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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

The Heat is On

The Heat is On

November 19, 2022


Please welcome Anthony into our Iaido program.

What’s Happenin’

· Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Introductory Seminar with Sensei Paul Manogue at Aikido of Park Slope Saturday, November 19 from 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm.

· Thanksgiving - We are closed Thursday, November 24 and Friday, November 25.

· Kid’s Testing – Saturday, December 3 at 10:30 am,

· Kyu Tests and Holiday Party – Saturday, December 10 at 2:00 pm: Wheel of Ukemi. 3:30 pm: Kyu tests. 4:30 pm: Potluck party. If you wish to test, you MUST speak with Frank, Danny, or Derrell for permission. If you do not, you will not be allowed to test.

· Lehrman Shihan – Wednesday, December 13 at 7:00 pm. Lehrman Shihan teaches the second Wednesday of each month.

· Christmas Eve and Day – We are closed Saturday, December 24 and Sunday, December 25.

· New Year’s Eve and Day – We are closed Saturday, December 31 and Sunday, January 1.

· New Year’s Day ClassJanuary 1, 1:00 pm – Aikido of Park Slope will have their traditional New Year’s Day class to ring in the new year. All are welcome to join Sensei Lehrman for this class.

· Women’s Group Evening– The Women of ASNJ will be hosting an event Saturday January 21. Details to follow but if anyone wants to help plan the event, please contact Annie.

Four Degrees of Separation

We often don’t appreciate what we have until we don’t have it, you know, like heat. Our AC system went down, and we did not have heat for a week. For the most part, it was a warm week. Hal taught on Wednesday evening, and it was 58° in the dojo when class started. I had a T-shirt and socks under my gi when class started. I was chilly. Ten minutes later, I took the socks off and ten minutes after that, the T-shirt was removed. I was sweating. As the temperature outside was going down, the dojo without our normal conventional heat, was warming up. At the end of class, the temperature in the dojo was up to 62°. Our activities raised the temperature in the dojo 4°. Who knew we could generate so much heat?

I bought a new thermostat (Interesting word. From Greek: Thermo meaning heat -- Like thermometer: a heat measurement -- and Stat meaning stay the same -- like stationary or stasis. So, a thermostat is a thingie to keep the temperature from changing.). I left a sign ‘Keep the temperature at the same thingie’ in the dojo for Tom, master of all things electrical, who was taking class on Sunday and would try to restore the usually-working heating system, not the biomechanics we were relying on. I drove back from Massachusetts (see “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” below) on Sunday straight to the dojo to meet Tom, our electrician extraordinaire. The new thermostat was safely attached to the many multicolored wires and the heat was on. Ahhh, the comfort of BTU’s generated by ignited hydrocarbons made the dojo feel like a cozy haven again.

Veterans day

We honored our brothers and sisters who served in the military at ASNJ again this year. The class is taught by any active or retired member of the US Armed Forces in our dojo. (Have you ever tried to Google our parent organization – the USAF? I always get the US Air Force --you know, the Top Gun Guys. Talk about a sign, huh?) We had six members honored in this year's class. I am proud to know them and have them in our dojo. Thank you, Omar, Libby, Jose, Drew (the Colonel), Linda, and James. And thanks to all you who joined them in class and to support them.

Thank you for your service and for being part of our ASNJ family.

Poise and Posture

This may seem controversial to some and be common sense to others. I hope to influence a few of the minds in the former group. Posture matters. Posture is not an accident. I watch students at seminars kneeling in seiza as they watch a teacher demonstrating a technique and then mimicking that sensei’s arm movement. They miss the straightness of the back, the stance the sensei’s legs were in, the way their turn was connected, how their arms were shaped. What they did with their arms only mattered because of their spine. The hand? Who really cares? We are doing Aikido, not boxing. It is the shape of your body and your mind which creates your Aikido.

I have, for years, been teaching about focusing your awareness and how the shape of your body affects your Aikido, not on just one technique but every technique, how you move, your very health, and how you relate to other people. In the last few letters (hopefully you read them), I have focused on the small of the back. In previous letters (and in classes at ASNJ), we have explored the shape of the shoulders, the fullness of the upper back, how the head is held above your neck, relaxing the shoulders, opening the hips, using your legs to support the body and even how your weight sits in your foot, relaxing and more. These are the ‘secrets’ of the masters, not their hands. We focus on our hands because of cell phones and computers. Let your Aikido be the cure for that.

Learn to pay attention to your back being straight and upright and see how easy you turn, how powerful you irimi. You think a great sensei has an amazing irimi because of their hands? No, it is the effortless turn on a perfectly straight and balanced spine directly behind uke. You turn effortlessly because your back is straight. Have you ever gone to a supermarket and the shopping cart wheel is bent or askew or filled with string? (I should ask if you ever had one that is not?) When an axle is not aligned, you struggle to push the cart (or worse, it wants always to go to one side and you have to avoid knocking the soup cans off the shelf). Your spine is your axle. You keep it aligned with a straight back. You keep it greased by relaxing. Tension is the body’s string tying up the axles. (Where does all the string come from? Do they even sell string?)

To make your Aikido better, work on your posture and learn to relax. This is done, not with your hands but with your mind. Your body reflects your mind. You have heard about Aikido being a spiritual practice or a ‘mind-body’ connection? This is it: being aware. Your posture shows how you think about YOU. And, how you think about you, is reflected in your posture. Your body is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing, what you tell it to do.

Aikido is about practicing YOU. Focus on your shape, your posture, your idea of your body, meditate with a teacher. Aikido is more than your hands, it is the shape of you, all of you.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Have you ever had one of those overscheduled weekends where if everything went perfectly, you were still screwed? I could not be at the Veterans Day class as Friday (I apologize to all) because of one of those weekends. Thursday, after I got home after teaching two classes, I had to pack and load the car as, early Friday afternoon, Rachel and I were off. My beloved took the train from NYC to meet me at my office in Brooklyn to drive to Long Island (and we all know how wonderful it is to drive into Long Island on a Friday afternoon - argh). We were attending a wedding of a very old friends' daughter. He and his wife now live in Mississippi, so we were excited to catch up. We checked into the hotel, quickly changed into our fancy clothes and climbed onto the wedding shuttle bus.

It was a wonderful affair. We gabbed and gabbed all night with our old friends, shared many drinks (too many) and got to bed after midnight only to get up early, eat a quick breakfast at the hotel (Ahh, the hotel buffet breakfast that no one likes but you can’t pass them us with unlimited bacon and make you own waffles), and got back into the car to our next wedding in Northampton, MA. It would normally be a 4-½ hour drive. Luckily, we took the Port Jefferson ferry. At 8:30 am, e on line with what seemed like an impossible number of cars to fit into the ferry, we drove in and parked as directed, bumper to bumper to enjoy a great boat ride to Connecticut. Due to my wife’s vertigo, we stayed outside on the deck watching the Sound (that is a subtle one. Watch-Sound) go by on a windy sunny morning.

We originally planned to have lunch in Hartford at our younger son’s favorite restaurant, the Spicy Green Bean but as he stayed home with a cold, we drove straight to our second night’s hotel. Breakfast comfortably digested, we walked into town for lunch at a sushi restaurant in town. We sat on the second floor and what was out our window? Valley Aikido, the local dojo! I usually pack a gi and look for local Aikido when traveling but not this weekend. The celebration-packed weekend schedule would not allow. So, sitting at lunch, gi-less, I could only Google. The dojo was founded by Paul Sylvain Shihan.

Lunch consumed; we walked along a beautiful path through town back to the hotel to get re-dressed again in our still-fancy clothes. We were met by our older son, Zachary, and his girlfriend, Megan, for the second wedding of the weekend -- at a church this time with a wedding mass. The Father offered a prayer for any non-Catholics during the mass. Never wanting to miss an opportunity to be blessed, I headed up, as directed, with my arm over my heart to let them know I would not partake in the Host, to be blessed during this beautiful wedding. The bride and groom, now newly wedded, we headed to the catering hall for another night of eating, dancing, and a little more adult beverage.

The night over, back to a second hotel for a night’s sleep only to wake early, consume another hotel breakfast (only the bacon in this one was Candian) and off to Bradley Airport in Connecticut to drop my wife off to fly to Chicago for a work conference. She got to sleep in a third hotel in the same weekend. I got to drive 4-1/2 hours (the 4-½ hours I avoided in the ferry?) to the dojo to help Tom fix the heat. So, in one weekend, my wife took a train, drove in a car, rode in a boat, sat in a bus, flew in a plane, and walked a couple miles with me for lunch.

What does this story have to do with Aikido? Nothing. But the heat is working, so who cares. At least we didn’t have to push any shopping carts.

--Jay Tall

Sensei, Aikido Schools of NJ

"Practice is not a matter of years and months. It is a matter of concentration."

-- Koichi Tohei, 10th Dan

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Jan 19, 2023

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