Monday, August 27, 2007

Training with Tojima sensei

One of my most powerful influences during my training in Japan was Kumano Juku Dojo shihan Yasushi Tojima sensei. His unusual but charismatic prescence, his explosive power and abrupt sense of humor are still very vivid to me. In an earlier blog I mentioned that I feel his presence often.

What was it like to train with someone like him? You must realize that when Hikitsuchi sensei or one of the other instructors was leading the class, you might get an opportunity to train one on one with him. Seated kokyu ho with him was very challenging and entertaining. He was incredible relaxed and if you tried to muscle him over he had an incredible heaviness. He would often just let you push on his center without himself blocking you out. He said osensei would have him do the same to him and would instruct him:" Osaeshite age nasai", which, I suppose, could be interpreted as receive my letting you push on my center. And of course O sensei was probably immovable. Tojima sensei seemed to be to me as well.
He stressed openings in the technique and explained how to cover them. He had lightening fast atemi movements, which he showed when he explained the openings. He was not someone who would impress you with pretty technique or flow, although he could certainly do both. Rather, he stressed a kind of totalness through the body in the practice that could transcend just the practice on the mat. And while Hikitsuchi senseis sense of the energy was steeped in Shinto, Tojima sensei explained ki in very practical terms. He studied Koichi Tohei sensei's books and made these principles his own.

His weapons work was awesome. I intend to put some of his suburi with the bokken on video at a later date. He could generate relaxed,explosive power through his body arts and bokken and bo as well. And his sense of humor could be equally explosive. I still remember once when Anno sensei was talking about kami and Tojima sensei humourously shifted the conversation to "kame" or turtle. With a little mime action you could swear that he suddenly became a turtle. Here is a video of my working with Tojima sensei in 1973 in seated kokyu ho:

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


It has been a period of sports milestones for the bay area, first with the passing of the legendary Bill Walsh and now with Barry Bonds setting the new all-time home run record. Since we have already devoted blog space to Bill Walsh, this will focus on Barry and his accomplishments.

First, I am a fan of both him and the Giants. I was a real fan of his godfather, Willie Mays. I hoped that it would be Willie, not Hank Aaron that would be the first to break Babe Ruth's record. When that didn't happen, it took me awhile to warm up to Aaron as the one who would first reach and then pass Ruth. By the time Hammerin' Hank passed Ruth in 1974, I was really rooting for him to break the record. His quiet dignity and courage in facing hate mail and a lot of hostility from the white community won me over. I was glad to see the message from him that was delivered to Barry after number756. It was a very classy jesture.

Is the record "real"? Of course it is. The home runs were hit, period. End of story. If chemical enhancement was involved, it was a part of baseball at that time. How many pitchers were juicing up to get more velocity on their fastballs? The season before last, when much stricter testing for steroids was in operation, someone issued an observation that the collective velocity of major league fastballs was down. Coincidence? And how about a 43 year old man who will probably hit 30 home runs this year and who leads the major leagues in walks and on base percentage?

When I was very young and reading Marvel Comics, I idolized Captain America, because he was a superhero without super powers. He seemed to have trained himself to some mental/physical peak and could perform super feats without powers. Then his origin story was published and I found out he had been transformed into who he was by injesting a "super soldier serum", in essence. a steroid performance enhancer. It spoiled my enjoyment of the stories for about 2 weeks. And then I got over it. And this was a character who in the '60's was supposed to symbolize America.

There is supposed to be a hallowed aspect to the all-time home run record in this culture. Personally, I find it disturbing that a number can marshall all this negative emotion. Imagine a person less than pure who holds this record. What about the hallowed nature of the rights of minorities, women, seniors, children who are often times mistreated by an increasingly abusive culture? I think we need to look closely at ourselves here. Bonds may be facing some very serious legal issues in the future. But to me that is almost a separate issue. And that is for our legal system to decide.

Indications are that Alex Rodrigues seems poised to break this new record in 5 to 6 seasons given good health. But that will be then and this is now. And every home run Barry hits will be a new record. Go get 'em, big fella!