Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Green Martial Art

We are trying a new marketing approach, that of aikido as the Green Martial Art. You may have seen it on some of our new literature and our new posters. For me green means environmentally safe, connected to the earth, preserving our planet in going ahead with advances in technology. It has become quite a catch word recently.

So how can you have a green martial art? Much of aikido is based upon centering and especially grounding. We all come out of the earth. As much as there is an intangible part of us, the tangible part of us is from material that at some point originated from something that was produced by the planet. Aikido is the energy of heaven and earth. On some basis technology is of the mind so it may be an aspect of heaven. But for our culture to survive meaningfully it must have a harmony with nature, its cycles and rhythms, as well as its energies. So industry has begun to realize this. But the earth of aikido reaches back into the mythological past to when heaven and earth first separated and the original harmony between the two.

Way before it became important and even trendy, we were helping people to recycle their own energy. When we are in our shoulders, head spinning, caught in a fight/flight/freeze response we are taught to settle, ground, and allow the energy that is there to flow through us. Its major reason for being is to help us deal with whatever is in front of us. This can be an attack or a technique in class, or a situation outside. When caught in something like gridlock, you get the energy to deal with that. Relax and settle with it. It can then have a meditative quality.

Of course it is our bodies that most tangibly come out of the earth. So much of what we do stresses the harmony between body and mind which is best expressed in action as "Total body". The body has an intelligence in and of itself that is equal to that of mind. And when the two return to a more original purity we assemble to original harmony of heaven and earth.

And just as we realize our need to protect nature and the earth, so does our martial practice stress if possible gentleness in dealing with the attack and the attacker. I read recently where true gentleness cannot be snapped or broken. So there is a power in true gentleness that aikido may open in you.

And you can help us by getting behind the concept. In the dojo we have new flyers and new schedules with the green concept. Feel free to take a poster to put up at a workplace, laundromat, bookstore, or coffee shop. There are posters on our display table as you enter the dojo. If possible please cut the attachments with dojo phone number and website address before posting. That way someone can check us out online or give us a call. We have new postcard size schedules with the above photo. These can be taken and given to friends or take several and leave at an appropriate place in a workplace. Every little thing helps us to get our message out. We are also putting out a new t shirt thru cafe press online with the green concept. Once that is up I'll let you all know.

Another side to the green concept is this video short from youtube. Green Lantern is one of my all-time favorite super heroes. Both animated and film films are in the works. He of course is a protector of earth using a ring that allows him to utilize and energy(green of course) that is only limited by his imagination and will power. This is not a real trailer and it features Nate Fillion as Hal Jordan. I think you will enjoy it

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wolf Tunes & Blade Blues

The first weekend in May Betsy Hill sensei and her students hosted a very special weekend of training. Robert Noha sensei of Aikido of Petaluma taught Friday night. Robert Nadeau shihan did an all day workshop on Saturday. And I did an abbreviated workshop Sunday morning into mid-afternoon. We got some much needed rain which at times was rather intense.

So the key words for the weekend were history, friendship, and transformation. Betsy, Noha, and I were together the previous weekend for the Osensei Memorial Training in San Jose. It was delightful to spend another weekend with both. And the workshop with Nadeau sensei on Saturday was memorable. The theme for the weekend was aikido as a transformational tool. Of course all of us go way back so the historical part was very evident.

So it was a weekend to spend time with friends and to celebrate ties that have endured for decades. Sometimes I find myself in awe of the fact that I have been doing aikido for as long as I have. Sometimes in baseball a player is priviledged to play in as many as 4 decades. Willie McCovey of the Giants played in the '50's, '60's, 70's, and '80's. So he played in 4 different decades. My aikido career has played in the '60's, '70's, '80's, '90's, and now for almost the first decade of the 21st century. How time flies.

After my class on Sunday I got my trumpet out and played. Somehow the open air in Sebastopol brings out a sound I really like. As I played, my friend Dianna got out her sword and did a free form Iaido, or sword drawing. After watching,I dedided to video some of it with my phone. She has a real gift with the blade. Her lines are truly impeccable. I put together the following video with some shots of her in the field next to the Tenchi Aikido dojo. Also included are a clip of her doing some cutting with her blade and some shots of Vlad, her Siberian wolf.

One of my very favorite films is Hayao Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke". It is about a warrior princess of 13th century Japan who rides on the back of the Wolf gods. So I played a version of the musical theme of that film to this video of blade and wolf. I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Corte Madera/Davis Weekend

Last weekend I shared a wonderful time with friends, so I'm sharing that with you, hopefully, in this blog. I visited my friends Dianna and Vlad in Fair Oaks. Dianna had wanted to catch Saotome sensei for a long time. He was in town to personally christen the Tamalpais dojo at its new location. So we headed up Sunday morning to catch the last hour of his morning class. In the '80's we were priviledged to have him personally teach at our old location in Japantown San Jose. Frank Doran sensei would invite him out and would be kind enough to include us on the schedule. I remember one memorable day hanging out with Saotome sensei, Doran sensei, and my daughter Jennifer. We all caught a matinee showing of the film "Ghandi". He then taught a wonderful evening class. When I would visit Hombu dojo in the early to mid-seventies, I was lucky enough to catch his class on several occasions. I still also remember his first visit to the bay area in the mid-seventies. I think it was 1976. He taught a Saturday class at Aikido of San Francisco at its Turk St location. Then Sunday he taught an all day workshop at Stanford University. This was way before he had a national organization. We were all a bit more carefree in those days. At any rate it was a pleasure to again see him teach and move. He has a sense of grace and beauty that belies an incredible depth and power. It was very moving to see him to moves from the '70's from an indescribably more suble and deeper level. After class I did "aisatsu", personally paying my respects. After a few moments he remembered me. His reaction to Vlad was "taberaremasu" which means he can "eat/devour me". He has always had an incredible sense of humor.

On the way back we stopped at UC Davis. There was a festival of sorts going on with lots of colorful booths. I attended Davis for 2 years from 1970 to 1972. I got a Masters in Russian then went to Japan and never really looked back. I struggled for 2 years there and was lucky to escape with a degree. It was really my first experience living away from home. My 4 years at UC Santa Cruz I lived at home. The change from Santa Cruz to Davis was great. Santa Cruz at the time was a much more radical and hipper place. I was happy to see that Davis has since followed suit. I lived at Russian House. All students there were studying Russian and we had Anita, a native speaker, so we were supposed to speak only Russian in that house. The second year it became a co-op. Dianna, Vlad and I looked for the old building and found it. It is now Pierce Co-op. I had a conversation with Jenine, one of its current residents, and shared some of the old history. And she told me that one of the recent housemates was into aikido and tai chi and had gone to Japan to study aikido. Maybe some of my old energy still lingers there. I used to do tai chi every morning in the back area next to a tree. The tree is still there. I tried a Vulcan mind meld and the tree still remembers me! Trees live to a different rhythm and maybe the tai chi touched it in a way most other human activity doesn't. It's a dear old friend and I'm glad you're still there.

Pictured above are me and the tree behind Russian house, Vlad and 3 admiring young girls, and Saotome sensei with Dianna and Vlad. A couple of words about Vlad. He is a wolf and while friendly, must be treated as such. Try not to move abruptly or suddenly around him. It is not that he is dangerous. But he will start and that might frighten you. Also, while he allows it sometimes, do not pet him on the head. He might think you are trying to restrain him and react. React means it will startle him. But since he is a wolf he may frighten YOU. So ask if you can pet him on the chest.

Below is a picture of me in front of the Old Russian House(now Pierce Co-op):