Friday, February 1, 2008

Chop Chop Salad

I dropped by to see Bernie Lau before he took off for Hawaii. He’s going to work on his autobiography about life as a Seattle cop, martial arts student/teacher free from interruptions in a warm sunny environment.

For those interested in history, it’s a glimpse of the early days of aikido in Hawaii and the people involved. This will undoubtedly upset some people since it also shows the not much talked about side of those aikido pioneers. Not all was happiness and harmony.

Other parts of the book, just like Bernie, will be strange, off kilter, and probably be irritating to those he refers to in the book. Should be a good read, what I’ve seen so far is stuff you just can’t make up. Bernie’s done some very strange and interesting things in life. He’s revealing the funny, raunchy, dirty, and slimy underbelly of Seattle law enforcement from the 1970’s to 1980’s. Enough time has gone by to protect the guilty as he put it. And just to be safe, names will be changed too.

Bernie also served in the submarine service and was a hard hat diver. Back then, that was kind of like being a minor movie star in the service. You got treated well since you did dangerous work sometimes. One of those stories involves Bernie diving in severe storm conditions to check possible damage on the Gato class sub he was on during the Cuban Missile crisis while off the coast of… well, you have to buy the book when it comes out.

Bernie wanted to give me a few things before he took off. One was the Inkan for Icho Ryu. ‘Inkan’ or ‘hanko’ are seals. The term inkan tends to be used for more formal situations, the term hanko for the everyday seal. These are also commonly called ‘chop’ from a Malay term.

The use of these is one hangover from Japanese culture we have kept in Icho Ryu. Why? Because Bernie thought it was something cool and gave the aura of tradition to his newly formed Icho Ryu. I have no problem with that. Traditions all started for a reason, usually in response to a day to day need, a personal whim, or political.

In Japan, an everyday seal or hanko is usually called a "mitome-in" is needed for everything that requires a signature in the western world. And there are also registered seals called "jitsuin" for legal purposes.

For martial arts certificates, there is usually a personal seal of the person awarding the rank, and an organizational seal used. On some, if you look at a formal ranking certificate, there will usually be half a seal on the edge of the certificate too. This is so it can be matched up to the records kept by the organization for proof if needed of the authenticity of the certificate. Sometimes the organization’s inkan is the half one used on the certificate. Though, on my old aikido yudansha certificate, there were all three of these.

The hanko system is archaic really, and cases of fraud using hanko are becoming more common from what I read about the topic. Sad really, but out of this comes the modern day "digital inkan" for digital document verification. Sad to see an old way die out, but neat to see it reborn for the digital era.

I have a number of chop kicking around now. In my drawer I have:
The above mentioned inkan for Icho Ryu as an organization
My name for certificates and official letters
One I was given as a gift with a nickname for use on informal letters
One for signifying any honorary ranking awarded, which I mentioned in "Hold the Meiyo"

And I have a couple more Bernie had made just because he liked them. These are like an artist’s personal seal, no special meaning except to the artist. I won’t use these, since I consider these to be Bernie’s and they have meaning to him. Bernie asked me to take care of these for him and these will be for his use alone.

Now, if I make hanko with any meaning for me, I guess I should get a kanji like this.

This is rabbit, usagi. Given the guys call my class and Icho Ryu "Yamamoto-ha fluffy aiki bunny ryu", this would be appropriate and could be construed as insulting to those with sticks up their backsides about such things.

Other things Bernie gave me were:
Copies of his rank certificates personally signed by Uyeshiba Morihei.

Stacks of photos, including another copy of the autographed picture of Uyeshiba he had. Fun little story here. When Bernie was at Aiki Honbu, and met Uyeshiba, he pulled out a picture of Uyeshiba that he brought to Japan to have signed for the Hawaii Aiki Kai dojo. Uyeshiba was happy to sign for Bernie, since Bernie had brought him a bottle of whisky. The senior yudansha present were angry with Bernie for asking, but Uyeshiba sensei was all smiles and happy to sign it for Bernie. (Gee, sounds like an episode of "Entourage") And Uyeshiba got his thumbprint on the picture as he signed it.

Bernie went and got a copy made of the picture, gave the copy to the dojo, and kept the original with Uyeshiba’s thumbprint for himself. Bernie sold the original photo when he needed cash quickly a few years ago. Koichi Barrish now has the original photo with Uyeshiba’s thumbprint that Bernie sold to him. So, if you want to see Uyeshiba’s thumbprint, go up to the Shinto temple in Granite Falls.

The last thing Bernie insisted on me having was a tegata with the date and documentation as proof I didn’t steal the inkan and it’s legitimate passing to me. Except Bernie decided to put an additional finger on the thing as a joke, so it’s got 6 fingers. Given I’m in charge of Icho Ryu and the unbalanced people in it, it seems just perfect to me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Classic . . . really an original life. I'm looking forward to Bernie Lau's book. Thanks for letting us know about it.