Tag Archives: Sensei John

Surprise – Are You Educated Or Trained?

16 Aug

Many years ago my friend, Shihan Wayne Norlander (R.I.P.), had presented the Issho-Dojo with a gift of a plaque bearing a quotation from Ray Bradbury.

With Shihan Norlander after a spirited workout. Circa 2008

The subject of the quotation is the need for astronauts to continuously train to avoid surprise in the void of space.

If you don’t rehearse over and over –
Your going to be surprised in space –
And, the surprised man out there is the dead one.
We get ready then, by trying to surprise
Ourselves.

Looking at the plaque has brought the concepts of karate-do practice and surprise to the forefront of my thoughts.

As martial artists in general and karate-ka in particular, we often think about, discuss, theorize and debate the impact of practice on the element of surprise as it applies to actual combat. (See Endnote # 1) In my experience, such discussions, while highly enjoyable, are less than conclusive. There simply is no consensus amongst karate-ka as to the practice of karate-do and it’s impact on surprise.

In this article, I would like to stimulate your thoughts as to karate-do practice and surprise. To this end, I ask the question,

“As karate-ka, when it comes to the element of surprise, are you “trained” or are you “educated” as to this eventuality?”

In order to answer the question, you need to understand the difference between being “trained” as contrasted with being “educated.”

In his book, Finite and Infinite Games, James P. Carse (See Endnote # 2) defines the terms as follows:

To be trained is to be prepared against surprise. (The opponent) must appear to be something he isn’t. All (his) moves must be deceptive: feints, distractions, falsifications, misdirections and mystifications.” To be trained is to avoid surprise caused by such deception. The trained person desires to anticipate every potential scenario so as to hope to control the future (surprise) in an effort to prevent it from altering the present (the fight).

To be educated is to be prepared for and expect (the inevitability) of surprise. The educated man does not avoid surprise but accepts and expects it. The educated man conducts himself so as to expect surprise. Thus, surprise is the natural expression of the future upon the present.

Now, I again ask, “In practicing karate-do are you a trained man or an educated man?”

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

ENDNOTES:

1. I intentionally use the term “theorize” because the vast majority of modern karate-ka simply have not engaged in actual combat. Naturally, the highest aim of karate-do is to avoid physical confrontation. Having said that, I submit that when one who has not engaged in actual combat states what will or will not occur in combat, such statements are merely hypothetical. It is rather spurious for them to state as fact that which in reality is theory. And, “No” tournament kumite is not actual combat.

2. Carse, James P., Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision Of Life As Play And Possibility (Ballantine Books, New York, NY 1986) pp. 22-23.
  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.

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 – A Solution – Part 1

5 Jul

   New Jersey loves its shore.

That wondrous place where the sand is kissed by the Atlantic Ocean Songs have been written about it, movies made around it and until recently a great place to visit.

If you live in New Jersey or have followed the national news, you are familiar with the state’s budget battle. The battle resulted in government, including several state parks, being shut down during the Fourth of July weekend. One such state park was Island Beach State Park.

This park in particular became a flash point. It became “the” example of political arrogance. It showed we deserve to be powerless.

Island Beach State Park contains a vacation residence for the governor. Did our esteemed governor, Chris Christie, stand in solidarity with others that could not use the park? Did he even understand their frustration? Most worked all week and looked forward to a long weekend. Several, like me, had to work part of the weekend and maybe only had one day off. Now, the ocean was off limits. No frolicking in the waves. No playing in the sand. No reading a book to the melody of the ocean.

For all of New Jersey, except the Christie and family, the entrance to Island Beach State Park was barricaded by highway cones. Three rangers turned people away. The park was closed. The ocean was off limits.

So how did Governor Christie connect with the people he represents? He and his family used their vacation residence. They had the entire park to themselves.


The media soon circulated photos of a sunbathing Christie adorned in his oversized beach outfit. He was surrounded by smiling family and no one else. When asked if this was unfair, the Governor looked up from his straining beach chair and glibly told us:

“The governor has a residence at Island Beach. Others don’t. That’s the way it goes. Run for governor and you can have the residence.”

Soon social media was abuzz. On Facebook, a few media outlets were posting live video feeds with the governor’s statement. Angry New Jerseyians soon took to posting their live comments online.

My first thought was, “What a bunch of sheep; teach the guy a lesson.” The logistics were simple. Island Beach would normally have been filled to capacity on a holiday weekend. Thousand of people would have been in attendance. So it seemed simple. I almost posted a comment,

“Go use the State Park despite the shut down. There is no way three rangers can turn away thousands of people. Don’t sit on Facebook complaining, its your state park, use it as is your right as a resident.”

Then reason took hold of my thoughts. “Bad idea.”

Notwithstanding that the governor’s political arrogance need to be called out, it would be chaos to defy the governor in such a way. I understood there was one reason people could not defy the governor. They could not use the park in defiance of his closing. It was simple. People did not know kata.

Since people did not know kata, they “deserved” to have the park closed. Had they known kata, they could have swam in the ocean, played in the sand and otherwise relaxed. Without kata this was (voluntarily) lost to them. Even if only martial artists used the park, it would still be problematic. Most martial artists do not sufficiently understand kata so as to make this act of defiance feasible The truth is not enough people understand my saying that “Life is a kata.” ©

For now I’m going to let that hang in the air a bit. Think about it and see if you can figure out what I mean. If not, further along I’ll post my thoughts on the idea that Kata can be a solution to political arrogance.

In the meantime, I wish the governor well with his on going political battles, including his battle with his bulging persona and ego.

Until next time, I’m out and about. Riding my motorcycle to anywhere I please. Always, my kata is packed with me. For me and a few select others, our motto is “Kata – Anybody, anyplace, anytime.” ©

 

This weeks video features Sanchin Kata during a motorcycle ride alongside the cotton fields of San Tan Valley, Arizona (my home from 2004 to 2014).

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 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

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

%d bloggers like this: