March 21, 2022
Mesha and Tracy have both joined our Adult Program on Sunday, normally a slow day. Please welcome them. We also had a 13-year-old boy join our Iaido program. (See new Iaido rates). Lastly, we had three kids join our dojo.
Five years ago, Hal and I took ownership of the dojo after a difficult time after the passing of Stickles Sensei. One of the items left by Stickles Sensei was a bag full of ASNJ patches. I have been giving them to new students in their Welcome Package. It was a big bag of patches. It is now empty. I just ordered more patches: two hundred patches. Somehow this has affected me in many ways. Sadness as it reminded me of the loss of Stickles Sensei and pride that we were able to use up his stash of patches for new students. Ordering new patches felt like a passing of the mantle. Fascinating how something as simple as ordering new patches can be so emotional. Anyone want a patch?
Morrow, And Morrow, And Morrow, Creeps in This Petty Pace
I wrote about the Morrow Family a few weeks ago. We are about to increase their presence by 17%. Little Nicolas Morrow is joining our 4-6 year old program. Sorry for butchering the Macbeth quote. Sometimes my letters might seem like “A tale told by an idiot, Full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.” (Do they still teach Shakespeare in school?)
To Do or Not to Do’s
Aikido of Red Bank’s 20th Anniversary Seminar – SaturdayMarch 26, 11:00 am – 3:30 pm. Please join me at the seminar taught by Yamada Sensei and Konigsberg Sensei. ASNJ’s 2:00 Adult and 3:00 Junior Deshi classes will be canceled on that day.
Lehrman Sensei – Wednesday, April 13, 7:00 pm. Lehrman Sensei teaches the second Wednesday of each month. This is a mandatory class for all ASNJ instructors and an exciting treat for all our students and guests. We welcome visitors from other dojos who would like to attend.
Kyu Testing – Saturday, April 23, 2:00 pm. Class is at 2:00, Kyu Tests at 3:30 followed by a Potluck party. Speak to Danny, Frank, or Derrell if you think you are ready to test.
Hakama Class – Sunday, May 29, 11:00 am. This is mandatory for all ASNJ instructors; instructors from any dojo are welcome. There is no charge.
Dean Sluyter-hosted Meditation – Sunday, May 1, 8:45 am-10:00 am. Dean Sluyter, cofounder of ASNJ's Sunday morning meditation program, returns to lead meditation and discussion, and to present his new book, The Dharma Bum's Guide to Western Literature. No charge for the program, open to all.
Spring Seminar – Saturday, May 21, Noon to 6:00 pm. We will be hosting Lehrman Shihan and Koningsburg Shihan for a very exciting seminar. This is their first time together since Covid. They will be alternating sessions exploring wherever Aikido leads. It is not often you will have two Shihans sharing their personal perspectives. Here is the flyer. Please come join us for a great day of Aikido and friendship.
How Do you Rate Iaido
We have had two younger kids join our Iaido program in the last few months. (Kudos to Derrell for how he brought this program back from the brink to a successful part of our dojo.) We have a great program and it has a lot to offer. It is free to all members of our Aikido program. For kids ages 11-15, we are offering a reduced rate to the Iaido Program of $65/month. For Adults the program is $85/month.
I love my dojo community. We are a strong community who learn together. Aikido, Tai Chi Chuan, Yoga, Iaido, Mediation; a community that fosters learning. Many donate time and energy to teach and take care of the dojo. When we have tests, our instructors spend time working with students to ready them for these test. Private lessons are free, people stay late, meet early to support one another. We have a group working on painting, another planning a day celebrating Women’s Day, another planning the first test for the Adaptive Aikido program. I feel joy leading this, being a part of this, feeling the love of the people and the dojo.
I spent all day Saturday at the dojo, I watched the 4-6 year old’s class with eight kids laughing and rolling. I watched the Kids’ class with eleven happy little ones diving over pillows and performing some great techniques. I watched the Youth class with 14 preteens and teens doing some serious Aikido while smiling and having a great time. Community. That is the key for our dojo. I am very blessed. Thank you all for being a part of the ASNJ family. Oh, yeah, there were two Adult classes on Saturday also but let’s face it, you guys are not cute. But bless you also. I love all of you. Community.
Why Be Conflicted
I was talking to Hal about different Aikido memories we had. Then we discussed some Aikido YouTube’s we have watched. Some great and some, well, not great. The conversation got interesting (more than our discussion on the renegotiation of a lease for a Real Estate Client. That one was a real nail biter!) when we talked our experience of how conflict becomes harmony. I brought up a memory of Sagano Sensei. I remember the rare occasion I attacked him as uke. I brought all the conflict I had, but I was forced to experience his reality, a better reality. His reality was harmony. He simply offered me a better option than I seemed to have no choice but to accept.
As I read what I just typed in the previous paragraph, I thought this sounds great but what am I talking about? An attacker, by their very nature brings conflict to you. You have options. The first to join in the conflict. It is what uke wants. Aikido is the practice of not joining them in their reality of wanting conflict. Not by getting defensive, but by letting them into your world, into your reality, into your center and greet their conflict with harmony, with vulnerability. That is what I experienced with Sugano Sensei.
My new description of Aikido - it is offering an alternative reality to the last person in the world you would want: to your attacker. Offer them something better than what they have, their conflict. Greet their conflict with openness, with friendship, with vulnerability. In this way, they have no choice but to join you. This is Harmony.
[Ed. Note from Sensei Lehrman: The process of transmission is experiential. Everything I am working on is a search after the things I am certain of because I have experienced them as uke. The most startling experience of "harmony" that I had was when I was lucky to be, just for a few throws, uke to Osawa (the father) Sensei. It was early on at NYA. Yamada Sensei was going around to us during the class to tell us who would be the next uke. I must have been maybe 21? He said "You’re next." I got super-excited and he said, "Take it easy, he's an old guy."
I totally ignored that. It was hanmi handachi katate tori shiho nage. I resolved to go after him full out. Every time, as I grabbed Osawa Sensei I got a wonderful, safe, comforted feeling and lost all thought of doing anything other than exactly where he led me. I'd be thrown, then I would reestablish my intent to go hard and then would be transformed into this world of harmony. It was a wonderful experience and I have no doubt that it was real. I have been questing after the ability to do that ever since....Still working on it!]
A Breath of Fresh Air
Back to breathing at Tai Chi Chuan. We continued to focus on the experience of our breathing. I was doing Aikido earlier this week with someone who was huffing and puffing while practicing. He thought he was out of shape, but he was holding his breath when doing Aikido. A common error I watch with partners on the mat. Learning not to holds one’s breath is about our awareness. You must know you are doing it to stop doing it. That idea is the summation of what I teach - the practice of learning to relax is awareness. You need to be aware of holding tension to relax that tension.
I explained I was NOT teaching anyone how to breathe. From the moment the doctor slaps your butt, you know how to breathe. I cannot teach that. What I can do is use one’s breathing to help them see where they are holding tension. Only you can relax. No one can teach you that. If you find yourself huffing and puffing, pay attention to your breath on the mat. When do you stop breathing? We all hold our breath. Become aware of what you are doing and see if you can relax where you have tension causing you to stop breathing. Try meditation, we have an open class on Sunday’s mornings. Make awareness of your tension part of your practice. It will be a breath of fresh air.
“Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.”
- Moihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido