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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

When a Vacuum Doesn’t Suck

July 15, 2021

More Hellos

Welcome to Drew, who has rejoined after transferring from another dojo as his job brings him back to NJ. Also, please welcome Roberto to our Aikido family. Warm welcomes to you both.

To Do’s

žTeen Movie night – Saturday July 24. 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm. If you are 10-18 and want to hang out watching Jumanji 2 with your fellow Aikidoka, contact Shanaia or Naelys. The dojo will supply the pizza, you bring the fun. (I know, that is really bad. The kids usually roll their eyes at what I say).

žSummer Fling: NJ Dojos Day of Aikido Fun – Sunday August 15. All day starting at 9:00 am. What is better than a day of six different sensei’s teaching Aikido followed by a potluck party? It’s free. Put down the date and keep your eyes open for more details.

žKyu Tests - Saturday August 21 – Testing again? Yes. We have 16 people on the list. Yes, we will have the Wheel of Ukemi Class, Kyu Tests and our summer BBQ / Potluck party. We are having tons of pre-test prep classes. If you want to work on a specific technique, ask an instructor and they will spend time with you after class.

žHakama Class Sunday August 29, 11:00 am. Open to student’s 3rd kyu and above and mandatory for instructors.

A Kid with a Lot of Class

I was in the dojo one Sunday afternoon and guess who taught Omar’s 3:00 class – Naeyls, a teen Junior Deshi! We are giving our teens the opportunity to fill in for instructors. It is great to see the youthful energy leading a class as we try to keep challenging our kids to do more, be better and help them be the leaders of our Aikido world tomorrow. I am so proud of all of you.

The Maine Thing

Rachel and I returned Wednesday from the only monosyllabic state. I usually write about the wonderful things we do there, and there always are. The first fun thing, I want to thank Larry for his plate thrower. After cutting down 20 or so trees, we now have a functioning trap range. Now, I am going to give you the crappy parts, literally. After mowing the field, I was covered with Brown Tail Moth hairs (they are not in NJ, they are not fun, Google it) and the ensuing poison-ivy-like rash on my arms, neck and torso. There is no treatment. Then we had a clogged main (no pun) drain so when the toilet was flushed, it showed up in the shower (had to run to Rockland to get a snake). Then our well pump was over-pressurized, so we had reduced-to-no water pressure. Luckily, my neighbor, the boat engineer, was over. We had to bleed the water from the house to fix the pressure tank (part of the pump system, I am learning. I understand NYC water, not wells). Then because I drained all the water out of the pipes, the hot water heater filter got clogged so I had no hot water to shower off the water splashed on me from unclogging the drains (see toilet flushing above). I had no idea I had a hot water filter as it is an on-demand hot water heater. Thankfully, my neighbor helped. He Googled it. I ordered more filters after cleaning the clogged one. As Kimmy, a construction super who once worked for me, used to say “You gotta take the good with the bad.” At least, we have skeet in our range now.

When a Vacuum Does Not Suck

I am working on something in both Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan class. It is exactly the same (at least in my head) but looks totally different when done in the two practices. If you are both a long-term Tai Chi Chuan and Aikido practitioner and have thoughts about this, I would love to hear. I am working on creating an emptiness or in my mind, a vacuum (the special idea, not the household appliance kind that I like to give to my wife every anniversary. Hey, no judgment, I also gave her a dozen roses for each year we were married. [Ed.Note: No, go ahead, judge away: We have ten vacuums.]) which literally sucks uke in while you move towards uke.

It is something I first experienced from Sagano Sensei. When attacked, not to defend, not to attack back, but let the attacker in, to become vulnerable by throwing your defense, your center, your whatever you want to call it, wide open. The vast emptiness created sucks in uke. Drew (new guy, see above) commented on how his feet flew off the ground. So, in a ryotetoriattack, while moving toward uke, spread your arms as you enter and move forward like you are going to ‘hug’ uke. The faster you open up and move in, the bigger ukes falls into the emptiness.

Then in Tai Chi Chuan class, I continued to explore. I was asked (strangely enough) about the Play Guitar technique (not the xBox Guitar Band videogame, it is the name of one of the postures in the Form) where you open up like you are asking to ‘hug’ uke. In this technique, your uke just happens to be trying to punch you. Their attack gets sucked into the openness. Their punch is drawn into your center, the force gets focused on their elbow, which explodes (ooops) and they end up dropped into a ‘hole’ at your feet.

In both, when attacked, you open up completely, physically, emotionally, mentally, not what you usually think you should do in a martial arts but in my two practices (Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan), it is the safest place to be. Because the openness, as I felt from Sugano Sensei, brings you into nothing. You are lost in it. The part that looks difference between the two, in Tai Chi Chuan, you drop into a hole in the ground as we focus a lot on our root and in Aikido, you go flying forward into the emptiness opened in space as we glide across the mat.

In both, the technique works because you are open, you are vulnerable. Your idea, your state of relaxedness (relaxation would be a better word but I kinda like this one), your movement and, your balance are what are doing the technique, not focusing on where your foot needs to be. Your foot is connected to your center, it is exactly where it needs to be.

This, in class, usually brings up a lot of issues for people. Being open and vulnerable is scary. We are taught “fight or flight,’ not to relax. We live much of our lives hiding ourselves, hiding our feelings, hiding our thoughts, being closed. I practice Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan to be more open.

We have an illusion that we are in control. We maintain that by controlling our thoughts, our actions, and our feelings. This is tension: the idea that we can make everything do what we want. The reality is we will all die, the ultimate expression that we really are not in control of everything or anything. We just can pretend, but it is just that, pretending. Being defensive, being tense, are just ways to perpetuate the concept that we are really in control. To give that up and be vulnerable is the way to relax and relate to what we are experiencing at the moment. Once we are relaxed and no longer hiding within ourselves, then we can be with our uke. In that relationship, we now can experience the connection. We are two parts of the same, uke and me. What you do affects the relationship, it doesn’t control it. You can act with what is happening as opposed to through your illusion of what you believe is real.

The reality is, we are all dying to try this!

--Sensei Jay

“Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.”

– Martin Luther

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