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This isn't exactly Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure or Ferris Bueller's Day Off, just one of those funny memories of New York Aikikai. I mentioned Valerie and Kitsy as swordswomen in my previous entry, Valerie did kendo at the American Buddhist Academy on Riverside Drive, and Kitsy studied iaido somewhere downtown. Valerie liked the spirited competitiveness of kendo, she went to tournaments and was very insistent in demanding rights for women there.... sorry I don't remember the details.
Kitsy was about a decade older than we were and was raising her two youngest children in New York, I'm not sure where the older ones were. Same parents, the kids were just different age groups. She was spirited too, but almost shy in a way, in contrast to Valerie who was as I hinted before, very outspoken in matters of Women's Lib as it was called at the time.
By the way, Valerie took her large white cat Loki to the kendo tournaments because she wasn't sure of Paul giving Loki the insulin shots correctly. That was the first time I heard of diabetic cats and their treatment.
I miss Valerie too, and so does Kitsy. The last I heard Valerie was teaching courses in Medieval History at a college not far from New York City, but when I checked Google there was nothing recent and the email address didn't work. Another notable thing about Valerie is that she had her own column in Black Belt Magazine entitled Fighting Woman, which she later expanded to magazine format as Fighting Wo
Well, that was the best way to attract readers who might be interested in sword, women in martial arts, etc. And all three practiced Aikido.
Add one more, whom I admire greatly, even though I spoke with her only a few words to thank her after seminars at Ray Farinato's dojo here in Stamford. She is Lorraine DiAnne and is well known here on the East Coast. I hope she is my friend! The smile seemed to say so! Often among friends words can be few, but with the other three, there have been many words indeed. I think I will write more about Lorraine in a later blog entry, but for now, I will go back in time for those who enjoy "my memories, as they refer to them...."
The first is Cassandra, one of my senpais at New York Aikikai, starting in the late sixties. She had been an artist, maybe a sculptor before we met her, I and my other friends.... and after she stopped training many years later (pains in feet and hands, maybe arthritis, I hope she's okay now) she took up Japanese paper flower making. What a dedicated art form, the paper is a bit like crepe paper, but stronger, and miniature trees are also made by wrapping , well it is beautiful and I would say indescribable.
Of the many arts she studied, including Japanese classical dance, she practiced kendo, and also iaido at the American Buddhist Academy which also had judo, probably karate and maybe even naginata for a while, on Riverside Drive on the upper west side of Manhattan. In whatever we were discussing
If you are a teacher, going to camps and seminars is great, and visiting other dojos. I also found myself understanding Yamada Sensei. He used to watch a lot. When I became a teacher, though on a much lower level obviously, I ended up doing the same thing. How else are you going to know how the students are doing? So I smiled when I read something he wrote on USAF online news about learning by teaching.
However, I also have to give credit to somebody at Sea World among the species who sometimes or more or less get along with humans, though not to the same degree as dogs and horses. (It is said that cats train us, however...)
I saw Shamu at a time when maybe due to spongy mats at the Y, I had a bit of trouble keeping my balance during the leg stretches where you sort of plant one heel and bend the other knee. The Bakers were kind enough to take me to this popular tourist attraction which enables people to understand the power of nature and sometimes the playfulness of other species, who probably enjoy it not just for the food.
There was Shamu, I thought when I got back to the Y, as big as twenty Cadillacs and so graceful. Daian stop worrying about your weight just get into the pool. They had Aquathenics there, which even gray haired people participated in.
Well it worked and was great fun especially for Pisces who are reputed to love water anyway.
In class one day during the leg stretches I said, do like this, only don't fall over like me. Hey, whadd
I was out in the yard, then came inside. Somehow a thought came to me along with that.
Some people have a vision quest, some search for the meaning of life, some follow their bliss... All this can happen along the way but some of us follow our kite. This is just a metaphor because the only kite I ever flew was a small round horseshoe style with a picture of E.T. (for younger who may have missed the movie, or anyone from another country... ET is Extraterrestrial, in this case one who became friends with a little boy)
I was briefly working for a local kite company that made stunt kites, you know, the ones that do tricks in the air. But they had about 14 rainy weekends that spring and they let me and my friends go, that were doing assembly work in our own homes. But kites are fascinating and are part of both traditional and modern cultures, especially Snoopy cartoons. In that case, balloons, too if I remember correctly.
Same principle, if it gets away you try to follow it sometimes even if you could never catch the string at least you can still see it.
This is pretty profound so I'll let y'all see if it sparks some recognition in your own mind of something you have felt, something you have done...
Where shall I begin? This time of year many people's thoughts turn to Florida. Especially if you are living in the Northeast, although this year winter has been relatively mild. Sarasota, Saotome Sensei's original dojo, had training camp twice a year, once in the winter and once in the summer. Ed and Marion Baker were very hospitable to people going back north and I was fortunate to be one of them. I would have liked to have been able to take more of Baker Sensei's classes, but I had to get back home to my job and my little YMCA dojo. Beautiful Aikido but Ed was not without a huge sense of humor. I had a tiny magazine of maybe five to seven pages that sometimes included a cartoon so he sent one with a pencil self portrait with his typical smile and pointing to his foot which was stepping on uke's foot while he did, I think, nikyo. The caption was "THIS is the technique" Uke's eyes were as big as saucers comparatively and his hair was sticking out straight in all directions.
One time as I visited their Christmas tree was still up and one of the children was asleep under it. At training camp people are often short on sleep so I just couldn't stay awake any longer though the other people were no doubt talking about interesting things so I crawled under the tree in the space opposite little James or Kelly, who had a teddy bear. Marion noticed me there and put another teddy bear down, in my arms. They were one of the kindest families on this earth.
Happy New Year everyone who reads this (and everyone who doesn't.... the world needs happiness, something of a bit of Dalai Lama wisdom about kindness, maybe?)
Been busy with winter stuff. Unfortunately Catman, whom I adopted eight years ago (original name Goldie) passed to the great beyond at age sixteen. Of course I miss him a lot, but there's a lot of business and organizing to take care of.
Even when I don't post for a while, I read stuff there is such a great diversity here it is fascinating and sure makes getting old interesting, reading what young and old are doing and thinking. Thanks everyone.
Francis read my six teacher list on "profiles" months ago and said it was eclectic. And so from time to time I try to pass on some memories of their teaching and way of teaching. It occurs to me one of my "assistants" (most of the students who helped me teach others got called "assistant" at one time or another) came up with a phrase, which, if you will forgive the fake pidgin imitations some of us did in those years before "politically correct"..... made me feel validated in recommending any seminars we could get to. I had asked him if learning from different teachers was confusing. He gave a contented smile and said, "All go same stomach."
Very wise. And please bear in mind, any of us who were imitating certain accents were doing it with affection, not mockery. Cultural exchange can be beautiful, and not without humor. Personally, I feel that English, with spellings from so many languages that it comprises, can be very confusing anyway.
Well, that's a long intro. I was going to call this entry Odds and Ends, but that sounds a bit like "everything but the kitchen sink" So instead I gave a little insight into the wisdom of assistants. If you ask your assistants for feedback, hey, we learn something from them every time!
Scroll back a few decades in time to the late seventies. This same assistant after being told about Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba visiting New York Aikikai came along to watch. I might have taken the class, I'm sure it was very crowd
I think it was Peak Freans, a British cookie manufacturer (do they call cookies "biscuits" over there? I get these things mixed up).... who had a commercial in the US that they were a "very serious cookie"
This was many years ago, but some commercials come to mind at the oddest moments.
Right now, because although Aikido can be fun, and it can be taught using games, the games usually have a serious side, a serious purpose. Bond Street Dojo, which Terry Dobson and Ken Nisson founded, was a very serious dojo (and still is), but the games part is what I "stole" and used back in my own classes for both new students and those who had been there a while, some of whom had studied other martial arts. Not exactly "stole", they were meant to be learned, used, passed on to others.
In my first entry on "Games Terry Taught" I tried to describe turning in place while being pushed by ukes from four directions. There was another game that dealt with "when does the attack begin?"
The game was called "Stop" if it had a name at all. This game was fascinating. I think it began with tsuki or shomen uchi. It worked when I brought it back to our little YMCA dojo, too. It eliminated the forearm to forearm clashing, at least it seemed to to me. If you want to mention ki, it was as if two firehose powerful streams of water met at a slight angle and the water went whoosh! up in the air.
Because your own arm was going up from the low center line upwards in an arc while uke's arm
(Note to Carina and Francis, I'm still working on that tribute to Father Joe for the Aikido Academy website, thanks for your encouragement. But the eighties brought so many changes in my life and as I hinted before, Father Joe's influence may have been part of those changes, so that is why so many pages started and not finished.... hope you can wait...)
This is a huge topic. O Sensei. O Moto Kyo. Who was O Sensei, and what was his message? What were his training methods?
And another question, Whose O Sensei? Not really trying to ask rhetorical questions here, but it seems that so many of us have our own personal feelings about what O Sensei means to us.
Evidently he, and Aikido made some impression or we wouldn't have started training, or even for those who haven't trained yet, wouldn't be reading about it here.
I have known two Aikido artists personally, years ago, Harvey Konigsberg from New York Aikikai, whom I met again at Aikido of Fairfield County, Ray Farinato's dojo, several years ago, and John Hrabushi, whom I first met many years ago at New Haven Aikikai, when it was in East Haven.
So it was kind of interesting, checking out the Omoto website and finding out the great importance they accord to Art. Many who have read about Aikido know about the Founder's writings hoping for world peace, and harmony with the natural environment, but if you haven't checked out the Omoto website, I recommend it. I haven't in a while, but I intend to.
Well, that should let the people who wanted more about Terry Dobson know that here is at least a little something, maybe, about his teaching? Well, it is. Terry taught real Aikido, real techniqes, but he used some unusual methods to get concepts across. It's good to read "It's a lot like dancing" and "Giving in to Get Your Way" and the articles written about him that were mentioned in people's comments to my other blog entry several weeks ago called "The Ara Mitama of Terry Dobson"
It occurred to me I could have just said instead of Ara Mitama, that Terry was awesome, or "larger than life" but I don't often use those words anyway, and besides that might overshadow Terry's understated side. I didn't know Terry very well, but I was moved to realize that some of you really, really want to know more about him. This is extremely gratifying, because I was fortunate to have met him and taken a few of his classes, and am honored to be asked to share.
His teaching was not exactly unprecedented but he took it maybe a bit farther in some ways than Koichi Tohei Sensei, although Tohei did teach many people outside of Aikido and the Ki no Kenkyukai , often called Ki Society in English, has always strongly emphasized "Aikido in Daily Life" as the book was originally titled, and I think later renamed, "Ki in Daily Life." Terry may have renamed his own book Aikido in Daily Life, but I'm not sure.
I'm pretty sure Terry at least wanted to rename his book, and it may have been b