21 Jan 2016 by John Brinsley
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”
The above phrase originates from a sermon by American Transcendentalist and Unitarian minister Theodore Parker (1810-1860) and made popular by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parker, a fierce abolitionist, saw the end of slavery as inevitable based on his faith in “a continual and progressive triumph of the right.”* He conceded that it might be hard to ascertain merely from personal experience when and how justice would prevail. Yet instinctually he knew it to be true and saw it as his duty to fight for abolition. Along with organizing resistance to fugitive slave laws, Parker also advocated for other mid-19th century reform movements, including women’s rights and income equality.
Similarly, King viewed the civil rights struggle as ultimately being successful despite the obvious and sometimes crushing presence of evil and despair in the world. He preached that truth could not be suppressed forever; there was something in the human condition that sought freedom and equality and could overcome unjust laws and conditions. This faith, deeply rooted in Christian theology and Western philosophy, helped sustain King and his followers as they fought against hatred and violence that only worsened in reaction to their movement. Non-violent resistance took the kind of courage that 50 years later seems almost unimaginable, except when considering that the alternative was even more so.
It is important to stress that both Parker and King saw the inevitability of justice as a reason to advocate, not as a palliative for acceptance and inaction. Not for them the passive acceptance of a divine plan; progress could not be achieved by words alone. It required commitment, toil and sacrifice to resolve conflict and lay the groundwork for eventual success, even if it wasn’t realized within their lifetimes. Parker did not live to see the outbreak of the Civil War, though his work contributed to the death knell of slavery. King was constantly and presciently aware that he was unlikely to live long enough to see the fruits of his labor. “I’ve been to the mountaintop,” he preached in a sermon in Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968. “And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you.” The next day he was dead.
In the month we commemorate King’s life, it is worth reflecting on the 21st-century application of Aikido, created by a man born in the 19th century who nonetheless lived more than a year after King’s assassination. Ueshiba Morhei’s expression that “Aikido is Love” reflected a state of insight attained after arduous training in Budo and devotion to the mystic roots of Japanese religion. The statement reflects a personal realization that can serve as a motivation or exhortation for others to follow, and underlines the principle of Aikido as a universal means to confront and resolve conflict. Rather than being an expression of ego, it is instead an expression of harmony.
Achieving that ideal requires day-to-day examination of technique and how it is applied: giving and receiving, friction and acceptance, fear and reward. It is not a matter of only believing in the precepts and philosophy of aikido; it must be forged on the mat with yourself as your biggest rival, overcoming your own limitations.
This requires faith and commitment that practice (keiko) will result in intended and perhaps unintended benefits. It isn’t easy day after day, year after year, to work on technique only to discover that there is much more to work on. Other aspects of life also command attention and take priority. It is easy to be distracted by day-to-day events, both important and otherwise. Fatigue plays its part, as does injury, and age. These build up, and can become real barriers to continuing keiko. But the rewards for perseverance are real.
Much like the arc of the moral universe, the path that Aikido provides is anything but straight. Given the chaos, misery and conflict that exist in the world, it is easy to dismiss that path as delusional. But it must be trod if we are to reach the mountaintop that King, and O’Sensei, both saw.
16 Feb 2015
Loosely based on the quote: “The purpose of training is to tighten up the slack, toughen the body, and polish the spirit.”
05 Feb 2015
A few years ago we hosted a Southern California Regional Birankai Seminar at Aikido Daiwa, and we were fortunate to have 5 Shihans teaching, assisting, and training on the mat. Senseis Arnold and Bluhm were then reminiscing about the early days of Aikido in the U.S., when they would “gladly travel two hours to take an class with an aikido teacher, and that was for a Nidan!”. While that may resemble stories of walking to and from school in the snow, uphill both ways, it is nonetheless a testament to the passion and dedication to training in aikido.
While many of Daiwa’s current martial arts students are from Burbank, or the immediate neighboring cities of Glendale, North Hollywood (NoHo), Toluca Lake, and Sun Valley, many come from further away to train at the dojo:
However the current Road Warrior Award goes to longtime Daiwa member Keith, who travels to the dojo from Valencia, 27 miles each way. Way to go Keith!
22 Jan 2015 by Josuha Karlin
When I moved to Santa Monica from Connecticut last year, I knew I needed to find the right place to do aikido in LA. I first started training in aikido more than 27 years ago, and I wanted to make sure I found an aikido dojo in Los Angeles that had that rare combination of students who were committed to serious practice of the art led by a teacher who had a strong connection to the World Aikido Federation based at Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, Japan which is overseen by the grandson of the founder of aikido.
I quickly discovered Aikido Daiwa in Burbank. It is just 10 miles from my office in Los Angeles, which during rush hour can take me up to 45 minutes. My drive home to the Pacific Palisades (I’ve moved since living in Santa Monica) is 25-30 miles depending on the better route given traffic and only takes about 35 minutes since I’m going at night after class or on a Sunday afternoon.
The chief instructor spent  years training at Hombu Dojo in Japan, before coming to Los Angeles to lead the dojo. The students train with integrity recognizing that aikido is a martial art, and that training with others is a privilege that demands respect for each other’s abilities and limitations.
So if you are looking for aikido in LA, whether you live in Los Angeles, the Valley, toward Glendale, Silver Lake, Eagle Rock, Los Felize, or Pasadena, or to the West toward Westwood, Brentwood, Santa Monica or Pacific Palisades, you will do well to check out Aikido Daiwa in Burbank. It is reasonably close and well worth the trip.
05 Nov 2014 by Jack Arnold
I don’t know how I came by this thing about telling stories. I’ve always enjoyed a good joke and prided myself in knowing how to tell a good story well. I’m sure being a musician had a lot to do with it. I never heard a good musician tell a joke that wasn’t funny. I used to love going to the studio in the morning. There was always someone waiting with a great joke. Musicians, especially jazz musicians, have a natural ability for story telling. A well told story has a rhythm to it, like phrasing in a jazz chorus. Timing, knowing when to breathe, what words to accent, an understanding of tension and relief - jazz musicians know all of that instinctively. It’s a big part of what makes them jazz musicians. And great story tellers.
I grew up with radio, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, and the movies of Fields, Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, the Stooges and the others. The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca - masters all of the art of the story - the set up, the hook, the come on, and the finish. You knew from the gitgo that something bad was going to happen to Ollie, but the set up was so great you had to stick around for the finish. Everyone knew it was going to be a disaster, and yet we laughed, because we knew Ollie was going to be okay in the end. That’s the way it works.
I can’t imagine how many times I have been told a really good joke so badly the story almost wasn’t funny. So you take it with you and you fool around with it for however long it takes until you get it the way you think it should be. Then you tell it to yourself a few times to hear it out loud, making sure the rhythm is right, and the inflections and accents are the way you want them. Now you’re ready, and you can’t wait to lay this new gem on the first friend you meet.
Which brings me back to the radio. I soon noticed that my favorite programs were also my grandmother’s. Sometimes she’d laugh and I wouldn’t get it, and when I asked why she laughed she’d say that the joke was intended for grown ups. Well, what the hell kind of joke was that, I wondered. How could it be funny if everyone didn’t get it? Not long after that I discovered that all humor wasn’t for everyone. What’s really funny is the expression on the face of the guy who didn’t get it.
People speak of Picasso’s Blue Period, or Green Period or his jive-ass period – that’s kind of how I look back on my life. Maybe everyone does. With me it was growing up in a small mid-western town, Ohio State, Europe with an army band, and the early, struggling, happy New York years, followed by the later, more successful New York period. Early Los Angeles and the years after I met Melinda. My unexpected retirement from a life of music led me to the equally unexpected and rewarding Aikido years.
I used to look back at these periods in my life as unrelated entities, each separate from the others. Of course, that can’t be possible. I know that one couldn’t have happened without the other. Again, like parts of a good story, it needed its set up, the hook, the come on and the payoff. Each of these times involved unforgettable characters I have known, loved, despised, pitied, admired, emulated, studied and envied, who, knowingly or unknowingly, contributed to and enriched my life beyond my wildest expectations.
For years my friends have been encouraging me to write this stuff down. I never got around to it until now. Just being a musician was the best joke of all. With few exceptions I’ve spent the greater part of my life doing what I wanted to do, and made a good enough living that allowed me to indulge in other pursuits, less productive perhaps, but equally fascinating. The experiences that follow are not in any particular order. (I’ll provide them later - MMA) To the best of my recollection these events actually happened just as I wrote them. However, of one thing you may be sure. I’ve never been accused of letting the truth get in the way of a good story.
Post Script. Tonight, November 5th, 2011, Melinda and I went to see the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra perform the Brandenburg Concertos. All of the incredible and difficult solos were played by regular members of the orchestra, sans conductor. The concert was extraordinary and when it ended we went down the street for a late supper at Far Niente, an excellent Italian restaurant. The orchestra members frequently go there for the same reason. As we observed those great musicians toasting each other for their magnificent performances, it suddenly occurred to me. My god. I’ve pissed away my entire life.