Tuesday, March 25, 2008

March Anniversaries and General Topics

It’s been awhile since I did a general blog. So this is the result. The month of March has 2 significant dates for fans of the Avengers tv show of the sixties. March 28th , coming up in a few days, is the 42nd anniversary of “The Avengers” first broadcast on American tv. I remember it was a Monday night at 10pm and it was for me a school night. I remember watching the first show(“The Cybernauts”), and, while liking bits and pieces of it, came away with thinking the whole thing was a mixed bag. That included the female lead, Diana Rigg as Mrs. Emma Peel. Honor Blackman, who appeared in the James Bond film, “Goldfinger”, had gotten a lot of publicity, and, for some reason I thought her character was still in the tv series. After the following week, I “got” what the show was about and bonded very strongly to the new actress. The second date in March is March 20th and is already past. That was the 40 anniversary of Diana Rigg’s leaving the Avengers on American tv. I have the whole series on dvd, so on that date I watched various highpoints of the series on that fateful night last week. While it used to be said that Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee had a wonderful chemistry, I think that that can now be updated to the realization that they worked an alchemy together. Macnees’s portrayal of a strong, sophisticated, mature, intelligent male and Rigg’s portrayal of of a futuristic woman turned lead(a spy series) into gold(an arena where an episode could take place anywhere in time/space and explored what relationships could be but never quite seem to become). For those who have never seen the show, it is available on dvd. On Saturday I was visiting a friend in San Francisco. While we were strolling down Polk Street, we passed a retaurant called S.N.O.B. That was the code name for a group of terrorists in one of the more light hearted(and they were all light hearted) in the episode “The Correct Way to Kill”. Highly Recommended!

I caught the film “Snow Angels” while I was in SF. It stars my this generations version of Ms Rigg, the also British actress Kate Beckinsale. Ms Beckinsale is excellent in this rather dark film about love, murder, and obsession. Also highly recommended but in very limited release for now.

As I may have mentioned we have had a very welcome person on the mat lately, none other than Mike Collins. He has been to some noons and appears to be hanging in their very well in his battle against cancer. It has been a treat to see him.

For those of you who have missed him of late, Seth Spitzer has re-located to San Francisco and has started his own software company. We wish him luck. He visited last Wednesday and has indicated that he will still try to make some classes in San Jose. And Seth is still helping out on the dojo website.

We have recently lost a member of the larger aikido community. Keiko Kato passed away just recently. There will be a memorial for her this Sunday at Aikido of San Jose put on by the jujitsu group, with whom she had ties. I believe Keiko might have started in one of my beginning aikido classes at UC Santa Cruz in and around 1976.

For those of you who have not heard, there is a wonderful book just out called “The Secret Teachings of Aikido” by Morihei Ueshiba, translated by John Stevens, and published by Kodansha International. It is a powerful description of aikido in the words of its founder. As much as it will have interest in a limited section of the world’s population, the founder’s message is powerful and I think it is one of the MOST important books of all. Period. I have always said that I thought the founder’s message and aikido were both ahead of their time. Now I realize that they are timeless.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

My first summer retreat

Recently something happened to cause me to reflect on my first Summer Retreat or Aikido Summer Camp. It was in June of 1976 and was held on the campus of Dominican College in San Rafael. At the time I was back from Japan and was teaching the aikido classes on the UC Santa Cruz campus. I was invited to teach a regular day class at the retreat by Robert Nadeau sensei and Frank Doran sensei. We had a good turnout from among the students at the UC Santa Cruz Aikido Club.

The retreat, as I remember, had such an energy level that I don’t think I slept for 2 or possibly 3 days. There were some outer factors contributing to this. I was young and just back from Japan, so my sense was that you trained every class. Doran sensei had an early morning 6:30am class where he taught sword taking. There were later morning classes and also afternoon and evening classes. Nadeau sensei took the evening class, after which there was an energy awareness/ meditation class, after which there was hang out time to discuss Osensei and the spiritual side of the art. I didn’t realize that most people who did the early class didn’t do the late evening stuff, and most late evening people didn’t do the early morning. Doing both left very little sleep time. And for the first couple of nights I just lay in bed wired by the tremendous amount of energy and didn’t sleep.

My roommate for the retreat was a man named David Josephson. I was contacted recently by him, which set off the chain of events that led to this blog entry. Mainly I saw him asleep in his dorm bed when I would come in late. Believe it or not I was a very early riser, so I would miss him on my way to the early morning class. The retreat started on a Sunday, and I believe it was Wednesday before we met and talked. I came in after the cafeteria lunch to find David in our room. I remember, being a comic book fan, that we talked for about 20 minutes about Captain America. Little did I know at the time that he was a Phd and a Professor at Stanford University. He combined an interest in social activism with an interest in Ghandi and Eastern thought. He is currently living in Bali with his wife and young son and is teaching tai chi. He will be out in early summer and we plan to re-connect and catch up.

As we speak the registration for this year’s Summer Retreat, now held at Menlo College locally just off the El Camino Real, has begun. It will be June 8th thru June 14th. It is open to all levels, meaning you don’t have to be a black belt to go. Last year I attended and in addition to being a quality event aikido-wise, for me is was simply FUN! For me it is a bit like attending a trade show. You get to see what people like Nadeau sensei, Doran sensei, and Ikeda sensei are in to. You also see some very senior people like Francis Takahashi sensei from Southern California. Mainly you get to hang out with people and just focus on aikido, its technical, social, and spiritual aspects for one glorious week. There is a commuter’s package which makes sense for most local people, but I enjoyed paying for the whole thing and having lodging and meals provided. For me it was a combination trade show/vacation. You can get more information and even register by going to www.Cityaikido.com or can get more information at aikiretreat@gmail.com. I will be the featured guest instructor at this year’s retreat.