Halloween, Urban Nutcracker Style

by Deborah Frieze November 1, 2014


It wasn’t just any old Halloween party at the Old Oak Dojo. We did it up Urban Nutcracker-style by partnering with the Tony Williams Dance Center. The children’s cast of the holiday show showed up in full Halloween regalia, entertaining the rest of us with song, dance and games. Their performances were rivaled only by the smooth vibe of the Doo-Wop Singers.

I think we’ve started an annual tradition.

Kids of Chestnut Place

by Deborah Frieze August 10, 2014

village day

I used to spend a lot of time in Zimbabwe, where I hung out at a place called Kufunda Village. One of the things I loved most about my time there was watching kids of all ages roam around in big packs. They spent the whole day together, inventing one game after another, amusing themselves while their parents worked, cooked and cleaned up. Sometimes an adult had to step in, but it didn’t matter whose parent it was. No one was sitting at home stuck to the screen or pouting in the yard because they weren’t.

For a moment yesterday, the Old Oak Dojo turned into that scene. We had about 15 kids here, and after the first hour or so of wondering what they’d do without access to computers, ipads or smartphones, they eventually began to play, swinging on the climbing rope, draping themselves over the scaffolding, stomping on rockets and making mounds of mud and dirt.

Cleaning up after them was worth every minute.


Practicing Parkour

by Deborah Frieze April 14, 2014


The Old Oak Dojo has attained a new level of coolness. Remember that scene in Casino Royale where Daniel Craig chases some dude who launches himself off rooftops and bounces from wall to wall? The guy he’s chasing is one of the early developers of parkour, the art of moving smoothly through any environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing. The Old Oak Dojo is partnering with Parkour Generations to launch a series of  classes where students train to develop strength, speed, endurance, precision, spatial awareness, dynamism, and creativity.

We’ve built scaffolding in our backyard to support skills training. Add that to the slackline and climbing rope, and we’ve got a real playground!

Playing with Weightlifters

by Deborah Frieze February 26, 2014

InnerCity Weightlifting visit

Yesterday, the crew from InnerCity Weightlifting stopped by the Old Oak Dojo for 90 minutes of messing around. We practiced push-up handstands, stumbled across the slackline, knocked each other over playing push-hands and competed to see who could freehand all the way up (and down) the climbing rope without getting rope burn. It was the first of what we hope will become many visits with these strong and engaging young men.

InnerCity Weightlifting is a non-profit organization whose mission is to reduce violence and promote professional, personal and academic achievement among urban youth. They work with young people at the highest risk for violence in order to reduce youth violence by getting students off the streets and into the gym, where they are empowered with the confidence and positive support needed to say no to violence and yes to opportunity. Watch video on ESPN.

The Healing Properties of Chopping Wood

by Deborah Frieze December 6, 2013

chopping wood

It was your average early winter day in New England. Seven bearded scruffy men appeared yesterday at the Old Oak Dojo for Aaron’s Morning Practice, and they lingered afterward just long enough to be pulled into service. Two hours later, our wood had been chopped, our late fall crop of kale had been eaten, and seven pairs of hands were seen rubbing aching shoulders after swinging on the climbing rope and falling off the slackline.

If you ever start to feel the winter blues, please stop by — nothing is more restorative than physical play, a little laughter and a stellar cup of hot chocolate.

Reclaiming Myself in Community

by Deborah Frieze September 15, 2013

Early in August, Deborah Frieze and I gathered together with 20 of our friends for an experiment. We called it “Village Week,” and our idea was to bring together folks whom we dearly loved for a week of play, learning, good conversation and rest.

Tuesday-and-childBecause Village Week was born from a simple desire to be together and see what would happen, we didn’t devise a “learning agenda” or plan specific outcomes for the week. Instead, we put a lot of thought into who we wanted to join us and invited them to bring their partners and families to be part of our experiment. Read More »