Tag Archives: Sensei John

Do Away With Kata Formalities – Part 2: Not Quite

13 Mar

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

Do away with kata formalities – Part 2: Not Quite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

      

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

Kata Based Short Story

16 Jan

I had hoped to post a notice that my Ghost Hands Kata book was finished. https://senseijohn.me/2018/11/07/new-book-update-ghost-hands-revealed/ Maybe even post an excerpt and a video. While I’ve made substantial progress, the final stages of refining the draft and editing have been difficult.

Video shoot, Cape Cod, 2018

Extraneous circumstances have drained a good amount of my mental and emotional energy. I eluded to these dilatory matters in my Christmas blog. https://senseijohn.me/2018/12/18/christmas-2018/

My daily kata still keeps me sustained despite the drain; just not enough to motivate me to finish the Ghost Hands book- at least not today. I came a contest for new writers. So, I’ve channeled my energy into a fact-based short story for a new writers contest.

It is a true story based upon otherworldly events that happened to me a few years ago. I never published it; thus making it eligible for the contest. Additionally, except for the people in the story, I’ve only told one other person of the event. That was Shihan Wayne Norlander. I often confided the otherworldly result of my esoteric kata practices to him. He would patiently listen and offer suggestions. With his untimely passing seven years ago, those conversations ended. Nevertheless he continues to inspire and help – but, that is another story for another day.

With Shihan Norlander after a spirited workout. Circa 2008

Naturally, the story has a kata element. Each day I practice my kata, including the Ghost Hands Kata, and write. My esoteric experiments with kata allowed me to experience the unexplainable, otherworldly event told in the story. So, since I don’t have an update on the Ghost Hands Kata book – just yet, I thought I would share with you the opening of my short story. Hopefully it will win the contest and be published, if not, well then I’ll be able to post it here and share it with you.

   And so, the story begins – – –

The Umbrella

Sensei buried his father. It was a troubled time.

The day of the funeral and several days before, it rained so hard Noah would have built an ark.The dreary, soul drenching weather reflected both the funeral and the last three weeks of his father’s life. Rod Stewart sang, “Its late September and I really should be back in school.” Well, it was September 30th and Sensei’s father did not have to die so soon. But, he did. That was yesterday, the past. In the present, Sensei was ready to go home.

Three months ago, Sensei and his wife, Dee-dee, locked their house in Arizona. With their dog, a miniature pincher named Zoe, they started their Toyota Tundra and began a four day road trip to New Jersey. They were going to visit family, especially their five year old grandson, Sheldon. They intended to stay for two weeks. Once they arrived, Sensei’s father’s health began to fail. Sensei’s father had been on oxygen for the last two years; even that did not deter his smoking. Now with advanced lung cancer, each day his lungs failed more and more. After three months, of increasing immobility and pain, Sensei’s father’s life ended. And so did Sensei and Dee-dee’s visit. But, before they would once again enter their front door, Sensei would make an otherworldly discovery. Sensei would find an umbrella.

Sensei wasn’t his name. His given name was John. Sensei, pronounced Sen-say, is a title. John earned it decades ago when he was promoted to the karate rank of Sho-dan, first degree black belt. Sensei’s black belt was the result of eleven years of progressing through the lower ten student ranks. John walked into his Sensei’s karate dojo in Palisades Park, New Jersey a shy ten year old boy. There is a saying in the martial arts, “It was my mother who bore me, but my Sensei who made me a man.” At twenty-one years old, John was a man, and aSensei. The word itself is formed by two root word. “Sen” meaning “before.” and “Sei’ meaning “being” as in a physical presence. Sensei, therefore literally means“Before-being” or “One who has knowledge before another;” in western terms, a teacher. Sensei’s style of Okinawan Karate is Goshin-Do Karate. The english translation of the style meant “Strong-heart way of the empty hand.”Sensei forged a strong heart and an iron spirit. Now, at fifty-seven years old he holds the advanced rank of nana-dan, seventh degree black belt. The forty-seven years since he tied on his first belt, a white belt, seemed like both the blink of an eye and a lifetime ago, as if it was in a past life.

For the past twenty years, Sensei covertly explored a hidden, esoteric path of karate. He delved into the highly guarded, secretive, non-physical aspects ofthe the rituals of karate known as “kata.” Kata are the martial forms, like deadly dances, designed to hone not only the practitioner’s physical combat skills, but also produce a heightened state of mind and spiritual awareness. Sensei took kata a major step further. His kata revealed an otherworldly realm. Kata became Sensei’s version of the Shaman’s ayahuasca, the Native American’s peyote ritual and dances, the Yogi and Guru’s esoteric practices and other such otherworldly rituals. Sensei’s kata opened the portal to an understanding of the nature of the physical and non-physical realm beyond the ken of the average person. As his title implies, Sensei came to this knowledge before any other past practitioners of the Goshin-Do style. In all the world, you could count on your fingers the number of practitioners that understood the reality in which Sensei lived.

Because of his secret, esoteric skills, Sensei found the umbrella. It is both my pleasure and my curse to tell you the story of his discovery.

   As the contest is for unpublished stories, that’s all I can post for now. I’ll keep you posted as to whether it wins or not.

Yours in kata,

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 2019 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Christmas, 2018

18 Dec

Merry Christmas, 2018

If Christmas was “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge would be redeemed and Tiny Tim would be healed.

If Christmas was “A Wonderful Life,” George Bailey is touched by an angel.

If Christmas was a Hallmark Channel movie, love is found, the Christmas factory / inn is saved, child’s parents are reunited, a lonely woman finds love, the magic of Christmas. Better still, the female star wins the ginger bread competition and falls in love! Two for one.

Its actually rather frustrating. Christmas can hardly live up to the promises of books, t.v. and the movies. It hardly ever works out in the end.

Reality requires us to understand that although the Christmas spirit can be carried in the hearts of all, it doesn’t mandate a miracle. Its simply Christmas; the day of comfort and joy. But, still just one day. And, no day is certain, no day is set aside for the foibles of life to be at bay. Therein lies the conundrum – unrealistic expectations, a/k/a, a “Christmas Miracle.” For me this Christmas brings home that point more than ever.

In my own little world, there is imbalance and uncertainty. I can battle life’s demons with my meditative kata and other spiritual releases. My warm, weathered comfortable “sweater” of kata helped through my recent loss of a job (the garden center was sold and closed). I can shrug off such foibles. But, that only works for me, not those around me. They battle each and very day until Christmas and each day thereafter. One is denying, but nonetheless battling addiction. Another is their partner, the coddling enabler. One is tethered to an oxygen device due to a short lifetime of smoking. Another faces major brain surgery immediately after Christmas. And yet another wrapped in a burdensome blanket weaved from the loom of possible recurring cancer.

Unlike Scrooge, these are shadows of the present and my actions now and in the future cannot alter them. I can; however, make Christmas as enjoyable as it can be for those affected. For them, Christmas is a milestone – they and their burdens can make it to that day. The rest, well like all living creatures, is unknown. Its like I say – One day (Christmas) – One Lifetime. Ichi-nichi Issho (One Day, One Lifetime).

Once again, five years after the Christmas that almost wasn’t (2013), I am reminded that for many, Christmas is but a goal. An uncertain milestone. That year two weeks before Thanksgiving my wife was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. An immediate eleven hour surgery and weeks being bedridden, we looked forward to chemotherapy in the New Year. But, oh wait, there’s Christmas before that. So with a three foot artificial table top tree (with a depleted immune system, my wife couldn’t have a real tree) we celebrated Christmas, one day, that we had each other – and some hope for what was to come.

So for each of those in my sphere, I first hope they make it to see the day. Thereafter, knowing that the chance is slim to none, dare I wish for a Christmas “miracle?” Dare I wish that the addict hits rock bottom; that level of readiness to accept that “Yes, there is a problem.” Dare I wish that the enabler understands that addiction exists notwithstanding their refusal to see it. Is wishing for a Christmas miracle in a successful brain surgery too bold a wish? Can another gain the miracle of peace of mind? Maybe.

I do believe one thing though. That if there is a chance for a Christmas miracle, the odds of the miracle being worthy are greater when it is asked for someone other than yourself. It should be selfless. A wish where your sole fulfillment comes in knowing any person deserved and got a break. Nothing big, just a plain old break in their favor. One. A chance.

So as I sit here typing this blog, I look at little Chloe’s Christmas dress that hangs in her memory by the fireplace.

Maharet sits by the Christmas tree not sure what this “invader” is doing in “her” living room.

I watch the lights on our Christmas tree. They start off white, fade to off, then relight in multi-colors, then repeat. They seem to capture the light of life, sometimes dimmed circumstances that make the world go dark. But, if you can look through the darkness and battle your way through it, the world will not only once again be light, it will be filled will the colorful palette of gratitude for the day that dawns, again and again. For that’s all we get – one day. One day – One lifetime. And, there’s no guarantee we get that.

And so, we come to my hope for all reading this that your Christmas be merry. Though there may not be a miracle, that’s okay, just take the day for what it is.

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.

Buddha Nature Of Kata, Or Is It Just Me?

26 Sep

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.

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

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

Sanchin In The Outermost House

22 Aug

There are many things I enjoy about summer; kata outdoors, going to the beach, riding my Indian (without freezing), and revisiting my annual “summer-reads.” There are a few books I enjoy re-reading during the summer, Hemingway’s “The Old Man and The Sea”, Nick Lyons’ compilation, “Hemingway On Fishing”, Thoreau’s “Cape Cod” and Henry Beston’s “The Outermost House.”

Recently I was at the beach in Asbury Park, NJ. My toes in the sand, time stood still. Hour after hour I floated in the cool blue waters of the Atlantic, performed Sanchin Kata in the sand and in the surf (a Sanchin Surf-N-Turf). Resting on my blanket under the shade of my umbrella, I re-read Beston’s “The Outermost House.” As always a few passages resonated deep within me. Including this one:

 “The world today is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot.” (See Endnote # 1)

Time marched forward and all too soon it was time to pack and return home. There are certain inevitable natural and man-made forces that simply can’t be avoided. On such example is traffic on the Garden State Parkway. Somewhere around exit 130 it started. It was going to be a long trip home. Rather than let this inevitable fact dampen my beach rejuvenated spirit.

Asbury art – my “third-eye”

I reflected on how, over the years Sanchin Kata (and others) have maintained my connection with the natural environment. Unlike those other’s on the Parkway that angrily sat hating their fate, disconnected from nature, I am refreshed by my kata and elemental things.

A Sanchin pontoon boat ride with Miko (R.I.P.), Lake George, NY circa 1999

Let me share a few photos and videos with you. It is my hope that this will inspire you to learn not only Sanchin Kata, but also my method of moving meditation I call “Jiriki Kata-Do” (“The way of self-wellness through kata”). Hint – hint – I hope to have the latest manual on the newest techniques available by year’s end. Curious? Check out this link: https://senseijohn.me/2018/07/25/dont-read-this-unless/

Videos can be found on my FlyFishingDojo You-tube channel or the video page above.

 

Performing Sanchin I see a seagull fly past, Cape Cod, 2016

Highland Light Overlook, Cape Cod, 2014

I hope you remain connected to the elemental things.
Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Endnote:

1. Beston, Henry, The Outermost House ( Henry Holt & Co, New York, NY, 1928) p. 10.

Seienchin Kata during Sturgis Bike Week, Badlands State Park, 2003

   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.

Simmering With Sanchin Kata

6 Jun

I was simmering and never knew it.
In fact I was not alone.
Both I and my wife were simmering.
Actually for us, simmering is a normal everyday occurrence. My wife and I constantly, hold hands, hug, give each other small kisses and similar behavior. Then, one day while watching t.v., we learned that such conduct has a name, to wit: simmering. So what is simmering? A quick google search revealed that simmering is part of a nouveaux trend –

A core sex therapy technique that helps couples cultivate sexual arousal even when they don’t have time or energy for sex. It involves simple hugging, kissing, holding hand, gazing into your partner’s eyes and other similar conduct.

“Well, what do you know,” I said to my wife, “We’re trend setters!” To us, this was simply normal behavior for us; even after over twenty years together, we simmer.

Then it occurred to me – “What other behavior that I consider routine behavior was trendy?”

For decades, I have long advocated that not only should Karate-Ka (practitioners of karate) practice Sanchin Kata at least once a day, but everyone, even non-martial artists (what heresy!) should learn and practice Sanchin as a form of daily moving meditation. In fact, that idea is what started this blog. For example, this link provides a series of articles offering methods to practice Sanchin Kata regularly https://senseijohn.me/category/a-sanchin-pilgrimage/

It was (and still is) my belief that Anybody (male/female, young/old ,rich/poor) should practice Sanchin Kata Anytime (no special clothes required, no extra training equipment) and Anyplace (indoors/outdoors, work/play). Here’s one video example of Sanchin during a motorcycle ride

The simple fact is “You are Sanchin and Sanchin is you” – https://senseijohn.me/2014/06/15/3-states-of-sanchin-katas-3-battles/

With that said, daily Sanchin is a means of Kata-Simmering. In addition to having benefits in and of itself, such daily practice of Sanchin stimulates the desire to practice your other kata both in and out of the dojo. Not only does this kata-simmering stimulate the desire to practice your other kata, it also stimulates you to innovate.

Here are two video of my own Sanchin innovations:

Four Direction Sanchin (filmed in the cooling waters of the Lower Salt River, Arizona)

and Shobu-Sanchin (filmed with vultures)

My Kata Laboratory project ( https://senseijohn.me/kata-lab/ ) was, perhaps stimulated by my own personal Sanchin-simmering. It fostered a desire for me to “Think – Sweat – Experiment” ™ with Sanchin, and eventually all my other kata.

So, give Sanchin-Simmering a try. Use it to build a desire for not only more kata practice but also more innovative, imaginative ways to enjoy your kata – in other words to – “Think – Sweat – Experiment”

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.

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

Kata Lab # 1240: Kata – A Flowing River

28 Mar

“You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.” – Heraclitus

Background:

This is the only Kata Lab that will be be able to complete. You will fail at the objective. Not for lack of skill, or desire. It is utterly impossible to perform this Kata Lab.
There is a maxim in karate-do, “Perfect your kata.” Many teachers and masters utter this to their students who do no more than nod their head like a bobbled head on a car dashboard. The students then go and set about to perfect their kata. What rubbish. I submit that you can never perform the exact same kata twice. Thus, a kata cannot be perfected. You can perform a reasonable facsimile of the same kata. “Top-rated” tournament kata practitioners may achieve a level of performance similarity in their chosen one or two tournament kata. But, they too, will fail in trying to perform the exact same kata twice. The unsophisticated kata practitioner, particularity those that train one or two kata for tournament similarity will disagree, perhaps vehemently with my statement. Why? “Does not the fact that they consistently win trophies with their few chosen tournament kata demonstrate that their level of performance is homogenous? Perhaps, but only to those who only understand kata superficially.

If you understand kata within the context of the three aspects that I submit are present in kata, then you can see how it is utterly impossible to perform the same exact in the exact same manner twice, even in a lifetime. Also true is the idea that performing a kata that is mostly (90 percent or more) similar is a profound accomplishment.

Experimentation:

You may wish to video tape yourself performing this experiment. After your practice, you can then refer to the video and take notes as to each performance. You should note any dissimilar areas during each performance. The less dissimilar areas, the closer you are to having performed the same kata twice. (Alternatively, you may wish to take notes after each kata performance for your later review.)
Select your favorite kata to practice;
Over a period of a few days or a week, practice the kata two or three times, trying to perform a kata exactly the same way;
After doing so, analyze each performance. Take notice of those areas of the kata that differ from one performance to the next. How close did you get to performing the same kata twice?

Regardless of whether or not you notes indicate that you came close to performing the same kata in the exact same manner (very few notes as to dissimilar areas). You utterly failed this kata lab. Worse is if your notes indicate that all areas of the kata were similar on at least two occasions; for you truly do not understand my three levels of kata.

First and foremost (as my father would say), “I bet you a dollar to a donut” that your list only addresses the physical movements of the kata. A block or strike that may have been off target, a stance that was less than perfect or a kata cadence that lacked the correct timing. As such, you only understand and thus, addressed one-third of the overall kata experience. (You may wish to pause and refer to my article on the three aspects of kata using this link: https://senseijohn.me/2013/05/20/kata-lab-101-three-states-of-bunkai/

Second, my spiritual aspect of kata (the manner in which kata affects your state-of-mind, emotions and psyche and vice-versa) is fatal to your performing the exact same kata twice. Our mental state is too much in flux to maintain it through various kata performance. Yes, you may convince yourself that during your kata you maintained all the applicable martial arts mind states. Sure, you may feel you achieved, Mushin, Zanshin, Nenjuushin and all the other “shins” of kata. But, you’re fooling yourself. Your emotions and psyche change from one moment to the next within a single kata performance, let alone from one kata performance to the next. (Endnote # 1 describe an example)

Third, my environmental aspect of kata (how the external environment affects your kata and vice-versa) will frustrate your attempts to perform this kata lab. If you practiced your kata in different locations, then by definition, you did not perform the exact same kata twice. If; however, you performed this lab in the exact same location, you still performed in in a different external environment and therefore failed to perform the exact same kata twice. You cannot control the temperature, humidity, dust and dirt on the floor, clothing (yes, different clothes affect you kata, even your gi, which may be dry at the start of practice and soaked with sweat at the end will produce a different performance).

Now, having the benefit of the above, try to perform the exact same kata twice and see how utterly impossible it is.

Conclusion:

You can perform the same kata twice, but no two will ever be exactly alike. This is not an error, but a unique phenomenon of kata. Thus, you can never perfect your kata. You can; however, achieve a goal set by Coach Vince Lombardi for his Green Bay Packers football team, “We will strive for perfection knowing full well we will never achieve it, but in the process we will find excellence.” So, rather than perfect your kata, excel at your kata.

In a lifetime no kata will be exactly the same.
To perform a kata the exact same way twice, you must repeat, without change all three aspects:
physical aspect – all movements performed with kime intensity, speed, tempo, etc;
spiritual aspect – all movements performed with the same emotion (at the same point in the kata each time), with the same state of mind, with the same transition from emotion to emotion or state-of-mind to state-of-mind (this may even be required by the specific kata)
environmental aspect – the environment within which your kata is performed must remain constant (absent a “clean” room) this is impossible – air changes and flows, light changes, temperature varies even slightly. Even if such factors are “controlled”, nature will win out (for example, it takes 8 seconds for a photon of light to leave the Sun and reach earth, therefore, lighting for each kata will be different.

The key of this Lab is to understand that each and every kata performance is as fleeting and rare as each and every moment of life itself. You cannot take a kata for granted. The same is true of each and every moment of life.

Please remember, the mandate of the kata laboratory is

Cum superiorum privilegio veniaque (“With the privilege and permission of the superiors”)

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Featured video from my “Underground Bunkai” series:

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

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