My family comes from Aizu Wakamatsu, a small rural city, in the North East of Japan, known to have a rich history and tradition of somatics and animism. In fact, Aizu Wakamatsu is known to be the spiritual birthplace of Aikido, which legend says that Aikido can be traced back to secret ‘inside-the-castle’ martial arts of the Aizu domain’s elite samurai.
As a 1st generation immigrant child who grew up in Toronto Canada, I would go back to Aizu Wakamatsu in the summers and be amazed at what felt like a mystical land, where an abundance of grasshoppers and crickets would jump from underneath every time you took a step in a field. Not to be outdone by the insects, Kami (spirits) and Buddhas were everywhere too, with 33 Kuan Yin statues as pilgrimage sites in a city of fewer than 150,000 people, including one living by a waterfall in a sacred forest only about 500m away from my matrilineal Grandparent’s house.
I believe my current work of exploring nondual somatics and animism on North American soil, takes after my early memories of Aizu’s rich spiritual culture that was completely embedded into the natural landscape.
I also find my practice to have a deep relationship with my patrilineal ancestors, whose blood can be traced back to a clan of renegade shaman-warriors i.e. ninjas that rose to prominence in the feudal era of 15th century Japan, and before that, to the early priesthood lineage of the Kumano Shrine that established itself in the 8th century.
I officially started out my ‘career’ in 2017, after an ancestral visitation I had while living in a cabin on a remote island with a population of fewer than 1000 people, off the coast of Vancouver Island BC. At the time, I was deeply burnt out from my brief yet heart-breaking involvement in leftist communities plagued with rampant infighting and bullying.
Exhausted, I asked my ancestors: “What is the root of all oppression?”
They answered: “Our entire cosmos is a field of energy in stasis and flux. All human ailments are simply manifestations of stuck energy.”
Shortly after, I began innovating and offering coaching work that addressed white supremacy as an embodied energetic problem, rather than merely an ideological one. I particularly focused on applying Japanese energy medicine foundations such as Hara (belly-centre) cultivation as a way to directly heal oppression held in the body as trauma.
This piece of work evolved into something I referred to as ‘cultural somatics’, an approach to both individual and cultural change that theorizes cultures to be bodies made of bodies. Because of this, individual change and collective change are necessarily embodied processes that have a fractal relationship. One of the great benefits I saw in this kind of ‘cultural-somatic’ approach was that it showed us that everything we learn about our own somatic process can be applied to an understanding of how to work with social transformation.
Through this piece of work, I met my former collaborator Dare Sohei, who introduced me to foundational concepts of what I would call contemporary ‘American’ animism, which I understand to have a distinct character of integrating different ancestral traditions and their spirits into each other, reflecting the mosaic nature of North American culture itself. This led me to develop a cultural somatic framework that saw the ancestors and other intangible presences our cultures speak of as beings that live in the ‘cultural nervous system’ of our ‘cultural somas’. If you are interested in learning more about this, you can read this article that goes into more detail.
In pursuing this work over the last few years, from late 2017 to early 2021, I have experienced ‘canceling’ through continual sabotaging by peers via false and projected accusations of harm, including an attack by a group of white women who had appropriated my energetic approach to healing white supremacy and successfully manipulated their community into believing I am a sexually predatory white supremacist infiltrator. This made me realize that the social justice discourse and community that I had implanted my work within, was not the right for me place to be.
From my own experiences and the experience of others, I’ve come to observe that the reason why we collectively cause unnecessary violence is that we have completely lost our agency in our relationship to ideas.
Currently, I am experimentally moving towards a more intentional integration of the erotic into my practice based on the understanding that humans experience the transfer of sensate, emotional, and cognitive information as an erotic, or even sexual, experience.
Here is an inconclusive list of some of the lineages my work draws from:
- Schools of modern creative and somatic therapies such as dance movement therapy, somatic sex education, Hakomi Method, and expressive arts therapy (which I am certified in through Langara College and is my main training). I acknowledge that these lineages of modern therapy derive much of their healing resource from the traditional practices of cultures of color as well as European folk cultures.
- Asian/Japanese ancestral embodiment lineages from energy medicine to martial arts that I have immersed myself in through self-practice and research (I am a fluent Japanese reader/speaker). There is a great ocean of knowledge here but people who have been particularly influential are Kenji Ushiro, Hideo Takaoka, and Corky Quakenbush (Please note that I am not a practitioner who can explicitly instruct on the arts I draw from).
- Animist-indigenous ritual and ancestral healing, a lot of which I have absorbed through my immersion in Japanese culture, supported by my former years long collboration years long with Dare Sohei of Animist Arts. Other inspirations for animism in my work include Sobonfu Some, Malidoma Some, and various writings on Wetiko (an Algonquin word for a cannibalistic spirit).
- Street dance, particularly ‘popping’, an umbrella term for mechanical street dances that emerged from black and brown communities of the West Coast of Turtle Island during the early 1970s.