Tuesday, February 11, 2014

On Being Promoted to 7th Dan

At the end of 2013 I was recommended for the rank of 7th dan by Robert Nadeau shihan. The promotion was recognized by Hombu dojo and the Aikikai and so last month(January) I was awarded that rank by Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba at his house in Tokyo adjoining Hombu dojo. That was one of the highlights of a week long sojourn in Japan for me and a small group that went with me. Other highlights include seeing Anno sensei and Yanase sensei in the Shingu area, visiting the gravesite of the Founder, and once again returning to the great waterfall in Nachi. I hope the trip was a positive experience for everyone in the group.

My last promotion(to sixth dan) was in 1991. That was a little on the fast side as I remember. After that I pretty much figured that was it. When I was first in Shingu Anno sensei was a 7th. Yanase and Tojima senseis were 6th.. Tojima sensei passed away at that rank. And my thought was always if I can die a 6th like Tojima sensei I will be happy. And life has a way of throwing you surprises such as this last promotion.

The biggest honor by far in this is the fact that I was recommended by Nadeau shihan. He is currently a 7th(though I hope he receives his next quickly). He is responsible for so many of the dojos in this area. And he has an international organization in his division 3 of CAA of which we in the San Jose dojo are a part. So thank you for your faith in me.

When I was in Shingu Anno sensei asked me if now that I was 7th did other people want it also. And I answered probably. We both had a hearty laugh. Just the way it goes. Steve Ditko(co-creator along with Stan Lee of Spider-man) received an award for his comic book art. He immediately chastised those giving him the award because he felt it made artists competitive and envious instead of just living for their art. Once I viewed this rank as an impossibility. A couple of Japanese instructors I was connected to flashed it saying get a big organization going and produce lots of yudansha.  Teach lots of workshops. Then 7th.I am happy to say the only two teachers of note who have never had this conversation with me are Nadeau sensei and Anno sensei, hence my deep respect for both.

Sadaharu Oh received direct instruction from Osensei(not training but the philosophy and soul of aikido). In his last game he hit what he knew was his last home run. As he was rounding the bases one last time he had a deep realization that everybody, every teammate, every opposing player, had played a role in his development and accomplishment. He had a deep sense of Osensei telling him the whole world was one family. And so what I am saying is thank you, all my teachers, friends, and students in the art. I had to have an excuse to continue to show up. Year after year. Month after month. Class after class. Without you I am nothing and this promotion would never have happened.

So thank you to Doshu. I have always been treated with the upmost respect by the Ueshiba family. And I received a very warm reception at Hombu dojo.

Thank you to my first teachers, Robert Frager sensei and , again, Robert Nadeau sensei, for starting me out and instilling in me early the importance of staying connected to Osensei.

Thank you to Anno, Yanase, and Tojima sensei’s for their guidance, strength, and example over the years. And to Hikitsuchi sensei for giving me a working sense of Osensei’s philosophy.

Thank you to Mary Heiny sensei and Linda Holiday sensei for their friendship and support both in those early formative times in Japan and through the ensuing years.

Thank you to Professor Richard Bunch for sharing with us a wonderful training space lo these last 13(now) years.

And thank you to all those who have trained under me, with me at Aikido of San Jose, which will in the end be my body of work. Without you I am as lazy as anyone else. You gave and still give me an excuse to show up.

When in Japan I told Harry Concepcion sensei that the model for my work was that of a great(award winning) comic book writer, James Robinson. He took an obscure title and character, Starman, and made it his own and memorable. It ran 80 issues, and was so good it was in its entire run put out in hard cover. The formative first story arc(Sins of the Father) introduced threads that went all the way through the entire run and were neatly tied up at the end. In the last issue Robinson thanked his readers for supporting the title so that he could tell his story. My very first blog began with a phrase from Robinson’s Starman, “And now a tale of times past….”……So I thank those who have given me a chance to show up and tell my story…..And as I told Harry in Tokyo, I’m not done…….