Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Endings and Beginnings

This time of year I begin to think of how close beginnings and endings can be. March 28, 1966.
March 20, 1968. So the latter date comes first in terms of this month. But the former came first in
chronological time.  I first saw her on a Monday night , 10pm, ABC tv. And she exited on a Wednesday night 7:30pm  same network. And sometimes a disappointment can become something you can't even name.
Of course I'm talking about Diana Rigg on the sixties tv show 'The Avengers'. I was expecting Honor Blackman(who had starred previously in the series and had gone onto international fame in a Bond film) and so I was disappointed when I first saw her. But this quickly changed as I got into the quirky off beat element of the show and her personal style of cool, intelligence, and beauty.

And off course just because her last episode viewed only set the stage for years of watching her on re-runs, then vhs, and now dvds. And as you can she we travel together. She was with me and my group on our 2006 Japan trip. I remember being in Japan summer of 1973, apart from all elements of my culture, opening an international edition of Time magazine, and there she was in an article on theater. After she left the show she went onto quite a run in theater becoming finally a Dame of the British Empire..

And she has been a role model. Her character Emma Peel was cited in TV guide as being still(in the then ninties) a woman ahead of her time. Very independent. Fearless. Unafraid to venture and stay on paths others fear to tread. I have tried to model elements of my life after her. I became interested in martial arts because that was something she did in the show.. It was almost as if if I needed a direction for my life I need look no further than her.

So I always look at March as the month of beginnings and endings and how close they can be. Here is a clip that was made to advertise the color episodes(In 1966 the episodes were black and white then in 1967 moved to color):

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

On Being Promoted to 7th Dan

At the end of 2013 I was recommended for the rank of 7th dan by Robert Nadeau shihan. The promotion was recognized by Hombu dojo and the Aikikai and so last month(January) I was awarded that rank by Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba at his house in Tokyo adjoining Hombu dojo. That was one of the highlights of a week long sojourn in Japan for me and a small group that went with me. Other highlights include seeing Anno sensei and Yanase sensei in the Shingu area, visiting the gravesite of the Founder, and once again returning to the great waterfall in Nachi. I hope the trip was a positive experience for everyone in the group.

My last promotion(to sixth dan) was in 1991. That was a little on the fast side as I remember. After that I pretty much figured that was it. When I was first in Shingu Anno sensei was a 7th. Yanase and Tojima senseis were 6th.. Tojima sensei passed away at that rank. And my thought was always if I can die a 6th like Tojima sensei I will be happy. And life has a way of throwing you surprises such as this last promotion.

The biggest honor by far in this is the fact that I was recommended by Nadeau shihan. He is currently a 7th(though I hope he receives his next quickly). He is responsible for so many of the dojos in this area. And he has an international organization in his division 3 of CAA of which we in the San Jose dojo are a part. So thank you for your faith in me.

When I was in Shingu Anno sensei asked me if now that I was 7th did other people want it also. And I answered probably. We both had a hearty laugh. Just the way it goes. Steve Ditko(co-creator along with Stan Lee of Spider-man) received an award for his comic book art. He immediately chastised those giving him the award because he felt it made artists competitive and envious instead of just living for their art. Once I viewed this rank as an impossibility. A couple of Japanese instructors I was connected to flashed it saying get a big organization going and produce lots of yudansha.  Teach lots of workshops. Then 7th.I am happy to say the only two teachers of note who have never had this conversation with me are Nadeau sensei and Anno sensei, hence my deep respect for both.

Sadaharu Oh received direct instruction from Osensei(not training but the philosophy and soul of aikido). In his last game he hit what he knew was his last home run. As he was rounding the bases one last time he had a deep realization that everybody, every teammate, every opposing player, had played a role in his development and accomplishment. He had a deep sense of Osensei telling him the whole world was one family. And so what I am saying is thank you, all my teachers, friends, and students in the art. I had to have an excuse to continue to show up. Year after year. Month after month. Class after class. Without you I am nothing and this promotion would never have happened.

So thank you to Doshu. I have always been treated with the upmost respect by the Ueshiba family. And I received a very warm reception at Hombu dojo.

Thank you to my first teachers, Robert Frager sensei and , again, Robert Nadeau sensei, for starting me out and instilling in me early the importance of staying connected to Osensei.

Thank you to Anno, Yanase, and Tojima sensei’s for their guidance, strength, and example over the years. And to Hikitsuchi sensei for giving me a working sense of Osensei’s philosophy.

Thank you to Mary Heiny sensei and Linda Holiday sensei for their friendship and support both in those early formative times in Japan and through the ensuing years.

Thank you to Professor Richard Bunch for sharing with us a wonderful training space lo these last 13(now) years.

And thank you to all those who have trained under me, with me at Aikido of San Jose, which will in the end be my body of work. Without you I am as lazy as anyone else. You gave and still give me an excuse to show up.

When in Japan I told Harry Concepcion sensei that the model for my work was that of a great(award winning) comic book writer, James Robinson. He took an obscure title and character, Starman, and made it his own and memorable. It ran 80 issues, and was so good it was in its entire run put out in hard cover. The formative first story arc(Sins of the Father) introduced threads that went all the way through the entire run and were neatly tied up at the end. In the last issue Robinson thanked his readers for supporting the title so that he could tell his story. My very first blog began with a phrase from Robinson’s Starman, “And now a tale of times past….”……So I thank those who have given me a chance to show up and tell my story…..And as I told Harry in Tokyo, I’m not done…….

Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: Chet Baker:The Missing Years by Artt Frank

It was my pleasure a couple of months ago to write a review of Linda Holiday sensei’s book ‘Journey to the Heart of Aikido’. And now I shift my focus to another book written by another dear friend. This is Artt Frank’s memoirs of his time with jazz legend Chet Baker entitled ‘Chet Baker: The Missing Years’. First I’ll give my brief history with both Chet Baker and Artt Frank. I played trumpet middle school through high school. Even though I was first chair in the Soquel High School band I found out I was playing with a weird embrochure. My upper lip and tongue formed the embrochure. And when I tried to play with both lips in the embrochure, everything got unsteady. So when I went to the University of California Santa Cruz I pretty much gave up playing. I would try now and again but never was motivated enough to really practice enough to develop my embrochure the orthodox way. And I  went on to become a martial arts instructor. But I always was somehow drawn to music. Finally in early early 2007 I was at Starbucks in San Jose and saw a cd for sale that featured Baker’s music. I  bought it and put it in my car stereo not expecting anything and drove away. The first song was ‘Let’s Get Lost’ and the vocals blew me away. I had never heard anything like Baker’s voice. And then I started to listen to his playing, and I was inspired to rent an instrument and try to play again. So after almost 40 years I tried to play with an orthodox embrochure and couldn’t produce a sound. So I thought to myself this was going to end very quickly. But I put on some of Chet’s music and when I was in the energy field of his playing I could somehow make a sound. And not only that after a few minutes I was free forming to his playing. This was something I absolutely could not do in high school. No written music, I couldn’t play. So something was different.

So with the inspiration of Chet Baker’s music I bought more of his cds and started practicing. And I wanted to know more about him, so I went online. I was disappointed to find that so much written about Baker the person had a negative slant to it. It didn’t make sense. There was such a profound beauty and power to his playing and all I read about him was negative. So finally I came upon Artt Frank’s website And I was happy to see someone who knew Baker personally talk about him in not only good terms, but with love and appreciation. So there was an email contact on the website and I emailed Artt and thanked him. He emailed me back and gave me his phone number and asked me to call him. I did and we began what is to me a very dear friendship. Artt has not only  brought Baker the man, not the jazz legend, and made him alive for me, he has given me some great guidance in my playing and my approach to music. So both a mentor and a dear dear friend.

Now to the book. I must say that even though Artt has personally shared so much about his time with Chet with me, this book was still a revelation to me. I don’t want to give too much away because I want people to read it for themselves. I was given an advance copy by the publisher. I am not sure of the release date, but there is talk of it being released in February. It would be fitting because Baker’s signature song was ‘My Funny Valentine’.

This book details the period of Baker’s life that is completely unknown. In the mid-sixties Baker suffered a severe beating in which his remaining upper front teeth were knocked out. He had lost one at age 13. And both sides of his jaw suffered severe nerve damage. How he made his comeback and was able not only to play the trumpet again, but to play it even better is revealed here. And instrumental in that was the love and support he got from his wife Carol and from his friend and guardian angel Artt Frank.

So without giving too much away about the book, here are some odds and ends that are just the tip of the iceberg so to speak:
-Baker loved sweets. Especially sugar jelly doughnuts and apple pie with vanilla ice cream.
-He had to deal with a lot of pain when he played. In the beating where he lost his 4 front upper teeth he suffered nerve damage to both sides of his jaw, so to play was to in some sense suffer. He took pain pills to play. And he had lower back pain from years of traveling from gig to next gig.
-Even though most people place Baker’s comeback much later, his comeback was a gig in Los Angeles at a place called the Melody Room  with Artt Frank on drums. And it was Artt’s hard work and persistence that set the whole thing up.
-Artt goes into great detail about what set Baker’s playing apart from other trumpet players both in tone and phrasing. And he offers a great insight when comparing Chet’s playing to that of Miles Davis.
-Artt recounts Chet’s process for freeforming, where and how he got his musical ideas. Not to be missed. I read it every day……
-Baker reveals to his good friend things about his childhood and history you won’t find anywhere else. Also revealed is Baker’s warm relationship with his wife Carol and his family life during this time when he was practicing for his comeback.

Several other things I will say. There is great attention to detail in the writing. Artt said being an ear and heart player he had to learn music just by hearing it. So he has a wonderful ability to remember things. And even though he has played with other great musicians, he began early to write things down about Chet Baker. So the dialogue is   in Chet’s words and in Artt’s words.

And Artt not only doesn’t dodge the drug issue, he takes it head on. But with incredible compassion and understanding. He personally questioned Chet about his drug use and challenged him on more than one occasion. But he was also there whenever Chet needed him. In some ways the book reads like a novel in that there is much suspense in it. It is a historical memoir so we all basically know how it turned out. But  for example how Artt got Chet to his comeback gig at the Melody Room left me on the edge of my chair. Chet put Artt through a lot, but through it all everything was met with such devotion and love from Artt’s side. And without Artt there would have been no comeback for Chet, and so much of his music would not have come into the world.

Being a martial artist I have seen speed. But Artt Frank when he plays the drums has the fastest hands I have ever seen. They move like flames. He once shared with me that Chet loved Bruce Lee and Japanese Samurai movies and that they would watch them into the wee hours. Ueshiba Osensei,the founder of aikido used the term takemusu  to describe his art. It means martial art that is tied to unlimited creativity, where movement are spontaneous and created appropriately in the moment. My sense is that Baker was doing a similar thing in music. His freeforming was really composing. He was a genius. And having the opportunity to see and even to play a bit along side Artt, I put him right next to Chet.

If you are someone with an interest in jazz history this is a must. If you would like to see how love, devotion and compassion from Artt , combined with steely determination from Chet resulted in overcoming impossible odds, this book is also a must. A great read for all.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Freeforming with the Aikido Staff

A well known musician once asked Chet Baker to teach him how to improvise. Baker's reply was:"Improvisation is governed by your imagination, or lack thereof." Now imagination may appear to be a mental term that has no place in martial arts. But coming from a deep feel place and allowing what's inside to come out for me is imagination as well. When all that is learned is a skilled routine and more and more skill is added to that routine, I don't find much imagination in that. So I have put together this video on freeforming with the aikido staff. Again, one of our main premises is that much of the founder's use of the staff was influenced by his study and talent with the spear. Let's look at the spear for a second. In ancient times, I believe on the battlefield the spear was the primary weapon. When the spear was lost or broken, the sword was drawn. And the spear when extended out gives on the benefit of length when facing a sword. And the tip makes it a cutting /piercing weapon as well.

Now the length of the spear gives one an advantage, but it can also be a disadvantage should someone get inside that length. And while strong to the direction that the spear is pointing it may leave its wielder weak to attacks from the side and back. So this might explain Osensei's  use of spins and sweeps in his spear based staff work.. Especially when facing multiple attackers or someone moving in on you inside the reach of your spear, spins and sweeps seem very practical. And on the other hand one can view Osensei's staff work purely in terms of energy movement and see that he was moving in a double helixing field of energy. There appears to be an active invocation of the archetypes circle to center and center to circle in his movements.

I have put the freeforming into five levels:

Level one: Learn the set. I do not believe one has to learn the entire set to freeform. But this set includes the basic hand and body changes for ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, yonkyo, and gokyo. When you are beginning to study a language it is crucial you start acquiring a vocabulary. So this set represents a good foundation of words that can be later freeformed. This set must NOT be learned in a rigid rehearsed manner. Also the second half will give you more of a feel for the beginnings of freeforming.

Level two: Even if one has not learned the entire set one can take pieces of it, add the spins and figure 8 connective movements and you have the beginnings of freeforming. In learning a language this is the equivalent of not just knowing some words, but now being able to go around. Ask directions. Order at restaurants. Buy items at a store.

Level three: Build on the first two levels and add sweeps and changes of direction. This is now the language equivalent of being able to have a conversation. Good morning. How are you? Did you sleep well? Yes I did.

Level four: As you build on the first three levels you will notice a change in energy. The movements broaden out and become fuller, not just study patterns. And you will notice movements suddenly organize into fours. Cut Cut Sweep Spin. Spin Sweep Cut Counter Cut.Etc......This is the beginnings of being able to express yourself in a language. The beginnings therefore of power.

Level five: Building on the first four levels and the broadness and power of level four, at five you notice intricate but not mental slashes cuts and piercings out of the broadness of four. Like a surgeon wielding a scalpel. This is where one cannot just express oneself, one can create. Both Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov wrote beautifully in English, and it was not their native tongue.

So here is the video:

Here is the first video, going through the five basic changes:

And here is the second video. It goes through the second half of the form and introduces the two transitions, ie spins and figure 8's:

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fundraiser Training

Yesterday we held our annual 'Keep the Lights On' fundraiser training to help us pay our power bill. We had a great turnout so those of you who supported the event, thank you very much. The emphasis this year was on the aikido staff. For the past  two years Nadeau sensei has had me do some staff work as a part of his 'Osensei Revisted' weekend held annually in May at Occidental, California. My connection and work with the staff began many years ago.

As a new student in fall of 1969 I would go with Robert Frager sensei   to workshops  he co-taught with Robert Nadeau sensei held at Nadeau sensei's dojo in Mt View. They had both been personal students of Osensei and would hold weekends once a month where we would do energy work and aikido. The highlight of those for me was when they would show a movie of Osensei. This was well before the sophisticated video equipment of today, so we were watching 8mm and super 8 home movies ,basically ,of the founder. And I loved the ones that showed him moving with the staff. It was as if he were in a spirally, double helixing field of energy and the field was as responsible for moving the staff as he was. It was inspiring to me that someone of his age (or any age for that matter) could move that dynamically.

Flash forward a bit. In the next couple of years I was introduced to a 21 movement staff form and a 31 movement staff from, both coming from top students of Osensei. Yet neither of these satisfied my urge to be able to do the staff like Osensei did. I went to Japan in 1973 and was taught the ikkyo bojitsu form by Hikitsuchi sensei. This was 35 movements. And Hikitsuchi sensei would also demonstrate nikyo, sankyo, and yonkyo, which contained more circular movements. But well good, this still left me unsatisfied. In 1974 Hikitsuchi sensei visited Northern California for most of the month of May, teaching at the various dojos that had sprung up in Oakland, San Francisco, Stanford University, and Monterey. But he was based in Santa Cruz and stayed with me at my parents' house on 41st Avenue. One thing he brought from Japan for me was a bo. Though most aikido stresses the shorter jo, the bo is what is taught in Shingu at the Kumano Juku Dojo. One day in the afternoon(there were no classes going on so we were at home) he suddenly emerged with a very serious expression and said, " Bo o motte koi!"....(Get your staff!)....So I ran and got mine. He said something to me that was a bit on the mysterious side. He told me that the Kami sama(the divine spirits) had ordered him to initiate me into the deeper and even hidden secrets of the staff. And in no uncertain terms he let it be known it was not something he himself wanted to do. So we went out on the lawn and he started to do the movements we associate with Osensei. He extended the staff upward forming a center, then started to make circular spiral movements around that center up and down.....Then he started to move in a very free but focused way alternating circular sweeps and spins with thrusting movements. I sort of got the feeling he might be opening up a space or gateway. Then he motioned for me to stand in that space he had opened. So I went in and just stood there, not knowing what I was supposed to do. Then he yelled at me to start moving. But I told him I didn't know the movements he did. He said just move. So I went through the 35 movements of the ikkyo form, probably in a very rigid and wooden manner. Then he said something like:"Yoosh!!! dekimashita!!!" (It's done!!!). And when I inquired what was done or taught he was mysteriously silent. So I pretty much put that out of mind for awhile because the visit was pretty much all-consuming. Wherever he went I drove. I would park and then rush into class to be on call to be his uke and to take a lot of falls. Mary Heiny sensei was there, but she had contracted a very bad case of poison oak, had an allergic reaction, and pretty much could just translate. So I was doing double duty as chauffeur and uke. So after one month of this ended, it was decided I would hit Japan and Shingu one more time on my way to going to Australia of all places(Melbourne, Monash University) to pursue a PhD. A story in itself for another day. But in that interim when I was still at home I would take my staff outside to that spot where everything had taken place, and it would just begin to move. And after awhile I could go anywhere and the staff would begin to move. So even though I have been introduced to a number of systems, that experience in the 'gateway' has been my real teacher.

So more recently I have been interested in passing on what I have gotten from that experience. Since it took place in 1974, I have been working on this stuff for 39 years. Hard to believe that much time has passed. So I have taken the 5 changes, (4 I learned from Hikitsuchi sensei and the last one in the nineties from Kato sensei), formatted them into a basic sequence, added two transition movements, and here we go. One other thing I have done is postulate that the circular movements of Osensei result from the fact that his staff movements came from spear. Even though you can use a staff with a spear concept, the staff has one very yang end(the cutting/piercing end) and the other more yin(wooden) one. Extending the point outward gives you an extended control over what is in front of you. But other attackers from other angles can get inside that. So the turning movements of the staff and also the turning movements of the body may on some level result from the spear being used to cover a variety of angles fluidly and swiftly. In Linda Holiday sensei's excellent book "Journey to the Heart of Aikido" Anno sensei shares that Osensei had a 3 sided spear point fashioned out of a staff and that especially in his later years, would always bring that with him when he traveled to Shingu. I recently had Glen Kimoto sensei carve two of those, one for myself and one for Nadeau sensei, just to see what the energy of such a construct would be like. This was also recommended to me many years ago by Koichi Barrish sensei, who told me he got an incredible ki flow from working with the 3 sided spear. I must agree. So the feel of my new set is based on the spear rather than just the staff.

Of course Osensei's use of the spear was much more than just martial. I believe it was alchemical and shamanistic. My recent work with Nadeau sensei researching Osensei's work has led me to believe that implicit in Osensei's staff work were such things as center circle and fire water steam. And of course the kototama or sound work would be there as well. In the following video I have put together a beginning set of movements that actually go through all the five changes. I have a second half where I will go through some set movement to get people to move a bit more Osensei-like with the staff. But the ultimate thing will be for those holding the staff will be to let go and allow the changes to come freely and naturally of their own accord.

I believe Osensei's use of the staff was like a great jazz player with a great classical background. And that aikido's use of staff has drifted more into pop, country western, pop, or rock. Again wonderful forms of expression but not what I'm looking for. And hope to be able to pass on. I was listening recently to some of Chet Baker's early work in Paris. It's amazing how closely he follows the chord patterns through the bass. And yet at the same time how free and original his own sound and playing are off that structure. I hope to be able to pass on some of that.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Book Review

I certainly didn’t see this coming 40 years ago. But as I look back it does make sense. Linda Holiday sensei’s book ‘Journey to the Heart of Aikido’ recounts her experiences as an American woman training in a very traditional martial arts school deep in the country. If she had trained in Tokyo she would have been sheltered by the presence of many other foreigners. But she, another foreigner Dick Revoir, and I spent most of 1973 training at the Shingu dojo(Aikido Kumano Juku dojo) in Wakayama Prefecture. So I was privileged to share some of the experiences in the first part of the book. It certainly does bring back memories. Often times one defines oneself in terms of what is going on in one’s immediate life and it is easy to lose perspective on other parts of one’s journey. So going through the book has been somewhat of a homecoming for me as well. Sometimes we don’t realize how events shape us. And certainly this was a major part of my life as well. So this book and recent events have certainly brought up a lot of memories, mostly jumbled, that I have been sorting through and dealing with.

But onto the book. Of course Linda Holiday sensei is a dear friend so how to properly frame this? First of all, it is a  truly marvelous book. And in simple terms it is a good read. I have seen translations she has done from Japanese to English, but I don’t believe I have ever experienced this much of her writing. I was very impressed and it took me by surprise. She tends to write factually with feeling. And she can turn a very elegant phrase as she goes. I was reminded that when I first met her she was a student at UC Santa Cruz and I believe an art major. So it is not surprising to see that art background now show in her writing.

The first part of the book is her journey. How she started aikido locally at a club at UC Santa Cruz. People do not realize that at that time Aikido was not well known at all. I had started at that same club a year earlier, which had been started by Robert Frager sensei, then a professor of psychology at Merrill College. He was at that time closely tied to Robert Nadeau sensei, who had a dojo in Mt View. So for me at that time Santa Cruz and Mt. View were the centers of the aikido universe. And so for her to go from that environment to training where she did was quite a shift. These days someone in her position would be thinking about what they were going to do after they graduated. In Shingu we would oftentimes commiserate about people we knew going on to other things after college and here we were facing daily training, life uncertain and focused on the next training, and trying to figure out the secret of irimi nage. So given the change in cultural values such a journey is well not impossible certainly unlikely given the change in cultural values. The seventies were a time where people were searching for themselves. I had the year before she started taken Frager sensei’s class the Psychology of Far Eastern Religion and began aikido training and the combination of that certainly changed my life. I remember leaving for Japan with a one way ticket and roughly $600 and trusting implicitly that everything was going to work out. I knew it. And everything unfolded pretty much perfectly. So I’m sure it was very similar for her.

The rest of the book is about the teachings of Motomichi Anno sensei. When we first arrived in Shingu Hikitsuchi sensei was the head of the dojo, the dojo-cho. The next tier down were the shihan, which included Motoichi Yanase and Yasushi Tojima senseis as well as Anno sensei. They were both 6th dans. Anno sensei was a 7th. It is touching how he has survived and even thrived in the tests of time. He was when we met him in his very vigorous forties, as were the other two. Hikitsuchi sensei was in his mid-fifties. They were all very active. The training was intense and physical. There was basically one gear: all out. I recollect it took us a bit to adjust to this. I had been attracted to the spiritual message of aikido when I began in the States. That message was there but in a different form culturally as well as training wise. There was no set, think, then do. Everything was intense and in the moment. One’s conduct and behavior off the mat were also seen as part of one’s development and shugyo(spiritual advancement). It could get physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting. Somehow though Anno sensei, Yanase sensei, and Tojima sensei would pull you through with their sense of commitment and inner strength. And Hikitsuchi sensei was often times the catalyst for sudden situational changes that could also be spiritual lessons.

Osensei is a great part of this book. And Anno sensei’s impressions of him  are from someone who knew him directly. Please consider that Anno sensei was basically a factory worker in a small coastal town in very rural Japan with minimal education. Through his contact with Osensei and his own striving towards personal and spiritual development, you see not only the knowledge but the wisdom he has developed. And that wisdom is shared in this book. But you see now what is termed lineage. Osensei was quoted in the book as saying aikido didn’t come from him, it came from kami(spirit, divine energy, very difficult to translate). So the transmission goes from kami to Osensei to individuals like Hikitsuchi sensei, Anno sensei, Yanase sensei, Tojima sensei to those of the generation of Linda sensei and even myself. The term in Japanese(which was clarified for me by Laurin Herr) is jikiden, which is direct transmission. I remember attacking Hikitsuchi sensei and feeling I was in an energy field within which time moved granularly, like the full moon cut in the Nemuri Kyoshiro films. That feeling is still in my body. And I try to transmit that to my students. This book came into being from Kami through Osensei to the rest of us. Perhaps the lasting message of the book is not to be content to simple bask in its beauty and the profound beauty of Anno sensei’s heart, which, incidentally, comes so wonderfully across. As Anno sensei did, as Linda sensei did in her devotion of the art and to Annos sensei’s teachings, put it in your body. Tojima sensei once told us, knowing we would go back to America at some point, not to try to memorize things. Trust the body. The body will remember.

Devotion was once described to me as when you love somebody or something the way you yourself want to be loved. And this is apparent in the book from kami to Osensei to Anno sensei to Linda sensei. And in that lies the real message of the book. The kami can be perceived as just forces or powers. Osensei went far enough on his journey he was able to find that kami is love. He passed that on to Anno sensei who has passed that on to Linda sensei. The training situation of the Shingu dojo in 1973 probably can’t be duplicated. Time brings change. But I believe if the message of the book is deeply felt you can hook into this lineage. Anno sensei stresses effort. Put out the effort. Win over yourself. Don’t give in to laziness or a sense of mental comfort. I interpret that as forging. Think of all the impurities in iron. Heating it in fire, shaping it, then immersing it in water. Time and time again. To me that is not effort. It is not giving up on that to which you are devoted no matter what. And continuing to go forth. As you can see, the book has inspired me as well……….

On Saturday October 5th the formal book launching was held in Santa Cruz. And yesterday October 6th there was training at Aikido of Santa Cruz. Anno sensei took the last class. We must not forget Mary Heiny sensei, who arranged for that seminal group of foreigners in 1973 to take up residence in Shingu and start training at the dojo. And upon coming back from Japan, Mary sensei was instrumental in setting up the Sister Cities connection between Shingu and Santa Cruz. She is also a very dear friend.

On a much sadder note I was informed that Tom Okamoto, one of the original students at Aikido of San Jose when the dojo opened in 1976, has passed on. He was in Hawaii and died in a swimming accident. A warm and vibrant man, he will be missed…….

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Japan Expo 2013

Last weekend Aikido of San Jose participated in the first National Japan Expo, which was held locally at the Santa Clara Convention Center. We are honored to have been asked and our participation included two demos a day and manning a booth. Those who participated, thank you very much. It was a long and very full weekend made memorable by those who dedicatedly supported the dojo with their time and energy.

The convention center floor was very full of activity. We shared the martial arts proceedings with karate, judo, and Japanese sword.  All in all I feel this was very important. It is important that aikido reach out to spread its message in different ways. We must continue to bring new energy in, and to do this we must continue to put good energy out. My thanks to Nadeau shihan who supported us by excusing us from the very important CAA(California Aikido Association) meeting and training. Since we joined in 2000 it is the first one I have missed.

One thing that was apparent to me is that Japan is a country that is very influenced by its mythology. Seeing countless young women and men in warrior costumes carrying swords and other weaponry made me aware how strong that mythological influence is. Japanese art, especially anime, is a world wide force. Sadly, since I don't watch tv( I used to catch what is modern on cartoon network), I was unfamiliar with most all of the characters people were being in their costumes. Aikido has a very strong mythological influence as well, and it is well it was given time at the event. The founder was born to parents who were thought too old to bear a male heir. But they went on a pilgrimage to the Hongu Grand Shrine, prayed for a son, and Morihei Ueshiba was born a short time later. Since one of the kami enshrined there is Susano the Storm God, Osensei heard from very early on he was a gift from the divine energies and a reincarnation of Susano. And his study of the Kojiki and Nihongi led him to frame his sense of the energies with the names and aspects of the Shinto Gods and Goddesses. Of course it is said that the Emperor descended from the lineage of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess.

Our country is too young to have an established mythology like Japan and India, but my feeling is that mythology, being connected to archetypes, is reflected in popular culture. The films of Hayao Miyazaki, especially 'Princess Mononoke', have in them very strong mythological elements. And in our culture this is represented by super heroes and heroines. Among all the anime inspired costumes walked Captain America, Batman, Superman to name only a few. It was thus interesting to see this event connecting the mythologies of different cultures.

Of course one way of honoring these archetypal energies is to dress up in costume. That's why Halloween is so fun..........But I think it is time people realized that Aikido is one of the few things that can bring out and let one channel these energies in one's life. That is why I feel our participation was so vital. You can do more than dress up as a character you are drawn to. You can trace the energy that character represents and find it in your life, your world.

As you can see I found some stuff at the convention. Wonder Woman and Thor represent the mythological in both the Marvel and the DC universes. And I found She-ra, one of my all time favorites. My daughter and I used to watch her in the eighties......And the Bat shuriken was the first thing that caught my eye. I will have to practice......

Anyway, here is the video I just finished of our Saturday demo: