Monday, August 14, 2023

New dojo update

It's been a good invigorating summer. San Jose State starts next week. Classes still going at our temporary location in Mountain View. So for me a good time to check in with another blog.

Aikido of San Jose opened in July of 1976 at our old location in Japantown. Robert Nadeau shihan opened the school and I was initually invited to teach and took the Friday evening class, stayed over in the office, and taught kids and the adult morning class on Saturdays. Nadeau sensei sold me the school and since February of 1980 I have been running Aikido of San Jose. In November of 1978 my daughter Jennifer was born in the dojo, as her Mom and me had a home birth. And the dojo was our home at that time.


In summer of 2001 we moved to our location on Martha Street. Thus our stay at our initial Japantwon location lasted for 25 years. Our stay at Martha Street lasted pretty much 20 years, but was ended with the pandemic starting in March of 2020. We are currently awaiting the opening of our new location at the corner of North 3rd street and Empire. The opening was substantially delayed by the pandemic and the City of San Jose taking its time to rezone and other such details.

So at present I hear that we are looking at October of this year. So I know all of you are looking forward to our re-opening. So we will be trying to keep you all informed. So for now. October. Keep your fingers crossed.


Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Winter Training

It's been so far an intense winter in the bay area. While the rain has been welcome it has lead to floo
ding and extreme damage. And it has been cold! During my second stay in Japan, I experienced what was referred to as kangaiko, best translated as winter training. The evening classes started early, with a group run to a mountain shrine(Kamikurasan), dojo practice was extended past its normal end time. And morning practice, which started at 6:30aqm, started early I believe at 6am LAnd if memory serves me this was an extended period of a week to 10days. If you attended everyday, you received a special certificate.

As you can imagine, the training was brisk and intense. My winter training was in 1975. Up until that time, none of the dojo shihan had ever received a winter training certificate. That year both Anno and Yanase senseis received their first. So the training was very spirited. After I returned from Japan and started teaching in Santa Cruz, I taught both the Phys Ed beginning Aikido classes and the club classes. Winter of 1976 I held a version locally of the Winter training in Japan at the Shingu dojo. It was held on the UC Santa Cruz campus. Mornings we would run around the track area around the original Field House. Then special early classes. And of course we still held the evening training. Linda Holiday sensei has continued this tradition in Santa Cruz since. Quite an accomplishment.

The photo above in NOT a winter training photo. At the Shingu dojo we welcomed in the New Year with a New Years Eve training. Then Hikitsuchi sensei and I went to the Hayatama Shrine to pray to the kami. We then drove through the moutains to the Homgu grand shrine. And the intent was to drive to the Nachi grand shrine, but it got so late we didn't make it. Sensei told me I would need to go to Nachi on my own time later, which I did. There was the Kumano river, which separated Wakayama Prefecture from Mie Prefecture. The water came from the mountains and was basically melting snow. I believe New Years day of the year, the dojo had a special practice. Hikitsuchi sensei, Anno, Yanase senseis and I jogged from Hikitsuchi sensei's house to the river.  The Aikido group, which was quite large, then gathered for 500 bokken cuts, after which we all went into the freezing Kumano River. BRRRRR!!

So our recent weather has conjured up memories of those now ancient days of yore. I guess in looking back, what might be the purpose of those practices, and how might they have meaning in today's Aikido practice? Osensei talked about Masaka Agatsu, ie true winning is victory over self, or as I would now phrase it, Victory over the 'I". We often times let outer circumstances dictate who we are. And we oftentimes settle almost habitually for lesser versions of our selves. The extreme training hardships of training in winter Japan meant that I at that time had to focus, bring a good version of myself to the training, and ideally bring that practice into other phases of my life. Working ideally to bring that better version of myself to what is currently going on in life is a challenge, in some ways the circumstances we are facing in our current lives, are not so stark as facing the cold and getting to the dojo. What was stressed in Shingu was that Aikido was not just keiko or training, but shugyo or personal development on ALL levels. So as we face the challenges of bringing the Aikido message to all levels of our lives, I hope some of this personal history will help.


Monday, January 16, 2023

Your Dancing is like My Aikido

 I am posting this on Martin Luther King Monday. The theme of our in person class yesterday was about dancing. I want to codify that both Aikido and dance are movement arts and also can be recreational activities. Depending on your interests you might be attracted to Aikido because it can have a dance like feel to it. My sense of the word in my class was a little different. Years ago a TV sports personality(Steven A Smith I believe) was asked to compare LaBron James and Stephen Curry. This was just as our local hero was getting national notice. Smith's response was to not underestimate Curry. Even though physically not as dominant as LaBron, Smith's response was something like,"Curry's a mean dude. He can DANCE!" So his use of the word dance had a bit of a street sports parlance to it. He can Move. He can handle(the ball). Or simply he can create.

Love this photo because it looks like Tai Chi. Cool under pressure. Lately we've locally been treated to Brock Purdy, Mr Irrelavant, the last player chosen in the last NFL draft who is leading the local Niners into the playoffs. Like Curry he's cool under pressure. Can move around enough to seemingly make something out of nothing. He makes his teamates better. He brings up memories of Joe Montana, who an NFL announcer branded once as "the man with the Fred Astaire feet". So dancing in sports can mean cool even creative under the pressure of the game.' They elevate sport into art.

So our class was about bringing this into being through Aikido movement. Here is the link to the

What I wanted to share is at the end of the class video. But for those of you who don't want to wade through the class I thought I would tell the story of one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. In 1977 I spent most of the year in Japan, training at the Kumano Juku or Shingu dojo. With me was Jenny's mom, who had an extensive dance background. I had heard that Osensei had a close friend, a woman who was a teacher of traditional Japanese dance. She was referred to as Yamamoto sensei. And it was said that Osensei had told her,"Your dancing is like my Aikido!" So we found out that she was local, which made us want to take classes from her. So we went and were accepted as students.

At that time Yamamoto sensei was I believe in her eighties and that the previous winter had been very hard on her. She would sit and the dance movements were taught by her niece Noriko. But even though she did very little movement she could convey so much with and expression or a gesture. Well one of the dances we learned was the theme song to a Judo movie, Sugata Sanshiro. And the only time I ever saw her dance was to this song. Robert Nadeau has told me that the essence of Osensei's art was not technique, although his has not been topped to my mind either. But his ability to go from Ueshiba the old man, who would walk into walls, to Ueshiba of Aikido, who could not be touched. So transformation. And when the music started this little old lady who barely moved started to do a martial dance where she did jump kicks where her feet literally touched the ceiling of her house. Now Japanese houses have low ceilings, but even still..........

So I saw her transform from an old lady into something my words cannot describe. She literally stood on her version of the Floating Bridge of Heaven. So I can understand how in some sense she and Osensei could be soulmates.

Anyway, I had totally forgotten this story until I taught the Sunday class. It means I have to re-assess what I think Aikido is.......

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Happy Holidays 2023

It's that time of year. We are waiting on the end of 2022 and ready to welcome in 2023. We are still on our limited in person schedule at Aikido of Mountain View. And hopefully sooner as opposed to later in 2023 we will be in our permanent location just outside San Jose's Japantown. 2022 saw Harry Concepcion sensei receive the rank of rokudan. And in 2023 we will celebrate Steve Tsao sensei and of course David Eves sensei attaining the rank of godan. So much hopefully to celebrate in the New Year.

We want to pass our condolences to Meng Ear, who lost her father in 2022. Having lost both parents years ago, I know it is a difficult path. Elle had her cancer surgery in 2021 and has been pronounced cancer free. She is still undergoing post op treatments, but those will end early in 2023.

Personally, my Golden State Warriors defied the odds and brought home a 4th NBA championship. And Steph Curry deservedly won his NBA finals MVP. This is a reminder to us all to persevere and to chase the championship level of our best selves through our Aikido training.

We are currently in our break week between Chrismas and New Years. Our first class of 2023 will be at the Mountain View dojo the first Wednesday after the New Year. I am posting a couple of recent videos with this blog. We are currently still doing our Friday online noon to 1pm class. And these 2 videos were actually part of one class. But I thought to put them into 2 videos just to emphasize the importance of their message.

The first is titled Consciousness becoming Conscious. It's quite a topic. I remember Deepak Chopra in an audio cassette talking about about what he considered the process of creation. Beauty becoming beautiful. Love becoming loving. Intelligence becoming intelligent. Power becoming powerful. I think you get the idea. I personally think this was well done.

We use curtains as gateways to travel to different levels of self. Pretty heady. But the same class had some real good movement. So I didn't want that to get lost, so I put it in another video. It's entitled 
What I learned from Steph Curry.Basketball in played from Hoop to Hoop. But movement to the hoop is  achieved through lateral movent. Conversely playing defense requires lateral movement, ie being a defender means staying in front of the offensive player. My own views on this are distinctly my own, but....... For me entering, encapsulated in the thrusting movement of the spear, for most people getting off the line, in translating lateral movement tnto forward motion. Tenkan is pivoting off the entering motion when you can no longer turn. It is even possible to enter while stepping back as you get the hang of it. In Aikido this is all encompassed in the term tai sabaki. For example in basketball Curry's most devastating move is a step back jumpshot. But the energy most be entering or going forward in spite of the backwards move. And how his lateral moves set up this drives to the hoop as well as his step back. At present in terms of motion he is the person I study the most. Except I use the Aikido spear moves instead of a basketball. So the second part of this class I put in its own video.

I practice what I call the fire water changes which I use in conjunction with the 2 handed figure 8s. Your  movement become spherical which allows for what I believe Osensei refered to as kokyu no binyoo na henka. Ie the subtle changes in breath. That may seem esoteric but the basics for that I feel are in the 30 movement form we practice for spear/staff. And the above video goes a bit past that and may inspire you to try to master the changes on your own..

So enough for now. Again, Happy Holidays!

Monday, October 24, 2022

Thor: Love and Thunder, a review

I know the latest MCU movie, Thor: Love and Thunder, has received mixed reviews. So I want to set the record straight. I loved it!! Thor was one of my favorites when I started reading Marvel comics, yes, in the sixties. No CGI. Just paper . Drawn by Jack Kirby. Of course written by Stan the Man Lee himself. More recently, I caught Jason Aaron's incredible comic book run where Jane Foster picks up the hammer and becomes Mighty Thor. And of course the movie is loosely based on this run.

In the original stories, Thor had a secret identiy, Dr Don Blake, and Jane was his nurse. He had an ancient cane, and when he struck it to earth he transformed into Thor and the cane into Mjolnir the hammer. In later runs of the comics Jane is upgraded to a Doctor, and in the movies she is a scientist. So there have been changes.

What I liked about the film was it addressed the balance of godhood with having a feeling, human side. At the beginning of the film, Thor is miserable. He exists only for battle, to step in when all seems lost and to bring victory. But he is miserable. In the gap between The Dark World and Ragnarok we missed his breakup with Jane. He has lost his Father and Mother. And he has seen his brother Loki die. So he is traveling with the Guardians of the Galaxy seeking adventure to hide from his feelings. Loss. Pain. We have all been in his position.

I know that many feel the humor was overdone in the film. But I have come to welcome Hemsworth's versatility and to admire his touch with comedy. And he succeeds in poking fun at himself through his character and at the whole superhero thing altogether. After all, Thor is not only a superhero, but also a 'god'. And if a god has trouble relating to his feelings, dealing with loss, and having problems with a breakup and rejection, then there is hope for all of us.

I know that sometimes the weapon is a vehicle of transformation. There are the swords of She-ra and He-man. Captain America's shield. Ueshiba used his spear, staff, and sword in his misogi, to in Nadeau sensei's words, shift from Ueshiba the old man into Ueshiba of Aikido. For me standing on the Floating Bridge of Heaven would be uniting one's human self with one's God/Goddesshood. Becoming one with the universe in that fashion.

To me the Thunder in the title represents Godhood and power. The love the human feeling side. Without giving anything away Thor chooses Love in a way that balances out his Godhood. Love and Thunder is now streaming on Disney Plus. What do you think?


Monday, June 20, 2022

Championship Level of Self

 First, Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors for their 2022 NBA Championship! They overcame so many obstacles. Increasing age among their core players. Curry, Thompson, and Green are in the twilight of their prime basketball years. To get to the Finals they had to go through a gauntlet of up and coming NBA superstars. Jokic. Ja Morant, Doncic. And finally in the Championship round the young and super core of the Boston Celtics. But while the title was definitely won by their core, we were treated to the emergence of their up and coming younger core of Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins. And tantalized by the potential on display of Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody,aand hopefully, James Wiseman.Strength in Numbers now has the theme of the established generation mentoring and developing the younger.So I can't wait to se what the future might hold for this group.

And as we watched the parade today, I reminded Elle that this was her parade, too. She took on and beat an almost 4th level cancer. It has been a tough couple of years, with her breaking her hip just as the pandemic began, then getting the cancer diagnosis. She has been getting a lot of inspiration from Klay Thompson who had to battle a torn ACL, then a torn Achilles tendon. They cost him over 2 seasons. But they both battled back. And as big as the Warriors accomplishment, hers is equally inspiring. Go Klay! Go Elle! So we are currently awaiting the building on 3rd Street, which will be our permanent location. The City of San Jose has okayed the use of the building for an Aikido school, among other things,just as the Warriors brought a championship from Oakland to the Chase Center in San Francisco, let us all continue to train and develop and Bring a championship level of Aikido to our new location.

So what would that entail? Continuing to train and develop both the exterior form of our art, and also the interior space of ourselves. Stephen Curry works unceasingly at his craft and conditioning. He was called by Jason Kidd, head coach of the Dallas Mavericks, the most finely conditioned athlete in the NBA. And the amount of time and energy he puts into his basketball skills is legendary. He has become an elite defender, something he was not just several years ago. At 34, old especially for a guard, he is still improving.

Aikido is not a sport. But it is about development, external as well as internal. As much as I enjoyed watching today's parade,the championship level of Aikido is masaka agatsu then katsu hayahi. True victory is victory over self.. Curry has faced doubters and obstacles his whole life. Underrated when he entered college, he received no scholarship from a major division 1 program. The only offer he got was tiny Davidson College. But he took them in 2008 all the way to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. And the Warriors got him all the way down to the 7th pick of the 2009 NBA draft. Were there 6 better players in that draft? He has always had to battle being underated and undervalued. But it's almost as if all the obstacles to being recognized as an all=time top player, he used as fuel. He came to a horrible team and organization with a horrible owner. But he was the center around which everything turned and built. The current owners, Joe Lacob  and Peter Guber came in and hired front office people who could evaluate talent. Current General Manager Bob Myers, with some help from Jerry West, brought in Klay, then Draymond , and more recently Kevon, Jordan, Kuminga, Moody, and of course Wiseman. So they surrounded Steph with teamates who could support and complement him. Steve Kerr of course was brought in as coach. It was as if he was a magnet, drawing in all that he needed to create himself and the current team. Until recently, the only thing he lacked was a finals MVP. So add that now. It is almost as if this was all part of a synchronous flow that circled around him as the center.

Katsu hayahi is no time no space. In other words what he has brought here is lasting and as much as things can be these days eternal. So can we through our training find this inner magnetism to bring about such wonder in our lives? Go past the usual sense of what Aikido is and isn't and assemble a better world? Heaven on Earth? Can we create a Strength in Numbers eliminating gender economic and racial inequality? Can we heal political divisions that threaten to destroy our democracy? If we look at what Steph and the Warriors have accomplished, why not?

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...