Dojo news March 19, 2020

I hope everyone is keeping well during this enforced shutdown. Yumi and I are fine as far as we know – you can be infected with COVID-19 without symptoms.

That’s why all classes have been canceled until at least April 5. People can feel perfectly healthy and still be passing the virus on to others. I don’t want the dojo to be the cause of serious illness for an elderly or unhealthy family member, or anyone else for that matter. And in the interests of the community, we fully support the suggestion to “flatten the curve” through social isolation.

It is a very strange time. People are avoiding each other on the sidewalks and public activity has almost ground to a halt. Many of us are spending most of our time at home, now. One thing that made it more concrete for me was watching the Sumo championships in Japan on TV, with no spectators in attendance. That was kind of surreal – the screaming audience is always a big part of the show.

It is at a time like this that we need Aikido practice, as part of the normal, weekly routine that helps us keep fit and deal with stress. Unfortunately, at least for a few weeks, you are going to have to do that practice at home.

Don’t forget to stretch, if nothing else – do the regular warm-up for 10 or 15 minutes once a day, so you don’t start to lose flexibility. The weather is getting nicer, so going for long walks or a run is a good option.

Tai sabaki is also very useful practice. Do “soto tenkan” 20 or 30 times from proper hanmi — tenkan, 180 deg. hip twist, repeat… focusing on correct posture, balance and breathing. Doing them without that kind of awareness is a waste of time… doing 20 good ones is better than doing 1,000 careless ones.

Meditation and breathing are also very useful practices. If you aren’t already familiar with a meditation system, meditate on technique. Try to quiet your mind and then vividly visualize yourself performing a technique repeatedly. This will have a good effect on the relevant neural pathways as well as highlight for you any gaps in your understanding of technique. We can clean those up later.

I highly recommend weapons practice as something you can practice alone. Most of you know the basic jo and bokken suburi by now and some know the jo kata. If you don’t and need advice, get in touch with me and I will help. Again, doing them with awareness and commitment a few times is better than just waving the wood around a hundred times.

If your jo or bokken are in the dojo and you need them to practice, let’s get together. I will be in the dojo this Saturday, March 21, from 1:00 to 2:00 PM, so you can pick up your weapons or any other property you have there if you wish.

This kind of hiatus can also be an opportunity to do some Aikido reading. Saturday would be a good time to borrow a book or two from the dojo library.

Since we are not regularly there, we need to check in on the dojo from time to time. I don’t mind doing it myself occasionally, but I know that most of you key-holders live much closer than I do.

All that would be involved is collecting the mail (let me know if there is any), checking that all the doors are locked, all the heat and fans are off and that there is nothing unusual going on (e.g. flooding or signs of break-in).

While the Judo club has ceased operations, an agent has been showing the space to prospective tenants. Last time, he left the ceiling fans running.

If you would be able to check the dojo out for ten minutes at some time in the next couple of weeks, please let me know when you might be able to do that.

As you know, this is happening against the backdrop of our move at the end of May. I will keep you up to date with the progress on that front. In a way, it’s a good thing that our lease ended when it did… If we had gotten stuck with super-high rent at a time when no students would be joining, it would have been a very dangerous situation.

We will be back in operation as soon as we can. Officially, we are closed until April 5. I will advise you closer to that time on where things stand.

Also, I want to keep in touch. If you have any questions or concerns at all or just feel like communicating, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by email or call 416.465-2823. If you are having problems and there is some way I can help, just let me know.

We can get through this together.

Hope to see a few of you on Saturday (at an appropriate distance, of course!)