Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Switzerland, more Thor, and a special anniversary

Sometimes the universe sends something that you don’t quite know what to do with. Something tempting, yet something a more cautious and grounded side says to be cautious about. Anyway, in late May Anno sensei is making what might be one of his last trips abroad(he’ll also be at the Santa Cruz Summer Retreat in July, see to Switzerland to teach a seminar. Linda Holiday sensei has suggested that we try and go. Wow!

Sometimes life can get into a comfortable rut. Sort of like being a hobbit in the shire. Then all of a sudden Gandalf drops by and there is a call to different worlds. I’ve never been to Europe, although I stayed overnight in London(unscheduled stop due to engine trouble) in 1989 when I visited Moscow. This would be to spend time with Annosensei, and to possibly stay on a couple of days and attend of all things a Native American Shamanic Conference also in Switzerland.

I can afford the time(about 10 days late May to early June). However, it would be irresponsible to pay for it out of the dojo(even though it would be a legitimate aikido expense) because it would leave it with no cash reserves. So going is a process of putting it out there(yes, I’d like to go.) and at the same time coming up with how to get this done.
So, I’m putting it out there. If any of you have any ideas please feel free to let me know.

One possibility is that years ago I was given a non-profit corporation. You can get more information on this by going to our website( or by simply scrolling down this blog to the links section and clicking onto Takemusu Shinbuden. So,if you are interested in making a donation of any amount, it is tax deductible. You can even do it on the site with a credit card. The purpose of the non-profit is compatible with the trip as well, so I would just go under it. There might also be a way of donating airline miles to help the trip, but Linda sensei and I are going to have to look into the ins and outs of that. I want everyone to know that I am perfectly settled into my current comfortable rut and not attached to going, but………

Those of you who might be interested in reading the early Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Thor series can get them rather inexpensively through Marvel Essentials. Each Volume has about 30 stories in black and white, and there are at least 3 volumes of Thor. Somehow I find the saga of a god becoming a superhero and living with humans and dealing with humanity and imperfection quite fascinating. I bought all 3 volumes. He fights almost universal foes(ego the living planet and Galactus) and more down to earth opponents.

Tonight is the 41st anniversary of the first appearance on American TV of “The Avengers”. I remember being initially disappointed in Diana Rigg because I was expecting Honor Blackman. That was gone by week 2. It took me that long to figure the show out. Incidentally, Secret Agent Gal will soon go over 4,000 views n youtube. Modest, but not altogether bad.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

more Stan Lee

After having written that post yesterday on Thor, I thought I might follow up with more on his creator. Not Odin, his father, but Stan Lee. Of course he also created most of the Marvel line. We know him for Spider-man, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, the Incredible Hulk, the X-men, Iron Man.......If you think of a recent Super-hero film with a Marvel character, chances are it had its distant origins in the imagination of Stan Lee.

Just as Ueshiba Osensei revolutionized martial arts with the creation of aikido, Stan Lee did so with comics, and, in the process, probably saved an entire industry. I found Marvel a couple of years after I'd stopped reading comics. In my middle high school years. All of a sudden I found a new line of comics on the newsstands. The art seemed qurkier than what I had been used to, even surreal, and the stories dealt with heroes and heroines coping with the fact that they suddenly found themselves with extraordinary abilities. This is being done very well on the current NBC show "Heroes". Incidentally, did anyone catch Stan's guest appearance on that show a couple of weeks ago?

So when the new comics would come in I would just drift off into another world. I'd read them before going to sleep. And I wouldn't just read them. Everything was read and re-read. I had Stan Lee's words etched deeply in my mind.In some way it is not farfetched to say that he had a lot to do with whom I've become.After all, I put on a change of clothes to go to work and then attempt to balance the everyday world with the energy realm. The first time I saw a picture of Osensei in a martial arts magazine, I was reminded of a character Stan Lee(along with Steve Ditko) created: the Ancient One, the teacher of Dr. Strange, another of my Marvel favorites.

Towards the end of high school, I actually wrote into Marvel and received a blue postcard back signed by Stan himself. I put this in a collection of old Spider-man stories re-printed in paperback. I keep telling myself I should look for it. But I'm always afraid that I'll find out that I no longer have it.

This summer's Fantastic Four movie features one of my all time favorite Lee characters, the Silver Surfer. I still have his original appearance in the comics, the "Galactus" trilogy. I used to imagine that his surfboard was Osensei's magical floating bridge and that I was standing there firing cosmic energy blasts to balance the universe.

One thing that Lee did was that he not only created new comics, but a new mythology as well.Osensei went to the Kojiki and its mythology to understand the movement and properties of ki.As I said yesterday, I realized that a certain quality and place in the energy literally was "Thor" and his hammer. I wonder what Stan Lee must think to now see his creations in major, major motion pictures? That symbols and images that revealed themselves to him in is New York offices in the'60's are now so much of our culture that you see Spider-man backpacks and school binders?

I came back to comics in the late '80's after the first Michael Keaton Batman film. I tried Marvel, but found that everything seemed a distant re-hash of Stan Lee's work. It seemed to me that DC had moved more into the character development and psychological twists that Marvel pioneered in Stan Lee's tenure. So I've been basically DC ever since. But watching the movies, sitting in the dark before a huge screen, part of me is still in his mid-teens watching Stan's creations do their thing. As the man himself might say,"Excelsior!"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

of thunder gods and storm gods

It's amazing how things sometimes tend to snowball. A particular quality in the energy that would come and go over the years finally named itself. Energies tend to feel themselves, and it is better to just go along with the process and feel, be present in the body for them then to try to understand or figure them out.There was an explosive power that was associated with it, circular, smooth, somewhat effortless. Finally,I realized that the cirlularity and power were like a magic hammer. Bingo......Thor!

Of course Thor is the Norse God of Thunder. But to those privileged enough to be around for the birthing of Stan Lee's Marvel Age of Comics in the early 1960's he is also a super-hero.In fact for a period in the early '60's, he was my favorite over Spider-man, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, the Hulk.......I enjoyed the fact that even a god, who chose to hang out at least partially in this human dimension, would have problems and face limitations. The way Stan Lee wrote his dialog was very Shakespearean:"Thou facest the son of Odin, the god of Thunder and Storm!" I enjoyed his interaction with everyday people who had to face the fact that they were dealing not only with a super-hero, but quite possibly with a god as well. Stan Lee would have him interact with New York cab drivers and other ordinary folk.I really enjoyed this and I think this could have been more developped. As the series went on, it became more and more far out, going into the reaches of outer space and with lots of adventures set in Asgard and other more mythical climes. While those were good, I liked the contact with everday and this was lost more and more as the series went on.

About issue 100 of Journey into Mystery, which later became Thor's own comic, Jack Kirby took over the art work. Kirby's art and Stan Lee's scripts gave me hours and hours of enchantment when I was a teenager.The cover above is one of my all-time favorite comic book covers. A giant robot hand from the future carrying a sinester villain, with Thor swinging his hammer in anticipation. "The Return of Zarrko the Tomorrow Man!" says it all. To a boy in his early teens these books were gateways into another dimension, literally. Of power, beauty, and wonder.

In the movie "Adventures in Babysitting" there is a young girl dressed up as the super-hero Thor, with hammer and all. I remember seeing an old Brendan Fraser film where he had long blond hair, took people at a radio station hostage with squirt guns that looked like assault weapons, forcing them to play his band's music. My thought at the time was that I thought he would make a great movie Thor. I still do. More recently, the character has been featured in a straight to video animated series, "The Ultimate Avengers", re-telling the story of Marvel's early version of the Justice League. Thor as presented by Lee and Kirby was very androgynous. One of the best lines in the first movie is"Who is the chick with the hammer?" "I don't know, but I'm glad she's on our side!" Highly recommended!

So what ties might Thor have to aikido?Growing up in the Kumano region, which is steeped in Shinto history and magic, Osensei was often told that he was the re-incarnation of the Shinto Storm God, Susano. Of course Thor is the God of Thunder and Storm. So on the level of archetypes, they may be the same archetype. Carl Jung talked about archetypes as gods and goddesses, and probably one of the current most commom places to encounter these archetypes is in comic books or in comics inspired films.

On a sadder note, I found out at a comic book shop today that the Thor comic died about 3 years ago. Certainly he remains alive in the Marvel Universe. And the character has a pivotal role in both Ultimate Avengers movies.But it's almost like hearing that an old friend has passed on. But it is important for this energy or archetype to stay alive in aikido. So here's to a new generation, I hope, of Thunder Gods and Goddesses.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sue Ann part 2

This second warrior show is set in the future. Androids have taken over and humanity must fight for its own existence. There is an unintentional similarity to the Terminator films. This was presented, I think, at the 1986 Russ Warner bodybuilding classic. People from the aikido community are present. Robert Nadeau presents the piece. Nick Scoggins plays the emperor of the androids. Elaine Yoder plays the capoeira assasin, John O'Connell the biker, Julio Toribio the karate killer, and Jason Yim the staff master. My daughter Jennifer, then age 8, and I were in the audience to see it live.

I believe Nadeau sensei conceived this project and even orchestrated the set effects. Even though this postdates the first Terminator film(1984) the line "You've ruined my toys!" precedes the great Jack Nicholson/Joker line from the first Batman film(1989): "Where does he get those wonderful toys?".

So, enjoy!!!!


and part2:

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Begginner's Story

I want to share a poem e-mailed to me by one of our newest students, Marcos Johnson:


Waiting on one Sensei
While talking to another

The Dojo doors open

3rd Aikido class
Of what will hopefully be
33 thousand

13 years earlier
I quit
After one of them

Too hard to be humble

During the all important 2nd one
This time
The teacher
Tells me to roll

“Why don’t you work on rolling
over there in the corner?”

Flop around for a while
Until I execute
A half-assed facsimile
Of what the experts do

The difference being
There is no air
Between me and the mat

Even so I smile

Learning something simple

I like it

So for today’s class
I ask the Sensei
If I can keep working
On this most basic
Of techniques

He grants me permission
To play by myself

The black belts
With the flowing bottoms
Are beautiful

One day I will be one

One baby step at a time