Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lowry Sensei ordained!

Nick Lowry of the WindSong Dojo in Oklahoma City is to be ordained a Buddhist priest today. Good job Nick!!! We look forward to hearing about the experience.

Henry Kono Seminar

Round Rock Martial Arts sponsored Henry Kono came to Austin this weekend, and the Aiki tribes gathered for a pow wow. Seminars are interesting weekends. I do enjoy getting to meet and discuss with others. It sometimes is hard for me to play like others like to play, but such is the game.

My weekend began by showing up early Friday night to the Round Rock facility. I found Matl Sensei, 9th dan in Judo, standing alone. No one showed up for his Friday class, so I had the master to myself for 15 minutes. I showed him all my new entries to outside throws, and he then showed me the errors of my approach. He was correct in his analysis and saved me a lot of time by correcting my ideas. As I was getting ready to go to the aikido seminar downstairs I pulled out my hakama leggings from my bag. Matl Sensei came over and pointed to it. "Do you know why aikido men wears these?" He had a devilish smile and he said "To cover their bad footwork."

The seminar started downstairs. Henry Kono is an interesting quirky personality, like all aikido teachers I have had the pleasure of meeting. He is an old master In his 80s. He is among the last of the physically able aikidoka to meet and train with Ueshiba Sensei. He plays this up in his lectures. He often refers to to Ueshiba and his four years training at Hombu in Japan during his lectures. He is a small man with a heavy cigarette smell. Like all old men, wild hairs fire in random directions from his eyebrows and ears. He tends to say the word "right, right" about twice a sentence. One of the guys at the seminar was wearing a Yoda t-shirt, and I thought that that was a pretty accurate depiction of the experience of training with this teacher.

He promotes a shared center of balance approach to aikido. While his approach is not unique, I do only see top level guys lecture about it and actually do it. He has a very light touch and his stuff definitely works nice and sweet. He laid hands on me some 10 times over the weekend and he moved me around effectively each time. I have seen Chuck Clark and Karl Geis move similarly. I also felt the concepts he was trying to get out mirrored Nick Lowry's hazumi seminar he gave us last year.

This is how he says most people do martial arts. Two unconnected centers trying to affect each other.

This is the model he recommends using. The centers and motion unites into a common shared center.

Another lesson I saw mirrored in some of the other high level teachers that I follow is the emphasis on continually moving feet and center. Through out the techniques motion never stops.

With no real fault of Kono Sensei my one gripe about aikido seminars in general is this: although the teacher could apply the principles, almost none of the students there could genuinely reproduce the effect. Instead during the practice sessions people danced around and fell over for each other pretending to do what the teacher taught. No one there, including myself, really caught the mechanics of what was going on. The one time I hesitated to fall for a second, I was scolded by a fellow student for being uncooperative. I informed him that his timing was a hair off, he informed me that no, indeed the problem was mine.

So my constructive criticism to this seminar and seminar in general would be to slow down, work more drills of the mechanics that are supposed to be represented. I personally think the attitude amongst aikido guys that uke falls every time is a flawed paradigm, and it keeps people from actually getting the chance to learn the material. There were a few instances that I totally brain farted, yet uke still took a nice polite roll. This is why we are such a criticized art form guys!

Another thing to note about the seminar is that I was set to film the teachings. But it quickly became clear to me that he teaches the same seminar as it is seen on the You Tube series. I heard the same stories, phrases and demos. I decided not to film, because it had already been done. That being said, you probably have to listen to the same thing a bunch of times before it will sink in due to it's complexity. I found that he was a little harder to follow now days, then his seminar ten years ago too. His voice seems quieter and he often would start talking about something without referencing the subject.

So here is part one of the gist of the seminar...

Austin is becoming an interesting aikido scene. Before a few years ago, the groups were very insulated from each other. But under the organization of Elizabeth Tillman, Austin is finally slowly coming together. Many Austin dojos were represented this weekend: Round Rock, KyuRyu AikiBudo, Aikido of Austin, Still Point, and U.T. Aikido all had representatives. Local area schools from Leander and Killeen also made the drive. Many folks flew in from around the country as well.

I finally got to have some sessions with other local instructors. Brent from the UT Seidokan group was a nice guy and fun to work with. I have met him many times, but we have never traded throws till now. James Goeman from Aikido of Austin was another instructor I finally got to spend some quality training time with. I really am pleased to see all these folks coming together.

Really I find the relationships that form from budo to be the most satisfying part of practice. My favorite part of the seminar was after everyone left and Hussey Sensei, Joseph Bennett of Standing Tree Kempo, and I sat around discussing the events and ideas of the day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A great fight

From what I can tell, these two guys are 16 years old. They are fighting here, and they really demonstrate some excellent martial arts. Here we see two friends, playing hard and tough, and not hurting each other. A lovely dynamic and technical fight.

From the information panel on you tube - These two, Timmy Shoonover and Blade Rose are training partners and not to mention good friends. These boys not only have skills in the sport but the heart for it too. Both of these guys train under Sensei Justin Rose at Bushido Martial Arts in Arlington Tx.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Judo, Buddhism, and the Monkey Trap

I would like to discuss attachments. I am taking about this concept in both mental and physical realms, because really dividing the two is fallacy. Your physical technique is an expression of your mind.

I have been doing a whole lot of judo free style randori practice lately. For a while I was playing the vice like grips of judo jacket wrestling, and it felt they were a weakness. They anchored me to one spot rather than setting me free. They cemented a particular relationship, rather than letting new relationships develop. A grip leads my technique down a path of force to control and fight, rather than soft technique to balance breaks.

Buddhism and attachments

I have been pouring over the teachings of the Bodhidharma lately, and I have been seeing the conflicts in judo as a perfect Buddhist metaphor.

What Is Attachment?

"In order for there to be attachment, you need two things -- the attacher, and the thing to which the attacher is attached. In other words, "attachment" requires self-reference, and it requires seeing the object of attachment as separate from oneself.

The Buddha taught that seeing oneself and everything else this way is a delusion. Further, it is a delusion that is the deepest cause of our unhappiness. It is because we mistakenly see ourselves as separate from everything else that we "attach."

Zen teacher John Daido Loori said,

"[A]ccording to the Buddhist point of view, nonattachment is exactly the opposite of separation. You need two things in order to have attachment: the thing you’re attaching to, and the person who’s attaching. In nonattachment, on the other hand, there’s unity. There’s unity because there’s nothing to attach to. If you have unified with the whole universe, there’s nothing outside of you, so the notion of attachment becomes absurd. Who will attach to what?"(1)

Attachments and the monkey trap

"In order to catch spider monkeys, hunters in South America simply walk through the jungle and drop heavy containers on the ground. These containers have very a narrow top and a wider bottom. Inside the containers the hunters drop a special kind of nut which is particularly attractive to the monkeys. Sometime later, the spider monkeys come down from the tops of the trees, smell the nut, but the tops of the containers are so narrow they have a tight squeeze to get their hands inside. Once they grab the nut at the bottom, their fist is too large to remove if through the opening. And the container is too heavy for them to carry.

So instead of letting go of the nut, the monkeys just sit there until the hunters come back, pick them up, and throw them in a bag. The spider monkeys are not prepared to let go of a small nut in order to gain their freedom." (2)

Buddhism, Judo and the Monkey

Everyone from monkeys to the great teachers of Zen agree that attachments lead to problems. How often doe the monkey-judo man form a relationship through grip and attachment to an idea of technique? How often does monkey-judo man follow this attachment, even after it becomes a trap? Even the monkey-aikido man will follow technique way after it has failed because they are simply holding on to that attachment. Monkey-judo man simply refuses to let go of the jacket in order to gain freedom.

Perhaps the Buddha-Judo man has done some more of the internal work and sees those attachments lead to suffering...or at least traps. It seems to me that the highest caliber budo is not accomplished through the efforts of a tense attachment, rather the purest budo is an expression of a mind and body moving in freedom and accommodating to circumstance.

The Tai Chi Classics say chi moves in the spirit of the ever changing circle. I say, free your minds and bodies from negative relationships and attachments and find freedom in motion and thought!




Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Qualities of Painting

I am a student of 'DO' I walk the path of spirituality through art/meditative practice. All arts point to and highlight aspects of others. All art becomes the same practice of one artistic movement. All artistic study is another step down the path.

Here are some of the budo lessons to be learned from the brush. The path is not about creating warriors. It is about creating beauty, and to point people to learn of the nature of their mind.

The Six Qualities of Painting

* To display brushstroke power with good brushwork control
* To posses sturdy simplicity with refinement of true talent
* To possess delicacy of skill with vigor of execution.
* To exhibit originality, even to the point of eccentricity, without violating the li(the principles or essence) of things.
* In rendering space by leaving the silk or paper untouched, to be able nevertheless to convey nuances of tone.
* On the flatness of the picture plane, to achieve depth and space.

- "Lu Ch'ang",
quoted from an early XI-century work of biographies of painters of the Five Dynasties and Northern Sung Periods.

“Among those who study painting, some strive for an elaborate effect and others prefer the simple. Neither complexity in itself nor simplicity is enough.
Some aim to be deft, others to be laboriously careful. Neither dexterity nor conscientiousness is enough.

Some set great value on method, while others pride themselves on dispensing with method. To be without method is deplorable, but to depend entirely on method is worse.

You must learn first to observe the rules faithfully; afterwards, modify them according to your intelligence and capacity. The end of all method is to seem to have no method.”

- Lu Ch'ai(Wang Kai), Master of Ch'ing Tsai T'ang, XVII-century

Thursday, February 11, 2010

From the Principia Discordia

If you are not hot for philosophy, best just to skip it.

The Aneristic Principle is that of APPARENT ORDER; the Eristic Principle is that of APPARENT DISORDER. Both order and disorder are man made concepts and are artificial divisions of PURE CHAOS, which is a level deeper that is the level of distinction making.

With our concept making apparatus called "mind" we look at reality through the ideas-about-reality which our cultures give us. The ideas-about- reality are mistakenly labeled "reality" and unenlightened people are forever perplexed by the fact that other people, especially other cultures, see "reality" differently. It is only the ideas-about-reality which differ. Real (capital-T True) reality is a level deeper that is the level of concept.

We look at the world through windows on which have been drawn grids (concepts). Different philosophies use different grids. A culture is a group of people with rather similar grids. Through a window we view chaos, and relate it to the points on our grid, and thereby understand it. The ORDER is in the GRID. That is the Aneristic Principle.

Western philosophy is traditionally concerned with contrasting one grid with another grid, and amending grids in hopes of finding a perfect one that will account for all reality and will, hence, (say unenlightened westerners) be True. This is illusory; it is what we Erisians call the ANERISTIC ILLUSION. Some grids can be more useful than others, some more beautiful than others, some more pleasant than others, etc., but none can be more True than any other.

DISORDER is simply unrelated information viewed through some particular grid. But, like "relation", no-relation is a concept. Male, like female, is an idea about sex. To say that male-ness is "absence of female-ness", or vice versa, is a matter of definition and metaphysically arbitrary. The artificial concept of no-relation is the ERISTIC PRINCIPLE.

The belief that "order is true" and disorder is false or somehow wrong, is the Aneristic Illusion. To say the same of disorder, is the ERISTIC ILLUSION.

The point is that (little-t) truth is a matter of definition relative to the grid one is using at the moment, and that (capital-T) Truth, metaphysical reality, is irrelevant to grids entirely. Pick a grid, and through it some chaos appears ordered and some appears disordered. Pick another grid, and the same chaos will appear differently ordered and disordered.

Reality is the original Rorschach.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Shime Waza Video Exchange

The magic and juggling sites I sometimes inhabit often have video contests or idea exchanges to build inspiration and motivation. I started this idea on the Kaze Uta Budo Kai site.

What I would like from you fair reader, is to join the game. I choose a topic I knew very little about and said "let's explore the idea." I don't care what art you do, take this chance to teach and learn.

First month's theme is aiki-shime waza. I was mostly thinking about standing choking techniques, but I leave it to you to where you want to go with the idea.

I am especially looking forward to Jeff Duncan, and Patrick Parker contributing ideas (since I know they all have cameras) I will try to film Matl and Hussey if I can make it up to Round Rock too.

Here are the first two the Kaze Uta guys came out with...

Dojo Rat chimed in with his lock flow drill to choke sequence.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Enterprise Dojo

I found this sweet clip on JudoForum. I had never seen it before. Captain Kirk teaching Judo. They wear sweet Federation Gis.

Kyudo in Ritual

While I was living in Japan I read the weapon with the deepest spiritual connection in the Japanese psyche is not the katana like many would believe. It is the bow.

"In Japan, the oldest written description of the bow appears in Japanese saga called "Kojiki (The Record of Ancient Japan). According to this volume, the bows were the sacred weapon used by the ancient Japanese gods and goddesses, and they were used not only for hunting but also as a symbol of the gods' holiness in many occasions such as religious ceremonies." (1)

"Legend says that Japan's first ruler was Emperor Jimmu, (illustration above) who ascended to the throne in 660 B.C. In paintings and descriptions of his life Jimmu is always depicted holding a long bow, a symbol of his authority." (2)

"From the fourth to the ninth century, China and Japan maintained close contacts and had a great influence on Japanese archer, especially held in the Confucian belief that through a person’s archery their true characters could be determined. A blend of Shinto and Zen Buddhist religions along with the pressing requirements of warriors influenced the existence of archery for over hundreds of years. Bows in the past started to be used for hunting in addition to warfare. Japan then adopted the ceremonial use of a bow from China and continued in Japan even after it ended in China. Kyudo also adopted the composite technique of bow manufacturing by gluing together splinters."(3)

Patrick Darden writes

"Modern Kyudo is descended from the Heki school of Kyujutsu, the art of killing by the bow, combined with a branch of ceremonial archery, the Ogasawara school. The branch of Kyujutsu, as all martial arts in Japan, embraced Zen as its spirit--possibly because of its lack of moralizing and its value in training the spirit of a warrior to actually be able to KILL. Ceremonial archery on the other hand emphasized the value of archery as an art form and a Shinto tool (as is evidenced by the usage of the bow at Sumo tournaments, Shinto rites and holidays, when a child is born, and specific events like coming-of-age-day). The sound of the string being plucked is supposed to strike fear in evil spirits' hearts, and the sound of a master-archer shooting is supposed to bring spiritual enlightenment. The combination of both forms is beautiful and appealing to the spirit."



Thursday, February 4, 2010

I don't get it

I saw a strange kata performed at the Tokyo Budokan during the koryu events. One guy would get up and get slapped and kicked by other people. He just stood there and by the end of the demonstration he was bright red from all the slap marks. I would like to be political and ask a insightful question on the wisdom of this practice, but instead I will call it like I see it. I think it is dumb.

Finally You Tube has provided an example of something similar. This video is fairly mild compared to what I saw demoed, but the idea is still there.

I have to say I don't get the mentality of this. Personally I train really hard so people can't slap me and kick me around. I guess the world is big enough for all sorts of training, but you can count me out.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kyudo and dignity

This year I finally restarted my study of kyudo - way of the bow. It is liberating being in an art form where I have no preconceived notions and no opinions about the way practice should be. I have returned to being a beginner - yet again.

I have been wanting to blog about the practice since I started, but I am approaching the topic from such ignorance that anything I say about it would be of little value to the reader. Then again if I view the practice through the eyes of an Aikido teacher I can begin to steal little snippets of the new practice and have it enrich all my practices.

(Though I wonder, looking at the practice through the experts eyes, do I lose the beginner's mind?)

The first thought that keeps rolling around my head with this new practice is the word 'dignity'. I see it written over and over in kyudo literature.

"One is not polishing one's shooting style or technique, but the mind. The dignity of shooting is the important point. This is how Kyudo differs from the common approach to archery. In Kyudo there is no hope. Hope is not the point. The point is that through long and genuine practice your natural dignity as a human being comes out. This natural dignity is already in you, but it is covered up by a lot of obstacles. When they are cleared away, your natural dignity is allowed to shine forth"

- Shibata Sensei.

Kanjuro Shibata Sensei at Kai. (ca. 1990)

This is an interesting word, this "dignity". It is not a word I have often heard in the dojos I have previously inhabited.

I like to start an exploration at the beginning. Let's look at the very word itself to enrich our practice.

  /ˈdɪgnɪti/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [dig-ni-tee]

–noun, plural -ties.
1. bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation.
2. nobility or elevation of character; worthiness: dignity of sentiments.
3. elevated rank, office, station, etc.
4. relative standing; rank.
5. a sign or token of respect: an impertinent question unworthy of the dignity of an answer.
6. Archaic.
a. person of high rank or title.
b. such persons collectively.

I have been looking at my budo practice and teaching lately and I have been wondering, is it time to start using words like this? Does it have to be all balance breaking, or is it time to really start using the words we are supposedly pursuing in the system of education that is character development aspect of budo.

I am sitting here thinking about he definition of dignity and asking what is the bearing and conduct of a budo man? Do I appreciate the formality of the occasion? Do I show proper respect? Am I a person of rank, title, office or position? Does it matter?

Interesting questions coming from a teacher the Japanese call yumi - the elegant curved bow.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Holy Moly, I do look like Russell Crowe!

This week on facebook it is going around that you should post a picture of someone you look like or your doppleganger.

I hear it nearly everyday of my life. I guess I have not really looked at the man since Gladiator. I thought people were just type casting me for the beard. But if I stare at this picture for 10 seconds all I can see is myself. Freaky.