The Bully

The Bully

Dear Boys,

Ian didn’t have a good Secondary One, the transition was rough as the primary school years were kind of rough. and you wanted to put all that behinds and start afresh, eager for a clean slate. a bit too eager I’d say.

As your parents we remembered your Sec One form teacher telling us on your first Parent Teacher Meeting (PTM) that you are great, assimilating well into secondary school life, but a bit too fast to raise your hands, and perhaps working a bit too hard to try and fit in and get accepted.

Poor judge of character

In the early months of your Sec 1, you were grouped into a team to do some work, and you told us about these few boys whom we singled out a particular individual- let’s call him Johnny. I told you to be wary of Johnny as he don’t look like someone I’d consider decent, based on your account of him and his behavior.

You decided to go ahead with his group and true to our opinions, you didn’t have a good time.

Bad to Worse

It turns out this Johnny was of all sorts of wayward character, making things difficult in class, and turns out to be the kind of delinquent we warned our kids to not become and warn our kids of. Unfortunately, he decided to pick on you, since you’ve sort of worked with him earlier in a project, and looked like you can be pushed around for being amiable and nice.

Over the school term, we keep hearing you coming home to tell us about the things Johnny did in class, and things got so bad he was caned in class. That was his problem but he also decided to embarrass you by ‘pants-ing*’ and gets physical through rough play.

No use going to the teachers

We mentioned this to the school but it was no helpful, despite of the school telling him not to come near you, he still continues to harassed you. It looks like there was little that could be done to deal with him.

One evening while you were talking about him, again. and we got quite agitated because Johnny is really getting on my nerve, and yet I cannot do anything about him. In exasperation, I asked:” Why is he still messing with you!?” Something like that.

You finally blurted out, with tears in your eyes “Because I’m scared of him!”

The Truth is Out

That revelation puts things in perspective. Now we know we need you to deal with your fear, otherwise you will never overcome this bad experience and it will haunt you for a long time to come.

We also knew that the establishments will not be able to help you anymore, so we need to take matters into our own hands.

Last Straw

Towards the end of Term 4, you came back and told us that Johnny started another antics of trying to hug you from behind, and tried to be ‘friendly’ in this way towards you. We knew you didn’t like it and he is not at all that friendly, so he’s just being him.

I told you this- take the fight to him.

You have my full blessings to beat the living daylights out of him, and apply necessary violence to send the message, not to trifle with you anymore. Our rules of engagements is simple: ‘Don’t start a fight, and if you found yourself in one, you need to end it with you standing.’

So I give you my blessings, Take Him Out. I would expect a call from your principal informing your parents that you are involved in a gnarly fight and I have to go to the school to sort this out.

The End

So the next day I came home and asked you about it, you nonchalantly told us that you knocked him out.

We were like “YOU WHAT!?”

You proceeded to tell us that Johnny was up to his usual nonsense and tried to hug you again, from the front this time, you saw that coming and pushed him away once, and warned him not to do it.

Johnny ignored you (no surprise there) and came at you again. You did the same thing pushed him away and then swung your small bag, with a half filled water bottle in it at him. It caught him at the side of his head and he went down, lights out.

He wasn’t out for long and got to his feet groggily. It happened so quickly no one has got a chance to even register what happened. According to you, some other naughty kids saw you did that as well, but no one said a thing.

Training paid off

While your dad is an Aikidoka by training, I’ve never taught you boys anything martial arts, instead I teach ‘dirty fighting’ getting you boys to punch, kick and deal with a larger opponent, getting pinned to the ground and fighting your way out and up. Fighting is very physical and overwhelming and I’ve always prepare you both to fight someone larger faster and better than you. The only way to prevail in such a situation is to throw the rule book out, and fight like hell.

Of course part of these trainings is about timing and distancing, which paid off when Ian took out Johnny. While I never wanted any of you boys to get into a fight, I’m glad you could get out of one, quickly and expeditiously without being hurt.

Smooth sailing

After that event, Johnny learned to stay away from you, thankfully that was the only year you were in the same class with him and it did helped to minimize interactions. I think the other confidence builder is that you know you can stand up for yourself, and people has seen you done that, and the rest of your secondary school says, no one decided to pick on you anymore.

That fight, thankfully didn’t change you for worse, you’re still that good natured, often goofy, aloof boy, but I think word would have spread that you can do what is needed to protect yourself.

*Pants-ing is a trend back then where kids tries to pull down each other’s pants in a bid to embarrass them

Do not get into fights

Do not get into fights

Dear Boys,

While this might sound like a no-brainer, sometimes emotions can get better of us, and we get triggered by overwhelming external circumstances to act in a hurtful and violent manner.

Just recently, there are 2 case of such altercations. one of them involved a 36 year old Stanchart staff called Chua who hit a 74 year old smoker, Ng, who wasn’t happy that he was filmed smoking at places he shouldn’t be smoking. The older man kind of attacked Chua, who charged at the guy, knocking him to the floor. Ng sustained head injuries and died later in hospital. Chua received a jail sentence of 4 years for voluntarily causing hurt which causes grievous hurt. The other case looks similar, a 53 year old man, drunk, punched a 66 year old guy, who died when his head hit the ground.

There is no winner in violence

We lived in a generally civil society surrounded by laws and rules of all sorts. sometimes it may look as if the people are breaking the law, and we would like to take some self-righteous actions, and be civic minded. Chua, in the earlier case, took pictures of Ng, who was smoking at non-designated area. One man ended up dead and another one jail. Is it worth it for a moment of being indignant of being right?

That doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to blatant flouting of the law, or right the wrong when we can. It is really a judgement call. Use all your sense and don’t get blinded by wanting to do the right thing, and end up doing the wrong one. When you need to resort to violence to uphold the law, or stop crime, then we might have crossed the line and we become the lawbreakers instead.

Civil society

To be honest, I need to keep myself in check as well, since I can be passive aggressive and vocal in telling people off, but as I age, I took a more mature perspective. Recently I started to quietly count the number of infractions I see on the road while I’m on the road, cycling. I lost count.

Cyclists, pedestrians, pram pushers, all sorts of walking humans crossing the road when the Red man is on

Motorists sees the zebra crossing as a ticket to speed

Drivers on their phones when they are driving

School children crossing the road looking at their phones

Illegal parking

The list goes on…

The whole point is this, I didn’t give up, I choose to look for good behaviors instead, and be thankful that I get to my journey safely. Surely there are times I can’t help it but feel angry when a car zipped pass me instead of stopping at a zebra crossing for me, it’s my right of way after all! These days I let it go, really no point arguing and get into an altercation, the motorist needs to get somewhere and so do I, it’s just unfortunate that our fate intertwined at that junction.

Lose/Lose in any fight

There consequences, unfortunate and unforeseen if we get into a fight. Like Chua, he will leave jail at 40, with a criminal record for the next 30-40 years of his life. One guy is dead because of his rash act. For me, at my age, it will be stupid foe me to get into a fight with a younger guy. If I win, that guy will look bad being trounced by a older guy, he will bring more friends the next time to even the odds, and if I get whacked by him, then I probably deserved it, going fist to fist with a younger guy. Like I said either way no one wins. If I happen to be the younger guy fighting an older guy, the outcome is still the same, I win, I still lose.


Back in the days when I just started out in Aikido, everyone who is practicing Martial Arts have to have this from the Martial Arts Control Unit (MACU) as martial artists are somehow common bedfellows with triads and secret societies. This was abolished in the later years, but the point I want to bring across is that if your dad, a trained Aikidoka gets into a fight and someone gets hurt badly, the newspapers and social media will have a feast. Imagine the headlines: “Martial Arts Expert kills/maimed/ hurt, cripple old man.”

There is an additional level of restrain for my case as people will hang me for the slightest atercations I unwittingly find myself in. So it is better that I don’t get into a fight, especially when most fights are totally unnecessary and a simple clash of egos.

More importantly, my life will be disrupted, if I go to jail, like Chua did, I’d lose my job, and put the rest of you in hardship, all for a matter of ‘principle’?

Just live and let live so that everyone can go their way and live their life. Yes, I might get angry, but acting on anger is the a very bad idea, holding on to anger only feeds it more and it’s a slippery slope down. Nothing good usually comes out of anger, so remember to deescalate internally, play your own harmony movie in your head instead of a violent vengeful one. Have a happy cartoon to play when you come across a totally unnecessarily tensed or angry situation. Learn to defuse your own bad temper and always let go of the bad.

Act only when the reality of you or your loved ones are close to being harmed. Or you need to put a stop to a dangerous situation, but most of the time err on the safe side, and the safe side often means doing nothing too vengeful or angry.

Stay safe and be safe.


Man admits tackling elderly smoker at void deck who later died

Man punches 66-year-old who later dies in hospital

I got my 4th Dan

I got my 4th Dan

No one knows this but I was close to tears back in November last year when Horii Shihan announced that we have passed our grading. ZZ got his 1st Dan, Tri- 2nd Dan, MJ-his 3rd Dan, and me my 4th Dan.

I’m not sure why I wanted to cry, perhaps it is because Harry sensei just died back in April? If it hadn’t been for his demise, I would be getting the 4th Dan from him, like how I got my 1st to 3rd Dan.

Perhaps it is because if it had been Harry sensei grading us, getting my 4th Dan would be an platonic reality, and now with Horii shihan grading, I’m not so sure if my standards meets his expectations. Maybe it was an overwhelming wave of relief to hear Horii shihan announced that all of us got our grades and pass his scrutiny.

Harry sensei’s legacy

When he died, we were in kind of a limbo, as an Aikidoka, I was already thinking of hanging up my hakama, my days on the mat ends now that Harry sensei is gone, but as fate would have it, I continued his work on the mat, stepping into this role.

While I can somewhat sit in his place, doing my atomic bit to continue the class, I cannot fill the void left behind by him in the bigger larger Aikido universe. Harry sensei is very connected and his loss is certainly felt. He has made many, many friends through his Aikido practice.

Horii shihan is one of Harry sensei’s friends who came and answer our limbo. He came to our humble dojo, trained with us, and graded us. With his guidance, we are able to see a bit clearer into the future as a dojo.

It’s so true to say that we exists because we are standing on the shoulders of giant, for our case, we move from the giant shoulders of Harry sensei to another. This is the true spirit and soul of of Aikido. That peace, love and harmony really works, to build friendship, bond and support; this is perhaps the reason why I continue to train and carry on the good work Harry sensei has left behind.

What does the grades in the Belt means?

What does the grades in the Belt means?

There is some confusion about what a coloured belt looks and feel. Sometimes we look at a black belt and we go like ‘wahhh… that guy’s got the swag!’

To put this in a more simplistic way other than having a functional purpose of just holding your Gi in place, we can use the grades to think and solve problems.

Shoshin (初心) Way

Harry sensei always tells us to keep a beginners mind, so much so our Dojo is called Shoshin. How then, on the mat and in our lives are we supposed to live and act on this values.

Beginner’s way of solving a problem.

A couple class back, Radek and Lois was working together to figure out a particularly complex waza. Both has clocked a good many years of training and they were moving and adjusting how the uke and nage should move. I suggest them that they need to break down their approach down to white belt level.

Sometimes, clocking those years of experience and perceived seniority can cloud and block our ability to learn new things and see the solution from another view. Other times we become so senior we foolishly held onto our ranks and reject new ways of doing things, hence making ourselves irrelevant to the dynamics of the world.

Remember your time as a White Belt

When we first joined as a white belt, we know nothing about Aikido, everything is new and we are starting from zero. Everything seems so awkward, but we weren’t shy about it, and learned with gusto, and well, failure is a given. There was no expectations about what we can get out of it, and learning like this we get everything we could out of every touch point.

White belts soak in the moves, step by step and under a good sensei, procedural guidance can help white belts gain some proficiency in the moves and eventually a white belt can, mechanically complete a basic technique.

As we become Brown Belt

This is somewhat between proficiency and exploration. I remember my times as a brown belt, I was always looking for senior black belts to train with. Being a bustling brown belt, we have gotten out fair share of mistakes and injuries, yet we are technically proficient to bring some moves to play. We are not afraid to make mistakes and we know how to avoid some of those mistakes. Brown belts are still rough around the edges but honing their moves to become more refined and polished.

Take a specific waza like Irimi-nage, a typical brown belt would have spent about 2 years practicing it, so we can execute it with finesse and speed. During my time, my brown belt friends and I look to eat black belts for breakfast lunch and dinner, since brown belts are more junior to the blacks, we can go full out with them, since they should be better than us. Anyway those are the guys we aspire to become so why not test them out?

Being Black Belt

When we become Black, we have philosophically reached the foot of the Aikido summit. We are technically proficient and we can explore more complex techniques, dive a little deeper into how the dynamics between uke and nage works, and also give Aikido back to the juniors.

We experiment with complex and compound waza moving faster and more dynamically. We are also more confident and possess a balance of technique finesse and skill.

But we get stuck sometimes

Sometimes we get stuck with a problem, we try to make sense of how a technique works. Similarly when Radek and Lois got stuck, I suggested that they dial back on their experience and approach the waza like a white belt, Put their brown belt one side and just explore with a beginners’ perspective, no risk, no expectations, no pride, explore, try, experiment, ask for help, open to learn.

Once we can understand the moves, the basic building blocks leading to the complexity of the waza, we can slowly dial it up and think of it from a brown belt level, or from a black belt level. That means we can speed it up and see how it works.

Training with different belts

I share with the class it is the same with partnering a junior belt, being a black means we must be able to dial down to a more basic junior, step by step, mechanical level of Aikido. That means I’ll need to become a white belt for my white belt partner, to match that person’s competency. There is no point for me to be a black belt and hurl the poor beginner around, as if they are at my level to take high falls and throws. This is not a sustainable way to train.

This is how we can apply Aikido spirit to help solve problems in a team, in our lives. Being a 初心 means we are continually exploring, and even when we reach an advance grade, we must not be too proud to drop to a baby’s level to learn crawling all over again, have fun, laugh and be happy. This keeps us harmoniously aligned with our world and makes sure that our ego never gets the better of us.

The Failed Nest

The Failed Nest

Dear Boys,

Life is always bittersweet, we have to experience loss and tragedy to understand the value of our existence.

Not too long ago we have a pair of Yellow Sunbirds building a nest at the netting outside out our kitchen window. There was a buzz of activity as the Sunbirds were chirping and building their home that hung precariously on the net.

It was obvious that we are going to bear witness to them laying eggs and having little chicks just outside out window!

So we left it alone, and before we know it, there’s a constant chirping from the nest and we reckoned that the eggs must have been laid and the chicks hatched.

Until a tragedy happened.

I got this WhatsApp message on our family group chat.

The Nest is no more.

The both of you went downstairs to check for any ‘survivors’ but the outcome is predictable.

Spontaneous Epiphany

While life throws you a sudden unexpected tragedy, you both acted without hesitation in an attempt to save the chicks. There was no holding back, choosing inaction, and just let what happened happen, and be sad over it, or worse indifferent. Which is honestly a done deal, the chicks are dead, I wouldn’t have bothered to go downstairs to check.

You both did more, instead of just leaving the carcass of the dead chick there, you dug a shallow grave and buried it, and place the nest on top of it as a mark. There is so much compassion and empathy from the both of you, I know deep down inside that you both have the courage to do something about death and suffering. There was no hesitation, you both knew it was simply the right thing to do, as a form of closure.

Your dad would have left it alone.

Being a Parent, Raising Children

As any parent, there is always this worry that my boys will go wayward, and turned out to become less of a person I hope you can become. With all our best intentions, there is no guarantee that kids will turn out to become decent human beings. All I can do is show you both the right way, and explain values, principle and ethos on how to live a decent life.

Showing is one thing, but I cannot tell if you boys will heed my words and have it in you to do the right thing, especially during times where there is no template. Both of you rise to the occasion that day and showed me that you both will work together, and embrace how precious life is.

This tells me that what I’ve been telling you boys, the stories I’ve shared is working.

You are the Reason why we have children

It was at this moment I got my answer as to why we have kids. With Singapore’s dipping birth-rate, it’s indeed very hard to comprehend why would we want to spend time, money and a huge part of our lives raising little human beings. I even heard younger couple say things like: “I don’t want to bring children into this world to suffer!” Back then I couldn’t comprehend this reasoning and it’s compelling given that the world’s going through a few wars, global warming, cancer, epidemics and all, it does seems like we shouldn’t make anymore human beings for them to come here and suffer with us, how noble! Oh did I mention the exorbitant cost of raising little people?

Despite of all the reasons not to, you boys gave me one single reason we did, and I’m glad we did. You have shown me that there are still good in this world, and that good lies in the both of you.

Death and destruction is constantly all around us, and there will never be any shortage of suffering, but there will always be a shortage of people who will stand up take action and make their world a little better.

One thing I know for sure; you boys will become a better person than your dad.

Moving, Flow, Rhythm and Cadence

I was training with Radek and we were practicing Shihonage-ura waza and I was encouraging a more fast pace rhythm. While I was the uke, I will always make a point to take a fall, unless my nage has made a critical mistake which allows me to get up.

After a few fall, Radek was saying, that I am falling by myself and makes it looks ‘easy’. This kind of falling is often known as a ‘Charity fall’ which means the nage don’t have to do much and you will fall. Charity fall also adds to that bad reputation Aikido and other martial arts gets, branded as ‘Bullshit-do’, and moniker of Bushido.

A very fine line

As I explained to Radek, that he is already a brown gold, and he would have gotten the basics right, he can move, gauge the distance and also execute most of the Aikido waza competently. However, he is still stuck in a static movement mindset, and puts in 100% (sometimes too much!) in everything that he does, which is fine, but as we progress, we need to better embrace rhythm, velocity and the economies of our partner’s intent and energy. After all this is what Aikido is all about!

While there is nothing wrong being static and doing the basics, it is very laborious and physical, Every time you throw or pin your uke, you will use equal or more strength, on top of a better angle of attack, geometry, positioning and all that. You don’t add value to the relationship, and when things moves fast, we get stuck. On top of getting stuck, we are unable to learn how to deal with speed and velocity.

Don’t think, move fast

Further delving into my ‘charity fall’, I explained that in the speed we are moving, there will be energy bleed, which means things will travel a bit more before it slows down to a halt. Very much like a car applying it’s brakes, it does not stop at that instant the brakes is being applied, there is a braking distance where the excessive energy is bled off and eventually comes to a halt. And you do not jam the brakes, but apply even constant pressure, watching how the car reacts to you so that the car will reach 0 km/h.

It is the same with Aikido, as we advance into our practice, we must understand economies of our partner’s energy. While Shihonage ends the moves with our partner’s hands bent backwards, there is already an inherent instability build in that will carry on as our uke falls, we don’t really have to do much and just ride that downwards wave. Hence it looks like I fall on my own without much of his involvement, fact is I am already on the way down, and if the technique starts off well at the get-go, the ending is a very natural fall, unless the start is a struggle, then it will be a struggle all the way to the end.

Follow though

I also explained to him that he has a tendency to pause, which is a normal for all of us as we sometimes put a halt and check our technique. It happens with most novices and this can disrupt the flow of the technique. As we advance in our practice, we need to be vary conscious about our stoppage as it will allow our partner to regain their balance and turn the tide against us.

Coming in as a more advanced uke, I have to show him what a thorough follow through looks like, even if he halts out of habit, it’s my role as an uke to help him follow through. Then he can have a glimpse of what the technique looks and feels like with a flow.

Unless of course the nage does a complete erroneous moves and this is where the uke has to preserve the presence of mind to stop and correct the nage. This takes trust and camaraderie to build and it helps to motivate our more junior practitioner to understand how things look like from a more senior level.

This way everyone can learn and experience Aikido in a faster, more intense pace and at the same time not getting anyone injured.

Doing Aikido Videos

Doing Aikido Videos

This is something of a gray area for Harry Sensei, while we have often serendipitously recorded his teachings every now and then, he was never consistently supportive of us doing so, his likes and dislikes ebb with his mood, sometimes he don’t mind it, often he will berates us for recording, as he would want us to focus on the training and not get distracted with recording him.

I agree with him wholeheartedly and at the same time, continues to take video recordings of my lessons. There is value in recording our trainings as we can reflect back on our moves and think deeper years later. We can compare and contrast what we did in the past and what we can do now.

I learned a lot from watching these videos, in terms of posture, in terms of my positioning and also what I am saying, those fill words and anchor words I’m constantly using which makes me sound like a broken record. I also learned a lot looking at how my fellow Aikidokas train and see that they have a different interpretations of the same technique. This also helps me think of better ways to transfer my knowledge and better share the experience.

Posting on Social Media

I do post on my social media accounts more for sharing and getting some awareness about who we are as an Aikido school, and for the same reason why I blog, I want to interact with the public at large and see what kind of response I am getting, open to feedback!

The social media landscape is a jungle and it is always a very conscientious effort to make sure I post the right things. These social media companies makes it very easy for you to post, and there is a reason for that; they want you to keep using their apps and in doing so brings traffic and popularity to their site.

One thing I always do is to get my fellow Aikido practitioner’s approval, usually just a WhatsApp:” eh, can I have your permission to post this?” This is when a specific person’s face is identifiable. If they choose not to be seen, then I will respect that decision. It’s their privacy after all.

Sharing these videos.

My fellow Aikidokas gets these videos as I want them to have it as keepsake. Very often we train, train and train, we don’t really have any kind of a video to help us remember our training days. The earliest video of me in Aikido was my brown belt grading, and I tore my right sleeve in a sleeve grab move, Back in those days it was a grainy video tape era recordings and I often wish I had something else from earlier.

Sharing these video with our loved ones.

Sometimes I wonder what our spouses and children thinks of us, we disappear once or twice a week put on white uniform, wear strange looking pleated pants that looks like a skirt, Roll around and throw people here and there on a padded mat, and it all seems like we are part of a secret squirrel club.

Having some of these videos perhaps can help us debunk some of these myths about our mysterious disappearance and also help them understand this very hard to understand martial arts.

It is visual proof that we are playing around with other people, but not in a hanky panky naughty manner.

Your Dad’s Bunch of Blokes

Your Dad’s Bunch of Blokes

Dear Boy,

Your dad has a bunch of friends that are all dads, and I’m not sure how I got involved in these group of good people, but I think it was a a bunch of guys on a Facebook group called ‘Daddy Matters Group’ and during the more active days we talk a lot about all things in common, Dad matters. Parenting and sometimes husbandry stuffs.

While the group has quieten down a bit. we still occasionally meet up and have dinners and catch up.

Prata is the name of the game

Typically, this very much savored dish is what we dads can agree on, if all else fail, this comfort food is the go-to eats. Once we can get whoever is available and agreeable to meet, we chat over all things mundane and talked about some of the things we have done. Also relish some past memories for previous gatherings.

The 2023 Gathering

Over the years, conversation changes and we are talking about not just our kids’ schooling, behavior, good and bad. We talk about jobs and how some of us has moved on to other work and some are still in the same job after all these years.

Conversation has changed as our kids has grown up, Those with daughters are talking about their daughter’s attire. We talked about how tall our kids have grown, some have gotten into relationships. Other with sons, waiting or have gone into National Service.

No more Bloggers!

What a change, Blogging is no longer vogue! Sob! That’s how things have evolved, quickly. These days we are no longer reading blogs, or putting up blogs, the new term is ‘Influencer’, no more Bloggers, Instagrammers, and all that terminologies. It’s official, Blogging is dead!

Its a good alternative channel for me to catch up with my peers in the same ‘industry’-Daddying, and catch up with professional fathers on the latest developments in their lives.

I’m sure when the time comes for you both to become dad of your own, you will hopefully find like minded folks to have as friends for life.

The Finer Points in Aikido

The Finer Points in Aikido

Last evening was another wonderful class with just the 4 of us. Small classes like this allows us to explore our techniques in depth and weed out those ‘bad’ habits that persists unbeknownst to us. Sometimes we think we are doing alright because in a larger class, the hustle and bustle can bring out some bad posture or positioning that we are not aware of, or we will not be able to correct.

Morote-Dori Kokyu-Ho

We started with some static Tenkan (Turning) techniques and this is one of the way we can better understand why we move the way we move.

When our partner grabs us, both hands, tight, firmly, it transfers a lot of tension into our wrist, and how we interpret that strength can have an impact on our response. While we are not in a specific fight/flight duality, such tensions does trigger us as we instinctively combat the grasp, ironically increasing our partner’s perception that we are trying to escape the grasp and in response, tighten the grip.

While the technique might look deceivingly simple, it get harder when we clock more hours in Aikido training, partly because we start to become more complacent about the way we were taught to stand and move as beginners, our technique become sloppy when we become comfortable and gets lulled into a sense of comfort, thinking that what works in the past, will work now and will work on anyone and everyone.

Just the 4 of us

This is the beauty training with a bunch of friends in Aikido for a long time, we are all very comfortable with each other and with that level of trust, we can put some discomfort into the technique and allow the nage to relearn how to move again.

I implored Ming Jie, Melvin and ZZ to grip hard when it is their turn to be uke. There is no worry that we are out to make things difficult for the nage. WE ARE. The difference is we are not doing this out of malice, mischief or trying to prove to the other guy we are better, we are putting in the difficulty precisely because we want the other the to be better.

We failed quite a bit, and explored why.

With our years of practice, we need to be able to critique our own posture, and understand our own inefficiencies and make adjustments constantly to enhance our interactions with our partner. With these 3 guys, I don’t have to be a ‘sensei’, instead I’m just a prompter, pointing out certain things that they can do better, or adjust so that they can better cope with the pressure.

I told the guys that their self dialogue must be one that goes like: ‘Yeah, I think my tenkan’s position isn’t right, I’ll need to shift my leg forward slightly.’ instead of saying ‘(insert name here) says that I should be doing this, and that.’ I implored to them that it is no longer about what Harry sensei says, or what Randy says, they will have to internalize the feedback, and own that improvement. What we say is what we observed, externally and beyond that, there is nothing else we can do to help each other improve. So it is not about who said what, it is about how we can take that feedback in and make that change. That is the mark of a proactive person.

Change is not easy

That is why we change! If it is easy as heck, then change would have lost its allure, improvements would have stopped and atrophy will run the world. While it is challenging to change, having people who trust and supports your efforts to change helps make is a little more worthwhile to think about changing.

This is the place on the mat for such metamorphosis, small class allows us to move, then sit back and think how we did. Then change a little to see if that makes a difference. Our partner can help give constructive feedback on how he/she feels being the uke. We can pace the class and slowly incorporate the changes into our body movements.

Space for Introspection

Such is the difficulty of Aikido, as no 2 person grasp the same way nor our response to the same person remains consistent, Aikido challenges the fallacy of sameness, as we need to know that we are not the same person moments ago, we are constantly adjusting our perceptions, values and mood. We ebb and flow dependent on the day, time, place, and interaction, at the same time trying to keep to a semblance of identity of who we are.

Once we have a decently deep level of self thought, we can institute the change. So often we remarked “Aiyah, that guy will never change one lah!” When a person is not able to deeply reflect on their thoughts and actions, it is difficult to see external changes. Again such changes must make sense and means something to us, to be better.

Equal in the eyes of the beholder

I shared that Harry sensei is able to handle most ukes. That is his level of skill, I’ve yet to see an uke he cannot manage. The secret is his unbending core and that keeps him very centered. Anyone who holds his hands is immediately drawn into his center and you loses yours.

The other ‘magic’ he has is he treats all his uke the same, he is fair to all and gives no quarter as to who is a better uke. So with that fair eye he is able to dispense everyone the same way.

The same way doesn’t mean the same. He does adjust his stance and extension to manage every uke differently. Such micro-adjustments is barely perceptible to our observations, but he does it in a way that is unbiased, and unaffected by who the uke is.

The Good Feeling in the Dojo

The Good Feeling in the Dojo

Sometimes, being an instructor sucks, plain and simple. There is a lot weighing on the shoulders of the instructors, a proverbial 3 word question: “What to Teach?”

Not only that, sometimes seeing the same old folks again and again does challenge me to do something different, but what can be different? More of the same? Or same same, but different, but still the same?

It’s a People sport

That is where last Monday made me felt different. While we think that things always stays the same in the dojo, it is not always so, despite of so many decades practicing Aikido, we still bring a different level of experience to the mat every single time.

It was such a wonderful session as we all came together to learn and figure out new things. There was a spirit of exploration, learning about concepts and putting it to the test on the mat, physically connect to see if the mental map correspond with the physical world.

It’s the people that comes together, good, bad, and warts to put time, heart and soul to train, build good will on the mat.

It’s a beautiful feeling when we have been training for so many years together, and that trust is so well honed. It’s not just Aikido we are practicing, it is also putting our trust on each other on the line. While we may be less than perfect people off the mat, when we come together and put all our differences aside, really beautiful movements can happen.

Simple Connection.

This cannot be overstated nor under-estimated. Harry sensei left behind a small group of us still banding together to train. This is a very precious connection that binds us. We didn’t come together for fame nor glory, we are training in the true spirit of Aikido, for peace, friendship and harmony.

It really feels good when I give a feedback to Melvin on his Irimi-nage, and Choy chime in with his opinion, which might differs from mine, and it is still fine. It’s great to see both Choy and Melvin work on the finer points of the technique, so that we can all improve.

Just Train.

Like Nike’s famed slogan, Harry sensei’s mantra is simple, just turn up, and train. This has hold me in good stead, through good times and bad. Sometimes I really don’t feel like coming, especially when the attendance is low, I put all the doubts aside and just turn up.

No place in this world

This unique feeling caused me to think deep and hard, can we replicate it? Can we do more? Can we share this with more people out there? I certainly hope I can, because the world needs more goodwill and friendship, more people coming together to train and build trust, face fear and insecurity bravely. The only way we can do this is to do it together.