Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Program for Training in Paradise

We now have tentative dates for our group trek to Aikido of Bali Hai. June 15th  to the 27th. We should slso have some sense of what will be covered during the 12 days or so of the event. One thing I would like to prioritize is some discussion about the nature, purpose of Aikido. When I was in Japan there was quite a bit of time devoted to discussion. Oftentimes in Japan, Anno Tojima and Yanase senseis would come over and in some cases we would talk all night about the topic of what Aikido truly was. This is no substitute for training, but traning without this can be directionless. And one can get better in a directionless way. What is tricky as I have found out in the ensuing years is that everyone must find Aikido for themselves. And in some ways you could say the search for Aikido might be a significant part of searching and finding yourself. Nadeau sensei and I still spend significant time at coffee shops and restaurants discussing Osensei, his history, his process, the direction of Aikido as it has been laying out the the last 50 years. I have also had the same discussions with Robert Frager sensei, with Mary Heiny sensei, with Linda Holiday sensei. And when I connect with Anno sensei either here(mostly these days) or on a trip to Japan, the same topics always come up. I want  the people going to in coming times  keep these discussions going.

Now we are all different. And that is a strength. So those going(and those following this) I want you to give some thought to questions you might have about Aikido, Osensei, what training means to you, what your goals are................That is first. Secondarily we will come up with a plan or approach to the training. One thing that was constantly in our consciousness as we were training in Japan, and I am referencing Mary Heiny and Linda Holidays senseis as well as myself, was what is Aikido and what is my purpose in Aikido.

Some thoughts I had. I would like to cover the weapons to some extent. And to cover the sound practices. I had a request for kototama. Here I would like to be able to format practice as opposed to mainly theory and history. Would people be interested in learning some of Osensei's formal chants such as the Amatsu Norito?
My thought is that we should come up with a structure for the training. Also schedule time for discussion. And in addition time for both individual and group recreation..

We currently have 7 people committed with one strong maybe. We probably have room for 3 more from the dojo. I would like possibly 2 more from outside the dojo, but this should be people with either a strong connection to the dojo or to me. So onward!

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Aikido of Bali Hai

I made my first trek to the island of Kauai in 1996. I went alone. I loved the musical 'South Pacific' and of course the sequence with the island of Bali Hai. In the stage presentation the characters onstage just looked out towards the audience with a sense of vastness and reverence. Your own special place. You live on a lonely island lost in the middle of a foggy sea. Bali Hai is your own special island. And I remember sometime in the very distant past listening to the great Dodger announcer Vin Scully where he was filling some space between what was happening between pitches or innings and he said referencing the movie version of 'South Pacific' that the Bali Hai sequence was filmed on the island of Kauai. So having a longing to journey to Bali Hai, a place that doesn't exist in the 'real'world, I decided to make a pilgrimage to the physical island of Kauai. What I found was a lush tropical paradise with mysterious mist covered mountains, verdant plant life, and clear blue ocean on pristine beaches. It was a wonderful stay. And I passed a sign reading 'Bali Hai Realty' and the thought crossed my mind, 'wouldn't an Aikido of Bali Hai be great?'

So that thought always lingered in my subconscious. I made two more trips in 2012 and 2013. I skipped 2013 because of a trip to Japan. But on very short notice my daughter's time share in Kauai opened up and I made a very unexpected trip late last month. And this time in Princeville on the way to Hanalei Bay I saw another sign, 'Bali Hai Salon'. So the thought reawakened. And I put it out again but this time on Facebook accompanying some photos of my trip to the island and upon returning back got a response. A small group of Aikidoists from my dojo would like to go next summer. So game on!

So instead of a physical dojo Aikido of Bali Hai is instead a journey. June sometime in 2015, the dates to be determined. Aikido training 8am to noon so even though we start early everyone will have an afternoon and evening to enjoy 'paradise'. I don't want a huge group so I imagine it will be basically just people from my dojo and those connected to me.

The actual structure of the training is to be determined. I have my vision, but will try to be open to suggestions. But what I want to emphasize as the purpose of the trip is more than just go to a great place and train in 'aikido'. Yes there will be training and I'm sure there will be ample time to enjoy the island and spend time with friends and fellow aikidoists. But I allude to the song. For those of us who'live on a lonely island....lost in the middle of a foggy sea....' it will be about finding our 'own special island'.Our

own special place.

So that is my vision. Now we will all see how that unfolds.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Congratulations! And a Sad Obituary.......

I have to share both a an incredibly happy moment, and at the same time acknowledge an incredibly sad one.First happy: Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors on bringing the 2015 NBA Championship to the bay area. For those of us who have followed you for over 40 years and in particular following you through a magical regtular season of 21-2 that eventually led to67-15 and led to the 16 playoff wins needed for a title, thank you! I must admit having to radically shift my whole paradigm on what it means to be a sports fan to keep up witih you. You passed test after test during the 82 game schedule, then you capped it off with an incredible playoff run that had its anxious moments.

Probably my favorite playoff moment was game 3 on the road again New Orleans. You were trailing by 20 points going into the 4th quarter. Against all odds you came back. Stephen Curry's corner 3 tied the game n regulation and you went on to win in overtime. Also being down 2-1 against Memphis and in the finals against Cleveland and coming back with 3 straight in both to take both series. I must admit my faith was tested.but rewarded.

And what was the overriding theme of the season? Success built on sacrifice. There are many examples of this but two come to mind. First  a couple of seasons ago we made the playoffs and defeated a 3 seeded Denver team to advance. I remember thinking this one player was a real pest. Making shots, especially 3's. against us. Playing lock down defense. I realized he was a pest because he was so good. That was none other than Andre Iguodala. Well he became a free agent and because he sensed what was building here and wanting to be a part of it, he took less money to sign here. This is an unheard of sacrifice in today's world of professional sports. And this season he was asked as a former all star, a member of the NBA;s all defensive team, and a starter his whole career, to come off the bench, which he did. What was his reward? For playing defense against Labron James in the finals and stepping up offensively when needed, he was voted MVP of the finals. And all star Davit Lee willing to sit on the bench and contribute when asked to allow the emergence of Draymond Green was another example.

The commitment to defense, to sharing the ball on offense, and to playing a fun uptempo game on both ends was a fun alternative to the star power based isolation sets of the NBA. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue. And the Warriors will be good for awhile. If Stephen Curry concentrated strictly on scoring, taking more middle distance shots and getting to the free throw line, there is no doubt in my mind he might lead the league in scoring. After all he led the nation his last year at Davidson. But he is willing to be a more transparent superstar to let this team be the focal point. And to have both the regular season MVP, Curry, and the NBA finals MVP, Iguodala, is telling and indicative of team success. And fan enjoyment and pride.

And now for the sad. Yesterday Patrick Macnee passed away at the age of 93. He was John Steed of the British show 'The Avengers' to Diana Rigg's Mrs Peel..And the word sacrifice is important here as well. His portrayal of John Steed was revolutionary as well. Here was an intelligent, powerful male outwardly steeped in tradition, who was none the less able to allow an unforgettabe performance by his female partner literally steal the show. Steed and Mrs Peel were equals, but he was the established star. When first asked to play the role he was given the James Bond books to prep him. He found the violence and obvious sexism 'tiring' so he created a unique character. The recent gentleman spy film 'Kingsmen' owes a lot to the John Steed character. He didn't carry a gun, preferring his steel plated bowler hat and umbrella as well as his intelligence to solve problems..And when things really got tough there was always Mrs Peel to the rescue.He was a gentlelmlan and treated women well, and this was a sixties show. I don't think he really gets his due. He is more Andre Iguodala-ish in his contribution. Not the obvious. I will personally miss you. In 1988 I had a chance to meet him. He had written a book, an autobiography(Blind in One Ear') and was set to have a local book signing. A high school friend and I went but due to his wife's ill health he was forced to  cancel. Oh well. Steed/Patrick, I will miss you. And wherever Mrs Peel may be, I'm sure she is a little sadder as well......

Monday, June 01, 2015

A Very 'Radical ' View of the 2015 NBA Finals

I mean no real disrespect with this blog. Maybe this is just a Warrior fan having to wait 40 years to see his team once again in the finals. And projecting things and truths around this that have not merit. But that aside.....

The finals match-up between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers represents a clash between the old order and the new order that must come. If not in the finals later in some other form...Mainly this is reflected in the stars representing the two teams. Lebron James for Cleveland. Stephen Curry for the Warriors.

Years ago Carl Jung was happy to hear that to the holy trinity of Father/Son/Holy Ghost they were considering adding the Virgin Mary. First the Trinity is a 3. In Jumg's psychology 4 is the number of wholeness representing the Self.. He considered Western Spirituality to be overly masculine based and thus adding a fourth which was feminine made him feel like society was moving in his model closer to balance.Now my uses of the terms masculine and feminine have nothing to do with gender. Masculine could easily be Yang, positive, fire, heaven......and feminine easily yin, receptive, water, earth.....other metaphors could be used to describe what I mean to say. And one cannot really exist without the other so it's just a question of which one predominates. And we are due for the pendulum to shift. So, with that out of the way......

Lebron very easily represents thus what you would call the masculine element, which has ruled for a couple of thousand years. Remember the Goddess based religions which were based on the feminine were buried by the dominance of what  became Christianity. It is revealing that his nickname is "King' James........The basketball hierarchy is in love with size, speed, and power.......I'll make my battleship bigger, faster, stronger, more high tech than yours. The establishment(to use a sixties/seventies word) is about a power structure of haves and have nots.We see this especially economically in our society and culture. Labron has freakish physical gifts that he to his credit, through hard work, personal development, has parlayed into a very successful public image and playing career. But he is definitely a 'have'....
 I totally respect Labron the player, the person, the persona.......But in this way he is the old order......and of the establishment.

Contrast that with Curry. Whereas Lebron's high school games were broadcast on ESPN.......Steph was unable to get a scholarship to a major program and wound up at Davidson. And even though an outstanding high school player he was considered too small, too weak, not athletic enough........which followed him into his professional career for awhile. Even though he made a huge splash in the NCAA's taking Davidson to the elite 8, and led the nation in scoring his last year at the collegiate level. he had his doubters....Was he tough enough to make it as a pro? I found it revealing that he was the leading vote getter this year for the all star team. It seems we are ready to embrance a different paradigm. Curry embodies skills that embrace more the feminine, and again I stress this word has nothing to do with gender. He moves with a deceptive yet very skilled attack, using what Bruce Lee called a broken rhythm. In his movement phrasing he is very much like Chet Baker in jazz. Never in a rush. Seldom if ever forcing a shot or play. Sometimes seeming to play even too casually. Yet tough. As opposed to a 'King' we have a 'baby-faced assasin'. What other name would the basketball establishment give him? Both shooting and driving to the hoop he puts up floating shots which go in from great distance and over the reach of tall long-armed shot blockers at the hoop. We are seeing basketball moving back more towards an art form. Even though the way he plays does differ he reminds me of the great Earl Monroe. So Steph's power comes from an ability to mix his energies and to create basketball 'Magic'......He is Billy Batson/Captain Marvel's Shazam to Labron's Superman..

So I am waiting for the finals to start. Will the new order replace the old? Will the establishment win again or will we be treated to a new order? Let's tune in and find out!

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!