Saturday night I was invited by Jackie Cossman sensei to her and her husband Charlie's home to watch Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai". It was an event that included the MT View dojo students and teachers. Nadeau sensei was in attendance. I believe this film was the first samurai film I saw as a youngster. And of course I have seen it several times since. And I've also seen the western re-make of it, "The Magnificent Seven".
It was fun to see it again after what may be 20 years or so. The film emphasizes that being a samurai is much more than wielding a sword or spear well. The virtues of being centered and aware are also essential. And following a path leading to the development/perfection of the self is also crucial. I remember really being taken with the character of the master swordsman. For me the saddest part of the film is always when he his killed by a rifle shot.
It is important to realize that aikido comes out of this tradition. That aikido also follows the path of self-development/perfection or shugyo. When Osensei said training never stops he didn't mean the training in the dojo, but rather the concept of shugyo must continue on forever.
The final battle in the rain seems to go on and on and yet keeps one on the edge of one's seat. A similar effect is the final battle sequences of Hayao Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke". If you haven't caught that, it is a must. And recently we've had the example of the Giants, evolving through the regular baseball season and transforming through the playoffs into world series champions. Nothing really good comes quickly and without a price.
My favorite samurai character is Nemuri Kyoshiro, played by the great Ichikawa Raizo. An invincible swordsman wielding a Musomasamune blade and practicing an almost occult style(The full moon cut). In contrast to Kyoshiro, who is a real loner, the Kurosawa film encourages the value of team work and group discipline, which is also important. And the ending is always a moving one. The farmers win, as their life style continues. The samurai must move on.
The following video was done by Dennis and myself on Saturday after class. In contrast to others we have done, this is largely vocal. I've recently discovered Anita O'day, a great female jazz vocalist. Artt Frank considers her one of the all-time great scat singers. So it was fun to try this song: