Get a Rise Out of Aikido
March 30, 2022
I am sticking with the Foreword section I added last week. Why? Because it makes me laugh. I am sore from doing Aikido for four hours at a great seminar on Saturday, March 27 (Thank you Jim, it was awesome.) and feel a little self-indulgence was earned. As far as this letter, I was teaching the Rise Out of Aikido class (See below. This really is a Foreword! Wow, I am learning how to write!) and the best part, Zachary, my older son, was at class. He mentioned after class, that I kept saying ‘rise’ when I meant ‘raise.’ So, I Googled the difference. One is transitive; the other is intransitive. That really helped clarify it for me. Not! I think I learned that you could say “If you raise your kids right, they will help you rise.”? This makes little sense and I hate English but, I have a foreword, so who cares? Did I mention I am sore? So, if you want to see me torture some more English, come take my Wednesday Aikido class “Rising in Aikido.” I will be working on the Raise stuff for a few weeks (more Foreword action and bad English. And what in the good Lord’s name is intransitive???).
I would like to welcome Paul to our Iaido program. I love that this program is growing along with the rest of the dojo.
Things to Do in ASNJ
Lehrman Sensei – Wednesday, April 13, 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 attend.
Kyu Testing – Saturday, April 23, 2:00 pm. Class is at 2:00, Kyu Tests at 3:30 followed by a Potluck party. Speak to Danny, Frank, or Derrell if you think you are ready to test.
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.
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.
Spring Seminar – Saturday, May 21, Noon to 6:00 pm. We will be hosting Lehrman Shihan and Koningsburg 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.
Red Bank Seminar
I want to thank Soviero Sensei for a great day and hosting one amazing event. The mat was packed as a seminar should be. The spirit was infectious, the people all wonderful, the Aikido incredible and the party to follow...classic. Some highlights, I made new friends from Spain, Syracuse, Albany, Connecticut, and Philly. My guess was there were 100 people on the mat. ASNJ was well represented. I think we had 25 of our ASNJ crew on the mat. I counted about a dozen Senseis from as many dojos. I got over 85 hugs from friends, needed a lot of Advil on my way home, ate much, too much, food, not to mention some interesting beers and had a great day. Yamada Sensei and Konigsberg Sensei were magical. It was everything I could ask for in a day and more (even being sore. I earned that). Did I thank Soviero Sensei yet?
I was very excited to practice with Evan and Orlando, my brothers from another Dojo (Park Slope, my first dojo) who I have known for decades and the first time we have practiced in many years. We laughed as we learned, their Aikido, both unique, is quite high level (They are both amazing Aikidoka). I loved practicing with them as much as I love them both. I also wanted to give a shout out to Clayton and Bruce from Park Slope, also my peeps. I hung out with Jerry Zimmerman Sensei eating great food (The shrimp cocktail was a great surprise. Did I thank Soviero Sensei yet?) and drank a few beers with Paul Manogue Sensei --we always seem to drink when together-- while a student recapped being punctured at an Iaido class. Those crazy sword guys from Philly. Did I mention the shrimp?)
I worked out with a young man, who started Aikido a month ago and drove down with a group from Syracuse. He has Cerebral Palsy and needs two canes to walk. We worked on Kataetori Kokyuho for half an hour in suwariwaza as he cannot stand. He was a quick learner. His plan to learn Aikido and his determination was something I take away from the seminar a changed person, we should all have such commitment in the face of challenges that life throws us.
A great time was had by all and another step toward enjoying our new norm. Thank you, Soviero Sensei. I hope to see everyone at our seminar on Saturday, May 21 to continue the renewed spirit.
I am asking everyone who reads this to click on this link and review us on Google. The way to grow and add new members is Google. Google has recently changed their algorithm making positive reviews count for more to SEO. So, please let the world know how much you love my letters.
Please review us.
Getting a Rise by Raising Up
I was working last week on causing uke to rise and wanted to continue that this week with Tenshinage. I grabbed a bokken in warmups and heard in my head the discussion from the week before in Tai Chi Chuan and my epiphany in Maine and it hit me: I focus on the cut when I work with a bokken. The lifting part is only, in my idea, there to help cause the cut. But, if I lift the sword perfectly (or as best I can) with my legs and shift, the bokken fully extended, my shoulders relax (my present issue in my cuts is tension in my shoulders), my back straightens, the bokken comes directly in line with my center, then my cut is already a foregone conclusion. I just need to shift and let gravity take over. My cuts were much more focused and powerful than ever before. And I did less. I think I am onto something.
It dawned on me at that point, I focus on the doing, on the thing, the prize, the action and forget everything else. In my work, I often hear “When will a project get done?” The client sees it as if nothing is getting accomplished as we are putting up electric, plumbing or framing. When we paint, I hear “Wow, I can’t believe how much you did today!”. They don’t see the painting is the easy part, all the other work is incredibly important. Focusing on the goal causes to miss what is of value. The antithesis of Machiavelli’s famous line – the Ends justify the Means. I think he missed the point. (And he was not a Prince but only a clerical worker who wrote some books. I should talk.) The Means are the Ends.
Our practice is about awareness. We need to focus on the moment and not the result. The practice is to make the moment the result. So, practice how perfectly you can raise your sword and let the cut happen. Be part of the technique as it takes shape, how it rises from your feet and moves from an idea throughout the entirety. See how perfectly you can meet uke at an attack and forget about the throw, let that happen. I will be working on this for at least a month. Come by and take class and get a rise out of it.
“Focus on stillness, rather than on movement.”
- Moihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido