August 25th, 2021
And Hello to You
I want to welcome Jason, the newest person to join our adult program and, a sibling pair have come aboard in our Kids’ program. Welcome to our dojo family.
Hakama Class – Sunday August 29, 11:00 am. Open to members 3rd kyu and above and mandatory for instructors.
Painting Party – date TBD. Yes, we will be painting. I will give you dates and details when we make important decisions, like the colors. You may notice a scaffold and ladders in the front of the dojo. Don’t panic, there will be pizza at the painting party.
Who is that Masked Man?
I really don’t have anything to add to the fact that we are wearing masks now while practicing but I like thinking of mask references from movies and such. That is all.
This week’s letter will be almost entirely focused on the Summer Fling Seminar we had Sunday, August 15, 2021. When Paul Manogue Sensei reached out to a group of NJ sensei’s to do a free seminar, a group of four great guys (with 200 years of martial arts practice collectively) jumped aboard, giving up a free Sunday to welcome our Aikido community and share what we all love so much. We four (Paul Manogue Sensei, Jerry Zimmerman Sensei, Hal Lehrman Sensei and me) picked a date, had a flyer made, and launched the Summer Fling. We welcomed anyone who wanted to celebrate Aikido. It really brought to focus how lucky we all are to be part of the USAF and the larger Aikido family.
It was a great day, and, I think, a great time was had by all (that is what everyone said on FB. And if it is on FB, it’s got to be real). The mat was full but not too crowded, exactly what we were hoping for. The majority of aikidoka were ASNJ’ians but plenty of visitors made it exciting to grab a new wrist. The post party was up to ASNJ standards, the mini bar was open. Food was aplenty.
My class was first. I continued working on katatori as I have been for four weeks. I am working on katatori because I reinjured my shoulder (old gymnastic’s injury from my teens) and continued as I became a little obsessed (and my shoulder still hurts). I have been working on not using my arms, because I can’t right now, and I don’t want to if I could. So, what better inspiration than not to use them? We did a very compact nikyo from katatori that many wanted to make bigger since it was toooo simple. Then a kokyoho, same problem, too simple. After your gi is grabbed, you go under uke’s arm and then when you straighten your back, the uke is falling down. I finished with an aikitosh because, well, I like to finish with aikitosh. I pull forward on the knees in aikitosh (in lieu of lifting the legs and throwing back or to the side). When you were in 5th grade, did you ever sneak up behind a ‘friend’ and bump their knees from behind and watch them buckle and nearly fall down. I did that and guess what? I grew up to be a sensei and now I teach that. Everything I teach about aikitosh, I learned in the 5th grade.
The second class was taught by Paul Manogue Sensei of Ren Sei Kan Dojo. Manogue Sensei has a different practical history of Aikido since much of his training was in Yoshinkan (Read “Angry White Pajamas”). I always expect something unusual in his classes. He focused on relaxing and dropping your weight. Seeing him drop his weight brings up for me the visual of the Dunes Hotel, formally in Vegas, when they dynamited it and the building collapsed. When you are his uke and he drops his weight, it feels like you are under the Dunes Hotel. He began with a mind-twisting version of the figure eight with the jo (you know the move where you look like you are trying to be the leader of a marching band). Usually this is accomplished with the thumb leading. Manogue Sensei has the pinky side of his hand leading the figure eight (I finally got it three classes later, sorta).
Jerry Zimmerman Sensei of Aikido North Jersey taught next. I experienced Zimmerman Sensei’s stance as if a tree was rooting. I think there are trees that are actually jealous of his root. He is very strong and connected to the ground. His Aikido reminds me of when the trees in Lord of the Rings join the battle at the end of the Two Towers (nerd reference). If an Ent (tree guy from the book) could do Aikido, then Zimmerman Sensei looks and feels like that. He did a great assortment of techniques that were fast and fun. Among a bunch of moves he had us practice, there was a great sankyo into a roll that was done in groups.
The final hour was led by Shihan Hal Lehrman, Aikido of Park Slope, the headliner, and batting cleanup. He, as always, was soft and relaxed. He reminds me of a Gumby toy I had when I was a kid where you could bend the arm and body regardless of where the bones should be. Human anatomy does not seem to inhibit him. That is what he feels like. Everything seems to bend how it needs to. You have his arm and then his entire body flows in a technique. When you think you are good holding his arm, suddenly your world changes. You notice that flowing movement is now you. You don’t seem to notice that anything is happening except you are moving. He is moving and you feel just fine. Then you realize you are flying. It occurs to you like an epiphany. Like the end of Fight Club. Suddenly you get it. You have that ‘aha’ moment while flying through the air. You get my point. Let’s get to technique.
His class also used the jo in a figure eight (thumb first) but we did cross hand ikkyo where uke was the jo (it would be cool if your uke was named Joe!). The exact movement of the jo in the figure eight was also what our arm was doing to uke in cross hand ikkyo.
Four hours of Aikido earns you a party, at the very least. Duerte was the grill master, and the food was plenty. Especially when Doug Firestone Sensei, Aikido of Westchester, showed up with two platters of sandwiches and a thirst to match. We all hung out in the parking lot enjoying the weather, the company, and the libations as well as watching Javier (the tattooed one) trying to take a picture with everyone while making a claim to one of the dojo’s bottles of bourbon. Some things never change.
I want to thank everyone for helping to make this happen. To Paul Manogue Sensei (besides being the catalyze for this, he also shares my love of whiskey), Jerry Zimmerman Sensei and Hal Lehrman Sensei for their great classes. To Karen DePaola Sensei and Jim Soviero Sensei who were a part of this. To my wife, Rachel, for all her help with the flyer, manning the desk and putting up with me. To Frank (photo bomber extraordinaire), Danny and Derrell with everything they do to keep things running and to each and every student of Aikido who make up our great community. Without you all, we are nothing except a bunch of buildings (speaking of a building, did I mention the upcoming painting party?)
I love you all and G-d bless you.
"Each and every master, regardless of the era or the place, heard the call and attained harmony with heaven and earth. There are many paths leading to the top of Mount Fuji, but there is only one summit - love.
- Moihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido