Beginners Class!

Beginners Class!


There was a large crowd for the beginner’s class at NUS last Tuesday, unbeknownst to me, it was a new academic term for the University and of course there will be new blood! Plenty of new blood!

People are always curious about Aikido, because as a martial art, it seem so ‘strange’. We are one of the quieter class in the Multi Purpose Hall, where we share our space with other folks practicing Muay Thai, Kick Boxing, Silat, Table Tennis, Capoeira . To add to the ‘problem’ of our auditory challenge, Harry sensei is a soft speaker, unless he is bellowing at you for screwing up too badly on your Waza.

“We do take our time to resolve matters so that we can have a mutually amicable outcome.”

It is strange, because in the world of martial arts, where there is plenty of emphasis on the ‘martial’ of the arts, but not that many look at the ‘art’ of the martial.

The emphasis on the ‘martial’ part is partly due to our humanistic struggle. We struggle to make sense of our struggle. ‘O’ sensei also struggled, I’m sure, and he saw the light to the struggle, Aikido is that light.

Most of the arts are born out of struggle and strife, it necessitates the killing of our fellow human being for our self preservation. Aikido, is also born out of struggle and strife, the distinction is the higher more visible emphasis on killing our ego for everyone’s preservation. So when we think ‘big picture’ in this aspect, we strive to to use our energy more efficiently, effectively.

Which is why Aikido movements are long, circular and seemingly flowing. We do take our time to resolve matters so that we can have a mutually amicable outcome.

Not many art trains you to handle an attacker in such a manner where the attacker walks away attacking you relatively unscathed.  So it make people curious as to how this is so? Is it collaboration? Is it an act? Is it effective? What happens if a person kicks? What happens if this happens? What do we do if that happens? Well, all the answers to the questions, come to the mat to find out.

Posted on 18/9/2015

The most important room in a home

The most important room in a home


Dear Boys,

Which is the most important room at home?

A- Living Room

B- Study Room

C- Bed Room

D- Kitchen

In my opinion, the Kitchen.


It is a place of many wonders, When it is well controlled, it is a place of healing, substance, sustenance, peace, experimentation, exploration, cleansing, and more.

Primarily, it is a place of culinary activity, but from this activity, members at home get fed. Without a filled stomach, there will be no energy for anything else. And the saying goes that the best way to a man’s heart to through the stomach (no you don’t gut a man to get there!) and for that, your mum has always been able to achieve that.

But more than that, she has many failures in the kitchen, trial and error, She damaged the oven when she ‘over roast’ the pork and smoked the entire kitchen! But more important she is able to learn through an acceptance of trial and error, and with experimentation and exploration.


You, Ian had your share of exploration, when you learned to make your own cookies some time back.  So it was a place for you to learn your math, and of volume and matrices.

It is a healing place, as that is where we store all our meds., and the kids’ meds has to be refrigerated. And the fridge is where the kitchen is.

We do our laundry in the kitchen too, our washing machine is there,  all the vomits and soiled clothing get their fair share of cleaning.

Our kitchen is a place of peace, everyone comes in with something agreeable. Then again, it is not always so, as there are times we have to fight you boys to feed you boys meds, especially you, Wayne, eating your meds is always one of our greatest challenges.

So there you have it, my take on the most important room at home.

Original version posted 1 March 2014

Our Chat-Integrity, Mistakes and Corrections


Dear Ian,

We had a bit of a spelling test a couple of days back and you wanted to check your own work on your own. Unbeknownst to me, you have decided to take it upon yourself to check your own work but I took your work over and check, and as your father, you protested, I ignored.

And not only did I go through your current spelling work, I went through your previous week’s spelling work too. And that too you protested. I can see that it was also ‘self marked’ and you marked everything as correct. That is where I knew it was an opportunity for a parenting lesson.

While I dig into your past week’s work, I found more spelling mistakes from those you marked with a ‘tick’. Some words are obviously wrong. ‘intolarable‘, ‘whimppered‘, ‘inauidible‘, which you marked as correct. There was also problems with your dictation, some sentences are missing entirely.

…trust yourself by not trusting yourself

You started to cry, and I wondered why? There was a huge egotistical defense mechanism coming up from you. You couldn’t really tell me why you cried and actually do not want me to check on your past week’s work. Your explanation was that it is already over, so we don’t have to go back to it to check.

That is a mindset I needed to address.

I brought to your attention why there is a need to let others check your work, and be brave to own up to your mistakes, present or past. I told you that we cannot hide from our mistakes, especially those that we put pen to paper. We have to have the courage to go back into the past to fix them, correct them, so that they will not come back to haunt us in the future. And we need to fix those mistakes, because mistakes not fixed in the past will eventually become the ‘truth’ we take as real in the future. One example was ‘harvsack’, you wrote that once in your dictation, and you didn’t pick it up as a mistake, it turned up on your second dictation as, guess what? ‘harvsack’. A wrong is a wrong, and too many wrongs will cause one to assumed it to be right, and I’m sure you are not out to change the word ‘haversack’ to ‘harvsack’ right? If you are on that quest, then good luck to you.


More importantly, through our conversation, you said that you knew that some of the word is wrong and you have ‘mentally corrected them’. And you put a ‘tick’ over it.

That is where I pointed out to you the value of integrity. You need to be honest to yourself, a tick means right, a cross means wrong, and if you put a tick over a wrong, but mentally corrected the wrong, who is to know that you’ve actually corrected the wrong? And 2 years later, when we look back at the same page, will we still remember that you actually ‘mentally corrected it’? On top of that you put ’15/15′ when it should be ’12/15′ irrespective the ‘mental corrections’, a wrong means a wrong.

Your school have 4 ‘houses’ R.I.C.E- Respect, Integrity, Compassion, Excellence

It gave me a good opportunity to tell you about ‘integrity’. Which means you need to be brutally honest with yourself and when you found yourself with a ‘wrong’, you must do what is right and make a wrong, wrong. Only then the corrections can start and have a meaning.

Smart people seek help

Like I said it, always look for people to help you with your work, with your marking. it is an irony, trust yourself by not trusting yourself. Always knows that we humans are prone to errors. I also pointed out to you in so many of the ‘Air Crash Investigations‘ documentary we watch on TV, so many of the Pilots and their First Officers, failed to check on one another and resulted in deadly, tragic events. The problem is, even after one crash, after all the investigations and corrective, improvements made, decades later, similar crashes still happen. And even with 2 very smart, competent people, such errors still happen, so for us, we need to check and double check, enlist the help of others so that we can be doubly sure.

Always look to work with people smarter than you, so that you can learn. Never mind that some of these smart people might belittle you, mock you. Then  just walk away, with a lesson learned that some smart people you’ve approached are actually not that smart. Keep looking to challenge yourself by working with smart people, getting smart people to check your work.

Not looking back

And if you have given your all, your 110%, you would not need to worry about people checking back on you. You do not need to look over your shoulders. You can let people check your work from Primary 1 to now, and you’d be satisfied that you’ve done your best. Then you will no fear of the past, no fear of regrets. You are only 11, you’ll go 20, 30, 40 and more, doing many, many things that will come back and bite you if you are not giving your all.

I hope you can learn from this as this is a very important lesson in getting the right attitude in life, and I’m glad I was at home to talk to you about this.

What you see is what you get

I used to have a very existentialist opinion; ‘Until I see it, hold it, touch it, it does not exist’. Something to that effect…what I was thinking back then, I will not belief in things that is not tangible. Things change, sometimes this adage holds true, sometime, the rules have to be bent a little.

So in Aikido, in the strictest, and narrowest in sense, you have someone coming up as an ‘attacker’, and you ‘defend’ with one technique or another. Of course, what you see is what you get. Or really?

Our situation outcome is dependent on our cognitive.

Look at things on a larger field of things, it is no longer ‘what you see is what you get’ What we think we see, gets us.’ If we think we see an ‘attack’ we get and ‘attack’. fundamentally, we join martial arts, for me; Aikido, is to fundamentally change how we think, so that when we see, we think differently, and then what we get is different. Our situation outcome is dependent on our cognitive.

On that note, that is fundamentally how people think and process information, and present them in action. Our actions helps us relates to the world at large, our actions brings our thoughts to life, our actions can bring about consequences that we cannot have thought of.

So when you partner ‘attacks’ you, it is an action. In plain non-judgmental perspective, that is an action, which warrants a defense, in response. So there it ends in a duality, which swings back and forth until it ends with one standing.

We need to see action as a representation of our thoughts.

Many people have funny ways of doing things, sometimes our thoughts gets better of us, sometimes our thought overwhelms us. Sometimes, our physicality is so limited, it frustrates us. Basically our thoughts are free, mind wanders, imagination runs amok, but in strict reality, the physical body cannot do many things the mind wants to, so it causes this conflict, and it can explode internally in violence, anger and hurt.

People want to hurt us, not because they want to hurt us, they want us to get their message. In some sense, the perpetrator does not even knows what he/she is doing, we are often so ego-centric we don’t know our actions are hurting other people. Everybody wants to do good, but the expression of doing that good is acted out in many different way, sometimes destructive ways.

If we are the target of their intended message, and if the delivery methodologies could be better, we have to intervene. We have to say, ‘Hey, wait, there is a better way.’ And redirect that energy towards a more peaceful and sophisticated way. So look at things differently, because what we learned in Aikido, we will apply everyday.

If you lived with a drunkard, you need to understand that that is the person’s way of expression, until the person learned a new way, drinking to a drunkard is the best, and probably the only way to express his cognition.

It is not our job to save the world, we cannot save a drunkard if the drunkard does not want to be saved. In the event that we are caught in that drunkard’s web of bad habits, we can do something, firstly for ourselves, to protect us from becoming the unwitting victim of the drunkard’s poor choice of lifestyle. Secondly, we intervene to show that there is a better way to get our thinking to action. If the drunkard picks that up, and appreciates it, he/she might change, and if that doesn’t happens, don’t leave the drunkard any worse than when it first started out.

In another manner, a person swings a bat at you, in anger, or even premeditated. We disarm him, either breaking the person’s arm or some other more horrific violent ways. Or we can disarm him, leave him with minimal damage, so that he can preserve his thoughts, cool down and perhaps think things through. Always leave people a back door for them to live.

Of course this is hypothetical, in many situations, to think so rationally is not the norm, under stress, we ‘fight or flee’. Either way is fine, the line to draw is, we can choose. Aikido gave me that choice, when we choose to fight, we think and choose the best method to end the violence, without begetting more violence. Ending violence with our own brand of violence, does not end violence, it propagates violence. Violence can only end with a peaceful action. If you punch better than that guy who threw you a punch, he will learn to better his punch and return with a better punch to punch you.

Lead your attacker away from anger, violence and destruction. Spiral his negative energy out, away from his own hurt. Dissipate the terror. Absorb it, not repel it. Don’t fight the fight with more fighting. we can do better than that!

Why we spring clean

Dear boys,

We usually do an annual spring cleaning, when the days edges closer towards Chinese New Year.

I mean, we all know what Spring Cleaning is all about, its about getting rid of the old so as to welcome the new, “旧迎新”. This annual exercise takes a whole new meaning when you have kids.

Its not about growing, its about getting out of the way

The old and the new is something like a metaphorical duality. What is ‘new’? and what is ‘old’? when does the ‘new’ becomes ‘old’? in a day, in a year? This year, we decided to clear the storeroom (YIKES!) There is certainly a lot of junk in there, old stuffs, momentos and other knick knacks. Old books, souvenirs from places we have been, some other keepsake, notes and letters I wrote to your mum (You mother seldom writes to me…)

As we sift through those stuffs, going through the same ‘keep’/’throw’ decision train, we realise that we ate throwing away more of ‘our stuffs, and your stuffs are growing in the ‘keep’ list.

More of your ‘keep’ stuffs are some of the baby drawings you boys did, for Ian, stuffs you did in Brightkids as well as in PCF Kindergarten convocation pictures, some of your Primary School medals, works. For Wayne, your kindergarten stuffs, drawings and of course your convocation pictures.

Space, being limited, means that we can only keep so much of everything, something’s gotta give. And we the parents, your previous generation, has to go. Our stuffs has to go, so that you have more space for your stuffs. Your toys are already a big headache for years already. We decided to clear a majority of them so that we can make space for more toys. This is a surety.

So this is the meaning of spring cleaning, things we kept, decades ago, no longer relevant except for the memories it brings, has to go. If we hoard our stuffs, you will have no place for yours, and before long, you will find new spaces outside to keep your stuffs your memories.

This is your home, as much as it is mine. As you dad, I have to be the referee not only for you but also for myself. If I keep too much of mine, you will have no space for yours, I also want to keep some of my stuffs as memories, but it will come a point it time when these memories is no longer relevant. What happens then?

That is why we spring clean, we proactively get rid of those stuffs, leave as little physical, and material baggage for you boys, when the time comes for your parents to become nothing but your memories.

We didn’t bring it with us when we first got here, and we sure as hell can’t bring it with us, when we finally depart. So as much as your mum and I treasure those stuffs, we will slowly get rid of them so that you boys will have more space to grow. Like I said, we have to get out of your way, eventually so that you boys can grow and flourish.

 Published 7 Jan 2016