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11-30-2003, 03:19 PM
"Samurai," a two-hour special program on the Samurai warrior debuts on the History Channel on December 8 from 9:00-11:00pm. December 9 from 1:00-3:00am and on December 13 from 10:00-12:00pm. Please check your local listings for accurate airing times. Also, you may check airing times at Historychannel.com. Features history, traditions, discipline and arts of the Samurai warrior. There is also a short interview by Rev. Kensho Furuya, Chief Instructor of the Aikido Center of Los Angeles
11-30-2003, 09:17 PM
Furuya sensei, I saw a programme on satelite television roughly one and a half years ago, just before I started practicising aikido. It was all about the evolution of martial arts and warriors, in particular japan, the ninja caste seemed to get a lot of airtime(go figure) but there was some footage of a dojo that practised aikido and iaido and it showed several of the students cleaning the tatami. Im fairly sure that this dojo was in LA and I have been wondering if it was perhaps your dojo and your students that were shown? When I looked at your dojo's website it certainly reminded me of the dojo I saw on tv. Perhaps im reading too much into this but ill go crazy if I dont find out ;)
11-30-2003, 09:54 PM
Yes, that was my dojo. I have done a number of these programs for History, Discovery, A&E, Life & Times, etc. They come in and may interview you for several hours but the few seconds they finally show is totally up to them and their marketing strategies and what they think will sell. I wanted to show the students cleaning the dojo as they always do because the director wanted to see what training was like in a dojo. At the time, they objected to showing this because they had no idea why cleaning would have anything to do with training at all. They were more interested in high kicks and throws and flash. I was surprised they left it in their final cut. I think maybe because they thought that it was so "unusual." Oddly, it is the segment showing students cleaning the dojo after practice that brought much interest from the general public, much to their surprise.
I am not too proud of these appearances and they never seem to leave in what I myself think is important about Aikido or training. Mainly, I do this because I always feel that Aikido gets too little "air" time compared to most other martial arts. I am amazed at how much interest there is in Aikido but how little information is actually reaching the general public. I have come to think that we Aikidoists do a lot and talk alot among ourselves but rarely get outside of our own little circles. Anyways, I never get inquiries about my own dojo, but many inquire about dojos in their own neighborhoods and cities. Maybe in this, it does some good!
FYI, I did another program on the Samurai for A&E but I do not have the air times as yet. It should be coming out very soon towards the end of December. Many thanks for your interest.
12-01-2003, 09:17 AM
Always excellent. Compliments and appreciation.
12-01-2003, 11:27 AM
Many thanks for your vote of confidence and kind words. We had this discussion before in another thread in this website so I feel very defensive about doing these projects anymore. I always feel that Aikido should get out more into the general public so this is the best that I can do. I realize that there are still so many people out there who no nothing of Aikido and are searching for schools in their areas.
There was another program which aired last night, entitled Extreme Martial Arts, and apparently this was very popular. A while back they asked me to do this but I refused this particular program. They asked me, "Can you do any techniques where you are suspended in air?"
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"You know," they asked again, "like in Matrix! This is what we are looking for. . . ."
Usually, the perception our dojo gives the general public is that Aikido is very traditional and embodies the spiritual aspects of the art within its practice and that Aikido is very beautiful, yet an effective and real martial art. Many times, when they come to do these interviews, it is very hard to break this idea that all martial arts are like Shao Lin or ninjutsu. . . .
The current trend of martial arts in general today is this type of performance art with a lot of acrobats and "flash" as they say. It is very visual and entertaining, like the movies, but often lacks the virtue of "usage" and "application" as a real martial art. In the movies, it is important to "sell" the technique visually to the audience, and this often sacrifices any "real" aspect of how the technique actually works. Oh well. . . . . .
12-01-2003, 12:09 PM
Well, in the movies martial artists can run up walls, fly through the air and dance on bamboo...and monks spend all day chanting and living lives of remote blissful tranquility; sometimes we even get the monastic martial artist in the movies.
I understand that "monks" are very popular in advertizing for all sorts of things on television: photocopiers, cars, cell phones; but I don't know too much because I don't watch television! This marketing is perhaps based on the notion that monks don't live in our ordinary, common world, so it is interesting to them use ordinary material things.
I suppose that the unrealistic depiction of martial arts and monastics in the media at least serves to keep these things in people's consciousness, even if in a peculiar sort of way. It does not take more than an hour in either a real dojo or a real monastery to realize that the movie version is quite different from real life. Quickly the question comes, "What are you seeking?"
12-02-2003, 06:02 PM
Well, it was a long time since I saw that programme Furuya sensei and I have forgotten all the ninjutsu and other flashy stuff they showed, but the footage of your students cleaning the mats stayed with me.
I started aikido a couple of months after seeing that programme and now 15 months later im having a conversation (albeit virtual:p) with the person responsible for that rather interesting footage. It's funny how life works out, isnt it? :)
12-02-2003, 06:23 PM
Oh my, what a small world, indeed! I think, at the time of the taping, as I mentioned, the film crew and director were surprised that I would include such footage in a segment on martial arts. However, they said that they wanted to see how a traditional dojo was run and what were the essential aspects of training. And cleaning the dojo is one of the important aspects of training in a dojo.
I mentioned "flash" in another segment regarding this type of show and it is something that we cannot escape from, I imagine. TV and the entertainment business deals in what sells and what makes money. Showing students cleaning the dojo was the opposite of flash!
When I said "flash," however, I didn't mean spectacular and wonderful technique or an expression of true mastery of the art. It is something quite different. As an example, in filming Iaido sequences, they asked to hold or position the sword this way or that so the camera can get a better shot. It is not how correct the technique than it is how best to shoot it and how good it looks on film. I gave them problems when I refused to move from the correct position of the sword. . . . .
A good friend of mine studies another art in Japan and while visiting me happened to meet a very good friend of mine who was one of the highest ranking teachers in his art. He was lucky to get a private lesson but was very surprised. His teacher in Japan emphasized the beauty of the kata whereas my friend emphasized the correctness of the kata as a martial art technique. In many cases, he had to correct my friend's sword: "no, the sword is too high, it is actually lower to block this attack." Or, "no, the sword is held this way in order to block such and such an attack" and on and on. . . . . . We can move a sword around as in a dance but it is not necessarily martial arts technique, it is more artistic and expressive movement. In the other segment, I was rather talking about the popular trend for kata (without consideration of appplication as a viable technique) as opposed to actual martial arts technique.
Well, I glad that such a segment encouraged you to join Aikido practice. For me, just to be chatting with you here, makes it all worth the trouble. Many thanks!
12-04-2003, 12:45 PM
I can understand the camera mans point of view, i've made short films and worked in tv studios briefly and I found that often it is hard to present something that looks good on the screen without using a variety of angles and editing techniques, or even manipulating the subject being filmed. Something that looks good to an observer who is actually there does not always look good to a viewer watching the tv.
Im glad to see that you wouldnt relent to them, but that is what I would expect of someone such as yourself. And no, I should be thanking you Furuya sensei, finding aikido has given me a lot, more than I could ever posibly give back. Without seeing the clip of your students, I might never have found it. Thank you so very much :)
12-04-2003, 07:31 PM
Many, many heartfelt thanks!
12-09-2003, 02:56 PM
I watched the show last night and very much enjoyed it, and it was nice being able to put a face with your name. Thank you very much for the reminder!
12-09-2003, 03:12 PM
Thank you, but my part was very small but I thought my student did Iaido well and I was glad to get in a quick plug for Aikido - which is my main purpose for doing this, of course! I have already received many inquires across the country for Aikido and have been referring various dojos in their neighborhood.
I thought they did a good job. Originally, they gave me questions which covered the entire history of the samurai and couldn't imagine that they would attempt such a feat practically in a two-hout program so I asked them to be more specific in their questions to me and this gave me less air-time. It was still a three and a half hour gruelling interview under hot lights for a few seconds they showed. I know many of the interviews didn't go well, perhaps mine too, so they relied heavily on footage from Japan. I know the producer wanted to include much more and expressed his personal regrets to me. Although there was some exaggeration and some over-simplification in areas, I thought it was intellegent and well-done overall. The camera doesn't love me and I don't like the camera so the less they show of my face, the better - but it is still nice to be recognized and acknowledged, many thanks!
12-10-2003, 10:45 AM
I too have seen some past programs with you presenting Aikido and Laido. I must say that I always enjoyed your interviews and presentations.
I'm glad that you refused the "Extreme Martial Arts" program. I recently vieweed the Extreme Martial Arts that aired and found it to be all Flash. The proof of this was when after the flashy portion of the program (the forms competition), they showed the actual sparring section (during the competition) and the practitioners looked like kids fighting in the playground. They were pathetic. Seeing them wear hockey helmets with face guards during their sparring competition was absolutely hillarious to me. When you looked at their forms they were all so good. (ALL FLASH) then you see them spar and they don't even look like the same people anymore
The computer generated special effects in the show were interesting but again added to the real purpose of the program, FLASH. I'm certainly glad that Aikido was not bunched together with the rest in the program that I saw.
I think you did the right thing when you refused to participate in this particular program.
12-10-2003, 11:28 AM
Dear Furuya Sensei,
A small world indeed. I was dutifully washing the dinner dishes some time back when my wife called me away from my chore to watch the show.
It was a show that I have seen since a few times and each time I take from it something new. It also led me to your book Kodo Ancient Ways. A book which has had its pages turned often indeed.
Thank you for sharing tht which can only be gained from time and dedication........
12-10-2003, 11:38 AM
Many thanks! It sounds like you have experience in other martial arts so you know what they mean by "flash." There has been a long discussion about "flash" here but no one seems to know what it means in modern martial arts today in these performance art-oriented kata competitions which are so popular now. With the emphasis on "looks" and "flash," there is little attention to usage and application. Everyone is too busy "lookin'good."
The program was not looking for martial arts but for techniques with the "Matrix look," as they said, and wondered if I could suspend myself in the air as in the movie! At the beginning, I don't even think they were familiar with "wire techniques" so typical in the Hong Kong Kung-fu movie genre. Anyways, I didn't want to see Aikido in this type of "performance" art venue. Please understand that I am not putting it down because it has its proper place in the entertainmant field but I don't think of it as martial arts. Many thanks for your kind words and best wishes.
12-10-2003, 12:29 PM
I am very happy to hear that you enjoyed the show. There are several earlier programs and I am not sure which one you saw. Some are better than others. . . . . Thank you for the kind word on my Kodo. I just received a letter from someone who wrote a review of Kodo for Aikiweb here but it was rejected on the grounds that the book has nothing to do with Aikido. I was quite surprised to hear this. Anyways, many thanks and best wishes always,
12-10-2003, 12:36 PM
Just a brief observation on the spirit of Martial Arts vs. "flash"...
Last night we took a picture of the yudanshakai for the dojo's upcoming big anniversary celebration. One of the student's a pro photographer and with set up of the gear and posing and having sensei make the final small adjustments for a perfect shot we ended up trying to hold a group of close to 20 perfectly motionless for almost 30 minutes.
After the endless light checks and test shots, we accomplished our task nicely. As I walked up the stairs to the changing room, I looked down on the mat and there were all the black belts spread out all over the dojo, sitting quietly in seiza, folding hakamas.
As I surveyed the scene, I thought to myself that this was an excellent keiko filled with true Aikido spirit.
Thank you Sensei.
12-10-2003, 12:44 PM
It was a great deal of trouble to all the blackbelts to try to get everyone together for this commemorative photo but it was something that I wanted to have very much for a long time now. Actually, this is my Christmas present to my self. . . . . I am very, very proud of all my students and especially my black belts and really wanted to have a nice "family" photo to remember all of you by. Many thanks and best wishes!
12-10-2003, 12:54 PM
Its great to be on the same wavelength as a respected sensei like yourself. To answer your question, I do have some experience with other martial arts although I would never say that I was ever an expert. I practiced some Wing Chun, Kickboxing and Karate, prior to discovering Aikido (in which I'm still a beginer at only 2 years).
The Extremae Martial Arts program may have been entertaining for some, for me however the purpose of the program was quite transparent. As you mentioned, their intention was to purely show Flashy (Matrix) type moves that are not necessarily martial at all. The computer animations of the practitioners had MATRIX written all over it. The forms portion of the competitions looked more like a gymnastics competiton or dance competiotn than anything that I would consider martial.
The trend now days seems to be FLASH and no one seems to care about realism or the laws of physics for that matter. I find it quite annoying that Hollywood needs to use wireworks and prolonged unrealistic fight scenes to sell their movie to todays audience. For me these scenes ruin the movie not enhance it. I'd say I'd go as far as that it's insulting to my inteligence. But then again I'm not their average viewer I guess.
I just dont understand why people are not satisfied with realistic techniques and action sequences anymore. Isnt's a well executed kote gashi exciting enough anymore?
In any event, you proved once again to execute good judgement by not accepting to be featured on the "Extreme Martail Arts" .
P.S. I think the trend for the unrealistic, gravity defying, flashy fight sequences is the result of video game influence. The kids play the games and then expect to see similar feats in their movies. Otherwise the movie fight scenes don't seem exciting enough. Oh well, all the best to them.
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