Saturday, March 21, 2009

Avengers dates in March

We've had a couple of 40th anniversary themes. March of every year brings important dates for me regarding the tv series "The Avengers". March 28 of this year will be the 43rd anniversary of the show's opening on American tv. Last night, March 20th, was the 41st anniversary of Diana Rigg's leaving the show, ie her last episode airing on American tv.

The show and especially her had a great effect on me. Patrick Macnee as John Steed and now Dame Diana as Emma Peel have to me always represented the ultimate in pop culture masculine/feminine archetypes. I still am amazed at how few people, even those who later produced more tv episodes and a movie in 1998, realize what made the show tick. Both the man and woman must be total equals. Independent, yet interdependent. Then the alchemical mix can succeed and something unique can be created. The show itself was broadly a spy show. However, at its best it was never limited to that. There was an incredible science fiction/fantasy element it it that allowed writers to literally go crazy with offbeat quirky yet very entertaining vehicles for Steed and Mrs. Peel. Time travel, comic book superheroes, psychic and psychological murders, invaders from outer space, a giant alien plant which was going to take over the world, ghosts, are all topics that surfaced on the show. I myself wrote a piece"Mrs Peel You're Needed" that took place in the field of infinite possibilities where time and space are no limitations. They also liked to do tribute episodes to films, such as "The Magnificent Seven", "And then there were none", "Bad Day in Blackrock". "The Winged Avenger" was a veery entertaining take off on a Batman like character who goes way too far. So you never knew who or what to expect as you tuned in from week to week.

Diana Rigg's departure was what motivated me to do martial arts. Having done martial arts for 40 years, I can see that a lot of what she did on the screen was choreographed. But she also has something that as an instructor you cannot teach. Presence. Energy. Power. Even though she is a Cancer sun, that sun is in her first house, which means she has a powerful identity and sense of self. And her sun is conjuncted by both Mars(energy, assertion, aggression, vital for an athlete or martial artist) and also by the planet Pluto(power). Andrea Mallis told me she fits the archetype of the powerful woman. An an actress she has played such roles as Lady Macbeth and Medea. She has also appeared nude onstage. So she goes her own way with style.

In aikido terms Steed represents the form energy(masculine, an old world traditional gentleman) and Mrs Peel the flow(feminine, powerful, explosive). In the case of Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee these energies had a balance so they could mix and produce something that is still unique. Due to cultural perceptions in the '60's, the Mrs Peel character seems much more radical, but I think we must all give Patrick Macnee credit for portraying a very advanced male, equal to the feminine yet able to step aside and let the feminine fully express not only its beauty but also its power and intelligence. I still find the John Steed/Emma Peel relationship the ultimate model for any relationship I might be in.

So this is Avengers anniversary week. Even after over 40 years it is an important part of my life.

I am including a youtube short that was produced to let American viewers know that the Avengers was soon to be back on American tv. And in color....

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More 40th anniversary

More 40th anniversary stuff. The first photo was taken in late fall of 1973 in I believe Nara. You can get a flavor for the Japanese sense of the fall in the color of the trees. Taking the picture was none other than Anno sensei. Pictured are myself, Linda Holiday sensei, and Dick Revoir. The 3 of us were the first foreigners to live in Shingu as full-time students of aikido at the Kumano juku dojo(Shingu Dojo). Anno sensei had taken us on a car trip and this was one of the main stops. The Japanese fall or aki is beautiful and very brief, bridging on one hand a hot and sweltering summer and a long and very cold winter. It signifies the end of the year. Also, for us we knew that the end of our stay in Shingu and Japan was approaching quickly. The second photo was probably taken sometime in 1975. At that time I was back in California teaching at the UC Santa Cruz campus. Linda sensei was back in Japan and sent me this wonderful picture of Tojima sensei and herself.

The 40th anniversary training marking the passing of Aikido's founder, Ueshiba Morihei Osensei is proceeding(@Aikido of San Jose, Sunday, April 26th). Due to a prior commitment and double-booking, Nadeau sensei will be unable to attend. Teaching in his stead will be Robert Noha sensei, chief instructor of Aikido of Petaluma, and Betsy Hill sensei, chief instructor of Tenchi Aikido.

Both teachers are longtime and very senior members of the Bay area Aikido community. We are talking about the community started and nurtured by Robert Nadeau shihan and Frank Doran shihan, which has now become the California Aikido Association. Robert Frager was also an integral part of this early phase, and founded both the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and its unique aikido program. Of this community, Robert Noha was probably the first teenager to receive a black belt in aikido. And Betsy Hill was probably the first woman to receive a black belt as well. I remember going to the Mt View dojo to train as a part of the aikido/energy awareness weekends co-taught by Robert Nadeau and Robert Frager and Mr Noha already had his black belt. In those days this was very unique. And Betsy Hill is the first person in aikido I ever met and talked to, this was at an Aikido demo on the UC Santa Cruz campus early fall of 1969.

So even though Nadeau sensei will be unable to attend, we have 2 instructors who are very deeply a part of not only the area's history, but his history as well.

Since we have that picture of Tojima sensei, I am including a new video of footage from 1973 Here Tojima sensei demonstrates the atemi or striking motions in irimi nage: