Cyclists in Osaka.

An Observation – Old men on bicycles in Osaka.
After reading an article in a British tabloid about a man being placed on probation for getting “frisky” with his bicycle, I thought of Osaka cyclists and the differences between aged women and men riders. No, I’m not suggesting that people in this country engage in weird bicycle sex – although it is possible some do – no, I’m talking about aged men on bicycles. Many can’t ride well.

I often see 65 to 85 year-old men (you’ll notice I left my own age demography out of the group  ) wobbling along the sidewalks, teetering on falling off; oblivious to life around them.These male curmudgeons are not at all like their female counterparts who ride well and are able, for the most part, to judge dangers ahead of impact. The old fellas, however, can’t seem to control the bike – they’re only just moving fast enough to stay balanced or upright. It truly is a wonder, at times, how these men maintain an upright position at all – the laws of physics notwithstanding. 

Now if you happen to be following behind one of these “Not Easy-Riders” and try to pass him, you will more often that not, have to risk sideswiping the guy or perhaps having to slam on your own brakes to avoid sending him head first toward the cutter. When you finally do see your chance to leave old Taro in your bitumen dust and pull out (so to speak) to pass and crank down on your pedals, old Taro wobbles across in front of you again.

So why are these old gents so hopeless on bicycles? I can hazard a guess and suggest that it is because after 40 or 50 years working in corporate Japan – taking the train or subway everyday to some high rise office building and working at some sedentary job these men have lost a lot of physical dexterity. Women, on the other hand, use a bicycle everyday throughout their lives and therefore maintain riding skills. Whether it be taking the kids to kindergarten, the daily run to the supermarket, over to a parents’ home for coffee and a chat or whatever, Older Japanese women, on the whole, are better cyclists than older men.

Giselle and the fate of Wahine


Shodokan Aikido and the Methodology of Shuhari.


The Concept of Shuhari

Shuhari (守破離), I believe is firstly the heuristic study or learning of Aikido fundamentals which then segues to experimentation and true application which finally allows us to attain a higher understanding of the art – in short; to learn, to understand and demonstrate, and to transcend. Clearly, shuhari is part of, not only Aikido culture, but built into the fabric of Japanese budo.

The Kanji:

1. Shu () _ is to protect, obey and learn the fundamentals of the art. This also includes following traditional teachings that have been passed down from teacher to student. Protecting the basic principles of Aikido is paramount. If the foundations of Aikido are forsaken then so too will Aikido’s history be lost. During the “shu” stage of study, a student should follow the teachings of his or her teacher or teachers without question. The student should not attempt to dissect and query every point taught but should absorb the knowledge being imparted – he or she has not yet achieved the skills to perform natural techniques. I believe that learning an art such as Aikido takes dedication and the ability to learn heuristically.

2. Ha (?) - is, I believe, the step of being able to experiment will the knowledge gained through “Shu”. The student should have the skills to perform techniques demonstrating the principles he or she as learned. Indeed, the student is free to digress from a formal study style and experience a full range of different techniques. His or her understanding and ability of basic or Ki-hon waza has reached a milestone as the methodology of Aikido finally becomes clear in the mind of the student.

3. Ri (離?) – to reach an ultimate goal, to transcend to where the body and the mind are one. The student literally lives and breathes Aikido. The student’s movements are natural – many years of study have conditioned the body and the mind. He or she no longer needs to cling to basic forms; they are free to experience or transcend to full physical and mental awareness. In a sense their abilities becoming one with the spirit of Aikido. Some may say that when a student reaches the “Ri” stage in the study of Aikido, that he or she is free to separate and create techniques within the rules or laws of Aikido – create completely unhindered.


It is clear that shuhari is an important concept for the study, and the ultimate understanding, of Aikido. It is not something that is taught but something that is experienced. I’m sure if students of Aikido had a clear understanding of what the concept of shuhari is, their abilities and skills in the art would improve dramatically. Shuhari also teaches us patience and gives us a philosophy to live and practice by. I also believe this concept could be applied to the study of other Japanese cultural traditions. Shuhari is a concept not really understood by Aikidoka in western countries; perhaps it is something that should be explained in order to bring a better understanding of Aikido – its direction and its methodology.

Since researching this topic I have come to understand Shodokan Aikido so much more. I also realize that I, like many others, are still in the “Shu” phase of my training and that I have many years of practice and study before I segue to the next level of “Ha”. Understanding the Japanese concept of shuhari has given me motivation to train harder, a sense of purpose and a desire to learn more. It is clear that Tomiki shihan formulated Shodokan Aikido based on shuhari which is probably why this style of Aikido continues to grow around the world. Finally, it is my wish to share the concept of shuhari with many Aikidoka and help them achieve the goals they strive for in Shodokan Aikido. It is also interesting to note that shuhari is a concept also practiced in Shorinji Kempo.




Hiroshima Then and Now.

It has been well over sixty years since the devastation cause by an atomic bomb, code-named “Little Boy” , was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Thousands, if not millions, died in the aftermath either from the firestorm or of radiation poisoning in the days, weeks and months that followed. The city was literally erased from the map. Today, Hiroshima along with the second atomic bombed city, Nagasaki are considered by many to represent peace throughout the world.


Jarred bodies and burnt out vehicles were littered throughout the city.


August 7th, 1945. The day after “little Boy” was dropped on the city.

The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and a few days later on the city of Nagasaki led to the unconditional surrender of Japan. Two large cities had suffered the wrath of technology that, not only the Japanese couldn’t fathom, but also the rest of the world.

Indeed, weapons of mass destruction were now a reality – scientists had created a monster.

In the decades that followed the Japanese worked hard and rebuilt both cities. Nowadays, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are both thriving metropolis’ . Some of the buildings that survived those two fateful dates have been preserved so that the horror of atomic, and later nuclear, weapons will never be repeated.


“The Hiroshima Dome”. This building was a Government building prior to the atomic bomb. Today it stands in Peace Park as a reminder.


Downtown Hiroshima in the 21st Century.


Hiroshima today. Like the mythical Phoenix so too did this city rise from the ashes.

Lest we forget the horror of the atomic bombs – “Little Boy” (Hiroshima) and “Fat Man” (Nagasaki)

A couple of tips on how to get a teaching job in Japan.

If you have yearning to come to Japan and work as a language teacher, then there are a couple of things you need to know in order to be hired. First of all having a university or college diploma is a prerequisite these days. Not so much because the company wants to make sure you went to school, but for – one: visa extension purposes and two: in order to woe students. If you happen to have graduated from a university such as Harvard or Princeton then you’re pretty much guaranteed a job even before the interview.

For those that haven’t graduated university, don’t despair. If you’re good looking with a fantastic smile, you’re in. Visas can be sorted, don’t worry. You see, many schools and language companies in Japan put their emphasis on looks when hiring. Educational background comes second, if you’re beautiful or handsome. It is all about image – beautiful people teaching a language. Your good looks bring in money and money is what it is all about for many firms. It doesn’t matter if you’re the dumbest person on the planet and have horrendous language skills, as long as you look like Tom Cruise or Johnny Depp or Julia Roberts or Angelina Jolie, you’re hired. You’ll have hundreds of students lining up to take your lesson, simply because, to many young Japanese, you are that movie star.


So, head to your local beauty salon and see if the pros can perform a miracle, Japan awaits.


attling mother nature Giselle and the Fate of Wahine

Don’t be fooled–conditions promised and conditions given by English schools and companies.

“Starting salaries from 250,000 yen” many ads declare. “Accommodation and visa support” are also “carrots” for the job seeker. These promises of fortune and help are often exaggerated. “Exaggerated?” you may ask. My response is “Yes, exaggerated.” Take, for example, the promise of the aforementioned 250,000 yen starting salary. More often than not what the employee gets deposited in their bank account is a lot less than 250,000 yen; hidden expenses have been deducted. These expenses can be anything from apartment rental to company health insurance fees that were not mentioned during the interview or written into any contract. There are even some companies that will inform the new employee that a percentage of their salary is being kept until he or she completes their contract.


Teaching Children English is now a booming business.

In the case of accommodation often the employee does not have a choice on where he or she will live – the school or company decides and often has a “special” contract with the apartment owner. The employee may also be forced to share accommodation with another teacher; a stranger no less.

Working hours and days off are also sometimes changed to suit students’ needs, not the teacher’s. Contracts may also state X amount of vacation days per year however, employees soon learn that they are unable to take their promised vacations randomly; the school or company puts their interests ahead of the teacher’s.


When applying for a job make sure you read the contract and any work rules thoroughly. Don’t do what many do and give documentation a cursory look then sign – you’ll regret it. Ask questions. If the contract states 250,000 yen per month, ask what the tax rate is and whether there are any other deductions. As for accommodation; if the company tells you that they have apartments available, ask to be shown each apartment. Your living conditions are very important – if you are unhappy in your apartment you will not be happy in your job.

There are quite a few Japanese companies offering English lessons or English services that are not above using nefarious methods to make money. You may consider yourself to be a serious and professional teacher, however, many company owners or upper management see you as a commodity. Remember the student always comes first and is always right – you are easily replaced, students are not.


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