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My Last Letter of 2020


December 31, 2020



The end of 2020 is upon us and I am sure many are focused on what a crappy year it was. I am not going to fall into that trap. Yes, there are many things that were terrible. I cannot help seeing this, but there are many wonderful memories. I would rather make those my lasting memories of 2020. I can’t help but to remember the old Taoism proverb – We’ll See. (click on it to read the proverb. http://tao-how.blogspot.com/2011/02/well-see.html In case it doesn’t link. It is 2020 after all).


So, I am not going to focus on lockdowns and losses but on what I think was good in 2020 in my experience. It was about family, both biological and social. I experienced a great deal of joy with both this past year. Here are some of the highlights I wanted to share (in no particular order).


· Surviving Halloween wearing a sumo costume and not breaking anything. I do not recommend taking a breakfall in one of those.

· Having tests in December with Sharon Sensei and giving kyu ranks to fourteen people that way over earned them.

· Introducing the Wheel of Ukemi.

· Seeing many of you make instructional videos during quarantine (I think we are the only dojo to only have students doing this. Cool, right?).

· The several-day blackout we had in Maine when quarantine started with Rachel, Zachary, and Jacob (and James too, our pooch) with all of cuddling together in front of a fire for warmth.

· The many times in the dojo office having a drink after class. Even though we are 6’ apart, I could not have felt closer to any other people (except cuddling together in Maine during a blackout).

· Starting a blog.

· Awarding a Junior Deshi badge to DJ.

· Watching my son, Jacob, excel at his college, The Hartt Musical Theater program, and moving him into an off-campus apartment.

· All those Sunday NYT crosswords with Rachel (In pen! Without Google! –well, maybe a little Google).

· Keeping the dojo up-to-date with Covid-protocols. Maybe I didn’t like that one so much but we have managed to stay open with 90% of the pre-Covid classes. You guys rock!

· Starting Tai Chi Chuan class and finishing the Form.

· Cutting down trees and chopping wood with Zachary. He really does like to chop wood.

· Welcoming new members almost every week. God bless you guys. It is scary to start doing martial arts and to do it during Covid, you have my respect.

· Making the new dojo T-shirts and see the smiles at “You’ll fall for us!”

· Seeing the Iaido programs really start to grow, also kudos to you new members, joining during Covid.

· Building the Tanren Bokuto, the tire things outside to hit with boken.

· Installing the Doug-A -Lators and the new friendship forged from its inception.

· Learning that I write on a 5th grade level; the joy it brought my son.

· Starting the Teen Teachers’ class for Junior Deshi’s to learn how to teach.

· Reading the countless books by the fire in Maine.

· Seeing Crystal get married on a boat in Connecticut.

· Starting a log cabin during quarantine in Maine with Zachary. (OMG, wood is heavy).

· Visiting Sensei Bernath’s dojo in Ft. Lauderdale in January before the world shut down.

· Renovating my office, building a bench, changing the furniture, and painting. Yes, it is a work in progress but that is what lead me to the Help-a-Sensei Program. Anyone wanting to pitch in on a Saturday, please let me know.

· Watching Vanessa test with a hurt leg (this is a letter coming soon).

· Building a platform bed with Jacob.

· Promoting Naelys and Shania to first kyu (skipping 2nd kyu).

· Zachary’s buying an almost-new car (his first one in this decade) with Frank’s wife’s help.

· To all the instructors that have kept us going and came back when we reopened. We would not be here without them.

· To the behind-the-scenes people that help keep us going – Mariella, Shari, and Paul for handling the front desk, Omar for keeping the place together, Vanessa and Matt for social media, Michelle and Sergio for the Big Sempai program, Nanci and Cynthia for the homeschool class, and everyone else who helps makes ASNJ a special place.

· Paul working on getting Perfect Mind up and running while having more than any one person should have on their own plate.

· Seeing and hearing from you all on texts, Zooms, calls when we closed.

· The long planning meetings with Danny, Derrell, Paul, Frank figuring out how to keep this alive and the bottles we have shared.

· The people I miss that have not been able to come back and to the ones that have moved on.

· Watching Kids’ tests in December. We kept it small due to Covid but it was a sight to see the skill and, OMG, how cute they are.

· Putting together the memorial to Sensei Stickles and being able to share our memories and his legacy with the dojo. The support from everyone from Yamada Sensei, Lehrman Sensei, Smith Sensei, Soviero Sensei, Dipaolo Sensei, Bookman Sensei, Cathy and all the ASNJ instructors. And my son, Jacob for pulling it together in a week.

· I am sure I am missing a bunch of memories, but I sent out enough emails during the year for you all to just go re-read them and let me know what I missed.


I am still honored to be your Sensei and want to thank all of you for all those memories both in person and some with new technology.


I am up in Maine planning our New Year’s Day and happy to have this occasion to see all the good things from 2020. I am reminded again of the Taoist proverb of We’ll See and how the farmer looks at the world. If I can take away that lesson, then 2020 was a good year.


Hope you had a happy holiday and a great new year.


--Sensei Jay




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ASNJ is the oldest aikido dojo in NJ. Founded in 1977 by Rick Stickles, Shihan. 25+ classes per week. 

Now under the guidance of Sensei Hal Lehrman, 7th dan Shihan and Sensei Jay Tall is the Chief Instructor.

©2017 Aikido Schools of New Jersey.  Member of the United States Aikido Federation.

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