Yesterday John Stevens Sensei, who besides being a 7th dan in Aikido, is also a world-renowned expert on Zen calligraphy. During four hours that went too quickly, about twenty lucky participants were able to gain under his expert eye a basic understanding (and I mean, basic) of the joy and complexity this wonderful art form.
(The workshop followed a morning Aikido workshop co-taught with Robert Frager Sensei, 7th dan and Founder of the Western Aikido Association. The Association sponsored both events that were held at Sofia University in Palo Alto, CA.)
The workshop (and I’m not giving away too much here…hopefully this master and scholar will return for another workshop soon) began with instruction and then practicing how to apply brush and ink and create an enso. Although I think stepping into another world would be a more apt description of what transpired during the workshop.
Stevens Sensei, before we could become lost in our own attempts, had us create an enso following a detailed set of instructions (he stood beside each of us). Every person in the workshop did one with everyone watching. Stevens said we should be sweating when we finished from the intense concentration and release of energy. [I must admit my attempt was a bit too energetic…it was more like an explosion-- and I was sweating!]
Next was learning how apply brush and ink to create Mt. Fuji—or, at least some resemblance of that famous mountain. By now, the brush was beginning to feel comfortable in our hands, as was the feel of the flow of ink across the paper—all done with one breath (that’s the only secret I’ll reveal…you will need to attend the next workshop to get the Full Monty).
We then moved to learning how to paint a dragon. Akin to a lightening bolt striking when the brush hits the paper, it was a powerful experience. My final dragon was created with the asssitance of Mei and is photographed here. A video of Steven Sensei creating a large dragon can be found on YouTube here.
When the workshop ended, it seemed like the four hours had vanished in a twinkling of an eye. I was exhausted from the intense concentration, but as I drove north through San Francisco and Marin County to Sonoma County, also elated at being able to step into this magical world with this gifted master teacher.
You can be sure I’ll let everyone know when the next workshop occurs. Then you can learn at some of the secrets of this wonderful art form.