Tag Archives: Academy of Goshin-Do Karate

Thoughts On Self-Confidence: “Look on my works, Ye mighty & despair”

7 Feb

climb mountains

When a new student enters the Dojo, I ask the initiate what he or she hopes to achieve by undertaking the study of karate-do. The answers I receive from such potential initiates are as varied as the individuals themselves. There are, however, certain general themes that emerge. One such theme is the attainment of self-confidence. I would like to explore the effect of attaining self-confidence in this article.

Initially, I note that I will not address the mechanics of how and why karate-do and other martial arts build self-confidence. I submit that it is axiomatic that self-confidence is discovered and nurtured through karate-do. In fact any endeavor that mandates periods of introspection by the practitioner will foster self-confidence as a consequence of self-discovery. Having said that, there is a crucial turning point in the evolutionary process of self-discovery that leads to the attainment of self-confidence. The turning point is at the event horizon when one’s self is discovered, realized and  defined. It is at this event horizon that one’s awareness of self breeds a sense of self-confidence. Once self-confidence is attained, the event horizon dictates that one can undertake two possible future paths.

The first path is the path that recognizes that the concept of self and the associated self-confidence is transitory and subject to continuing definition and evolution. This path is defined by the idea that while one is awakened to and confident in the person that one is, such a psychological state is merely momentary and subject to the continuum of the life experiences to be had. One’s deeds, ideas and actions are viewed as evolving. By this I mean that continued deeds, ideas and actions incubate and give birth to continued knowledge. Continued knowledge gives rise to new theories, concepts and innovations. Thus, one is confident within the boundary of acknowledging that such confidence extends to one’s ability to continue to embark on the unknown journey of life as it unfolds. If one lacked this confidence, the future unknown journey would stagnate one’s personal quest for knowledge and growth out of fear. On this path, the self-confident journeyman continues the quest in anticipation of unknown knowledge for the purpose of perpetually rediscovering oneself.

The second path is the path that views one’s achievement in the chosen field of endeavor as the pinnacle of the discovery process, to wit: has become the “best” one can be (The slogan, “Be all you can be” comes to mind). This means that one’s self-confidence is finite in place, time and achievement. This path is defined by ego. The path of ego mandates that one sees the continuum of life not as a process of continued discovery, but as a conclusion to be ratified by the remarkable person that one has become. One’s deeds, ideas, and actions are internally viewed and to be perceived by others as omnipotent and mighty. This means that one’s past deeds (emphasis added) are to be glorified in and of themselves. One’s deeds, ideas and actions are to be viewed as a historical event and as supreme and final. Of course, this is a fiction. Such self-confidence has fallen prey to the Siren’s call of ego. The paradox of this psychological path is that it results in a stagnation of personal growth to be attained by future knowledge. The result is similar to the stagnation experienced by an utter lack of self-confidence. In the former case the stagnation is caused by ego and in the latter case it is caused by fear. Thus, the fulfillment of the paradox.

Everyone is susceptible to falling prey to the draw of one’s ego. So as to be able to fend off the attraction of succumbing to the mythical Siren‘s call of ego, one needs to always bear in mind the transitory nature of life. As much as one cannot rest on one’s laurels, one must always understand that accomplishment is but a portal to future achievement. This is not to say that one need be forever humble. One can, and should, enjoy the successful feeling that comes from accomplishment. One need simply remember that accomplishment, which breeds self-confidence, should be perpetually challenged and redefined within oneself.

Again, there are many introspective endeavors wherein one can obtain a sense of self-definition and self-confidence. For myself, and others, the mechanism is the continuous study of was karate-do and specifically, the study of Kata. The principle characteristic of any introspective endeavor is that it will eventually lead the practitioner to the event horizon of choosing the path of either continuing self-discovery through knowledge or to the path of finite ego.

Since ego is self-propagated, the accomplishment that formed ego is finite and dissipates with time. History is replete with examples of the dilatory effect of ego as a factor of time. There are many examples contained in mythology, history and literature. One such example is the following poem, Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. It is a favorite of mine. I keep the poem in my psychological database as a reminder that the journey for knowledge never terminates. One’s momentary achievements, should be acknowledged but never glorified.


I met a traveler from an ancient land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on those lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“my name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside them remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far and away.
(See Endnotes # 1)

In closing, I remain eager to continue to tread upon “the lone and level sands (of knowledge) that stretch far and away”,

Sensei John Szmitkowski  szmitowski_print_small HANKO-DEF-R-reverse

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/2013/05/20/kata-lab-101-three-states-of-bunkai/

For details on how to “cyber-participate” in Sensei John’s most recent group Sanchin Kata session, please use this link: http://senseijohn.me/2013/04/28/sine-quo-non-sanchin-pilgrimage/

ENDNOTES:

1. Williams, Oscar, Immortal Poems Of The English Language (An Anthology), (Washington Square Press , NY, 1952) p. 295

Please enjoy our newest videos:

1. This rare video features Shihan Frank Van Lenten engaged in kumite is available by clicking the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hIFOV8Ge-Y

2. While archiving old video, we stumbled upon two minutes of the historic kumite with Shihan Don Nagle and Shihan Peter Urban circa 1966. I believe it may be the most footage of this kumite. You may view the footage with this convenient link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHo3I5cn8-s

Obsession

24 Jan

thoughts-enemey

A martial myth concerning being obsessed:

Two monks, Hitoshi and Yuugi , were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was falling.

Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the flooded, muddy intersection.

“Come on, girl,” said Hitoshi at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Yuugi did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. “We monks are not supposed to touch females,” he told Hitoshi,”especially not young and lovely ones. Why did you do that?”

“I left the girl there,” said Hitoshi. “Why are you still carrying her?”

Respectfully submitted,

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

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/2013/05/20/kata-lab-101-three-states-of-bunkai/

For details on how to “cyber-participate” in Sensei John’s most recent group Sanchin Kata session, please use this link: http://senseijohn.me/2013/04/28/sine-quo-non-sanchin-pilgrimage/

You may be interested in viewing our newest videos:

1. Hanshi Frank Van Lenten engaged in kumite with Hanshi Jerry Thomson is available by clicking the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hIFOV8Ge-Y

2. Gojushiho Kata (1960, 1970, 1985, 2012) and the unique Gojushiho-Sai Kata of Hanshi Jerry Thomson’s Arts Of Self-Defense, a must see video is a mouse-click away: Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNESQq88Ix8

3. Hidden treasure!  While archiving old video, we stumbled upon two minutes of the historic kumite with Shihan Don Nagle and Shihan Peter Urban circa 1966. I believe it may be the most footage of this kumite. You may view the footage with this convenient link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHo3I5cn8-s

2013 – The Year Of The White Belt

26 Dec

I suggest that in the days, hours, minutes and seconds that begin to unfold into the path that will be called “2013”, we need to walk that unwinding path with the “mind of a white belt.”

karate-belt-white

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

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

In the final days that remain of the year 2012, we should shed our internal black belt. Our preconceptions, emotions and perhaps even thoughts have become “soiled” over time. In the first indicia of time that calls forth “2013!” let us all shed preconceptions – “internal and emotional baggage”. In the first millisecond of 2013, we should commit to don the belt of a novice and view the minutest details of the unfolding year with a pure and innocent heart and spirit. Let us all become the exalted white belt.

Happy New Year - 2013

Happy New Year – 2013

Respectfully submitted,

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, 2012

12 Dec

christmas tori

Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, this time of year is the one time that everyone seems to share a genuine concern for each other. It is this Holiday spirit that can sustain us all throughout the remainder of the year. The modern trend of western socialization supports feelings of “I” instead of “We”. It is during the Holiday Season that these thoughts are transposed. During this Holiday Season and the coming New Year, may the trend be reversed; may we think more of the “We” than we do of the “I”.

To start this process, let us embrace the simple concept that giving is better than receiving. In doing so, we benefit not only the recipient, but also our own sense of self and self-worth.

Happy Holidays to all our readers,

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

ARE YOU READY?

28 Nov

From one of my favorite tales (See Endnote # 1), a poem for your contemplation.

When Heaven is about to confer
A great office upon a man,
It first exercises his mind with suffering,
And his sinew and bones with toil;
It exposes him to poverty
And confounds his undertakings.
Then it is seen if he is ready.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

When Life decides to verify that I am “ready” for what lays ahead, I find that the Shobu variation of Sanchin Kata prepares me for Life’s tests. To view an EXCITING & UNIQUE short video filmed amongst a few Arizona vultures, please click this convenient link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lf8dlXsBnoI

ENDNOTES:

1. The poem is attributed to “Moshi” and is from the preface to: Jennings, William Dale, The Ronin ( Charles E. Tuttle Co, Tokyo, Japan, 1968)

SURPRISE: Are You “Trained” or “Educated”?

14 Nov

Many years ago my friend, Shihan Wayne Norlander (R.I.P.), had presented the Issho-Dojo with a gift of a plaque bearing a quotation from Ray Bradbury. The subject of the quotation is the need for astronauts to continuously train to avoid surprise in the void of space.

If you don’t rehearse over and over –
Your going to be surprised in space –
And, the surprised man out there is the dead one.
We get ready then, by trying to surprise
Ourselves.

Looking at the plaque has brought the concepts of karate-do practice and surprise to the forefront of my thoughts.

As martial artists in general and karate-ka in particular, we often think about, discuss, theorize and debate the impact of practice on the element of surprise as it applies to actual combat. (See Endnote # 1) In my experience, such discussions, while highly enjoyable, are less than conclusive. There simply is no consensus amongst karate-ka as to the practice of karate-do and it’s impact on surprise.

In this article, I would like to stimulate your thoughts as to karate-do practice and surprise. To this end, I ask the question,

“As karate-ka, when it comes to the element of surprise, are you “trained” or are you “educated” as to this eventuality?” 

In order to answer the question, you need to understand the difference between being “trained” as contrasted with being “educated.”

In his book, Finite and Infinite Games, James P. Carse (See Endnote # 2) defines the terms as follows:

To be trained is to be prepared against surprise. (The opponent) must appear to be something he isn’t. All (his) moves must be deceptive: feints, distractions, falsifications, misdirections and mystifications.” To be trained is to avoid surprise caused by such deception. The trained person desires to anticipate every potential scenario so as to hope to control the future (surprise) in an effort to prevent it from altering the present (the fight).

To be educated is to be prepared for and expect (the inevitability) of surprise. The educated man does not avoid surprise but accepts and expects it. The educated man conducts himself so as to expect surprise. Thus, surprise is the natural expression of the future upon the present.

Now, I again ask, “In practicing karate-do are you a trained man or an educated man?”

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

ENDNOTES:

1. I intentionally use the term “theorize” because the vast majority of modern karate-ka simply have not engaged in actual combat. Naturally, the highest aim of karate-do is to avoid physical confrontation. Having said that, I submit that when one who has not engaged in actual combat states what will or will not occur in combat, such statements are merely hypothetical. It is rather spurious for them to state as fact that which in reality is theory. And, “No” tournament kumite is not actual combat.

2. Carse, James P., Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision Of Life As Play And Possibility (Ballantine Books, New York, NY 1986) pp. 22-23.

FEATURED VIDEO: Ananku Kata featuring archival footage of Shihan Frank Van Lenten may be viewed by clicking this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfHc_hBXTUE

Still image from the Ananku Kata video

SHU, HA, RI: A Different Perspective

7 Oct

ANNOUNCEMENT:

New videos have been made available:

1. Kunchaba Kata (Featuring Shihan Frank Van Lenten archival footage)

link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=df-OTqrsOd0

———————-

 CURRENT ARTICLE:

The martial arts concept of Shu-Ha-Ri has been analyzed ad infinitum from the standpoint of the student – teacher relationship. The analysis; however, has always been from the perspective of the student. I submit that such an analysis is limited. To analyze  Shu, Ha, Ri only from the student’s perspective is to limit the examination to only 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

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

ENDNOTES:

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.

KWAIDAN

15 Aug

There are many myths that have martial arts ideology as their raison d’etre. Like Aesop’s Fables, these myths bring to life what can be rather stale, but important, life lessons. In this article, I would like to submit a myth from a non-martial genre. I respectfully propose the within contains a lesson for all martial artists. The genre is that of “Kwaidan” (literally “strange stories” or “weird tales”).

Here is the ancient kwaidan. Can you extrapolate the martial lesson from this weird tale?

In ancient feudal Japan, the samurai was supreme amongst men. But, even amongst the samurai, the realm inhabited by spirits was not to be trifled with. During this long passed era, it was generally accepted and acknowledged that if any person be killed while feeling a strong resentment, the ghost of the person would seek vengeance. Even during a lawfully sanctioned execution, the samurai so conducting the execution tread carefully so as not to offend the one who would soon enter the spirit world. Sometimes; however, a prisoner’s resentment could never be appeased. At such times, it would seem that vengeance is inevitable. Such was the state that our samurai finds himself.

The prisoner was brought before the samurai executioner, bound and full of rancor. When the sun rose the day before, the prisoner’s day was full of hope and promise, by night’s end, due to his own foolish error of protocol, he was sentenced to death when the sun next shone upon the Earth. All night long, the prisoner cursed his foolishness; “What karma to have been born simple and foolish and die on account of it.” The night inevitably yielded to the rising sun and the prisoner was destined to meet his fate in the afterworld of spirits. As he knelt before the samurai, he bowed his head and addressed his executioner, “Honored executioner, I ask that your cut be swift and true so that I may be sped to the darkness of the ghost world. Once there, my spirit will again seek your earthly domain. You see, I have always been rather dimwitted. It was my karma that my lack of intellect would be my downfall. I am to be executed not for a crime that I intended, but rather for my own stupidity. This is a wrong and that wrong shall be repaid. So surely as you kill me, shall my resentment provoke my vengeance from the spirit world, and evil will be repaid with evil.” 

The samurai looked down upon the face of the bound prisoner and addressed him. “I will not allow either myself or these witnesses to your execution to be frightened by myth and the tales of wash-women.” “Will you show us a sign, after your head is removed, that your intention is valid?” The prisoner smiled and replied, “I most certainly will – what sign do you propose?” The samurai thought for a moment, “After I cut your head from your body, command your head to bite the corner of the paving stone in front of you.” “If your angry ghost can do that, then we must be frightened of your vengeance.” “Do you accept?”

“I will bite the stone, I will bite the stone”, cried the prisoner. “I will bite the stone” – as the prisoner screamed this again and again, the samurai’s blade made its cut. The prisoner’s head was severed and rolled to the corner where the paving stone was situated. Lo and behold, the mouth opened and the prisoner’s disembodied head bit the corner of the stone. While the court personnel and vassals cried out in terror, the samurai, wiped the prisoner’s blood from his blade and strangely smiled a comforting smile.

 For many weeks thereafter, the witnesses and members of the court were frightened. Each day they spoke in hushed whispers and each night they slept fretfully in anticipation of the spirit’s vengeance. One day, they addressed the samurai and inquired whether a Priest should be obtained to say the prayers and rituals to prevent such occurrence. The samurai laughed loudly and said, “This is not necessary, do not concern yourself with a matter that will never come to pass.” The members of the court and the vassals beseeched the samurai, “Please Lord, allow us to do this, do you not understand the desire of a resentful dying man for vengeance may be a cause of fear?” “I do”, replied the samurai. “But you have no cause for fear.” “Only the very last intention of the dying prisoner could give rise to dangerous vengeance.” “I diverted the intention of the prisoner from vengeance.” “The prisoner died with the sole intention of biting the corner of the paving stone and that purpose his disembodied head accomplished before our very eyes.” “The prisoner was able to accomplish this and nothing else; his quest for vengeance was forgotten by his desire to bite the stone.” “Thus, you have nothing to fear.” – – – And indeed, the spirit of the dead prisoner caused no ill. Nothing happened at all.

Now, can you extrapolate the hidden martial lesson?

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski
Karate-Do No Renshi
Goshin-Do Karate-Do

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

To view a video with archival training footage of Shihan Van Lenten, circa 1960’s, featuring Sensei Wesley Evans, Sensei Jack Porta and Shihan Thomas DeFelice, please click the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLD5fMSvDI8

For a ghostly video of Seienchin in an evening thunderstorm, please click the following  Link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2ptj157tBg

SEE THE WORLD

25 Jul

It is a good viewpoint to see the world as a dream:
When you have a nightmare,
you will wake up & tell yourself that
“It was only a dream.”

from Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Respectfully submitted for your contemplation,

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

The Crab & the Seagull: A Martial Myth From The Jersey Shore

27 Jun

The martial arts in general and Goshin-Do Karate DeFelice-Ryu in particular, contain many myths, fables and stories that breathe life into martial ideology and philosophy. Every so often, the drama of these fables plays out in our daily lives. The following is a true example of a martial fable come to life.

Growing up in New Jersey, I always enjoyed summers visiting the magical boundary where the salty Atlantic Ocean kisses the sandy shore. Many a memorable summer day was spent on various beaches of the Atlantic Ocean from Cape May, New Jersey to the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

My visits to the shore were not always for mere recreation. Many times, my students and I would train in this pristine environment. It was in the late-1990’s during one such training session that the following true events leapt from the lifeless pages of martial folklore into the dynamic drama of life.

During the training session, my students and I witnessed an encounter involving a seagull and a blue claw crab. In the original martial fable, there was a fox, (represented by the seagull) and a rabbit (represented by the blue-claw crab).

The tide was able to wash a blue claw crab up onto the beach. A seagull, being ever vigilant, was quick to seize the opportunity. The seagull landed on the beach and chased the crab in an attempt to make the crab its dinner. The crab utilized its claws to fend off the seagull. The seagull then took to the air to attempt an air assault upon its reluctant dinner guest. The crab raised is claws and scuttled to and fro. The battle continued in this manner.

The group training this day was composed of a dozen karate-ka, including my youngest daughter, Kim. At that time, Kim was a brown belt and one of four senior Numansha. I wanted to ascertain her impressions as to the battle we were witnessing and asked her, “Who must win the fight?” Kim naturally said the seagull. After all, it was larger, stronger and given it had the capacity for flight, was more mobile than the crab. The other karate-ka nodded their heads in agreement.

I informed my students that, notwithstanding their collective assessment of the battle, according to the ancient fable, the crab and not the seagull must win. My students and I continued to watch the encounter. The fight continued with the crab counter-attacking every time the sea gull came in for the kill. In this manner the crab kept the seagull at bay. The crab tenaciously defended itself and bided its time. Eventually a large wave washed a-shore and carried the still fighting crab away to safety. The sea-gull flew off frustrated and hungry. Kim asked “Why must the crab win”? The answer is simple.

The seagull was fighting for its dinner, but, the blue claw crab was fighting for its life. The crab must win because it had more at stake in the confrontation. Simply stated, the winner of a physical confrontation between an aggressor and the person forced to defend against attack would be the person with the most to lose in the confrontation.

The above encapsulates the generally accepted analysis of the martial fable. There is; however, a fatal error. Unlike the animals used in the martial fable, we humans are capable of perception achieved through intellect and emotion. It is therefore necessary that human perception must be an analytical component of the martial fable. As between humans, the winner of the confrontation must be the one who perceives that he has the most to loose.

To illustrate this point, assume that the crab and seagull were mysteriously bestowed the gift of human perception. Notwithstanding the laws of nature, if the seagull’s perception of a lost dinner was greater than the crabs perception of a lost life, the seagull should win the encounter. How may a perception of a lost dinner be greater than a lost life? Assume the seagull is a poor hunter, or has his hunted prey routinely taken away by other hungry competitors, the seagull may perceive that it is on the brink of starvation. In this instance, if the seagull does not eat the crab, he will die. As such, based upon this perception, the seagull would be fighting for its life. Therefore, perception has changed the dynamic of the encounter.

Sensei John & Sensei Kim Szmitkowski, Cape Code, MA, Circa 2000

As you walk the path of karate-do, reflect upon the above battle of the crab and the seagull as it unfolded one fine summer morning before the eyes of earnest martial artists while training on the pristine sands where the sea gently kisses the shore and reveals the mysteries of its depths.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski
Karate-Do No Renshi
Goshin-Do Karate-Do DeFelice-Ryu

%d bloggers like this: