From the Archives: Murashige Sensei Interview

Photo by Gary Payne.
Photo by Gary Payne.

This interview appeared in Biran in 2002. The interview was conducted in Japanese and translated by John Brinsley.

Q: Sensei, when and where were you born?
A:  February 26, 1945. In Yamaguchi prefecture, in a village called Obatake..
Q: How big was your family?
A:  I have two older brothers, an older sister, and a younger sister. Five of us.
Q: What was your childhood like?
A:  Well, of course I was a diligent student! (laughs) No, that’s not true. I was raised in a small fishing village near the Japan sea. We weren’t fishermen, although we fished some. My father was a priest. It was a pretty poor village. Ate a lot of sweet potatoes as a kid. But there was a lot of fish, too. I never thought of us as poor. There was always enough to eat. And there was fruit from the mountains nearby.
Q: Why did you begin Aikido? Continue reading “From the Archives: Murashige Sensei Interview”

Sitting with a great loss

Life, death and the role of teachers were among the topics tackled by a group of 32 Birankai aikidoka this weekend at Bucks County Aikido’s 10th annual sesshin with Genjo Marinello Osho.

Practitioners from as far as New Mexico, North Carolina and Michigan gathered at the farm of George and Patti Lyons to train in Rinzai Zen and Aikido weapons as they enjoyed the mostly mild weather.

Everyone survived, and sat strong. For the first time, sesshin participants also harvested lavender as part of the samu – or mindful work – period at the conclusion of the retreat.

In the early hours of the final day, members learned of the death of Mark Murashige Sensei, a treasured Aikido teacher in San Diego. A sizable group of us at sesshin had lived in San Diego and benefited from Murashige Sensei’s generosity, good humor and infectious enthusiasm for Aikido practice and life. We sat with our grief and concern for his family and friends.

In the final hours of the event, Genjo Osho led us in Dai Segaki chanting for the deceased and intoned the following dedication:

One stream of a valley

pours the ambrosial nectar,

Ten thousand peaks of pine wind

strike the Dharma drum.

On this 13th day of October 2013,

offering incense and pure water

with Dai Segaki chanting

let us dedicate to Mark Murashige Sensei and

all known and unknown deceased Dharma

brothers and sisters.

May the sun of wisdom shine

brighter and brighter,

And may we all cease wandering

in the darkness of ignorance.

L. Klein


RIP Toma Rosenzweig

Toma RozensweigOur condolences to Jack Arnold and the members of Aikido Daiwa on the loss of Toma Rosenzweig, who died this week at age 73. He had practiced Aikido for 40 years and was a stalwart Birankai member in Southern California.

To me, Toma was in many was a model sempai – devoted to the art of Aikido and his teacher, Jack Arnold. He was also a help to those of us coming up as kenshusei, always offering a word of support or a kind gesture. I’ll never forget spending a cold night on the mat at Daiwa in advance of a seminar to wake up to a warm box of donuts thanks to Toma – an unexpected and much appreciated gift.

Toma will be greatly missed.

L. Klein

10 years on

Sesshin at Bucks CountyThe honking of geese flying south. The sound of rain. The feel of grass against your aching toes. The taste of rice gruel at 6 am. The sound of the gong at 4 am.

The annual sesshin, or Zen meditation retreat, at Bucks County Aikido is a special experience.  A small group of Aikidoka spends the weekend in the Pennsylvania countryside. Each person immerses themselves in both Zen and Aikido weapons practice under the guidance of Genjo Marinello Osho of Chobo-ji in Seattle.

This year is the 10th anniversary of the Bucks County Sesshin, and I’ve been lucky to attend about half of them. You’ll find me again this October listening to the wind, shuffling off to dokusan and clinking my bowls. Where will you be?

L. Klein

Bluhm Sensei at Camp; Tango!

Dynamic class with Bluhm Sensei of Siskiyou Aikikai at Summer Camp — his uke above is his son Jason. Find more videos from Bluhm Sensei at the BiranOnline channel on YouTube. (I’ll be posting more as soon as this East Coast heatwave lets up — dripping sweat is not good for keyboards.)

And below is another Summer Camp highlight: A tango performance by Coryl Crane Sensei of North County Aikikai and her excellent partner. Crane Sensei has been studying tango for several years and says it has many parallels to her Aikido practice. Watch for a Biran article on the subject soon!

Update: Crane Sensei’s partner in the tango is Florentino Guizar. Thanks again for the wonderful performance!



A Summer Camp to Remember

We’re all home now from 2013 Birankai North America Summer Camp, nursing bruises and sore knees and folding laundry. We’re also reflecting on a memorable week of training and community. Chiba Sensei, Arnold Sensei and DiAnne Sensei were sorely missed, but the energy and enthusiasm on the mat this week in every class was a testament to their inspiration. A big thanks to Nomura Sensei and Aikido Institute of San Francisco for a great organizational effort (thanks for the ride to the airport, Cesar!).

Check back over the next week as I post more videos and photos from camp. Linked are some great clips from Miyamoto Sensei, Drake Sensei, Lynn Sensei and Flynn Sensei. You’ll find more at My apologies for the late video posts – uploads had slowed to a crawl by the end of our stay at SFSU.

See you all on the mat soon! L. Klein



Intensity continues at Birankai Summer Camp

Great classes today, starting with Zazen with Rodger Park Sensei, then Iaido with Boyet/Flynn Heins senseis (classes were split by level), then Aikido with J.D. Sandoval Sensei of Hayward Aikido. The morning finished with dan weapons with Flynn Sensei and Kyu body art with Miyamoto Sensei. Then softball!

Testing tonight, then another full day of classes and a final class with Lynn Sensei of Eastshore Aikikai. See you on the mat — just don’t throw me too hard first thing in the morning!

A highlight from yesterday: P. Vargas Sensei of Aikido of Albuquerque.


Softball samadhi

The long-awaited East Coast-West Coast Birankai North America Aikido Softball revenge match-up of 2013 concluded this afternoon, and a mighty victory was won by… but really, are winning and losing really that important? Why the attachment to results? Why be deluded by dualities?

Fun was had, masterful hits were delivered, death-defying catches were made and rivalries fueled until next year. See you on the diamond!

Day Two at Camp

Great day at Birankai NA Summer Camp — staring with Zazen at 7 a.m., then Iaido with Nomura Shihan — see the image above of the Iaido students bowing in. Then classes with Dave Alonso Sensei of San Diego, George Lyons Sensei of Bucks County, Penn., and Miyamoto Sensei of Hombu Dojo. The day finished with excellent weapons sessions with D. Bluhm Sensei and Coryl Crane Sensei. See you on the mat tomorrow!

Diagana Sensei launches Summer Camp at SFSU

Great turnout tonight and dynamic practice for the opening of 2013 Birankai North America Aikido Summer Camp at San Francisco State University. Thierry Diagana of Singapore taught the first session and led some high-energy training.
With the end of the BART strike and some beautiful cool weather, we’re ready for a week of intense Birankai Aikido!


See you at Summer Camp!

We’re meeting in San Francisco this week starting Friday for Birankai North America Summer Camp — see you there!

All dojos and Birankai members will be getting print copies of our latest Biran newsletter, including a never-before-published letter from Chiba Sensei on the topic of failing a promotion test and some excellent essays and seminar reports.

Watch this space for updates to the print newsletter and supplemental videos and photos, along with regular updates from Camp. See you in SF!

New Videos: George Lyons

George Lyons Shihan of Bucks County Aikido led a seminar at Green River Aikido in Greenfield, Mass., on Saturday, May 18. Thanks to Kathy and Dave Stier for hosting such a fun event – Aikido in their beautiful dojo, weapons on the main drag of Greenfield, then a feast of pulled pork and brisket!

See the BiranOnline channel on YouTube for more videos from Lyons Sensei and recent seminars with Yamada Sensei and Didier Boyet Sensei.


The sempai–kohai relationship

R. Heins taking ukemi for Miyamota Sensei at 2009 Birankai Summer Camp.

By R. Heins, Northwest Michigan Aikikai
(From the Brooklyn Aikikai blog)

Excerpt from the essay:
The Japanese terms “sempai,” “kohai,” and “dohai” may be misunderstood in Western dojos, if they are used at all; likewise, cultural concepts of seniority can be misinterpreted. Literally speaking, “sempai” means “earlier/previous member [of a group]”; “kohai” means “later member”; and “dohai”—used far less often—means “equal member,” and refers to someone who joined the dojo at the same time as oneself.
In a martial-arts context, the use of these terms depends heavily on circumstances and the culture of the dojo itself. But it’s important to understand that they relate to relationships within a given group, and that certain expectations and obligations are attached to them.
Read the full essay here.

Register for Summer Camp now

From the Aikido Institute of San Francisco: We are pleased to announce that online registration for Birankai North America Summer Camp 2013 is now open. For more information and online registration, please click this link: Birankai North America Summer Camp 2013

The Fourteenth Annual Birankai North America Summer Camp will be held from July 5th to July 10th, 2013 at San Francisco State University in San Francisco, California.

Please note that online payments will be processed through PayPal (credit cards and debit cards are accepted). To secure a place at camp, all registrants (except International registrants) are requested to include a 50 percent deposit upon submission of their registration. Those who choose to send payments by check or money order, rather than PayPal, should ensure that their deposit is received within two weeks of registering. All checks or money orders should be made payable to Birankai North America.

See you at Camp!

Please share your thoughts

I apologize for the delay on this but we’ve finally adjusted the settings for BiranOnline to allow for reader comments. All comments are moderated, but approved comments will be posted in a timely fashion. Please include links and identifying information where appropriate. Comment are especially appreciated on postings like the recent obituary for Genki Roshi: I’d love to read some Birankai members’ memories of Sesshin and Rohatsu with Genki Roshi. Comment away!

— L. Klein, Biran Editor