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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

Sooooooo Buttons

September 29th, 2021

New Hellos

We have another student joining our homeschool program. It is a wonderful class to fulfill the PhysEd requirement for kids that are homeschooled giving them the time and environment to socialize with other homeschooled kids. And they learn Aikido. Let’s also welcome Francisco to our Adult program.

New Kid on the Block

I want to welcome Kelvin Guillen as our newest ASNJ instructor. Kelvin will be teaching the Kid/Youth class on Thursdays. He worked with Zachary teaching the Wallington program. Kelvin joined the dojo in 2013 and he is now a senior in high school. Kelvin plays in the Chamber Orchestra at the prestigious New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. We are very proud of Kelvin’s accomplishments and think he will add much to ASNJ.

To Do’s

žHalloween Class – Sunday, October 31, 11:00 am. Come to class in costume (all day). Make sure you can roll in it (My sumo costume from last year was problematic to say the least.)

žVeterans’ Day Class – Thursday, November 11, 7:00 pm. Open to all members and guests. We will be honoring veterans at that class and welcome members of other dojos, veterans or not. Please come to show your support for those who have served our Country.

It’s About Time

Just a reminder, the new schedule is going into effect Friday October 1, 2021. You can get a copy of the schedule from our website or at the front desk. The changes are adding an Adult class on Thursday and moving some of the classes on Saturday to create some open mat time (and give us a lunch break).

Aikido - Inside and Out

I had an epiphany a few weeks ago. It was personal and had to do with my own way of seeing martial arts. I asked to be punched in both an Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan classes. I didn’t ask for a tski, I asked to be punched. When asked in an Aikido class, I go outside (soto) and do a technique. When attacked in the Tai Chi Chuan class, I enter inside (uchi) and go right up to the attacker and, well, I hit them as one would in Tai Chi Chuan. I have no reason why outside on one or inside on the other, but I have a standard pattern; a preference for each. Both arts have techniques to do either and I clearly have no preference inside or out except in that martial art. It is my reaction. I needed to explore this.

Taking that new information, I taught in the next Aikido class techniques first in uchi and then soto and then nage can do either. I asked, at the end of the class, what each person’s preference was, what they felt more comfortable doing. About a third said uchi, a third soto, and a third had no preference (I should have been a pollster). Let me know what your thoughts are. Are you an uchi or a soto kindaof person?

Soooo Buttons

This came out of a question after an ASNJ class (you know when class is over, but you hang out for half an hour chatting? Folding a hakama can take a long time). I was asked can you do “Verbal Tai Chi Chuan?” I responded, “Is there a difference between verbal and physical response? They should both have no conflict.” After more follow-up questions, it had to do with a personal event that that student had, but the answer ended up being a little more philosophical. I delved into discussing ‘buttons.’

What buttons are and how they are part of an Aikido or Tai Chi Chuan practice?

Let me start with a personal story. My father had an issue with open-mouthed chewing. He would belittle me and call me names at dinner. I, like most kids, thought only of eating in the most expedited way to get food in my stomach so I could go outside and play (no screens back then, we had to go outside). My father thought this was uncouth and, in his opinion, the best method to cure this was to belittle me. Fast forward fifteen years and I was possessed by anyone who made noises or chewed with their mouths open; it drove me nuts. Why did I react this way? In my head, I heard my father. People chewing loudly was a ‘button’ for me. A button people pushed which started my engine and brought up the anger I had toward my father. The people eating had no intention or awareness that I was agitated. They were just eating. They were unscripted extras in the movie of my life, setting off internal soliloquies like Ryan Reynolds in “Deadpool,” except his was funny, mine, like most of ours, feels tragic. The button is only in my head, but my reactions though are real, I would feel anger, think of comments I wouldn’t say aloud, and my body would tense. My button was pushed.

Fast forward ten years in my life and in my practice, I learned I had choices to deal with this. I could, as I have, blame the open-mouthed eater for my reaction, my feelings, or I could take responsibility and understand all people have an inalienable right to chew loudly as granted by the Constitution (or a deviated septum). I took responsibility for my button and understand I created it, own it, it is my button. After all, it exists only inside me. I made it. I could keep it or just get rid of it.

This reminds me of a koan I learned. Imagine a tiny little kitten in a glass bottle. Feed it every day. A year later it is fully grown and going to die as the bottle is too tight. If you break the bottle, the glass will kill it. How do you get the cat safely out of the bottle? The answer, imagine it outside. That is how it got in there in the first place.

I created my button to contain the anger I had at my father for his comments. I held back that anger but at what cost? I eventually chose to face the anger, consume it, make it part of me and let go of what happened when I was young and an open-mouthed chewer.

We hold tension in our bodies to keep our buttons in our shoulders, our back, etc. When you own your button and stop blaming other chewers, you can reclaim the energy previously used by being tense to relax (that thing everyone tells you that you need to do in Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan) and stop caring that people eat differently than how your dad wanted to you chew. This all starts with understanding and accepting this is your button. Not the eater, not your dad, it is all you.

Life is too short to care about how people eat. There are many more important things to do with that energy and with our lives. We all have experiences like this. Get on the mat and practice. If uke does not attack the way you want, don’t blame them, just practice, and learn. Like a Ryan Reynolds movie, the script is an outline, the rest he ad libs. There is no right way to attack, it is about how we relate to each other. The technique is designed to always work if we relax and move. There are no buttons on a gi. Enjoy the moments without being angry and upset. Stop wasting time on buttons. Watch a Ryan Reynolds’ movie instead.

--Sensei Jay

"Those who are possessed by nothing possess everything.”

- Moihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido

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