Thursday, November 12, 2020

A Journey Through Manifest Hidden Divine

 

I did a zoom class Monday post election. I actually watched it as I edited and posted. It started out as a reading of some of Osensei's words. I like doing that at the beginning of a class to set a direction for myself as I go into the more movement section of the class. But the Monday class while it had movement it was more an explorative and experiential journey through what we covered during the readings. The Manifest(genkai) Hidden(yukai) and Divine(shinkai) are referred to again and again if you read Osensei's words. Like many people I was probably going through post election withdrawal. So for me the class was therapeutic and to a large degree healing. We place such an importance on the outer(ordinary) world and we let that define us. And of course in that ordinary world we are very ordinary.

So it was refreshing to just get into a personal journey which I shared with those online. And to let that personal journey emerge from our reading of Osensei's words. I do some personal misogi everyday. Some days I chant the Amatsu Norito and Kami Goto. Every day I tend to do misogi with the staff/spear and the sword(bokken). But to take the time out to start pretty ordinary with breath, charting my sense of what is going on, and to realize that the hidden and possibly divine realms are right here right now was fascinating. So I have posted the Youtube video of the class in this blog.

I was uncertain about just sharing this personal journey. But several students who attended the class online said it was "exactly what they needed' Sometimes we fail to trust our own personal experience and give our power away to words and expectations. Training or being on a spiritual path can often times get one caught up in getting 'It'.....Mary Heiny sensei once told me that a translation of Masaka(True victory) was True Accomplishment. A growth. Actualizing possibility.

Some of the most important parts of the video are the silent still places. The calm. The emptiness.

So on watching the class it was still a powerful experience for me.

https://youtu.be/evFMkJ5blbI

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Underworld


This is an online class I did last week. In all my studies of Osensei's words I have come across the term'ne no kuni' translated by John Stevens as 'underworld' just once. Laurin Herr says a much more descriptive phrase is 'land of the roots'. So the class theme was what we might call the 'under connection' or 'the support half'.I had had a phone session the day before with Nadeau sensei and we went over this topic. Much of Nadeau sensei's work in the seventies and eighties was around base. More recently he shifted to core. Now he uses the term'character'. One of the ways to approach it is that anything is a potential harmony of two parent forces. There is usually an obvious paired with a less obvious.For me the easiest way to get into this is idea. Everything starts with an idea.  but the idea needs the support of energy. It is another way to look at mind and body. The mind may represent idea and the body energy.

Recently I was looking at some videos of my Tai Chi master Choy Kam Man. And I was noticing some sublties to the movement 'Single Whip and Creeps Down'. Most people just drop their weight and set to do the movement. Watching Master Choy I saw what he was doing was not dropping and setting but moving down as if attached to a spinning wheel. So instead of a set and line straight down which throws your system off he was like something attached to a wheel as it spun backward from top to bottom(ground). So I tried the movement that way and it made sense. But I realized something was missing. The concept or idea I could see was correct. But I realized there was the deeper feel/experience of the concept or idea at a feel level that supported the movement. So my idea needed the support of the energy to do what Master Choy was doing. It was basically what I was doing but the result was to clean it up and have me experience a deep natural flow in the movement where everything clicked.

So anything starts with an idea. But most energy goes into the 'I' in the body trying to figure out the movement and do the outer part of the movement(form).. To get 'I' out of the movement allows the idea to be clear without the 'I' interfering by trying to understand it and do it. Then the energy can come in and naturally complement the idea. The result is an integrated form. Bruce Lee referred to the branches of a tree as surface knowledge. Real knowledge he claimed was root. And root he claimed came through body feel. Mind tends to be upper. The energy tends to come in lower or even under as you appreciate ground more.

Stephen Curry in his Masterclass on basketball explains shooting and ballhandling in terms of hands feet grip eyes. But to function in a game he has his base and all the needed details. But then everything in the moment to quote him''Explodes through your core''. Past the details of hands feet eyes(all of which must be correct) so that everything lines up to base and core and the energy comes in to support the action whether it is in basketball shooting or ballhandling. In Aikido we practice forms. So proper study of positioning and timing and body movement are necessary. But ideally that is presented in a way the the idea is made simpler and more transparent so that the energy can freely and naturally come in to support it.

One of my students during the class made the very astute statement he learned from Don Levine sensei that in the West we have mind/body separation and that Aikido is about mind/body unity. What I should have said is that take the idea of mind/body unity and allow its support half, the energy to come in. Anyway, here is the class.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

A Word past Core

 

I just posted a youttube video of a class last week It was a day after the stress management class. And I'm struggling to find a word that describes what went on. Core development is a popular term, but it is not quite that. Anyway I watched the video of my class and realized something important was there. It is 90 minutes long with intro and an after class expose. I don't expect many people to be able to wade through the whole thing. But my feeling is some important stuff got transmitted. I am reminded of when I was first in Shingu Hikitsuchi sensei would off the mat give an impromtu lecture, which, I could not get because It was in Japanese. But my Mom sent me my tape recorder and Linda Holiday and I would start to tape the lectures, at first concealing the recording device. Finally when he found out we had recorded him, he would replay his talk, oftentimes transfixed as if he were hearing it for the first time even though it had come from him. We found out later he used to tape record Osensei and would later study the tapes. But he would hear things he himself had said and would then be moved to study those words. So I had a similar feeling with this video.

Like most people in Aikido of a certain generation, I have wondered what exactly Osensei meant by kototama. Hikitsuchi sensei taught kototama. And he daily chanted the Shinto prayers which are connected to kototama. When Robert Frager sensei and I overlapped on one visit, Hikitsuchi sensei taught a formal kototama class. Robert Nadeau sensei and I still go over Osensei's patterns of center/circle and fire/water along with the Su chant. I try to daily do the Amatsu Norito and Kami Goto as well as my own misogi pattern with the Su chant. Lately from my own personal experience of the past period of years(I can't say when this connection started) I've begun to notice a real connection between breath and sound/vibration. Which then of course feeds into movement.. I try to explain that in the video.

One thing that I try to highlight which I find is being lost in Aikido is that sense of primalness. If you hear Osensei chant on video he does not sound like a Shinto priest. There is a uniqueness to his sound, to his breath creating waves and other energy shapes, that has andprimal and at the same time otherworldly quality. I mean  in contrast to something that is made social, safe, and understandable, all of which are good in their own right. And I don't mean that it is dangerous, but it is primal. Hearing Osensei chant on video or Hikitsuchi sensei in the Shingu dojo of the seventies there was this almost raw quality that complemented the beauty, power, and intelligence of the sound. Again words fail me here. As much as the sounds(and accompanying movements) were practiced, there was a undescribableness to them. The sounds could make the hair on the back of your head stand up. And brought up a deep deep sense of heart and reverence. Again the words fail.

Much of this personally I have found interiorly in what you might call core. But it is past that term and even though intensely felt through the body it is more than just body. I guess what I'm struggling to say is that when we try to understand something we tame it, make it palatable. And what I'm trying to describe is never tame, never violent, loving but in a texture that words can't capture.

And my sense is that we think of kototama as a sound system. And anything that touches this original aliveness, or love, or primalness is kototama. Thus actions or movements that come from here, acts with power, are also kototama. In the last part of the video we have completed the movement section and go into discussion/lecture. I recount a basketball game I watched online in 2016. Warriors vs Oklahoma City Thunder. Overtime with seconds to go.. A rebound goes into Stephen Curry's hands for the last shot.. The game is tied. Everyone expects Curry to move closer to the hoop. But he without fear pulls up from 40 feet and nails what becomes the game winner. Now many players take that shot, but lo 4 or 5 years ago nobody did. But Curry making that shot gave me the great gift that in that moment I was just intensely glad to be alive. Not just because he had won the game. But the courage and largesse of that moment he created took me out of my normal state of just rooting for my team to win. The announder shouted out 'Bang!!!" not once but twice. I think Kevin Durant was so moved that he later joined the Warriors because he wanted to be a part of that. An enemy becomes a teammate. Aiki.....The next day there was an area Aikido gathering at the San Jose dojo. Everyone was talking about that shot. And even though it was not in a dojo, it was Aiki in another lineage. And I believe Osensei constantly produced moments like that. A purity beyond pure. A beauty beyond beautiful..My sense of that moment is irrational. I Can't explain the effect it had on me/ I can say being at the home birth of my daughter and catching her when she came out of her Mom tops that, but only that.


So here is the video. It's long and I didn't expect it to touch me the way it did. Hope you enjoy it.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Stress Management Class

 

I thought the other day that the dojo at large might be interested in a Stress Management Class. Aikido is the Way of harmony and stress is the result of when that harmony is lost or not there. So our way to deal with stress is to determne if that harmony with ourselves is there and if not how to realign to ourselves to be back in a harmonious state. If there are minor tweeks that harmony is re-established. If there are major factors then we may need to establish a new harmony and new methods for dealing with the new level.

For most of us these are challenging times. The pandemic has changed all our lives. Freedom we took for granted has been severely compromised or in some cases just lost. Going out to a restaurant just to relax, air out, enjoy a meal is so much harder. Travel is much more restricted. Social contact in most cases involves distancing and safety factors and in certain cases is now totally online.. These are major changes. Welcoming change is difficult as we all really prefer a comfort zone. When that zone is threatened, we react. We react--------stress. We have an upcoming election on November 3rd which will shape the direction of the country politically, economically, socially, and spiritually. It is going to be astronomically important as the results will shape your lives in ways perhaps we cannot now even imagine.

The physical dojo and the in person training experience has been interrupted. There is a great uncertainty when and whether even the post-pandemic period will even have a place for dojos. My own way was to treat the dojo as a Mom and Pop operation(in my case for the majority of my years with out the Mom, although that has in more recent years shifted).People like Anno sensei taught for years but it was a very personal experience that had to do with business than with their connection to Aiki. And their connection to Aiki was their connection to students. I have always trusted that feeling and my inclination has always been to distance myself from the more the bigger the better is due to getting more and more. You can lose your humanity and your perspective due to that. But at the same time I can agonize over past business decisions or non-decisions that have put the dojo at risk financially. Why could I not have planned for this? Truth be told the dojo succeeded in a meager and small way that seemed to be sustainable so I just rode it. But when things like the pandemic hit, the racial unrest, the political corruption, the economic uncertainty, that personal safety zone is destroyed and a new way of looking at things like economic and social


stability for the dojo must be examined. I thank those of you who have realized these issues with the dojo and through emails or persona discussion have come up with ideas and suggestions.


So my thoughts on a stress management class. Online through our dojo Zoom link we use for classes would be easy to do. It could be videoed so those not able to attend might be able to follow and see what it's about. It could be one class or several or lead to a a regular class on a weekly basis. What might we cover?

1. Some meditation. Just grounding in silence or breath has been known to help with stress and health issues. As one of my teachers once said, "More important than what you eat is what is eating you." Meditation can give you balance and perspective to help you cope and even better help you or me find a better level of ourselves that can deal with the massive changes and restrictions we are being hit with.

2. Some movement practices to help us practice some of the benefits we get from meditation like grounding, breathwork, being able to hold a calm space in motion. Not technically aikido technique, but essential to the true nature of what Aikido is. Osensei constantly talked about the "True Aikido".

3. Perhaps some discussion as a group so we share what is going on for us and what challenges we face. We can then share what helps each of us. There is as the Warriors have taught us, a"Strength in Numbers''.

4. Hopefully we(and the dojo) come out of things better and we can move forward together.


My thoughts are this can be an evening class on a Tuesday or a Thursday 7:30 to 8:30pm.Online of course. So let this ruminate. I'll pick a date for a class and we will go on from there.


Be safe and well......

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

ks 

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.......