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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang

July 25, 2023

What’s Happenin’

· No Tai Chi Chuan at 7:00 or Aikido Basics at 8:00 next Thursday August 3 due to USAF Summer Camp.

· Kid's TestsAugust 5, 11:30 am. Please fill out forms at the front desk if you wish your child to test.

· Javier and Annie will be alternate instructors for Sunday 2:30 pm class starting Aug 6. The class will still focus on Randori and JiyuWaza.

· Dean Slayter will be leading the Meditation group Sunday Aug 13, 9 am –10:00 am

· Lehrman Sensei is teaching a seminar in Portsmouth Aikido, Saturday, September 2, and Sunday September 3. See attached flyer.

· Teen Movie NightSaturday Sept 9 – 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Teens (ages 11-18) will have a chaperoned movie night sponsored by our Junior Deshi Program. Movie and details to be announced. The dojo will provide food and refreshments. All are welcome. Speak to Jeremy, Eva, or Natalie, if interested.

· Our good friend, Crystal Aldrich has opened a dojo – Aikido New London. She is hosting Jerry B. Zimmerman, Shihan, and Marie Shaffer for her grand opening seminar on October 14. Please help support her.

· ASNJ Fall SeminarPenny Bernath Sensei – Saturday October 28. Put this on your calendar.

· Veterans day – Saturday Nov 11th, 10:00am - The class will be taught by ASNJ Veterans.

· Kyu Tests – Nov 11 – 2:00 Wheel of Ukemi, 3:30 tests, potluck celebration to follow. (Yes, this is the same day as Veterans Day – Double party)

Yin and Yang – Part 1

I want to announce a new class. On Sundays at 2:30, Javier Burghi and Annie Small will alternate teaching the class starting Sunday, August 6. Please add this to your schedule. The class will have a focus on Randori and JiyaWaza. They will alternate weeks and work off each other’s strengths. I think this will be a very dynamic and exciting class. Come join them!

Looking Good

Check us out! We have a new coat…of Paint. (Talk about needing it, the dojo was last painted in the last century.) The dojo now has a brand-new color scheme thanks to our Decorating Committee (In reality, it was Frank, Annie, and my wife, but doesn’t calling it a Committee make it sound official?). They picked out a beautiful combination of dark blue and light gray. We all owe many thanks to Tom, George, and Ulysses, our painting crew. They spent countless hours bringing the dojo’s walls to back to life. We look renewed. Spiffy even.

I also want to thank Connie for the new couch cover. I am going to plan a couple of cleaning days and then we will install the new canvas on the mat. Come by and check it out. We are a very colorful group.

Looking Even Better

On June 10, we did an Aikido demo during the annual Feast of St Anthony at The Church of the Assumption of Roselle Park just across the street. I was both humbled and awed. More on that in a minute.

The demo started with Charlette (3 ½, our youngest member) showing off sumitose and ikyo ura followed by her big sister, Abby (7) who did half dozen techniques including boken disarming. Julian (11) who just took 5th kyu – he’s been practicing since he was 5 – did half a dozen of his favorite techniques. Then came Robert (10) a Morrow, with some cross hand techniques, followed by his older brother Patrick (12), another Morrow, (who was uke for many) threw his older sister across the mat. Then came Eva (14, Patrick’s older sister) with her uke, Jeremy (16 and Jillian’s older brother). They both did such a wide array of techniques (I cannot even recall most of them, I got lost after the 5th one). The two went on to boken and jo katas, awaza and then Aikido throws with the weapons. Annie Small, who is ageless (you like how I did that, left her age blank? I have learned something about woman after being married for 30 years.) enjoyed showing her own marital bliss by beating the snot out of her husband, Danny (literally, check the pics on FB, you can see some mucus flying!). I finished and threw Guzman (34) our newest instructor giving the audience a little of what a nearly 60-year-old Aikidoka can look like.

We carried the rolled-up mats (Thanks to Paul whose church donated them) apologizing to Guzman for a couple of throws being a little too hard. It was a demo but sometimes it is easy to get carried away.

The real stars were the kids. I was in awe of the breadth of knowledge of techniques, the power they can execute and the gracefulness of their Aikido. I would call something out, and they did not miss a beat and started throwing. The clarity of the movements and amazing extension for people with such short arms. I was humbled seeing how good they are at such a young age.

While heading back I saw a group of our ASNJ kids, their chests pumped out, all smiling and laughing, saying things like “Did you see the sankyo I did?” or “You did amazing on that break fall!” after strutting their stuff to a couple of hundred strangers. I could not have been prouder.

The dojo has never had a new student join from the demo at the Church, but I don’t care. The whole goal of this demo was not for me, nor for new students, but to give our kids a chance to be on stage for half an hour and feel joy and pride as the next generation of Aikidoka. Aikido is alive and well in our youth.

I must mention a few others who were there: Natalie, our newest Junior Deshi, was there donating time to the Church at the fair. After the demo she ran up to me in her “Staff” T-shirt and yelled “Sensei, please throw me for a break fall!” (Talk about a way to look cool among your friends!). David, another student, and his mom came by to watch. Henry helped as he limped around on his injured foot, Linda (known to us at ASNJ as 4th kyu), Mike (a student) and Aiki-mom Meghan (parents of Charlette and Abby), the Morrow clan were there supporting their three. I am sure a missed a few, please accept my apologies if I left you out and thank you to our entire ASNJ who love to gather and study this crazy stuff together, without whom we would not be a dojo. God bless you all.

Yin and Yang – Part 2

Mozart only wrote one opera in German, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). He thought the German language did not contain the correct words to express the ideas and emotions he needed so he stuck to French and Italian. We are an Aikido dojo with a Tai Chi Chuan class, but I have been studying both for an almost equal length of time, I am going to use mostly Tai Chi Chuan references (I try to focus on Aikido references for the most part) as the ‘language’ for this article. Most of these concepts, for me and from my conversations with Hal (I am giving him the opportunity to comment when editing), exist in both arts. The concept is Yin and Yang.

Some background, and I may have written about this before, (if you are a loyal reader and I am repeating, I apologize), but Yin and Yang are only the names of two of the major parts of this common symbol, the large black and white parts. The actual name of the symbol is Tai Chi, or ‘Grand Ultimate.’ Chuan, is short for Chuan Fa in Mandarin (the Cantonese would be kung fu which everyone knows and some of us associate with David Carradine), so Chuan just means martial arts. Tai Chi Chuan is the martial art based on the Yin/Yang principals. (The Tai Chi Chuan language usage starting to make sense? Keep reading.).

A concept that always hurts my brain with the Yin/Yang symbol is that it is in three dimensional, it is a sphere (Tough to visualize? No kidding. See the brain hurting part now?) I found this clip art on google. We draw it flat because that is how paper works, and it is easier. The sphere makes it more relatable to Aikido.

The two arts have a lot to do with the philosophy of Tai Chi or Yin/Yang. In Tai Chi Chuan, we shift from having our weight completely on one leg or the other. You are never static in 50/50 (horse stance) weight distribution. Many incorporate a horse stance in their Aikido, and I am in no way dissuading or disparaging that, but in my studies, we I try focus my techniques with being single weighted.

The Tai Chi Symbol is the principle of duality. For something to exist, its opposite needs to exist. You cannot have light without dark, good without bad, full without empty, love without hate, etc. It would be like trying to imagine a coin with only one side. You might think that you would win every toss, but you cannot flip it as it would not exist. We live in a three-dimensional world, not a one dimensional (as many might seem to each other). You need something to understand nothing.

Now that we explored duality and how opposites are needed for anything to exist, why do we care? My practice is rooted in the concept as a model for how I live. Think about that for a second: what I understand is what I experience. My practice is my life’s model. When I shift from one foot to the other, there is an experience of going from Yin to Yang and back. In Tai Chi Chuan, we stand with all our weight on one foot while being pushed. For some, not the ideal place to be, except as a practitioner. I mean all your weight, 100% of it, not 99%. It hurts. You quickly find out you need to work on your leg strength.

While doing this, I find most students focus on the heavy foot, the one with weight in it. It makes sense, the posture is called 100%, but what of the foot without weight in it? Why does mostly no one pay attention to that one? We are studying Yin and Yang. That is both, we need both to exist, why ignore the light foot? We don’t.

This empty foot is the foot with truly all potential. It can move, it can kick, it is light and open as the entire side of that body should be experienced as empty. While the foot with weight is rooted and grounded it holds up our structure allowing the light side to be, well, light. They both need to coexist to exist equally.

Let’s take a few moments to focus on the foot without weight. You know, the one that does not hurt. The classic half full or half empty glass becomes the full or empty glass. When looking at the one filled (Hopefully with beer or, as I write this, tea) we see what is. Most people are aware of the money they have in the bank (the heavy side hopefully) but few focus on the credit they have. Many know the balance on their mortgage but not the equity in a home (yes, I am in real estate).

When we focus on the empty foot, the one without weight on it, what we should experience is emptiness or nothingness. Not nothing as in ‘not having anything’ but emptiness as in ‘the opposite of everything.’ This is important both for the potential of what nothing can become as well as the importance of the nothingness just being that - nothing. It is important to experience the nothing. When you ask about someone’s day, they often relate what went wrong, forgetting the stuff that went right. When you ask how someone is, they often tell you the aches or the pains but not the parts that work perfectly. We often focus on the something, even what focusing on the nothing. The nothing that is truly nothing is very important to have a true sense of what something is.

In our practice, we need to focus on the empty leg as much as the one the full one, the perfect parts of your day and the noneventful parts as well. The positive as well as the negative. They both need to exist. You cannot have one without the other. They are Yin and Yang.

When you are doing Aikido and someone is holding on to only one wrist, the other arm is just as important in the throw. When you are standing on one leg in Tai Chi Chuan, the empty foot is just as important as the heavy one. Not only do both need to coexist, but they are the same thing. The two sides of a coin are parts of the same coin. The coin is what exists. Heads and tails are just names of the parts of that coin. Try not to flip out over the idea.

Yin and Yang – Part 3

This letter was done. Ready to go out but after Hal reviewed, we got into a discussion, as my letters often do with us. An idea arose. This is an oversimplification but for me a very powerful visualization.

In Aikido, you exist in the center of a large three-dimensional Yin/Yang sphere. And through your focus and idea, the sphere rotates around you and uke get lost in that sphere. The size of the sphere is dynamitic, dependent on the technique, but it surrounds you.

In Tai Chi Chuan, the Yin/Yang sphere is tiny with in your center, your Hara. The sphere when inside you, is where, when uke attacks, gets drawn into that rotating sphere inside of you. Same sphere, different diameter, different size. Same idea.

What this article has inspired for me, is to have the sphere co-exist as both. I can do the small and I can do the large, my life’s practice has to be able to do both Tai Chi Chuan and Aikido with both manifestations of ki at the same time. I think this model is helpful.

--Jay Tall

Sensei, Aikido Schools of NJ

" The absolute universe is one. Then two opposing forces appeared, and the relative world was born. In the orient this dualism is called 'yin' and 'yang', in the west, 'plus' and 'minus'.

-- Koichi Tohei, 10th Dan

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