On The Road With Kata

3 Mar

We are pleased to announce that our own Sensei John Szmitkowski has relocated back to his native state of New Jersey. We are even more pleased that he is accepting students for private and semi-private instruction. If you are a practitioner of an Okinawa-based style of karate-do, of at least black belt rank, live in the New Jersey-New York area and wish to further your understanding of kata, please feel free to contact Sensei via his weblog link below. You may also contact Sensei to arrange for one of his 100% risk-free seminars.

As is par for his course, Sensei used his relocation to film and new and unusual kata series, “On The Road With Kata” showing kata performed along the road from Arizona to New Jersey with one kata performance in the most unusual location ever filmed.

Here is Sensei’s article reprinted (with permission) from his blog.

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Even though I lived in Arizona for the past ten years, family and seasonal work in New Jersey meant one fact, the road trip. Though I do fly, I prefer to ride the highways and byways of the American road. I made at least two road trips a year; sometimes in my truck, sometimes on my Harley. Each and every trip I’ve had two items “packed” with me in my travel bag. The first is my dog-eared copy of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. The second is my kata. I use kata to keep me alert and mitigate the effects of long distance travel. I’m not one to travel leisurely. I burn the miles like the fictional Dean Moriarty. The trip usually only takes me three and a half day. My personal best as far as quickest trip was in 2008 when I did it in three days; and that was on a Harley-Davidson Electra-glide, with my dog Chloe (a Min-pin)!

After ten years living in the “Valley Of The Sun”, I planned to relocate back to my home state of New Jersey. With final preparations and renting out the house in Arizona complete, it was finally time to make my last cross-country journey. In the past, I had previously documented my kata journey (See Endnote # 1 for applicable links). Since I first wrote of my kata on the road, I’ve become more video savvy. For this trip, I wanted to film my personal kata. So, on Monday, November 24th, 2014, with the camera and tripod on the front seat. I started the truck for the three and a half day, twenty-five hundred mile trip back to the Garden State. During the trip I performed my kata in truck stops, beautiful surroundings, while pumping gas, in cheap motels, and nice motels, in the early hours filmed by the headlights of my truck, and more.

What follows is my video series, “Sensei John’s On The Road With Kata.” I hope you enjoy the videos. More importantly, I hope the videos inspire you to:

  • Perform your kata whenever and wherever you desire or need to perform them;
  • Use your kata to enhance your daily activities (See Endnote # 2 for my Virtues Of Kata article);
  • Understand kata from the mindset of Nenjuushin (“Everyday Mind”);
  • Adapt your kata to your specific needs at any moment in time;
  • And, maybe, just maybe, actually enjoy your kata experience.
  • With that, here is my video introduction to the On The Road series.

Day 1 (Monday): This video takes us from my home in San Tan Valley to Shamrock, Texas, over 750 miles. It includes four kata, including my final kata in the house (a modified Taikiyoku), ending with a rejuvenating variation of Sanchin Kata in my motel room after a long day on the road.

Day 2 (Tuesday): In this video, I travel from Texas, through Oklahoma, Arkansas and into Tennessee. It sounds like a far distance, but, its only 649 miles for the day. Thanks to construction and bumper-to-bumper traffic in five separate areas of Arkansas that was the extent of the day’s journey. Kata includes a hybrid of Suparunpei, Seienchin and Shobu-Sanchin Kata filmed by my trucks headlights, Ananku Kata and Fuku Kata in a scenic location.

Day 3 (Wednesday): This video takes place throughout Tennessee and north into Virginia. It contains two important videos filmed in motel rooms. These hotel room kata sessions led to the development of my Kata Deconstruction technique (here is a link to the article and video Link: http://senseijohn.me/2013/06/09/kata-lab-201-introduction-to-kata-deconstruction/ ) Every Wednesday since the passing of my deceased friend and colleague, Shihan Wayne Norlander, I perform a Kunchaba Kata in his honor. This day was no exception. There is a footage of this performance and Hatsu Bon poem contained on the video.

Day 4 (Thursday – Thanksgiving Day, 2014), I was eager to pound the miles and reach my destination in northern New Jersey. I knew I would not arrive in time for Thanksgiving dinner, but, I was hoping to be there for coffee and pumpkin pie. I filmed one kata in the most unusual setting and circumstances. I think it is the ONLY time in history that a kata has been filmed in this manner. This video will put to shame anyone who has ever said, “I don’t have time to practice a kata.” Watch and see.

That concludes my “On The Road With Kata” Thanksgiving, 2014 video series. To mark my relocating from Arizona, here is one of my most profound kata video experiences, Seienchin Kata filmed with a herd of wild horses at the Lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest.

In the next few weeks, I’ll settle down in New Jersey. After the Holidays, look for new and exciting things to come on this blog, including new and innovative Kata Labs.

In the meantime, my best to you all,

   szmitowski_print_small  HANKO-DEF-R-reverse

Sensei John Szmitkowski

If you enjoy this post please help support this blog, please visit my Kata Laboratory store.

Come visit my store on CafePress!

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

lab collage-3   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: http://senseijohn.me/category/kata-laboratory/

Endnotes:

1. Here are the links to my first “On The Road With Sensei” series of articles:
Part 1: http://senseijohn.me/2010/04/16/on-the-road-with-sensei-john-part-1/
Part 2: http://senseijohn.me/2010/04/25/on-the-road-with-sensei-john-part-2-nj-reflections/
Part 3: http://senseijohn.me/2010/05/02/on-the-road-with-sensei-john-part-3-eastern-dojo/
Part 4: http://senseijohn.me/2010/05/09/on-the-road-with-sensei-john-part-4-western-dojo/

2. Here is the link to my “Virtues Of Kata” article:http://senseijohn.me/2011/07/31/virtues-of-kata/

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 fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com

© Copyright 2015 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

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Goshin-Do Karate Kyokai Pinan Kata Reconstructed

19 Jan

We are pleased to announce that Sensei John has completed his project reconstructing the five Pinan Kata of the former Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kyokai under Hanshi Frank Van Lenten. Circumstances beyond his control forced Sensei to place the project on hold for almost a year. Eventually, Sensei was able to complete the reconstruction project.

We are honored to share Sensei John’s efforts with in the following five videos of this very rare version of the five kata. All videos feature notes, photos and vintage films of Hanshi Frank Van Lenten. Those readers and viewers familiar with Sensei John’s videos know that all kata re filmed in stunning natural environments. Enjoy Sensei John’s efforts.

Kyokai  Goshin-Do Karate Kyokai versions of

Pinan Sho-dan

Pinan Ni-dan

Pinan San-dan

Pinan Yon-dan

Pinan Go-dan

We trust you find Sensei’s preservation efforts educational and enjoyable.

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

brush script  For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory using this convenient link:http://senseijohn.me/category/kata-laboratory/

CIMG5490  You can visit Sensei John’s personal blog at

http://senseijohn.me

LOGO-WEBSITE  You may also enjoy Sensei John’s martial-inspired fishing blog at http://flyfishingdojo.com

Merry Christmas, 2014

22 Dec

To all our readers, please accept our sincerest wishes for a joyous & peaceful Holiday Season.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.Our very best wishes that we all may embrace this Christmas with joy and hope. We’re even hoping for a white Christmas. To set the mood, please enjoy our own Sensei John’s video of Sanchin Kata in the snow with winter poems.

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

invincible summer  For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory using this convenient link:http://senseijohn.me/category/kata-laboratory/

LOGO-WEBSITE  You may also enjoy Sensei John’s martial-inspired fishing blog at http://flyfishingdojo.com

Wild Horses & Seienchin Kata – An Unexpected Saikou

23 Nov

We would like to share Sensei John’s most memorable kata video.

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November 7th I was at the Lower Salt River, Arizona. In anticipation of relocating back to my home state of New Jersey, I wanted to maximize my day. My plan was to film kata footage for my kata video library, fish (hopefully catching a few for photos for my fishing blog, see below) and generally enjoy one of my last days on the river. What I did not plan was a saikou, supreme experience.

On that day, I was blessed with a chance encounter with one of the herds of wild horses that call the river home. Readers of my fishing blog know that I have encountered the herds in the past. What makes this encounter different is that not only would it likely be my last encounter with the herd, but I was at the right place and right time to be able to perform one of my favorite kata with the herd. The kata was Seienchin Kata. The translation of the kanji (Japanese calligraphy) for Seienchin translates, inter alia, as “Calm in the storm, storm in the calm.”

7-SEIENCHIN

As spontaneous as my choice of kata was, in retrospect, it turned out to be a great symbol of these difficult days of packing, arranging for rental of my home and relocating to a bit of uncertainty, the storm. Contrasting this is the calm of that day on the river; almost as if the “Natural Force” that I wrote about so much was telling me it will all work out. Noteworthy is that the Seienchin Kata makes characteristic use of of the “kiba-dache”, “Horse-riding stance”, a perfect kata to perform in the presence of a herd of wild horses.

   szmitowski_print_small   HANKO-DEF-R-reverse

Sensei John Szmitkowski

If you enjoy this post please help support Sensei John’s efforts & visit his Kata Laboratory store.

Come visit my store on CafePress!

all items have a minimal mark-up of only $ 0.75 to $ 1.00 over base prices!

CIMG5490 (Coming to New Jersey & the East Coast in 2015) – – – For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link http://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/

brush script 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: http://senseijohn.me/category/kata-laboratory/

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

LOGO-WEBSITE     You may wish to view my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol & ideology to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com

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

Kata – A Curse?

22 Sep

November 3rd, 2014  – UPDATE: Sensei John has posted the article and video for his “Kata Lab: Random Sanchin Kata” which was inspired by the events contained in this article. A link and the video are now posted at the end of this article.

October 20th, 2014 – UPDATE: Sensei John has posted the article and video for his “Kata Lab: Reverse Sanchin Kata” which is referred to in this post. A link and the video are now posted at the end of this article.

We learned that our own Sensei John is cursed by kata. In this article, reprinted, with permission, from his blog, he shares his curse.

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I live for karate kata. It sustains and fulfills me. My desire to share my kata insights beyond the dojo walls led me to start this blog in 2010. In 2013 I introduced Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory. My goal is to stimulate those readers that may have lost interest in kata. (link: http://senseijohn.me/category/kata-laboratory/ ) With my over four decades of karate experience behind it, my Kata Lab is a fresh look for those with tired, uninspired kata eyes.

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But, I wonder whether my love for kata is a curse. If it is a curse, then am I wrong to encourage practitioners to passionately pursue kata and bunkai? How can my love for kata be a curse? Here is one example. Coincidentally, it comes from the world of chess which requires as much deep practice and analysis as kata. (See Endnote # 1 for my comparison of chess and kata)

Saturday, August 30th, I was feeling quite ill. I spent most of the day in bed exhausted. Though a mere recreational amateur, I enjoy the game of chess. I had my laptop in the bedroom and was watching a live feed of the highest ranking chess tournament, the 2014 Sinquefield Cup held at the St. Louis Chess Center. The broadcast was moderated by GM (Chess Grandmaster) Yasser Seirawan and WGM (Womens Chess Grand Master) Jennifer Shahade with analysis by GM Maurice Ashley.

3 commentators

I lay in bed, half awake, listening to the games, analysis and commentary. Every so often, I would watch when an innovative move was played, or there was an uncommon analysis. But for the most part, it was background noise. Until, the moderators commented on a game in round six between GM Levon Aronian and GM Fabiano Caruana.

aronian-caruana

It was noted that GM Levon Aronian was once a world champion of 960 chess. That penetrated my brain. “What the hell is 960 chess?” I wanted to stay under the covers, but I had to know. I pulled back the covers and looked online.

960 chess is also known as “Fischer chess” after world champion GM Bobby Fischer. GM Fischer invented 960 chess. He randomized the starting position of the major pieces on the home ranks (King, Queen, Bishop, Knight and Rook). According to Wikipedia (I have a link in Endnote # 2),

Fischer’s goal was to eliminate what he considered the complete dominance of openings preparation in chess today replacing it with creativity and talent. (My emphasis)

Damn! I had to read that! I kicked off the covers, took my laptop into my office and began to write. My mind was swirling with a kata idea. I had already written a Kata Lab discussing the merits of performing the movements of Sanchin Kata in reverse order. Now, I was haunted by the idea that I could use the concept of Fischer chess to advance that Kata Lab one step further. I thought of a randomized “Fischer-Sanchin” Kata Lab. Worried that I would forget my thoughts, I hurried to write them down. So much for being sick, trying to recuperate in bed.

And that is my kata curse. Ideas and innovation occur at any time; whether you welcome them or not. I would like to say that the motivation for my Kata Laboratory is to motivate you to practice your kata with imagination, talent and creativity. Perhaps; however, I simply want to lure you into the dark depths of my kata curse.

The motto of Sensei John’s Kata Lab is, “Think * Sweat * Experiment.” I’ve thought about the concept of “Fischer-Sanchin.” Now, I’m sweating and experimenting, practicing it daily (another part of the kata curse). Eventually, I’ll post links for both the Reverse Sanchin Kata Lab and the Fischer-Sanchin Kata Lab together with accompanying videos when I finish them.

November 20th, 2014: Here is the video and post for my “Kata Lab: Random Sanchin Kata” which was inspired by the events of this article.

Link to the full article: http://senseijohn.me/2014/11/03/kata-lab-random-sanchin-kata/

October 20th, 2014: Here is the video and post for my “Kata Lab: Reverse Sanchin Kata”


Link to the full article:
http://senseijohn.me/2014/10/20/kata-lab-reverse-sanchin-kata/

Until then, please enjoy two of my Sanchin variants, “Shobu (Combat) Sanchin” filmed with watching vultures and “Four Direction Sanchin.” Both were filmed in 2011 at the beautiful Lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest, Arizona.

Until the next submission, I remain haunted and cursed by my beloved kata,

  szmitowski_print_small   HANKO-DEF-R-reverse

Sensei John Szmitkowski

If you enjoy this post please help support this blog, visit my store.

Come visit my store on CafePress!
seiza - ringwood  For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link http://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/ – COMING 2015 TO NEW JERSEY!

ENDNOTES:
1. I find it interesting that there are other similarities between kata and chess including the following:
A. both have exotic names, for example;
Kata                                chess opening
Gekisai (To destroy)   Benoni Defense (“Son of my sorrow”)
Seienchin                      Pterodactyl Defense
Suparunpei                   Fried Liver Attack
and so forth

B. both have rankings for experts, black belts are ranked by belt level, chess masters are ranked by ratings points

C. both inspire the most enlightened participants to use their imagination to develop a more creative approach (Fischer chess being one example). Another example is found in the case of GM Seirawan (shown above) who created Seirawan-chess, also known as “Sharper-chess.” For more, please use this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seirawan_chess

2. Here is the link to the Wikipedia article on Chess 960: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chess960

Hatsu Bon For Sensei Nick D’Antuono

13 Sep

Four years ago today, Sensei Nick D’Antuono 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 Sensei Nick and a fallen comrade you may wish to remember. May Sensei’s spirit find our training and poem worthy.

Sensei Nick D'Antuono, Sensei John Szmitkowski (as a green belt), Shihan Don Nagle, Circa: 1975

Sensei Nick D’Antuono, Sensei John Szmitkowski (as a green belt), Shihan Don Nagle, Circa: 1975

HATSU BON POEM
Please don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am
Nor am I sleeping for eternity
SEE!!
I am already part of the breezes
numbering a thousand
I am part of the light
that brightens this world
Like a diamond glittering in the snow
Like the sun that coaxes seeds to sprout
And in the Fall I become the gentle rain
that nurtures all.
When you open the window in the morning
I am the breeze
That causes your hair to flutter;
And at night, I am the star
That watches over your sleep.
So, please . . . don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am.
I am not dead.
I have been born anew.

Sincerity in sweat, rest in peace, Sensei.

   szmitowski_print_small   HANKO-DEF-R-reverse

My Black Belts Stole From Me – A Thieving Tradition

18 Aug

A Black Belt must have the utmost integrity. Having said that, I will confess that my students “stole” from me. After the “theft” they still earned a black belt! Further, the “theft” was committed with my blessing.

In my opinion the worst form of “paying” for the gift of karate-do education is money, currency, cold-hard cash (or debt card in these modern times). I’ve had students that could not afford monthly dues, help teach, clean the dojo and even cook a few dinners. In this way, my students became equal with me as Sensei in that we each gave of ourselves. This is more valuable than the cheapness of currency.

But, is it proper to steal from Sensei?

Sometime in 1998, I made a decision concerning a group of four brown belts training at the Issho Dojo. In order for them to pass their test for ni-kyu, (brown belt, two stripes) they would have to learn Gojushiho Kata. In devious fashion, I told them that I would not teach them the kata.

This posed a problem. They had to learn the kata for the next rank. If I would not teach it to them, how would they learn it?

In those days, there were no You-tube GDK-D Gojushiho videos (like this one featuring archival footage from the 1960’s to 2012 where I perform Gojushiho in a snowstorm):

The four arrived at the dojo for the next class. Before class, I casually mentioned that I was going to the nearby park to “clear my head.” I did this for the next three classes. The brown belts became curious.

One night after I went to the park, they waited about ten minutes and followed. They stood at the edge of the park and watched me. They saw me repeatedly practice a kata that they did not know. I noticed them and practiced the first four moves of the kata again and again After fifteen minutes of performing the opening sequence, I walked to the edge of the park. Together, we silently walked back to the Dojo.

The next night I repeated my routine. Again, they waited and walked to the park. I repeatedly practiced the first four moves. This time they only watched for about ten minutes and hurried back to the dojo. After about fifteen minutes I returned to the dojo but did not enter. I surreptitiously peaked into the Dojo window. The four of them were hard at work practicing what they observed me doing. Each watched the other and reached a consensus as to the correctness of what they saw.

On my next pre-class visit to the park, I would slowly and in an exaggerated manner practice movements that they did not quite “steal” correctly. I would also slowly add movements and sequences.

During class, I would give them “strange” kumite drills, self-defense and heavy bag combinations. These drills and combinations came from future kata sequences. They were using kata applications to steal the kata.

This went on for about five months. They were stealing from me; however, they did not know exactly what they were stealing. One night during formal class, I asked the four brown belts to join me in performing Gojushiho Kata. The brown belts looked at each other. “But Sensei, you told us that you would not teach us the kata.” “That’s true,” I said, “But I did let you steal it from me.” “Now, let’s see what you stole.” The four brown belts joined me in performing the kata.

They learned Gojushiho Kata by “stealing” it. They were the first kata-thieves of GDK-D.

Shihan DeFelice first opened the door in May of 1965 and since then GDK-D has been continuously taught. Many students walked into the dojo. Less than thirty made black belt. So, compared to the overall number of students that started GDK-D, very few learned Gojushiho Kata. I could not allow myself to teach such a rare kata for something as worthless as money, but, I could allow it to be stolen from me.

The four brown belts were promoted to sho-dan (first degree black belt) in January, 2000. I made each of them promise me that they would not teach any future student Gojushiho Kata. It must always be stolen. With that promise, a new tradition was born – a future black belt must be a thief; and Gojushiho Kata is the desired object.

Shihan Paul Recchia, Myself & The “Kata-Thieves” at their Black Belt Promotion

annotated-YUDANSHA-ISSHO

Respectfully submitted,

  szmitowski_print_small    HANKO-DEF-R-reverse

Sensei John Szmitkowski

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

brush script  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: http://senseijohn.me/category/kata-laboratory/

LOGO-WEBSITE  You may wish to view my other blogs – http://flyfishingdojo.com

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