Monthly Archives: August 2014

Today in 1871…

On this day in 1871, Emperor Meiji orders the abolition of the han system and the establishment of prefectures as local centers of administration.  What this means is that the local feudal lords or Daimyo had to return their powers back to the Emperor which is referred to as the Meiji Restoration.  This is what some also consider the birth of martial arts to the masses.

Before this time the Japanese traditional arts were for the elite class only and commoners and merchants were looked down upon and not allowed to participate.  After the Meiji Restoration, the martial arts were not only open to commoners but the door swung wide open for people from the West too.

The martial arts systems that pre-date the Meiji Restoration are referred to as koryu or old style and the systems that follow the Meiji Restoration are referred to as gendai or modern.   Aikido, Kendo, Judo, and Karate are the modern iterations of koryu systems.

The Meiji Restoration is also thought to be the point when martial art systems went from jutsu or technique to do or the way referring to them as forms of art.  Before the 1860s the martial arts were used to prepare warriors for real life combat and thus the need for systematized fighting techniques was necessary.  After 1871 there was no longer a need for combat use training and so the martial arts became a means of self-cultivation.

A master passes away…

Guruji_nov2012Yesterday B.K.S. Iyengar passed away at the age of 95.  B.K.S. Iyengar is thought of as the father of modern Yoga.  He popularized Yoga first in India and then brought it to the West.  The West’s first exposure to B.K.S. Iyengar   came about as a result of one of his first students who was musician Yehudi Menuhin.  Menuhin bragged that his violin playing had improved because of his practice of Yoga with Iyengar and from that point forward Iyengar was thrust into the spotlight opening the doors to Yoga in the West.  His first book Light on Yoga became an international best seller and has been translated into 17 different languages (It is also one of the books in Sensei’s library).

So many people today are quick to call themselves teachers and even more are quicker to try and teach others.  It would be nice if the motive for becoming a teacher was less about one’s ego and money and more about the the art.  Having never met B.K.S. Iyengar, he struck me as the type of person who taught for the sake of the art and not for the glory or riches of being a teacher.  I personally study Yoga and studied Iyengar style Yoga for five years in college and I am humbled by what he must have sacrificed to get his art to me a lowly and lazy practitioner.

I am inspired by him as a teacher and what he accomplished over his lifetime.  I hope to someday be a teacher like B.K.S. Iyengar who kept the fires burning for the next generation.  My only hope is that Aikido and Sensei’s teachings be available for subsequent generations to come.  So many today confuse being a teacher with fame and fortune.  Sensei always said that, “Teaching is a noble profession” and that one needed to treat it that way.  I understand it is a hard balance between making money and possibly becoming famous or well known and being a teacher.  I believe that in order to strike a balance one must first go back to the root of why he is a teacher and that root should always be for the benefit of others.  Teachers teach for no other reason than for the sake of others.  All other reasons are immoral and deceitful and thus not making it a noble profession.

B.K.S. Iyengar was a teacher of Yoga, but what he was really teaching us was how to live our lives.  If you think Yoga like Aikido is just exercise you are missing the point.  Both are a vehicle towards spiritual, mental and emotional enlightenment but what is not understood is that like Aikido the enlightenment doesn’t come at the end of practice because the practice itself is enlightenment.   A quote accompanied the announcement of his death on his website read, “I always tell people, live happily and die majestically.”  This should be every person’s rule to live by.  Rest in peace.

One of my favorite books…

BookTeaLifeTea Life, Tea Mind by Urasenke Tea master Soshitsu Sen XV is one of my all time favorite books.  I would have to say that I read this book at least once a year.  It’s a quick read but filled with a wealth of knowledge.  The basic principles of tea ceremony (Chado) are wa kei sei jaku or harmony, respect, purity and tranquility.  Japanese society is so heavily influenced by these four principles that you can see them everywhere you look in Japan and in Japanese culture today.

Wa kei sei jaku brushed by the former head priest of Daitokuji

Wa kei sei jaku brushed by the former head priest of Daitokuji

The four basic tenets of chado encompass everything you need to know about following the Way and what it means to be a martial artist at the highest level.  Harmony is something you strive to create not only in yourself and  everything around you but in everything that you do.  Harmony is the highest goal of all the martial arts.  Respect is something that we extend to not only other people and other things but to ourselves as well.  Having an inner state of respect enables you become a person of character.  Respect is one of the few characteristics that separates us from beasts.  Purity is not a state you attain but something you work toward.  In Tea Life, Tea Mind he says that when we clean we are not only ridding our surroundings of dirt and clutter but also cleansing ourselves as well.  Tranquility is a state that we all strive for in life.  Tranquility comes as a result of the first three principles, but to experience true tranquility this only becomes a reality when another enters into that experience.  At that point, we can know if we have attained it or if we have just been merely deceiving ourselves.

This is a great book to not only survey tea ceremony but to learn more about the Way.

This book is out of print and you will have to pick it up second hand on ebay or amazon in the used section, but I wouldn’t pay more than $15.00 for it.


“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” – Steve Jobs

Around where I live it is back to school week for non-college age kids so I thought I would post something that might inspire them in their academic careers.  However, this speech by Steve Jobs given in 2005 could pertain to anyone.  I say anyone because everybody needs a reminder from time to time to use their time wisely and to follow their hearts.  Martial artists are no different.  Whatever martial art you choose or whatever martial art  you find yourself studying right now, please put forth all your efforts.  Life is short.  Please don’t waste it.

Here is the text.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.



What we do, we do for others

Helping others, thinking about others or putting others first is at the core of every religion or great teaching and aikido is no different.  Aikido is a different type of martial art in that there is a great emphasis placed on ukemi or receiving the technique. Ukemi is the physical manifestation of the greater teaching of helping others or in other words compassion. Ukemi is compassion. Think about it, you give up or sacrifice yourself for another person’s enlightenment.  It doesn’t get any more compassionate than that. Realizing the uke’s (the one who receives) compassionate gesture the nage (the thrower) is humbled by this gesture. The best case scenario the nage pays it forward and shows others compassion.  In the worst case scenario the nage takes advantage of the uke’s kindness and either abuses him or treats him with little regard – nothing is more abhorrent.

What then is the goal if training?  The goal of studying a martial art is not the destruction of others but rather the destruction of yourself. Loyalty, courage, bravery, and valor are all the characteristics of great warriors but they are only manifested as you sacrifice yourself for others.

This idea of compassion is what makes aikido a different type of martial art. Most other martial arts manifest compassion at their highest level. In aikido we practice it from the very first day.


I apologize in advance. There won’t be another Daily Message until 8/18. I will be away with no phone or internet access.

A true gentlemen…

I found this on the Internet and found it eerily similar to how a martial artist should conduct himself.  It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman when it comes to decorum or etiquette.  A true warrior surpasses all others in how they conduct themselves.


What you don’t do is as important as what you do, do.  As your loyal provider of all things gentlemanly, we felt it our moral duty to impart some of our wisdom of what we believe a gentleman should never do…


Geek glasses, Hawaiian shirts, 80′s retro sportswear, you name it – a gentleman wouldn’t be seen dead in something purely for the sake of ‘irony’, leave this look to the likes of pop-up-store-come-vintage-clothing-come-speakeasy-bar-owners.


Do what you like in your teenage, ungentlemanly years, but beyond these rebellious times and into the years of being a gentleman, remove all trace of past rebellions and never, we repeat never, pierce a body part.


This is more common manners than anything else, but a gentleman would never sit (on a tube or otherwise) whilst a woman, less-able or elderly person stands.


A boy speaks, a gentleman acts on his word and stays true to it.

5. LIE

A real gentleman stays loyal, faithful and honest at all times.


Vanity is deeply ungentlemanly.


No matter how much a gentleman earns, or how much success he has garnered, a real gentleman will stay humble to his past.


Because a gentleman never tells.


Someone once told me that there is nothing tackier than a drunk bride, but in retrospect this applies as much to gentlemen as it does to brides to be. A gentleman knows his limits.


A true gentleman will apologize after a fight, even if he wasn’t in the wrong.


Unless an 18 year-old having his first beer, there is simply no excuse.


You are not clever or rebellious, rather you are dangerous, and not in a the cool, rebel without a cause way.


Similarly to number 2, it’s probably best to avoid this one too, if you did get drunk on a beach in Thailand and get your name in Arabic branded across your back, then consider keeping it covered up.


Unless you’re doing Yoga – which is ok by the way – try and avoiding sitting like a child. There is just something strange about seeing a grown man sitting in such a way.


Annoying doesn’t even begin to cover this.


Not classy – just embarrassing. A gentleman does not need to be inebriated to communicate.


A real gentleman makes plans, and sticks to them, no matter what.


A gentleman would never let his mood dictate his manners.


A gentleman knows the power of cause and effect.


Your age does not refine your maturity.


“To know what is sufficient.”

"Ware tada taru wo shiru"

“Ware tada taru wo shiru”

This is one of my favorite scrolls in Sensei’s collection.  The scroll is a painting of a stone tsukubai or water basin that appears in the garden at Ryoan-ji temple in Japan.  The carving looks like a coin and the kanji that surround the square in the middle doesn’t mean anything, but when you add the square to the kanji they become 吾, 唯, 足, 知 or ware tada taru oshiru.  Ware tada taru (wo) shiru literally translates as “I only know contentment.”  Sensei translated the meaning as, “To know what is sufficient.”  This idea of sufficiency is the root of our training.

O Sensei talked about this idea of contentment as “Masakatsu, agatsu” or the true victory is the victory over yourself.  When we can be content with not only who we are but what we can do as well as what we have, we can be content.  That victory that O Sensei is speaking of is the coming to terms with ourselves or in other words contentment.  We only need what we have and only need to be who we already are, but this is easier said than done and that is why O Sensei said the true victory is the victory over yourself.

Day 10 update: Well that was something.  Letting others off the hook was easy, but letting myself off the hook was soooooo hard.  I would be lying if I said I made it because in reality there were times when I just couldn’t let myself off the hook.  I think that this  whole challenge was about the realization that letting yourself off the hook  is necessary to live a healthy life.  Beating ourselves up for one reason or another isn’t the way and that letting ourselves off the hook for sins is the right path even if it is the hardest.  Please do  your best to let others off the hook when they make a mistake because it will be easier to let yourself off the hook when you do too.

Great job everyone!

I am truly thankful for all the students who came out to support the dojo and attend Karita Sensei’s class.  Please take his teachings to heart regardless if you understand or can apply them today.  The funny thing is that when Sensei demonstrated Aikido and would explain Aikido, he would basically do that exact same things that Karita taught.  His explanations were shorter and more straight to the point, but he was a native English speaker.  If we are able to somehow embody what Karita Sensei was teaching, our Aikido would be incredible.  However, those of you who turned your nose up to it are missing the point.

When Sensei was alive, our job as students was only to copy and we were not to encouraged to interpret things.  Copying them and accepting them was the fastest way to learn, but thinking about it or trying to understand is not natural to human movement and slower.  Do you think about every step you take?  That would take forever and burn up a lot of mental energy.  Therefore, we just move and in martial arts we just copy.  In copying, our bodies store the knowledge and when the time is right we come to understand it.  What is the old SNL joke about Arnold schwarzenegger, “Hear me know and understand me later.”  It’s funny but true when studying the martial arts.  Learn it first with your body and then with your mind.

The truest way to learn is to give up what you think you know and surrender to what you don’t.  This is also the only true way to “steal” the technique.

Day 9 update: Wow!  How hard was that.  Having to let 2 people off the hook was easy, but letting myself off 7 times was almost impossible.  I have to say that I actually failed.  I was so busy that I didn’t remember until I got home at 11:30 PM that I had two left.  Bummer.  But, I can see that the whole exercise is about letting yourself off the hook.

Day 10: Let yourself off the hook 10 times and anyone else for that matter as much as you like.