April 29, 2021
WOW! We now have seven kids in our Homeschool class. I remember when we started up after Covid and had two. Our Homeschool class is open to kids that are homeschooled to fulfill their PhysEd requirements. It meets on Thursday at 1:30pm when two of our advanced teens, who are homeschooled, help teach the class.
Does that get your attention? Our ASNJ Women group is holding their next women’s event on Saturday May 22nd at 6:00pm. All female members, and female family members of ASNJ members over 11 are invited to take the class, whether Aikido practitioners or not. The class will be followed by refreshments. If anyone is interested in getting involved in the committee, please let me know.
I want to wish an incredibly happy birthday to my dear friend, Sensei Hal Lehrman. Every year at Aikido Park Slope, we would take him out to his favorite sushi restaurant for his birthday, April 28th. This is the 2nd year in a row we have not do it. I think the sake supplies in Brooklyn must be at an all time high due to this. Happy Birthday.
I am happy to announce our new program will be starting on June 7th at 6:00 pm. We have created a curriculum to enable a child with special needs to more readily learn Aikido in an environment tailored to them. The class will be open to all school-aged students of ASNJ, but pre-registration is required by a parent or guardian. We are lucky to have two schoolteachers who are members with special education certification and teach special education professionally, and others who are professional special education teachers, all working together. There will be more information to come but if you have questions or wish to learn more, please do not hesitate to contact me. This also means that there will no longer be a standard Youth class on Mondays starting in June.
Tai Chi or Not Tai Chi
We are still Pushing it in Tai Chi Chuan. I am having everyone work on the concepts of being light and empty, moving the entire body as a whole and not just parts, shifting weight and turning the waist in Push Hands. We are doing the cross-training thing as we explore those ideas and how they relate to our Aikido. Tons of great stuff. I am excited just typing this. I ended class early that week (it was Rachel’s birthday – happy Birthday, Hon!) so we did not get to do as much as I wanted. Always next week. I did take my love out to dinner. She had octopus at our favorite Greek restaurant – Ambelis in Cranford. (I am bringing up the octopus because it freaks out Andy Small). Try the place out, it is a local favorite.
Back to non-food related tangents. The lecture was about responsibility. In Tai Chi Chuan and Aikido, it is all yours. Whatever you feel is yours. Whatever you think is yours. Good, bad, indifferent, it is all the same, it is yours. We have all been to a seminar and faced ‘that guy:’ the uke in a group technique who is big, strong, and confrontational. ‘That guy’ who goes out of his or her way not to fall. The person who thinks it is their responsibility to show someone their Aikido is wrong. We go home angry, upset, in doubt, and think about ‘that guy’ and blame them. WRONG. It is your responsibility, not that person’s. I agree their Aikido etiquette is dismaying at best but so what? What we feel from these encounters are our responsibility, our feeling, our bodies. Whether we used that moment to better our Aikido and ourselves or to sulk about our failure, it doesn’t matter, is our responsibility. The consistent lesson in Aikido/ Tai Chi Chuan is everything we feel, everything we experience, is ours.
One of the questions asked in class was, “If it takes two to fight, then why is it our issue and not both?” I answered that it was a great question and total BS (I used the abbreviation to get that by the editors). If it takes two to fight and one stops, there is no fight – it takes two but that adage, in my experience, is used to blame the other guy (see above). Everything we feel is ours. We went through other scenarios and it came down to just that. (My wife says I should have been a lawyer, but I like building things too much. I will leave the lawyering to the octopus-repulsed Andy Small). When we are approached with force or a fight, it is our option to fight back or relax and practice Aikido. This is much more than what we just experience on the mat. Aikido is the practice of your own personal growth. It is the constant dilemma of not fighting and being centered: take responsibility or be ‘that guy.’
No, that is not the order size of octopus at Ambelis. They give great portions. Four ounces is what the Tai Chi Chuan Classics teach is required to set the system (your body) into motion. A wee force of four ounces (the weight of an egg), causes us to move our entire body. I am sure they did not use pounds and ounces in China when they wrote the Tai Chi Chuan Classics, but the idea is a minimal force is all that it takes to make you move. You, your whole body, not just a pinkie. The idea is you are light and grounded. You need the ground to move. We are not a (mentally) sleeping human blob. We strive to be awake, aware and unburdened. When something is directed at us, we are not sloth-like but light. That force, no matter how minimal, causes the whole of us to be in motion. This is achieved by the idea that we are an entire being, and not the sum of the parts that make us up. There is that children’s song, “Head Shoulder Knees and Toes,” which is a catchy song, but it gets it wrong looked at in the context of Tai Chi Chuan: Where does the shoulder stop and the arm start? They don’t, they are all part of you. So never think of moving an arm. When your arm moves, your entire body moves (unless you are dancing in a Bob Fosse-choreographed number).
There is a lot going on at the dojo and things are doing well. I do not always get a chance to thank everyone that is helping out and what’s fantastic is that there are so many of you – too many to name in one email -- but I notice your help, big or small. Thank you.
“I never finish anything. I have a black belt in Partial Arts.”