First, I want to keep everyone updated on Aikido teachers and friends in Japan given the recent earthquake and tsunami conditions. Linda Holiday sensei says she has heard by e-mail from Shingu that Anno sensei and the dojo and people there are okay. And I found out by e-mail today that classes were held at Hombu dojo in Tokyo. So that is a good sign. Let us send good energy to Japan.
I found out in December that I had lost a dear friend. Sometimes you tell yourself that you should contact so and so and you keep putting it off. And then you find that they are gone. This unfortunately was one of those. After thinking about contacting him for ages it seemed I found out from his widow Irene that he had passed away in late November.
I first met Steven Malamuth in fall of 1969 when I started aikido at UC Santa Cruz. We were both undergraduates, although that was my last year there as a student. Steve was several years older than I and had been educated abroad at the University of Mexico. Even though he was studying aikido, he was a t'ai chi instructor. In fact he was the first person certified to teach by Master Choy Kam Man. I began to study t'ai chi with him later in that school year. We got quite close. We even began to work on the pushing hands exercises, which are the more advanced drills in t'ai chi. Steve even taught me the sabre movements. Later I went on to study with Master Choy myself and got the pushing hands and sabre movements from him as well. I graduated in June of 1970. I spent a lot of the summer between graduation and starting up in grad school at UC Davis doing push hands with Steve.
I went on to Japan and aikido. He went to law school at the University of Santa Clara and opened a law practice. But we managed to keep in touch. In the '80's there was an aikido instructors' meeting in Oakland. After the meeting I wandered out into an intersection in front of a moving car. And behind the wheel of that car was Steve. So we re-connected. He moved on from practicing law to running a church with his parents. In 1991 he passed on to me a non-profit that was connected to his church in order to better spread the message of aikido and t'ai chi. I spent 10 days with him in early 1991 in Mexico on property located in Costa Careyes. I still remember his driving me around, telling me to be careful of the scorpions there, wading in warm coastal waters with people fishing with nets in the water. It was a magical trip. And the day I returned the first Persian Gulf War started. So it was a time I still vividly remember.
He was someone who had a very strong influence on me in my early aikido career and also in my early spiritual development. He was very intelligent. Multi-lingual. As I said, he had been educated abroad. He even picked up Mandarin. On his forehead he had a scar from when someone attacked him with a knife in Mexico. He used the "Raised Hands " move from t'ai chi to break the attackers elbow, but in the process he had that ever so slight scar on his forehead. So to someone raised very shelteredly in the Santa Cruz pre-University age he was exotic, charismatic, and had great influence on me.I remember in spring of 1970 there was an outdoor gathering at Merrill College. Robert Frager sensei organized an outdoor aikido gathering and shared energy practices with the students from the university who had gathered there. Instead of joining us in the aikido group Steve put on his t'ai chi uniform and did sabre in slow motion. I remember thinking of the Nemuri Kyoshiro films and the engetsu sappo. By the way Steve became quite a Kyoshiro fan. When the dvd set came out I gave him all of my Ichikawa Raizo vhs series.
Unfortunately Steve's martial arts career took a horrible turn when he was parachuting and broke his back. Bad luck and ill health seemed to be his constant companions as the years went on. He was on such strong pain killers I am sure his life was not easy. In the last several years he was very difficult to reach. One of his favorite pieces of music was the Concierto de Aranjuez in the Gil Evans/Miles Davis classic "Sketches of Spain". I had done a version of it and I wanted to make sure Steve saw it. Unfortunately he never did.
The non-profit is what is termed the Takemusu Shinbuden. It is a church meant to support the growth of aikido and it's larger practice. It is meant to be a means of spiritual growth and not anything normally seen as religious. In honor of his passing I am going to try and expand the activities of the Takemusu Shinbuden. It is meant to be a shrine and not a church. In Japanese an older word for center is miya, which also has the dual meaning of being a center.
I am including a video of me in the Japantown dojo doing the t'ai chi sabre movements originally taught to me by Steve. It is reformatted from an earlier video with music. I hope you enjoy it>