The Numbers Count
September 15, 2022
This is my 101st letter. I missed making a big deal of the hundredth, but I only found out by accident today. Kinda cool. 100 letters! I started writing this to keep the students in touch with us during the Covid shut down. That seems like 100 years ago. Many people are getting this for various reasons, and I am personally touched that anyone takes the time to read this, let along over 100 of them. Thank you. I hope everyone enjoys but the goal to help keep ASNJ together and for prospective students.
We had two young almost teen sisters; a teen young lady, a brother and sister and a nice teen lad join our youth program. Also, please welcome Nora to our adult program and Michelle to our Iaido program. Lastly, please welcome back all the people that took off for the summer.
The mat was packed this past Saturday. I come out of my office and watched the at the 20 plus kids at the 11:30 class practicing. There was some impressive Aikido being done. You can always tell the people on their free trial class as they are not wearing a gi. I saw a young boy and girl in shorts. I said hi to their parents and asked about their kids and how they heard about us. There were passing by and decided to check us out. I could tell that they never reached out prior as I tell every to sweat sweatpants as to no get knee burns. Nice people. Coming next week to join.
An Interesting Number
Back in 2017, we moved the student record keeping and billing to a web-based service. To do that, w each student got a unique membership number with a card with a matching barcode (not sure how they do that but I always think about the movie, Agent 47). You use your membership card to sign into class. Back in 2017, I ordered 500 cards. We are about to run out; only 3 left. I am ordering another 500 cards (Actually, I am writing this letter. I really should be ordering membership cards. Don’t tell anyone).
So, in the last 5 years, we had 500 people join ASNJ. We lost over 100 students due to Covid, and half or more the students that join, leave in the first year. So, the cards are telling us, we have averaged a hundred new members a year for the last five years. I wanted to thank everyone at ASNJ. We are a community and we all, the members, are what has led to our success. Many of you help in many ways, from being on a committee, teaching a class, to helping at events, being a new member’s Big Senpai, helping advertising, helping at class, posting about the dojo, giving us a google review, putting together the welcome books, signing up new members in the computer or just telling a friend.
A funny story that sums this up. Nora had come by to try her free trial class. It happened to be the Thursday Tai Chi Chuan class. I asked her to come back and try an Aikido class on Saturday. I want everyone to try a free class to make sure Aikido is for them. At the end of class, she came to the front desk to join. I was busy with a couple of parents (there is only so much Sensei to go around). While I was busy, Henry, a new 5th kyu, had assumed the role of ASNJ Greeter and was going over the schedule and giving his commentary of each instructors’ (we have over 15) and what he likes about each class. I dubbed Henry the Official Yelp reviewer of ASNJ Instructors.
I think this is an amazing accomplishment (the 500 members) and I am so proud to be a part of our ASNJ Family. Thank you all.
· Lehrman Shihan – Wednesday, September 14, 7:00 pm. Lehrman Shihan teaches the second Wednesday of each month. This is a mandatory class for all ASNJ instructors and an exciting treat for all our students and guests. We welcome visitors from other dojos who would like to attend.
· Fall Seminar at ASNJ – Saturday, October 29, 10:00am – 4:00 pm. We will be hosting Sensei Wee-Wow Dumlao for an all-day seminar starting 10 am. Potluck to follow. More details to follow.
· Halloween Class – Monday October 31st, 7:00pm. - Join us for class. Leave your gi home, wear a costume. Just don’t where shorts.
Shihan Wee-Wow Dumloa
Mark your calendar. We are hosting Sensei Wee-Wow Dumlao at our fall seminar on Saturday October 29th starting at 10:00pm. The flyer will be out soon. Don’t miss this incredibly talented Sensei share her decades of Aikido. She is the Sensei the Gold Coast Aikikai in Florida
To Liam Dishy and Colonel Andrew Burns on their successful promotions to Shodan in Iaido. Both have been long time members of our Iaido program and are now both black belts in that system. Stop by on Sunday, watch the student flash their katana and give them the props.
A Tree Doesn’t Grow in NJ
We have some weeds that have grown into trees. I mean one is massive. They are affecting the wall and need to go. A developer was nice enough to buy the property behind us and demolish the building to build apartments. Danny had a great idea; we can cut them down and here is room for them to fall where the building used to be. Never to miss an opportunity to use of my many chain saws, I volunteered Derrell and Guzman (that is his last name. No one is sure of what his first name is. Our version of Kramer) after class on Saturday.
Let me describe the scene (I am hanging out with Hal for too long). There is a three-foot-wide ally as long as the dojo covered in dead trees, pipes, and garbage to get to the trees. When we arrive, we found them covered in Lantern Flies. I mean hundreds and hundreds. I grabbed a can of Raid and showed them who is boss. They were!!! The bug spray really pissed them off. They dive bombed us. They do not bite but in mass numbers, we were a little skived out. After ten minutes of trying to stop on them, (they are an invasive species and you, as a NJ residence are asked to kill them) may have killed ten or eleven. I climbed a ladder onto the roof, tied a heavy rope to the tree, threw the ends to Derrell and Guzman. Back down on the ground, I aimed my 18” chain saw to inflict as much damage to the Lantern Flies as the tree. I think I got three more. Two minutes later, the tree was down, and I was cutting it into manageable sections. This is the gross part (like the thousand bugs was not enough), we had to pick the pieces up and the lantern Flies would fly from the tree to us. Uggg. The job ended with one piece left and the chain saw was out of juice.
I had one of the teens do a check for any stray bright red insects before I entered the dojo. He flicked of three and I returned to the dojo, my safe haven. Derrell rain to shower. I sat, tired on the couch sweating thinking of going up next. When a drip of sweat would fall, I thought it was a bug. I was waiting for Derrell as he informed me the shower head was broken. I went home to shower. I’ll deal with that tomorrow, Sunday when we would take down the second, albeit much smaller, Lantern Fly covered weed tree. The joy of being a Sensei.
Making it Real
I often end up after a class in my office having a chat or a libation with a student to shoot the sheets or to answer questions. I love that people feel free to stop in when the door is open.
I had two conversations with students and wanted to recap and what that brought up to me.
One student, Corey was an aikido student for a decade and the other, Joe, a Tai Chi Chuan student who had over 40 years practice karate. Corey was talking about a friend’s experience at a dojo and one of the issues was the effectiveness of Aikido. Joe, came to our dojo to find a Tai Chi Chuan class that did application, not just form. With both, I told them that at our dojo, Aikido must work. It was not ok to just show how to throw a willing uke, it had to work. If you are attacked, the idea of the practice is it works. This all came back to me remembering being thrown by Sagano Sensei or a long time ago by Yamada sensei. There was no question that I had no choice. I was going to be thrown. It did not matter what I wanted; I was being thrown. Aikido works. Mine may not all the time but that is not Aikido, that is me.
I appreciate that in the practice, at times, there is a benefit to doing it as a two person kata. In the practice of ukemi, there is a lot to learn by following. In my opinion, the best way to teach someone is not to explain but by your ukemi, by following nage, by being light as a feather in your movements. This is one part of the practice and is not what I am talking about in this article but I wanted to recognize that part of the practice. I mean when you have an uncooperative uke, the one that wanted to stop you. Aikido must work. It may not at the moment, that is the practice. If you are attacked in the street (and not by lantern flies), Aikido better work. Blaming uke for your Aikido not working is like a hammer blaming a nail. We all had bad Aikido days. This is your veery best opportunity to learn; practice harder and learn. Aikido works just as Tai Chi Chuan does. Incredible effectively. I am lucky to have had inspiration by being thrown by some amazing teachers and the experience is deeply ingrained in me. This is why I practice. I hope to impart that on my students.
Now read any of the 100 letters I wrote previously.
Sensei, Aikido Schools of NJ
“There are times when you may be overwhelmed by the teachings of the Way. At such moments, it is important to continue with the original spirit of a beginner.”
-- Moihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido