Are You Hitting Or Are You Loving; or is there difference? And what is the way of harmony anyway?

Comment from a previous post about the nature of an atemi (strike to the attacker)

"Yeah, it is hard to reconcile. Do you think that it's a matter of reconciling the young Ueshiba with the old?"

My thinking today is that it is probably more complicated than that.

O'Sensei's “enlightenment” happened in 1925 and early enough to be considered "young Ueshiba". Where he says essentially that there was no enemy and that “budo” was actually Love, which to our sensibility is obviously paradoxical. How can you seek to harm someone and yet love them at the same time.

Part of it may be that he was starting from a “Martial” standpoint and today (at least on an individual level) we start from a a non-combative viewpoint. So an atemi or strike for him did not automatically have the connotation that it does from us. Think about it...there once once a time when arguments, insults and debates were sometimes settled with violence much like a European duel. So merely hitting someone in the face was nothing compared to cutting their neck...well, maybe.

Then again maybe we have traded in the dueling pistol for a legal action, but no matter, we "usually" don't hit, strike or shoot people over some disagreement.

For me the thing is Morihei Ueshiba said many things and we have to consider not only what he said but where WE come from as to what we think is most important. So that what we say O'Sensei says, shows more about where we are coming from than what he was actually trying to teach.

For some the key point is that the Founder ALWAYS thought of Aikido as a MARTIAL Art. For me the Founder saw Aikido as a way of reconciliation and Love.

From my perspective I see O'Sensei as acknowledging we live in a world with pain and anger that erupts in violence and the answer is Aikido. For some it is a hard hitting strike to the face and a firm put down. For me it is an embrace of the attack and a circular, safe but firm landing for the attacker.

Well...that is my goal.

Oh yes. Happy New Year to All!!


What Is Aikido?

O'Sensei and Terry Dobson
True Budo is a work of love. It is a work of giving life to all beings and not killing or struggling with each other. Love is the guardian deity of everything. Nothing can exist with it. Aikido is the realization of love.
- Morihei Ueshiba O'sensei

Tonight Lawrence taught class. We have not seen much of him lately. He took a year off to study Hapkido and currently teaches the kids class. If you don't know, Hapkido has a lot of Aikido techniques but had a whole bunch of kicks and strikes as part of the repertoire. Lawrence is mild mannered and give off a soft vibe. But he is very keen on the effectiveness of any technique and how it would work in “the street”. For him the purpose of Aikido is how it will protect you and in a real fight and you strike at the attacker, and if the strike can't do it you use it as an atemi to distract the bad guy and then "clean his clock".

That is one aspect. Some people emphasize the martial aspect of Aikido and to that end are fond of point out that somewhere O'sensei said something like 80, 90 or 95% of Aikido is the atemi (strike to the attacker) which in a kinder view is merely used to to distract the attacker.

For all the explanations about how O'sensei and Aikido is really about subduing attackers and breaking some bones if necessary there are many more quotes like this from the founder...”you are responsible for protecting your attacker, for not hurting him”.

So, how does that view Jibe with the quote above?

Is Aikido Love?

or is it putting the bad guys in the hospital?

Or all of thee above

It doesn't Jibe. So another paradox, or contradiction or subtle ruse, or out right deception.

My Terry Dobson books came in so I may be more confused than ever.


Terry Dobson Again

Here is Ram Dass recounting the often retold story from Terry Dobson about an experience on a Tokyo train in the middle of his intense Aikido training with the very founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba.

It is a strange story and it makes you wonder. If you have no experience with Aikido you might not see how marvelous it is to experience its wonder. When you acting as the attacker feel utterly mystified as to how you ended on the floor or how you lost your balance and fell under the control of the “victim”.

SO, you know it can be amazing BUT you also know there is the question whether in “real life” it would actually work. Work for you personally or even work for somebody else in theory.

AND the story itself sounds almost too pure to be true. It smacks of the maudlin and sentimental, but is that because of a weakness in the story or a weakness in me?

While researching this post (i.e. Goggling) I found this amazing, and I mean amazing post...


Her notes from his last seminar where he collapsed and entered a coma shortly after. Again it almost sounds too "good" to be true. But if it is, it is pretty amazing. Then again must a story not being "true" be any less powerful?

Meet death with integrity.
Don't flinch.
Don't turn away.
Step slightly off line.
Use his imbalance.
Keep goddamn stupid ego out of it.
Be there.
Achieve stillness.

The story you find on the net is here http://www.heartinspired.com/TerryDobson.pdf

Christmas message:
Keep goddamn stupid ego out of it.
Be there.
Achieve stillness.


An Obese White Gentleman in No Apparent Distress

I recently read Aikido in America which is really just an OK book about the people who brought Aikdio to America. Really just Americans who brought Aikido to American because there was no mention of Japanese who left Japan to bring Aikido to America.

Anyway, the first person profiled is Terry Dobson, and he turns up later in this book's story. He was probably the first serious American student of O'Sensei, and studied the founder closely for the last 8 years of O'Sensei's life. He may have been kind of a Jerk, but from what I can tell he comes across as a fascinating charismatic jerk. Basically somebody you wish you knew and had hung around with (he died in 1992). And his partner wrote a novel/biography about him.

I think I have may have been sold on him because I feel connected to the title of the book above (I am still waiting for delivery). But I have ordered 2 other books by or about him from amazon and I hope they are as good as I imagine.

Here is an excerpt from one of them...

O' Sensei used to make these shapes as he was demonstrating circle. Square. Triangle. I never understood what the meant by them. I was burning to know the meaning of these symbols. It was an unspoken rule that you didn't ask him questions. I thought about it for four, five even six years.
One day, everybody in the dojo got into spring cleaning. We were really going at it, tearing the place apart. It was a gorgeous day, and I found myself alone with O'Sensei on the veranda. We had just finished a job and it was obviously time for a break, so we sat down together.

I thought, what the hell, one question in six years ain't so bad. I asked him, “Sensei, I notice when you teach your frequently mention circle, square and triangle. I've thought about it for a while and I don't understand the meaning of these symbols. I wonder if you could help me solve this problem. Please explain.” He looked at me for a long time. He looked down, he looked up, and he looked around. And I'm waiting, right?

He said, “Terrusan, you know you should go find out for yourself” Then he got up and walked away. And I thought, “That's a piss-off, you know? All you have to do is say a couple of words, you don't have to be so Zen over the place”

For some reason I can't explain, that story makes me love O' Sensei AND Terry Dobson.


Sometimes You Just Want To Be Quiet For A While

Long time no post.

Sometimes You Just Want To Be Quiet For A While


My Secret Is Exposed!!

Yes, my secret is out...I cannot dance.

That is what happened tonight. Shawn was desperately trying to show me how to simply shift my hips to throw him in a “Shomen Uchi Koshi Nage” and I just could not make my body perform this subtle shift. I could mange most of the technique but the final bit of finesse escaped me. And Shawn, who recently started dance lessons asked “You don't know how to dance, do you?” And it is true...So my secret is revealed.

Above is what I cannot do, and part of what Shawn recognized whey he asked me to shift my hips, and below is what I tried to do tonight.

Good Ol' Koshi Nage...

A Cat That Makes Me Mad!!

"Rocket!!" He jumps in at me and lands in my glass of red wine and it spills all over our couch.

OK, it is really old and has many previous stains, but still...cats can be a pain!!

And this is the wine that I succumbed to and broke my weekday non wine practice.

I still need to consider if I like it. I drank it all when I should have had none.



Here is a motorcycle I saw last month on my trip to Houston.

Wines I Like

It may be crude for sophisticated drinkers but for me it tastes good and doesn't suck. So it gets my rating of "Wines I like".

Plus it is from Sicily!!


What An Odd Thing It Is We Do

(forgive me but I broke my week long wine fast tonight so the post may have some grammatical and structural difficultiess)

Another Friday night randori and it makes me think about the specialized group we are. We have the occasional person under and just over 20 and probably most in 30s and 40s range and me in the 50s. I guess I am saying that, in general we are "seasoned" as opposed to being fresh.

Anyway I'm sure some dojos are kick ass, hardcore and mad about Aikido, But, while people come and go it seems there are a number of us that have other obligations, yet somehow we manage to hang on to the path. Maybe we are not as powerful and diligent in our practice as some of the more "martial" dojos...but we do what we can. Sooooo...again tonight we we had a bit of Randori where we attack not with the purpose of wining an attack but of attacking so we all learn.

Anyway, I have recorded both last week and this week (they will NOT be on You Tube) but it is instructive to watch, in that you see each of us trying to present an attack to give the nage (the one being attacked) the chance to respond appropriately. And it is not always obvious who is the best, of course one of our two newest black belts was it really good form. BUT, my point is where else can you experience such a situation where people are coming at you and you have to react. But you have to react using both your brain AND your body. It requires a whole different set of sensibilities and skills. Maybe we will never need to use these skills but it then again, maybe we are not only “thinking” out of the “box” but “act-ing” out of the box.

FYI, I had a bottle of one of my previously mentioned favorite wines, for under $9 I must say.


Freestyle Friday Night

Randori (乱取り) is a term used in Japanese martial arts to describe free-style practice or sparring, sometimes with multiple attackers. The term literally means "chaos taking" or "grasping freedom," implying a freedom from the structured practice of kata.

With the lure of Randori I declined some previous obligations and went to class on Friday. We worked on a few definite attacks and the in the last 10 minutes or so Sensei asked if we wanted to a bit of randori. Of course we did, even though we are mostly beginners in the sense that real Aikido doesn't start until AFTER you get your black belt.

Anyway everybody did some of it with the restrictions of only grabbing the shoulders, strike to the head and punch to the stomach as the attacks. I was OK I guess but really my only redeeming point was that I usually managed to get off-line of the attack but unfortunately I had trouble actually applying the techniques. MAYBE I was slightly better at my good point than some others, but most everybody else besides me managed to deliver on performing on actual techniques better than me, regardless of rank.
I brought my Sony “bloggie” and recorded most of the last 30 minutes of class (the max time the camera will record) and caught all of us.

I am sad that when “push comes to shove” I have a real problem with doing any cool Aikido, but maybe I have learned a little bit about not meeting force with force, maybe.

The above is NOT what we I did tonight but is does show Steven Seagal in his younger, slimmer Aikido days. I am not a huge fan of Seagal, and this video is a bit melodramatic...but I still kinda wanta root for the guy.


Wines I Like

New topic, pictures of wines I like.


Trip To Houston

Here are some pictures from my motorcycle trip to and around Houston this past weekend. I had a wonderfully pleasant ride with the Skeptical Walrus on Sunday which is heavily representing. Plus a trip downtown to an art fair.


A Morning at White Rock Coffee

Still a little sick and with an aching toe I spent this morning at the coffee shop catching up on my Internet reading. Over at The Skeptical Walrus he commented on an essay from Big Questions Online which is subtitled “How does religious ritual preserve humanity from chaos and entropy?” The author’s position is that ritual (e.g. religious liturgy) allows us to create a holy space in order to “oppose the onrush of chaos in the name of life”.

Interesting article but from my perspective and my own low cost searching it seems he is mixing terms and metaphors to make his point.

Applying “Laws” of Physics seems a questionable starting point for an explanation of religious ritual. Even the word chaos is loaded. We generally use Chaos as opposed to Order, but usually that is a man made order, so almost by definition anything that doesn't line up with our human expectations is Chaos.

Using Physics is such a way is akin to finding a mathematical proof that Normal Rockwell is better than Rembrandt or vice versa.

Then there no distinction of which ritual, is all ritual good, are all religions the same?

One of my tales I have in my mental library is from a Psychology Today article I read in the early 1980s where the writer claimed that for some people, by joining some Church of Satan they actually turned their lives around and became what we would call “productive citizens” because it brought structure and meaning to their troubled lives. I think that article implied their religion was just a social structure that brought order to their chaotic lives. And I think you could also bend this guy's argument to the same end, in that people find order where there was was dis-order. But that does not necessarily mean anything beyond a superficial psychological band aid.

“Human beings must strive to be more than animals, better than animals — must strive not just to be but to be good, just, kind, holy. ” The unstated assumptions in that line overwhelm me, what kind of striving, what does he mean by better, just, kind and holy?

As an aside this line made me chuckle “Anglicans and Lutherans (and some other Protestants) celebrate the Eucharist also.” I guess he felt he had to cover his bases in case some liturgy loving protestant read his essay.

“Ritual that creates sanctity and separation teaches the Second Law implicitly. ”

From my exposure to ritual it actually the reverse, ritual when deeply felt creates unity and a sacredness that goes beyond the actual sacrament. I'll propose that ritual is like poetry. There can be beautiful and horrible poetry and sometimes you find it hard to figure out why one is “true” and another not. But when a poem works it speaks to something deep in you, and the same with ritual. Ritual when poetic and “true” (for lack of a better word) actually enables you to let go of your “self”, free and connected with the ritual and the people around you. The you and beyond don't seem to be a problem

And to end with “But the rituals we perform teach more than the Second Law: they teach us to defy the Second Law. ”

Shall we line up more “Laws” and try and defy Gravity

And after all that I offer the Tea Ceremony at the top as a ritual that just is. Why ruin it with thoughts of thermodynamics and all my middle school metaphysics.


Sick From Head to Toe!

Well... my cure for the common cold (see previous post) failed me horribly. Because I got a horrible head cold, (un raffreddore for all my Italian readers), plus I really hurt my toe on Monday night's class. The last time I did this was maybe 2 years ago and I went to the doctor and he told me I had sprained my toe. This time I skipped the doctor and just let it get black and blue (see above-it looks way better than it did Tuesday night).

Anyway Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were pretty horrible. But that is me just whining. However I will probably give my toe a break tomorrow and skip class even though I was coughing up a lung on Wednesday and missed that class.

What can I say...I am a wimp, after all who but a wimp would post a picture of their wounded toe?

By the way I think that is my second post of my toe, wow what a wimp!!


Summer Cold Treatment

Just a quick note that at practice we ended with the ever popular but dreaded (by newer students) koshi nage, this time from morote tori (two hands grabing two hands)

Always a good way to end a class.

I felt a summer cold coming on all day so I wanted to sweat it out and then after class I broke my diet for my other patented cold treatment of 2 to 3 Guinness stout beers and an alka-seltzer cold plus and then off to bed.


A Crash Course in Falling

It was a small class tonight and for a few minutes I thought it would be just Sean and me, but two more came so it was fine. A pretty good workout and I was tired by the end which is all the more fulfilling.

We focused mainly on ukemi tonight and the first technique laid the ground work for some really cool falls from irimi nage (entering throw).

The top video looks a lot lot like what we practiced although we are all pretty green we at least got in the vicinity of what the video shows

Sometimes we even got close to the fall demonstrated in the Christian Tissier video below although we never did really roll over nage's leg

And finally, one of my favorite Aikdio Youtube clips, which also just happens to be of Christian Tissier.

The thing is, if you don't know what is going on you might think it is all just some sort of choreographed routine. Especially the first half of the attacker's respnse to the irimi where they fly around nage, go to one knee and come back up again.

BUT once you have been the Uke to somebody who REALLY knows how to do irimi nage it is so powerful that if you didn't relax and go down you would lose all control and simply crash to the floor. Sidney has blessed me a few times with the power of the irimi force, and it is something to experience. I sometimes think on some techniques like that we should have a class where we all just line up feel the power of the throw.


Rivers Of Thought or Why Did Heraclitus Cross the River?

Rough Draft 1: My friend at design matters blogged about how "generations" have different experiences depending on the technology they grew up with, and it got me thinking how those coming of age today experience the world differently than I or my parents did.

We, humanity, exist in a world where it is true that "there is nothing new under the sun" and "you never step into the same river twice". Maybe it all boils down to "the more things change, the more they stay the same". But from a design standpoint (and anthropological standpoint I guess) it is interesting consider what things are REALLY different whether it is objects or ideas and even world views.

Are we all really the same, or are there truly fundamental differences, now and in past times. One advantage of thinking we have always basically been the same it that it means we don't have to think. Are the actions of others bad because we know they are bad, or are they just different and with out a moral value? Thinking can be ( but is not necessarily) a difficult thing.

Long ago I read a few books by the cultural anthropologist Edward T Hall, if I remember it correctly (no guarantees), one of his points is that we like to think people are basically the same, but his study of different cultures found that we are all really different and saying it isn't so just papers over any problems we might come across. Can the same thing be said for our society that has grown out of our own technology?

I guess my take at this point is we may think in fundamentally different ways now than in other times and certain world ideas really do change the course of history. This is mirrored in my earlier post about the sacred circle and Cahill's book about the ancient Hebrews. But then again if you were a jerk in Ancient Rome you would probably be a jerk today. Hmmmm... can I expand on that?


apropos of nothing
1. Without reference to anything.

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.. . .
I cannot repeat how there I entered,
So full was I of slumber at the moment
In which I had abandoned the true way.

-Dante's Inferno, Canto I

"For the straightforward pathway had been lost.. . ."
Dante, you crafty ingenious old fool, how could you know me so well?


Break Fast in Honor of a Break Fall, or a Leap of Faith Takes the Cake

My lame attempt at a “diet” is to not drink beer or wine from Monday through Thursday. Admittedly I was weighing the option of breaking this very simple “fast” earlier today after on small glass of red wine offered by our Italian teacher during the very informal Italian class at noon.

BUT, tonight at Aikido we practiced techniques requiring break falls and finished with a Koshi-nage (hip throw). So...all in all it was a glorious class where you were challenged and somehow managed to get through it.

It is a strange thing to simultaneously enjoy something so much yet be so bad at it. I've hit this topic before and it may be just because I am really a klutz and may possibly be the worst possible martial arts practitioner ever. I again felt like the more I practiced my breakfalls the worse I became, BUT, it was great. When we finished with a Koshi-nage from a wrist grab it was like breath of fresh air.

Tonight Mark was teaching and he mentioned doing a breakfall from a shiho-nage technique but said it was pretty tough and that was why we switched to koshi nage. After the demonstration I asked about it and he inocently asked if I wanted to do it and I also innocently said yes. ...I am fine now but with that throw you have to really commit to the leap, a physical and painful leap of faith,

You have to really throw yourself over or your wrist will break, but you can't get your head as low as you want for a normal breakfall and consequently the whole thing is potentially dangerous but usually not, as long as uke and nage are careful.

ANYWAY, for a minute of so it hurt like heck because I am a lumbering ox and getting an ox to suddenly flip it's legs over its head requires serious motivation, also known as “Pain”. But again, I took the fall and was glad I did.

From such a workout you feel great and given my intolerance for the intolerance of a diet, I celebrated with some wine and ate some mozzarella and tomatoes. That too was great.

And to top it off I came home and stayed up late watching too many episodes of The Wire. All in all a great evening of my own brand of paradoxical moderate excess.

The video shows a breakfall from shionage but on my try Nage (the thrower) did not go down to his knees, so I was a bit higher up.


Trying to Square a Circle

Everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the power of the world always works in circles and everything tries to be round. In the old days when we were a strong and happy people all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation....Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood and so it is in everything where power moves.

the quote opens to book The Gift of the Jews by Thomas Cahill, and while I only read a bit of the book I'm am pretty sure he us using that quote to show us a world view that was once ubiquitous and accepted but now, thanks to the Hebrew tradition is a view of straight lines.

I think it is true that “western culture” teaches us to view things linearly. In school you work and study so you can graduate. You get training to get a job. Thousands of self help books have in their basis goals and plans and while they may not say there is a start and then an end, the say (I think) basically that once one goal is reached you have to set another. Which is really just another straight line

I'm sure there is much more to it, but this is how I see that the notion relates to Aikido...we are products of our culture and by default want to have things move in a straight line. But in Aikido conflicts and force is greeted and redirected by often going in circles.

I think my thesis is that we are programmed to think linearly and that is why changing to a circular response is so difficult, even if it is actually takes less force.

I'll ponder this some more and maybe re-write it and re-post later.


GOODREADS = Good Times?

"how it works, Goodreads is a free website for book lovers. Imagine it as a large library that you can wander through and see everyone's bookshelves, their reviews, and their ratings. You can also post your own reviews and catalog what you have read, are currently reading, and plan to read in the future. "

So far I listed the one book I am reading. I hope to post some past favorites and keep track of what I have read.


Sun Faced Buddha, Moon Faced Buddha

The Main Case
The great master Ma was unwell. The temple superintendent asked him, “Teacher, how has your venerable health been in recent days?” The great master said, “Sun-face buddha, moon-face buddha.”

First off, usually a commentary or teisho from a Zen Master follows a koan like this, that is supposed to provide insight. This is not That!

"The Sun-faced Buddha is supposed to live for one thousand eight hundred years. And the Moon-faced Buddha lives only one day and one night."

I've been listening to 10 to 15 year old tapes from my Zen teacher from the days when I was into that sort of thing and this is what I take from it.

A one day Buddha is just as complete as a 1,000 year Buddha. Not the same, just that both are as completely fulfulled. We are all destined to die, and dwelling on it has no relevance to the fullness or completeness of a life.

It is also a given that we are ALL already enlightened, or already Buddhas, but we just don't know it. So all of reality and experience is already here, already in us. Well or ill, sinful or virtuous, strong or weak, we are all already complete.

With each step each of us is complete, with each breath we are complete. "Striving" neither adds nor subtracts...we are all already complete.

Somehow that led me to think of the idea of non-attachment which you hear bandied about in buddhism/Zen books. An only now does it strike me that they were not talking about "non-attachment" as opposed to "attachment" to things or thoughts, but the the very idea of attachment. In one sense you work at not being attached to things and in another there are no things to be attached to.

What does it all mean?

I don't know.



A new thought of more fluid blog posts.

I get an idea of a post..post the first thought, the second thought and hope to come to a final post..

That way I post more and it confuses anybody who happens to read it. A win – win!!


Harpo Speaks!

I missed Aikido Class on Monday and may miss it tomorrow because of family obligations. So in lieu of something of substance....here is my crazy cat Harpo
for those of you not versed in Marx Brother's lore, Harpo Speaks! is the name of Harpo Marx's autobiography


Don't do the technique!
Don't do the technique!

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
a red wheel

glazed with rain
beside the white

William Carlos Williams
Tonight's Aikido had a clear message. Unfortunately the receiver (me) was not so great.

How can so much be so obvious and simultaneously unclear?

The focal point for me came early when Sensei was trying to get us to respond to a failed defense by letting go of our original intention and falling but at the last “split of second” turning the “letting go” into advantage Nage.

For those interested, it was a shomenuchi strike to the head where you tried to used ikkyo (first technique) but uke (the attacker) regained control and stood up driving Nage (the victim) up and starts to continue the arc and drive nage down to the qround. At which point Nage "goes with it" but twists around and guides all this energy in motion to a different direction.

After class I asked for the name of what we did, and that may have been the clue to my mistaken question. There was not a clear cut name, or if there was it was simply a collection of Japanese phrases to describe it. I was wanting to clarify, classify, codify...and Sensei was wanting us to “feel” what was happening.

It refers a bit to my last post. I was looking for instruction on what I needed to do to recreate what we did, but sensei was trying to get us to “relax” and feel the moment (my interpretation not his). I was looking for ways to control the situation and Sensei was trying to teach us that control was the wrong approach. I guess your could say nage ( the “victim”) in the end “won” but winning was not the lesson.

Intellectually I can spot the inspiration or essence of he message. It happened when sensei, who is always calm, slightly raised his voice addressing each group and said

Don't do the technique!
Don't do the technique!

The point being we were all focusing was the mechanics of what we just observed but the demonstration was about letting the technique do itself.

How to get to that point was a whole 'nother thing.

I don't know why I thought of the William Carlos Williams poem except that I've always liked it because in most ways it makes no sense, but somehow it seems relevant to almost every part of life. And in this blog post it emotionally applies...but I just can't explain why.

Or maybe...so much depends on things that you can't control...or not.

Then again it may be the photo explains the whole post. After class I ate some food and drank a bottle of wine from a beer glass and and magically my world and experiences seemed like poetry.


Aikido; It's Not About You!

Last Night we were working on an exercise with a Yokoman (side strike to the head). And as the swing came in you were supposed to not step back but step to the side along the direction of the strike but somehow shift back at the right time to avoid the actual head strike, and THEN be in position to apply any number of techniques. ...Or something like that.

ANYWAY, after class I was talking with Sensei and telling him something to the effect that I could not do all those things whenever just a practice slow strike is come to my head. Immediately he said..

“It's not about you, it's about him (uke).”

He went on to elaborate that in Aikido it is about seeing and feeling what the motion is and getting in sync with that and only then apply some technique. You see the invisible line of an attack and you match the speed and direction. Otherwise it is a conflict that ends in violent confrontation.

But the phrase “It's not about you!” is what stuck in my head. There is a famous story about the founder of Aikido, who after and intense workout had an overpowering revelation that in a battle there was no opponent

I found this quote

Opponents confront us continually, but actually there is no opponent there.

And this reminded of way back when I heard a Zen talk and the teacher kept emphasizing that while we all have different lives, experiences, likes, dislikes, etc...Actually we are all connected, so connected that even though there are all these differences we are all one, and one not just with each other but with birds, dogs, chairs,rocks, all of it.Although I sometimes got a sense of that I never broke through to really experience what he was talking about.

BUT, it does seem to apply to Aikido, in that it is NOT about me learning and applying some technique and being a martial arts bad-ass. It is really about giving up yourself and being part of whatever the event that is happening and simply doing the most natural thing. You have to let go of your ego and not be locked seeing things from your perspective, and maybe not even from the attacker. Simply see the lines and direction of the moment and respond naturally.


When was the last time you were choked?


Today for part of the class we maybe turned Aikido on it's conventional head. One would strike to the head and the other would get out of the line of attack and then from behind grab across the throat and choke the attacker. (FYI Aikido means the Way of Harmony)

So....one time Sensei comes to show what we were doing wrong and he demonstrated on me. And I know he was only showing but even with that, when he gave a tug across my throat I felt/heard a pop. Anyway, I still feel my neck.

As an aside, on Wednesday Sensei was demonstrating Ikkyo ( #1 technique) , which by the way we worked on the entire class, and he again was using me to show something. I made a strike to Senseis head and the next thing I knew I was on the ground. I know what happened but I just didn't feel it. I didn't feel him redirect my strike, didn't feel him grab my arm, I didn't feel anything.

My point today is what a strange but special thing it is to practice Aikido. When was the last time somebody actually choked you and you REALLY felt it? And I remember reading about people being ukes for O'Sensei (the founder of Aikido) and commenting that they were shocked that they could not feel the technique he used.

These things are special.


Windows 7 Live Writer


I installed Windows 7 Yesterday and there is an app in the Windows Live suite that connects to your blog.

Good Ol’ Pablo


A New New Beginning

Another Blog Anniversary

I started in June of 2007, and three years later it is still here if a little more condensed and infrequent.

I thought of offering up my latests hair-brained scheme of a one year plan to learn Italian and a my strategy of contained gluttony. But the motivation cycle is in a downturn so I'll not mention either of those.

I had a blog post in mind from Aikido class last night, but the power seemed to short out of that grid.

Instead all I have now is an attraction to depressing quotes...

“Religious fundamentalists see themselves as having remedies for the maladies of the modern world. In reality they are symptoms of the disease they pretend to cure. They hope to recover the unreflective faith of traditional cultures, but this is a peculiarly modern fantasy. We cannot believe as we please; our beliefs are traces left by our unchosen lives. A view of the world is not something that can be conjured up as and when we please.”

“Darwinian theory tells us that an interest in truth is not needed for survival or reproduction. More often it is a disadvantage.”

“Science has been used to support the conceit that humans are unlike all other animals in their ability to understand th world. In fact, its supreme value maybe in showing that the world humans are programmed to perceive is a chimera.”

from Straw Dogs by John Gray (not the men are from mars John Gray)


Is the Examined Life the Same One You Lived?

Daniel Kahneman: The riddle of experience vs. memory
I wanted to bookmark this so I don't forget where I saw it. The short version is that you would think that upon reflection (like if you "take stock" of your life) the overall feeling would be a culmination of what you experience moment to moment.

But it turns out that the two things are only slightly connected and in fact the reflective self rewrites what you actually experienced (or so the studies say). Which almost sounds like one of those wacky physics riddles where the observation changes the event merely by looking at it. I wonder what Socrates would say?


Is Three Months Enough?

Nice looking girls with this online course!
I see this guy's website. And even though it feels a bit too much like upbeat self help, it still makes me think. I always thought of “Fluent” as being basically as good as a native speaker, but he seems to fudge that somewhat.

And I Google some more and found this guy http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/01/20/learning-language/
Italian in Three Months 1999 edition
10 Chapters
200 pages
100 Exercises

Other resources:

Mango online language course (free if you have the right library card)

One a week basic Italian group at work

In the background Italian Rosetta Stone that I'm only so,so keen on.

Assorted other Beginning Italian textss.

Remembering the Second semester Italian class I took 5 years ago

Can it be done?

I just ran out of time and missed Aikido class this morning. Arrrgggh!


A Good Wallow or A Bad Wallow?

Tonight we worked from different attacks but with the intended response of ikkyo or nikkyo that fails and you modify what you do. But it is really hard to explain and after I got home late tonight I watched a bit of The Bourne Identity on HD fx. Sooooo.,, as I watched Jason B battle a hit man in his Paris apartment I wonderfully saw the thing we were trying to do. Admittedly it was just one second in a two minutes of Hollywood fight scene, but you take what you can get. (see clip above at time code of around :55)

The other part of the story is that I was tired and feeling sorry for myself. I wanted to just go home eat a frozen pizza (cooked) and drink a bottle of wine. BUT I managed to go to class and had a good workout. And instead of going home and wallowing in self pity and pizza and wine, I came home from class to wallow in self satisfaction and pizza and wine.


Siamo come il sole a mezzogiorno baby

Siamo come il sole a mezzogiorno baby
We're like the sun at noon, baby

Senza più nessuna ombra intorno...baby
Without any more shadow around...baby

Here is another Lorezo Javantti video. I downloaded an album from amazon and interestingly it automatically imported the songs to iTunes. Anyway, I am now taken with the song Mezzogiorno (noon) and the lines above are what sealed the deal on my affection. With Bacciami Ancora I understood maybe 1/4 or so of the words right off, but with this I had to download the lyrics and translation before I got a feel for what it was about.

There are multiple videos for the song but for some reason the main one featuring Lorenzo himself the embedding was disabled so above is the one with for of them at the same time.

Below is the last singer I was infatuated with singing in a language I couldn't understand, but at the time I had no resources for translation so I enjoyed the song for years without knowing what it meant and tonight I finally know. Isn't the Internet a wonderful thing? In retrospect it may have been a more pure experience not being able to find a translation.


Un bellissimo spreco di tempo

While looking at websites to help me learn Italian I found embedded in one site the video above by Lorenzo Jovanotti. It is the title song to an Italian movie I don't think has been released in the US. Anyway, knowing nothing about the singer, song or movie I fell upon it with a unreasonable affection. Visually it speaks to an American ideal of “Italian”, a villa with a big family and a red and white checkered table. I mean, really! and musically it echoes a bit of Leonard Cohan's "Hallelujah" so is it cool, pop, maudlin or what? But I keep clinking to that virtual bookmark.

About the Italian checkered tables...I wonder if Italy is trapped by it's own cliches and Americans are? In the video they even load the table with the wicker chianti bottles you get at any US Italian restaurant, and of course the women are beautiful and all the men are thin. They left out the plump mother bringing out the huge platter of spaghetti. In the Us the Texans are shown as loud and with Cowboy hats and Oklahoma is filled with “Indian” with plumed headgear.

But aside from any cultural study, I somehow end up like a sentimental old lady on the verge of tears while listening to lyric like these below. Maybe my favorite line is the first line since it might describe my sad attempt to learn Italian on my own...

Un bellissimo spreco di tempo
a beautiful waste of time

FYI, the translator has ancora as “again” but in my crude Italian I used “still” and even if the other is more accurate I'm sticking with “kiss me still” which for some reason sounds way more powerful

KISS ME still

Un bellissimo spreco di tempo
a beautiful waste of time
un’impresa impossibile
an impossible undertaking
l’invenzione di un sogno
the invention of a dream
una vita in un giorno
a whole life in one day
una tenda al di là della duna
a tent beyond the dune
Un pianeta in un sasso, l’infinito in un passo
a planet in a rock, eternity in a step
il riflesso di un sole sull’onda di un fiume
reflection of a sun on a river's wave
son tornate le lucciole a Roma
the glow-worms are back in Rome
nei parchi del centro l’estate profuma.
in the midtown's parks the summer perfumes
Una mamma, un amante, una figlia
a mother, a lover, a daughter
un impegno, una volta una nuvola scura
a commitment, once a dark cloud
un magnete sul frigo, un quaderno di appunti
a magnet on the fridge, a notebook
una casa, un aereo che vola.
a house, a plane that flies
Baciami ancora…
kiss me still
Tutto il resto è un rumore lontano
everything else is a distant sound
una stella che esplode ai confini del cielo.
a star exploding on the edge of the sky
Baciami ancora…
kiss me still
Voglio stare con te
I wanna be with you
inseguire con te
chase with you
tutte le onde del nostro destino.
all the waves of our destiny
Una bimba che danza, un cielo, una stanza
a little girl who dances, the sky, a room,
una strada, un lavoro, una scuola
a road, a job, a school
un pensiero che sfugge
a thought that escapes
una luce che sfiora
a light that skims over
una fiamma che incendia l’aurora.
a flame that inflames the dawn
Un errore perfetto, un diamante, un difetto
a perfect mistake, a diamond, a defect
uno strappo che non si ricuce.
a tear that can't be mend
Un respiro profondo per non impazzire
a deep breath to don't go crazy
una semplice storia d’amore.
a simple love story
Un pirata, un soldato, un dio da tradire
a pirate, a soldier, a god to betray
e l’occasione che non hai mai incontrato.
and the chance that you've never met
La tua vera natura, la giustizia del mondo
your true nature, justice in the world
che punisce chi ha le ali e non vola.
that punishes who has wings and doesn't fly
Baciami ancora…
kiss me still
Tutto il resto è un rumore lontano
everything else is a distant sound
una stella che esplode ai confini del cielo.
a star exploding on the edge of the sky
Baciami ancora…
kiss me still
Voglio stare con te
i wanna be with you
invecchiare con te
grow old with you
stare soli io e te sulla luna.
be alone you and I on the moon

Coincidenze, destino,
coincidences, destiny
un gigante, un bambino
a giant, a child
che gioca con l’arco e le frecce
playing with bow and arrow
che colpisce e poi scappa
that hits and runs
un tesoro, una mappa,
a treasure, a map
l’amore che detta ogni legge
love that lays down the law
per provare a vedere
to try to see
che c’è laggiù in fondo
what there is down there
dove sembra impossibile stare da soli
where it seems impossible to be alone
a guardarsi negli occhi
looking each other in the eyes
a riempire gli specchi
filling the mirrors
con i nostri riflessi migliori
with our best reflections



note to myself on how to restore the grub boot loader for Ubuntu

1. Pop in the Live CD, boot from it until you reach the desktop.
2. Open a terminal Window
3. Type "sudo grub"
4. Type "find /vmlinuz” and determine where the linux partition is as in (hd0,4)
5. Type "root (hd0,4)" which I think puts you in that partition
6. Type "setup (hd0)" "quit".
7. Type “quit”

I don't know if this will work on Grub2

I am planning to buy a copy of Windows7 and when I install it I plan to also tryout the new Ubuntu 10.04. So this info might come in handy.


Is My Mind Half Empty Or Half Full?

Last week during Aikido class we worked on responses to ShomenUchi (strike to the head) and started off with the standard ikkyo, nikkyo techniques (moves #1 and #2). I've done these a number of times over the past few years so while I still feel like a beginner I sometimes feel like there is a little muscle memory going on and I can stumble through.

Durning the Sankyo move (#3, but who's counting) I kept getting to a point where I started kotegaishi which we had not even worked on at that point. The strange thing was I didn't simply forget what Sensei had showed us. Please allow me a little room for psycho-hyperbole since I kinda felt like I forgot everything and I would “wake up” just as I started kotegaishi and realize it was not what I was supposed to do, but I could get my mind back to what we were supposed to be practising. My mind kept emptying out half way when uke (the atacker) started the attack.

Sensi came by and watched a few times and I briefly explained my mind was skipping off track and could not stay on the Sankyo line.

He suggested that maybe I might have progressed enough that I was trying to simply do the most logical move for our positions at that time.. It might actually be a good thing that my body sensed what should be done and just did it.

The thing is in order to learn the techniques you have to sometimes practice them even with it really doesn't feel right. Of course when you are a beginner no moves really feel right but you have to start somewhere.

So.............there you go, I managed to pull success out of failure.


Originally I was going to take a few days off to visit relative in Houston but more local familial demands made me cancel that, BUT since I had already asked for the days off I have tried to squeeze in some fun time between those trip canceling obligations. I had two goals, read Wise Blood and ride my bicycle. Check and Check!

Here is the situation...you ate your lunch of a simple green salad with some marinated mozzarella balls thrown in plus you have the day off and have 3 beers to wash it down...THEN you think, “Hey, I should go for a bike ride!!”

So you take off and ride on the White Rock Lake trail from the lake north towards LBJ
(aka 635). On your way you realize you REALLY should have used the toilet at home, but with few options you look for relief. Do you use the freshly installed port-A potties for tomorrows charity run, or the long establish restrooms at the park? Here is the comparison.

I think it shows what kind of person you are from which choice you make.

Yesterday I went south from White Rock Rail station and today I went north. Yesterday I was on a bike trail that was newer and when through the older parts of a large city and today I went the other direction through what is now urban but once was SUB-urban. The result is the view today was just as level but way more boring and frankly a little more messy.


But it all ended up with a half way point coffee break at central and Forest Lane