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...


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