Friday, January 26, 2007

Einstein and aikido

What could Albert Einstein have to do with aikido? Obviously he did not have a knowledge of the formal throws and falls of the Japanese martial art. But he was someone who sought to understand the universe on much deeper terms than existed at that time. Just as Ueshiba Osensei probably felt that before his aikido there was no existing martial art at his time that could teach him the root source of things, so Einstein had to create his own physics to further explain the workings of the universe. Both aikido and Einsteinian physics represent the journey of two remarkable men who sought the deeper experiential truth of things as opposed to just reworking existing knowledge. There are some of Einstein’s sayings that have definitely inspired me in my quest to grasp aikido:

1. “All I want to do is to think God’s thoughts. The rest are just details.” Detail consciousness tends to keep us thinking and behaving like everybody else. God, representing the creative force and intelligence that created the universe, cannot be reduced to a mere detail. If Einstein could think like God, he would comprehend the workings of the universe from the standpoint of its source.
2. “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Where were cell phones 30 years ago? What about ipods and lap top computers? They existed only in imagination. So imagination, as opposed to being something false or undependable, is really the template from which new things move from the field of potential to existing reality. Anything truly new, as opposed to recycling old knowledge, must come from the imagination.
What else might Einstein and Ueshiba Osensei have had in common? It is said that everyday we think from 40,000 to 52,000 thoughts a day. Unfortunately, they are. pretty much the same thoughts. I feel that people like Einstein and Osensei probably think fewer yet deeper thoughts than normal people. They say that really creativity exists in the silence, the gap between the thoughts. This is probably where they hung out. So where is this gap/silence? It is probably in the body. Einstein would visualize himself running at light speed in beam of light. He was not an outstanding mathematician, so his genius was in being able to”see” things from a very different perspective. Likewise, Ueshiba Osensei studied things like time and space through his budo training. One might see him as an energy scientist as opposed to simply just a martial artist.

How can we evaluate such seeming different people as Einstein and Ueshiba osensei? I am probably in a very distinct minority, but from my perspective, Ueshiba Osensei’s achievement was much greater than Einstein’s. Einstein sought a Unified Field Theory that would unify his physics, Newtonian physics, and quantum physics. He never succeeded. This is still being sought by physicists today. I feel Ueshiba Osensei through his body and movement WAS the Unified Field Theory.

Through the magic of youtube here is a clip of Albert Einstein:

Sunday, January 14, 2007

more sword and transformation

I found the She-ra "Secret of the Sword" video intro on youtube. I am including that at the end of this entry and it has inspired me to write a bit more on this topic. I remember when I first saw Osensei's sword work on home movies when I started aikido. These, of course, have been now transferred to video. I was amazed at the speed of his movement, that a man in his eighties could move like that. In addition, he seemed to possess great focus and power. As I watched them a bit more over the years, it seemed to me that he was not moving to a set series of movements, but that there was great spontaneity in what he did.

I think that it is very important to realize that he is not doing sword but rather aikido through the sword. And that this is coming through a level of being rather than doing.Did someone show him how to hold and swing the sword? Probably. Did he spend a certain time investigating different systems? Probably. But he did not get stuck in any one system. And as he transformed and became enlightened, that was what came through the sword. He said that he studied the sword with mythological(Tengu)creatures. So his process for the sword went from personal/physical at some point to the archetypal. This is where he was learning directly from the energies themselves. And the sword at this point became an element of his own training(both internal and external) and also a tool for his mission, to spread the deeper message of aikido.

So what can we glean from this more universal and archetypal level and its approach to the sword? Hikitsuchi sensei referred to practice with the sword and staff as practice for "katsu hayabi", literally that speed which transcends time and space. Can that level be reached purely through technical understanding and practice? Can it be reached without these factors?

So how much can we glean from this larger, more universal and archetypal level and its approach to the sword? Is the sword in fact a necessary practice for learning aikido? How does practice with the sword relate to modern life? Sometimes the questions, which are open, are more useful than answers, which largely depend on where one is currently coming from.

Getting back to the video, we see either cartoon characters and a show for children, or we can shift our gaze and possibly see the archetypes. There is much magic and mythology in the piece. And, it is about someone taking up this sword of transformation to fulfill her true destiny. In any terms, I think that is awesome.

Friday, January 12, 2007

sword as transformation

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog entry about She-ra, princess of power. One of the key points that came up for me, and one of the reasons I really loved She-ra, was that the sword was mainly about transformation as opposed to being a weapon. So I'd like to write a little more about that.

Almost anything that gets us to the here and now is transformative. I used to think when I was in Japan that when I got back to America there would be the time to "figure things out". The training was often so fast and intense that there was little or no time for reflection during the classes. And things in Shingu around Hikitsuchi sensei could be seemingly crazy/chaotic. At one point I remember getting a letter from Robert Frager. He had trained in Shingu for 4 months then returned to California. Well, he wrote that he had bumped into Carlos Casteneda of all people. When Bob described to him all the craziness and intensity around Hikitsuchi sensei, Casteneda apparently told him that that was what it was like to be around don Juan, that what was really going on was power, which we all could claim. I remember being blown away by this letter. It was easy to feel sorry for yourself that the universe was an immense place and to feel like a leaf in the wind.

One of the main lessons I guess I never consciously got was that it was necessary to focus one's intent. The leaf at the mercy of the wind place exists, but at the same time there is also a self that can choose acceptance of the moment, and, if possible, direct and event shape the events that are transpiring. And the sword, both physically and as a symbol, is definitely a transformation through focus gateway. I remember what it would be like to be called up to go sword to sword with Hikitsuchi sensei. I knew little if nothing about the sword at all. Somehow the act of not giving in to one's fear or ignorance seemed to buoy me. Once after a couple of demonstrations where I was uke quite a bit, Hikitsuchi sensei told me that I had jumped a level or so. It was not that I knew anymore than I did or that I had become in my own mind stronger. It was that I could go into the unknown more expansively and with more trust both in myself and in the things in motion in the universe than I could before. He seemed to value this more than pure time in or technical expertise or just outright physical power, all of which were sadly lacking in me at the time.

It is common to learn about the sword these days. This is in contrast to learning the sword. Systems, methods, or styles are what a very mind-based society seem to value. In Star Wars vernacular, the mind in charge has subtly changed things from the Old Republic to the Empire(of the mind). Is sincere real training possible? Yes, but from my perspective it must come from the sincere and clear depths of one's own creative vision. Are systems and methods wrong? No, it is only wrong to get stuck in them and to mistake them for the truth. Truth itself probably cannot be captured in a system or method. It is probably to be found in the depths of one's own spiritual journey. Destinations are system/method borne.

Anyway, I decided to bring back the very first of my videos. It was actually the third to be online, but it was the first one I did. Notice how Harry and I are blending in the moment. While there is repitition in the movements, it is not conscious. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

secret agent gal

Well, Happy New Year! This is the first blog post of 2007. I took a week off from teaching to recharge batteries, visit friends, finish projects, hang out with my cat.......I had a wonderful time at the New Year's Eve morning training at Aikido of Santa Cruz. After class, Linda sensei, Peter Ralls, other Santa Cruz students and teachers just hung out and talked about aikido for a couple of hours. This was continued over lunch with Linda sensei, Peter, and myself. What a wonderful way to end 2006. Yesterday we had a special New Year's Day training in San Jose with about a dozen people. After that I went to San Francisco to spend the rest of the day with family. Today(Tuesday Jan 2nd) I had lunch with Bob Frager. Hopefully we can schedule a class for him to come visit our dojo again very soon.

One of the projects I finished was this video I'm presenting. It is my first attempt to do a video outside of aikido. Some of the moves and throws in the fight sequences might have a relationship to aikido, but that was not my intent to connect it to aikido at all. I created a video edited from non-Avengers sequences of Diana Rigg(das diadem, mini-killers) and had to find a way to produce a soundtrack for it.

In the 1960's there was a tv show called "Secret Agent" starring Patrick McGoohan. It had a real cool theme song sung by Johnny Rivers that rose all the way to number 2 on the charts. I loved that song and thought that it would be perfect for the character of Emma Peel in The Avengers. Except, of course that it was Secret Agent "Man". So there were obstacles.

Apparently after Diana Rigg left The Avengers, she was approached by people figuring that there was the potential for a home movie market. So they produced vignettes of her sans any real plot or even dialogue where she plays an Emma Peelesque woman involved in various intrigues. Other than the fact that they represent footage of her being Emma Peel-like after the Avengers, there is not much to them. The fight scenes in "das diadem" in particular are grittier and more violent than generally presented in The Avengers. So I edited what I considered the highlights into an almost 4 minutes long video. Now I needed a sountrack. A couple of years ago during a Santa Cruz Summer Retreat, Linda Holiday sensei scheduled a karaoke night. One of the songs available was "Secret Agent Man" which I did karaoke-style. I got generally good reviews so I decided to try the soundtrack myself. I tried to get ahold of a good karaoke track of the song to record, but could not get a good version of the original Johnny Rivers version. Finally, I found a 1999 version of the song(post Austin Powers) that he did at a live concert. He had added a few extra guitar tracks and certainly evolved his delivery. So I recorded from this new recording with a digital recorder and sang over his lyrics. Hopefully I was able to transform things from "Secret Agent Man" to "Secret Agent Gal".

The process of trying a vocal was a challenging and very frustrating process. It gives me a great admiration for people like Johnny Rivers who can vocalize, phrase, hit the notes right, convey the spirit of a song......I want to personally thank Frank Silvey, who was definitely a co-conspirator in this projects. He watched countless preliminary cuts and helped me with the recording during one session. I am dedicating this video to a very special friend who has the same initials as Diana Rigg.