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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

Internal Combustion Engine

July 21, 2021

More Hellos

Wow, our homeschool program keeps growing. For those who don’t know, Paul teaches a class on Thursday afternoons for kids that are homeschooled to meet their Phys-Ed requirements. That class is priced differently as the kids only attend that class. Two more kids joined so we are up to ten kids in the program. Additionality, an 11-year-old signed up on for our regular kids program this Saturday immediately.

Congratulations Penny Sensei

Yamada Sensei announced he filled the open position on the Technical Committee due to the passing of Donovan Waite Sensei, G-d bless his soul. I want to congratulate Penny Bernath Sensei on her appointment. I was in her dojo in Ft Lauderdale in January 2020 when in Florida for a wedding. As usual when traveling, I pack my gi. I took a Saturday class with Penny Bernath Sensei. I wrote about that trip in my Blog. It was a great 90 minutes. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. I replicated that same class back in NJ for a few weeks afterwards. I want to send my best wishes to Penny Sensei and look forward knowing the future of the USAF is in good hands.

To Do’s

žTeen Movie night – This Saturday July 24. 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm. If you are 10-18 years old and want to hang out watching Jumanji 2 with your fellow Aikidoka contact Shanaia or Naelys. The dojo will supply the pizza. The event will be chaperoned.

žSummer Fling: NJ Dojos Day of Aikido Fun – Sunday August 15. We, along with five other dojos, will host 6 classes as follows:

ž 9 am – 10 am: Jay Tall Sensei, Aikido Schools of New Jersey – 2nd dan

ž 10 am – 11 am: Paul Manogue Sensei, Aikido of Raritan Valley/Ren Sei Kan – 5th dan, Shidoin

ž 11 am – 12 pm: James Soviero Sensei, Aikido of Red Bank – 6th dan, Shidoin

ž Lunch – Noon – 1:30pm

ž 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm: Karen De Paola Sensei, –Skylands Aikikai – 6th dan ,Shidoin

ž 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm Jerry Zimmerman Sensei, Aikido of North Jersey – 6th dan, Shidoin

ž 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm: Hal Lehrman Sensei, Aikido of Park Slope – 7th dan Shihan

ž Potluck to follow. Please bring a dish or a beverage.

žKyu Tests - Saturday August 21, 2021 – 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 29th, 11:00 am. Open to students 3rd kyu and above and mandatory for instructors.

Teen Movie Night

I was talking to my capos (Sorry, I’ve been watching The Sopranos episodes on YouTube. Great show), Derrell and Frank about Teen Movie Night. I was telling them my plan to chaperone, which would mean sitting in my office for four hours reading quietly while the teens did what good teen kids do: watch screens. Derrell asked if he could join me. I welcome the company, but he was not as keen when I said we would not leave the room for the full four hours – unless needed. I plan to bring a nice dinner, grab my book, and hang out paying attention if needed (I expect not) but it is important the teens feel the dojo is “theirs” that afternoon. This is about them being rewarded for their hard work and us giving them the time to make the dojo their own place. We would only inhibit that by making our presence known. Obviously, they know that Sensei is in his office, door closed. I do not intend to interrupt their time; they should have the same experience we adults have enjoying our time off the mat as a community. Four hours of my life is the very least I can do. Besides, I am in the middle of a really good book.

Internal vs External

I frequently use these words to describe what I consider the two different schools of martial arts. I remember reading this description from one of Robert Smith’s books (Don’t ask me which one, I read a bunch, all great.). There are so many ideas as to what encompasses the differences between these two concepts, but I often ask myself if we really need to clarify? I think so as people, especially new students, want to know what Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan (and other internal martial arts) are and what makes them different.

“Do these internal martial arts really work?” and “Have you ever used them?” I get these questions often and while the answers are so simple, (we like when things are complicated), people still want to understand. Just to back up for a minute, teaching Aikido I follow in the footsteps of Lehrman Sensei and invite every uke to give me a hard time, no insta-falls please. I want it to be real and I get to practice and learn while teaching. Also, when teaching Tai Chi Chuan, I usually start the first class by asking someone to come up and hit me. I want to demonstrate Tai Chi Chuan really works and get that off the table (and let’s be real, it also makes my ego jump a little). So, yes, it works. Did I ever use it will not be answered now due to time (and the advice of my attorney.) Ask me while libations and stories are shared after a seminar.

So, what is the difference between these two ideas? Let’s look at external styles like Tae Kwando and Karate that I have practiced in my younger years: When attacked, the fight is not just an event, it is everything. Your entire being, heart, mind and soul is focused on the fight. There is nothing else. In these practices, not even your own life is considered, the fight is total and all-encompassing. Even your breath is used to focus on the event at hand, the fight. This is the goal, achieving it is a life’s work.

In Aikido, like the class I taught the very night before, the fight is non-existent. The attack meaningless. It should have no more meaning than brushing your teeth (I’d like to interject that 4 out of 5 dentists surveyed recommend fluoride toothpaste while brushing your teeth. And not losing them in a fight. Back to class.) When uke attacks, it does not change your center, alter your balance, cause you to tense, or effect your tranquility in any way (ditto on the life’s work). You move as if you would always move. The throw is just another event along your movements. I teach not to pose at the end of a throw as there might be another uke. Just keep moving. The fight is nothing and you are always you. Just simply do what you do, unfazed and unchanged.

A great analogy I heard back in my early Tai Chi Chuan days is attacking a Tai Chi Chuan practitioner is like stepping on a rake lying in the grass. You step on the end, and it swings up and smacks you in the face (4 out of 5 dentists). As you fall back, the rake returns to the grass. The rake is uncaring and unfazed. It is the same exact rake. You realize you did something stupid and avoid rakes from then on. The rake is the same as it was before and the same as when it hit you in the face. We need to learn to be like the rake.

Internal vs external? In one, the fight is everything, the other, the fight is non-existent. Both take a lifetime to master. Both great practices. The question is which one resonates more with you. That is the one you should practice. Find the marital art that fits who you are and practice it. And if you change, as many do (most of my instructors have a black belt in another marital art before Aikido), change what you do. But do what makes sense to you. Or do neither and go to dental school. The rakes will supply you with a lot of business.

--Sensei Jay

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

-- Confucius

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