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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

It’s All About Nothing

November 15, 2020

New Faces

Let’s welcome Michael Stella to our Aikido family and Stephan who is planning on joining the Iaido program. I remember when Derrell and I sat down to get the Iaido program back on track and he agreed to be the director of the program. We only had a few students. I told him my goal was 25 members and he thought I was a little crazy. We are not there yet but it is starting to seem a near reality. Please say hi to Mike and Stephan.

After Candy

I think a healthy snack post-Halloween is a good idea, so I have been bringing in bags of apples for the dojo. If you stop by and see an apple, take one. Keep the doctor away.

Upcoming Events

December 5 – 11:15 Kids’ Testing

We will have pizza and unhealthy things for the kids after the test (but at least there’ll be apples!)

December 12 – 2:15 Class/Kyu Tests/Potluck

A very special class with yours truly, followed by Kyu tests (there are a lot), followed by potluck party (we have a large parking lot and mat to physically distance and masks will be worn). All members and their families are invited.

The ASNJ instructors are doing great at getting students ready to test especially after the long hiatus with no Aikido or no-contact Aikido. I am looking forward to seeing how well everyone is doing.

Instructing Instructors

My son teaches 8th grade American History so after many of my classes on the way home, I would ask him how I might have taught the classes better or differently. He offers good advice which has made me a better teacher. At Frank’s suggestion, we will have a small class for the kids and youth instructors taught by two of our members who are schoolteachers (Michelle and Zachary). With their input, we have worked out a great curriculum about how to teach kids and will follow up with a program for all ASNJ teachers to use. All our instructors should have the right tools to be successful because teaching Aikido is more than just knowing how to do Aikido. There are a lot of skills that one can add to be a better teacher. I will let you know how it goes and happy to share the information with any other dojos.

Perfect Mind

Paul and I have one more class before we start using the software for the dojo and I must tell you how blown away we are by Perfect Mind. I am sure we will find issues once we start using it day-to-day, but I am incredibly happy we are making the switch from MindBody. Thanks to Crystal for recommending it.

Nothing at All

This week we spoke about “nothing” (There is something satisfying about talking about nothing. Which reminds me of an old joke about three rabbis. Ask me in the dojo). Nothingness is what makes thing useful. I buy empty shirts and pants (usually at Walmart). The emptiness is where I put my body. If clothes were filled with stuff other than me, they would be useless.

Now some background. We have already delved into the concepts of yin and yang. For something to exist, it needs an opposite. Easy. For ‘everything’ to exist, it needs its opposite – ‘nothing’. What is nothing, whatever that is, is not anything. We tend to focus on what is there. We tend to ignore what is not. The power of Aikido and TCC is in the emptiness. When attacked, the emptiness is where uke goes (like me in my clothes). When you try to put two things in the same place that is conflict.

Hard-style martial arts don’t use the nothingness. Karate meets an attack with a block: two things trying to occupy the same space. In this model, stronger and faster wins. It is what we are used to, focusing on the something. Aikido meets an attack with nothing by moving, usually, off the line of the attack. This allows uke to do what they want (attack); they are the something. We provide the nothing by emptying the place they attack (where we were) and let the emptiness become useful, like the inside of a t-shirt. That is where uke falls. Kanō Jigorō, the founder of judo, was described as feeling like an empty gi.

To use the nothing, we need to be soft, relaxed. The art of Aikido emphasizes movement. Things that are stiff do not move well like an oak tree. Water flows from where there is a lot to where there is little or none. From something to nothing. Ultimately, the something becomes nothing and the nothing becomes something. The roaring spring stream runs dry and the lake fills. For me, this is what I want my Aikido to feel like, flowing like a stream.

The practice of needing to feel the fight from your uke is your ego needing satisfaction, but you are then embracing the conflict (think karate) and not experiencing the ‘nothingness’ or the opposite of ‘everything.’ The power in Aikido is when you use nothing.

“Thanks to emptiness, everything is possible." --Nagarjuna, a Buddhist philosopher of the second century

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