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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay


December 7, 2021

New Hellos

I want to welcome back Diane who was a member many years ago and has rejoined our community. Also say hi to a new 7-year-old girl.

To Do or Not to Do’s

žLehrman Sensei – Wednesday, December 8, 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 have had some visitors from other dojos for this class and I wanted to let you know, we are accepting visitors again.

žWomen of ASNJ ‘Winter Wonder’ Get-together - Saturday December 11, 5:00pm – 7:00pm – This event is run by the ASNJ Women’s Group and is open to all female members, and any female relative of an ASNJ member 11 and older. Thanks to Annie, there will be a special guest, Alison Iati of Awaken Sound Health to lead meditation using traditional singing bowls. Expect yoga and Aikido breathing exercises followed by food, wine, and good company, too. Speak to Annie or Vanessa if you wish to help especially if you have a special skill you wish to share.

ž Holiday Potluck Party - Saturday December 18 starting 2:00pm – I know, you are getting over the Thanksgiving Day food coma, and I am bringing up a potluck party but let’s face it, this is the party season and who am I to disappoint? I will teach the 2:00 class (the Jr Deshi class is canceled) and we will party afterwards. Bring a dish and let’s celebrate our holiday spirit together!

Have You Watched Geese Fly in a V?

We had a great Tai Chi Chuan class, again, and started doing push hands with a more competitive nature, trying to uproot while trying not to be uprooted (think Judo but with a brick wall). This brought up many issues for students. How to compete without competing? Can I work on not being uprooted and not getting caught up in the need to win? It was frustrating but brought up things to explore.

What came up for many was the need to discover the secret to how to be successful. The problem? I already taught them everything I know. I got nothing left. I held back nothing. I have given all the information the students need to be experts. What are they missing then? That reminded me of a joke Andy Small told me: “When geese fly in a V formation, one side of the V is longer. Do you know why? There are more geese on that side.” (I apologize for repeating that joke.) So, what more do they need? Nothing. Just practice. The information is simple, move from your foot, let it rise through your legs, direct it with your waist, keep a relaxed straight back, and listen and express it in your hands. There is no magic, there are just more geese on one side. (Have you ever tried wild geese? Umm. Delicious. With a nice port, berry sauce. Wild rice on the side.)

Enough with food, back to Tai Chi Chuan, now to sum it up, the answer to what we all need as students: Practice. Invest in yourself. You don’t become a concert musician or a great athlete in a month, it takes years and years of daily work; really, really hard work. Most people have everything they need to know, coaching helps to tweak skills but the real issue, you need to practice.

After the end of class, hanging out in the dojo…... not leaving (often when the most intense conversations happen), James finally spoke, “I guess this is just an experiential practice.” Yup, that’s it.

See, I have already taught them everything they need to know.

Getting Ahead of the Curve

Ushiro. Why am I working on ushiro? Let me explain. We did bokken for the first ten minutes. Watching students work with the bokken, I saw they needed to work on extension. How to do that? Work on ushiro! Most of them did not see the relationship until later in class. There were many an ‘Aha’ moments when they saw it. Ushiro is all about extension (as all Aikido is, I don’t want this to be too big a deal), even though uke is running behind us. I experience ushiro mostly in front of me, even if uke is behind. Why are they behind me? Because of extension. I extend to meet/connect with uke using my right arm and then my right arm goes down into my foot and I turn. This brings uke to rotate behind me. As I turn with uke, my extension with my right arm/hand that uke is holding comes in front of me again speeding up their trip. My left hand extends sideways and extends forward completing the circle. The extension is not only in front of me, but up, down, to the side. In ushiro, I get to use extension throughout the entire sphere.

By moving our extension to the side and down and forward and up, we move and rotate our body in a circle, we create the need for uke to go behind us. It is not an ‘option’ for uke. We shape their attack based on our extension. It is important not to stop during this movement. You do not want to be static with an attacker behind you (or anywhere else. Stopping is bad.) Keep the circle in motion. This draws uke from one side to the other, wrapping behind and around you like putting on a comfortable terrycloth robe. Lose your extension, and uke can reach you and complete their attack. Keep your extension and the sphere moving, and uke is caught in a big ride around you.

So, the next time you are getting behind the curve, extend.

--Sensei Jay

“Practice is not just a matter of years and months. It is a matter of concentration.”

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