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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

A Fair Day

June 17, 2022


Please welcome Libby and Diego to our Adult program. We had six kids try out class this weekend and welcome a six-year-old boy to our Children’s program. The three kids’ classes (4-6, Children, Youths) are always crowded on the weekends. Add a half dozen kids taking a trial class and the mat was jumping. In a great way. I love being at the dojo during kids’ classes and hear the laughing and the joy from the future of Aikido.

What’s Happenin’

· Fourth of July – The dojo is closed on Monday July 4th. We will have regular class on Saturday and Sunday. Have a great weekend!

· Lehrman Shihan – Wednesday, July 13, 7:00pm. Lehrman Shihan teaches the second

· Wednesday of each month. This is a mandatory class for all ASNJ instructors and an exciting treat for all our students and guests. We welcome visitors from other dojos who would like to attend.

· Summer BBQ and Kyu test – Saturday, July 30. We always have a big barbeque in the summer. And can you believe it is summer? I know, not in the nerdy science definition, but we are past Memorial Day, so it is summer. Please put this in your calendar.

· North Jersey & Ramapo Valley 25th Anniversary Seminar - Sept 17 at Aikido North Jersey with Yamada Sensei, Zimmerman Sensei and Vardi Sensei

· Lehrman Sensei Seminar at Portsmouth Aikido Oct 8 - 9, Portsmouth, NH

OMG – Part II

We had a makeup test this week. I wanted to congratulate Barry Stratford, our newest Nidan – 2nd Dan. Please send your cheers, love, admiration, and congratulations to Barry.

We had kids’ tests last week and to all the kids who tested, you are fantastic. There is nothing better than watching a wonderful group of tiny Aikidoka doing techniques. We had a 4-year-old young man testing for the first time. I am sitting here smiling while typing remembering the tests.

Feast of St. Anthony

Sunday, June 12, we did a demonstration across the street from the dojo at the Church of the Assumption on the last day of their big annual fair, Feast of St. Anthony. The weather report was dismal – thunderstorms. I watched the weather all afternoon in case we had to cancel but the powers-that-be smiled on us; the skies cleared and the rains stayed away. Our demonstration included 15 students from ASNJ on stage and another 20 people there to help and show support. Anthony, from the church, killed the music, announced us and then handed the mic to me. That was a mistake. I started with a joke and told everyone I was there until Thursday and try the veal. Within minutes, a couple of hundred people were watching us. Many approached the stage nibbling on food from the fair.

Our demonstration started in front of the stage with Alex, Colonel Drew and Derrell showing off their sharp Iaido skills. Derrell then made it clear what a katana does by cutting rolled tatami mats. The ground was littered with slices of bamboo mats. Kids nabbed pieces for souvenirs.

Next, our ASNJ kid’s group jumped onto the stage (a tractor trailer that opens on one side to create a long, narrow stage. Good for singing groups, not great for Aikido) to show off their Aikido.

The Aikido portion started with 5-year-old orange-striped belt Abby throwing 11-year-old, 4th kyu Patrick for 5 minutes. A little intimidated being on stage in front of a crowd, she started a little slowly. After the first break fall, her eyes lit up and she got her game face on. She was on a mission and boy, did she get some air on Patrick (photos at the end of the letter). The real challenge was keeping Patrick on the stage. He somehow got the idea it would be cool if he was thrown off the stage. Isn’t it great being 11 and fearless? Then Patrick and his 13-year-old 3rd kyu sister, Eva took over. They performed the same techniques static and then in a striking attack to show people the progression of how you learn Aikido while expressing true sibling rivalry. Each tried to get more height and distance than the other. They were followed by 15-year-old 2nd kyu Kelsey and 13-year-old 3rd kyu DJ taking Aikido to the next level. I was calling out random techniques which they performed flawlessly. The last of the youths, Kelvin, and Jeremy, both 1st kyu, showed the crowd some impressive Aikido, technique after technique without breaking a sweat on the hot humid June evening. We tossed them a bokken, reminiscent of a Roman gladiator movie and they were swinging a wooden a sword at each other forgetting they are friends. Each bokken attack ended with one of them hitting the mat with a resounding thump. The crowd size swelled, and they watched, rapt.

To finish up the Aikido portion of our demonstration, I threw Danny and my son, Zachary. I wanted to show how Aikido works with multiple attackers. The small stage made this a little more difficult. And I wanted to show the crowd that us older folks can do Aikido also.

We finished with Connie demonstrating yoga by doing a Sun Salutation with Vanessa and my wife, Rachel. I explained how 60% of the dojo is related to another member and besides that, yoga leads to family bliss (Do I know how to sell a yoga class or what.). We finished, rolled up the mats, packed our weapons and cleared the stage making way for the Maplewood Glee Club to perform. We gave out a lot of flyers, showed a large group of sugar-covered, zeppole-munching fairgoers what Aikido, Iaido and Yoga are while supporting our community and our neighbor. Now I must ask Jeff Morrow, Professor of Catholic Theology at Seton Hall University to explain what the Holy Assumption is when he gets back from his trip.

Our demonstration was a success in part due to the generosity of our Aikido community: Thank you to Zentokan Dojo for lending us the stand for the katana cutting. And, thanks to Jeff and Sheila, senseis of TenChi Aikido of Somerset for lending us the mats

Giving Thanks

We are very PC. Not the politically correct kind, the computer kind. Our very, very old front desk computer has been upgraded to one from this century thanks to a very generous gift from Parviz. We also can enjoy summer’s bounty thanks to Connie who planted some colorful flowers in the front of the dojo entrance. Also, the drinking fountain is finally fixed! Hydrate as needed.

Failing is Good

How do you improve? You screw up. (Which, by the way, I never understood: Who cares if you screw up or down? And what is the difference?) You will never improve if you're trying not to make mistakes. Improvement requires lots of mistakes if your focus is on growth and not self-pity. Focus on the learning, not on the errors. Look at a mistake as an opportunity for growth, not as a reason to think disparaging thoughts.

Shifting Gears

It was a crazy week at work and at the dojo. I was run ragged. My ankle was in pain, and I was limping badly. So, teaching Tai Chi Chuan on Thursday I wanted to do something simple. Why is it that simple classes are the most complicated? I introduced the idea of “shifting your entire body” vs “pushing off the back leg.” In Tai Chi Chuan and, for me, in Aikido, I want to shift my weight as opposed to pushing my body forward out of the back foot. The key to learning this is to pay attention to the bottom of your foot.

Most people’s walk is a controlled fall. Ask someone to walk and watch them from the side. The first thing they do is to move their upper body forward and then step. They push their body from their back foot, shove it forward, lean (or fall) forward and throw the other foot ahead to catch their balance. Most people’s movements are a combination of leaning and pushing from the back foot.

I remember many years ago Hal asked me to show him the beginning of the Form. As he is already very advanced (obviously), we worked for an hour and a half on only one half of the very beginning movement of the Tai Chi Chuan Form, shifting from the right foot to the left – 90 minutes. I described to him the idea of shifting where you move all your weight from your right leg to your left leg by imagining your right leg is filled with sand. Drop by drop, you take the sand from your right leg and put it into your left. This is the idea of shifting your weight. It is internally moving your body from one leg to the other by moving your center or your whole body. You experience this by the changing of weight as experienced in the bottom of each foot. When you move like this you are moving as a whole balanced being. We call this being centered. There is no loss of balance, change in posture, or fall. You are only shifting your weight.

Who’s Tripping

We will once again be taking a dojo trip to The New York Aikikai on Saturday, June 18 to take Yamada Sensei's 11am class. It is a wonderful experience, especially for our teens, to study under Yamada Sensei. If you wish to join us, you have three options.

1) If you want to take the train, you can meet the group at ASNJ at 9:00am to carpool to the Linden NJ Transit train station and catch the 9:47am train to NY Penn Station.

2) You can meet us at the Linden NJ Transit station for the 9:47am train.

3) If you will already be in New York City or prefer to drive, please meet us at the NY Aikikai, 142 W 18th Street, for the 11:00am class. Please show up at least 15 minutes before the start of class to sign their waiver, pay the NYA mat fee and get your gi on. The class starts promptly at 11am.

I look forward to seeing you there. It is also fine to tag along and watch the class. We will have regular classes at ASNJ on that day.

Jay Tall

Sensei, Aikido Schools of NJ

“Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.”

-Moihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido

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