Thursday, June 21, 2012


Sonny's birthday is June 26th. He was not a fan of birthdays when he was alive, said it just reminded him of getting older, but since his death it's seemed like a nice thing to celebrate.
Sonny was quite superstitious, and I guess, growing up in the culture that he did, had a respect for the 'spirit world' which seemed ever present in his life, though just below the surface.
The most common example of this was when the video recorder glitched and would not record class. Sonny would smile and say "I guess the old men don't want me to show that" .... I'd smile too ... but even if the video started working again, we would switch to a different subject.

I suspect this acknowledgement of an 'unseen world' might have come from living a dangerous life, and probably also from a life surrounded by swords.

Throughout the ages swords have been closely associated with spirits and demons, with mystical powers either imbued by the maker or some ... 'other'.
There's a sword dealer in our area who was friends with Sonny, and sometimes gave him weapons as gifts, often older blades that needed repair. He himself had a large and varied collection of antique blades, and if you were lucky, he would let you handle and move with them when you went to his shop. He had a few mystical stories of his own, amongst which was one he told about how he started to have bad dreams and became unable to sleep. In the end he had to move his sword collection, as apparently the blades were in an inauspicious place in his house. After they were moved, restful sleep returned to the owner.

I have certainly been cautioned about buying used/old blades, and always to take a potential new purchase to be 'evaluated' by someone who could 'feel it's energy'. I was told that owning a sword equated to owning a guard dog. The dog had to like and respect it's owner, and the owner had to be in command of the dog. A dog that had got a taste for blood, for instance, needed much firmer handling than one untried, or was perhaps not even worth the trouble.

Of course this stuff is totally irrational .. but I have to say I enjoy it all the same. Personally I have held swords that felt incredibly powerful, sung a pure and clear pitched note, and others that felt like I was holding a beautiful but very poisonous snake. I have also held many blades that felt like nothing at all.

Now whether you believe all that or think it just hooey, well, that's your call, though I'll note that Sonny refused more than one gift of an antique blade, and tied another up in a silk cloth, bound it to the sheath and placed it high in the back corner of the room where no one was tempted to interact with it, so there you go.....

Anyway ... this is all a long way around to saying that Sonny definitely had a relationship and a respect for the spirit world that went hand in hand with his pragmatic material and teaching style. So on Tuesday I will be smoking my annual cigarette, burning one for him along with some incense. drinking a good cup of coffee with probably a totally mediocre donut from the shop down the road from his old place, and hoping the smoke reaches across the worlds as a thank you from this side to the world of the 'old men'.


Jake said...


Apparently I shared a birthday with Sonny. Craziness.

He sounds like a fascinating man to have trained with, on a lot of levels.

Enjoy your smoke.

Maija said...

Well Happy Birthday for next week my friend!
I will be sure to send some smoke up for the 'old men' in your teaching lineages too :-)

Jake said...


Funny thing...I know nothing about the "old men" in my teaching lineages. In one case, you could argue that there aren't any. In another, I'm sure there are, but I just don't know anything about them.


Anonymous said...


Melisa Spence said...

Happy birthday to Sonny! And thank you for the windows into your relationship with him.