Tag Archives: Prescription Kata

Zanshin (Remaining Mind) -Shibumi Project

23 Feb



The goal of performing my Shibumi Kata is to modify your physical, emotional or  psychological state to a more favorable state than prior to such performance. This is true of Sanchin Kata or any karate kata. Once this goal is achieved, you must maintain it for maximum effect. Your modified physical state, from fatigue to exhilaration for example, is readily apparent. A modified emotional or psychological state, from anxiety or depression to a positive state for example, is more subtle.

As to your emotional or psychological state, a martial arts state-of-mind known as Zanshin (pronounced Zohn-shin) is relevant. The kanji for Zanshin translates as “remaining mind.”

Kanji - Zanshin

Kanji – Zanshin

After a kata is performed, Zanshin is invoked by martial artists to maintain a martial state-of-mind. Their mind “remains in the battle.” Within the context of Karate, this means that the mind remains alert to further confrontation wherein one would be required to defend oneself. Once assured that either the continuation of the conflict or attack from another is no longer a threat, the martial artist then returns to his default state-of-mind. I propose that such a default psychological state should be the state of mushin-no-shin.

Within the context of my Shibumi Kata, or Sanchin Kata, Zanshin means that your improved emotional or psychological state is to maintained throughout the rest of your day. Thus if you find you are suffering from a dilatory emotional or psychological state (anxiety, depression, etc.) you should perform one or all of the movements of the Shibumi Kata for the purpose of transforming that state to a more positive state of mind. For example, you may feel physically well but be anxious or depressed. Notwithstanding your physical well-being, you should perform Shibumi for the sole purpose of modifying your mental state. Once Shibumi is performed and your mental state modified, you want to maintain that state. Thus the “remaining mind” of Zanshin.

If you find your mental state deteriorating, you are able to either perform Shibumi Kata again, or if you are unable to then mentally recall the transformative process of the Shibumi techniques.

In extreme emotional or psychological situations Zanshin serves as a bridge to more advanced and aggressive psychological states. An example of one such advanced, aggressive state of mind is that of Tomaranu Kokoro (“Unstoppable Mind”).

In closing, I wish you – Shibumi,


Sensei John Szmitkowski

A Kata Rx – Shibumi

1 Dec


A close acquaintance, I’ll call him “Dean” (after Jack Kerouac’s Dean Moriarty), has asked me to do something.

Dean recently learned that he has (stage 3C) cancer. He underwent an eight hour abdominal surgery and now faces chemotherapy starting in about a month.

Dean has asked me to create a kata that will help him heal from surgery and build himself up to withstand the dilatory effects of the chemotherapy. Most importantly, he has asked that the kata not only address his changing physical needs, but also takes into account his changing psychological needs.

In effect, Dean has asked for a kata prescription.

To be sure, many kata have physical and psychological healing properties. However, the concept of “Take one Seienchin for strength and two Suparunpei for depression” simply will not work under Dean’s circumstances. To my knowledge, such a task of devising a kata for the specific needs of one individual has not previously been undertaking in karate-do. This project is the culmination of my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do (Salvation From Within Oneself Through Kata).

Dean has provided the parameters for this assignment and I have added one of my own.

Dean has requested:

  • The kata be specifically created for his individual physical and psychological health needs;
  • While it will be created by me drawing upon my karate-do and kobudo experience, Dean will actively contribute ideas during the creative process;
  • The movements, breathing and concepts must be easy to learn by a person with no karate-do experience;
  • The kata must be usable by not only Dean, but also his caregiver;
  • Dean must be able to perform the kata in a limited space, in any environment, and at anytime;
  • The kata must be flexible so as to allow Dean to adjust for his oft-changing physical and psychological needs;
  • To this, I added the following requirement (not important to Dean) – while the main purpose of the kata is Dean’s physical/ psychological (spiritual) health, like any kata, it must have martial efficacy (else it would not qualify as a “kata”).

Hubris does not compel me to share this prescriptive concept of kata with you. Rather, I hope it awakens in you the idea to use your karate-do skills to develop a kata for the curative help of a person in physical or psychological need. As in Dean’s case, these efforts should be in conjunction with his physician.

The name of the prescriptive kata for Dean shall be

Shibumi” meaning “Understated elegance.”

Posts related to Shibumi shall be submitted in a new category of the same name. Again, though shared with you, these posts are directed towards Dean and his battle with cancer.

In closing, I wish you – Shibumi,


Sensei John Szmitkowski

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