Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

Well Christmas is just around the corner. The classes at the dojo will be on a very reduced schedule from today through New Year's Eve. We will do our annual New Year's Day training 11am to 12;30pm. And our regular schedule resumes the next day Monday January 2nd. 2012 has been projected as a target year in that it is the end of several calendars. Regardless of what may come I feel we will all continue our training in the New Year. During the second world war in what must have been equally trying times Osensei moved to Iwama to farm and he continued his training in that environment. His birthday was December 14th, earlier this month.

Another birthday this month is Chet Baker's. He was born on this date 82 years ago during the year of the great depression in Yale Oklahoma. He moved along with his parents to Southern California at about age 13 and is generally associated with the West Coast or cool jazz sound of the fifties. But he had his roots in Oklahoma.

The two men would appear worlds apart but they do reflect the role of the artist in difficult times.Ueshiba was in his earliest days an activist. When the government was coming down on the fishermen of his native Tanabe. Osensei would stand on the docks and tell the goverment enforcers if they didn't leave he'd throw them into the ocean. He was very active in blocking a strong special interests move to use the government to let them take over the lands of local shrines. During the second world war he left Tokyo to farm and train in Iwama. But it is as if he were surrounded by powerful forces and energies his whole life and left Tokyo to further deal and clarify his relationship with them. My feeling is that his act was much more than that of a pacifist. His life I'm sure intensified when he left what could have been a sheltering hysteria and craziness in World War II Tokyo.

Baker was outwardly very different. According to his closest friend, Artt Frank, he was acutely aware of social and economic inequities. He would give the shirt or jacket off his back to a homeless person he felt the world didn't care about. And his wife Carol tells of a time when he gave $20 to someone who looked desparately in need. She told him it was their last $20. He told her not to worry, went into a club, and came out with the news that he had a gig and that there would be money.

Apparently both Ueshiba and Baker had a very loose relationship with money and lived for something much greater. Ueshiba's manifested in something outwardly much more spiritual. And his family had substantial money which subsidized his quest. Baker in Europe in the eighties was making $200,000 a year yet lived from gig to gig without a permanent residence.

Baker's drug use remains an issue of controversy. However my view of things has shifted a bit during the years. While I am not condoning this there is something else that I feel has clarified for me at least. The closer one gets to something vastly original, some people may call this God or Universal Intelligence, the greater the push. There is often the thought that closeness brings light and love. I believe these are somewhat earned and that the push must be faced and integrated for true light and love to manifest. Without this my sense is that we hang out in a conceptual sense of the light and love which may be quite attractive, yet ultimately lacks aliveness and vitalness. Ueshiba handled this with a life of rigorous training and self-scrutiny. And possibly what he achieved in the end was more complete. But Baker as an artist was incredibly non-conformist and lived life totally on his own terms. Uncompromisingly. And there is a purity in that, too. And don't underestimate the rigors of jazz life. When I asked Artt Frank if he played with Chet in Europe, Artt answered that he was asked but declined because what went on there was said to be able to take ten years off your life. Baker lived to almost 60 and probably would have kept on going if he hadn't fallen out of a window of a hotel in Amsterdam and hit his head on a post on the way down. My sense is that Chet was very close to something and that produced an incredible push, which he handled through his music and, unfortunately, his drug use. But I have a clearer sense of this. I feel if Ueshiba and Baker had met they would have gotten along. What Osensei does with space and time in his movement, Baker does through sound. I feel if Ueshiba' lineage had been music, he would have excelled. And if Baker has chosen warrior, he would have as well. And I speak of both in the present tense because I feel the energy of both men is still vitally alive, with tremendous implications for the challenges we may face in the near future.

So we look at Warrior in Artist and Artist in Warrior when we consider both men. The artist must be a warrior to meet and overcome all the challenges and struggles that will be there. Ueshiba Osensei had severe health issues his whole life. Baker had to re-learn how to play when he lost his front teeth in a brutal beating. But there ultimately must be artist in warrior. Just being a warrior as it is normally phrased is limiting. Joseph Campbell in his book Myths to live by states that the artist is responsible for bringing new energy into the culture, and without this the culture will decay.

Anyway, Happy Holidays. This is a video of a Chet Baker recording of Silent Night:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Odds and Ends

I wanted to post another picture of Tojima sensei from his visit to this area in 1979. Again this is courtesy of my good friend John Putica, who gave me these photos. As you can see he was quite active during his visit and not just on the aikido mat. Tojima sensei raised bonsai on his own and would go on excursions into the mountains during which he insisted plants talk. So as you might have gathered from past blogs, he was quite a remarkable person.

AS I announced in a message sent e-mail to dojo members we will be expanding the non-profit or Takemusu Shinbuden part of our activities. Again it is a non-profit that was given to me to help spread the message of aikido. And a lot of this is to honor my friend Steve who passed away just a year ago. Last Wednesday night we offered norito or formal Shinto prayers for Frank Silvey who was in the hospital for a procedure. But in addition to that we were able to go into some of aikido's least understood practices. Sometimes during class this does not get transmitted. So I am thinking the second Wednesday of each month we will end the aikido a bit early, around 8pm. We will start the intermediate/advanced a little earlier for those who come to that portion. But everyone is welcome to stay. We will do formal norito, but this will also give time for other aspects of aikido to surface that we don't do justice to during the training portion of the class. The training part is important because it establishes the body as a space for transformation so this is not to diminish that. But certain things also need to be presented not only informationally but also experientially. For example last Wednesday we took everybody through the ritual of fire water steam. And there are many other things we will also explore. Ultimately aikido is a deep study of how the universe operates and one's true relationship to self and the universe. So we will keep everyone posted. And there is no charge for this. People can stay in gi or come in in street clothes. There is no charge for this. Donations however are always welcome and are tax deductible, not for the dojo but for the non-profit.

Looking at the picture of Tojima sensei, some of our older students will recognize that it was taken at our original 6th street Japantown location. There was an apricot tree to the front of the building and to the left. Tojima sensei is just giving it a trim, just as he I'm sure did for his bonsai.

I just posted a new video of long staff or bo. Last Saturday we did a good hour on the long staff. For awhile I was working mainly with the jo, even though the movements were technically bo movements. And I have also spent some time using the 3 foot staff. But for now I am back working with the long staff. I hope you enjoy it.