Friday, July 28, 2006

of belated birthdays & energies archetypal @astrological

Time does just zip by. I want to acknowledge the birthdays of 2 women whom I've never met who have had a great influence in my life. The first is Dame Diana Rigg, whose birthday is July 20th. The second is Kate Beckinsale, whose birthday is July 26th. Both are probably etched into my memory for exploits performed on screens big and small while dressed in black leather combat gear. We're talking, of course about Mrs. Peel of the Avengers and Selene in the Underworld movies. Besides both being British, tall, and auburn haired, there are more similarities on other levels.

I had Andrea Malliss, astrologer and columnist for the Oakland A's and MLB( do charts for both women and 2 other women who were former partners. The results were amazing. Both Diana Rigg and Kate Beckinsale have their
Venus in Virgo. Since my Mars is in Virgo, this sets up a Venus/Mars conjunction that is very strong and explains the strong attraction they have for me. Diana Rigg has her sun in Cancer, while I have my moon in Cancer. This sun/moon conjunction is also very strong. Kate Beckinsale has her moon in Gemini while I have my sun in Gemini. This also gives us a sun/moon conjunction and a strong attraction. Dame Diana(I am so proud she has risen to such heights) has her Sun in conjunction with the planet Mars, which makes her an honorary Aries. Kate has her Mars in its own sign of Aries, and her Mars is in my 1st house(self). So I'm attracted to strong women. One of my former partners also has her Venus in Virgo and a Sun conjuncted with the planet Mars.

The sun, moon, and planets all represent energies. It is interesting that archetypal energies(Mrs Peel and Selene) manifest in our lives in the people we meet and have been with. I'm currently exploring another Gemini sun/moon conjunction...

Those of you who would like to read Andrea's explanation of my chart can just click into "About Me" to the side of the blog posts and click into "His Unique Astrology".

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Aikido and the Underworld Movies

Aikido as a study of different energies certainly lends itself to viewing things through the lens of different archetypes. It is funny how in this current world how difficult it is to produce an action film based on a female lead. Films like "Elektra" and Halle Berry's "Catwoman", though well produced, were disappointments at the box office. The current "My SuperExgirlfriend" seems headed in the same direction. So what makes the movies "Underworld" and its sequel "Underworld Evolution" an exception?

First, archetypes are primal energies that are present in our collective unconscious and show themselves through our bodies through dreams and visions. Film and comic books are 2 media that allow for quite a variety of archetypes through the vehicle of super-heroes and super-heroines. Osensei stated that the kami(god or goddess energy) that inhabited the shrine that was his body was feminine, Izunome no mikoto, the Shinto angel of purification.

Selene, the heroine of the Underworld movies, is played incredibly well by Kate Beckinsale. About the only thing you would like to see more of is a sense of humor, although there are touches in the second film. Selene is almost a latter day Emma Peel(for me there is no higher praise), wearing similar combat gear. The story of the 2 films is largely her evolution from the archetype of the soldier in the first to the warrior archetype in the second. A warrior operates from knowledge and choice, whereas a soldier doesn't. The hand to hand combat eschews the cinema Hong Kong kicking format for an almost Aiki jitsu concept, where strikes become throws. It is very well done.

The symbology , especially in the second film, is impressive. Power, for it to be truly meaningful, must be passed on from the source. The key element in all evolution is transformation. Polar energies that mix can create and become stronger than either ancestor energy. And the scene on the bridge after the final battle definitely recalls the myth of Izanagi and Izanami on the Floating Bridge of Heaven...Hopefully I haven't given much away, so, if you haven't seen the films, run, don't walk to your video store... If you've seen them, you might want to check them out again.

Friday, July 21, 2006

of midsummer movies &Superhero archetypes

Time to post my opinions on several summer films. "Superman Returns" has both thumbs up from me. I was initially afraid that I would like it, but not really really like it. Since Superman is an important symbol to me, the thought that it would in anyway be disappointing was very disturbing. I feared that it might get lost between trying to be to faithful to the Christopher Reeves films and being too revisionist(Lois Lane as a single mom). However, what I got was a film that was extremely respectful of the source material and at the same time it added some great touches for today. I thought Brandon Routh was a great Superman, and, more importantly, played a wonderful Clark Kent. For the record, my all-time favorite Superman is not Christopher Reeves, but Dean Cain of "Lois and Clark", and it's not even close. Somehow having Superman played by someone who is one quarter Japanese gave me a tremendous amount of energy. Brandon Routh is in second place after Dean Cain on my list.

"My Superex-girlfriend" is much better than the reviews. Uma Thurman is excellent as G-Girl(what does the G stand for?) and as the neurotic Jenny Jackson. The flying and superhero effects are excellent. Whereas Superman does use his super senses to check on Lois, this is taken to hilarious extremes in this film. Even though this is all done as a comedy, are we all that comfortable with poweful women or with some of the deeper aspects of feminine power?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Of Shrines and Aikido

My recent trip to Japan allowed me to visit the Aiki Shrine in Iwama and to go to all three of the Kumano grand shrines in the Shingu area. The Aiki shrine is, of course, a major center for Aikido. Many people have much less exposure to the other three, so I'm going to make an attempt to fill people in.

Back when Osensei was born in Tanabe city, Wakayama Prefecture, if a husband and wife had no male heir, their estate was taken by the government upon their passing. At a time when his mother was suspected of being past her child bearing years, she and Osensei's father made a pilgrimage to the Hongu Grand Shrine to pray for a son. After this was done, Osensei was born some miraculously quick time thereafter. He grew up hearing constantly that his birth was a miracle and that he was a child of the kami. He was even told that he was an incarnation of Susano the Storm God, who is one of the kami enshrined in the Hongu Grand Shrine. So he grew up in a region very steeped in Shinto mysticism and probably felt that he was a deep part of all that.

The Nachi Grand Shrine is built around the Nachi waterfall, which is the highest in all of Japan. On one pilgrimage, Osensei is reported to have seen a mythical golden dragon(ogun no ryu) in the falls. One of the first photos I remember seeing while in the Shingu area was of Hikitsuchi sensei doing an Aikido demonstration with live blades showing the great falls in the background.

The Hayatama Grand Shrine is located just around the corner from the Shingu dojo. Since it is so close(you must make an effort to get to the other two, especially the mountainous Hongu Grand Shrine) it is very easy to dismiss. When I was learning the Kami Goto in 1977, I would go there and practice the chant. In 1991 I took a group of students to the Shingu area. On the morning we were scheduled to leave, we had arranged for a taxi to pick us up and take us to the train station to catch the train to Tokyo. At the appointed time, the taxi failed to show in front of the dojo. Every body from the dojo had left to do a demonstration in Gamagori, so there was no one to contact to get another cab. I speak some Japanese, but I don't have the reading skills to look up a taxi in the phone book. So I ran out of the dojo knowing that I had to make something happen. Instinctively, I headed for the Hayatama Shrine. Something said to head for the kami.
I arrived there in about a minute and saw a solitairy young priest raking some leaves. I rushed up to him quickly explained the situation to him in Japanese. He said he would try to call a cab. I ran back to the dojo, only to see this same priest pull up in a large (for Japan) car. Somehow we squeezed all the luggage into the trunk and everyone into the car. And, defying all laws of time, space, and traffic(which did seem possible in Shingu, especially on getaway trips to the train station) we made our train. When I called Hikitsuchi sensei later while back in America, he explained that the young priest was the gongugi. Gugi is the title for head priest, so this was the son the the head priest, literally the head priest to be in training. I bought and mailed a picture book of Yosemite to Hikitsuchi sensei, who passed it on to the young priest.

Hopefully, this will give you a feel for these other shrines so important to Aikido.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Sunday, July 2nd

Up early. Finish packing and shower. Blood sugar high(180). Must have been the 2 beers. Buffet breakfast. Checkout. Taxi to Shingu station. Yanase sensei and Anno sensei come to see us off. This is a very old tradition from the early '70's, and it is wonderful to see them both. 8:34 am train to Osaka. We wave good-bye.........

Robert and Katja Nadeau for organizing and leading the trip.
Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba for his kindness and encouragement.
Anno sensei for his warmth and sharing of knowledge.
Yanase sensei for being so vital and energetic.
Laurin Herr for his excellent translation and for being a good friend.
Ishimoto, Sugawa, and Hine senseis for their welcome and assistance in getting us around.
New Shihan of the Shingu dojo: Tasaka, Nishi, Kuribayashi, and Suzuki for coming out to see and old training partner.
Lou Bermingham, Frank Silvey, Steve Tsao, Alex Kolbasov who represented the San Jose dojo.
Rob Leichner who represented Aikido West.
and Mike Driscoll who helped me with some very heavy luggage along the way. Hikitsuchi sensei would have probably said that he was doing the work of the kami

Saturday, July 1st

We are up early. Pretty good and very welcome breakfast buffet is available to us at the Shingu Hotel. At 8 am Ishimoto sensei, Suzuki-san(a younger dojo shihan and another old training partner), and Nakao-san(he accompanied Anno sensei last summer) pick us up and take us to the Nachi shrine, which is built around the Nachi waterfall, the highest in Japan. It is possibly my favorite place on this earth. Lots and lots of steps, we visit shrines and temples, a mixture of Shinto and Buddhism. We see the waterfall last. They say its spray is healing and karmically altering. Near the base of the falls, or at least as close as we can get, there appears to be no spray.. However, as I pause and settle, I begin to feel a light spray. As outer things and concerns take my attention, the spray seems to disappear. Yet each time I settle, I feel the light spray back on my cheeks. It is as if the falls are the center of an energy field, and each time my being deepens and attunes, it reaches out to me through spray from the falls. I have always felt a deep and very special connection to this place.

Sushi lunch. So hot and humid. A drive up a familiar mountain road. The Hongu grand shrine. An unexpected audience with the "gugi"(head priest). Coffee shop. Sugawa sensei's mountain dojo. A cultural festival and Aikido demo for Americans who have birth ties to Wakayama Prefecture. Waiting for our guests. Suzuki san and I exchange aikido stuff and memories of Tojima sensei. Very late arriving group. Sugawa sensei and I demo, individually, not together. We head back to Shingu. We do one last pilgrimage, to the Hayatama Grand Shrine, just around the corner from the Shingu dojo. We've made all 3 major Kumano Shrines in one day. My only regret is that we didn't really get to "soak"in the specialness of each shrine/place as we did at the Aiki Jinja in Iwama. These shrines are as important to the history of aikido as the Aiki jinja. More on that in a future blog. Back to the hotel. Group dinner at the roof Beer Garden. I drink a beer and it really tastes great. Being diabetic, this is a rare occasion for me. Great vibes. Good food. Bath. Late night packing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Friday, June 30th

"Fantastic" buffet at the inn. We check out. We have a surprise meeting with the major of Tanabe. Morihei Ueshiba is one of the all-time most famous citizens of Tanabe, so there is a society honoring him of which the major is a part. We go to visit Osensei's grave at Kozanji temple. We then travel to see an Osensei monument on the coast. We all, including Anno sensei, take the train from Tanabe to Shingu. As a group we check into the Shingu Hotel. Yanase sensei joins us. I haven't seen him in about 5 years. He seems happy and energetic. As a group we visit Hikitsuchi sensei's grave. After dropping the rest of the group at the Hotel, Laurin, Anno sensei, and I drive across the bridge to Mie Prefecture to visit Tojima sensei's grave. This is very emotional for me. Laurin and I then pay our respects to Mrs. Hikitsuchi. She was always so wonderful and supportive and it is truly moving to see her again. She, along with Anno sensei, Yanase sensei, Hine sensei, joins us for dinner at the best unagi(eel) restaurant in the universe. We go to the dojo for the Friday evening class, which Anno sensei teaches. Vigorous. Intense. Emotional. Wonderful. Anno sensei's energy just sweeps me up a couple of times and I go flying. I still remember the flight time, but the landings are a lot harder these days. Kind of like Superman realizing there's kryptonite at the end of his flight. But I realize afterwards that the neck, which was out before, has been popped back in. Ishimoto sensei, Hine sensei, along with the younger group of new shihan(Tasaka, Nishi, and Kuribayashi) all show up and train. It is moving to see old teachers and training partners. I manage to have a late night talk with Anno sensei, just the two of us.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Thursday June 29th

This was a real transition day. We were up early for Doshu's class. I trained with Bob Noha and Lou Bermingham and had a wonderful time. We hurried back to the hotel to shower, get luggage, and check out. We taxied to Shinjuku Starbucks to see Nadeau sensei. From Tokyo station we went all the way to Osaka on the shinkansen(bullet train). From Osaka we took the train to Tanabe, the place of Osensei's birth. We got of the train at Tanabe and were greeted by the sight of Anno sensei's smiling face. Sugawa sensei from Hongu(the site of the Grand Shrine in the mountains North of Shingu) brought a large van to help us with luggage. This was a real life saver! We had dinner at a restaurant near the station. We then arrived at Kanpo no Yado, an inn recommended by Anno sensei. The highlight of the evening and maybe the entire trip was hanging out in the onsen(mineral bath) with Anno sensei, asking him questions about aikido. Again, Laurin's translation skills were highly appreciated. More about the conversations in future blogs.

Wednesday June 28th, Iwama & Dinner with Doshu

Wednesday June 28th:

This was a powerful and very moving day. We traveled to Iwama to visit the Aiki shrine. We met Isoyama sensei, who gave us a history of Aikido and this area. It was hot and muggy, which is what it was like anytime we were outside of Tokyo. Also meeting us was Inagaki sensei, now a 7th dan. As a group we got to enter the interior part of the shrine. Isoyama sensei explained that Osensei built the shrine to house the 48 kami that constitute Aikido. Nadeau sensei opened with the kototama chants he learned from Osensei, and then I followed with the Amatsu norito. There was a very powerful feeling that descended upon us. Nadeau sensei felt that Osensei's spirit had passed through and greeted us. I could also sense the presence of Hikitsuchi sensei and Tojima sensei, who were both very glad that I had chanted norito at the Aiki Jinja. We were then treated to an excellent box lunch. Following that Isoyama sensei showed us Osensei's quarters and gave us more history.

We took the train back down to Tokyo, showered, changed clothes, and gathered together for our dinner with Doshu. At the appointed time, our large group met in front of our hotel. Nadeau sensei, stylish in suit and tie, led us in vigorous strides to a Chinese restaurant just past Hombu Dojo. I was privileged to sit at the main table with Doshu, Nadeau sensei and wife Katja, Francis Takahashi sensei, Doshu's son Mitsuteru, Oyama-san(Hombu dojo young intructor), and Laurin Herr. We all enjoyed a wonderful meal, and, with Laurin's very able translation, a lively discussion about Aikido all over the world. After the dinner, Nadeau sensei, and small group and I hit a late night coffee shop(what else). I returned to my apartment to some late late night packing for my trip to Kansai(southern Japan) the next day.