A New Year
January 10, 2023
I finally have the time to finish this letter that I started the first week of December – Last Year. I am sorry. So, here is to a New Year. Welcome to 2023. Since I have not written in quite a while, I did not keep track of the new members. So, I am going to blanketly welcome you all to our dojo family. Welcome to ASNJ and welcome to 2023.
· Lehrman Shihan – Wednesday, January 11 at 7:00 pm. Lehrman Shihan teaches the second Wednesday of each month.
· Women’s Group Evening Event– The Women of ASNJ will be hosting an event led by ASNJ women and attended by ASNJ women on Saturday, January 21 at 5:00 pm at the dojo.
· Super Bowl Party at the Dojo. February 12th at 6:00 – Join us to watch the big game together. This is potluck so please bring something.
· March 25 and 26 Lehrman Sensei is teaching a seminar in Bookman Sensei dojo in Seattle.
· Saturday, April 22 – ASNJ will host Steve Pimsler Senseifor our Spring Seminar. Details to follow.
Paul will be charging all members for the new year’s Insurance surcharge of $35. Also, if you are 5th kyu or above you will be charged the annual USAF dues of $50.
Women’s Committee Event
No Applause Necessary
Clapping is a good thing; at a show, a concert, a sports arena; all good places to show you approve by bringing your palms together forcefully to create an almost universal sign of approval. (Why do your palms itch if you clap too much? If you know why please let me know.) There is even a famous Zen koan from Zen master, Hakuin Ekaku, about the idea of only one hand clapping. Clapping is a good thing and potentially enlightening.
On the mat, it is not such a good thing. When an instructor claps, that is a signal to move aside as there is a new instruction to be demonstrated. Every now and then in my class, a student claps for some random reason. The dojo awkwardly stops, and everyone runs to the side looking at me for some insight. The problem? It was not my clap (Where is that Hakuin Ekaku when you need him?). I usually say my standard Public Service Announcement - “This is a test of our emergency clapping system. This is only a test. In the event of a true clap, please move quickly to the side of the mat where you will be given more instructions”. It gets a chuckle and occasional guffaw.
A few weeks ago, a new student clapped a few times in class. I taught him to clap in ASL. The sign is to rotate your upright open-palmed hands quickly. It is silent clapping. Think about it, if you need ASL, you most likely can’t hear the clapping but the big motion is a very visible way to show your appreciation and approval. So, next time you are taking a class and feel the need to clap, use ASL please.
I want to congratulate the following for their successfully passing their kyu tests:
6th Kyu: Julian Burt, Devin Feliciano, Kanoa Miguel
5th Kyu: Julienne Walker
4th Kyu James Fazzari, Jose Cruz Alicea
3rd Kyu: Sergio Bueso
2nd Kyu: Mariela Frias
Woodstock or Bust
Eric, a very old friend and a teacher of mine, recently moved back to Woodstock where he spent high school. Eric started doing Aikido at the age of 6 or 7 at the NY Aikikai. Rachel and I went to visit his new home in December. A couple days before we were to head north, he texted, asking if I wanted to take class with Harvey Konigsberg in Woodstock on that Sunday? Meanwhile, I was already planning to go the day before to the NYA for their Christmas seminar on Saturday and take all three classes. Take another class the next day? I guess so. That is what Advil is for.
A little history: Back in the early 90’s, pre-kids, Eric, Rachel and I would head up to Woodstock for a long weekend around the new year. We would visit the Tibetan monastery, do some tourist shopping, eat at some great restaurants, hike, and Eric and I would take a class at Harvey’s dojo. (Eric was a member of the Woodstock Dojo when it was in Saugerties and run by Lou Kleinsmith Sensei). Back in the 90s, when we went to Woodstock, the dojo had no heat and they had a horse hair mat. Needless to say, the breakfalls were painful. That mat made the old mat back in our local Park Slope dojo seem luxurious.
I reached out to Tom and Evan, two incredibly skilled Aikido brothers from Park Slope that separately moved up north New York to join us. When I reached out, they were both thrilled when to take class as well. Harvey, as always, taught an amazing class. It was great spending the day with old friends, seeing Harvey teach, and practicing with folks from his dojo. Monday morning was not fun. Where’s the Advil? Argh.
I took class at the NYA with Steve Pimsler, Yamada Sensei, VuHa, at the Christmas Semianr and then the following day in Woodstock with Harvey. I had Aikido swimming in my head. So, when it came to teach the next Wednesday, all I could think of was Yamada Sensei class and his Aikido. His Aikido is so beautiful; it is the very essence of the perfection of simplicity. I am amazed as he so naturally and effortlessly expands while totally relaxed.
Guess what I worked in my class, extension. As much to teach what I learned as to practice it myself. I found most of the students moving directly into conflict, not past it. You see, one reason we expand is to enlarge your sphere bigger than not only uke’s attack, but bigger than them entirely. If you and your extend and created space is larger than uke, there is no conflict. They are lost in your sphere. We do this by extension, one of the four principles Tohei Sensei talks about in his book that he learned from O’Sensei; “To expand infinitely.” Watching Yamada Sensei clarified this a lot.
You see, you need to make the sphere expand larger than both you, nage, and your attacker, uke. When you do this, uke becomes smaller to the point that you and your attacker are insignificant. When you expand enough and uke’s attack gets lost, their balance is gone. You, if you have not met their attack with your own strength, stay balanced and don’t fall. What you must deal with as the sphere gets bigger and uke becomes irrelevant, so do you. You need to give yourself over to the technique, give up your ego, allow yourself to become irrelevant and stay in your center. Tough to handle. It means that you don’t give in to the need to feel the satisfaction of ‘shoving’ or trying to throw uke but let your relaxed extension and the technique do the work.
I can see that simplicity in Yamada Sensei’s Aikido. While being insignificant is both frightening and humbling, there is a great joy in giving into the bigger infinite. Humbling as I am no longer the center of my universe and very satisfying that I no longer have to be.
Sensei, Aikido Schools of NJ
"Power of mind is infinite while brawn is limited.”