Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Osensei Memorial Training

Sunday April 26th we hosted our annual Osensei memorial training. It has become an annual event at ASJ. This year, however, was the 40th anniversary to the day of his passing. So an already special day was made even more special. Due to a scheduling conflict Nadeau sensei was not able to join us. However, in his place Betsy Hill and Robert Noha senseis, both with strong ties to Nadeau sensei and the early aikido history of this area, taught. Of course Linda Holiday sensei joined me and the other two instructors for what I thought was a memorable day of training.

My heartfelt thanks to all those who joined us. This will be an annual event at our dojo, hopefully, for years and years yet to come.

Aikido's relationship to its Founder is perhaps different than that of other arts. Most new students these days obviously bond much more strongly to their own instructor and to the members of their dojo than to the figure of the founder. Much of what he represents to most these days is a historical and even an archetypal being. And yet 40 years after his passing the reality is that he is still unmatched and likely to remain so. I feel it is important for all aikido instructors to come into accord with his history, teachings, and his message, and to work hard on a daily basis to be an example of these important things and to awaken an appreciation of them in their students.

What does he represent to me? Maybe initially he represented the ultimate warrior, who overcame merely human limitations and even aging by connecting to a vast source of mysterious power that made him victorious in all things. But I can't tell you why his message connected to me so deeply that I pursued this path and not more education and not a more conventional career in business. It seemed that this is what I should be doing. Other things just fell by the wayside and didn't seem that important by comparison. In many ways that is still the case.

In some way I felt it was important that I started the very year that he passed on, so, again, the 40th anniversary of his passing is also my 40th year in aikido. What have gained in those 40 years? Maybe an appreciation of the incredible depth of this path. Outwardly it is a system of self-defense and exercise that is based through the body. Less obvious is that it is also a compass to guide one through the ups and downs and the often treacherous winds and turns that life can take. My sense is that Osensei felt that everything is training. In fact he was a kind of living training. How many times have I slid down that lofty mountain only to get back up and climb again. His message that everything comes from love, that true victory is victory over the I(self), that aikido is creation itself are things that I hope are being passed on to students by their teachers and to future students by future teachers.

Did everything start from Osensei? He did not create the Daito-ryu and other arts he studied. Nor did he create the philosophies of Omoto-kyo and the teachings of Onisaburo Deguchi. Yet somehow his search for truth took him to the very beginning or source of things and from there he gave new meaning to the concept of "bu" or martial. I feel his quest is also our own quest for deeper meaning, for what is truly important in life. For an understanding of the universe and who we truly are in that universe. So after 40 years I think I have come to a fuller appreciation of him. He was not a cold distant being with immense power. He also had a human side, according to Robert Frager an incredible sense of humor, and according to Robert Nadeau really appreciated questions. So now I feel that he was a being in constant transformation, brave enough to stand at the cutting edge of creation on what he called "Ame no Uki Hashi" or the floating bridge of heaven. The vast powers he possessed or channeled are now secondary to the brilliance and sheer light of his being.

When I completed the chanting(which I shared with Linda Holiday sensei) on Sunday I prayed that we all can complete our Divine Missions and that we can all transform to the point of being able to stand on Ame no Uki Hashi along with him. He might like some company after all these years.

I have posted another Osensei in slow motion video. It is short enough to be watched several times. Notice how Osensei and his uke both seem to be in an energy field of harmony, that the contact between them, as with 2 connected points in a field, starts way before the physical contact. There is no way the attacker is being cued to this or that.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bye Bye Blackbird

We shot this in late November or Early December of '08. I was wearing shades because I had just had cataract surgery on my left eye. So Ben decided to don some shades as well. This is just 2 people finding themselves and expressing themselves through sound and rhythm. A jam session. In basketball parlance, not a game, a scimmage.....

Music and aikido do share some similarities. When you are playing music with some one, you must be listening. There is a sense of creativity, but it is not about one person expressing himself/herself. You are playing off another being's timing and pitch sense. On recently looking at this clip I thought we did a good job of that. In aikido this is seen in the nage/uke connection.

In aikido the aim is unity through harmony. If this is acheived then other things such as beauty and power enter the mix. In music I have found that this unity/harmony is found in something elusively called lyricism. Is it lyrical? Does it on some level sing? Just as in aikido one can get lost in technique and lose one's soul. The lyricism comes from the soul. What I am talking about are things that I cannot presently myself do.

I want to thank Ben for spending the time with me off the mat. He is a very talented musician and it was a pleasure to be able to play along with him. I also want to thank Marianne Messina and Pete Skilj for also spending the time. Especially Marianne, who heard a lot of my real bad notes.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

40th anniversary & Lineage

I have been reflecting recently on the 40th anniversary, both of the founder's passing and of my own start in aikido. And one of the most important things is the concept of lineage. Everything comes from a source point or beginning. Many things stop with a thud. However, some lines gather momemtum, expand, evolve, and may take on what seems like a life of their own. Sometimes it its useful to harken back to the beginnings of things and compare things then to things as they are in the present. Obviously, the art of aikido had its beginnings in the life of Morihei Ueshiba Osensei. His earlier arts and spiritual traditions predate him. But the alchemy he worked to produce what he called aikido came through him and his life. Actually what he called "aiki" was something he felt existed pretty much from the beginnings of the universe. That his art or expression of himself was tied to how the universe was created, how this creation unfolded, how what we might term divine and what we term human are untimately connected.

I have included some photos to cover how the students and teachers of Aikido of San Jose view their lineage. Yes, in aikido you are a part of one. Above my original teachers, Robert Frager and Robert Nadeau, are both shown in pictures taken in the sixties with Osensei. The nature of the photos gives an obvious sense that both had a relationship with the founder. They knew him personally both as the master of Aikido and as a human being. And their lives have reflected this strong connection to
Ueshiba Osensei. Robert Nadeau was I believe the first full time instructor in Northern California and has been instrumental in the proliferation of both Aikido instructors and schools in this area, all the while maintaining a deep sense of the Founder's message. Robert Frager founded the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and has given Aikido a forum in the academic world, aikido being a required class at his graduate school.

The other picture is of Hikitsuchi sensei and Anno sensei with the founder. In this photo, Anno sensei represents also 2 other men: Motoichi Yanase sensei and Yasushi Tojima sensei, who were my other teachers at the Shingu dojo. I don't have any pictures of them with the founder to post. Hikitsuchi sensei was deeply moved enough by the founder to become a full-time teacher. Anno sensei has succeeded him as the chief instructor at the Shingu dojo.

Both Nadeau and Frager senseis were strongly influenced by the Founder's message to where you got that you weren't going to understand the profound depth of aikido simply by learning technique and being assimilated into its hierarchy. So you might call their approach transpersonal. And this is the approach I myself entered the art on. The Shingu dojo of the early to mid-seventies strongly emphasized the spiritual side of Osensei's message. This then might give you a sense of the influences that have shaped Aikido of San Jose and its philosophy and purpose.

Robert Frager gave me my first full-time teaching position when he left the UC Santa Cruz Aikido Club to open the then California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. Robert Nadeau opened Aikido of San Jose in July of 1976, asked me to be on of the original faculty, and sold me the school in 1980. So both of them were instrumental in my becoming a full-time aikido instructor.

I am including an earlier video of training at the Shingu dojo to help illustrate some things. A lineage is not something that one agrees upon in one's mind. The video shows Hikitsuchi sensei transmitting what he got from Osensei to a line of people. Anno sensei and Yanase sensei were also Osensei's students, and they are shown training and transmitting working with students in the class.Mary Heiny sensei, Linda Holiday sensei, and I also appear. But you see how quick and direct things were. There is not a lot of time for the mind to stop and figure things out. You were expected to give your best, move, relate, and continue. The degree to which you received the transmission was totally dependant on the level of your shugyo(transformative process) as opposed to just physical effort. I am going to try to put this lineage on a video. Anybody who has the video of Hikitsuchi sensei taking ukemi for Osensei at the Hongu Grand Shrine, please contact me. Also, anyone who might have Summer Retreat footage of the early '80's of my taking ukemi for Robert Nadeau, please let me know.