Just a few things I want to acknowledge or comment on. First, the Golden State Warriors run to the second round of the NBA playoffs deserves notice. The foe Denver was one the W's could not handle during the regular season. It took an official's replay of a last second shot that wasn't to give them their lone win against the Nuggets. Being a Warrior fan when they were still the Philadelphia Warriors, they have mainly been a study in unconditional love. With very little pay back other than a smidgen here and there. There was the surprise NBA title in 1975, but that was followed the next year by a discouraging loss to Phoenix and then the gradual disassembly of that unit. We had the Run TMC years that was torpedoed by the Chris Weber situation, and most recently the "WE Believe" magical run in 2007. I guess you could say they have largely been entertaining, but bad trades and drafts and good players looking to go to other teams has been their legacy. And through this all the fans still care. Mike Driscoll took me to Chris Mullin's jersey retirement night and I got a chance to see and hear the new owner mercilessly boo-ed. I guess that showed the passion that still was in the fan base. Well this season has been a revelation. New ownership brought in a new coach and new player/personal people, including the great Jerry West. This has been the weakness of the franchise for the last 20 years or so. A great draft, free agents Jack and Landry, David Lee justifying the owner's faith in trading for him by being an All-Star, have all contributed to a wonderful season for our local team. But Steph Curry's emergence as a force in the League has been the most fun to watch. I remember noticing him when his college team Davidson made a run to the Final Four. The next season as a 6'3'' guard he led the nation in scoring. Don Nelson for all his other faults passed up a significant draft day trade that would have cost us Curry to draft Steph. I remember his rookie season started slowly. But by the end even though he was not Rookie of the Year, he was attracting attention. A couple of injury plagued seasons followed which had people questioning his durability and toughness. But this season has been a break out year. And he has done it when it had been needed and brought attention to both him and the team. 54 points at Madison Square Garden. 22 points in a quarter in a pivotal win over the Nuggets in round one. 47 against the Lakers. Even though San Antonio represents a nightmare match up, I don't think any fear resides with Golden State. And if the Human Torch can "Flame On!" we might advance to the conference finals. I remember the '75 championship team was given little chance through the opening rounds and no chance in the Finals. But they, like the recent Giants team, endured during the early rounds and swept the championship series. The Giants had one thing:pitching. And the Warriors have one thing; shooting. So go Warriors and maybe there will be more surprises this year.
I just caught Iron Man 3 last night. Thoroughly enjoyed it. I can't say too much because there are some real twists and I don't want to ruin it for anyone. Robert Downey Jr is excellent. With now 3 films as Iron Man and also with the Avengers movie,the characters are now old friends. This movie is somewhat similar to the first in that Tony Stark is featured quite a bit. But incredibly fun none the less. And if you want Iron Man you get him in spades at the end. And Ben Kingsley is engaging as the Mandarin(or is he?).....
The Osensei Revisited (May 17-19) weekend is coming up soon. I assume late registration is fine as long as it is not the stay over package. If you want meals and lodging you need to register NOW........
Harry Concepcion sensei and I will be going Thursday night (May 9) to hear the Ian Carey/Ben Stolorow duet in Berkeley. If you want to spend an evening hearing some great live jazz, let us know....
Dorian Bodine Friday night took and passed a 3rd kyu exam. He has mainly trained with Sandy Olliges sensei at San Jose State, but has been training at our dojo now for awhile.
I really enjoyed an interesting blog(http://iancareyjazz.com/blog/2010/07/technique-in-jazz-one-guys-take.html) by Ian Carey. He is a very talented you jazz musician who can be heard in San Francisco and the East Bay. He wrote about technique in Jazz. Now jazz is often perceived as free form, so what would be the need for technique in such a free form of expression? I began to ponder a lot of what Ian said and began to see that there might be similar issues in Aikido around the same topic. So I decided to do a blog about this.
Ueshiba Osensei is quoted in the book "The Secret Teachings of Aikido" as saying:"Aikido has no forms. It has no forms because it is a study of the spirit". Quite a statement. And without forms how can you have technique? So let's ponder this.
In jazz you have songs, even standards. In Aikido you have ikkyo, nikyo, irimi nage, kokyu ho.........Yet jazz players like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker go way past the song and to quote Artt Frank, "They tell their story".....They are expressing themselves at a very deep, even at what we may call a soul level. Now all those I mentioned above have 'chops' or technique. Yet it is almost as if their story is so strong the 'chops' came to help them tell it. Bruce Lee would respond to those who told him he was an exception and gifted past them that he felt it was the desire for truth and self expression that created the gifts. So for a musician expressing oneself at a soul level or having a story to tell might be an expression of something called spirit. In fact Chet Baker once told Artt that he(Chet) had/felt the spirit to play.
So the question is, what is spirit? To me spirit is by definition unseen. Yet it is something that expresses itself through incredible talent or power. We see the results of spirit on the move, not spirit itself. For example the Giants of 2012 exhibited great spirit in overcoming adversity and winning the World Series. In Ueshiba Osensei's movements we see what me might call outer forms through the movement of his body in relationship to an attacker's body. But to me what they are both expressing is the movement of a creative unseen power that is coming into the situation to resolve it harmoniously. And beautifully. Of course there are forms to be learned but the mastery of the forms is related to some sort of self mastery. Robert Nadeau sensei is always talking about the importance of being very easy with the 'I'. That the body and the movement are arguably part of some original perfection and without the 'I' 's interference would return to that perfection.
Especially when young there is the tendency to see oneself through one's technique. Ian talks about how seeing oneself in relation to one's chops is a very up and down proposition. Linda Holiday sensei and I in our first visit to the Shingu dojo found we could go through incredible ups and downs just based on how our techniques were going during the Aikido training. Yet training in any form whether music or martial arts can really strengthen the 'I' when at some point the 'I' must surrender to something let us just call spirit. Graham Bruce, who knew Chet Baker, told me sometimes musicians would just get into it and have a duel or competition around chops. Sort of like playground basketball where the players would try to outdo one another. And Graham said Chet could play a couple of soft notes with such feeling he would shut everybody up. I'm sure when Osensei was alive there wasn't any discussion about who had the best technique. So to me this is the outer manifestation of spirit.
So maybe we can equate spirit as the journey, and the techniques/forms as signposts that help us along the way. As a part of being connected to Osensei's lineage, we train in the techniques and forms of the art. At the same time let us dedicate ourselves to understanding and actualizing what spirit might mean. Those interested should check out the Osensei Revisite weekend in Occidental California May 17-19.
One other thing I'd like to mention about Ian. We both share the same favorite samurai hero. He and I are both huge fans of the Ichikawa Raizo Nemuri Kyoshiro(Sleepy Eyes of Death) film series. A group from Aikido of San Jose attended the opening for Ian's group's new cd 'Roads and Codes' at the Sound Room in Oakland. And here is a piece from that cd titled none other than 'Nemuri Kyoshiro' :
Well, it finally happened. Yesterday afternoon I went for a bike ride and locked myself out of the dojo. When I began my ride I realized I had brought a back pack but that the thingamajig I use to store keys, wallet and cell phone was locked in the dojo. On the whole I felt people were very co-operative, lending me their cell phones so I was able to make calls. Those I called either did not have keys or were out of town or both and unable to reach those with keys. So I am outside with my bike, so I have wheels, but no money, cards, phone, or any keys to car or dojo.
I remember one time in the early eighties when Jenny, her mom, and I faced a similar situation. Jenny at the time was small enough to slip through a bathroom window and open the door from the inside. I remember she was somewhat freaked having to rescue her parents. By the way I enjoyed a great Easter lunch with her today.
But back to the 21st century. How dependent we are on phones. I used to remember phone numbers of friends and contacts. But now it is so much easier to just store them on your cell. So your mind is just a blank when it comes to calling friends without your cell. And nobody uses phone books anymore so try to find one and look up a number. Very revealing. It is amazing how omnipotent we should feel with cell phone, keys, credit cards, etc. How frustrated we can get when we have to wait for this or that. How used to we are to getting information, conversation, location, maps instantly. So it was a very unusual feeling to be all of a sudden so to speak locked out of all these amenities.
Would you allow a stranger in my predicament to use your phone? 2 or 3 people did and were very helpful. And people in the neighborhood in convenience stores and gas stations were also very nice. I have to go back and pay one lady back. Her plan charged her a dollar for a 411 call. So what happened? After about an hour I realized instead of trying to get a phone number I should concentrate instead on getting in front of a computer. Dennis Kyne and I played music for a couple of hours earlier in the day. And I knew where he lived in the Japantown area. So I rode my bike over there. He let me in and allowed me to access his computer. I put a post describing my situation on the dojo Facebook page and really within about 2 minutes Dennis received a call from someone with a key(Harry Concepcion) and all I had to do was ride my bike back to the dojo. And I was able to post almost immediately on Facebook that my situation had gotten resolved.
Obviously I would like to thank Dennis for his kind understanding and his support, and Harry for his generous use of time on a Saturday night of all nights. And others who read my post and were concerned. I guess one should never underestimate the power of social media.
Other musings: We had a great visit with Kinoshita sensei on Wednesday March 20th. It turns out that he came with Abe sensei to our dojo in the early ninties and he actually brought the Osensei calligraphy that Abe sensei donated to our dojo.
We also learned that from his expert eye(he spend over 40 years with Abe sensei) that our calligraphy was probably done somewhere between 1967 and 1968 and was one of the last pieces Osensei did. Apparently Abe sensei had quite a large collection of Osensei's calligraphy pieces, but while ours survived the rest perished unfortunately in a fire.
Harry and I have had a great time going to hear Ian Carey and his trio(Takoyaki3) and his Quintet plus One.
It is wonderful to be around anyone who is truly passionate about what they do, and Ian is definitely passionate about Jazz. He and Edddie Gale are about the only living players I enjoy listening to. Ian has a very lyrical feel to his playing, and while he has chops galore, it his his feel for song and what Chet Baker called Melodic Logic, that sets him apart from many young jazz artists. And even though he definitely has his own style it is easy to see that he has a strong Chet Baker influence. His new cd 'Roads and Codes' cracked the top 100 in jazz cds and has received both local and nationwide critical acclaim. And this includes the prestigious jazz blog by Doug Ramsey 'Rifftides'....
April is upon us tomorrow and we will celebrate the yearly anniversary of Osensei's passing with a special class and ceremony on Wednesday April 24th at the end of the evening class. We will not be making an event because we want to encourage one and all to go to Osensei revisited Part 2 in Occidental May 17-19.
And here is a short(3minutes) piece Dennis and I did:
Saturday night a large group of Aikido teachers and students gathered to honor Robert Nadeau shihan's 60th year in martial arts. The event was held at the Capitol Club in downtown San Jose and the aikido community gathered from all over. Many who could not be in attendance sent their congratulations via email and even video. Senseis Frank Doran, Mary Heiny, Linda Holiday, Richard Moon, Pat Hendricks, Michael Friedl, Peter Ralls, James Friedman, and countless others gathered to honor Nadeau sensei. My apologies for leaving out anyone but my head is still spinning.
Nadeau sensei started Judo at age 15. In the early sixties he was in Japan training at Hombu dojo and was a personal student of Osensei. Nadeau sensei was apparently one of the few people Osensei would field questions from. And there were times Nadeau sensei was called into the office by Osensei for some teaching or clarification. We are not talking technique here, but the transmission of the deeper essence of aikido.
Nadeau sensei currently runs division 3 of the California Aikido Association, with schools on a local, national, and international level...When I first started aikido in fall of 1969 he was already running the Mt View dojo. He was instrumental in the UC Santa Cruz Aikido club starting because he appeared in a demonstration the helped launch the club where I first began training. My understanding is that he was the first full time aikido instructor in the state of California. He was issued in the sixties a teaching certificate signed by both Morihei Ueshiba Osensei and his son and successor, nidai Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba.
Nadeau sensei is well known for his unique approach to aikido that transcends the teaching of just technique to focus on developmental aspects of the individual student from the personal to the universal level. He is to this day deeply committed to solving the mystery of Osensei's art and passing it on to us.
I am also including a video I did a couple of years ago. Due to youtube's at the time 10 minute limit for videos I had to edit it. But now the full video has recently been uploaded. Get ready for.......
This being Valentine's Day eve just a few thoughts. Like most of the Bay Area I am just getting over post Super Bowl Depression. So close and yet ultimately not meant to be. At least this year. But the 49ers played their hearts out and gave us one of the most memorable games in their history. If the lights had gone out sooner, which seemed to activate them, we would have won. But credit to the Ravens and to brother John.
A couple of years ago the Warriors were on a brief mini run and beat the Lakers in LA. Kobe Bryants comment was great:"These guys are the Phoenix Suns on steroids!" Well by that Colin Kaepernick may eventually be 'Joe Montana on steroids'.......
Speaking of the Warriors it seems the 49er loss has as we write pulled them down as well. But the season nevertheless has been a real feel good story for Bay Area sports. And of course we have the World Series Champions locally in our Giants so let's not get too greedy.
Dojo wise I want to thank everyone for their support in helping us to cover the 2012 PG and E bill. And also for the wonderful support shown for Mary Heiny sensei's annual visit to our dojo earlier this month. Next month on March 20th we will be hosting Kinoshita sensei in the same manner as Mary sensei. It is a seminar class so there will be a charge for it. But sliding scale fine and scholarships can be worked out for those who otherwise could not afford it. Kinoshita sensei is the successor to Abe sensei's lineage. Abe sensei taught a couple of great seminars for us in the early nineties and donated the Osensei calligraphy that is our shomen in the dojo.....
Last year Dennis and I did a version of "My Funny Valentine" that was well received, so we did another one this year. Last year's version was more of an up tempo swing version of it. The song is meant to be a ballad. What I found is that the slower ballad style is much tougher. Artt Frank has been trying to get me to play slower and with longer notes. While that would seem easier there is just so much space between notes you can just get lost in the space. So this is 2013's version. Hope you enjoy it.......
Today is Martin Luther King day. We have taken off the noon and teens but have kept the evening class today in what can also be called the 'Art of Peace' to honor Dr. King. Locally the Warriors usually play on MLK day and today was no exception. They had a very entertaining victory over the suddenly awesome Clippers that continued what has been a very successful season for them. It is amazing that 5 years ago the Warriors were on a temporary high during the "We Believe' season that could not be sustained. And the Giants and 49ers were disappointing. The Giants sort of got everything rolling, culminating this fall in their second World Series championship in 3 years.
The 49ers seem right behind the Giants as we write. Yesterday's NFC title game victory over the Atlanta Falcons has them headed to the Super Bowl......The sudden emergence of Colin Kaepernick added to a gifted defense has made them very exciting. And the coach's mid-season decision to go with a gifted but untested quarterback was a huge risk that now seems to be paying huge dividends. I was with friends yesterday watching as the local team fell behind 17-0. More from a sense of false bravado than anything I knew I said that the victor would be the last one standing and I felt the 49ers could be the one. That they needed to stay calm, stay on the ground, that their defense needed to contain rather than stop the Falcons. And it all worked out...........
I began to mull on the sense that the victor is really the last one standing. And I am talking about sports, not combat. And how vital and underestimated toughness is. Toughness is really focus....inner strength.. To stay on track no matter what goes right or wrong. The Falcons were energized by their early success and seeming dominance. But rare for a young quarterback Kaepernick did not panick, stayed on the ground, used the middle of the field with his passing, and surviving a couple of questionable calls, the 49ers won.
Aikido is not a sport with a gaudy victory gets you rewards and notoriety structure. The battles are mainly with the 'I', with oneself. Training is its own reward and the goal is personal development as opposed to an outer victory or dominance. But there is also a need for toughness here. Often times those who have trained for years encounter plateaus, periods where not much seems to be happening. To continue to go to the dojo, to face oneself class after class, year after year, does take a certain amount of inner strength.
I remember giving up on the Giants a number of times during their recent run to another title. And the 49ers have hit enough speed bumps to have certainly raised doubts in my system. But what does it mean to be the last one standing? My sense is that it is to whittle away the 'I' enough that you realize some level of the totality of yourself. Sort of a when you give up being who you are, you become who you were meant to be. A champion for us is one who has scaled the mountain that is the self, one who has walked the journey of one's life. Osensei said winning over the 'I' was true victory, which meant one found one's true mission and completed it.
So thanks to the Giants for what they have brought to our lives. Thanks to the 49ers for what they have done and hopefully what they will continue to do. Yes I hope we get championship number 6. And go Warrriors.....
And as a tune up for yesterday's game, Dennis and I recorded a Miles Davis piece Chet Baker used to play:
This blog is to first of all with everyone a very Merry Christmas and New Year's holiday. And to try to bring into some perspective the very troubling shooting and mass killings in Connecticutt. It is amazing that the holidays which is a time for friends, family, renewal, could be this year prefaced by such a gruesome tragedy. So how might we look at this from an aikido perspective?
This was a brutal gun crime. And part of the history of aikido was the founder Morihei Ueshiba Osensei's ability to dodge bullets, which in a documented fashion occurred on more than one occasion. This seems more in the realm of a comic book. And how could the children and teachers involved in that troubling event be expected to do something superhuman?
But the true message of aikido is a transformational and at the same time a revolutionary one. Find within yourself true balance. Extend that out into the world. Have that balance within you touch the balance of the world around you. Extend that balance out to others and include that to mean helping them instill that balance within themselves. We have all experienced feeling dark or negative thoughts at times. But to be able to say to oneself "I am not that darkness. I am not that negativity". is crucial. For then our collective "I" becomes easy with itself and the potential for the underlying balance within each of us can step forward. If enough people get this message then events like those of recent days will not occur. And we have each helped each other to "dodge the bullets'' so to speak. And this form of dodging bullets is achievable and necessary.
Aikido of San Jose and its companion schools have had a rich year in terms of community and personal growth/transformation culminating in some wonderful kyu and dan exams both here in San Jose and in Sebastopol. I have included in this blog a video Christmas card from Aikido of San Jose giving the year in pictures with a musical background. I hope you enjoy it.