A Waist is a Terrible Thing to Waste
May 30, 2021
What a week! Michael and his son joined. Welcome, also, to Mesha. We had two more people ask to join the dojo and the Adaptive Aikido program. A mom called to have her son join. We have Mike, a barber from Elizabeth coming by, and I sent a young student to Paul Monague’s school as they were much closer to his dojo.
The new youth Aikido program at the Wallington Recreation center just started and is a huge success. The Aikido classes attracted over 40% of all the kids from all the programs they have offered. Aikido is by far the largest program offered by Wallington. Who says Aikido is not popular and getting old? It is alive and well. The town asked for ASNJ flyers and cards as they are getting a lot of interest from parents who want to practice. Kudos to Zachary and Kelvin for their work there. I hear the rec center was live streaming the demonstrations, too!
Save the Dates
We are having our Hakama Class (3rd kyu and above) on Sunday, May 30 during the rotating teacher’s class time: 11:30-12:30.
Kids and Youth Tests will be on Saturday, June 5. Please see your instructor if your child will be testing. You will need to fill out the test form.
Adaptive Aikido class for kids with special needs will start on Monday, June 7. If any parents wish to enroll their child, let me know. The form is available on our website on the Adaptive Aikido page.
Family Fun Day – June 19, 2021. We encourage all our parents to get on the mat and take a roll (Metaphorically. You don’t actually have to fall down, you hope) with your kids.
Teen Movie night – Saturday July 17. This was planned for last year and I think it’s worth the wait: I am turning over the dojo to the teens (with chaperones) to hang out and watch a movie of their choice. ASNJ will supply the pizza.
Kyu Tests – Saturday, August 21, 2021 – We are having the Wheel of Ukemi Class, Kyu Tests and our Summer BBQ / Potluck party.
What’s with the bold you ask? My wife, the marketing genius (she really is) said it lets people skim the events. “Skim?” I asked. “You mean someone only skims my letters?” I cried. “Yes, dear. Not everyone reads them,” she broke it to me gently (Not). Now you know why I have so many bottles of booze in my office.
I am handing over the keyboard to my lovely editor, my life’s partner, best friend, and member of the ASNJ Women’s committee – my love Rachel (I will get to be the editor now):
May 22 at 6pm was the ASNJ Women’s Spring event. After a few moments of introductions, we all went onto the mat to listen to Annie and Vanessa introduce the evening’s events – these two women are perhaps the kindest, biggest-hearted people at ASNJ with welcoming smiles, so I knew we were in good hands. While the handful of non-Aikido practitioners (that’s me, too) tried to fit in with the ASNJ Aikidoists but we didn’t blend at all (not a gi on us) though we all managed to sit with our legs tucked underneath us with minimal squirming (at least, I was squirming). After Aikido stretches, Annie, who led the group, broke us up into pairs for some beginner Aikido. Many of you may have heard Jay talk about my short foray into Aikido over two decades ago as if I knew what I was doing then. Annie’s announcement that we would, in fact, try out some Aikido ignited panic in me (there was a reason it was a short stint years ago) but I didn’t want to let on that I was about make a break for the door because my fellow-non-gi-wearers didn’t appear to be flummoxed at all. Behind her mask you could see Annie’s warm smile as she broke us up into pairs: gi-wearers to work with non-gi-ers. Vanessa was the uke for the demonstration and you could see Annie and Vanessa have a command of the practice – they made it look easy. In the back of my brain, I recalled some of the wrist locks and having my face on the mat when pinned so when I worked with Vanessa, it felt familiar despite the awkwardness of my attempts. And then it hit me: I remembered my biggest takeaway from Aikido all those years ago. It’s fun. Super fun. If you wonder why Aikidoists become enamored with the practice, I will bet that’s a big reason.
After Aikido, Connie came to the front and we cooled down with yoga stretches. If you have not tried Connie’s class, she is a generous teacher making sure you are doing the postures correctly and to your ability –gi or not. After the events, we met at the back for refreshments and got to know one another a little better. All in all, it was a fun night and while I’ll still leave Aikido to Jay and Zachary, it was nice to participate in it and feel even closer to the group at the dojo. Thank you to Annie and Vanessa for spearheading this group and for Connie for her support. Thanks to all the Aikidoka who worked with us non-Aikidoists. Everyone shared a little of what makes Aikido a special art. Finally, thanks to all the non-Aikidoists who joined me on the mat, too. We did it!
I got my Covid vaccine a month ago. Minor side effect. No complaints. I got my second Shingles vaccine this week and it hit me like a cement truck going downhill without brakes into a wall (and I practiced with Terry Dobson at the NYA, so I know what if feels like to be hit by a wall). I slept a lot that night. Next evening, I taught class. I felt like a fart swimming in foggy soup (that is an old Yiddish saying) and could not lift my left arm above my chest so, I taught iriminage as that was about the approximate height where I could lift my left arm. In hindsight, I should have done Kotegaeshi, as the arm is even lower, but I did mention I was in a fog and keep it in mind for my next vaccine induced dementia. As it was, I was thrilled to come up with the iriminage idea. I digress, the class focused on one throw, different variation of the same attack. Cross hand, tsuki and tanto. The throw was the same movement. The only changes were for uke. The idea was for nage not to let uke change the way you, what you think and how you move. You relate to uke’s center. Nothing else changes. I slept a lot that night.
Did a little more Football-tori (I should copyright that. And share the credit with Olga). While everyone watched, I unexpectedly threw the ball to Derrell during class: Nothing like putting someone on the spot. He caught the ball perfectly and threw it back to me. I dropped it. (Did I mention the Shingle shot? Fog - soup). We watched Derrell take off for the ball, we observed his ENTIRE body moving at once. It was seamless. It was natural. It was without any thought. That is how one should move in Aikido. My point was we all can do this, move without thought. We must stop thinking about it. In the immortal words of Donnie Brasco – “Fuhgeddaboudit”. (Insert Brooklyn accent here.)
Never Waste a Waist
I taught my Thursday night Tai Chi Chuan class still in a fog. I pulled out an incredibly old class theme that I have only done 2 or 3 times as it is often too intense for students. Perfect day for me - too intense. The theme: Only move your waist. Also known as only pay attention to your waist moving. We, as humans, tend to focus mostly on what are hands are doing. We think with our hands. Most of what we invent is based on being controlled with our hands. Think about how much time you spend being wrapped up in your head and typing (as I am now). I am being cerebral focusing on what my fingers are doing (I am so happy I took that typing class in high school on the brand-new IBM Selectric typewriter.) The class is meant to counter act that.
OMG, that Tai Chi Chuan class was sooooo tough on the brain. It shouldn’t be since we were only paying attention to one thing, our waists. But, when you focus on your waist, you then experience what your legs, your spine and eventually, what are hands and arms are doing. You get the big picture. You see, the most common question I get in Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan classes are “where should my arms be?” (It reminds me of a song my younger son performed – What Do I Do with My Arms? Very funny. If I gave you a link to his performance, he would kill me so here’s a version on YouTube. Jacob did it better but you’ll get the idea.). The second most asked question “Where should my feet be?” I am still waiting for people to ask me about their waist.
The answer to the arms and legs thing is “wherever your waist puts them” And that is the problem (and brilliance) with the class. When you focus on your waist, you can get the whole picture. It’s a lot to be aware of. We are ONE thing, not a bunch of parts. We cannot think about what every part of our body is doing. Too much. Like catching the football, your whole body moves as one without thought. Our practice is to do that with awareness. Focus on what your waist is doing. By the end of class, our brains were more fried than a plate of eggs in a Brooklyn greasy spoon diner. Just pay attention to our waists. This class was no waste.
By the way, ever wondered why we wear our gi belts on our waists with a big knot over our center (hara) instead of just tie our gi’s closed with a small string on the side or velcro? Yeah. Makes sense now.
A centipede was happy – quite!
Until a toad in fun
Said, "Pray, which leg moves after which?"
This raised her doubts to such a pitch,
She fell exhausted in the ditch.
Not knowing how to run.
--The Centipede's Dilemma by George Humphrey