Our family’s digital policy

Our family’s digital policy

Dear boys,

We live in a country where almost everyone has a digital mobile devices, in an MRT train, almost everyone has their eyes glues to their 5 inch world. The invasion of mobile devices permeates every fabric of our society, we cannot live without our mobile devices.

There are no shortage of statistics out there pointing to the numbers, figures and percentages on penetration, usage, ownership relating to mobile devises usage vis-a-vis the population and demographics.

It is a tool

These devices, are fun, easy and so, that makes them so convenient to go to. Your dad uses smart phone for work, and play, so does your mum, but we still talk, in person, as often as we can. We watch movies from the net, we do it as a family. It is not my habit to watch movie on my mobile phone, but listening to music; yes, as I’ve been doing that since the time of Walkman.

The tool did not become the master

It is a tool, and I can see that the both of you using it as such, The tool did not become the master. There shouldn’t be a concern since both your parents also use these devices like tools. It helps use in many, many ways, but it doesn’t have an identity over us. Your mum and I are not constantly glued to our phones, we are not obsessed chasing phantom pocket monsters, while I appreciate the technological advances in Augmented Reality, I am not a big consumer of it.

For some, the use of mobile devices has reached an addictive level, it affects relationships, social interactions and human to human (H2H) communications. Sometimes, when I am in a train and I accidentally stepped on someone’s shoes, I’d like to apologise but all I got was a blank stare. I like to plug into my music, via my smart phone and when a person accidentally stepped on my toes, they’d save on saying ‘sorry’ because  even if they say it, I’m plugged to music and probably won’t hear the apology anyway. We are all technologically swaddled in our own cocoon.

Diffusion of innovation

Mobile devices has become so prevalent that adults are getting it for the children. In Singapore, middle class affluence means mobile devices are affordable, it is a norm for people to have 2 mobile phones for reason I cannot understand nor comprehend.

In many cases, the parents are buying mobile phones for their children and thus children has become active users of mobile phones as well. You can see in many food courts all around Singapore, a child as young as 5, cannot eat a meal without glued to a show on the mobile phone, take it away and all hell breaks loose.

So I’m sure many people have devised methods, rules to limit and control the use of mobile devices.

Do we have a ‘Mobile Device Policy’ at home?


Do we need one?


As far as your childhood is concerned, you boys still have tonnes of toys, real physical toys. And you boys have each other, and you both are still playing with each other, making up stories, flying toy planes, fighting, chatting, arguing. There is too much banter between you both, that there is simply no need for a mobile device to be introduced into your life. I still see you boys going to your toys and playing with each other so this is still a healthy way of bring up the both of you and in no time, now or the near future, will I plan to introduce mobile devices into your lives.

Yes, I do let the both of you play with the Ipad (thanks to Auntie Kat, who gave it  to us), I observed that there seem both of you are not addicted in anyway to it, at any given opportunity. There are times, I have to tell the both of you to stop using the Ipad, or stop playing games on your parents’ phone, but I also have to nag at the both of you to drop your toys and come for dinner.

In short, these mobile devices are part of your play activities, not the main activities. Which is why there is no need for me to restrict the amount of time you boys are on these devices, simply because you boys are not clocking massive amount of time on these devices.

Not keeping up with the Jones

In school, many kids have mobile phones, I didn’t get on for you boys, as there is no need to have one. You mum are there to fetch you most of the time, and if you boys need help, you can head down to the general office and ring us from there. When we are out, you boys are almost never out of our sight and there is no need for you to go wandering off on your own, and have to rely on a mobile phone to reach us. We as your parents, are always never far, in flesh and blood.

Technology is a good servant, but a bad master

While we cannot escape the increasing use of technology, mobile devices and other kind of gadgets and stuffs, we must not forget that we are after all, humans, we use all these to leverage and make our lives better. But ultimately, our lives are better if we deal with reality squarely in the face, and not escape into a 5 inch world, playing games, engrossed with social media, stuck to chasing Korean dramas.

Life will always evolve around human to human interaction. You cannot avoid suffering, making difficult choices, screw ups and dealing with people. Having a phone helps to make our lives easier, but it does not make life. We have to make life, we have to make our lives work, and we must never forget that we are the masters of our own lives, and these devices are not our life, they do not dictate us, define us, and we must not allow ourselves to become unwitting slaves to these devices

Slow-mo Aikido

Slow-mo Aikido

Last night, I gave a class, and as a warm up, I asked the class to do a basic Aikido technique “Taino Tenkan“, or more colloquially known as “Tenkan“.

This is the basic block of Aikido. Every beginner knows this. So let’s make it a little different.

It’s not something new that I’m doing, so I told them to slow down, while they do their tenkan. Instead of the normal speed, slow down, slow down, S-L-O-W D-O-W-N…

Apparently, it seems to be a tall order.

The students cannot slow down. Those who did, did it more in counting a cadence… 1-2-3-4, 2-2-3-4… That’s not what I meant.


It wouldn’t take more than a second to do a tenkan. Faster still 0.8 seconds, it can go faster than that. But that is not the point. I want the tenkan to be dragged, longer, perhaps 5 seconds, but that is not my point either. I want to slowness to bring about awareness…

Anyone can go fast, it is always a trade off, you go fast, technique will be compromised. While it needs skills to go fast, you need just as much skills to go slow. It is not easy, when you want it done, slowly, smoothly, with full awareness.

When you tenkan slowly, you will need to bring attention to your muscular contractions, movement and direction. The position of your legs, hips, shoulders and tension will become obvious. When things become static, there is no momentum for you to capitalise and use to your advantage.

Slow Tenkan is full tai sabaki

All Aikido movement is tai sabaki, there is no ‘part 1- leads to part 2 leads to part 3’. In any Aikido movement, everything moves, there is no body parts to isolate. when you slow down the tenkan, your uke has more advantage than you, he is simply holding your wrist, while you try to tenkan slowly. you have to move in such a slow deliberate manner while he has every advantage to shift his body weight to counter-act you.

So when you move slowly, you need to use your entire body to respond to a wrist grab. You need to become more aware than just that grab, and in order for you to neutralise the grab, you need to learn to shift the body, and become aware of how shifting the body changes your partner’s centre of gravity in such a manner that you are able to gain a superior position.

Centre and rhythm

The focus for most novice is the legs, as they often mistake the movement originating from the legs. While it is true to a certain sense, to really master a martial art, the movement comes from the hips, the legs, is simply an apparatus to  transports the body to a more advantageous place desired.

So when a tenkan happens, the centre shifts and moves to accommodate the uke, the leg simply carry out an ‘instruction’ to move, and the pivot point, again, comes from the hips, the leg cannot pivot, the hips can. The turn of tenkan comes from a concentrated focus on the hips, which is why when a tenkan is done properly, it is very difficult to counter. And tenkan is very difficult to master, simply because most people are unable to connect at the hips.

I want the class to slow down, so that there is rhythm. If the uke is static, the nage respond appropriately. If the uke is skilled and fluid, the nage respond appropriately. What usually happens is a dead kind of Aikido, where the nage will do what the nage does in a fixed, consistent tempo, irrespective of who the uke is and what the uke brings to the table. When you slow down, and pay attention to rhythm, the technique comes alive, because rhythm is existential. If you are stuck in your own tempo, you will be defeated, because when your opponent can catch your tempo, they can exploit it. Rhythm, on the other hand, relies on what your partner brings to the table and your movement, speed, tempo, will be an appropriate response, then the relationship comes alive.


Degrees, Diplomas and Dreams

randys-cert-postgrad-dip-in-mktgDear Boys,

This is how it goes:

The Route

Infant Care to N2 to N1 to K2 to K1 to Primary School to Secondary School to Junior College/ Polytechnic to University to Work.


The End.

Your dad didn’t went through The Route, he was off the beaten path. Way off.

He left school when he was in Secondary 2, a Fourteen year old boy who wanted to have his own smart-ass idea to take up a language course (日本語 seems like a good idea then.) and then become a tour guide and travel the world. The reality of course, is way off course. Your dad end up starting work as a retail sales guy (more like a boy at 15 years of age!) at Changi Airport.

I only started taking a Diploma course around 1997, after I finished my National Service. It was a part-time course in Marketing, and then from there, with your mum’s encouragement and support, I went on to take a Bachelor’s degree, and finally got is around 2009. It was also a part-time degree course from the Open University. I had to work and study at the same time.

Your mum, had it a little better off, she got her Accounting diploma with her parents’ support, full time course. And then she took a part-time degree.

Long story short, both your mum and I worked while we get our education. The Route, however, is a straight academic one, you probably do a couple of holiday jobs, internship, which is great, but that is it.

Who knows?

You boys might end up with The Route. That’s fine.

Even if you don’t, that is fine as well.

Your parents are not suckers for grades (Well, your mum does, a little more than your dad)

As long as you tried your best, as long as you aspire to meet the targets you set for yourself. As long as you boys grow up as decent young gentlemen, that is fine with me. Because this is your life, your education, your life’s work.

So make your education your work, don’t just go through The Route like it is The Route, have some fun, make some mistakes, work for some money, real, full time work. A lot of young folks went through The Route, like going through motion. There is little or no thinking, perhaps other than choosing JC vs Polytechnic. NUS vs NTU vs SMU vs SIT vs SUTD vs Private vs Overseas. That’s the easy part.

The thinking which is so dire and so missing is, what to do after that.

As your parents, we do not want to push the both of your through The Route. Even if it is going to happen that way, we want you both to make good, sound, sensible choices.

Don’t know is a good place to start

Even if you are not sure of your destiny, not sure what you can do after your degree. We are here to help. We will guide you to where you will find your answers, but we will not give you the answers. Heck, we might even throw in a few more questions.

The ‘don’t know’ is a natural thing. We didn’t know as much when we were younger. Problem is, more often then not, youngsters starts with a ‘don’t know’ and pretty much went through their lives ‘don’t know’ much as well, and what is worse is they end up with a ‘don’t know’ at the end of their journey. It is a sad life to live.

So go The Route, the education system in Singapore is world-class. But use the system, not let the system use you. It was never meant to be that way. Singapore’s education system gives all the young folks many, many alternatives. Even if you can take The Route, you don’t necessarily have to. You don’t have to be sheep, when you can become something greater.

So go for the value you are going to get out of an education, not forgetting that formal, academic education is great, but that is not the means to justify the end.

Your dad’s Bachelor’s Degree


All the Small Things

All the Small Things

The difference between experience is the ability to notice how the small things contribute to the big picture. Having spent this amount of time in Aikido, my progress is getting smaller, improvements made is not significant, but minute adjustments to the hand tension, position of the fingers, small, small awareness.

When we first started out as beginners, our teachers showed us big adjustments to how we stand, our body posture, movements. from there we learn awkwardly how to do an irimi-tenkan, how a nikkyo is done, with big exaggerated movements, using lots of physical and muscular strength.

All the small movements necessary to tip the balance lies in incessant practice and training.

The longer we practice, the more we noticed how we are nagged with a level of incompetency that no matter how hard we try we can never improve? Those countless of nikkyos we did over the years didn’t seem to make much of a difference. until we discover for ourselves that the difference is in the certain tension we have in our wrists, the small turn of the finger, will tilt the uke’s entire body to our favour. All the small things.

I trained with Gabriel on Nikkyo yesterday and from that I observed that the level of ‘noticibility’ between us is quite significant. He is caught up in the level of technical, geometric approach of how the lock is done. As much as I would like to point this out to him, I can’t because it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. There is no way that I can move him to a level of noticibility similar to mine. It took me about fifteen years to notice what I notice in him, will he be able to harness my observations and bring his awareness to my level. hardly, if he can, I wouldn’t have need to point it out to him would I?

All the small movements necessary to tip the balance lies in incessant practice and training. No one can point that out for anyone, everyone has to take these lesson personally, feel, and experience. Open your heart, and allow the essence of the training to touch and change you. There is no logical discussion, or technical discourse in Aikido. The longer you stay learning Aikido, the less significant the form and functions matter. At the end of the day, all you need to do is to twitch your fingers and the world is with you.

First posted Dec 23, 2010

初学者…The one who begins to learn

Our school printed a tee shirt with our school logo in front and the word ‘初学者’ printed boldly behind the shirt. We had a discussion over what that word actually means.

Our school’s name is ‘Shoshin’ or ‘初心’ in kanji,  which Google translate loosely puts it as ‘Beginner’, ‘Innocent’, ‘Basics’. Well you get the meaning.

So what does 初学者 means then?

Loosely speaking, it also means the same thing, but in a Singapore, or Chinese context, to have ‘初心者’ instead of ‘初学者 ‘ will potentially give people the wrong impression that  初心者 means ‘the one who is careless’ as common as the Chinese saying of ‘粗心大意 (Cūxīn dàyì)’, as you might observe the ‘粗’ (Cū) sounds very much like  ‘初'(Chū). but the meaning is can lead one to a totally different conclusion.  ‘粗’ (Cū) loosely means careless, rough, or unpolished, and ‘初'(Chū)  on the other hand, loosely means early, begin.

Surely then intent was to have a beginner’s mind, a beginner’s heart, 初心(Chūxīn) instead of a careless heart, 粗心 (Cūxīn), surely a novice can be considered ‘careless”, unpolished, unrefined. Beginners can be careless, well, ‘experts’ can be just as careless; the point is that bearing the word 初心 in mind instead of 粗心, brings to the point that we must always take our learning at the beginning, conscientiously, and not carelessly.

Begin a word player, I’m quite happy to be called a ‘初心者’, and let people juxtapose between the concept of ‘The one with a beginner’s heart’ or 粗心者 ‘The one with the careless heart.’ Or call me a 初学者, as ‘The one who is at the beginning of the learning’, or  粗学者 as ‘The one who learns carelessly’. Either way, these are ‘labels’ for people to sort out, as for me i’m pretty much sort out as to how I orient myself towards Aikido towards life. and frankly speaking, ‘carelessness’ might not be such a bad thing in life, as it might bring about serendipitous and spontaneous results that might totally bring about a new discovery!

first published Apr 1, 2012 1:56 AM