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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

Hal, The New Normal

August 15th, 2021

Hello To You

What do we have in common with the Mets? We both welcomed a new person named Javier (If you are Mets fan, this is a great reference!) I want to welcome back Javier (not to confused with Javier the tattooed). He joined shortly after the Covid reopening and had to take time off for work. Everyone welcome him back. We also had a 12-year-old whose dad brought him to sign up during Lehrman Sensei’s class. I did the paperwork, got him his free gi, and brought him on the mat to start practicing during Lehrman Sensei’s class. Why not? Kelvin jumped right in and partnered with him to help him out. Hmm, I wonder if he did that to get away from working with me?

Nothing Will Change, Except Everything Will Be Better

That was my slogan when I took over as Sensei at ASNJ almost three years ago. Wednesday night was very exciting, I used to teach every other week and Lehrman Sensei would do the alternate week at ASNJ. Then in March 2020, Covid-19 put a stop to that. Guess what? He’s ba-aack. Lehrman Sensei returned to teaching at ASNJ. The world is right again. Ahhh, the mat seems a little brighter. His class was great. With over 25 students, the dojo was alive and full of energy. Paul Manogue Sensei (a dear aiki-friend) joined us with two of his very talented students.

For me it was important on so many levels. It was my first time on the mat as a student in four months since I screwed up my shoulder. I primarily practiced with my son, Zachary, who also has a bad shoulder. Even thought there were visitors (I usually love to grab a new wrist when the opportunity presents), I was playing it safe. Not that I was worried about being thrown too hard, my ukemi is good enough to take care of that. I was worried I would try to throw too hard. With my son also hurt (we both had red “X’s” taped to our shoulders), I had to keep it reserved. Though I think I am ready for four hours of Aikido for the August 15 seminar, I will keep the red X.

Another big thing for me was Lehrman Sensei experiencing the students of ASNJ. Had they changed in the time since he had been away? I am with them nearly every day, I cannot see the accumulated growth (like your kids getting taller). I was near tears when, at dinner after class, he told me how amazed he was at how much everyone was so much better. One sign was when he would bring a student up as uke, when he used strength, they stopped him, automatically. He didn’t need to tell them to resist. Everyone did and if Lehrman Sensei was not doing his thing (which is unusual), they did not fall. I was amazed (and silently chuckling, maybe a little out loud).

The final thing for me was the joy on the mat. Everyone was working. Everyone was sweating. Everyone was learning. Everyone was smiling. The blessing of being together and working our cabooses off was infectious (bad choice of word? Naaah). Seeing students loving learning. I could not ask for a better group. I am truly blessed. Thanks, you all.

To Do’s

žSummer Fling: NJ Dojos Day of Aikido Fun – Sunday, August 15. We, along with three other dojos, will host 4classes as follows:

ž 12:00-1:00 - Jay Tall, Aikido Schools of New Jersey – 2nd dan

ž 1:00-2:00 - Paul Manogue, Aikido of Raritan Valley/Ren Sei Kan – 5th dan, Shidoin

ž 2:00-3:00 - Jerry Zimmerman, Aikido of North Jersey – 6th dan, Shidoin

ž 3:00-4:00 - Hal Lehrman, Aikido of Park Slope – 7th dan Shihan

ž Potluck to follow. Please bring a dish or a beverage and expect to have a good time.

žKyu Tests – Saturday, August 21. We are having the Wheel of Ukemi class, Kyu Tests, and our summer BBQ / Potluck party. If you wish to test, please speak with Danny, Derrell, or Frank for evaluation.

žHakama Class – Sunday August 29, 11:00 am. Open to members 3rd kyu and above and mandatory for instructors.

My name is Inigo Montoya.

Do you remember the line from Princess Bride when Fezzik asks Wesley why he was wearing a mask? "It's just that masks are terribly comfortable -- I think everyone will be wearing them in the future," said Westley. Yup. He was so right. On July 30, the Governor issued a recommendation to wear masks indoors with many specifics. I am not going into detail, but I am asking all students to wear masks when on the mat and in the dressing rooms when possible. They might not be terribly comfortable, but Wesley was right, everyone seems to be wearing them. If you love that movie, the book is actually better. But for right now, please emulate Wesley.

A Dojo Story

Many of you have noticed the upgrades, repairs, and small changes to the dojo. Recently we have changed the lock on the bathroom (the old one was rusting from all the Covid bleaching) and the slide lock is gone, there’s a new light by the stairs, the glass block on the side of the mat is gone. We have trimmed the trees hitting the roof, fixed the gutter (hopefully the leak by the window is gone), patched the roof and will be coating it with aluminum oxide. We are planning a painting party (requisite beer and pizza will be supplied) to spiff the place up (my wife, Annie and Vanessa are choosing colors). We are also talking with a company to replace the mat canvas (Zachary is spearheading that one. Since he sews a lot, he is the closest we have to a canvas expert.) If anyone wants to help or has any ideas, please let us know. Help is always welcome. Thank you, Colonel, for the chain saw and leaf blower.

Where Do These Come from – Questions

I was asked that question. Where do the ideas that I write about come from? The answer is three parts. One is a question I am asked: A student asks a question and in my usual succinct manner, I answer concisely with extreme brevity (I mean, so short, you can often miss the answer – right?). The second way ideas arise for these newsletters is that something comes up when teaching that I think needs clarification. I try to recreate that in these letters. The last is a conversation, usually with Lehrman Sensei (who I call Hal for brevity and familiarity) during these conversations. And those conversations are usually sparked by either the first two or something in our lives. (Yes, Sensei do have lives. We are up in Maine, at the moment, and just got back foraging for wild mushrooms. We yielded two buckets of Black Trumpets. They are easy to identify as they don’t have toxic lookalikes like many mushrooms do).

The point? (Yes, I have one. See how concise I am?). The point is the commonality is I am always searching, exploring, or asking my own questions. You remember the great conversation I had with Jeff and Harold a few weeks ago? It came from a question I had about all Latin masses. I heard about it and wanted to know more. So, the concept is always to explore. Always ask the question. Always seek the new thing and new growth. Don’t miss those moments. They are the key to being a student. If you have anything you want to ask, explore, or comment, drop me an email or a call. I would be happy to exchange ideas and maybe that will be the next letter.

Every teacher in ASNJ must take classes, including me. The concept is not what you know, but what you don’t. Take the class that challenges you, seek the partner that is difficult. Don’t teach on the mat but study. This is your golden opportunity. Ask the question.

--Sensei Jay

"Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something."

- Moihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido

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