Friday, February 29, 2008

Hall of Fame CRAP and history tidbits

Recently I noticed Bernie Lau’s name was on one of those "Hall of Fame" websites. This one is pretty much the same as the soke-ship councils and other hall of fame associations in my opinion. People of various backgrounds, some good, some not, giving each other their 15 minutes of fame. I personally fail to see the point of these groups, but a lot of people like these things and that’s cool. That just tells me whom not to hang around.

Now, Bernie, even though he does like to be in the spotlight, doesn’t go for these things either. So I wrote an email to Bernie in Hawaii, sent him the link, and asked if he knew he was on this hall of fame site. So I asked if prior to my being placed in charge, if one of the senior yudansha might have done something on Bernie’s behalf.

Here is Bernie’s response:
No - I did not know I was on there- I'm certain it wasn't "(name removed) ". Seems like everyone and their brother is on that list - (at least it's not the " American Grandmaster of Soke-ship list "). Aloha, all is great in Paradise!

(BTW, I did have Bernie removed from the list he is referring to, and which shall remain unidentified, a few years ago.)

So, I sent an email off to the contact for this hall of fame association under discussion. This is what I sent, and what I got back. I’ve inserted a snide commentary of my own, and those comments are in parathenses and italicized.

Dear Sir,

I am Bernie Lau's heir for Icho Ryu. He has asked me to have you remove his name from your website since he has never accepted induction to your hall of fame. Please respond to this email with confirmation of removal.

While we wish you well in your efforts, neither Bernie nor I consider this an honor and desire no association with your organization. We request you remove his name immediately. (Yes, a trifle snarky but I thought it was needed)

Neil Yamamoto

The response to above:
Dear Neil, Osu!
Please be advised... I will look into the validity of your request...
However, there is a process for induction that does not permit someone to be listed or removed without personal written notarized authorization. Politics is not of interest for us here.
Thank you.

(Name removed)

(OK, fair enough, prompt response, and explains their point of view and concern. So I sent a second email to state I do have the authority to act on Bernie’s behalf. Here is the second email and the response.)

Dear Sir,
I have the power of attorney for Bernie Lau, I will provide a copy of this if needed. However, please be aware I have spoken with Bernie about this and he has NEVER ACCEPTED INDUCTION to any association. Please let me know who approved this induction and who nominated him.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Response to the above:
Dear Neil,
Respectfully, I refer you back to the original reply, regarding this matter. Thank you.

(Name removed)

(OK, I can be patient. After all, with the number of people listed, it’s a big shoebox to have to sort through to find the nomination forms and acceptance. After a couple days, I got the following response)

Dear Neil,
Your request can be granted, upon you forwarding information and documents of verification.
1. Your personal I D.
2. Award received, title, year and place of induction.
3. Bernie Lau's written request for removal, notorized, with your power of attorney document.
4. Foward the same to (Association name removed).
Thank you

(All right, I have a few problems here. First, notice they can’t or won’t tell me whom nominated Bernie or who accepted the induction?

Point #1 My personal ID? So you can have all my vitals and particulars? I think not, especially since I’m already providing a notarized request, which means the notary public will have checked and verified my identity.

#2 The information they are asking for Bernie to provide in order to be removed can’t be provided, since I can’t provide what was never accepted. So, #2 can’t be done.

#3 means I go spend $10-$15 for notary charges for this. I’m a cheap bastard, but I’ll do it.

In the meantime, I’ll play along and see what happens, so I’ll take a softer, but still sharp stick approach)

My response to the above:

Dear Sir,

The problem here is Bernie never accepted induction for the Hall of Fame. As such, he should not be listed. Since we can't provide what was never received, that being "award, title, year, and place of induction", What do you recommend doing?

Thanks for your attention to this.


Response to my email:

Dear Neil,

The immediate concern is not to disrespect Bernie Lau or anyone listed!

If Bernie Lau or Representatives for the same, never made formal application to (Association name removed).... It is highly unlikely and unusual for his name to be included. I recommend patience.... UNTIL VERIFICATION CAN BE ESTABLISHED OTHERWISE... IF IT IS DETERMINED THAT THERE WAS NEVER FORMAL APPLICATION... AS YOU SUGGEST... HIS NAME WILL BE REMOVED.

Thank You.
Best regards.

(Name removed)

(But it’s perfectly acceptable to have people submit their nomination via your web site with no proof of identification. Anonymous nominations and acceptance to the Hall of Fame are allowed but jump through hoops legal paperwork needed for removal?

So if I contact all the people on the list, they all have accepted? I already know a person on there beside Bernie who didn’t accept.

OK, I’ve been patient, but it’s been 4 weeks. They have not answered nor removed Bernie from the listing)

Do you see this going in circles like I do? I can’t have Bernie removed since we are supposed to supply when he was inducted. We can’t supply that since he was never inducted. I can have Bernie send an email, but it will get the same response since we can’t supply the induction date or who nominated him. And they won’t tell me who nominated him or who accepted the induction. What a load of stinky brown stuff!

In actuality, this is not a big deal. It was more a "What the heck, let’s try and clean it up" and it got to be funny, in a Catch 22 weirdness sense. Since it’s really meaningless, I’m not going to pursue it any further. If they respond and remove Bernie, great, if not, it doesn’t really matter.

All I can say beyond that is if they think basking in Bernie’s Hawaii sunshine glow is cool, OK, but I’m also going to dull the glow just a bit with this post.

Side notes:
In doing a bit more research, it looks like Bernie was perhaps the first or one of the first Caucasians in Hawaii – North America to start Aikido. Michael Frenz, Bernie’s childhood friend, was the second, in 1955.

It’s a safe bet Bernie was one of the first Caucasians to be regularly training at Hawaii Aiki Kai in Honolulu as well given the dislike of Haole’s prevalent at that time.

This is interesting to me since it’s been told to one of the Icho ryu yudansha, and relayed to me, that there is no way Bernie studied with Tohei, nor did he have his rank certificates signed personally by Uyeshiba. He would be famous if he did. This bit of information is from a Pacific NW aikido instructor in Oregon.

Bernie sure isn’t famous (infamous perhaps) but he did start with Tohei in Hilo at the Queen Liliuokalani garden teahouse. Check with Nonaka Sensei in Hawaii about the Lau kid if you want confirmation of that.

Next on the history update, Two items courtesy of Joe Svinth. reported in the September 2,1958 Montana Standard Newspaper article, aikido was found to be too rough for the Honolulu Police department. Here’s the article text. The spelling and grammar errors are in the article, not me mistyping!

Training Too Tough For Policemen
HONOLULU Wl - If the local jendarmes can't take care of themselves, they can't blame it on soft training methods.

Nearly half of a class of recruit policemen learning the rough-and-tumble
tactics of aikido has needed medical attention. The city safety director is worried
about the number of casualties. "The thing has gone completely haywire," he said. Aikido has supplanted the milder judo as the main means of self defense employed by the police force.

Another cool bit on Aikido history for you researchers. Mary Howie, wife of Clarence Howie Jr. serving in the US Navy, was training at Aikikai hombu in 1962.

Yamada (NY Aikido dojo) was overseeing her training at the time. According to a quote from Yamada in the article in the Jan 23, 1962 Stars and Stripes, only 7 other women at that point in time, all Japanese, had achieved ikkyu or better. Anyone know more of Mary Howie?

All for now.

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