September 12, 2020
Big week in the TCC class. Bigger than George’s chin, but I will get to that later I promise this time. Rachel and I left Maine at 8:00 am on Wednesday for the long drive so I could be home in time to teach my 7:00 Aikido class and still have time to visit my younger son at school.
Maine was, as always, wonderful. We got to see the end of hummingbird season before their long trip down to Costa Rica (Not a bad place to spend the winter). It amazes me every year that these tiny little birds fly 1,500 miles and back. I never want to hear from someone that an important seminar it too far away. Just drink a little hummingbird sugar water.
Thursday is Tai Chi Chuan (TCC). I wanted to discuss the idea of the 3 centers and bringing them all to the physical center (Hara). But first to tackle the idea of being centered. You do not ‘become’ centered; you always are. It is a natural thing. You are born that way. There is no special seminar or retreat to learn the secrets of being centered. (Sorry to disappoint any who has a non-refundable deposit. Call Andy, he is a good lawyer.) There is nothing special or anything miraculous you need to do to become centered. You just are. The practice of Aikido, TCC, and meditation (This is where you expect me to mention a Zoom class on Wednesdays? Nope, I am not going to do it, but check out our website for details) is to become AWARE of this. When you let go of tension, you become more aware of YOU and you experience your center. It’s like those games where you find the letter hidden in the jumble (I know you all do those). Once you become aware, you then have the option to move around your center. It becomes your axis of rotation instead of some other arbitrary body part you have been using, like your right hip, yea, that makes sense? When you move around your center, it is the experience of effortless movement. Have you ever thrown someone, and you feel as if you did absolutely nothing?! Bingo! This is moving around your center. There is nothing magical, just awareness of you.
Now, how do you become aware of your center? You need not to dwell elsewhere, like in the hamster wheel of your mind or the trap of your heart doing nothing, just experience your emotions. You do both things, think and feel, but in the moment, not on the wheel stuck in a past event. Your heart and your mind sit in your Hara, center. You are inspired to experience these things from your center (once you re-find it) and your experience is of the now. I know, it is a lot and not something that happens tomorrow or constantly. This is the ideal, the goal, the road we take.
BTW, Lehrman Sensei gave me Enlightenment Through Aikido by Kanshu Sunadomari, 9th dan (and dead now). I am often our DR (Designated Reader). I love to read (no TV service in our house, just internet), he does not. I also like meditate standing in clumsy postures and he just sits. But, back on topic, I am really enjoying the book. The author discusses O’Sensei’s teaching of centering your mind and spirit. His thoughts about the Lower Body (physical, technical) and Upper Body (spiritual, harmony) and the evolution of your practice from one to the next. My favorite quote so far is “if you hit a wall and quit, you are only strengthening the wall.”
I feel I do owe you an apology (not really, but it made for great literary foreshadowing). I never really explained George’s Chin. TCC is a striking art. Derrell’s favorite part of class is when I say, “This technique is really bad.” Zachary response is, “What technique is not really bad?” This is in reference to Uke, not for you, the Nage. In the opening of Stork Cools Wings (the actual name is White Crane Spreads Wings. I suck at remembering names), you lift your right arm after cleaning off a grab and the top of your wrist hits the underside of Uke’s chin caused by the force of the grab and turn your waist (sound familiar?). This results in bad things for Uke. I demonstrated using George. I tapped him gently. I swear, it was gentle. Everyone heard the resounding (I swear it was gentle) gentle crack of his jaw (trying not to scare away new students, he is not eating through a straw, it was that gentle). So, I renamed that movement - George’s Chin. His mandible is now eternally memorialized at ASNJ. I may have mentioned I have a bad memory for names, so I often make them up. I am generally good in letting everyone know that I am making it up. No one has forgotten that technique.
So, the title of this letter I will actually get to this week. We finished the first third of the TCC form in class. YAAAAAY! It is a big milestone. The students can now do a complete form. You can end at the third or go through the whole thing. Kudos to all of you. I am immensely proud and honored to teach this to you.
The bad news is if you want to join now, it will be tough as we are 12 weeks ahead. But there is hope. If you want to join the class, send an email, or call my cell. I will set up a time to work with you one-on-one (or I can ask Zachary to help) and we will catch you up but not during the actual class. You can still take the class but will start after the first third where the class is. We do not charge for private lessons at ASNJ if you are a normal member (I chuckled when I wrote that, not many normal people here).
Additionally, if anyone in a regular Aikido class needs some extra work, let me know and one of our instructors will be happy to work with you, as we have in the past. Just ask me or the instructor of your choice. If someone has time, we will help, free. That is what community is all about, and a couple of great parties. And a football (joe). And maybe a pinball machine!!!! OK, I went one too far? (If anyone has a pinball machine lying around – then I have not gone too far?)
I must admit, my right thigh was in pain after the TCC class this week. We did a lot of single weight on that side. I tried to do Squatting Single Whip (real name – Snake Creeps Down. I mentioned I’m bad at the name thing) and the leg refused. Sorry to the students but we did finish the third! The next day, Zachary called me and wanted to know if his legs would get bigger because of TCC. I said of course, why do you think I always wear baggy jeans? He replied – “I thought all dad’s dress like that, I mean look at your dad sneakers!” (I remember my dad wearing black dress knee-high socks and white patent leather shoes with shorts. History repeats itself.) I said, yes, you get strong thighs and calves from TCC, why? He shyly admitted he could not get his “skinny” jeans over his thighs. I told him to grab one of my Dad Jeans. I do not think he is talking to me now.
As far as skinny jeans go, speak to your parents. (Parents, if you don’t want them wearing skinny jeans, try TCC, worked for me).