Thursday, April 29, 2010


We just finally did another sports blog(Stephen Curry) and it had been a long time. Well here's another one. Franklin Mieuli, the one-time owner of the Golden State Warriors, just passed away at age 89. Under Mr. Mieuli's ownership, the Warriors had 8 consecutive winning seasons, the longest in their bay area tenure. And in 1975 they brought the bay area its only NBA title. Mr. Mieuli was a colorful character, often seen a la Sherlock Holmes in a deerstalker's cap.

When I was a freshman in high school, I played C & D basketball. That was basketball for short kids who didn't want to run cross country track or play football. In those days Mr Mieuli had a residence in Santa Cruz, so the Warriors had their training camp in Santa Cruz. They would play an open public scrimage with the proceeds going to charity at the Civic Auditorium. And the Soquel High School C & D's would pay their Santa Cruz High counterparts in 2 preliminary games. So I got a chance to see Wilt Chamberlin, Nate Thurmond, Guy Rodgers, Tom Meschary in these public scrimmages. 1962 and 1963 I believe. After that the training camp was shifted to San Jose. I remember standing about 10 feet from Wilt Chamberlin during their half-time break as he dripped sweat and put away large coke container after container. He was massive and awesome indeed. I saw Nate Thurmond's first training camp. Rick Barry didn 't come along until 1965, so I didn't get to see him.

It is amazing how this culture is dominated by the thought form of winning. I talked to Mr Mieuli once on Sportsphone 68(KNBR) in the early '80's. I was very critical of the way the Warriors were being run. Like so many others rather than being grateful for the 1975 title I was spoiled by it and wanted to know why that success was not being sustained. I look at myself then and really cringe. Even as a fan winning was not everything, it was the only thing. The '49ers were yet to hit their ascent of the '80's.The A's had a run of world titles in the mid '70's. The Raiders were the paradigm of success, constantly fielding winning teams and winning the Super Bowl in 1977(I was in Japan and missed it). So there was enough winning going on to make you believe you were entitled.

Mr. Mieuli as the NBA became more "corporate" was forced to sell the Warriors in the mid to late '80's. The initial owner, Dan Finane, brought in Don Nelson first as GM then coach, and the Warriors became interesting again, if not title contenders. The Cohan ownership has produced one shining jewel of a moment(the "We Believe" first round upset of Dallas a couple of seasons ago) and not much else. So it had been awhile since I gave Mr Mieuli and his tenure any thought at all. He ran the franchise as a fan would. His model was family, not business. He gave his star players(Wilt Chamberlin and Rick Barry) handshakes instead of contracts. At the time this horrified me. He apparently kept the 1975 NBA championship trophy in the back seat of his car just so he could go around publicly and let the fans touch it. Yet he was totally committed to winning. He was eventually forced to sell because the league ownership became more and more corporate therefore wealthier. He was forced to trade Bernard King to the New York Knicks) because he couldn't afford him. King after the trade took out a whole page ad in the Oakland Tribune and thanked the fans for their support.

I guess what really shocked me was that the way Mieuli ran the Warriors is like I try to run the dojo. Aikido has gone its own form of corporate. The emphasis is on having large organizations, workshops both local and international, and numbers numbers numbers. For me the message of the founder is foremost. A lot of leaders are committed to aikido but I feel have lost his message. I happen to personally like some of these people a lot. But I do not hang with empire builders...... So it is amazing that if I were 30'sh today, I would probably look at the way the dojo is run and be very critical, just as I was of Mr. Mieuli. I think the message is quite clear. BE careful of what thought forms rule you. Winning and success are very seductive. I hope Franklin Mieuli rests in peace. He deserves it.

Here is a youtube clip about the historical and social significance of the Warriors only NBA title, and Mr Mieuli was a large part of that, too.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Busy Day

It was indeed a busy weekend. Yesterday(Saturday) Aikido of San Jose did a demonstration at the Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival. Our special thanks to Andrew Le for contacting the right people and setting it up. To Harry Concepcion, Shin Tsurushima, Matt Laine, Andrew, and Meng Ear for participating. And to Sasha for his camera work. Thanks to him we have a video to attach to this blog. After the demo we all enjoyed a little time in the sun in what was a truly gorgeous day.

Today started early. I went up to San Francisco to teach the morning class at City Aikido. And then after class headed back to San Jose for our Osensei Memorial Training. I arrived about the middle of the second class. It was a good turnout and people seemed to train well and to enjoy the classes and the ceremonies.

At the beginning of the ceremonies Bob Noha sensei did a beautiful presentation of Osensei’s Suuuuu….. chant. Linda Holiday sensei followed that up with the Amatsu Norito and the names of the kami. I did the Kami Goto. And we ended with some sound meditation with Linda sensei’s Bell. All in all it was a beautiful day.

Betsy Hill sensei was unable to make it today. My thanks to Frank Silvey sensei for saving the day and taking the first class. And my sincere thanks to all of you who supported the event. It is much appreciated.

So I am currently in the office late unwinding and writing this blog. It was truly a day to share with friends and students and to bask in the glow of the Founder’s message. And a day to re-dedicate oneself to one’s training and one’s life purpose and mission. Again, thank you all very much.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stephen Curry

It's been awhile since I did a sports oriented blog. The local teams have scuffled a bit, so not much to write about. But I have been following the rookie season of the Warriors' Stephen Curry. Of course a couple of years ago he lead Davidson to a dream run in the NCAA's. And his father, Dell, was a longtime NBA player. I was amazed when he fell to the Warriors with the 7th pick of the 2009 NBA draft. Predictably on a very chaotic team he had a very mixed and somewhat slow start. But he has finished the season with a couple of stellar months and deserves to be mentioned in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Will he win? I have a feeling, but I'm not banking anything on it.

He represents the type of athlete I really like to follow. Chris Mullin was one. Not outwardly gifted athletically. But creative, with an athleticism that was subtle. Yes you would and should choose Michael Jordan over him everytime. But fun to watch. Quirky. In his slow slow way had a way of getting to the hoop and finishing with style. Earl Monroe didn't have great speed, but he had a street flair to his game and a mesmerizing spin move. Curry is beginning to remind me a bit of EArl Monroe.

I am putting some of his highlights here. You'll notice that even though they say he is not exceptional athletically, he finishes difficult moves with style. From his passing you get the feeling he sees the whole court and senses what is going to happen before it does. And he is a great great shooter who will probably get even better as he plays. He shoots the deep deep three about as good as anyone. He has the knack of knowing when the defender shifts his weight back to defend against a drive, then he stops and shoots. In addition to a great shooting range and an ability to finish at the hoop, he also has the mid-range game some great athletes never develop. So here are his top 10 rookie season highlights: Stephen Curry rookie highlights

So I am looking forward to following what I hope will be a long and entertaininly successful run with the Warriors. It has been a while since Warrior fans have had anything sustained to cheer about. Obviously the playoff from a few years ago is a notable exception, but it was not sustainable. I think Steph Curry will be here awhile. In case you don't want to go through 10 highlights, here is the real eye opener from youtube:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

More Iwama

I have more reflections on Osensei's period in Iwama, but first I'd like to recall points of my most recent visit to the aiki shrine, which was in June of 2006. It was part of Nadeau sensei's group if 50 that visited Hombu dojo for about a week. Wednesday of that week we visited the Aiki Shrine and also the Iwama dojo. I have described that visit in previous blogs. But for me the most memorable part of that visit was Osensei's spirit passing through. As a group we were allowed into the inner part of the shrine. I asked through Laurin Herr, who served as translator, if I could chant Amatsu Norito. Isoyama sensei, who is currently the shrine's guardian, said it was okay. But Nadeau sensei went first and did the "Suuuuu....." chant he learned from Osensei himself. Then I followed with the norito. And the whole group felt a palpable change in the energy of the place. I have only felt anything approaching that once. In the Self-Realization Fellowship garden in Encinitas, California, while I was meditating, I had a visit from Paramahansa Yogananda. When a being of that magnitude visits there is a definite change in the whole vibe of a place. Intense, light, and at the same time very calm.And very powerfully loving. I wish we had been able to commune with his energy longer, but we were summoned to lunch.

The first picture is of Nadeau sensei with me in the background. It was taken in the dojo just before lunch. I think it is fitting that the photo of Osensei is featured prominently just behind Nadeau sensei. The two were very close. The next photo is of me with Lou Bermingham and Frank Silvey senseis. It was taken in front of the shrine. And the last is the second group photo taken in front of the shrine. It differs from the one I put in the last blog.

I think the Iwama period was very important for Osensei. The world had gone crazy and was at war. I think during this period he more clearly saw his purpose and his life's mission. So amidst all the turmoil these very important things in his life were more substantially forged. During this period he his mission was revealed to him and the spirit of the dragon king, ame no murakumo kuki samuhara ryuo, was said to have entered his blood. Osensei backed off from accepting his mission, feeling it was much too exalted for him, and became seriously ill. It was only after accepting his mission/purpose, that he recovered his health.

With the world in a very uncertain and chaotic state, I feel we have all entered an Iwama phase in our training. With the economic uncertainties and the recent geological upheavals, there is clearly massive change flowing through the entire fabric of our existence. We are probably not going to move to a farm in Northern Japan(although read the previous 2 blogs for the possibility of an aikido living situation locally). Yet I do feel that this will be a difficult yet very important period during which to clarify our mission/purpose, and, with the pressures of what may be hard times, forge ourselves further along the path of aikido.

The farming was very important for Osensei. For me music has become very important and complementary to martial study. I have recently begun to play with an exceptional musician, Tom Landry. The following is a piece we recently did at his recording studio in Campbell:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Of kyu exams and aikido living situations

We will be doing tests this week. Friday night April 16th for adults and Saturday the 17th for children. We have not done exams in awhile. We will try to get back on track and have regular exams every couple of months for all age groups. Some times it may come across is that I am anti-exam. That is not the case. One things exams do is that they encourage the learning of the structure of the art, ie the forms and the names that are called out in Japanese. And often times the candidate is encouraged to work with some one more advanced to help them prepare for their exam. So some important bonding can go on. Also it is good to see a group that has come in together “go up the ladder together” so to speak. The reason we have not tested lately is that a date must be found and the schools involved must co-ordinate a date. I am involved in an aikido study group(justice league meetings) which take time and involve a whole different way of looking at the art than exams do. And there are some things happening in the music realm that require a lot of time. But hopefully in the future the exams will be organized on a more regular basis.

One thing that does happen is that the exam format does encourage a more mental approach to learning the forms. Often times the pressure of an exam will movtivate someone to learn a body of information but very mentally. Even hours spent in preparation with a senior student where details are being passed on will cause the “Oh, I learned such and such “. Syndrome. All real knowledge is experiential. Einstein himself said as much. He said everything else was just information. And the knowledge must be experiential and through the body. The techniques were originally developed to get people to access that field of information through the body. And that knowledge was meant to be innate. Innate knowledge is of the moment, experiential, not of the past. While exams can be good for getting through a body of technique, exams have an agenda and often times people carry the mind knowledge of the movements, which is something learned in the past, with them into present and future. So be aware that everything you have learned for an exam must also be stripped away so that you can go back into the moment with your learning. So please prepare and take kyu and dan exams. But also please keep a perspective on what they are. A good exam includes good technique, but also that the candidate has hit a whole new level of themselves in the process. That happens occasionally……

The situation for the potential living situation in Boulder Creek is still in the developmental stage. I have been approached by a couple of people. But they were not clear whether the place was Boulder Creek or more local in San Jose. Yes indeed it is in the mountains among the redwoods. Certain other things need to be done. Such as testing the ph of the soil. The area in question has a little slant to it, which would have to be addressed. If any of you have any expertise or advice on this, please let me know.

Again, the most immediate thing would be finding 2 people who would like to rent rooms. Then the farming area could be addressed. It has been suggested that portions of the growing area could be rented, with crops going to those people who are involved in that way. Also, that some people might be interested in purchasing some of the property. So if any of you have any suggestions, I am all ears. Also, if someone wants to take a leadership role, please let me know. Things like agriculture I am not familiar with. But I am willing to learn. For more information on this, please check the previous blog.

The Iwama situation for Osensei has been coming up for me lately. I visited the Ibaragi dojo in fall of 1973. I spent about 5 days there. Linda Holiday sensei had visited prior to my visit. At that time Saito sensei was still working on the railroad and so I only saw him the first day for training. He taught a private class for me upon my arrival. And I went to see him before I left. He told me “Mata Iwama e irrashai”. A couple of years later when I was back in this area, Saito sensei was visiting. I took Master Choy to see him. So it was a meeting of t’ai chi and Aikido. Very friendly by the way. I returned in summer of 2006 when with Nadeau sensei’s group we visited for an afternoon. I am including a picture taken in front of the Aiki Shrine during that visit. One of my favorite photos of a very memorable day. We had to leave early that Wednesday afternoon because we had dinner scheduled with the Doshu that night. This is recounted in one of my earliest blogs in June 2006. So it is in the archives.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Aikido Living Situation Possible

I am currently in Boulder Creek. I am staying with friends . The mother of one of my goddaughters and one of my goddaughter’s best friends. My cat Lily is with me. After about 2 weeks she went missing but has recently returned. I guess she didn’t like being inside for the initial period, took matters into her own hands and decided to be outside for awhile. But she is back. Remember, Lily was missing in the Santa Cruz mountains before and returned, that time after 3 months. Even though I was worried, I know she can take care of herself.

It is about a 40 minute commute to the dojo. Having lived in Felton for 9 years I am used to the drive. And after having lived in San Jose for the past 5 years(yes time does fly) it is for the moment very refreshing to be back in the mountains among the redwoods. And I feel my system going back into a balance. My blood sugar readings have been lower(I am diabetic) and I attribute that to having a break from the energies of constantly being in the city. There is something almost womb-like to the silence at night in the mountains that can be very therapeutic.

I found out just recently that the house may have to be put up for a short sale. A re-financing attempt was unsuccessful and much is owed on the house. So after just having moved I am facing the possibility of another move. I tend to compartmentalize and say”My poor cat”. Well this is a crisis of sorts for everybody over here, Aikido teaches us to blend with things and to work the alchemy to turn Crises into opportunities. So here we are.

An idea did come to me. And it is multi-tiered. On a level one basis there is a history of Aikido living situations in the bay area. Years ago Robert Nadeau shihan owned property in Mountain View and a whole community of people lived there as aikido students doing a deeper spiritual study than can be done just at the dojo. And of course they all trained at the Mountain View dojo. Just before I left for my first stay in Japan I was living in Santa Cruz with my parents. But I used to hang out with people who lived in an Aikido House on Colorado Street. They were all training at the UC Santa Cruz Aikido Club. One of them was Linda Holiday sensei. And after I returned from my second stay in Japan there was an Aiki House with seminal members of the Stanford University Aikido Club and I would sometimes train at Stanford, spend the night there on the couch , and train again the following day. It was a much freer and open existence in those days. So I am wondering if some people might be interested in renting(there are 2 rooms). Among 3 people somewhere between $1500 and $1600 must be come up with. And I need to get even clearer about the figures. I intend to write at least another blog about this so more clarity as we continue on. So the off-shoot of this in broad terms is that I am looking for 2 possible house-mates. And if this were an aikido situation, since I would be there, we could structure activites that would make the situation a more in-depth kind of study than can be done at a dojo. This needs to flesh itself out a bit more.

A possible level two: there is a fair amount of property in back of the house. Some trees would need to be cleared out, but some sort of training space could probably be managed. There is even the possibility of growing food(and a lot of it) there. So an Aiki farm like Osensei did in Iwama during the second world war is a possibility. And locally. The Iwama location served as a retreat for Osensei during the World War II time. It allowed him to get away from Tokyo during a difficult time. He was teaching military and police and was forced to teach a ciriculum that was not totally to his liking. The move to the country allowed him to explore spaces that helped produce the more modern post World War II aikido. So more than just a living situation for several people, this second level would allow people to come in for activities as well. Possibly to even help with agriculture. Osensei loved the growing of food. Producing sustenance. The food was not only for himself and his family but he produced an excess which was sent to Tokyo during that tough war period to help people who were without much food. Osensei found farming and budo to be a good mix.

There is a third level. Some years ago I was given a non-profit with which to build an Aiki Shrine in America. It was christened by Hikitsuchi sensei the “Takemusu Shinbuden”. Literally the residence of the Honorable Spirit of Universal Martial Creativity. So the third level would be to create some sort of spiritual center for aikido with the property whereby a large number of people would have access to it. As I have said, I intend to write at least another blog on this matter. Let me know if any of you would be interested in participating in this on any level.

By the way, the picture of Lily was taken at our former residence in the East Hills of San Jose and not at our current location, which is equally beautiful in it's own way. Lily is just beginning to find her way around the redwoods.

I am including a video done fairly recently. Stella by Starlight with Dennis Kyne on guitar and me on trumpet: