October 20th, 2021
Please note: Lehrman Sensei supplied further commentary to the section titled ‘A New Role.’ You can find them at the very end of this letter. You know, the very last part because a Shihan always gets the last word.
If you are a regular reader, you may have noticed I like to start this letter with good news. New members, events, etc. This week I cannot. William Joseph McCarthy III (Bill), a wonderful man, a great father, and a fellow ASNJ Aikidoka passed away. Many of you might not remember him as he has not attended classes for a year, but I am sure you know his son, Ryan, usually wearing a gaiter and being a master of giving me a very welcomed (and asked for) ‘hard time’ when I call him up for ukemi. Bill, who had previously done judo, joined our dojo to get back into shape and bond with his son. They were ASNJ regulars.
A little history, you may remember the story about the prospective student who when I asked to grab my wrist as hard as he could, did and my hand went instantly numb, and I thought my wrist might have been broken by his grip. That was Bill. When I asked his occupation, he said he was a plumber, he installed boilers. No wonder. (Important note, ask people professions before asking them to crush your wrist). Bill would often enjoy a visit to the dojo minibar after class. He quickly became a member of the ASNJ community. About a year ago I got an email from Bill to put his membership on hold, but Ryan was continuing. He had a lung condition the doctors could not diagnose. He did not have Covid-19. I would call or email Bill regularly and I remember telling me it was cancer in December. He was very optimistic and said he is doing well and responding to the treatment. It turned out to be a much rougher battle than expected. His wife told me at the wake, how Bill, though sick and needed to go to hospital, made sure Ryan had a ride to the dojo for his class before leaving for St. Barnabas. That was Bill. I gave her a hug and slipped out to my car to cry.
October 8th, 2021, Bill lost his battle with cancer. He will be missed. The family request friends wishing to help and memorialize Bill, they have set up a college fund for Ryan and that people can donate money in Bill’s memory. https://gofund.me/5d7fcc7f. If you wish to leave a message to the family, the memorial page is https://www.dooleyfuneral.com/obituaries/William-Joseph-McCarthy-III?obId=22618726.
As per Bill’s wishes, we will make sure Ryan has an active membership at ASNJ, no matter the financial situation of the family. G-d bless you Bill, you will be missed.
Last week I told you about two kids joining because their mom was a member ten years ago. The kids joined but she was holding out. She found an old gi, gave it a quick wash (I assume) and Cari is now back on the mat. Please welcome Cari. If you see a new woman with an old gi, don’t throw her yet. Give her some time to work out the kinks in her ukemi. We also had three kids join our Kids’ program. Welcome all.
A few weeks ago, I announced Kelvin became an ASNJ Instructor. I get to brag about him some more. Kelvin, a senior in high school, was not only accepted to Montclair State University, but he was also given a full scholarship to study and perform the cello and giving him a new cello to play. Congratulations Kelvin –we never thought you were second fiddle!
Lehrman Sensei – Wednesday, November 9, 7:00 pm. Lehrman Sensei will teach the second Wednesday of each month. This is a mandatory class for all ASNJ instructors and an exciting treat for all our students. I suggest taking his class. It is the least you can do after the guy has to drive over the Verrazano.
Hakama Class – Sunday October 31, 11:00 am. Open to members 3rd kyu and above and mandatory for instructors. Yes, this is also Halloween. Yes, I just noticed that on the calendar.
Halloween Class – Sunday, October 31, All Day. Come to the dojo in a costume.
Veterans’ Day Class – Thursday, November 11, 7:00 pm. Open to all members, veterans, and guests. We will be honoring veterans, starting with our own nine ASNJ students who have served. Please come to show your support and stay for a fun class and a great party to follow. This event is free and open to all members of ASNJ and veterans from any dojo who wish to spend the evening celebrating with us. There will be food and refreshments after class. The event is being co-sponsored by the Cranford VFW Post 335.
Let’s Push It
Working in Tai Chi Chuan, we did a lot of review (there were questions about the subtleties of the Form. I love those. Shows how students are really delving into the ideas) and then Push Hands. In Push Hands we explored shifting into 100% (like in the previous letter). Everyone thought that they were shifted all the way into their leg only to find they had a lot more room to shift into that leg. Perception. It is like walking to the edge of a cliff. We stop at what we believe is the edge only to find there is another ten feet to go. Our edge of the cliff is how far we can go until fear overtakes bravery. That is your personal idea to the perceived edge.
This becomes a question for everyone: When in your life do you think you are at your limit? Is it really your limit or just where you feel “safe” coming to the edge of the cliff? How close is your edge to the actual edge? How much more can you shift into that leg?
A New Role on the Mat – Anything Goes
I am going to continue with last week’s concept for a few reasons: I got a bunch of comments from you guys; the idea is still in my head being developed; and I get to K‘vell (Yiddish alert) a little more, parentally. I am writing this letter from a hotel in Connecticut having seen Jacob perform in Cole Porter’s Anything Goes last night. We all went for drinks afterward to catch up and discuss the play. Jacob and I continued our conversation about “Love in Acting and Aikido.” I discussed with him something a few of you commented on (Please comment, I LOVE letters from you!).
Some comments were how they thought Love did not work as they made an understandable leap that Love also means Romantic. (See Lehrman Sensei’s thoughts on this below.) I think the best way to clarify this is to blow the dust off something I read 100 years ago, the Analects of Confucius (written six hundred B.C.). In these books, Confucius discussed and outlines in detail the five relationships and their lessons: Ruler and Subject-Righteousness, Father and Son-Affection, Elder Brother and Younger Brother-Admiration, Husband and Wife-Division of Responsibilities, Friend and Friend-Trust. These relationships define a person’s interactions with other people. Many of them are headings for many more subcategories and these also are used in a dojo (Senpai mean older as in brother). In looking at the relationships, the only one that has a romantic side is Husband/Wife but all these relationships have Love.
Jacob was very interested though not enough to read the Analects of Confucius. (Actually, I do not suggest anyone read it unless you are stranded on an island or obsessive, like me). He agreed, that when he sang the song in last’s week letter, there was nothing romantic to it, but it was full of Love. I hope this clarification makes more sense and helps to expand your practice. The idea of Love is about the two-way relationship it brings. A connection, harmony. What Jacob learned is needed for Acting and I feel is crucial for Aikido.
Some interesting points in the Confucius Analects:
· Confucius was not interested in individual salvation or individual rights. What he cared about most was the collective wellbeing of society working for a common good, social harmony, and empathy.
· The five virtues are Courtesy, Selflessness, Obedience, Respect, Diligence, Communal Obligation.
· Confucians stress that a person's worth is determined by public actions.
· The concept of li: a dominant person receives respect and obedience from the subordinate person but is by no means a dictator. They are supposed to reciprocate with love, goodwill, support, and affection towards the subordinate person.
· Peoples’ status is defined by their occupation: 1) Scholar-bureaucrats are at the top, because they had the knowledge and wisdom to maintain social order; followed by 2) Farmers, because they produced the necessary goods; and 3) the Artisans, because they possessed necessary skills. At the bottom were 4) Merchants. All they did was buy and sell things.
· Filial piety is regarded as the most important Confucian duty.
Some well quotes from Confucius: “What You Do Not Want Done to Yourself, Do Not Do to Others”
“Knows All the Answers Has Not Been Asked All the Questions”
“Respect Yourself and Others Will Respect You”
“Everything Has Its Beauty but Not Everyone Sees It”
“Choose a Job You Love, and You Will Never Have to Work a Day in Your Life”
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop”
“It is easy to hate, and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.”
Commentary from Lehrman Sensei, regarding the concept of Love:
"Words can be used but are none of them absolute." –Lao Tze from the Tao Te Ching
We are always trying to find the words that will point us to reality. The words are not the reality. For many, it is difficult to separate the word "Love" from its romantic connotations. “Harmony” is the word most used in relation to Aikido. When O'Sensei says "Love" he means it, but how exactly? What is lost in translation?
Thinking of harmony in the musical sense, the vibrations of the separate musicians’ instruments blend to create a resonance where the result is greater than the sum of the parts. That harmony is what we love!
In Zen Buddhism, the ultimate goal of the practice is Satori. And that experience leads to compassion and understanding of all beings. Clearly seeing others, seeing them as they are, is essential to Budo. The transcendent quest of being in the present moment with a transparent awareness that embraces the attacker..........Love?