Round the Island Walk (Part Two)

Round the Island Walk (Part Two)

Dear Boys,

Following Part One. let me continue sharing the rest of our journey to complete the loop.

Bayfront MRT to Harbourfront

This was a little unique as it included a little hiking in Sentosa, as well as Mount Faber. since both ends of this leg is accessible, Andy drove and parked his car at the end of our leg, Harbourfront, and we took a bus back to Bayfront MRT to start our walk. By the time we reach Harbourfront, we would have our transport waiting for us.

It was interesting to note that Sentosa is never known to be a hiking place. but hidden in Imbiah, is 2 nature walk, which is very kids friendly, there is the terrain, jungle and all things considered in a hiking expedition, BUT it is very safe, come on, this is Sentosa, what could possibly go wrong? Sure, you might meet with an accident or incident, but help is never too far away. I’m considering bringing you kids there for a night walk, the trail is short and with no artificial lighting or lamp post, it might be a good nocturnal adventure.

Views from Henderson Waves

Pandan Reservoir to Tuas Link

This is worthy mention as we passed by many interesting stuffs. One thing we noticed was, most warehouses have their staircases located outside the building. The only assumption was that these buildings need to maximize storage space so stairway, taking up spaces is put outside the building. It is also quite scary for you to use the staircase, looking down, especially when you are almost 20 stories up!

We also made it to the signature lighthouse, which makes it extra swee.

The Next and Final Leg

Admittedly, we ‘cheated’ a little, because for our final leg, we should be starting from Tuas Link, instead we decided to start at Gul Circle which is logistically more realistic, while it might have ‘shorten’ our final leg a bit, we both didn’t mind.

It turn out, we made the right choice, because the final leg spans 29km! Jurong back to Kranji!

Long Walk

This part is comparably worse than our East Coast walk, as there is no purpose build pedestrian walk space, we have to share the walk with trucks and cyclists, and every time the cars zoom past us, it will kick up a small dust storm and we both end up with dusty mouth. Thankfully I brought along a small bandana which I use to cover my mouth with.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves

We did a longer than usual break there, since our end point is nigh, we took time to enjoy and soak in the sight and views. which is plenty. Along the way we encountered a little drizzle but nothing to put us off. While this was the longest trek, it somehow seems the most memorable as we will rarely get to put our feet down in those places. We see many interesting things like multi-story fish farm, navigating the Kranji countryside.

THE END!

Finally completing our last leg 23 April, we covered 156km in total, and it was a very rewarding experience. One thing for sure, it will be tougher to do it solo, and if you have to do it with a buddy, find a good one, someone who is able to adapt and change as sometimes things on the ground might be different, and when both are tired, the last thing you want is to quarrel over small things.

I’m glad that I had Andy’s company for this as we really complemented each other’s temperament nicely, we accepted each other’s silence and we basically eat each other’s food, no complaints. On times where we encountered hiccups, both of us can overcome it, in good spirits.

ICE CREAM to celebrate our win!

Tips for walking

Get a good shoe, I prefer hiking boots, with a bit of ankle support, while it is heavier, you trade a grip that will handle most terrains and of course, more comfort in terms of all round cushioning.

Please wear socks, I had a bunch of toe socks, basically gloves for feet, it was nice and helped prevent blisters

Compression tights helped with fatigue. It could be subjective, some people thinks it’s placebo, but it works for me, more than once.

Generally walking in Singapore is quite safe, so there is really not a lot of first aid things to carry, I just carry a pack out of habit, and some water and snacks.

To Yield or not to Yield

To Yield or not to Yield

This is the million dollar question in Aikido.

You see, if we are able to forget everything and move like how nature intends for us to be, then we would have solve our dilemma, sort of. That would also means that we are becoming more like an organism, no faculty of self awareness, choice, autonomy and critical thinking, all the hallmarks of being ‘human’.

Nature’s way

It Takes Time

Nature will take it’s time to work around things; trees will grow around an impediment, you will not see it today tomorrow, but over time, the tree ‘wins’. Sometimes we see a dramatic volcano explosion, or an terrifying earthquake, that happened suddenly; more often than not, it is a cumulation of years, decades or even centuries of work, grinding, moving, building up the pressure and at an instant, BOOM!

Just like nature, we need to understand things take time, and we can choose a path of willing, exercise our free will to train harder, train longer, put in more focus, study Aikido texts or we can simply choose to focus on something else.

Photo by Pixabay, Pexels

Time or Timing

On the mat, it is usually about timing, you need to watch earnestly the opening, and also where your partner might be strong and where there is a pause in his movement and that is where you can apply countermeasures. Not everything can be countered, or forced. and if the point of opposition becomes predictable, mechanical, or cyclical, then the Aikido technique is dead.

That means if you as an Uke can catch your Nage at a stoppage every single time, then something is wrong, it might not necessarily be a Nage’s ‘fault’ nor it boils down to a uncooperative Uke, neither is the problem and also both possess the solution. The Nage needs to change something to break that stalemate, and the Uke needs to yield a little so that the Nage can continue with the movement.

This is the kind of subtle communication between Aikidokas in movement that takes years of practice to build, and this is what we train for, there is little spoken between movements and we read each other instantly, keeping everything in a stable flux. This is level of training, both Aikidokas melt into each other and then you can see no distinction between winning and losing. So much so it looks like a dance, except it’s deadlier.

Photo by Gratisography, Pexels

No Competition

Naturally, when you don’t compete for pecking order, there is a more collaborative output, since we are not looking for winners by knockout, or winning by points.

In a competitive environment, there is no yielding, you can expect opposition at every given moment, and even if there is yielding, you can’t help but think if it is a feint. Once we put ourselves in a zero-sum game, everyone loses, even the winner. Eventually, such environment builds resentment and people will train hard so that they can topple the top dog, which defeats the purpose of training altogether.

Even if you come around and shake hands, hugs and all, there is still a level of distrust and guardedness which will not be conducive for mutually beneficial learning and advancement. Everyone will be watching everyone and I wouldn’t want to teach you my mat tactics; in the event I meet you on the mat, you will use what you learned about me, against me.

Photo by cottonbro, Pexels

So yielding, or not; is a judgement call on the mat, and it takes years to discern how to compromise and how to stand firm. Sometimes it can be frustrating to learn that you cannot execute a specific technique against one specific guy in the dojo, then that is a sign you need to train more with that difficult guy, because your greatest lessons awaits.

Round the Island Walk (Part One)

Round the Island Walk (Part One)

Dear Boys,

Your dad went on a round island walk with a couple of months back with Andy, we were following a predetermined 150km route that covers almost all the 33 corners of Singapore. We didn’t do it at one go, we broke it into parts of 10km on average, only on a few of the routes, we did about 20km++.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1XmNLQFjX_FBH9q6Y3cjD6yaoen2XhRuw&ll=1.3420718159739893%2C103.84128639160157&z=11
Source: SGTREK – Round Island Route-https://sgtrek.com

It started when Andy, my trusty cycling buddy called a few of us to try walking these routes. A few of us was game, there was some discussion and we decided to start 29 Jan and hope to complete it over a couple of Saturdays. I was still thinking we are gonna do this 150km at one go. Crazy.

Andy kept a detailed chronology of it in a Google sheet, and we will talk about part 1 here, which will cover our start to East Coast (24km) which was one of our longest leg then to Gardens by the Bay. Part 2 will cover the rest of the journey all the way to the end, our finale was another one helluva walk, the final 28km!

The Logistics

Since we are doing this in segments, it meant that we need to get to the starting point on our own, Andy drove for a few of the legs, and the rest was accomplished by Grab or Gojek. Food wise, your dad always carry my own supply of biscuits, and Andy did his own as well, and sometimes having munchies during these long walks does helps with the morale.

These walks also let me try out a few loads, sometimes I’d carry a waist pack, which seems to hold all my items, and sometimes for the longer leg, I opt for a small backpack with a larger water bladder, and as always, I have first aid with me.

First Leg! Kranji MRT to Yishun (Canberra MRT)

Nicholas and Isaiah joined us and we have 4 guys walking the first 13 km. We visited the Sembawang hotspring, Woodlands jetty for a few of the highlights.

Andy, Isaiah, Nick and me

It was a good warm up crowd, and the pace was good, we didn’t encounter any bad weather and apart from a few constructions here and there, we do get some quite scenic views.

Following that,, Nick and Isaiah couldn’t continue for the rest of our Round Island trek due to weekend commitments, (Isaiah did joined for the Punggol to Changi leg), it was down to Andy and me to continue with the walk.

Changi to East Coast Leg

View from the Changi Beach

The second longest leg in our RIR

This was actually 2 segments combined into one, since the end of one part was Changi Naval Base bus stop, Andy and I both agreed that we should push on and end it at East Coast, which would makes more sense, since it would be easier for us to hail transport back home, and also a better place to kick off the next leg.

It was a tough 24 km, since the last time I walked so much was in my National Service days, where we had a 24 km route march in FBO (Full Battle Order), doing it when you are 18 years old and now in my forties makes me question my existence. When you are young, you don’t think so much, and just do what your buddies are doing.

The East Coast route, however did come with some respite as there are human traffic, cyclists and some beach scene, wait till I tell you boys about our last final leg walking from Jurong to Kranji!

East Coast to Bayfront MRT

After our long walk the week before, this was easy, besides, we still get to enjoy some very scenic East Coast, and Gardens By the Bay Views, which kept our morale up. Mentally, we were also stronger, knowing that we did 24km before, and this leg is just a mere 13km, no sweat!

Systems… They are Everywhere

Systems… They are Everywhere

Dear Boys,

Things don’t happen by default, there is a process, system, flow that we might not understand. There is no such thing as a ‘simple’ thing. Situations, issues and problems are all linked and doesn’t happen in isolation. even when it looks like the last straw that broke the camel’s back, it usually isn’t that one last straw, dig deeper.

For you to better survive and thrive, a keen understanding and appreciation of ‘The System’ is necessary so that you do not break yourself against something seemingly random and abstract. It will also help you work with The System, analyze the root cause and come to a better more holistic understanding of how things work around the world.

A Home

Even at home, your dad runs a system that is unique (and yet not quite) that keeps the house a home. As mentioned in my earlier post on Adulting, even mundane things takes time to build and I have to think of end to end. Even changing a simple light bulb, once it is blown, I have to know the size, cost, brand, and where to get it. How to change it and discarding the blown fluorescent tube. While my part of the deal ends when I thrown it into the bin, the ‘rubbish’ has its own systems that makes it way to where ever it might become. Even before I buy the new tube, there is also a manufacturing system at the backend that make sure the replacement tube reaches me, the consumer, the dad/ electrician at home.

Source: Karla Hernandez-Unsplash

Watch and learn

The challenge for me as a dad is to make you boys see beyond the simple day to day chores. How to ignite that investigative and curious seeking nature that is latent in all of us? Going in depth and asking the questions that matters.

Why? How? What? When? Which? and Who?

Is there a risk of overthinking even for something as simple as a household chore? Quite the contrary, in our world right how, we lack thinkers, no need to overthink the overthinking, it is over worrying that we need to worry about. When we bother to think critically, long and deep, we will find that ‘solutions’ are not really solutions, rather they are compromised outcome. There are still problems in solutions and there are also solutions hiding in the problems. So these solutions might cause minor inconveniences, but it keeps the greater larger systems wheel going.

When we go back to the tube replacement example. You boys flip the switch and the light is turned on, or not. If you do not understand that it is The Dad that changes the tube, you might go whining to the Mom, which is not the right contact point. Or you can understand how The Dad goes about replacing the tube, and do it yourself.

From there, you might trigger a thought:

“Why do we keep replacing the tubes?”

“Can I improve it?”

“Make a tube that don’t need replacement, ever.”

Then you’ll need to work The Systems to see how, if that is possible. Improvements which seems to come in leaps and bounds is often supported by unknown and unseen minor constructions which is done by countless of people who are keeping The System going.

Without getting a clarity for how The System works, it will be difficult for you to make a difference in this world, in fact, you will be blinded, and indifferent to the realities and inconveniences in this world. You will end up whining and complaining about how things are unfair to you and you will make an issue out of every single things that don’t go your way.

The System don’t Care

The world really don’t care about us, our plans and our whiny, puny thoughts. The System won’t respects us, until we respect The System. That said, The System isn’t a big huge machine that we are powerless against, work The System, and find out the pros and cons, and what you can do to make the pros work in your favour while you circumvent the cons. Not everything will go your way, so when things does, appreciate it, don’t gloat, and when things don’t it just means that there’s issues in The System you didn’t learn or understand.

Waking up to a different World

Everyday might seems like a Groundhog Day, the movie is a very good analogy for our cyclical life where, if we are not careful, will fall into a trap that grinds us, and we become de-personalized. The ever talented Bill Murray, trapped in an endless Groundhog Day, finally took his time to learn, appreciate and fully dive into that very one day, only when he can get to the grind of things, he is able to break free from the repetitive wheel and do something different.

But it is never so dramatic, work small and don’t let the larger, seemingly insurmountable big machine of The System makes a mockery out of the ingenuity, authenticity and originality you both are endowed with. If The Systems seems too big, always remember the Navy SEAL saying:

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Making Mistakes and Recovery

Dear Boys,

It is a given, we will make mistakes. What matters more is how we recover from them, that will define who we are.

There are a few kinds of mistakes we will in life.

1-People gets hurt as a direct consequence of our mistakes

2-Things/tasks are not done timely, resulting in miss opportunities, failure to achieve goals/ deadlines

3-Errors as a result of poor performance due to lacking in training, skillset or knowledge

Generally these are the few, there may be more, out there, but the feeling arises from such incidents is one of embarrassment, regret, anger, disappointment, and you will be compelled to take certain actions to remedy these ‘mistakes’ or ‘failures’.

Apologise

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

If your mistakes or failure resulted in people getting hurt. The impact is direct and you can see it, like you spilled hot liquid onto a person (never mind you like or dislike that individual!), you should say ‘Sorry!’ without hesitation.

Our goal in life is not to hurt people, unless it was purely pre-meditated or there is a specific purpose in doing so. Otherwise, if our actions unwittingly brought about pain and suffering on people, we must respond with remorse. Apologize first, then we can follow up to make things right.

For missed goals/deadlines

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

This one is a bit tricky, as there will be a rolling, long-term impact with unintended consequences for a missed schedule. Sometimes there is nothing else you can do; the boat has sailed. You can sulk and look stupid, or you can scour around to try and remedy it.

Look for solutions, and negotiate to minimize the loss. Communicate and acknowledge your lapse if possible, demonstrating your willingness to take responsibility for the misjudgment and desire to make things right.

Lacking that skills, knowledge or training

Well, it happens, we are no rocket scientists, and when we are forced to build a rocket, our ignorance will show. What you made might look amateurish and you’ll get negative publicity and opinions about it. In this case, there is nothing else you can do but to know that you are pitted against a very steep learning curve.

Own the difficult tasks and set out to learn as much as you possibly can so that you can do as good a job as you possibly can with what little you know. It will be nowhere near good, but you must try.

Sitting around moping that you don’t know what you don’t know will not help, get up and ask for help. Start asking questions, be the noob, the newbie, and people will come to your aid. When they do collaborate with them, and learn as much as you can.

Sometimes the knowledge you get, might be incomplete, that is where you will need to take a gut check and fill in the blanks yourself, and connect the dots, hoping that it works. Doing things the first time can be stressful and the outcome might be less that satisfactory, what will make it worse is you dragging your sorry butt telling the world how unfair that you are given such a insurmountable task and lament about it.

Learning point is everywhere

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You learn the most when you fail, but people will not teach you about your attitude towards failure. Instinctively we will start to look for excuses as to why it didn’t work out, our ego will come to our protection, so that we can still retain some level of pride and save ourselves some embarrassment.

Be reasonable, instead of excusable, if you find reasons for your failures, you will be able to find ways to make yourself better. Reasons are fact based, and people can see you making efforts to correct your mistakes, and learn from it. Excuses are story based, and similarly, people can see how you try to weasel your way out of your own failures.

Reasons makes you work hard to better yourself, and learn from your mistakes. Excuses strengthen your own denial and you’ll learn how to cover up your mistakes.

Taking classes

I think it is a matter of time I have to start conducting classes. My Sempai, Han Tiong has ‘retired’ from teaching NUS’s Friday Aikido class, and the job now falls on the next in line, primarily Foo, Luke then me.

Harry sensei made it very public on an evening sometime back, that only Foo and Luke was to take class, and when clarified, Harry sensei specifically mentioned that there will be on exceptions. Frankly I was a tad disappointed, admittedly, taking a class bodes well for my ego, which mean I have more work to be done, before I evolved to overcome my egotistical persona.

The reality is that sometimes, both Foo and Luke will get held up with work, and occasionally, I will have to stand in and take a Friday class, now and then. Of course this was done with full consent and knowledge from my sensei, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. He has to know and give his blessings then I will take the class. Its the way order is held and preserved, I have to respect my sensei’s decision, even when his decision is not in my favour.

Primarily I want to break the myth of Aikido, as a martial art. because, it is really not about fighting, opposing will. Imposing your victory over your opponent. I want to look at it from a relational view, because Aikido is a PhD in Applied Social Science. If you get into a fight, there is very little in an Aikido curriculum that can help you ‘win’ the fight. but there is plenty in an Aikido curriculum for you to stay centered in an explosive, emotionally charged situation and come out of that preserving the peace.

My obsession is the Uke. Other than Harry sensei, the next most senior belt in NUS is me, it’s not a brag, usually it is a fact, and I trained and learned the most being Harry sensei’s Uke. And for any Aikido technique to be performed safely, the Uke has to be trained to receive, and to receive well. The junior belts as Ukes are usually too soft with the grip or they do a ‘death grip’. either way compromises the movement and the relationship between the Uke and Nage. So I take pains to explain that an ‘attack’ from an Uke is not really an ‘attack’ in the strictest sense. If the Uke give too much as to hold on too tightly, then the uke has given away too much. And if the uke doesn’t hold tight and chooses a loose grip, the Uke will not be able to receive what the Nage has to offer. The relationship between the Uke and Nage, changes constantly and I’m quite drawn to making sure the Uke catches the Nage with the right amount of grip, with a proper distance, and appropriate spirit, so that everyone can enjoy the exercise.

My other focus is on the core muscles, the back and abs. the torso down to the hips, where both power and stability resides. Once you are physically comfortable and centered, you can think straight, get into a superior position, all without provoking a fight. Once you lean too much forward, you can be read as being aggressive. and leaning to much back, will invite people to attack you as a sign of weakness. the posture has to be centered and balanced, so the core muscles is paramount to delivering that body language.

There are also some funny things I do that is not the actual sanctioned Aikido moves, this is in hopes to keep the class interesting and also allows me to inject some creativity into the class. I think the feedback I get from some hearsay is that Foo does the class in a typical Aikido sense, following structure and form, Luke adds a bit more realism to the class, and me? I heard that I’m non-typical and my technique ain’t the cleanest, book perfect type. Heck, I’m having fun, and I certainly hope the students in my class have fun too!

First Published: September 4, 2015 

Who would you hurt?

Imagine, you are the most skilled martial artist in the world, you have mastered Karate, MMA, Judo, Boxing, Muay Thai, and other lethal martial arts. You certain can kill someone with your moves!

Who is the first person you’ll end up hurting first, other than yourself?

Chances are, you will end up hitting and hurting your loved ones. People you care about, your wife, your husband, you kid, your training partner, your sparring partner, your colleague, your drinking friends. Almost towards the last of your list, are strangers, criminals, mafia, Jason Bourne, James Bond, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise and the neighborhood cat.

“We need to be the centre of calm in a very volatile situation.”

It happened to me and I will never forget it. My elder brother and I got in to a very heat argument when we were very young then. If I remembered correctly I was in my early twenties. I was so pissed that I wanted to leave home, the anger was simmering and I wasn’t really out to hurt anyone, I just want to get away, for good.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My elder brother, another extremely hot headed and irrational guy, held me back as I reached for the gates. He restrained me from getting away, and I snapped; turned around and punched him, once, hard, on his chest. I will never forget the sound he made, when his brother, me, hit him. The sound of the hurt I inflicted on him, made me very very reluctant to hit another person like that.

Okay, call me a softie, that’s fine. I really didn’t like him, much less love him. I still don’t. But that served a reminder to me, that I will hurt the people closest to me. It is a statistically given fact, we interact more and on a higher level with people we know than with people we don’t know. well, duh. So people close to us will see us, good, bad and the ugly, warts and all. they will rub us the wrong way and we might end up fighting them.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Isn’t that ironic? We always know our loved ones deeply, we often use that intimate knowledge to hurt them, instead of using it to love them more. Or they might have unwittingly done something that hurt us, and we instinctively want to hurt them back.

Take another hypothetical example. Your very very drunk and emotionally unstable friend, who got aggressive, and take a swing towards anything, anyone close enough. You are that person, will you block the punch and snap a front kick to take him out, or will you enter (irimi) to his side, control him with an Ikkyo, and assert authority over him, and make sure he do not embarrass himself further? Use a circular motion to diffuse the tension, to dissipate the anger. We need to be the centre of calm in a very volatile situation.

Aikido gives us that skill to end a very violent situation peacefully. More important, it cultivates the wisdom in us to help us see beyond violence, the violent person has a very good nature, and when he or she has sufficiently calmed down, the person is actually a very reasonable person.  Well, under duress, we are all dumbassess. But in a stressful situation, we only need one dumbass, the other person has to have some good sense to stop the dumbass from becoming a bigger dumbass.

First Published: October 1, 2015

Wayne’s little insecurity

Wayne’s little insecurity
Wayne trying to cycle
Wayne trying to cycle

Dear Wayne,

Watching you develop as our youngest family member can be very endearing and frustrating at the same time. You have a very light frame, very much like you dad. Small and punch size, you naturally have to fight harder for your fair share of existence.

Of late, I noticed that you have a certain disdain for bicycling. We went for a night supper a couple of weeks back, and we all agreed that, mum and dad will jog, you and your big brother will cycle. You refused to, using all sorts of excuse. Saying that you will be slow and you’ll be left behind. We constantly assured you that we will not, to no avail, you refused to budge from your stand.

I know how you feel, son, you have your smallish kiddy bike, with training wheels on, you don’t look very cool when your big brother’s bike is bigger and he is already riding on 2 wheels. You look inferior compared to him. Riding bike has somehow become your weakness, and you didn’t want the world to know.

Your weakness is not a weakness to us.

You see, son, there is no weakness to show in this family. We are one, your brother loves you and so does your dad and mum. We will not leave you behind no matter what. Your weakness is not a weakness to us.

Wayne on his bike
Wayne on his bike

This will something that you have to deal with when you grow older, handling your insecurity, your weakness. Always bear in mind, you have a family, we are family. We will help you, and even if you are struggling and stubbornly decline help, we will still help you. We will help you even if you don’t ask for our help, because that is what family is all about. You don’t have to fight your insecurities alone.

We tried to teach you to ride on 2 wheels some time back but it was tough, you made it tougher for us to teach you as you constantly self sabotage yourself, by purposely falling, pretending that it is harder than it really is. We didn’t push it, but I think the hardship has been etched already, you associate bicycle as your weakness.

You are a kid that cannot be rushed. you will do it, and you will do it well, when you want to. So I am not pushing you to learn to ride a bicycle on 2 wheels. You take your time, there are people who goes through life not knowing how to ride a bike, which is fine, so I’m not going to rush you.

your bicycles
You and your brother’s bicycles

More importantly, please don’t make your challenges your weakness. I hope by the time you are old enough to read this, you can find enough in you to face your obstacles and overcome them. We are humans, and we are born to overcome challenges. You possesses enough will and tenacity, we have seen it in you, but you’ve choose to use these values as inertia instead of a source of motivation. We need to correct this in time to come.

First published: June 26, 2015

Senpai and Sensei- My Opinion

Senpai and Sensei- My Opinion
Back in Bukit Merah SAFRA days

To put things in context, being a sensei means nothing if we do not acknowledge our senpai, that is my perspective anyway.

Jason, is my senpai. James is also my senpai, and although I’m sensei, they outrank me in Dan, in age and in years of training, particularly with Jason. Yet in class, I teach and they learn, they bow to me as they would to any sensei. I make sure the reverence is reciprocated.

It doesn’t matter that in future if I rise and outrank them in grade, in age and in years of training they outrank me. When I was a white belt, Jason is already holding a coloured belt, he contributed in ways big and small to me becoming who I am today. I cannot forget that and write off his goodwill.

Senpai ( 先辈 )

Loosely speaking, it means senior, elder or predecessor. To me I cannot erase the memories of those senpais that taught me, Soh, Uncle Tong, Alvin, Loh Tuck Yean (hope I got his name right!) and many others, who has showed me Aikido. Many of them has left training for good and might no longer be as proficient on the mat as they were some 20 years ago. Still they are senior to me in age, and every time I train or teach, part of what they taught me come alive in the moves.

While Harry sensei and many other Aikido teachers, taught me Aikido, sometimes it is our senpais who quietly egged us on, encouraged us, and helped us when we don’t get the technique right and yet still too timid to ask the sensei; our senpai will help us makes sense of the nitty gritty stuff. Without their care and contributions, we simply cannot get to our level of skill as quickly as we have done on our own. I have many, many big brothers and sisters in Aikido to thank and be eternally grateful for.

Not all Senpais are created equal

This is the spirit of hierarchy, we naturally align and bestowed respect and seniority to those seated to our right. Sometimes, our senpais might not have conducted themselves in best faith, others might push their weight around (pun intended) and strut their stuff on the mat simply because they literally outrank almost everyone on the mat, sans the sensei. They might also suck up to the sensei and put everyone more junior down, and treat peers like competitors for the sensei’s attention.

We scoff in contempt such outlandish and belligerent senpais, but think deeper, senpais are also human, and they have their own fallacy. I’ve long learned that anyone’s ‘supremacy’ on the mat, does not necessarily translate to a supremacy in life. People often make one part of their lives, such as being an Aikidoka fantastically awesome to make up for some shortfall in other areas of their lives. The best is we try to live a balances holistic lives. Bumping into these overbearing senpais, I did, of course, and I’ve long learned to give them a wide berth, akin oil and water.

With Harry sensei in Taiwan

Sensei (先生)

This is just an honorific term, while there is usually one sensei, the sensei cannot become effective without a cadre of senpais. While the sensei might teach and pass down techniques and knowledge, the senpais are the one who help distill these to the more junior ones. Senpais help spread the culture and excellence further and wider.

So the relationship between a sensei and senpai is very much symbiotic. A sensei can only do so much alone, but along with a group of senpais, the sensei can do much more, and show that the school can be more than just one person.

My message to my fellow students and Aikidokas is, never forget your senpais as you progress, and advance in rank senior than them. Sometimes, our senpais might no longer be as fluid and skilled as us, but we still need to show them the due respect. Rank aside, please remember that they were here before us, and without their guidance and support, we will not get where we are, the school will not exist, no Aikido will continue.

So if you want to show that you have now become better than your senpai, all you did was limit yourself from becoming better than you are.

Sparing the rod

Source from Google
Source from Google

Dear boys,

I’ve spared the rod, a few months back, did I spoil the child?

Frankly, I don’t think so, to begin with, looking back, it was not the wisest thing to do, caning you boys for the mistakes you both made, and of course the mischief you boys do.

The use of the rod has long outlived its purpose, and the reason I continued to use it is that I hadn’t found another method to replace it. Admittedly, it is somewhat like an addiction. And since it worked so well before, it will continue to work well now and into the future, when in reality it has long outlived its usefulness.

To be honest, your dad then was too immature to handle the 2 of you. It was a dark learning process for all of us. When I wield the cane, the rage compliments the pain it dispense, unfortunately you both bear much of the brunt. And now looking back, much of the caning was quite unnecessary, uncalled for. I just didn’t have enough patience wisdom and good in between my ears to handle your misdeeds appropriately.

Everything that should happen the way it should happen, on hindsight, that is where regret resides. But I justified it shallowly by saying, my parents cane me and I turned out alright! I fell victim to the ‘spare the rod, and spoil the child!’ Argument, and defended using the rod, since i was part of its indoctrination, so I’d indoctrinate my kiddos the same why, it didn’t hurt me that much, and it sure as hell will not hurt my kiddos more that it hurt me, but the truth is, it hurts me having to resort to caning.

There is a better way than this.

Using the cane, honestly limits me. Limits my options to educate and teach you decently. In defense of using the rod, every problem becomes a nail because the only tool I got was a hammer. Any misbehavior will almost always result in the cane being deployed. And I justified it with shallow reasons every time, while that little voice in me tells me otherwise. ‘There is a better way than this.

There is indeed a better way to do this, but it requires a lot more patience, love, understanding, time and more patience, love, understanding and time. I have to find ways to educate the both of you on what was done wrong, what needs to be done right, and how the punishment needs to be met. There is a lot more reasoning involved, and while I do lose my temper due to the insolence of you both, I screamed and threatened, but never spanked again.

So did the earlier days of spanking helped made the both of you the way you are today? I do think so, as I’d like to see things in a positive perspective, no matter how dark it was before. I just feel that the spanking was a little too much, too overdue.

The beauty of you boys are your innocence, right now as we walked forward, and putting those caning days further and further in the past, I can see that you both are just as sensible and mischievous as before, I honestly do not expect the both of you to forget those emotionally heavy and intense days of being caned. I hope I hadn’t cane you both so badly to become emotionally scarred by the experience. And from the looks of it, no, you boys remembered the caning but no in a horrified ways. For that I’m thankful that both of you are resilient in such manner.

When you boys have kiddos of your own, I hope I’ll still be around to tell you how unnecessary it is to cane them. I hope I’ll live long enough not to protect them from your caning, but to protect you from your children’s mischief. And when you have to punish them for their misdeeds, let’s do it together, in a much more mature and novel way, sans the cane.

First Published: July 25, 2015