Tag Archives: Shihan Thomas DeFelice

Do Away With Kata Formalities – Part 1

20 Feb

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Do away with kata formalities – Part 1: Understanding the formalities

Every karate-ka (practitioner of karate) is familiar with the formalities of kata. Whatever form they take, these formalities may be summarized as three procedures before and after each kata. I submit, they are “outside” of the kata and are not part of the actual kata. (See endnote number 1) In this article, I make the argument that at the dan rank (black belt) level, they should not be performed at all, save one exception.

Kanji for “Kata”

Generally speaking the kata formalities may be parsed into the following three steps. Step one is the “rei” or formal bow. This step symbolizes respect. Respect first and foremost is for the solemnity of the kata itself. Respect then expands to include the individual that created the kata, those that maintained it throughout history and preserved it in its present form. You can extend the concept of respect ad infinitum, such as respect for the dojo, your Sensei, karate in general and the like. As my own Sensei, Shihan Thomas DeFelice, was fond of saying, “All kata begins and ends with respect.”

The second step is one of “mukso” or meditation. This step has many effects, including, inter alia, the need to clear your mind of all preconceptions, dilatory psychological states (extraneous thoughts) and emotional effects (anxiety, fear, depression and the like). Unchecked these dilatory states would impose themselves on the kata. As the karate Sages would say, you need to “Part the clouds to see the moon.” This state of mind is called “Mushin” or “mind no mind.” You perform mukso after the kata to facilitate the state of mind known as “Zanshin” (“remaining mind”) to imbue yourself with the physical and spiritual by-products of the kata.

Lastly one assumes a “ready” posture. This is a physically neutral posture that takes many forms. Examples include standing with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, hands low, feet together with hands touching at groin level and the like. Regardless of the exact posture, it is always neutral. The neutral posture ends upon starting the kata.

After the kata, the kata-ka (my term for a performer of kata) then performs the formalities in reverse order. 

Okay, so far so good. The formalities clearly have a purpose and are relatively innocuous in so far as they are neither physically demanding or spiritually negative. So, you may wonder why I advocate that you do away with these relatively noble acts of respect, purifying your spirit and readiness before kata. Well, lets see.

First, it must be completely understood that the formalities are of significant importance to the student below Sho-dan (first degree black belt). To those of numansha grade (under black belt) they must be performed before and after each and every kata. Period. (caveat – see endnote # 2) After sho-dan, one must begin a transition into a fuller understanding and appreciation of kata. To this end, the formalities should be dispensed with.

I would like to begin by looking at the nature of the formalities. To reiterate, they prepare you physically and mentally for the kata. On a purely physical level, it is axiomatic that the kata symbolizes a battle, a physical attack scenario. At a basic, almost Planck Scale-like level, kata is a ritualized shadow-boxing dance. It represents a fight. A karate-ka trains to put the odds of surviving such an encounter in their favor by employing the techniques of the kata with the proper mental state.That being said, if you are attacked you do not hold up you hand, stating “Please wait” while you bow, meditate and assume a ready posture. So, why train this way? I am reminded of the following humorous scenario. 

In the mid-1990’s I was officiating and competing as a young San-dan (third degree black belt) in Sensei Ed DiNardo’s (RIP) annual karate tournament at the Wayne (NJ) P.A.L. building. We just concluded the officials meeting presided over by both Sensei DiNardo and Hanshi Frank Van Lenten (RIP). This was one of the handful of times I met the founder of the Goshin-Do Karate style and association. Sensei DiNardo’s tournament always began with the black belt competition in kata, kobudo and kumite. This allowed the competing black belts to be free later for officiating when the lower ranks competed. Before we adjourned the meeting, Sensei DiNardo turned to Hanshi Van Lenten and asked,”Should we give the black belts a few minutes to stretch out and get ready to compete?” Hanshi Van Lenten put his left arm around Sensei’s shoulder and looked him dead in the eye, “If I jumped on your back right now, would you ask me to let you stretch out?” And thus, lightening struck and awakened my subconscious thought as to the formalities of kata. Much like you would not perform the acts prior to an actual encounter, you should train to perform your kata utterly spontaneously. You must develop the concept that all your kata reside within you at all times – twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.. They simmer within you, percolating, ready to be released when you need them to burst forth. (See endnote # 3) To perform the formalities before and after each and every kata obfuscates this spontaneity. 

This phenomenon of kata within you can be trained with the aid of a Sensei who understands the heart of kata (and not simply the rhetoric of kata). You can, and should, specifically train your body and spirit so as to be aware of the kata within you and let it burst forth. This is first accomplished by training the immediacy of self defense scenarios within the kata. In my Kata Laboratory project, I have multiple training concepts. One example, “Kata To Modify Emotions” is set forth in endnote # 3. Another example is “Kata Lab – Dr. Jekyll’s Potion. You may see the details of this kata lab using this convenient link  https://senseijohn.me/2014/02/09/kata-lab-122-kata-dr-jekylls-potion/  and also this video example.

I therefore humbly submit that you must train your kata to be deployed at a moments notice in times of need. The formalities become an unnecessary impediment to the spontaneity of such performance. Removing the symbolic formalities is the first and necessary step to accomplish this spontaneous transition form one’s normal everyday world to the world represented by the kata. Again, this includes a physical world (attack and physical health scenarios) and a spiritual world (mental, psychological and emotional states). Thus, the need for the formalities is nullified. You must be prepared at all times. You must act with respect, maintain a clear mind and be ready in a noncommittal manner so as to act when it is time to act. In essence, like kata, the formalities simply blend into and simmer within us. Respect becomes part of our lives. Mushin, a clear mind and spirit, becomes our default mental state. We remain neutral until the time to act is appropriate then we act swiftly and decisively. If the goal is full integration of kata within ourselves, why symbolize the formalities when we begin and end each and every kata? So, do we simply get rid of the acts of preparation?

I’m going to let you chew on this a bit. Let the concept percolate within you as you practice your kata. See what you think. In my next post, I’ll give you my insights and how after forty-seven years of kata, I incorporate the formalities into same.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski


1. There may be others that disagree with my assertion that the kata formalities lie outside of the kata itself. Frankly, that is fair, but wrong. Simply ask any instructor to teach you the first three moves of a new kata (or think back to when you learned a new kata), I bet you, as my father would say, “A dollar to a donut” that they do not show you (for the N’th time) the three formalities. Rather, they show you the first three movements of the actual kata. Thus, impliedly, agreeing with my assessment.

2. During my training in Sensei DeFelice’s Goshin-Do Karate dojo, the formalities were, at times, summarily performed. That is to say that when a kata-ka was asked to perform several kata, such as during testing or class, they would perform the formalities before the first kata, perform all kata asked and the perform them again after the last kata. Thus, avoiding performing the formalities before each kata in the series. I also observed this summary performance at other dojo including the former Bogota (NJ) dojo of my friend and comrade, Shihan Wayne Norlander, RIP. I note that this experience may have subconsciously infused my mind with the idea that the kata formalities should be done away with entirely.

3. Please notice I do not say “ready for when you may be attacked.” I deliberately chose my words to reflect the idea that kata are more than physical self-defense. They are also of great benefit in developing your spiritual self. They are moving meditation than produce a heightened mental and perceptive state when fully understood. But, that is beyond the ken of this article. It is; however, the entire subject of my next book. To tease you a bit on this topic, you may see how kata can be used to modify your emotions using this link and video.https://senseijohn.me/2013/10/06/kata-lab-221-kata-as-an-emotional-modifier/   here is the accompanying video:

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

2014 Summer Recap

8 Sep

With Summer 2014 in the history books, I hope you all enjoyed a great Summer filled with many memories. Here’s a recap of what you may have missed while on vacation and making those memories.

KATA LAB   Kata Labs:

TEXT-hand secret things   Life Is A Kata:

NEWS sanchin   That’s OK (Online Kata) sessions (Even though the dates for the group sessions have passed, you may desire to incorporate the theme of each session into your kata training)

dreams-seisan   My musings:


ME-SENSEI   From the official Goshin-Do Karate-Do (DeFelice-Ryu) blog:

As is tradition here on my blog, September marks a new “academic year.” I have many things planned and know you will enjoy and be challenged in the weeks and months that come. Also look for new kata videos which are in production right now.

Until then, I remain honored to share my insights with you, yours in kata,


Sensei John Szmitkowski

   sunsu-2   For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/

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 & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
DOJO STICKER-1 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

© Copyright 2014 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Kata Lab # 2170: Blink-Of-An-Eye Bunkai

4 May

“Life and death in the street occurs in the blink-of-an-eye.” 
(Shihan Thomas DeFelice)

“Therefore kata bunkai (analysis) should include the blinking-of-an-eye.”
(Sensei John Szmitkowski)


Welcome to this teaser from my Kata Laboratory Series, Kata Lab #2170: Blink-Of-An-Eye Bunkai ©


For a behind-the-scenes look at how this Kata Lab developed, please refer to this article using this convenient link:

Sensei John’s Kata Lab: “The Process” – Link:

Analyzing Ananku Kata in the Kata Lab

Analyzing Ananku Kata in the Kata Lab

There are numerous karate-do techniques involving any number of striking surfaces with the hands, feet, knees, elbows, fingers and the like. These techniques are combined with any number of stances to form a posture.

These postures are linked together in a cohesive manner to form sequences which are combined to form a unified pattern called kata. This is the physical aspect of kata.

Bunkai (analysis) is used to understand the kata. The majority of practitioners limit their bunkai to the overt moves and sequences in kata. The transition from sequence-to-sequence, posture-to-posture that occur with a kata are often ignored in bunkai.
This Kata Lab looks at the physical aspects of those transitional movements.

Kata Lab: (Recommended Reader Experimentation)

To assist you in the process of this Kata Lab, I have a video after the procedural outline.

  • Select a kata that you are familiar with utilizing bunkai to perform the physical applications of;
  • Perform the kata slowly, paying particular attention to the transitions between movements;
  • As to the transitions, notice the shifting of weight, body movements, and hand positions;
  • Exaggerate the transitions so as to identify and define postures within these transitions, define a stance, and hand position;
  • Again perform the kata slowly, this time inserting the transitional postures into the kata as if they themselves were overt moves;
  • Perform the kata full speed, once again, insert the hidden postures into the kata as if they were overt moves. Does the kata maintain it’s “flow” when performed in this manner? If so, then your identification of the hidden postures was accurate.
  • Analyze the kata transitional positions with a partner, pay particular attention to your previous analysis to determine the extent to which the transitional postures enrich your application. The transitions should allow you to see new self-defense application possibilities.

Including the transitional postures in your bunkai (analysis) of kata will enrich your understanding of the application of the physical movements. You will begin to see new possibilities. Better still you will see self-defense possibilities that those who do no analyze the transitions will be ignorant of. Thus, your arsenal of defensive possibilities surpasses theirs.
Additionally, the understanding of the physical aspect of the transitional movements will begin to foster a desire to understand the transitional postures from a spiritual (psychological, emotional and stat-of-mind) aspect and a metaphysical (the manner in which the kata connects you to the environment) aspect.

Please remember, the mandate of the kata laboratory is



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

Sensei John Szmitkowski

If you enjoyed this Kata Lab, please visit the online store to help fund more kata experiments.

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all items have a minimal mark-up of only $ 0.75 to $ 1.00 over base prices! Here are ONLY SOME of our support products:

dreams-seisan   For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
NEWS sanchin  For details on how to participate in Sensei John’s most recent cyber-group Kata session, please use this link: https://senseijohn.me/category/thats-ok/

© Copyright 2014 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 & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com


DOJO STICKER-1 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com



10 Apr

This Thursday, April 10th, 2014 marks the eleven year anniversary since Sensei Paul Recchia was taken from us. Please join me in performing either Sanchin, my Shibumi Kata or other karate-do 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.

Sensei Paul, age 60

Sensei Paul, age 60

Please don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am
Nor am I sleeping for eternity
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.

Sincerity in sweat, you are not forgotten, Sensei.

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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 – the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com and this one dedicated to the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com



22 Apr

And so, another trip to the Garden State comes to an end.

As in the past, such a trip involves a wide range of interactions and emotions. As always, seeing and spending time with family is the greatest highlight. Spending time with my little grandson is an experience that can not be expressed by mere words.

At such times, words cannot do justice to the experiences of the past three and a half months.

So too with my Karate-Do interactions and relationships. Relative to the martial arts, here are a few of my Karate-Do reflections.

It was with great excitement that my Sensei, Shihan Thomas DeFelice, I and my Goshin-Do Karate brothers embarked upon a project chronicling the history and development of our branch of the Goshin-Do Karate tree. To experience this distinct historical and intuitive experience, simply click the following link: WWW.DeFeliceRyu.Wordpress.Com

In addition to the above project, training with my Karate-Do comrades provided satisfaction on a regular basis. Most Wednesday nights I found myself at the USA Goshin-Ryu Dojo of Sensei Pablo Peneque and Sensei Scott Zamora in Bogota, New Jersey. I say most Wednesday nights because, unfortunately, external factors dictated that my attendance was less than regular. While I always find it pleasurable to visit with Sensei Pablo and Sensei Scott, I found I was somewhat crestfallen. While the spirit of Shihan Wayne Norlander bountifully roams the Dojo, I miss his joie d’ vive. Every Wednesday, I dedicated a performance of his Kunchaba Kata (derived from the Uechi-ryu Kanshiwa Kata) to his spirit. During one training session at the Dojo I had the good fortune to meet Shihan Ken Zuck of Isshin-ryu Karate-Do (Left to right in the photo below are: Sensei Bob, Sensei Pablo, myself, Shihan Zuck & Sensei Scott).

The Wednesday night training sessions were a great lead-in to Sunday morning training sessions with Shihan DeFelice and the yudansha. These sessions were punctuated with in-depth analysis of Kata and the associated bunkai and provided not only satisfaction but imaginative insight was well.(Left to right in the photo below, Sensei Rudy, Shihan, myself, & Sensei Dave).

I was also once again fortunate to visit the Dojo of Shihan Thomas Van Tassel and Sensei Jack Kramer in Rockaway, New Jersey (http://www.americancenterformartialarts.com). During the visit, Shihan Van Tassel and Sensei Kramer debuted their new patch design as shown below.

With a heavy heart, I paid respects to the gravesite of Shihan Wayne Norlander. These gravesite visits marked a solemn time of reflection on the life of a true Karate-Ka.

And so once again I find myself geographically apart from family and training in the “dry” heat of the low desert of Arizona amidst the hummingbirds, coyote and lizards. More to follow.


 Sensei John Szmitkowski

NOW AVAILABLE – SANCHIN VIDEO SERIES designed specifically for the NON-MARTIAL ARTIST who desires to learn & unlock the secret treasure of Sanchin. Here is a link to a FREE promotional video on You-Tube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE

You can find information on how to purchase a Sanchin DVD r Book by clicking the following convenient link:http://www.dynamic-meditation.com/references.html

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 blog dedicated to the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fly-fishing and fishing in general by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com


11 Mar

This week’s article is an abbreviated excerpt from a chapter in my forthcoming DVD and book, “The Dualism Of Seienchin Kata: Part Two in the Jiriki Kata-Do Series.” (See Endnote # 1)

It has been said that there are eight primordial principles that envelope the martial arts. These principles have been delineated in an ancient martial text called “The Bubishi”. The principles are also inferred within the martial work known as the “Eight Poems Of The Chinese Fist.” (See Endnote # 2 for the full text of the poems). The eight primordial principles are:

  • To float;
  • To sink;
  • To swallow;
  • To spit;
  • To burst;
  • To rebound;
  • To spring;
  • To lift.

All eight principles are found within the Seienchin Kata which is derived from the Fujian white crane system of Kung-Fu. Fujian white crane style was developed by Xie Zhing Xiang. The style contains the four elements of whooping crane, flying crane, eating crane and sleeping crane. The four stylistic elements formed the basis of the Seienchin Kata found within Karate-Do.

Seienchin Kata, Badlands, SD, Circa 2004

The Seienchin Kata is the second protocol of my dynamic ideology, Jiriki Kata-Do. It is derived from the Seienchin Kata of the Goshin-Do Karate DeFelice-Ryu style of Karate. (See Endnote # 3)

Kanji for “Seienchin”, sumi-e ink on rice paper

Traditionally, only the martial arts based physical applications of the principles have been explored and discussed. In my dynamic ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do, the spiritual connotations associated with the principles are delineated.

Four of the eight principles contained within Seienchin Kata are present within Sanchin Kata. (See Endnote # 4) To provide insight into the physical and hidden spiritual aspects of the eight principles, I submit the following brief discussion of the four principles found within Sanchin Kata.

Kanji for “Sanchin”, sumi-e ink on rice paper

The four principles found within Sanchin and the associated martial arts application, are as follows.

  • TO FLOAT – Unbalancing an opponent by one’s movement, depriving him of a firm footing and thereby defeating him.
  • TO SINK – controlling an opponent by making him feel heavy or clumsy;
  • TO SWALLOW – “to swallow” is a euphemism for the phrase “to absorb.” It means defeating an opponent’s attack by diverting and absorbing it;
  • TO SPIT  – “to spit” is a euphemism for the phrase “to reject.” It involves using explosive power to strike or push away an opponent with such force that he is defeated.

In my Seienchin DVD and Book, I submit that in addition to the above physical traits of the principles, there are hidden spiritual traits found within Sanchin and Seienchin Kata. These hidden spiritual traits remain concealed from all but a few enlightened practitioners of the Kata. The dynamic ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do is the express mechanism to uncover the hidden spiritual and meta-physical traits hidden within the eight primordial principles. As to the four principles found within Sanchin, I submit that the hidden spiritual traits are as follows.

  • TO FLOAT: After a practitioner of zazen, seated meditation, attained a level of proficiency, he was next required to learn “To Float”. Within this meditative practice, “To Float” means that one must allow one’s force to synchronize with and to flow with the general forces that exists in nature. (See Endnote # 5) One could not float by simply sitting in meditative zazen. One had to combine zazen with bodily movement; a dance. It is through the dance that the body could perform naturally and thus free the mind, or spirit, for meditation. Thus, passive, seated, meditation, was combined with the active, physical movement, in the manner of harmony of opposites, as in the concepts of Yin and Yang. It is my unfettered opinion that there is no greater form of “dance” than Karate-Do Kata. Thus, Kata are the ultimate mechanism for the phenomenon known as “To Float.”
  • TO SINK: this spiritual concept involved rooting one’s Chi, or bio-energy, as I call it, to the Earth during the dance so as to permit one’s energy to flow freely within the confines of one’s body and subsequently synchronize one’s internal energy with the external universal energy. If one’s internal bio-energy was not sufficiently rooted to the Earth, it would spill forth haphazardly into the external universal energy and be dissipated and dispersed thereby.
  • TO SWALLOW: This spiritual concept involves opening and extending oneself to the external universal energy. Through this process, one not only swallows, or absorbs, the universal energy into oneself, but also extends one’s bio-energy into the universe. Through this process one blends into the universal energy in such a manner as to unite with this external energy so as to produce a fully integrated state of being.
  • TO SPIT: This spiritual concept is a moral imperative. The universe is in complete balance and exists entirely in a state of harmony. The nature of the universe dictates that the universe is composed of a positive aspect and also contains a negative aspect. Harmony in the universe is achieved by balancing these opposing and chaotic elements. The spiritual concept “To Spit” is the process whereby one consciously is aware of the negative component of the universal essence, or spirit. Being thus aware of this negative aspect, the practitioner of either Sanchin Kata or Seienchin Kata who seeks to synchronize and unite with the universal essence, consciously desires to unite with the positive aspect and spit out, or reject, the negative aspect. This does not mean that the practitioner is out of harmony with the universe. The negative aspect will continue to exist, but such existence is limited to the universe in general. Though continuing to exist, the negative aspect is not unified with the practitioner’s individual essence and self. The result is an integrated positive self that exists within a harmonious universe of positive and negative aspects. The negative aspect tends to be absorbed by those unenlightened persons who incorporate negativity into their level of existence. These non-integrated, unenlightened humans, are often physically ill and spiritually bankrupt.

The physical and hidden spiritual traits of all eight principles are fully analyzed in my forthcoming DVD and Book, “The Dualism Of Seienchin Kata: Part Two in the Jiriki Kata-Do Series.” The anticipated release date for the DVD and Book is August 1, 2012.

In closing, I remain, floating, sinking, swallowing, spitting, bursting, rebounding, springing and lifting,


Sensei John Szmitkowski


  1. Part One of Jiriki Kata-Do can be found in my Sanchin DVD and Book: “Sanchin, Gateway To The Plateau Of Serenity.” Here is a convenient link a promotional video about the Sanchin DVD filmed on location at various scenic locations throughout Arizona. LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE
  2. The “Eight Poems Of The Chinese Fist” are as follows:
  • 1. Jinshin wa tenchi ni onaji. The mind is one with heaven and earth.
  • 2. Ketsumyaku wa nichigetsu ni nitari. The circulatory rhythm of the body is similar to the cycle of the sun and the moon.
  • 3. Ho wa goju no donto su. The way of inhaling and exhaling is hardness and softness.
  • 4. Mi wa toki ni shitagai hen ni ozu. Act in accordance with time and change.
  • 5. Te wa ku ni ai sunawachi hairu. Techniques will occur in the absence of conscious thought.
  • 6. Shintai wa hakarite riho su. The feet must advance and retreat, separate and meet.
  • 7. Me wa shiho womiru wa yosu. The eyes must not miss even the slightest change.
  • 8. Mimiwa yoku happo wo kiku. The ears listen well in all eight directions.

3. I have chosen the name “Goshin-Do Karate DeFelice-Ryu” to designate the Goshin-Do Karate style as taught by my Sensei, Shihan Thomas DeFelice so as to distinguish it from the various other martial arts styles that utilize the “Goshin-Do” nomenclature. The Kanji for the style translates as, “Self-defense way of the empty hand, DeFelice style.”

4.I have made the benefits of Sanchin Kata available to everyone with my one hour Sanchin DVD and 116 page book. You can find information on how to purchase a Sanchin DVD & Book by clicking the following convenient link: http://www.dynamic-meditation.com/references.html

5. For example, In the Hindu meditative practices, the phrase used to describe this phenomenon is, “To allow one’s Atman to become one with the universal Atman.”

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 blog dedicated to the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fly-fishing and fishing in general by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com


22 Jan

To everyone who participated in the Sunrise Sanchin Pilgrimage yesterday, “Thank-you for participating & I hope you were fulfilled by your Sanchin.” For my part, there wasn’t much sunrising as it was snowing, but it was spectacular to perform Sanchin in the cold, brisk morning air while the snow quietly blanketed the Earth. And then – of course – it was time to get the old snow shovel. And now, the current weblog article –

I thought I would share with you an important aspect of Shihan Thomas DeFelice’s Academy of Goshin-Do Karate-Do. You may wish to incorporate this aspect of the Dojo into not only your Sanchin practice but also your daily routine. The aspect is the Dojo Kun. Traditional Karate Dojo have a Dojo “Kun.” The Dojo Kun is essentially a statement of purpose, a raison d’être for the Dojo and the student’s who train therein.

Shihan Thomas DeFelice’s Goshin-Do Karate-Do patch

The kun has a rich and storied history and was, based upon conservative estimates, a guidepost for perhaps ten thousand students.

Patch commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Academy Of Goshin-Do Karate in 2005

The first nine statements date back to the earliest days of Shihan DeFelice’s Dojo which was originally located at 125 Broad Avenue, Palisades Park, NJ. The kun was displayed in a place of honor in the Dojo. In the photograph below, the Dojo kun can be seen displayed on the left adjacent to the photographs of historical karate masters.

The kun provided a refreshing means of reflection and contemplation before and after class. It also furnished a guideline for conducting yourself outside of the Dojo as you go about the drama of your life.

In 1997, I reproduced the kun for use in the Dojo which had relocated to 748 Paterson Avenue, East Rutherford, New Jersey. I also incorporated the kun into a student training manual for convenient reference. (See Endnote # 1). At that time, I added statement number ten, which is a proclamation that is personal to each student and a concluding statement; “Ichi-Nichi Issho” which translates as “One day – One lifetime.” This phrase was also used on the patch of the Issho Dojo.

Issho-Dojo Patch Of Sensei John Szmitkowski

Issho-Dojo Patch Of Sensei John Szmitkowski

While the kun is unique to the Academy of Goshin-Do Karate-Do, it can be of benefit to all. I hope you enjoy the kun and further hope it provides you with a convenient means of reflection and contemplation. Additionally for all of those who purchased my Sanchin Kata DVD, you may wish to reflect upon the kun during your Sanchin practice.

The kun is as follows:











10. Student’s personal Kun.

Ichi-Nichi-Issho (One Day, One Lifetime)

Until the next submission, I remain living the Academy Of Goshin-Do Karate kun,


Sensei John Szmitkowski

NOW AVAILABLE – SANCHIN VIDEO SERIES designed specifically for the NON-MARTIAL ARTIST who desires to learn & unlock the secret treasure of Sanchin. Here is a link to a FREE promotional video on You-Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE   You can find information on how to purchase a Sanchin DVD r Book by clicking the following convenient link: http://www.dynamic-meditation.com/references.html

REMEMBER: SANCHIN can be performed by ANYBODY, ANYPLACE, ANYTIME. Here’s a few short video examples: Sanchin during a Harley-Davidson Electra-glide ride amidst the scenic Arizona cotton fields. Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNbDxDHvlL8Sanchin as a form of SELF-BAPTISM at the beautiful Lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest, Arizona, Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3MFNsl4mWg and Sanchin while fly fishing at Water Ranch lake, Gilbert, Arizona. Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ncZJ0s0HNI


1. Szmitkowski, John, Goshin-Do Kata-jitsu: Volume One: The Basic Kata (Issho Publications, 1997).

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

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 weblog, or my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com.

You may wish to view my blog dedicated to the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fly-fishing and fishing in general by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com


1 Jan

2012, Shougatsu, Shiroi No Obi – New Year (of the) White Belt

I suggest that in the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and months, that begin to unfold into the path that will be called “2012”, we need to walk that unwinding path with the “mind of a white belt.”

This concept is derived from a Goshin-Do Karate percept, “Observe with the mind of a white belt.” The while belt, worn by novice students, is said to symbolize purity and innocence in terms of preconceptions as to Karate. (See Endnote # 1). When a Karate-Ka (student of Karate) first enters the Dojo, the neophyte observes without preconceived thought or emotion. Thus, one observes every detail, even the most minute, with the pure eyes of a child. In doing so, one is able to capture the inner most aspect of a Karate-Do technique and incorporate it into one’s personal repertoire.

Prior to the advent of modern colored belts, a Karate-Ka would wear the same belt (a white belt) during his entire training. Although the Karate uniform would be laundered  regularly, as a sign of respect, the Karate-Ka would not wash his belt. Over time, the white belt would become soiled. The belt would even be used to wipe the sweat from one’s brow after training. Thus, the belt would become discolored, eventually turning black from use, wear and tear. This is the humble birth of the all too coveted black belt.

In the final days that remain of the year 2011, we should shed our internal black belt. Our preconceptions, emotions and perhaps even thoughts have become “soiled” over time. In the first indicia of time that calls forth “2012!” let us all shed preconceptions – “internal and emotional baggage”. In the first millisecond of 2012, we should commit to don the belt of a novice and view the minutest details of the unfolding year with a pure and innocent heart and spirit. Let us all become the exalted white belt.

REMEMBER: SANCHIN can be performed by ANYBODY, ANYPLACE, ANYTIME. Here’s two short video examples: Sanchin during a Harley-Davidson Electra-glide ride amidst the scenic Arizona cotton fields. Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNbDxDHvlL8 and Sanchin while fly fishing at Water Ranch lake, Gilbert, Arizona. Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ncZJ0s0HNI

Wishing all a very Happy New Year, I remain

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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 blog dedicated to martial ideology applied to the sport of fly-fishing by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Wordpress.Com

JIRIKI KATA-DO, An epiphenomenon of Goshin-Do Karate

2 Oct

With the release of the Sanchin Kata For Everyone DVD, I thought I would take this opportunity to explain the derivation of the dynamic philosophy I call Jiriki Kata-Do and the integral role Sanchin plays in this methodology. For a link to a free online preview, please see the end of this article.

Sanchin DVD Jacket

Jiriki Kata-Do is derived from Goshin-Do Karate-Do. Its salient point; however, is that Jiriki Kata-Do is designed for the non-martial artist. Jiriki Kata-Do is a methodology that combines and distills martial arts physical protocol, Kata, philosophy and ideology into a program that gives the non-martial artist access to an otherwise secret means of attaining physical and spiritual well-being. Once the sole province of and jealously guarded by martial artists who have devoted decades to retaining these secrets, Jiriki Kata-Do unveils these secrets to everyone.

Jiriki Kata-Do translates as “Salvation from within through Kata.” In this context, salvation means physical and spiritual well being. Physical movement is combined with spiritual awareness to produce an active, or dynamic, meditation process. Jiriki is contrasted with the concept of Tairiki. In tairiki, one can achieve physical and spiritual balance; however, the means of such achievement is from a source outside of oneself. Thus, methods that employ tairiki concepts, such as, training facilities, personal trainers and even elevated pursuits such as yoga, require the intercession of a third party such as a coach, trainer and the like.

The impetus for my creation and evolution of Jiriki Kata-Do are certain, select, sophisticated Kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do as taught by Shihan Thomas DeFelice, Ku-Dan, Karate-Do No Hanshi.

Shihan Thomas DeFelice’s Goshin-Do Karate-Do patch

The relationship between Jiriki Kata-Do and Goshin-Do Karate-Do may best be characterized by saying Jiriki Kata-Do is the epiphenomenon of Goshin-Do Karate-Do. Jiriki Kata-Do could not exist but for Goshin-Do Karate-Do, whereas Goshin-Do Karate-Do can, and has for over six decades, existed without Jiriki Kata-Do.

Issho-Dojo Patch Of Sensei John Szmitkowski

Issho-Dojo Patch Of Sensei John Szmitkowski

Prior to his untimely passing on May 18, 2011, I had a conversation about Jiriki Kata-Do as a dynamic meditative practice and the martial art of Goshin-Do Karate-Do with Shihan Wayne Norlander, Ku-Dan, Karate-Do No Hanshi, USA Goshin-Ryu Karate-Do.

With Shihan Wayne Norlander, R.I.P.

In that conversation, I ascribed the following symbolism to the interrelationship between these two arts. Goshin-Do Karate-Do is symbolized by a pot of boiling water. To the uninitiated cook, the water simply boils; however, to a culinary connoisseur, the boiling water must be studied, refined and specifically defined. The novice would simply describe the water as boiling; whereas the connoisseur would describe the boiling water as a hard-boil, or a rolling-boil or steady-boil.

With Shihan Thomas DeFelice, Ku-Dan, Karate-Do No Hanshi, Goshin-Do Karate-Do

In comparison, the novice simply describes Goshin-Do Karate-Do protocols as Kata to be learned, like a dance. The aesthete devotee of Goshin-Do Karate-Do seeks to clarify, refine and identify the Kata in a manner similar to the chef and the boiling water. That is to say, the aesthete desires to explore the minutest detail of the Kata within a specific self-defined genre. For me, this process of exploration viewed the Kata initially as a means unto themselves and eventually within the overall context of self-defense, called “bunkai.” This process led me to explore the full extent of the of utility learning Kata. As I looked into this symbolic pot of boiling water, I began to realize that clarifying and defining the water within the context of the martial arts, while fulfilling, was no longer personally sufficient.

I realized that my destiny was to explore the epiphenomenon of the boiling water. My predestined passion lay in exploring and seeking to clarify and define that amorphous by-product of the boiling water, the illusive steam. Thus, I was driven out past the traditional boundaries of the proverbial boiling pot of Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kata into the realm of the steaming Jiriki Kata-Do.


Jiriki Kata-Do, as the symbolic steam produced by the boiling water of Goshin-Do Karate-Do, is the resultant effect that is neither water nor its atomic component of hydrogen and oxygen. Jiriki Kata-Do is the preeminent result when a force (heat in the boiling analogy), physical effort, mental intuition & innovation in the case of Jiriki Kata-Do, is applied to the basic fundamental building blocks (such as H2O molecules in water) and Goshin-do Karate-Do Kata in the case of Jiriki Kata-Do.

Sanchin Book Front Cover Art

Sanchin is the “Gateway-Kata” to Jiriki Kata-Do. Sanchin provides a means of enlivening and enhancing the otherwise mundane aspects of life, to wit: breathing, bodily movement and state of mind and explores and enhances them. Thus, the three battles, or three aspects of human life are found in Sanchin. (See Endnote # 1).

SANCHIN – Three Battles – Three Aspects of Life

Sanchin further combines these otherwise mundane physical aspects and synchronizes them with an elevated spiritual aspect through the exploration of various states of mind and a misunderstood metaphysical aspect which explores one’s internal bio-energy (called Chi by the ancients) and its symbiotic relationship the the external energy of nature and the universe that surrounds us.

Thus, Sanchin explores the necessary elements for life itself. This exploration, when individually undertaken through a pure study of Sanchin, will produce an enhanced life experience for the practitioner.  Sanchin, as the gateway Kata to Jiriki Kata-Do is revealed to the non-martial artist in my new DVD and book. Now the treasure of Sanchin, once jealously guarded by the martial arts, is available to everyone.

Here is a convenient link a video preview of the Sanchin DVD filmed on location at various scenic locations throughout Arizona. LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE

Until the next article, I remain, performing Sanchin and exploring the resultant steam of Jiriki Kata-Do.



Sensei John Szmitkowski


1. The definition of the Three Battles, or human aspects, of Sanchin as: breathing, bodily movement and state of mind is a fundamentally rudimentary definition. Through continued practice of Sanchin, a more elaborate, and even controversial, definition is to be found. Curious? An answer is contained in the Sanchin DVD.

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 blog dedicated to the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fly-fishing and fishing in general by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com


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 –


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” –



Sensei John Szmitkowski

NOW AVAILABLE – SANCHIN VIDEO SERIES designed specifically for the NON-MARTIAL ARTIST who desires to learn & unlock the secret treasure of Sanchin.Here is a link for a promotional video about my Sanchin Kata & Jiriki Kata-Do DVD filmed in the Tonto National Forest. Arizona. Please see the “SANCHIN DVD & BOOK” page tab above for information on how to purchase the DVD.    LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE

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

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.

You may wish to view my blog dedicated to fly-fishing by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Wordpress.Com


17 Jul

I begin this post with somewhat of an apology. This weblog is not a forum for political views, nor does it serve as a match stick to spread the fires of political turmoil. Having said that, I am sometimes astounded as to how this weblog writes itself. I have wanted to share the within fable with you for sometime; however, the context for the anecdote never truly presented itself. That is until this week. So, once again, I share with you an tale from the oral traditions of Goshin-Do Karate-Do. This time I do not share it merely as a means of hoping you will use it to enhance your life. I do that and also submit it as a call for our elected officials, OUR representatives, to be mindful of our collective interest.

The United States is presently enveloped in political turmoil, divisive party politics and in-fighting swirling like a monstrous whirlpool around our our Country’s debt ceiling crisis and federal fiscal budgetary dilemma. Headlines are replete with the private agenda of political parties, corporations and individuals which serve to dilute the process of resolving the crisis. Bi-partisan politics demand that the “other” political party be blamed, or “some-one else” should have to sacrifice. After all, according to the “party-line”, you can’t cut the tax breaks for the wealthy, or, you must cut federal spending, or cut back on social services, including social security. Such political agendas have all but destroyed the middle class. To this end, ALL of us, rich and poor, those that have and have not, including our elected officials need to sacrifice our individual agenda, abandon our self-serving ego.

Frankly all, but most particularly the politicians that purport to represent OUR interests, must – GO TO HELL! (as discussed below).

There is an ancient oriental fable about the similarity and difference between Heaven and Hell. Both Heaven and Hell are banquets with large tables that are laden with delicious food. Seated at opposite ends of the table are the hungry spirits of those who have departed this physical existence. In both places, the chopsticks are five feet long. Now for the difference. In Hell, the pitiful spirits try in vain to use the chopsticks to feed themselves. In Heaven, each spirit simply feeds the soul sitting across the table. (See Endnote # 1).

It is time that we all must be figuratively fed. Our Country is standing at the abyss of a crisis. To resolve this crisis our individual egos must be abandoned. We must help each other by having each and every one of us sacrifice for the mutual benefit of all. Those who have not sacrificed, or “sacrificed” in the most superficial way (no vacation this year?) must now join those that have sacrificed (those who are without jobs, hungry and without homes). It is about time that we realize that our individual self is responsible for our collective well-being. Further, if not through the process of osmosis and absorption, then through direct action, we must infuse our elected politicians with the sense of universal self sacrifice by ALL, not just certain political interest groups.

There is an innate problem with this ancient conception of Hell and that is fear. It is the fear that “If I feed another, will I be fed?”  Surrendering this ego-level uncertainty is the awakening of trust. We must trust each other that ALL will ultimately step up and sacrifice. There are no more individualized or corporate interest to protect. The sole interest is our collective well-being. Each of us need to take this to heart and then insist that our politicians equally do so. It is time for the politicians to stop the Hellish feeding of themselves and their special interests!

Until the next article, I remain, seated at the banquet of Hell with five foot chopsticks, any-one care to join me? If you think another person would benefit by going to Hell, then pass this link along to them, the more the merrier!

Sensei John Szmitkowski


1. The within anecdote of Hell is derived from the oral traditions and teachings of Goshin-Do Karate-Do under Shihan Thomas DeFelice. After a lengthy search I was able to find a literary reference on this view of Hell and the abandonment of ego as follows. Goswami, Amit, The Self-Aware Universe (GP Putnam & Sons New York, NY 1993) p. 240. It is an irony that Dr. Goswami attributes the source of the fable as Chinese mythology and the Chinese Government (the largest creditor of the United States) just cautioned our government that we must act responsibly as to our national debt.

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

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 weblog, or my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com.

You may wish to view my blog dedicated to the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fly-fishing and fishing in general by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com


5 Jun

In the interval of time since the passing of Shihan Wayne Norlander, I have struggled with an appropriate topic to submit for your consideration. Recently, during an afternoon Kata training session in the triple digit heat of the Arizona Desert known as the “Valley Of The Sun”, it occurred to me that the within is perhaps a most appropriate submission. The following is dedicated to all Sensei, past, present and future. It is also appropriate to all those who choose to lead rather than follow. (See Endnote #1)



TO accept human beings as they are – not yearn for perfect creatures;

TO recognize ability – and encourage it;

TO understand shortcomings – and make allowance for them;

TO work patiently for improvement – and not to expect too much too quickly;

TO appreciate what people do right – not just criticize what they do wrong;

TO be slow to anger and hard to discourage;

TO have the hide of an elephant and the patience of Job;

IN short Lord, please help me be a better Sensei!

Until the next submission, I remain, simultaneously honored and humbled to have earned the title, “Sensei”,



Sensei John Szmitkowski, Jiriki Kata-Do

Here is a link for a promotional video about my Sanchin Kata & Jiriki Kata-Do DVD filmed in the Tonto National Forest. Arizona. Please see the “SANCHIN DVD & BOOK” page tab above for information on how to purchase the DVD.

LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE


1. The “Sensei’s Prayer” is taken from a plaque that hung in Shihan Thomas DeFelice’s Academy Of Goshin-Do Karate-Do Dojo.

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 weblog, or my website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com.

You may wish to view my blog dedicated to fly-fishing by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com


8 May

While the within is expressed in terms of Karate-Do, I submit that the topic of Nenjuushin, “everyday mind” applies to any sport, hobby, and artistic endeavor, such as painting, music and the like. For your enjoyment and everyday use, I submit the following.

Training within Shihan Thomas DeFelice’s Goshin-Do Karate-Dojo, I was schooled in the idea that training in the martial arts should not be made into a special event. Rather, it should be a necessary part of our daily lives. This is referred to as “Nenjuushin”, the “everyday mind.”  Later in life, when I began training in Kobudo, the art of ancient weapons, my various instructors made the point that the ancient weapons of the Okinawa peasants were, with limited exception, everyday farm implements. (See endnote #1). In times of turmoil, these everyday farm implements were utilized by the Okinawa peasants to defend themselves against the sword wielding Samurai. Whenever I learned a new weapon, my instructors insisted that the weapon first be used while performing basic, such as push-ups and sit-ups. Such rudimentary practice was necessary to indoctrinate me to the most fundamental use of the weapon.

There is a Zen fable which exemplifies this point. A young priest once asked a Zen master, “What is the most important aspect of practice?” The Zen master replied, “Did you just finish eating?” “Yes,” replied the young monk. “Then go wash your bowl,” came the master’s reply. The meaning of this parable is that practice can never be separated from the essential daily activity of our lives. Indeed, our martial arts must become one within ourselves, not something external to ourselves which we are hopelessly try to grasp. (See Endnote # 2).

The corollary maxims of Nenjuushin maybe found in an article I posted a few weeks ago wherein I set forth the “Twenty Percepts Of Funakoshi-Sensei” – here is a convenient link to the article: https://senseijohn.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/warrior-ideology-part-1-of-2/

Relevant to the concept of nenjuushin are the following three percepts:

8. Do not think that Karate is only in the Dojo.

9. Karate practice is lifetime work; there is no limit.

10. Put your everyday living into Karate, you will find peace.

Applying the above and the everyday mind of nenjuushin to any human endeavor, one may begin to understand how to broaden one’s appreciation and usage of any art. For example, the percept “Do not think Karate is only in the Dojo” stands, inter alia, for the idea that an art is not limited to the physical confines of the place where it is “normally” practiced. Karate-Do is normally practiced in building, called a Dojo. However, at a very young age, my first Sensei, Sensei Nick D’Antuono (one of Shihan DeFelice’s Yudansha), introduced me to the idea that Karate-Do should also be practiced outdoors, in nature. This idea became permanently instilled in my heart. My greatest expression of Karate-Do is now to be found in the most esoteric natural environment. For example, below are two photographs of me practicing the Seienchin Kata at various times in my life. The first is circa, 1999 and was taken at North Truro, Cape Cod, Ma during low tide. The second is circa 2003 and was taken during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally at the Badlands, ND.


Leaving the confines of one’s studio will provide a fresh experience and perspective of one’s art form. Thus, write music, play music, paint, and the like any where, not just inside. Practice your sport, including  so-called “indoor sports”, outside. If you are an indoor swimmer, swim in a lake or an ocean as part of your training. If you are a basketball player practice outdoors where the spontaneous elements of wind and even rain will help to improve your game.

Looking to the second percept above, “Karate practice is lifetime work; there is no limit” one can begin to understand that such training includes everyday “elements”. I recently taught a senior-level class at Shihan Norlander’s USA Goshin-Ryu Karate Dojo, I utilized an “ancient training device” so that the students can practice technique and Kata with the goal of improving their grip. What was the ancient training device? Two cantaloupes.

Again, this idea can expand any art or hobby. Instead of painting with a brush try something different; remember when you were young and painted with your fingers. If you are a musician, find a non-traditional instrument to use in your songs. I once saw a television documentary about a rock formation in Pennsylvania that is a major tourist location. These rocks, when struck with a hammer, makes beautiful sounds.

When you open yourself to the possibilities of enhancing and experiencing your art, hobby or life’s pursuit, such as Karate-Do by employing the concept of nenjuushin, you will find peace. Thus, the third percept from above; “Put your everyday living into Karate, you will find peace is realized.”

Makiwara practice in the snow, Circa 1998

In concluding this article, I will modify another of Funakoshi-Sensei percepts, “Real ART (Karate) is as hot water returning to cold water if energy is not constantly applied. Nenjuushin will help you keep your art, sport, hobby, or other pursuit fresh, alive, a source of inspiration for many years – in other words, HOT.

In closing I remain, a believer in the everyday mind,




Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do

For a view of Nenjuushin in the form of Kata in nature, here is a link for a promotional video about my Sanchin Kata & Jiriki Kata-Do DVD filmed in the Tonto National Forest. Arizona. Please see the “SANCHIN DVD & BOOK” page tab above for information on how to purchase the DVD.    LINK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pC-tPUrYE


  1. The exception to the farm implement origin is usually found in metal weapons, such as the Sai. Metal was costly in ancient times. Tools made from metal, except those  with a specific need, were beyond the normal financial means of the average peasant. Metal tools needed for a specific purpose, such as the sickle, or Kama, which was necessary to trim and cut vegetation, would be purchased only when absolutely necessary. The remaining traditional metal weapons of Kobudo, such as the Sai, Nunti and Naginata were used by members of the police or palace guards.; thus they did not originate as farm implements.

2. Furuya, Kensho, Kodo: Ancient Ways (Lessons In The Spiritual Life Of The Warrior/Martial Artist (O’Hara Publications, Inc., 1996) p. 48.

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 weblog.

You may wish to view my blog dedicated to fly-fishing by clicking WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Wordpress.Com


24 Apr

Three months of steady work in New Jersey have come to an end. Now back in Arizona, it will take me a few days to settle in and begin to submit to you articles that I trust will inspire you to think, imagine, ruminate and contemplate the method and manner in which your life can begin to be improved through my martial ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do (The way of inner salvation). While I adjust to Arizona, allow me to submit my reflections on the past few months in New Jersey.

My stay in New Jersey was rewarding and fulfilling on many levels. I was able to again see family, including my dad, mom, daughters, Jess and Kim and especially my grandson Stratton. At 19 months, the little guy is turning into quite a handful and a bit of a daredevil. He even took his first ride in a cherry picker with his mom, Jess!


I was able to spend time with my Sensei, Shihan Thomas DeFelice, Ku-Dan (9th degree black belt) and hone my physical, mental and spiritual skills.

With great pleasure, I attended weekly training sessions at the USA Goshin-Ryu Karate Dojo of Shihan Wayne Norlander, Ku-Dan (9th degree black belt) in Bogota, NJ.

Shihan Norlander gave me the honor of teaching his senior Yudansha a Eaku (Okinawa Oar) Kata. I digitally recorded the Kata and was able to produce a unique video for my Fly Fishing Dojo weblog entitled “Fisherman As Warriors”. If you would like to see the Kata, here is a convenient link to the video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cMRW503DbY

I was especially honored to have attended the senior black belt promotion of Sensei Pablo Peneque, Roku-dan (6th degree black belt) and Sensei Scott Zamora, Yon-dan (4th degree black belt).

The promotion ceremony was a forum for a reunion of several of Shihan DeFelice’s Yudansha (black belts).

After three and a half days on the road, we arrived back home in Arizona on April 18th.

And thus, begins another segment of the Sensei John weblog; now brought to you from the Valley Of The Sun, Arizona. Much more to follow. I remain,

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do

Please feel free to visit my Fly Fishing Dojo weblog which explores the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology & fly fishing. WWW.FlyFishingDojo.Com


27 Feb

On February 23rd, it was my honor to attend a senior black belt promotion ceremony at Shihan Wayne Norlander’s USA Goshin-Ryu Karate Dojo in Bogota, New Jersey. Two of my dear friends. Sensei Pablo Paneque and Sensei Scott Zamora were elevated to the rank of Roku-dan (6th degree black belt) and Yon-dan (4th degree black belt) respectively.

Sensei Paneque, Shihan Norlander, Sensei Zamora

I gave a short speech concerning rank to pay homage to the ceremony, distinguished masters, that included not only Shihan Norlander, but also, my Sensei, Shihan Thomas DeFelice and another dear friend, Sensei Tm Van Tassel, and honor the two friends being promoted.

The Dais: Sensei Tom Van Tassel, Shihan Norlander, Shihan DeFelice & Myself

While the speech itself is a very personal statement between my friends and myself, I thought I would share with you the gist of the speech. The substance of the speech concerned the increased burden associated with elevations in Karate-Do rank.To be sure, one desires an elevation in rank as a symbol of recognition of one’s increasing proficiency in any endeavor, including Karate-Do. This is particularly true in the years in which one is learning the fundamental technique, concepts and ideology of Karate. In essence, these years are represented by the ten Kyu, or grades, prior to the first black belt grade.

One’s desire for increased rank does, to some extent, extend beyond one’s earning a black belt rank. The desire; however, dissipates upon one’s recognition that each successive promotion carries more of a burden than a recognition. What then is the burden associated with each advanced black belt rank?

The Yudansha (Black Belts) in attendance.

To answer this question, the changing status of the black belt in relation to his Sensei in particular and Karate-Do in general must be understood. I offer the following two caveats before submitting my observations and conclusions to you. First, the following is merely my observation and commentary. As such, the within is not steeped in martial tradition and thus differs from stylistic dogma, oral tradition and martial mythology. Second, the following is not a technical exploration of the senior black belt grades. For instance, specific titles, such as “Renshi”, “Hanshi”, “Kyoshi”, “Shihan”, are ascribed to the various ranks. Such titles and other technicalities of the rank are not explored herein. With those two caveats in mind, I offer the following on the burdens of rank.

The first three back belt ranks are the Sho-dan, Ni-dan and San-dan, First to third degree black belt respectively. These ranks are the lesser grades of black belt. (See Endnote # 1). All three may be described as representing the status of a “Disciple”. By definition, a disciple is one who follows another; a disciple may be referred to by the lesser included term of student; however, the devotion of the disciple is greater than that of student. In Karate-Do, the Disciple follows the teachings of the Sensei. Thus, the burden of these lesser ranks is to faithfully, absorb, understand and emulate the teachings of one’s Sensei.

The Yon-dan (Fourth degree black belt), the rank to which my friend Sensei Zamora was promoted to, is the highest level of rank in the class of disciple.

Sensei Zamora receiving his Yon-dan obi from Shihan Norlander

Thus the Yon-dan is the greatest, most faithful, devoted & tenacious disciple of not only his Sensei but also his Sensei’s style of Karate-Do. As such, the burden bestowed and imposed upon the Yon-dan encompasses a never wavering or faltering faith or devotion to Sensei and his teachings. As the archetype disciple, the Yon-dan must be tenacious & ferocious in defending his Sensei and that which his Sensei teaches. The Yon-dan’s tenacity and ferocity is symbolized by a new obi, or belt. For the first time, the color red is a prominent component of the obi. Throughout history red, when worn on any uniform of distinction, represents the bearer’s acknowledgement of the burden imposed upon him and the acceptance that he may be called upon to spill either the blood of another or his own as a disciple of his cause. (See Endnote # 2). This tenacity and devotion is symbolized through the Yon-dan’s continued progression in Karate-Do for each and every successive obi will incorporate the color red as a reminder of this implied blood covenant.

The rank of Go-dan, Fifth degree black belt, is the half-way point in the progression of senior black belt ranks. It marks a transition phase in of black belt wherein he or she moves from the stauts of a pure disciple to the new status symbolized by the Roku-Dan. (See Endnote # 3).

The Roku-Dan, to which my friend, Sensei Paneque was elevated to, is the first pure status that begins an ominous and ponderous new phase of relationship with one’s Sensei.

Sensei Paneque receiving his Roku-dan obi from Shihan Norlander

The Roku-dan is the result of surviving the transitional phase, represented by the Go-Dan rank, where one evolves from the status of a disciple. This new relationship with one’s Sensei, and subsequently with Karate-Do is best described as becoming an “Apostle”. The word apostle is derived from the early Greek word “Apostolos” meaning “one who is a messenger”.  Thus, one is no longer a disciple or follower of Sensei. Rather, one is now a messenger of Sensei and Karate-Do. Many men are disciples, but few are called to be Apostles. What, then, is the task or burden of the apostoloc Roku-dan?

By definition, an Apostle must “go-forth”. This does not necessarily mean physical departure, rather, one must go forth from the “presence” of one’s Sensei. The Roku-dan must stand alone and spread his meassage. He or she is now wretched and alone. The Apostle, as messenger,  is no longer comforted by the warm, comforting envelope of the protective sphere of Sensei. As such, the apostolic Roku-Dan must be of sufficient character and strength so as to remain steadfast to those who ignore or challenge his message of Karate-Do. The Roku-dan must be ever vigilant, strong and pure of heart so as to withstand the rebuke of those that seek to spurn, chastise and even condemn him on account of his message. Notwithstanding that the Roku-dan is figuratively cast off alone into the external Karate-Do world, he remains always accountable to the one whose message he carries, namely, that of his Sensei. There are no worldly rewards for the apostle. His sole solace lies in his fulfillment derived from his message itself. Karate-Do is the comforting blanket that he will wrap himself in until such a time as the Apostle is again called home.

The Sichi-dan, or Nana-dan in some styles of Karate-Do (7th degree black belt) is the archetype apostle. This black belt has spread his message alone in the world for a period of time. During this time, he has transformed into a state wherein he no longer preaches the message; he himself has become the message.  The burden of the Sichi-dan is to be more than human; to evolve to the embodiment of his message. To illustrate this transformation, I offer the following non-martial arts based, story concerning Mohandas Gandhi.

A woman once walked many miles, in fact walked all day, with her daughter to see Gandhi. The daughter was always eating candy and the woman sought Gandhi’s help. In Gandhi’s presence she asked, “Bapu, please tell my daughter not to eat candy as it is bad for her.” Gandhi smiled and replied, “Please come back in one month.” The woman and her daughter left and walked another entire day to return home. After a month passed, the woman and her daughter repeated their difficult journey. Gandhi was glad to see them and instructed the daughter to not eat candy anymore. The daughter agreed and left with her mother to again walk a days journey to return home. Gandhi’s followers were beside themselves. “Bapu,  you could have spared the woman and her child another difficult journey!” “Why did you not simply tell her last month to stop eating candy?” Gandhi smiled and simply said, “Because last month, I did not know if I could stop eating candy myself and had to try.”

This is simple story relates the burden of the Sichi-dan. (See endnote # 4).

The Hachi-dan, Eighth degree black belt, is another rank of transition. It represents an apostle that has served his time in the conceptual world outside of his Sensei and is called from the solitary nature of such world back to the “home” of the Sensei. The burden of this evolving apostle is that having journeyed out into the world, he must retrace his steps and the attendant adversity along the way in order to return home.

With Shihan Norlander, Ku-dan, Menkyo Kaiden, USA Goshin-Ryu Karate-Do.

The Ku-dan, Ninth degree black belt, symbolizes one who has returned home, or back to the comfort and safe confines of a particular style of Karate-Do. This status does not convey a sense of well-being. Rather, it bears the burden of vigilance so as to safeguard the home in which the Ku-dan again resides. The integrity of not only the particular Karate-Do style’s physical technique, and protocols, must be safeguarded, but also philosophical, moral, ethical and ideological concepts are of prime importance to the Ku-dan. Thus, notwithstanding that he is again home, the Ku-dan bears the burden of being an ever vigilant caretaker of Karate-Do; he must continuously nurture Karate-Do as if it is a helpless infant.

With Shihan Thomas DeFelice, Ku-dan, Menkyo Kaiden, Goshin-Do Karate-Do.

The Ju-dan, Tenth degree black belt, is the final status of one who has resided in the house of a style of Karate-Do for life. As with the foreknowledge that his physical life must end, the Ju-dan is aware that his life as participant, disciple, apostle and caretaker of a style of Karate-Do technique, protocol, philosophy and ideology will also end with his physical life. The burden of the Ju-dan is two-fold. First, the Ju-dan must appoint a successor or caretaker for his house. If he fails to do so, the house crumbles amongst the whims of time and memory. Second, as his spirit, or “soul” dwells in the after-world, it must bear witness to the style of Karate-Do left behind. The Ju-dan’s spirit will bear witness, but be unable to influence such events. Such is the eternal burden of a pure Karate-Ka, one who practiced Karate-Do.

Once again, the within does not reflect a view of any one style of Karate-Do, or of a regional, martial tradition. It is simply an observation and commentary by one that walks a path. I hope I have captured the path I walk in sufficient terms so that one can understand rank, not solely as something to be attained, desired or even “glorified”. It is a humbling burden that can only be born by the most deserving, the most strong, ardent and caring of humans.

Until the next article, I remain – – – walking.



Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do

Shihan DeFelice’s Goshin-Do Karate-Do Yudansha in attendance

Left To Right:  Sensei Bob Weiczorek (Yon-dan), Sensei Gil Breit (Yon-dan), Myself (Roku-dan), Sensei Dave Crum (Go-dan), Shihan Thomas DeFelice (Ku-dan), Sensei Rich Shields (Ni-dan)


  1. Of the three lesser black belts ranks, the Sho-dan is perhaps the most coveted; however, the most significant is the Ni-dan. The significance of the Ni-dan is steeped in martial arts ethics which state that a black belt may promote a student to one rank below his or her own. Thus, a Sho-dan may promote a student only to the highest brown belt level. In order for a student of a Sho-dan to receive his black belt, such elevation must be confirmed by a higher ranking black belt. Such is not the case with a rank of Ni-dan. Ethically, a Ni-dan has the right to promote a student to a rank of Sho-dan. Such elevation may, but need not be, confirmed by black belts of more senior rank. Over time, this ethic has been infringed upon by such restrictions as “examining boards”, “testing committees” and the like. But, the ethic remains.
  2. For one non-martial example of the symbology of the color red in a ceremonial uniform, we may look to the Roman Catholic Church. Upon being elevated to the status of Cardinal, one wears a red uniform. Historically this symboloized the Cardinal’s willingness to die, or otheriwse spill blood for his religious faith.
  3. In so far as it relates to the transitional status, I will breifly mention the obi I use to symbolize the Yon-dan and Go-dan. As you can see from the photographs of Sensei Zamora, though, not “standard” (various Sensei utilize differing obi), the Yon-dan belt is often two horizontal stripes, one white (worn on top) and one red (worn on the bottom) against a solid black back. The symbology of white reminds the Yon-dan that, although he is the acrhetype disciple, he is again but a beginner, a white belt. For the Go-dan rank, I use an obi that is the same as the Yon-dan; except that the horizontal stripes are red (worn on top) and black (worn on the bottom). Similar to the white belt that turns to black, the black remids the wearer that he is beginning to enter a new phase in Karate-Do.
  4. The symbology of the junior and senior grade status of Yon-dan and Go-dan can, in the discretion of the style of Karate-Do, again be reflected in the obi of the Roku-dan and Sichi-dan. The Roku-dan obi of red and white panels (ending in white tips) and a solid black background becomes black and red panels (ending in red tips) on a solid black background at Sichi-dan grade. The white becoming black symbolizes the same idea as above, but also now symbolizes to the Sichi-dan that caution must be excercised so as not to beome stained, or ideologically polluted, by the world in which he preaches his message.

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