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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

What is Art?

February 26, 2021

First Things First

Did you see Shanaia and Naelys teach the USAF Zoom kids class this Saturday? They were great. And I am not just saying that because I am a proud sensei (I am). They were great (I know I am repeating myself, but did I mention I thought they were great). If you missed it, you can watch the USAF YouTube archive. BTW, they had over 40 people signed on. Take a minute and see the future of Aikido.

The YouTube

My kids like to point out how old my wife and I are technology-wise, which reminds us of our parents. My dad used to call everything on the Internet ‘THE _____’; as in ‘THE Google’, ‘THE Facebook’, ‘THE AOL.’ Thus, I just started THE YouTube ad companion for ASNJ. If you see our short video advertising, LMK (see how young I am, I can use texting abbreviations. I am starting to feel old. I am going to watch THE TikTok now.). It is 10 second video on YouTube of Zachary throwing Kelvin. NP, TOYL.

What’s Happenin’

Wednesday, March 17th is St Patrick’s day. Come take my 7:00 class, wear green, any green. Gi’s are optional but do not come naked with green skin. No Star Trek alien imitations.

Who tests? Kyu tests - March 27th. Come watch The Wheel of Ukemi in action (I love that thing). Please contact Danny, Derrell, or Frank to discuss if you want to test. Potluck social distanced party to follow tests. Did I mention I love the Wheel of Ukemi?

Saturday April 5th, 11:30 we will have kids test.


I want to welcome back Ernesto. We all remember him as the guy with the great beard. It has been a while. Also, I want to thank Gino who joined our adult program. I met him at class other night for the first time.

What Makes This an Art

I was talking to Zachary, my older son, after his class (he teaches youth class on Mondays). As a middle school teacher, he is very in tuned on how to convey a lesson, whether history or Aikido. He taught Shomenuchi Iriminage and did it in a complicated way I never thought of teaching. There was nothing incorrect, quite the opposite, it was flowing and interesting. But the thing I noticed is I would NEVER do that technique that way. I tend to do simply techniques and streamlined. No extra movements. Efficient and simple, which reflects me, how I am, how I think. My son’s technique reflected who he is, how he thinks. There is no right or wrong, no better or worse, just who you are.

And that led me to thinking (I know, how unusual. You remember how I said my son’s contribution to these letters are the ideas he sparks). There are soooooo (I am upsetting spell check with that one) many ways to do any technique. I remember Donovan Sensei seminars where you would always do a technique a new way. He was always discovering a new path. The variations are infinite. This is an aspect in Aikido that is unique, in my experience. As a beginner, you practice form and basics but by the time you reach Shodan, it should start being your Aikido. Your 1st kyu tests and above are not regimented. You do five variations of an attack. You get to show your Aikido.

Aikido is a martial art where you get to be creative, where you express who you are, not fit into a mold, or just do a kata exactly like it has been done for 200 years. Aikido is about growing as a person and expression who that person is. I call that ART. Your medium is not a musical instrument, nor a camera, nor a canvas (OK, that is a bad choice, I forgot about the mat), nor a stage (better). It is an uke. What all arts have in common is the goal to effect people, to touch them physically and emotionally, to somehow connect in a way that makes them feel something. A good song makes you tap your foot or dance, a great painting stirs something in you, or those movies that bring you to tears, a great show causes you to jump to your feet and applaud. They connect to your center; they connect to your heart and cause something to change.

I redefined how I see Aikido and my goal practicing. It is not about fighting, nor defeating. I can do all that, the true value is how I can turn my relationship with another person (uke) into a creative practice and art. Thank you, O’Sensei.

Aikido, Simply Put

Taking this epiphany, I taught class looking at my concept of MY AIKIDO. I do simple, it is who I am: always wear the same clothes, camo and jeans. I do not use multisyllabic words (except when it is funny to do so). I like white walls (OK, maybe that is a construction thing, but it is really easy. But my wife, the artist, picks the colors, so my house does look cool. Most of the trim is white though). That is my Aikido. Simple and efficient.

So, I tried to think of simple, clean techniques that are so simple they don’t have names, at least, not that I know. (Omar, our resident Aikido encyclopedia, kept saying it was “a variation of ……”) It was a perfect class for me. I do not have to remember what the technique is called. Remembering Japanese terms is always something that sends my dyslexia surging.

What is your Aikido? How would you define it? How does it reflect who you are? How does it change with how your day went, what kind of mood you are in? Make it your Art.

--Sensei Jay Tall

“True victory does not come from defeating an enemy. True victory comes from giving love and changing an enemy’s heart.”

- Morihei Ueshiba

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