Monday, June 26, 2006

Tempura and Times Past

Last night Nadeau sensei, LaurinHerr, and a group went out for dinner to a tenpura restaurant. Not knowing Tokyo at all well, i just followed along. When we got to the restaurant, I had a feeling of deja vu. Later during the dinner I asked Laurin if this was the restaurant that he and I and Hikitsuchi sensei, along with a group of teachers and students from the Shingu dojo, had come to for dinner in June of 1977. Laurin smiled and indicated that it was.

In June of 1977, Hikitsuchi sensei took a group from the Shingu dojo to participate in the annual All-Japan Aikido Demonstrations. This was the 3rd and last of my 3 major stays in Japan. Hikitsuchi sensei asked for and was given the opening slot in the second and last section of demos. There was a large central stage of mats, surrounded by 2 smaller ones. The instructors took the central stage, and the student demos were on the side stages. Finally, Hikitsuchi sensei took the central stage. With his bo he performed misogi and kaguri mae(literally the dance of the kami). He punctuated it with the kototama O to an up spiral, then suspended the whole of the budokan where the demos were held with the penetrating kiai EIIII! He motioned to me to come out and take ukemi. True to the spirit of a HO NO EMBU we had rehearsed nothing. He expected you to just intuitively know what to do. And if you just let go things generally went well. I remember he started to spin the bo in very sudden and tight spirals, just like Bruce Lee working with nunchaku. I immediately got that I was supposed to go into that spinning field of energy and grab the bo. Despite the speed of the movements, there were stillnesses or void points to move in and grab, but only if I could settle past my fear and surrender. I would rush in, grab the bo, then get thrown. Despite the packed house in the Budo palace filled with Aikido and other budo dignitaries, there was a calm to everything and it flowed. Finally on the last exchange he came at me with a thrust and I missed. The bo took me right in the stomach as I was charging in on him. But I was not hurt. Though very penetrating, it was at the same time light. I was uprooted and thrown some not inconsiderable distance back. I landed safely and that was the end of the demo. Afterwards we all went out to the Tempura place for dinner. At that time I was married. Sarah and I by then had been deep in the Japanese countryside for 6 months, immersed in the culture and training. Following the dinner we went to a showing of Casablanca. Bogart, Bergman, and of course Sam(Dooley Wilson)....Through the magic of cinema we were transported to yet another world. After the film, we began a very eventful trip back to Shingu. But that is a story for another time..........


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