Sprint to the Finish

This is a rapidly changing topic.  The information presented here represents the best information available at the time of writing.  The views expressed herein are my own.  I am not representing Vanderbilt University Medical Center in this forum.  Finally, this article is not meant to provide healthcare advice.  If you have any questions pertaining to your own health, including concerns about whether you are infected with COVID-19 or should receive vaccination, please consult your healthcare provider.

In the war against COVID-19, we are in a race between vaccination and the more transmissible and, in some cases more deadly, SARS-CoV-2 virus variants.  Europe is seeing a third wave of COVID-19 infection and death.  In the past, an increase in cases in Europe has preceded an increase in cases in the US by about one month.  We are seeing some hot spots in the US, particularly in Michigan and New Jersey.  In the Nashville, TN area, where I live, the transmission rate is 1.06, meaning that each person with the virus is transmitting it to more than one person.

In the US, we are now seeing about 55,000 newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 per day.  The 7-day moving average number of cases is down 77.2% compared to the peak on January 11, 2021.  However, over the past 7 days, the number of infections has increased by 6.7%.  We are still seeing about 1000 deaths per day from COVID-19, a continuing national tragedy.   

However, there is good news.  Mortality from COVID-19 among those 65 years of age and older, the population with the highest proportion of vaccinated individuals, has decreased from 16 per 100,000 in January to 1 per 100,000, confirming the effectiveness of the vaccines.  Currently, about 14% of the US population is vaccinated.  Approximately 2.5 million people are being vaccinated in the US every day.  

As a healthcare worker, I was among the first to get the vaccine.  I well recall the euphoria that my colleagues and I had, despite some more than mild flu-like symptoms following my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.  It was all well worth it to see this virus defeated.  We looked forward to declining hospitalization and death rates and a relief from the pressure on an overburdened healthcare system.    

Many of my fellow Aikidoka are vaccinated.  Like you, I want to go back to my normal life NOW.  I want to get back on the mat, at least with my vaccinated friends.  But the virus is sort of like that poor little fellow in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it’s not dead yet.  If you have been vaccinated, you are among the fortunate few.  Most Americans don’t qualify for vaccination, although that issue should be resolved over the coming weeks.  Even among those who currently qualify, many do not have access to vaccination and others do not want it.  For example, in some of the more conservative counties in Idaho, the vaccination rate among seniors is less than 40%.

Ok, so why should I care?  If I am vaccinated, then I should be able to do what I want without a mask with other vaccinated people, right?  The problem is that we still don’t know if vaccination fully prevents mild illness or asymptomatic carriage of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  If you are vaccinated, you may not get severely ill or die, but you might transmit the virus to someone else.  Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends that individuals who are fully vaccinated, that is people who are two weeks or more from the completion of their vaccination series, may “visit (emphasis mine) with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.”  Because the risk of transmission is higher in certain settings, the CDC continues to recommend that during public social activities, specifically including going to the gym (even less contact than Aikido), fully vaccinated individuals should continue to follow all the usual guidelines, including wearing a mask, maintaining at least 6 feet of distance, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, and frequent handwashing.  In thinking about re-opening your own dojo, you should, of course, also follow any applicable state and local guidelines.

On a personal note, the way I have thought about my behavior in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic has been less about my personal freedoms and more about how I perceive my responsibility to society.  If there is a significant possibility that I could unwittingly transmit COVID-19 to someone else, who could transmit it to someone else, who might get seriously ill or die, then I don’t want to take that chance.  Vaccine availability will roll out to everyone over the next couple of months.  In my opinion, once everyone who wants to be vaccinated is vaccinated, my moral obligation is fulfilled, and I will joyously meet you back on the mat. 

In the words of O’Sensei, “Be grateful even for hardship, setbacks, and bad people.  Dealing with such obstacles is an essential part of training in the Art of Peace.”

May you be safe and well,



CDC website (www.cdc.gov), accessed March 28, 2021

Nathaniel Lash, Opinion: Will we struggle to reach herd immunity?  The New York Times, March 26, 2021 (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/03/26/opinion/vaccine-hesitancy-deserts-oases.html).

Rochelle Walensky, MD, CDC Director, Today Show, March 25, 2021

Aikido and Flexibility

What is the importance of flexibility in Aikido? Certainly, flexibility helps to prevent injury. For example, most Aikido warm-ups include exercises to promote wrist flexibility to decrease the risk of injury when receiving techniques such as kotegaeshi.

More importantly, flexibility is crucial to good ukemi. Only by being physically flexible can we smoothly respond to nage’s movements. This enhances uke’s ability to protect themself. Further, if we are able to relax and follow nage, then we can more accurately feel the technique, and our own nage waza will improve.

These concepts apply in our daily lives, as well. By being mentally flexible we can better adapt to the vicissitudes of life. An open-mind is better able to learn new things. So, in Aikido and in life, flexibility can both protect us from harm and help us to learn and grow. I encourage you to cultivate both physical and mental flexibility on and off of the mat.


Why study Aikido?

Aikido training is a great form of exercise – you can burn calories, build muscles, and increase strength. But it is also a practice that allows you to build that muscle between your ears, helping to develop your mental and emotional strength, as well. So, whether you are looking for a challenging workout or an improved sense of well-being, Aikido may be for you.

John Messores Sensei on the Message of Saotome Sensei and O’Sensei

Many thanks to John Messores Sensei, 7th Dan, for taking the time to reflect on his life in Aikido during an interview with Mark Miller for the ASU Newsletter on 12/24/2020. I really appreciated learning more about Messores Sensei’s life in the art and his reflections on the future of Aikido. I wanted to share some of Messores Sensei’s insights regarding the fundamental message of Aikido:

“And to a large extent, that is a large part of Saotome Sensei’s and O’Sensei’s message. They were not just saying, ‘Become a really big tough-guy.’ They were saying, ‘Learn to interact with people.’ And that can mean to interact with your family, your neighbors, your community, your nation, the world as a whole. I mean, this is all part of the grander Aikido message. It’s not just about creating a lone tough-guy hero. It’s about somebody who can work and build with the rest of your community.”

To listen to the entire interview: https://youtu.be/3DuC0bedctk


Community Service – Planting a Tree

The Nashville Tree Conversation Corps is sponsoring tree planting in East Nashville today along the Shelby Avenue corridor. Nashville Aikikai is committed to serving our community and participated today. Planting trees is one of the most effective ways to combat and even reverse global warming. Trees extract carbon dioxide out of the air and store it in the tree and the soil, releasing life-giving oxygen into the air.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Mahatma ghandi

A time for healing

As soon as you concern yourself with the “good” and “bad” of your fellows, you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter. Testing, competing with, and criticizing others weakens and defeats you”

The skill of a great martial artist lies as much in having no openings for others to attack as in having fighting skills.


Opportunity to Support Our East Nashville Community

The Nashville Tree Conservation Corps is hosting a winter tree planting on Shelby Avenue this Saturday, January 23, 2021. What are some of the benefits of urban trees? According the the South Carolina Forestry Commission, urban trees:

  • Add beauty and improve personal health
  • Reduce air pollution
  • Conserve water and reduce soil erosion
  • Save energy
  • Modify local climate
  • Increase economic stability
  • Reduce noise pollution
  • Create wildlife and plant diversity
  • Increase property values

For more information regarding the benefits of urban trees, see https://www.state.sc.us/forest/urbben.htm

For more information regarding the Nashville Tree Conversation Corps, see https://www.nashvilletreeconservationcorps.org/

You can sign up to help at https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0d4cadad2ba1fdc16-shelby1

Thanks to Mark for making us aware of this great opportunity.