Sunday, October 24, 2010

Way to Go Giants!

The Giants will be in the World Series for the 4th time since they came West in 1958. This has been the most unexpected and improbable of the lot. The other pennant winners were built around major stars. Willie Mays. Willie McCovey. Orlando Cepeda. Juan Marichal. Will Clark. Barry Bonds. Jeff Kent. All save Clark(who during his Giant days seemed headed to be one) are either Hall of Famers or destined to be. What this team has is pitching pitching pitching. They go 5 deep in their starting rotation. Have a super lefthanded specialist in Javier Lopez. The game's best closer in Brian Wilson. Never has a San Francisco Giants team had this kind of pitching. They might have gone 2 deep with Marichal and Gaylord Perry. But they in the '60's came up short several times to a Dodger team that was 4 deep in their starting rotation. So good pitching can dominate good hitting. Especially in a short series. So I like our chances. Actually I've had to throw out everything I thought I knew about baseball in following this current bunch. No one star among the regulars on field. Aubrey Huff. Juan Uribe. Of course Cody Ross(NLCS Most Valuable Player).In terms of a star for the future we are looking only at Buster Posey.

It is resilient and relentless. Time and again during the regular season and even during this year's playoffs I have given up on them. And time and time again they have proven me wrong. It is not surprising that last night's clinching victory was a one run affair. That it was decided by an unexpected lightening bolt off the bat of an unexpected hero(Juan Uribe). And that Brian Wilson made things once again all too interesting in the bottom of the ninth. But for all that torture, there was the sense that when they took the lead they would win. And the drama of that looking called third strike to end the game. Ryan Howard is this era's Bonds. What froze him so that Wilson's cutter sneaked past him on the corner? Was it a gift call from the umpire? Yet winning teams get the breaks and capitalize on the other team's mistakes. So I am in unexpected territory now. Bring on the Rangers.

In the Aikido classes we have been stressing that the "I" is not the overseer or controller. It simply goes along for the ride. As Giants fans we can attest to the fact that it has been quite a ride. If this is a train ride it has been a fun ride with some awesome scenery and there have been a couple of dark dark tunnels. But the dark has always been followed by a return to the light. And through both light and dark it has been a wonderous ride. Don Juan told Casteneda that the supreme achievement for a warrior is to balance the terror of being alive with the wonder of being alive. So for the chance to simply breathlessly follow the Giants on this magical run , thank you.

We have our annual Frite Nite Halloween Party Friday October 29th. I've put together a collage of pictures of memorable people and costumes from the past. And the background music is "Line for Lyons", a jazz standard written by Gerry Mulligan.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Giants Again

The Giants continue their unlikely post-season run. Winning the opener of the NLCS in Philadelphia 4-3 was in typical Giants fashion:torture. This is certainly an unforseen very fun time. Again, this is the most fun we've had since the "We Believe" Warriors of '07. But let us hope they are more like the '74-75 NBA championship Warriors who swept the heavily favored Washington Bullets.

A must win every game September was torture for both the team and the fans. But both the team and its fans have been forged for the post-season. All the one run games have honed the team and its fans to never give up. I must say even I, who have always played "The Giants always break your heart" card, know that this team is special. As a fan I've followed the young player they have brought up: Lincecum, Posey, Sanchez, Cain, Baumgartner,and Wilson and it is just great to see them on a major, major stage.

And to see Burrill, Huff, Ross do what they have done is just fun...Wilson has evolved from a closer who always made things too interesting to a guy we trust and rely on. Lincecum for all his struggles in August seems to have transformed from Sandy Koufax to Juan Marichal. People don't remember, but Marichal could throw heat as well.

Of course there is still a lot of baseball to go. But regardless of outcome, it is just refreshing and renewing to see something that seems to come out of nothing. And this team took me by surprise. But the experience of , as Marty Lurie said, seeing this team grow up before our very eyes,has been very moving. And we still don't know where this can go. Sometimes when a team has sustained success the fans grow jaded. So when things are new there is a sense of wonder to what is going on. And that is very fun. Go Giants!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More Fundraiser and Giants

More wish list for the fundraiser: someone who'll help organize the sweats. Who wants them. size. Also, someone to take money the day of the event. Someone to organize the cleaning. Friday October 29th we will be having a Halloween party instead of the usual evening class. So back to back the Halloween party and the next day the fundraiser and training. So we need to organize a clean-up Friday night after the Halloween party. Also, we will be having a light catered event following the training. Some food. Hopefully suitable for those having trained who would like to stay a bit. But also for alumni or those not currently training who would like to donate and would like to be a part of the event without the training. We need someone to help Eiji-san contact those people. If you know of someone who is not training at this moment but you feel would like to contribute, let me know. So time is moving. Those willing please come forward.

It is truly amazing when the whole area gets behind a team. For now the Giants are that team. The last whiff of this was in 2007 during the Warriors' miracle run. Let's hope the Giants can go further and sustain something. A team can be a real humanity unifier. The energy generated by an entire region is an incredible high. In the more distant past the 49ers' Super Bowl teams were examples of that.

An athlete needs to have a strong profile to succeed. But a team and team chemistry depend on these strong personalities being very easy with their "I". And there is a real alchemy around this. When told that there is no "I" in the word team, Michael Jordan replied that there is in win. It is not the eradication of the "I" or the absence of it, but the ability of the "I" to be very easy with itself and allow the team to come first. It is almost as if the team is the bus. The "I" is not the bus. Nor is it the driver. It is the passenger. Yet the entire vehicle is built specifically for the "I". The bus and team sense is what in aikido we sometimes term "the functioning unit". And a good or great team is the balanced creation of a number of components into a system that is greater than the sum of their parts. The first Niner Super Bowl team with a very young Joe Montana and an even younger Ronnie Lott was like this. They were held together by a number of interchangeable veterans. Witness the current Giants with their young pitching and Buster Posey. Who could have forseen Pat Burrill, Aubrey Huff, coming in an playing a role and supporting the youngsters as they have? And notice the absence of a dominating "I"(Bonds). I personally loved to watch Barry. But this team is even more fun than his teams were.

The torture that the Giants are known for is a form of forging. Playing so many close games and winning, facing incredible defeats and resurrecting, renewing, all these things for both team and fans has been an incredible journey. I hope it continues much,much further.

And contrast the Giants to the current Niner team, which has been decimated by the "I" of ownership and leadership. Any good team or functioning unit has a design. Though he was criticized for his, Brian Sabean's was and still is pitching, pitching, and more pitching and fill in with interchangeable veteran parts. If he had dealt a key starter or had brought in a big "I" presence, we probably wouldn't be having this discussion. The Niner ownership/leadership has relied on slogans, outer charismatic image, and promises while creating something that just goes around and around in the same circles. Both Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary were I'm sure great interviews. Both lacked a track record or anything to indicate they could be a head coach. As much as I am frustrated by Alex Smith, I genuinely feel sorry for him. Ditto Mike Singletary, a decent man. But I knew when they cut Nate Davis(fortunately the rest of the league is dumb and allowed the Niners to put him on their practice squad) the team was not going to be as advertised. Conversely I knew when the Giants traded Joe Nathan they were going to be in for a tough stretch.

So go Giants. I can't wait for the NLCS this Saturday. And for now I'm seeing 0-6 for the Niners Sunday.

Here is another video of the recent Japantown demo with new footage and music:

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Congratulations Giants

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants, Champions of the National League West. As I write this they are undefeated in the play offs for 2010. The first game starts in about 20 minutes. I hope they continue on through the playoffs and the World Series and bring the fans here in the Bay Area their first Giants championship. But regardless of what happens it has been a remarkable year. It is sometimes difficult to compare sports to Aikido because aikido is not a sport. It aims at a win/win philosophy that stresses inner development. Sports is about winning.

Yet this team has some spirit. Spirit in the Japanese culture is exemplified by the carp fish. It is said to be able to swim up a waterfall and is thus an example culturally of spirit, a word that is unmistakeable but undefinable. This team was from the beginning a flawed team, and despite the great pitching, still is. It reminds me of the '74-75 Golden State Warriors who won an NBA title. That team had one superstar(Rick Barry) and a lot of role players. But it came together at the right time and swept a heavily favored Washinton Bullets squad to take the title. We will find out if this Giants squad has some of that same magic. No great superstar, but great pitching, a lot of incomplete players buoying each other up, a phenomenal rookie(Buster Posey) issuing in a post Bonds era. I quit on them so many times. Torture is the word that was coined for their gut wretching style of play. So hopefully a la aikido both the team and its fans have forged themselves for a memorable post season run. I can't wait. I'm headed for a tv screen to watch.

Here is a video of the October 2nd Spirit of Japantown demo. My thanks to Steve Tsao, Yu Chen Shen, Shin Tsurushima, Alex Kolbasov, Andrew Le, and to Meng Ear for shooting the video. There is still more photage, and I may format that into another video in the future.