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!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Aikido and the 1 inch punch




My history with the inch punch began with Bruce Lee, watching him generate all that sudden explosion of energy from an inch away from his target. Later my t'ai chi master, Sifu Choy Kam Man suggested that I research 'inch power'. But my first real experience of it was in Spring or so of 1973 and is chronicled in Linda Holiday sensei's book "Journey to the Heart of Aikido". I was initiated into it by Tojima sensei. From an inch away he uprooted me with a vertical fist. Which he repeated several times. My memory of it was that there was no sense of being hit. No force directed at me. I was just in the air.

Over the ensuing decades that experience has stayed with me When we moved to our current location at Martha Street, Professor Bunch's jujitsu class had some punching dummies. They are heavily bottom weighted. Initially I tried the side kick until I could knock one over a la Bruce Lee. I haven't attemped that in a while. But I would try the inch punch as well. And I can't really recall when I started to get it. I just retained the feel experience of how it felt to receive it from Tojima sensei. I began to realize how it is basically kokyu or breath ........The ability to focus one's power in a single point and unleash it without any sense of weight or force, one's consciousness free and peaceful. Even loving.

And past the feel experience there is a theory behind it. I find I can teach it to most people in 15 minutes or so. But the ability to be consistent takes much longer and involves a theoretical rewiring of force and power.
Basically it is like baseball. Some muscular huge person can muscle the ball and hit a catchable fly ball while someone much smaller can drive the same ball. In his autobiography Sadaharu Oh talks about meeting a huge American, part of an American All Star team playing Japan's All Stars, including, of course Mr Oh. The American looked at Oh, slight by his standards and asked, " How can YOU hit home runs?". Oh answered, rather inscrutably, "I understand the secret of the weight shift''. Mr Oh had been guided by Ueshiba Osensei, who mentored Oh's own coach, Mr Arakawa. The weight shift involves the inner point. Mr Oh was famous for standing on one leg while waiting for the pitch, then when his lead foot touched earth unleashing his power.

Nationally and locally we have only to watch Steph Curry of the Warriors. His range comes from the incredible power of his core(I read once where he can dead lift 400 pounds), focused in that point, translated out into the touch muscles of his fingers. My version of that shot is included in the attached video.

Tojima sensei really researched Koichi Tohei sensei.  I personally never worked with Tohei sensei, so sense of the matrial comes from Tojima sensei.Tohei sensei stressed what he called the 4 rules of Ki. I have updated this somewhat to the 4 algorithms.

1. Relax completely. Let go of what you're thinking, good, bad, or indifferent. Osensei talked of shinku or true  emptiness at a more universal or archetypal level

2. Weight underside. From 1 shoulders relax, arms are firm but not holding tension, and the beginnings of grounding.....Ueshiba Osensei stressed the importance of the 'ne no kuni' or land of the roots.

3.  The inner point surfaces. Osensei linked this to Ame no Minakanushi no Okami, the first point in creaation similar to the Big Bang theory.   And related it to the chant SU. If you look for the point or think about it you distance yourself from the experience.

4. Vital force or enery(Ki) starts moving as a part of the re-organization of the first 3. I am not so much into 'I extend Ki', but Ki starts to manifest for someone who practices the 3 prior algorithms,ie a more natural, original state of being. And since all 4 involve whittling away the'I'. they can be seen as a form of misogi.

The inch punch is the same as the closing motion to the suburi or bokken cut. So that is included in the above video.

Tohei sensei said of his 4 rules if you lose one you lose the other 3. I prefer if you are fully with any one, then you have the other 3.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Primal Universal Energies: Art & Aikido

Aikido of San Jose has changed the name of its fall 2018 fundraiser. From Keep the Lights On we have shifted to Primal Universal Energies: Aikido and Art. Why the change? First of course Aikido is a martial art But my feeling is that we now need to go past the martial aspect to simply art. Art is creation. Creation is a process that takes the artist through light and dark, suffering and ecstasy, from turmoil to the sublime. No real art without an artist. Joseph Campbell in his "Myths to Live By" wrote that the shamans of today are the artists, whose job it is to bring new energies into the world. For me the shaman is one who lives in the dark so that he/she may bring light into the world. Ueshiba Osensei had a strong shamanic element  in his aikido. He stressed Takemusu Aiki, which is Aikido as an act of creation through the power of love. I feel for Aikido to go to the next level of itself, we must shift our emphasis from Aiki-do to the aforementioned Takemusu Aiki.

Also very vital to this change of names is that Lou Bermingham sensei is receiving his promotion to 5th dan.
Lou began his training in 1975 in France under Tamura sensei. He then moved to Northern California where he began his training under Robert Nadeau shihan at the San Jose dojo. And after I became the Chief Instructor of Aikido of San Jose in 1980, Lou has continued to train diligently and to be a real force for keeping the pursuit of Aikido's message alive in our dojo. He has also taught the art at Apple and for many years at the Los Gatos Community Center. And he is an artist of considerable note. Those of you who have attended his art shows can attest to the depth and beauty of his work. Working abstractly Lou draws out archetypal energies and forces with his works, especially his acryllics. Part of this event will be an art show of his work. He will also be doing an Aikido presentation.

Linda Holiday sensei, chief instructor of Aikido of Santa Cruz and author of "Journey to the Heart of Aikido" will also be attending  and doing an Aikido presentation and demonstration. I have known her since I believe 1970. We both started at the UC Santa Cruz Aikido club. I was fall of 1969 and she fall the following year.We spent a very bonding period in 1973 when we both became students at the Kumano Juku Dojo in Shingu, Japan. And we were privileged to study there under Hikitsuchi sensei, as well as Anno, Tojima, and Yanase senseis. Check out  her excellent book to get a flavor of that time. She know travels and teaches internationally. I am looking forward to her presentation.

I will also be giving an Aikido presentation. Certain things about the phrase Aikido have opened up fairly recently. And the connection to Takemusu and to the Water/Fire Center/Circle relationships have also blossomed. I will also be asking a couple of my dojo's senior teachers to give a presentation.

The date for the fundraiser is November 3rd, a Saturday. It will run from 4pm to 8pm. In addition to the Art show and Aikido presentations there will be an opportunity to meet and talk with the teachers/artists. There will be items for an auction and raffle. A minimum donation of $15 is requested to get into the event. That will also include 2 raffle tickets. Similar to Public TV fundraisers there will be items or prizes for donations of $50, $75, $100, $200, $300. Glen Kimoto sensei has offered to donate 2 nuboko(3 sectioned spear out of white oak) for donations of $500 or more.

This event is to cover our annual power bill(PG&E). Last year it was $3,800. This year I expect it to be in excess of $4,000. So any and all support is welcome. Please feel free to bring family and friends. Family members will not be charged. There will be items for purchase. And those wanting to increase donation to upper levels to get some of the fundraiser items feel free. Those out of area or dojo alumnus not currently active may leave an angel donation(no prize) by going to our webpage at https://www.aikidosj.com and finding the paypal link in the middle of our title page . A donation in any amount is greatly appreciated. Please email me at jack@aikidosj.com when you do and I'll send you a personal thank you email.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Aikido of Bali Hai 2019

This past June into early August we had Aikido of Bali Hai 2018. Lou Bermingham, David Eves, Meng Ear, and Melanie Baybayan and I trekked to the island of Kauai for training, relaxation, and fun. We alternated a training day with with a vacation day. Some of the activities members of the group did were zip lining, horseback riding, hiking, and of course a lot of shopping. We began certain classes with some energy work/meditation. Similar to lucid dreaming or Jung's active imagination we worked on directly accessing the energies with imaging, sound, and in the training checked that out with some movement. I'm wanting to possibly start a group where we explore in this fashion, ie a meditation group. This was big in the seventies and eighties, but not so in vogue these days. And lots of good work was done then that is in danger of being lost as aikido tries to move forward.

I initially made my first trip to Kauai in summer of 1996. In the sixties listening to a Dodger radio broadcast by the great Vin Scully he mentioned that the island of Kauai was where the scenes for the island of Bai Hai were filmed in the movie South Pacific. So having an urge to visit the mystical island of Bali Hai the best I could do was Kauai. In 2016 a group of us made the first Aikido of Bali and this past summer was the second. The question now is will there be an Aikido of Bali Hai 2019?

I've always found Kauai to be a power spot. In the Castaneda books don Juan said most places take energy. When you feel very active somewhere energy is leaving you. In contrast a power spot is where you gather energy. You feel you can rest and do rest. Healing on various levels can happen. That's what I've always felt on Kauai. So this last visit instead of being busy busy I focused on just opening and gathering life force, which is plentiful on that island.

The training was pretty much without rolls, but we were able to do weapons work as the gateway to the more of things. So my feeling is that things went well. Is there interest in 2019?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Catch Up Time

What a year so far. Had my 70th birthday last month. But I celebrated it with family yesterday in San Francisco. My sister Judy and my brother-in-law Brian hosted nieces, nephews, cousins in a Saturday afternoon barbecue. My daughter Jennifer, son-in-law Dover, and Nora were there too. I had a wonderful time.
Wednesday and Thursday I went to the Santa Cruz Retreat. Wednesday was a meeting for instructors. I taught a class on Thursday. What a moving time to re-connect with Robert Frager sensei, who started the UC Santa Cruz Aikido Club where I started, Linda  Holiday and Mary Heiny senseis who were such a part of my Japan experience in the early to late 1970's.

And we cannot forget the Golden State Warriors, who overcame injury, bad seeding in the play-offs, to reward us with another NBA title. This is such a rich story. Strength in Numbers. Teamwork.Creativity.
KD. Steph, Draymond, Klay playing through a knee injury, Andrei, Shaun.....Let us hope they inspire us in the dojo to pursue our inner championship, our winning over ourselves to pursue passionately excellence in all its forms.

June also saw Aikido of Bali Hai 2018. Journeying with me were David Eves, Lou Bermingham, Meng Ear, Melanie Baybayan, to the mythical island of Bali Hai, which in the film 'South Pacific' was shot on Kauai. We mixed a day of training with a day of vacation. We did more meditation and process work than 2 years ago. I'd like to do it next year. We'll try and organize it sooner and with advance planning make it available to more people.


In April we had our annual Osensei Revisited Weekend in Occidental. Nadeau sensei shared his memories of Osensei and his understanding of the Founder's process and Cosmology. It was a rich experience.. And if you haven't experienced the beauty of the forest of the CYO campgrounds please make a note to sign up for next year.

I am curently on Summer break from San Jose State. I am back teaching biginning and intermediate aikido through the kinesiology Department. It starts up again in August. So the next several weeks are precious.
I'll be trying to get back to more blogs and videos. Enjoy the Summer!

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Thoughts and Reflectiions

It's been awhile between posts. I started teaching again at San Jose State. I taught there from 1978 through 1994. One of the senior dojo students took it over. He was succeeded by another senior student. Two retirements later I am back. By and large it has been a positive experience. Reaching a group of largely new students and introducing them to Aikido has been entertaining and challenging. I certainly have a new perspective than my last stay. I substitute taught for one academic year 2012-2013. But largely my memories are of my earlier stay.

My challenge here has always been to satisfy the grading requirements of the university, ie quizzes, papers, exams, while at the same time trying to pass on something experiential about what aikido really is. It's still a challenge.One of the things I am reminded of is that a major part of Aikido is blending. It is easy to see Aikido as acquiring knowledge about and motor skills in the techniques. But each of the movements is about blending with what ever the attack is. Blending skills require more than mental knowledge and motor skills. They require that one suspend the 'I' and perceive feel from another view point.

So  blending has different layers of usefulness. On a personal level we blend with ourselves by being more relaxed, centered, grounded, present, here and now. On an interpersonal level it is oftentimes useful to step out of one's own viewpoint/philosophy to see and experience another viewpoint. It allows us to grow in ways we otherwise would not. Martially it makes sense to not oppose force but to unify with it and offer it better direction.

Agreement is when 2 forces decide to go or go the same way. Blending means two forces that are not possibly aligned to come together actually do. And it is a challenge. It is also what makes Aikido very unique among martial arts. The aim of the art is to create harmony. We examine that from different viewpoints, one being from the viewpoint of uke(he/she who attacks) and the other from nage(he/she who receives the attack and blends).. And in training we experience both roles, alternating between uke and nage. This is done in place of a competitive format. One way of looking at this is that both uke and nage are team mates, not on opposing teams. And both are working towards creating a connection with each other that produces harmony. The victory is the unity or oneness that comes with harmony. And it has the potential to take one out of oneself in a way that gets us out of the ego or the 'I'. Ueshiba Osensei referred to this as Masaka(True winning) Agatsu(winning over oneself).

Crucial to this is that both uke and nage must be in a listening mode. Does uke 'go with the technique' and if so what is the use of that in a martial sensei? One thing I have tried to explain to the new students at San Jose State is that uke receives or listens to the movement as opposed to just passively going with the movement. But part of uke listening to nage is ukemi(the art of falling or receiving the movement). And nage performing the movement is also listening or communicating with uke as opposed to just performing the movements with hands, feet, and body position. And where does nage ideally learn the movement? By playing the role of uke.