Aikido, Florida & Winter Camp…3 words I love!
Jonathan Weiner, Dojo Cho at Aikido of Charlotte chats with Co-Chief Instructor of Florida Aikikai, Penny Bernath.
Jonathan: This is exciting because I get to chat with a good friend of 20 years now in the Aikido world. Sensei Penny Bernath, who’s a 6th Dan, Shihan for those of you that have been living under a rock, and don’t know who she is. I always find this funny, when I have to introduce somebody like this, cause there are people that we know that know you, they know me for like 20 years, you’re going on 50 years in Aikido and but, again, it’s big world and there’s like a lot of Aikido people around the world so I do want people to know who you are and yeah… thanks for blocking a few minutes to chat with me today.
Penny: I always like to talk to you, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Yes, so, I wanna go back for a second. Until we get to the current situation that we’re all dealing with, because, and I wanna ask you this question; and we’ve done this kind of interviews before, remember when we’re down at winter camp that we had the tactical committee, Shihan interviews, that was so much fun that project to work with you on that. But, I wanna go back because, to me… you know because we can’t train right now, psychically on the mat together, there’s things we can do and we’ll talk about that but… the relationships and the fun between the classes and between the seminars, certain seminars that you remember; so when I think of you, and your husband, I just immediately think of my first time going to winter camp in 2000, so 20 years ago. And, I remember where it was, I remember Yamada Sensei sitting at the table outside. And the sun was shining, and that’s where I think of you first, is winter camps, so… what do you think? Are we gonna have a winter camp this year?
Penny: That’s a million-dollar question along with everything else. We really wanna have a winter camp, it’s actually our 40th anniversary of Winter Camp, so…
Penny: It’s a big step and… you have to kind go with the flow there are so many variables, I don’t know what the hotel is doing.
Penny: Sure. I don’t know how I will be, you know. Look we said that, but it would be wonderful to have everyone there and to hold each other again. To each other again, it would be a nice coming back. So let’s keep our fingers crossed. If it’s not this year next year. I don’t think this is going to last forever.
Jonathan: Right. Yeah, I agree, I those are great points too. So like, we just sit on winter camp for a second and you said 40 coming up on that’s a lot of winter camps. So, in general, right, just there’s consistency in all of them and there’s certain special ones like when we did you might sense he’s 50th.
Penny: You’re the best. You are the best.
Penny: That was awesome.
Jonathan: Thank you.
Jonathan: Oh my pleasure, Jaime Kahn, and I still talk about that like the most fun seminars and getting people on camera to just share little memories of Yamada Sensei and he did an awesome job in just managing that whole thing was a big project, but in general winter camp. What’s your favorite part, just in general of winter camp? One thing.
Penny: Seeing everyone, having the opportunity to be in a position where, like the greeter and can give everyone hugs and warmth and feel it right back and now that it’s a place where people grow and it’s a place where community, and the community grows and people. There’s plenty of people there, so there’s a lot of old friends meeting each other and a lot of new friends being made. So just being able to be part of that kind of community building worldwide community building and USA community building is really. I’ve always felt very lucky to be in that position.
Jonathan: Yeah, it’s. I tell our students this too because one, like we could we bring anywhere from three to, one year we had 15 people come from our dojo.
Jonathan: We rented like this massive like tour bus almost and drove down and it was a long drive but it was so much fun everybody had a blast. , For me like the comments that I get, what you just said is like right on the money, but I get to see friends I don’t see a lot and train with certain people that I want to train with, don’t get to train with regularly so all that’s awesome. It’s, it’s on the beach, the hotels pretty cool. You know, we kind of take over we own it right, it’s like.
Jonathan: We take over the hotel and. And then I have to mention this is a soft plug to the Greek isles is like one of the top.
Penny: I love isles.
Jonathan: Oh, I love that place such good food, such a good good time. So we always go we go with Demko Sensei at least one night, and our dojo so it’s an awesome, awesome time. So yeah, do you want to like, share any, any just some highlights of certain ones like I mentioned, the 50th. Right.
Penny: Yeah, that was awesome.
Jonathan: Yeah. So what was your favorite part of that, because that was a big deal.
Penny: I think, you know, it was very stressful because Sensei had just come off of an operation on his lung and we weren’t sure, even if he was going to be able to come. But he came and just it was so nice to honor him in a way that I know that no one else can honor him to give him an Oscar because he is a movie star in his own right and he does deserve an Oscar from us and he’s always out there, he’s always performing. He’s always thinking about his audience, trying to make us, you know, to teach us something that we’re going to take home with us to teach others, and it’s just really exciting too, to give him that and then to sit down and talk to him even though I got tongue-tied, and that he means everything to me and he introduced me to Peter. My family’s from him, our whole life revolves around Aikido, you know, a lot of that is from his influence.
Jonathan: Yeah, it was nice to get Madison on camera too.
Penny: I know.
Jonathan: To a few words and hope she’s doing well, I see her on Facebook in the family and all that. That’s awesome.
Penny: Yeah, I miss guys.
Jonathan: You guys are like the Kennedy’s for Aikido down there. You’re like the Aikido family. Um, that’s really cool yeah I remember just a lot of the logistics was setting up and this creating the set and the backdrop, the red carpet, doing the interviews, and Jaime’s firing pictures off and guys are.
Penny: He’s great.
Jonathan: My Aikido guys became production assistants. They learned how to make things work on the other side of the other hats that I wear. But yeah, it was a blast I’ll never forget that. And I still have the mic flag and I should have had it on this mic like when I started doing this. I have to find it again for you, take a picture.
Penny: Yeah. It was really fun.
Jonathan: So, um, you know as far as your dojo goes, because I think a lot of people are struggling to figure it out. You know, they’re either late to the game, and this is interesting too because we were talking about this before we came on is that your, you know my professional background is, is corporate b2b commercial video production and your background is production on the education side of things virtual. So like, if there’s an expert on where they should be listening to you about how to make virtual work. So without making this too, you know, detailed for people that maybe are a little bit timid or shy. What’s like what should dojo cho’s and schools school honors be thinking about from a virtual standpoint right now just to make things keep moving?
Penny: I’m the education director at South Florida PBS. So I do a lot of things with education and actually 10 years ago I came up with a concept of doing virtual field trips for the classroom because many classrooms can’t go on vacation. I mean gone field trip. So we can just take them there. And then they’re made and then I give activities to go along with a field trip. So, you know, using that as you and I try to do some 360 we do 362. On this field trip so here’s what just always be sitting down, but they can pick up the phone and look around and try and find things. I really love the 360 formats. Today, I mean I think there’s when it’s opened the door. Or you know you can look at things in two ways. Or one way. I’m completely crushed because I miss Aikido as it was. And um, so enjoy dwelling people around, that is more empowering and more fun and just the activity is human contact is great. But now you know at different lights gonna shine on it. Now we have people like you and Reuven and Yesid in Mexico, you see lots of different things starting to pop up. And it’s in its infancy and he does now back to the beginning. And I think it will change. I think eventually we’ll get back on the mat, but I think this little hit that maybe will enrich it. Maybe we’ll find new ways there’s always people that watch videos and try to learn from them even before I watch videos of different masters and want to see what’s going on. See if I can catch that magic moment. Or, you know, find a secret that I didn’t see before. So I think this is going to open up. It’s definitely going to take Aikido down to, to basics. You know, we’re going to have to start from the beginning and build our own bodies make our own bodies, strong. And then from there when we meet each other again. If people have either taken a rest. Or strengthen their bodies. It’s going to be different than I think. It gives more people a light, so they can shine their light, you know, and I think there’s room for everyone to shine their light.
Jonathan: Yeah, you brought up a good point too, about rebuilding your, your body, and I was talking to Reuven about this. He put up a post today that was pretty riven. it’s pretty direct and very smart I mean, very smart guy and I think one of the reasons he and I got along so well in the beginning is, we both take fitness pretty seriously and we both really enjoy Aikido right so it was like a no brainer. But what I find when I’m struggling with our dojo. And I’m curious, in years and years being a much larger dojo is that you know, I think people at home are, They’re doing some breathing. They’re doing some katas. They’re doing some, you know, basic good ukemi stretches but to me, you know, the longer this goes on that we’re off the mat when you come back on the mat. You know no stamina no conditioning, no core, no strength. Taking away your first fall at any level is going to feel like the very first time you did it and what I’m struggling with is trying to not motivate some people because some people get this concept, a lot don’t is because there’s no, a lot of people don’t have a mat. Right, so again we got to be careful and safe and how we do stuff at home on the carpet. Or on the hardboard. Just basic, you know, thousand-year-old calisthenics, like, you know, push-ups, jumping jacks, squats things that get your heart rate going. And then build your core because I think if more people think like that, even two-three times a week, the transition when we come back, will be a lot easier, and it’ll be, it’ll make you want to come back and you know the longer you go without exercising, the harder is to get back into it so I’m curious. Are you seeing any of that in, in your own dojo? Or is it everybody just exercising pretty, pretty consistently.
Penny: I’m not sure we had two zoom meetings a week and then Peter puts out videos. It goes through our email and mostly there are solo workouts, and then he does a thing that I really like, which is “guess the technique” and he does both the nage and the uke.
Jonathan: And well that’s cool.
Penny: Yeah, it’s really fun, and he does it really well. I like to share with everyone, we’re talking about,
Jonathan: I like that. Like, I might borrow that idea
Penny: Sure. That it’s fun. And then if he makes a mistake, it’s like, can you find the mistake that he made, you know. So it’s just keeping people aware that but as everyone who’s ever done Aikido. There’s nothing like being on the mat going flat. There is nothing like it, you can be lifting weights and doing all kinds of things but the energy that comes out of that. And like you said the first time you take that first drill after you’ve been off for a few months. It’s gonna be hard for all of us, it’s gonna be new learning. And, I mean, and in one sense we get to take a breath. All the injuries that we’ve had from my Aikido are having a moment to clean up and then we’ll just get out there and go on the zoom meetings we have, we’re not it’s just social is community building.
Jonathan: – Yeah.
Penny: And, and that’s good and people come and go, it’s not everybody on there. Alan’s done, especially when for the kids, so that she has a chance to talk to them. She gives them some activities may be some origami, she reads them books. Again, just trying to do community building and create the forefront. But, um, I know when we get on the mat again. It’s gonna be different but I think everybody will appreciate it more again, and that it will be renewed.
Jonathan: – Yeah, definitely. And I’d like that you guys are getting together socially we’re, we’re doing that weekly as well. One of our senior students hosts like a little IKEA zoom lunch, and anywhere from five to 10 people get on they just talk.
Jonathan: And just have lunch at their desk. But yeah, I’m like groove it, I’m trying to put out stuff that people can do that’s practical, right.
Jonathan: You don’t have to be a bodybuilder but you have to move your body right.
Penny: So I watch you do jumping jacks, in my head I’m doing it with you.
Jonathan: Yeah, it’s like it’s you know it’s funny is because people know like, you know, especially, you know, my sort of health story and journey because you remember me when I was a big boy, and people like oh, you must love going to the gym, this is when the gym is open I’m like no, I don’t love to go to the gym. I go to the gym, so I can do Aikido better.
Jonathan: You know, I love Aikido, that’s if I could do my Aikido and look and feel the way I get from the gym with Aikido. I would just do Aikido but unfortunately, my genetics don’t allow that. So yeah.
Penny: I think Aikido means you need to do strengthening things, to keep your body ready for Aikido.
Penny: I believe, some extra exercises to keep myself strong center.
Jonathan: Yeah, I know that because I took your class last year. And I don’t know if you remember that particular class but at one point I was like, why am I the only one running up here to be uke? And I was like I had, I was that was a workout just being uke or one of four ukes for your class that was like the hardest work hardest workout.
Penny: Yeah, I try.
Jonathan: It was fun. It’s always fun. I always love taking your classes it’s there. I never walk away and not smile and go. That was amazing. I just had so much fun.
Jonathan: So, well listen to.
Penny: I had so much fun too.
Jonathan: Yeah. Do you have any other thoughts you want to share with anybody that’s on your mind regarding Aikido and maybe this situation? Any advice, any tips?
Penny: I have been thinking about it a lot, you know, especially since I knew I was going to be talking to you and it’s a broader audience besides just my dojo. Yeah, and I think we just have to be happy for our past experiences and keep those in mind and look at this as an opportunity to regroup and try new things and I think a lot of new things are going to come out of it, other relationships and I think we’re going to like each other that much more when we actually get a chance to be together. I have someone who wants to say hello to you.
Jonathan: Oh, you have a guest.
Penny: Yeah, I have a guest who’s been watching me.
Jonathan: Awesome. Hey
Jonathan: Hey, buddy?
Jonathan: How’re you doing? Yeah, I like the beard. Oh, is that like the new trend? I saw a blue had one, and then guys starting a new trend? I can’t compete I get this I’ve been trying to grow this for two months nothing’s happened.
Peter: I’m terrible at beards. I kind of had this old Bochy kind of thing. But I think it’s like you know when there are hurricanes. So, every time there’s a hurricane, I’ll grow a beard. Or something like that you just don’t have to shave I don’t have to see people that are wonderful.
Jonathan: I love it. It’s awesome.
Peter: I’m doing it, but I really want to just end up with a mustache that’s what I want.
Jonathan:: I like it.
Peter: Or just like that.
Peter: So we’ll see.
Penny: No mustaches.
Jonathan: Yeah you know the boss has to prove that.
Jonathan: Good stuff. Well, it’s good to see you. Thanks for jumping up. While I got you on here, do you want to share anything with the Aikido community?
Peter: Oh, geez. Yeah, I’d like to share everything with the community but I can’t. Right. Ah. Um, no, I was listening to all the things that you guys were saying, and I just listening to Penny’s interview you know. Just to go back for a second. It’s like she is interesting because 10 years ago, she was talking about using. You know.
Penny: Technology and I appreciate that so much so that you and I could do epic things.
Penny: With and, you know, I got a lot of pushback from that and, but I thought that it is, it is part of being able to share all the things that we have. And you and I have done some great things and when I can. And hopefully will continue to do that.
Peter: She also got a lot of push back her education, you know, in the educational world. When she was trying to promote this type of learning. And now it’s like what everybody’s doing and she’s this expert, you know.
Penny: All of a sudden.
Peter: From an outcast to an expert. And, you know I’m watching with the things that you guys are all doing out there, you know, and I think it’s really cool and it’s sharing a lot of things, and. I don’t know, I’m just pondering my way along here.
Penny: We’ve had about practicing together but I don’t think so. It works best if I’ve grown him not so much for you.
Peter: The reason that I think both Nagi and UK myself refuses to do the uke.
Jonathan: I think it’s awesome what you guys are doing and yeah I appreciate those words, very much from both you guys and like you know. Like you guys probably when you started your Aikido career, trying to figure it out right now to get the word out how to build a dojo and that’s sort of what some of us are doing from this virtual space. I got to be honest with you and the first time I did my first virtual class. I mean I felt like I was in an empty church talking to myself like no engagement, interaction. I did a Facebook Live so that made it even harder because they turn that feature off where people could engage you back. And it was, it was challenging. It was really weird and surreal. And now we use zoom like we’re doing now so at least I can see people we can break it up a little bit. I can stop and look at people individually. It feels a little bit more like a class but it’s nothing like going to winter camp with you guys and having fun and training, and the beach. And I’ll let me hit some highlights the classes, the tech community, the dawn testing, the food, the camaraderie the laughter the hugs. What else?
Jonathan: That’s it.
Penny:: The friendship.
Jonathan: Yeah, so we’ll, I will definitely see you guys there. Whenever the next one is for sure.
Penny: We know that yeah.
Penny: Bring your cameras we’ll talk.