Tag Archives: Understated Elegance

Zanshin (Remaining Mind) -Shibumi Project

23 Feb



The goal of performing my Shibumi Kata is to modify your physical, emotional or  psychological state to a more favorable state than prior to such performance. This is true of Sanchin Kata or any karate kata. Once this goal is achieved, you must maintain it for maximum effect. Your modified physical state, from fatigue to exhilaration for example, is readily apparent. A modified emotional or psychological state, from anxiety or depression to a positive state for example, is more subtle.

As to your emotional or psychological state, a martial arts state-of-mind known as Zanshin (pronounced Zohn-shin) is relevant. The kanji for Zanshin translates as “remaining mind.”

Kanji - Zanshin

Kanji – Zanshin

After a kata is performed, Zanshin is invoked by martial artists to maintain a martial state-of-mind. Their mind “remains in the battle.” Within the context of Karate, this means that the mind remains alert to further confrontation wherein one would be required to defend oneself. Once assured that either the continuation of the conflict or attack from another is no longer a threat, the martial artist then returns to his default state-of-mind. I propose that such a default psychological state should be the state of mushin-no-shin.

Within the context of my Shibumi Kata, or Sanchin Kata, Zanshin means that your improved emotional or psychological state is to maintained throughout the rest of your day. Thus if you find you are suffering from a dilatory emotional or psychological state (anxiety, depression, etc.) you should perform one or all of the movements of the Shibumi Kata for the purpose of transforming that state to a more positive state of mind. For example, you may feel physically well but be anxious or depressed. Notwithstanding your physical well-being, you should perform Shibumi for the sole purpose of modifying your mental state. Once Shibumi is performed and your mental state modified, you want to maintain that state. Thus the “remaining mind” of Zanshin.

If you find your mental state deteriorating, you are able to either perform Shibumi Kata again, or if you are unable to then mentally recall the transformative process of the Shibumi techniques.

In extreme emotional or psychological situations Zanshin serves as a bridge to more advanced and aggressive psychological states. An example of one such advanced, aggressive state of mind is that of Tomaranu Kokoro (“Unstoppable Mind”).

In closing, I wish you – Shibumi,


Sensei John Szmitkowski

Shibumi – Kata Tactics: Physical Movements – 8 Ancient Concepts

4 Dec


The foregoing is one component Chapter of an overall work describing the Shibumi Kata. To read the work in the order intended, please either click on the Shibumi Kata Page Tab above for a full Table Of Contents or this convenient            link: https://senseijohn.me/shibumi-kata/

Shibumi Tactics (Physical Movements OF Kata):

The tactics employed in the Shibumi kata to modify “Dean’s” depleted physical condition associated with cancer and chemotherapy and the psychological effects of fighting the disease are ancient in nature. These principles date back in time to the earliest formulation of the martial arts.

It has been said that there are eight primordial principles that envelope the martial arts and karate. 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 below for the full text of the poems).

I have used these eight ancient principles to create the foundation for the physical movements and psychological and emotional aspects of the Shibumi Kata.

I have grouped the eight principles into four sequences. Each sequence has two competing principles. The physical movements and psychological aspects of each sequence provide a varied means of modifying the performers physical and emotional states. The performer can either select a specific sequence as he determines his needs at any point in time or he may elect to perform the entire Shibumi Kata by performing all four sequences in the recommended order. Each group is discussed in detail in the foregoing chapters.

Using their historical names, the four sequences (in recommended order) containing the eight primordial principles are:

Sequence # 1:

  •      To swallow;
  •      To spit;

Sequence # 2:

  •      To float;
  •      To sink;

Sequence # 3

  •      To burst;
  •      To bounce;

Sequence # 4:

  •      To spring;
  •      To lift.

An exact description of the physical movements and psychological states that I ascribe to each of the above follows in the foregoing chapters.

In closing, I wish you – Shibumi,



Sensei John Szmitkowski

 © Copyright 2013 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

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.

Shibumi – Kata Framework: Inner Energy

4 Dec


The foregoing is one component Chapter of an overall work describing the Shibumi Kata. To read the work in the order intended, please either click on the Shibumi Kata Page Tab above for a full Table Of Contents or this convenient            link: https://senseijohn.me/shibumi-kata/

Concept of Bio-energy:

Externally physical and psychological change is facilitated by bodily movement. Internally change is facilitated by directing your body’s inner energy. In ancient times this inner energy was referred to as “Chi” or “Ki”. In modern times these terms are still utilized in specific fields of endeavor.  I call this energy simply “Bio-energy.” BIO-energy resides within your “Hara” or belly. The exact point is located slightly below the belly button.

The ability to transport bio-energy within the confines of one’s own body is an integral component of the Shibumi Kata. In short, this is the ability to expand and contract one’s bio-energy from the Hara to the physical boundary of the entire human body. While the physical movements of the Shibumi Kata are somewhat easy to begin to learn, the internal transport of one’s bio-energy will take faith, time, energy and commitment to learn.

To learn to contract and expand your bio-energy, you must first perceive that it exists. It is important that you do not “visualize” your bio-energy. Visualization is wholly inadequate. Visualization is the mere physical effect of light passing through your eyes to the organ known as the brain where the light is processed. Every organ has a function (the stomach to digest, the heart to circulate blood, and the like). The higher function of the brain is the mind. It is the mind that processes the light from the eyes to form a recognizable pattern. It is this higher brain function, the mind, that is used to perceive the existence and movement of bio-energy within your body. Thus, you do not use your brain to visulaize the movement of bio-energy in your body, you use your mind to perceive such movement.

You must start to perceive its existence and residence within the Hara. As you inhale (in any of the manner previously discussed) perceive and be aware of your own energy. Perceive it contained in the Hara. As you exhale (again in any of the described manner), perceive that the bio-energy flows from your Hara throughout your body. The effect if that of filling and deflating a balloon. The ballon starts empty, symbolizing the bio-energy residing in the Hara. As you exhale, thus filing the balloon, the bio-energy flows to all points of your body and is bounded only by your skin. Again, like air fills the entire balloon.

The expansion and contraction of bio-energy is a fundamentally important internal process of the Shibumi Kata. The awareness of bio-energy and its flow can only be achieved through dedicated practice.

In closing, I wish you – Shibumi,


Sensei John Szmitkowski

 © Copyright 2013 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Shibumi – Kata Framework: Posture

4 Dec


The foregoing is one component Chapter of an overall work describing the Shibumi Kata. To read the work in the order intended, please either click on the Shibumi Kata Page Tab above for a full Table Of Contents or this convenient             link: https://senseijohn.me/shibumi-kata/

Shibumi Kata Posture:

As a condition precedent to learning the tactics (physical movements) of the Shibumi Kata, it is necessary to explore the mechanics of your posture. The exploration of posture begins with the act of standing erect. This is to say that one stands with one‘s head held high, eyes focused straight ahead, shoulders parallel to the floor and the back is straight. Though this is a common posture, standing erect has a very specific meaning.

Posture correction:

The point of departure from the normal meaning associated with standing erect is the function of standing with one’s back straight. Normally, one physically defines the back as straight by elongating the spine, by expanding the upper chest outward and elevating the shoulders upward. Such a definition is not adequate within the Shibumi Kata.

When one stands in the manner described above and places one’s hands in the small of the back, one notices that the small of the back is not straight but curved. This curvature is natural and helps to support the body through the spine. It is; however, improper for the Shibumi Kata.

To stand erect for purposes of the Shibumi Kata, the natural curvature of the spine must be temporarily straightened. To manipulate the back into a straight position, one should perform the following exercise.

Stand relaxed with both feet shoulder width apart and flat on the ground. Slightly bend your knees. The technique to straighten your back is to squeeze the cheeks of the buttocks tight and to rotate the hips down and forward. Now your spine is straight. Take a moment to try this movement then feel your lower back with your hand. If you have performed the hip rotation properly, you will notice that such rotation has removed the natural curvature of your spine so that your spine is now straight from top to bottom. This is the erect posture necessary for the Shibumi Kata. You can practice achieving this posture by standing as above and rotating your hips to achieve the posture and then subsequently relaxing the hips so as to again achieve natural curvature of the spine. Repeat this a few times to begin to have a feeling of comfort with the posture.

The above posture will be used throughout all of the stances and postures of the Shibumi Kata.

In closing, I wish you – Shibumi,

SHIBUMI-lotus sunset


Sensei John Szmitkowski

 © Copyright 2013 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Shibumi – Kata Framework: Breathing

4 Dec


The foregoing is one component Chapter of an overall work describing the Shibumi Kata. To read the work in the order intended, please either click on the Shibumi Kata Page Tab above for a full Table Of Contents or this convenient             link:  https://senseijohn.me/shibumi-kata/

Shibumi Kata Breathing

In order to perform Shibumi Kata for optimum effect it is necessary to breath efficiently. To do so requires breathing in a natural method and in an appropriate manner.

Breathing Methodology:

At birth we breathed naturally. In a desire to breath better than nature intended, we devolved our breathing into what we perceived as more efficient.

To illustrate this point, stop reading and take a deep breath. The majority of you probably sought to ‘fill your lungs with air” by expanding your upper chest, raising your shoulders, arching your back and contracting your abdomen. Some of you may have even accomplished this deep breath by inhaling through the mouth. This method of inhalation and exhalation is unnatural, inefficient and must be corrected immediately.

The methodology of Shibumi Kata breathing is a three step process. First is the development of the natural method of inhalation and exhalation. The second step is the method of deep abdominal breathing. The third and final step is the manner of breathing.

Inhalation and exhalation:

You must now remember a very basic, but all to often forgotten, cardinal rule of breathing, to wit: breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Without giving a lesson in biology, the nose was specifically designed for the inhalation of oxygen and the other beneficial gases contained within our atmosphere.

To facilitate proper inhalation and exhalation, I have developed is an easy technique.

Consciously make an effort to inhale through the nose. While inhaling, close your mouth and emphatically press your tongue upwards against the roof of your mouth. By performing this maneuver, it is difficult, if not impossible, to open your mouth and breath in. Therefore, the only alternative means available for inhalation is to utilize the nose for its intended purpose. Now to complete the act of breathing, you will need to exhale. To exhale you open your mouth and allow the air to flow outward. You do not exhale through the nose. To facilitate the use of the mouth during exhalation, as you open your mouth, emphatically press the tongue downward against the bottom of your mouth. By using your tongue in this manner, you will be physically conscious of the manner in which you inhale and exhale. You may note that your exhalation now produces a somewhat audible sound. This sound is akin to a mild roar, much like the sound of ocean surf.

Continue to practice inhaling and exhaling in this manner. When the act of breathing again occurs naturally through the nose and out the mouth, you can de-emphasize the emphatic use of your tongue as described above.

Abdominal breathing:

The next step in the physical process of Shibumi Kata breathing is to efficiently fill your lungs with air. Please take careful note that I did not define this step as filling your chest with air. Filling the chest cavity with air implies the use of only the upper portion of the lungs, and does not therefore fill the lungs with air. As a direct result, there is an inefficient exchange of gases within the body. To achieve efficiency, you need to inhale and exhale through the lower abdomen.

The following simple exercise is designed to acquaint you with this concept. Lie down on your back and relax. While lying on your back, rest your hands, palms down, on your lower abdomen, commonly referred to as your “belly“. This placement of the hands does not facilitate breathing, rather, your hands will provide an added sensory indication of the proper breathing method through the sense of touch.

Open your mouth, as previously described, relax your belly and allow the natural force of gravity to decompress your belly, thus expelling air through your mouth. Keep your hands in contact with your belly and allow your hands to lower with your belly. Now, close your mouth, pressing your tongue on its roof and inhale through the nose. As you inhale, willfully direct the air to the lower belly so as to force it to expand and rise upwards. Keep your hands in contact with your belly and allow your hands to rise with your belly. You will again exhale by opening your mouth, pressing your tongue downward, relaxing and decompressing your belly so as to exhale. Allow your hands to lower and decompress with your belly. The duration of exhalation should be slightly longer than the inhalation. Both processes should be completely relaxed. Continue to breathe in this manner for a period of about five minutes.

As you practice this breathing you can increase the duration of the floor exercise to about five minutes. You can also remove the hands from your belly and place them in a relaxed position at the sides of your body.

As you become accustom to this method of inhalation and exhalation, you can perform the exercise while in the standing position. Stand in a relaxed manner with your feet shoulder width apart and the knees slightly bent. Keep your head raised and your back straight (there will be more discussion on that directive later). Place your hands at your side and begin the abdominal breathing. Again, if necessary, you may place your hands on your belly to facilitate the sense of proper breathing. At this juncture, you will begin breathing more naturally and efficiently. You can and should now incorporate this breathing methodology into your daily routine. We have all experienced points in time throughout our day where either we told ourselves, or were told by others, to “Relax and take a deep breath.” Well, my dear readers, now you know how to properly do just that!

Manner of breathing:

The next phase in the Shibumi breathing is to perform the act of inhalation and exhalation in a specific manner. In  Karate-Do we referred to the manner of breathing as either “Hard” or “Soft“. It is important to remember that the methodology of inhalation and exhalation remains the same as described above. Only the manner of breathing is altered as follows.

Soft breath is a relaxed form of breathing. The body remains relaxed as air is gently inhaled in a steady manner. Once inhalation is complete, exhalation begins. During the process of exhalation, the body remains relaxed and air is expelled softy and in a steady manner. The process then begins a new.

Hard breath is the direct opposite of soft breath. The inhalation of air is swift and crisp. Hard inhalation is, therefore, more audible than soft inhalation. During inhalation, the body remains relaxed. Once inhalation is complete, exhalation occurs in a prolonged and crisp manner. This results in an audible “roar” that sounds much like the surf in the ocean.

Hard exhalation is coupled with a state of movement known as “dynamic tension“. Dynamic tension generally means that the ALL muscles are hardened, sinew and tendons are strengthened and the abdomen is tight and hard. The process of exhalation is more prolonged than the process of inhalation.

When breathing is combined with the three states of the Shibumi strategy, we can see that:

The default (everyday state) water state involves soft inhalation & hard exhalation or hard inhalation with soft exhalation. The “hard” aspect involves dynamic tension.

The steam state involves soft inhalation with soft exhalation (and a gentle flow of the muscles).

The ice state involves hard inhalation and hard exhalation with a dynamically tensed body.

In the Shibumi Kata, the three states flow with the breath to combine with the tactics (the physical movements movements of Shibumi) to control and modify your physical and psychological state.

In closing, I wish you – Shibumi,



Sensei John Szmitkowski

© Copyright 2013 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Shibumi – Kata Framework: Strategy

4 Dec


The foregoing is one component Chapter of an overall work describing the Shibumi Kata. To read the work in the order intended, please either click on the Shibumi Kata Page Tab above for a full Table Of Contents or this convenient

link: https://senseijohn.me/shibumi-kata/

Shibumi Kata Framework:

The framework upon which I am building the Shibumi Kata (with direct inout from “Dean”) is as follows:

1. The strategy by which “Dean” will modify his physical and psychological state to offset the dilatory effects of cancer in general and specifically chemotherapy;

2. The conduit from translating the strategy to the actual tactics used in such modification;

3. The tactics, or the specific means which will enable “Dean” to achieve his goals of modifying his physical and psychological states.


The strategy employed by the Shibumi kata is grounded the most elemental aspect of nature, namely the three states of matter. All matter exists in three states: solid, liquid and gas. To assist “Dean”, I have ascribed a very simple symbolism with each state. The three states shall be represented by water, steam and ice.

All three states modify their existing environment. By adapting a state, “Dean” chooses the means by which he interacts with the environment.

The three states shall be applied to Shibumi as follows.

Water State:

The “Water State” is the default state. It is the state that is desired at all times. Like water, this state is completely flexible and bounded only by the container. As a glass contains water, a river bed contains a steam and the shores contain an ocean, the environment within which Dean exists at any moment in time shall be the sole boundary within which he is confined. This is to say that as “Dean” defines his boundary, so he defines his limits.

This concept may be understood by the following example.

During chemotherapy, “Dean” shall be placed in a private room, in a comfortable chair and have the chemotherapy chemicals delivered into a port (previously placed on “Dean’s” chest).  “Dean”, like an average person, may choose to define his limits as the confines of that room.  In nature, absent an “effect” (such as an event that causes a tsunami, for example) water modifies its boundary slowly, steadily and over time. Thus in this state “Dean” acquiesces to and accepts his situation both physically and psychologically.

While accepting it, he also fully understands that with patience, he can modify himself physically and psychologically. He can modify how he chooses to perceive his physical environment, in this case the room for chemotherapy. He can also modify his external environment and situations that confront him. For example, a rainy “depressing” “gloomy” day can be welcomed as a means for bringing life-giving water. An irritable person encountered during the course of a day, while initially irritating, can be viewed as a positive experience by understanding the contrast emotion – by contrast to irritability, “Dean’s” composure can be savored.

Modification Of the Water State:

“Dean” may need to psychologically modify his water state. To so benefit, he may choose to contract his perception of that which confines him within his own mind. For example, in the water state, “Dean” may consider himself confined to the chemotherapy room. If he contracts his perception, he would limit his confinement to the chair he sits in rather than the room within which lays the chair. He may also expand his psychological view of his confinement. In this instance, “Dean” may consider himself confined  not to either the chair or the room for chemotherapy, but rather to the Hospital within which the room is contained. Such expansion and contraction is achieved through the “Steam State” and the “Ice State”

Steam State:

The Steam State is a lighter, more adaptable state. As water turns to steam, its boundaries are lessened; steam flows and exists more freely than water. By adapting the steam state, “Dean” can lighten any physical or psychological burden.

To accomplish this, “Dean” will perceive steam being absorbed by its unbounded environment. If for, example “Dean” suffers from a specific discomfort, say a pain in his chest from the burning effect of the chemotherapy drugs, he can dissipate the pain by perceiving it as flowing through and out of his entire body and not just contained within his chest. Similarly, if “dean” suffers from a depressed state, he can dissipate the state by recognizing it exists and allowing it to envelope him so as to expel it from him. Steam affects its environment quickly and profoundly. A fast burst of steam can drive a steam engine, a quick burst of steam can burn and scar human skin. As such, by lightening his physical and psychological state from the water state, “Dean” can quickly modify himself and the effect his surroundings have upon him.

Ice State:

The ice state is a compressed, hard state. As water turns to ice, it compresses and solidifies its molecules. Similarly, the ice state will allow “Dean” to contract within himself. In effect, he will take a generalized physical or psychological state contract it and ultimately “lock it away.” The most common side effect of “Dean’s” chemotherapy is a generalized fatigue and malaise. Such side effect will effect “Dean’s” water state. “Dean” can contract these general feelings (turn them to ice, if you will) thereby removing the generalization of same throughout his body. Once reduced from a larger state to a smaller state, these effects can be compartmentalized, managed and expelled from within “Dean”

The next chapter looks at the catalyst for the strategy – the act of breathing.

In closing, I wish you – Shibumi,

SHIBUMI - bonzai lake


Sensei John Szmitkowski

 © Copyright 2013 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Shibumi – What Is Kata?

4 Dec


The foregoing is one component Chapter of an overall work describing the Shibumi Kata. To read the work in the order intended, please either click on the Shibumi Kata Page Tab above for a full Table Of Contents or this convenient             link: https://senseijohn.me/shibumi-kata/

Update on “Dean’s” condition: (Where relevant, provided so that you may identify with Dean’s cancer & participation in Shibumi) —–Dean had his first post-operative meeting with his surgeon-oncologist. Originally chemotherapy was to start in thirty days from the surgery. Dean; however, has made excellent post-operative recovery. As such, chemotherapy will start next week; three weeks ahead of schedule. The frequency will be one chemo treatment per week with a duration of 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours for a period of eighteen weeks. Since surgery, Dean has made a great effort to walk and breath in the manner described below. He is now ready to begin the first sequence of Shibumi described in the chapter of the same name.


What is Kata?

As the Shibumi Kata is designed for the non-martial artist I thought it appropriate to acquaint the reader with the concept of “Kata”.

Kata is a martial arts formal exercise composed of prescribed sequences of karate-do movements performed in a set pattern. Many daily activities could be considered, to some extent, as kata; to wit: dancing, football plays, the rhythm of casting in fly fishing, a golf swing, and the like.

So, how does kata differ from these activities? Kata differs in one significant respect. The purpose of kata is martial in nature. The movements are designed primarily for the purpose of defending oneself. In addition to this primary benefit, as with the above activities, kata has the secondary benefit of promoting physical and psychological well-being. Thus, kata is a martial procedure with the side benefit of promoting physical and mental health.

The Shibumi Kata is unique in that I am creating it with the primary purpose of promoting and maintaining the physical and psychological well being of one person,“Dean” as he endures the rigors of cancer and chemotherapy, with the secondary benefit of martial efficacy (the movements are self-defense in nature). If martial efficacy was absent then (properly so) Shibumi could not be considered a Kata.

The “Three Aspects” of kata.

Within most karate curriculum is an ancient and treasured kata known as “Sanchin Kata.” Sanchin translates as “three battles.” Within this context the word “battle” does not refer to fighting. Rather, it refers to three aspects of our human condition. These aspects are required for life and permeate each and every second of our existence. They are, breathing, bodily movement and a state of mind.

Notwithstanding that these three battles are highlighted and augmented in the Sanchin Kata, they permeate each and every kata. Similar to the ideology of Sanchin, the three battles form an integral part of the Shibumi Kata. They are the exact means by which physical and psychological wellness will be achieved.

In closing, I wish you – Shibumi,



Sensei John Szmitkowski

 © Copyright 2013 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

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