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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

What I Learned from My Dog

January 12, 2022


The first hello is to 2022. Happy New year to all and welcome our new friend, 2022. It is always great to welcome a new year. It feels to me that it is somehow special even though it is just another day. Hope to see everyone on the mat.

I also want to welcome Stephen who has joined our adult program and the first new student of 2022. I also wanted to welcome a 4-year-old boy into our Kid’s program. It was great to see that class filled with happy, peppy youngsters. (I am very happy not to teach the 4–6-year-olds.)

To Do or Not to Do’s

žLehrman Sensei – Wednesday, January 12, 7:00 pm. Lehrman Sensei's class is postponed for this month. he will be back next month, as usual, second Wednesday

žKyu Testing – I will announce an April date in the next letter, but we will be having tests toward the end of the month. Please speak to Frank, Danny or Derrell if you think you are ready to test. We will be having classes dedicated to test prep and you are welcome to ask an instructor to help you prep. We have open mat times on Saturdays and Sundays.

A Nice Call

I spoke to one of my subcontractors earlier this week (I own a construction company. Sensei’ing is not my full-time gig). I needed to order some material for a job. He and I chatted as normal. We started talking about Aikido as I had him price some stuff at the dojo. He does not do Aikido, or know that side of my life but was interested so I ended up subscribing him to this letter a few months ago. He mentioned how moved he was from reading the Last Letter of 2021. He was very surprised how I talked about my feelings because in his experience that is not normal.

I explained to him that in a genuine practice like Aikido and living in the moment is a big part of what we practice. Feelings are as real and as technique is and Aikido is an experiential practice, we need to experience not only uke but ourselves. This is part of self-development. He understood but added that talking about this in a public letter is more than just a practice. That is why I do not only do construction. There is my other job, being a Sensei, and that part is why I share these things. You teach by example.

What I Learned from my Dog

Rachel and I went out for our usual Friday night dinner (unless we are up in Maine or working late or she has book group but, you know, as we normally do). I’m busy Monday through Thursday between teaching and taking ASL classes. So, this is our first free night of the new year to spend some time together. We had a wonderful night, came home, and let the dog out (Who? Who?) to do his final business of the day. He lets himself back in and stands by the stairs waiting for us to go up to bed. As we head up to relax and read, I say to James “let's go.” Then, with 100% commitment and nothing else in the world that matters, he runs upstairs and leaps into bed plopping down on Rachel’s pillow, tail wagging.

Could you imagine doing everything in a life with that much conviction? Where every event, everything you do has 100% of your attention, 100% of your focus, 100% of your excitement? I learned a lot from my dog, James, that night (I promise, we only shared one bottle of red wine at dinner). Can I ever do menial tasks with 100% everything? I need to live every moment as it is everything. Every moment on the mat, every kiss I give my wife, every second being the most important, even if it is just walking upstairs to go to bed. Now, if only I can figure out how to wag my tail, or even find my tail…

Cup of Jo

During our holiday in Maine, Lehrman Sensei texted a video to me of Aikira Tohei Sensei teaching a seminar primarily doing jo techniques. I was blown away by his jo techniques. I was totally impressed. He did many techniques I had seen but never with a jo. It was brilliant. I wanted to try them out, but I only have a bokken in Maine and unfortunately my in-house uke was unavailable (Zachary had already returned to NJ). Rachel has made it very clear that she will support me and all the time I spend at the dojo if she is never thrown. James, our dog has no opposable thumbs. He thinks that sticks are for fetching anyway. So, I waited.

Rachel and I left Wednesday morning for the 7-hour drive, got home around 4:00, unpacked and at 6:00 I headed to the dojo to teach the 7:00 class (best way to unwind from a long drive is get on the mat and include times in a letter.) After watching the video twice, I was ready. I hadn’t tried half the techniques before and shared that with the class but armed with my trusty jo, class was taught. I mean all the techniques all made sense. Just watch the video! It was a great class (in my mind) and most of the students were confused. It was all a little different but why be scared to try new things. Explore, practice, learn.

After class one of the students told me how confusing it was and wanted to know how many of my classes were that challenging and confusing? “That’s my job,” I answered. “I am here to teach, to always bring you something new that is outside what you know, often outside your comfort zone. If you just practice what you know, you never learn anything. You just get better doing what you already learned. I am here to bring you something you have not done. That should be confusing.” Like trying to wag your tail.

--Sensei Jay

“Life is growth. If we stop growing, technically and spiritually, we are as good as dead.”

- Moihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido

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