theaikidad

Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

A Mirror with No Reflections

A Mirror with No Reflections

I was hit with an epiphany 2 days back.

What if you can take a picture of a mirror, standing right in front of it, and; there is no reflection of yourself?

We have all heard about this popular metaphor.

When you disturb the surface of a pond, you will not be able to see a clear reflection of yourself. But when the water is still, you can see your own reflection.

Hence, the inference to a ‘still mind’.

We need to delve deeper than that, agree that though a still mind reflects, it takes more than that to project.

If you are an angry person, a still mind will reflect that anger, yes. that reflection might bring about an awareness to the realization of anger, but it does not necessarily bring about the cessation of that anger. It might not attend to the cause of the anger. See the reflection of an angry face, might even exacerbate the anger. All you need to do is to YouTube the phrase “animals looking in mirror” and you can see a variety of animal reactions to mirrors. Of course you can argue that humans behave otherwise, but do we really?

A still mind, might not be a peaceful mind. A robber, sitting still, is no peaceful mind. There is no action of a robbery, but the intent is there. The stillness cannot be misinterpreted as a solace refuge.

Therefore, we need to be more than a still pond, simply reflecting off whatever that comes along. We have to be a pond of peace. We have to project the inner-ness of the pond, the fishes swimming serenely in the pond. the peaceful sway of the seaweeds, the entire ecology of the pond, giving life, giving peace. When an angry person look at the pond, the angry person can see beyond the reflection, they can see the peace within the pond, and that perhaps calm the anger. Perhaps, the angry person lost something valuable, something the person might have dropped into the pond, a precious gold ring. So the clarity of the pond can allow the person to look into the pond and see the ring lying in the bottom of the pond, and reach out into the pond to retrieve the lost ring, and reunite what is lost with the one finding.

Similarly, we must see past our angry partners. Sometimes, we are the source of their anger, we are angry first, and when we are not conscious, we think that others are angry first, when truth to the matter, we are ‘patient zero’. But when that happens, we need all of our training and wisdom to see past that reflection of anger. To see that our partners have good, have value, and we can find our lost gold ring in them. And they also have lost gold rings in our ponds.

So it is pointless, to have a surface calm, to be still, and reflect. A still and calm pond is pretty much useless, if, the waters are murky and muddy and hides the contents in it. If you cannot see into the water, a reflection is, merely a reflection.

First Published on: Apr 21, 2014
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Saving water

Dear Boys,

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I decided to put a pail of water for the both of you to bathe. Each of you, a pail of water; well as for Wayne, he gets about 80% filled, since his body mass is so little!

You boys took to it with novelty, and I was worried that you both might be resistant to it.

You see, water is a very precious resource, and once you turn on the tap, those water flowing out, cannot be recovered. (Well, you can, actually, but it does comes with a cost.) What I am trying to drive at is, we all have some bad habits; bathing is one of them. It cannot be helped when water is so readily available. You turn the tap on, clean, drinkable water flows. We never really took it to heart about those save water campaign thing.

Our PUB- Public Utilities Board, constant nagged at us to save water, but do we really? I too have been nagging at the both of you to stop taking long baths, but to no avail. I think this is a common problem in every household unannounced.

So I am glad that you boys like the pail bath idea.

This is nothing new, and people has been bathing like this for ages. And this primitive method works, as long as you stick to one pail, and not top it up after you emptied it.

Sometimes old school ways works and I hope the both of you can remember these ways, and use them constantly to make sure we keep our water usage in check.

The Secret Super-hero Aikido Ah Gong

The Secret Super-hero Aikido Ah Gong

img_2040.jpgWe chatted about his life as an Aikidoka, and while he has more than 50 years under his belt, and me less than half of that, but we pretty much faced similar issues; almost none of our loved ones really know what we do when we don our gi and hakama.

It is almost like we put on a super-hero cape and become an alter-ego Batman, or Spider-man. except that we don’t have a hidden identity, nor do we really save the world from bad guys.

Not me, perhaps, but Harry sensei, maybe.

So let me write this for Harry sensei’s grand kids.

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Dear Grand children of Harry sensei,

You may not know me, but your grandfather(Ah Gong) is my Aikido sensei, and he has been my teacher for the past 20 years.

You may know him as your grandfather, and I know him as my sensei. There are things you know much more about him than I do, but there are things about him as an Aikidoka, you probably didn’t know about.

As his grandchildren, you know; he is a perfectionist, as an Aikidoka, he demanded the best out of us. More importantly, he made himself an example, by training much harder than his students. When he was younger, he trained everyday and even some visiting Japanese sensei found his skills of remarkably high standards, perhaps even higher than some Japanese sensei!

While we can all marveled at his skills, it was his leadership that helped pave and grow Aikido to what it is today. When he took the helm over from his sensei, there was a lot of struggle to keep Aikido training going. He has to rush from work to class and back, Typically his days don’t end until 12am, at the earliest, everyday. That was his commitment to make sure that Aikido continues until today, where it is widely accepted and classes are run in many community centres. In short, he saved Aikido from going down a deep dark path of oblivion.

His Aikido greatness comes at a great price. He did expressed regrets that he didn’t spend enough time with his children, your parents; all he did was to sign report cards from school. You parents were fast asleep by the time he got back, and gone to school by the time he woke. The fault is his to bear, but as an Aikidoka I can never thank him enough or repay the lessons he has imparted to me.

Your Ah gong teaches me more than Aikido. He taught me life and how to balance it. He taught me how to be a husband, and not to neglect my wife. He taught me what I can achieve if I put my mind, heart and soul to an endeavour. While he is nearing 80, he continues to inspire me, by turning up for Aikido, never calling it quits, never say die.

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You, as his grandchildren has to be proud of him, you carry his bloodline and good genes. But it is his quiet Aikido legacy that you, as his grand children never get to see. He never told you all, but Aikido is very central part of him. Harry sensei has always been a quiet kind of teacher who never bragged about his contributions. He just quietly chugged along, and not a lot of Aikidoka in Singapore these days knows about your granddad, and what he and his peers did back in those formative years. Under his leadership, Aikido in Singapore flourished.

So the next time you hear about someone in Singapore training as an Aikidoka, you can be assured that some part of what that Aikidoka learned, came from your granddad. The entire Singapore Aikido community owes it to your Ah Gong for going above and beyond the extra mile. All Aikidokas in Singapore, past, present and future, all stand tall, on the frail slender shoulders of your 公公 and his peers.

If he has been a stern Granddad to you, let me tell you that he speaks very fondly of his grand children. He glows when he told me his grand daughters traveled the world, and still remembers to buy a little something for the 公公.  He is a simple man, who only needs simple love and affection.

Sometimes it is not easy for us to understand what our elder generations went through as they usually likes to keep these memories to themselves. We get confused by that silence, so we came up with our own insecure conclusions about how things happened. He love his family as much as he loves Aikido, and as his grand children, he loves you all a lot, and while he is thinking of winding down his days as an Aikidoka, he will never stop being your 公公. It is a matter of eventuality, I will lose my sensei, but you must never lose him as your 公公. Please spend time with him as much as you can, and love him for all he has done as your 公公 and for what he has sacrificed for Aikido in Singapore. He is the hero Singapore Aikido needs and you will always carry that proud legacy with you. Your 公公’s Aikido story is remarkable, and pivotal, so don’t let anyone else tells you otherwise. In my eyes, your 公公 is the greatest Aikidoka Singapore will never see for a long, long time to come.

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My sensei teaches more than Aikido

My sensei teaches more than Aikido

This is the view for me for the past 20-odd years. The irony of my life is that I know my Aikido sensei more than I know my father.

My parents divorced when I was 15. I started Aikido when I was nineteen-ish, and just like that, I’ve spent more than 20 years in Aikido, even longer than I know my wife.

I was never Harry sensei’s ‘favorite’ student. When you trained long enough with him, you know the kind of students he like; and by the virtue of my physique, I’m not his uke by choice. I got to where I am, because I hung around long enough, longer than those ‘better’ students. I got here by attrition, you can say that.

Along the way, I learned quite a few things from my sensei, and without him, I have no Aikido, and no such blog. My mind will not be open, the way he did, gently and patiently. Without his quiet guidance, I won’t be the person I am today.

Loyalty and commitment

It is Harry sensei’s bragging rights. He trained incessantly, 50 years, Mondays to Fridays; these days. Back in those days, he trained 7 days a week, 4 hours. These days who can say they did what he has done, 50 years and counting? He mentioned in his soft voice, he only stopped Aikido twice, once for his mother’s death, for a month, the other time he did, I didn’t catch what he said.

While many people can and like to mention lineage, to soup up their own dojo’s marketing prowess, mentioning that they trained under who and who and which and which Japanese Shihan, Harry sensei simply mentioned that his sensei is the late Teddy Lee sensei, He took the helm from his sensei, and continue to practice Aikido, the way his sensei taught him.

I’ve never heard him trained under anyone else, perhaps with Nakazono sensei, who first brought Aikido to Singapore. More importantly he has never failed to mention his sensei, he has never forgotten his sensei and the teachings. That is his loyalty, and he don’t give a f**k about winning the popularity contest.

He is committed to Aikido, and still comes to class, rain, shine, good health or otherwise. He just mentioned today he had a bout of shingles. Had he not mentioned, we wouldn’t have known, he is still as fit and ki still flows from his fingers. He is committed to teaching and it doesn’t matter if one student turns up or none. Of course he will berate us for being absent, but he knows our commitments and he never asks more from us, but he continuously gives us his commitment, more than we can ever accept.

Family and Sacrifice

The world is fair, there is only 24 hours, Harry sensei is no exception. While he devoted his time to Aikido, his wife has to suffer, his children has to suffer. He will miss their important dates, significant milestones. All for Aikido. He was never there for them in the evening, by the time he got home after training, his kids would have been asleep, the next day, he would have to go to work.

After 50 years, there is no way to reclaim them back. he has to choose, and he sacrificed his family time.

Harry sensei got to become Harry sensei, because he did what he did. His success showed me how not to be a whole person. My family needs me, just as much as I need my Aikido. It is never an easy decision, and I learned to follow my heart.

Sometimes I have to sacrifice Aikido for my family, and Harry sensei would understand where my priorities are.

Regret and Fate

Time has been spent, it cannot be recovered. We spoke briefly, and Harry sensei agreed he was very ‘lucky’, his children and wife stuck by him, although he did mention that his wife is getting even with him these days, after so many years of neglect.

Call it fate or luck his wife didn’t leave him and took his children along. His children are still filial to him. His grandchildren still buys things for him, when they travel overseas. Things could have gone awry for him, his children could have rebelled, as technically speaking, he wasn’t really clocking his time as a dad. As a dad myself, I know had I done what Harry sensei did, my wife would have to pick things up in my absence, and double hat my role.

As a dad myself, I have my moments of regrets, when I missed some of my children’s significant moments. As a sensei, he would have missed more, much, much more.

Photo courtesy of Vincent Asjenwi, Kiryokukai Indonesia

Aikido is good Karma

Let’s not get superstitious here, I’m using ‘karma’ as a generic term. Loosely speaking, Harry sensei did good. While he hadn’t been much of a dad in the evenings, his practice and commitment to Aikido, showed his family and loved ones, that he is truly and purely a good person, doing good stuff with Aikido. His only flaw is; his undying love for Aikido.

 

Bandung Aikido Seminar

Bandung Aikido Seminar

Thanks to our friends in Kiryokukai Indonesia, we got a chance to visit the beautiful city of Bandung, and also enjoy the wonderful hospitality put up by the various sensei.

Training.

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Training was held at the Maranatha dojo which is actually a university of a high prestige, I learned it from the taxi driver when I told him ‘Maranatha something’ he uttered something in Indonesian Malay as good and reputable.

Training was on a Saturday afternoon, and the place was air conditioned… thankfully!

The warm up was lead by Ketut sensei and we went through a series of ukemi exercise, which gradually advanced in difficulty. While I had never done such exercise in the dojo before, I was thankful that my curiosity lead me explore my own ukemi online and I did learned a couple of feather falls in youtube, very similar to those practiced by our Indonesian friends.

The ukemi exercise was great as it was the first time I have the aid of a living person. most of the time I did the feather falls, holding onto my gym bench. It worked, but a person would have been much better.

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Harry sensei’s class

Harry sensei took the later 2 classes and he went thought the basics, which was mostly concentrated on making sure that our Aikido exercise don’t kill or maim us prematurely. Harry sensei explained that the testament of him still an Aikidoka at almost eighty, was his ability to evolve and find the best technique to protect ourselves.

We might be young and we can say with gusto that we can take the pain, when we get hurt. Harry sensei’s logic is “You can get over the pain, but you cannot get over the injury!” For a sensei who has seen his fair hare of injuries over the last 50 odd years in Aikido, you cannot argue with that!

Simple but difficult moves

Trademark to Harry sensei, he does no fancy stuff. It was all basic techniques, done in very small circles at a very advanced level. There is perceptively very little movement, it looked like an innocent tsunami about to happen.

As his students, we have to present ourselves in the best light, and also train hard with out fellow Indonesian Aikidokas.

“You can get over the pain, but you cannot get over the injury!”

Pin

When Harry sensei pins a person, the person will not get up ever. He did it to me, and got one of the Indonesian Aikidoka interested and he had a long chat with Harry sensei, asking about how it was done and all those stuff.

Harry sensei did it again during kokyu-ho, and this time he pinned Vincent sensei with his right had, and later with his left, dominant hand. Vincent sensei couldn’t get up, at all.

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Kiryokukai aikidokas

The students are very earnest and hungry to learn. Those on the mats don’t mull around, they will go forward with their catch and there is no hesitation. The lack of English wasn’t a barrier at all as we all speak ‘aikido’. Some of them with better English will ask pointers in positioning and hand movement. They were a bunch of learners and they will go far with that attitude.

The fundamental learning curve of a junior belt don’t go away, most of them came too close, and I have to kick one of the junior belts at the shin. He got the message and adjusted his distance. Some have stances that can be improved, which they did the moment I correct them, they are quick in their learning too.

The senior belts there are very experience and dynamic in their movements. Their catch is strong and the movements are those of seasoned, well trained Aikidokas. I learned quite a fair bit training with them and it was a good and happy environment, the perfect place for Aikido to grow, and foster goodwill.

Demonstration

We ended the session with a demonstration, and Harry sensei used James, Tri, Vincent sensei and myself as uke and he gave the Indonesians a glimpse of the level of Aikido Harry sensei practices at.

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My First Photo with Harry Sensei

It was in this trip that I finnaly pluck up the courage to ask for a personal photograph with Harry sensei. I have been in Aikido for more than 20 years, and never once taken a photograph with Harry sensei. I told Edna, it was like a kid on Christmas day, getting his long awaited, hard fought present. I was beaming from ear to ear. It is always such a joy to train with Harry sensei, despite of his stern demeanor. He makes me a happy student and being happy is a good place to practice Aikido.

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