Obituary: Kazuo Chiba, 1940 – 2015

Even though I no longer formally practice Aikido, it is a martial art that still matters to me, and one I often think of. I still miss it, and not just because of the hakama.

Recently, T.K. Chiba shihan passed away. He was one of the few living disciples of Aikido’s founder Morihei Ueshiba and his son Kisshomaru, having served as their uchi-deshi for seven years and taking his teachings abroad. He spent ten years teaching in Britain, and he ran a dojo in San Diego from 1981.

I am incredibly fortunate to have trained with two of his students, one of them being my Sensei Denzil Beukes in Grahamstown. Though he may have taught an ocean away, he had an influence on my Aikido, my beloved Rhodes Aikido club, and on my martial arts journey as a whole. His approach to personal development through adversity remains influential to this day.

“I try to stick to the traditional ways as much as possible. The martial, warrior spirit is something I admire greatly and is something I try to preserve. The combatative arts have a profound body history in them and I don’t want to lose it. But it’s more than that. We follow the art, which is struggle. And through the struggle, we transcend into the path of Aikido. Eventually, it brings harmony between you and the external world.”

As more and more of the few remaining disciples begin pass away from old age, regardless of style, it is important that we continue building a martial arts repository online. We are fortunate to have something as valuable as Youtube for preserving footage of how these great teachers trained, and taught, and inspired. So much has already been lost in martial history – the firebombings of Japan in WW2 and the invasion of Okinawa by Allied forces decimated valuable archives and killed numerous students and teachers. As we bid farewell to the giants of our different arts, let us ensure that their legacy and contributions remain long after they do.

Alice in Wonderland

I won’t lie. I was quite disappointed with this offering of Tim Burton’s.

The best word to describe it is ‘generic’. Nothing really new was done with the idea, except for Alice’s history in the beginning. The same old mushrooms. The same old characters, but only the Red Queen has been somewhat updated. Disney should not have tried to make a live action film out of something they had already animated.

And oh, Mr Depp, why did you channel Jack Sparrow for this role? Why did you not have the gleeful madness of the Mad Hatter in his original form? And there wasn’t nearly enough of Stephen Fry’s fantastic voice acting. Alice is a bit of a drip, the White Queen is bizarre in an annoying way and The Knave was slimy.

Look, there was some incredible voice acting, especially for the Bloodhound and the crazy rabbit, but I felt that not enough had been done with what was almost a blank canvas. Burton usually takes generic tales and makes them exciting…with the licence to expand on what was already a drug-fuelled fantasy, he should have created a few more ‘wtf’ moments. But he didn’t, and the gap between my expectation and his offering has made me a little depressed.

Look, it’s worth seeing on the big screen just for the phenomenal graphics, beautiful costumes and cute creatures, but the 3D version was not very well filmed and was annoyingly blurred and out of focus.

I waited over a year, despite my well-placed misgivings, for this movie. And book to movie adaptations can be amazing. Look at Fight Club, King Lear (the director’s name escapes me) The Dark Knight, The Witches, and notably Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. It can be done, but it usually isn’t, and that’s why I am distrustful of movies made from books. Considering that Watchmen and The Scarlet Letter was such horrors, I truly hope they never get round to filming favourites of mine such as Paradise Lost, Moby Dick (a new version would be shit), and The Diary of Adrian Mole.

(Yes, I’m a snob. But we all knew this.)