilization think of roads as long slabs of concrete or black-top, or at least as dragged and graded thoroughfares full of wheel ruts. As a matter of fact, roads, or it is better to call them trails, existed thousands of years before the earth- shaking invention of the wheel was even dreamed of, and it was along such roads that our sandaled or barefoot progenitors moved from place to place. . .

It takes little imagination to translate the nomad on his white stallion and the men and women on donkeys into the Canterbury pilgrims, while the footman, equipped with large staff and poniard, can easily be mistaken for Friar Tuck, Little John or Robin Hood. This similarity applies not only to their dress, but also to their whiskers, filth and probably to their morals; and they are all talking, always talking. They have no recourse. There are no books, newspapers or radios to distract them. From War As I Knew It: The Battle Memoirs of “Blood & Guts”, General George S. Patton, Jr. (Houghton Miller 1947) pp. 44-45.

As you train, and specifically, as you perform your Kata (or other art form) in a modern Dojo, or studio, consider the early ancestors of your art form as they trained, in sandals or barefoot, in nature. Consider how the art of these primordial practitioners compares to your art as it exists today.

I hope the within Dojo experiments spur in you a reflective desire to contemplate and evaluate your Karate-Do or other chosen art form. Karate-Do is merely the mechanistic means of discovering that which we all desire – to know who we in fact are.

And so, as I am about to drive north to south, east to west on (US) Interstate Highway numbers 78, 81 and 40, I will be thinking of you sincerely sweating, pondering, blissfully enjoying, your Karate-Do. I will visit a few Dojo along the way. Upon my return to Arizona, I will post a travel-log and pictures for your enjoyment and contemplation. Until then, I remain, on the road . . . of life.

 Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
 For information on my application of the martial arts and Kata to daily life, please feel free to visit my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com

An expanded discussion of my methodology & ideology may also be found in my new book The Dynamic Meditation Rite Of Sanchin: Gateway To The Three Battles To The Plateau Of Human Serenity. Please see the “Sanchin Book” page of this site.

You may also find additional information on Jiriki Kata-Do, by reading my article herein dated December 15 , 2009. Entitled “Kata evolves into a methodology and ideology …”

Ties That Bind and Binds That Tie

21 Mar
The following is submitted for all journeymen who chose to live life rather than merely exist. Although the following tale is based upon actual events that occurred within my Karate-Do Dojo, named the Issho-Dojo (Lifetime Dojo), the concepts espoused apply to all who have found themselves in situations where external demands appear to impose a no-win situation. This article is respectfully dedicated to all who have suffered the so called ties that bind, binds that tie and the no-win situation.
 
My Issho-Dojo, which at the time, was located in East Rutherford, New Jersey had many students pass through its doors. They learned from me and, as is the case in all true teacher-student relationships, I learned from them. The following events occurred one hot, steamy, humid New Jersey summer night. I was teaching the final class for the evening. Heat and humidity notwithstanding, I am not particularly fond of air-conditioning. As such, the Dojo is simply ventilated, through an open door with the assistance of a simple fan placed on the floor. I am not cold-hearted and do occasionally turn on the 20 year old air-conditioning unit. I find that if I flick the electric switch on for about a ten second duration every hour and then turn it off, the ancient cooling unit provides the faintest wisp of cool air. The most efficient cooling system in the Dojo is the human body which cools itself through the process of “bio-mechanical heat exchange”, commonly known as perspiration. In the Issho Dojo there is never a lack of such bio-mechanical heat exchange. With that background in mind, it must be understood that on that fateful evening, the Dojo was hot and steamy. There was only about ten minutes left in the final class when I noticed that one student named Daniel was beginning to tire. Daniel had trained with me for about five years and was a good student. Daniel was ranked as a Ni-Kyu (second grade) Brown Belt. Yes, five years and Daniel was “only” a brown belt (See Endnote 1). Daniel was also the “Dai-Sempai” (oldest Brother) of the class, and as such, had a bit of “clout”.
 
Daniel was clearly showing the effects of the heat and humidity. Given the number of years that Daniel had attended the Dojo, he was self-assured in his physical capabilities. This indicated to me that it was time to challenge Daniel’s mind and spirit. I looked at Daniel and asked him, “Daniel, are you tired?” Daniel was forthright in his reply, “Yes, Sensei, I am.” Daniel was about to enter the realm of what is known as the “double-bind” situation. I addressed the student body, “Okay class, Daniel is tired so it is time for everyone to perform a Kata to wake Daniel up.” I then commanded the students and Daniel to perform a Kata. Now, to be sure, the last thing the students wanted to do was another Kata in the hot steamy Dojo. Further, it was clearly apparent that the group was not particularly fond of having to perform a Kata because Daniel, the Dai-Sempai, was tired.
 
After the student body performed the Kata, I commanded them to line-up in the formation that would normally indicate the end of class. I again turned to Daniel and asked, “Daniel, are you tired?” Daniel was a quick learner. It was clear that he did not desire to have the group perform another Kata because of his tiredness. He stood straight and tall, looked me directly in the eye and responded, “Thank-you Sensei, I am no longer tired.” I appeared satisfied with Daniel’s reply. I addressed the students, “This is a lesson in the ability of Kata to rejuvenate.“ “Daniel was tired, and having performed Kata, he overcame his tiredness.” I then proceeded to tell the students, “Since Daniel has new found energy, we should celebrate his rejuvenation by performing another group Kata.” I again commanded the group, naturally including Daniel, to perform the most demanding Kata in the Mokuroku No Kata (catalogue of Kata). Once again I commanded the students to line-up in formation. I am sure that the students truly believed that class was now (finally) over. To capitalize on their belief, I asked Daniel to issue the command to have the students kneel in the seiza position. The kneeling seiza position is used to execute the formal bowing ceremony that starts and ends class.
 
Daniel, much relieved commanded, “Isshon-ni, Seiza” (All assume seiza). The students gratefully knelt in the position. I also assumed the seiza position and faced the class. As is the custom of the Dojo, I asked the students if they had any questions or comments. The students, one-by-one replied that they did not. For dramatic effect, I continued with the ceremony. I turned on my knees so that my back was to the class and faced the “Instructor’s Wall” of the Dojo. This wall has photographs of my Sensei hanging. The students awaited my command to bow to these photographs in a show of respect to my Sensei and the lessons imparted to me, which I in turn impart to my students. I paused. I then turned back to face the class. The students faces transformed into looks of woe. I looked directly at Daniel and asked, “Daniel, are your tired?” Daniel looked at me and in the most honest fashion possible replied, “Sensei, I do not know how to answer.” I did not want to be derelict in my obligations as Sensei. As such, I could not allow Daniel to leave class in such a befuddled state. So to clear Daniel’s mind, I informed the students, “We must all stand and perform yet another Kata to clear Daniel’s mind before we leave.“ Daniel, had experienced one of many variations of the double-bind” situation. As we all do in life, I am sure Daniel will encounter many more such double-binds. You all have heard the expression, “Ties that bind.” The double bind is a “Bind that ties (your ability to think freely and act spontaneously).”
 
The anthropologist Gregory Bateson noted the similarity of the Zen Koan technique to the double-bind. The double-bind neutralizes the ego by paralyzing it (See Endnote 2). In this context, ego is defined as the conditioned aspect of self (see Endnote 3). The ego self cannot handle the no-win oscillation from one option to another in such a transaction as this: If you say this dog is Buddha, I will hit you. If you say this dog is not Buddha, I will hit you. If you say nothing, I will hit you.The imperative conditions that create the double-bind are (a) that two (or more) people are involved and (b) there is a bond between these two people that (presumably) cannot be broken. The situation is such that the person in the double-bind has temporarily surrendered his ego autonomy. Of course, once the jump to a new context of living takes place, an event called “satori”, the job of the master is accomplished and he lovingly releases the double-bind. The nature of the double-bind is that the “victim” cannot confront the inherent dilemma and therefore can neither comment on the conflict, nor resolve it, nor opt out of the situation.
 
The double bind is often misunderstood to be a simple contradictory situation, where the victim is trapped by two conflicting demands. While it is true that the core of the double bind is two conflicting demands, the differences lie in how the conflicting demands are imposed upon the victim, what the victim’s understanding of the situation is and finally, who (or what) imposes these demands upon the victim. Unlike the usual no-win situation, the victim has difficulty defining the exact nature of the paradoxical situation in which he or she is. Typically, the demand is imposed upon the victim by someone who they respect (a parent, teacher and the like), but the demand itself is inherently impossible to fulfill because some broader context forbids it. (See Endnote 4).
 
Let us re-examine Daniel’s dilemma. No matter how Daniel responded to my question or if he did not respond, I was going to command the class to perform a Kata. Daniel and the entire student body assumed that the alleged cause of the punishment (of having to perform yet another Kata) was Daniel’s purportedly unwise reply. Daniel voluntarily surrendered his ego to my questioning in fear that there would be a repercussion for an improper answer. By surrendering his ego, Daniel did not realize that there was no proper answer. Regardless of his reply, he and all the students would be required to perform a Kata. Daniel and the class were subject to my authority. They knew they could not decline my command to perform a Kata. For those readers that lack martial arts experience, it is axiomatic that within the Dojo, the word of Sensei is absolute law (by the consent of those governed) (See Endnote 5).
 
In all the years since that eventful night for Daniel, I was always struck by the fact that not one student offered advice to Daniel as to how he should respond to my question. Suppose you were in the Issho-Dojo on that hot, steamy, humid New Jersey night, how would you assist Daniel, or better yet, if you were in Daniel’s place, how would you answer my fourth inquiry as to “Are you tired?” There are many possible replies. In fact, there is no “correct” answer. I offer the following reply as an answer which, had I received from Daniel, I would have released him from the bind.
“Sensei, I am physically well and clear of mind. I wish to thank you for the experience, so may I and the rest of the students perform a Kata to show our appreciation for the lesson? “
In this manner, Daniel, the victim, removes the threat of giving an “incorrect” answer. He freely and voluntarily accepts the so-called “punishment” in a manner in which the contentment of the punishment is denied to me as the instigative inquisitor. The result is that the dilemma no longer exists for the victim.
 
I suggest that in either a double-bind situation, or in a perceived no-win situation, evaluate first, a change of context and second the severity of the punishment. If you can, redefine the context. In the Dojo tale, neither Daniel nor the class could change the context. By entering the Dojo they acquiesced their authority to me as their Sensei. (See Endnote 6). If you cannot redefine the context, then evaluate the severity of the so-called punishment. If the punishment (physical or emotional) can be borne without long-term dire harm, then break the bond by voluntarily undertaking the punishment so as to undermine the contextual authority and break the double-bind.
 
Many years have passed since that fateful night. Since then I have experienced situations that, at first glimpse, presented themselves as either a double-bind, or a no win situation. In such times, I remember my student Daniel, who taught me how to re-evaluate and redefine situations which impose ties that bind and binds that tie. Until my next article, I hope you travel unbound through your life’s journey. I remain, 
 

 Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
 
 
 The reader may wish to consider the evolutionary process of self-discovery as set forth in my article entitled Dante’s Issho Dojo which is filed in the category Martial Ideology & Life.
For more on either Sanchin Kata as meditation or my new book on Sanchin Kata, please feel free to visit my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com.
 
ENDNOTES:
1. For those martial artists who are accustomed to rank being linked to time spent at a Dojo, or the length of a financial contract, please see the Memorial Page of this blogsite so as to obtain an understanding of rank in Shihan DeFelice’s style of Goshin-Do Karate-Do that I teach.
2. Goswami, Amit, The Self-Aware Universe, (G.P. Putnam & Sons, New York, NY, 1993) p. 240 Citing: Bateson, G., Steps To An Ecology Of Mind, (Ballantine Books, New York, NY 1972).
3. Goswami, Id. p. 277.
4. Goswami, Id. p. 240.
5. This phrase comes from Shihan Peter Urban and may be found in several of his works, including The Karate Dojo and The Karate Sensei. Both are highly recommended.
 6. The subject of escaping the double-bind by changing the context of the relationship is beyond the scope of this article; however, I offer the following illustration. Within the psychoanalytical field, there is the following illustration of a double bind imposed by a parent upon a child. A parent tells a child, “Do this task, or you will be punished.“ The also tells the child that such punishment is because “I love you”; however as this is said the parent physically frowns and turns their back to the child. Thus, indicating something other than the love espoused. As the parent walks away, the parent adds “Do the task only if you want to”. Psycho analysis says that the child is in a double-bind because 1) The task must be done, or they will be punished, 2) Punishment is doled out as a manifestation of verbal love while the physical body language of the parent dictates otherwise, and 3) an illusory choice is given to the child to determine whether or not to do the task. It is clear that the child cannot change the context of the relationship because the child cannot usurp the authority of the parent. I suggest that the child (assuming a sufficient level of emotional growth) can break the psychology of the double-bind by changing the emotional context as follows, “My parent, I will voluntarily perform the task because I desire to show you I love you as much as you love me.” I suggest that the statement breaks the (emotional) context of the double-bind.

SANCHIN KATA: The Three Battles In A New Perspective

21 Feb

The within is submitted for the benefit of all life journeymen. The foregoing discussion of the Sanchin Kata is not intended simply as the divine province of those martial artists fortunate to know Sanchin. Rather, every person who reads the within should endeavor to learn the Sanchin Kata and perform Sanchin at least daily. Embrace Sanchin as a long lost lover and Sanchin will fulfill you with its enticing secrets.

The Sanchin Kata is perhaps one of the most treasured Kata of traditional Karate-Do and the predecessor arts of Kung-Fu, Kalaripayat and Pranayama. Within my methodology and ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do, Sanchin Kata is made available to all who wish to learn and probe its benefits and secrets regardless of whether they wish to learn a full Karate-Do curriculum. To borrow from my article on this blogsite entitled Dante’s Issho Dojo (please see the category Martial Ideology Applied To daily Life), Sanchin is the portal to a new contextual paradigm for Kata to be found in Jiriki Kata-Do. This paradigm allows the three battles of Sanchin Kata to be extended into a new dimension.

The translation of the Kanji for the word “Sanchin” offers insight into the attributes that are found within Sanchin Kata.

 Kanji for Sanchin taken from an original Sumi-e drawing on rice paper

As one may see from the Kanji, the word Sanchin is composed of two root words. The root word “San” means “Three” and the root word “Chin” means “Battle”. The word “battle” does not refer to warfare; rather, “battle” refers to conditions, or aspects requiring attention and cultivation by the performer of the Sanchin Kata. Thus, while Sanchin literally means “Three Battles” , the interpretation of the Kanji should be extended to mean “three aspects of the human condition.” Through the regular performance of the Sanchin Kata the three aspects of the human condition are incubated, nurtured and evolved so as to facilitate an enraptured human experience.

Historically, the interpretation of the three battles of Sanchin Kata has been limited to a martial arts perspective. There are many interpretations of the three battles of Sanchin that are derived from the Art of Karate. The central theme of the Karate-Do proclamation of the three battles is the development and unification of body and spirit. This development of mind and body is fundamental to the practice of Karate. In general terms, the three battles of Sanchin have been described as: Breath, Posture and Spirit. All three aspects are to be unified through the Kata. Thus, historically, it can be said that the Sanchin Kata unifies the body (through the elements of breath and posture) and spirit (through the moving-Zen concepts) of the Karate-Ka (one who practices Karate). Such a unification of mind and body elements are essential to the practice and execution of Karate technique and Kata.

Through the Sanchin Kata, the Karate-Ka forges a body that is tough and resilient. A Karate-Ka’s body would be as solid as the trunk of an oak tree and as flexible as the boughs of a willow tree. The spirit of the Karate-Ka would be fostered so as to allow the Karate-Ka to perceive the external world and act spontaneously in accord with the attendant circumstances. Through the Sanchin Kata, the Karate-Ka would achieve a superhuman perception. This would enable the Karate-Ka to be impervious to physical pain and discomfort. The Karate-Ka would also be immune to harmful emotions and spiritual distractions. This state of being forms the building blocks to Karate.

The definition of the three battles of Sanchin within the boundaries of the perspective of the martial arts is, by its very nature, limited in scope. Further, the definition is redundant as it uses three manifestations (breath, posture and spirit, or similar expressions) of only two aspects of the human condition (body and mind). I note here that I am aware of a limited number of martial artists that define the three battles of Sanchin as the unification of body, spirit and “soul”. I submit that such a definition, while it appears hopeful in expanding the concept of Sanchin beyond the realm of martial arts, is dismally disappointing. One need simply explore the definition of soul to be disappointed. I submit that the soul is an improper aspect of the Sanchin Kata for the following reasons. The use of the word soul automatically (like Merlin’s magic wand) conjures up religious connotations that do not belong integrated within Sanchin. Even assuming, arguendo, that such religious inclinations can be suppressed, the traditional and philosophical view of the soul is that at some point it must reside within the human bio-body. Thus again, the definition merely draws upon conditions that exist within the human and fails to account for external universal-environmental factors. This failure results in the human existing as separate and distinct from the universal environment on both a physical and conscious level.

For more than three decades, I have engaged in the practice of the Sanchin Kata. My devotion to Sanchin enlightened me to the discovery that the traditional proclamation of the three battles of Sanchin Kata was incomplete. The traditional proclamation of the three battles possessed a very sever limitation. The limitation is that three battles of the Sanchin Kata were expressed solely within the martial arts context and perspective. Such a perspective of the three battles of Sanchin merely describes two states of the human condition. These two states represent a limited view of the source of physical power, spiritual insight and emotional stability of the Karate-Ka. The two states of human existence I am referring to are a physical state and a spiritual state. To date, the unique attributes ascribed to a Karate-Ka, or any martial artist for that matter, were believed to be solely a manifestation and unification of the body and spirit (or mind) aspects of the human condition.

After many years of continued rigorous practice of and devotion to the Sanchin Kata, I came to realize that clearly lacking from the definition of the three battles is an additional third human quality. It became apparent to me that the three battles of Sanchin must be allowed to break the limiting boundaries imposed upon it by the martial arts perspective. This means that the three battles must be viewed and defined from the perspective of the total human condition. The three battles of Sanchin, as expressed to date, account for two aspects of the human condition that are internal to the human (body and mind). It became apparent to me that the missing, heretofore undiscovered battle, or aspect, of the Sanchin Kata must be external to the human bio-body. I call this aspect the metaphysical aspect of the human condition. Just like the Tesseract shown below illustrates a standard three dimensional cube in a new paradigm of four dimensions, my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do extends the three battles of Sanchin Kata into a heretofore undiscovered new paradigm, to wit: the redefining the three battles of Sanchin to recognize a metaphysical aspect of the human condition that exists external to the human bio-body. Further, by way of my methodology and ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do, the Sanchin Rite (this is a term of art I coined so as to avoid the use of the word “Kata” and the martial arts connotation of the word) is made available to anyone that desires to learn its secret teachings.

The metaphysical aspect of the Sanchin Rite recognizes the presence, consciousness and creative power that exists in the universe around us. In addition to recognizing the metaphysical aspect of the three battles of Sanchin Kata, I was enlightened to a means of incorporating a methodology into the performance of the Sanchin Rite for perceiving this metaphysical realm. I submit that the Three Battles of Sanchin are:

1. Physical Battle, or the aspect of properly performing all components of the physical movements of Sanchin so as to experience the physical, metabolic benefits of Sanchin;

2. Spiritual Battle, or the aspect of the internal transportation of bio-essence throughout the human bio-body which is only permitted through an enlightened, enraptured state of mind facilitated by Sanchin;

3. Meta-physical Battle, or the aspect of the expansion of etheric-essence into the universal environment to foster interconnectivity and synchronicity with the universal consciousness perceived through Sanchin.

It is imperative to remove the boundary of the martial arts perspective and begin to think of the three battles of Sanchin within the overall perspective of the entire human condition. Such a boundless interpretation of the three battles mandates that factors that are internal to the human must be considered as part and parcel of factors that are external to the human condition (including those factors that may exist beyond the ken of human perception). I was awakened to the metaphysical aspect of the Rite of Sanchin Kata only after three decades of practice coupled with an introduction into newly developing sciences, including quantum physics, noetic sciences and traditional and non-traditional philosophic ideologies. To date, I am aware of no other Sanchin-Ka (A term of art I use to describe anyone who practices Sanchin) that has defined the three battles in the manner I set forth. Further, I am not aware of anyone that has promulgated a specific methodology and manner of performing the Sanchin Rite so as to experience the metaphysical aspect of the Rite (or Kata). Perhaps I am the only person willing to commit name and reputation to acknowledging the existence of a third, metaphysical aspect present in Sanchin. I am also confident that Sanchin can and should be learned by anyone who desires to embrace it and learn its secret teachings. Such knowledge can be undertaken independent of a full Karate curriculum. I have developed my methodology and ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do so as to grant practitioners the divine province of experiencing unification and synchronization of not only body and spirit, but the universal presence and consciousness.

Through the understanding and development of the three battles, or aspects, of the Sanchin Rite, one can begin to foster an understanding of the state of human existence I call the Plateau of Human serenity. The Plateau of Human Serenity is the portal to the broader concepts of the human condition as explored through the various Rites (or Kata) of Jiriki Kata-Do. The Sanchin Book (which may be found on the Sanchin Book page of this Blogsite) sets forth the first installment of the Jiriki Kata-Do dynamic lecture and exercise series. The foundation of the Sanchin Kata presentation is the imperative nature of recognizing and awakening the potential gained by existing and synchronizing with factors that are internal and external to the human bio-body.

Sanchin Kata in Tonto National Forest, Arizona

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

 

 I remain, as I hope you do, enraptured by the new knowledge to be gained on this remarkable journey called life,
HANKO-master

Sensei John Szmitkowski

The Kanji for Sanchin Kata was taken from my series on the Mokuroku No Kata of Goshin-Do Karate entitled Goshin-Do Kata-Jitsu: Volume Three: The Goju-Ryu Influence (Issho Publications, E. Rutherford, NJ 2002). 

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“MERE” JOURNEYMAN OR KING OZYMANDIAS – A Matter of Confidence

14 Feb

The within is submitted to all who tread along life’s journey in a continuing search for knowledge and improvement of that amorphous concept known as “self”. Once again, on the surface, the within article would appear to apply simply to the martial arts. I suggest that on a broader level, the within applies to all aforementioned journeymen.

Whenever a new student would enter the Dojo, I would ask the initiate what he or she hopes to achieve by undertaking the study of Karate-Do. The answers I receive from such potential initiates are as varied as the individuals themselves. There are, however, certain general themes that emerge. One such theme is the attainment of self-confidence. I would like to explore the effect of attaining self-confidence in this article.

Initially, I note that I will not address the mechanics of how and why Karate-Do and other martial arts build self-confidence. I submit that it is axiomatic that self-confidence is discovered and nurtured through Karate-Do. The same is true of other art forms such as music, painting, Yoga and Zazen (seated meditation). In fact any endeavor that mandates periods of introspection by the practitioner will foster self-confidence as a consequence of self-discovery. Having said that, there is a crucial turning point in the evolutionary process of self-discovery that leads to the attainment of self-confidence. The turning point is at the event horizon when one’s self is discovered, realized and defined. It is at this event horizon that one’s awareness of oneself breeds a sense of self-confidence. Once self-confidence is attained, the event horizon dictates that one can undertake two possible future paths.

 Path of Multiple Torii at Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto, Japan

The first path is the path that recognizes that the concept of self (and the associated self-confidence) is transitory and subject to continuing definition and evolution. This path is defined by the idea that while one is awakened to and confident in the person that one is, such a psychological state is merely momentary and subject to the continuum of the life experiences to be had. One’s deeds, ideas and actions are viewed as evolving. By this I mean that continued deeds, ideas and actions incubate and give birth to continued knowledge. Continued knowledge gives rise to new theories, concepts and innovations. Thus, one is confident within the boundary of acknowledging that such confidence extends to one’s ability to continue to embark on the unknown journey of life as it unfolds. If one lacked this confidence, the future unknown journey would stagnate one’s personal quest for knowledge and growth out of fear. On this path, the self-confident journeyman continues the quest in anticipation of unknown knowledge for the purpose of perpetually rediscovering oneself.

The second path is the path that views one’s achievement in the chosen field of endeavor as the pinnacle of the discovery process, to wit: one has become the “best” one can be (The slogan, “Be all you can be” comes to mind). This means that one’s self-confidence is finite in place, time and achievement. This path is defined by ego. The path of ego mandates that one sees the continuum of life not as a process of continued discovery, but as a conclusion to be ratified by the remarkable person that one has become. One’s deeds, ideas, and actions are internally viewed (and to be perceived by others) as omnipotent and mighty. This means that one’s deeds are to be glorified in and of themselves. One’s deeds, ideas and actions are to be viewed as a historical event and as supreme and final. Of course, this is a fiction. Such self-confidence has fallen prey to the Siren’s call of ego. The paradox of this psychological path is that it results in a stagnation of personal growth to be attained by future knowledge. The result is similar to the stagnation experienced by an utter lack of self-confidence. In the former case the stagnation is caused by ego and in the latter case it is caused by fear. Thus, the fulfillment of the paradox.

Everyone is susceptible to falling prey to the draw of one’s ego. So as to be able to fend off the attraction of succumbing to the mythical Siren‘s call of ego, one needs to always bear in mind the transitory nature of life. As much as one cannot rest on one’s laurels, one must always understand that accomplishment is but a portal to future achievement. This is not to say that one need be forever humble. One can, and should, enjoy the successful feeling that comes from accomplishment. One need simply remember that accomplishment which breeds self-confidence should be perpetually challenged and redefined within oneself.

Again, there are many introspective endeavors wherein one can obtain a sense of self-definition and self-confidence. For myself, the mechanism is the continuous study of was Karate-Do and specifically, the study of Kata. The principle characteristic of any introspective endeavor is that it will eventually lead the practitioner to the event horizon of choosing the path of either continuing self-discovery through knowledge or to the path of finite ego. Ego is finite and, being self-propagated dissipates with time. History is replete with examples of the dilatory effect of ego as a factor of time. There are many examples contained in mythology, history and literature. One such example is the following poem, Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. It is a favorite of mine. I keep the poem in my psychological database as a reminder that the journey for knowledge never terminates. One’s momentary achievements, should be acknowledged but never glorified.

 

From: Williams, Oscar, Immortal Poems Of The English Language (An Anthology), (Washington Square Press , NY, 1952) p. 295 

I met a traveler from an ancient land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on those lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal these words appear:

“my name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Nothing beside them remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far and away. 

 Colossus Of Rhodes, a 16th Century engraving by Martin Heenskerck, part of the series The Seven Wonders Of The World . While it does not depict Ozymandias, the  picture  perhaps conveys the concept of Ozymandias and is another example of the dilatory effects of Ego.

The remarkable journey to obtain knowledge has presently brought me to the new contextual paradigm of Kata within my methodology and ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do (The Way Of (attaining) Inner Salvation Through Kata). Jiriki Kata-Do is a new exploration into the hidden secrets of Kata heretofore believed to be the sole province of the martial artist now extended to all followers of my methodology and ideology. I remain, as I hope you do, a journeyman, willing to share the journey with my initiates. To borrow from Shelley, it is my sincere hope that all remain eager to continue to tread upon the lone and level sands (of knowledge) that stretch far and away”.

The reader may wish to consider the evolutionary process of self-discovery as set forth in my article entitled Dante’s Issho Dojo which is filed in the category Martial ideology Applied To Daily Life. For more nformation on my ideology and methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do, please review the articles herein filed in the category Kata as enlightened meditation.

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

The poem Ozymandias was from Williams, Oscar, Immortal Poems Of The English Language (An Anthology), (Washington Square Press, NY, NY 1952) p. 295.

SANCHIN KATA & THE JAPANESE TEA CEREMONY (Cha-No-Yu)

4 Feb
While the within article addresses a specific attribute unique to the Sanchin Kata of Okinawa Karate-Do, I believe it would benefit any reader who seeks inspiration in the daily struggle to endure the difficulties that life puts in our path. By so enduring these difficulties one will ultimately find the wondrous beauty that unfolds along the path of life’s journey.

For my Karate-Do readership, I submit that the exact methodology of Sanchin Kata that one practices is immaterial when compared to the importance of the attributes to be learned and encountered through the Kata. Thus, while I learned the Sanchin Kata contained in the Mokuroku No Kata (Catalogue of Kata) of Goshin-Do Karate-Do as taught by Shihan Thomas DeFelice (Ku-Dan, Menkyo Kaiden) the attributes apply equally to the Sanchin methodology of traditional Goju-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu, Isshin-Ryu, Pang-noon Gai Ryu and the other traditional Karate-Do styles. It is my contention that no methodology of Sanchin is superior or inferior to the other. The importance of the Sanchin Kata is the presence of unique attributes to be obtained through regular practice and performance of the Kata and, most importantly, the pure heart of the performer. Within the context of traditional Okinawa Karate-Do one attribute of the Sanchin Kata is that it, inter alia, conditions one physically and mentally to endure pain so as to (when necessary) be able to inflict pain in the course of defending oneself. The ability of Sanchin Kata to allow one to endure physical, spiritual, and I submit, metaphysical, attack, pain or discomfort is exemplified in a poem concerning the water ladle utilized in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony (Cha-No-Yu).

 This poem is by an anonymous author. The water ladle is emblematic of the physical hardships one is capable of enduring through regular practice of the Sanchin Kata and the state of mind called “Mushin“. It is as follows:

The dipper that passes to and fro between

The hells of heat and cold

Has no mind of its own and

Suffers not at all.

I hope the poem inspires all to endure what they feel they cannot. It is said “To bear what one perceives one cannot bear is really to bear.” In this spirit, endure the hardships of life, for in so enduring, the beauty of this wonderful existence will reveal itself. Walk with certainty on your life’s path and perform the Sanchin Kata at least daily with a sincere and pure heart.

In developing my ideology & methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do (The Way of (attaining) Inner Salvation Through Kata), I have evolved this attribute of being able to endure pain (physically, emotionally & mentally). The evolutionary result is a new contextual paradigm for Sanchin Kata and other unique Kata of Okinawa Karate-Do. This paradigm is designed to enhance the human condition not only physically and spiritually but also within the metaphysical component of interconnectivity with the universe’s physical environment and consciousness.

 

Sanchin Kata on the Lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest, Arizona

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

For now, I remain sincerely yours in the quest of Sanchin and Jiriki Kata-Do,

HANKO-master

Sensei John Szmitkowski

I have recently obtained the above beautiful digital Hanko seal. It will be used to formalize and seal all future submissions on this Blogsite, my website and all future e-mails. Anyone interested in either a traditional or digital Hanko seal should visit WWW.TheJapaneseConnection.Com. Mr. Ben Falge is a true master of his craft.

I first read the poem referenced in this article in the following book: Furuya, Kensho, Kodo: Ancient Ways (Lessons In The Spiritual Life Of The Warrior/Martial Artist (O’Hara Publications, Inc., 1996) p. 155. I highly recommend this book to any martial artist. Furuya Sensei’s insights are truly thought provoking. Though I did not know him personally, I was recently saddened to learn that Furuya Sensei passed away on March 6, 2007 while teaching a class at his Aikido Ceneter located in Los Angelas, California.

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 those interested in the state of mind of Mushin, you may wish to view my four part article on Mushin by clicking on the category “Martial Ideology Applied To Daily Life” and opening the Mushin series of articles.

Mushin Applied To Daily Life-Part 4 (final): Mushin As A Sacrament Of Spirituality

11 Jan

*** NOTE: For parts one through three of the series on the Mushin state of mind, please see the bottom of this page and click on the category: “Martial ideology extended to daily life” & then click on the icon “Previous Entries“ at the bottom of the page***

Part 4 (Final installment): Mushin as a sacrament of earthly spirituality. 

This installment of the series on the Mushin state of mind is one that tends to raise the most eyebrows. Perhaps because of its connotations as to certain effects that are deemed the province of religion, I do not know. In any event, I would call to the reader’s attention, the following observation of Dr. Beverly Rubik as quoted in Kaku, Michio, Physics of The Impossible (Anchor Books, NY, NY 2008) p. 179.

“You can recognize a pioneer by the arrows in his back”.

With that said,

Through the Mushin state of mind a new frontier of earthly spirituality is encountered. In the self-imposed chaos of modern living, spirituality is often engaged in superficially, suppressed or even ignored. Historically, the human required four fundamental needs to be satisfied so as to survive and prosper. Those fundamental needs are water, food, clothing and shelter. Once early man evolved from a hunter-gatherer and farmed the land he lived on and raised livestock for sustenance, he began to assume his fundamental needs were, to some extent, always to be satisfied. Early man then began to look to the skies and nature as enveloping a spiritual world within which he resided. To ancient man, spirituality existed in all things.

In today’s modern world, for the vast majority of humans, this spirituality is at best superficial and at worst, ignored completely. Unlike our prehistoric ancestors, modern humans no longer seek out the spiritual aspects of the world in which they reside. I submit, that the modern human has entered into a hedonistic paradigm wherein the fulfillment of the fundamental needs is insufficient and has evolved to a state of existence wherein the fundamental needs are glorified and augmented to perverse levels. Modern man is no longer satisfied to have a shelter. Humans now seek to have mansion, often built on exclusive parcels of the environment. The human claims exclusive ownership of the environment over and above the ownership rights of all other humans, the Earth, and even the universe itself. The idea of a fundamental need for food has evolved from being satisfied with a bowl of grain, fruits, vegetables and a source of protein to a perverted and obscene example of consumption, gluttony and wanton waste. One need only look to the headlines and the vast array of television shows to see examples of a thirty dollar hamburger made from rare beef and a one thousand dollar ice cream sundae offered in the city of New York which boasts gold leaf as an ingredient. To be sure, the human needs exit this perverse paradigm and return to earthly spirituality.

That return to spirituality is nurtured in many ways, including by way of the Kata, rites dynamic mediation and the Mushin state of mind. The Mushin state of mind gives one the ability to acknowledge, understand and synchronize with spiritual matters that exist within our lives. Though, it does not necessarily convey the ideology of spirituality, one may look to religion as a means of appreciating the Mushin state of mind. For the vast majority of humans, religion is the sole mechanism by which they experience spirituality and the wonders of the universal cosmos. Humans tend to participate in and accept much religious dogma on a superficial level. This is terribly unfortunate. Further, it is not necessarily due to the fault of the religious or spiritual leader. Rather, the fault lays entirely within the religious devotee and can be remedied by an understanding of Mushin.

Most religions contain a story of creation that seeks to explain how the physical world came into being. The creation story contains an acknowledgement by the Divine Creator. The name of the Divine Creator, whether is God, Allah, Judah, Zeus, or any other human derived name is immaterial. Such a name is the human’s arrogant attempt to provide a human name to such a Divine Attribute. At some point in the story of creation, the Divine Creator pauses to view the creation, and, being generally satisfied rests. This day of rest often evolved into the day of the Sabbath for the Creator‘s future followers. Now, at this point in the story of creation, there is a need to appreciate the Mushin state of mind. For many, the day of the Sabbath no longer requires contemplation, introspection and reflection. The Sabbath no longer involves a pilgrimage to the place of worship. Rather, the day of rest has evolved to a day spent quickly raking the leaves from the lawn, laying on the couch with a cold beer and watching the latest football game on television. The mundane human, who is incapable of attaining a state of Mushin, has no understanding of the means by which an omnipresent, omnipotent Divine Creator rested.

Through the mere process of thought, the Divine Creator caused the material world and its inhabitants to spring into being. Clearly, rest for the Supreme creator did not mean a physical rest, but contemplates a type of mental or spiritual rest. By extension, such a mental or spiritual rest translates into a creative rest. This does not mean that the Divine Creator quieted the creative mind so as to no longer perceive that which was created. I submit that if the Divine Creator quieted the creative mind so as to no longer perceive the created world, the repercussion would mean that the created world would no longer exist. If the Supreme Creator was no longer aware of the flowing river, the cycle of the planets and our own feeble, insignificant existence within the universe of creation, all would vanish. Thus, for the Divine Creator to rest, a Mushin-like state of mind would have to have manifested. The Divine Creator would have to perceive and absorb all that exists without focusing a single thought onto any one element created or about to be created. Thus, the Divine Creator could have only rested by maintaining a Mushin state of mind. This is the ultimate expression of Mushin.

Another example may be found within the teachings of the Biblical Jesus. Regardless of whether one believes that Jesus was the Son of God, or whether he was an enlightened Prophet, many religions acknowledge his presence and importance while he lived on the Earth. Jesus had expressed a desire that his peace be known and shared amongst his followers. This expression of peace has been interpreted in a very limited manner to mean “non-violence”. It is unfortunate that this interpretation exists. A good friend of mine is a Roman Catholic priest. He had contracted a very aggressive form of cancer and was forced to relinquish his pastoral duties. Fortunately, with the aid of highly experimental treatment, he not only survived the cancer but was able to return to his pastoral duties. During the first Mass he conducted, he was hit by a spiritual thunderbolt. A part of the Mass calls for the participants to shake hands and extend a wish for peace unto each other. My friend realized, for the first time, that no-one in the Church that Sunday morning understood Jesus’ concept of peace. Many simply shook hands, said the words and thought about leaving the church ahead of the others so as to be the first to get to the local diner for Sunday breakfast. Peace, as Jesus meant the term, is not limited to non-violence. Peace meant total, complete peace from physical suffering, mental turmoil, spiritual assault, and all sorts of human frustrations. Peace in that level of experience is only knowable through the Mushin state of mind where all is perceived, accepted and absorbed as a integral part of the human state of existence.

Through Mushin, humans can, finally, begin to comprehend the feeling of attaining the qualities of a Supreme Being. This process is known as apotheosis. Such an understanding of the omnipresent spirituality attained through the state of Mushin, clearly drives and enhances a truly heightened state of human existence. I submit that Mushin can accurately be called the sacrament of earthly spirituality.

Mushin is the state of mind that serves as a gateway, or portal, to all the other infinite states of perception. It is codified within the various rites of dynamic meditation. The Rite of Sanchin, derived from the Sanchin Kata, is geared towards developing this state of mind and perception known as Mushin. As such, it is the rite which is uniquely designed to bridge one’s ability to transform oneself from the mundane modality of “normal” human existence to the state of being known as “The Plateau of Human Serenity”. This Plateau of Human Serenity is attained only after one has become enlightened to the true and complete teaching of the Sanchin Rite.

An expanded discussion of Mushin may also be found in my new book The Dynamic Meditation Rite Of Sanchin: Gateway To The Three Battles To The Plateau Of Human Serenity. Please see the “Sanchin Book” page on this blogsite. 

You may also find additional information on Jiriki Kata-Do, by reading my article herein dated December 15 , 2009. Entitled “Kata evolves into a methodology and ideology …” Please feel free to visit my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com

Mushin Applied To daily Life – Part 3: Practical applications

6 Jan

*** NOTE: For parts one and two of the series on the Mushin state of mind, please see the bottom of this page and click on the category: “Martial ideology extended to daily life” & then click on the icon “Previous Entries“ at the bottom of the page***

Mushin can readily be incorporated into one’s daily routine.

To illustrate this point, let us look at a few practical examples wherein Mushin is applied to daily activity. Examples will be taken from three areas of human endeavor. The first area will be the martial arts from which Mushin was born. The second area will be the business arena and the final area will be the sporting arena.

Perhaps from the earliest stages of human development, a pervasive need to test or challenge oneself against the abilities of another found its way into the human spirit. Within the martial arts, tournaments were arranged so that one martial artist could pit their skills against another. Naturally, such tournaments included avenues of direct challenges such as fighting, or “Kumite” in Karate terms. Additionally, the tournaments included non-direct means of objectively assessing one’s skills. Tournaments included Kata completion whereby various competitors would perform a Kata of their choice which would be judged or graded on technical and aesthetic merit. Much like Olympic-type competition, the competitor with the highest score would be judged superior and win the Kata competition. In order to have a superior performance, a competitor must perform the Kata with a Mushin mindset. One’s Kata would be performed in the presence of three to five judges, who attentively watched the performance. In addition, one would perform a Kata in the presence of a myriad of other spectators such as one‘s family, friends and fellow Dojo members. These acquaintances would be present in the viewing stands and would actively watch one’s performance. Other competitors, depending on their assessment of one’s Kata as a threat to their standing in the ratings would either attentively or passively watch one’s performance. Finally, all the other persons present for the tournament would be inactively watching one’s performance.

As one performed the Kata, one could not simply focus on such performance and ignore the totality of sensory inputs in the tournament environment. To do so would be potentially disastrous. One example comes to mind that would illustrate this point. I was once judging a Kata performance. The performer was so enraptured by the performance that he did not notice a mother and small child walking in close proximity to the area wherein he was performing. As small children are known to do, the child ran away from the mother and entered the performance area. The performer, in his state of Kata-focused rapture did not notice the child and in the course of the performance collided with the child. Clearly, that incident was not good. Had the performer fully understood Mushin, such a disaster would not have occurred. Through the Mushin state of mind one must perceive one’s performance within the context of all other sensory inputs, absorbed into one’s mind so that a specific input is not exaggerated to the exclusion of the others so as to become a distraction. In the above example, the performer should have been cognizant of the little child and adjusted the Kata performance. The performer could have interrupted the performance until the child was safely returned to its mother, and then resumed the performance, or requested to restart the Kata. As a judge, I would have been more impressed with the performer had he done so.

Within the business context, many have dreaded the inevitable, mundane, business meeting. During the meeting, there is usually one leader or moderator. It is natural to focus on the topic of the meeting and the person presenting the topic. To do so; however, violates the spirit of Mushin and may lead to disaster. The speaker or moderator need not necessarily be one’s superior in the chain of command structure. Invariably, the meeting attendees are asked for comments, opinions and input. To provide such reply, without possessing the Mushin mindset during the meeting could prove to be disastrous. If one is focused merely on the speaker and what is being said, one may not notice that one’s immediate manager is frowning or cringing during the speaker’s presentation. One may not notice that the owner of the business is yawning or doodling during the presentation. If one was merely focused on the speaker and gives the opinion that they agree wholeheartedly with the topic presented, one does so at the peril of perhaps offending one’s own manager and looking foolish to the business owner.

Mushin can also be applied to the entire range of sports. One can revisit the above example of the Karate tournament and apply it to any sport. One can imagine the Mushin state of mind as it fosters success in a much needed golf putt on the eighteenth hole, a basketball free throw with one second to go, an “impossible” equestrian jump and an unlimited number of other sporting endeavors. One may also envision Mushin enhancing passive, non-sporting activities. Imagine fly-fishing on a beautiful mountain trout steam and being so focused on the trout fly as it floats on the surface of the water, that one fails to perceive the smell of the clean, pure air, the cool feel of the water against your legs, or fails to see the stray grizzly bear sneaking up for a view.

These are but a few practical examples of how the state of mind of Mushin, as cultivated by the Jiriki Kata-Do Sanchin Rite (evolved from the Sanchin Kata) can enhance, and perhaps even protect one from the “mundane” aspects of one’s daily existence.

In the next and final article of the series on Mushin, I will explore the innovative & perhaps controversial idea of Mushin as a sacrament to spirituality.

For additional information, please feel free to visit my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com

An expanded discussion of Mushin may also be found in my new book The Dynamic Meditation Rite Of Sanchin: Gateway To The Three Battles To The Plateau Of Human Serenity.

You may also find additional information on Jiriki Kata-Do, by reading my article herein dated December 15 , 2009. Entitled “Kata evolves into a methodology and ideology …”

Mushin Applied To Daily Life – Part 2: The Myth Of Bodhidharma

27 Dec

*** NOTE: For part one of the series on the Mushin state of mind, please see the bottom of this page and click on the category: “Martial ideology extended to daily life” & then click on the “Previous Entries” on the bottom of the page*** 

Martial arts and Mushin is connected to the journey of a unique figure in history known as Bodhidharma, or Dharma for short. In Sanskrit, “Bodhi” means “enlightened” and “Dharma” means “righteous duty“. Thus, Bodhidharma means “enlightened righteous duty“.

Since Dharma lived before written records, his pedigree and historical account comes to us from oral history, traditional tales and mythology. Based upon this foundation, it is known that Dharma was the son of the Indian King Kancheepuram of Tamil Nadu. Dharma was a Buddhist monk. He traveled to the Far East in and around 522 to 527 A.D. During that time period, Dharma arrived in the court of the Chinese Emperor, Liang Nuti, of the Sixth Dynasty. The Emperor granted him an audience and gave him travel documents to walk to the Kingdom of Wei (now Hunan Province, at the foot of the Han-Shan mountains). Dharma arrived at a Buddhist Monastery called the Temple of Shaolin. Upon arrival at the temple, Dharma is said to have been disappointed with the meditation habits of the monks that resided at the Temple. He found that the monks lacked the physical stamina necessary for prolonged meditation. To overcome the lack of physical stamina, Dharma introduced various physical exercises. These exercises were derived from Dharma’s training in Pranayama and his martial training in the Art of Kalaripayat (and its component art of Marama-Adi, or bare-handed combat). Kalaripayat literally means “(The) Way of the Battlefield” it is the indigenous martial art of India. Kalaripayat is still practiced in Kerala, India today. The martial curriculum of Kalaripayat included formal exercises called “Suvasus“. The Suvasus combined combat techniques, and the breathing of Pranayama with a focused warrior spirit.

There is an interesting myth regarding Dharma that may shed some further light on the Mushin state of mind. Mythology states that Dharma went into a cave located near the Shaolin Temple and sat in meditation for nine years. Dharma is said to have sat in seated meditation for so long that his image was burned into the wall by the sunlight that penetrated the cave. Varying versions of the myth have Dharma entering the cave either to prove his meditative skills to the Shaolin Monks (who were said to have referred to Dharma as “The blue-eyed barbarian”) or as a subjective means of furthering his meditative powers after having been accepted as a Bodhi, or enlightened one, by the Shaolin Monks. There are wild variations of the myth that attempt to account for Dharma’s ability to remain in seated mediation for such a prolonged period. One such variant states that Dharma had tired and fallen asleep during mediation. Dharma became angry with himself and sought to preclude that from happening again. As a preventive measure, Dharma cut off his own eyelids so that his eyes would remain open. The wild myth continues to state that Dharma threw his eyelids to the ground. At the point where Dharma’s eyelids hit the ground, a bush sprouted and grew. The bush subsequently produced a medicinal tea with restorative powers similar to modern metabolic and neurological stimulants.

I submit that Dharma was able to maintain prolonged mediation because he did not engage in traditional mediation as has been submitted in the oral myths. I believe that Dharma neither sought to quiet his mind by thinking of nothing, nor, sought to focus his mind on an object or sutra. Again, the organic brain that gives rise to the higher mind is always in a natural state of activity. To either quiet the mind or focus it utilizes energy so as to maintain the brain, and therefore, the mind, in a unnatural state. Clearly, such expansion of energy would have been counter productive to Dharma’s goal of prolonged meditation. It is my hypothesis that Dharma was able to maintain such prolonged mediation because he enabled the mind to expand and envelope its natural state of perception by maintaining a constant, prolonged state of Mushin. As such, Dharma’s mind was naturally able to perceive, absorb and accept all sensory inputs around him so as to achieve a heightened, relaxed state.

Sufficient practice and development of the Mushin state of mind through the Sanchin Rite, (evolved from the Sanchin Kata of Karate) and the other rites of Jiriki Kata-Do dynamic meditation would seem to lend credence to my theory of how Dharma was able to maintain such prolonged meditation. From my own personal experience, this theory is more plausible and more readily capable of subjective experience than the cutting off of one’s eyelids. Through sufficient practice of Sanchin, one is able to maintain the Mushin state of mind continuously during life. Mushin is no longer, therefore, a state of mind TO BE ENTERED INTO. Dr. Deepak Chopra often talks of having a “default” state of mind. I submit that the state of mind of Mushin is the ultimate default state of mind and perception.

In the next article, I will illustrate how Mushin is applied to daily life. Future submissions will discuss:

1. Examples of how Mushin is incorporated into daily life;

2. Mushin as a sacrament to spirituality.

For additional information, please feel free to visit my website at WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com.

An expanded discussion of Mushin may also be found in my new book The Dynamic Meditation Rite Of Sanchin: Gateway To The Three Battles To The Plateau Of Human Serenity.

You may also find additional information on Jiriki Kata-Do, by reading my article herein dated December 15 , 2009. Entitled “Kata evolves into a methodology and ideology …” 

 

 

With Your Permission. . .

18 Dec
In his work Beyond Good And Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) had the following comment:
 
 

IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO POSSESS A TALENT: ONE MUST ALSO POSSESS YOUR PERMISSION TO POSSESS IT – EH, MY FRIEND?
Beyond Good And Evil, Part Four: Maxims and Interludes, Number 151.
I do not necessarily subscribe to the totality of Nietzsche’s philosophy; however, in the recent days and months, I have been reminded of this comment .

To me, it seems that those who do not develop new ideas often choose to ignore or degrade them. They are, in essence, sometimes simply saying that either:

1) They lacked the talent or insight to develop such “radical” concepts, or,

2) They are fearful that if they make their theories and concepts known, they, themselves are subject to the criticism that they espouse. Thus, they seek comfort and affirmation in reiterating old views.

As such, those concepts, and by extension, the one who creates the new paradigm, must be criticized so as to affirm the critics own level of knowledge. It is at such times that I think about the following statement made by an eminent American Karate Pioneer. While he bore the burden of his critics, he was also praised by those that understood him. As the pioneer has passed away, I will not name him; however, his contributions to Karate and philosophy are boundless to those whose hearts remain open.

I WOULD RATHER BE A LONELY SHEPERD THAN A HAPPY SHEEP.
 
To those who dare to dream, experiment and innovate, I give you my strength.
I will shortly begin a new multi-installment post in the category of Martial Ideology discussing the martial ideology of Mushin. Please check back soon. In the meantime, please feel free to visit my website at WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com
 

 

 

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