Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Under the Influence

I’ve been lucky to have some good mentors influence me. Even if I only had a short period of time with them, these are some of the people, outside of family, who made an impact on me.

Bernie Lau was my first mentor in a martial arts context, he had the confidence in my having the potential to be good at the budo stuff, to drive me and push me to exceed what I could have done otherwise. Bernie taught me to drive myself, to not be afraid to try and fail, but to learn from that experience.

Andy Dale was another in my early days, he really worked with me one on one a lot since quite often it seemed like I was the only one or one of only a few people in class. Andy was Bernie’s first student in Seattle, and he reinforced what Bernie did, as well as frame it in his own words. Physically, I’m more built like Andy, so he was able to help me understand how physique affects technique.

Doug Tsuboi was another darn good influence on me. Doug spent a lot of time helping me when I was teaching at the University of Washington. With out ever being too much of a pain, along with Andy, he helped me learn to communicate ideas and the idea of being a role model. Though I was far too young and stupid to realize it back then.

Don Angier was another major influence on my martial arts. He was kind enough to treat me as a student in his dojo, and help me understand how things connect in what I thought I knew. Which helped me to understand the idea of "self learning". Though I was never an official student, he treated me as one and helped me to frame what I was learning in a manner that was understandable and far more communicable to others.

Fujiko Gardner is another unrecognized aikidoka outside the Pacific NW. Even in the Pacific NW, she is not really recognized as the pioneer woman in aikido. She was teaching in the early 1970’s, a few years before Mary Heiny came to Seattle and founded the Seattle School of Aikido. She is perhaps one of the finest examples of believing in community and expressing that through her aikido I’ve ever met. When I was dumped on for Icho Ryu leadership, Fujiko was one of my models for approach of what I wanted to develop in my role as head fluffy bunny of Icho Ryu.

Jon Bluming is surprisingly one of my mentors in how I approach things. Big, strong, tough, crude, and a very good man to those he cares about. In a very short period of time, he got through to me on some very important aspects of what it means to actually live up to being a teacher and what that really means.

But one of the influences in this mix of my life is someone not at all in martial arts. This is someone I’ve met as a kid only a few brief times, but still saw everyday. His name is Chris Wedes, and he played a character on local Seattle TV called "JP Patches". JP Patches, the mayor of Seattle City Dump, was on KIRO TV from 1958 until 1981.

I watched his TV show daily, morning and afternoon after school, and was on it twice. Even when I was in high school, I still enjoyed his show if I was home sick (or skipped classes) and watched TV. JP and his TV sidekick Bob Newman, more than any one else I can think of, shaped my sense of humor and the twists and turns my mind travels for laughs and how I view things. You notice I still refer to JP, not Chris or Mr. Wedes? Real fans, known as "Patches Pals" will always first think of JP, not Chris Wedes, the man behind the makeup.

For anyone not from the the Seattle area, it’s hard to understand, but this man, along with Bob Newman, really shaped the children of two generations locally. Here is a link to JP’s web page.

There were a few local kid shows at that time, which along with JP, really were off kilter in humor. Stan Boreson on KING, Brakeman Bill on KTNT, along with JP, were the leaders in local kids shows. And to me, they rocked.

But JP Patches was king of those shows. Captain Kangaroo? Far too wholesome. Sesame Street? Sorry, can’t hold a candle to JP in my mind. Want more on these guys who shaped Seattle humor for decades? Here’s some more links.

Why do I include JP in this influence and mentor blog? JP recently announced he’s got blood cancer, and has canceled his upcoming appearances. This is sad to several generations of Patches Pals. It also got me to thinking what a major influence he really was, in a good way to the entire Puget Sound area.

How so many so called martial arts kids programs (really just expensive baby sitting with pads) fail to do as much as this one man did to reach out and help foster a lot of what kids needed for success in life with his simple show and good humor. Despite the humor, there was a good solid message for kids to do well for their own sake.

JP’s public appearances have never failed to draw a crowd and he always, always, had a kind word and time for kids and us Patches Pals. A few years ago I was at the Northgate shopping mall and JP and his sidekick, Bob, dressed up as JP’s erstwhile girlfriend, Gertrude, was there. Read the website history, it will make sense. (maybe)

I stood by the sidelines, and watched parents who grew up watching JP Patches, taking their kids to meet JP Patches. And watched with real pleasure, kids who had never seen this man before, responding to his encouragement to do well in school, help at home, and both children and parents laughing at the humor and teasing he gave them all.

JP Patches, regardless of how much time I spent with him personally, is one of my major influences in how I try to look at things in life. Off kilter and twisted, so tragedy becomes humor, and humor helps you to get through the tough times in life. And honestly, that way of looking at things has helped me to better understand martial arts and the way things connect in not so obvious ways.

JP, if you can see me through the I.C.U.2-TV, best wishes to a recovery.

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