Saturday, September 03, 2016

Nadeau sensei and me

The above photo was taken in 2006. Nadeau sensei led a trip to Hombu dojo in June of that year. And during that trip we visited the Aiki Shrine in Iwama. And the photo was taken at the group lunch. I have always found this photo moving. It  has Nadeau sensei positioned directly in front of O sensei's picture. And I am also in the photo but looking on from the side..Nadeau sensei's love for Osensei has been one of the major driving forces for Aikido in America and especially in Northern California. When I first started in fall of 1969, he along with Robert Frager(also a major force), really stressed the spiritual tie between the Aikido training and the connection to Osensei. The two of them were personal students of the founder and would teach monthly workshops together. In addition to the training, there was a lot of meditation, energy work, chanting. And they would show home movies(no videos yet) of Osensei. And we would all work on the spiritual side of the connection to him through the training. I believe those early days have really shaped my direction in the art. You could sense not only their deep love but also their deep devotion and commitment to sharing their experience with Osensei.

My first full time teaching job came when I took over the chief instructor positon of the UCSC Aikido Club from Robert Frager sensei in spring of 1975. But before I left for Japan in spring of 1973, I was training at Stanford University with Doran sensei, and was approached by Nadeau sensei.  He at the time was teaching workshops at Esalen, had his own spiritual community, and was seen as a very myterious figure. He told me that when I got back from Japan the powers that be were interested in having me be a full time aikido teacher in Northern California, and to "Get your(my) black belt, even if you have to do it at Hombu". In those days shodans were rare. As it turns out I wound up training not in Tokyo, but at the Shingu dojo in Wakayama Prefecture. How he sensed I would get my black belt probably not at Hombu dojo I will never know. Anyway, in early summer of 1976 I was just getting settled in to teaching Aikido at the University, when I got this phone call. "Robert Nadeau speaking. There is a dojo starting in San Jose real quick. Do you want to be a part of it?" Not giving it much thought but being flattered that one of the area leaders would call me and ask me to teach, I said yes. So in July of that year(40 years ago) I began teaching the Friday evening class, sleep over in the office, then teach kids and adults on Saturday. I would train at Stanford with Doran sensei, then after a lunch together would head to the South Bay. I got married in fall of that year. In early 1977 Sarah and I headed back to Shingu for what was a full year of training. While we were there we got a letter from Nadeau sensei's business partner offering me the position of Chief Instructor of the San Jose dojo. It would not be immediate. But some time to settle in then I would take it over. Well we returned in very late fall of 1977 and moved into the San Jose dojo. In fall of 1978 our daughter Jennifer was born, a home birth in the Japantown location of the dojo. In those days Nadeau sensei continued to teach his Monday nights. After a short time he sold the school to me and in February of 1980 I became chief instructor.

In 2001 we relocated to our current location on Martha Street. The rents in Japantown were getting way too high and so we moved to a place with a much more favorable rent. And Nadeau sensei resumed teaching on Monday nights. And we have been at our current location for now 15 years! How time can fly!

I want to stress how much Nadeau sensei has influenced me over the years. When I started teaching in San Jose I started attending his Monday night classes. When I trained in Shingu there was a heavy emphais on energy, but it was through Osensei's presentation of the Shinto Cosmology.. And Nadeau sensei was going directly to the energy without the Shinto. And in contrast to the earlier work when I first started it was much more direct with an emphasis on here and now through the body. And process. In 2009 I began assisting him on his research into Osensei and HIS process.
This has blossomed into the April OSensei REvisited weekends in April(Reminder it's set for April 21, 22, 23rd in 2017) at which I co-teach.

Here is a photo of Nadeau sensei and some members of his Meditation Group in the seventies and eighties:
And on my first trip to the Mountain View dojo I saw this hanging on the wall:
How many people have ever been issued one of these? It is a teaching certificate signed by 2nd Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba and also my none other than Ueshiba Osensei himself?

At our weekly meeting in San Mateo Nadeau sensei informed me he would no longer be teaching Monday nights in San Jose. He had taken August off and said he was enjoying the free time on Monday nights. I know the drive from San Mateo to San Jose can be a real killer. So I applaud his decision. However it leaves me a little sad. I will be taking the Monday evenings. And we are in the process of formatting the Friday evenings. I will continue to teach Friday noons. And lest we forget, Nadeau sensei put some real training in at Hombu dojo in the early to mid sixties. Here is a photo from his nidan exam:

Saturday, August 27, 2016

40th anniversary dinner

On July 11th we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Aikido of San Jose in a special dinner at Original Joe's. Yes it was July of 1976, the bicentennial year that the dojo opened in San Jose's Japantown.. Now 40 years later we are still going. Attending were Robert Nadeau shihan, who opened the school and passed it onto me in February of 1980. Also present was Motomichi Anno shihan from the Kumano area, representing my ties to Japan. Conveniently he was here as a part of the Santa Cruz Summer Retreat. My thanks to Linda Holiday sensei for allowing us to host him and for herself attending. And Mary Heiny sensei who helped establish me in Japan at the Shingu dojo and who, along with Linda sensei, have supported me over the years with their continuing friendship.

Also in attendance was My daughter Jennifer, who was born in the San Jose dojo in November of 1978, her mother Sarah, my granddaughter Nora, son in law Dover, and personal special friend Dianna Lynne. Vladi was not able to make it. And Betsy Hill sensei and her husband James, whom we'll see when Nadeau sensei and I go to her dojo in Sebastopol to help her celebrate Tenchi Aikido's 10th anniversary.

I want to personally thank the teachers and students of the San Jose dojo for supporting me and the dojo with your continued training over the years. Special thanks to those who helped organize this event. Meng Ear for her leadership and direction. Yu Chen Shen for emceeing the raffle. And countless others who gave of their time to donate items, or just plain attend and eat the food. Professor Richard Bunch was not in attendance because he came up with a stomach flu. It was good to see old timers Mark Tucker, Jerry Egusa, and Nick de la Torre.

I think back to the early days of the school. Sarah and I had just come back from a year in Japan in late 1977. We moved into the Japantown school and less than a year later Jennifer was born. My thanks to Nadeau sensei for allowing us to move in. Sue Ann McKean, who was not able to attend, had been staying there. She moved into the Castro Street Mt. View dojo. She noted she was stepping up in the world because that dojo had a shower. Yes things were primitive in those days.

So looking onward to another 40 years. At least.......

Here is a new video I just posted on YoutubeL

Monday, August 08, 2016

Aikido of Bali Hai(Training in Paradise)

From June 15 to June 27 a small group of Aikido of San Jose students, teachers, and family made a trek to the garden island of Kauai for some training and relaxation. IN summer of 2015 I had spent a week there at my daughter's time share and sort of put out what would it be like to take a group for an aikido event to the island. Unexpectedly I got a response so a group of us headed over. We rented 2 houses in Princeville just off Aniini beach. In fact the end of Anini beach became our dojo. WE trekked down a steep incline to a beautiful beach(which meant the return was a steep climb) and trained both in the water (above) but also under the shade of some friendly trees.

It was not a heavy training event. Every other day we spent 2 hours or more at our beach dojo. We concentrated a lot on the staff movements. Hopefully everyone who went now knows the 30(not 31) movement form. We were however able to get into some things it is difficult to get into in a normal dojo setting. One of the things was the aikido cosmology, which I have studied over the course of my years and in recent years have explored in detail with Nadeau sensei.. It is my belief that a true understanding of Osensei's message must include some of this.
While that can get somewhat heavy, hopefully that was balanced out by the beauty of our surroundings and the fun the whole group had. People were able on the non training days to sight see, and  yes, to shop.
Towards the end we made it to Waimeia canyon to the South.
And on my fifth trip to the garden isle I went to my first luau:
So maybe if the universe is willing there will be another Aikido of Bali Hai next year.

The only real downer was watching the Warriors lose games 6 and 7. But in perspective their best player suffered two leg injuries in the opening round and was about 60 % for the last game. The rest of the team had to work extra hard to finish the opening round and the second round. Curry came back and had that fantastic overtime 17 point game winning performance when he should have been eased in. They faced a 3 games to 1 deficit against what was probably their toughest opponent in the playoffs, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder..And meanwhle Labron and the Cavaliers easily coasted through what one Eastern scribe called 'the junior varsity Eastern Conference'. So the Warriors with a hobbled Curry simply ran out of magic at an understandable time. Kudos to Labron and the Cavaliers. They won it. But hopefully next year there is another Aikido of Bali Hai and we'll be celebrating, along with Kevin Durant now a Warrior, a parade.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Morning classes

Our Friday morning 6:30am class has been on hiatus due to the fact that Mark Tucker sensei(Taken 1990 Mark is first row, at the very end to the right) has been recovering from back surgery. Mark sensei is one of the dojo's most senior students and he has sent me an email announcement for me to post in this blog:

San Jose Aikido Community and friends. I would like to announce the restarting of Friday morning classes on May ?th. Everyone of all levels is welcome and invited to these energizing sessions. Better and longer-lasting  than a shot of Starbucks. The quick jolt is from 6:30 to 7:30 allowing for early exits to get to work.
For those of you that are not familiar with me. I have been training for 36 years at the San Jose Dojo. For about 30 of those years I have led a morning class. Aikido has been a long, fun, and wonderful journey which I will share with others for the rest of my life. Through our practice we will continue to work toward what is ahead and not be complacent about where we have been. We will evolve with an ever-changing world, work beyond our limits, and work on having a satisfying training experience that stays with us in our quest for peace and harmony for all. I look forward to train with and help all that choose to participate. Please contact ne with any questions at

Thank you,

Mark Tucker
Tucker Construction, Inc
1725-D Little Orchard St
San Jose Ca 95125

I am happy to see that this class is going to continue. Back in the eighties when I first took over the dojo I started this class. During my training period at the Shingu dojo in Japan the 6:30 to 7:30 am class ran Monday through Friday. It was always a challenge to make that early class, which I tried to do whenever possible. The evening class 7:30 to 9pm was much easier for me. But in the eighties my daughter came of school age and she needed to get to school early. So I started the early class to make sure I was up and ready to take her to school. At one time we had the class 3 weekdays a week, although I believe the Friday was the first and then it expanded to at its peak 3 days. For a period I would teach the class, drop my daughter off at school, Head over to San Jose State to teach Aikido there . Finish a little before noon. Head back to the dojo to teach noon. Then usually go to the fountain at the then 4th Street Pharmacy for a quick lunch. Usually tuna salad sandwich and coffee. Then pick my daughter up from school and either drive her to an activity or back to the dojo, where we lived. As you can see I was busy being a parent. I think by that time I was having other people teach children's classes, although I may have still taught some. And then I taught most evenings. So my schedule was quite full parenting and teaching, something my daughter is now experiencing being a working parent. Over a period of time the noon classes grew and the early mornings shrank. But Mark sensei has kept the Fridays going and I wish him luck and support in continuing them.

One story about my training in the early classes in Japan. During a hot period Hikitsuchi sensei would teach, so it could be great training. But the foreigners were expected to make pretty much every class. As a good friend once remarked, "Aikido maiasa", which translates as "Aikido every morning" but which could sound a lot like and sometimes feel like 'Aikido my a**". I remember vividly one morning(I had probably been out late drinking with Hikitsuchi sensei) I decided to sleep in, figuring he would probably also sleep in. The class ended at 7:30 am. To my surprise at about 7:35 there was a pounding on my dorm room door. I opened it and there was Hikitsuchi sensei. He was somewhat agitated that I had slept in because he had schedule a radio interview on All Prefecture radio at 8. So the true meaning of "Katsu Hayahi", that speed that transcends time and space, came into being. A very quick change into clothes. A drive across the Shingu river on the bridge that connected Wakayama and Mie Prefectures, which was usually, crowded and slow at that time. We made to to his house, rushed in to hear the phone call from the radio station. We both had to pretend we were calm and there waiting for the call. My Japanese was good at that time so I began the interview. I guess I was an oddity. An American of Japanese descent training in Japan in a traditional Japanese martial art. So the questions were pretty easy. Which Japanese foods did I like. Did I have a Japanese girl friend. How did I feel about the Japanese people. That sort of thing. But it began to get a little tiresome after awhile. So when they finally asked me why I was doing aikido, I started quoting Hikitsuchi sensei and his interpretation of Osensei's teachings. Well sensei immediately took the phone and began a lecture on Aikido, which the people at the radio station obviously found not interesting. So they quickly ended the interview. Which of course more than suited me.I think I was interviewed by the Shingu newspaper in a similar vein and I think I still have a copy of that. That was an example of my days in Shingu.
You had to constantly be ready for anything. Especially the unexpected. Which didn't prepare you but made the unexpected and the dealing with it hopefully a learning experience. The Japanese word is 'Shugyo' or special training. When Osensei meant 'training never ends' he didn't mean 'keiko'. He meant 'shugyo'....

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Osensei Revisited Overview

Last weekend was the 5th Osensei Revisited weekend, again led by Robert Nadeau shihan. It was well attended, with Friday, Saturday, and Sunday classes. I want to personally thank all those from my dojo(Aikido of San Jose) who attended and supported the event. Nadeau sensei's vision and leadership(He was a direct student of the Founder). Inspiring classes taught by Mary Heiny sensei and other instructors. So it was quite an event!

Osensei passed away on April 26 1969. So this workshop falls close enough to that date that this workshop can be seen as honoring him and his teachings. I taught the Saturday 7am class, which was focused on staff work. At the end I chanted Amatsu Norito and Kami Goto, which are Shinto chants of purification that Osensei practiced and was said to be fond of. The actual day of his passing was also honored with Norito and Kami Goto at the end of the noon class at my own dojo.

Nadeau sensei has made his life's work taking the things that were personally passed onto him by the Founder and fitting them into an experiential process hopefully mirroring Osensei's own process. Those who have not attended this event please consider doing so next year. It will be virtually the same weekend, April 23, 24, and 25. Teachers and schedule will be announced as the date draws closer, and this year I will try to keep updates a regular feature of the Osensei Revisited Facebook page.

So what were the takeaways from this year's event?

1,Nadeau sensei feels Osensei's spiritual direction is quite different from what is usually stressed. He views the normal as being very much an upper or awareness based system. Visualize a point as a starting place. Then put an expanding series of half circles above the point. And the space between the half circles can be finer dimensions or astral planes. Heaven is oftentimes seen as an attainment and one ascends there.

2. Now visualize the same point and make a series of half circles downward. In contrast to the upper awareness style, this is often missed. The downward direction represents more an experience/feel unfolding,
which takes us more towards not a finer, but a deeper, more original sense of who we are....Carl Jung once said that any tree wishing to grown to heaven must have roots reaching the other direction. We are not talking about heaven being less than the other place, but more that the journey must balance light/dark and leads to an individuation as opposed to a perfection based on finer to finer.

3. So now see the diagram as a series of concentric circles radiating outward from the central point and ideally balancing the upper finer with the deeper more original. So finer must be equal to deeper. Instead of heaven as an end journey, it represents an original state that is both beginning and 'end'.

4. Now let's take the whole sense of things expanding outward and say there is an equal and opposite movement back towards the core point. So just as the upper finer is balanced on the outward as deeper, so there is movement back, Osensei's 'echo' where the outer heaven returns to itself in the core point. Osensei is quoted as saying " Heaven is right where you stand and that is the place to train.(oneself)".

5. The movement outward becomes a dimensional process. There is a small circle around that point that is aware and feels itself to a certain level of identity. The next larger circle has and even deeper and finer sense of itself as an identity. Most of us are trapped or walled in to that first level. Various processes taught at the workshop such as center/circle, fire/water, chanting(sound vibration/silence) are to help you turn the walls of those first levels into membranes that can be passed through. If you haven't made any of the  Osensei Revisiteds this alone is worth the trip.The center/circle, fire/water, and chanting techniques were passed onto to Nadeau sensei directly from Osensei.  A lot of this is alluded to in Osensei's lectures and writings, but they seem to be obscured by the Shinto that is everywhere.

6. Osensei oftentimes expressed the importance of 'Ame no Uki Hashi', ie the Floating Bridge of Heaven.
Using this model one can theorize what he that. Another revealing Osensei quote:'' Unite yourself to the cosmos, and the thought of transcendence will disappear. Transcendence belongs to the profane world. When all trace of transcendence vanishes, the true person.....the divine manifest. Empty yourself and let the divine function."......

7. So why does Osensei come down so hard on transcendence? Perhaps it's because going finer even if one goes deeper as well perhaps one can lose one's way. The universe is after all a vast place. But if the universe is a vast tree( used in some mythologies) then the original point is it's seed. So uniting with the cosmos probably means an inner one. So that first or beginning circle, a core or fundamental being place, possible not as exciting as the finer planes of the universe, would contain all the finer. This is what Nadeau sensei understands as the bridge. In a world of no sight, one sees. And that bridge extends all the way out, but also returns to itself..

8.Osensei loved the Kojiki, the Japanese book of creation. There there was an original heavely brine. A type of chaos that was all things , ie infinite possibilities, all oxxuring infinitely. And it congealed into an infinitely dense point, Ame no Minakanushi no Okam, and expanded spherically outward in the sound Suuuuuu.
One way to look at this is that there was an original Source, Unnameable, Unknowable, God, whatever, that created itself as an original Soul, which then entered a universe or creation(also coming out of source) to find itself but also to return to itself. This is the echo. And at any point in the journey, there is the here and now of the bridge connecting yourself to both the beginning and the ultimate of yourself. Completing that journey heaven would be where ever you chose to stand.

Hope you enjoyed the summary. Hope to see you all back next year. And in case you're wondering, yes, there was time for some very good aikido training in the event as well........

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Review: Born to Be Blue

I was looking forward to March 25th because two films on my watch list were going to open. The obvious was 'Superman v Batman'. The less obvious was the Chet Baker film 'Born to be Blue'. Well the latter was opening nowhere in the Bay Area, so I went to see the former. Enjoyed it. May see it again even. Well this weekend the Ethan Hawke/Chet Baker film opened in the South Bay and decided to give it a look. I must say I was somewhat uneasy going to see it. After all there is so much negativity around Chet in books that I was afraid of what might be highlighted in this film.

Well, the film is a HIGHLY fictionalized account of Baker's life. It uses the device of Chet being cast in a film playing himself, juxtaposed with flashbacks to his earlier mega-popular years. In an interesting touch his teeth are highlighted. At the age of 12 or 13 Baker lost one of his front teeth in an accident playing with friends. He played with that missing tooth. Later, as shown in the film, he suffered a major beating which not only knocked out his other front teeth(top), but according to Artt Frank, gave him permanent  nerve damage. He was told he would never play again. So in the current time of the film, he is shown wearing dentures.So you can chart his timeline in the film by the way his teeth are shown.

A major part of the film is Baker's comeback from the beating, relearning how to play, and getting another gig(he had a famous one in his very early years) at Birdland in New York City. Apparently Hawke learned to play the trumpet for the film. Anyone who has played the trumpet realized the horn is a cruel taskmaster, and when learning you are going to struggle and make horrible sounds. So this part of the film has some realism to it. For an excellent eyewitness account of Baker's real comeback, ie relearning to play the horn, check out Artt Frank's excellent 'Chet Baker:The Missing Years'

Of course a major part of the film is Baker's drug problem. Hawke's sense of Baker is around these lines. He comes across as high......somewhat passive......very self absorbed......a leaf at the mercy of the wind. Contrast that with the real Baker. He was multi lingual. By his own account during his time in Jail in Italy he learned Italian and came out a fluent speaker. There is an interview on youtube where Baker gives an interview exclusively in Italian. And there is the fact that Baker was a natural musical genius. He could hear any song and play it in any of the 12 keys. If he heard it twice he could solo to it. Very little of this side of Chet if any is brought out in Hawke's portrayal of him.

For me the most interesting part of the film was the apparent wound he had from male figures that he gave power to. The portrayal of Chet's father is chilling. Nothing his son can do is good enough to please him. And the Miles Davis character in the film tells Chet his playing is candy.....and to come back when he's lived some. Baker was very inluenced by Davis's 'Birth of the Cool'. In fact in his autobiography
"As Though I Had Wings' he states that twenty years later he still listened to that album. In an interview when asked what he listened to when he was not playing, one of Chet's answers was 'Miles old stuff'.

The music in the film is a disappointment. Hawke sings several Baker songs well, but it is obvious he is copying Chet. The trumpet solos are skillfully done but none of it is Chet's own horn. So I guess this is where I some it all up. If you want to do something different and want to go see a jazz movie, I think this will keep your attention. But if you want to know or to hang out with Chet Baker, check out HIS music. There is no substitute.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


I've been enjoying 'Supergirl' (Mondays CBS 8pm). I followed the character from her beginning in Action Comics. Then in an 80's feature film in my opinion that was much better than it was regarded at the time. And so now it is a weekly show on a major network. It is produced by the same people that do 'The Flash"
(Tuesdays CW 8pm). Both shows are on my watch list.

So what makes 'Supergirl' an important show? It deals with power from another angle, that of a woman. Comics do overtime evolve and story lines change. Originally in Action Comics she came from Argo City, which flew off when Krypton exploded, and overtime the land under the city was being changed to deadly Kryptonite, so Kara Zor-el was sent to Earth to be with her famous cousin. She was a young teenager, hence the title 'Supergirl'. The plot lines have changed and the character is in her mid-twenties and reacted in episode one to being branded Supergirl by media mogul Cat Grant(Calista Flockhart).

One basic tenet of the show is that while her cousin Kal-el(Superman) came to Earth as an infant and always felt like an outsider, Kara was in her mid-teens and much more fully formed psychologically being raised on her home planet of Krypton.Hence her wanting to bring those around her into her life as Kara/Supergirl. James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) , her adoptive sister Alex(Chyler Leigh), and Winn Schott(Jeremy Jordan) are all part of her 'team' aiding her as much as she saves them. It is a nice touch. The sense that her friends and sister are family, replacing those she lost on her home world. The Jimmy/James Olsen character is much different and stronger than the Jimmy in Superman lore. So the feeling on inclusion, bringing others on board for support is a major part of the show. Women tend to be more team oriented while men are more competitive and 'fight alone'.

Along the lines of power from the female angle, Calista Flockhart's Cat Grant is a fascinating character. Initially she is portrayed very much as over assertive and ends justify the means. But as the show progresses this gradually changes. She  softens. We see the undevelopped vulnerable parts of her come to the surface.
And she becomes a support and an ally to Kart/Supergirl..

Melissa Benoist is absolutely fantastic as both Supergirl and Kara. The scenes with her and Calista Flockhart are very well done, usually extremely funny."Here's your latte , Ms Grant!". But she portrays Kara with such a vulnerability, which is what makes the show go. 'Supergirl' is a show about becoming. She is finding herself both as Kara and the Super hero as they intertwine and unfold. Superman is an established, finished product. Supergirl is evolving, changing, growing.........And Kara is as Melissa Benoist portrays her, a Funny Valentine...

"Is your figure less than Greek...
Your mouth a little weak
When you open it to speak
Are you smart

But don't change your hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little Valentine stay

Each Day is Valentine's Day...."

Watch the show and see if you don't agree....

Here is a video I did for Valentine's Day: