Tag Archives: Fly-Fishing

“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.”

KiaiKanji

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 http://www.wickedcatchgear.com/fishing-shirts/
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

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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.

ENDNOTES:
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: http://senseijohn.me/sanchin-book/
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.
Sensei John is available for guest speaking engagements. Please see the “GUEST SPEAKING” Page tab above for more information.

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CIMG5516     Please feel free to view my other weblog dedicated to exploring martial arts ideology and concepts as they can be applied to daily life at http://senseijohn.me

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The Fly Fisherman & The Satori Fish

6 Oct

The following is my fly fishing inspired retelling of an infamous Zen tale. The traditional tale is known as “The Woodcutter and The Animal Satori.” To those who are not familiar with the term Satori, the name of the animal, Satori, is loosely defined as a Zen state of enlightenment. I call my tale “The Fly Fisherman and The Satori Fish.”

In a far-off land there lived a man. The man’s life was devoid of pleasure; save for one. He loved to escape the blandness of his existence by fly fishing. Once a week, he would escape the drive two hours to escape the city to fish “his” river. Although the beauty of the river provided him a respite from the bleak landscape in which he lived, the man fished many weeks without hooking a fish.
One day, the man had had enough. He wasn’t sure if he really wanted to take the long trip to the river. Despite his malaise, he again drove to the river. Once he arrived, he dutifully donned his waders and set up his fly fishing rod. To the end of his leader, he tied on his newest, fanciest dry fly. It was a fly pattern called a “Great Expectation”, size 14. He was about to cast when he noticed a beautiful silver streak in the water. The man could not believe his eyes. He blinked as if to clear both his vision and his mind. The silver streak remained and defined itself. The silver streak was in fact the mythical Satori Fish.
He focused his attention on the Satori Fish and began to cast. The Great Expectation gently kissed the surface of the water. The cast was perfect, the fly floated high on the water. Satori turned its gaze upward and with a swift, powerful stroke of its tail, swam towards the fly. His heart pounding in his chest, the man focused his attention and tensed his muscles. Surely Satori would be seduced to take the fly. Had man’s Great Expectation actually seduced Satori? No, instead of Satori engulfing the Great Expectation, Satori brushed it aside and swam downward. Satori was again laying peacefully at the bottom of the River.
“Damn”, cursed the man. “Surely, I must change my fly.” He checked his box of flies. Thinking that Satori could be tempted with a delicate, subsurface fly, he selected a fly tied in a pattern known as an “emerger.” He selected a size 16 “Emerging Intention.” Again the man cast upstream. He diligently watched the end of his line for the slightest indication of a strike. Again, the Satori Fish eluded his offering. His frustration heightened.
He cursed his luck. So many weeks and not even a hint of a fish within the river. Now, this magnificent silver fish spurned his offering. His desire to feel that magnificent silver Satori tugging at the end of his fly line heightened to a frenzy. He angrily dug into his fly box and tied on a larger, hopefully, more appetizing fly. This time he selected an “attractor” pattern. The fly was garish, brightly colored and multi-feathered. It was a size 10 “Temptress.” The worker imagined that Satori would attack the brightly colored “Temptress” out of instinct and a desire to protect its territory within the river. This time the man cast the fly across the river and retrieved it with a fast stripping action of his line. His mind was filled with a burning desire to hook Satori. He wanted nothing more from life this day than to hold the shimmering silver mass of Satori flesh within his hands. He would possess Satori. Once caught, he would keep the Satori fish. He would mount it as a magnificent possession on the wall of his dim home. He would possess Satori for all the rest of his days. The worker saw the Satori burst towards the “Temptress.” Instead of engulfing the fly, Satori merely swam past it. Satori turned and watched the man. By now, he had had enough. He was done. “To Hell with Satori.” Satori was not for him.
He walked out of the river and sat on the bank. He cut the “Temptress” off his leader and tied on an bland, simple fly, a # 12 “Bare Bones.” He cursed and put his rod down on the bank. He sat angrily on the river bank and realized that he was hungry. He had pursued Satori all morning without eating. He opened his pack and retrieved a thermos and a sandwich. “To Hell with Satori”, thought the worker. “I will eat my sandwich and go home.”
As the worker ate his meal, he noticed that the “Bare Bones” fly was in the river. As he was eating, he did not pay attention as he put his fly rod down and the fly fell into the current. It was drifting downstream, a few feet from the bank. The worker did not want the unattended fly to get tangled in the waters. He put down his sandwich and picked up the fly rod. Instantly he felt a tug. He cursed his luck for he was sure the fly was tangled. As the man sought to free the fly from the tangle, he noticed that the line was moving. He began to fight the weight at the end of the line. As he did so, the water erupted. A silver flash momentarily glistened in the sun light and disappeared into the river.
A few minutes later, the man was holding the Satori Fish gently in his hands. So as not to harm Satori, he held the fish gently just below the surface as he unhooked the fly from its jaw. Satori was free. It did not swim away. Satori remained gently cradled in the man’s hands. He smiled. He caressed the side of Satori as if it was the check of a lover. Satori gently swam from the man’s hands. Satori turned to face the man. For the briefest of moments, the man’s world stopped. No longer independent of Satori and nature, all was one; the man knew Satori and Satori knew the man. Each then turned; Satori to the depths of the river, and the man to his car. For the man the long ride home was, perhaps, not so long, to a not so bland city, to work at a not so boring job and life in a a not so bleak home.

vulture-me  Fishing in the strong sun of Arizona,  I’m always wearing an uv protection shirt I purchased from Wicked Catch gear. You can visit their website at http://www.wickedcatchgear.com/fishing-shirts/
use promo code: WCProstaff-JSzmitkowski at checkout for a 5 % discount (not applicable to shipping costs and taxes).

Sensei John

Sensei John

Sensei John is available for guest speaking engagements. Please see the “GUEST SPEAKING” Page tab above for more information.

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FEATURED PRODUCT: Fly Fishing Dojo logo coffee mug      ffd coffee mug

sunsu-cactus  Please feel free to view my other weblog dedicated to exploring martial arts ideology and concepts as they can be applied to daily life at http://senseijohn.me

August, 2014 Fishing Journal

8 Sep

August, 2014, Valley of the Sun. August proved to be cooler than normal. By “cooler” I mean that while temperatures did exceed 105 on some days, they never went over 110 as in prior years. Strange, but I’ll take it. Our fishing centered around the Lower Salt River and Canyon Lake. We also had two or three trips to the community lakes. Naturally, in retrospect, we would have liked to fish more days and on a larger variety of waters. I don’t think any fisherman would say that they were out on the water as many days as they would like. Well, here’s how our month went (and one really great day).
PLEASE NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, all fish were safely released after being photographed.

LOWER SALT RIVER
During the summer months the flows of the river tend to run high and remain somewhat consistent. August was different. Flows were slightly less than the same time in 2013. Additionally, flows varied quite a bit, sometimes quite drastic.

 

Below is the water flow chart for the Lower Salt River for the month from WWW.Watershedmonitor.Com.

salt-august

I don’t like to fish the river when flows have increased by more than 200 c.f.s. over a twenty-four hour period. I did; however, decide to “test the waters” on a day that the flows decreased significantly. Thursday, August 21st the flows significantly decreased.

8-21-flows

The weather forecast called for a forty percent chance of thunderstorms and much cloud cover. Curious as to the effect of the decreased flows and weather on fishing we headed out. We started at Coon Bluff Recreation Area. We stayed there three hours. On the first six casts, we hooked and released five largemouths. We even had a double.

bass-double

More fish followed. When the bite slowed, we hiked a few yards up and down the river. At each new location, the bite was on for the first dozen or so casts. Then we moved on. But, at all times we remained at Coon Bluff. The size of the bass varied from the micro to a decent size of sixteen inches or so.

bass-16   bass-rat-l-trap   bass-small

 

horse sign  We were also blessed on that day to catch a few glimpses of one of the wild horse herds that call the river home.

horses

The most productive lures proved to be rattle traps. As for flies the most productive was a # 12 red/white streamer with a # 16 bead head pink nymph as a trailer.

bass-flies-collage

All in all, it was one of the best days of fishing we’ve enjoyed so far this year.

I would love to commit time and energy into an informal study of the effect of the changing river flows on the largemouth bass population. Unfortunately, the need to earn a living limits the time that can be spent on the water. No-one that I know has the financial resources to fund such a project. I’m sure even if I did have such an acquaintance, their resources would be used for other endeavors. Hell, even the great author and outdoorsman, Ernest Hemingway bemoaned such matters.

“All the people I know with enough wealth to subsidize (a study of the marlin) are either busy studying how to get more wealth, or horses, or what is wrong with themselves with psychoanalysts, or horses, or how not to lose what wealth the have, or horses, or the moving picture business, or horses or all os these things together, and, possibly, horses.” (See Endnote # 1)

One benefit of fishing the river is that it is close to Saguaro Lake. On days where the river is less than productive, we often make a fast run to the lake to check on the bite.

saguaro

CANYON LAKE
As is the case with fishing in general, some days on Canyon Lake had better results than others. One particularly slow day, the only thing I hooked was a dragonfly. Yeah, that’s right, while fly fishing, my backcast hooked a dragonfly. I didn’t even feel the “hook-set,” I only noticed it when I cast forward and my fly line hung in the air, flying on its own.

drgonfly

There is one thing of interest for those readers that fish the Boulder Recreation Area.
August 12th fishing bridge was closed. That particular day was very windy & thunderstorms so, we weren’t sure if the closing was temporarily weather related. We fished that area again on August 19th and it was still closed. So, I wonder if it is closed due to a structural problem, like two years ago. As of this post, I am not aware of the status of the bridge. Here’s a few photos from a more successful day at the lake.

canyon bass collage-crankbait

hatch helicopter copy   In the photos I’m wearing an uv protection shirt I purchased from Wicked Catch gear. You can visit their website at http://www.wickedcatchgear.com/fishing-shirts/
use promo code: WCProstaff-JSzmitkowski at checkout for a 5 % discount (not applicable to shipping costs and taxes).

FFD-STICKERS-2_Fotor    As a Thank-you for reading, I have listed a two-pack of FlyFishing Dojo on E-bay for only $ 1.00 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 $1.25, I’ll keep listing while supplies last.

Until the next submission, I remain,

Sensei John

Sensei John

ENDNOTES:

1. Ernest Hemingway from: Lyons, Nick, Hemingway On Fishing, (Nick Lyons Press, New York, NY, 2000) p. 119, originally published as “Out In The Stream: A Cuban Letter” in Esquire magazine, August, 1934.

You can follow the adventures of FLY FISHING DOJO on FACEBOOK, See the Video & Media Page for details.

ffd coffee mug   Please feel free to shop unique Fly Fishing Dojo products wear by clicking on the “SHOP” tab at the top of this page.

sunsu-cactus  Please feel free to view my other weblog dedicated to exploring martial arts ideology and concepts at http://senseijohn.me

Here Comes The Sun – Damn!

26 Jul

Sun, Sun, Sun, here it comes.
Unfortunately, I’m not referring to the Beatles song. Here in the Valley Of The Sun, the lyric is a warning. A foreboding of the inevitable. Most people embrace the coming of summer, and the joy of being on the water fishing. Not for me in Arizona. The forecast almost always includes temperatures that are in triple digits before noon. Many a day there’s an excessive heat warning and advice to refrain from outdoor activities. The summer heat is a challenge to fishing. So how to get out and fish?

7-1 temps

For some, the answer is to avoid the blazing sun altogether and fish at night. The option of becoming a fish chasing vampire is not available to me on a regular basis. So, the key is sun protection. I never really enjoyed slathering sun block over exposed areas of skin. For others in the Fly Fishing Dojo, the effects of chemotherapy mean that the idea of putting the harsh chemicals in sun block on is not even an option. The alternative is simple, sun protection clothing; including face masks, shirts, pants and gloves.

So, as often as possible (usually 4 days a week) we don our uv clothing, pack copious amounts of water, our home-made organic energy snacks and hit the water.

wicked catch

On days when the high temperature is expected to exceed 105 degrees, I also pack a water soaked hydration vest into a cooler. In a heat related emergency, the vest can put put on to immediately begin to lower body temperature.

The results of being able to fish under the drastic sun conditions pay-off. Here’s a video of a huge catfish caught on a fly one hot summer morning when the temperatures were already one hundred degrees by eleven o’clock.

CIMG5067  In the photo and video both Di and I are wearing an uv protection shirt we purchased from Wicked Catch gear. You can visit their website at http://www.wickedcatchgear.com/fishing-shirts/
use promo code: WCProstaff-JSzmitkowski at checkout for a 5 % discount (not applicable to shipping costs and taxes).

FFD-STICKERS-2_Fotor  As a Thank-you for reading, I have listed a two-pack of FlyFishing Dojo on E-bay for only $ 1.00 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.

sweat-hat_Fotor

In closing, I remain,

Sensei John

Sensei John

FFD-sticker-website  Look for updates on my pending book, Fishing Dojo, coming by the Fall of 2014.

Sensei John is available for guest speaking engagements. Please see the “GUEST SPEAKING” Page tab above for more information.

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Follow FLY FISHING DOJO on FACEBOOK, please send a friend request on Facebook; see our “Video & Media” Page for more information.

sunsu-cactus  Please feel free to view my other weblog dedicated to exploring martial arts ideology and concepts as they can be applied to daily life at http://senseijohn.me

May, 2013 Fishing Journal

7 Jun

May, 2013, Valley of the Sun, the first full month of fishing since my return to the Valley. It felt – – good. If fish caught and released were the sole criteria for determining the quality of a day on the water, then some days were better than others. Thankfully results are not the sole factor in determining whether the overall day was good or not.

fishing - welcome

As I write these monthly reports it always seems that there never was enough of time spent on the water. The reports seem too “short and sweet” – nonetheless, here it is. PLEASE NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, all fish were safely released after being photographed.

LOWER SALT RIVER, Tonto National Forest, AZ

While most of this month’s fishing was on Canyon Lake and the urban lakes, there was a trip or two to the Lower Salt River. As the summer progresses, fishing will be limited to those locations that are not impeded by river tubing.

salt  salt-2

Below is the water flow chart for the Lower Salt River for the month from WWW.Watershedmonitor.Com.

salt-may-2013

CANYON LAKE, Tonto National Forest, AZ

The fishing bridge at Boulder Recreation Area has been repaired and is again open for fishing. Most of our fishing this month centered around Boulder Recreation Area in general. Largemouth Bass, small Stripers and Bluegill provided regular activity.

bloulder dock

Fish could be caught on small “swimm’in squirt” tubes, small crank baits and a variety of flies. My usual fly rig included on lare fly for largemouths and a smaller trailing fly for blueill. Often, if a bluegill took the small fly, I would leave the rig in the water as largeouth were often attracted to the commotion caused by the hooked bluegill. In such a case, the larger fly was soemtimes taken by the bass.

bass rig

bass

bluegill with fly

SAGUARO LAKE, Tonto National Forest, AZ

Fishing along the shoreline adjacent to the two fishing bridge (and on the bridge themselves) provided action from Bluegill and Largemouth. On one trip, we were joined by a friend who was more than happy to chase down the bluegill we threw back.

heron-saguaro

bass-2

URBAN LAKE FISHING

We were able to visit Veterans Oasis, Water Ranch and Red Mountain during May. Due to work commitments, we missed out nighttime cat fishing at these lakes. As catfish stocking will soon end, we’ll have to wait for the fall stocking for these tasty fish.

CIMG3943

Until the next submission, I remain,

Sensei John

Sensei John

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t-shirt

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Please feel free to shop unique Fly Fishing Dojo products wear by clicking on the “SHOP” tab at the top of this page. 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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Finally! My 2013 Fishing Season Starts

3 May

April, 2013, Valley Of The Sun,

After five long months of being out-of-State – exiled to the cold wintery east coast, I returned to the Valley Of The Sun the end of last month. After obtaining the necessary fishing licenses and National Park passes, I was ready to fish. To this end, I was able to squeeze in two fast days on the water in April.

My "secret" urban pond

My “secret” urban pond

Now, it’s time for final preparation of equipment and pre-fishing matters. May should begin quality (and quantity) time on the various waters of “The Valley.” Pre-fishing preparation is crucial to a successful and enjoyable day on the water. The import of this preparation increases in proportion to increasing temperatures in the Arizona desert. For a quick review of the the need for pre-fishing preparation as it relates to the martial arts concept of “Futanren”, please use this convenient link:  https://flyfishingdojo.com/2011/01/19/fly-fishing-futanren/

In addition to equipment preparation, it is also necessary to have at least a minimum of physical preparation. You may use the following convenient link to my article on this topic.  link: https://flyfishingdojo.com/2011/11/15/fishing-physical-conditioning/

To facilitate preparation, here’s a quick look at the flows of the Lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest for April. Current data may be found using the following link and clicking of the Lower Salt River tab WWW.Watershedmonitor.Com

salt  - april

Summer fishing in the warm Arizona water involves a quest for catfish, pan fish and largemouth bass. As summer progresses and river tubing takes over the Lower Salt River, my fishing tends towards the “big lakes” –  Canyon Lake and to a lesser extent Saguaro Lake. “Quickie” fishing trips are routinely found in the Arizona Urban Lake system. As to summer fishing in the urban lakes, Fish and Game is stocking channel catfish. Here is a stocking schedule for 2013.

STOCKING-2013

Well, for now, there’s a bit more preparation I need to attend to, more fishing to follow,

Sensei John

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.

Follow FLY FISHING DOJO on FACEBOOK, please send a friend request on Facebook; see our “Video & Media” Page for more information.

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A FISHING BLACK BELT – DON’T FOCUS ON IT

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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