Tag Archives: Kata Practice

Do Away With Kata Formalities – Part 2: Not Quite

15 Mar

Here’s the conclusion of Sensei John’s two part series on the formalities of kata. Let’s see what he has to say:

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In Part One of this article, https://senseijohn.me/2019/02/20/do-away-with-kata-formalities-part-1/ I set forth my idea that in so far as after Sho-dan grade, one must practice both the spontaneity of kata and the phenomenon that kata reside within you twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, one must do away with the formalities of kata. (see Endnote # 1 for a video example) These formalities, represented by the three step process of rei (bow), mukso (meditation) and ready posture inhibit the process of kata as a ritual that resides within you percolating under the surface until needed. Or, do they? Perhaps the formalities symbolize a higher meaning of kata. So now, here’s the conclusion of that article.

Do away with kata formalities – Part 2: Not Quite

As I began to advocate my concept of doing away with the formalities decades ago, my answer was yes, they should be done away with as a condition precedent to beginning and ending a kata. Just do the kata and be done. Now, as I get older (maybe wiser?) I have rethought the concept. I have once again incorporated the acts of preparation into my kata – just not as you may think.

To understand what I propose, one must appreciates the “Three Battles” of kata. Specifically all kata involve three aspects or battles. While they exist in all kata, they are emphasized and harmonized in the Sanchin Kata.

Kanji For Sanchin – Three Battles

By name, Sanchin, represents three battles. Throughout time and from karate style to karate style, Sensei have defined the three battles in various, sometimes euphemistic ways. For my part, I define the battles, on a fundamental level as breathing, bodily movement and state-of-mind. Once a kata-ka has trained kata from the standpoint of these battles, they are ready to appreciate my more advanced definition of the three battles, to wit: a physical battle (breathing and bodily movement), spiritual battle (psyche, mental states and emotions) and an environmental battle (the outside world wherein the kata is performed and how you interact with same). (For more on this topic, please see endnote # 2) You can readily see that whether you adopt the fundamental definition or the more advanced, the three battles, symbolized by Sanchin, are present in each and every kata.

By extension you should then acknowledge that the three battles are present in each and every moment of life itself. You must breath to live. Your body must move each and every second to live. Yes, you may be immobile during times of sleep or even unconsciousness, but your blood must flow, cells must metabolize, organs function and the like. Similarly as you live your life, you will interact with and be affected by the outside environment. Thus, I conclude and submit that “Life is a kata.” ™

Once I came to the understanding that “Life is a kata,” ™ I began to rethink my position on the formalities. Instead of doing away with the formalities, I now advocate that they should be performed before and after each kata. What, a complete reversal? Not quite. The issue is no longer whether to perform the formalities, but when does kata start and end. My conclusion is that my kata starts the moment I get out of bed, the new day, another day of life, is the beginning of my kata. I need not perform a kata as soon as my feet touch the floor. I do; however perform the three formalities. I look out my bedroom window and rei (bow), mukso (meditation) and assume a ready posture for a moment or two and then start my day – my kata, my life. Surely, before fully engaging my day, I perform my daily routine of Sanchin, Seienchin and Suparunpei Kata and my own personal kata, Yurei-Te Kata (Ghost Hand Kata). I go about my day, including training my other kata. At days end, I perform the three formalities in reverse order and settle in to bed. My Life is my kata.

To be sure, this is but the best I can do to symbolize my acceptance of my own life as a kata. Had I thought of my concept fifty-seven years ago, I would have had a much greater symbolism, but I lacked the training, knowledge and experience to do so. The greatest symbolism would have been to perform the formalities only twice in my life. The first immediately after exiting my mother’s womb. The second time I would the perform all three in reverse order at the moment immediately before my death – the ultimate symbol of my life, my kata. Perhaps, notwithstanding I did not start life in that way, I am still be able to perform the formalities (in reverse order) at the end of my life – my kata. But – that will only be half the symbol. Maybe once I enter what comes after death I will stand tall in the next world, and bow, mediate and be ready for the kata-yet-to-come.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

*** Teaser Alert ***

Here’s a few more screen shots from my forthcoming Yurei_Te (Ghost Hand) Kata Book and Video:

   

ENDNOTES:

1. In my forthcoming Kata Laboratory book I have set forth many unique training concepts to explore the esoteric aspects of kata including my assertion that kata resides within you twenty-four hours a day seven days away percolating util such a time it bursts forth. If are interested in this topic, you may see this introductory article and video. https://senseijohn.me/2018/01/31/kata-lab-3250-kata-within-you-intermediate/

2. For more on the three battles of kata, and by association, bunkai (the analysis of kata), you may refer to this article from my Kata Laboratory, https://senseijohn.me/2013/05/20/kata-lab-101-three-states-of-bunkai/

For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link http://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!

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/kata-lab/

© Copyright 2019 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

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Sensei John: Do Away With Kata Formalities – Part 1

26 Feb

He’s at it again – our own Sensei John advocates doing away with Kata formalities (or does he?)(reprinted from Sensei John’s blog, WWW.SenseiJohn.Me , with permission)

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Do away with kata formalities
Part 1: Understanding the formalities

Every karate-ka (practitioner of karate) is familiar with the formalities of kata. Whatever form they take, these formalities may be summarized as three procedures before and after each kata. I submit, they are “outside” of the kata and are not part of the actual kata. (See endnote number 1) In this article, I make the argument that at the dan rank (black belt) level, they should not be performed at all, save one exception.

Generally speaking the kata formalities may be parsed into the following three steps. Step one is the “rei” or formal bow. This step symbolizes respect. Respect first and foremost is for the solemnity of the kata itself. Respect then expands to include the individual that created the kata, those that maintained it throughout history and preserved it in its present form. You can extend the concept of respect ad infinitum, such as respect for the dojo, your Sensei, karate in general and the like. As my own Sensei, Shihan Thomas DeFelice, was fond of saying, “All kata begins and ends with respect.”

The second step is one of “mukso” or meditation. This step has many effects, including, inter alia, the need to clear your mind of all preconceptions, dilatory psychological states (extraneous thoughts) and emotional effects (anxiety, fear, depression and the like). Unchecked these dilatory states would impose themselves on the kata. As the karate Sages would say, you need to “Part the clouds to see the moon.” This state of mind is called “Mushin” or “mind no mind.” You perform mukso after the kata to facilitate the state of mind known as “Zanshin” (“remaining mind”) to imbue yourself with the physical and spiritual by-products of the kata.

Lastly one assumes a “ready” posture. This is a physically neutral posture that takes many forms. Examples include standing with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, hands low, feet together with hands touching at groin level and the like. Regardless of the exact posture, it is always neutral. The neutral posture ends upon starting the kata.

After the kata, the kata-ka (my term for a performer of kata) then performs the formalities in reverse order.

Okay, so far so good. The formalities clearly have a purpose and are relatively innocuous in so far as they are neither physically demanding or spiritually negative. So, you may wonder why I advocate that you do away with these relatively noble acts of respect, purifying your spirit and readiness before kata. Well, lets see.

First, it must be completely understood that the formalities are of significant importance to the student below Sho-dan (first degree black belt). To those of numansha grade (under black belt) they must be performed before and after each and every kata. Period. (caveat – see endnote # 2) After sho-dan, one must begin a transition into a fuller understanding and appreciation of kata. To this end, the formalities should be dispensed with.

I would like to begin by looking at the nature of the formalities. To reiterate, they prepare you physically and mentally for the kata. On a purely physical level, it is axiomatic that the kata symbolizes a battle, a physical attack scenario. At a basic, almost Planck Scale-like level, kata is a ritualized shadow-boxing dance. It represents a fight. A karate-ka trains to put the odds of surviving such an encounter in their favor by employing the techniques of the kata with the proper mental state.That being said, if you are attacked you do not hold up you hand, stating “Please wait” while you bow, meditate and assume a ready posture. So, why train this way? I am reminded of the following humorous scenario.

In the mid-1990’s I was officiating and competing as a young San-dan (third degree black belt) in Sensei Ed DiNardo’s (RIP) annual karate tournament at the Wayne (NJ) P.A.L. building. We just concluded the officials meeting presided over by both Sensei DiNardo and Hanshi Frank Van Lenten (RIP). This was one of the handful of times I met the founder of the Goshin-Do Karate style and association. Sensei DiNardo’s tournament always began with the black belt competition in kata, kobudo and kumite. This allowed the competing black belts to be free later for officiating when the lower ranks competed. Before we adjourned the meeting, Sensei DiNardo turned to Hanshi Van Lenten and asked,”Should we give the black belts a few minutes to stretch out and get ready to compete?” Hanshi Van Lenten put his left arm around Sensei’s shoulder and looked him dead in the eye, “If I jumped on your back right now, would you ask me to let you stretch out?” And thus, lightening struck and awakened my subconscious thought as to the formalities of kata. Much like you would not perform the acts prior to an actual encounter, you should train to perform your kata utterly spontaneously. You must develop the concept that all your kata reside within you at all times – twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.. They simmer within you, percolating, ready to be released when you need them to burst forth. (See endnote # 3) To perform the formalities before and after each and every kata obfuscates this spontaneity.

This phenomenon of kata within you can be trained with the aid of a Sensei who understands the heart of kata (and not simply the rhetoric of kata). You can, and should, specifically train your body and spirit so as to be aware of the kata within you and let it burst forth. This is first accomplished by training the immediacy of self defense scenarios within the kata. In my Kata Laboratory project, I have multiple training concepts. One example, “Kata To Modify Emotions” is set forth in endnote # 3. Another example is “Kata Lab – Dr. Jekyll’s Potion. You may see the details of this kata lab using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/2014/02/09/kata-lab-122-kata-dr-jekylls-potion/ and also this video example.

I therefore humbly submit that you must train your kata to be deployed at a moments notice in times of need. The formalities become an unnecessary impediment to the spontaneity of such performance. Removing the symbolic formalities is the first and necessary step to accomplish this spontaneous transition form one’s normal everyday world to the world represented by the kata. Again, this includes a physical world (attack and physical health scenarios) and a spiritual world (mental, psychological and emotional states). Thus, the need for the formalities is nullified. You must be prepared at all times. You must act with respect, maintain a clear mind and be ready in a noncommittal manner so as to act when it is time to act. In essence, like kata, the formalities simply blend into and simmer within us. Respect becomes part of our lives. Mushin, a clear mind and spirit, becomes our default mental state. We remain neutral until the time to act is appropriate then we act swiftly and decisively. If the goal is full integration of kata within ourselves, why symbolize the formalities when we begin and end each and every kata? So, do we simply get rid of the acts of preparation?

I’m going to let you chew on this a bit. Let the concept percolate within you as you practice your kata. See what you think. In my next post, I’ll give you my insights and how after forty-seven years of kata, I incorporate the formalities into same.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Sensei John Szmitkowski

   For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link http://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!

   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/kata-lab/

© Copyright 2019 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

ENDNOTES:

1. There may be others that disagree with my assertion that the kata formalities lie outside of the kata itself. Frankly, that is fair, but wrong. Simply ask any instructor to teach you the first three moves of a new kata (or think back to when you learned a new kata), I bet you, as my father would say, “A dollar to a donut” that they do not show you (for the N’th time) the three formalities. Rather, they show you the first three movements of the actual kata. Thus, impliedly, agreeing with my assessment.

2. During my training in Sensei DeFelice’s Goshin-Do Karate dojo, the formalities were, at times, summarily performed. That is to say that when a kata-ka was asked to perform several kata, such as during testing or class, they would perform the formalities before the first kata, perform all kata asked and the perform them again after the last kata. Thus, avoiding performing the formalities before each kata in the series. I also observed this summary performance at other dojo including the former Bogota (NJ) dojo of my friend and comrade, Shihan Wayne Norlander, RIP. I note that this experience may have subconsciously infused my mind with the idea that the kata formalities should be done away with entirely.

3. Please notice I do not say “ready for when you may be attacked.” I deliberately chose my words to reflect the idea that kata are more than physical self-defense. They are also of great benefit in developing your spiritual self. They are moving meditation than produce a heightened mental and perceptive state when fully understood. But, that is beyond the ken of this article. It is; however, the entire subject of my next book. To tease you a bit on this topic, you may see how kata can be used to modify your emotions using this link and video.https://senseijohn.me/2013/10/06/kata-lab-221-kata-as-an-emotional-modifier/

Don’t Read This – Unless

27 Jul

     We just received a very exciting update from Sensei John. You can read about it below, or visit Sensei John’s blog using this link: https://senseijohn.me/2018/07/25/dont-read-this-unless/

Reprinted from Sensei John’s blog:

Don’t read this unless, you realize you need a means of maintaining physical, mental and spiritual well-being in an increasingly hostile world – – – – and – – – – you’re are ready to be solely responsible for your own such well-being. With that being said, here’s a sneak peak into my latest project.

The start of a very exciting summer heralds the start of a new project. This project will continue my Jiriki Kata-Do (self-wellness through kata) dynamic ideology. Jiriki Kata-Do was launched in 2009 with my Sanchin Kata manual, “Sanchin Kata: Gateway To The Plateau Of Serenity” and DVD.

Now, almost a decade later and tens of thousands of hours “Thinking, Sweating and Experimenting” ™ with kata, a second, updated installment is underway.

My concept of Jiriki Kata-Do (“JK-D”) brings the benefits of select karate kata to the general public, without the need to study a full karate curriculum. The kata are practiced not from a martial perspective but from a moving meditation perspective. By undertaking the practice of JK-D, the average person can experience not only the physical health benefits of dynamic, moving meditative rituals (called “kata”) but also realize the mental, emotional benefits of such meditative rituals. Additionally, the practitioner begins to understand and appreciate the manner in which the world, one’s external environment, affects and interacts with these physical and mental processes and vice-versa.

JK-D differs from other non-active forms of mediation called zazen, or seated mediation, in that, well, you are physically active during the JK-D meditative process. Unlike other endeavors, such as yoga and tai-chi, which have not only lost their meditative aspects in favor of physical exercise but also become commercialized though fashion, JK-D only requires the use of your own body and mind. There are no special clothes, accessories, classroom and the like. JK-D remains within you at all times, wherever you are. The benefits of JK-D are , therefore, available to you anyplace and anytime.

Sanchin footprints in the sand, Cape Cod, MA 2016

At present, I am preparing the manuscript and scripting the videos. It is my hope that both will be finished by the end of summer. The plan is then to film photos for the manuscript and video for the DVD in Cape Cod. MA in early September. The release date would then be mid-November for this long awaited continuation of the JK-D project.

Scouting video locations – its a “dirty-job”

 

Check back often for more information, and maybe a few teasers from the manuscript and test videos.

To read more about the evolution of my Jiriki Kata-Do from its Goshin-Do Karate roots, please use this convenient link: https://senseijohn.me/2011/10/02/jiriki-kata-do-an-epiphenomenon-of-goshin-do-karate/

Featured Video:

As Sensei John says, “Life is a kata.” ™

Respectfully submitted,

“Think – sweat – experiment with Kata” and “Life is a kata” are trademark protected.

  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/kata-lab/

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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