We are going back to class

We are going back to class

We started our Aikido class first week of September, after months of shut down due to COVID19 (I’ve lost count!). I was blissfully ready to start class as early as next year, which is what my sensei has in mind. The Singapore Government recently relaxed the requirements for physical training and this gives us an opportunity to try and resume class. From what I’ve learned, other Aikido schools have also commenced limited classes, with compliance to Safe Management Measures.

My opinion was safety, safety, and safety

It might sound like a nag, but there is a lot about this virus that the medical and scientific community has not idea yet, and while we are keen to resume training, we need to make sure that we practice in accordance to the safety measures spelt out by the government. The last thing we want was t0 have a COVID19 cluster coming out from our dojo, so let’s not jinx it.

Cleaning up

We can only gather in a group of 5, so we stick with the same mantra for the clean-up crew. Siew Ching, Radek, Melvin, Shin Woei and myself turned up on a Friday to clean up so that the premise is ready for lessons on Monday. As you can see, we were still masked while we clean. Which is not such a bad idea given the level of dust floating all around, and our noses and respiratory would have certainly been attacked if we weren’t masked up.

the 5 of us, Clean-up Crew

The Cleaning was quite a tedious process, as our dojo is an open air, sheltered roof top. It is susceptible to wind, rain as well as dead leaves, and other dirt. So we had to go through a few cycles of cleaning, not to mention under the COVID19 situation, we cleaned even more.

Dark Waters

That how dark the waters looked after a few rounds of mopping, we have to clear some dead leaves and it took us quite a bit of time to clean it up to pre-COVID19 standards, so that we can prepare for post COVID19 standards.

Our approach to safe distancing

There’s a few changes we implemented to make sure we can train safely.

1- Weapons training- We practiced with Jo to extend our Ma-Ai and safety distance, we try to avoid kata-te techniques which is entirely possible.

masks at all times, jo practice to minimize contact

2- Masks on at all times

3- Rest and slow pace. We conducted lessons on a slower pace, and also allow more rest time

Our Jos are also wiped with disinfectants

4- Wiping the mats with disinfectants before and after class, also providing hand sanitizers for our fellow Aikidokas

Cleaning up between classes and after classes

5- Separate Mats with a max of 5 Aikidokas per mat, with no inter-mingling

6- Wiping down high-contact areas with disinfectants

Training Safely, and Sustainably

As the most senior student in the class, I was tasked to lead the class and when I bowed, I humbly asked for O’sensei’s grace and guidance to make sure I conduct the lessons safely for my fellow Aikido brothers (There wasn’t any ladies in the class last week). It certainly felt good to be back on the mat, rolling around a bit to shake off that rust. I do not take the privilege of leading the class lightly and my friends’ well being is my responsibility.

So far, I hadn’t forgotten my basics, and despite of wearing the mask, I can still do most of the techniques and oxygenate myself properly. With an additional Jo, I was especially naggy to make sure everyone pay proper attention to the extra training apparatus as people do get injured by it, if they’re not careful.

We do not know how long this COVID-19 situation will continue, but we have to go on with our lives at the same time realistically acknowledge that this will probably never be the same again for a long time to come. Whatever it is, we must incorporate the changes into our daily routine and not let disruption, disrupt us.

Forgiveness- Asking and Giving

Forgiveness- Asking and Giving

Dear Boys,

As you both know, I don’t have a family past which I can be proud of. My parents, and my elder brother, well…they’re difficult to manage, they have never been in my life, for the good times, and they’re always there in my memories when I think of the bad. That’s a fact.

The Letter-it’s not that bad…

The story of my life is one of waiting, for the dreaded. When it finally came, well… it didn’t feel so bad. So…moot point, nothing in reality is as bad as you imagine it to be. Whatever happens, you can deal with it.

The letter was from the government, sent when my mum went to them to get money from me. My dad did that to me about 7 years ago. I’ll go into the details later in future, but the gist of it was both my parents think of me as a kind of ‘gold mine’ where they can milk money out from. This leaves me in a bad mental state, and oh let’s not talk about my elder brother.

Wishin’ and Hopin’

Celebrating my elder brother’s birthday, circa 2000

So I carry them as my ‘family history’ as a burden on my shoulders, always gnarly and bitter about not having a more supportive and loving parents. Well I guess I am always kind of wishing for something better, the wishin’ and hopin’ was actually not doing anything good for me. There’s really nothing nice I can say or mention about them, they are not my source of pride and joy.

Whoever or whatever they are or were, they are literally poisoning my personality and reality without even being there. The best part was I was allowing them to do so, lurking in the fringe of my mind and psyche.

Turning the bad to good

The relationship is so aloof with them that they’ve never found a good reason to contact me, and this caused me to develop a doubt over the good things that has happened in my life. That cynical person in me (usually my mum), who is always suspicious over a positive turn of events. ‘Cannot be! There must be a catch!’ ‘How can it be so good! You just watch it, it’ll always turns bad!’ And things always do.

While I was thinking about the bad stuff they’ve caused me, bad personalities they’ve endowed me with, twisted stories my mum (especially my mum) and dad has told me; a silent voice in me grew louder of late, whispering softly to me that they also did left me with something good. I just need to find out what that is, while my dad was a failed businessman, who was probably a bankrupt, he was after all an entrepreneur. My mum was at times a good judge of character, she has a wonderful smile in better days. Even if all they left me was something bad, I didn’t turn out bad, I learned from the bad things they left me with. The trap was I was learning so much, I was slowly turning bad. I was learning to avoid the poison, by eating them to get rid of them, not very smart right?

Forgiveness

From what it seems, they’ve very much unwittingly done me wrong and left me a little twisted. If we were to move on, forgiveness is a mental closure for everyone to heal and become a better person. Sometimes our perpetrators might be self vindicated, to think they are right and you are wrong. and you are the one who have hurt them, therefore they hold the ‘key’ to your forgiveness, and they’ll punish you and hold you psychologically hostage, by not forgiving you for the hurt you did to them.

Relationship is always a 2-way street and for my case, I don’t think I can get them to forgive me, and I don’t think they will ask for my forgiveness, after all, I cause them the hurt, didn’t I?

I forgive them

My mum

I forgive them anyway, never mind that they’ll never know I did, ignorant to the reality that they have left a son, a younger brother alone, lonely and a little bitter almond seed in my heart.

I forgive them anyway, as I have to accept the judgement they’ve passed to me. I’ll never be the good son, or little brother in their lives. I’ve punished myself enough to try and live up to that fantasy, and the reality is, I am a good husband, decent dad, and okay guy.

I forgive them as I need to forgive myself, for being unfilial, for ditching them, and for being the bad guy in their narrative. I don’t live in their narrative, I live in my reality. I have to forgive myself for playing this sad sorry tune in my head for the longest time.

Always give and quit asking for it

An old polaroid photo of my dad and my elder brother. My only photo of my dad.

Don’t beg

If you are waiting for people to give you their forgiveness, you’ll always be begging. While in a healthy and balanced relationship, you can ask the person whom you’ve hurt; for forgiveness, and it’ll heal faster for both the victim and the instigator, when you give forgiveness, ask for forgiveness and gets it. Nonetheless, if you ask and you’re not given, it’s okay, forgive them for not forgiving you and move on, some things are never meant to be solved and some sour relationships are meant to be sour, no matter how hard we try to better it.

Don’t do what your dad did for the past 20 odd years, waiting in vain for my history to better. History is history, no matter how hard we try to rewrite it. What has happened is not something we can understand, I can never fully understand why my elder brother is the a**hole, he still is, why my mum tells lies to everyone about everyone. People are people, they’ll change to their whims and conveniences, a lot of us live like this and will be like this for as long as we live, you boys can be better, and start being better by learning to forgive yourself, and forgive those who have hurt you.

And boys, if I’ve hurt you, please forgive me, I forgive you for any and all the hurt you’ve caused me.

Everything has changed

Everything has changed

The whole world is no longer the same. We all heard of the cliche ‘The only constant is change.’ Heraclitus said that, a long time ago. Human beings are stubborn creatures embracing homeostasis long after being stoic means to be dead.

Aikido along with all other marital arts, or contact sports, are forced to change, there is no more choosing or delaying. Change is unceremoniously gate crashing onto us. COVID-19 has made all physical contact near impossible, and as human beings it is near impossible to refrain from physical contact.

What is the new norm?

Honestly I’m not sure. Many Aikidoka suggests we do weapons training, which naturally gives us social distancing, but what about kote gaishi? What about irimi nage? From where I am in Singapore, the authorities has banned groups of more than 5 people. For an Aikido class, that means, the instructor, and 4 other students. Yay…soooo exciting. Other instructors has gone hi-tech, and holds virtual classes, and yet, these are still contactless.

  • So what happens to the rest of us who are left out?
  • What happens if we have no access to Zoom, or hates Aikido E-learning?
  • Or if we are the 6th person?…oops… too bad, next class then!

Does that means that with all my 20 odd years in Aikido is all for nothing?

I’ve been out for Aikido for the past 4 months (or more, lost count!) and many of us has more pressing bread and butter issues to deal with than to think about Aikido training. Many lost their jobs, me included, or worse, lost their loved ones to COVID19, and are constantly fighting a day to day battle to keep themselves upbeat. or just simply pay the bills. The last thing on our mind is training.

So put it plainly, Aikido, is in fact, pretty much useless in this pandemic, Ki cannot fight the corona virus, only our brave healthcare workers can help us with our fight. Honestly, even if O’sensei is alive, I bet he would be at a loss as how to handle this situation. There is simply nothing a martial art system is capable of dealing with this. It is almost like bringing a pen knife to a gun fight. so we all have to heed the advise of medical professionals, be good boys and girls, stay away from physical contact as much as possible, wear a mask, sanitize and keep good personal hygiene. Even O’sensei have to do that, if he is still alive; he is, after all, only human.

The irony is Aikido never left our psyche even when we have other pressing issues to deal with, it is a necessary luxury that keeps us going mad in this crazy time. O’sensei might not have any answer to a COVID19, but he left us with something more valuable, our humanity, in a form known as Aikido.

Practice, practice and practice

While we cannot physically practice, we can still practice the precepts and virtues of Aikido, which is peace, love and harmony. while we cannot enter a physical dojo, we have to enter the dojo in our mind, Aikido is simply an end, we have to find other means to get there.

Practice Peace

Similarly in a dojo, where we do not want to wish our uke harm, we have to engage the people around us with peaceful intent. If harm comes our way, we have to engage it constructively, tenkan (転換)-turn away to neutralise the harm, physical or verbal. Or irimi-tenkan-enter and turn, agree to disagree, allow the person to enter and then turn him or her towards a more peaceful and constructive resolution. We must try to change and convert an incendiary situation to something less destructive.

This is difficult for me to do, as I have a critically cynical mind, which I am learning to self-disarm. So I try to practice peace, even more so now when we are faced with Covidiots- who refused to wear a mask in public, and will continue to refuse, no matter what. Remember, it is the virus that’s trying to kill us, not our fellow human beings.

Practice Love

The good ol’ days back in 2016

This one is really tough, even in the dojo, when our uke attacks us, do we want to ‘love’ our uke? Not really, our constantly combative mind will want to turn even the most harmonious Aikido waza in to a man-killing, harm neutralizing technique. We constantly think that our uke is the ‘attacker’ and we need to ‘protect’ ourselves from ‘harm’ at all cost, or at least, more harm to the uke than to me? That’s what self defense is, isn’t it?

So the concept of Love in Aikido levels the playing field, the nage and uke are just elements in contact and play, and now that we cannot have contact, we can still play. Love means we need to be less spiteful to someone who do not understand, refuse to understand the seriousness of the matter. Some might even think it is fake news, and some government cockamimi to control us.

Practicing Love in Aikido mean that we look at what matters to us most. Skeptics are skeptics because they fear change, and like to keep to a constant ‘known’ where they can feel safe and secure. In some sense, as Aikidokas, we are also susceptible to becoming a skeptic, so we have to learn to love ourselves, allay that frightened little skeptic in us and find the right answers to help us learn and become more knowledgeable.

more Kokyu-Ho in future?

Harmony

We all try to maintain a harmonious aura in the dojo, which is quite easy due to the tight culture in a dojo, there is a sensei, there are senpai(先輩), there are kōhai (後輩), and there is the uniform and the martial arts curriculum, it’s a school afterall and it helps keeps us sane with a structure where we can follow.

The world right now is in a tumultuous stage, and we need all the harmony we can get, and it starts with us. We need to bring our dojo out to the world and understand that, while we learn the Way of Aiki in the dojo, we need to learn the Way of the Virus, Covido, to put a pun in it. The virus is virtually invisible, like ki, if ki is the ‘life-force’; the virus is the ‘death-force’, we can only defeat it by learning more about it. The senseis and senpais are the good people in the medical profession, saving lives while trying to find out more about the virus, and the possible cure. Our kōhai are the people less educated about COVID19, our job is to keep them safe, help them learn about COVID19, like how we are helping them learn Aikido, many of us turn up in the dojo skeptics and it is our senseis and senpais that helped changed us. We as Aikidokas, or martial arts practitioners let’s bring the harmony we practice in the dojo, out and spread it to the world, which needs it more than ever.

Healing yourself

Healing yourself

Dear Boys,

After all these years in Aikido, I’ve had my countless injuries, and thankfully, nothing serious. Sometimes you’ll get injured without knowing why, or how the injury comes about. What’s interesting is that after a while, my body will ‘tell’ me how that injury came about.

One recent muscular pain in my left forearm baffled me. I couldn’t understand where that pain came from. The pain was a deep, dull one but nonetheless, I knew I had somehow injured it.

As I continue with my daily chores, the realisation came to me out of the blue. I must have pulled a muscle doing this stunt.

Which was to me at that time, seems like a kind of fun, but I was putting my entire weight on that arm, and I thought the first thing that should go was my wrist, but it didn’t, it was my forearm that probably got twisted and hyper-extended in a bad way. It’s fine now.

Physical Pain, Mental Answers

Well, one thing I learned these months was that my body, or psyche, can tell me what went wrong, and how I got injured, my mind can do the same thing as well.

Lacking Self-Compassion

It came to my realization one day, that I lacked Self-Compassion. I didn’t know that came from, the message just floated out into my mind and it got stuck. I know I was onto something. Somehow, I was mentally hurt, psychologically maimed and just limping around, pretending everything is fine, or hiding behind a thin vile of pseudo-positivism. Besides, in our society, we need to project happiness, strength, independence and look great not just good on every front.

My Own ‘unbiased’ Self Assessment

While I am an overall nice guy, the one thing that lurks beneath that niceness, was a sense of dark, melancholy brooding. My defense was everyone has a ‘Harvey Two-Face‘ like the character in Batman. We all have a good guy and a bad guy persona. That’s true.

What is also true was that the ‘dark’ side of me was becoming toxic, making me cynical over the good and gloat when things turn bad. It is beginning to taint my ability to interpret reality objectively and tell a more holistic self-narrative. My wife, your mum do tell me that from time to time, but it really takes yourself to know yourself.

I am an A**hole

I used to say that in a jest and shrugged it off nonchalantly. It’s like telling people don’t expect me to be nice and it’s a given if I misbehave! While it was a social defense mechanism, it ultimately worked best against…me. I was giving myself an excuse to be bad, and look at good things as a bonus. While I thought I was being pragmatic and brutally realistic, I didn’t realise that in doing so, I am also missing out the other colours of life.

Self-Narrative: The Good, Bad and the Ugly

Like I said, generally I am a nice guy, and nice things should happen to nice guys right? Wrong.

It’s all the self narrative that I am telling myself in the head, and I realised that I am not giving myself space to just be. It was always something about ROI-Return on Investment, or Cost Benefit Analysis, or something of a quid pro quo. There’s always a condition, a cause and effect. Something’s gotta give, oh yeah, there’s karma, BIATCH! Being a working adult, you’re always looking at dollars and cents, cost-centre, profit centre and all that. My self narrative keeps telling me to be productive, effective and efficient, and I get wound up tighter and tighter and I turned into this uptight, cynical, often hypocritical person who cannot see the good, bad and the ugly as it is. There is always a value adding and it’s getting heavier and heavier.

Why are you so hard on yourself?

I’m not sure how it began but I guess the current cruel and harsh reality really began to wear me down, mentally, emotionally and psychologically. There’s really nothing good in the news these days, and really nothing productive or positive about the COVID-19 era. It is as bleak and dreary as I can imagine. Everyone’s down and there is no way to fake it, there is nothing upbeat to look forward to.

Then one day, I felt this thought floated up, that I am very hard on myself for reasons I cannot really put my finger to. That sub-conscious thought of constantly comparing and measuring myself against this and against that. There is always something external which I can match with my internal psyche, and after all the measurement, and keeping up with the Jones, I realised that it is all crap.

Then the word Compassion came about.

(This is where I stopped typing…to contemplate the word C-O-M-P-A-S-S-I-O-N)

still contemplating….

okay, let’s get back to it… 🙂

In all true sense, there is nothing wrong with my life, sure there are ups and downs, and right now, I’m actually at the down…though in reality, I’m not in a crazy free falling down. It’s a controlled descend and I have whatever in me to stop the descend and climb back up when the time is right. I am fine, really, really fine, and I’m only lousy from all these past bad shit that has happened to me, but it isn’t happening to me now. I’m just bracing myself for bad shit to happen, and in bracing myself, I’m unable to relax and stay open to how life really is, happening.

Thinking about compassion helps me control my sense of helplessness. The internal dialogue in me started to change, it is no longer performance driven, it’s just performing, nevermind the outcome, we can fix that when it happens. It’s about being present and not let a past historical story about the poor sad sorry me get in the way of what is really happening now. I’m still a realist, and being compassionate helps me become more grounded, without the extra historical backstory and baggage, sure they are there, but they stay where they are, in the past. I only use it as a reference point, and not a paint to ruin my ability to see things as it is.

Being Kinder, Not One Kind

It is a more forgiving dialogue, and thinking about giving myself compassion, lets me be me. I’m kinder to myself, and when that takes place, I interprets the world in a kinder manner, and when the cold harsh truth comes, I didn’t get as defensive as before, or let my old angsty story gets in the way and put a scowl on my face.

Being prepared for the eventuality-Death

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post- Death, I had this epiphany that we’re all here on borrowed time, and unfortunately for me, I interpreted the message wrongly. I looked at it with trepidation and bleakness. It’s a simple fallacy of ‘why try when we’re gonna die anyway?’ I lacked the compassion, guidance and wisdom to see the message in a more positive light. All I saw was the end, and nothing more, just waiting, waiting for expiration.

It’s not a Race! Give some Space!

There is no guessing, we are all gonna die, and I thought I was kind of a special to have that sort of death vision and qualifies me to be a little wiser and more introspective than the general population, and of course I wasn’t, I was just outsmarting the person I am meant to be.

We all need space, mental space and physical space, and personally for me, compassion gives me my space. Internally, I am able to tell myself it is okay to f**k up for the umpteenth time, as long as it doesn’t kills me! I can always try again, and succeed at my own time and place. When I do, there is no need for public triumph, just an inner contention that it is what it really is, nothing more, nothing less, because the ultimate success we can find is our ability to stop hurting and start healing ourselves.

The General Elections is here…again

The General Elections is here…again

Dear Boys,

We are in the midst of an election season again in Singapore, and I hate elections, other than the one extra day of public holiday we get so that we can go to the polls.

Why the hate?

Its a rather strong choice of words, because that’s what elections does, polarises people. Right now in Singapore as well as around the world, we’re facing a pandemic of unprecedented scale, all hands must be on deck to fight this pandemic, save lives and of course save our country and economy. The COVID19 pandemic puts the entire world at war, and this war is far from over.

So here comes the Elections.

This is really the last thing we need right now, as the current, effective and working government is dissolved so that we can reset and choose a ‘new’ one. We don’t need a new one as the current one is already doing a stellar job, they have all the mechanism in place and everything is working well. I really like it the way Singapore is going.

So here comes the Opposition.

Let me be idealistic, and say that without the ruling PAP, all oppositions will collapse. They have nothing going for them except to oppose, whatever policies the government has come up with, never mind that the current policies in place is working well.

Listening to the Opposition, creates that desired effect, oppose, and it mostly means deconstructing what is already in place. For example, there is a lot of noise about the GST hike, the Oppositions uses this as a red herring to distracts the public, knowing that no one likes taxes (me included) but taxes is a necessary evil. Opposing eventual GST increase is a populist ideas used to stir the population to dream of a better utopia state.

Policymakers or Politicians

The other reason why I hated elections is that a lot of the PAP leaders are not better policy makers than they are politicians, the Oppositions, on the other hand, are more politicians than policymakers.

I prefer Policymakers to Politicians.

Policymakers

They are the go-to guys to fix problems, and offer solutions. They look into issues, listen to the sentiments, diagnose the issues and suggests a reasonable, actionable course of actions. They take out what might not work, and change it into something better to ensure the bigger strategy is reached. Policymakers are planners, and they take actions. They don’t blame and they will strive to execute the best possible policies to secure the best possible outcome. They don’t play politics.

Policymakers usually makes lousy politicians, because they are boring people, and take a long time to communicate their ideas as they know the full scale complexity of an issue and they have a plan to deal with it, explaining will take too much time, and they like to let their work speak for themselves.

Politicians

Many politicians makes decent policymakers, but there are many politicians, who are merely political and comes with their own personal agendas, sure they will implement policies, but policies they benefit from, first. Politicians are shrewd communicators, using their skills to break down a complex problem into bite-size pros and cons, never mind the rest of the just-as-important fine prints. Politicians often comes with the charisma, charm and eloquence to bamboozle the public, carry a baby and make a dramatic show for to polarise issues so that people will take their side and buy their arguments. They can use power to rally the people, their arguments are typically one sided ‘them and us’ and mostly assigning blame to an extrinsic entity.

Lee Kuan Yew

As far as I can remember, Mr Lee has never assigned blame during his political career (I’m sure Oppositions beg to differ!). When we ‘gain independence’ from Malaya (the truth is they kicked us out), Mr Lee’s rhetoric wasn’t to assign blame. Correct me if I’m wrong, he never openly blamed the Malaysians for kicking us out, he has bigger problems to deal with. But being dealt with a shitty card like this, it is very easy for Mr Lee to stir the hearts and minds of Singaporeans back in 1965 by saying:” They did this to us! They didn’t want us! We will make them pay and they’ll regret ever doing this to us!” Had we build the nation on those words, we would have been a very different Singapore. We would have a Singapore always looking for reason why people hates us, rejected us and we would have been a very angsty bunch of people. But Mr Lee showed us a better way, and look at where we are today!

The kind of political climate I want my children to be in

Mr Lee has said it before, PAP will not lasts forever, a better party will come along, and right now, not even in the near to far future, I see any form of better party, all I see is a bunch of Oppositions, opposing for the sake of opposing.

The New Centre of Gravity

As I age, I’m starting to understand what Mr Lee said, he knew that the policies PAP comes up with isn’t perfect, they are very, very good policies, but they have flaws. He has a vision of another political party that equals or has superior policymakers, and has an actionable plan. The new political force will have no time to assign blame, play politics, lie, oppose for the sake of opposing, and engage in selfish, narrow minded antics that just divides the population. The new political force will be an alternative centre of gravity, one that has a stronger pull, has a better vision, direction and energy, an organization even PAP will concede to.

This party will be Opposition’s Opposition, and yet it will not be another PAP. In the current ecosystem PAP is the ruling party and everyone else is an Opposition, period. The new party isn’t going to be an Opposition, not even an Alternative, it will be a whole new way of thinking how Singapore can more forward, in ways that not even PAP can fathom, when that happens, we know we will have a second coming, but until then, I will have to bear with the current bunch of Opposition and the noise they are making.

YOLO & FOMO for COVID19

YOLO & FOMO for COVID19

Dear boys,

We were undecided about going for a holiday for last year’s December holidays. Firstly, Ian has already gone to Japan for his school’s learning journey, and I was planning a trip to Japan this year, 2020 for the IAF, International Aikido Federation meet, happening once every 4 years. The last time I was in Japan was back in 2000, it would be an epic journey for me to return after 20 years.

IAF pass
My IAF card back in 2000

Your mum told me that if we were to plan for a December holiday, I will have to scrap my trip, money’s (or the lack of it) is the issue. We decided to go ahead with a short getaway so that Wayne will not feel FOMO, now that his big brother had an awesome trip with his school to Japan. Besides, I decided to YOLO, as we will never know what will happen in 2020 (look what happened!!), we’ll cross the bridge when we get there, if I get to go to IAF2020, it’s be great; if I don’t get to go, at least my kids and wife gets to go on a holiday in December 2019. So we made some plans and calculations and ended up going to Desaru, Hard Rock Hotel, which was an awesome trip, no regrets there.

Hard Rock Hotel Desaru

We had a good time there, and I’m thankful we went; because COVID19 happened.

Travelling will no longer be the same

I was just thinking about it while I was cleaning the toilet, it was a good call to go. Now that the new COVID19 world, global travelling will be severely curtailed, and we can only reminiscence the good ‘ol days, where we went here and there.

Oh, my solo IAF trip shelved as well, as most event and meets worldwide are put on cold storage, anyway the Olympics 2020 was pushed forward to 2021 too.

IAF photo
My IAF trip back in 2000

Travelers worldwide will have to take stock of how to restart the holiday business again. We may be able to travel and visit places, but I don’t think it will be with great ease like before.

So I’m really glad Desaru happened in December 2019, as this year, I don’t think the world have a solution to deal with COVID19 yet, and so holidays are going to be holidays at home. We can only look at the videos and photographs we have on our trips.

Saving Money and Spending Money

While we do make plans to save and it is important to do so, we were glad that you boys enjoyed your fair share of travelling, taking planes, flying here and there. We want you boys to have beautiful memories of the places you’ve been as a family as as brothers, these are shared experiences that build the bonds you both will have that will carry through thick and thin.

We could have been stingy and saved every penny for a great big trip, something epic, and once-in-a-lifetime, for example my IAF2020 trip, but all that saving is sort of in vain, now that this global phenomenon is upon us, we cannot travel like before, even if we have tonnes of money.

IMG20191215184443

It’s a balance, and YOLO (You Only Live Once) is an acronym used to describe The Millennials and their lifestyle, spending like crazy, living just for today (Live Once), and not worrying about tomorrow, not saving a cent for rainy days. As parents we do worry about your tomorrow and I feel that your mum and I managed to achieve a good YOLO for you boys, we don’t spend like there is no tomorrow, and yet we don’t save like misers, making you boys FOMO all the world-travelling fun. Now with the new COVID19 world, we will really FOMO some things we’ve done in the past, and take for granted. And I’m glad we had our share of fond memories.

 

COVID19 -An Aikidoka’s Opinion

COVID19is a seemingly invincible and invisible killer putting the entire world in fear.

Aikido, like many other martial arts and sports, requires close contact, and a lot of dojos out there are closed, to avoid unwittingly infecting other people and of course, honour Social, Safe Distancing in a bid to slow the spread of this deadly virus.

Here’s my take.

STAY AT HOME, DO NOT GO TO THE DOJO

PERIOD

YOU WILL NOT DIE NOT PRACTICING AIKIDO,

BUT YOU WILL KILL SOMEONE WITH COVID19 GOING TO THE DOJO

Bullshitdo- not Aikido

There are some Aikido practitioners out there thinking that they can be brave, not fear the COVID19, and continue to practice Aikido, when in reality they are practicing a true form of Bullshitdo, the fallacy of invincibility.

These folks think that they are somehow immune to the virus, a delusional ‘not me!’ thinking. It’s similar to sexually promiscuous men thinking that they won’t get STD from unprotected sexual intercourse and when they do, they feigned surprise and suddenly feels vulnerable; and stupid.

Dear Aikidokas out there, please don’t be stupid, because if you do and you get the COVID19, you can become a silent carrier, as many of the COVID19 patients do not develop symptoms, and you can bring the virus back home and spread it to others who are more vulnerable, loved ones like your elderly grandpa, or your dad, or your baby sister.

As long as you have the COVID19- and you touch someone, someone will die, do you want to live with that your entire life?

It is a VIRUS

Please don’t think that some mysterious ‘ki’ can protect you from it. It is a VIRUS, it kills, as long as it is able to, and it has shown to be a very competent killer. Your knowledge of Aikido, ki or other martial arts is virtually useless protecting you from it, you get it, you get it, you die, that’s it. It’s non-negotiable, end of the story.

There is no known vaccine against it so the only defense is, defense. You cannot go out there, continue to socialise and thinking that having a kind of ‘herd immunity’ can help protect you from it. There is no Herd Immunity, only mass deaths, please don’t become another statistics.

COVID19 has no agenda, no plan other than to continue surviving. It will kill any highly skilled Aikidoka, as much as any Special Forces soldier, it will kill as long as it can have a host to kill. It will kill as long as there is contact, close proximity between a COVID19 carrier and another victim. No amount of love, peace and harmony of Aikido can stop this spread, if you continue to go to the dojo and hold people’s hands.

DOJO- the perfect breeding place

Earlier on this year while the virus was still developing, I too, was one of those stubborn ones, thinking that ‘hey, I was still training when SARS hit.’I was still training when H1N1 hits.’ I was in the thinking that ‘It won’t happen to me.’

In Aikido and in many other contact sports, we all continue to train when we have some minor colds, fever and all, sniffy noses where we will wipe the mucus off our sleeves and continue training. Personal hygiene was never top of the agenda, blood, sweat, mucus, body fluids of all sorts are freely exchanged, and everyone went home okay.

This time, it is different as the situation is highly unpredictable and COVID19 is a cunning killer, as mentioned, you can be a silent carrier, and bring death to your fellow Aikidoka, without you even knowing it, until it is too late.

Some Aikidokas continue to practice using surgical masks, and thinking that a policy of using hand sanitizers will help mitigate the risk of infections in the dojo. It doesn’t. You can wear a mask to cover your mouth, your noses. You’ll rub you eye, you sweat, our skin have pores, we human beings are a bunch of badly designed, porous, poorly ventilated organism. Unless you can train in a HAZMAT suit, don’t bother turning up.

hakama hazmat
Hazmat-Hakama

Our Dojo is close for the entire month of April 2020.

It’s quite a bummer not able to train, but we know the situation is much bigger than all of us. We are a close knitted group of Aikidokas and we are all a bunch socially responsible folks, one of my Aikidoka friend decided to self impose her own distancing for 2 weeks as she was nursing a cold.

But fact of the matter is, COVID19 still don’t care, it is capable of staying in the shadows, and strike when least expected. Our sensei is into his eighties and to continue training will put him as well as others at risk, we love our sensei and granted the current situation, let distance makes our Aikido-heart grows fonder, instead of coming together and risk killing our fellow Aikidokas.

By the way, if you think you are still so invincible, go visit your nearest hospital, get yourself infect with COVID19 and see if your Aikido skills is any good getting you cured. If not, you’ll become another burden to the already stretched medical services, so do everyone a favour, stay at home or stay in a hospital, and then stay in a photo frame!

ab_stayhome_270320_0

5km Everyday for November (addendum)

Dear Boys,

I realised that there are some other details I’ve not explain well in my other 2 posts.

Losing Weight

No, I didn’t lose weight, nor was I aiming to when I started this challenge. The strange thing was the weight loss should have come as a sort of given effect, as I am putting more activities on the road, every day, but no, my weight stays on stubbornly.

What actually happened was my blood pressure started dropping. This was more acute when I run in the morning and take the readings after that, evening reading has traditionally for me been a spike, but even that was brought down during my runs at night.

recorded some of my best BP readings during my 30 day challenge, especially morning runs.

That was an encouraging sign as it does indicate that my body is responding positively to the increased cardio-vascular stress and load.

Breaking Mindset

To be frank the challenge was more like an experiment. I wasn’t sure if I can keep to it, as there are many unexpected things that can happen to break my running streak (pun intended). I could fall ill, got hurt, it could rain, and a lot of other events.

More importantly it is a self-commitment to see how far I can take it, before the challenge, I do felt stiffness/pain on my lower back, and instantly the mind came up with this perfect excuse/reason: “Yeah, shouldn’t run so much/long! Give ya back a break!” Or days where I planned it poorly, and ended up exhausted even before I hit the road, I’d tell myself: “Why the heck are you doing this!” Or “At your age?” Or “Hadn’t you got enough? Aikido, Cycling home, and then another 5km?” 

Cycled home…

…followed by a run

While there are tonnes of reasons why you will tell yourself not to do it, I always give myself 2 reasons why I do it:

1- It’s only for 30 days, consecutively, so don’t break it.

2- It’s only 30 minutes out, it’ll be over before you know it.

These 2 mantras helped me get through the toughest run, which is always about the mindset. Even during the run, these excuses/reasons never leaves me alone. But action builds traction. I learned that as long as I keep at it, I’ll get through it. Except when it rains.

Plan B

I’ve already mentally prepared that even if it rains, I’d run. Unless it is a massive thunderstorm. Then I’ll have to resort to Plan B, and thankfully I have a treadmill at home for such continencies, which I only used once.

The other time which I had to look for a gym/treadmill, was a Thursday where I have to see Ian off, flying to Japan for your 9-day school trip. I knew then the night will end late for me, so I left work a little early, popped into an ActiveSG gym, ran the 5km, showered and head off to the airport.

complements of AciveSG Gym at Jalan Besar

The mind is a very tenacious mechanism, and we need to be careful where we apply the tenacity, it can work for us or it sure has hell can work against us.

Reality Check

The other thing was a reality check which was closely tied to our mindset. We have to hit the action button constantly to make sure we are who we are, and not who we think we are. I also wanted to see how my body espond to a higher physical tempo, will I break? Will I fall ill? Thakfully my body held up well through the entire 30 days.

Putting 5km every day on the road, helps me constantly check myself. If I can do it, then there is no lying about it. And if I pretend to be fit when I am not, then there is no way I can do what I did. And despite of my physical ability to do it. The lazy me, did thought of cheating, like cycle instead of jogging, or do a quick 3 km and qualify it as an effort. The mind is tricky and sly, it is a constant battle to keep at it, and not stray from the goal.

Habit forming

There is a popular saying that it takes about 3 months for a habit to set in. I think that is bullcrap. It takes a long longer, and it takes commitment, discipline, and constant eye on the target to keep at it. And breaking it? It is just a matter of days. And the body will want to stay at rest, and continue its optimum rest position.

But what I learned was to be kind to myself, while it is a 30day challenge, I walsy give myself a caveat. I am not going to die achieving it. If I need to break it, so be it, I’m fine, and I am not going to be unhappy about it.

Besides, this was my 3rd attempt, as I’ve failed once a long time back, and again in Sept this year, where I must stop due to a bad bike fall.

Lessons learnt

At the end of the day, I took away valuable lessons in exercise, and staying in control. You see, to be able to put on your shoes and run, would mean that you have faculties under your control and influence.

While your world might become crazily out of control, as long as you can run and exercise, you will know deep down inside there’s still a part of you, that you have control and influence over. It is important for us to build our self-confidence over our own effort to shape and work our body, this is one faculty, no one has permission to control, except ourselves.

5km everyday for November (Part 2)

5km everyday for November (Part 2)

Dear Boys,

Running everyday for the past 1 month has taught me a few lessons. As common as the saying goes, ‘life is a marathon’, it is actually more than that, life isn’t just 42.195km, to me, it is 5km spread over a month or more, interspaced with interruption, suprises, determination, positivity, mechanism, injuries and a lot more. But I guess it is about going on, and not stopping, well, at least not that often.

Fatigue

The fatigue is not just about exhaustion immediately after a run, I am talking about a longer expereince of tiredness, knowing that the next day is another 5km to complete. And while there is a finite number of 30days, it seems to be never-ending when you’re at it.

Another fatigue is the risk of injury, putting so much physical activity in 30 days, runs into the risk of getting hurt, even in normal day to day stuff. The body is taking a beating from the increased activity and I really need to pay attention to what I do.

The other issue with fatigue is the lacking of rest between runs. Sometimes, I have to do a late night run, followed by an early morning run the next day, due to Aikido class in the evening, this means that the body is being put through a high tempo with less rest, a recipe for injury, and thankfully, none of that happened, although, it did feel like it is going to happen a couple of times.

Safety

November was in a way tumultuous times in Singapore, as there was a uproar of anti-PMD(Personal Mobility Devices) sentiments due to the rising number of PMD and pedestrain related accidents and incdients. Your dad became one of the victims, on the 4th of November, and the government annouced the ban on the 5th.

Since some of my jogs are night runs, I already have a good sense to buy small bicycle blinkers to put on myself, for the sake for visibility, I have one and it is always on my back, but that accident with the PMD was a head on collision. So I bought another one to on my chest, so that I can be seen front and back.

Safety also means that I don’t jog with headphones on, which will reduce my situational awareness, but having music on means that I can have a fast rythmn and tempo, dependent on the song of my choosing.

Blister

From my previous running experience, I know that blisters will develop, along with trauma to the toe nails, I have one on each foot. This is quite normal and it is part of the pain package for sustained running.

 

To save me from this ordeal, I was very fortunate to come across a fantastic anti-blister tape from Decathlon. It was cheap and it was good. The stickiness was just right and it did it’s job protecting my toes from pain and excessive rubbing. You see, despite of that, I’m still going to lose my toenails, but it could be worse.

non-stretch-rigid-self-adhesive-tape-white

Blister management is very important to make sure the run is enjoyable and sustain able, and if you miss out this important minor details, your painful little toes can derail your plan.

Shoes

I’m not a big fan of expensive running shoes. Sure they look good, and comes with a high level of comfort, and some can cost $200 and up. For my run, I did it with this pair, Asics Torrence, a cheap, discontinued basic running shoe that cost me about RM$100… which is about S$30.

It served me well, although it took me a while to get my stride right, but it did the job, gave me good cushioning and there was no major protest from my feet. 

This goes to prove the as long as you can run, any decent pair of running shoes will do, and spending more than necessary will not make you a better runner. Unless, you are a performance running athelete, then a pair of high end running shoes will help put that extra speed into your gait. If not, just get a pair and hit the road.

One very important thing though, socks. Invest in a good pair of running socks, which will help brings confidence in your stride.

ekiden-running-socks-3-pack-black.jpgFit to keep fit

One last thing, boys, a minimum level of fitness is important, so you need to have a baseline level of fitness before you start on this endeavour. If you are morbidly unhealthy, never start on this. Always start slow and go low, as in a low mileage, and build it up from there. Always be kind to your body and listen to your body’s reaction to your efforts, if you really feel unwell, stop. You can always recover and try again, it is fruitless, and also stupid to push this just for the sake of your ego.

5km Everyday for November (Part 1)

5km Everyday for November (Part 1)

Dear Boys,

Your dad challenged himself to a 5 km run everyday for the month of November, and this is how he did it.

Planning

It is not as simple as just pick up the shoes and run, well it is actually that simple but there is some planning to do. You need to run through a couple of things in your head before you actually put the foot on the ground. It is the simple Franklin Covey’s ‘measure twice, cut once.’ mindset, as he as mentioned in his highly acclaimed 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Route planning

I need to know where to jog, that is to measure the distance and not do more than 5km, there is a discipline to it that you don’t over-run which is unnecessary, and will do more harm than good, there must be a good pace to contain fatigue (more on that later…)

To know where I am jogging, I use Mapometer. This website helps me plot my route and work out the areas I can jog to get my mileage. It is quite intuitive although in some places the routes are not updated, so you still need to have some ‘on the ground’ knowledge to make this work better.

mapometer.JPG

Planned Routes

After working out Mapometer, I will list out a few routes, so that I don’t get bored running the same route for 30 days. For where we stay, I’ve listed 5-8 routes which is in the range of 5km.

The 5 primary routes are:

  1. Punggol Central =5.47km
  2. LRT = 5.19km
  3. Kelong Bridge = 5.17km
  4. Triple Bridge = 5.06km
  5. FGS (Fo Guang Shan) = 5.18km

Once these are identified, I’ll work out a day to day plan:

october planning

This is to help me visualise what I need to do, and prepare the night before. I will usually have my ‘run package’ ready, which is top, shorts, socks, blister tape (more on that later as well…) running pouch and blinkers (talk about that, safety aspect too…)

Look, the plan is the plan, when it comes to execution, it often don’t go as planned, but without a framework, it will be no problem to start, but difficult to be consistent.

Having the map routed, and days sort of planned, it is time for the run! After every run, I will record it down in the journal:

Scan0009

While I use a running app to keep track of my running, nothing beats, old school writing it down. It helps me collect my thought and look at my efforts so far, there is a minor satisfaction writing down the accomplishment, and it does help me move day to day, with some level of motivation.

Hit the road!

Once all the planning is done, it boils down to the execution of the plan. If planning is strategic, the execution is tactical. In order to be successful, you need both, and with all the planning done, without proper execution, you will fizzle.

I know I can run, the issue is running consistently, and finding the time to do it. The running itself will take typically 30 odd minutes, the warming down, taking a shower and settling down at my journal, takes up another 20 odd minutes, so it’ll take me about an hour to end the whole exercise. Once you get the timing the first few times, you’ll know how much time you need to get it done.

While it is all about putting on the shoes to run, your mind will play tricks on you to drag it out, during the weekends, where you have the entire day to do your stuff and you will tend to procrastinate the run till almost the end of the day. This is even more acute during the weekdays, where a huge chunk of the time is taken up by work and commute. which left my running fighting for time with sleeping.

On top of that I have Aikido lessons in some weekday evenings, so in the most ideal situation, I’d like to jog in the morning, so that I have time for Aikido in the evening, but in reality, I’d ended up doing Aikido and jogging after class, which totally exhausts me.

I’ll talk more about fatigue, blisters, safety blinkers and other more nitty gritty details in the part 2.