Wednesday, July 29, 2009

still more meditations and reveries

The question often comes up whether or not you should study another art besides aikido. My first art was shotokan karate and I did tai chi chuan for some years under Master Choy and was awarded a teaching certificate. So not a lot of other stuff but some.

I think it totally depends on the person asking the question. If you are investigating martial arts and are trying aikido then by all means explore everything until you find what suits you. You are investigating a system with joint locks and throws with what might be an interesting philoshophy around the concept of blending. I remember before I went to Japan in 1973 I thought I would eventually end up in the internal Chinese systems moving on to study PaKua and Hsing-i. I wound up staying with aikido. It was what I chose and also in a funny way what chose me. Teaching positions opened up and I filled them. I was at that time already very dedicated to the philosophy of Ueshiba Osensei.

What if you are an aikidoist and think about studying another art? The following is my view and therefore very subjective. If I found some stuff from another art I might research it on my own, but, I would not get any instruction on how to do it. Both Anno sensei and Tojima sensei were of the opinion that aikido itself was deep enough that if you were really studying aikido you could pick up anything else. I know Tojima sensei knew some karate. I don’t believe he ever formally studied it. But he would show me movements he had picked up and he was quite good. I think I’ve mentioned how once at the rear entrance to the dojo he suddenly jumped up in the air, kicked the wall of the dojo with a flying side kick, did a back roll, and deftly stood up inches from the other wall on the other side of the dojo. Did he learn that from an instructor in a class? My feeling is that he observed the kick, got the feeling for the movement in his body, and could just do it. And I’ve mentioned that he had an inch punch. Who taught him that?

When do you know if another art is interfering with aikido? If you find yourself wrestling on the mat, trying to choke someone out, trying to arm bar somebody, or trying to kick someone then you have to examine where you stand with both aikido and with yourself. Also, what is aikido? Is it the body of techniques for your next kyu or dan exam or is it an unlimited alchemical process? My sense at this point of what Ueshiba Osensei meant by aikido was to stand at the very beginning of creation and and allow the harmonious unfolding of creation. At the same time one alchemically creates oneself to be anything one wants to be, but that process unfolds not only harmoniously but universally. Ueshiba Osensei created himself to be an invincible warrior of harmony, someone who contended with nothing. Someone who realized that what the root source of everything is is love. And it is not what one wants the word to mean, but what it actually is. A sobering thought.

The following video is more along the theme of aikido and martial arts(it branches out) as a moving meditation. Again my thanks to Dennis Kyne for his work on electric guitar, ukes Lou Bermingham and Steve Tsao for their sincere attacks, and Timothy Cofresi for helping me shoot some of the footage.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

More 40th anniversary musings

Even though this is my 40th year in aikido, it is my 41st in martial arts. In 1968 I took a couple of beginning judo classes, then began studying Shotokan karate at UC Santa Cruz. Even though I started aikido in fall of 1969, I continued with the karate, finding an instructor of the same style in Sacramento while I was in my second year of graduate school at UC Davis. I also began studying tai chi chuan a couple of quarters after aikido, taking a beginning tai chi class in spring of 1970.

The picture of me in the karate class was taken at the Sacramento judo club, I believe. And the tai chi photo is of a class I taught for Master Choy at UC Santa Cruz somewhere winter-spring of 1974. The other photo is of me training in a Menlo College Retreat class taught by Robert Nadeau shihan. I believe my partner is Frank Bloksberg sensei of Grass Valley. I've really enjoyed training with him at the last couple of retreats.

So aikido was not my first and not my only art. But it has been the defining thing in my life for the last 40 years. How time can fly. Last Tuesday I had lunch with my good friend Linda Holiday sensei, and we together bemused this fact.

We are planning an event to celebrate the 40th year for sometime early in October of this year. It will be on a weekend. I am going to try to get people who have been significant in my training and also in ASJ's history to attend. Some teaching. Some history. A party of some sort. It is not yet fully formatted, but with the help of Lou Bermingham and Frank Silvey senseis, hopefully we'll figure it out. If you have any suggestions, please e-mail me at All input welcome.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

yearly anniversaries, birthdays and more

This time of year there are several birthdays and an important milestone. Tomorrow Dame Diana Rigg turns 71. She is 10 years older than I am, and that means I'm moving along as well. July 26 is Kate Beckinsale's birthday. And by an odd twist of fate Tomorrow July 20th is also the yearly anniversary of Bruce Lee's passing. So quite a busy week.

As I've mentioned before both Bruce Lee and Diana Rigg were on the ABC winter tv schedule Friday nights. "The Green Hornet" was on at 7:30pm, and "The Avengers" at 10 pm. Both actors were instrumental in their own way for paving new ground in the way Asians(and non-whites) and women were viewed. Both are crucial for the way society now views Asians and women. Diana Rigg's Emma Peel was a radical departure from the way women were viewed both on tv and in society. She was and is very strong. Dame Diana has her sun in Cancer conjuncted with the planet Mars(warrior energy) and her sun is also conjuncted by the planet Pluto(power). So she has the astrological energy of a very powerful woman. And yet her sun sign is Cancer, so she has a very strong feeling sense.

I am not well versed in Bruce Lee's astrology. But he was a non-white hero and an Asian at a time when Asians on the screen were often times played by non-Asians, and were either diabolical masterminds such as Fu Manchu or simply comic figures. I'm sure the popularity of Hong Kong action films as well as Jackie Chan and Jet Li owe a lot to him. Having watched his films recently, he had a touch with comedy( Way of the Dragon and Fist of Fury especially) and was very expressive with movement and gesture. I think he was and would have gone on to be an even greater actor.

Kate Beckinsale has her Mars in her first house(Aries) and it is also in its own sign. That also gives her quite a bit of warrior energy. She is by far my favorite of the younger generation of actresses. I protested the fact that she was not in Underworld 3 by only going to see the film once and by not buying the dvd. I recently saw it again on dvd and it is a fine action film. Michael Sheen is excellent. But it is not the same without Kate. I hope they do an Underworld 4 soon with her in it.

I found the following video on youtube. Bruce Lee guest stars in an episode of "Ironside". It is revealing in that this is the way martial arts were viewed back then. The actors and actresses were coached and were themselves largely not experienced with hand to hand combat. So watching Bruce Lee move was a revelation. His moves were real. His skill very tangible. His counter to a judo throw is both very skillful and extremely athletic. Diana Rigg was much better than the people shown in this clip. I believe with good instruction, she could have been a great martial artist. I still enjoy watching Mrs Peel move. And Kate in the Underworld movies has had the advantage that choreography has grown by leaps and bounds since the '60's and '70's. Still she has a great feel for guns and the close in in'fighting scenes. I like that her combat style is not Hong Kong cinema but more a combat aiki jutsu mix. Throws, strikes as throws, very little kicking or aerial work.
If I were casting a new Avengers movie she would be my choice to be Mrs Peel. And if he were still alive, maybe we could cast Bruce Lee to be the son of John Steed and an oriental woman. Interesting.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Meditations and Reveries

I've been thinking about doing a new aikido video for awhile. But sometimes the format takes awhile to assemble itself. I've been doing some music with Dennis Kyne(a very talented fellow) and one piece we did in particular stayed with me. A very meditative and reflexive piece. So it came to me that maybe the thing to do was to shoot some aikido footage, slow it down, and make the whole thing more of a meditation. So that is how this video came about.

Chet Baker seemed to have a lot of album covers with beautiful women. So I came up with the idea of doing a photo with Vlad. After all, even Chet never, to my knowledge, at least, did an album cover with a wolf. And even though Vlad is a flesh and blood being and a dear friend, he has a larger than life, mythical, and even magical side to him. My thanks to Dianna for allowing me to be photographed with him.

Aikido in slow motion is a powerful tool. It is often times referred to as meditation in motion. So hopefully the combination of the aikido movement and the music will produce a meditative state in those who watch.

My thanks to Lou Bermingham, Harry Concepcion, and Steve Tsao for role and rolls in this piece. And special thanks to Dennis for his part in the music.