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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

I Can Dooooo It!

 

June 21, 2024

What’s Happenin’

●        Hakama class – Sunday, June 30, 11:00 am. A dojo meeting will follow. This is mandatory for all instructors. And a fun class.

●        Camp Riverbend, Teens will once again spend a day learning Aikido at ASNJ on July 17.  Volunteers needed, please!!

●        Aikido Summer Camp will be held in Montreal from July 21 to 27, 2024.

●        Lehrman Shihan Seminar Helsinki Finland August 9th – 11, 2024.

●        Lehrman Shihan Seminar at Portsmouth Aikido, Saturday, October 12-13.

●        Dues will be changing on July 1 (for the first time in over ten years). You should have received an email outlining the changes. If not, please talk to Paul.

Goodbye - For Now

Sometimes there are people in a dojo whose presence is part of the spirit and fabric of a place. If you ask anyone at ASNJ, they will say the Morrow family. They’re so impactful at ASNJ, we have a dojo protocol named after them, the ‘Morrow Rule,” where we give discounts to families.  If a second family member joins, they get a 10% discount, the third or fourth family member pays half. We haven’t had many with more than that. Then along came the Morrows, well, seven of them practice at the dojo. Or used to.  After a fifth family member joined, we created The Morrow Rule, and they are free.  They are the only ones who have taken advantage, and we don’t even have every Morrow on the mat.

Due to work situations, the Morrows are moving, and we will miss them.  The dojo is, even with 15 kids on the mat this Saturday class, somehow… it felt quiet?

The youngest Morrow, little Anna, recently joined the 4-year-old class, just old enough to join her siblings.  Before getting old enough, she used to watch at the edge of the mat copying the warmups, smiling. Then there is little Nicholas, who is part of the 4-6 program to the envy of his little sister.  After his class, Nick would sit somehow in the Zen chair to the envy of yoga masters in a back bending posture in a way no contortionist would ever dream of. Next in line is John, a tiny pizza-eating machine, who would always politely wait for his second (or third or fourth) slice of pizza, if available, that somehow fit into his compact 9-year-old body and whose gi showed evidence of the grease stains from every one of those slices. Robert, strong, observant, who would always take on any task I offered, overseeing his younger brothers whether moving a pile of stones or cleaning the front of the dojo. I will miss my underage work crew.  Then Patrick, who we have not seen in a while due to his success on the track team.  Patrick could take a breakfall from any technique or frankly, any position, even swari waza. I remember when Yamada Sensei called up to be his uke at NY Aikikai during a dojo trip taking a breakfall from a complicated irimi from Sensei.  Then there is the oldest practicing child member, Eva, whose Aikido vocabulary amazes me.  Her sheer breadth of Aikido knowledge in this sub-five-foot teen dynamo is unparalleled as well as her understanding of space during a technique. And then the dad, Jeff, a truly brilliant man, along with his wife, Maria (one of the few Morrows not on the mat), who raised this wonderful and warm family.  Jeff is a professor, author, and scholar of Catholic Studies.  During Rachel and my trip to Italy, I texted Jeff regularly with questions from every church we set foot in and got more information than any guide in Rome.

We all at ASNJ will miss you. We want to wish you all only the very best the world has to offer and send you our unending love.  May God bless you all. We will miss you and please, remember, this is not goodbye but only, see you later. ASNJ will always be your home.

I Can Dooooo It

“I can dooooo it.” I can’t tell you how many times Rachel and I, as parents, heard those words.  From the early steps on the living room carpet, or filling a cup, and walking into a strange building on the first day at pre-school. “I can dooooo it!” our little ones demanded that while attempting to eat a plate of spaghetti (remember that first delicacy with butter and cheap parm cheese from the shaker bottle, so fresh it did not need refrigeration?) wielding only their small plastic-coated child’s spoon strapped in the white plastic highchairs. After 5 frustrating minutes, they finally allowed you to help by cutting their spaghetti spoon sized (causing any native Italian to consider suicide (how do you say seppuku in Italian?)). The struggle for not just independence but to ‘prove’ you are capable are important steps in a child’s maturation process. (I am not going to start an argument between Freudian and Erikson stages of child development.  I would never even suggest which one is obviously correct.). Our sense of individuality or independence starts at three months when we commence midline play (hands and feet touching) as the two sides of our brains join (they are separate at birth). At that moment we have self-realization and the path from this moment on is critical to the development of who we are. But what happens if this step is not completed, not satisfied, and we get stuck in that phase. We do not get past trying to prove we can do something on our own but get stuck in a loop of trying to prove that we can eat spaghetti with a tiny spoon?

As adults, this sense of “I can dooooo it” can be thought of as a “Can Do” or a Type A person but this is not quite the same thing.  There are some people who quietly take on challenges, and just handle things never uttering these four words. I am talking about the person who when offered help responds with “I can dooooo it,” capable or not; the person who is still trying to prove to mommy or daddy that they ‘can’ do something as opposed to just doing it. (I will get to what this has to do with Aikido, I promise, I can dooooo it).

The” I can dooooo it” (you know how difficult it is to type dooooo and keep the same number of ‘o’s while autocorrect is reminding me I am misspelling?) person, often, as an adult, has difficulty working cooperatively with people.  They often forgo help or assistance and try to prove they can handle the situation by pushing away a helpful hand, who would rather fail than work with others. The person on a team who hogs the ball and always misses the basket blaming the sun (often the kid who takes his ball home and won’t let anyone play). These people are stuck in this phase.

This brings us to the wonderful practice called Aikido. Aikido, as a martial art, is a practice of personal growth.  You start off as a beginner knowing you can NOT dooooo it as a white belt. We learn that we do not dooooo it but uke does because of their attack. Aikido uses harmony (it’s in the name) and takes out the “I” and replaces it with “We.” Aikido teaches us to focus on how we relate to our world (awareness) as we relate to our uke.  Our world is filled with many, many people, not just “I.” When attacked, we do not fight uke (I can dooooo it) but quietly agree with our attacker. We work together with our attacker to a common goal (uke falling down).   The effectiveness of Aikido is not the technique but the cooperation and harmony with uke during the technique. Aikido is a practice that works on growing past the “I can dooooo it” phase while practicing either as an uke or as a nage. Aikido, as the name suggests, Aikido actually says it out loud) is about the harmony of the We, not the I. Practice that way. Try it. You can dooooo it. (You saw that one coming?)

Projecting Much

Recently, I have been thinking about projecting.  Not projecting as a movie theater but in Aikido techniques. This started as a thought which turned into an idea for a class and then evolved after watching Hal at a seminar (in Massachusetts. It was 5 hours long. What was I thinking?), and then finally came together after dinner with my whole family (I smoked chicken and baby backed ribs, grilled Picanha steak (Thanks Duerte) with corn on the cob and cauliflower mash) when Zachary started dancing with a ribbon from his girlfriend, Megan’s birthday presents. More on this later. (The ribbon, not the food.)  All these things came together as I continued to think about projection techniques. 

Some quick background for beginners, an Aikido technique usually ends in either an immobilization (a pin) or a projection (a throw), hopefully without injuring your attacker. Most projection throws cause the uke to either roll or land in a breakfall.  Immobilizations or pins are when, well, uke can’t get up. They are immobilized or pinned (I know, it is bad form to use a word to define it, but I am crazy that way.  And if you want to complain, call the official dojo complaint department where you will be put on endless hold causing you to be immobilized like with a pinning technique.  There, see what you made me do.  Now back to our regularly scheduled letter.).

Projection Techniques are usually a fun part of class (Unless you are one of the many people that has problems learning a judo roll, myself included when I began.  Projection techniques look good on TikTok to “sell” Aikido, so why do I cringe when I see so many people doing these techniques?  (Because I am being a “jerk” – That is what my wife would say. Ask her, go ahead and ask her.  And while you are at it, ask her what story she told about one of our early dates (actually, she signed the story. Can you speak Sign Language?) in our last ASL class.  She had to learn the sign for “jerk,” which is the same for rude – slide your 8 finger along your palm HUH?. (I hope this gets past her editing)). It bothers me (projection techniques, not my wife’s story -- that was only for keeping your attention) because of how many people do these techniques pulling uke. You know, like jerking them around?

When you throw an uke in a projection, you are usually touching their hand or arm, but your focus should be on their foot.  If you focus on the hand, you are playing a well-scripted game of tug of war.  Have you ever as a kid at summer camp during color wars been in a muddy field pulling a thick rope trying to prove Newton’s Theory of Rest (things not moving want to stay not moving) to an opponent trying to prove the same Newton’s theory in the opposite direction.  It is not easy. Unless they are fully cooperating, it ain’t happening. Understand my comment? Pulling an uke into a projection is against Newton’s Laws of Physics. Remember when you have had an uncooperative uke? It does not work, and you usually blame them for your technique not working.

Projections don’t work by pulling the hand, they work by moving their foot. Your touch of uke’s hand is your connection to not just their hand but to all of them. You need to connect to all of uke and throw the whole package.  Same in Judo: If you just pull the arm as during ippon-nage, you stand there looking silly trying to move a mountain by pulling it with a string. (I know, I did that more than once when I did Judo. I excelled at looking silly. Another story: I did love Judo, but I have terrible shoulders from gymnastics, so I had to quit after three years and am still plagued by bad shoulders.)

Uke attacks you and when they do, their whole body is moving. This movement, from their foot up is what throws them, not you pulling on their arm (remember color wars?). You feel this when you are touching their hand, you sense and contact their foot and try to move that, through the whole technique by following their foot with your hand.

 

Now back to Zachary’s ribbon dance. He reminded me of the rope event in rhythmic gymnastics (Not quite sure how this made it to the Olympics.  To all those elite young ladies --yes, it is a women’s only sport according to the IOC-- who can twirl an Olympic regulated hula-hoop, I give you more street ‘cred’ than the broom-wielding, marble sliding Curling folks.) Last weekend, we laughed watching Zachary emulate a ribbon dancing athlete showing his lack of grace in this event. But watching the untied gift ribbon move in the air, made me think about Aikido. When you see the Olympian move the stick, the ribbon obediently follows their movements always keeping the path of the performers hand because it is connected.  Just move your uke as if they are the ribbon, connected from their hand to their foot.

The athlete is only touching the beginning of the ribbon. The entirety of the ribbon obediently follows the path of the movement of the gymnast to the very end of the ribbon. It is one ribbon.  (And unlike me, I bet their shoulders are fine. Chances are they never flew off the high bar into the bleachers in high school.). You are moving the entirety of uke by only touching their hand. It is one uke

This is the soul of projection techniques.

--Jay Tall

Sensei, Aikido Schools of NJ

 

 

“I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.”

--Nadia Comaneci

Gold Medal gymnast and first person to be

awarded a perfect 10 at the Olympic Games

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