theaikidad

Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

Closing windows

Closing windows

‘It’s hard being the elder brother’, you cried.

I had to punish the both of you since both of you cannot close all the house Windows before we leave, for Sentosa, for fun. Yes, I did tell Wayne to do it, yes, he skived, he went to the toilet to poop. You didn’t want to do it because it was ‘his job’. You both ended up quarreling. I gave the both of you a 45min delay, that means we will leave the house later, that means we will have ‘less fun’.

You didn’t see it as fair so you sulked. I told the both of you, use this 45 mins to sort your shit out, change your attitude, and make peace. You didn’t like the idea.
Wayne ended up on the Lofty watching TV. You sulked in the room, sobbing, about how unfair things has been.
You told me you’re always helping and clearing things for Wayne and he is always accusing you of this and that.
I told you, as the elder brother you will be clearing a lot of his shit. That is the job of an elder brother. Clear younger sibling shit.
You’re 13, secondary one, who is below you?
Your little brother, who is nine.
Another kid who is eleven.
Your cousins who are four and two. All these younger kids will all look up to you to clear shit.
More importantly, you get a 45 minute sentence, that is a lot of time to get a lot of shit done, instead you choose to cry and sulk, instead of being positive and constructive, you could have gotten one homework done, you could have helped us closed all the windows, then we can leave house before the 45 minutes is up.
But you took the sentence with spite and angst.
There are people out there wrongfully incarcerated, and they spent their time in jail doing the most positive things, Nelson Mandela is one fine example. They didn’t let ‘jail time’ stop them from doing the most positive things in their lives.
And now you took it to crying and your brother took it to watching TV. Obviously this affected you more than him, and he probably didn’t even know what is happening, or how unhappy he made you.
All he learned from his elder brother is ‘tit for tat’. You could have shown him that despite of what he did, you still clear his shit, and you do it because you both are brothers, and brothers are supposed to look out for each other, he will get that eventually, and he will clear your shit the next time you needed help. That’s what brothers do, cover for each other.
And you are 13, he is 9. You obviously knows more than he does, and can I talk to him the way I talked to you? Will he understand all this things?
No.
Which is why you need to step up, your the older one, you have to do this, and do more. Because you can and you must.
You have to focus on the outcome again
The outcome is to get the house ready, so that we can all go out, if the windows’ not closed, and the rain comes, who is going to clean up the mess, when the rain splashes in?
We have to clean up.
It is our house.
And those windows don’t have a name on it, like Wayne’s window, Ian’s window, papa’s window. Someone has to close these windows, if not everyone will suffer.
So focus on the outcome, lets quickly get things done, irrespective of who does it, so that we can all leave the house and have fun.
And you guys are going to be brothers long after your parents are dead, lean on each other, count on each other, continue to clear each other’s shit. And you as the elder brother, don’t end up like my elder brother.
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In the year 2065

Dear boys,

Our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong talked about the next 50 years of Singapore lately. And I sat that afternoon at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre having my packed lunch, and I wondered how much will remain 50 years from now.

Singapore as a country that is constantly changing. The Singapore in the 90s will be very different from the Singapore, now, and it will be different again 10 years from now. We, as a country is the best example of the evolutionary principle. We got strong, remain strong through constant self imposed change. Long before things need to be replaced, we’ve already replaced them.

Anyway, while I sat down to have my lunch, I looked at the Esplanade Bridge, it was build in 1997. That means the bridge is 18 years old. And will it still stands 50 years from now? Will the building, One Raffles Place still stands? Will the CBD still looks like the CBD 50 years down the road?

I will be 89 then, your mum 87, Ian will be 60? And Wayne, a ripe young, 57! So many things will happen that has yet to happen.

During my time, my generation of Singaporeans grow up listening to rather staid stories about how we were founded by Sir Stamford Raffles, and the fable of how a prince lost his way in a storm and saw a Lion (there was never a record of that magnificent beast in Singapore!) and named our island ‘Singapura’, we also hear a lot of our pioneering generations’ struggles, racial riots, world war 2, and other stories that will probably become tales and fables 50 years from now.

More importantly, boys, tell stories of your own, there will be many more challenges ahead, many more social events, there might be another world war, there might be other calamities, there may be other social political unrest, revolutions, and other events, these are stories that will make up your life. Tell these stories to your kiddos, tell them like how I tell you, because our heritage will be passed on from mouth to mouth, stories we tell our kids are the stories of our nation.

First Published on: Jul 16, 2015

Kokyuho

Things have changed slightly since the last time I wrote about kokyuho.
My partners will find it increasingly difficult to bring me down, for a variety of reasons. Some will say that I’m just being an ass. I’ve got a junior belt who says kokyuho with me is like he is pushing against a brick wall.
And on my part, it seems elementary to displace my partner with relative ease. No bragging here, please.
The proof.
More often, I’ve divorced myself from the ‘me’ when I am in class, I am the instrument of which the form and art of aikido requires me to represent. There is no ‘Randy The Aikidoka’ there’s just A Person, The Aikidoka. Let’s not get critical over if it is a good thing or not. It is what it is, I’m an aikido instrument.
Back to kokyuho
Tri was my partner a couple of evenings back, and the outcome is predictable. Unlike others I’ve partnered, I spoke with him, explaining to him what I felt, when he held my hand, and what I felt when I held his.
Displacement
 
For a lack of better work, displacement. I weight 68kg, he weighs 63kg. I told him right in the middle where I have my hands and him holding, is neutral. 0kg.
When he tries to move me. He pushes forward and puts his 63kg in motion. I simply take his 63kg, adds to my 68kg, and he has 0kg to push against 130 odd kg, good luck with that.
When he holds my hands, and held the, tight, he gives his 63kg to the hands, and with my 68kg, combined with the 63kg he gave to the hands, I displace him easy, since he has 0kg with him.
I’d wish it was as simple as that, but it is fundamentally deeper. When I seiza, I just sit, period. I guess it comes with age and experience, I’m more centered when I’m in seiza. Period.
But my partners like to struggle against me, push, twist, wrestle, pull (which is the worst thing to do, I simply give, when my partner pushes, and they always topple backwards… More on that later.)
And I will yield, when I’m properly and skillfully displaced. There is no arguments about it, if you are doing your kokyuho properly, you will displace me. With senior belts, there is little charity, I’ll topple when you topple me, if you cannot topple me, I sit. It’s not me, it’s just how it is. I hold a hand, and held it until I fall, if I don’t, I don’t create my own story and topple just for the topple. It’s not an ego thing either (I hope!) but from the outside, it certainly look like I’m a tough little ass to bring down.
Push, pull
Kokyuho is not about pushing, pulling. But those with lesser experience always ends up in this duality. When my partner pushes, I absorb their energy into my center,and I sit firm, more than ever. The harder my partner pushes, the more stable I become.
Head butt
Many pushes with over zealous, until they loses their core, and moved their head so close to mine, I often head butt them to remind them of their bad posture. Some learned with one head butt, others a couple more. Hard headed folks.
If you extend your hands properly, I’d been displaced and you can pivot me without even leaning forward. In fact leaning forward, would be a sign that there is not enough extension on the hands, and that results in your body having to come in to compensate for the lacking of power on the hands, and that will bring the body closer to me, and the head within striking distance of my head butt.
Pulling
You don’t need to pull back a lot. Just a slight roll of both palms backwards, that’s enough for me to bring my energy with your retreating energy, and give it all back to you.
Imagine, Tri again, with his 0kg, and him putting 63kg on the hands, and I have my 68kg with me. When he rolls his hands back, I’ll follow with his 63kg and a little bit of my 68kg back into his 0kg. The sudden influx of weight will usually cause my partner to lose balance and topple back. I always preached. ‘Never pull back’ pulling back is a sure sign of fear and uncertainty. When we are not sure, or afraid, we will hunker down, withdraw back into our core; bad move, as I will follow you in, to your center and disrupt you.
80/20
Martial arts is a lot of 80/20.
Which means you never devote 100% into a movement, it is always 80% and 20% in reserve. So never hold an Aikidoka in a dead grip, in  doing so, you’re dead, which is why it is called a ‘death grip’. When you held a person’s hands too tightly, you give away a lot of your center, and a good Aikidoka can feel that and use it against you.
When you become skillful, you just need 60% to kill your opponent, anything more is an overkill. If you can do it with 60-80% effort, why commit 100%? And if you cannot get it done with 60-80% effort, will putting all your eggs 100% make a difference? Perhaps, but what have you got left to recover? And if you put in all 100% and it still don’t work? What have you got left?
So in kokyuho I never give my partner a death grip. I grip firm, and feel, a firm grip connects my center to my partner’s. More often than not I can feel my partner’s center through the grip, and respond to that movement, in counter. By not giving a 100% grip, I am concealing my center from my partner,  that displacing me will be difficult.
It’s like a poker game, you show your cards by not showing all your cards, bluffing your partner into showing all the cards, thinking you have shown all of yours. Then you can bring in the right amount of power to displace your partner.
Never give a 100% in any fighting encounter, have a reserve.
It’s not me
Like I said it, I’m simply responding to my partner’s movement, and when the movement is not generated from the center, there will always be a counter for that, the shoulder pushes forward, I’d push back, pulled to the right, I’ll push to the left, twist up, I’ll press down. It is a natural response to a movement, and unless you move from the center, then it will be very difficult to counter that, as long as you are able to generate movement from there and use that energy properly and skillfully.

How to find an Aikido Teacher

How to find an Aikido Teacher

Of course I’d be biased.

I have the best Aikido teacher in the world!

After more than 2 decades with Harry sensei, it has been decided that he will be my Aikido teacher as good as a marriage vow; “Till death do us part.”

Well, isn’t that Aikido? The first ‘ai’ being 爱? Love is universal and that’s one thing I learned from Harry sensei.

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Love-

He loved all of his students, in a rather naive and unconditional way. That aside, he criticized everyone just about the same, almost ‘drill-instructor’ like. No matter how well you did, there is always room for him to say something disparaging. There will be always something wrong in everyone’s technique although some might be better than others, irrespective of how good you are in iriminage, he will always chide the entire class for not turning enough, or entering enough. that is always something not enough about our technique. But as much as he criticizes us, he love us all the same.

That means he can be quite a disarming person, that’s a nicer way to say ‘vulnerable’. People can and has made use of him for their own selfish gains. He shrugged them off and continue with his teaching. He has never harbor vengeance or seek legal recourse for those who has done harm to him. he is simply not interested in dealing with people who hurt, even those who hurt him.

He wants you to be better than him

Admit it, his level of Aikido is at a level high that no one can attain. At the same time, he is aging, weakening as the days eats into his life. I can feel it being his uke, he is not as sharp, as strong as he use to be. As a younger person, I can be better than him. And he wants you to be that, but not the artificial better, the genuinely better, kind of better.

As his uke for so many years, I’ve always received fully from him, he has never held back, kept a secret move, and gives you that twinkle of the eye, to hint that he still knows a few tricks and you don’t, and you are not privileged to get his ‘secrets’; there is simply no such thing with Harry sensei. He has never kept anything from us, and if we, granted the ability to learn all there is to learn from him, he will teach you all he as to teach, and more. There is really no secrets to Harry sensei’s teaching, the only problem is we are not open enough to receive his gifts fully.

There are times he don’t say a lot, that doesn’t mean that he is keeping these Aiki secrets to his graves, or he is saving these secrets for that special someone ton take over the helm. He has no successor, nor has an interest in appointing one. He treats everyone the same, and he scolds everyone the same, well almost, being his students for so long, he has a soft spot for ladies, my sensei is a gentleman.

Do as I do, not as I say

He told us to follow him, and do exactly what he does. And don’t question that. Don’t ask why, don’t ponder, don’t think. Don’t seek the answers. Just do what he is doing to our best ability. He said that simply because he admits that at times he is not able to explain. It is ‘in him’ and the only way to show how, is to show how, it cannot be spoken of nor explained.

So he wants us to copy him, not to be like him, but to understand how Harry sensei moves and understands Aiki, so that we can become better than him. We can use what Harry sensei has, and incorporate it what what we have, and comes up with something better than what Harry sensei has, a newer better version.

Of course, if you do things too far off the Aiki-do, he will rebuke you sharply, With so many years of experience, he can spot a wayward egomaniac easily. When you have a basic understanding of Aikido, he will leave you alone to develop yourself and become creative with your technique. Ever-so-watchful, if you stray, he will make sure he brings you back in line.

He is the best guide.

As my sensei, I see him as my guide. and helps me with my journey. Basically we are walking the path he has trodden for many decades. It is the same path we use, and he continues to point out to us, where we have gone wrong, where we got lost in our technique, his voice and guidance steers us back to track. When we are on track, he pushes us to keep going.

He knows that while the path is the same for everyone, everyone takes the path at a different pace. I have never seen him compare one student to another, he has often used students as example. Like how he said Tri comees to the dojo and trains, even if it mean that there is only 15 minutes left in class. He has compared and say Tri is better than you, or you are not as good as Tri.

All he says is:

  • Tri like Aikido,
  • Tri comes to training even if it is just 15 minutes left,
  • Tri is hardworking,
  • Be like Tri.

Harry sensei nurtures

I’ve seen many students, really sub-par (that’s me, being critical) and it frustrates me to see him teach these new students. Some of these students have serious, motor movements, clumsy like hell, can’t do a tenkan, and takes forever to learn an irimi. He can turn these rocks into gems. He has all the the patience and acceptance in the world to temper these rough cuts. Ah Beng being one of the many, he’s been in the the dojo for years, and as a beginner many years back, he was clumsy and took a long time to learn the ropes, far longer than an ‘average’ beginner Aikidoka. But he keeps on coming back, and now being a brown, he is at a level where he posses enough skills and competency to move like an aikidoka. Such is the heart of Harry sensei, he brings out the best in the ‘lousiest’ students. As long as you have the heart and grit, and keeps coming back, he will turn you into a decent Aikidoka, no matter how long it takes.

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He is hands-on

Until today, he stills vacuums the dojo floor, mops and lay the mats. We students as much as we can help it, will come as early as we can to help him, but he has never waited for anyone to do it for him. If it so happens that everyone is late, he would have set up class all by himself, at Shihan, 7th dan, close to eighty years of age, he has never taken his status nor seniority for granted. He has never asked for anything to be done for him. I fold his hakama because I want to, he didn’t ask for it. He is never high handed in how he wants his students to ‘serve’ him.

He is human

He is not into fancy twirling or high falls, and dramatic throws, he wants us to roll low, and keep safe. Nothing is worth high risk, unless absolute necessary. Minimizing impact is one way he has learned to live to this age without much serious injury.

He doesn’t do anything extraordinary, he explained aikido in the most basic fundamental way, he is just frustrated at times, when we as his students failed to grasp his teaching, which is often so simple and easy. All we need to do is to surrender ourselves, wholeheartedly and unreservedly to his teaching, and that is simply the hardest thing to do.

More about Kokyu-ho

I ended class with Siew Chin on Thursday evening. And she always finds it a challenge exercising kokyu-ho with me. So I shared with her a few pointers.

Be Ready.
It is not about ‘getting ready’, which to me means a state of transition from ‘not-ready’ to ready. There is a stage of preparation that mean there was a stage of un-preparation. This is not acceptable in life as we must always be prepared. Taking time to get ready for something is a waste of time because you can never be fully ready for something. Aikido has taught me that no amount of training and preparation will prepare one for whatever that person is preparing for. There will always be something not done ‘right’, something fall ‘short’ on hindsight.

The attitude in Kokyu-ho is about being ready. Be ready. To be ready will cease the stage of not-ready. and hence minimize weakness. Be ready is also a state of relaxed awareness, not too sure of what to expect, but at the same time confident in oneself to handle whatever may come.

One habit she has is that she clenched her fists, repetitively open and close, in a pumping motion, which I personally would discourage, as it doesn’t really ‘relaxes’ the hands, by playing with contraction and expansion. In fact, it transfers more tension downwards and makes the fingers loses its sensitivity, something that is very important in Aikido, kokyu-ho.

Handshake
Kokyu-ho is like a mutual, opposite handshake. You cannot shake a person’s hands, stiff. Palms open, fingers hyper-stretched is not a handshake. A ‘handshake’ hand is relaxed, open for the contact, not anticipating anything else other than a candid friendly open contact. No one anticipates a handshake, it either happens or it doesn’t. The contact, the distance put into a handshake is important.

Similarly, think of Kokyu-ho as a handshake, nothing more, open your palms, wrists relaxed not ‘cocked’ or ‘locked’ in any direction. just let the person wrap his hands around your wrists, not worried about moving him/her now or later. Your uke moves when the movement comes.

You, not me.
It is not about geometry, where you tilt a person off angle and then easily topple your partner, of course geometry plays a part in kokyu-ho, but if you meet a centred person, you cannot simply, tilt, leverage, angle the person off balance. Whatever. tilt, leverage, angle you hope to achieve will be absorbed into the person’s centre.

Project your energy to achieve what you want and you will stall. The funny thing about Aikido or kokyu-ho in specificity, is that the more ‘you’ want to do it, the more difficult you face in doing it. The stronger the ‘I’ the weaker you become. If in your mind you think ‘I’ want to do kokyu-ho. I want to off balance him/her. Or he/she has to be tilted, off balance so that I can execute kokyu-ho.’ I’m sorry, all you will get is all the ‘I’ you wanted. You will tilted. You will be off balance, it’s never about you. If all you get self absorbed in kokyu-ho, you will be absorbed by the self. That is not the point of Aikido.

0-100km/h
If there is a start, there will be a stop. If you can start it, someone can stop you. In Kokyu-ho, power can be felt, commencement can be detected. It all starts with a jerk, a muscular tension that happens suddenly. My reaction is simply that a reaction to an action. As long as you jerk, the acceleration can be felt, I can stop it. Tension begets tension.

So try to small start if you can, in your kokyu-ho. make the acceleration as small as possible. so small that your partner cannot detect it, and by the time your partner detects it, it is too late for your partner to do anything, other than to succumb to your directions. It is not the big movement that kills, it is the accumulation of small moves that leads a to often dramatic ending. People sees the dramatic ending, but not everyone sees all the small movements leading up to the climax.

So in Kokyu-ho, think small, the slight move of the wrist, down to the finger nail tip, not even the finger tip. your muscle twitch must be so imperceptible that you can move at ease. It is stealth in movement.

So that is my thought for Kokyu-ho.

First Published on: May 27, 2012

Kokyu Ho and Fear

I learned something about myself last evening when I exercised kokyuho with Siew Chin. there was something i cannot figure out from last week’s session I had with Gaynor.

I thought I was doing my usual kokyu ho exercise with Gaynor, when Harry sensei comes along and explained that ‘We should not be preventing our partner from learning.’ Gaynor gave me a feedback similar to that and I couldn’t comprehend what he said. It was something about the way i am resisting him and reacting to his actions.

I got my answer last evening, and I realised that I was afraid of Gaynor, hence I was reacting to him rather than resisting him. There is a subtle difference as reacting will negates his actions, preventing him from doing the technique. I carried my psyche with defense and instead of allowing him to conclude his technique and trying his best to exercise, I snubbed him out. Basically I draw him into my centre and there was no way he could do the technique. Whatever he did, I countered.

So last evening, when I exercised with Siew Chin, I resisted her, because I was not afraid of her. And without that fear in the way, I could open myself up and allow me to resist her while she tries to exercise Kokyu ho. It didn’t make it any easier for her, but it sure as hell didn’t frustrates her.

So why do I fear Gaynor and not Siew Chin? Admittedly, it stems from my inferiority complex, and of course the e-g-o. There is an uncertainty in my confidence that Gaynor IS going to be better than me. So I go on a defensive and block him out. And why not Siew Chin? For obvious reasons, my logical mind justifies that she is ‘no threat’ to me, in short I deemed that I am ‘better’.

But to be fair, it was my practice with Siew Chin that allowed me to learn this so that the next time I practice with Gaynor, I can keep this feeling in check. It is silly to classify who is better or worse than who, but these kind of judgment can creep in subtly and without constant practice, we might one day be clouded by such little irrelevant voices in our heard.

Published on: May 27, 2012

Intellectual Vomit-Kokyu-ho

I’m running a fever, my wife last check 37.9 degrees, further more than that, I’m running an intellectual vomit. when I close my eyes, there’s so much about Aikido swimming inside that I have to put it in writing. The Chinese have this saying “三天热”, is this happening to me?

There’s this particular situation that caught me and I want to share it. I was down at NUS that specific evening, for the hell of things, (by the way, for the hell of it cost me $10 bucks). anyway what happen was probably a non event but it gave me such an impression that I cannot put it in words anymore than what i am doing now.

We ended the class with the usual kokyu-ho. My partner was a brown belt, young chap, stocky fella. When it was time for me to be the Uke and hold his hands, I held on and he did the technique. as he continued to complete his turn of four, by the time he reached the fourth turn, he cannot lift his hands anymore. I simply held his hands in place, what went through my head was a mixed feeling of puzzlement and curiosity. He simply cannot raise his hands and complete the kokyu-ho. I can feel the ‘physics’ of the movement, he tried his damnest to leverage with his shoulders, but the hands stayed. No amount of force and energy could make him move the hand.

There was no struggle. not for me and not for him either, he simply is moving something immovable. did I played a part in it? Sure. I did, but not my ego. I held his hands, that’s all, not tight, just hold. Its not a matter of one being superior over the other. If that has happened then, there will be a struggle, because the less advantaged will struggle against the advantaged and swing the entire situation around. In that event, we are equal. My level of understanding now is that the point where our hands held are neutral, the one who brings and intent or ego to the hand will struggle. The one with less intent struggle less. I know this for a fact because I still struggle against Harry sensei, the same way the brownie struggle against me. Harry sensei has a clearer intent, less ego. So he is more neutral, struggle less.

Its a feeling of amazement because I cannot comprehend the simplicity of the whole situation. There is really no struggle, no need to. simply do the technique of kokyu-ho with a good intent, appreciate the movement all the way to the end. It really doesn’t matter how it end, it will end eventually, so our job is to appreciate it at the end, with or without orchestration. It is my first true experience where physics stays in the realm of physics and could do no more, I’m a small fella, the brownie’s a big fella, he should be able to move me, no sweat.

The kinesthetic description is the sensitivity of the palm, all the way down to the very tip of our fingers. I placed my curiosity there, the touch I held the brownie with was one of learning. I want to know what he can do. not so much as to counter him with what I know. at that moment, what i know didn’t matter. I didn’t matter. he matters. It doesn’t matter if he can bring me down, it doesn’t matter if he cannot, what happens, happens. Nothing more nothing less. The ‘isness’ is so spontaneous and immediate none of us struggled. He tried his best, but I’m sure he is not uncomfortable. He got so caught up trying to bring the hand up he didn’t stop to think what has actually happened. So do I feel powerful over the whole thing? No, in fact, the more powerful I feel, the more he can feel me. I just feel very human. There was no power in my grasp, just a feeling I transmit, in that moment nothing else matter except the part where out hands meet.

It is like a satori, the Ah-ha! I knew it, I knew I got it, it cannot leave me anymore. that doesn’t mean that I can consistently harness that because partners change, mood swings, people learn. One thing for sure is that once I have it, it’s with me for me to harness it. Its a very personal thing and it gives me the kind of satisfaction to know that such skill and knowledge is achievable, I am no one special and yet i can learn it. The paradox is that its nothing special since someone as ordinary as me can learn it I’m sure anyone can, but this ‘ordinary’ skill is so unique to me, it will manifest itself in me in a manner that is different from anyone else.

First Published on: Jul 8, 2010