Tag Archives: Goshin-Do Karate-Do

2014 – Are You Ready?

29 Dec

The following is reproduced, with approval, courtesy of Sensei John’s weblog, link: http://senseijohn.me

– – – * * * * * * – – –

As 2014 approaches, We ask you, “Are you ready?”

What do I mean by this question? The answer may be found within the following which is borrowed from one of my favorite myths. (See Endnote # 1)

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.

Happy New Year! We hope you are ready for 2014.

Until the next submission, We remain . . . Ready,


I’m ready for 2014 with “Sanchin Kata In The Snow (With Winter Poems)”


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)

Problems Solved

15 Aug

From the verbal traditions of the Dojo, a martial myth,

There was once a monk who would carry a mirror where ever he went. A priest noticed this one day and thought to himself,  “This monk must be so preoccupied with the way he looks that he has to carry that mirror all the time. He should not worry about the way he looks on the outside, it’s what’s inside that counts.” 

So the priest went up to the monk and asked “Why do you always carry that mirror?” thinking for sure this would prove his guilt.

The monk pulled the mirror from his bag and pointed it at the priest. Then he said “I use it in times of trouble. I look into it and it shows me the source of my problems as well as the solution to my problems.”

Respectfully submitted

   szmitowski_print_small  HANKO-DEF-R-reverse

Sensei John Szmitkowski

  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/

seiza - ringwood For details on how to “cyber-participate” in Sensei John’s most recent group Sanchin Kata session, please use this link: http://senseijohn.me/category/a-sanchin-pilgrimage/

sunsu-saguaro  Featured video; Sunsu Kata, featuring Hanshi Frank Van Lenten, Shimaboku, Tatsuo-Sensei Documents and Sensei John Szmitkowski in the low desert of the Superstition Mountains


A Journey’s Destination

14 Mar

For those of you that ride motorcycles like I do, you have invariably seen the phrase,

“It’s not the destination, but the journey”,

emblazoned on stickers, hats, clothing and even tattooed onto the human body. Few come to understand the depth of the phrase.

The journey, and relative, mandatory destination, is the subject of myth and lore from the earliest days of human communication. Jason and the Argonauts journeyed for the golden fleece. King Arthur and his Knights-Of-The-Round-Table (even Monty Python, and Professor Robert Langdon) journeyed for the Holy Grail. Frodo journeyed to Mount Mordor to dispose of the one ring. Indiana Jones journeyed for everything ancient.

At Goshin-Do Karate-Do we set out on our own journeys for knowledge, and the unknown. Recently, after a long and difficult journey, one of my Goshin-Do brothers arrived at his destination. My comrade, brother and friend, Sensei Bob Wieczorek had set upon a journey of finding the origin of two of our most rare kata, namely Ten-Ni-No Kata and Chi-Ni-No Kata (see Endnote #1). These two kata are steeped in Dojo oral tradition; however, exact written genealogies of the kata were, until now, elusive. As such, they sat as orphans amongst the more pedigreed Goshin-Do Karate-Do kata. After a long, dedicated and at times, frustrating, search, Sensei recently arrived at his destination.

Sensei has discovered that Ten-Ni-No and Chi-Ni-No are the companions to two other kata, Jin-I-No and Sansai Kata. All four kata were created by Seiken Shukumine (1925-2001). The four kata were representative of a style of Karate-Do he created and named Genseiryu. The kata themselves were created by Shukumine-Sensei between the years 1953 and 1962 when he abandoned the Genseiryu style. I wholeheartedly recommend the reader research the colorful life of Shukumine-Sensei which included, inter-alia, being a Kamikaze pilot in World War II. Fortunately for Karate-Do, Shukumine-Sensei was not called to an active mission.

With Sensei Wieczorek’s journey concluded, our records as to the origin of the kata Ten-Ni-No and Chi-Ni-No are now complete and reflected on the kata page of this website. The “orphaned” kata now have a pedigree. With that, all practitioners of our style of Goshin-Do Karate-Do owe a debt of gratitude to Sensei for enriching our knowledge and enjoyment of performing these two kata.

I trust Sensei Wieczorek will graciously accept our “Kudos”. As I know Sensei will soon open another door to unknown knowledge and embark upon yet another journey, I hope he takes a moment to savor his success. After all, is not the journey for knowledge an aspiration all karate-ka should strive for?

Video of Ten-Ni-No Kata, featuring both Sensei and myself

Video of Chi-Ni-No Kata, featuring both Sensei & myself


Sensei John Szmitkowski


1. Alternative spelling of these two kata include, Tennino, Ten-I-No, Chinnino and Chi-I-No.

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/


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

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

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



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


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


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

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


30 May

From the dojo archives:


10. Student’s personal Kun.
Ichi-Nichi-Issho (One Day, One Lifetime)

Respectfully submitted,



  1. The first nine statements date back to the earliest days of Shihan DeFelice’s Dojo, originally located at 125 Broad Avenue, Palisades Park, NJ. In 1997, Sensei John Szmitkowski wrote a treatise on Goshin-Do Karate-Do entitled Goshin-Do Kata-jitsu (Issho Publications, 1997) in that work, he added guideline number 10, whereby each student would incorporate their own individual guideline within the kun. He also added the phrase “Ichi-nichi, Issho” as a means of closing the kun.

Blowing Winds

9 May

Please accept the within as a respite from the drama of your daily life.

A favorite poem of Shihan Thomas DeFelice.

Winds that blow – 
ask them:
“Which leaf on the tree shall be next?”

Respectfully submitted,



1. The death poem of the Daimyo-poet, Takahama Kyoshi.


18 Apr

From the Goshin-Do Karate-Do, DeFelice-Ryu archives, submitted for your contemplation,



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!


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