Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Flow dimension

Aikido's appeal is sometimes difficult to describe. But one of the best things we have going for us it is a gateway to flow. Not as a concept, but as a direct experience through the body. Much of my practice these days is to use the movements of the spear or staff to get into what I call a flow dimension. I have the 30 movement set that I teach. And the last third I see as a gateway to the world of flow, the dimension of flow, hopefully eventually a universe of flow.

For me the flow experience is connected to a level of personal harmony, even balance. Keeping this going in a real complex world is chalenging. The pandemic is still with us. We have the Russian invasion and war in Ukraine. Andd the flow dimension must not be seen as an escape from crisis, but rater as a vehicle that allows us to be conscious of the conflict, feel compassion for those immersed in the war, and keep ourselves on course in our own lives

Oftentimes the flow state provides us a clarity that allows us to continue on so in Osensei's words we can complete our mission. Our larger mission is to work towards a world of peace. To realize that we call come out of the one source. and thus we are all connected through a very original sense of love. And we have to balance that with the complexity of an increasingly complex world.

Anyway, I'm posting a recent online class where we go into the 30 movements and use them to access finer dimensions of flow. So hopefully, enjoy...


Tuesday, March 01, 2022

War and Peace

 When I first started Aikido I used to measure things through the academic calendar. I had my first Aikido class in early October 1969. But it was the start of the academic calendar year at UCSC. Winter quarter, already 1970, I took a Russian Lit course that was based on the writings of Leo Tolstoy. It overlapped with the US invasion of Cambodia. The Santa Cruz campus was closed dnto ue to demonstrations. Classes were closed along with the campus.  But due to the nature of our course, centered around War and Peace, we felt this was very pertinent to what was going on at the time, and so we met off-campus.. Tolstoy's masterpiece was a wonderful juxtaposition between the horrific vision of a "Superman", embodied by Napoleon, and the very real human effects that invasion had on the people of Russia. All the way from the nobility to the peasantry.

So the powerful, dynamic "Superman" Napoleon is contrasted to the Russian people and land, which are embodied by General Kutuzov, who was charged with protection Russia from Napolean/s army. Kutuzov lost baattle after battle to Napoleon. But he is looked upon as a native Russian hero because he realized Napoleon was following him, victory after victory, disregarding the fact that his supply lines were overstretched, which would leave him and his armies vulnerable to the savage Russian winter. And it was the Russian winter that finished Napoleon off.

So we can see parallels with our current situation Instead of Napoleon we have Vladimir Putin. In place of Kutuzov, we have the Ukrainian president Zelensky. And instead of the Russian winter, we have the eonomic sanctions imposed upon Russian and Putin by the US and other global powers. This has been pretty much a "Strength in Numbers" unity. Will it be as successful as the Russian winter in War and Pease? Time will tell,

Osensei faced tremendous pressure during World War II. But he farmed, prayed, trained, and transformed the pre-war Aikido into the modern version that we now practice. So it's almost as if he was able to channel the tremendous energy around the war and channeled that it into a personal transformation and the vision of takemusuaiki that became the foundation of the modern Aikido.

This is the video of the online class that was vilmed the day after the invasion of Ukaraine. Some thoughts. Then a detailed study of the 30 movement spear/staff movements. There is war. There is training. There hopefully is growth and transformation.

30 movements in detail

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Hips as Ball and Socket Joints

This photo is of Tojima sensei. It is easy to get caught up in the cut. But  he would say,"Koshi kara kiru" or" Cut from the hips. It is common to put the hips into the cut or thrust with the spear, But to make the hips the motive force from which the movement comes is different. So in the video attached to this blog we explore the hips as ball and socket joints. The movement becomes spherical. Instead of a twist, the movement becomes a glide that can almost effortlessly change directions. The center generated by this floats but does not drift. The feet are grounded but easy. Tojima sensei woud say left foot as if on a cloud, right foot as on water. Then one can move swiftly(hayaku ugokemasu). So this was a theme of one of our recent online weekday classes. Enjoy!


Saturday, January 15, 2022

Promations and a Passing

 Well we are into 2022.. And some good news. And some sad. 

First to the good. Harry Concepcion has been promoted to 6th dan.

The above photo was taken in early 2014 when he was promoted to 5th dan. The promotion is more than deserving and let's all send him our heartiest congratulations. It is well earned.

And more good news. Betsy Hill has been promoted to 6th dan as well.
Here we are both pictured with Nadeau sensei when Betsy received her 5th dan some years ago. Congratulations Betsy sensei.

And finally Robert Frager has been promoted to 8th dan. I started with him in fall of 1969 when he started an Aikido club at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

He was my first Aikido teacher. And a direct student of Osensei. Both he and Nadeau sensei used to teach workshops together which laid a foundation and a direction for my then future training. In fact those times still impact by journey into Aikido's depth. Betsy was the first contact I had with anyone in Aikido. During the beginning of the Fall quarter 1969, Frager and Nadeau sensei's did a demo on the Cowell College quad. I arrived early and manning the Aikido booth was none other than Betsy Hill. The three of us are obviously pictured above. It is a connection, that, happily has endured.

And now for the sad. 2021 witnessed the passing of Richard Paredes. He started training with us during the mid-eighties at our dojo in Japantown. He headed a very successful children's program. Opened a branch school in Morgan Hill. He moved to Stockton because he was unable to afford housing in this area. This is a video from the very early 1990/s. I believe it was at an annual celebration of Osensei's Passing. In the video I had just re-established a connection with the Shingu dojo, and we were doing our ranking through Hikitsuchi, so my style really relfects that. It begins with with Harry Concepcion as uke. Richard follows. Then Lou Bermingham. Then it ends in multiple attack. Miss you, Richard....

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Spirit or Soul over Mind

I started Aikido in fall of 1969 at the start of my senior year at UC Santa Cruz.. Robert Frager had started an Aikido club there, and at the time was in a close association/ partnership with Robert Nadeau. I consider them my first Aikido teachers. I at that time thought very much in terms of academic years. So in Spring 1970 of that academic year the area was visited by Koichi Tohei sensei, 10th dan from Aikido World Headquarters.. A group of the Santa Cruz club members including me went to watch one of the classes. This was before a lot of the dojos in the area existed, so it was held at a high school in San Mateo.

Tohei sensei was impressive. Bodies went flying off him with no apparent effort on his part. When he stepped his legs were like stone pillars. So after the class our Santa Cruz group was in total awe of him, and he dominated our conversation. Robert Frager sensei walked by and heard what we were talking about. And he interjected," You're mistaking Tohei sensei for Osensei'> So the obvious question was what was the difference? And Frager sensei's answer was very cryptic. " He's too strong to be Osensei." he said.

So that started another discussion among the Santa Cruz group. Tohei sensei had a type of spectacular yet effortless power. He was strong. So we assumed Osensei was either like that or even more so. Eventually one of the students came forth. " Maybe Tohei sensei is mind over matter/body and Osensei was soul/spirit over mind," he said.

Tohei sensei emphasized that mind leads body So what would soul/spirit over mind mean?One of Osensei's teachings is "Use the body to train the spirit'. And he put great importance on misogi or spiritual cleansing.

One thought is that mind can lead even control the body and that it can even develop powers. Mind control is a reality. Many in our country are still in the belief of a stolen 2020 election. So as the 'I' develops and gets in a stronger relationship with mind it may even confuse itself with mind and develop mind control that leads the body. Or other bodies. So my guess is that Osensei went through the body to spirit to avoid this. In the Video I am posting, I try to go into spirit leading the mind as best I can. so it seems like a body approach, which it is but to spirit.. I use the basic bokken Cut. We go into how sound uses the same approach so there is chanting. And the movements of the spear also operate off of that but they are more complex. Here is the video:

spirit leads mind


Tuesday, December 28, 2021


We are just about to turn the corner on 2021.We look to be heading into the 3rd year of the pandemic. We are transitioning to our permanent location at 3rd streen Japantown, which will happen in 2022. We are currently using the Mountain View dojo Wednesday noon and Sunday mornings 11;30 to 1pm. We are continuing our online noon classes Mondays and Fridays.

I am proud to announce that Harry Concepcion sensei has been promoted to 6th dan. This will be done with the New Years promotions in January. And Cliff Winnig will be promoted to shodan. He has been steady since the shutdown and has kept up training both online and since July in Mountain View.

So the dojo continues, even in this most difficult of times. I draw strength from Osensei during World War II. Dojo in Tokyo closed. All his students in the war. He farmed. Trained. Did his spiritual work. Built the Aiki Shrine. brought Aikido from pre-war to the present postwar Aikido. My sense is that we use these difficult times to forge our own interior shrines. Misogi 

During the pandemic with the dojo just online for most of it. I have focused my own training on 3 areas. First Tai Chi Ch'uan is easy to do and allows one to maintain and develop the energy body. We will be starting a new online beginning tai chi course early in the New Year. It will be online as the Omicron variant lurks. I probably won't do an in person tai chi class until we open on 3rd Street. Second, I have focused a lot of my development on the basic sword cut I learned from Tojima sensei. The up down finish movement and rhythm of the cut can create the infrastructure within one's own mind/body system to develop what is commonly called kokyu. When we finally move in on 3rd Street I intend to see that practice in that is expanded. And I have explored to much greater depth the movements of the staff/spear. We have started a certification program which we will continue. I am eager to try to take people to the(my term) takemusu level where the movements happen through you with increasingly less a sense of patterned form  Here is a link to the last in person class of the year, which covers the sword and spear movements.  Click the link.   sword spear staff

We will be holding a New Years Day training Saturday 11am to 12 noon at the Mountain View dojo. If you havent filled out a release for the Mountain View dojo you must do so to attend. The release requires proof of vaccination. Masks are required. Ventillation is excellent as one wall completely opens. And we have many fans strategically placed to make the ventillation even better. Here is the link:

 Mountain View dojo release

 For those who haven't heard, Elle underwent surgery for cancer and it was a complete success. They got it all. All the cancer found was dead tissue. And all the potential hotspots were nothing of concern.

Happy Holidays





And we plan to hold a New Years training this year, which we did for many years at Martha Street. It will be New Years Day Saturday

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

ASJ @ Aikido of Mountain View

We are still in the pandemic, but this Summer California experienced a re-opening of sorts. Our old location on Martha St was no longer available. We are looking longterm to our permanent location on 3rd St San Jose, just outside of Japantown. In the interim we are training Wednesday noons and Sunday Mornings at Aikido of Mountain View at 1924 Plymouth St in Mountain View. So far it has been nice to have the indoors contact training. And we continue with our Monday and Friday online Zoom classes.

When I first started Aikido in fall of 1969, the Mountain View dojo was in some sense the central dojo in Northern California. There was a school somewhere in South San Francisco. A dojo in Sacramento. But Mountain View was pretty much it. There were a lot of clubs and Rec Department  groups. I myself started at a University Club at the UCSC campus In fall of 1969. Robert Frager was my home dojo sensei. At the time he was in close collaboration with Robert Nadeau. Both senseis(now shihan) used to hold monthly weekend ki-ins at the Mountain View dojo, which was then located on Castro Street. This was way before it became Restaurant Row. UC Santa Cruz club members would car pool over on Friday nights, sleep over Saturday, and conclude Sunday late afternoon. Frager and Nadeau senseis are both direct students of Osensei. Much of the work we did was on meditation, sound practices, and energy excercises. They were experimenting with things they had been introduced to by Osensei. There was usually an evening Aikido class on Fridays, followed by meditation. Saturday morning Aikido, followed by energy/meditation afternoon and evening. Sunday morning was another Aikido class, followed by afternoon energy work and meditation. This obviously has influenced my Aikido and what I teach.

The Mountain View school lead to the opening of the original Aikido of San Francisco(now City Aikido). Also Tamalpais, which was originally opened by Nadeau sensei's students. He opened Aikido of San Jose in Summer of 1976, invited me to be one of the original teachers, then sold me the school in February of 1980. So it is somewhat ironic and yet fitting that we for now find ourselves, albeit in an interim situation, at Aikido of Mountain View. It is still holding for now a lot of the fabric of Aikido in Northern California together.
Lately the theme of the classes has featured what I call 'the cut', which I associate with Tojima sensei. We have been tracking it from form, to motion, to what I am calling vibration. It for now represents my understanding of what Osensei might have met when he talked of Manifest Hidden Divine. This is of course my willingly admitted lack of the totality for the present. Form is the Manifest or Genkai. Movement is the Yukai or hiddent realm. The Vibration(for now) is the Shinkai, the Divine Realm. Both the Manifest and Hidden are dimensional, in that they go finer to finer. The Divine Realm is internal, it is in you(or me) in this very moment. Both the Manifest and Hidden, if you follow the dimensional Path(which is necessary) go from finer to finer, with the result that the form and or movement also becomes finer to finer. They represent a journey, an adventure.  The third is origin and destination in one, right here and now in you(or me). I can admit to having a good time with this. A good time means it appeals to my imagination(not really interested in what doesn't). Sundays in Mountain View are followed by Mondays on Zoom. Wednesdays in Mountain View are followed by Friday's on Zoom. So I have started editing the Mountain View classes  to illustrate points on the online broadcasts, because the movements in the dojo can't be dupilated online. Likewise the in person classes often don't explain what is going on in the depth that the online classes do. So that's what I'm trying to do. Tojima sensei once said,"Instead of learning ten thousand things, instead learn the on thing that gives birth to ten thousand." This is my attempt.So this cut is very deep. In the in personal classes I can demonstrate that through movement using the body arts, which we can't do online(for now).

Here is our latest' https://youtu.be/YKD65hkG3dI