Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Reopening:Keeping It Going




We are in our second week of inddors contact training, using the Mt View dojo as a training space. Even though it is a 20 minute drive to get to training, it has been a new and fresh experience.  One cannot underestimate the importance of human contact in the Aikido experience. and the immediate feedback one gets from a partner on the mat(uke) is priceless on so many levels.

We have now gone through 2 Wednesday classes sandwiched around a Sunday class. Again classes are Wednesdays noon to 1pm and Sunday mornings 11:30am to 1pm. A special waiver available online must be signed online and proof of vaccination must be provided. before you can get on the mat. No exceptions. We had to turn away a young woman this morning because she did not know of the online waiver. Hopefully she will be back to try out a class.

Class size has been consistently around 8 people. We are hoping longtime students we haven't seen in a while will drop in. We have not been doing weapons, which we have focused on during the pandemic.
For now I want to use the time for people to have the contact with one another and to start to move.
We did some chanting sound at the end of class which I hope people enjoyed. We need to set the recording for the original sound to avoid some of the distortions that come about during some Zoom recordings. So next indoor contact class will be this Sunday.

We are continuing the online classes Mondays and Fridays at noon. Onegai shimasu...


 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Reopening.....for now!

Yesterday we had our first indoors contact class since the dojo was closed due to the pandemic classes in March of 2020. So over a year. Those of you who have kept the dojo open by supporting our online classes, outdoor trainings in the park, or by paying online even though classes have been restricted to the aforementioned, Thank YOU!!!!!!

The class was, as you can see, well attended. As was our July 4th outdoors potluck/barbecue...
And

 we have a tight knit group within the dojo as evidenced by this photo of a group gasshuku at the island of Kauai in 2018.


So we have a good foundation to go forward with our group past the pandemic into hopefully a brighter future. We will continue with our online Zoom classes Mondays and Fridays noon to 1pm. There is a thought to possibly add an outdoors class Saturday mornings at the park near the Martha St locations. Remember now for those vaccinated there can be contact and social distancing restrictions lifted. So that may change things for some of you.

Personally, of course , I found the pandemic and dojo physical closure challenging. I want to thank David Eves sensei for stepping in and helping to establish then maintain the online classes. Nadeau sensei and I maintained contact via phone through this all. I felt buoyed by Osensei's spirit and how he kept Aikido alive during World War II. I tried to keep Osensei's 'old sounds' or prayers alive. And I hope some of you may have felt the prayers for those of you in the dojo.

And also during the pandemic my partner Elle fell, broke her hip, then was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. For the record(July 15th) , today is her birthday. So far she is responding well to chemo and is recovering well. The day she went into the hospital we were served a 30 day notice by our then landlord. But I was able to find an apartment and she had a place to come home to from the hospital and care facility. From my viewpoint Divine protection from the kami. And Osensei's spirit.

So hopefully we can ride that into when our permanent location, which is just outside of  Japantown. Hope more of you who are reading this will join in our reopening. Onegai Shimasu!!!!

And here courtesy of David Eves sensei is the July 14th reopening class:


 





 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Osensei Memorial Class 2021

 

Monday was the anniversary of Osensei's passing. The whole weekend before was quite action filled. I notice that every year around  April 26th(He passed in 1969 on this date) the pace of things picks up quite a bit. On Saturday I was invited to teach both a Tai Chi class and an Aikido class for Bob Noha sensei's Aikido of Petaluma dojo. And on Sunday the 25th Linda Holiday sensei and Aikido of Santa Cruz sponsored an online Zoom celebration including Mariye Takahashi and Robert Frager senseis, both direct students of Osensei. And on Monday the 26th during our noon Zoom class we scheduled a formal ceremony including the amatsu norito and kamigoto chants. And to my delight and surprised we were joined by my dear friend Linda Holiday sensei. So quite a weekend plus.

First the Petaluma weekend. Robert Noha and I go back a long ways. When I first began training in 1969 he was already a black belt as a teenager. He is a longtime student and teacher of the art and has a long connection with Robert Nadeau shihan. And he is also a Tai Chi instructor. He studied with Master Cheng Man Ching. I studied with Master Choy Kam Man. It was interesting to lead a class with his students. I was able to share some of my personal experiences as well as lead a group practice through our 30 movement form. Following that was a class I led in our 30 movement spear staff misogi/gyo. And finally we as a group went out and dined at Petaluma's Riverfront Cafe. It's been so long since Elle and myself have travelled and dined out that it was a true delight. David Eves sensei from our dojo made the trip and trained in both classes.

Sunday the 25th was Linda Holiday's Aikido of Santa Cruz Online Zoom Osensei Memorial Celebration. I have heard 200 attendees across the world. Impressive. My thanks to Linda sensei for having the vision, patience, and energy to organize such an event!! 2 exclamation points.......I really enjoyed her special guests, Mariye Takahashi sensei and Robert Frager sensei, who was my home dojo teacher when I started in October of 1969. We go a long ways back. And I thought both instructors were able to present their memories of Osensei in a way that can round out our impression of him. Takahashi sensei recounted that when Osensei walked, others in his company had to run to keep up with him. And that he could glide through thick crowds at the subway stations. She also recounted how humble he was with the students, but that he could be very strict with the uchi deshi or live in students. Frager sensei recounted what it was like to travel with Osensei, and what from his perspective as a psychologist how developped he was as a human being. Many of his stories I had heard before, but it seemed as if I was hearing them for the first time.

And finally our class on Monday. Hearing the norito and kamigoto was a daily occurence when Linda sensei and I were in Shingu in 1973. I realize that most people these days probably don't relate well to this. But in the 1970's to early eighties we all as an area used to gather at the earlier Aikido West location for an area training, and Linda sensei and I would lead the formal ceremony. This was done on April 26th to honor the Founder. I am thinking that maybe I should at least once a week do the formal ceremony, probably at the end of the Friday noon Zoom class, and give it more exposure. The chanting is an important part of my Aikido practice. And Linda sensei shared that one way she has dealt with the stress of the pandemic is that she is learining the kamigoto. Both the norito and kamigoto that Osensei chanted are from the Omoto kyo sect and therefore from Deguchi sensei.

So we move onward, but next year's April 26th will hopefully see us alive and well and back able to train with each other.

    
This poster is from Hikitsuchi sensei's 1978 tour of the United States. His uke is none other than me. It was taken at the All Japan Aikido Demonstrations at the Budokan in Tokyo in May of 1977. I had some lift in my legs then. Maybe I should have tried out for the Warriors.


Saturday, April 17, 2021

ShoChikuBau sword and sensing



I just posted a Zoom class video on Youtube. Usually I quickly scan and post. But this was Friday April 9th and really got my attention. So in addition to posting I am also blogging. The class began with a recount of Osensei and the phantom swordsman. During his World War II retreat in Iwama, A phantom of himself appears and they engage in swordplay. At first he cannot beat the phantom. But as the days progress he is able to anticipate the moves of the ghostly or spirit swordsman and is finally able to more than match him. And the experience leads to very important spiritual insights on Osensei's part. The narrative is at the beginning of the video.

And Osensei refers to the swordplay as Shochiku bai. That is something Hikitsuchi sensei sensei taught at the Shingu dojo. Not a set or a kata but something very distinct. In my second stay I had more position at the dojo and so Hikitsuchi sensei would call me up when demonstrating the sword. Those were very intense experiences every time he would demonstrate the sword. And I had little to no experience with the bokken. But I like to think he was so good he made me look like I knew what I was doing. The experience was what he referred to as shinken, training with the feel that it was done with live blades(we were using bokken, of course). Everything was in the moment, nothing to know or reflect on. But sort of burned into my soul memory.

Sho represented plum and the triangle It was called zettai fuhai na taisei or the posture of invincibility. Chiku was bamboo or the circe, and the teaching associated with it was the circle has no center. Bai was the pine, radially symmetrical having no front or back. I made the association that this was also related to the zoka no sanshin or the 3 origins Ikumusubi, tarumusubi, and tamatsume musubi. One of the reasons I mention this is this is material that has no virtual interest in today's Aikido. But when I was in Japan in the early to mid seventies along with Mary Heiny and Linda Holiday, we were encouraged to leave no stone unturned in our quest to absorb the essence of what Aikido truly is. So any sense of Osensei's words were considered to have knowledge and power associated with them. It is amazing to me that much of what has sustained me during this pandemic has been going over Osensei's words and reliving my own direct experiences surrounding them.

So what caught my attention about the video was the importance of the word sense. Osensei often talked about how misogi was to cleanse the 6 senses. That is the 5 obvious ones and the 6th is translated by John Stevens as mind. I asked Mary Heiny what she thought was the Japanese word that Mr Stevens translated as mind, and she thought it was nen. And that is the thought/moment/instant. My current thought is that our 5 obvious senses are in Osensei's words contaminated because they tie us to a very limited reality and a corresponding limited sense of self. Misogi practices are not just to unclog our 5 senses but the awaken a dormant sense that senses the finer dimensions of what constitutes reality and also awakens correspondingly finer and finer levels of ourselves. As we are able to sense/feel the finer dimensions of the universe we also awaken the finer more original levels of our own being. Being able to sense kami leads us to our own nature as kami. 

Did Osensei really meet himself as a ghost or spirit swordsman? Or did his Overself come to him in the form of pure ki and coach him to his next level. Osensei said after the encounter, which lasted weeks, he felt revitalized. And he could sense/feel the whole universe in his belly. How much of our own ability to understand Osensei is tied to our own growth in our ability to sense the finer levels of the creation'/universe? What troubles me about Aikido these days is that we settle for so much less. Hopefully when we are able to re-open and along with other things begin together to explore this.

So the video is long, 1 hour 40 minutes. But it is good. At the end I go into 2 people I study that I feel did/do something of what Osensei did. Chet Baker, the jazz great , and his ability to channel sound and phrasing through his empty spaces. And Stephen Curry with his ability to be an absolute master of using stillness to set up his motion. We are vast and ultimately universal in scope. And we can settle for so much less. Be safe and well.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

As We Re-open.....


 As the year progresses and more and more of us get vaccinated, we are moving towards a re-opening for dojos in general and Aikido of San Jose in particular. Both Elle and I recently got our second vaccination and made it through our 2 week wait period. This is a relief, as others I have talked to also find. But the Japanese term is zanshin. It never ends with the throw. The ki must continue and readiness is ever maintained. I know we are all sick of  all the restrictions, the social distancing, the politicizing of the pandemic. We could go on and on. And we will.

But we are faced with how this can be done responsibly and safely. Currently classes are online and outdoors. This will continue. Outdoors we can begin to allow vaccinated participants to increase the level of contact. Even after we re-open inside contact must be monitored to allow just people who have been vaccinated. I know this is a dojo decision, but my feeling is that only people who have been vaccinated and gone through the 2 week period should be allowed anything close to normal dojo distancing and contact.

As an economic entity we have survived. Those of you who have continued your online payments or have continued to mail checks, Thank You!!!! To those who read this and feel like renewing your subscriptions, Yes!!!! In the event you are new and wanting to do Aikido, we are working on ways to include you!!

The reality, however, is that the level of income is insufficient to go back to our old location paying what we did pre-pandemic.  Long term we have a location that would be a permanent facility, but that location has issues to work out with the city of San Jose before it can be dojo fitted and available. So in the short term what can we do?




We can continue the outdoor classes, even expand them, because with daylight savings and seasonally this is outdoor weather. And include more movement and regular contact in the outdoor training as dojo members become fully vaccinated. And we might want to open on an interim basis for indoor classes at a Recreation Center.  For many years Aikido was very successful at the Los Gatos Rec center. A beginning class was offered through the Parks and Rec which was a feeder for an ongoing dojo which met after the class and was open to the general public. So if any of you would know of a Rec Dept near you and would inquire if they would be interested in an Aikido program, please let me know.

It has been suggested that an open available store front could be available temporarily (until the permanent place is ready). We would watch the building and this could be temporary but rent free. I talked with Nadeau sensei about possibly renting his Mt View space on Sundays. It's a 20 minute weekend drive from San Jose. His pre-pandemic schedule left Sundays open. It's being considered. If you have any suggestions, please let me know (jack@aikidosj.com).


And a vision for the future must include making a connection with those who will build tomorrow, ie, the younger people. Trying to re-build our childrens and teen classes. But also reaching out to those who need to find and hone their purpose as well as themselves. Issues such as climate change, equity, racial and gender equality, uniting bipartisan divides in political, social, and economic divides. These are all things Ueshiba Osensei in HIS vision of Aikido and World Peace left for us as projects. So it will be a great journey, and a transformational one for us all........Onegai shimasu!!!


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

It's been a year




I think it was a year ago tonight that we closed our dojo to indoor group classes. I remember getting a phone call from Laurin Herr that Nadeau sensei was closing Mt View and San Francisco. I remember discussing this with Linda Holiday sensei. And  after a couple of not so good attempts we started online zoom classes and an outdoor class in the park just around the corner from Martha St. So it has been a year of blending with the pandemic. Trying to keep in touch with folks by phone and online. Nadeau sensei and I have kept our weekly Osensei oriented meetings going, only by phone.


The February CAA training/meeting we usually host was done totally online. I was privileged to be asked to teach Division 3's class. Last Augusts CAA event was online. Last year's Osensei Revisited Retreat was cancelled due to the pandemic. This year the event is online running this past Saturday and continuing 3 more Saturdays March 13, 20, and 27th. Harry Concepcion and I both co-taught on Saturday March 6th.

I hope this finds you, your family, friends safe and well. Just as today is I think the yearly anniversary of our closing our dojo indoor program, tomorrow Elle and I are scheduled to get our 2nd vaccine. Hopefully side effects will be minimal. And in 2 more weeks, with masks and appropriate social distancing, rhings can begin to normalize. According to my daughter, after my 2nd vaccine I can watch and spend time with Nora, my granddaughter. So things have been far from normal and as more people get vaccinated, still going forward with masks and following appropriate guidelines, we can slowly and appropriately start to do the things we love, and see the people that usually make up our immediate world.

  1. In September we lost Dame Diana Rigg. Her Mrs Peel character was instrumental in my interest in martial arts We also lost Sir Sean Connery. Imagine both Mrs Peel and James Bond in the same year. Quite a year for transitions And I get the feeling more change is in store But I am glad that my daughter, granddaughter, my partner Elle, and eveyone I interact with on the Zoom classes and the outdoor classes seem safe. I try to offer daily prayers for the dojo and dojo members.
We have started to emphasize the 30 movement staff spear movements. We have had 4 people certify for level 1 certification. Harry Concepcion. David Eves. Steve Tsao. And Cliff Winnig. We are doing our outdoor classes for this month on Sundays. I will try to remember to bring certificates and present them this weekend. We have been stressing the 30 movements online and also at the outdoors trainings. Here is a video of the 30 movements with some detail on the hand changes. and some work with the basic bokken cut.



 

Monday, December 28, 2020

promotions and year end stuff


 It is getting close to year end time. Since our dojo has been closed due to coronavirus precautions since early March, we have not been able to hold our usual year end exams. But we do have promotions to announce. Mike Brown has been promoted to the rank of 5th dan. Mike has tirelessly supervised the teen program and actually started at San Jose State University decades ago.


From our extended dojo family, Shin Tsurushima has received the rank of 3rd dan. I am so happy he has been able to continue his training abroad. Those of you on Facebook have probably read how many trials he faced to be able to test for his rank amid this year of the pandemic. Here he is pictured as uke for Linda Holiday sensei.



And I want to thank David Eves for getting us started with our online Zoom classes. David has behind the scenes tirelessly guided and supervised our online efforts. We could not have done this without him. So thank you again.


And I would like to thank Elle for learning some of the ropes from David and behind the scenes helping with the online classes and videos. A short while ago I had lunch with Robert Frager sensei. He came over and we met at a French Restaurant in Santana Row. It was the first time either of us had been out to eat. We did outdoors dining with social distancing and masks, except when eating. And we came to the conclusion that both of us were lucky to find someone who could put up with us.

Friday is New Year's Day. We have had a tradition to do a class late morning which I would like to continue.I've held it 11am to 12:30pm in the past due to family stuff in San Francisco. But since gatherings are not to be encouraged during these times, I'd like to push it to our normal Saturday morming time of 11:30am to 1pm. We train at Bestor Park (on Bestor St) just around the corner from the Martha St dojo. It would be in masks, social distancing, primarily weapons work. So please try to attend, start the new year with good energy, and bring staff and bokken. We will also be doing some of the misogi movements.

Just going over the promotions one thing we have not been able to have is kyu exams and dan exams. In addition to helping learn the techniques, they build community because senior teachers and students train with those preparing for exams and are able to pass on their knowledge and their love for aikido. So one thing I am proposing in place of the exams is a certification program. We have a 30 movement form(which I call a misogi/gyo) as opposed to a kata) that contain the basic hand changes(ikkyo nikkyo sankyo yonkyo gokyo) in addition to the fire/water center/circle body changes. I would like to institute a certification program to give us all something to shoot for in place of exams. Those earning the certifications could help those who want to take an exam and that would promote community. Going through the material for certification could be a major part of the Saturday outdoor classes. This would give the classes more structure and continuity. The certification would come in levels.

Level 1. Learn the movements in sequence. This would include demonstrating a checkdown including feet(basse) hands(proper grip) closing motion(rebound/echo)

Level 2 Be able to do the entire set of 30 moves as 1 movement

Level 3 Do the movements in sequence each with the closing movement(rebound/echo}

Level 4.Do entire set of moves as one with one sustained rebound/echo(very challenging).

Level 5 What I would call Takemusu. Be able to create movements off these basics in the moment. To wield the staff spear in a fashion as to use it like Osensei. Going from classical to pop to jazz. 

. Nadeau sensei has a very strong connection to Osensei, and through Nadeau sensei I was able to get his permission.The following video is from the December 16th online class and gives a rough outline for the first 4 levels  You may need to cut and paste this link:

 30 movement misogi