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#Coronapause – FREE resources, tips, kata from Sensei John

30 Mar

We wish all of our subscribers and followers well during this Coronavirus pandemic.

Our own Sensei John has started a journal sharing his daily techniques, kata and mediations he is using to manage his own “Coronapause” experience. Here is a summary of articles posted to date:

Entry # 1 – How the #Coronapause journal started –

Entry # 2 – Boketto (gazing absentmindedly)

Entry # 3 – Introduction to Sanchin (efficient breathing)

Entry # 4 – Zanshin (the “Remaining Mind”)

Entry # 5 – Calm In The Storm Technique (posted 3-31)

All # Coronapause posts may be viewed here

We wish you and yours well and if Sensei John or us can help through the sharing his Coronapause journal then we are fulfilled.

March 30th, 2020: USNS Comfort arrives in New York:


Tournament Fishing – Missing From Your Pre-Tournament Preparation – YOU

17 Jun

** This article includes a FREE offer to start on your path to wellness & mindfulness with Sensei’s Kata-RX Online school. Learn in the privacy & comfort of your won home, at your own pace. You have nothing to loose – its FREE! **


Tournament fishing, what a thrill!
Grant it, I never really made the “big” jump into serious tournament fishing, but there was a time when I did enjoy a few local tournaments. In the late eighties, I even fished in a few regional tournaments, part of the larger Bass’in America tournament circuit.

A look back – Circa 1988: Fishing the Bass’in America Tournament circuit

Then, as now, I am struck by the preparation that the most successful angler’s engage in even before putting the boat in the water on tournament day. Without listing every detail from maintaining the boat to sharpening the last hook, the most successful tournament angler leaves nothing to chance. Except one thing – Him or Her own self.

It is very rare that I would see a tournament angler preparing themselves physically or mentally for a long day on the water. Martial artists have long understood the benefits of united their physical self and their mental, emotional, non-physical self to achieve maximum efficiency. Unfortunately, most other sports competitors down play this interplay. And that includes the professional or semi-professional tournament fisherman.

Now; however, that can easily change.

  Drawing upon my almost five decades of karate kata experience, I have created a “Kata For Wellness and Mindfulness” curriculum that will benefit you. The online curriculum allows you to conveniently learn in the privacy and comfort of your own home, at your own pace.

The first course teaches the core movements of three kata: my Ghost Hand Kata, the Three Battles Kata and the 1 Day / 1 Lifetime Kata. this course is the starting point for all students. For a limited time enrollment is FREE! Yup, you heard right – FREE! You may view the entire curriculum and enroll, if you choose to do so with this convenient, secure link: – simply enroll in Sensei’ school and then click the link for the first course – “Course # 1: Kata Core Course.” That’s it – its FREE!

Let’s look at a sneak peak filmed on a beautiful summer day in Asbury Park, NJ:

More information my be found by on my blog:

It was once observed that “The will to win is not nearly as important to prepare to win.” Why not begin the preparation to win? Enroll today! You have nothing to loose.

See you in class,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

For Sensei’s karate pedigree, please use this link:

Bluegills & Warlords

29 Jun

What does a fisherman catching a bluegill and a Daimyo (Warlord) ordering a Samurai to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) have in common? They are both affected by perception.
When I lived in Arizona, fishing in the hot dry summer months was summed up in one phrase – brutally tough. “Low” temperatures often hovered in the mid-ninety degree range and high temperatures, more often than not, exceed one hundred and five degrees. Though an occasional largemouth bass can be found in these extreme conditions, the most plentiful species is the humble bluegill. When fishing for bluegill, I adjust my tackle accordingly. I fish a ultra-light equipment with light leaders usually with a 7x or 8x tippet. Catching bluegill in this manner is productive and fun; with each bluegill released, my smile broadens and my mood relaxes more and more.

boulder-green sunfish-bluegill- copy

My suffering through the summer would pay dividends in the late fall when temperatures finally return to a level that is tolerable. It is at this time that Arizona Game and Fish would embark upon an aggressive rainbow trout stocking program. All thoughts and efforts on the water turned to catching that lucent shimmering magnificence that is the rainbow trout. During my quest, it is inevitable that a bluegill will also be caught. It is somewhat disingenuous to the bluegill species that so delighted me during the summer that hooking one now brings a thought of, “Ah, only a bluegill.”
What is different? It is still the same bluegill species that had me smiling all summer. It is still just as much fun to catch. But, it is not a rainbow trout. It is only a matter of perception. My perception of catching and releasing a bluegill has been altered.

As I hit the keys of my laptop producing these words, it is early Spring. After a decade in Arizona, I’ve relocated back to my home state of New Jersey. As I reacquaint myself with the waters of my youth, one goal is ever-present; find fish. Though I’m presently targeting bass and pickerel, I am grateful for any tug on my line. That tug is more often than not provided by bluegill.

blugill rat-l-trap

Whenever I am fortunate to have my six year old grandson fish with me, the one species that provides consistent action and mile-wide smiles and laughs is, well you already know. Ah, perception once again exalts the status of the bluegill.


Perception affects not only how we technically fish but also how we react to the overall fishing experience. The ancient sages knew the power of perception. In fact, oral traditions and myths told of the ramifications of how perception shapes our world.
Here is a mythical tale from the oral traditions of the martial arts that illustrates how perception can alter the manner in which you perceive a current event. The next time you fish, think of the tale and the manner in which perception affects your fishing reality. 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).
The next time you are on the water hunting for a game fish and are “only” catching “junk” fish, think about the Daimyo and the Samurai. Adjust your perception and relax and enjoy the simple pleasure of being outdoors, catching a fish.(See Endnote #1).

Samurai seppuku

Samurai seppuku

I hope you enjoyed the tale and the within exploration as to how perception is a key ingredient in your fly fishing repertoire.
In closing I remain, open to my perception of my world and wishing I could cast a fly into clear water and find a bluegill at the end of my line.

Sensei John

Sensei John

wicked catch  In the photo I’m wearing an uv protection shirt I purchased from Wicked Catch gear. You can visit their website at
use promo code: WCProstaff-JSzmitkowski at checkout for a 5 % discount (not applicable to shipping costs and taxes). Or, you can also log in with my personal link (as of January, 2015)

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.

FFD-STICKERS-2_Fotor  As a Thank-you for reading, I have listed a two-pack of FlyFishing Dojo on E-bay for only $ 1.75 which includes mailing. To get your FFD sticker two-pack, simply go to e-bay and search “Fishing stickers-FlyFishing Dojo Logo blog” – do not bid more than the $1.75, I’ll keep listing while supplies last.

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“Fish On!” – Fishing Kiai

2 Jun

   CIMG5462  “Fish on!” – “Got one!” – “Y-E-S!” – “Woo-hoo!”

These are all examples of an exciting characteristic of fishing that has its roots in the martial arts. Ethnicity and language do not affect this characteristic.“Et Viola!” is an example from Andre Paradis, host of one of my favorite fishing shows, King Of The RiverOther examples include,

    CIMG3943 “Damn!” – “Lost him!” – “He’s off!”

What is this fishing characteristic?
It is a yell, born of excitement or frustration that occurs when we fish. It does not matter if you fish with bait, a lure or a fly. It matters not that you are young or old, a weekend angler or competitive tournament angler, anytime a fish bites and you set the hook, you will shout or yell. A few tournament fisherman have an almost trademark-type yell that is known by the public as specific to that fisherman.
This yell is interconnected with a martial arts practice known as “kiai” (pronounced “Key-eye”). When written in kanji (Japanese calligraphy) the word kiai is composed of two root words, “ki” meaning “spirit” and “ai” a contraction of the word “ to yell.” Thus kiai loosely translates as “spirit yell.”


Kiai is therefore not simply yelling. It is a yell or shout derived from, and incorporating your internal spirit. It is completely different that a loud exclamation lacking of emotion. Spirit or emotion is the driving force behind the kiai. The physical source of the kiai is from the inhaled breath stored within your lower abdomen. (See Endnotes # 1). This is important because a poorly executed kiai which originates from your throat will produce a sore throat whereas a properly executed kiai will not.
In addition to an expression of excitement or frustration there are other reasons to kiai. Within the martial arts, there are three reasons to kiai. They are, to scare your opponent, to boost your confidence and to provide or add to the strength of your technique. In fishing, only two of these three reasons are applicable. Since it could be argued that the fish is your opponent, while fishing, you would not kiai to scare your opponent. You may; however, wish to kiai to scare away those fisherman that are encroaching on your fishing waters, but perhaps that topic is best avoided.
Let’s look at the kiai from the perspective of boosting your confidence. In battle or any individual fight, one fighter may feel out classed by his opponent. To overcome this negative attitude, a sharp kiai is helpful as a confidence booster. Similarly when fishing during difficult conditions a kiai may be helpful. These external difficulties include wind, driving rain, excessively hot temperatures and the like. Through no fault of your own, these external factors make your fishing difficult. They often have the effect of dampening your spirit, decreasing your confidence and making you susceptible to giving-up. A sharp kiai may serve to cast out the negativity and rejuvenate your desire to fish enjoyably and successfully in these adverse conditions. Examples include,
saguaro   “Come on already!” – “To Hell with this weather!” – “Enough!” – “Get your head back in the game!”
Similarly, adversity may come from factors within yourself. Even on a picture perfect day and conditions that are optimal, fishing can be difficult. During these times, you may experience negative emotions. You may begin to doubt your abilities, doubt your chances for success (“There’s only three hours in this tournament and there’s no way I can win.”) or you may simply prematurely accept defeat (“What’s the use of changing lures?”). At this time, a deep breath and a powerful kiai can snap you out of your negativity and turn your attitude into a positive one. During such times, I take two minutes to kiai, perform an aggressive form of Sanchin, called Shobu (combat) Sanchin and again kiai. Then, with my mind back in the game, I return to my fishing. Here is a video of Shobu-sanchin filmed on the Lower Salt River, Arizona with watchful vultures.

Even the esteemed author and fisherman Ernest Hemingway was known to kiai. “Fornicate the illegitimate!” was heard during one eventful fishing trip on the Gulf Stream. (See Endnote # 2)
Kiai is also used when you find it necessary to increase your strength. Imagine a martial artist about to break bricks or a weightlifter lifting a tremendous weight over his head. Does he remain silent or does he yell and groan? Naturally he yells, grunts and groans. This is a clear example of kiai used for the purpose of increasing your strength. In fishing, you may encounter times when such a kiai is useful. If so, go ahead and kiai. This aspect of kiai is the one that is commonly manifested during the hook set. You finally feel a tug at the end of your line and your spirit swells from within and produces that kiai, that exclamation of excitement – “Yes”, “Fish-on”, “Got him”, etc. So, go ahead and kiai as you reel that fish in.
Another aspect of kiai to to alert others to your predicament. In karate, very often the sound one produces with a kiai is akin to “ai-ya.” I have students modify this. When I teach children karate, I teach them to kiai the word “help.” Similarly, I teach adult students to kiai the word “fire.” Why? Again, the word itself has no effect on the kiai so use the word to your advantage. Most people that hear a child yell for help will look in that direction and offer assistance. However, “help” yelled by an adult may not elicit the same response, rather people may actually look away. Thus, the kiai of “fire.” Everyone looks to see where the fire is. Similarly, the word used in your fishing kiai should be of additional help to you. Once a fish is hooked, you want to alert your partner to that fact. Once alerted they can help land the fish. They may need to get the net or gaff, pull in other lines to avoid tangles, adjust boat position, and the like. A kiai of “Fish on!”or “Got one!” accomplishes this goal whereas “Yes! or “About time!” may not.
Ultimately, the exact wording of you kiai is unique to you. It serves its intended purpose and represents your own uniqueness. Hey, you never know, you could become a famous fisherman and trademark your kiai. “Bam, Fish on!”
So, enjoy your kiai. Kiai often with tight lines.
In closing, I remain, casting, (hopefully) hooking, but always with kiai.

Sensei John

Sensei John

hatch helicopter copy  Whenever I fish, I wear sun protection shirts I purchased from Wicked Catch gear. You can visit their website at
use promo code: WCProstaffkowski at checkout for a 5 % discount (not applicable to shipping costs and taxes). Or, you can also log in with my personal link


FFD-STICKERS-2_Fotor    As a Thank-you for reading, I have listed a two-pack of FlyFishing Dojo on E-bay for only $ 1.75 which includes mailing. To get your FFD sticker two-pack, simply go to e-bay and search “Fishing stickers-FlyFishing Dojo Logo blog” – do not bid more than the $1.00, I’ll keep listing while supplies last.

1. Deep abdominal breathing can easily be practiced with a procedure known as “Sanchin Kata”. You can acquaint yourself for free with this procedure using this convenient link to my karate blog:
2. Lyons, Nick (editor), Hemingway On Fishing, (The Lyons Press, 2000) p. 119. From “On Being Shot Again: A Gulf Stream Letter”, originally appearing in Esquire magazine, 1935.
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25 Jul

Whether we are fishing in a tournament for money, with a group of (competitive) friends, or simply out for a day of fishing, we all want to be successful on the water. Despite the many intangibles (such as being out in the natural environment, or amongst friends), success on the water is usually measured by one simple benchmark; namely, the number of fish caught. When you are on the water fishing, are you over concentrating on this benchmark? Are you obsessed with winning the tournament or catching more fish than your friends? If you are, you may have noticed that the more you concentrate, the less fish you are catching. If so, here’s a story from the martial arts that should be beneficial to a more successful day on the water.

The story is the lesson of the novice student and the black belt.

At the end of class, before dismissing the student population, it is customary for Sensei to ask whether there are any questions. One night, a novice student asked Sensei, “Sensei, how long will it take me to earn my black belt?” Hearing the question, Sensei looked at the novice and said, “Based upon all my years of practicing and teaching karate-do, I do not know how long it will take you to earn your black belt.” Although the student was somewhat taken aback by the non-answer of his Sensei, he thought it best to accept the answer.

As he lay in bed that night, the student thought about Sensei’s reply. The truth be told, the student felt Sensei had dodged his question. He was determined to  get Sensei to commit to a specific time period.

At the end of the next training session, Sensei again inquired as to whether the students had any questions. It seemed no one had a question, so Sensei was about to dismiss the class when suddenly, the novice raised his hand and said, “I have a question Sensei.” “If I work twice as hard as every student in the Dojo, how long will it take me to earn my black belt.” At first, Sensei was annoyed by the novice’s question. Class that night was particularly sweat-filled and overflowing with information. “Surely, some one must have a worthy question instead of this drivel about belts?” thought Sensei. Sensei hid his disappointment, looked at the novice and answered, “If you train twice as hard as every other student I know you think you will earn your black belt in one-half of the time, but you are misguided.” “If you train twice as hard as the others, it will take you double the time to earn a black belt.” While the senior students nodded knowingly at Sensei’s reply, the novice was clearly frustrated with Sensei’s answer.

That night, at home the novice realized his patience was exhausted, he asked a simple question, he thought Sensei should give him a simple answer. A few of the novice’s friends also studied karate but at a different dojo. At their dojo, a new student signed a contract enrolling them in the “black belt club” for four years and at the end of the four years, they were guaranteed to receive a black belt. If only the novice enrolled in that dojo, he would be a black belt in four years. Better still, logic would mandate that if he worked twice as hard as everyone one else, he would have a black belt in two years. Sensei did not use such financial contracts. Students trained on a month-to-month basis and could leave Sensei’s dojo at the end of any month. The novice was determined to leave Sensei’s dojo at the end of the month, but first, he would get to the bottom of the question as to the time period for earning a black belt from Sensei.

At the end of the next training session, Sensei asked his customary question. This time, the novice did not pursue his question with Sensei. Sensei dismissed the class. As the class left the formal training floor, the novice approached the most senior student, the Dai Sempai. “Excuse me, Sempai” the novice said. “Yes”, replied the Dai Sempai. “You seemed to understand Sensei’s reply as to how long it would take me to earn my black belt, is that true?” “Yes”, said the Dai Sempai. “Can you please enlighten me?” asked the novice. As the Dai Sempai turned away from the novice, he answered, “If you do not understand Sensei’s answer, then you must, once again, ask Sensei.” The Dai Sempai continued to exit the training floor, but looked back to the novice who seemed frozen in place and said, “That is, if Sensei feels your question worthy of further explanation.”

As the students entered the changing room and began to change from their gi (uniform) to street clothes, the novice remained standing, perplexed on the training floor. Noticing this, Sensei asked, “Is there anything else my novice?” The question awoke the novice from his puzzlement. “Excuse me Sensei, but I still do not understand how long it will take me to earn a black belt.” Somewhat exasperated Sensei looked at the novice, “Your question is the answer.” “You are focused on the black belt and not obtaining knowledge in karate-do; rather, you are focused on a symbol of the knowledge.” “That is why should you try twice as hard as everyone else, it will not take you half the time, but rather double the time.” “It is the knowledge that should be desired and not the symbol.” Focusing on the black belt will only distract you from the knowledge symbolized by the belt.” The novice thanked Sensei and entered the now deserted changing room.

As the novice changed from his gi to street clothes, he decided to remain at Sensei’s dojo.

Applying the story to fishing, one will appreciate its very simple lesson. In a competitive situation such as a formal fishing tournament, an informal day with friends  or even being on the water alone when you are “competing” solely against the fish, do not concentrate on achieving the final objective. Concentrating on the final objective, such as winning the tournament or catching more fish then your friends often results in loosing the tournament or catching less fish than your friends. How do you achieve success in these situations? Remember the novice’s desire for a black belt and the words of his Sensei; do not concentrate on winning the tournament (the black belt), rather concentrate on simply catching the first fish. Once that fish is caught, concentrate on catching the next fish and so forth. In this manner, the chances of success improve.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John

Sensei John is available for lectures on the interrelationship of fly fishing and martial arts protocol, ideology and philosophy. Please see the “LECTURES & LESSONS” Page tab above for more information.

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16 May

There is a Karate-Do maxim, “Observe with the mind of a white belt.” The white belt worn by novice students is said to symbolize purity and innocence in terms of preconceptions as to Karate. (See Endnote # 1). When a novice first enters the Dojo, the fledgling 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, the neophyte student is able to capture the inner most aspect of a Karate-Do technique and incorporate it into their personal repertoire.

Prior to the advent of modern colored belts, a Karate-Ka (practitioner of Karate) would wear the same belt (a white belt) during his entire training. Although the Karate gi (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 grow discolored, eventually turning black from use and wear.

As the student continued to wear his, now black, belt, it would begin to fray and tear. In this manner, over the course  of many years, the outermost layer of fabric would often be shed. Through this shedding process, the inner layer of clean, white fabric would be revealed. Thus, a circle of training would be completed; from pure white to soiled black and again to pure white. This return to a white-belt-like appearance of the black belt is the highest, most treasured belt a Karate-ka can possess. Having earned various formal black belts denoting advanced black belt ranks, I can attest to the fact that none have the endearing quality of my black belt which is now a grayish white from having been worn for decades.

The phenomenon of the pure white to becoming a soiled black belt is emblematic of the fishing experience. Recall the child-like amazement that we all had during our earliest fishing experience. The sights, smells, sounds and feel of being out in nature. The thrill of catching a fish and the desire to repeat the thrill enraptured us so as to demand our fullest attention. As a novice fisherman, we carefully selected a lure, bait or fly. Each live bait, whether worm, cricket, shad or other bait was inspected for “freshness”, “liveliness”, etc. Each lure was inspected to make sure there were no defects in the paint, the right color, size and shape was considered, hook sharpness was assured and the like. Young fly fisherman agonized over the choice of general fly pattern and then debated the size of the fly finally inspecting the specific fly to insure the feather were pristine, the hook sharp and the like.

Once a lure was selected, the knot was carefully tied and tested. Finally, the youthful, novice, white belt, fisherman was ready to cast the selection into the unknown waters in hopes of attracting a fish.

With time and experience, the white belt fisherman gained knowledge, experience and confidence in his or her ability to attract and catch fish. With this experience, the symbolic white belt of the fisherman, turned black.  At this stage, the black belt fisherman gets a bit sloppy from his or her experience. Perhaps a bait, lure or fly is selected because he or she simply knows it will catch a fish. Even one’s choice of fishing location becomes a function of experience. After all, “Surely this location holds fish at this time of year and day.”

I suggest, that based upon the “Mind of a white belt”, to maximize fishing results and the fishing experience in general, a fisherman needs to return to the mind set of a white belt, novice each and every time he or she is on the water.

By way of example you may wish to:

  • Choose your fishing location based upon experience, but pay close attention to what specific conditions are telling you;
  • Choose your lure, bait or fly not based upon YOUR expectations, but based upon what nature is TELLING you; to wit: are bait (worms, shad or other prey fish), forage (shrimp, crayfish, etc) or insects present?;
  • Notice each and every detail of the surrounding environment; are there indications of fish present at other locations that warrant a move?:

To be sure the above list is not inclusive but provides you with the general idea that, while experience is invaluable, remember to shed preconceptions. Allow your fishing black belt mentality to begin to fray and shed its outer layer. Let your fishing black belt begin again to turn back to white and fish with the mind of a white belt.

In closing, I remain eager to fish and be fulfilled by the experience each and every time I am fortunate enough to be on the water, if that makes me a fishing white belt, then so be it,

Sensei John


1. From the Academy Of Goshin-Do Karate-Do student handbook, page 29.

Sensei John is available for lectures on the interrelationship of fly fishing and martial arts protocol, ideology and philosophy. Please see the “LECTURES & LESSONS” Page tab above for more information.

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15 Nov

Is physical conditioning applicable to fishing? The short answer is a resounding, “YES.” Further, I submit that an easy approach to physical conditioning is found in a Karate-based procedure known as “Sanchin.”

Sanchin Kata at the Lower Salt River, Arizona

As you may see in this video, filmed while fishing at Water Ranch Lake in Gilbert, Arizona, Sanchin is easily incorporated into your fishing regime.

I am always intrigued by the lack of physical conditioning of fisherman. Perhaps, the weekend angler may find an excuse in the fact that the sport of fishing, from his perspective, is merely an escape from the banality of the grind of everyday life. Assuming that such justification is correct, then, one may assume that at the opposite end of the fishing spectrum, that of the competitive tournament angler, the physicality of fishing would be of importance. Once again, I am surprised at how little a role one’s state of physical conditioning plays in fishing, even at this competitive level.

When I address physicality or the lack thereof, I refer to a minimum or slightly above minimum level of physical conditioning. I do not refer to athleticism in terms of being able to achieve physical feats above the status quo level of physical performance. Rather, I refer to the fact that many anglers fail to achieve their full fishing performance potential because they find themselves out-of-breath from a minimum level of physical exertion, suffering from aching joints, including the back, knees and ankles, from standing for so-called “extended” periods of time, suffering from aching shoulders, wrist and elbows from numerous casts and the like.

The question then, is how to achieve this level of physical conditioning without entering into a strict physical training regiment? Clearly, the stricter the training regiment, the less appealing it is to one who partakes of a “sedentary” activity such as fishing, even competitive fishing. The answer is relatively simple. First, maintain a physical existence in your daily life, second, physically prepare your self to fish, third, breath properly and efficiently and fourth have correct posture. Sanchin is the ONE procedure that incorporates all of these factors and more. Further, Sanchin takes less than three minutes to perform. SANCHIN can be performed regularly by ANYBODY, ANY PLACE and at ANY TIME. By instituting a simple regime of Sanchin, you will achieve an enhanced level of fishing-physicality.

I submit that if an angler pays attention to achieving a minimal level of physical conditioning, then the burden of the physicality of fishing will not impede their ability to achieve a level of performance that exceeds the stats quo. The idea that an angler should pay attention to the physicality of the sport of fishing is far from new or novel. Ernest Hemingway was not only a great writer, he was an avid outdoorsman and fisherman.

Big Game Fishing – a Hemingway favorite

He was acutely aware of the need, not for athleticism, but for good physical conditioning of fisherman. In an article entitled “The Great Blue River” published in 1949 in Holiday magazine, Hemingway had these observations and comments surrounding the state of big game fisherman.

. . . I have never lost a marlin nor a tuna to a shark. . . We try to fight them fast, but never rough. The secret is for the angler to never rest. Anytime he rests the fish is resting.

So now, say, you have this marlin down thirty feet, pulling as strong as a horse. . . He is as strong as a horse. Treat him like a horse. . . . You do not have to kill a horse to break him. You have to convince him, and that is what you have to do with a truly strong, big fish. . . To do this you have to be in good condition.

You have to be a fisherman, or at least in very good shape. . .  You don’t need to be an athlete. . You ought to be in good condition . . .

In almost any other sport requiring strength and skill to play or practice, those practicing the sport expect to now how to play it, to have at least moderate ability and to be in some sort of condition. In big game fishing they will come on board in ghastly shape, incapable of reeling in 500 yards of line, simply line, with no question of there being a fish on it, and yet full of confidence that they can catch a fish weighing twice or three times their weight. (See Endnote # 1).

Whether you are fishing from the shore, or a boat, fishing for trout or tarpon, you need to acquire a minimum degree of physical conditioning to enhance your fishing experience as a weekend angler, or “put more dollars in the livewell” as a competitive angler. Sanchin is an easy, convenient means of attaining that level of physical conditioning. Until the next article, I remain,

Sensei John


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1. Lyons, Nick, Hemingway On Fishing, (Nick Lyons Press, New York, NY, 2000) p. 146-149, originally published as “The Great Blue River” in Holiday magazine, July, 1949.

Sensei John is available for lectures on the interrelationship of fly fishing and martial arts protocol, ideology and philosophy. Please see the “LECTURES & LESSONS” Page tab above for more information.

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BLUEGILL TO BASS – A Martial Arts Based Fishing Strategy

21 Sep

I thoroughly enjoy fishing for a variety of species of fish. In my opinion, the freshwater king of the hot, hazy, humid, dry and long summer is the largemouth bass. I whole heartedly enjoy pursuing this prize fighter of fresh water lakes, rivers and streams. For a brief time I was also a competitive bass fisherman. I often fished in the now defunct Bassin’ America Tournament Circuit on the east coast.

Here in Arizona summer is a brutal, challenging season. Fishing provides a respite from the dry heat of the arid desert known as “The Valley Of The Sun.”  It is a great pleasure to fish in the early hours as the sun rises over your favorite water and the temperatures are “only” in the ninety degree range. While being on-the-water, in nature provides a welcome diversion from the heat, it does not provide a guarantee of success on the water. Bass can be especially finicky at such times. To add to the frustration of casting spurned flies to these finicky bass is the fact that you can often see them cruising in the shallows. After observing the behavior of these fish, especially their aggressive and territorial nature, I devised a strategy for fly fishing for them. “Bluegill To Bass” is a fly fishing strategy that I employ on days when you can usually see bass but catching them is slow. This strategy will apply to fish of any species that are categorized by a symbiotic relationship of predator and prey. Further, while my “Bluegill To Bass” strategy is discussed in terms of fly fishing from the shoreline, with a little imagination, it can be applied to casting artificial lures from either the shoreline or a bass boat. It can even be extended to saltwater fishing and any other fishing that involves an aggressive or territorial predator fish in search of prey.

The “Bluegill to Bass” strategy finds its roots in the ideology of the martial arts. In a famous work entitled Go Rin No Sho (A Book Of Five Rings) the legendary sword master, Miyamoto Musashi defines and analyzes the strategy of the sword.

Miyamoto Mushashi, "Ken-Sei", "Sword-Saint"

His strategic analysis is a defining work of martial arts strategy and ideology. The strategies of Musashi have been extended into ventures that transcend the martial arts, including sports and business. Now, it can be used to apply to specific instances of fishing. In fact, one such strategy described by Musashi is the cornerstone of the Bluegill To Bass strategy for fly fishing for bass.

Musashi described a strategy he termed “To Move The Shade.” “To move the shade”, in the martial arts genre, is used when you cannot see the enemy’s spirit. In single combat this means that when the enemy takes up a position so that you cannot see his intent, you make a feint attack, and the enemy will show his spirit thinking he has seen yours. (See Endnote # 1).

I extended the strategy of “To move the shade” to fly fishing for bass. This strategy is used when you can see fish that the bass prey on or otherwise exhibit aggressive behavior towards, namely panfish and specifically, bluegill. You may or may not necessarily see bass when you begin to fish; however, employing this strategy is meant to flush out bass by targeting and tempting their predatory, territorial and aggressive instincts. The targeting of the prey species represents the feint attack described by Musashi. This feint is meant to draw out the hiding predator (the “hidden spirit” in Musashi’s description). Since I use this strategy to target the prey species, the bluegill, with the hope of drawing out the predator species of bass, I call this application of Musashi’s “To Move The Shade”, the “Bluegill To Bass” strategy.

Before employing this strategy on your favorite water, you will need a little advance preparation. I prepare two fly rods that I will use during my bass fishing. The first fly rod is used to target the prey species, in this case panfish. To this end, I prefer an ultra-light fly rod in the six to seven foot range, a four weight floating line and usually a nine foot leader ending in a 6X tippet. Unless there is an indication of dry fly action on the water, I start by fishing with two subsurface flies, tied in-line, one about 5 inches behind the other. For the head fly, I favor a small streamer or larger nymph, usually about size 10 or 12. For the tail fly, I favor a small nymph or wet fly in the size range of size 14 to 18. This light weight outfit makes catching the panfish fun and enjoyable. It is the actual hooking and catching of the prey species that acts as a catalyst to catching the predator species of largemouth bass.

My second fly rod is ready and rigged to target the bass. I prefer a larger, longer fly rod; usually an eight or nine foot fly rod with a six weight floating fly line, seven and a half foot leader with a 4X tippet. Again, unless there is an indication of dry fly action, I will have two sub-surface flies tied onto leader. For the head fly, I prefer a big, usually “flashy” streamer or even a salt water fly. This fly should resemble the prey species as much as possible. The tail fly is streamer, wet fly or nymph in a size range of size 10 to size 16. While targeting the predator species of bass, these flies will continue to interest the prey species. Thus, bluegill may still pursue these flies. In the midst of the bluegill’s interest in the pair of flies, the bass may be lured out from its cover to pursue the flies. The head fly is meant to target the bass’ desire to pursue the prey species and the tail fly is what I call a second-chance fly. In the event the bass misses or turns away from the head fly, it may be interested in the tail fly.

The above tackle is what I prefer when I fish for largemouth bass using this strategy. Again, depending upon the species of predator and prey fish you are targeting, you should adjust your specific tackle accordingly.

Once “on-the-water”, the “bluegill to bass” strategy begins like so many other fishing strategies; to wit: working water quickly and efficiently to locate and catch fish. I employ this strategy while walking a shoreline casting flies in areas that I know from experience to be productive or casting flies in the most productive looking water (on water that I have not fished before). The point of departure from other strategies to find fish is that in the bluegill to bass strategy, during this exploratory phase, I am specifically targeting prey species while looking for lurking predators. When hoping to catch and release a few bass, my initial target species are panfish, bluegill, crappie and the like. I use my most productive fly patterns to target these fish as a means of luring and seducing a predatory or territorial bass from its safe and secure hiding place. Naturally, I am excited to catch and release a few of the larger members of the species; however, with each hook-up, I purposefully play the fish so as to infuse its immediate environment with the”tension of being hooked.” I pay particular attention to the water so as to be able to see any quick rush, turn or other sign of a bass that is attracted to the tension of the hooked prey fish.

In the event that a bass makes its presence known, I immediately land and release the prey fish in a manner so as not to disturb the immediate environment. I then pick-up my bass fly rod and cast my bass flies into the tension-filled water in the hopes that the bass will still be excited so as to strike. More often than not, the bass is excited by the tension in the water and can be induced to strike. I find that you can usually cast two to three times during this phase of excitement. Once the tension dissipates, the bass may once again return to its lair. If so, then I once again change fly rods in favor of the lighter rod and again begin to target the bluegills. Once I feel that the potential of a particular section of water has diminished and is exhausted; usually indicated by fewer catches of the prey species (the bluegill), then I move on to another stretch of water.

Here is a “Rogues Gallery” of bucket-mouths caught using my “Bluegill To Bass” strategy.

The PREY (including a Double!)




If you find yourself fishing for a predatory species during the “dog days of summer” with less than favorable results, then remember the sword master Miyamoto Musashi. Try the strategy of “To move the Shade” and target the prey species. Do not simply locate the prey and hope that a predator is lurking near by. Affirmatively fish for the prey species and hook a few. The tension of a fish trying to escape the taste of a hook in it’s mouth may sufficiently infuse the water with sufficient energy and excitement to spark the interest of  the predator species. If so, land and release the prey and immediately target the aroused predator. You may just be surprised at the results. At the least, you should have a fund day on the water catching and releasing a species that would otherwise be dinner for a larger, more aggressive and hungrier fish.

For your viewing pleasure, there are links to several bass & panfishing videos on the “VIDEO & MEDIA” page tab above.

Until the next article, I remain, “moving the shade”,

Sensei John


1. Musashi, Miyamoto, Go Rin No Sho (A Book Of Five Rings), Translated by Victor Harris, (The Overlook Press, Woodstock, NY 1974) p. 76.

Sensei John is available for lectures on the interrelationship of fly fishing and martial arts protocol, ideology and philosophy. Please see the “LECTURES & LESSONS” Page tab above for more information.

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23 Aug

I was watching a few instructional fly casting videos submitted by a friend I have on Facebook. Watching my friend practice his fly casting spurred me to search the internet for similar instructional videos. My search yielded a cornucopia of instructional videos related to various fishing topics. You can watch and emulate through practice almost any aspect of fishing, including, though not limited to, the basics of casting (spin casting, bait casting and, fly casting), various techniques for rigging lures, “finesse” techniques such as specific fly casting techniques, flipping and jigging for bass and the like.

Quite frankly, I found the number of people who desired to practice their fishing skills, on and off the water, captivating. The sincerity with which people practiced their fishing skills compelled me to submit the following thoughts on practice derived from my martial arts experience.

We have all had teachers, instructors, coaches, and similar mentors repeatedly tell us that “Practice makes perfect.“ Such mentors uttered this phrase as a form of axiomatic inspiration whereby we were encouraged to reach the unknown height of perfection.  In the past, whenever this phrase was chanted like a mantra, all those under the tutelage of their mentor would try harder, sweat abundantly, study more and otherwise reach into their inner most self to produce a level of achievement which they believed was incapable of manifesting. The time has finally come to rebel against this axiomatic dogma. It is time for every one that reads the within to firmly stand their ground. The next time some one tells you that “practice makes perfect”, look them directly in the eye and tell them they are wrong.

That is correct, look the dogmatic mentor in the eye and tell them to stop universally uttering such nonsense. After your mentor recovers his or her composure, inform them that their concept of practice is not only incomplete, but also lacks intuition. Practice does not make perfect. Rather PERFECT practice makes perfect. Imperfect or half-hearted practice only nurtures and fosters complacency and imperfection.

The Results Of Perfect Practice:


Keep this idea the next time you set about to practice a certain aspect of your fishing. Set time aside to devote to your practice without interruption, be of a positive state of mind for your practice. Most importantly, practice truly and with a pure heart; no half-hearted practice. Remember this well the next time you set out to practice fishing or are on-the-water fishing. In fact, remember it well as it also applies to life in general. PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. (See Endnote # 1).

As part of my practice, I practice a Kata using a fishing oar, called a “Eaku” used by the ancient fisherman of Okinawa to defend themselves.

Until the next article, I remain attempting always to perfectly practice.

Sensei John


1. I wish to make it abundantly clear that the concept that “Perfect practice makes perfect” is in no way my own. I have heard it many times in the Dojo of both Shihan Thomas DeFelice, Ku-Dan (9th Degree Black Belt), Menkyo Kaiden, Goshin-Do Karate-Do  and Shihan Wayne Norlander, Ku-Dan (9th Degree Black Belt), Menkyo Kaiden, USA Goshin-Ryu Karate-Do, R.I.P.  Their oral tradition attributes this concept to the late Karate Pioneer, Shihan Peter Urban, Ju-Dan (10th Degree Black Belt) USA Goju-Ryu, who was a friend to them both.

Sensei John is available for lectures on the interrelationship of fly fishing and martial arts protocol, ideology and philosophy. Please see the “LECTURES & LESSONS” Page tab above for more information.

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20 Jul

How does one improve fishing productivity and enjoyment? The answer is to learn to make fishing mistakes correctly.

It is inevitable that we will make mistakes. This is true not only when we fish, but also in life itself. We are human and thus, by definition, fallible. The key to mistakes is to make mistakes correctly and learn from them. If you make mistakes correctly and learn from mistakes, you will be on a path of continuously improving your fishing productivity and enjoyment.

At Canyon Lake, AZ, an observer waits for me to make a mistake while fishing

Training in Shihan Thomas DeFelice’s Goshin-Do Karate Dojo taught me many life lessons. Here is a story from Goshin-Do Karate oral tradition that will illustrate the need to make mistakes correctly.

In ancient Japan, the elephant was an unknown animal. The Shogun had heard tales of this mythical creature that lived in a far off land. Naturally, the Shogun wished to learn of this creature. He chose his three wisest ministers and dispatched them to find the animal and return to the kingdom with a description of this elephant. He instructed his ministers that time was of the essence. They should swiftly complete their task and report back to him. In a mythological twist of fate, the three wisest ministers were all blind.

The ministers arrived in the land of the elephant. Being blind, they began to feel this creature with their hands so as be able to describe it to the Shogun. The first blind minister touched the elephant’s ear and concluded that an elephant was a wide, thin and flat creature, much like an aquatic stingray. The second blind minister touched the elephant’s leg an concluded that an elephant was like a giant tree. The last blind minister touched the elephant’s trunk and describe the elephant as long and snake-like. They immediately returned to Japan and reported their descriptions to him. The Shogun was confounded by the differing reports and ordered the “incompetent” ministers to commit Seppuku (ritual suicide).

A depiction of Samurai seppuku

The point of this Goshin-Do Karate fable is, if the Shogun would have only allowed the ministers sufficient time to continue touching and describing the elephant, they would have made enough “mistakes” until they finally would have accurately described the magnificent elephant.

When we fish, whether on the water, or at home reflecting on the day’s fishing, we understand that mistakes are inevitable. In fact, sometimes mistakes are a signpost to great learning. It has been observed that, “A general of merit should be said to be a man who has one great defeat.” (See Endnote #1). So, don’t get frustrated when you are fishing and make a mistake. Take a moment, understand the mistake and learn from it.

In closing, I be out on the water once again making mistakes and learning from them as I pursue the next fish that is hiding around the next rock.

Sensei John

UNIQUE VIDEO: See an ancient fighting Kata translated within the context of a historical Okinawa fisherman – FISHERMAN AS WARRIORS, click this convenient link:


  1. Asakura Norikage (1474-1555), fromWilson, William Scott, Ideals Of The Samurai, (O’Hara Publications, Santa Clarita, CA 1982), p.81.

Sensei John is available for lectures on the interrelationship of fly fishing and martial arts protocol, ideology and philosophy. Please see the “LECTURES & LESSONS” Page tab above for more information.

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18 Jun

Whether one is a casual fisherman, a competitive angler, or a “weekend-warrior”, one’s state of mind is an all important element of successful fishing. The various states of mind experienced and cultivated by the martial artist can uniquely improve one’s success on the water and also one’s enjoyment of the entire fishing experience.

I had previously explored an omnipresent state of mind within the martial arts known as Mushin (pronounced “Moo-shin”) and how maintaining Mushin can enhance the fly fishing experience. (here is a convenient link to the article: (See endnote # 1)

There is an additional state of mind derived from the martial arts that can increase the productivity of a day spent fly fishing. This state of mind is known as Zanshin (pronounced “Zahn-shin”). The kanji (Japanese writing) of Zanshin translates as the “remaining mind”.

Kanji for ZANSHIN

Within the martial arts, Zanshin refers to a mental state whereby the mind “remains in the battle”. A very simple example of martial arts based Zanshin is as follows. One may strike or disable one’s opponent and victory may appear to be at hand. Although seemingly victorious, one’s mind must remain in the battle so that one is not lured into complacency by a wily opponent.

Zanshin applies equally to fishing. At the moment a fish strikes your lure or your fly, or takes your bait, invariably, one’s mind flashes thoughts of excitement and jubilation. It is at this most jubilant of times that Zanshin is called for. One’s mind must remain attentive to the circumstances that led to the successful encounter. What was different from every other cast? Was it a difference in specific location that led to success, or as it the manner in which the fly drifted or was retrieved. If retrieved, was the retrieve steady or was it paused? If paused, did the fish strike the fly or lure on the retrieve or the pause. If the fly  or lure is fished below the surface, at what depth in the water column did the fish take the fly?

Zanshin can foster a greater productivity when on the water and enhance your overall fishing experience.

Largemouth Bass caught with a #14 Bloody Mary Nymph

For the competitive fisherman understanding and using Zanshin means more fish in the live-well, which means more money earned. For the weekend fisherman, this means a more enhanced fishing experience. By being attentive to the circumstances that led to success, one can replicate the successful technique so as to hopefully once again be productive and lure a fish to the fly.

Until the next article I (and my mind) remain,

Sensei John



DOUBLE BLUEGILL (2Flies – 2 Fish), Link:


  1. For those interested in a more detailed exploration of the Mushin state of mind, here is a link to a four part article that I had previously posted on my Sensei John weblog:

Sensei John is available for lectures on the interrelationship of fly fishing and martial arts protocol, ideology and philosophy. Please see the “LECTURES & LESSONS” Page tab above for more information.

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Guest Speaker

31 May


In response to your many inquiries, Sensei John is pleased to announce his availability for guest speaking engagements. Presently, in-person lectures and lessons are available only in Arizona.

Whether you are a competitive tournament angler looking for an unequaled competitive edge, a fly fisherman looking to improve your fly fishing, or a weekend fisherman looking to enhance your fishing experience, Sensei John’s lectures (and forthcoming video series) and Sanchin For Fisherman Video are for you!


Your club or organization may schedule a lecture or demonstration with Sensei John. For more information, please click the new “GUEST SPEAKER” page tab above.


20 Mar

FLY FISHING DOJO is a weblog that combines martial arts protocol, philosophy and ideology with fishing. Some of you have wondered, “Is this a new idea?” The short answer is “No.” Fisherman as warriors have existed since the time of feudal Japan.

On a remote, small chain of islands known as the “Ryukyu’s” (of which Okinawa is one island), determined groups of peasants faced the onslaught of a Japanese occupation. The Japanese invaders were composed of the elite fighting force of the era; the infamous and deadly Samurai. The Ryukyu peasants faced the cold shiver of death from the Samurai warrior’s mythic, steel katana (sword) with nothing but their tenacity, ferocity and farm tools to save them. Farmers and fisherman held their heads high as they faced the Shogun’s Samurai.

Unlike the fisherman of today, who pursue the sport for recreation, for the Ryukyu fisherman, life was difficult. He spent long hours each day on the mighty ocean fishing for  a meager subsistence. He paddled and steered his simple boat with a hand-crafted oar. The oar was not only a tool, but also proved to be an invaluable weapon. The humble peasant fisherman was capable of defending himself against marauding bands of mighty Samurai with nothing but his courage, tenacity, spirit and, his oar. Thus, the low-born peasant became a legendary warrior in his own right.

Sensei John wielding the Eaku (oar) of the ancient Okinawa fisherman

From this historical tradition of fisherman as warriors, the idea for FLY FISHING DOJO was born. To pay homage to the humble Ryukyu fisherman-warriors, I have prepared a video showing an example of a Kata (martial arts protocol) of the fighting technique of these ancient fisherman-warriors.

Please feel free to take a look back into a past era by clicking on this convenient link.

For additional fishing videos, please click on the “VIDEO & MEDIA” page tab above.

In closing I remain, committed to presenting you with a unique fly fishing weblog and experience.

Sensei John

You are invited to follow FLY FISHING DOJO on Facebook; please fee the “VIDEO & MEDIA” page tab above for more details.

Please feel free to “window shop” our unique logo products by clicking on the “SHOP” page tab above.

You are also invited to read my martial arts protocol, philosophy and ideology weblog for non-martial artists at WWW.SenseiJohn.Wordpress.Com.


19 Jan

Futanren is a term derived from Goshin-Do Karate. It is used to define one of three martial , combat-related, fears. The within shall explore Futanren as it applies to fly fishing. Futanren describes the fear derived from inadequate training. Training in this context can also be read as “preparation”; thus Futanren can be used to described fear derived from inadequate preparation. (See Endnote # 1).

Anytime you have hooked “The fish of a lifetime” and wondered, “Did I tie that knot properly?”, “Is my reel mechanically sound?’ and similar questions, you are engaging in Futanren. I think back to my early years of training in Goshin-Do Karate. My Sensei would use various means to motivate us. One of his favorites was to rhetorically ask, “If you knew you would be attacked by an assailant first thing tomorrow morning, how earnestly would you train (at the Dojo) tonight?” Sensei’s motivational question can be applied directly to fly fishing as follows, “If you knew that four days from now you would be fly fishing and HOOK the biggest fish of you life, what would you do now to prepare?”

The answer to the question invokes a related question, namely, “When would your preparation begin?” Would you begin to prepare now or wait until the fateful day that you will set out to your favorite water? Perhaps you would immediately begin to check the physical integrity of your fly fishing equipment. For example, you may inspect your fly rod for nicks or gouges on the guides that would cut into your leader or fly line. You may also inspect the fly line for signs of wear and tear. Your fly reel should be inspected for mechanical integrity. You may also choose to examine your older flies for soundness. Perhaps you would inspect all hook points and sharpen those that require sharpening. You may inspect the new flies to insure that eyes of the hook are free of dried head cement.  So, knowing that you would hook the fish of a lifetime, you engage in such preparation to avoid Futanren invading that momentous moment. But, is such preparation enough?

So far the analysis of the method of preparation has looked to the tools involved in the process of fishing. In addition, preparation would encompass external factors. These factors may include advance knowledge of the weather forecast so that one may properly dress. It may also include advance knowledge as to the tides in the case of salt water fishing. To be sure, advance preparation is limited only by the imagination of the fly fisherman and one’s individual comfort zone as to the extent of variables to be considered and prepared for.

As to the extent of tangental preparation, permit me to submit the following observation from perhaps the greatest fishing author there was, Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway thought deeply about fishing. His thoughts, and advice, even extended to the type of breakfast one would eat prior to a long day of fishing for marlin.

There are two opposing schools about breakfast. If you knew that you were not going to be into fish (Marlin) for two or three hours, a good big breakfast would be the thing. Maybe it is a good thing any way but I do not want to trust it, so drink a glass of vichy, a glass of milk and eat a piece of Cuban bread, read the papers and walk down to the boat. I have hooked them on a full stomach in that sun and I do not want to hook any more of them that way. (See Endnote # 2).

If your preparation to meet the predestined encounter with a once in a lifetime fish is detailed and thorough; it is now time to ask, “Why not prepare in that manner prior to every fishing oddessy?” You may not have knowledge aforethought that you will hook a magnificent fish; but isn’t it better to prepare for each fishing adventure as if you did.

Preparation is the means of eradicating Futanren from your fly fishing. Such eradication will increase not only your productivity, but also your enjoyment of the overall fly fishing experience. Certainly you want to be able to hook that wonderfully majestic fish and  be fulfilled in the moment rather than be enveloped with Futanren.

Sensei John


1. There are two other identifiable martial fears, to wit: Kiki Oji: The fear of an enemy’s reputation and Mikuzure: The fear of an enemy’s appearance.

2.    Lyons, Nick, (editor), Hemingway On Fishing (The Lyons Press, New York, By, 2000), p. 102. There is a full review of this book on my weblog archived in the category “Sensei’s Reviews”.


21 Dec

I have just completed the first video installment in the “Fly Fish Like A Karate Master” series. This series is designed to improve and enhance your fly fishing using techniques and ideology derived form the martial arts. This first video, taped while fly fishing, is an introductory video designed to acquaint fly fisherman with the unique and ancient protocol, or “Kata” named “Sanchin”. The translation of the Kanji (Japanese writing) for Sanchin is “Three Battles.”

Kanji for Sanchin

Sanchin accentuates three aspects of ALL human activity, namely:

  1. Breathing;
  2. Bodily Movement;
  3. A State of Mind.

There are many versions of Sanchin Kata. The version in the video is the Sanchin Kata of the Goshin-Do Karate-Do style of Karate. Sanchin Kata takes very little time to perform, requires no special clothing or training apparatus and can be performed anywhere and anytime. Again, my performance of Sanchin on this video was recorded in the process of fly fishing and performed on uneven terrain.

This first video is designed to simply acquaint you with Sanchin and hopefully act as a catalyst to further your interest in learning this Kata. Performance of the Sanchin Kata will enhance ANY activity, including fly fishing.

While I will present future videos addressing the technical aspects of Sanchin, allow me to provide the following preliminary comments. As to the aspect of BREATHING, the method of breathing is addressed in an article entitled “Improve Your Fly Fishing With Proper Breathing.”  As to the aspect of a STATE OF MIND, the state of mind is known as “Mushin” (pronounced Moo-shin) and is addressed in an article entitled “Fly Fishing Using The Mushin State Of Mind.” Both articles are archived on this blog in the category “Fly Fish Like A Karate Master.” As to the aspect of BODILY MOVEMENT, all muscles of the body are relaxed during inhalation of air and are dynamically tensed, in an isometric-type manner, during exhalation of breath.

I hope you enjoy this introductory video in the “Fly Fish Like A Karate Master” series entitled “Sanchin Kata For Fly Fisherman.” A permanent link to the video will be archived on the “Video & Media” page. For now, here is a convenient link:

08-16-2011:  Here is a new link to the introductory video in my Sanchin Kata technical series designed for non-martial artists who desire to learn Sanchin. LINK:

I remain,

Sensei John

If you are interested in more information on Sanchin Kata, you may wish to purchase my book on the Kata. You may find information on my book on the “Sanchin Book” page of my martial ideology weblog, WWW.SenseiJohn.Wordpress.Com.


26 Nov

The following is a a continuation of FLY FISHING DOJO’S “Fly Fish Like A Karate Master” series of articles. In the first two installments, “Improve Your Fly fishing With Proper Breathing” and “Fly Fishing and The Mushin State Of Mind”, Karate-Do protocol was explored as a means of enhancing the fly fishing experience. This article will continue such exploration with a means of mitigating the all too common nagging back ache that many experience during and after a long day on the water.

A day of fly fishing involves more than just casting flies to fickle fish. It often involves hiking rough terrain, rock climbing, wading swift moving water and periods of standing stationary; all of which can result in an aching back.

Thanksgiving Day, 2010: Sensei John has a long hike to find moving water at Coon Bluff on the Lower Salt River, AZ.

The cause of this experience is bad posture. The remedy is to be found in a unique posture derived from the Kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do (See Endnote # 1). The key to the posture is to stand erect.

To stand erect for purposes of Karate, the natural curvature of the spine must be temporarily straightened. To manipulate the back into a straight position, one should stand relaxed with both feet shoulder width apart and flat on the ground. Slightly bend your knees. The Goshin-Do Karate-Do technique to stand erect and straighten your back   is to squeeze the cheeks of the buttocks tight and to rotate one’s hips down and forward. In this posture, the curvature of the spine is removed resulting in a straight back.

Take a moment to try this posture and then feel your lower back with your hand. If you have performed the hip rotation properly, you will notice that such rotation has removed the natural curvature of your spine so that your spine is now straight from top to bottom. You can repeat posture by standing as above and rotating your hips to achieve the posture and then subsequently relaxing the hips so as to again achieve natural curvature of the spine. Repeat this a few times to begin to have a feeling of comfort with the posture.

You can easily incorporate the posture into your fly fishing regime. For example, you can use it to facilitate a long hike to your favorite water. Simply adopt the posture while stationary and continue hiking while maintaining the posture. Further, you can readily perform the posture while in the process of fly fishing will little or no effort. In doing so you will find that repeated performance of the posture will alleviate pressure on your back. This will mitigate any back pain encountered during and after a day of fly fishing.

(7-11-19): Here’s a link to my new online school where you can learn more about the benefits of my Kata-RX for wellness – – Now For a limited time you can enroll in the first course for only $ 10. with a full 30 day money back guarantee. You can use this link to view the full curriculum and click the “enroll” button if you would like to start your class.

In closing, I remain, confident that you will stay on the path to “Fly fish like a Karate Master.”

Sensei John


  1. The posture referred to in this article is elemental to performing the Kata of Goshin-Do Karate-Do. It is particularly emphasized in a Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kata called Sanchin (pronounced “Sohn-Chin”).

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10 Oct
In the first installment of Fly Fish Like A Karate Master, I discussed the most fundamental element of not only fly fishing, but life itself. That element is PROPER breathing. (See Improve Your Fly-fishing With Proper Breathing, posted on August 25, 2010). In this second installment, I would like to introduce you to an omnipresent state of mind, or spirit, that pervades Karate-Do. This state of mind is called “Mushin” (pronounced “Moo-shin“). Mushin is an abbreviation of the phrase “Mushin No Shin” which refers to a mental state described as “Mind, No-Mind”. Mushin is taken directly from my training in Goshin-Do Karate-Do. Using the Mushin state of mind, you will be able to purge yourself of external thoughts so as to be open to and absorb your complete fly fishing experience. Ultimately, such expansion of the mind or spirit will result in a more fulfilling experience while fly fishing and, perhaps, increase your productivity in catching and releasing the species of fish you seek.

An expression of the Kanji, Japanese calligraphy, for Mushin.

Mushin is a unique state of mind wherein one actively experiences one’s environment with the totality of one’s senses. The sensory inputs are transmitted to the brain. The brain processes these sensory inputs and accordingly transmits reactionary impulses to the body and simultaneously creates a state of mind, or spirit, attendant to the inputs received. Invariably, an undeveloped spirit will focus on what it believes to be the most pervasive of the sensory inputs, to the exclusion of the other sensory inputs, and evolve a mental or spiritual state to meet the situation transmitted via the sensory inputs. This state of mind is characterized as “clouded”.

The Mushin state of spiritual being is “unclouded”. Instead of focusing the mind or spirit onto a specific sensory input to the exclusion of the others, Mushin perceives all inputs from the sensory world and absorbs them totally. Prior to contrary belief, the Mushin perception does not necessarily focus the mind onto one specific sensory or mental inputs to the exclusion of all other sensory or mental inputs. Rather, a specific input is perceived within the context of all other perceptions. Thus, the spirit is uncluttered by a single exaggerated sensory input. The spirit is uncluttered so as to experience and accept all sensory inputs for exactly what they are.

Mushin can, and should be, readily be incorporated into one’s daily routine as a “default“ state of mind. In addition, Mushin can be used to foster the fly fishing experience. Mushin directly cultivates the physical technique, unclouded state of mind and spiritual enjoyment of fly fishing. To illustrate this point, I will share with you one particular day of fly-fishing I recently enjoyed. That day was Tuesday, September 14th, 2010.

The day before I had learned that my first Sensei, Sensei Nick D’Antuono, had passed away. This weighed heavily on my mind and I had a restless night, sleeping maybe three hours at best. At sunrise, I decided I would combine my morning Karate training with fly fishing in the hope that the combination would somehow waken my body and depleted spirit. I drove the short distance to the lake at Veterans Oasis Park. I decided that I would walk around the lake a bit to get my blood flowing. After walking the lake three times, I performed a Karate Kata called Sanchin. The Sanchin Kata takes less than five minutes to perform and is an excellent way to oxygenate and invigorate the body and mind. Sanchin also facilitates attaining the Mushin state of mind. (See Endnote # 1). Now I was ready to fish.

I selected my favorite double nymph combination, a # 14 Rainbow Warrior followed by a # 16 Ju-Ju Bee and tied them to the end of a 5X Tippet (See Endnote #2). For this outing, I was using my 7 ½ foot Cortland Pro-Crest Fly Rod with a five weight double taper floating line. I began casting and presented the brace of nymphs in an area that I know holds fish. Within in the Mushin state of mind, I was able to appreciate the sound of the water as it cascaded down the rocks from the recharge facility to the main lake. The air smelled sweet and clean. Even the sun lightly heating my body felt welcome. I was being absorbed into my environment and it into me. I caught a few bluegill and small bass. From experience, I knew it was time to change tactics and decided that my best chance of hooking a larger fish would be to walk along the lakeshore and sight fish for larger fish that may be cruising the shoreline.

I kept my fly rod at the ready holding the rod in my right hand and a few coils of loose line in my left hand. In this manner I would be able to immediately cast to any fish I might see. I walked along about three feet from the waters edge. In the Mushin state of mind, my mind was unoccupied by any thoughts, it simply perceived my environment. The sound, smell and rhythm of the lake simply entered my body. I walked along the gravel shoreline when I suddenly perceived a different sound. There was a unexpected slight splash from the lake, approximately twenty feet from the shoreline. I looked and saw the slightest ripple on the water. I inhaled in the special method of Karate breathing I call “Issho-ibuki” (Lifetime breathing) and cast to the ripple. The brace of flies landed delicately on the water. After a brief pause I began a melody of retrieving the flies whereby I would twitch the flies and pause and repeat. After three twitches, the line grew heavy. After an additional five minutes or so a decent size largemouth bass was in my hands. I persuaded the fish into posing for a picture and saw to his sound release.

Mushin allowed me to locate this bass.

After releasing the fish, I continued to walk the lakeshore. I walked to the opposite shore which is bordered by a concrete walkway and rounded, walled patio. For reasons unknown to me at the time, I decided to pause and again perform a Sanchin Kata. After the four minutes or so that it took to perform Sanchin, I bent down to pick up my fly rod. As I faced the lake, I immediately noticed a largemouth bass cruising along to my left. I remained crouched low close to the wall so that cruising fish would not see me. After it crossed in front of me, I again, inhaled in the unique manner of Issho-ibuki and began to false cast. I was able to use the rounded configuration of the patio to cast ahead of the fish without casting on top of it. I again paused and twitched. The fish immediately hit. After a few minutes of reconciling of desire to catch the fish and its desire to get away, I eventually won out. I walked the fish to a comfortable and adjacent grassy location where he posed for a picture. The photographic fish was then returned to continue on its journey. In less that twenty minutes I successfully procured two fish at opposite ends of the lake.

A hot 100 degrees, but Mushin provides again

I released the fish, paused a moment and considered my decision, if my act can be called decisive, to perform Sanchin. Had I not done so, I would have walked on before the fish cruised by. I came to understand that by having Mushin as a state of mind, I unknowingly perceived the fish. That is not to say that I foretold the fish would cruise by. Rather, Mushin allowed me to perceive and unknowingly read the lake. Perhaps I perceived the fish’s dorsal fin moving on the surface, or perhaps I perceived baitfish scattering, or saw a heron look interestedly at the water. This is the different between “seeing” and “perceiving“. I firmly believe that the state of Mushin dictated that I pause at that time and place.

After releasing the second fish, I decided that I was fulfilled by the mornings activities. I did not want to over stay nature’s welcome of me at her doorstep, so as is my custom, I turned and bowed to show my respect to the water. I drove home feeling physically, mentally and spiritually better.

Before concluding this installment, I would like to give you another scenario to contemplate. The above example illustrated a benefit of Mushin through an enhanced fly fishing experience. In the following imaginative scenario, I would like to illustrate how Mushin may be used to prevent danger. Imagine fly-fishing on a beautiful remote mountain trout steam, perhaps in Alaska. Imagine further that your mind is clouded and thus not open to absorbing nature through the use of Mushin. You are so focused on the trout fly as it floats on the surface of the water, and so determined to catch a fish that you know must be right there, that you fail to perceive the smell of the clean, pure air, the cool feel of the water against your legs, or fail to see the stray grizzly bear sneaking up for a view.

Until the next article, consider Mushin as a state of mind when fly fishing. May your flies always be on or in the water.

Sensei John


1. Mushin is fully discussed in my book entitled Sanchin Kata: Gateway To The Plateau Of Human Serenity. You may preview thee book by viewing on my martial arts weblog and clicking on the Sanchin Book page. You may visit the weblog at WWW.SenseiJohn.Wordpress.Com.

2. For those of you that are not familiar with the fly patterns mentioned, they are available online through Big Y Fly Co.

Improve Your Fly-Fishing With Proper Breathing

25 Aug
  This article shall explore the most fundamental common element shared by Fly-fishing, Karate and every single aspect of human activity and life itself. That fundamental, primordial element is (proper) breathing. Fly-fishing, like Karate, and every single human activity, combines bodily movement with breathing. For the Fly-fisherman this encompasses, hiking to and from your favorite water, wading a stream or salt water flat, fly-casting, catching and releasing your quarry and ultimately enjoying your fly-fishing environment. As fly-fishermen, we should explore and implement proper breathing. The mechanism of proper breathing is derived from, emphasized and developed in a Goshin-Do Karate-Do Kata, steeped in antiquity, called Sanchin. (See Endnote # 1).

PROPER BREATHING - Key to the "Way" to Fly-Fish like a Karate master.

I call the proper breathing of Goshin-Do Karate-Do and the ancient, primordial Sanchin Kata “Issho-ibuki” (lifetime breath). Issho-ibuki will not only improve your mechanics of Fly-fishing, but also your overall enjoyment of the sport. Very few of us understand the components of proper breathing. To illustrate this point, stop reading and take a deep breath. The majority of you probably sought to ‘fill your lungs with air” by expanding your upper chest, raising your shoulders, arching your back and contracting your abdomen. Some of you may have even accomplished this deep breath by inhaling through the mouth. This method of inhalation and exhalation is unnatural, inefficient and must be corrected immediately. The manner of correction will be to adopt the method of Issho-ibuki. 
The methodology of Issho-ibuki is a three step process. First is the development of the natural method of inhalation and exhalation. The second step is the method of deep abdominal breathing. The third and final step is the manner of breathing. The starting point for one’s practice Issho-ibuki is the not-so-simple physical aspect of inhalation and exhalation. 
 Step One: Inhalation & Exhalation.
You must remember a very basic, but all to often forgotten, cardinal rule of breathing, namely: breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Without giving a lesson in biology, the nose was specifically designed for the inhalation of oxygen and the other beneficial gases contained within our atmosphere. To facilitate your implementation of proper inhalation and exhalation, I have developed is an easy technique. Consciously make an effort to inhale through the nose. While so inhaling, close your mouth and emphatically press your tongue upwards against the roof of your mouth. By performing this maneuver, it is difficult, if not impossible, to open your mouth and breath in. Therefore, the only alternative means available for inhalation is to utilize the nose for its intended purpose. Now to complete the act of breathing, you will need to exhale. To exhale you open your mouth and allow the air to flow outward. To facilitate the use of the mouth during exhalation, as you open your mouth, emphatically press the tongue downward against the bottom of your mouth. By using your tongue in this manner, you will be physically conscious of the manner in which you inhale and exhale. You may note that your exhalation now produces a somewhat audible sound. This sound is akin to a mild roar, much like the sound of ocean surf. Continue to practice inhaling and exhaling in this manner. When the act of breathing again occurs naturally through the nose and out the mouth, you can de-emphasize the emphatic use of your tongue as described above.

Step Two: Abdominal breathing.

The next step in the process of Issho-ibuki is to efficiently fill your lungs with air. To achieve efficiency, you need to inhale and exhale through the lower abdomen. The following exercise was developed by me for use in the Issho Dojo to facilitate this type of deep abdominal breathing. Lie on your back and relax. While lying on your back, rest your hands, palms down, on your lower abdomen, referred to as your “belly“. This placement of the hands does not facilitate breathing, rather, your hands will provide an added sensory indication of the proper breathing method through the sense of touch.

Open your mouth, as previously described, relax your belly and allow the natural force of gravity to decompress your belly, thus expelling air through your mouth. Keep your hands in contact with your belly and allow your hands to lower with your belly. Now, close your mouth, pressing your tongue on its roof and inhale through the nose. As you inhale, willfully direct the air to the lower belly so as to force it to expand and rise upwards. Keep your hands in contact with your belly and allow your hands to rise with your belly. You will again exhale by opening your mouth, pressing your tongue downward, relaxing and decompressing your belly so as to exhale. Allow your hands to lower and decompress with your belly. The duration of exhalation should be slightly longer than the inhalation. Both processes should be completely relaxed. Continue to breathe in this manner for a period of about five minutes. You should immediately begin to incorporate abdominal breathing into not only fly-fishing but all your activities.

Step Three: The Manner Of Breathing.

The next phase in the Issho-ibuki is to perform the act of inhalation and exhalation in a specific manner. In Goshin-Do Karate-Do we referred to the manner of breathing as either “Go“ or “Hard” and “Ju” or “Soft“. It is important to remember that the METHOD of breathing remains the same as described above. Only the MANNER of breathing is altered as follows. For purposes of this article, only the soft manner of breathing is relevant. Soft breath is a relaxed form of breathing. The body remains relaxed as air is gently inhaled in a steady manner. Once inhalation is complete, the breath is held for a fraction of a second and exhalation begins. During the process of exhalation, the body remains relaxed and air is expelled softy and in a steady manner. The process then begins a new.

You can and should incorporate soft Issho-ibuki into all aspects of your fly-fishing. Use Issho-ibuki to steady yourself during the hike to your favorite water or while wading a stream or salt water flat. You can use Issho-ibuki to calm yourself as you cast to rising, but wary fish. You can effectively increase the performance and technique of fly casting by using Issho-ibuki during the casting process. You must remember that you always want to exhale during your power casting for stroke. You will soon see that the mechanics and enjoyment of fly fishing greatly increase when you finally learn to breath properly. Proper breathing is the first step to Fly-fishing like a Karate Master and enriching you fly-fishing performance and enjoyment.

Sensei John (center) at the USA Goshin-Ryu, NJ Dojo of Shihan Wayne Norlander (2nd from left)

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Sensei John


1. The Kanji, Japanese writing, for Sanchin translates as three battles. Fundamental to understanding the three battles of Sanchin is proper breathing. If you would like to learn more about either proper breathing or Sanchin Kata, please feel free to visit my martial arts blog WWW.SenseiJohn.Wordpress.Com and website WWW.Dynamic-Meditation.Com.

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Focus On The Leaf But See The Tree

18 Aug
We fly-fishermen pursue fly-fishing with a passion. While such a passion drives us to better ourselves in furtherance to such pursuit, it has a down side. It is all too common that we so intently focus on the object of our fishing, catching our quarry, that the object becomes the end-all. We fly-fish with a cocoon built of goal oriented tunnel vision. As such, we fail to appreciate and enjoy the natural environment in which our fishing activity takes place. How can we assuage the personal deprivation caused by this tunnel vision phenomenon? This article will offer you one method of reminding you to pursue fly-fishing with a more open appreciation of the natural environment.
There is a saying from my Goshin-Do Karate-Do Dojo that will help you to moderate the phenomenon of goal oriented tunnel vision. The saying is derived from a recognition by Karate-Ka (those who practice Karate) that, in combat, if one focuses too intently on one’s opponent (to the exclusion of all else), one does so at one’s peril. The following saying reminds the Karate-Ka of the perils of such tunnel vision. “Focus on the leaf but see the tree.”
When applied to fly-fishing, the result is simple. While you wholeheartedly pursue your trophy fish, you remain open not only to the joy and aesthetic beauty of pursuing a fish through fly-fishing, but also allow yourself to be enraptured by the natural surroundings within which your fly-fishing takes place. Such enraptured state envelopes all your senses. You will see the total natural environment and simultaneously see the minute details that make nature such a marvelous place to experience. You will marvel at plethora of wild creatures, as Great Blue Herron below, that make your fishing water home.    

Veterans Oasis Park, Chandler, Arizona. A Great Blue Herron greets the dawn.

Water Ranch Lake, Gilbert, Arizona. A Great Blue Herron lurks in the shallows.

Or, if you are lucky to fish in such an area, you may be privileged to have a visit from nature’s inhabitants curious to see the strange two-legged creature casting into the water.

Lower Salt River, Arizona. A small herd of wild horses visits.

While it is easy to appreciate such beauty and diversity on a large scale, do not fail to notice the smaller citizens of nature.. How many of you would not only notice but appreciate the dragonfly resting on the reeds you are casting towards? To be sure, nature largely ignores the foibles of man; but now and then nature may pause to watch a graceful fly-fisherman within its midst.

Veterans Oasis Park. I am watching the dragonfly or is he watching me.

Not only do you see the natural beauty, but are open to feeling the warm sun, or cooling breeze, or light refreshing rain on your skin. You appreciate a symphony of natural sounds that you are deprived of upon your return to “civilization”. You can readily appreciate the sounds of the river as it makes its way on its primordial journey, or hear the breeze in the trees. Sometimes nature treats you to a melodious treat. While fishing at Red mountain Lake on morning in Mesa, Arizona, I heard the most indescribable sound coming from the reeds across the lake. I soon saw the sound was coming from a family of American Coot; a beautiful waterfowl to behold and hear.

Red Mountain Lake, Mesa, Arizona. An adult American Coot thinks not of a fly-fisherman on shore, but cares for its young.

The smells of nature penetrate your olfactory senses to awaken a primordial appreciation of the outdoor environment. You can even taste nature when you lick the salt air from your lips, when you wet your tippet when tying a knot, or perhaps when you eat a sandwich for lunch after catching and releasing a few fish.

So the next time you are on your favorite waters, casting a fly to your treasured quarry. Pursue the object of your search with a passion. Don’t let the passion limit your total experience. See nature totally and from different perspectives.

Veterans Oasis Park Lake as viewed from a bird-watcher’s blind.

Fly-fish with a true heart and spirit but, pause a moment, think like a Karate master and remember to “Focus on the leaf, but see the tree.“

Sensei John

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30 Jul
 On a hot summer morning, a fly fisherman completed an anxious drive to his favorite trout river. He arrived at the river. To his satisfaction, he found that his favorite fishing spot was not already occupied. His anxiety disappeared and was replaced by anticipation. He walked to the bank of the river where the cool water gently swept by a rock filled bank. As the day would be hot, the river would provide a cooling respite, the fisherman did not need his waders. Shorts and wading sandals would do. He would experience the full sensory spectrum of chasing his noble quarry. In the manner of a Samurai warrior unsheathing a sword, the fisherman opened his fly rod case. The eight foot ultra light rod was unveiled and assembled. As the cool, crisp waters of the river churned and gurgled a symphony of nature, he tied a nine foot 6x tippet leader onto his floating double taper fly line. Out of the corner of his eye, the fly-fisherman saw a trout rise. Amidst the sound and wake of the rise, the fisherman added the finishing touch; a fly pattern known as an Adams Irresistible in size eighteen. The fisherman held his rod at his side. In a gesture of respect, he performed his tradition of bowing his head and torso to the river. With one last preparation, he allowed yet another fly-fishing odyssey to begin. There was one other final preparation. Before casting to his gracefully rising rainbow skinned quarry, the fisherman sought to prepare himself physically and mentally for the fulfilling task before him. The fisherman performed a Karate exercise called “Kata”. 

The fly-fisherman understood the physical, mental and preternatural benefits of preparing himself for fishing using centuries old Karate methods. These methods are revealed to Karate practitioners after years of arduous study. The Fly Fishing Dojo Blog by Sensei John will use the category Fly-fish Like A Karate Master to explore these methods so that you too can not only fly-fish with a greater chance of success, but also appreciate an enhanced fly-fishing experience and embrace all that nature has to offer.


Sensei John & Chloe in the Dojo, East Rutherford, NJ

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