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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

Falling Down on the Job

December 15, 2021

New Hellos

I want to welcome Carter to our Iaido program.

To Do or Not to Do’s

žHoliday Potluck Party - Saturday December 18, 2:00pm –Join us to celebrate the holiday season. I will teach the 2:00 class (the Jr Deshi class is canceled) with the party to follow. Bring a dish and let’s celebrate our holiday spirit together! There will be a special musical performance by Kelvin and Kelsey. Don’t miss it.

žJavier Burghi will guest teach my class – Weds December 29, 7:00.

žLehrman Sensei – Wednesday, January 5, 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. We welcome visitors from other dojos who would like to join us.

Falling Down on the Job

I planned to be at the 11:00 class last Sunday but was late getting on the mat as a prospective student called with questions. I finished the call, put on my gi, and jumped on the mat. One of our Junior Deshi whose father was teaching, was practicing in a three-person group so, I invited him to practice. “What are you doing here?” he asked surprised. “Practicing!” I responded. “Why?” he asked. “To get better at Aikido.” And with that, we had an intense practice together. Nothing rough or big (I never throw our teens big. Too easy. Like fishing in a barrel. I like to pick on the big guys.) and I prefer not to instruct when I take class, that would be rude, and I am there for me. These are my personal times to work on my own Aikido. The teen picked up a lot from just working together and, I must tell you, he had my balance twice. That doesn’t happen often. I was very impressed and am always excited when that happens.

I often miss having Sagano Sensei around. It was exciting be thrown by him. I learn the most by being thrown by someone who can take my balance (and not just try to hurt my wrist). Sagano Sensei took my balance every time which came with the loss of understanding of what’s up and what’s down when gravity felt optional. Those moments of harmony are truly what excite me. And this young person had my balance.

Later in the class, his dad, the instructor, (the person teaching the class is always uncomfortable when I take their class. Please don’t be. I am only Sensei of the dojo because I am a hard-working student doing this the longest) came over and asked me to throw him. I did so very respectfully as he was teaching the class. Then he extended the offer to his son, who was not as gentle. The third throw, Dad hit the mat like a sack of potatoes. He laid there for a few seconds collecting his thoughts, which seemed to be a little askew. He was not expecting to be thrown so hard by his junior, both in age and rank. The son leaned over to me and said “Boom.”

I love Aikido.

New York Aikikai

One of the beautiful things about Aikido is the community. We enjoy that spirit at ASNJ. We train, hang out, we have programs for many different groups within. You know, community. But the community is way larger than our small building. Lehrman Sensei takes off from teaching in Brooklyn once a month to teach at ASNJ. We share a very nice relationship with Park Slope, but it is even bigger than that. Besides our NJ friends, we are also connected to the New York Aikikai, in my opinion, the center of Aikido in the USA. It is the hub that makes all this work, our center. We used to do a dojo trip three times a year to bring our youths and anyone else who wanted and take Yamada Sensei’s class. This was all BC (before Covid) era. Someday soon?

There are two things to mention. New York Aikikai had Dan testing this past Saturday and I wanted to congratulate everyone. It is a nice sign to see them getting back to a new normal. The second is, as a not-for-profit, the New York Aikikai is having a fundraising drive to make necessary renovations. If you can, please help. You can donate on their web site: Help keep our center strong.

Is There a Shihan in the House?

Once a month Lehrman Sensei teaches at ASNJ. It’s a great class. Last time, we had 25 people on the mat and spent an hour and a half working on bringing uke into your center from their feet and then around you and out until they were on the ground. Lehrman Sensei works with everyone. It is fun, exciting, frustrating, exhilarating, exhausting and that was only in the first five minutes.

An amazing thing about Lehrman Sensei class, it feels as if it is being taught just for you. Everyone learns something specific while we are all doing the same technique. I was driving James home from Tai Chi Chuan the next night and I asked him about Lehrman Sensei’s class. He loved the beginning warm up where we made a circle with our two hands held together and moved them in a bigger and bigger circle around our center until it was way over our heads and touched each foot before contracting to small circle again. James saw the size of the circle we did in each technique and different sizes, like the warmup and thought that was the theme of the class. I remembered that part of the class but not until he mentioned how insightful that was for him. For me, the class was about the relationship from my elbow into my hip and foot and how it was related to a Jo motion.

I wondered what everyone saw as their focus. That made me think and once again admire Aikido as a practice. How many people can work on the same technique, and have it be different for everyone all while being taught by the same person? We all bring ourselves into the practice at that moment and that is what we explore on the mat. For some, it might be an intense physical workout to relieve stress, for another, an introspective moment understanding a thought about the relationship to being attacked, another about understanding their body. You get from class what you bring to the mat.

Have I ever mentioned to you that I love Aikido? What a great idea for a bumper sticker. I ❤️ Aikido. I wonder if anyone has done that before. Great idea, huh? OK, alright, I will stick to what I do best, writing long boring letters.

--Sensei Jay

“Pour some water into a tub and stir it up. Now try as hard as you can to calm the water with your hands; you will succeed in agitating it further. Let it stand undisturbed a while, and it will calm down by itself. The human brain works much the same way.”

- Koichi Tohei, 10th Dan, Aikido

Sensei Jay was not at Saturday’s Winter Wonder Women's Event hosted by the ASNJ Women’s group, but I was, and I’d like to prolong this letter to tell you about this special experience: At 5pm on December 11, just under a dozen women joined on the mat encircled by the light of a hundred candles. We had all taken this time out of our busy holiday season bustle to be there. Annie and Vanessa welcomed us and then we went around and stated our intentions, all different but with a common thread: slow down, breathe, be. Connie led us in a yoga session stretching our bodies to release the pre-occupation with the outside world. From there, Alison Iati, Owner/Sound Practitioner of Awaken Sound Health, wove the sounds of Singing crystal bowls, Himalayan bowls, rain sticks, chimes, and bells into music to harmonize our bodies, minds, spirits. When the last chords fell away, we were slow to return to our daily chaos, instead savoring the individual but shared quiet, peace. It was a very special event. Thank you to Annie, Vanessa, and Connie who, with their unique talents and enthusiasm, gave us this women-only space to breathe and be with one another. Thanks to Danny for helping to set up those hundreds of candles and more to transform the dojo that evening and to Jay for keeping the ASNJ community together that even a pandemic couldn’t break. Happy holidays to all of you, my Aikido family!

--Rachel, Aikido Wife

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