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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

The Shirt Off My Back

October 16, 2020

Rachel and I are spending Columbus/Indigenous People’s Day weekend up in Maine. No injuries this trip but a general muscle soreness from carrying trees. Zachary will be coming up in two weeks. His love of splitting wood “required” us to harvest a couple of fallen oaks and bring them back to the house. Also, this weekend, two former neighbors from NJ came up for the three days. One has lots and lots of energy, so I showed him a new (and completely made up) game of searching for and finding a dead tree in the forest to push over. If you keep shaking and pushing, sometimes you can knock them over (hence the game part). He found this to be a new appreciation of Nature. The rest of us found it hilarious to watch, especially as it usually takes place in the dark after dinner and a couple bottles of wine. Don’t judge.


Let’s congratulate Alex Noda, who just received his black belt in Iaido. He and Derrell Thomas, Director of our Iaido program, drove out to an Iaido seminar with Shihan Wehrhahn and Sensei Mitsuzuka of the San Shin Kai, the organization that sponsors our Iaido program. Alex’s test was a closed to spectators due to Covid but from every account I heard, Alex was exceptional. Alex’s test was long overdue and showed off some of the great results of Derrell’s hard work with the Iaido program.


Just in: We have our newly designed T-shirts for sale at the front desk (available at most evening classes / $20 each). They have our logo on the front; on the back it reads, “You’ll Fall For Us. Guaranteed.” I only had so many made so if you are interested, stop by and get one. If you send an email, we can arrange to have one left at the front desk for you.

Covid-19 Update

Governor Murphy has passed Executive Order 187 allowing martial arts schools to operate with full contact. I am in the middle of revising the schedule and protocols. We will still keep the majority of safety protocols and dojo cleaning. We will not change the existing rules for about half the classes. You will have classes that allow contact while others that will continue with physical distancing. You have a choice. Watch your email for more information.

Class Discussion

At TCC class, we discussed the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching. We reviewed the meaning of the text in plain English (or my Brooklyn version of plain English), kind of like the Shakespeare plays I remember reading in junior high that had Elizabethan English on the right and the “translation” to modern English on the left.

The first chapter says (this is way over-simplified, I am not as good as those junior high book publishers) ‘when you put a label on something, the label is only a simple representation of what that really is. The label is not a replacement.’

The name of something is not the thing. If we call a color “blue,” that is just a name of a general group of colors that we lump into the name Blue. There must be over 1,000 shades of blue. Just go to a Benjamin Moore store and look at how many blues you can buy. (Who has the job to name all of them? Talk about an amazingly creative writer. That person should get the Pulitzer, really, I mean who came up with Baby’s Breath or Violet Indulgence).

The other part of the chapter is if you desire stuff, you don’t perceive it clearly. It becomes a picture of what you covet (throwing a Bible term in here) and no longer just that thing.

In our ever-present exploration of Aikido, when we use terms like “harmonize” and “centered” we have to be careful not to fall into the trap that we understand these things. There is always more to explore and learn. I have been studying for 40 plus years and am amazed by what I discover all the time. The lake has no lid. That is why the dojo has a 12-foot sign that says, “Beginners Mind” (Mostly to remind me. If it helps anyone else, that’s even better).

The opening chapter of the Tao Te Ching is an outline on how to learn. Approach everything as if you don’t know what it is and practice for the sake of the journey: learning, not for a goal or a desire.

And it is better to do these things while wearing an ASNJ T-shirt. Here take the one off my back. Nah, I will give you a clean one. After carrying all those trees, you probably don’t want the one I am wearing.

--Sensei Jay

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