While living at Shobukan Dojo, there was a continual shugyo. All aspects of training, sleeping when the body could not continue. Sometimes breaks, movies, and visiting friends.
There were regular keiko sessions, though after the first several years backing off on morning keiko in favor of sitting meditation until the body could no longer sit up or work to provide for sustenance and traveling to seminars.
Many evenings, just after folks departed the dojo and dinner, picking up a suburito, bokken, and jo for an hour or two. There were many discoveries here. Sensei would occasionally catch the practice and return back inside.
As meditation continued growing, the veranda overlooking the garden, in front of the shomen, on the side of the mat, or in the loft became regular. This increased more and more and it is no small coincidence that years later, Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche gave this collection of heaps the Bodhisattva Refuge Vows. The fortuitous blessing sealed, having received the name Karma Semten Chophel, meaning, as he transmitted directly… Unceasing Evergrowing Meditation, it still makes perfect sense.
There were many late evening walkabouts after the last practice of the day. Arriving at the National Mall or elsewhere, walking till 1 AM or 2 AM and then turning around and returning. This was a practice that encountered situations, however in hindsight, not terribly challenging. Friends were made even at the outset of adversity.
Expansive writing practices; reading poetry, writing poetry, reading suttas, writing realizations through calm abiding, coming out of meditation, reading more, and writing more. There was a global discussion, talking to people around the world on IRC. A collection of these poems and thoughts was an exchange place with a fellow Bujinkan Shidoshi who was in Canada, and one of his close students on a small website at the time. This entire library is still recorded today, and some of these poems have been retained on this very site.
There were all nighters programming and engineering to support the dojo’s fledgling web presence. This continued at the request of Peter Trimmer, then the dojo-cho, to help him with information systems for the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine with their web site and electronic applications. We were essentially were their IT infrastructure, and we held it all together with a handful of people, we were very responsible with Sloan Kettering’s funding.
This period of growth was and still to this day, aggressive, and intensively oriented toward liberation. I slept late against the conventional clock, arising when Sensei woke, along with Mike, the other dojo resident. I never could figure out how to awake early, then Peggy “Mary Margaret” Kroder shared one day a piece of advice so profound that I never held myself with guilt on this any longer, “you’re tired, not lazy.”
Morning & Mid-Morning Keiko
There were small breakfasts, or sometimes skipping them. I would train in 10AM class, the space on the mat during 10AM was a blessing, as you could move in large arcs, and really open up. Patty Saotome Sensei would join these occasionally in the early days living at the dojo. Saotome Sensei one morning came out and took ukemi during one of sessions. A blessing indeed.
The afternoon would be quiet, the bay doors would be open… and the sounds of the busses, metro, train, and gentle breeze in the back garden were a backdrop to the quiet activity of chores, dusting, oiling, and arranging things neatly. I’d use this time to study more, meditate, practice, and pull out a spear and bo.
Afternoons sometimes were for maintaining the dojo, dusting, cleaning, straightening, vacuuming. We did repairs, Mike Rosario and I would walk together all the way to Georgetown, do shopping, take in a bite, and ride the metro back. We would also use this time to go with the dojo-cho to pick up or order supplies, restock them. We would share anime, films and music. I remember visiting Guitar Center with Mike and witnessing the first time he sat at a drum kit and stilling the shoppers and staff with his skill. He taught me alot, he did.
This was a time where many of the practitioners would arrive, not only from the dojo, or surrounding areas, but also from remote locations, including visitors from other martial arts, and visitors around the world. It was also Saotome Sensei’s most frequently regular teaching time when he spent weeks in town around seminars. The practice was two sessions, and would carry on after for many, followed by get togethers on Thursday evenings. Summers are dreadfully hot and tremendously humid, though we stuck it through.
Carry Your Bokken
My first aikido teacher said, “carry your bokken or jo everywhere”, and I did while in the US Army. I used to bring the bokken with me on the walk to the electronics shop I worked in. I carried it everywhere. I then started using the tip to lop off dandelion flowers in the lawn to the barracks. The first sergeant, when I stopped doing this, even asked me why I stopped weeding his lawn. Imagine that?
Take Musu Aiki is Real
Takemusu Aiki is real – it’s right here, each and every momentless moment. My path in martial arts has taken me from odd, being bullied, taekwondo, my uncle in Special Forces, Psychology, US Army, Aikido, Marine Corps. System Command, NationsBank, Banc of America, CIA, Shobukan Dojo, Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, Ishizuka Dojo, Big Bad Woof, Software Startups, PE Firms, Coats & Clark, VF Corp, Executive Leadership, and beyond. I urge anyone not to seek to copy this path, because it is the path beyond that lead to these places, not the other way around.
Not Carrying is Not Not-Caring
So what I carry around now is “not-carrying”, which is not quite the same as “not-caring”. I asked Don and Robert for a word of observation each. Don said, “contemptuous” and Robert said, “aloof”. And it is now that I feel fully confident sharing with the world the following:
Out of the mud emerged the lotus.
Samsara gave birth to the [ redacted ] of nibbana.
Take musu aiki.
Did this lotus emerge out of contempt for samsara?
Did this lotus emerge out of aloofness for samsara?
Perhaps, perhaps not. We could argue for eternity,
and as tempting as samsara is, I’d prefer not to.
Do not break the hands that created you, this is their livelihood. I realized that when Sensei shared, “you know [r]oy, don’t break their hands…”. Life changed, yet again, that day outside of Redlands with Sensei.
All of the people I have met, even a momentary glance of someone on the metro, or passing in a car on the road. Every bit, is part of this glorious life that I have been blessed to live within and without.
Do not take “it” for granted.
Each and every moment, of each and every day, and I know that these moments overlap and it is in this overlapping, that the fabric of space and time is assembled, into a great moving tapestry of creation and dissolution. This is “it will be”, “is”, and “was”: the three worlds.
Drill in From Every Angle
If you are really interested in Aikido, dig in, like Zen, from every perspective. Drill in from every angle, consider Hakuin’s Poison Flower. And then when the time is right, remove the nails and wedges, yet careful… not too early! We are blessed with transmission to O’Sensei, and you are too. For we are in this together as one family.
As Josh Drachman says, “something really special is happening here.” If anyone is curious what my practice is, go practice with Sensei, Master Seong, Derek Pinkerton (if you can find him), Tim Stom, folks from Agency (not so easy), Patty, Peter Trimmer, Ken Butts, Mike Rosario, Robert Deppe, Nick Kiritz, Josh and Gina, Bill Gleason, Chris Royal, Steve, Chas, Nina, Thurston, Eugene, Mike Stabile, Jimmy, Bob G., Kamenna, Don, Greg, Dan Harden, G. Willis, Rob Loughan, Aaron and Paul (co-executives at Wheelhouse), Ikeda Sensei, Ushiro Sensei, Kaiwa Sensei, Frank Doss, John Willson Sensei, Gaelan and Ian (my partners), and many many more. The list is endless. This is my history, beyond interleave, these are superpositioned, and finally I have moved beyond even superpositioning.
This Is The Book
O’Sensei said, “the world’s knowledge is contained in books.” Yes, and you know what? Sensei says, “blind person can reading book.” It’s right here in the palm of your hands, a miracle. Pointing, pointing… to that sun and black hole, this is the field.
I cannot give you what I was born with nor will you be able to steal it from me, yet I can tell you, you were born with it too. Technology cannot copy it, because technology quantizes reality and there is a horizon to quantization where technology cannot go and you can. What is technology, if not built on word, these very words? Measures of <distributions|units> of phenomena.
I join O’Sensei in the mission to bring more resolution and brightness to the spirit, that is what is missing in society today. We have forgone our own capabilities in search of something more quickly altering elements impinging on our senses. We have photon manipulation machines in control of a steady dopamine drip. It’s time for a change.
Aaron once shared with me to communicate to others when you are deciding to alter course to work on something more valuable, and I am here to share, that I did find something more valuable to work on that would benefit society greater than I can imagine. The value I uncover in studying and observing nature directly, is my only gift I can share with others, and I find it more valuable to remain in this fringe of analysis1, and have good models to guide, including O’Sensei himself.
This being really is kohai.
Kohai to the divine inspiration,
and guardian of the gate.
1 see Scholarship & Analysis (Glaser)