Saturday, October 27, 2018

Aikido and the 1 inch punch

My history with the inch punch began with Bruce Lee, watching him generate all that sudden explosion of energy from an inch away from his target. Later my t'ai chi master, Sifu Choy Kam Man suggested that I research 'inch power'. But my first real experience of it was in Spring or so of 1973 and is chronicled in Linda Holiday sensei's book "Journey to the Heart of Aikido". I was initiated into it by Tojima sensei. From an inch away he uprooted me with a vertical fist. Which he repeated several times. My memory of it was that there was no sense of being hit. No force directed at me. I was just in the air.

Over the ensuing decades that experience has stayed with me When we moved to our current location at Martha Street, Professor Bunch's jujitsu class had some punching dummies. They are heavily bottom weighted. Initially I tried the side kick until I could knock one over a la Bruce Lee. I haven't attemped that in a while. But I would try the inch punch as well. And I can't really recall when I started to get it. I just retained the feel experience of how it felt to receive it from Tojima sensei. I began to realize how it is basically kokyu or breath ........The ability to focus one's power in a single point and unleash it without any sense of weight or force, one's consciousness free and peaceful. Even loving.

And past the feel experience there is a theory behind it. I find I can teach it to most people in 15 minutes or so. But the ability to be consistent takes much longer and involves a theoretical rewiring of force and power.
Basically it is like baseball. Some muscular huge person can muscle the ball and hit a catchable fly ball while someone much smaller can drive the same ball. In his autobiography Sadaharu Oh talks about meeting a huge American, part of an American All Star team playing Japan's All Stars, including, of course Mr Oh. The American looked at Oh, slight by his standards and asked, " How can YOU hit home runs?". Oh answered, rather inscrutably, "I understand the secret of the weight shift''. Mr Oh had been guided by Ueshiba Osensei, who mentored Oh's own coach, Mr Arakawa. The weight shift involves the inner point. Mr Oh was famous for standing on one leg while waiting for the pitch, then when his lead foot touched earth unleashing his power.

Nationally and locally we have only to watch Steph Curry of the Warriors. His range comes from the incredible power of his core(I read once where he can dead lift 400 pounds), focused in that point, translated out into the touch muscles of his fingers. My version of that shot is included in the attached video.

Tojima sensei really researched Koichi Tohei sensei.  I personally never worked with Tohei sensei, so sense of the matrial comes from Tojima sensei.Tohei sensei stressed what he called the 4 rules of Ki. I have updated this somewhat to the 4 algorithms.

1. Relax completely. Let go of what you're thinking, good, bad, or indifferent. Osensei talked of shinku or true  emptiness at a more universal or archetypal level

2. Weight underside. From 1 shoulders relax, arms are firm but not holding tension, and the beginnings of grounding.....Ueshiba Osensei stressed the importance of the 'ne no kuni' or land of the roots.

3.  The inner point surfaces. Osensei linked this to Ame no Minakanushi no Okami, the first point in creaation similar to the Big Bang theory.   And related it to the chant SU. If you look for the point or think about it you distance yourself from the experience.

4. Vital force or enery(Ki) starts moving as a part of the re-organization of the first 3. I am not so much into 'I extend Ki', but Ki starts to manifest for someone who practices the 3 prior algorithms,ie a more natural, original state of being. And since all 4 involve whittling away the'I'. they can be seen as a form of misogi.

The inch punch is the same as the closing motion to the suburi or bokken cut. So that is included in the above video.

Tohei sensei said of his 4 rules if you lose one you lose the other 3. I prefer if you are fully with any one, then you have the other 3.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Primal Universal Energies: Art & Aikido

Aikido of San Jose has changed the name of its fall 2018 fundraiser. From Keep the Lights On we have shifted to Primal Universal Energies: Aikido and Art. Why the change? First of course Aikido is a martial art But my feeling is that we now need to go past the martial aspect to simply art. Art is creation. Creation is a process that takes the artist through light and dark, suffering and ecstasy, from turmoil to the sublime. No real art without an artist. Joseph Campbell in his "Myths to Live By" wrote that the shamans of today are the artists, whose job it is to bring new energies into the world. For me the shaman is one who lives in the dark so that he/she may bring light into the world. Ueshiba Osensei had a strong shamanic element  in his aikido. He stressed Takemusu Aiki, which is Aikido as an act of creation through the power of love. I feel for Aikido to go to the next level of itself, we must shift our emphasis from Aiki-do to the aforementioned Takemusu Aiki.

Also very vital to this change of names is that Lou Bermingham sensei is receiving his promotion to 5th dan.
Lou began his training in 1975 in France under Tamura sensei. He then moved to Northern California where he began his training under Robert Nadeau shihan at the San Jose dojo. And after I became the Chief Instructor of Aikido of San Jose in 1980, Lou has continued to train diligently and to be a real force for keeping the pursuit of Aikido's message alive in our dojo. He has also taught the art at Apple and for many years at the Los Gatos Community Center. And he is an artist of considerable note. Those of you who have attended his art shows can attest to the depth and beauty of his work. Working abstractly Lou draws out archetypal energies and forces with his works, especially his acryllics. Part of this event will be an art show of his work. He will also be doing an Aikido presentation.

Linda Holiday sensei, chief instructor of Aikido of Santa Cruz and author of "Journey to the Heart of Aikido" will also be attending  and doing an Aikido presentation and demonstration. I have known her since I believe 1970. We both started at the UC Santa Cruz Aikido club. I was fall of 1969 and she fall the following year.We spent a very bonding period in 1973 when we both became students at the Kumano Juku Dojo in Shingu, Japan. And we were privileged to study there under Hikitsuchi sensei, as well as Anno, Tojima, and Yanase senseis. Check out  her excellent book to get a flavor of that time. She know travels and teaches internationally. I am looking forward to her presentation.

I will also be giving an Aikido presentation. Certain things about the phrase Aikido have opened up fairly recently. And the connection to Takemusu and to the Water/Fire Center/Circle relationships have also blossomed. I will also be asking a couple of my dojo's senior teachers to give a presentation.

The date for the fundraiser is November 3rd, a Saturday. It will run from 4pm to 8pm. In addition to the Art show and Aikido presentations there will be an opportunity to meet and talk with the teachers/artists. There will be items for an auction and raffle. A minimum donation of $15 is requested to get into the event. That will also include 2 raffle tickets. Similar to Public TV fundraisers there will be items or prizes for donations of $50, $75, $100, $200, $300. Glen Kimoto sensei has offered to donate 2 nuboko(3 sectioned spear out of white oak) for donations of $500 or more.

This event is to cover our annual power bill(PG&E). Last year it was $3,800. This year I expect it to be in excess of $4,000. So any and all support is welcome. Please feel free to bring family and friends. Family members will not be charged. There will be items for purchase. And those wanting to increase donation to upper levels to get some of the fundraiser items feel free. Those out of area or dojo alumnus not currently active may leave an angel donation(no prize) by going to our webpage at and finding the paypal link in the middle of our title page . A donation in any amount is greatly appreciated. Please email me at when you do and I'll send you a personal thank you email.