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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

Cliff Notes

November 2nd, 2021

Better Late Than Ever

I know, I left out the ‘N’ of Never in an unsuccessful pun but indulge me, it has been quite a week. First, we had plumbing issues at the dojo, and I was, well, fixing toilets. That and my day jobs, construction (you know, fixing toilets) and real estate (selling places with toilets) were a little busy also. Then (for those who remember my Dentist visit in Maine that ended up in the ER with stitches in my forehead due to an unkind encounter with an air conditioner) I was walking out of Physical Therapy for my nearly-repaired shoulder and ended up on the ground from twisting my ankle in a pothole, another lingering gymnastics injury (this was not as bad as the AC incident). Moral of this story: I was looking at my phone while walking, something no one should do.

New Hellos

I want to welcome Guilherme (Gui) to our Adult program and the 7-year-old who joined our Kids’ program. I’d also like to welcome Elizabeth to the Tai Chi Chuan program and her 11-year-old son to the Youth program. As you may know, over half of our members are related to another member. Heck, my son and I are members. We have two Talls and four Smalls in ASNJ. Not only families but adjectives also.

Fun Challenge

Do you take a lot of classes? Can you take a lot of ukemi? I got a challenge. I was looking at the schedule and realized we have 20 Adult classes per week. Can you do it? Can you take all 20 in one week? I am making it a challenge. Take every class in a one-week span (make sure you sign in) and I will give you a free dojo T-Shirt. Why? No idea. Seemed like a good idea while I was typing this letter.

To Do’s

žArtists Studio Tour: Elisabeth Antoine – Saturday and Sunday, November 6-7, 11am-5:00 pm. Love art and want to support an Aikido alumnus? Elisabeth Antoine is one of several artists part of the South Orange Maplewood (SOMa) Studio Tour. You are welcome to tour all the artists or just say hello and be enthralled by Elisabeth's artwork which will hosted at my house, 171 Grove Road, South Orange.

žLehrman Sensei – Wednesday, November 9, 7:00 pm. Lehrman Sensei teaches the second Wednesday of each month. This is a mandatory class for all ASNJ instructors and an exciting treat for all our students and guests. I suggest taking his class. It is the least you can do after the guy has to drive over the Verrazano.

žVeterans’ Day Class – Thursday, November 11, 7:00 pm. Open to all members, veterans, and guests. We will be honoring veterans, starting with our own ten ASNJ students who have served. Please come to show your support and stay for a fun class and a great party to follow. This event is free and open to all members of ASNJ, their families and veterans or guests from any dojo who wish to spend the evening celebrating with us. There will be food and refreshments after class. The event is being co-sponsored by the Cranford VFW Post 335. Tai Chi Chuan class is canceled this evening

ž Women of ASNJ Winter Event - Saturday December 4, 5:00 – 7:00 – Open to all female members, or any female relative of an ASNJ member. Details to follow. Speak to Annie or Vanessa if you wish to help with the event.

Walking Tall

When I was a kid, I thought they made a movie about me: Walking Tall (keeping that adjective humor rolling). Hard to believe but I was wrong, it wasn’t about me, but it makes a great title that works for this section. There is a member who walks into the dojo relaxed, moving well and casual. He gets on the mat and becomes stiff and mechanical. I brought this to his attention and asked him to practice like he walked into the dojo. He told me he was moving how he was taught. He thought that was how to practice should be. It is a difficult thing to unlearn. I understood and just told him to give it a shot.

Aikido should reflect who you are. I can often learn a lot about a person by how they are on the mat: how they move, how they hold their body, are they aggressive or gentle, are they physical or heady. Aikido is very much an exploration of ourselves. So, be yourself on the mat. If you had a good day, share that feeling, if you had a bad day, stay home. No, just kidding! Bring that to the mat and let it go. But be you.

Cliff Notes

We had three new people in Tai Chi Chuan class, so the first half was Form review. Everyone seems to love the chance to work on the Form. If anyone wants to join, there is no issue, we will catch you up.

The interesting part of the class was Push Hands where we worked on being 100% in one leg. We are often told to “give it your all” when trying something but what does that mean and how do you actually do that? How does one experience being 100% or ‘giving it your all.’ First, we must understand what this means. Being 99% is no different than 75%, you are not fully in your leg. Being 100% is being fully committed, mind, body, and soul. The way to learn 100% is to experiment going 101% and falling. In other words, you need to go to the very edge and then go too far.

It is very difficult to stand upright and balanced with all your weight in a leg, but this is a crucial lesson in Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) and Aikido. To understand, I shared how Rachel and I experienced being at the edge of cliffs when we hike in Maine. I sit on the edge and dangle my legs to refresh myself and enjoy the view; Rachel gets 10 feet away and stops and that is where she experiences the edge and enjoys the views from there. Why? The answer is unique to everyone but real to each, no less. To go 101% on a cliff is dangerous. In essence, you can only try this once and hopefully with great insurance. So, we practice the experience in a safer environment: the dojo. We shift into our leg and go too far. If you do this 10,000 times (as per the TCC Classics), you will discover that point where you are 100% and no longer need to go too far. It is called a ‘Root’. It comes from a point in our foot called “Bubbling Well Springs.”

The dojo should be a safe environment to try things that are dangerous. It is a place we can experience things that in the rest of the world, failure could be life changing. Learning requires being vulnerable and giving it your all. We have mats now instead of a wooden floor (unlike O’Sensei who originally taught Aikido on wooden floors) so you can go that step too far. You can try that first roll as a beginner or that break fall a year later knowing it may hurt but you most likely won’t end up in the ER (back to good health plan). The dojo is a place that you can go 101% and understand finally what it means to “give it your all.” Just be careful leaving Physical Therapy. I hear that first step is a doozy.

--Sensei Jay

“Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow. You are here to realize your inner divinity and manifest your innate enlightenment.”

- Moihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido

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