Preparing for Shodan

A couple of months ago Sensei Noha gave myself and two of my dojo mates the OK to test for Shodan (1st degree black belt) in the spring of 2012.  I am as scared as I am elated by this.  Scared because physically, my knees are not in great shape.  I have a hard time sitting seiza (the sitting position in traditional Japanese martial arts where you sit on your knees), and there are many techniques on the test that are executed while in a kneeling position.  I will, however do my best.  It’s all I can do.

Typically in a testing cycle we start working on our preparation by going down the list of techniques to be performed on the test and sharpening them up through out this period up until the test.  Maybe it’s too early but Sensei seems to be taking a different path in our preparation.  He usually works on themes for several classes based on O Sensei’s notions of fullness, presence, manifest, hidden and the divine, in an attempt to tap into these levels of consciousness, while also bringing these notions and states into a practical and fully embodied individual.  When we start our test preparation we work more on the techniques and less on the more esoteric aspects of the art.  However, he seems to be tightly integrating technique into this mode of instruction.  I’m grateful that he is doing this.

For me and many others, Aikido is not just the sum total of a series of techniques and movements to disable an attacker.  O Sensei talked about Aiki being the underlying force of the universe.  There are many names for this in different cultures,  Aiki (Harmonious Energy) is a much bigger notion and is not simply meant to be practiced on the mat or for the resolution of physical conflict.  So as sensei goes through and works with us in the preparation of test, I keep these notions in mind.  I have many avenues to work on conditioning, sharpening of technique, repetition of movement, but Sensei provides a very unique aspect in my training and will thoroughly enjoy and inhabit the teachings provided through the time where we test.

I started martial arts when I was 11.  My friend from down the street, Sherman Wong, would have a few kids over and we would spar in his yard.  I think sparring was an excuse to beat up on the younger kid (me).  Somehow he and his friends had gotten involved in Danzan Ryu Ju Jitsu and started bringing me.  My first teacher was Professor James Musselman who was ranked Godan at the time (1973).  I learned how to roll and fall very well under “Prof” and he gave excellent instruction in the biomechanics of movement so that even as a young kid I could understand it.  I stayed in for 4 or 5 years, but my teen years were filled with a lot of turmoil, so I quit and did not continue on in any kind of martial arts training till the late 80s where I found Aikido.  Even in my Aikido training, there are huge gaps.  However a few years ago I finally made the choice to make Aikido a consistant part of my life and have been thankfully under the tutelage of my current teacher, Bob Noha Sensei.

I am inspired by many in my life,  Leah, the beautiful woman in my life, who inspires me with her wisdom and creativity on a daily basis; my son, who has already done and accomplished so much in the short 15 years he’s been here, all of my teachers, from Prof Musselman, through my first Aikido teacher, Cress Forrester, Steve Gengo, who taught me so much about movement in Aikido to my current teacher, Bob Noha.  My appreciation for all of these people that have helped me along the way is truly heart felt.

We advance in our training at the pace that we do.  Our paths take us on journeys with a very straight path or a wide and varied path.  For me my path has been pretty wide and varied.  I’m excited to finally be able to test but I am also happy and grateful that my journey has allowed me to view many things and not only allow Aikido to permeate the things off the mat but allow the things off the mat to permeate my Aikido.

I’m not perfect and there are many things Aikido helps me with.  Sometimes I fail myself but I feel that Aikido has helped me pick myself up.  A doka O Sensei used to say is “everyday is new, and so we are new everyday.”  So with this I prepare.


My Son

As I start to write this, my son is with the Rancho Cotate Cougers Varsity Football team to play his last game of the regular season.  This was his sophomore year and he moved straight from his freshman team to the Varsity squad.

He is 15 years old and a hulking 5 foot 10 inch 230 pound mass of strength and grace.  He’s seen quite a few accomplishments in his own life already, a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, 8th grade class president, MVP on the Frosh Soft football squad, an accomplished shot put and discus player.

He’s had some challenges regarding his academics but has now been showing the discipline and rigor that I never had in school.  He is a good friend because of his kind and considerate heart, and is a polite and respectful young man.  He is a constant source of inspiration for me.  I am happy to see both his maturity and personality grow into the wonderful man that I know that he will be.

The thing I love most about my son is that he has confidence in who he is, not because off the achievements he’s accomplished or the things that he’s acquired but because of that passion, that fire in the belly that is such a fleeting thing for so many men, both young and old.   He is happy, humble and nice.

I remember talking to his mom when she was pregnant with him.  I told her that beyond any accomplishment, I want him to grow up to be a nice man.  I didn’t care if he was coordinated, good at sports, or had a face only we could love.  I wanted him to be a nice man.  Nice seems to be an overlooked or misused word.  Nice does not mean a push over, it does not mean that you allow someone to trample all over you.  It means that you are kind, considerate, speak genuinely from the heart, and are not afraid to dream big and chase them readily.  And my son grew up to be nice… He also has so much richness in his life.

So, with that….

Dear Steven,

I direct this final few sentences to you, Steven.  Life is short.  Things will come and go. Your high school, football, college, career… they will all start and end.  Know that you make me proud each and every day, simply through the accomplishments that you achieve when you hold the door for someone at a store, when you offer to help me around the house, when you show kindness and consideration on a daily basis to everyone that you come in contact with.  You, son, inspire me to be the man that I am.  The honor and privilege of being your father has taught me things about myself that I never knew I had inside.

Steven, there is no real reason that I’m writing this.  This is not a milestone event, although I am very happy for you in this season and the great job you’ve done on the field and as a good team mate to your squad.  There doesn’t have to be a reason though.  You are on my mind and I feel overwhelmed by the love I have for you.  You will accomplish great things in your life and I will look forward to seeing them come to fruition.

As you grow up and come into your adulthood, my hope for you will be that you will know what things are important to you.  Your friends, your integrity, your family, and perhaps your sons or daughters will be the things that will be most important to you.  Good things will always come your way.  I know this because you know how to identify them.

You will not read this till after you’ve come home.  I want you to win tonight, but I know that however the outcome, you will be okay with it and know that you’ve done your best.  I will be there.  I’m not too loud at the games, I don’t hollar and hoot, but my heart sings for joy for the fact that you are out there with your other 10 team mates and you are doing what you love to do so much.

I love you,


1000 Sword Cut challenge

Who’s in?  Including today we have 52 days left in the year. In 2010 I did 1000 cuts exactly one time and I’d like to do that again at least once this year.  Simply do the following: Pick up your sword, staff, nun chuks, escrima sticks, naginata, or broadsword and swing it a 1000 times.  Then come back and comment here on the date you completed, OR, just comment back here and say “got 329 cuts today” and work up from there.  Maybe some of you will scoff at this.  Maybe you are already doing this.  I’m not, but it would be fun to have a virtual group effort.

Cmon all, this’ll be fun.  BTW, I got a little over 400 in this AM.

Do you support this?

My friend on google+ posted this question and a link to this article:

Michelle Malkin » More ugly Occupy Oakland pictures that won’t make MSM front pages

and asked the question today, “Do you support this?”

I do not feel qualified to speak regarding the validity of this movement or lack thereof.  However, I do have feelings about it and I shared this with him below.  I think for a lot of us, we it’s what we have, our feelings about how the government, business and the protesters act and react so, perhaps sophomoric, perhaps not, but I’m sharing mine as I shared with my friend on google plus.  Here was my response:

Some of this, no… not at all, some of it I’m not so sure. Honestly, I’ve not paid enough attention to what the OWS movement is really looking for other than the obvious, “to vent frustration about the corporate owned government”. I’ve talked with friends that are more in tune with the movement and they say that it’s getting people talking and focused on what’s really important, jobs.

I understand that people are frustrated on a massive level. I am too and worry that the company I work for will have reductions, and all the things that big companies do. I even understand the mentality of protest and think that it is in fact a good and healthy thing. However, people breaking windows and vandalizing banks… i don’t get that at all. The typical branch of a bank has tellers, managers, accountants, etc working in it, ie the middle class. So it’s damaging to the very people that the protesters are trying to advocate for.

However, these pictures show only one part of the story. There are other parts in the many graphs and info graphics that demonstrate that wealth is in fact being more and more stratified and there is more and more of an erosion of the middle class. I remember that you shared an image of a “1%er” that talked about how s/he was graduating school debt free, lived within her means, etc. That’s great for her but there are many others that got to the situation that they were in not because they squandered money on frivolous things, but because, even though they worked hard, the horrific x factor of sickness robbed them of their savings, or they lost their job. I think that there are MANY other less dramatic cases of good hard working people that have lost their job through reductions in work force, or whatever circumstance that have mortgages, etc, that have lost a lot.

My ex wife found a great job in 2007 with a mortgage company. She was happy and they were a good company that treated her well. The company as you can well imagine went under though and she lost her job. I left her the house when we split and she lost it. It was rough for her for a few years and we both lost and whatever equity was in the house.

Before the housing crisis, it was the banks that attracted businesses by misleading the masses into thinking that it was ok for a person to make 40,000 to afford a 400,000 home. Was some of this irresponsibility on consumers? Yes, but it didn’t happen in a vacuum. Banks do not exist for the benevolence and good will towards people and neither do corporations. They exist for one thing, profit.

So, yes, the short of it is, I can’t understand why people need to create violence on their own turf, and I do agree that vandalism is violence, but I can understand that people are fucking pissed off. I can understand that there is MORE of a stratification of classes rather than less. I can also understand that it’s going to take a lot to get our country rolling again. I don’t have the answers. I don’t think the protesters have or pertain to have the answers. I don’t support the vandalism. I also don’t support the excessive forces of the police.

I don’t have an answer either… Just thoughts.

So, i’m wondering