Tag Archives: Shihan Thomas DeFelice

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, 2012

12 Dec

christmas tori

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

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

Happy Holidays to all our readers,

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

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

14 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

Still image from the Ananku Kata video

SHU, HA, RI: A Different Perspective

7 Oct

ANNOUNCEMENT:

New videos have been made available:

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

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

———————-

 CURRENT ARTICLE:

The martial arts concept of Shu-Ha-Ri has been analyzed ad infinitum from the standpoint of the student – teacher relationship. The analysis; however, has always been from the perspective of the student. I submit that such an analysis is limited. To analyze  Shu, Ha, Ri only from the student’s perspective is to limit the examination to only one-half of the dynamic of transmitting karate-do from one person to another. In so far as the teaching of karate-do implies an obligation to accurately transmit the karate of one’s Sensei, I propose that the common trend to analyze Shu, Ha, Ri form the standpoint of the student must be overcome (See Endnote # 1).

In this submission, I would like to set forth an alternate perspective from which to consider the concept of Shu-Ha-Ri; namely the perspective of the teacher, or Sensei, of karate-do, who was by definition once a student him or her self.

By way of introduction, a review of the popular discourse on Shu, Ha, Ri is appropriate. There are three stages of the martial learning process which are generally accepted and a fourth, more esoteric stage. The three generally accepted stages are the stages of “Shu”, “Ha“, “R1“.

Kanji for Shu-Ha-Ri

Each particular stage is described as follows.

SHU(pronounced “Shoe”) means to correctly copy all of the techniques of one’s instructors;

HA (pronounced “Ha”) means the liberty allowed to a student to develop his own way of executing techniques based upon the demands of his own physical stature and his own individual understanding of Karate;

RI (pronounced “Rhee”) means “transcendence” or “mastery”. It is when a student can perform all of the techniques automatically and becomes a teacher himself (See Endnote # 2).

A fourth, more esoteric, stage of the process of learning the martial arts has come to be identified. This stage is called the “Ku” (pronounced “Cue”) stage. Kuis the stage of emptiness. It means everything is gone and no trace is left behind. The student has reached the highest level and no one can trace his movements or capture his techniques.

I submit that the concept of Shu-Ha-Ri transcends the bounds of the student’s perspective and can (and should) be extended to include an analysis from the perspective of the teacher. A natural consequence of learning the martial arts, as set forth in the description of the Ri stage above, is that the student becomes a teacher him or herself. Once the student becomes a teacher himself, the analysis and application of Shu, Ha, Ri historically ceases. I proffer the following analysis of Shu, Ha, Ri as applied to the teacher who was once, naturally, a student himself.

SHU means to correctly copy the technique, kata, method and manner of one’s Sensei as one teaches one’s students. While the technique and kata of one’s Sensei are easily governed by stylistic dictates (see Endnote # 3), the method and manner of one’s Sensei are unique to the Sensei under whom a student (now teacher) originally learned his or her art. Each individual instructor of a style of karate-do, while teaching the technique and kata of the style, combines these physical dictates with the non-physical traits of the style (philosophy, ideology, spirituality, etc) as set forth by the style’s founder and progenitor. While so teaching the “style”, the Sensei imbues and infuses the teaching with his or her own unique character and personality traits. These character and personality traits generally may be of a positive nature, but, as dictated by the frailty of the human condition, may also include the instructor’s character flaws; even those that may considered less than admirable (See Endnote # 4). It is the “style” of karate, as imbued and interpreted by a Sensei that is transmitted to the student (who is now the teacher).

 HA means the liberality to be allowed an instructor (by his original Sensei) to develop his own way of teaching. I submit this development is influenced by two key factors. The first key factor is the teacher’s unique individual physical and psychological traits. These factors would have been accentuated or modified as necessary during the teacher’s tenure as a student. IF the teacher’s Sensei was a Sensei of merit, then his Sensei would have discovered and been aware of these individual traits during the time period wherein the teacher was a student of the Sensei. During this time, Sensei would have nurtured the student’s meritorious traits and modified or corrected the student’s character flaws. Thus, Sensei would have guided his student, now a teacher, so that these individual traits do not offend the tenor and tone of Sensei’s style of karate-do. The second key component is highly variable. Surely, Sensei is aware that his student will encounter this factor but cannot predict the specific character of same. This second trait that the student, now teacher, will encounter are the physical capabilities and mental attributes of his individual students.  The student turned teacher must be allowed the liberality to mold his instruction of karate-do on these two key factors. If this liberality is granted, the student-teacher, now Sensei, starts to represent the embodiment of the karate he learned from his Sensei.

RI means “transcendence.” Transcendence occurs when a Sensei becomes the living embodiment of the karate-do that he continues to practice and subsequently teach. This karate is no longer the karate that he learned from his Sensei; it is more than that. It is that learned karate as interpreted by the individual Sensei’s physical and spiritual traits AND as transformed by the mechanism of Sensei’s continued practice of karate-do and individual teaching methods and manner.

KU is the stage were the Sensei no longer affirmatively teaches. Rather, Sensei transmits karate-do by virtue of being an active Sensei. This is to say that Sensei has become his karate-do. Sensei has come to embody and represent his interpretation of karate-do in such a way that the students are capable of learning by Sensei’s example. This means that the student no longer learns by rote drilling, they learn by being in the presence of Sensei as Sensei lives in karate-do. This stage is the lifeblood extension of the observation of Shihan Peter Urban, Ju-dan, USA Goju-ryu, “A Karate man in training is in karate.” At this stage, “A Sensei who practices and teaches karate IS karate.” (See Endnote # 5).

I submit that understanding the various stages Shu, Ha, Ri from both the perspective of a student and a Sensei is necessary so as to fully understand the total dynamic within which the art of karate-do is transmitted from one person to another.

Respectfully submitted for your contemplation,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

ENDNOTES:

1. I use the word “implies” because there are those Sensei that are perhaps less than meritorious and simply teach without regard to a sense of duty or obligation to purely transmit the teachings of their Sensei.

2. The following symbolism has been ascribed to each stage. Such symbolism may assist you in further understanding the three stages of transmittal and learning.

SHU is symbolized by an egg. The first stage is hard, the form or shape of the technique must be mastered or protected, just like a mother protects her egg.

HA is symbolized by the breaking egg. The basic form is broken into its infinite applications. It means the fundamentals are now mastered and are applied in all situations.

RI is symbolized by the fully released chick that has matured and flies away from the nest. The student forgets all forms and masters the formless technique, leaving old ideas behind him. He has fully matured in his training.

3. This means simply that a student of Goshin-Do Karate will teach the technique and kata of the Goshin-Do Karate style. Similarly a student of Goju-ryu, Shorin-ryu, Isshin-ryu or any other style will teach the technique and kata of their particular style.

4.Since we are human, we are inevitably fallible. Thus, by human nature, a Sensei carries his personal flaws with him as he teaches karate. Such flaws may include, ego, jealousy, anger and the like. It is a direct consequence that the karate transmitted will be influenced by both the instructor’s positive and negative personality traits during the transmission process.

5. Urban, Peter, The Karate Dojo, (Charles E. Tuttle & Co., Tokyo, Japan 1967) p. 77.

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

Goshin-Do E-Museum – Coming Soon

14 Jun

It gives me great pleasure to announce that work has begun on creating a vast digital archive containing all manner of Goshin-Do memorabilia, including, but not limited to archival documents, photographs and video of Shihan Frank Van Lenten and the earliest days of the Goshin-Do Karate-Do Association and the later Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kyokai.

            

In addition, the subsequent years of Goshin-Do Karate-Do under the leadership of Shihan Thomas DeFelice and the contemporaneous familial branches under various Goshin-Do / Ryu family trees will be included.

This vast digital project, an electronic museum (E-Museum) available on DVD, will take several months to complete. During this process, we will keep readers up to date and offer a look at tantalizing bits of karate-do family history. This E-museum should be of interest to any karate-ka that traces their lineage back to Shihan Fran Van Lenten, including practitioners of Goshin-Do Karate, Goshin-Ryu Karate, Goshin-Kai, Kanzen Goju-ryu and similar styles.

Video of Shihan Frank Van Lenten circa 1960:

To peak your interest, I thought I would provide you with a brief clip of footage digitalized from old 16 mm film of Shihan Frank Van Lenten from the mid to late 1960’s. 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

I hope you enjoy.

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

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

DOJO KUN

30 May

From the dojo archives:

ACADEMY OF GOSHIN-DO KARATE-DO DOJO KUN

1. WE ARE PROUD TO STUDY THE SPIRIT OF GOSHIN-DO. (FOLLOW THE PATH)
2. WE WILL ALWAYS OBSERVE THE RULES OF COURTESY.
3. WE SHALL ALWAYS PRACTICE PATIENCE AND HUMILITY.
4. WE SHALL ALWAYS STRIVE FOR PERFECTION OF CHARACTER.
5. WE WILL ALWAYS DEFEND THE PATHS OF TRUTH.
6. WE WILL BE QUICK TO SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY.
7. WE WILL GUARD AGAINST IMPETUOUS COURAGE.
8. WE WILL TRAIN OUR HEARTS AND BODIES FOR A FIRM AND UNSHAKEN SPIRIT.
9. WE WILL ALWAYS BE TRUE TO OURSELVES.
10. Student’s personal Kun.
Ichi-Nichi-Issho (One Day, One Lifetime)

Respectfully submitted,

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

Endnotes:

  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.

Hatsu Bon Poem For Shihan Wayne Norlander

18 May

One year ago today, we lost a valued friend, Shihan Wayne Norlander. Today’s training and the following Hatsu Bon Poem are offered to his spirit. Should today’s readers so desire, please join us and perform a kata of your choice in memory of Shihan Norlander and a fallen comrade you may wish to remember. May Shihan’s spirit find our training and poem worthy.

HATSU BON POEM

Please don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am
Nor am I sleeping for eternity
SEE!!
I am already part of the breezes
numbering a thousand
I am part of the light
that brightens this world
Like a diamond glittering in the snow
Like the sun that coaxes seeds to sprout
And in the Fall I become the gentle rain
that nurtures all.
When you open the window in the morning
I am the breeze
That causes your hair to flutter;
And at night, I am the star
That watches over your sleep.
So, please . . . don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am.
I am not dead.
I have been born anew.

Sincerity in sweat, Sensei.

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

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,

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

ENDNOTES:

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

A SENSEI’S PRAYER

18 Apr

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

A SENSEI’S PRAYER

DEAR LORD, PLEASE HELP ME –

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!

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

Hatsu Bon Poem For Sensei Paul Recchia, R.I.P.

10 Apr

Nine years ago today, Sensei Paul Recchia was taken from us. Today’s training and the following Hatsu Bon Poem (used in the traditional memorial training ceremony) are offered to his spirit. Should today’s readers so desire, please join us and perform a kata of your choice in memory not only of Sensei Paul but also a fallen comrade you may wish to remember. May Sensei’s spirit find our training and poem worthy.

HATSU BON POEM

Please don’t cry before my grave
That’s not where I am
Nor am I sleeping for eternity

SEE!!

I am already part of the breezes
numbering a thousand

I am part of the light
that brightens this world

Like a diamond glittering in the snow
Like the sun that coaxes seeds to sprout

And in the Fall I become the gentle rain
that nurtures all.

When you open the window in the morning
I am the breeze
That causes your hair to flutter;

And at night, I am the star
That watches over your sleep.

So, please . . . don’t cry before my grave

That’s not where I am.
I am not dead.
I have been born anew.

annotated-YUDANSHA-ISSHO

 

Sensei Paul’s last visit to the Issho Dojo, East Rutherford, NJ (January, 2000)

Left to Right: Sensei Byrne, Sensei K. Szmitkowski, Sensei J. Szmitkowski, Sensei DiMicelli & Sensei Gumowski

From all of us that walk the path of Goshin-Do, “Sincerity in sweat”, rest in peace, Sensei.

Hanko-GDK-DEF-R

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