Tuesday, March 13, 2007

In the Nation's Capitol

Iced up 2.13.07
This was the iced-up view from the window of MD's airbus at Washington Dulles airport on his trip back from Ireland and the UK exactly one month ago; hopefully the weather will have improved considerably by tomorrow...

Mad Dog is stressed out. He's currently in Washington DC reviewing research grants for the National Institutes of Health (that's the US government for those of you not in the trade). The last week has been spent reading grant applications which have been of patchy merit. There's been no time to consider any personal activities such as rallying, duelling and other related manly and relaxing activities. Tomorrow (Wednesday) he's on his way back to Seattle and that sword (see previous post) is going to be ordered as a small personal reward -and possibly something to do with the anticipated, massive, honorarium of $200 for reviewing the above applications (works out to about $4.00 an hour; i.e. about half the minimum wage).

P.S. According to blogspot statistics, this is my 300th post since I started blogging.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Mad Dog is lusting after a sword like this one (don't worry only the point is sharp).

While I'm on the subject of aikido, I should also mention that I also train in iaido. This wonderfully graceful and contemplative martial art is all about sword drawing. The Japanese were absolute masters at unsheathing (and re-sheathing) their famously lethal katana in a precise, lightning quick manner and practiced the movements in a similar way to gunslingers of the Wild West (yes, and I haven't forgotten about those cowboy posts I said I'd finish awhile back). Anyway as aikido techniques are largely the empty hand versions of sword movements, taking up iaido has been a logical extension of my practice. It also has the allure of swordplay which has been a fascination since childhood. So recently I decided to extend my training beyond the sword classes offered at my home aikido dojo and join the excellent Musokai in Bellevue, Washington. Musokai is run by two very senior Japanese sensei (both 7th degree black belts) as well as a host of highly ranked assistant instructors and is one of the best schools in the country. I'm anticipating that this will be excellent supplementary training not to mention the fact that will give me an opportunity to acquire weapons like the one pictures above...!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Aikido Notes

I don't blog much about my practice of aikido and iaido as I'm the consummate under achiever in these arts. However since my decade long hiatus (1995-2005) I've been training fairly diligently for the past 18 months and even feel I've made some modest improvements both in technique and general fitness. Long may this trend continue. Anyway I feel I must comment on a marvelous seminar I had the privilege to attend a couple of weeks ago. It was conducted by the legendary Frank Doran and was quite simply the best seminar I have ever witnessed. Not only was it extremely well thought through in themes and teaching style but Doran Sensei, at the age of 74, is a model of graceful movement and amazingly precise aikido (see YouTube video clip above). In addition he is an extremely polite, courteous and approachable human being: personality traits that are not evident in many of the instructors I've observed over the years. I must also add to a comment on seminars made recently by the excellent aikido blogger, UchiDeshi. Unlike many students I generally don't care much for seminars. Having had some great teachers over the years I find that seminars generally fall into two categories (i) the instructor teaches the same old basic forms I can see on any given day of the week in my home dojo or (ii) he/she demonstrates very complicated techniques, usually on a overcrowded mat where they can't be executed properly by the deshi. So I don't usually relish the idea of paying money (usually quite a lot) to get battered more than usual with little in the way of enlightenment. Doran Sensei was a notable exception however and I'm going to make every effort to his workshops in future.