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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

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June 8, 2024

 

What’s Happenin’

●        Lehrman Shihan will resume teaching monthly classes at ASNJ on Wednesday, June 12, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

●        Hakama class – Sunday, June 30, 11:00 am. A dojo meeting will follow. This is mandatory for all instructors.

●        Camp Riverbend, Teens will once again spend a day learning Aikido at ASNJ on July 17.  Volunteers needed, please!!

●        Aikido Summer Camp will be held in Montreal from July 21 to 27, 2024.

●        Lehrman Shihan Seminar Helsinki Finland August 9th - 11th 2024

●        Lehrman Shihan Seminar at Portsmouth Aikido, Saturday, October 12-13.

●        Dues will be changing on July 1 (first time in over ten years). You should have received an email outlining the changes. If not, please talk to Paul.

Some Free Advice

You know what they say about free advice? You get what you pay for.  Does this still work when you are talking about your own advice? How about when you ignore your own advice?  Yup, that is me. (This sounds like a Zen Koan – If you are alone in the forest clapping while you are ignoring your  advice, what is your favorite color?)

 

When asked about ASNJ’s success, I often tell other dojo owners the importance of SEO (Search Engine Optimization, or how when someone searches for a place to learn martial arts, Google finds you versus another dojo. The new version of ‘being popular’!) This is mostly how we draw new students to ASNJ along with word of mouth. Google wants you to show them you care about your business and its website for them to send people your way.  You need to spend some time doing things to keep it fresh and relevant for the Google algorithm (the new digital cool kids) to care and pay attention to you.

 

You may have noticed I did not write a letter for 4-5 months.  I was busy. Not only did I not, not write any letters (sorry for the double negative,) but I did not keep up with my SEO work. As a result, less people connected with us to join. About the same time that I started writing a new letter, I caught up with our SEO. ASNJ got eleven inquiries the next week and six of them joined. We were cool (in the eyes of Google) again.

 

So let me give you a little free advice. Sorry, I was talking to myself.

 

Very Big of You

Remember that great scene from the movie “Big” (Machine: "Zoltar says make your wish."    Josh: "I wish I were big.”) What we learn from that Tom Hanks movie (it is getting rough if I am pulling lessons for this letter from Tom Hanks. What’s next, talking to sporting equipment?.... Landing a plane in a river?) is that it’s not always the best idea just to be big.  It depends. Let’s look at that in Aikido. You always want to extend, that is basic.  But do you always want to be big? There are plenty of times that being small is perfect, or sometimes, to totally disappear. Aikido is a martial art based on options.

 

The one point is if you are going to be big, be BIG. Don’t do it halfway. When I taught a class, my theme was if you were going to be big, be very big. (What does this have to do with Tom Hanks? Give it a few paragraphs. Foreshadowing?)

 

It was a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood as I was driving to the dojo, I was thinking about how the Yin/Yang symbol is actually spherical from a previous letter. It was like trying to unlock the DaVinci Code. This was still on my mind when I taught an advanced class who are in a league of their own. I asked everyone to be bigger than they ever have, to completely fill the space -- the whole mat with their bigness.  The whole class was using the attack tski (punch) while you made your sphere really, really big.

 

We started with kokyu ho and when uke thinks about punching, you should be filling the space, your sphere not with your arm but your whole body. Be big. Inflate the sphere. Make a big Splash. Then to kotegaeshi, again making yourself, and therefore, the movement big. Then omote iriminage when nage just moves way past uke before, during and, after the attack.  Keep it big. Sounds easy but it is not. It requires you to think of yourself as big. For many this implies confidence and great self-worth.  Think being big, filling the room. Make your Aikido larger than life like an actor who overemotes. You know, like Tom Hanks. (Did I dis him? Its not like we are Bosom Buddies? Heck, I hardly ever watch TV.)

 

When uke attacks, especially when they strike, their goal is for you to focus onto their attack. They want their strike to be your whole universe, for you to lose yourself and focus only on their fist.  This makes you tiny; it shrinks your sphere to the size of their fist. You become unimportant subjugated to only the importance of their fist.  If you have a big sphere, you are bigger than their fist and you did not take their bait. Disregard their attack.  Just move off the line and get big.  Uke feels very silly. Uke feels insignificant. “I just attacked you; you need to be scared.” Sorry, we have Nothing in Common. I am bigger than you.

 

Not only do you have no regard for their attack, which is everything to them at that moment, you have ignored them as a being and moved through and past them.  All you need to do is to be big. Ask Tom Hanks. Just do that thing that you do.

 

 

AARP

I turned 60 last year. My wife threw me a surprise birthday party at the dojo. It was a great day. I am now receiving regular emails from AARP asking me to join.  They are very insistent that I am in dire need of their services (doesn’t everyone need a discount on car rentals?).  I am way too young.  At least that is what I think.  I mean I have tons of aches and pains that stem from doing martial arts for almost 50 years as well as competing in gymnastics when I was a teen. I am way too active to think of myself as a ‘retired person.’  I mean that is in the name – the American Association of Retired Persons.

 

Yamada Sensei kept doing Aikido when he was approaching 85.  What is this retirement thing?  I think it has a lot to do with momentum.  If you are active and stay that way, your machine (your body) does not get rusty.  Your joints say fluid.  You need to keep moving, like your Aikido (I wrote about this in my last letter – ‘My Next Letter.’  Your Aikido needs to be one continuous movement without stopping. This holds true for your practice also.  You need to regularly be on the mat and practice.  You need to practice vigorously and consistently. Keep moving. Be relentless in your practice. Never stop.  Keep coming to the dojo, relentlessly. The same way AARP is with their email. And they can help you rent a car to get there at a discount. Win-Win.

 

Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan

I wrote about the hand and its shapes in Tai Chi Chuan last email that led to a conversation with Hal.  Many talks later, he brought up his three ‘shapes’ of the hand in Aikido.  My idea was similar but varied slightly.  I will outline how I perceive our hands and he can comment when editing if he wishes (I dropped the gauntlet -- a glove, you know, for a hand).

 

So, focusing on Aikido, the ki, your awareness, is focused on one of three places in the hand: the thumb edge where the radial bone is up to the shoulder, the pinky edge where the ulna (Big word for NYT crossword fans. BTW, my wife and I made up a sign -using our hands- for ‘crossword’ using sign vocabulary only to find out that it is the actual ASL sign. So much for innovation.) bone runs up to the armpit, or the middle finger in between the two bones running in the center to the actual shoulder joint.

 

The thumb (or for many, the index finger), is best exemplified by a jo (staff). Your energy travels on the thumb edge and your arm rotates around this as it extends past the hand in a line or back down dropping out of your elbow (or shoulder). You can often feel this on the breathing exercise when you breath in and expand from your heart out.  Another place is when I do a kaiten on the entrance into katatetori shihonage ura.  That first step is perpendicular to uke and you extend out from your belly.  Your idea or awareness is along the thumb edge of your arm and your hand is extended out along the index finger.

 

 

The pinky edge is best imagined as your arm being a katana (sword). Your energy is on the blade or pinky side of your arm and extends out your pinky infinitely. For me, this is felt on the rowing exercise when you do ikkyo arms.  As I shift to my front foot, the arms take a slight curve, like a bokken and my attention goes way past me out from my lower edge of my arms. To keep with a theme, I feel this edge when I do a kaiten on the entrance into katatetori shihonage omote

 

The middle finger is where I experience my attention the most in Tai Chi Chuan. In my Tai Chi Chuan practice, we do not have the other two edges but always focus our extension on the middle finger.  In Aikido, this, for me is felt in the rowing exercise. When I shift forward, and back the wrist moves out, I allow the movement to continue through the fingers (I know, what a maverick). The feeling is inside the arm and extending past your arms and outward. The technique that I think explains it best is when you start with taino hainco or a tencon entrance. You can feel this movement in the tencon entrance of gakyu hamni katatetori pick your throw technique, a favorite of many. 😊

 

I hope this makes some sense to many of you. I am happy to show you in person. Putting this into words hurts my brain.  You can find all this in my upcoming video series!!  I am joking, only letters from (I am old school, you know), an AARP member.  What do I know from YouTube (I think the insertion of the word ‘The” is the most self-deprecating joke I have done to date). OK, I do know YouTubes, I exaggerated but at least I get a great discount on car rentals!!!


 

--Jay Tall

Sensei, Aikido Schools of NJ

 

 

“I see myself as a brush in the hands of the divine.”

 

-- Bruce Bookman, Shihan & Friend

 

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