Wednesday, April 01, 2015

On Winning and Losing...Sports vs Aikido

I enjoy the world of professional competitive sports as a fan. Locally we have enjoyed the Giants recent success, three world series titles in the last 5 years.....And we are now enjoying the Golden State Warriors as they are moving towards the best record in professional basketball and being a serious contender for the NBA title.How do we equate this with winning and losing in Aikido, which has a non-competitive structure?

One thing that I have come to realize is that you must look at things both from the standpoint of product and process........Product is easy. The ego thrill of winning in a dominant fashion. I remember in the recent World Series realizing our Giants didn't win in a way a lot of people wanted them to. While there were a couple of important home runs that won games, the Giants tended to play good fundamental baseball and often times the other team would make a mistake and beat itself.... a wild pitch, a crucial error...Everyone likes winning, being on top, identifying with a championship level team. So how does this fit into aikido?

I think we need here to go into process. The current Warriors are a good example. Rather than focus on beating the other team there are three keys to this team:

1. Playing good defense
2. Taking care of the basketball
3. Moving the basketball, ie the extra pass....someone with a good shot defers to someone with a great shot.

If they do these three things, the product, ie winning....entertaining moments....spectacular plays....will take care of it self. So what is process?

Process is inner referent. As opposed to fixing on a strategy to beat so and so, one prioritizes one's goals and one's inner development and growth. And there is a a clear inner commitment or intention to continue. In the Giants world series run a key game was the second game of the NLDS againts the Nationals, who had dominated them in the regular season. Our locals won game one, surprising the baseball world. Game two went 18 innings. I started following the game at its first pitch. I took about an hour off to have  lunch and coffee with a friend. Then I follow it. It went on and on. 18 innings. Neither team could score. It would be such an advantage for the Giants to win this game and and go up two games to none. When it became apparent this was going to be long, I went to the place where I listened to the Giants game 4 victory over the Tigers in the 2012 World Series, with the same radio, and dug in as a fan. I went throug a lot. Just give up and get the score on ESPN......I felt almost as if I were in the game. But given the nature of sports someone had to win......And since I had committed to following the game and had gone to my 'magic spot' I was not going to move unitl it was over. 8 hours. A Brandon Belt home run in the 18th. Hunter Strictland with a big save. I remember having similar feelings when I was training in Japan. I can't do this. I should quit. Nothing works. What am I doing with my life. But the term was Gambatte or hang in there. So I continued past the negative. Buster Posey caught all 18 innings, an example of focus and process. And of course the Giants got past the Nationals, who were picked by most to win the NL pennant, and won both the pennant and World Series themselves. There is a lot to be said for clear intention and follow through. Choosing a goal and sticking with it no matter what. Honing oneself in the process, not fixing or worrying about the product....

Ueshiba Osensei stressed Masaka Agatsu Katsuhayahi or True Victory is winning over the 'I'/ego which is a neverending battle. Polishing oneself on a daily basis with the goal of going from persona/ego to self.. Most people fixate on the throw, or accumulating strength or rank...........Osensei stressed misogi which is a whittling away of the ego/'I'. And he also stressed shugyo or findng a path of personal transformation......and walking acheiving or completing your mission in life.......

It is ironic that the strength needed to do this does require a strong ego. A great athlete must have total belief in his or her ability to do what they must do.But something that has come to me recently is that the true strength therefore the true purpose of the ego is to surrender to the true self inside. Osensei talked about calling upon the limitless power of the universe, at the same time purifying oneself from the controlling ego that is ever persistent. The current Warriors follow an interesting pattern. There is a definite star on the team, Steph Curry. There is a rising star in Klay Thompson. There job is to dominate the offense . Yet they are a part of an offense that moves the ball like no other in the league. Everybody touches the ball. When things are going well the extra pass is always made. Draymond Green can play defender to all 5 positions on the basketball court. And their defense leads to early and good offense. Offense is product. Defense is hardwork, committment, and finally that word again, process.

In Aikido we have a daily chance to win over the competitive side of ourselves and to treat our partner as a team mate, not an opponent. And team mates can help each other grow.and improve as they together walk the path. So strength of technique, rank are in aikido product. Let us make sure we at the same time keep our attention of process, as the Giants of the last five years and the current Warriors have done so well.. And let's all try and keep Osensei's message alive in our hearts on a daily basis......

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Celebration of Love and Creation

It is the last day of 2014 and we are about to welcome in the New Year. Tomorrow we will hold our annual New Years training at Aikido of San Jose from 11am to 12:30pm. We've taken the last week off to let instructors and students alike rest.It has been a busy year. It has included among other things:

-A January trip to Japan to Hombu dojo and the Kumano Area.
-Another Osensei Revisited weekend in Occidental.
-A wonderful Summer Retreat in Santa Cruz made memorable by Anno sensei's presence
-Fall workshops in Roseville and at Sophia University with the Western States Aikido Association
-Seeing Betsy Hill sensei promoted to 5th dan
-Presiding over a great session of black belt exams earlier this month
-Learning that my daughter Jennifer and her fiance Dover will tie the knot next month

On the other side I have witnessed the passing of 2 dear aunts, one uncle, and my step mom. It is interesting that life is definitely always in motion. Children in the family being born while older members pass. The Giants win still another championship, the Warriors burst out of the gate, and the 49ers collapse. There is an impermanence to everything. Yet this gives everything a poignancy it would otherwise lack.

I would like to thanks Robert Nadeau shihan for his continued support and guidance. Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba for his warm welcome and hospitality at Hombu dojo. Anno and Yanase sensei's for continuiing in their own ways to walk the path. Mary Heiny and Linda Holiday is good to have friends. And the teachers and students of Aikido of San Jose for their continued support and growth.

In the 'Kojiki' Izanagi and Izanami stood on the floating bridge of heaven and with a magic spear created the islands of Japan. I decided they needed a love song:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Go Giants!

I want to take this occasion to congratulate the San Francisco Giants for their third World Series Championship in 5 years! This was perhaps the most unexpected and least probable of all in their magnificent run. Both 2010 and 2012 featured exceptional starting pitching and depth of starters. This year especially in the World Series it was Madison Bumgarner and for the  rest hope we make it to the bullpen, which has been outstanding in all three playoff runs to the World Series.

I guess what amazed me most about this team was how literally all the players stepped up in the playoffs and seized the moment. Facing teams with much better regular season records(the Giants were the lower of the 2 wild card teams) the Giants persevered. Players I considered automatic outs like Juan Perez, Joaquin Arias, and Gregor Blanco, all made siginificant contributions  . I would urge them on while watching on tv and say "It;s the postseason! It's the postseason!" and indeed some magic seemed to come in the form of clutch   hits.

And I must admit I continue to admire Bruce Bochy and his ability to adjust to the postseason.. No Matt Cain. Tim Lincecum up and down. He rode Madison Bumgarner all the way to the championship. One dominant starter. One dominant force of nature, quite literally. Most managers use a regular season formula for the postseason. Not Bochy. He might bring a late inning reliever in during the first couple of innings. He seems to read the game like no other. He trusted Hunter Strictland, a young pitcher, who, while having his problems, got some big outs in the playoffs. And he had his ace, Bumgarner , for the seventh and deciding game. He did not hesitate to use Jeremy Affeldt early when Tim Hudson faltered.

And what can we say about Madison Bumgarner? He might be the Giants most exciting player. I know I used to be glued to the radio or television not just when he pitched, but also when he hit. Remember he hit not one but two grand slams this year. I would follow his at bats in hopes he would hit one out. Exciting! And his performance in this postseason, especially the World Series, may never be matched. 2 wins and a save. A  career Earned Run Average in the World Series of 0.29. More than anything else he was like a wall, projecting a feeling of 'loving protection'. He would not let the other team steal victory away from his teamates or from the Giants fans.Incredible!

Buster Posey had an up and down playoffs. He was thrown out on the bases at home plate several times. Though his overall postseason numbers seem okay they were low in the World Series and he had an extreme power outage. I believe all his hits were singles. Sports Astrologist Andrea Mallis informed me that he had Saturn on his Mars. Saturn is limitation, the cosmic traffic cop. Mars symbolizing energy, assertion, and aggression, is vital to an athlete, so Buster's offensive contributions were not what we came to expect. But his leadership, defense, and handling of pitchers was vital. And he caught every inning of the 18 inning Giants victory in the NLDS. Wow!

So obviously the key in the offseason is to sign free agent Pablo Sandoval. Their young core is capable of winning some more championships. Joe Panik at second base was a godsend. Andrew Susac during the regular season proved a capable backup catcher to Posey and provided some clutch pinch hits during the postseason.  Matt Duffy came through with some big pinch hits in September to get the Giants to October and continued his hitting in the postseason along with some fine base running. So the youth is there adding another infusion of energy. So I hope Sandoval can be resigned, that the Giants can add another good starter to support Bumgarner, that Lincecum can find himself. So maybe this is the time they can go back to back. Go Giants!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

On Clayton Kershaw and Takemusu Aiki

The other week Robert Nadeau sensei showed me an interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle about what scientists have found out about our brain and learning.. Here is a link to that article:

Basically researchers at UCSF studying the brain's motion-control system found that the brain is geared to constant adjustment. Therefore any movement pattern over time will have a tendency to drift off course due to this. This was initially studied in macaque monkeys. And locally the researchers took advantage of this   to check this in humans. They decided to study an elite athlete to see if this held for the human brain. The basis of competitive athletics is to be able to hone a skill to where it seems repeatable. Locally Golden State Warrior fans are treated to the astonishing accuracy of NBA all star Steph Curry and his ability to put the ball through the hoop from seeminly anywhere. A pitcher must in baseball be able to throw strikes and must able able to adjust them to game situations and to different hitters. So since most everything is recorded on film these days they studied Dodgers lefthander Clayton Kershaw , who during the 2014 REGULAR season had a season for the ages(21-3 won/lost and 1.77 earned run average). They traced him for the season charting only the four seam fastball. They found the same drift in his mechanics as he threw this pitch over time. AS much as we value the ability to repeat an action in sports over and over, this is not how the brain works or even wants to work.

So how might this relate to Aikido and more specifically to Ueshiba Osensei's Takemusu Aiki? One of the first things a student is taught is pattern. This is how you rolll. Front. Back. This is a side fall. As you get more advanced, this is a breakfall. This is how shihonage is done. Feet. Hands. Now this is how ikkyo is done. Now some of this is essential. Without a framework for movement practice is not possible.But the findings of the researchers seems to indicate any sort of emphasis that is too mechanistic and stresses repetition of the same movement is doomed  drift due to the brains ability to adjust. In fact the brain wants to adjust. So my sense is that the pattern or form be taught in a clear way that emphasizes feeling and being in the moment. Therefore allowing the student to experience whatever pattern that is being presented as an alive experience as opposed to a set routine to some degree from the beginning is crucial. In more ancient times all learning was direct from teacher to student, ie jikiden or direct transmission. I remember a movement in 1974 at the Shingu dojo when Hikitsuchi sensei used me in front of the class for a sword demontration of take no ken(the sword of bamboo or circle). I attacked him with a shomen strike which is a quick direct movement. He seemed to shift into another space and followed a curved circular route to get behind me with his cut. It was eerie and wonderful at the same time. My quick time movement was met with a much slower time movement which exactly met and matched mine. When I demonstrate that movement I call up the same space. It is hard to teach someone like that as students try to be mechanical and repeat the movement. I only felt that once. It was never repeated.

Getting more into what Osensei might have meant by Takemusu Aiki, he is quoted in The Secret Teachings of Aikido as saying:

"Aikido has no forms because it is a study of the spirit."

Now here it is easy to say that he is getting esoteric and spiritual. But what does he mean by spirit? Oftentimes ki is translated as spirit.. Osensei referenced the 3 realms of manifest hidden divine. He also referenced spirit fluid hard soft(also translated as spirit, flow, willow diamond). What if leaving out divine and spirit, these represent the dimensions of the universe finer to less finer to dense. Let's postulate the existence and being of something that when it begins to move is spirit. And spirit as it goes  from finer to denser begins to identfy as an ego or an 'I'. This 'I' gets so entwined with the dimensions finer to denser it forgets its essence of what it was at its beginning or inception. Hence the need for what Osensei meant perhaps by misogi, the unentwining of the 'I' and the stuff(dimensions of the universe finer to denser) so that the 'I' can return to its more original or divine level. The tendency in the manifest or dense level is to have a definite mechanistic approach to the movement. But the 'I' can too early have a memory of its more divine level and go spiritual way too quick. Either approach would to me obstruct both a true journey back to the more original or divine, and would also cause a lack of appreciation for the stuff of creation, which also came out of the divine.

Here are a few quotes from his The Heart of Aikido: The Teachings of Takemusu Aiki:

"Aikido is the eternal principle of the universe."
"Aikido is the heavenly truth that marvelously functions as takemusu aiki."
"Aikido is the way that harmonizes heaven, earth, and humankind"
"Aikido is the marvelous functioning of kototama and misogi."

So Aikido is or comes out of an eternal principle that perhaps defines and explains yet at the same time sustains the universe. It is not too much of a stretch to connect principle with heavenly truth, and to see his viewpoint that takemusu aiki is the functioning of that truth, ie how it works both with itself and within the dimensions of the universe. At present I read heaven as that original thing. I read earth more extensively to mean the dimensions of the universe from finer to dense. And humankind to mean our condition, ie this principle originally meant to be dynamically on the move now fixed as an ego/'I' mainly either in the dense material or on a spiritual journey looking  for the finer. Currently I see kototama as a connector between the stuff and the 'I' allowing the 'I' to its more original state of being. We know that matter is really vibration, and the 75 kototama sounds might represent a type of code allowing the more divine aspects of both creation and oneself to manifest in the here and now. And of course misogi is referenced. How can one return to one's true being when one either locks mechanistically into physical movements or goes on a journey into the finer to find itself, ie transcendence? One thing Ueshiba Osensei was adamant about was that heaven, this more original sense of ourselves was right here and now, and that transcendence was of the profane realm, ie could lead you astray. But for those prefering a mechanistic  physical approach, we goe back to his original quote:

"Aikido has no forms because it is a study of the spirit."

One thing I will admit is that studying Osensei's words is difficult because the same word, for example kokoro, can be read interchangeably as heart, soul, or spirit. For my own purposes when whatever it was started to move, ie the start of the universe or creation, I tend to call it spirit. The  rest is for now at least the great mystery.

I think it is somewhat common to consider Takemusu Aiki as simple technical variation. Remember it is the functioning of that original heavenly truth. We can begin its study with the movements and shapes of the techniques of the art. But to begin to really touch that I feel we must begin to understand ourselves at truer and truer levels and to understand the universe/creation in the same way. Quite a load, I must admit.

As much as Aikido as a martial art shares some similarity to sport, I have found in recent years a closer connection to music.My sense is that Osensei, using metaphor, was a great classical player who as he got closer ot this own true self went into jazz. I think it is easier to see Takemusu Aiki in jazz terms than martial movement. Is a great classical background necessary to get to Takemusu Aiki? Miles Davis graduated from the Juillard School of Music. Chet Baker learned it on the street. His close friend Artt Frank recently emailed me that Baker even in the melody of the song never phrased the same way twice. I am not sure Ueshiba Osensei ever looked at even shihonage as something you repeated twice the same way. He said in the Secret Teachings that technique was totally dependent on the here and now situation.

The thesis of the newspaper article was that Clayton Kershaw's brain operated the same way a monkey's does. But so do all our brains. We are creatures of evolution and change....And hopefully development and evolution.

A word or two on Kershaw. He is brilliant at what he does. And in the regular season he owns the Giants. I compare him to in my day Sandy Koufax, who seemed to dominate the Giants whenever he pitched. But maybe someday we will meet him in the playoffs and see what happens. Go Giants!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

On Watching Osensei on Video

Recently 3 previously unavailable to the public Osensei videos were unearthed. I watched them and I was surprised at my response. I felt that most people watching him would probably have one of the following responses:
1. What's he doing? He doesn't look like my sensei?
2. When is he going to show me some technique?
3. Boy he's soft. I wonder if it's real?
4. He is so spiritual. Maybe if I meditate and pray I can walk through people like he does.

So I thought it might be important to highlight what I notice when I watch him. I started my Osensei watching almost from the beginning of my aikido career. Robert Frager and Robert Nadeau senseis were both direct students of the Founder. In 1969 they would once a month co-teach a weekend where they would combine aikido classes with energy work which was inspired by their contact with Osensei. There was a lot of meditation, chanting/sound work, and in those days there were no  videos. So we would watch Osensei on 8mm and Super8mm home movies. And these were for me the highlight of the weekend.. I had started with another martial art, but upon reading about him I definitely decided aikido was what I wanted and I got my with when Robert Frager sensei started an Aikido club on the University of California Santa Cruz campus my senior year. And in the movies it seemed like he was working a form of magic. And it seemed as if the key to doing what he was doing was not in the technique but in something else. We did a lot of practices to become more aware of the energy/ki.. These were also tied to practices we could do on our own such as walking from center and playing with fields of energy. After my senior year, one academic year of aikido, I went to UC Davis for 2 years of graduate work. Since there was only aikido there in a club for once or twice a week, I had a lot of time to practice what I had learned in the workshops on my own. Energy work. Moving from center. Being present and aware. In 1973 I made the first of 3 major trips to Japan to study at the Shingu dojo. I was fortunate to go to a place where Osensei's spiritual message was recognized and stressed. So my perspective from Frager and Nadeau senseis was then balanced on the other end by Hikitsuchi, Anno, Yanase, and Tojima senseis. So what might I point out now about what I see when I watch Osensei now on video?

1. How naturally he moves. He seems to have no mental, physical, or spiritual set points as he demonstrates his aikido. He seems to avoid long deep stances( although you definitely see those in 1935 in the Osaka film) He is very free. Frager sensei showed films of Osensei to Moshe Feldenkrais, founder of the Feldenkrais method. Feldenkrais's response was he had never seen a human body in a gravitational field move that freely and perfectly. He did not reference the martial aspect of what was going on. He referenced only that whatever Osensei called aikido, when he was demonstrating it, his accomplishment was that his body moved perfectly. By comparison Feldenkrais once met Julius Erving(Dr J of basketball fame). Watching Erving move Feldenkrais correctly diagnosed this was one very advanced system of movement in human form . But he told Erving, correctly at that stage of his career, that thou;gh he had once been a 'god', that is was at this point not something Erving could do on demand anymore. . He noticed several sublte things in Erving's movement in response to gravity and posture that clued him in. Yet this same man said Osensei, and at a very advanced age, moved to in his opinion the ultimate potential of the human body in motion.

2.He is outwardly very empty/yin/receptive. When he touches his uke that person seems to be drawn into Osensei's gravitational field, much like a planet orbiting a sun. And Osensei's touch would appear to be very easy and deep. There appears to be no attempt on his part to control the attacker 'out there'.......He gives no weight to the attacker by trying to twist, jerk, pull, or leverage . And by being so fully receptive or yin, the postive or yang seems to kick in on its own as needed.

3.He understood very deeply the difference between strength and power and obviously chose the latter..Strength is a form of power, but his has a set point. Power is fluid. Just flip and switch and the lights go on. Or turn the faucet and water flows. Many people would see what Osensei did as soft. I would say he was fluid. One student who watched the recent video made an observation. He had seen a video of an elephant attacking people. The elephant would make little moves and people would go flying. He said even though Osensei's body was that of an aged man, he saw an elephant when Osensei moved. Is an elephant soft? I tend to see a dragon sweeping people with inivisible wings and a tail when I watch Osensei from a similar perspective. Power is the ability to affect change and may have little to do with putting strength into technique. Now I believe one can have ki strength as opposed to ki power. Mary Heiny sensei once said during a class in which she was present, Osensei stopped the class and berated the men for 'ude kurabe'...just a testing of arm strength in technique. And he said the women were much closer to doing aikido as he did than the men. So he is hinting that power is something that is not gender specific or in his case something that diminishes with age. He was once asked by Shioda sensei when he was the strongest, in his forties, fifites, etc. And Osensei answered him by saying he, Osensei, would be at his most 'powerful' his last day on this earth. I guess the larger question for all of us is how did Osensei 'flip the switch' or 'turn the faucet' and how can that apply to what we do?

4. He seems to have a sense for what the attacker does before the attacker moves. Having not set point of his own, perhaps he is able to 'read' the set point of the attacker? The other thing is that he often seems to insert in the mind of the attacker what the attack should be by gesturing  or shifting his posture. We chould get a little Star Wars here and say this may be a little of  ' These are not the droids you are looking for'.......I heard a story once where a karate club visiting Hombu dojo asked what he would do against a kick. They were then told they could train their best kicker, come back in a month, and see. Well their best kicker trained his best kick, mae geri(front thrust kick) for one month. On the fated day he faced Osensei and.......Osensei offered his wrist, the kicker went to grab it and took a flip. When asked after why he didn't kick, especially after all this prep, he simply said, "He offered his wrist...". So something more than we can at present explain I'm afraid.

And what I'm about to say means no disrespect to any person or teacher. But there is the very real possiblity that as good as your teacher is or my teachers are/were(some are now deceased)., the distance between them and Osensei might be virtually the same as the distance between us and Osensei. Just a thought. Hope this has helped. And here is the first video:

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Of Birthdays, Dragons, and other matters

It's been quite a month of June. Steve Tsao, one of the pillars of our dojo, re-located to Taiwan, hopefully not permanently. And of course another birthday has come and gone.  Classes continue at the dojo with a good new wave of new students along with our dedicated core of teachers and students. We are looking forward to the Santa Cruz Summer Retreat in July with special guest Motomichi Anno sensei. Fourth of July weekend coming up with reduced schedule Friday, full schedule Saturday(I intend to teach), Sunday off with regular schedule resuming on Monday. My father's birthday was July 4th so I always think of him this time of year.

Also this month was Fathers' Day, which I spent at the movies with my daughter Jennifer. She took me to see 'How to Train Your Dragon2'. The first was a movie I saw 5 years ago and really enjoyed. I've always been partial to dragons. I really liked the Elric books by Michael Moorcock, and of course Elric was being emperor of Melnibone, the dragon King. And in 'Stormbringer' he had to awaken the dragons with the horn of fate to bring in the new age. O sensei often referred to Ame no Murakumo Kuki Samuhara RyuO, the dragon king of aikido. In fact during World War II in Iwama he was asked by the divine energies to accept the mantle of dragon king
This is a portrait of him as the dragon king. Dragons to me represent the raw pure focces or energies of creation. The king or queen would be he or she who accepts the mantle to wield those forces/energies according to the design of the universe/creation, mostly in the service of purification. In the first movie dragons are thought to be the enemies of the Vikings. Hiccup is a brave young man who must fight his conditioning to befriend one. Gaining the dragon's trust the dragon becomes both an ally and a friend.
I must admit watching the first movie the dragon Toothless(anything but) reminded me so much of Tiger, whom those of you from the days of the Japantown dojo may remember. Tiger and I were so close it reminded me of the bond between boy and dragon in the film...In the second film Hiccup has learned enough from the dragons to give himself both Star Wars and Batman technology. This is a cool touch and not to be missed.I really like this because for me technology comes out of the forces of creation, energies intended to help us fulfill our individual mission/purpose to reach our full potential. Since dragons are mythological, this extends that to the realm of archetype. When technology becomes too material, we have our present world. In Stan Lee's words, 'Nuff said....'......I am obviously pushing this film because I would like to see a 'How to Train Your Dragon3'.........

Below is a video I did commemorating the bond Tiger and I had:

And here is a poem I wrote about him:
You could run,
Feet flying
Above the ground
A streak of grey
And black lightning.
We would wrestle,
Your face a mask
Of some were-creature,
Exuding fierceness:
Your fangs and
Claws would never
Hurt me.
We could nestle
Like lovers,
Your chin so
Innocently perched
On my throat,
You body radiating
A light that
Kept me warm.
You've ascended
To be in the Energy
Never again to incarnate.
One with the universe
Waiting for me.
You are my best friend.
-Jack Wada
June 14, 2000

When I die,
I will soar with angels,
And when I die to the angels,
What I shall become
You cannot imagine.
-Jalaluddin Rumi

Monday, May 05, 2014

Many Things

It's been awhile since I posted to this blog so this is going to be a smorgasbord. First, the Osensei Revisited weekend in Occidental CA has come and gone, so I'd like to address this first. It was nice to see Nadeau sensei so deeply energetic laying out Osensei's process without the Japanese language barrier and the confusing Shinto symbology. Nadeau sensei was one of the few(maybe the only) person Osensei fielded questions from. So his work the last 50 years or so is based upon conversations he had with the founder of Aikido in the very early sixties. And it was wonderful to see Mary Heiny sensei there as well. I thought it was a statement that a teacher of her stature lent her presence to an event where she was not a featured instructor. It was fun interacting with her and we got a chance to train a little bit during the course of a class or two. So props to both Nadeau sensei and Mary sensei.

It was exactly seven years ago that I took up the trumpet again. I remember it was May 5th 2007. I rented a trumpet(that I would eventually buy) and went to the cottage I was staying in the hills of East San Jose(which I miss) and tried to make a sound. I had played middle school through high school but with a weird embrochure(upper lip with tongue part of the embrochure). I didn't realize I was doing something different until someone tried to teach me to double and triple tongue and I realized my tongue was doing something it should not. So upon my graduation from high school in 1966 I pretty much gave up playing.. I would try to play with a more conventional embrochure(both lips with the tongue spacing the notes) but never stayed with it. So I was intent on trying it and I found I could not make a sound after 41 years. So I thought this is going to be short. I had been inspired to play again because I had discovered the music of Chet Baker. So I put on a Chet cd and to my surprise while in the energy field of his music I could not only make a sound, but could also freeform to his playing. So I did that for awhile before I could make a sound on my own. And I find that after 7 years my whole sense of what am embrochure is has radically changed the last couple of months. I got some tips from Artt Frank, which are detailed in his wonderful memoir 'Chet Baker:The Missing Years' and after 7 years am still going and playing everyday. So thank you Chet. And Artt.

The Golden State Warriors' playoff run has ended after a very memorable season and first round playoff run. An undermanned and undersized Warrior team minus its top 3 centers finally succumbed to a much bigger Clipper team in a heartfelt 7th game.Their only championship in the Bay Area was 1975. I remember that vividly because my mom, battling cancer at that time, was a real Warrior fan. When I was in Japan she would stuff packages she sent me with Sports pages of Warrior games so I could follow the team while I was in Japan training. This was before satellite tv and ESPN. And when I got back in spring of 1975 I was able to follow the Warriors, led by hall of famer Rick Barry, on their run to an NBA championship. Often I would have to teach evening Aikido and would miss a playoff game. And I would return home to eat a late dinner she had prepared and she would leave the score on a notepad. In that run the Warriors had to overcome a punishing 7 game series in the Western Conference with the pre-Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls, then face what many people thought was an unbeatable Washington Bullets team led by Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld. But the Warriors overcame double didgit deficits in most all those games to eventually win the title by sweeping the Bullets. And later that year when the cancer was very serious I would tell her to keep fighting, just like the Warriors. And when she did pass on later that year the Warriors were NBA champs. Even though this year's version was eliminated in spirit I feel they are the equal of the '75 team. Steph Curry is a superstar the likes of which this team hasn't seen since the Rick Barry day's.. He's the best shooter I have ever seen. I go to the Y and shoot baskets and work on moves I have seen him do. Not supremely gifted with size and freakish athleticism, he nonetheless creates a fascinating game that is incredible to watch. I know he won't win the MVP award, but I can't think of a single player who was more valuable to his team than Steph Curry was to the Warriors. Like many Warrior fans I watched Tuesday night's game hoping for a miracle, but was rewarded with an incredible show of spirit team wide. But watching Steph continue to dig in and fight, making shot after shot and free throw after freethrow was astounding. All the Clippers did was win. And they did play well. But their fans will never match Warrior fans who have rallied around that team when there was no outer reward yet continued to fight along with their team. And this goes all the way back to my mom, who unfortunately lost her battle with cancer. But  her spirit never died. So to Steph and Klay and Draymond especially, thank you.  Steph it moved me tremendously how you were able to hug and congratulate both Griffin and Paul.You taught me something important.

And here is the first Chet Baker song I ever heard and one of his most famous: