A Mask in the Crowd
August 25, 2020
I would like to introduce the new adult members as they join the dojo. And to be blunt, we do need new members as we lost, understandably, a little less than half since Coronavirus. Many hopefully will return as news continues to improve and schools reopen.
Greetings to Kyle who joined the Iaido program which has grown healthily, especially as many current Aikido students (new Aikido members are welcome, too) are taking advantage of our Covid-19 promotion, Iaido is free to all our members.
To the Aikido school, please welcome Javier (who is also doing Iaido), Billy, Aaron (a former ASNJ student), and Jessenia.
Please welcome them and if you see a new face (or mask), you now have a one in five shot of guessing their names.
That being said, the dojo is fine and will continue to grow. I can assure you that. I have applied for all federal grants and loans to secure us during these times, but we do need more members so please bring friends or share your experiences on Facebook and Instagram.
Have you checked out our Tanren Bokuto (I had to Google this one), the tires (imported from Maine just like the spring water)? They are for bokken practice -- not throwing footballs (BTW, we do need a dojo football now that we are hanging out in the parking lot. I am a Brooklyn boy, you know). We are going to build better stands for the tires. They are used to practice follow through in your bokken cuts. The idea is to hit the tire with your bokken and keep pushing through. Feel free to try. We have some older bokken to use as it can leave marks on your weapon. Any of the Senior Instructors can assist you and we also have Derrell, he is kinda a ringer, Iaido and all.
This week in Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) class, we discussed a little of the Tao Te Ching and the concept of standing in 100%. While this stance exists in other martial arts, TCC and Aikido seem to really use this as a foundation of turning. Being 100% weighted on one leg (besides being really tiring) requires you to be upright and balanced: cornerstones of Aikido. As a practice, it is the path to find your root, one of the four essential things you need for your Aikido practice as per Koichi Tohei:
Keep One Point.
Keep Weight Underside.
You have heard me repeat this ten thousand (read the Tao Te Ching to understand this reference) times in Aikido class.
But what is the advantage of having all of your weight in one foot? Doesn’t that put you at a disadvantage? To continue the lesson of last week’s TCC class, being vulnerable is your best defense. When you are 100% in one leg, you have every option available to you. You are the center of the circle and you can do any direction from that point. Just turn your waist. It is expressed as the triangle-circle-square in Aikido. Start in triangle (not double-weighted, but hiding the position of your weight), move in a circle and, end in square: single-weighted in stillness.
If you are partially balanced between two feet, you only have two options: go to either foot. If you have weight in both feet, you can only jump, you cannot walk. For me, iriminage and kokyoho are two techniques that best show how being 100% is powerful. While being balanced only on one foot seems illogical (like relaxing for unbendable arm) in my experience (and I love to demonstrate while being pushed), it is the best place to be and again, how you eventually discover your root.
But 100% is not just a stance, it is a way of being. It means if you make a decision, it also needs to be 100%, otherwise it is not really a decision, it is a suggestion to yourself. If you want to practice Aikido, you need to practice Aikido, not sorta or kinda of practice it. It means, to quote Gurdjieff, “If you go on a spree, then go whole hog, including the postage.” If you do something, then do it 100%, all the way to get the experience. The beauty of being 100% is you have 360 options. You are not stuck there, you can always do the next thing, any thing, but do it 100%, including the postage.
And for you younger members, postage is how you send papers (you know, like when you print out the Internet) to other people using snail mail. Like the way your grandparents did, before cell phones.