February 15, 2022
Another crazy week thanks to good SEO and Google.Busineess.Com. We had three kids and one teen join our dojo this past Thursday. In addition, we had an adult come to the Tuesday noon class for a trial followed by another person scheduled trial Iaido class. I am happy to welcome back Paul and Sheri to the Tai Chi Chuan class (They picked a good week, see the Stethoscope article.).
To Do or Not to Do’s
Lehrman Sensei – Wednesday, March 10, 7:00 pm. Lehrman Sensei 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.
Aikido of Red Bank’s 20th Anniversary Seminar – SaturdayMarch 26, 10:00 am – 2:30 pm. I have already bought my ticket! Please join me there for the seminar with Yamada Sensei and Konigsberg Sensei, with Testing and a party afterwards. They are located at 350 NJ-35, Red Bank, NJ. Register on their website. Check out their movie-themed flyer. Wicked cool. The ASNJ 2:00 Adult and 3:00 Junior Deshi classes will be canceled on that day.
Kyu Testing – Saturday, April 23, 2:00 pm. Come support your fellow ASNJ-ites (Jersey-ites – get it?) while they strut their stuff. Class is at 2:00, Kyu Tests at 3:30 followed by a Potluck party. Speak to Danny, Frank, or Derrell if you think you are ready to test.
Hakama Class – Sunday, May 29, 11:00 am. This is mandatory for all ASNJ instructors; instructors from any dojo are welcome. There is no charge.
Dean Sluyter-hosted Meditation – Sunday, May 1, 8:45 am-10:00 am. Dean Sluyter, cofounder of ASNJ's Sunday morning meditation program, returns to lead meditation and discussion, and to present his new book, The Dharma Bum's Guide to Western Literature. No charge for the program, open to all.
Spring Seminar – Saturday, May 21, Noon to 6:00 pm. We will be hosting Lehrman Shihan and Koningsburg Shihan for a very interesting seminar. They will be alternating classes exploring wherever Aikido leads. It is not often you will have two Shihans sharing their personal perspectives.
Super Bowl LVI
That was a fun event at ASNJ even though the Superbowl game itself wasn’t the best game I have seen. Some of the highlights (I am going to mention the food. Really, who cares about the game?). We had bacon tarts, jalapeno poppers, homemade soup (Salt-free for my wife. Kudos to Connie!), two different types of hot wings, antipasto treats on a toothpick (homemade by one of our teens), various empanadas -- too many to mention, homemade cake, spicy chicken cutlets, vegetarian lasagna, crudité (because we are a dojo and healthy) with various dips (probably not as healthy), chicken quesadillas, an IPA from Ivan’s friend’s brewery, and libations galore! Let’s not forget a great group of people enjoying the event. And I learned ASL for Rams.
I had this idea while talking with Hal this past week. We were discussing Aikido (I know, what I surprise) and the role of our arms when I used the analogy of my arms being like a stethoscope. The stethoscope does not listen, it is only the conduit to the ears for the mind to hear a person’s heart (in this case, their center). I focused on that in Tai Chi Chuan class as well.
After working on the Form, I explained my stethoscope epiphany and we did an old Push Hands exercise: Uke stands sideways, and you put your hands lightly but with full contact on their chest and back. You give a little squeeze to make sure you have contact and then do nothing. Just ‘listen’ to where their body is by using your hands to make contact. DO NOTHING. Just listen and follow.
When you feel where they are, follow them with your whole body. If they are leaning back, follow them, forward, follow them, left, right, follow. What everyone found out was their uke lost their balance and stumbled while you, nage, did nothing. The common question – “How did that work?”
I didn’t want to answer but led the class to discover what they already knew then we talked about it afterwards. When you make contact with uke, you both become one thing, you harmonize, you blend, your centers connect. This is always there; you just need to experience this. What we need to do in our practice is become aware of what always exists, harmony, connection. Our practice is awareness.
The exercise allows us to use our stethoscopes (this is a difficult word to type. I need to rethink my analogies in the future taking that in mind. Stick with small words.) to experience the connection. To demonstrate this connection, from across the room, I told (Well, yelled, I was far away and wearing a mask.) everyone in the class where they are tense in their body, where their Ki is stuck. I then touched that spot which was tight or ‘ticklish’. “How did you do that?” It is just the connection that we just practiced. Not one of the five senses but you just work on the awareness of it. This is the awareness of the connection we all have. As Hal likes to say, “we are all just one system.” Our practice is to be more aware. Try typing stethoscope 15 times and see if that helps. It won’t except that your hands are only the instrument that you are typing, it is you doing the typing. Your arms are only the tool used to be aware of your uke. Try typing with a stethoscope. (I didn’t want to have to type that word again.)
When you call ASNJ, the phone is often answered “Your Family Marital Arts Center.” There is a reason for that: the majority of our dojo is related to another member. We are mostly families. (Are you singing the Sister Slegde song yet). When you think of an ASNJ family, one almost always comes to mind, the Morrow Family.
Jeff and his wife Maria (Both professors at Seton Hall University) have seven children. They are a wonderful and warm family. Out of the nine Morrows, five are presently doing Aikido at ASNJ (We are waiting for little Nicolas) making the majority of Morrows Aikidoka (practitioners of Aikido. -Ka means a person of something. According to Wikipedia, the terms is rarely used in Japan). They, as a family, make up 4.03% of ASNJ membership.
Jeff is a 2nd kyu practicing for 10 years having previously studied Tien Shan Pai Kung Fu for more than 10 years. Their eldest daughter, Eva, 14, is proud to be part of our Junior Deshi program. In our Kids’ program we have Patrick-12, Robert-10, and John-8 years old. Patrick just passed his fifth kyu test and is gunning to join the Junior Deshi program.
They are warm, friendly, and incredibly talented. I mean being a college professor is an accomplishment but that is not enough. Both Jeff and Maria are authors and Jeff even has his own author page on Amazon. Their kids are all great students and skilled at Aikido.
So, the point is, you can never have TOO many MORROWs. (Maybe I should not have suggested that. They already have seven kids. Eight is Enough?). Let’s see what the future brings but at the present, I just wanted to share their incredible story. I am thrilled to have them as part of our ASNJ family.
Let’s Go Crazy
We have all had one of those days when you get to the dojo after a long day and you are just tired. You are putting on your gi asking yourself why are you not home on a couch? I woke up Wednesday morning, looked at my schedule and let out a common malediction and then realized Lehrman Sensei was going to teach my class that evening. I would go to class and just do what I loved most: practice.
That evening on the phone with one another, Hal and I arrived within seconds of each other. I told him to take my reserved spot but guess what? Dance mom was there. A quick suggestion to relocate from the very obviously reserved spot and it miraculously opened. (You all did read the dance mom/squirrel letter?)
I changed, tired from a crazy but productive day, got on the mat and warmed up. I decided to practice with one of our mild-mannered instructors who was prepping for his Nidan test. I just wanted to take an easy ninety minutes and do some Aikido. The first technique - Katatetori Kokyuho. I let him go first, even though I am senior and traditionally I should go first. When on the mat to practice, I am only a student. All of a sudden, he grabbed me with all his strength and held incredibly tight. No problem, I relaxed into my foot and moved through my pinky, the idea Lehrman Sensei was working on. My Aikido worked. He fell and popped right back up only to grab me harder and more aggressively.
After a few rounds, I asked him what was up and he replied he wanted to feel my Aikido “work.” This carried on for the entire class. So much for thinking he was mild-mannered and my coasting through this one. I guess that is what testing for nidan does to you! I had to focus and make sure I was always ‘on’ for each technique, each throw. Right through to Kokyudosa. I think I heard an occasional guttural groan come out of him when attacking. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great class. I just went to bed a little earlier that night. I think I groaned a little getting into bed. I wonder how his day was?
“You can do it.”
- The Waterboy