Dojo Files ~ Lineage and Heritage

This may read like the brag post that it is but I think it is important when I wax on lyrical about the workings and mindset of Aikido that you get some idea of my background for this.

Firstly – About my introduction to and development in Budo. When around 17 years old I began seeking answers to life and existence and my pursuit lead me, via Karl Jung, to Zen and in particulars Japanese Zen as expressed through the budo ways. Judo, kendo, kyudo, etc. After reading more books on Zen and Asian philosophies I enrolled with the local Judo Club as a means of Zen practice and my Budo life began there at 19 years of age.

After a break away from judo due to time spent with performing in bands I found my way to Shotokan karate in 1984 which came to town just as I retired from performance work. During my time with Shotokan I was introduced to Miyamoto Musashi’s “Go Rin no Hon” and also talk about Aikido. A Sandan aikido instructor came to town in 1989 and started classes at the local Judo dojo and I was right in there. Bill Sensei was 68 years old and I was quite impressed. As student membership grew Bill and I formed Tauranga Aikido Club in 1991 affiliated to NZ Aikikai headed by Nobuo Takase Shihan.

At this time I had my first introduction to Hombu Dojo Shinjuku instructors. Masuda Shihan came to visit Bill so we ran a small seminar and invited other dojo students from other towns and aikido styles. It was also at that event that I met Alan Wade Sensei from Gisborne Dojo.

Alan was a weapons man and had trained under Chiba Sensei in the UK before coming to NZ. On his way to NZ Alan stopped off at Iwama and trained ushideshi with Saito Sesnsei for a while. I formed a close friendship with Alan and trained with him often, attending weekend seminars in Gisborne and also inviting him to Tauranga to teach.

Hence my bokken Aikiken work is based on Chiba Sensei’s style and Aikijo is from Saito Sensei. Although I have trained extensively later with Sawada Shihan from Kimori Dojo, Nagoya, my base styles are still those I learned from Alan.

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Front Row from left – Self, Takase, Sawada (centre) with Greerton Dojo senior students and three from Nagoya.

In 1992 I attended my first national Gasshuku in Auckland with Ichihashi Shihan (RIP) and this followed on with Masuda Shihan, Miyamoto Shihan, Ng, Sawada, Seki, and others over the years, including Doshu.

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Instructors warming up for a weekend of training at Auckland’s Howick Stadium – 2006

While attending the 8th International Congress at Yoyogi in Tokyo, September 2000, I managed to fit in classes with Endo, Tissier, Yokota, Yamada and Tamura Shihan, also Doshu. I managed to bring back so much material for my classes over the following years, plus the whole thing was a once in a lifetime experience with many great memories. 28 instructors and senior students of Shinryukan travelled from New Zealand with Takase Shihan to Tokyo and we stayed at the Olympic Village (1974) in Yoyogi Park for the week.

So, hiking back to 1996. Bill for health reasons left Tauranga and resettled on Waiheke Island. I suddenly found that I was Dojo Cho at Nikyu. Takase Shihan became my Sensei and I forged on running the show with help from Hamilton Dojo who invaded the dojo one Sunday each month to check up on progress, offer some mentoring and generally see that we were doing it right. I gained Shodan in 1998 and formally closed Tauranga Aikido Club. Takase had recently launched Aikido Shinryukan as his national school and organisation under the patronship of his sensei, Masuda Shihan, thereby astablishing a direct link to Aikido Hombo Dojo, Shinjuku. Greerton Dojo was formed as a direct branch of Hombu Dojo Auckland and an integral part of Aikido Shinryukan.

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Greerton Dojo – 2004

After gaining my Sandan, Takase had me registered as an assistant instructor (fukushidoin) with Hombu Shinjuku.

So that is my Aikido lineage: myself –> Takase Shihan –> Masuda Shihan.

And, yes, I did get to train at Hombu Shinjuku in 2000. We all took an afternoon off from the Congress programme and Takase took us in to attend a class with Yokota Shihan and formally meet Doshu. Also, even though I missed the class with Sugano Shihan (RIP) because of that, I did get to spend the evening drinking beer with him, although I think he may have been drinking whisky!

~ Dent

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The Tokyo Vibe

The people in Tokyo don’t raise their voices, talk loudly or shout. It’s the buildings that do that!

What a fabulous jumble of sight and sound is this vibrant haven of visual stimulus of lighting and music. Everything talks at you accompanied by wild flashing and pulsing light. The people meanwhile just go about their daily routine, nod and smile, and sweep the dust off whatever that thing is with the dust on it.

I can see where the electricity comes from though and just how it gets there too.

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Creative utilities much! Wires, wires and more wires.

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The taxis! Where did they find all those 1975 Toyota Crown sedans? Do they have a secret stash somewhere? They all seem brand new.

Urban Playlists – At most of the cafes and bars you will be listening to 60s jazz and lounge music. Perry Como, Peggy Lee and the Rat Pack crew abound. While in the stores it seems that 70s Haight/Ashbury and the Summer of Love have never left.

Street fashion is ‘edgy’ and Lolita Girls seem to have vanished into the dark corners of Takeshita Street. It’s all very dark, plain colours with some odd vinyl and mesh cut to rather eclectic and quirky lines. All very low key Zen monk with cybergoth undertones. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos as it is frowned upon to use a camera without permission and most people were on a mission and somewhat unstoppable. But … here is a photo from my Italian fashion designer friend that shows the general impression of what I was seeing. Thank you Grendel.

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And now some random vibe-worthy photos ….

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Faceted glass from on New building on Meiji Dori at Harajuku.
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Pond at Shinjuku Gyoen Nation Gardens.
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Very tall and thin in Shinjuku-Chome.
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New building in a lane at Meiji-jingumae.
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South east entrance to Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine.

Harajuku Jingumae

Tokyo is a great city to partake of on foot. The small streets and lanes one or two blocks back from the main roads are a treasure trove of eclectic shopping and wonderful experiences.

Harajuku Jingumae became our ‘hood’ for the two weeks we were there and much exploring was undertaken.
Walking south from our base in Sendagaya, along Meiji-dori, we would be at Takeshita Street in 5 minutes. A short stop at Starbucks for a ham roll and latte then onward to Meiji Jimgumae and a cross road and Metro station. A short stroll east from here and we were into Omote-Sando which is a high-end shopping area, but also the starting point of Cat Street which then runs south to Shibuya and meets up with Meiji-dori again.

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Takeshita Street, home of Kawaii and Lolita Girl fashion on a rainy day.
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Main cross roads at Meiji-jingumae looking north up Meiji-dori
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Cat Street at night

It was such a joy being amongst these happy and vibrant people, but we soon learned that you do not venture out on the roads before 10am. Nothing opens until 11am, including most cafes and local restaurants, so breakfast was Starbucks or whatever we had scored at the 7-11 the night before. But, more than that – one morning after leaving Starbucks we ventured through Takeshita Street, with closed shops, and waited at the road crossing at the end. Across the road was the exit from the Harajuku subway station. As the light indicated “cross now” we were subjected to a stampede of morose and grumpy faces bursting across the road. Obviously the happy workers had rushed out of bed and not had their morning allocation of coffee before hitting the Metro and the day ahead. Luckily we avoided being crushed and trampled and lived to shop on.

The first rule of Tokyo – Don’t talk about the morning!

One of our best ‘finds’ in Harajuku Jingumae was on the last day we were there. After another day of tramping around the back streets in 34C we found …

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And we found it here …

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Only about a three minute walk from the apartment was this … Deus Ex Machina where we had lunch with a motorcycle.

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How could you not love this city with the serenity and calm within the chaos of sound and light that is Tokyo. The sound of crows shouting at the rain as flocks of umbrellas glide above the sidewalks.

Feels like home and a validation of personal values.

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Our Stay in Tokyo

We decided to have a stay in Tokyo for a few weeks and my wife found us a small AirBnB apartment in Sendagaya at the north end of Harajuku. This looked to us like a choice spot only a 5 minute walk from Harajuku Station. Also it’s proximity to Yoyogi Park which is just behind the station and runs through to Shinjuku.

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From Meiji-jingumae looking across Yoyogi Park to Shinjuku

I was familiar with Yoyogi Park having stayed there in the old Olympic village accommodation in September 2000 while attending the 8th International Aikido Congress. Although my days were occupied with training sessions I did manage to get a day off to spend in Shinjuku so I did basically know my way around.

What a blast! There was still a large amount of pleasant surprises as we mooched out way around the back streets of Harajuku Jingumae, the main road and shopping outlets. The Japanese are so polite and accommodating. Even though there is not a lot of English spoken our rudimentary Japanese soon gave way to hand gestures and smiling to seal a sale or find what we wanted. I did remember some of the hand gestures that I had been shown in 2000, but you can just about ad lib and make them up on the spot.

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The two main things that had an impact with us regarding the people were cellphone use and rubbish.
Nobody talks on cellphones in public, in cafes, on trains and on the street. Everything is by text or other chat services. We only heard a phone ring twice the whole time we were there.
There are no rubbish tins or trash cans on the streets and there is also no litter.
We soon figured out that on nearly every second block there is a 7-11 or equivalent and they all have a rack of bins just inside the door. One each for paper, plastic, glass, and food waste. It became almost a ritual to stop off at a 7-11 on the way home to collect some sandwiches, tiramisu, cold drinks and other food items, then drop off the refuse back at the store next morning on the way out.

7-11 have the most awesome club sandwiches and tiramisu. These are absolutely essential when you have bee trudging all around the streets in 34C most of the day. By late afternoon the thought of having to get cleaned up and go out again to a restaurant was not a welcome thought. We had many meals of club sandwiches, tiramisu and Asahi Zero beer. The Japanese make egg sandwiches to die for!

Food – Well traditional Japanese fare did not get much of a look in and the Japanese take on Western food is a totally new animal. Awesome much. Everything is much less sweet and thereby much more enjoyable with the real food flavours coming to the fore. We ate a lot of things that we normally wouldn’t at home, like club sammies and tiramisu for example.

Safety – We already knew about this but it was a joy to behold. There is no petty crime or opportunity theft. People walk into a cafe and drop their bag onto the nearest seat then go off to order food or use the toilet with never a worry. If you walk off an leave your wallet on a seat someone will chase you down the road to return it.

Personal safety is always assured. The general culture is one of respect and caring.

 

 

Ownership

Take ownership for all of your actions and that will moderate what you undertake. Only in full truth to yourself will you ever realise the full potential of your own life and experience fulfilment.

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The way to enlightenment is not necessarily by the direct path. The crooked path can be far more interesting and the point is not to arrive as soon as possible, but to actually arrive.

It’s not where you walk. It’s how you walk! This is what I always told my dojo students.

“See first with your mind, then with your eyes, and finally with your body” – Yagyu Munenori

Some people go through life totally oblivious to the havoc they wreck due to their indifference and lack of consideration for others. Like a bull in a china shop they have no comprehension of the finer points of life nor any inkling that their own lives could even be made richer if they actually opened their eyes and made an effort to understand the true depths of human interaction, expectations and social empathy .

“Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself” – Chinese Proverb

A lot of the current social situations in the “civilised” world today seem to be the product of inept thinking and limited understanding. Too many people are happy to be ill informed and gaining real understanding of any situation, process or viewpoint is just too hard.

Similarly, I hear many people grumble and whine about the sorry state of the country, society and their own lot in life, yet when it comes to doing something about it – “It’s not my job!”

So, if life is not what you expected get out there and change it — Jump in at the deep end.

~ Dent

Footnote – Yagyu Munenori (1571 – 1646) was a swordmaster, teacher of sword to the first Shogun and head of the Palace Guard of the Tokugawa Shogunate at Nijo Castle. Also a contemporary and friend of both Miyamoto Musashi and Takuan Soho the zenmaster.

Making it Matter

Do everything in life with meaningful intent.

If you are not happy with you life then you need to change it. But what if you cannot change it?

There are always tasks in life that we do not want to do, but have to. There are always situations that we find ourselves in that we cannot get out of or away from.

“Do every little thing in the spirit of the ‘thing’ itself” – Samurai maxim.

What this means is to do whatever task is required of you, regardless of how much you may abhor it, with complete attention to every little detail and giving it the best possible effort that you can muster. Totally embrace it and make it your own.

With this philosophy on board you can make any chore into a challenge and obtain enjoyment from the experience of a successful completion.

If you then apply the same principles to all of life then you will find fulfillment. The art of Zen finds immense beauty in the simplest things. There is no need for arduous pursuit of all manner of entertainments, possessions and experienced to obtain a fulfilling life. Fulfillment can be in the completion of the smallest task, or assisting a friend or family member, or even a stranger, just for the sheer enjoyment of a thing accomplished with caring and pride.

Knowledge of the world is only to be acquired in the world and not in a closet.Lord Chesterfield

Do not hide yourself away from life. get out there and do everything that you can imagine, but make it worthwhile.

If you must do it, do it well. If you have to do it for duty’s sake, do it with pride. Take ownership for all of your actions and that will moderate what you undertake. Only in full truth to yourself will you ever realise the full potential of your life and experience fulfillment.

so, don’t be a fool. Be fulfilled!

~ Dent

The Origins of Confusion

“Sometimes, for instance, he would be mesmerised by the sight and sound of rain on the water; the rain on the sea; the rain on a lake; the rain on a stream. He would look up and see the clouds untroubled by the deluge they had let loose and his mind and spirit would be numbed into a trance of understanding. Understanding what, he could not hope to explain. But there was a sense of rightness about the way of the water, a sense which he never drew from Christianity.” ~ From the novel ‘Credo’ by Melvin Bragg.

This passage is relating the thoughts of a Celt warrior of the time of Wilfred, Cuthbert and King Oswald in Northumbria. A Christian convert, but still in touch with his Celtic spiritual side.

This passage has suddenly given me insight into a question that has bugged me for many years.

So many people give lip-service to the Christian faith yet still secretly, somewhere deep down, believe in pagan concepts, not realising that these have become absorbed into traditional Christian methodology and form part of the procedure of the current established church.

Total belief in a single deity has given rise to an attitude of contempt for the spiritual nature of all living things on this earth. It has also given license to ‘fobbing off’ a regard for ‘minor’ elements in life as ‘not being worthy’ of concern or effort, because GOD is looking after that, so why should we worry.

It appears that multi spiritual beliefs achieve a hell of a lot more when it comes to respect for things outside our selves. I have observed much deep understanding and tolerance within the multi-spirit beliefs of the First People and also the Shinto. Their assignment of individual spirits to all things seems a much fairer concept and instils an immediate and intimate relationship between oneself and all elements of nature, each other and also one’s self.

I love the concept of the ‘spirit’ of the horse. Each individual horse has one, then each group of horses has one and then there is one for all horses collectively. This means that each horse is watched over by at least three spirits, But you can keep adding: the spirit of all animals; the spirit of the prairie, the plain, the sierra, sky, mountains, etc., etc.

Horses

It makes me feel great to know that horses are so well looked after.

I look then in horror at the bitter, small minded, hatred mongering coming out of the so-called civilized religions and cringe inside. Does not feel good at all. My heart wants to cry when I see the killing and the injustice that can be acted out in the name of their “God”.

We need to get in touch with ourselves on a better level! Become responsible for who and what we are. Stand up and be seen as caring and sensitive citizens of this planet.

~ Dent