October 6th, 2021
We had a couple of kids join with an interesting history. Their mom was a member ten years ago. Then, things like ‘life’ got in the way, she had kids and Aikido was no longer in the schedule. Like a good parent, she is handing down what she loves, and her son and daughter are now practicing. Let’s say hi to Francisco who has just joined our adult program. Welcome!
Pizza for Everyone
This past Saturday we started our new schedule. We added a break for lunch on Saturday and an Adult Aikido class on Thursday evening.
We also had kids testing as well. Fifteen tiny Aikidoka doing everything from shiko (knee walking) to a four year old who demonstrated disarming from a boken attack. Cute and deadly. Can’t wait until she starts kindergarten. I asked Paul to buy pizza for everyone and get too much. “Why too much?” he asked. “Because” I said, “the look of a little kid that did not get a slice because we ran out is too much for me to bear. Their eyes get bigger than Mr. Magoo with new glasses and then their voice quivers ‘Is there any pizza for me?’ Just get too much pizza. Please!”
Thursdays, 8:00 pm. is a new adult class. If you are sitting home and finding you need to roll, come on down and take class with Annie. We added a Thursday night Aikido class after Tai Chi Chuan because, well, you can never have too much Aikido.
Tai Chi Chuan class – October 7, 2021. I will be in Maine so Zachary will teach class. It will focus on Form correction.
Halloween Class – Sunday, October 31, 11:00 am, All Day. Come to the dojo in a costume! Make sure you can roll in it (My sumo costume from last year was problematic to say the least.) I will be teaching one of the classes. I have not decided which one.
Veterans’ Day Class – Thursday, November 11, 7:00 pm. Open to all members and guests. We will be honoring our veterans. Please come to show your support for those who have served our Country. This event is free and open to all members of ASNJ and veterans from any dojo who wish to spend the evening celebrating with us. There will be food and refreshments after class. The event is being co-sponsored by the Cranford VFW.
The Unknown Sensei
I went to the dojo Tuesday after work, not a normal night for me. There was no traffic (I mean none. It was weird.), and since my wife had a class, I had some time to kill. A kid’s class was going on and I was chatting with one of the parents as I refilled the fruit basket. The parent was commenting on how great it was we have fruit for the kids (even though I think the adults eat most of it). The parent told me he read about all the fruit we put out during “Sensei’s Jay’s One Year Pandemic letter.” I stood there speechless for 15 seconds. “I am Sensei Jay.” I said out loud. I guess we never met? It was very funny. I was thrilled someone quoted my letter, but the reality is I am not the focus of the dojo. The community is. It helps keep my ego in check and the reward is a great dojo, not my accolades. Unless you are reading this letter and tell me about it, I don’t know who is reading it though a few of you email me and we have an email discussion. (I love this.)
Oh, by the way, there actually is a video by Wendel Gault called “A Seminar with The Unknown Sensei” made many, many years ago in Park Slope. It is a little dated but still a crowd pleaser. I hope you enjoy it.
It’s a Smaller World
I was talking to an old Tai Chi Chuan student (He is not old; he was a student a long time ago. Those adjectives can be tricky.) about an apartment he still owns in Brooklyn though he moved to California. After we were done discussing construction, we jumped into catching up. He is an ER doctor, and I was asking about his experience with Covid. Most of his replies were about the stress of the pandemic which naturally had me ask if he still practiced Tai Chi Chuan. He was interested in getting his seven- and nine-year old kids into martial arts and like most kids, Tai Chi Chuan was not exciting (Can you say - paint drying?). He lives near Berkeley, I asked if he was near Kayla Feder’s dojo. “Yup, about three minutes away.” “Dude, you hit the Aikido lottery! Not only do I think her Aikido is top notch; I also love her. She is one of the dearest people I have met in the Aikido world.”
I told him about the first time I met Kayla, she stayed over my house for a seminar and she and I stayed up to 4am talking. She is such a warm-hearted person. He is taking his kids to join on Tuesday. Small world. Next, I will work on getting him on the mat. Thanks Kayla!
I am still working on uchi and soto. Uchi is when you move off the line to the inside of the attack, to the front of uke. Soto is when you move off the line on the outside of the attack as if you were going around them to their back. (My wife, a non-Aikido practitioner, suggested I clarify the terms. If I am repeating what you know, this is for my wife. I love you, honey.). The class was attacking with tski, first uchi, then soto, then either. No throw for the first half, just entering. We discussed why most people preferred uchi and others prefer soto.
We discussed how there is a moment of panic when attacked (so long as you are not a sociopath). In my Aikido practice, I acknowledge that moment, instead of pretending it does not exist. (Some people have suggested you “train out” the moment of panic by repetition. I think that creates an internal callus, like the knuckles of a karate fist. It still exists, you just train to ignore it.) The moment of panic is a thought “I am going to get hurt” and energy. We can hold onto the thought, like a hamster on a running wheel and the energy gets stuck, and our shoulders rise. Or you can let it go to release the energy to be used for things like moving.
For many, many individual reasons, people have less panic on one side vs the other. It is different for every person. That has me exploring in my (and if you want, your) practice the ‘Why? Why is there a difference? You can go right or left? Front or back? Inside or out?’ I think understanding this can help us understand how to process the moment of panic. What I have found out working on this for a few weeks now, is that moment for me is different not just for different techniques, either using uchi and soto, but it can also change with ukes (Oy vey!). I was hoping for a simpler understanding, but I will continue to work on this and let you know as I head into the unknown. At least it gives me something to write about. Did I tell you about Sensei Jay’s letter?
I was late to teach class on Thursday. It took me over two hours to get from Brooklyn to NJ; so much traffic. I called ahead and asked that they start with the Form and then do Push Hands. I had prepared a great class on wu wei, doing nothing. I had a lot to discuss about doing nothing. I walked in and watched for a few minutes and wu wei went out the window. Watching, I saw everyone had difficultly shifting into their back leg into 100%. I worked with everyone gently helping them into their rear legs. All were amazed how much farther they had available to shift and how much they weighed with all their weight in one leg (This is not a diet advertisement.).
I explained that 99% was the same as 60%. You either were 100% or you were not. The ability to be 100% was very important. You cannot discover your root unless you understand 100%. Yes, No, it isn’t fun, it hurts your thighs, which will get stronger, but being 100% is crucial to learn Tai Chi Chuan (and Aikido, too, but that is another class). You are better off going 101% and falling over backwards than stopping at 99%. Otherwise, you will not experience 100%. (My editor wife says I cannot use numbers. I need to write them out. I wonder how all these 100% are going to affect my grade? Ed Note: Numbers up to ten get written out.) There is no avoiding this lesson. You need to be 100%. (Ed. Note: That’s right. Not ‘one hundred percent.’)
But it doesn’t end there. Being 100% is as much a way of life as it is a physical practice. In Tai Chi Chuan, we learn that 100% is about commitment. Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hour rule in his study (and book Outliers: The Story of Success) of expertise. His research shows it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours of practicing something to be an expert in that something. To put that in perspective, three hours a day, seven days a week for ten years… 10,000 hours. There is a Taoist saying that “a year is a try.” What these ideas are telling us is that to learn something takes 100% commitment. When I did gymnastics, we practiced six days a week at least three hours a day. The school was closed on Sundays. Sundays we would go to the beach and train on the sand. When I was at the Northeastern Tai Chi Chuan School (I know what you are thinking, that is the coolest name. Well, we originally named it Lo Fan Marching Band and Chowder School, but that one did not stick), we had adult classes three hours a night, seven hours on Saturday and four hours on Sunday and we were all there. 100% is about commitment. When you look at great Aikido’ists, like Lehrman Sensei, you need to understand he was on the mat every day for hours for years. Yamada Sensei practiced eight hours a day with O’Sensei in Japan. It is not an accident, it is commitment.
Next time you stand 100%, understand the reason. It is not just a practice for your leg, it is a practice in commitment. You are either 100% or you are not. If it seems harsh, it is. You do not need to do this, but if you want to be the next Shihan, make sure you want it 100%.
"Progress comes to those who train and train; reliance on secret techniques will get you nowhere.”
- Moihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido