Thursday, August 26, 2010

Preparing to pass the torch

Grad school started tonight. I have started my climb to earning a needed qualification for my job teaching blind and visually impaired students. I have a pile of projects and books coming out the yin yang. My life is about to be a semi-monastic voyage of work and study.

I have decided for the time being, the KyuRyu blog is not a project I can currently afford to keep up on a regular basis. I have offered the blog to one of my long time friends and students at KyuRyu Dojo. He seemed intrigued and is coming over this weekend to learn the ropes of KyuRyu blogging. I am sure if he enjoys the process he will continue this blogs production of quality material (or random you tube clips)

I am sure I will pop in now and then when I cannot help but spill my aiki blathering, but for the upcoming future this blog will be passed onto the next generation.

Thanks for being a reader!

Eric Pearson the Sensei Strange

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tomiki Sensei Block Print

Tonight's artistic exploration... I enjoy the process of block making quite a bit. They are primitive, but all of my favorite art has the primitive and bold line feel to it.

Impossible Judo

Throwing people should be easy. Humans have continually surprised me with their ability to move in crazy and unpredictable ways. No, there is nothing easy about the throwing arts.

This video is very interesting, showing that often people simply do not fall in predictable ways.

The music sucks though, be warned.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

IMHO - what Shomen Ate Isn't

In the world of competitive aikido we find shomen ate being used often. I recognize that opinions vary about sport, and technique in the world of Tomiki Aikido. But I too am entitled to an opinion also.

IMHO - It isn't shomen ate if....

1. Tori drives uke back with such force you chase them across the mat. This violates the aikido principles of non resistance and indeed the technique becomes just a crude drive just piling on force.
2. Tori falls over because he is adding so much thrust that he cannot keep balanced when uke falls.
3. Tori uses more energy than uke to make the throw work.

Yes I understand these guys play a game. They are probably good at it. I probably would love to train with all these guys. However I understand why aikido people say Tomiki aikido is not aikido, when you see examples like this. I don't think these guys are doing bad martial arts, or bad sports. I do believe that they are missing some critical ideas about what aikido is supposed to be. Again this is in my humble opinion, and I honestly mean no disrespect to the artists in the following videos. Thankfully the world is big enough we can all play however the heck we want. I just wouldn't call these shomen ate, or aiki technique for that matter.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Keep Moving

Sensei Strange?

Last year on the Kaze Uta Budo Kai boards Sean Ashby posed a question.

"What is the appropriate way to use the term "sensei"? At what point does a person become or start being addressed as "sensei"? I would imagine that opinions vary on the subject, as would various schools and arts, so I'm curious to see what folks might have to say."

Nick Lowry responded.

"in the budo tradition we come from, typically after 4th dan students and peers may use the term sensei to refer to a teacher-- though in Japansese culture in general,
who serves as a teacher may be refered to in this way -- Later, after 6th dan you hear the term shihan or "leader of men" used as well, though the term sensei is still also completely appropraite reguardless of rank--
as with all honorific titles and ranks it is coinsidered rude and arrogant to use such terms to refer to oneself -- a point widely overlooked in the west where such usage has become an ugly form of advertising --

For myself, i am pointedly embarassed at my own (unknowing) misuse of such in the past -- i see that i was just following the examples of my role models, but i did not yet understand how my models were themselves being rude and arrogant

there are also a variety of other honorific titles that have been misused over the years which are missappropriations form other ranking systems-- i think it is best to just avoid them entirely"

And my response (slightly edited here)

What??? But I am the Sensei Strange!!!

Let me explain something about myself. I have degrees in Anthropology and Psychology. Like Indiana Jones, I was sure when I moved to Japan I was going to seamlessly blend into the culture, mastering the language in days. Contrary to my fantasies I remained a giant, fat, larger than life, boisterous heavy beer drinker. Much of my fitting in involved dancing on desktops (much to coworkers horror) staging fire shows, pouring Tequila into the city mayor until he ceremoniously vomited over a banquet and levitating cards in classrooms. I have a flair for the dramatic after all.

In 2000 I was writing articles for a few Zen and Budo online magazines. I found no matter how deep and insightful I wrote, no one would remember my name. For my performer's drove me crazy. Then one day in a class, one of my students called me 'Henna Sensei' meaning strange teacher. The words rolled around in my head for a few hours. Then as I returned to my desk I saw the pile of American comic books I brought from home for my students. On top was the comic, Dr Strange - sorcerer supreme. Then in a flash the two ideas merged and "Sensei Strange" came to me. Well aware of the Japanese language conventions, I started using it as a pen name. Instantly I became memorable. Interesting thing about art - how you frame it is sometimes as important as the art itself.

I ran the name by some of my Japanese friends as a stage name for the magic act I was developing. They all gave it a yes vote. Then slowly over the next few years, being a shameless self promoter of magic I introduced myself as Sensei Strange more and more! It became my real and only name for almost everyone I now know. It is my professional name of sorts. So I adopted Sensei...not as a mere title. I adopted it as my company name, and hence it became my name!!!! Talk about rude and arrogant! Again, I proved myself to be a white, bearded Godzilla plowing through Japanese conventions.

Then it came time for me to open a dojo. I explained for all my students not to call me sensei. At the time I was not high enough ranked in the art I wanted to teach. But it was the name they all knew me by! Eventually I stopped fighting it. The title/name became an avatar to aspire to fill. I had to live up to my own self created legend.

That's my story. Is it arrogant and rude to call yourself Sensei? Yup. Magicians are special though. Martial arts magicians are double special. We can trick you AND trip you.

Plus really pretty people like me can do what we like. :D

Nowadays I am not pushing the magic career as hard as I was, and I no longer am trying to brand myself anything, but the name kinda stuck. I try not to use it in budo contexts, and I save it just for the magic sites. So yes, I try to respect the conventions, but what a tangled web I weave.

Eric, the Sensei Strange

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fixing Failure is Mastery

When I was in Oklahoma City, Lowry Sensei took me to the art museum where the Chihuly glass collection is on display. There was a lovely film about the artist, his team and the process of making glass. There were many glass blowing masters working through their ego issues to try to create together. The whole film was crazy lesson on dharma and budo.

In the film they defined a master as someone who could fix mistakes rapidly and use the mistakes to shape the art.

Lowry Sensei and I both got struck by the truth of this statement.

"A master is someone who can fix mistakes rapidly and use mistakes to shape the art."

Tonight Mike and I had a rough and tumble workout. Every attack was rapid, intense and with uke solidly geting his balance back. Mike is a big physically talented guy, and I found that I ran into 3-5 failures of technique application before I could find something to take the beast down. We were filming, and during our breaks we would watch our work. Even though to me it felt like swimming in peanut butter when I was doing it, in film it looked like a nice flow from one technique to the next. The result was lovely high intensity aiki. Art.

When I visit Hussey Sensei, he always demands his students fix mistakes as we train. I do not think he cares if students ever make the specific throw we are working on. To his artistic eye it seems the only failure is not working with the mistake.

You see, for me I rarely hit that first technique perfect. Aiki as I currently experience it is the process of shaping failure into new opportunity. The mastery comes from chaining failures into a work of art. Now it only takes me 5 failed techniques until I find the one that cuts like butter. I can never predict the outcome - the art makes itself.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The definition of a technique

Every time I shoot a little film I get a variety of responses stating some factoid about what a technique must have. In my shomen ate series I have heard that the technique must sweep the person off their feet, or I have been scornfully told where I must connect with what part and how to the face. The list goes on...

I am overjoyed that so many people are deeply studying this stuff. But when it comes down to it, there are no definitions except what we create. I am overjoyed people think they understand technique the specifics of a technique, but frankly these people do not get to define my techniques and my relationship to the art.

there are no definitions except what we create

The fact is the only definition is the technique name itself, and even this can be misleading and incomplete. We have precedent from the artists that come before us, we have personal ethics and the scientific method to guide our practice in the now. Other than that this is our game to write, and our techniques to learn and refine.

So I hope you find a grading point system to so you know exactly what a technique is supposed to be. I myself have taken off the shackles of 'form'. I don't care how the poo bah sensei's defined the art for you. The very concept of techniques are merely training wheels friends.

Question absolutely every facet of the art form and you might find out what the best teachers say, there are no techniques, just principles. Some of you guys have been looking at the wrong place all along! The fact is every time I start working on a technique again it is like working it for the first time. The multi faceted levels of the puzzle keep opening and opening.

Question your own understanding and truly learn. Loosen your rigid definitions and find greater threads of truth.

Shomen Ate Collection

After this you are going to be sooo sick of shomen ate.