Tag Archives: Kata in nature

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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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

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)

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

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 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.

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