Saturday, January 28, 2012

49er post mortum and the power bill

Last weekend was the last game of a great season for our local team. The feeling here is that the better team did not win. But even with the disappointment of last weekend's defeat, it was a glorious year. We got to follow a team with a lot of toughness and intelligence. To observe Alex Smith rise from the ashes and begin to demonstrate what he is capable of. Hopefully that will continue next season and equally hopefully they find some wide receivers who can make plays. I expect the success of this past season to continue and be sustained. But still a tough loss.

I sent an e-mail out to the dojo mailing list about the power bill, which finally arrived. And much bigger than expected. Our space, which we share with jujitsu, generated a bill in 2011 of almost $9,000, of which we pay half. We had a fundraiser last November, which generated a little over $2,000. I was expecting to pay somewhere up to a thousand from dojo reserves. But the bill exceeded expectations by 50%. It was explained to me by the building manager that this is an old old building which unfortunately eats power. It seems however this is increasing at an alarming rate.

So we are looking for both short and long term solutions. In the short term I am highlighting the February 8th Wednesday night special class with Mary Heiny sensei(6:30 to 8:30pm here at the San Jose dojo, cost $30). With a solid turnout of 40 we pay off 60% of the remaining bill. If we managed 60 we would pay the whole thing off. So I am asking dojo members to prioritize making the class. And here are a couple of other points:

1. If you have friends who have trained at the dojo and keep talking about getting back on the mat, this would be a great event for them to participate in and get going again.

2. If you have friends from other dojos in the area please encourage them to make the class. A good turnout from other dojos would help us get to 60.

3. If you are a member of another dojo in the area and are reading this blog, please come join us for this class and help us slay this monster.

4. If you are out of area consider a donation in the amount of the workshop price(or any amount) and it could be offered as a scholarship for students wanting to attend but financially challenged. If you would like the donation to be tax deductible that can be arranged. Contact me at

And remember, Mary Heiny sensei is an incredible aikidoist and teacher who offers great insights on the art for all those who will attend. She was lucky enough to be at Hombu dojo for the last period of Osensei's life. She pretty much opened up the Shingu dojo run at that time by Hikitsuchi sensei to foreigners. I was privileged to be among the first foreigners to live full time there and to train full time at that dojo. And I could not have done that without her assistance and support.

I consider her one of my truest friends in the art and a great resource for all engaging in the study of aikido. I would not be who I am today without her. So by all means put this on your calendar.

I am including a new video(musical by Dennis and me). It is a departure from some of our stuff which is basically freeform. "Deep Purple" is a cute jazz tune in Chet Baker's repertoire that we have been tossing back and forth for a couple of weeks. Hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Underworld Awakening

This year being the end of several calendars including the Mayan, we are all perhaps waiting for some catastrophic event or change. I sort of gauge this by checking the premier date for films I want to see and then checking them off that so far I have made it to............Last summer Thor and Green Lantern. And now I must add to my list "Underworld Awakening".

I must say I find these films starring Kate Beckinsale fun. And they explore mythic themes and even social ones that might not be apparent. But the main reason for going to see the film is to see Kate again as Selene. I do enjoy other films with her. And I find it interesting that Ralph Barbieri on KNBR has on more than one occasion referred to her as the most beautiful woman in the world. She is by far my favorite of the modern actresses. A sort of latter day Diana Rigg. It is interesting that they both have played characters in form fitting battle suits. But besides both being British they are both very outspoken and intelligent. Ms. Beckinsale studied both French and Russian Literature at Cambridge. I once read that she said these days the only place she gets to practice her Russian is at the hair dressers.

The first and second in the series are by far my favorites. The third, while dealing with the history of the Underworld mythology and exploring Lucian, who, outside of Selene, is the most interesting character, left out Kate. So while I saw it it was a great disappointment. And I was afraid the series would end there. But I got my wish and it has continued for at least another film. A fourth. And just as the character of Selene dominated the second, so does she in the fourth. I must admit I am more a Selene fan than an Underworld fan. Just as I was an Emma Peel fan more than an Avengers fan. So after an absence of 6 years here we go again.

The film auspiciously opened January 20th as did Underworld Evolution. And this is also the same date the Avengers returned to American tv for a second run in 1967. AS the first two films explored the connection between Selene and Michael, and therefore had a romantic/sexual sense to them, this one explores the connection between Selene and a young girl that explores the sense of Mother. But there is even more action in this one than in the first two. In fact I still haven't decided what this film is yet.

The main shift in this film is that humans have discovered the existence of the vampires and werewolves and have declared a martial law and state and have taken steps to exterminate both species. So not only is there tension between vampires and lycans, there is the added sense that humans are now also an enemy.

One of the things that gets overlooked in these films is that both species are enhanced with special abilities and are looked upon in the popular vernacular as monsters. And this is even heightened in this film. One might question whether the vampires and werewolves represent(symbolically) the next step in our evolution(transforming to a deeper and truer level) and how that level might present itself initially to us as a monster, something fearful and evil. And so to see the current film explore that was interesting. And to see the scenes of martial law and the extermination of the monsters was quite scary. It makes you question who are the real monsters. Foster Gamble's documentary Thrive puts out the possibility of martial law and that those in control have a plan to eliminate a sizeable portion of the human population. So some probably unintended parallels. And it is interesting that martial law is oftentimes put out there as for the good of all when it really serves the few.

I saw it in 3D and even though pricier I think it added to the experience. There is a lot of intense fantasy violence. Which if not your bag probably means the film is not your cup of tea. I tend to find films like this cleansing. Often in the Eastern sense there is the archetype of the destroyer. Creation cannot happen without must be accompanied by destruction. Selene's initial reason for being as a death dealer was the extermination of the lycan race. In this film this is channeled into the protection of the young girl with whom she has a mysterious connection. Even though the stunts are spectacular I love the films because they are not about a woman doing man-like things. Just as Diana Rigg did in her day they present an aspect of female power that is quite distinct from the male and yet equally potent. I think Ms Beckinsale embodies this well. She indicates quite a transformation for the first film. She had to learn to run on camera. To fight. To shoot. She even found that her hands(large enough to be as big as Ben Afleck's during the shooting of "Pearl Harbor")made it easier to handle the guns. So for this film everything is polished.

So both thumbs up. If you enjoy films like this you will enjoy this one. I even urge you to see it in the theater because I would like to in my own selfish way see still another.

Here is a bit of information virtually no one on the planet has: What is an unusual connection that both Kate Beckinsale and Morihei Ueshibe Osensei both share? Answer: They both have their moon in the sign of Gemini. And still even more little known: Both moons conjunct my sun in Gemini.

For tomorrow's NFC championship, go Niners! And here is still another video from the movie "Thrive":

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

congratulations to 49ers and alex smith

I must say I was a doubter. Both of the team and the quarterback. I secretly longed for the niners to be a flashy offensive machine with an emphasis on passing. This team surprised me by winning and by continuing to win. Great defense. Dominant special teams. Offense good enough to win. Quarterback much better than in his first 6 years but still a "game manager". Not a Montana or Young. So I have kept on waiting for the
bubble to burst and I am still waiting. And I hope I am still waiting in March.

There were flashes. Down 20 to 3 in Philly and a comeback against at that time what was considered to be an elite team and on the road. 4th and goal in Detroit with a minute left and do or die and a touchdown to Delaney Walker with no room for error.
But nothing to suggest what would take place last Saturday. Alex Smith has been the target of so much negativity over the past 6 years. And I must include myself in that. Sports astrologer Andrea Mallis( predicted when he was drafted that he would be a flop of Ryan Leaf perportions. When I learned he was going to be retained she said he would be much better this year because Jupiter(expansiveness and good fortune) was now in Taurus which is his sun sign. And she has been right. But Saturday he played a game for the ages which can stand up to anything hall of famers Montana and Young ever did on a single game basis. With 4 lead changes in the last 4 minutes he ran for 1 touchdown and passed for the game winner, both times answering Saints touchdowns that gave New Orleans the lead. It was two equal forces slugging it out with the niners on top when the game ended. Really no loser in a game like this. But for that day the niners established themselves as a force equal to one of the elite teams, and that was not the perception of them going into that game.

I love it when I am proved to be wrong. The Giants did it in 2010. The niners and Alex Smith have done it this season. When you know everything the world is always the same. But when you are amazed, shocked, and positively proved wrong the world has a sense of wonder that is quite special. No one expected the Giants to win it all in 2010. And no one could have forseen what the niners have done this season.
Regardless of what happens Sunday in the NFC title game, it has been special. And seeing Smith transform and grow before our eyes has been special. Certainly my life has been much more an Alex Smith-like one before this year life than it has been like one of the annointed. And to see him rise to the occasion, show immense courage by transcending all the failure and negativity of the past, and to deliver when everything game wise was on the line was incredible. And rejuvenating. There is nothing like what happens when something that has been weak transforms into a strength and even a force. I wish him well for the next game but regardless of the outcome I thank him for Saturday's moment.

With the tradition of Montana and Young there is a lot of rare air here when we look at quarterbacks. So just coming into the space of the bay area and the 49ers is tough. But Smith may well establish his own mark here. Even when he was less successful I liked him as a person and the unassuming way he carried himself. This is very refreshing in this culture, which worships heroes and asks for more and more cliches. So Go Alex for another week!

I am including another clip of me that was shot for the movie "Thrive"(

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

2011 a retrospective

Well 2011 has come and gone. It is now the new year 2012. The new year always brings a fresh energy. But let's travel back to 2011 for just a bit. I'm sure it was quite a year for all of us. So what stood out for me personally this year?

So I will start with the Santa Cruz Summer Retreat. Being a part of that event and celebrating Anno sensei's 80th birthday both on the mat and at the huge gathering at the Cocoanut Grove will be a highlight not only of last year but of my life. It is wonderful when you can celebrate not only the event but the man. And to see and be a part of that spontaneous outpouring of loving devotion for someone who truly deserves it was memorable. And let us not forget the hardships Japan has undergone in the last year , with the earthquake and the more recent flooding in the Kumano region. By the way I just spoke to Anno sensei over the phone last week. It was brief but very heart felt. And let us all look forward to his coming this July.

Also a very moving experience for me was to be named to the honorary board of directors of the Chet Baker Foundation. Page one on the foundation website includes Dave Brubeck, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock....To put things in perspective I am on page 6. Chet's closest friend Artt Frank has been instrumental in filling me on not only on the fine points of Chet's playing but also about the man himself. I was able to visit him towards the end of 2010 and I hope to visit again. This is definitely not for my musical ability, but I will take the honor on the basis of what I have stood for in my life.

In January of last year I was privileged to be able to play with San Jose's jazz ambassador Eddie Gale. Just being able to counterpoint with someone of his level is an astounding thing. It would be like playing one on one with Michael Jordan. You would learn something. A dvd of that session was made, " Sounds for Peace" and is still available at the dojo.

I also want to mention the Menlo College Summer Retreat. It is always wonderful to catch up with and spend the week with senseis Robert Nadeau, Frank Doran, Hiroshi Ikeda, and of course Mary Heiny. Mary will be teaching at our dojo February 8th. And of course it gives me a chance to hang out with Dianna and Vladi, which is always special.

And I want to personally thank Robert Nadeau sensei and Robert Noha sensei. We spent the year trying to put a sizeable dent in cracking the code to Osensei's knowledge. Hopefull more of the same this year.

2011 also saw the premier of the movie "Thrive", a documentary put out by Foster Gamble and his wife Kimberly. Just after returning from the Japan trip in 2006 I was approached by Foster to have some footage of me shot for this documentary. So we did. While I did not make the final cut for the film, sections of the footage are included on the dvd, the website(, and on youtube. I am including one of these: