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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

Give Up and Follow Others

July 19, 2022 Sorry for the late letter but I do not seem to be able to write one letter a week anymore. For those of you who enjoy these, I am sorry. For those of you who do not like the letter, you are probably not reading this anyway, so it’s a win-win. Who’s Getting Old? Not me, the dojo. ASNJ, founded in 1977, is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year. For those anniversary aficionados (or Googlers); this is a sapphire anniversary. Our school is 45 years old and getting better and better every day. Please feel free to send us any un-needed sapphires should you feel so moved by this announcement. Or join us on Saturday, July 30 for the tests and party to celebrate. Or just join us. Hellos Please welcome David and Philippe into our Adult program as well as Jakup who has returned to the dojo. Also, we had added six new members to our Kids’ program as well as a member to our Adaptive Aikido Program. I just called Vanessa because we need more Welcome Packets! What’s Happenin’

  • 45th Anniversary Summer BBQ and Kyu test – Saturday, July 30, 2:00 pm. Please join our celebration. If you are thinking of testing, please speak to Frank, Danny, or Derrell.

  • Hakama Class – Sunday, July 31, 11:00 am. This is mandatory for all ASNJ instructors. There is no charge. There will be a brief instructor meeting afterwards.

  • Kids Testing – Saturday August 6, 11:30 am. Come support, cheer, encourage and admire the skill and knowledge of the future of Aikido. We have an amazing group of over 50 kids and 20 youths in the dojo. Let’s show them how proud we are.

  • Lehrman Shihan – Wednesday, August 10, 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.

  • Hosting Camp Riverbend for a Day of Aikido. Thursday 10:00 am - 3:00pm We will be hosting 40 kids for two classes. Anyone who can help with the day, it would be super appreciate.

  • North Jersey & Ramapo Valley 25th Anniversary Seminar – September 17 at Aikido North Jersey with Yamada Sensei, Zimmerman Sensei and Vardi Sensei.

  • Lehrman Sensei Seminar at Portsmouth Aikido – October 8 - 9, Portsmouth, NH

  • General Note – Many of us are taking summer vacations so many classes will have guest instructors. It is like playing Senpai Roulette.

Advice to Aiki-Parents Many of our members are families. Siblings, husbands, and wives and, like Zachary and I, parents and children. In the latter, I think it is very important for parents to be encouraging and supportive to their aiki-kids. Especially the parents that train. There is a danger when telling your kids what they did wrong after, or worse, during a class. That is the ASNJ instructors’ job. We are trained in doing this in a positive way. Learning is experiential, not instructional. For years, when Zachary trained at ASNJ, I would only answer his questions after class. I did not offer criticism of his Aikido. I only told him how great he did and how proud I was. If you, the parent, turn the time at the dojo into something that is not positive, your child will not enjoy it. So, focus on encouragement while we focus on their skills. It will make for a better drive home. The Maine Thing Rachel and I spent a long week up in Maine over July 4th. Zachary and Megan were also there. Our neighbors, Pat and Melissa, mentioned an advertisement for Aikido in the Belfast Dance Studio. Excited at the news (Finding a local Aikido dojo is like finding a coupon at the self-checkout register), I Googled and found there ‘might’ be a class on Tuesdays. Why ‘might’? Because this is Maine (a very laid-back state) and often things online are outdated as no one has gotten around to changing the info. Rachel and I normally go up Friday through Wednesday so I would be able to take a Tuesday night class. How perfect would that be! The only problem was that I could not get in touch with anyone and had no idea if there would be a class. I put it in my calendar to check it out for the next trip. Then that Thursday, Rachel and I were having dinner with Kim, who owns a local bookstore and her dog, Sky. (Sky will fetch any of her dozen toys on command. I really mean that. Ask Sky for the Turkey and she would run up and down the aisles of the store until she found Turkey. Not Camel, not Giraffe. She would only bring back Turkey.). We have dinner with Kim at her shop most trips up to Maine. If you go to Belfast Maine, check out Bella Books. We bring dinner and some wine after they close, and we will hang out in her 150-year-old building that houses a book and antiques store. Halfway through the frittata, I got a call from Zachary that people were doing Jo in the park near the summer concert (every Thursday). Score! I said “Rachel, I’ll be right back. Keep my food warm!” as I sprinted out the door to the park. There I met Matt Dykeman. He was the Sensei of a USAF dojo in Beverly, Mass until the beauty of Maine tempted him to relocate. Chatting with Matt for an hour (My wife was not happy as I disappeared for so long without telling her why I ran out. Sky sat there staring at my wife with the saddest eyes that only a dog can do waiting for her to throw Turkey so Sky could fetch. Sorry honey! (She will read this when she proofreads. The apology is for her.)). It was great to meet a fellow Aikidoka and Sensei in our little piece of paradise of Maine. He had a few students and was doing only standing practices as they did not have a space with mats yet. We quickly became friends, and I went back to the bookstore. My frittata was cold. Sky was napping but there was still another bottle of wine. Life was good. Give Up and Follow Others Sounds like a slogan for a cult (or a great T-shirt for a group of lemmings) but it is also an instruction from the Tai Chi Classics. We have worked on this idea for the past few weeks (the Tai Chi aspect, not the cult., more on the lemmings later). For me, this is what I work on when taking ukemi. Ukemi is not just surviving the fall (or looking really good when you do). For me, I am following nage like a great defensive safety following a wide receiver (Football reference. I know it is off season but humor me). I want to move so perfectly in tune with nage and it almost feels like I am ahead. But not quite. Nage leads and I follow. The Tai Chi Chuan exercise we worked on is to stand with your legs slightly bent and weight even. Your partner gently pushes on the left or right side of your hip, alternating sides. The exercise is to do nothing. Just let your partner push you. Let your partner do all the work provide all the energy. They should feel no resistance from you, like pushing open a well-oiled door. The problem? Most people try to anticipate the push; they move themselves instead of following. To get used to the exercise (an interesting choice of words for not exercising), the next stage in the experiment is to close your eyes (the person being pushed -- or pushee -- not the pusher. I do not want to promote inappropriate touching. The pusher needs to pay attention.) and be pushed. Then we added pushing on the shoulder or the hip, still with the pushees’ eyes closed. The practice is not designed to teach you to be able to follow but to help you identify why you can’t. What comes up, what thoughts or feelings when you try to give up control to another person. Just like ukemi should be. For most it is ego – “I need to be in control.” The discussion that arose was about relaxing. We discussed again that a person cannot relax but only be relaxed. Relaxation is a state of doing nothing. Being tense is an action – tightening muscle. Being relaxed is the absence of an action, not tightening muscles. You cannot do something to relax. You can only stop tensing. All babies are relaxed. We learn to be tense (If you knew my parents, you’d grow up tense too!). The goal of the idea of this exercise is to understand why each of us tense, what are our own personal reasons for tensing. The idea is not to move perfectly, that is not possible, but learn why you can’t. Then you can incorporate this information, learn to stop doing what makes you tense and have the opportunity to change. This is the true model of learning in Tai Chi Chuan and Aikido. Being good at both arts is just a result of learning about ourselves. In these practices, Tai Chi Chuan and ukemi, we learn to give up and follow others. Or, do nothing. No lemmings were hurt in the writing of this newsletter but they were wearing cool t-shirts. Preach I was approached by one of our Kid’s program instructors about a parent. I said to that instructor what I tell every ASNJ instructor, if you have any concern or issue with a parent, do not confront or try to give an answer, please ask them to speak with me. It is my job. We are not expected to have every answer or to handle every situation. We are expected to learn something every day. Teaching is not preaching. Instructors are not expected to, nor should they give answers to every question but give a student a safe place to experiment and learn. I, through my experience, give students a safe situation to learn something, this is my job. So, feel free to preach, just not in the dojo. Wait, I take that back. Don’t preach. Learn something. Invite someone to learn with you. That is what a dojo is. Each of our lives have unique needs, requirements, and requests. Feed that with your own experience. Jay Tall Sensei, Aikido Schools of NJ “Nature is always speaking to us.” -Moihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido

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