Tag Archives: Sensei John

Goshin-Do Karate Kyokai Pinan Kata Reconstructed

19 Jan

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

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

Kyokai  Goshin-Do Karate Kyokai versions of

Pinan Sho-dan

Pinan Ni-dan

Pinan San-dan

Pinan Yon-dan

Pinan Go-dan

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

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

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

CIMG5490  You can visit Sensei John’s personal blog at

http://senseijohn.me

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

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Lost & Found – Fatuous Kata

3 May

In May, 1945, General George S. Patton, Jr. arrived at the Imperial Spanish Riding Academy. Modern equitation at the Academy emphasized the form of horsemanship over the practical military applications of the movements of rider ad horse. The General reflected upon the idea of preserving the aesthetics of the movements over their military applications.

. . . it is probably wrong to permit any highly developed art, no matter how fatuous, to perish from the earth – and which arts are fatuous depends on the point of view. To me the high-schooling of horses is certainly more interesting than either painting or music. (See Endnote # 1)

I have had occasion to reflect on the fatuous nature of the arts. For several decades now I have held the point of view that the art of kata (Kata-jitsu) is certainly more interesting than any other art, including “the high schooling of horses, painting or music.”
Much like any art, specific kata within an overall karate-do curriculum can be judged as fatuous. The arbiter of the viability of the kata is the senior ranking black belt of either a specific karate-do system or association. Invariably, once this arbiter adjudges a kata as fatuous, he or she stops practicing the kata. As a result, the kata is no longer taught to the lower ranks. Inevitably, the kata ceases to be a “required” kata within the system. In the end, the kata has perished from the system or association solely due to the personal penchant of one practitioner.
My devotion to and love of kata has compelled me to attempt to recreate certain lost kata of the Goshin-Do Karate-Do (GDK-D) Kyokai established by Hanshi Frank Van Lenten. It is the tree trunk upon which not only our own branch of Goshin-Do Karate-Do had grown, but also several other branches of karate styles. To set the Kyokai apart from other Okinawa-based styles of karate-do, traditional kata were modified by Hanshi Van Lenten and incorporated into his GDK-D Kyokai. Hanshi Van Lenten engaged in a period of protracted adjustment as to which kata would be included within the Kyokai. This resulted in many kata being added and removed.

Kyokai

Additionally, as members divorced themselves from the GDK-D Kyokai, they were no longer subject to kata being imposed upon them by Kyokai (and Hanshi Van Lenten’s) requirements. Being freed of this imposition, their personal inclinations, emotions and predilections determined the kata to be required of their students. Kata that they deemed fatuous were abandoned. Others, were added. In this manner, new branches were created from the original Kyokai tree trunk.
The death bell tolled in 1983 when Hanshi Van Lenten disbanded the Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kyokai. Even he once and for all abandoned the kata he created. In essence, these unique adaptations of the traditional kata “perished from the earth” — until now.
I have been extremely fortunate to have come into possession of the means of recreating these lost kata. The basis for my recreation included notes, text, instructional photographs, and video of Hanshi Van Lenten. (See Endnote # 2) Over the past few years, I have scrutinized these archival sources and practiced the kata to the best of my ability and interpretation. It is my honor and privilege to share my recreation of these abandoned kata with you. Please note that each video below contains all archival material utilized.
Why bother taking over two years to resurrect these abandoned kata? To modify the General’s observation, it is probably wrong to permit any highly developed KATA, no matter how fatuous, to perish from the earth.

Sunsu Kata; Not only does this video feature footage of Hanshi Van Lenten performing his version of this hallmark kata of Isshin-Ryu Karate-Do, it also shows Shimaboku, Tatsuo Sensei’s recognition of Hanshi Van Lenten as a Ju-Dan, 1oth degree black belt.

Jion Kata: A very rare version of the traditional kata recreated in a pleasing aesthetic environment.

Jitte Kata: A very rare version of the traditional kata recreated in a pleasing aesthetic environment.

Kanto Kata – created by Hanshi Van Lenten at the request of his various Okinawa Sensei to symbolize his GDK-D style. The kata and style were approved by Hanshi’s several Okinawa Sensei as being Okinawa-based. While Kanto Kata remains within our kata syllabus, it is “The” defining kata of Hanshi Van Lenten’s GDKD style and is therefore a “rare” kata.


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 using this convenient link: http://senseijohn.me/category/kata-laboratory/
NEWS sanchin  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/

ENDNOTES:
1. General George S. Patton., Jr., War As I Knew It: The Battle Memoirs of “Blood ‘N Guts”, (Bantam Books, 1980), p. 311.
2. My sincerest “Thank-you” to Shihan Thomas DeFelice (Ku-Dan, Karate-Do No Hanshi, Goshin-Do Karate-Do) for providing the text and photographs of Jion and Jitte Kata, Hanshi Jerry Thompson (Arts Of Self-Defense), Shihan Ed DiNardo (Hachi-dan, Arts Of Self-Defense, New Jersey and Arizona) and Kyoshi Tom Van Tassel (Nana-Dan, American Center For Martial Arts, New Jersey) for providing the vast wealth of vintage films of Hanshi Van Lenten.

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,

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

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

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)

What Say You, Dog-Faced Foe?

18 Jul

It was once said that all good myths are, to some extent, based upon reality. I do not know whether the following actually occurred or is similar to Aesop’s famous fables, a story that relates a lesson.

A great battle between two warring Daimyo was drawing to a close. Both sides had suffered extreme losses. On a remote section of plateau, away from the core of the battle, two opposing Samurai encountered each other from a distance of about one hundred feet. The one samurai had his sword drawn, the other had an arrow set in his bow ready for the killing flight. Surely, the sword-bearing samurai, having a great distance to cover in order to reach his opponent, was about to die. Now, the myth ensues:

 The Archer called out to his opponent:
“What say you dog-faced foe?”
To which the Samurai replied:
“Whose only thoughts are of his Ancient Mother.”
After hearing this reply the archer returned his arrow to its quiver and spared the life of the samurai.

 Why did this occur and what is its significance?

First, it must be remembered that samurai of old were not only skilled in the martial arts, but were also skilled in other arts, including poetry and calligraphy. The preferred form of poetry was Haiku. Haiku has a rigid set of rules concerning structure. It is generally a short poem that is intended to convey an emotion or vision to the reader without specifically detailing the emotion or vision. A favorite activity was for one person to start a Haiku and for another to finish it. Such was the exchange above.

The encounter illustrates that the Samurai facing death still retained his composure and calmness and was able to furnish a reply that deeply touched his adversary. To face death and think not of oneself, but of one’s “ancient mother” is indeed profound.

Second, the story also illustrates the concept of Bushi No Nasake – “The tenderness of a warrior”. Many mistakenly believe that killing for a samurai was automatic once a battle commenced. In actuality, a warrior could spare the life of his adversary. However, mercy could not stem from a blind impulse. It must be rendered with due regard to justice and backed with the power to save or kill. Remember that it was a Samurai’s honor and duty to die in battle, thus, if his life was spared, it must be for a noble reason, less the life would be one of disgrace for both warriors.

Today, sadly it appears that such a concept of Bushi No Nasake is the exception and not the rule. At its heart, the concept recognizes the characteristics of honor, respect and the value of human life. Given today’s headlines reporting stories on domestic abuse, child neglect and such new phrases as “road rage” and “thrill-killing”, it is clear that humans no longer respect each other. People no longer cloak themselves in that blanket known as a sense of honor. If one cannot comprehend honor and respect, one cannot understand true mercy and the strength of character required to outwardly manifest same. The only response becomes one of aggression.

As karate-ka, we have the ability to self-govern ourselves to avoid such aggressive behavior. We test ourselves routinely through our training (particularly kata training) and as such, no longer have to prove anything to ourselves, or others. Thus, we can act with compassion in situations that others would meet with aggression.

When training, please remember to bear in mind the concepts of Bushi No Nasaki, compassion, tenderness, honor and a sense of justice within one’s own actions. Justice can and should never be compromised. The qualities are difficult to grasp, but through the enlightenment of karate training in general and kata training in particular, are never lost. The end result of any human encounter can ultimately involve devastating results, one must have the strength of character to properly access the encounter, to then apply the appropriate response and finally, to live peacefully with the result. Please remember too that this applies to all human encounters, work-related, social, economic, fleeting, etc., not only martial encounters.

In closing I remain, a dog-faced foe, embracing Bushi-No Nasake

   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 - ringwoodFor 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/

A Matter Of Perception

12 Jun

Perception affects not only the manner in which we practice karate-do, it also affects our daily lives. The ancient masters, sages and storytellers knew the power of perception. In fact, oral traditions and myths told of the ramifications of how perception shapes our world.

Here is but one mythical tale from the oral traditions of Goshin-Do Karate Do that illustrates how perception can alter the manner in which you perceive your karate-do and world around you. It is called the Daimyo and the Samurai

In feudal Japan there was a powerful daimyo, a warlord. Amongst his many retainers, the daimyo had an extremely loyal Samurai whom he favored. The samurai had accompanied the Daimyo to the Shogun’s Court in far off Edo, many days journey from their home. One day the samurai received an urgent message advising that his father, also a very distinguished samurai loyal to the daimyo’s family, had fallen gravely ill. Being in a hurry to attend to his dying father, the samurai desired to mount his horse and rush home. The samurai found that his horse had become lame and could not make the long journey home. Worried about seeing his ill father, the samurai made use of the daimyo’s favorite horse. This was a serious crime punishable by beheading.

When the daimyo heard of the samurai’s use of his horse, he declared, “The samurai and his father are loyal retainers of my family, what a devout samurai to be so concerned with the welfare of his father that he risked his own life so as to attend to his ill father.”

Business at the Shogun’s Court had concluded and the daimyo returned home to his castle. The samurai went to see his master and they walked in the daimyo’s gardens. The samurai saw the most lovely cherry blossom. He picked it and offered it to his master as a token of his appreciation, saying, “Amongst flowers, the cherry blossom; amongst men, you, my Lord and master.” The other samurai that were in attendance were shocked that he dared to pick a cherry blossom from the daimyo’s favorite tree. The daimyo took the proffered cherry blossom and praised the samurai for his generosity.

As happens in all human relationships, the daimyo and the samurai eventually had a falling out. The daimyo angrily and publicly chastised the samurai, “You impudent servant, you disgraced me by making use of my horse.” “You insulted me by picking my own cherry blossom and giving it to me as a present.” In the presence of the daimyo’s court, the samurai was ordered to commit seppuku (ritual suicide). (See Endnote #1).

seppuku

I hope you enjoyed the tale. 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/

ENDNOTES:

1. I had heard this fable several times in the Dojo. I was able to locate a similar tale, which you may also enjoy reading. It is called “The Thief Of The Peach” and may be found in: Furuya, Kensho, Kodo: Ancient Ways (Lessons In The Spiritual Life Of The Warrior/Martial Artist (O’Hara Publications, Inc., 1996)   p. 48.

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

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/

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

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)

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