I was putting together a flyer for our Osensei Memorial Training(@ASJ Apr 26th, noon to 5pm) realizing that this is the 40th anniversary of the Founder's passing. Last year was the 40th year in Japanese counting. When you are born you are already one and when you die it is already your first year. So this IS the fortieth year. Then I had the realization that this is also MY fortieth year. Yes, I started aikido the very year that the Founder passed on. My first aikido class was sometime early in October of 1969 at the first meeting of the UC Santa Cruz Aikido club. It was taught by Robert Frager. My first exposure to aikido was during a demo held at an activities week just prior to the commencement of the fall quarter. Robert Frager, Robert Nadeau, Allen Grown, Betsy Hill, Harv Moscowitz were all there as I now recollect. This seminal first class was held in the gymnasium of the original field house on wrestling mats.
What were those first classes like? There was a great emphasis on centering, energy awareness, meditation. At least initially the instruction in technique was secondary to developping a consciousness of energy and deepening/expanding one's sense of self and the universe. I am still grateful for that initial exposure to the art from that perspective. It is easy to lump aikido into other martial arts and if you were at these first classes you came to realize very quickly that aikido was not just another martial art. Both Frager and Nadeau senseis had personally known and trained under Osensei at Hombu dojo. Of those early days Nadeau sensei once told me"there were people to teach tennis form, golf form, as well as aikido form, so I concentrated on the energy......".
At that time Frager sensei and Nadeau sensei held monthly workshops at Aikido of Mt View in its initial location on Castro St. We would do some aikido classes, even these with a strong emphasis on energy, and then would focus for the afternoon and evening on energy work. Sometimes there would be a sleepover on Saturday night with more aikido and awareness work the next day.
Unfortunately no photos exist of this early period of my training. I have somewhere some shots of me during come club meetings at UC Davis that I'll try to find. The 2 photos above come from a slightly later period. The colour photo was I believe late November or early December of 1973 in my first Japan stay. Anno sensei was taking us on a trip that included Nara and we were living out of a car without much sleep for a couple of days. The other one is Santa Cruz sometime probably summer of 1975 and shows Linda Holiday sensei and myself clowning around.
I intend to do a series of blogs on this 40th anniversary topic. I should probably do something to celebrate this 40th anniversary. Any suggestions?