This chaPter is a little parody of Gurdjieffs conversations with great men, with vignettes or descriptions of people who've impressed or inspired me in the martial arts and related arenas.
Fiist I'll describe two conversations with Masaaki Hatsumi and their after-effects. I was walking across the big quad at the Girl Scout camp near Kettering, Ohio, where Steve used to hold the Ninja Festival when I felt Hatsumi behind me. I turned around and he was coming out of the dinner hall with Nagato, Kan (I think), and Jack Hoban. I waited until they crossed the seventy yards or so to see what the grandmaster wanted of lowly white-belt me. This was 1987 and I'd been wearing glasses since the late seventies. The usual middle-age astigmatism. Hatsumi grabbed my hands, looked into my eyes, and asked me what I thought about ninjutsu. I told him I was enjoying the training enormously and felt that what he was demonstrating was of great value. He would ask me a question and Jack Hoban and Nagato would translate back and forth. He did not let go of my hands.
I noticed he was drawing energy from me and I started to laugh and draw energy from him. He was startled, grinned at me, and began to pull harder. I reciprocated and we began to run a circle of energy through each other's arms. Jack and the shihans did not notice what Hatsumi and I were doing. We were both giggling like schoolboys playing a prank and trying to maintain the conversation as if nothing esoteric were happening. We finished our exchange. He released my hands and walked off with his entourage. I turned toward my bunkhouse and noticed that I could see every leaf in the trees with clarity. My eyes were healed. I didn't need my glasses anymore. This lasted for over five years. They've weakened a little since 1987 but not enough for me to elect for glasses. (I take ginseng, and work on my breath, and palm when I remember.) When I saw him again at the Los Angeles Tai Kai (annual gathering of the Bujinkan) the next year, I thanked him for my better vision; he laughed and said, "I have very young energy."
Kevin Millis and I were in Noda City, Japan, for advance training. "The Boss" had invited us over to his house for some sake (rice wine) and conversation on a cold winter's night. Hatsumi had warmed up some sake on his little burner and we were bundled up among his collection of books and medical equipment. There was a jug of clear liquid with a snake dissolving in it on a shelf over my head, alongside the autographed poster of 1960s German sex symbol/movie star Elke Sommers. One of Hatsurni's dogs was trying to get to know me. The atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable. Hatsumi poured sake and when he handed me mine there was a tuft of dog hair pressed to the lip of the cup. (He'd reached over at some point and pulled a little off the beast, then neatly arranged it.) I thanked him for his gracious offer, turned the little cup and drank, swiped off the hair unobtrusively with a finger, and extended the cup for more. (He was testing my ability to deal with the unexpected, as well as checking my tolerance.)
We talked about various things, and then I decided to have some fun with him and see what he knew about yidam. Yidam are Tibetan warrior vampires, according to Chogyam Trungpa. Their particular task in life is the protection of the righteous. I asked Kevin to translate very carefully for me. He said he'd try.
I then said, "In the West, we have some very old customs concerning how to treat people who can work with energy. These traditions were designed specifically for those who could draw energy. We used to hunt them down, drive a wooden stake through their hearts, cut off their heads, and bury their remains at a crossroad. We call them vampires and they were much feared as you can imagine from the treatment. Yet I notice in Buddhism that people with many of the same characteristics of the legendary vampire are regarded as enlightened saints. Could you explain that to me?"
Kevin struggled with it. Hatsumi looked at me with a perplexed expression, suddenly stood up, walked over to a book stack on our right, and pulled out a beautiful collection of woodcuts. He said, "Here are some very nice thirteenth-century prints. Would you like to look at them?" The topic was closed. The prints weren't about vampires. It's not nice to joke about vampires around "the Boss." About a year later one of Nagato's students, a rather naive young sandan, informs me that Stephen Hayes is teaching vampire arts. Sorry, Steve, it's probably my fault. Hatsumi and I are the only real vampires I've noticed. There are a lot of politics in nin-juteu but if you follow your heart everything that is said about the ultimate warriors can be found in the Togakure Ryu.
Sheim Harrell is a shichidan in Isshinryu Karate who has a dojo in Carson City, Iowa. Once a year he holds a seminar in Parma, Michigan, at Alandale Acres. His story, as told to me, is that his daughters were killed in a car crash. He withdrew from teaching and went into his cow barn and studied the scrolls given to him by his famous Okinawan teacher, Shimabuku. After two years of self-study he emerged with what he called Jutedo (soft hand way). It's a system of energy use attacking the meridians and balance points of the body and is a great improvement on how karate is typically taught. To the uninformed eye, it is a way of throwing people by striking them. It's very powerful and lots of fun to learn. I always make my students attend Sherm's seminars with me. He's a great teacher and usually wears his tattered white obi (belt). Andy Tucker, a shodan in hoshiniutsu as well as a black belt in tae kwan do, was sitting next to me putting on his tabi and said, "These karate guys are really old. Look at that old white belt in the crew cut having a cigarette. Do you think they really have something to show us?"
After Sherm finished his smoke, he came in, formally started the class, and began to demonstrate some cf the most punishing techniques I'd ever seen on his assistant instructor, who spent the next hour or so flying through the air and landing on his butt cr whatever got to the ground first. It was a great display of relaxed power. I was happy that we spent a lot of time on falling and rolling. Watching Andy handle his cognitive dissonance was fun. Sherm talked a lot about energy use and keeping soft through the techniques. The karate people were having trouble grasping the concepts, but my students jumped right on those bones cf wisdom. They could see by his aura that he knew what he was doing when it came to moving chi around.
Sherm had gone through the kundalini on his own with no idea as to what was happening to him. He thought he was going crazy but knew in his heart that whatever was happening was for the best and he'd just have to ride it out. (Ex-Marines are tough.) He was still getting severe headaches after demos. He ran mostly yang energy, so we went outside and I showed him some of the chi kung techniques for bleeding off excess energy to the head. I sent him some articles from the Chinese National Chi Kung Institute on how to run the orbits. He sent me back a nice letter praising my students. Since he has only promoted two black belts in twenty years of teaching, that was high praise indeed.
Sherm spent many years on the makiwara (wrapped posts or wall hangers used for striking practice) and has the gnarly hands and feet to prove it. I watched him use soft sand palm techniques to break three patio blocks that were not separated. He then used soft techniques to break the middle block of five without breaking the two above or the two below. We then got to break a patio block using the same method. He showed a girl of eleven how to do it and she did it effortlessly. The hard breakers had a hell cf a time. I did my patio block blindfolded. It was an eye-opener.
Sherm pointed out that once you learned the soft-hand techniques, all hard breaking was good for was reminding you about your arthritis on cold mornings. As a farmer in Iowa, he has a deep understanding of cold mornings. He's not a mystic, he's just real good at what he does.
Shihan Kevin Millis and I are good friends and often share our thinking and reactions to things and events around us. I think of myself as a fairly down-to-earth, middle-aged, middle-class college professor with Midwest values. I was visiting with Kevin and his parents near Malibu and asked him one afternoon what being around me was like. He said, "Being around you is like being around a Martian. You are a Midwest Mork with no Mindy in sight." I was saddened to hear that, as I thought I was learning to fit into the California Lifestyle. I was even beginning to like the Lakers and contemplating learning to rollerblade in Venice.
The Midwest Association of Humanistic Psychologists holds a convention in Indianapolis every year. I try to go if it's convenient and I have the money, or if the presenters look interesting. There are usually many healers and bodyworkers performing their art. I like to attend their seminars. It's a weakness of mine. Maybe I should have been a massage therapist.
In 1990 I went to two day-long certification granting seminars. The first was called "The Healing Process: Exploring Body-mind Integration." The teachers were two white witches into Reiki (Japanese energy work). One was Meg Blanchet-Cole, who obviously had a background in yoga, and the other was Barbara Allen, an R.N. with considerable chiropractic experience. We all sat down in a circle on our pillows. I had cleverly arranged to sit next to Meg, who is stunning and exudes a strong white aura. I noticed that she was blocking energy between her shoulder blades and reached over to hit the shiatsu points that would release it. She said, "Don't touch me!" I politely backed off.
The group was asked to introduce themselves and their specialties. It was heavily laced with bodyworkers of all sorts. I could learn a lot here. When it came my turn I introduced myself as "Dr. Morris, a fourth-degree black belt in Bujinkan Ninpo, and it is so nice to be a vampire here at play with all you nice people." The look of horror on Meg's face was well worth the price cf admission. I paired off with a bodyworker named Sue from Chicago who was married to a martial artist, and we had a good time blowing out each other's circuits.
The next exercise involved feeling body energy around the chakras and we broke into triads. My group consisted of Meg's husband and an amazing girl who had walked across the Middle East as a teenager and eventually wound up learning energy work from Aborigines in Australia. She said, "I've never seen anyone like you before. All your energy is radiating from your head."
"That's what you're supposed to do with your sexual energy," I replied. "You move it up to your head so you can think with it. Then you can send it where it's needed."
"Oh, yeah. Send it to your feet." I did as she commanded. She was intrigued. "Send it to your chest." I gave her a blast out my solar plexus. We were having fun. Meg's husband wanted in and asked us to show him where he was open. I ran my hand up his body fields and told him I felt the solar plexus was strongest. The Aborigine-trained girl concurred. He said, "But I'm a good person, why isn't my heart chakra strongest?"
"I'm not certain goodness and chakras coincide but it could be interpreted that you still have to think about it. The solar plexus is associated with strong intellectual activity while the heart is considered more feeling," I replied. He seemed satisfied with that. The young woman had me march around the energy some more. I showed her how to change colors with intent. We were late for the next triad.
My next group included a woman from Puerto Rico who was attending because she had an ovarian cyst. She did not like the prospect of going under the knife. A small elf-like woman was kneeling before her, directing energy into her lower abdomen. I could see the elf didn't have the juice for what she was trying to accomplish, so I laid my hand on her shoulder and began to pump energy down her heart meridian. The look on her face was classic. Her name was Lisa Graves and she said, "Wow, what the hell are you doing?"
"I'm just feeding you. Take it and do what you know how to do. I use this stuff for breaking bricks. I can generate for hours. Go for it." She returned to her work and I continued to breathe energy into her while she directed it into the lady from Puerto Rico. That woman snapped to attention, her eyes rolled back in her head, and she went into orgasm. Meg and Barb came over to watch us at play while our victim vibrated. Blue light was running in little streams all up her body and over her face. It was like she was being electrocuted with microwatts.
Finally Lisa says, "I got it." I moved around the falling woman, guided her over to a massage table, and lifted her on to it. I ran my hands through her fields and she seemed to be burning very clean to me. I asked Lisa to check her out. Meg came over and did a pass, as did Barb. Barb adjusted the woman's hip. We all felt very pleased with ourselves. Lisa told me that she'd never worked with anyone that way before. I didn't tell her it was a first for me; I responded like old and knowing. Lisa and I became friends. I wandered off to talk with Barbara Allen and watch how she worked. She does a great wise woman and has a nice sense of humor.
When the seminar was over I was at the door talking with Sue from Chicago and the Australian-trained girl. Meg came over and said, "Dr. Morris, I have to apologize to you." I said, "For what?" She replied, "For what I said to you." I said, "Your response came from the heart and was absolutely correct for what and who you are. Think about it. No apology is necessary. I had a lovely time in your seminar." And I left with Lisa to see what kind of techniques she was willing to turn loose.
I bought Lisa dinner as she was dirt-poor, having scraped together every cent she had for this particular seminar. We went to my room and I had a beer. She being a healer told me she didn't drink. I showed her how to see energy in the mirror and breathe properly to generate more power. I took some of her healing energy and ran it through me using the internal witness to observe.
It was nice and pink and lit up all the meridians and organs. She knew her stuff. I showed her how to do a non-sexual exchange. She said, "When you do that, I see what looks like a demon in flames surrounding you, but it doesn't scare me. Why's that?"
"There's nothing to be afraid of," I replied. "It's tame now." She took off for home, but as she was going out the door Lisa turned and said, "You weren't kidding about being there to play, were you?" It seemed a heartfelt compliment. I have her work on my legs when I'm down that way. She lives in Charlestown, Indiana, and works in a health spa in Lexington. She is real good with ripped muscles and other mundane consequences of over-enthusiastic training. Someday I'd love to do a full split and lay my chest on the ground without screaming. It will take considerable stretching and bodywork to achieve that goal at my age, with my body.
The next day of the convention was Rubenfeld Synergy with Ilana Rubenfeld. She combines energy use with bodywork and psychotherapy and has her own school in New York City. She's world-class and a former Association for Humanistic Psychology president. I definitely wanted to observe her at work. Her daylong workshop was entitled "Healing the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection." It was attended by approximately 120 women and 30 men. She led us through some Feldenkrais-type exercises and eventually asked for a volunteer to get on her table. The session was being recorded.
A woman leaped from the crowd and Ilana started talking to her as she massaged her feet. I could see she was using intent but couldn't tell anything as her energy use was very subtle, with everything going into the woman on the table. Suddenly the woman began to babble the most horrific stories of sexual abuse and rape as a small child, beatings as a wife, divorce, remarriage, more abuse, harassment, on and on, one terrible event after another. If I had a client like her I would have been paralyzed. Ilana took each event and derived a lesson from it that led to the next event she might make a joke from. She subtly rebuilt this woman in one of the most virtuoso performances of the art of therapy
I've ever seen. It was astounding, the audience seldom made a sound, and the anger and sadness from the empathetic, primarily female group were palpable. Tears were streaming down my face. I could hardly breathe I was so shocked by her pain and their empathy. (There are many occasions when occult science is a painful disadvantage. It's referred to as compassion.) Ilana, like some sort of legendary pain-eating shaman, evoked memories with her touch, kneaded them out of the flesh, and discussed them into palatable lessons to avoid repeating. When she was finished she helped the laughing rag doll of a woman off the table. The woman was radiant, she was reborn. The atmosphere in the room did not bode well for men. I noticed there were about fifteen now.
She asked for another volunteer, and a young, athletic, beautiful woman with a withered leg climbed onto the table. Ilana started to rub her feet and relax her legs. The volunteer started to talk about her relations with men, and how hard it was to find a good one. Who would accept her? She was one of the last victims of polio. She had a sense of humor about her handicap or challenge. She described a dinner with the man she would like to marry and how he manipulated her and held back because of her leg. I turned to the woman sitting next to me, an attractive Ann Arbor type about my age in all handmade cotton clothing with thick grey hair to her thighs and gorgeous skin.
"I hope to hell she goes hunting," I whispered. She looked at me, tugged at her shawl, and grinned back. "So do I!" I felt a little better but the bad vibes for the masculine side were intense. I was working hard not to lose it. When Ilana finished with this volunteer, she whipped around and said, "Well, so much for women. I'd like to do a man now."
Nobody moved. No way. This group of female therapists was primed for blood. I think there were about five men left in the huge room. Silence was stretching when I found myself standing and moving toward the table. I had to experience this.
I climbed onto the table and introduced myself. She had me take off my jewelry and admired a dragon crystal neck chain made for my be Laura Butler, who specializes in fantasy designs. Ilana went to work on my feet, and the lady in cotton brought me her shawl to use as a pillow. I closed my eyes, went into no-mind, and turned my attention inward to see if I could catch any of her skills. She stretched my legs out and started a little relaxation massage when all of a sudden these nuclear bombs of energy started to flow up my meridians to explode behind my eyes. I was lost. She had me. I hoped nothing too gross would come out in front cf this audience. I was semi-comatose when I heard her saying, "What's going on? How old are you?" I heard myself replying, "Five," in a small high voice. "Why are you crying?" she asks. "I'm being beaten by my Sunday School teacher," I wail. "She caught me eating the oatmeal paste and she's mad."
We then went into a three-way discussion with adult Glenn, little Glenny, and Ilana as interlocutor. We had a lot of fun and wrapped it up with me giving the little tyke words of wisdom like "Eat the goddamn oatmeal. It too will pass." When I got off the table she pressed her palms together and gave me a little bow. Hell, I'd give her a floor-knocker bow any time. That oatmeal incident could explain a lot of mistrust of authority. We did a little tai chi dance to the music and I escaped with my nasty, male-chauvinistic, androgynous self unrevealed. God knows what would have come out of me if she'd loosened up some other knot. It's a brave man that gets on her table in front of a national audience. You have no control at all. Rubenfeld Synergy. Kings of old would kill to have a seer like her work on them after a battle.
John Yono is a Chaldean Christian who owns a party store in South Lyon, Michigan. Meeting John is a bit like stepping into the pages of the fictional book The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman. Johnny is a boxer and self-taught madman. He follows the way of fire and can hit harder and faster from any direction than most professionals. There were no teachers who could handle him in the Detroit area, so he soon went his own way. When he was younger he used to train heavyweights for tough man contests. He's about 5'8"and weighs around 160. He fought his way out of the inner city and now trains by hunting and fish ing around his store. He loves cars and has built one national championship hot rod. He is meticulous in running his store and raising his children. There is always some soup or wild game cooking on the gas grill in the back room for favored visitors. He keeps track cf the gossip and politics of the neighborhood and the foibles cf his neighbors. He knows everything worth knowing about all his customers. When they're down and out he provides credit and chow, and sends them on their way smiling. He's in his late thirties and looks twenty-three. His memory is phenomenal. He loved his mother and deeply grieved when she died; he visited with his father every week until the old man died, too. His father was from Iraq and made a place for his family in the wilds of Detroit. The old man had been very depressed since the death of his wife. He wouldn't leave the house. He was in mourning for over a year. The old man liked to fish but had never been lake fishing. Johnny and I rented a charter boat and took him out on Lake Michigan after salmon. We had a ball and the old man began to enjoy life again, but soon followed his beloved wife into the void.
I like to sit behind Johnny's deli counter and chew the fat while he supervises the teenagers who work for him. Occasionally 11l go to his house and we'll work out in his basement gym. Afier he gets done terrorizing me we'll take a sweat in his sauna. Usually we end the evening watching his hundreds of multi-col-oredwild fish from Lake Tanganyika in Africa swim around in their tanks. There's a big white male he calls Hatsumi because it hides so well and refuses to eat from his hand. John's a real human being. He's a martial arts friend. When one of my students wants to improve in boxing skills, I send them to Master Yono.
Lao Sebregst is head of the South African National Wu Shu Association. His dojo is a multi-storied building across from the police headquarters in Johannesburg. He has a farm in the Transvaal where some of the wildest kung fu training in the world is commonplace. He trains people of all races. As you walk up a hill in the high bush you see rising before you on the crest a Chinesestyle wall. Leo and his students have built a temple fortress on top cf a mountain. It's complete with a huge dragon's head entrance (you go in through the mouth) and bunkhouses overlooking the surrounding valleys. The view is spectacular. Leo says the idea of it came to him in a dream. He has made the dream reality. Nearby there is a climb up a brush-filled ravine that is done at night. One gets to acquaint oneself with scorpions, leopards, wild pigs, and other fun denizens of the farm. He has balance pole sparring arenas set up at different levels of difficulty and various other kung fu training devices to make the sides of the temple hill look like an obstacle course for the completely demented. I was flabbergasted. Kung fu students come from all over South Africa to train with this outspoken and talented man.
A colleague and hoshinroshiryu founder, Dr. Richard Grant, an economist at Witswatersrand University, invited me to be his guest in South Africa so I could see the country, meet Leo, and get an unbiased peek at the infamous situation. Now who would pass that up regardless of their political persuasion? I hopped a plane for Rio de Janiero and then took the southern route across the Atlantic. South Africa is well worth visiting. I loved it and can see why feelings concerning the political situation are so strongly held. (Rio, with its pickpockets, feral children, beautiful beaches, and people is another story concerning misguided government.)
SiGung (Grandfather) Sebregst's kwoon/dojo is brightly painted in traditional Chinese colors with smooth concrete floors and modern conveniences. He teaches in a gruff, fatherly manner and among martial artists I've observed is definitely in the grandmaster arena when it comes to control and movement. He's almost twenty years younger than most and so is just hitting his full powers. His hands are soft and cool but the skin feels a bit like a football, as he has used the traditional skin-toughening techniques of pounding sand, then gravel, and so forth. The sand is specially prepared with herbs to prevent infection, and a special tea is drunk to prevent blood clots. Eventually the skin is thick but smooth. The effect is quite different from the knuckle busting of karate.
We talked about some aspects of yin energy use, and Leo answered some questions that I'd never been able to find answers to among people whose English or experience was broad enough to respond. After we became comfortable with one another he asked me to demo for his students. I was a godan in hoshin, a sandan in ninjutsu, and a sifu in chi kung at this point and thought it would be fun to compare and contrast styles for a select group cf eight or ten.
The evening demo was performed for well over a hundred of his upper-level students. I would demonstrate a technique and compare it to one from ninjutsu or kung fu. Then I'd answer questions. One long-haired young man asked me what drugs were preferred by ninjas. I told him to study homeopathic medicine and look into ginseng as a general anodyne. Then Leo demonstrated techniques that he perceived as parallel from the systems he taught. This went on for an hour or so, and then I was interviewed by the local martial arts magazine. An interesting night.
The interviewing reporter told me he was really surprised to find this interview and demo being conducted at Sebregst's, as Leo had often publicly stated and demonstrated in competitions his contempt for all the other martial artists in South Africa. (Leo has a little work to do around the concept of humility.) To have someone from another system actually giving a demo in his place was unheard of. I truly felt honored. Later Leo arranged for me to receive a teacher's license from the governing wu shu committee in case I decided to stay in South Africa. It became part of a collage I made of my martial adventures and hangs with my memorabilia.
A good friend once bought me a Christmas gift of an hour's therapeutic massage from a French masseuse who had been trained in Sri Lanka. She was very skilled and every now and then would lift her hands off me to measure or test my energy fields. She had never worked on a chi kung practitioner before. Not too many hang out in deepest darkest Lansing. So her curiosity was understandable. When she was finished I asked her if she had noticed anything strange that I should be careful about. She gave me a long thoughtful look and said, "Do you know you have a Buddha living inside you?" I laughed, "Yeah, he's eight hundred years old and doesn't know how to act. I have to take him everywhere but don't speak his language. It's a burden I have to bear. What would you do?"
"I don't know, Monsieur. I have never seen or heard of such a thing before." She isn't alone there.
The best student I ever had is an Ethiopian. His name is Toffesse Alemu. His father was a general and Toff grew up in Haille Selasse's household. He's a devout Coptic Christian and we've had many interesting discussions concerning Africa. He told me his grandfather had practiced many of the elements of hoshinjutsu and told him a true warrior had the soul of a great woman, spoke only from the heart, and breathed from the feet. He thought the old man was mad as a hatter.
Toff was raised with no concept of money. As part of the royal household, members of his family could walk into any business, select what they wanted, and the bill was sent to the palace. His father had him flying jets by the time he was fourteen. He has a Nilotic build and had never experienced prejudice until the Communists took over and his family fled to America. When he started his studies with me, he was in his mid-twenties, not terribly well coordinated, and his English was sub-high school. Being raised like a prince Toff had marvelous confidence and great mental discipline. He flunked every belt test at least twice as he worked his way up the ladder of hoshin, thus gaining deeper knowledge by continually returning to the basics with greater humility. Watching him struggle with the concepts through at least two languages taught me quite a bit about what can be communicated verbally and nonverbally. In a couple of years his physical and mental skills far surpassed my own. I have never been able to interest him in ninjutsu, and he regards me as his only sensei.
One of my other students who shall remain nameless belonged to the Klu Klux Klan (Hillsdale attracts conservatives of all stripes). He used to read to Toff from white supremacist literature. Here's a fool who thinks the mystic concept of "blood in the face" has something to do with race, lecturing an offshoot member of the oldest known royal bloodline in the Western world on white supremacy. Toff listened graciously, and then proceeded to advance far beyond this boob, who eventually drugged and drank himself out of college.
About a year into my second marriage I was lying in the bathtub alternating between reading a journal, meditating, and playing with my daughter's rubber duckies, when my wife Linda walked in nude with my grandfather's straight razor in her hand and sat on my chest. Now when a woman you love leaps into your bath with an open razor in her hand, you tend to be very still and pay attention. She wanted to shave my head, and since she had my arms pinned with her knees, I found it difficult to object. I also thought it was terribly funny. She proceeded to do it, humming softly all the while, and she only nicked me once.
The next day I went to work at the Dow Center and raised a few eyebrows. My colleague Dr. Kayne asked, "What's your wife going to say when she sees your new haircut?" I looked stern and replied, "The bitch will learn to love it!"
I still wear my hair shaved twelve years later. It doesn't have anything to do with kung fu or ninja commitment. I think Linda has a fixation on bikers or worse. It does give me an advantage when practicing throwing people by their hair.
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