Tag Archives: Sensei

Why Are You Practicing That Kata?

27 Sep

“Life is a kata.” ©

A recent day at work once again illustrated how my saying is true.

Working at the garden center is physically demanding. According to my FitBit, during a nine hour shift, I would walk an average of 11.7 miles and burn around 3,100 calories. In addition to walking, activity includes loading and unloading 40 pound bags of garden product (soils, mulches, and the like) and carrying tanks of propane for barbecuing. During a normal shift, I’m paired with a part-timer for about four hours. Usually my co-worker is a young college student. This particular day, I was with Dave (a fictional name).

At Work

It was a particularly hot day, sunny day. This type of day is difficult as there is little to no shade. Dave and I just finished loading a customer with twenty-four bags of mulch (each weighing forty pounds). Before returning to our normal duties, Dave went and sat down for a minute or two. I went to get my water. Just then, the owner decided to leave the comfort of his air conditioned office and take a leisurely walk outside.

As he walked past me, he saw Dave sitting. He commented, “It drives me crazy when people sit and do nothing.” I told him that not only was that the first time Dave had sat down, but we also just finished loading a relatively large order. In less than five minutes both of us would be back to the physical task of our normal work. The owner’s reply was simply, “I didn’t know, thanks.” And that’s the point, the owner saw fit to observe and judge without knowing all the facts. He presupposed that he needed to correct the situation without knowing the totality of the circumstances.

Throughout the years I’ve encountered similar scenarios in the Dojo. One such instance is burned deeply into my memory. So deeply is it burned that it changed the way I interacted with my own students. From that day forward I pledged to always ask a student, “Why are you practicing that Kata?” “What is the purpose for doing the Kata?”

The time was the early 1990’s.I just finished a particularly bad day at work, It seemed nothing went according to plan. Additionally, I was having difficulty in my personal life.It seemed I could do nothing right.

Except, my kata. Even back then, kata sustained and nourished me. So I went to the Dojo. It was an “off” night; no classes were scheduled. I had the key to the Dojo and knew I would have it to myself. I entered, changed into my Gi and began to run through my kata. My mind was cluttered and my emotions were frazzled. This greatly affected my kata. I knew my kata wasn’t fully on par, but that was okay. The kata were special and historical treasures. Kata is not known by the average person. Knowing them and being able to perform them made me feel unique. Could I actually be doing something above and beyond a normal person? Could I be ding something “right.” “Yeah, I feel good”, began to fill my thoughts.

After a while I heard the lock turn and door open. Sensei had stopped by the Dojo. He paused and watched a bit. The first words out of his mouth were, “Your timing is off and your focus isn’t quite there; you’d best concentrate.” No “Hello”, no greeting, no “Hey I saw your motorcycle outside and stopped in.” Just a presumption that Sensei needed to correct my kata – and – that I wanted correction at that exact moment. “Well, so much for doing something right”, snapped into my mind. Had Sensei asked, I would have acknowledged that my kata was a bit off. I wasn’t trying to improve my kata, I was simply trying to enjoy myself at something that was unique to me. End of story. With that, I thanked Sensei, changed, left the Dojo and took a long motorcycle ride. I found a quiet wooded area and alone, again, performed my kata.

The point is first find out the totality of the circumstances before judging another and presuming they want an answer. From that day forward, whenever I observed a student perform a kata, I would ask the student “Why are you performing the kata?” Depending on the answer, I would offer correction, if appropriate.

So, before judging or correcting someone, find out the totality of the circumstances. Often this means asking the person “Why.” Why are you resting at work?” Why are you not joining the party?” “Is everything okay?”

If you do so, you will greatly improve your kata that is life. After-all, as I say, “Life is a a kata.”

This week’s featured video:

 

Respectfully Submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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THE SENSEI

28 Aug

History – Tradition – Formal Praxis – Time – –

From the mythological antiquity of Goshin-Do Karate, born of Shihan Frank Van Lenten’s Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kyohai (Goshin-Do Karate-Do Association),

                

comes the following thoughts, handed-down, over the years verbally and memorialized within student handbooks of various Goshin-Do Dojo.

Goshin-Do Karate-Do Patch Of Shihan Thomas DeFelice

Issho-Dojo Patch Of Sensei John Szmitkowski

Now, passed along to you via the electronic wonders of the internet comes the historical thoughts on the most mysterious being within the genre of Karate-Do –

THE SENSEI

Kanji For “Sensei”

The relationship of a Sensei to the dojo is very difficult to define, as it encompasses many aspects of life. The Sensei must flow through the student in many levels of communication and reach to the far corners of the student’s life. A Sensei is a father and at some time a mother; an advisor and a chastiser. A Sensei, though different, is the same as everyone else; he is human in a controlled way and deserves respect, for he has traveled long upon the “Do” (Way).

A Sensei should be a good teacher by conveying, at the correct time, the appropriate knowledge in the best possible manner to the student and must be able to see the students and their problems as they never can, impartially. A Sensei shows no favor, indeed as progression is attained, he becomes harder on those that progress. He is kind but firm to the beginner on the path.

The Sensei advises, in an appropriate manner, in the spiritual aspects of the art and is always a friendly ear, who listens but is not always moved. Many people are unable to see a Sensei properly as they tend to categorize him into either a teacher or a friend; he is neither but both and more. He sees a student in a free way, unmoved by the external face or appearance and he helps in the best was befitting a student. If this is to be hard, he is so; to be soft, then he is so. But always it is in the nest manner for the student, for the Sensei’s heart is forever with them.

Often a Sensei may test his students by taking views diagrammatically opposed to theirs and then study their reactions. Silence is often the best form of praise that Sensei will give to his students. He will note what affects the students in an out of the dojo, how he acts to his friends, his family and his work and will act upon his students accordingly.

The Sensei will say nothing when he should speak volumes. He is King when there is no apparent reason. He may be tyrannous or compassionate, but through all these externals his heart is still for them. He listens when they speak, but can see the inner reasons for their speech; he is unmoved but can move. The Sensei is forever active, even in a subdued way. He gives while others take and asks no rewards save proficiency of mind and body. He is sad, sometimes happy, let down and often abused, but forever he holds to the Way, for that is his life.

Though outsides may change, the Sensei does not, though he can adapt at will completely, the inward ideals and principles are always there. He persists when there is no apparent reason, that is why he is Sensei. On average it takes 2,000 students to produce one (1) worthwhile Sensei.

If you have one, take care of him.

Until the next article, I remain, honored, humbled and burdened by the most honorific title, I know, “Sensei” –

HANKO-master

 

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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CARETAKERS OF THE WAY

4 Jul
Many of us sacrifice aspects of our lives in pursuit of our chosen art, hobby, sport or other such endeavor. There are times when we seek to understand the cause of such sacrifice. Perhaps our desire is merely motivated by self-indulgent reasons. We may attribute our desire to explore such pursuits to a quest for self-exploration as a path to self-improvement. Perhaps. But, as my computer keyboard spews these words to you at 3:21 in the morning, I submit there is perhaps more to our sacrifice.
 
I was once given a gift that sheds light upon the path of sacrifice, dedication, devotion and obsession that has come to represent my quest in Karate-Do. The gift is a poem. It has transcended time to remind me that there is more to my exploration of Karate-Do than just the “Me” aspect. The poem was given to me many years ago at the Dojo which was then located at 500 Tenth Street in Palisades Park, New Jersey. The author is a unique person in my Karate lineage. His words shed light upon my Karate-Do “raison d’etre“. I submit the poem to you in the hopes you may come to understand that the sacrifices you make in pursuit of your art are not all attributed to self-indulgent needs.
 
 There is a time when a practitioner evolves into that which is practiced. The evolutionary process imposes a trust upon the practitioner. A form of bond evolves whereby the practitioner becomes a guardian of that which was once practiced for selfish reasons. In Karate-Do, the personification of this evolutionary process, is referred to by the title “Sensei”. I hope you appreciate the words of one such Sensei.   

AS YOU TRAVEL IN TIME TEACHING KARATE-DO

 REMEMBER IT BELONGS TO NO MAN

WE ARE ONLY THE CARETAKERS OF THE WAY

IT WAS PASSED ONTO US SO THAT WE MAY PASS IT ONTO OTHERS.

DO NOT LET EGO GUIDE YOUR WAY IN KARATE-DO

RATHER LET THE WAY GUIDE YOUR EGO. (see Endnote # 1).

To all those that have evolved into caretakers of that which they practice, I hope you appreciate the above. It has a special place in my heart.

Until the next article, I remain a Sensei, a mere caretaker, hoping that I continue to measure up to the task entrusted upon me.
HANKO-reverse
 
 Sensei John Szmitkowski
 
ENDNOTES:
 1. From my private collection and reproduced in Szmitkowski, John, Goshin-Do Kata-Jitsu, Volume One: The Basic Kata, (Issho Publications, East Rutherford, NJ 1997).

Please feel free to visit Sensei John’s new online store containing various Jiriki Kata-Do products with the unique logo of Sanchin. The Sanchin logo depicts the three battles of Sanchin in a new contextual paradigm. You may find Sensei’s store by clicking the following  link http://www.cafepress/sanchin_logo..

For more on either Sanchin Kata as meditation or my new book on Sanchin Kata, please feel free to visit the “Sanchin Book” page of this Blogsite, or my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com.

For more information on my ideology and methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do, please review the articles herein filed in the category “Kata as enlightened meditation“.

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