From High School Confidential (1958): J. I. Coleridge, President of the Wheelers and Dealers of Santo Bello High School:
Now, hear! Hear, hear hear, c’mon
now, cats, cool it! C’mon now, cool it, cats! Now, how’d you like J. I.
to lay a little history on you?
Now you heart that square bit she [the teacher] was puttin’ down about Christopher Columbus, Our Founder? Now, I ask you: is this a bring-down? Columbus? Why, man, he was the hippest!
Now, one swingin’ day when Chris was sitting at the beach, goofin’, he dug that the world was round. And with this crazy idea stashed in his lid, he swung over to the Royal Pad to cut up a few touches with a cool chick, Queen Isabella, who was a swinger. Bel took a long look at him, say, “Christy! What is this jazz you puttin’ down ‘bout our planet bein’ round?” She say, “Everybody hip did it square!”
He say, “The only thing square ‘bout this world are the cats what live in it!” He said, “Look, now, I’m in your pad for one swingin’ reason: I know I can make it East by swingin’ West. Now, I wanna take some nonstop studs to go in a deep pool of water with me and maybe come up with the New World bit! Now if I’m straight, why, everybody swing! And if I goof and run into any of them flip Indian kiddies over there, I’ll just sit down and smoke a little pipe with ‘em. Who knows, baby, make run off with the deed to a groovy piece of real estate!”
She say, “Crazy, man, but, like, this is a sick bit you in! And if you find out that the world is square?”
He says “Why, it’s easy baby. We just tool off the deep end and dig a little infinity, that’s all.” He says, “Bel, now dig me hard, baby,” he says, “I know you’re hung with the Affairs of the Court jazz,” he says, “but I need scarfin’ for this trip.” He says, “Baby, and that takes bread, and in the bread department, I am nowhere!”
She says, “Man! Man, like you a real bring-down! See, you pump me up with a crazy story then expect me to spring for the gold?” She says, “You just cooled the whole bit!” She says, “You know the kingdom is next to Tappedsville, and if I ever laid this story out on my old man, why, he’d flip out! You know how square Ferdie is!”
He said, “Bel, listen, baby. You the swingingest chick in the whole mother’ kingdom! And I’m hip that if anyone can score for the bread, it’s you.”
Well, kiddies, next mornin’ she came up with a real wiggy plan: to hock the Royal Axe. And, after Chris met his boat connection, and scored for three, he got some cats together with eyes for adventure, and split across the Atlantic, no-tomorrow-style. [At this point, the teacher reenters the classroom and J. I. sits back down].
quotes from Terry Dobson (1937-1992), who, as far as I know,
was O-Sensei's only American *uchi deshi* (live-in student).
be resolved, it will be resolved. You can do it. You must
do it. Things are very fragile. Relationships are very, very fragile.
This whole thing seems solid, feels solid, is solid. But it can all end
in an instant. The more you understand this, the greater the delicacy
with which you will treat one another and yourself.
I think one of the real dangers of the New Age movement is this word
"warrior," because it's presented without dark side.
I think great damage has been done by people romanticizing the image of
a gentle warrior, a peaceful warrior, although I understand the intent.
It's honorable. But I think we have to come up with another word. To use
the word "warrior" in that respect is to confuse the issue. A "good
person," "brave man," "courageous woman," these are better terms than
I once saw an incident on a little mountain spur railway that wound
deep through the Japanese Alps, passing little hamlets of houses
clinging to cliffs.
It was Saturday morning. People got on and off the train. There were
old people going to market, farmers with their chickens and pigs, and a
lot of college kids on a mountain-climbing vacaton. The sun was
streaming in through the window. Everybody was happy.
The college kids had their gear stuffed up in the baggage rack,
mostly rucksacks with ice axes tied to them. They were singing German
mountain-climbing songs with Japanese accents, which I found greatly
amusing. Across from me was this beautiful old bald man dozing in the
warm sun. When the train stopped, most of the kids got up to get off.
One of them was next to me, he yanked his rucksack off the rack and the
ice axe fell like a guillotine right into the beautiful old man's bald
I froze. The axe clattered to the floor. The old man woke up and
clutched his head. Blood started squirting from the wound. He looked up
at the kid, who was absolutely aghast. The old man saw that the boy had
no idea what to do. He reached down, grabbed the ice axe, and handed it
to the kid with a bow. He said, "Have a good day. Enjoy your climb." How
is that for deep humility!
I hope that when I get to be that age and have an ice axe in my
head, I'll remember to bow.
Just because someone wants to have a conflict doesn't mean you have to
agree to enter into it. Put the phone down and walk away. Get your
center. Come back and say, "Sorry to have kept you waiting." This might
drive people nuts, but it's legal.
I hate the samurai. I think the samurai suck, and you can quote me. It's
not that they were without virtue, or nobleness. But they didn't have a
lot of heartfulness. One of the first steps to being a samurai was to
get beyond love and grief. All this romance about samurai life ignores
the fundamental truth that it was a very heartless existence. Japan
gave us this wonderful art of Aikido. It gave me my life. But you have
to be judicious about it. You have to include the heart stuff. Realize
that what you're dealing with is a warm. live human being whose body and
spirit may be easily hurt, easily crushed. You must throw another person
in the context of love. This is hard to do, especially when you've had a
lousy day or when you owe back taxes. So you must continually come back
to the fact that there is no separation between you and the other
If I had
piece of advice for beginners, it would be to forgive
yourself on the one hand, and to be strong enough on the other to accept
your grace. Some students quit right after they learn how to roll.
Learning how to fall, to roll, is just a basic thing. The fear of
falling is primary. Learning how to roll is to come up tight against
primary fear. Once you learn how to deal with a sudden loss of support,
once you build a certain structure for dealing with that, there is an
influx of power, a feeling of competence. If you can't deal with that
power, it's a sudden shock to your system. Paradoxically, people often
can't deal with that sudden rush of good feeling, and they don't come
back. They feel guilty about having dropped out when they were doing so
One reveals oneself in the way one bows. In the Aikido dojo, you bow
when you enter and when you come onto the mat. The spirit in which you
bow is very important; you reveal yourself by the way you bow. An empty
bow, while better than not bowing at all, is essentially worthless. As
you bend at the waist and at the neck, you want to experience a feeling
of vulnerability and humility. Your bow makes you an empty vessel into
which knowledge can be poured. I used to be a terror about bowing; I
would throw a student off the mat for an empty bow. It happened to me
One teacher caught me in a flippant bow and hauled me up for my
arrogance. He refused to let me finish the class and sent me off in
disgrace. It took me about three weeks to get over the embarrassment and
go back to class. You can bet that when I did go back, I tried to bow as
deeply and sincerely as I could. One time I drew a bow that had to be a
world-class bow. I was right there. My whole spirit was right there.
When I came up, I saw him give a smile of satisfaction which he tried
hard to conceal.
If you bow well to a partner, to somebody who doesn't know you, that
person will immediately become fully conscious of you. The bow is really
the soul of the art. Too often beginners think it legalistic
interference, some kind of quaint custom that has to be gotten through
You bow when you get on the mat. You bow to your teacher every time
he comes by and says something to you. You thank him. You thank your
partner for any instuction given to you. Should you unconsciously be the
cause of injury to another person, bow to them. Should another person
cause you injury, bow to him as well. Thank him for the experience. When
in doubt, bow.
I am a
stickler for the belt. It's more than something that keeps your
pants up, it's a significant thing, it's closure. You tie it in a knot
that is symbolic of the other closures and knots you make with the
techniques learned in class. There's a right way to make that
connection. I can tell the general nature of what someone does, whether
or not they use their body a lot, by the way they wear their belt.
reason you can't roll is because you can't leave your feet.
You can't go for it. You can't trust enough to just jump the hell out
into space. Ultimately no one can do that for you. If they kick you out
of the airplane, it was not your decision to jump, you were robbed by
allowing somebody to do that for you and you participated in your own
robbery. Once you make the decision to go for it, it is dynamite.
When you end the technique, make
sure that you remain totally present.
Surround your partner with your presence. You want to ensure that he has
not been injured. You are responsible for his well-being, you are his
protector. There's nothing that hurts more than causing injury to
someone else. You feel like a fool. It's one thing if you are taking
care of business and something happens; well, it wasn't your fault. But
if you were looking out the window, saying goodbye to friends, and as a
result of your inattention your partner came to harm, you know you've
done wrong and you have to watch that person suffer.
Some people can change their
drastically through Aikido. I'm sure
that incredible things also happen to people who windsurf. It's
stunning, the power that people have to transform themselves. But it is
important to remember that Aikido is not croquet.
I've done a couple of things that
any reasonable six-year-old would have
known was going too far. I learned that not coming up against your edge
is bad, but going over it is terrible. What you want to do is gingerly
approach your limit. Go up to the edge and go no farther.
The purpose of conflict is
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