We 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.
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.
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.