Monday, April 30, 2007

Still More Warriors

It is April 30th, and we are still being amazed by the Warriors amazing playoff run. Last nite was an emotional and improbable victory at home against a no.1 seeded Dallas team that came out firing on all cylinders with an aim of re-taking the flow of the entire series. The W's missed free throws, got little from Ellis and Harrington, and managed to find the inner grit to vault past the favored Mavericks in the last minutes of the game. Baron Davis's spectacular half-court shot to end the first half is on youtube and is at the top of the page.

One thing that comes out of all this is what is the purpose of all this? The Warriors on an exciting playoff run will not end the war in Iraq nor bring back to life the people killed on the Virginia Tech campus. In fact the world of professional sports is very illusory, what hindus might term maya or Buddhist's samsara(many thanks to Robert Frager for explaining the difference to me once). So what have I personally gotten and noticed about this phenomenon?

One thing is that it has been easy to approach the Warriors with a strong sense of Zen-like non-attachment. Stoicism. No expectations. I guess it is easy to see the world through the way the world encourages you to see it. The rich get richer. Those in control stay in control. Losers lose. Somehow when sometithing like this happens we realize that for all the mind's certainty about things, it is still a magical world where anything can happen. Last nite I had expected defeat. Last nite the Warriors were warriors, impeccable, with unbending intent, through their actions moving the basketball gods in a way that they charted their own destiny. Baron Davis hitting that half-court shot to tie the game. Baron Davis making the steal and lay-up to end the third quarter. Barnes launching that three in the last minute with total confidence that would illude many "stars". Mickale Pietrus giving the team an unexpected boost both offensively and defensively.

So last nite, as I did when the series openned with an unexpected victory in Dallas, I found myself emotional, fragile, caring about the result, up and down, and on a real roller coaster. It was fantastic to see Davis almost will his team to victory, and it was moving to see the wild cards such as Pietrus and Barnes pull almost miraculous things out of thin air to secure the victory. It was so fun to be passionate about something as opposed to being right about something. As don Juan instructed Casteneda, a warrior must balance control(non-attachment) with abandon(passion)! Warriors, thank you, thank you!

Below I am including a clip from Friday nite's victory in Oakland, Jason Richarson with a fantastic up and under finger-roll:

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Vacancy and still more Warriors

After "Underworld Evolution" I've become a Kate Beckinsale fan. I saw her in "Click" with Adam Sandler and I was curious about "Vacancy" with Luke Wilson, which came out last weekend. It is about a couple having problems staying at an out of the way motel only to realize that they are the stars of a real life snuff film. The film is about their attempts to get away before they are killed in front of a camera.

Apparently Beckinsale took the role largely because she wanted to portray this woman who was having problems in her marriage. So she is in this role shed of her vampiric invincibility and definitely a wounded woman in a marriage very much on the rocks. I thought it would be interesting to see her in this role, as opposed to the archetypal Selene of the Underworld films or in Romantic comedies like '"Serendipity", which I also think is quite good. Well, I think her performance is quite good, and, probably even more importantly, she looks great. As Robert Nadeau might put it, she can do bitchy.

I found the movie quite disturbing. The level of violence on the wide screen pales by the violence on the small screen. The couple watches dvd's of people being slaughtered and abused, and then realize that they were all shot in the very room in which they are now staying. I found the small screen violence much more disturbing than the stylized suspense and cinema blood in the main feature. Will I see this film again? The answer is no. I find what the film represents to be personally objectionable. In the Underworld movies mostly immortals are killed by other immortals. Watching people doing violence like this to other people is not something I find at all watcheable at all. And this stuff is so much a part of the culture now. I watched part of a slasher type film with my goddaughter and her sister on cable tv. And they were really quite cool with it all. It worries me that this stuff can become so seemingly harmlessly a part of our culture, and its effects on an increasingly violent world ignored.

I remember a story Robert Frager told me about an occasion where he spent some time with Osensei watching tv. They watched a series of samurai sword dramas where the heroes would kill armies of opponents with their swords. This was followed by an American western, which had a complex character who was a mixture of light and dark. When this character was killed, apparently this upset Osensei, who remarked:"that's the trouble with the West! Too much violence!" So the stylized chambara violence of the Japanese tv series did not register on Ueshiba Osensei, but the death of a character he felt something for did disturb him.

What disturbed me about Vacancy was seeing women and older people frightened, beaten, and killed. All too ordinary. All too human. And on some level for someone's enterainment. Luke Wilson as the husband did a good job. I thought he was great in "My Super Ex-girlfriend" opposite Uma Thurman. And without giving away the ending to the film, it is as if the Beckinsale character suddenly channels Selene.

Congrats to the Warriors for their 97-85 victory over the Mavericks in Dallas. As I write this, they are still undefeated in the post season. Game 2 tonite!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Congratulations to the Warriors

The Warriors are finally in the playoffs. 13 seasons of no NBA postseason in the bay area will be over this week. Tonite the W's open round one against the Dallas Mavericks. And while they are still undefeated in postseason, I am writing this blog.

I used to watch the NBA on NBC in the very early '60's. Since Wilt Chamberlain was being featured, the old Philadelphia Warriors were often on network tv. They soon moved to the bay area and became the San Francisco Warriors. I believe they even played the Boston Celtics in the 1963 NBA finals and lost in, I think, 5 games. They really caught on in the bay area after Wilt Chamberlain was traded and had a very exciting young team built around Rick Barry and Nate Thurmond in 1967 or so. And they rewarded us with an unlikely and totally unexpected championship in 1975. As you can see, I've followed this team for awhile. It has been frustrating the past decade or so, seeing little bits of excitement turn into prolonged disappointment. But there is a new energy about the franchise. There has been a talent overhall and the team, under the direction of Chris Mullin and Don Nelson, seems headed in a direction that will be good for both the fans and the team.

I think the real story of this season has been the return of coach Don Nelson. In a league and, indeed, a world that targets youth, it has been fantastic to see age and wisdom honored. Nelson has brought an intelligence, credibility, direction, and his usual quirky creativity to this team. Basically he was run out of here in 1995 by then new ownership. He was perceived as unable to reach the Superstar player in a league that was then being more and more player run. If a coach didn't get along with the players, it is easier to fire the coach. Now to see how he has melded his own talents along with players like Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson is indeed a joy to behold. At the start of this season, Andrea Mallis predicted a rocky season for Nelson because of a lot of activity in his astrological chart from the planet Saturn. Saturn is bad luck and misfortune, and the injuries to key players this season has borne this out. The Warriors had more players miss games this year than any other team to make the playoffs. Yet they succeeded where other versions of this team have failed. Saturn, while crippling and disappointing, can bring wisdom. And the point I made to Andrea is that maybe the coach defeated Saturn(more impressive than being 3 and 0 against the Dallas Mavericks)by passing onto the players his hard won wisdom. Wisdom is so precious. Things like love and power without it often go to ruin. So, as I write this, the W's are undefeated in the 2007 playoffs. All I can say about their first round match-up against Dallas is:"Go get 'em coach!"

Friday, April 20, 2007

Daniel Boulbault

One of the things that has come up for the Switzerland trip is a place to stay in Paris. Linda sensei suggested that I contact anyone I knew in France and see if I could arrange a place to stay. Only one name came up, that of Daniel Boulbault, a Frenchman who trained at Hombu dojo and who used to visit the Shingu school. I had an old e-mail address for him, but my e-mails were returned. I asked Karen Chew(pictured above along with me and Daniel in 1974) if she would try to find a good address for him. She phoned me back and, after a search on the internet, discovered that he had passed on April 1st of last year.

For me this was very sad news. Sometimes you meet someone who makes very deep impressilon on you, even if the actual time you spent was not all that long. I met Daniel in 1973, when I was on my first extended stay at the Shingu dojo. I returned in 1974 for a second stay. Daniel would come down from Tokyo to train, and, when he did, he would crash in my room. At that time there was a large dorm built to house employees of a luxury hotel, and aikido students were also allowed to stay there for a very reasonable rent. Sometimes I would wake up in my room in the middle of the night and see Daniel in a sleeping bag just in front of the door. It was always nice to see him and train with him.

One thing you must realize is that Daniel was extremely short, maybe around 4'6". He was, however, extremely powerful and his aikido was very dynamic. He spoke fluent French, Japanese, and English. I wouldn't be surprised if he knew other languages as well. He traveled around Japan as a hitchiker. The Japanese would never pick up another Japanese, but, if you were a foreigner, you might get picked up. In Daniel's case he got lots of rides. Because of his stature and appearance(he was rather striking and had a beard and moustache) the Japanese would always ask his nationality. He would answer"Kinseijin!" which translates as "Venusian!" I'm sure more than one Japanese took him at his word!

Karen and I spent one week in Tokyo. We stayed with Daniel, of course, and his apartment was just around the corner from World Aikido Headquarters. I remember training at the second Doshu's classes, the classes of Yamaguchi, Osawa, Arikawa, and Tada senseis. It was quite a fun week.

So, even with all the excitement of the trip to Switzerland, my heart is heavy......

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Switzerland trip a Go!

This blog was written by me last month and for some reason I thought I published it and didn't. So this is old news to most. The trip is definitely on and I am looking forward to it.

I just want everyone to know that the trip to Switzerland is a definite YES! Linda Holiday sensei purchased tickets for her and me. We will be leaving on May 21st, flying into Paris, and returning on June 1st. I want to thank everyone who has donated. We are at about $3,000, which is supposed to be a slightly generous minimum to cover the trip. I understand that there are people who want to still donate and this would probably make things a little easier. So feel free, any of you who still intend to donate. One thing that I want to point out is that I have a cataract in my left eye, which, well not vision threatening, makes vision out of that eye difficult. Unfortunately, my insurance has a $2500 deductible, which I currently cannot afford. So anything donationwise that exceeds the amount of the trip can be used toward the cataract surgery. Nadeau sensei had both eyes done in a way that really improved his vision. He no longer uses glasses. Linda sensei is currently looking for the most economical places to stay, so this is in no way some sort of luxurious vacation. So whatever is donated will go towards something important. And as things develop, I will keep everyone posted here!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Anno sensei & more Switzerland

I want to thank all of you who have donated to make the trip to Switzerland a reality. Things are moving along well and quickly on that front. As more things become clear they will appear in this blog. And since the major reason for going is to see Anno sensei, I thought I'd finally do a blog thatI have been thinking about for a long time.

I first met him when I initially arrived in Shingu in April of 1973. Hikitsuchi sensei had arranged for a private session with him at the dojo. The night before, which was my first class in the area, I had been beaten up by one of the younger instructors at his mountain dojo. It turned out I was the only person who was there for the session .I didn't know what to expect, given what had happened the night before. He was very relaxed and understated. He wore a white belt instead of a black belt(he was 7th dan at the time). He didn't even put on his hakama. I remember the initial movement was ai dori irimi nage. He moved behind me into my blind angle. Then, the only thing i can say is that he moved, and I was in some strange way compelled to move as well. It was wonderful training and very different from the night before.

I remember that by and large the training with him, though vigorious and very demanding, was joyful and full of beauty. He worked very large opening spirals and did lot of spins. One night after a ceremony in the dojo, I remember he wore out 4 or 5 or maybe more of the black belts on shomen uchi irimi nage. He was like an energy tornado.

He taughta couple of summer seminars at the old Japantown dojo in the early '90's. Then I sort of went another direction. When Linda Holiday sensei brought him over in 1999, we re-connected. The following video was shot in late(November or so) 1973. And it was shot after the evening class. I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Stu Miller

Yesterday was opening day for the Giants, and they had players there who over the SF years made the All-Star team. Of course this is to commmemorate having THE game in San Francisco this summer. Guess who threw out the first pitch? None other than one of my all-time favorite Giants, Stu Miller.

It is interesting that he is up there along with Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Cepeda, and yes, both Bondes(Bobby and Barry) as one of my all-time favorites. He is best known as the pitcher who was blown off the mound during a national telecast of the last All-Star game played in San Francisco.

Lon Simmons introduced him, and, rightly said that at the time(1961) he was the best relief pitcher in baseball.And he was. He was also the Giants stopper in their pennant winning season of 1962. In '63 he was traded, along with Mike McCormick to the Orioles in what is one of the all-time worst trades in Giants or baseball history. Miller continued to be a dominant relief pitcher in the AL for years, while the Giants struggled to find another to replace him.

Miller was not your typical closer of today. He was used differently. He might come into a game not to record the last three outs, but to stop a rally in the late innings. He might go as long as 3 innings. In 1961 he lead the whole team in victories(14) besting even a very young Juan Marichal(13 wins).

Miller's approach was also very different, if even on the surreal side. Every body in the majors has to have the eye and bat speed to handle a big league fast ball. Their is a certain timing you must have or you are out of the majors. Miller pitched in reverse. He had a wind up that drew the batter in and set him up for an assortment of slow curves and change-ups. He was so different than any other pitcher that it was almost impossible to adjust. Your very instinct towards bat speed was used against you. Miller changed the game to the point where it became almost surreal. Batters would swing and miss at his slow pitches just like attackers trying to hit Osensei. Time and space became his play things. Power hitters would move up in the batter's box and start swinging off their front legs just trying to make contact. And they would still be out in front of his deliveries. It was said that he threw at 3 speeds: slow, slower, slowest. One batter said he had Miller's delivery figured out."He throws it with his fingers, one finger at a time!"

I personally was fascinated by him. Osensei talked about "katsu hayabi", that speed which transcends time and space. Osensei seems on video so relaxed and moves just at the right time. Miller held a certain fascination for me way before I learned about Osensei and aikido because of his way of seeming to alter time and space. Among athletes the only other one who had some of this Miller-type magic was Chris Mullin. Mullin in his earlier days could beat you off the dribble for no discernible reason. You had to play up on him because he was a deadly shot, but he also could use a defenders defensive instincts against him. So as much as I am fascinated by the Michael Jordans and Sandy Koufaxes of the world, I am at least equally mesmerized by the Chris Mullins and Stu Millers of the universe. Before I go any further, I have to mention Earl Monroe and his la la moves also fits into this category(see earlier blog).

And Miller was not afraid to challenge a hitter. I remember being at Candlestick Park in 1961 for a game against the then Milwaukee Braves. The Giants were leading by a run with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the ninth, when Miller was brought in to relieve a very young Juan Marichal. He was facing a very good(and i believe an all-star calibre player) hitter in 2nd baseman Frank Bolling. And lurking in the on deck circle was none other than Henry Aaron. The thing on Miller was that the longer the at bat lasted the greater the possibility you could time one of his pitches and get a hit. Bolling kept fouling2 strike pitches off. And contact fouls started to become lined shots foul. Miller adjusted by going even slower. But the at bat was lasting way past the comfort point for me and other Giants fans. The thought in the back of our minds was"What if he finally gets a hit and ties the game, then Aaron would be up to win it?". So finally Miller decided the matter by blowing what was probably a 70 mph fast ball right past Bolling! It was a sweet moment. Congratulations to Stu Miller on throwing out the first pitch of the 2007 season!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

more Switzerland and still more Thor

More on the Switzerland possibility. I talked with Linda Holiday sensei last night. We would be initially at Biel, where Anno sensei would be teaching a seminar at a sports center. After the seminar we would be at the highest mountain in Europe, Mt. Blanc, where we would drop in on a seminar on Native American Shamanism. Mt Blanc apparently interfaces Switzrland, France, and Italy, so we would have an opportunity to spend the last couple of days visiting somewhere memorable.

To get the full scoop on this, please read the previous blog entry. I want to thank the students who have already made donations to the non-profit(see Takemusu Shinbuden on blog title page or at, the dojo website.)

I am also including a video from youtube in which Stan Lee gives a little history on his creation of the Thor Marvel character. Whereas the animation is very primitive, much of it is directly from the art work of the incredible Jack Kirby.