Save the earth-the cognitive dissonance

Save the earth-the cognitive dissonance

Dear Boys,

The human race has been trying to save the earth for the longest time. And I was reminded again last evening by my friend, Siew Chin, that we can only save ourselves, the Earth will continue with or without us.

An we are doing such a piss poor job trying to save ourselves.

We have all sort of data, statistics and experts telling us the scarcity of our resources. How much fuel we are consuming and we are not sustainable at the rate we are sucking up the earth’s limited resources. Species are going extinct, forests are wiped out, greenery are gone, chemicals and harm are everywhere and we need to take care of the environment, and all that yadah yadah yadah, motherhood statements.

Single use plastics 

In recent years, there are more talk about trying to reduce single use plastics as these are very harmful to the environment, and we need to reduce the usage. It is spreading all over the world and there are plastic wastes in the ocean the size of dunno which country.

In the depths of the ocean there re plastics, where ever we go, we see plastics being branded the poster child of an environment killer. We need to stop using plastics to save the environment. And we have limited time left to do so.

Well, take a look at this picture.

 Cheap, cheap plastics, as far as your eyes can see.

Another picture

food shortage? what food shortage?

How do we get the message across to people to tell them to treasure our limited resources, when the fact is all they see in supermarkets are unlimited resources of food, consumables, plastics and other supposedly Earth harming produce?

You cannot educate people on the scarcity of resources when all they need to do is to head to the nearest minimart to prove that they are right, nevermind you are wrong or not.

The bottom line is, people don’t care, or they care little for the world they live in. And as long as they care about their little world, there will be a massive faceless company providing that care, offering that care. While people care about their little world, and get that gratification doing so, they will not care about the world at large.

We can’t extend that care to those Elephants going extinct in the African Savannah, Giraffes are dying off, but who cares? We can still see them in a zoo. Polar bears are an important part of the arctic ecosystem, so in order to spread awareness, let’s make more soft cuddly Polar Bear plushes in PLASTIC, so that we can tell people how poor thing these polar bears is.

Meanwhile, let’s head to our supermarket…

brush and floss till your teeth drop, and still brush and floss some more.

Plastics, as far as your eyes can see, and mind you, one of these bottles might float and find their way to the ice caps, our dear polar bear friends might pick one of these up and eat it, killing them in the process, but who cares? We’ve got a softtoy to remember that we need to save these big white bears. Such is the hypocrisy of humans.

Who to do next?

Don’t ask me, I only have ideals for extreme, extremely unpopular methods. Being a realist, I don’t quite care about the individual needs, for us to really save ourselves, we need to ban plastic, and make people bring their own containers, make them understand the long tail of cause and effect. The entire value chain. No one seem to understand, especially the manufacturers, that once you make something, that something has an end date.

Typical of human nearsightedness, we only care about growth, and produce more and more, but no one thought about how to end the product’s life cycle nicely. Everyone wants to build and sell nice cars, but no a lot of people wants to take back old, used cars. So used stuffs will accumulate and build up to such a degree no one wants to look at them.

There is no end

Unfortunately, because of humans’ resourcefulness, there will be no end to this production and consumer led consumption of resources, organic or otherwise. People will find ways to continue this type of lifestyle, and it will be too late to realise that the abundance we see everyday is nothing but a veil of an impending destruction.

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Notes to keep us going

Notes to keep us going

Dear boys,

We write notes to one another, well, not so much these days, but I think in the early days of our family lives, it is a good way to tell and encourage each other that we have love, care and concern for every one in our family.

It of course started with me writing and putting these little notes in your mum’s purse, dress, crockeries and other places where she will use, go to or touch. the whole idea was to give her some kind of a pleasant surprises that her husband loves her and is constantly think of her.

While of course, it was a romantic gestures, more importantly, I want to put these nice loving thoughts so that we constant remind each other to be nice to one another, even in a quarrel or unhappy episode, we still need to think of each other in a nice way.

Of course your mum reciprocated in kind, and we learned to put little notes in your bags and wallets, in no time Ian you’re also writing stuffs for your brother and vice versa.

Try to keep this up as there are times where words can’t be spoken enough, or we did a lousy action and hurt our loved ones, but serendipitously come across one of these notes, will help soothes any ruffle feathers.

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No Permanent Friends, No Permanent Enemies

Dear boys,

Humans are the strangest creatures, making friends one moment, and enemies the next.

Your Grandma’s expereince

Last week, while we are at your Grands’ house, for our usual Saturday get-together, your grandma revealed an unhappy episode she had when she was in Secondary 2. She mentioned that the senior Sec 3 girls would pass their past year materials to their junior Sec 2 girls to copy, so that the juniors can have some advantage into their tests. Your grandma also ‘enjoyed’ such a privilege, until one day her friends turned on her. Her group of friend started avoiding her like she was a plague.

She couldn’t understand why, given no reason, she was perplexed. Eventually she managed to find out from her best friend, who somewhat sheepishly told her that their Sec 3 senior girls, told the rest of them not to share these materials with Kan Tee (Your grandma) as she didn’t want to go to church with them.

Your grandma was no pushover. To hell with that, she studied on her own. And during the good times, they will all walk to school together, and now, whilst they still walk the same way, it was a frosty walk, no one would talk to your grandma, and she kept to herself as well.

Eventually, the girls failed their test, and your grandma passed it. We jokingly say that Grandma’s Guanyin, is more powerful than the girls’ God.

It is not about the religion, but about the people who likes to group together. It is a common in-group and out-group phenomenon.

Your dad and mum’s expereince

We too encountered our own share of relationship woes, with friends and colleagues. Both your parents encountered wonderful and lovely people as colleagues, folks we felt close and have that great friendship with. We talked to these friends and colleagues about everything, and some, even invited to our houses and vice versa.

All can fall apart the next day.

No given reason or revelations.

When we were younger, it hurts us in some ways. We like to think we have a healthy ego and we can socialise quite well, we can make friends take care of them, and them take care of us. That is a great feeling to know that we can build on these friendships to count on years later.

It was not, never meant to be.

It has been quite a few years ago and it happened to me more than twice, the hurt is no longer there, but it was replaced with a immense sense of curiosity. Why? Why did these seemingly good friendly folks turn? Colleagues who lunched and laugh at your silly jokes, you laughing at theirs, suddenly stop asking you out for lunch, buys everyone coffee except for you, no longer small talk, chit chat with you, no longer asks you ‘How’s you day?’ They just stopped caring about you and aiming to effectively wiped away your existence, socially.

I felt quite lousy, insignificant and somewhat indignant back then.

Not so much these days.

It made a difference I have your mum, and you mum have me. With the both of us, we pretty don’t quite give a f**k about what happened at work. Your mum is my pillar, and she came from a more complete family, she has her family to fall back on, no matter what friends and colleagues does to her. I relied more of my social circles to give me my sense of worth, and this kind of ‘sudden relationship winter’ hit me hard. But your mum has always been there for me, and it took me some time to accept her as my solace.

But that’s that. We are all much older now and I have grown not to take these kind of cliffhanger relationships personally anymore.

In the latest spat, I learned that some things was said about me, in my absence, and people started distancing themselves from me, typical signs of a drop coming. I’ve seen it all happen before.

Not to be affected, I continue with my work. People chit chat and joked around me, not involving me in their conversation, when I am clearly, physically in the room. I hear all the banter going on, and people asking each other about their personal lives, weaving care and concern all around. I just have this cold, hard shell, and continue plowing into my work. Keeping myself busy at work, helps you keep away from all these subtle insidious  negative attacks. The aim of making you invisible is to make you feel bad, and them feel good.

I felt nothing, no good no bad, its a job, do it well and go home. I only feel bad if I don’t do a good job.

It will be over soon

Good times like bad times always ends, no matter what. Friends always comes and go, so does your haters. No one stays at a spot forever, well, at least not let yourself be the one. Move on and find something new. After a few years, these haters will no longer know why they hated you, or did those things to you. Heck, some might need you to do something for them in future. If your haters need you to help them, help them. It is not because you need to prove them wrong, you help because you can, period.

So while at times, especially when it is happening, it might seem like it will go on forever, but it doesn’t. Always remember what happens at work stays at work, you boys have a family to come back to. At home we can heal each other from the hurt we got outside in the big bad world. And over time, it will all be buried in the past, even the hurt to appear to have will be gone.

While the world may judge you boys badly, you can always come home where no one judges you destructively. There are no enemy in our family.

 

 

 

 

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Aikido Plateau

Aikido Plateau

Have you ever trained until you feel as if you are no longer progressing?

Or seems like going to Aikido is kind of a sian (bothersome).

You feel like you are doing the same ol’ irimi nage with no sense of progress or improvement?

Appears to be making the same mistakes, or re-injuring the same injury point?

Or you are just simply jaded.

Welcome to the Aikido Plateau

plateau0004It happens to everyone, I guess not only just in Aikido but also in other endeavors, sometimes, you might feel like you have dropped from 85kg to 80kg and then it seems to stop at an odd 79.52kg… for a long time. Instead of losing weight, you lose interest in losing weight.

Then you feel disheartened, and tries something else, or tries harder, this time not with vigor, but a sense of feet dragging. You seem to have visited the same plateau many, many times going round in circles.

It is a feeling of same old place, same old pain, same old shit, same old same old.

It happened to me too.

That was when I was going from 2nd Kyu to 1st Kyu…I went to class like it was a drag. I’m kind of stuck in my head, not getting anywhere with training. Or I’m simply frustrated with something.

Back then I remembered I didn’t feel a sense of improvement, progress or refinement in my Aikido, or worse, I’m deteriorating! Or the Jones has caught up, or is getting better than me!

Look at the mirror

Back then I didn’t the wisdom or maturity. Right now, I don’t feel a sense of plateau anymore. Sometimes on my way to the dojo, I get a sense that I am going round in circles with the same technique, but the thought didn’t surface with anger, frustration or a sense of inadequacies within and without. It’s just a revisiting of the curriculum and it lead me to think about other techniques I can potentially do.

plateau0003More importantly, it is a sense of curiosity I bring to class, not a sense of familiarity. Every class is not the same, even the same partner you have been training with for years is not the same partner you have been training with for years. While life ebb and flow in a continuum of circle, the irony is we will never relive the same day again. In life there is no Groundhog Day.

The same circle is not the same

If you ever feel stuck like I did in the past, you need to ask yourself a very crucial question? Who’s turning up for class? Your current present self? Or your ego self? If you are bored, be careful, your ego is in play, in a bad way. You want something new, something flashy, something dynamic, you want to throw your uke in a flawless ‘Aikido style’, but you got frustrated by the reality of the struggle. Then you get upset, or to be more specific, your ego got upset. Then you fall into that same miserable feeling as if you are not improving.

What you can do

1-Train harder, think lesser.

There is a common understanding as to why potential Navy SEALs wannabes quit. Researchers found out that they usually don’t quit during their tough training, when they are swimming, or they are humping. Most SEALs student quit when they are taking a break, queuing for their meals, during downtime. They quit in expecting the tough time. The tough times didn’t make them quit, thinking or over-thinking the tough times made them ring the bell.

plateau0002Similarly Aikido training is nowhere near as tough as SEALs training. But thinking of the impending boredom can kill the zest of an aspiring Aikidoka. Don’t over-think, and especially on the mat, don’t think, don’t anal-yze your movements, your failures. Train harder, and be less critical when you screw up. Let your body, your physicality helps you shut the ego up. Just shut the bleep up and bloody train LIKE MAD.

2-Take a break

It is not something I deemed necessary now as I don’t have a sense of plateau anymore. In my younger days, it seems to help not turning up for training say, for a month. A slight hiatus will help refresh your mind, and let the body take a break from the usual tenkan and irimis. 

On hindsight, I felt that my hiatus back then was totally unnecessary and it reflects a kind of escapist attitude, and shows lack of commitment. But hey, if it works for you to take one step back and then two steps forward, why not?

3- Talk to someone

Your senpais 先輩, and fellow classmates will feel the same plateau as you, talk it out and it is a great morale booster. That is why we have a dojo, with a community to help each other. If your sensei isn’t too fierce, talk to your sensei and he/she can help you unstuck your technique and potentially get you out of your rut.

There is a higher calling

If you are bored, there is another voice in you calling for a higher standards of training, and skill. It is not a feeling of ‘plateau’ but a hint you are on a verge of getting deeper into your discipline. There is always a new discoveries to be made, even with the same ol’ Shihonage. Just two evenings back, I did a technique which was quite familiar to me, and Harry sensei came along and told me to take a bigger side-step. I did and the entire, seemingly familiar technique changed; I learned some finer, more elaborate details I previously missed in the technique.

Had I succumb to my plateau and took a break, I would have missed that potential chance of making that small minor improvements that helps deepen my understanding of a familiar and simple technique.

So plateau is a state of mind, you need to be careful why you feel like that and instead of getting frustrated, let your curiosity investigates the plateau. It is a time to dig deeper and train harder. Taking a break is not something I’d recommend now, but if you need to, and it does helps you overcome the boredom, why not? Who’s judging anyway? 🙂

plateau0001

Hard Aikido

Aikido is stereo-typically about love, peace and harmony. The flowing movements and effortless throws and pins showcased a form which is resistance-less.

I gave a class recently and decided to practice ‘hard’ Aikido. ‘Hard’ as in I wanted the students to grip hard. Really hard and resist the nage’s movement. The nage has to try his best to move despite of the resistance.

It is not an evening of nice Aikido techniques, with well-practiced pins and throws. It was meant to be ugly. It was meant to be physical. The uke is expected to be difficult and put the nage on a spot.

Smart Resistance

It is not about the uke giving ‘dumb’ resistance, and just put a huge amount of difficulty in front of the nage. The resistance has to flow with the nage’s movement. I told the guys it is not a muscular, lock down type of resistance. It is not a death grip. Instead, move with the nage and at every movement point, resist and counter. It is not going to be an easy class, I told the guys.

In short, I wanted the guys to give 80% asshole resistance, and not 100%. We are still in martial arts to foster learning and goodwill. We can give 100% or even 110% percent resistance, and it will just piss people off, and create animosity which will not help anyone in learning. It is about resistance, not countering the nage’s movement, which is a very fine line we will not be aware when we cross it.

The whole point of the exercise is to ground both parties. More often than not, the uke is too nice to give a hard grip and when it is the nage’s turn to be the uke, the niceties is reciprocated. To what end will we learn the dangerous downward loop of an ineffective, patronising aikido? Put all that aside, and give a good hard reality check to the nage.

Wrap, not grip

The essence of Aikido hold is not a grip. I’ve learned long enough to know a wrap works better as it doesn’t kill the connection. As an uke, I wrap my hands around my nage’s wrists;instead of gripping, this allows me to feel and flow with the nage. And of course, resist from my centre, and it doesn’t lock me down. I don’t become a dead weight attached to the nage’s hand. The nage move, I move, but I also create resistance while the nage move.

In a very experiential and intrinsic sense, wrapping instead of holding or gripping, allow my hands fully feeling the nage’s move. And I can manoeuvre and control my hands via my wrists. My body is not locked into the grip, from my wrist onwards, I can flow. This kind of holding doesn’t tire me out and I can hold a person for a long period of time.

Immobilization

When your uke holds you, are you immobilized or is your uke immobilizing himself upon you? We commonly think that the nage is the more being held, and arrested by the uke’s grip. When you are free enough, you can see that the uke has essentially given up his mobility and immobile himself onto you. You as the nage continue to be mobile, no matter how hard the uke grip. In fact, the hard the uke grips, the more he pins himself to you and allows you to move him.

There is always slack

Which brings us to the next point; there will always be slack. There is always a minimum level of movement on our skin, muscle and sinew. You cannot be gripped to a level where you are totally immobilized. You uke can only immobilized you at your cerebral level, physically, the human body has some many parts moving, there is almost always something you can move, in response to your uke. There is always some small movement you can execute. Your wrist still turns even if your hands are held in a morotedori (two hands on one wrist) grip. Learn to use a small wrist movement to move the entire uke’s mass.

Full contact

Personally I am not a big fan of ‘no-touch’ Aikido. We are humans and from the day we are born till our death, we will be in constant touch with another human being. That is what makes the connection which defines us. We are not fire-and-forget missiles that we can destroy a target without touching them.

Touch and contact helps us adjust our movement and psyche which is the best feedback for helping us improve ourselves on just our Aikido. And during that class, that is what I emphasised to maximum, full on, hard gripping Aikido.

When we are on the streets, no one is going to hold you with a courtesy grip. Everyone who wants to harm you will hold you down and beat you up. The holding down part will be gnarly and nasty. If we are not trained to deal with a hard, nasty grip, we will only dupe ourselves into thinking that we can do what we keep doing in the dojo, when it matters.

Easy is easy

It is a no brainer. It is easy to have our uke fall all over us; at a touch we pin our uke. We think of Aikido as flowing, and when our uke offers resistance, we go ‘tsk’ and thinks of our uke as stiff, lousy or don’t understand Aikido. More often than not, our uke doesn’t understand our movement, and they have only one job, to offer resistance. So they resist, they best they know how, and it is our job to work around that resistance, the best we know how.

The world we live in isn’t always working in harmony, there is not always peace and love, and we need to train with the reality that Aikido sometimes needs to be tough, ugly and haphazard. In the real world, all your practice and training will fail in the face of your enemy. The world doesn’t understand Aikido, and the world will offer resistance. The world will fight. We have to learn that fight, and yet not fight that fight. So we need to train with a hard grip, move and understand our body movement, choose non-aggression over a hard-ass uke. If we are unable to move when our uke grips us hard, it is high time we ask ourselves how good is our Aikido in the face of resistance.

IMG_0769

What it means to be Singapore(an)

What it means to be Singapore(an)

Singapore is not PAP

Dear Boys,

Our nation’s 53rd birthday is upon us again.

The same ol’ National Day, same ol’ song, same ol’ nationalistic fever…

We Singaporeans aren’t a very patriotic lot, or it is very hard for the authorities to make us Singaporeans love our country.

Many of us feels that it is a government propaganda to sing song, does the National Day Parade to a great fanfare, put out spectacular fireworks (a.k.a burning taxpayers’ monies) and fly noisy planes, fly a really delicate and fragile giant Singapore flag.

Many of us has a misplaced association that the country is the political party. Or some of us like to hijack our nation’s birthday and politicize 9th August, every year.

Well, granted that Singapore has a kind of unique history as the ruling party, is singular to Singapore. So much so that, you cannot mention Singapore, without mentioning the ruling party, People’s Action Party (PAP). Certainly, one can say that without the PAP, there can never be modern Singapore. We can never be where we are without the invention and intervention of PAP.

For our country to mature, we need to move away from this mindset.

Yes, Singapore, as a country, and Singaporeans as people of this country thank the PAP for good governance and giving us what we have today.

But the National Day is not about the PAP.

Singing Majulah Singapura isn’t pledging allegiance to the PAP. Serving in the Singapore Armed Forces isn’t protecting PAP. We say our pledge, isn’t sucking up to PAP. PAP is PAP, PAP isn’t Singapore, and Singapore, for its whole is larger than PAP. Remember, Singapore was here first, long before there is a PAP.

Of course, key founding members of the PAP was involved in creating the National Anthem, the pledge, and lay the foundations of nation building. The PAP pioneers created the countless of civil service and government infrastructure we enjoy (and cuss) till today, and for the near future.

But saying these is not the same as being a PAP-centric person.

So boys, I say my pledge with pride.

I sing my National Anthem with pride

I hold my flag with pride.

That doesn’t mean I love the politics of the land. I love the land.

I served in the Singapore Armed Forces knowing that when the time comes, I will point the rifle at the enemy of my land. I’ll protect Singapore, and the PAP will happen to ‘enjoy’ that protection by default, the other political parties will also enjoy that same protection. The SAF protects Singapore, and whoever and whatever is on this land.

Because when the enemy wants to invade us, they wouldn’t care if it’s the PAP in charge or someone else, they want our land, our people and all that we love. Our enemies want our destruction and end. Those out there who wants Singapore dead and gone, wants everyone dead and gone, ruling party and all.

So learn to sing our Singapore songs with pride, I know we Singaporeans have a sense of quiet modest, confidence, we don’t thump our chest a lot, nor brag about our achievements. So it is alright that on one day, every year, 9th August, let’s celebrate our nation building. Put all petty politics aside, and like the Hard Rock slogan says, “Love all, Serve all”. And true to our Pledge “…regardless of race, language or religion (and politics too)”.

Singapore is Singapore

The Problem with Aikido

Osensei

COMPETITON

People are always comparing.

People are always critical over things they don’t understand.

People are always wondering the efficacy of Aikido.

Well, it can’t be helped, as Aikido is a kind of mixed bag.

I think I’ve finally figured out what and why people think there is a problem with Aikido.

The Number ONE question is:

“Does Aikido Works?” 

Well, nobody really knows, actually.

Because Aikido doesn’t encourage competition, and without the typical competition, you really cannot tell who is better who, and what works and what doesn’t.

A typical Aikido (me included) don’t really experience loss, defeat or setback, bestowed by an opponent. No one in Aikido wins a medal, and since there are no winners, there are no bitter lessons for losers to learn.

There is no way to validate if Aikido is effective in a controlled, rule-based environment. There are no championships to decide who is the best Aikidoka out there.

Fake Aikido

Which leads to the accusations flying all over the place, ripping into Aikido that looks ‘fake’ and the mysterious ki force that ‘Grand-masters’ uses and causes people to fly all over the place at a touch, or worse, no touch. Almost every Aikido ‘Grand-master’ wants to look fantastic and awesome!

There are no fake Aikido, only fake representation of Aikido. Remember, it is the Singer, not the Song. If it works, Aikido works, and if it doesn’t, blame me as a lousy practitioner. This will apply in any martial arts, just as there are fake MMA fighters, and excellent street brawlers.

Aikido as designed and engineered by O’sensei in his days, isn’t capable of standing up to a variety of barrage in our current era. There is no concrete proof out there that really says conclusively Aikido works. Period.

We are not the sum of the medals we won, or lost. 

False Sense of Security

So most Aikidokas goes to practice in an environment, that doesn’t pit you against one another, so we will never know what works and what doesn’t. And Aikido works best in a constructive, helpful environment, unfortunately it also imbue into people that if your Aikido works in the dojo, your Aikido will work as a self defense platform. Which, is two totally different matter altogether.

Blame it on the spirit of Aikido, which is love, peace and harmony, all those hippy slogans. Hard, fighting people wants to know if it works, and proof that it does. No Aikidokas has appear to be so generous to step up and to put those questions to rest, one and for all.

So it might work, it might not, don’t get too comfortable with it! Just practice, practice and practice some more!

One of its kind

Then again, there are so many questions about the effectiveness of Aikido, precisely because it is a very unique martial way. As an Aikidoka, we are not walking mainstream, we don’t get into fights, just for the sake of proving if it works or not. Aikido takes away extrinsic competition, so that we can have the time to reflect within. We are not pressured by competition (which is plentiful nowadays!Robots and AI!) to perform. We prefer to tuck ourselves away, quietly work on improving our own techniques, help each other get better, build and collaborate, not fight to destroy.

True, putting other people into our performance and competition, steeps up the learning curve, which is precisely what we do not endorse. We, as humans bloom at our own pace, and we all with wither, sooner than we think. Why spend our time in vain trying to prove if it works or not? Sure it might not work as well as we wanted it to, which is why we practices right? We need to turn up at the dojo and practice like no tomorrow, since there is no right outcome. For an Aikidoka, the outcome is a continuum, a process, and it is never completed. We are not the sum of the medals we won, or lost.

Aikido is

There cannot be a comparison. O’sensei created Aikido in post-war Japan. I cannot imagine the horrors he has to witness and seeing friends and students go to war, and never return, those returned; never the same again. O’sensei himself fought in a couple of wars. While I have never experience war, (Thank goodness!), war changes people, and O’sensei saw that, I can only presume that he created Aikido to promote love, peace and harmony, which is so much lacking in his time and surely our time as well. So if you want to fight, compare and win medals, there is always an octagon around the corner, but please, not in an Aikido dojo.