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A Susan by any Other Name


September 12, 2020


Another week has gone by and time for another letter. We are up in Maine for the Labor Day weekend and a couple of extra days. We brought up Black-eyed Susans to plant. They were part of the decorations for Crystal’s shower. They are safe and happy in the ground up here - Happy until they are hit with 5 feet of snow and negative degree temperatures. Let’s see how they are then. Which reminds me of when we bought the apple trees that we planted this spring. We got them from a local nursery that raises apples trees only. When we asked the owner what we need to do to help them survive, he responded, “They are raised in Maine; do not do anything. They have to survive on their own, don’t water them, don’t fertilize, they are Maine trees, they will be fine.”….OKAY, even the trees here are tough. Hope they treat their kids a little kinder.


I would like to welcome Michael and his daughter, our newest members to join this week. A couple of new faces to say hi to and help them feel more at home in our disinfectant-scented dojo. We are considering marketing the odor for our new fall fashion line. I think it will be an upgrade from the former Sweat Soaked Mat cologne we often specialize in.


Now that September is upon us and with Labor Day weekend, summer is sorta officially over. We are finally seeing kids’ class attendance rise. It is great to see the younger ones practicing again.


Speaking of new members, we now have a dojo football. I named it Joe. Not jo after the staff but after Joe Namath (not Nemeth guys, we are talking football, not Aikido, stay focused here). The real reason is we often practice in the parking lot now. On rare occasions, a car comes into the front entrance where we are practicing. We yell “Car” to get out of the way like when we were kids playing football (for others it might have been stickball-- we need one of those also. We could use a Jo? Nah. Then I need a new name). So, when the world is more normal, and we have our next BBQ, I propose a 4 on 4 game of Touch Football. We can call it – The Deshi Bowl. Do you think we can get EPSN to sponsor? I didn’t think so either. Maybe Good Year when they see what we did with their tires?


Speaking of the parking lot, the dance studio is now open, so parking is not as spacious as it was. Please be mindful of the increased congestion. With NJ opening gyms and indoor restaurants, let’s keep our fingers crossed as things keep getting better, we are getting closer and closer to being allowed a more normal practice of Aikido. You know, like the old days where we could safely beat the stuffing out of each other?


Which is the perfect segue to the last Tai Chi Chuan (“TCC”) class discussion.

I brought back an old lecture of Chen Man Ching’s about the Three Fears – Dying or getting hurt, Failure, Hard Work. This was a common discussion in the days of old of our TCC School – The Northeastern TCC Association. These three fears sum up the human condition of fear and worrying. Each is based on a thought “I am not flying in a plane, I could die” “I am not going to apply for that job, I will never get it” ”I know I have to do that report but I really love this episode of “I Love Lucy”. Hurt, Failure, Hard Work. Each one prevents us from doing something. Each one is real – to us. But the commonality is we need to think the thought to have the fear. In Aikido and TCC, we learn to take responsibility for our actions and work to do less. Why lift up Uke (straighten your legs) in Koshi to throw them when you can just turn your waist. We learn to refine our throws so they are effortless. In the same way, why go around thinking about everything that can go wrong when we can focus on the task at hand or we cannot think at all (Have I mentioned Lehrman Sensei’s meditation class?). Doing less for the same accomplishment.


The root fear, which all fear stem from, is the fear of the unknown. There may be not thought associated with this as we do not know. When sparing, we do not know where the next attack will be. When we die, we do not know what happens. We do not know lots of stuff. And we do not know the stuff we do not even know anything about to even not know it. (Ouch, that hurt). We learn to adapt with that by (I hate to use cliché spiritual stuff but it works here) Living in the Moment (Have I mentioned that Sensei Lehrman’s meditation class in online Wednesday nights?). The technique for this is meditating. Whether with sitting Zen, holding posture in Yoga, moving in TCC, or any meditation, like the free class we have Sunday mornings. One can do this with Aikido if you practice working on the movement, being aware of not just Uke but everything in the room and not think about the throw. Sagano Sensei was a perfect example, but he also did sitting meditation. (Don’t make me bring up the class again).


I fear I may have rambled on too long (Sorry, I could not resist) about fear but the weather is overcast and drizzling today, and I am very sore. I helped (which means I am the guy with the chain saw) my neighbor cut down five trees close to his power line. He was scared to do it. I was the one to climb up the 24’ ladder to tie the rope to the tree near the power line (only one was with in 5’) and then to cut the tree at the proper angled cut so it would fall away from the electricity. Four of the trees followed the plan. One was obnoxious and fell into the line several times. No problem: we tied the rope (I did mention the ladder part) to his pickup truck and after a quick drive, bingo, future firewood. Our neighbors are now safe this winter from losing power. Except for the other million trees near the power lines in other areas that can take out the power. Ain’t Maine great.


Either way, did I mention the Three Fears? I think we could hit all three with the ladder, chain saw and power lines. And don’t tell Rachel. She went hiking with our neighbors and she hates when I do stuff with ladders, power lines, and chainsaws. Let’s keep this in the dojo.


I hope everyone had a great Labor Day. I hope all you kids have a great start to school, that usually starts right after Labor Day, and I hope to see you all at the dojo doing some Aikido. The next time you find yourself on the mental hamster wheel with your mind spinning round and round worrying about something, take a breath, do some meditation and remember I may be out in Maine with a chainsaw.

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ASNJ is the oldest aikido dojo in NJ. Founded in 1977 by Rick Stickles, Shihan. 25+ classes per week. 

Now under the guidance of Sensei Hal Lehrman, 7th dan Shihan and Sensei Jay Tall is the Chief Instructor.

©2017 Aikido Schools of New Jersey.  Member of the United States Aikido Federation.

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