April 22, 2022
Are you still thinking about the vernal pools from last week’s letter? I was told by Joe, a Tai Chi Chuan student, that Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal (Spring) equinox. Coincidence? Now there is something else vernal to put on your calendar.
Please join us on Saturday, May 21 for our Vernal Seminar with Lehrman Shihan and Konigsburg Shihan. You thought frog chirping was exciting, imagine two Shihan’s each teaching and working off the others’ Aikido ideas going back and forth for four hours. Followed by a party? You know you want to be there.
Kyu Testing – Saturday, April 23, 2:00 pm. Class is at 2:00 pm, Kyu Tests at 3:30 pm followed by a Potluck party. Speak to Danny, Frank, or Derrell if you think you are ready to test.
Dean Sluyter-hosted Meditation – Sunday, May 1, 8:45 am-10:00 am. Dean Sluyter, cofounder of ASNJ's Sunday morning meditation program, returns to lead meditation and discussion, and to present his new book, The Dharma Bum's Guide to Western Literature. No charge for the program, open to all.
Lehrman Shihan – Wednesday, May 11, 7:00 pm. Lehrman Shihan 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. We welcome visitors from other dojos who would like to attend.
Dojo Clean Up Day - Sunday May 25, 1:00 PM - Come join us in our Spring (or Vernal) Cleaning day. We will start at 1:00 and go until late afternoon. We will have pizza and refreshments. Iaido will be in the parking lot and the Aikido class is cancelled.
Spring Seminar – Saturday, May 21, Noon to 6:00 pm. We will be hosting Lehrman Shihan and Konigsburg Shihan for a very exciting seminar. This is their first time together since Covid. They will be alternating sessions exploring wherever Aikido leads. It is not often you have two Shihans sharing their personal perspectives. Here is the flyer. Please come join us for a great day of Aikido and friendship.
Hakama Class – Sunday, May 29, 11:00 am. This is mandatory for all ASNJ instructors; instructors from any dojo are welcome. There is no charge.
Hellos I want to welcome two young ladies, one joining our 4-6 class, the older sister joining the Children’s program. I had the pleasure of watching these future leaders of the Aikido world. Dad was also interested, and I did a little demonstration in front of the couch. I said the age-old Aikido request “Grab my wrist.” Dad’s arms were impressively large. His grip more so (I instructed him to grab as hard as he could.). I showed him how Aikido worked as he fell down a couple of times. I will let you know if he joins and when the black and blues on my wrist heal. Did I say he was big?
There are people who when they return, you can’t help but become emotional. Heidy is one of those people. It is great to see her back on the mat.
We also had two adults come by for a free trial class.
Shed a Tear
I love Passover. Family and friends come over for a huge meal and celebration together while telling the story of Passover. We are planning to go to a small seder at my sister’s house, instead of Rachel and I hosting this year. In preparation for the Passover seder (festive meal), I make the horseradish. An annual event, it is one of the most painfully events of my life. I cannot truly explain the experience but I’ll try: Imagine a hot knife plunged into both eyes while inhaling some Geneva Convention-banned mustard gas burning your nostrils, followed by gushing blinding tears with mucus cascading from every cranial orifice except your ears. I think they may have bled a little. After you finish, the day continues with a dull headache and your sinuses burning along with a constant running nose. I love Passover!
This all started I was 8. My mother told me she wanted to honor me (in addition to the reading of the Four Questions, traditionally recited by the youngest literate child) by helping to prepare the Passover seder. She handed me a flimsy box grater (You all remember those things: thin stamped metal so dull you needed your entire body weight to use) and the root of an innocent looking unpeeled horseradish. Back then, we used a hand grater, as the Cuisinart was invented the same year, 1971, by Carl Sontheimer, a graduate of MIT and a lover of French Food. I was so excited to be a part of the seder preparation. I donned a scuba mask (childhood staple for every kid along with a snorkel and flimsy flippers to swim in the small above-ground pool you went to at the neighbor’s) and began what I quickly discovered was the painful experience of shredding the hard toxic root against the flimsy common kitchen utensil. An hour later, crying, knuckles bleeding from the grater, mask half filled with snot and coughing so hard, I think the aforementioned mucus collected in my scuba mask became carbonated. I was beaming with joy. I proudly presented my mom one of the essential parts of the Passover seder (after picking out the blood-stained pieces).
Now, these many years later, I understand the honor was my mother’s, not mine. The mitzvah she had ‘bestowed’ on me was borderline child abuse. There were no “Child Services” back then, we were on our own. Now, these five decades later, my sister called me a week before the seder, “Hey! Do you want to make the horseradish? I mean, everyone LOVES your horseradish.” She really learned a lot from our mom. At least now I use a Cuisinart along with my scuba mask. I did mention I loved Passover?
This has nothing to do with Maine, but the book I am still reading, Super Fly. Did you know that 90% of the pollination of flowers is done by insects, the other 10% is done by wind, birds, or bats? Flowers feed insects sugar-laden nectar in exchange for the insects helping their reproduction. In essence, it is nature’s ‘food for sex’ program. 60% of insects that pollinate flowers are not bees, but flies! Flies do the majority of the work and are responsible for $750 billion dollars of food crops a year (that is twice as much money as Amazon does a year). Don’t tell them, (the flies, not Amazon) they may want a cut of the profits. The next time you swat a fly, think about how important they are for your next meal.
If you think that is interesting, think about the next time you see a fly walk across your hand and make sure you wash that hand. I mean it, like right away. In France, they had a Common Fruit Fly walk across a petri dish and then allowed the bacteria deposited from their feet grow a culture. On average, a house fly’s very dirty feet have 1,250,000 bacteria on them. This is more than a toilet. Aren’t you happy I am reading this book?
I have given a review for every New Jersey Dojo that I have been inside. I am going to start on the other 13 states where I have practiced and leave reviews. Have you reviewed a dojo yet? I am asking everyone to click on and review the dojo you love. Just Google a dojo you have visited and click on ‘review’ on the right side of the open panel. This is a simple thing you can do to help Aikido and Aikido dojos flourish.
I Am Falling for Aikido
Last week Lehrman Sensei taught his monthly class at ASNJ, so I had a break and only had to take class. Don’t get me wrong, I love to teach but I love to practice more. I would rather play football than watch it on TV or have a catch with my son than look up stats. I am a doer. Lehrman Sensei worked on expanding the empty space and drawing uke into the void or at least that was my interpretation. I welcome his comments when he edits.
I worked with Lou, a very skilled student at ASNJ. Lou, to put it mildly, is big and strong. He is not tall, but very wide; everything is packed in a very dense and adept Aikidoka. Moving Lou with pure force is not an option. I could tip a cow with less force (and I have done that when I spent a summer living on a farm upstate during high school). He is good. Class was great. I had to make my Aikido work.
We did tenchinage as the first technique. I did approximately 20 variations to see what worked and what did not. I emptied the bottom hand, the opened up and drew him in, I left the bottom hand firm to create a pivot point for the top hand to tip him, I expanded both hands and drew the circle behind him, I extended up and down (instead of an angle) to rotate him on that axis, I drew him toward me with the bottom hand and extended the upper to spin him, I lifted the upper hand over and through his center; you get the idea. I had a great time. And this was only for tenchinage. Ikkyo was more of the same exploration. Thanks Lou. Great class.
“Around 2am as I was performing misogi, I suddenly forgot all the martial techniques I had ever learned. The techniques of my teachers appeared completely new. Now they were vehicles for the cultivation of life, knowledge, and virtue, not devices to throw people with.”
- Moihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido