What’s Good for Me?
March 7, 2021
Tim has joined our Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) program. It was very confusing for him like any normal person when joining an ongoing TCC class. I promised him he would be in the groove in a month. If anyone else is interested, please feel free to come by on Thursday evenings and be confused. We also had a lovely young lady join our teen Aikido program. Chris, a long-time practitioner, while trying us out for the last 3 months has officially joined also. I was teaching on Wednesday and ended class, as I often do, with koshi. Chris was my uke (how else do you show love to a newly-joined member). As Chris hit the mat, as one would often do from koshi, the young lady screeched and turned white (at least the part of her face not covered in a mask) at the sight of Chris hitting the mat. Seeing her terror, I asked if she was okay. Chris stood up and said to me, “Why are you asking her? I am the one who just got slammed!” Ooooops. Welcome to all.
Wednesday, March 17th is St Patrick’s day. Come take my 7:00 class, wear green, any green. I take no responsibility for what I am going to teach. Could be basics (green means beginner). Could be techniques that spin (Green is what you look like after a roller coaster). Could be techniques that test your balance (St Pat’s Day is known for staggering). Honestly, I have no idea. I will figure it out, but come to the class, we will have fun.
Kyu tests - March 27th. What is The Wheel of Ukemi you ask? Please contact Danny, Derrell, or Frank to discuss if you want to test. Potluck social distanced party to follow tests.
Saturday April 5th, 11:30 we will have kids test.
What Is Aikido Good For
Discussing my “What is Art” letter from last week, Hal (Sensei Lehrman) said, “If you think you are good at Aikido, you are missing the focus of the practice. It should be ‘How is Aikido good for you?’” I added that O’Sensei would add (I never met the guy, but I have a lot of books under my belt – metaphorically speaking, that would hurt literally) ‘How is Aikido good for the world?’ That the basic premise of Aikido is not solely a skill you master but a tool for your own growth.
Thinking about that, it explains why we have no competition, why there is an infinite variation of techniques and styles, why there is only a white or black belt, why we practice with whomever is next to us. The moment you think how good you are, you are in conflict with uke. I mean, you can force it but, in reality, it becomes a competition, not harmony. If I try to use strength, nope, I look silly and usually pull a muscle. When I do it for the experience, I end up learning something. I get better, I grow.
About making the world a better place. Sorry O’Sensei, I need a little time for that one. Give me until next letter.
I presented this to my Tai Chi Chuan class discussion and asked, “So how does Aikido make you a better you?” and opened up the discussion. George said he is learning to relax. Annie spoke of learning about compassion. Michael talked of awareness. Danny spoke of harmonizing. Someone expressed how they are learning about their center. Most had something to add. It was great to hear what they experienced from their practices.
‘Aikido making you a better you’ is a culmination of all their points, that all those things are very real and the piece I added was to be vulnerable. To let someone into my center (not being defensive or guarded) is to connect and be able to access their center. In Tai Chi Chuan, it is called following. The instruction for push-hands is to give up and follow others. This is not the norm of what we are taught in our culture but is, for me, the main thrust of my practice. Does this make my Aikido (and TCC) work better? Of course. But that is not why Aikido is important in my life. It is to make me better.
The true way to connect is to be vulnerable. When I am in an argument with my wife (like when she edits my letter) (Ed. Note: Sigh.), I need to open up and let her in; to express my fear or hurt. It is the same as when uke’s and your centers are in true harmony. This allows me to move and blend with uke. It is also the greatest way learn about each other, and to get to know yourself. Being relaxed and being vulnerable is the same thing.
Aikido, Simply Put
I have small confession. When I taught Wednesday, I had no idea what I was going to do. I usually teach what I am working on. I was so tired from work (I got up at 4:00), when I was driving to NJ, I was trying to come up with an excuse not to teach (my dog ate my Aikido techniques?). I wanted just to go take a nap. So, after warm-ups, I called up a D.U. (Dedicated Uke: we use one uke per class for Covid) and without saying anything he grabbed my wrist (that took that decision away). I did a kokyonage back stretch (whew, I got past the opening technique). Next, he came up and again grabbed my wrist again (I know, how unusual) and I did katen. I had not planned on katen, not thought, I was too tired. I would not normally start with that but it made sense at the moment. That was how class went. I was too tired to think and did some of the best Aikido of my life. Please don’t tell any of the students how unprepared I was. They thought I looked great. Shhhhh. I have to not think more often.