Tag Archives: Shihan Wayne Norlander

Hatsu Bon For Shihan Wayne Norlander

9 May

May 18, 2011, Shihan Wayne Norlander was taken from us.
Please join me in dedicating our training on May 18th 2016 to his eternal spirit and the spirit of all those fallen comrades we wish to remember. May their spirit find our training and poem worthy.

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

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

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.

With Shihan Norlander after a spirited workout.

With Shihan Norlander after a spirited workout.

My graveside Sanchin memorial to Shihan:

Sincerity in sweat, Sensei.
Sensei John Szmitkowski


SHU, HA, RI – A Different Perspective

4 May

There is a concept from the martial arts that is applicable to any relationship whereby one individual relies upon another individual for education, instruction or guidance. That martial arts concept is known as “Shu-Ha-Ri.” It applies to any student-teacher, mentor-protege or other similar relationship.
Shu-Ha-Ri has been analyzed ad infinitum from the standpoint of the student. I myself have often engaged in such analysis. Here is a convenient link to an article I had posted a few years ago https://senseijohn.me/2010/06/20/the-martial-arts-learning-process-of-shu-ha-ri/ 
One night, while teaching at the USA Goshin-Ryu Dojo of my late friend, Shihan Wayne Norlander, I realized that this historical analysis is limited to one-half of the dynamic of transmitting karate-do from one person to another. In so far as the teaching of karate-do implies an obligation to accurately transmit the karate of one’s Sensei, I propose that the common trend to analyze Shu, Ha, Ri form the standpoint of the student must be overcome (See Endnote # 1).

In this submission, I would like to set forth an alternate perspective from which to consider the concept of Shu-Ha-Ri; namely the perspective of the teacher, or Sensei, of karate-do, who was by definition once a student him or her self.

By way of introduction, a review of the popular discourse on Shu, Ha, Ri is appropriate. There are three stages of the martial learning process which are generally accepted and a fourth, more esoteric stage. The three generally accepted stages are the stages of “Shu”, “Ha“, “R1“.

Kanji for Shu-Ha-Ri

Each particular stage is described as follows.

SHU(pronounced “Shoe”) means to correctly copy all of the techniques of one’s instructors;

HA (pronounced “Ha”) means the liberty allowed to a student to develop his own way of executing techniques based upon the demands of his own physical stature and his own individual understanding of Karate;

RI (pronounced “Rhee”) means “transcendence” or “mastery”. It is when a student can perform all of the techniques automatically and becomes a teacher himself (See Endnote # 2).

A fourth, more esoteric, stage of the process of learning the martial arts has come to be identified. This stage is called the “Ku” (pronounced “Cue”) stage. Kuis the stage of emptiness. It means everything is gone and no trace is left behind. The student has reached the highest level and no one can trace his movements or capture his techniques.

I submit that the concept of Shu-Ha-Ri transcends the bounds of the student’s perspective and can (and should) be extended to include an analysis from the perspective of the teacher. A natural consequence of learning the martial arts, as set forth in the description of the Ri stage above, is that the student becomes a teacher him or herself. Once the student becomes a teacher himself, the analysis and application of Shu, Ha, Ri historically ceases. I proffer the following analysis of Shu, Ha, Ri as applied to the teacher who was once, naturally, a student himself.

SHU means to correctly copy the technique, kata, method and manner of one’s Sensei as one teaches one’s students. While the technique and kata of one’s Sensei are easily governed by stylistic dictates (see Endnote # 3), the method and manner of one’s Sensei are unique to the Sensei under whom a student (now teacher) originally learned his or her art. Each individual instructor of a style of karate-do, while teaching the technique and kata of the style, combines these physical dictates with the non-physical traits of the style (philosophy, ideology, spirituality, etc) as set forth by the style’s founder and progenitor. While so teaching the “style”, the Sensei imbues and infuses the teaching with his or her own unique character and personality traits. These character and personality traits generally may be of a positive nature, but, as dictated by the frailty of the human condition, may also include the instructor’s character flaws; even those that may considered less than admirable (See Endnote # 4). It is the “style” of karate, as imbued and interpreted by a Sensei that is transmitted to the student (who is now the teacher).

HA means the liberality to be allowed an instructor (by his original Sensei) to develop his own way of teaching. I submit this development is influenced by two key factors. The first key factor is the teacher’s unique individual physical and psychological traits. These factors would have been accentuated or modified as necessary during the teacher’s tenure as a student. IF the teacher’s Sensei was a Sensei of merit, then his Sensei would have discovered and been aware of these individual traits during the time period wherein the teacher was a student of the Sensei. During this time, Sensei would have nurtured the student’s meritorious traits and modified or corrected the student’s character flaws. Thus, Sensei would have guided his student, now a teacher, so that these individual traits do not offend the tenor and tone of Sensei’s style of karate-do. The second key component is highly variable. Surely, Sensei is aware that his student will encounter this factor but cannot predict the specific character of same. This second trait that the student, now teacher, will encounter are the physical capabilities and mental attributes of his individual students.  The student turned teacher must be allowed the liberality to mold his instruction of karate-do on these two key factors. If this liberality is granted, the student-teacher, now Sensei, starts to represent the embodiment of the karate he learned from his Sensei.

RI means “transcendence.” Transcendence occurs when a Sensei becomes the living embodiment of the karate-do that he continues to practice and subsequently teach. This karate is no longer the karate that he learned from his Sensei; it is more than that. It is that learned karate as interpreted by the individual Sensei’s physical and spiritual traits AND as transformed by the mechanism of Sensei’s continued practice of karate-do and individual teaching methods and manner.

KU is the stage were the Sensei no longer affirmatively teaches. Rather, Sensei transmits karate-do by virtue of being an active Sensei. This is to say that Sensei has become his karate-do. Sensei has come to embody and represent his interpretation of karate-do in such a way that the students are capable of learning by Sensei’s example. This means that the student no longer learns by rote drilling, they learn by being in the presence of Sensei as Sensei lives in karate-do. This stage is the lifeblood extension of the observation of Shihan Peter Urban, Ju-dan, USA Goju-ryu, “A Karate man in training is in karate.” At this stage, “A Sensei who practices and teaches karate IS karate.” (See Endnote # 5).

I submit that understanding the various stages Shu, Ha, Ri from both the perspective of a student and a Sensei is necessary so as to fully understand the total dynamic within which the art of karate-do is transmitted from one person to another.

Respectfully submitted for your contemplation,


 Sensei John Szmitkowski

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

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


1. I use the word “implies” because there are those Sensei that are perhaps less than meritorious and simply teach without regard to a sense of duty or obligation to purely transmit the teachings of their Sensei.

2. The following symbolism has been ascribed to each stage. Such symbolism may assist you in further understanding the three stages of transmittal and learning.

SHU is symbolized by an egg. The first stage is hard, the form or shape of the technique must be mastered or protected, just like a mother protects her egg.

HA is symbolized by the breaking egg. The basic form is broken into its infinite applications. It means the fundamentals are now mastered and are applied in all situations.

RI is symbolized by the fully released chick that has matured and flies away from the nest. The student forgets all forms and masters the formless technique, leaving old ideas behind him. He has fully matured in his training.

3. This means simply that a student of Goshin-Do Karate will teach the technique and kata of the Goshin-Do Karate style. Similarly a student of Goju-ryu, Shorin-ryu, Isshin-ryu or any other style will teach the technique and kata of their particular style.

4.Since we are human, we are inevitably fallible. Thus, by human nature, a Sensei carries his personal flaws with him as he teaches karate. Such flaws may include, ego, jealousy, anger and the like. It is a direct consequence that the karate transmitted will be influenced by both the instructor’s positive and negative personality traits during the transmission process.

5. Urban, Peter, The Karate Dojo, (Charles E. Tuttle & Co., Tokyo, Japan 1967) p. 77.

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 2015 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Group Kata In Bed . . . That’s OK

2 Feb

Because of my Shibumi Kata project I am privileged to meet many unique and brave people who fight an ongoing battle against debilitating illness. It is to them that I dedicate this week’s “. . . That’s OK” (Online Kata) session.

These valiant people sometimes find themselves confined to a wheel chair or are bed-ridden. This state is not a prohibition to their practicing the physical movements and psychological concepts of my Shibumi Kata (or Sanchin Kata for that matter).

I would like all of us to join in and experience first hand their valiant kata practice.

To this end we can practice any of the following kata while seated or bed-ridden:

  • Sanchin Kata,
  • Shibumi Kata,
  • or for karate-ka, any kata (the Kata Sommelier, has a challenging kata recommendation).

So, you are confined to a chair or bed-ridden, “. . . That’s OK.” (Online Kata)

Remember, the group dynamic is not fulfilled by all of us being geographically present, rather, it is fulfilled by each of us performing our Kata in the proscribed manner.

Session Parameters:

Date: starting Monday, February 3rd 2014

Time: anytime

Location: a bed or chair

Salient Points:

  • Perform your kata using mostly the hand movements of the kata;
  • If seated, not withstanding the above, you may shuffle one foot in front of the other to represent the stance called for in the kata;
  • Movements should be performed exactly as called for in the kata, using all applicable body tension, breathing, focus, et cetera;

Kata Sommelier: For karate-ka, I would recommend you perform the highest ranked, most difficult kata in your syllabus. In my kata syllabus, this would involve either the Hakutsuru or Suparunpei Kata. You are either in bed or seated anyway, so perform the most difficult kata – if you can. If you can’t then try a basic kata. With a bit of creativity, you can also perform kicks that may be within the kata.

The last requirement of this “. . . That’s OK” online kata session is to remain in a positive physical and mental state by way of the concept of Zanshin (the “remaining mind”). For information on the Zanshin state-of-mind, please use this LINK: https://senseijohn.me/2014/02/23/zanshin-remaining-mind-shibumi-project/

Once again, you may wish to not only perform this “. . . That’s OK” session as scheduled, but may also revisit it as part of your overall practice regime.

To illustrate the concept of seated kata, here is one example of a seated Sanchin Kata performed at the gravesite of my friend and comrade, Shihan Wayne Norlander (R.I.P. 05-18-11).

HANKO Sensei John Szmitkowski

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

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

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

Hatsu Bon For Shihan Wayne Norlander

18 May

Two years ago today, Shihan Wayne Norlander was taken from us. Today’s training and the following Hatsu Bon Poem are offered to his spirit. Should today’s readers so desire, please join us and perform a kata of your choice in memory of Shihan Norlander and a fallen comrade you may wish to remember. May Shihan’s spirit find our training and poem worthy.

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

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


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.

With Shihan Wayne Norlander, R.I.P.

With Shihan Wayne Norlander, R.I.P.

To view my Sanchin Kata-Hatsu Bon at Sensei’s gravesite (August, 2012), please click the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASAVKhh-Hhs

HANKO Sensei John Szmitkowski

To view photographs of Shihan Norlander’s elevation to Ku-Dan (9th degree black belt), please click this convenient link:http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=wayne+norlander+promotion&f=hp

From 2000, Shihan’s promotion to Nana-Dan (7th degree black belt)  at the Kearny Martial Arts Dojo, Kearny, NJ, group photograph with the Goshin-Do Karate-Do Yudansha.


Kneeling (L-R): Shihan Thomas DeFelice,  Shihan Wayne Norlander,

Standing (L-R): Myself, Sensei James DiMicelli, Sensei Walter Byrne, Sensei Dave Crum, Sensei Bret Moore (R.I.P.), Sensei Gil Breit, Sensei Rich Sheilds, Sensei Kim Szmitkowski.


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

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


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


20 May

It is with an extremely heavy heart that I submit this post announcing that on May 18th, a mentor, and a dear friend, Shihan Wayne Norlander, unexpectedly and untimely passed away. Since that date, the stars do little to illuminate the dark void of my heart, even the rising sun fails to pierce the blackness as it humbly attempts to herald the splendor of a new day.

For those who wish to pay their respects to Shihan and his family, you may do so at

Petrick Funeral Home, 140 Palisade Avenue, Bogota, NJ (201) 487-3053.

Sunday, May 22nd from 7 to 9 pm and Monday, May 23rd from 2 to 4 pm and 7 to 9 pm.

You are encouraged to contact the funeral home to verify the above arrangements as they become final.

My condolences to Shihan’s wife, children, family, Yudansha & students.

To view photographs of Shihan Norlander’s elevation to Ku-Dan (9th degree black belt), please click this convenient link:


I shall have a more fitting memorial to Shihan on the Memorial Page at the appropriate time, for now I simply say –

Shihan, I shall miss our conversations.


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.

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


13 Feb

This is the week my interactive experiment with you concludes. By now you should have two journals, one for each week of our interaction, representing the fourteen things that made you smile each day.

What was different about each of the two weeks that you were to find something daily to smile about? In part two of the experiment, you were simply asked to find something to smile about each day. To be sure, not necessarily an easy task, but a relatively simple one. Part three of the experiment changed the task. First you were asked to recall and write down the thing or event that made you smile. Second, you were asked to continue to find something to smile about each day. Third, you again had to recall and write down that which made you smile. The recording of the event (that which made you smile) and the knowledge of the recording requirement is the difference between part two and part three.

I think it is fair to say that in part two of the experiment, you simply smiled each day. That smile was pure and heart-felt. I would hazard a guess that in part three of the experiment, many of you focused not on the pure act of smiling each day, but rather, on being required to remember and to write down that which made you smile. Thus many felt “compelled” to smile and constrained to document the exact scenario that made you smile. Thus, the pure enjoyment of the smile was diminished.

I suggest that, in part three, you were more concerned with the recollection and recording of the thing, event, or object, that made you smile then you were in experiencing the smile itself. Recall the simply story in part one of this interaction. Your actions are like the candidate that entered my Dojo. The candidate focused on the black belt and not the knowledge that the belt symbolizes. As such, I suggest that your recorded notes, particularly in part three of this experiment, merely represent a symbol of your efforts. They are a reflection that your focus was on that symbol and not the experience of the joy the thing or event gave you that made you smile. I would suggest that a journal entry representing a heart-felt, pure smile might simply read, “I can’t recall what exactly made me smile that day, but I so thoroughly enjoyed it with my entire being.”

So, from this day forward, embrace the example of the candidate and the black belt. Do not focus on the symbol, simply experience, embrace and enjoy that which the symbol represents. Please continue to find something each and every day to smile about,. Do not worry about remember it, rather savor the moment; simply absorb, embrace and enjoy it. It’s okay if you don’t remember what made you smile, just remember you smiled and were happy!

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do

I smiled today when I played with computer generated photo effects and placed Goshin-Do/Ryu Karate patches onto America’s Cup Racing Yachts. From left to right are the patches of Shihan Thomas DeFelice’s Goshin-Do Karate-Do, Shihan Wayne Norlander’s USA Goshin-Ryu Karate-Do and my Goshin-Do Karate-Do Issho Dojo patch.


30 Jan

In part two of this interactive experiment, you must undertake the following, relatively simple, task. Each and every day this coming week, you must find one thing to smile from your heart about. That “thing” can be large or small, tangible or intangible. Let me give you a few examples from my own personal experiences.

  • One day, while riding my Harley, I was stopped at a traffic light. Crossing the street was a small family, a father, mother and a boy of about six. The parents frowned a bit at the sound of the bike and perhaps my appearance, but, the little boy smiled and waived. I smiled also.
  • One morning, I believe in November, I rose at 3;30 and watched the Geminid meteor shower. I smiled.
  • Last night I had a simple dinner of thin sliced roast beef warmed in gravy from a can over plain white bread. After eating, I sat back and smiled in fond remembrance of my Grandma Helen who served that to me as a young child.
  • This past Monday evening, after a much-needed Kata workout at the Dojo of Shihan Wayne Norlander, Ku-Dan (9th DegreeBlack Belt,) Menkyo Kaiden, USA Goshin-Ryu, I, and Shihan Norlander, smiled.

  • On Thursday of this week, New Jersey experienced a blizzard of snow. I walked to the home of Shihan Thomas DeFelice, Ku-Dan (9th Degree Black Belt), Menkyo Kaiden, Goshin-Do Karate-Do. After he and I tussled with mother nature, we both smiled.

Well, now it is your turn. Each and every day this week, find one “thing” to smile about. That smile should stem from deep within yourself and be pure, from the heart.

Next Sunday, February 6th, I will post part three of our little interactive experiment. Until then, knowing where this experiment is going . . . I am smiling!

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do

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

Practice Does NOT Make Perfect

19 Jul
We have all had teachers, instructors, coaches, and similar mentors repeatedly tell us that “Practice makes perfect.“ Such mentors uttered this phrase as a form of axiomatic inspiration whereby we were encouraged to reach the unknown height of perfection. In the past, whenever this phrase was chanted like a mantra, all those under the tutelage of their mentor would try harder, sweat abundantly, study more and otherwise reach into their inner most self to produce a level of achievement which they believed was incapable of manifesting. The time has finally come to rebel against this axiomatic dogma. It is time for every one that reads the within to firmly stand their ground. The next time some one tells you that “practice makes perfect”, look them directly in the eye and tell them they are wrong.
That is correct, look the dogmatic mentor in the eye and tell them to stop universally uttering such nonsense. After your mentor recovers his or her composure, inform them that their concept of practice is not only incomplete, but also lacks intuition. Practice does not make perfect. Rather PERFECT practice makes perfect. Imperfect or half-hearted practice only nurtures and fosters complacency and imperfection. Remember this well the next time you set out to practice (or otherwise engage in) your favorite hobby, sport, past-time, art form or other activity. In fact, remember it well as it applies to life in general. PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. (See Endnote # 1).
Until the next article, I remain attempting always to perfectly practice.  
Sensei John Szmitkowski
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1. I wish to make it abundantly clear that the concept that “Perfect practice makes perfect” is in no way my own. I have heard it many times in the Dojo of both Shihan Thomas DeFelice, Ku-Dan (9th Degree Black Belt), Menkyo Kaiden, Goshin-Do Karate-Do and Shihan Wayne Norlander, Ku-Dan (9th Degree Black Belt), Menkyo Kaiden, USA Goshin-Ryu Karate-Do. Their oral tradition attributes this concept to the late Karate Pioneer, Shihan Peter Urban, Ju-Dan (10th Degree Black Belt) USA Goju-Ryu, who was a friend to them both.
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On-Line Store: 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.com/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“.

Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do

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