Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Favorite Zen Story

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her.

The senior monk carried this woman on his shoulder, forded the river and let her down on the other bank. The junior monk was very upset, but said nothing.

They both were walking and senior monk noticed that his junior was suddenly silent and enquired “Is something the matter, you seem very upset?”

The junior monk replied, “As monks, we are not permitted to touch a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The senior monk replied, “I left the woman a long time ago at the bank, however, you seem to be carrying her still.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Strength Tarot

A lesson on strength from the Tarot

From aeclectic tarot

The Fool, victorious over his enemies, is feeling arrogant, powerful, even vengeful. There is a hot passion in him that he can barely control. It is in this state that he comes across a maiden struggling with a lion. Running to help, he arrives in time to see her gently but firmly shut the lion's mouth! In fact, the beast, which seemed so wild and fierce a moment ago, is now completely at her command.

Amazed, the Fool asks her, "How did you do that?" One hand on the lion's mane, she answers, "Will power. Any beast, no matter how wild, will back down before a superior will." At that moment, the Maiden meets the Fool's eyes; though saintly and young, her look is knowing and filled with great power. "Likewise," she says to him, "there are many unworthy impulses inside us. It is not wrong to have them. But it is wrong to let them control us. We are human, not beast, and we can command such energy, use them for higher purposes." His rage quieted, the Fool nods, enlightened, and walks away knowing that it wasn't only the lion that was tamed this day by a Maiden's pure and innocent strength.

from tarot teachings

This is another Major Arcana card that doesn't beat around the bush - it's meaning is quite clear in both illustration and title. Looking at the card we see a great deal of strength - but what kind of strength? Is the young maiden exterting physical strength to subdue the lion? Her face looks serene, her posture is calm - she doesn't appear to be struggling.

Yes, the Tarot card meaning here is that of strength - but not purely physical. The young maiden in white (a symbol of purity) subdues the lion through a strength that is internal. Through compassion, love, patience, and cunning, she is able to calm the lion into retreating into a behavior that is more manageable.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Magic and the Brush

What is this path we walk? Sometimes I feel like I know, but then it comes down to a matter of faith. I am a Budo man, because I don't know how to be anything else. Is this a path towards enlightenment?

A few years ago I began training under a great master. He is a Jedi caliber master. The first question he asked was, "What are your limitations?" A damn fine question.

Here are a few ancient words that remind we of why I walk the path. I believe in them enough that I wrote them 20 feet tall and beamed them with black light at Flipside 2007. My magic flowed from my shodo brush.

The great way has no boundaries

These ancient carvings infected my mind. I carved them on my magic performance gear. I believe I have obtained the keys to a limitless path with no boundaries. I believe in the magic of budo.

I believe Budo is the great way. I believe through it I can cross boundaries of my limitations.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A look at Gedan Ate

From the Tomiki Ryu Aikido system: Gedan Ate - the low attack. It is the 4th technique of the Atemi waza, and the 4th technique in the randori no kata or 17. Now really the technique itself is not important to my discussion. Let's look at examples to see principle.

A karate guy doing a kuzushi waza, known to us Tomiki guys as gedan ate. From what I have seen, this is very similar to how many competitive players throw this technique. He does it from a lunge. While this seems effective for the fellow, I believe this is not the most efficient way to execute this concept.

Now here is a version from Aiki guys. You will see the difference. They do their entering motion while the opponent is in motion towards them. This means it requires less motion on the aiki guys part to get in position to execute the technique. This is critical!!!

I truly believe this is one of the secrets to many of the techniques in the Tomiki system. If your opponent is in motion, a throw is easy. I think moving large distances to overcome an opponent is not consistent with "maximum efficiency with minimum effort" ideal of our style.

Seiryoku Zenyo

"maximum efficiency with minimum effort"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Zen and practice

This was Dōgen’s (dis)solution to the question that plagued him from his beginnings as a Tendai initiate:

“Why must we practice to obtain enlightenment, if we all are innately enlightened?”

Practice is not merely a means to the goal of enlightenment; when viewed correctly it is enlightenment. “Practice,” and hence “realization” along with it, should here be seen as referring to all of a Zen practitioner’s activities and not merely times of formal meditation. But in what sense are all of one’s activities practice? Surely not everyone’s activities count as practice—so what is the distinction? For Dōgen, the difference lay in the attitude of the Zen practitioner. Zen practice, which Dōgen referred to as “ceaseless practice” (“gyoji”), is primarily the continuous maintenance of a specific frame of mind.

Daniel Zelinski, Ph.D.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Book of Void

Required Reading

This is the last chapter of Miyamoto Musashi's Go Rin No Sho, or Book of 5 rings. Hopefully it helps you on your path today.

The Void Book

The Ni To Ichi Way of strategy is recorded in this the Book of the Void.

What is called the spirit of the void is where there is nothing. It is not included in man's knowledge. Of course the void is nothingness. By knowing things that exist, you can know that which does not exist. That is the void.

People in this world look at things mistakenly, and think that what they do not understand must be the void. This is not the true void. It is bewilderment.

In the Way of strategy, also, those who study as warriors think that whatever they cannot understand in their craft is the void. This is not the true void.

To attain the Way of strategy as a warrior you must study fully other martial arts and not deviate even a little from the Way of the warrior. With your spirit settled, accumulate practice day by day, and hour by hour. Polish the twofold spirit heart and mind, and sharpen the twofold gaze perception and sight. When your spirit is not in the least clouded, when the clouds of bewilderment clear away, there is the true void.

Until you realise the true Way, whether in Buddhism or in common sense, you may think that things are correct and in order. However, if we look at things objectively, from the viewpoint of laws of the world, we see various doctrines departing from the true Way. Know well this spirit, and with forthrightness as the foundation and the true spirit as the Way. Enact strategy broadly, correctly and openly.

Then you will come to think of things in a wide sense and, taking the void as the Way, you will see the Way as void.

In the void is virtue, and no evil. Wisdom has existence, principle has existence, the Way has existence, spirit is nothingness.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Judo vs AikiBudo

It has been an interesting week of training. I have been doing a lot of Randori and Shiai with Judo guys.

Often the question comes up...does Aiki technique really compare to the Judo players?

The answer is DEPENDS.

First I did Shiai with a talented Judo 3rd dan. It was difficult. There was a lot of stalemates, with moments of brilliance.

Then a few days later I did 10 minutes of Shiai with Matl Sensei, a small 8th dan. He threw me about 40 times with some vicious ashi waza. I got his balance once, barely with a half ass sacrifice throw. It did'nt take him down though.

I just got an exchange student from Japan. He has done Judo through middle school, high school and college. We did about 15 minutes of randori tonight, and he literally could not touch me. His notion about randori or shiai, fell into my traps so perfectly it became perfect aiki waza.

Does Aiki work versus Judo? If the Judoka is better than If they are as good as you...sometimes. If you are better than them...yes.

I know the results seems pretty obvious, but often as martial artists we get in the habit of comparing styles, strategies..etc and we forget that it is not the art; it is the artist that makes technique and principle work.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

sword work

I have never been blown away with the aiki ken presented in the san kata. They are nice basic techniques - sure. The following video has really influenced the way I see both sword and jo work. I hope you get something out of it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Defining My Practice

I think a good question might be, How do I define my practice? What makes the KyuRyu (now Muteshokai) system work? What is our focus?

Now this opens up a can of worms.

First I feel our technique is very ethically driven. We are constantly trying to reduce the amount of energy and violence it takes to overcome a confrontation.

I do not believe pain or physical damage to be the way a technique is delivered. Kuzushi - balance breaking or crumble the opponents posture is the purest way to gain technique.

I believe that AikiBudo is a sensitivity based art. I do not believe it is appropriate to deliver energy into an opponent. The Uke generates this energy on their own, by making unharmonious choices. I disagree with the way that much of Aiki is practiced, nage takes uke to a point of weakness - then plows energy through him.

I believe in the value of the kata. I also feel that demonstrating kata from beginning to end has little benefit, compared to other methods of training. I believe the kata is a method of storing and exploring the principles of Aiki. Like many of the training tools we have kata has a point of diminishing returns. We must work our muscles in different ways if we expect them to develop. Likewise we must work our Aiki in different ways if we want to develop it.

I believe the most valuable tool we have to learn and explore Aikibudo is Randori. Randori is free play practice. It can be done slow, or brought up to the levels of Shiai. I believe randori, and randori drills can and should be taught from the first day a student walks into the dojo. I believe the most most effective way to learning Aikido is by counter techniques and interactive play with an instructor.

I believe strongly that technique should not be, and cannot be homogenized. We should not be working the same angles, the same kata promotes. Every student has a different body and will find it in different situations. We should encourage every student to be an artist and to create, not just copy.

I believe in looking outside of the structure of Aikido to learn Aikido. I am constantly inspired by Judo, Wing Chun and Tai Chi. they understand a great deal about Aiki, and their methods and applications can be borrowed.

I feel that by training in AikiBudo we are training in something important. We are students, teachers, sages, monks, and the wise when we are on the mat. It is an expression of a illuminated mind if practiced with great diligence and ethical standards.

I believe that Aiki is a living spirit passed between it's students. It is handed down from teacher to student through the power of touch. When the torch is passed to us, we cultivate the fire through disciplined study and deep meditation. We then pass the spirit onto another when they are ready to accept it.

I believe in the power of my seniors. I believe above all they should be seen as a friend. I believe we stand on our teachers shoulders to reach higher on the path. I believe mutual respect and relationships are more important than technical skill. I will not accept abusive relationships.

I believe in the power of students. I believe they are all learning something extremely important, something they are meant to learn; even if their time on the path of Aikido is short. I believe my newest student deserves as much of my time as my most senior one. I believe without my friends who are my students, fellow walkers on the path and teachers I am not an artist. Without them I have failed to learn the lesson of harmony. With them I am richer than I ever imagined I could be.

Monday, February 2, 2009

An e-mail to Nick Lowery


The weekend session was difficult, and magical in one go. I am realizing my art is growing to a point where teachers that i respect are calling me up to come play with me. What an honor. Seems like years of traveling and training are paying off - I am making friends.

I was limping from sickness, but something about the dojo makes me a magic man. I read even close to death Ueshiba was on the mat skating around. The mat healed me or at least gave me enough energy to make it through.

Waddell Sensei called me up last Sunday and said he was coming down. I put the word out. 7 heads of Dojos, from different styles, showed up scattered over the three days. While I have seen photos of Fugakukai gatherings of room full of red and white stripey belts, for a humble low level art such as myself I can only say I was honored.

Most of the teachers played well - typically just shutting up when the person who had the most to say chimed in. I found there was a ego or two - ironically from the practitioners that had the low technical skill. I still loved having them, realizing their next Aikido lesson is in their relationship with their ego...and with others.

Matl Sensei is an interesting guy. Quitely commanding..hopping right in playing the whole time. I am not sure I am sold 100 percent on his system of body dyanmics, but I would be a fool not to study it for 15 years to try to disprove it.

Waddell Sensei stayed with me the weekend. I remember Charles Clark coming into to town and staying with Russell 15 years ago. I was envious to be outside the inner circle. Now I realize the honor of being inside, and I try to make it inclusive. Open invitation, my door and couch is open to anyone who wants to join the after hours club. Mostly it involves Russell and I drinking....him trying to convert me to Christ, and me trying to explain to him the path of a Zen Magician. Overall the encounter is another hard game of religious randori. Not Shiai, just a wonderful game of testing each others path.

On the mat Russell in a lumbering big man. His Aikido is not classic by any sense. He is a Randori man, and he does not even set all the randori rules like most teachers I have worked with. We dance, sometimes attacking furiously...sometimes in slow motion. I think I scored 2 "real" throws on him in the 45 minute session. I am getting better!

Another of the great surprises was a man named Brendon Hussey. He nervously approached the dojo. Evidentally he used to do Judo with Russell back in the 1970s, and was looking for an old friend. He too was an Aiki man now. Brendon grabbed me and did Aiki 100 percent different than Russell's. He had me dancing up and down the mat like a puppet. The whole time he was tripping LSD like philosophy on Aiki, the way you don't hear Tomiki men talk. I had never felt Aiki like this, but there is some serious truth to it. Different than Russell's Aiki....who also kicks my butt.

I learned this weekend...yet again I don't have a clue what I am doing. 23 years in martial arts and 13 years of Aiki practice. Sometimes i think I know what I am doing. Then my strategies are shattered in a weekend of practice.

In some ways frustrating...all these years, and I have learned so little. In some ways inspiring....I now have a string of eager students relishing in the parade of masters showing their perspective magics. I now think I am seen by some teachers as a budding artist...worthy at least of spending a few hours with correcting my ways.

I got to implement my belief in GIFTING. Everyone who walked through the door received t-shirts, calligraphy and teaching. Me and a few of my senior students funded the whole deal. For now I love being able to give the gift, support artists and network. I wanted to show my students that there is more out there than me...and they should seek it.

For New Years my resolution was to find more people who I could call "teacher", and I hope those teachers would learn to call me "friend".

Walk In Peace,

Eric Pearson

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Seminar Weekend

It was a truly special weekend. Teachers from many styles came together and played.

I thought I was beginning to understand the game of Aiki, but I came to a new breakthrough of beginner's mind. Man-o-man I am a baby in this stuff. It is great to know there are so many wonderful teachers in the world.

It is frustrating and encouraging that there is so much to learn. Hopefully it will keep me busy in this life.

Walk In Peace