Friday, July 03, 2020

Sitting meditation finer dimensions and the 'I'

Tomorrow is the 4th of July. Our country's Independence Day. Hope you can spend tomorrow with family or loved ones, safely.......The 4th of July is my Dad's birthday. He's been gone 24 years. But Happy Birthday, Dad. The dojo opened in the bicentennial year of 1976 and in the month of July....We held our noon Zoom class today, but there is no class tomorrow.

Today we covered sitting meditation as a way to travel to finer dimensions. I posted the session on Youtube and it is included in this blog. When I first started Aikido in fall of 1969 meditation was an important part of the classes.Both of my original teachers, Roberts Frager and Nadeau, had trained in Japan with Osensei. And both realized he was doing much more than technique. And that development, not just physical, technical but also spiritual was an important part of his 'Aikido'.So we meditated, chanted, explored the energy dimensions along with the Aikido movements. This was a part of the classes. And there were monthly weekend sleepovers with senseis Nadeau and Frager to go into depth with things like finer dimensions both of self and energy.  That time has been very influential in my Aikido journey.

So today we covered what Osensei referred to as 'the land of the roots' or ne no kuni. This is on page 316 of nidai Doshu's biography of his dad, A Life in Aikido. John Steven's translates it as underworld. Those of you who like research, please look it up. Osensei goes over rather late in his life the purposes and goals of Aikido and its practitioners and makes this statement,"It is important to also make use of the ne no kuni." That is the only reference to that I have found. He talks about things like the Floating Bridge of Heaven, The High Plain of Heaven, Heaven and Earth, but alludes to that underworld just once in my research. I found that I try to daily chant the Kami Goto and that the underworld is mentioned twice in the chant.I discovered that while I had no conscous sense of it I had been chanting it for decades.

So what might be the Underworld that Osensei references? And while he brings Heaven in quite frequently in my study he references the Underworld just once. It has its role in the Kojiki, which Osensei used to frame his understanding of the universe and of the act of Creation itself. So lets see what we can come up with. He frequently referenced the manifest/hidden/divine, in Japanese genkai,yukai, shinkai. Briefly the Genkai is the material realm, the obvious outer world. The Yukai is the hidden(not obvious) realm of finer and deeper dimensions. My interpretation is the Shinkai is the soul/spirit/self. So one way to look at misogi is going from the 'I' in the manifest to deeper or finer levels of itself or self through the hidden realms. Finally to return it itself as a True Self/ Soul/Spirit.
It is common to address the finer realms as upper(ie Heaven). But what if the journey to self must also be deeper and that is why we must also integrate the Underworld half?

In the biography of his Dad nidai Doshu states that while we have an incredible practice in Aikido that is worldwide now, his father had to undergo many hardships to bring Aikido into being. So my current sense of the Underworld is what Nadeau sensei refers to as Downtime. We started out today's class with, 'Let's start with a negative". The coronavirus. The social unrest. The economic uncertainty. Failures in Leadership at the Governmental level. We could go around and around in the 'I'. Or use it to get to downtime, a gateway to deeper. Deeper and Finer can be similar. My sense is the real task is to go from knowledge/awareness to feel/experience. So we get so caught up knowledge and awareness that there is another step we miss, especially on the spiritual journey. So we used the downtime as a gateway to other dimensions. Pools of Calm. Magic Crystal Caves. But referencing the shift from state to state as deeper to deeper downtime. As you travel to and through the deeper finer states the 'I' moves to self. We also tackled it from the other end. "I'm confused." "I'm not getting anything...."  "I can't do this". All of these are 'I' as a blockage. My sense is that we need both ends. The ability to travel dimensionally to experience both the finer of creation and to get out of the 'I' and its base level. And also to be able to operate on that base level of 'I' so that we don't get trapped in what is oftentimes termed Ordinary Reality.

We also revisted the bokken cut. This is quite good because we have a practice to integrate the other realms and to bring them right through to the manifest/physical. So I'm finding that cut to be very important. And one of my goals in this period of dojo closed and social isolation is to really really get a good sense of it without becoming locked up by it. So here is today's video. I just loaded it so you might have to come back after it's posted but it is worth a look.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

How Are You All?

The coronavirus impacted the dojo around the middle of March. Now here we are the beginning of July. Boy things can change in a hurry, can't they? Classes have shifted online via Zoom then posted on Youtube. We have done Saturday outdoors classes the past 3 Saturdays at Bestor Park around the corner from the dojo. Social distancing with weapons work and with Masks(Wear one!) I personally got online a Spider-man mask. Guess I get to be your friendly neighborhood Aikido-ist. Hope everybody is safe, taking precautions, and for now healthy.

My own situation is safe and healthy for now. I enjoy the video classes and I realize they are no substitute for real classes. I continue to train on a daily basis. One thing we have been covering online and in the outdoor classes is the basic suburi cut.

The above photo is what I study the most about Osensei's sword work(bokken). Notice how alive it is, even in the photo. And when I trained in Shingu I really studied Tojima sensei's cut.
And the above cut is a photo (obviously taken from a video) of Tojima sensei in 1979 teaching a sword class at UC Santa Cruz. Even though the angle of the cut is slightly different my sensei is that they are very close. So in the midst of the downtime of the coronavirus I have been practicing that cut.If I can make deep inroads into this journey it will be time well spent.

My partner Elle fell and broke her hip just about the time the dojo was closed. She is scheduled for surgery early next week. I will keep you posted. I have been in contact with my daughter and Nora. We observe social distancing. Nora is growing and is so cute I think the social distancing is so hard especially for children.

Nadeau sensei and I continue to do our 'research' but over the phone. No Occidental this year and a lot of events have shifted to online. Nadeau sensei has shifted for now to a virtual dojo. He has a show Friday nights at 6:30. NO show this week because of July 4th. Similarly we will do Zoom noon class tomorrow July 3rd, but no class Saturday July 4th.

San Jose State classes will be online this fall. So I have to format a class without falling, student teacher contact other than online. So it will be a challenge.

Those of you who have continued to pay tuition online, thank you very much. You are the lifeblood of the dojo and keep us going. We will persevere, push through, and come out on the other side hopefully stronger, wiser, and with a greater appreciation for what we have. I hope all of you are safe, healthy, and with family and loved one.

I'm still playing music. Here is a video I did recently. Nardis is a Miles Davis tune Chet Baker played. It has for me an Egyptian feel. For non music people it has some fun photos of dojo people, and Nora.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Osensei yearly anniversary


Today is the 51st anniversary of Osensei's passing. I tuned into Linda Holiday's online gathering via Zoom . I was particularly moved by Robert Frager sensei's talk sharing his experiences with Osensei. Friday during our virtual noon class at the very end I offered the formal Norito and Kami Goto chants. You can catch it at the end of the video above.  I believe it is important to keep our connection to Osensei alive. Training in Shingu every morning Hikitsuchi sensei taught after the class there would always be the formal prayers offered. It was a part of our training to be present for that. Anno sensei says Osensei would often start class with the norito.

Often times Aikido is seen as movment or philosophy or social interaction. But it was Osensei's way of connecting to the Kami, the creation forces of the universe, and to his own true nature/original consciousness that allowed him to stand with the kami. So as best as I can I continue to chant these ancient prayers. When Mary Heiny sensei and I got back to Santa Cruz at the end of 1973 into 1974, we would meet at her apartment on Locust Street and she would chant these ancient prayers. She wrote out both Amatsu Norito and Kami Goto in Roman characters so that I could learn them. On a year long stay in Japan in 1977 I was in the Shingu dojo and felt I got a message from Osensei:"Learn the Kami Goto and you'll always have a connection to me!" It took me about 6 months learning a line or two everyday. In Japan especially in Shingu there are lots of shrines, so I could practice pretty much everyday.
So I continue to chant everyday when I can. My feel is that they connect me to the age of Kami,
which continues from the ancient times through today. Hikitsuchi sensei's uke in the above poster is me. It was May of 1977 in the Budokan in Tokyo. A whole group from the Kumano Juku dojo went and participated in the All Japan Aikido Demonstrations. It was the only time I went.

The topic of discussion in the above video is Osensei's statement that the dojo is a graveyard. A place where matters of life and death are resolved. Where old ideas go to die. For takamusu(creativity) to flower, the old must give way to the new.I think it is well presented in the video. One thing that is lacking in much of Aikido today is that sense of "Shinken Shobu", that every moment is like an encounter with live blades. H talks about fixing your thoughts on emptiness, standing in the void, transcending life and death. That creativity comes through focus and development. It is interesting sometimes to reflect on that. The Osensei Revisited camp is cancelled due to the coronavirus epidemic. But it is crucial we keep Osensei in our hearts, especially in these difficult times.
Onegai Shimasu.......

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Dojo on break

As I write this the dojo has been on break because of the coronavirus for one week.  It seems a bit unreal. My life tends to go from class to class whether it's the dojo or San Jose State.  So lots of what Nadeau sensei calls downtime. During this time I remember my favorite Osensei story from his son's biography of his father.. Son Kisshomaru, who would become nidai Doshu, goes up to Iwama to see his father. Osensei was farming, training, building the Aiki Shrine. His son lamented that Aikido was dying. The dojo in Tokyo was closed and housing families that were homeless because of the bombings. The best of the pre-war students and teachers were fighting in the war, possibly dying. Osensei's reply was,"No, son. Aikido is just beginning."

So it's things like this that inspire me during this crisis. The source of my energy for Aikido has always come from Osensei. I have been blessed to have teachers who studied with him personally. Initially Robert Frager and Robert Nadeau senseis. Then to Japan and Hikitsuchi sensei and the Kumano Juku dojo shihan Anno, Yanase, and Tojima senseis. But for me the source of inspiration and therefore the energy for Aikido has always come from Osensei. So studying his war years and how he continued to grow and train has always been an inspiration...

Starting Monday evening we will be doing online instruction via my Youtube channel(jackwada). If you subscribe you will be notified when we do a class. Nadeau sensei has started to do online classes Friday evenings. My thought is to have online classes Monday and Wednesday evenings at the regular class times. 7 to 8pm. This is definitely a new phase for Aikido. Eventually we may shift to an Aikido of San Jose Youtube channel. My understanding is that the classes will be live but recorded and available for study after the class is broadcast.

My thoughts for a first class on Monday evening include maybe a half hour on bokken. I have been doing some very basic suburi practice with the bokken. My strongest influence here has been Tojima sensei..His deep cut has been a recurring theme recently. I shot a home video which is now on youtube which I will post with the blog....For me the purpose of the suburi is to get to what Bruce Lee called 'bodyfeel'.

Lee contended that the branches of the tree were surface knowledge. The real knowledge was in the root...The surface knowledge is important, including proper grip, proper stance and posture, proper mechanics. But the root was the real essence and he defined root as 'bodyfeel'. Tojima sensei would often use the expression 'Karada ni ireru' or 'put it in the body'. One can get trapped in the details. And as long as you are floating in the details or fixing on the details, ' bodyfeel' is elusive. Of course 'bodyfeel' includes the mind, but more mind as consciousness, not merely knowledge. One other thing Tojima sensei would say is "nankai mo nankai mo" which translates as again and again. You can cut 500 times or 1,000 times but not to count. If you count you are getting exercise and there is physical development through that. But Tojima sensei said he was talking about "motto fukai mon" or something deeper. My memories of his bokken classes are that we would swing and swing with little explanation. And he would stand in front of each student and cut and have you match him. My sense was he was trying to get you to the bodyfeel place. You could always tell the sound his sword cuts made. I tried to demonstrate that in the video. It is a body feel sound. Not a whistling sound many people make. In fact sometimes after class he would pick up a bokken and when we heard that sound he would have all of our attention.
I use an Einsteinian inspired thought experiment to get to 'bodyfeel'. Remember, Einstein once said that Imagination was more important than knowledge. Knowledge gets you caught up in the branches. When I was swinging with Tojima sensei my thought was I'll figure it out later. Know I just try to go back to the bodyfeel of the moment he was standing in front of me. So tune in Monday night if you feel like it.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

New Year coming up

Well, it's a couple of days to New Year. We are on dojo break until Wednesday New Years Day when we will have our annual 11am-12:30pm training. Please attend and bring in the New Year right.

2019 saw the visit in September of Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba. I saw him last in 2014 when I went went to Japan to receive my last promotion. It is ironic that I was following the NFC title game on my phone and the 49ers lost to the Seahawks. As I write this they just won in Seattle to secure home field for the playoffs. The universe certainly does move around.

Elle and I had a vacation to Kauai in the summer.  In 2020 I would like to organize a training vacation on Kauai -  in the past I  have called it Aikido of Bali Hai, as the Bali Hai sequence in the movie South Pacific was shot on that island.. We have held previous trainings in 2016 and 2018. So let me know if you are interested. We alternate a training day with a vacation day and in the past has been 10 days. Elle will organize travel and lodgings. If you are interested, contact me, as we need to start scheduling now for the Summer .

In April we went with Laurin Herr to watch the opening of the Warriors playoff run. I have known him for over 46 years. Steph Curry scored around 40 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, unusual for a guard. Even though their quest for a threepeat fell a Curry 3 shot attempt short, the Warriors played like champions through injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. KD's departure and even more injuries, especially the one to Steph, has made the start of the current season a trainwreck. But even with a for now diminished roster and a lot of inexperienced youth, the team in adversity has continued to play with energy, and still has within it the championship spirit. I find it personally inspiring. I have refused to jump on the 49er bandwagon and still focus my attention on the Dubs.

Laurin is organizing a division 3 training at my dojo February 22nd. Along with Nadeau shihan and division 3 instructors, we will be celebrating my 50th year in Aikido! Our own Harry Concepcion sensei will be among those teaching. In addition to a class from Nadeau sensei, I will be giving a demonstration (Hoo no Embu) celebrating my 50 years. Please attend as it is not to be missed. The following day will be the semi-annual CAA meeting/lunch/training which we host at the San Jose dojo the last Sunday of each year. So a full weekend.

I am thinking of a theme for 2019. What comes to mind is "From Aikido to Takemusu Aiki" - going from the practice of technique to that level of being where training is creation, and the techniques spring forth spontaneously from internal pillars of intelligence/beauty/power/ and love. Heaven Earth Water Fire. Please join me, starting New Year's Day.....

...and here is a new video.....

Friday, November 15, 2019

My 50th Year part one

I started Aikido in fall of 1969. I was an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz in my senior year. I had been doing Japanese karate for about a year, but in following martial arts magazines had become interested in the Japanese art of Aikido. I read an article in Black Belt Magazine called "The Old Man and the Ki".It profiled Aikido's founder Morihei Ueshiba Osensei. Initially what grabbed my attention were the photos. He was old, yet something shined through the photos that indicated he was not aged. Even the pictures radiated something I could feel. Sometime later I ran into an article in Psychology Today magazine entitled "The Psychology of the Samurai". It examined the mental components behind the physical training of Japan's legendary swordsmen. And much of the article was about Morihei Ueshiba and Aikido. I remember saying to myself, "I wish I could do Aikido!"

Well, I went back onto the Santa Cruz campus for Fall orientation and lo and behold, there were posters up announcing the formation of an Aikido club on campus. And during Orientation Week there was to be a demonstration on the Cowell College quad area. Of course I went to the demo. I found out Robert Frager, a Psychology professor at Merrill College would be teaching the club. Also at the demo was Robert Nadeau, who ran a full time dojo in Mt. View. The demonstration was a lot about how the mind and the body were one. Not just about technical matters. Anyway I joined the club, which met Mondays and Wednesdays at the original Field House. In the Winter quarter the club was displaced by intramural basketball and was forced to re-locate to Mission Hill Junior High through the Parks and Rec Department. After a couple of weeks I approached Frager sensei about the Psychology Today article that was so instrumental in my Aikido interest. He smiled at me and said,"Yes, I wrote it......." . Talk about synchronicity.

In those days Frager and Nadeau senseis collaborated quite a bit. They had both trained at Hombu dojo and were Osensei's personal students. They taught once a month workshops in Mt View at Nadeau sensei's dojo. At the time it was one of very few Aikido schools around. Santa Cruz was a club. The workshops were pretty much weekend affairs, with sleep overs Friday and Saturday nights, and ending Sunday afternoons. There was a lot of meditation and energy work. Sound/chanting was explored. They were exploring Osensei's teaching in a very vital way. I have always been grateful that I started Aikido with them. Even though Aikido is a Japanese art and Ueshiba Osensei himself born in Japan, Frager and Nadeau sensei's gave me a much more universal sense of both him and the art....They would show 8mm home movies of the founder as a part of the weekend. These were for me life changing. We are talking 1969-1970. NO CGI. Special effects were by today's standards primitive to non-existent. He seemed to be able to disappear and re-appear. He threw people effortlessly and magically. Even though advanced in years he moved in a way much younger teachers could not......In fact the closest way to describe what I saw him do was in comic books, where motion is left to the imagination. He looked like the archetypal sage as warrior/magician. I was hooked.

At the end of the Spring quarter the students who had started in the fall tested. I took and passed a 4th kyu test and was awarded a  blue belt. Just after the quarter ended I attended a week long training in Mt View. I was awarded a certificate signed by both Frager and Nadeau senseis. I graduated in June of 1970, but I will always see that academic year as my first year in Aikido.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Me and Oracle Arena

Elle and I went with Laurin Herr and his wife Trish to see the first playoff game this postseason.  The Warriors faced the Los Angeles Clippers. We got to see Stephen Curry go for 38 points and an even more amazing 15 rebounds. So far that's been their only really dominant playoff win. My sense is that the Clippers, though the 8th seed, are actually much tougher than their seeding. And the Rockets are always trouble, But even with KD sidelined, if the Warriors play like their game 6 win in Houston, they'll be okay. If not........If this is indeed a threepeat the road this year seems stacked with obstacles. So here's hoping......

One of the reasons I went was I have memories from Oracle before it was Oracle. I wanted to say good-bye. In the sixties it was simply the Oakland Coliseum.Next season is the move across the Bay. And the Warriors were the San Francisco Warriors then. Who played a few games in Oakland and generally drew better in the East Bay than in the City. I believe my first game there was in Spring of 1967. The Warriors had an exciting young team with Rick Barry and Nate Thurmond that was supposed to contend for years. That season they went to the finals and lost in 6 games to Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia 76ers. The game I saw was against Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics. Thurmond was out with an injury so I'm sure they were heavy underdogs. But Rick dropped 50 points on the Celts. 18 of 36 from the floor. No 3 point shot at that time 14 of 14 from the foul line. All shot two hand underhanded. And when the game was pretty much decided Rick took it to Russell and dunked over him ....twice.

And pretty much Warrior karma until recently...when you have something good, you let it get away. With the ingredients to not only contend but create a dynasty(sound familiar?) ownership let Rick go to the ABA. He later came back and led the Warriors to a title in 1975. But what could have been with him and Nate young barely touching their prime......

And the following season I went with a high school friend to another Oakland game. The Warriors were still winning, but without Rick not much fun. My friend and I wanted to see Earl Monroe in his rookie season. He had averaged over 40 points a game for Winston-Salem his senior year He scored 18 points. Not bad. But he executed a spin move(his signature) and respin to get to the hoop and somehow managed to float it in between Clyde Lee and Nate Thurmond, two rim protectors and basically 7 footers. Still resonates in my memories.

I remember going to a few games with my daughter in the mid-eighties. And I remember going with a dojo group in the late eighties run TMC days and saw Mitch Richmond drop 40 on someone. Of course he was traded soon after.

The dojo bought me tickets in 2015 for a playoff game against the Memphis Grizzlies. I got to see Steph awarded his first MVP. Then the recent win against the Clippers.

I've never caught a Raiders game. I have seen a couple of A's games over the years. So the arena for me is basically Warriors. Ironic that they when I first saw them were the San Francisco Warriors playing in Oakland. And next year they'll be the Golden State Warriors playing in San Francisco. Go Warriors!!!!!!!!!!