Tag Archives: Satori


19 Jun

This article further explores my belief that martial arts based ideology and philosophy can be extended and applied to any human activity. Such extension of martial arts protocol, ideology and philosophy into the non-martial realm of everyday existence is the cornerstone of my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do (The Way of inner salvation through Kata).

The following is my adaptation of an infamous Zen tale known as “The Woodcutter and The Animal Satori” (See Endnote # 1). To those who are not familiar with the term Satori, the name of the animal, Satori, is loosely defined as a Zen state of enlightenment. I had originally written my adaptation for an internet forum on the sport of fly fishing and subsequently posted it on my fly fishing blog, WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com. There is presently an article on “Zanshin For Fisherman” which may be of interest to readers of this weblog.

The adaptation is submitted as an example of how readily martial ideology can be applied to any endeavor. While I call my tale “The Fly Fisherman and The Satori Fish”, the tale can easily apply to a business situation, football or other sports, or social situation as examples. For your consideration, I submit my tale of “The FlyFisherman and the Satori Fish.”

In a far-off, bleak, industrialized land there lived a common worker. The worker’s life was devoid of pleasure; save for one. The worker loved to escape the blandness of his existence by fly fishing. Once a week, the worker would escape the banality of his life and drive three hours to the one river that still contained fish. Each week, the worker would quietly pursue his passion. Although the lush environment provided the worker a respite from the bleak landscape in which he lived, the worker fished many months without luring a fish to his fly.

On a day when the worker was sure, he would abandon his fly fishing oddessy, he again ventured forth and drove to the river. Once he arrived, he dutifully donned his waders and set up his fly fishing rod. To the end of his leader, he tied on his newest, fanciest dry fly. It was a fly pattern called a “Great Expectation”, size 14. He was about to cast when he noticed a beautiful silver streak in the water. The worker could not believe his eyes. He blinked as if to clear both his vision and his mind. The silver streak remained and defined itself. The silver streak was in fact the mythical Satori Fish.

The worker focused his attention on the Satori Fish and began to cast. The Great Expectation gently kissed the surface of the water. The cast was perfect, the fly floated high on the water. Satori turned its gaze upward and with a swift, powerful stroke of its tail, swam upwards. The workers heart beat fast as his focused his attention and tensed his muscles. Surely Satori would be seduced to take the fly. Had the worker’s Great Expectation actually seduced Satori? No, instead of Satori engulfing the Great Expectation, Satori brushed it aside and swam downward. Satori was again laying peacefully at the bottom of the River.

“Damn”, thought the worker, “Surely, I must change my fly.” The worker checked his box of flies. Thinking that Satori could be tempted with a delicate, subsurface fly, he selected a fly tied in a pattern known as an “emerger.” He selected a size 16 “Emerging Intention.” Again the worker cast upstream. He diligently watched the end of his line for the slightest indication of a strike. Again, the Satori Fish eluded his offering. The worker’s frustration heightened.

The worker cursed his luck. So many months and not even a hint of a fish within the currents of the river. Now, this magnificent silver river dweller spurned his offering. The worker’s desire to feel that magnificent silver Satori tugging at the end of his fly line heightened to a frenzy. He angrily dug into his fly box and tied on a larger, hopefully, more appetizing fly. This time he selected an “attractor” pattern. The fly was garish, brightly colored and multi-feathered. It was a size 10 “Temptress.” This fly was designed to appeal to the worker’s perception that the Satori fish would attack the fly. The worker imagined that Satori would attack the brightly colored “Temptress” out of instinct and a desire to protect its territory within the river. This time the worker cast the fly across the river and retrieved it with a fast stripping action of his line. The worker’s mind was filled with a burning desire to hook Satori. He wanted nothing more from life this day than to hold the shimmering silver mass of Satori flesh within his hands. He would possess Satori. Once caught, the worker would keep the Satori fish. He would mount it as a magnificent possession on the wall of his dim home. He would possess Satori for all the rest of his days. The worker saw the Satori burst towards the “Temptress.” Instead of engulfing the proffered fly, Satori merely swam past it. Satori turned and watched the worker. By now, the worker had had enough. He was done. To Hell with Satori. Satori was not for him.

He walked out of the river and sat on the bank. He cut the Temptress off his leader and tied on an bland, simple fly, a # 12 “Bare Bones.” He cursed and put his rod down on the bank. He sat angrily on the river bank and realized that he was hungry. He had pursued Satori all morning without eating. He opened his pack and retrieved a thermos and a sandwich. “To Hell with Satori”, thought the worker. “I will eat my sandwich and leave this stretch of the river.”

As the worker ate his meal, he noticed that the “Bare Bones” fly was in the river. He did not pay attention as he put his fly rod down and the fly fell into the current. It was drifting downstream, a few feet from the bank. The worker did not want the unattended fly to get tangled in the waters. He put down his sandwich and picked up the fly rod. Instantly he felt a tug. He cursed his luck for he was sure the fly was tangled below the water’s surface. As the worker sought to free the fly from the tangle, he noticed that the line was moving. He began to fight the weight at the end of the line. As he did so, the water erupted. A silver flash momentarily glistened in the sun light and disappeared into the river.

A few minutes later, the worker was holding the Satori Fish gently in his hands. So as not to harm Satori, the worker held the fish gently just below the surface as he unhooked the fly from its lower jaw. Satori was free. It did not swim away. Satori remained gently cradled in the worker’s hands. The worker smiled. He caressed the side of Satori as if it was the check of a lover. Satori gently swam from the workers hands. Satori turned to face the worker. For the briefest of moments, the worker’s world stopped. No longer independent of Satori and nature, all was one; the worker knew Satori and Satori knew the worker. Each then turned; Satori to the depths of the river, and the worker to his car. For the worker the three hour ride home was, perhaps, not so long, to a not so bland city, to work at a not so boring job and life in a a not so bleak home.

I hope you enjoyed my adaptation of the traditional Zen tale. Take a moment and see if you can further adapt the tale so as to be relevant to an activity within your own life. In doing so, you will start to journey within my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do and begin to improve and understand your life using martial arts based concepts. Until the next article, I remain,

Sensei John Szmitkowski


  1. The tale was told in the Goshin-Do Karate-Do Dojo as part of oral tradition. In the tale, the Woodcutter sought to kill the animal Satori. Satori had telepathic abilities and frustrated the woodcutter’s murderous attempts by reading his mind. Thus, one was to act without intending, a precursor to a state of mind known as Mushin (pronounced “Moo-shin”). I was able to find a written account of the traditional version tale in, Suzuki, Daisetz, Zen & Japanese Culture, (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ 1970) p. 129.

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

If you enjoy the sport of fishing or are interested in other specific examples of martial ideology applied to non-martial sports, please feel free to visit other weblog at WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com

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