Tag Archives: Sensei John

Memorial Day Kata

24 May

Memorial Day soon approaches. It is a solemn day of remembrance for everyone who has died serving in the American Armed Forces. The holiday, originally known as Decoration Day, started after the Civil War to honor the Union and Confederate dead.May 24, 2015

With that in mind, I propose that in addition to your BBQ, parades, picnics and other activities, you engage in one solemn practice. For martial artists, I sugeest you dedicated one kata in memory of those that have died serving in the American Armed Forces. From Memorial Day, 2015, my Sanchin Kata footprints, North Truro, Cape Cod, MA:

Session Parameters:
Date: Memorial Day, May 29th, 2017
Time: any quiet time during your day;
Location: any location, but, as you know, I prefer an outdoors in nature;
Salient Points:
During kata, reflect upon and remember that have died in the service of our country. Through your honor, their memory will not be lost.

Thank-you for your participation,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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

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

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

Hatsu Bon For Shihan Wayne Norlander

11 May

May 18, 2011, Shihan Wayne Norlander was taken from us.

Please join me in dedicating our training on May 18th 2017 to his eternal spirit. May his spirit find our training and poem worthy.

Each year I post a Hatsu Bon in his honor and dedicate my kata to his eternal spirit. This year is a bit different. This year, I am more deeply indebted to him https://senseijohn.me/2017/02/01/a-deceased-sensei-saved-my-life/

 

Sensei Wayne, Ku-Dan (9th degree black belt) promotion. Photo: Shihan Don Nagle, Sensei Wayne, Shihan Peter Urban)

 

HATSU BON POEM:
Please don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am
Nor am I sleeping for eternity
SEE!!
I am already part of the breezes
numbering a thousand
I am part of the light
that brightens this world
Like a diamond glittering in the snow
Like the sun that coaxes seeds to sprout
And in the Fall I become the gentle rain
that nurtures all.
When you open the window in the morning
I am the breeze
That causes your hair to flutter;
And at night, I am the star
That watches over your sleep.
So, please . . . don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am.
I am not dead.
I have been born anew.

 

With Shihan Norlander after a spirited workout. Circa 2008

My graveside Sanchin memorial to Sensei Wayne:

Sincerity in sweat, Sensei.

Sensei John Szmitkowski

The Mountain Path – Part 3: The Journey Down

26 Apr

“Many paths lead from the foot of the mountain, but at the peak we all gaze at the single bright moon.” (See endnote number 1)

A few articles back, I started an examination of the three stages of the path up the mountain. Stage one; The path Up The Mountain (https://senseijohn.me/2017/03/01/the-mountain-path-part-1-the-path-up/ ) and stage two: The View At The Top ( https://senseijohn.me/2017/03/15/the-mountain-path-part-2-the-view-at-the-top/ ).

Like all journeys, this examination will end. It is time to look at the path down the mountain. No one contemplating Ikkyu’s saying really thinks about the path down. The path down is almost an afterthought. Except for true mountaineers, as evidenced from this excerpt from Jon Krakauer’s great book, Into Thin Air:

Reaching the top of Everest is supposed to trigger a surge of intense elation. . . But the summit was really the halfway point. Any impulse I had toward self-congratulation was extinguished by overwhelming apprehension about the long, dangerous descent that lay ahead. (See Endnote # 2)

I was also guilty of that omission. It was not until a many years ago when I re-read Albert Camus’ Myth Of Sisyphus, that the idea even dawned upon me. Sisyphus was the Greek Titan that defeated death. In punishment for his impudence, for all eternity Sisyphus was sentenced to roll a stone up a mountain. Upon reaching the top, the stone would only fall back again. In analyzing the ordeal of Sisyphus, Camus noted:

. . . then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward the lower world when he will have to push it up again toward the summit.
He goes back down to the plain.
It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me.
That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious.
One must imagine Sisyphus is happy. (See Endnote # 3)

It is that passage that first gave me pause to think about the journey down the mountain inferred in Ikkyu’s quote. What can we learn from the path down the mountain? How is it characterized?

Here are my thoughts as to the characteristics of the path down the mountain:

  • Zanshin – The martial state of mind of Zanshin (the remaining mind) plays an important role in this part of the journey. Having endured the path up the mountain and achieved the goal at the top, the journeyman must keep the intangible aspects of the goal with him throughout his days. He must draw upon it in times of need. He can use to to enrich the good times. He must never forget the experience.
  • Responsibility – This is the objective manifestation of the subjective Zanshin. Having achieved the goal, the journeyman agrees to bear the burden of the successful journey. As the journeyman is better for having achieved his results, he must conduct himself in accord with that betterment at all times. For example, one may have endured the path of attaining a black belt, and subsequently achieved the goal. From that day forward, regardless of whether training in the martial arts continues, one must always conduct oneself as a black belt.
  • Moving on the path (the next mountain) – this aspect is very important. One must eventually move on to the next mountain. A failure to do so will result in stagnation. Given the conquering of the previous mountain, I submit that the next mountain will always be a more difficult mountain. If not, it would seem to be a waste of effort to climb a lesser mountain. To climb a lesser mountain falls into a human pitfall described by the philosopher Frederick Nietzsche: “Our vanity would like what we do best to pass precisely for what is most difficult to us.” (See Endnote # 4)
  • Symbols and/or Entitlements – having achieved the goal, one may be entitled to distinguish oneself from those that did not by way of a symbol or entitlement. These aspects, in my opinion, are somewhat superfluous and superficial but are present nonetheless. Examples include wearing the black belt, or a college degree, a title, etc. As to entitlements I recently saw an interesting entitlement. I was watching coverage of the 2017 Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka, Japan. The coverage included a mini-documentary of newly promoted Yokozuna Kisenosato. Having attained Yokozuna status, Kisenosato is the first to eat at his training center. He eats alone and when finished the remaining wrestlers can then eat in accord to their rank. Simply put, “The pilgrim wants confirmation.” (see Endnote # 5).

With that, I’m going to move onto my next mountain. I’m sure over time I’ll have some new thoughts and ideas on this topic, but for now there’s a new mountain waiting.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

ENDNOTES:
1. Though not referenced as a source of the quote at the time, the quote seems to come from the Zen-master Ikkyū (1394-1481). It is; however, also found in other sources and contexts. Two examples are:

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same”, a Chinese proverb, and

“There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.” A Hindu proverb.

2. Krakauer, John, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account Of The Mount Everest Disaster, (Anchor Books, New York, NY, 1997) p. 332 (last paragraph in Chapter Thirteen). Please note, page references are to my the E-book which has adjustable type and may be different depending on the setting, thus they and may not be exact. Please see the Chapter reference in the body of this article.

3. Camus, Albert, The Myth Of Sisyphus And Other Essays, (Translated By Justin O’Brien) E-Book. p 121-124.

4. Nietzsche, Frederich, Beyond Good and Evil, Maxims and Interludes, Maxim # 143.

5. This quote is from another book I highly recommend by Jack Hitt, Off The Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down The Pilgrim’s Route Into Spain (Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 1994 & 2005) Chapter Eleven, page 733. Please note, page references are to my the E-book which has adjustable type and may be different depending on the setting, thus they and may not be exact.

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

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

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

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

Hatsu Bon For Shihan Paul Recchia

28 Mar

April 10th, 2017 marks the anniversary of the passing of Sensei Paul Recchia. You may review his memorial here https://senseijohn.me/memorial-page/

Sensei Paul Recchia at age 60 years old. Circa 1975.

Please join me in performing a kata at sunset on this date in memory of Sensei Paul and all whom we have lost. The following Hatsu Bon Poem, together with the above training, are offered to his spirit.
May Sensei’s spirit find our training and poem worthy.

HATSU BON POEM
Please don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am
Nor am I sleeping for eternity
SEE!!
I am already part of the breezes
numbering a thousand
I am part of the light
that brightens this world
Like a diamond glittering in the snow
Like the sun that coaxes seeds to sprout
And in the Fall I become the gentle rain
that nurtures all.
When you open the window in the morning
I am the breeze
That causes your hair to flutter;
And at night, I am the star
That watches over your sleep.
So, please . . . don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am.
I am not dead.
I have been born anew.

The last time Sensei Paul (in wheelchair) was at the Issho Dojo (January, 2000) with (L-R), Sensei Walter Byrne, Sensei Kim Szmitkowski, Sensei John Szmitkowski, Sensei Jimmy DiMicelli, Sensei Bobbie Gumowski. I will never forget that this was the first time in almost eighteen months that Sensei Paul, confined to his in home hospital bed, left the comfort of his home to honor all who were elevated that day in the black belt promotion ceremony.

Sincerity in sweat, you are not forgotten, Sensei.

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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

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

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

The Mountain Path – Part 2: The View At The Top

15 Mar

“Many paths lead from the foot of the mountain, but at the peak we all gaze at the single bright moon.” (See endnote number 1)

Let us continue our examination of the three stages of the path up the mountain (https://senseijohn.me/2017/03/01/the-mountain-path-part-1-the-path-up/). Let’s look at the view from the top of the mountain. I characterize the view as the goal. It is why one would undertake the arduous trek up the mountain. It is the raison d’etre.

What then is the goal? Before attempting to define the goal, it is important to understand some of its fundamental elements. This analysis will apply to any goal. I submit the goal, or view at the top of the mountain is (must be):

  • Desirable;
  • Worthy of our effort;
  • Attainable – this is to say that only the effort to obtain the goal can be quantified. The goal itself can never be impossible. I wonder, though, if the goal can be temporally improbable (such as landing a man on the moon)?
  • Sustainable – once obtained, the resulting goal, or the memory of it, must remain with you,
  • Subject to a “condemnation” for failing – even if only subjective, there must be a form of castigation for not attaining the goal,
  • Best if the goal is subjectively imposed – “I want to” (e.g. go to college) than objectively imposed “You will” (e.g. go to college);
  • Standard to attain the goal my be subjective – (improve my mental well-being) or objective (I lost weight),

With these points in mind, what then is the goal? The specific goal is best determined by the person undertaking the path. To illustrate this point, lets look at the karate-do example of Ikkyu’s saying. When used to illustrtate the idea that regardless of the style of karate studied, the goal of study is the same, the only person who can answer “What is the goal?” is the student himself. Sensei can only provide guidance as to possible answers, to protect oneself, to develop a strong spirit, to have good physical health, and the like. As such, Ikkyu’s saying merely provides a visulaization for the student that allows him or herself to fill in the answer.

A corrolary to the above is that the goal may be temporary. Goals change over time. In the karate example, a student may start with the goal of learning self-defense. After time, this may transform to a goal of deeper spiritual and empotional understanding. Using the goal of a college degree, as a second example, we may see that the attainment of a degree is the goal until attained. Then, what becomes of the goal? It morphs into a new goal. Having a college degree may mean earning more money, for others it may mean starting a business, or even having a more fulfilling job.

Perhaps, the true nature of the goal is, in the end, to simply keep you on the path, constantly climbing the mountain. I think that once all our goals are attained, we simply would cease to be. To borrow a quote for a certain American motorcycle manufacturer, “Its not the destination but the journey.”

In the last part of this series, we’ll explore the path down the mountain, perhaps the most treacherous path of all. Until then, enjoy the view of the moon.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

ENDNOTES

1. Though not referenced as a source of the quote at the time, the quote seems to come from the Zen-master Ikkyū (1394-1481). It is; however, also found in other sources and contexts. Two examples are:

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same”, a Chinese proverb, and

“There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.” A Hindu proverb.

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

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

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

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

The Mountain Path – Introduction

15 Feb

Sensei often discussed martial arts ideology. Many times, a given ideology was symbolized by a zen koan, or an obscure saying. The following from the Zen-master Ikkyu, is one such example.

“Many paths lead from the foot of the mountain, but at the peak we all gaze at the single bright moon.” (See endnote number 1)

In the martial arts, this quote has several applications. One such application is to express the idea that regardless of the specific martial art (karate compared to kung-fu compared to aikido, etc), all martial arts have the same goal. Similarly, within the context of karate, the quote illustrated the idea that notwithstanding the specific style of karate studied (Goju-ryu compared to Shorin-Ryu compared to Isshin-Ryu, etc), all styles of karate had the same goal.

I remember the first time I heard the quote. After a hard training session, Sensei DeFelice used the quote to symbolize his concept that the various karate kata all had the same goal. I looked around the dojo and, as par for the course, the class were all nodding their heads knowingly like a bunch of enlightened bobble-head figurines. Unfortunately for me, my character is not one to bob-the-head. My character tends to absorb such teachings and then ask more and more questions.

I came to realize that the above concept was utterly incomplete. A close examination clearly implies three stages of a journey. The above discussion merely expresses one-third of the available concepts.

The next three articles will explore my thoughts as to not only the apparent one-third, but also the unrealized two-thirds of ideology behind the saying.

dreams-seisan   Until then, train hard, practice your kata with a true heart, and be of clean spirit. Oh, and remember:
“Many paths lead from the foot of the mountain, but at the peak we all gaze at the single bright moon.”

Respectfully submitted (“By the light of the silvery moon”)

HANKO-master

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Featured video: from the Underground Bunkai series:

ENDNOTES

1. Though not referenced as a source of the quote at the time, the quote seems to come from the Zen-master Ikkyū (1394-1481). It is; however, also found in other sources and contexts. Two examples are:

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same”, a Chinese proverb, and

“There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.” A Hindu proverb.

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

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

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 –
LOGO-WEBSITE  my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
DOJO STICKER-1   the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

A Deceased Sensei Saved My Life

1 Feb

He died more than five years ago, but recently my friend and comrade, Sensei Wayne Norlander, saved my life.

Remember the day of the week; Wednesday.
Remember the date; January 18th, 2017.

It started like any other, Wednesday. Well, almost. For the past three weeks I was fighting a loosing battle with the flu. So I thought. Three days before I had gone to an Urgent Care facility and received a prescription for a heavy-duty antibiotic and an expectorant to help clear my lungs of fluid. I woke Wednesday morning about three a.m. This had become my habit over the past three weeks. I was so congested and coughing that I rarely slept more than three or four hours.

Three a.m. is a cold, dark, lonely time of night. I would try to kill time by reading or surfing the web. But in those dark hours, you didn’t kill time, you endured it. Around six a.m. I would begin my normal routine. This included my morning kata and always Sanchin Kata to keep my lungs working as best they could.

Wednesday morning was a little different in that I had to perform Sanchin and Tensho twice at only half power to keep from having a coughing fit. This being a Wednesday, I also performed Kunchaba Kata. Kunchaba is not within the Goshin-Do Karate-Do syllabus. I learned it from Sensei Wayne. The day he passed was May 18th, 2011, a Wednesday. Every Wednesday since, I perform Kunchaba in his memory. I have never missed a Wednesday Kunchaba.

This ritual is important for two reasons. First it honor’s and memorializes Sensei. More importantly and more esoterically, the kata ritual keeps me connected with Sensei’s eternal spirit. See for example the Hatsu Bon poem found at https://senseijohn.me/2016/05/09/hatsu-bon-for-shihan-wayne-norlander-2/

Shihan Wayne Norlander with friend & comrade, Shihan Peter Urban, circa 1970's, West New York, NJ

Shihan Wayne Norlander with friend & comrade, Shihan Peter Urban, circa 1970’s, West New York, NJ

During Kunchaba, I noticed that my shins and feet did not “feel” right. Raising my pant leg, I saw that they were swollen. “Damn!” I thought. “I must be having a reaction to the flu medication.” I decided to soldier on, took my shower and got dressed for work. As the workplace is casual, I selected Sensei Wayne’s memorial motorcycle ride T-shirt. A funny choice as future events will show. I packed my backpack, laptop, lunch and was ready to leave for work. I stopped at the back door and had a thought. “Maybe I should get this reaction checked out?” I paused for a few minutes. I called work and told them I’d be late as I was stopping at Hackensack Hospital Emergency Room to have the meds checked to halt this reaction. I thought I would be out of the E.R. by early afternoon and back at work.

Long and short of it, I spent eight days in the hospital with congestive heart failure. I had two procedures, one a shock to the heart to get the rhythm back and when that didn’t work a three hour surgical procedure (an “electronic ablation” procedure to scar the heart and interrupt the errant beat).

So, why do I attribute this to Sensei Wayne saving my life? Anyone that knows my views on kata either through this blog or my seminars know I explore the spiritual aspects of kata. I believe kata is a pathway to opening you to a heightened sense of perception. I believe I have an awareness of things that others simply cannot understand. With that in mind, lets look at some background facts that cause me to attribute my “decision” to go to the hospital.

With Shihan Norlander after a spirited workout. Circa 2008

With Shihan Norlander after a spirited workout. Circa 2008

First, Sensei Wayne passed on Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 from a sudden and massive heart attack. My cardiologist told me that if I waited another twenty-four to forty-eight hours to go to the E.R. I would have had some sort of a cardiac event, including a possible heart attack.

Second, I cannot explain my “choice” of wearing Sensei Wayne’s memorial motorcycle ride T-shirt. Was I thinking of him? Or, was I subconsciously aware something was wrong with me? But, how could I know my congestion was due to a heart situation? Or, was it because of the day of the week (see below)?

Third, the day was a Wednesday, the day of the week that Sensei passed away. It is the day that I keep Sensei most in mind and dedicate a Kunchaba Kata to his memory. As I knew Sensei died of a massive heart attack on a Wednesday, was this something that added to my decision? Or, was it the date?

Fourth, The date was the 18th. Not just any 18th day of the month, but a Wednesday. The exact day and date Sensei passed. Weird, not sure. But then again;

Fifth, the last time the 18th day of the month fell on a Wednesday prior to this time was Wednesday May 18th 2016 – five years to the very day and date that Sensei passed!

Wearing Sensei Wayne's Memorial T-Shirt leaving the hospital. The same one I wore to E.R.

Wearing Sensei Wayne’s Memorial T-Shirt leaving the hospital. The same one I wore to E.R.

 

Post Script (April 5th, 2017): There was an unforeseen development whereby I needed a second surgery. It was originally scheduled for Friday, March 24th, 2017. Two weeks before, the hospital called to tell me the date was changed to March 29th, 2017 – – – a WEDNESDAY.

Incidentally, the style of karate I’ve studied since I was ten years old is Goshin-Do Karate-Do. The kanji is written to translate as “Self-defense way of the empty hand.” At one time the kanji was written to translate as “Strong-heart empty hand way.” Fitting.

I don’t know if the above would count as an enhanced perception derived from spiritually practicing kata. Is it just hooey? Who knows. But I do know this. Every Wednesday I think of my friend and will continue to do so. He was taken suddenly and without warning. Somehow my decision to memorialize him with kata impacted my sub-conscious thought that I’d better get myself to the E.R. right then and there. To that end, I will always believe in my (now electronically stable) heart of hearts that Sensei Wayne Norlander saved my life! To that I say “Thank-you my friend.”

Featured Video: Kunchaba Kata (in honor of Sensei Wayne):

 

And a big “Thank-you” to all the doctors and nurses that looked after me in their very special and compassionate way. Without them, I never would have made the great recovery that I did.

Respectfully submittd,

HANKO-wood

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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

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

You may wish to view my other blogs –
LOGO-WEBSITE  my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
DOJO STICKER-1  the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

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