We all say this at the beginning of our class. What does it mean? Well you can Google it and get the general meaning of the term.
Harry sensei told the entire cohorts of new NUS Aikidokas last Tuesday about おねがいします, and well, it was like anything that you’d tell a beginner, the meaning, the protocol in a dojo. Somehow this time it made a little difference in me.
おねがいします is not just a phrase, it is an attitude of life.
Why don’t we try saying おねがいします! in the morning the moment we wake? I mean, if おねがいします loosely means ‘Please take care of me’, ‘Please allow me to receive your teachings.’ ‘Please allow me to receive your gifts.’ Would’t it be a great attitude to begin your day with?
I was thinking a little more divine that evening when Harry sensei says it. I mean, I’m not a religious person, but to utter おねがいします like a prayer, would bring about a whole new attitude of humility, openness and joy. It allows your psyche to open up to divine assistance. おねがいします is non-judgmental, you cannot say oh! I would おねがいします to this and not おねがいします to that! It is simply おねがいします, and you cannot refuse, you can only receive.
Much like in the dojo, we train with whoever we train with, like it or not, we tap our partner and say おねがいします! sometimes I turned to the person next to me and tap the person’s sleeve and say おねがいします! I’m not really concern who that person is, junior, senior, tall, short, guy, girl, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if my persona like that fella or not, when we おねがいします, we おねがいします, period.
I think this is a good attitude to begin your day with.
We often feel like doing this to a specific individual in our life, work, or personal, this feeling can even bubble up on the mat, and there might be uke who is uncooperative in some of the waza and it simply frustrates us. We feel like doing something else other than Aikido to our fellow Aikidoka training partners.
Managing Conflict on the Mat
There is no place on the mat for anything else other than Aikido techniques, since this is the discourse we are trying to learn. There is no place for a slap, kick, punch hip throw other than prescribed, and directed by the sensei. Any deviation or unexpected moves or attacks can result in injuries beyond a bruised ego. We cannot allow accidental techniques that leads to unpleasant incidents.
Such an incident happened recently during jyu-waza, and it was a 2 vs 1 scenario, I was urging both ukes to give space and let the nage complete the technique, it has been a while since we did multiple attacks. Unfortunately, things got a bit too intense and the nage lost his cool and got into a brief scuffle with one of the uke, who appears to be uncooperative. I stopped the class immediately.
Lost your temper, do not lose control
As strange as I might say it, it is okay to be frustrated, and angry with yourself on the mat. Harry sensei has scolded us many times, angry with our shoddy movement, or when we do not do as he does. I have been frustrated with my own sloppy footwork, sometimes against unwilling, and uncooperative uke. Never once, I decided to take it out on the uke, admittedly, I do entertain such thoughts. Yes, very much like Will Smith, I am work in progress.
So it is okay to be temperamental, don’t bottle it up, becoming angry is very human, and of course, you will put a bit of petrification on your training partner, but as long as you show no intent to maim or hurt, people will generally understand, and even help you work your frustration. Don’t make it personal, and people will be more than willing to help you on whatever unhappiness you harbor.
Losing Control-a no, no
Intoxicated people often admitted that they are not themselves when they are drunk, uncontrollable; hit someone, and commit criminal offenses. I can’t vouch for that as I’ve never been drunk. since no one comes to the dojo drunk (yet), no one should be given this excuse they lost control.
Training in the same dojo for years can build trust and friendship, one moment of anger and lost of control can destroy that. Worse is when you hurt someone when you lost control, regret and apology cannot undo the damage done.
It happened to my friend in Karate.
The exercise requires them to just punch and block. during the intensity of the training, this junior brown belt, somehow lost it, and snapped a kick at my friend’s knee, tore his ligament, and well, that makes it permanent, and no amount of ‘sorry sorry’ can unf**k the injury. So now that friend walks around with a torn ligament and that brown belt goes on with his life knowing he did that to one person. I do not want that on my conscience.
The dojo is a sacred space for experimentation, a place for people to feel free in expressing themselves in Aikido. Many of us, comes to the dojo to escape the stress of our daily lives, many of us works in high pressure, stressful jobs and dojo is a place for us to put that behind and do something therapeutic and enjoy the exercise.
Unfortunately some of us brings that stress and tension to the mat, and that is fine, it’s a place for us to work and release that tension. through a disciplined, respectful and progressive approach. It is not a place for us to do a free-for-all.
It’s just Aikido
At the end of the day, it is just Aikido. on the mat, there is no life and death about it. No one is really coming for our life. It’s a practice, a martial arts, and it helps us understands our limitations, improves the way we deal with difficult people, so there is no need to get triggered. On the same thread, if we are unable to reign our volcanic, volatile and unsettled mind on the mat, it goes to show that we have a lot to work on within us, improve ourselves and handle the very first difficult person we come across every, single, day, ourselves.
Well we have seen men and women in their peak physical form, they seem to have boundless energy and are able to perform magnificent feats of superhuman ability.
Well, here’s my take on fitness. Really really fit people, are not really fit. In fact there is no such thing as a really really fit person. Any athlete will tell you, in my context, any martial artist will tell you, all dramatic demonstration of their skills and abilities are achieved through a huge level of SUFFERING.
No one knows about the injuries, the fatigue, the exhaustion, the weariness and still have to continue. the bitching and whining we all experience. Yes, these bouts do happen to really, really fit people.
The answer is that they are able to take in all these suffering AND perform. Not a single one of them hadn’t been injured badly before, suffered a cramp, dealt with fractures and bruises. After all these, they still execute amazing feats. This makes them inspirational.
No, they are not flawless, Their excellence is a summation of their injuries and their ability to continue despite of all that, that makes them worth watching.
So the next time you see a really fit person, don’t think about the glory, think about the person’s untold dark days and long lonely periods of doldrums.
Sensei recently got his ‘Shihan‘ accreditation from Aikikai Hombu dojo.
It seem to be a big deal, as he is now certified, a ‘Master Instructor’ and according to him, there is 2 in Singapore, one has died, he is the only other one. In South East Asia, there is only 2, one is in Thailand, and the other is, yours truly.
So I asked him what was that all about?
He was quite surprised, albeit a pleasant one, that Nasheer told him one day he got an email that they needed his particulars and details of his instructor-ship for his application for a Shihan. And he sent it in, and his application was approved and he got the Shihan certification.
Well, from the way it is perceived, being given the title Shihan is a recognition of one’s ability as an instructor and the person’s ability to propagate Aikido. Which means you and be 7 dan, 8 or more, but with be bestowed Master Instructor by Hombu, it really just means a rank you hold.
But having a Shihan didn’t change Harry sensei a bit. Well perhaps it did, a little. He obviously is proud of being bestowed the title. And he didn’t asked for it, just like he didn’t asked for a promotion to 7th dan. Or rather, politely declined one.
Other than a little swelling with pride, he is still him. He has gone through his ups and downs in Singapore’s Aikido fraternity to be attached to a simple title and a piece of paper saying who you are.
Of late, I was given the privilege of conducting a couple of classes with my NUS Aikidokas. Although it was a refreshing change from being attending the class to someone conducting the class, the more salient point is the new learning experience for me being in a teacher role. Yes, you still learn while you teach.
For the sake of clarification, and for as a matter of technicality, I am not a teacher in Aikido. Those times when I was tasked to take the class, I happened to be the next most senior student in the class, so I guess by that fact, not virtue, I will have to chaperone the class in the teacher’s absence. I’m not officially delegated, nor in some strict sense, holds a teacher’s license. And for the records, I’m neither officially assigned by Harry sensei to teach, or conduct class. So I happen to do what I did as a matter of circumstance.
No talking in class
Anyway, given that I’m tasked into the limelight, standing in front of a class of 20-plus Aikidokas, some of them, a good 20 years my junior, I realized again why Harry sensei do not want us to talk amongst ourselves during training, he does not want us to correct the techniques amongst ourselves in training. If our partner is wrong in executing the techniques and what we can do as their training partners, and if we happen to be the senior member of the class, we can correct by action, not by telling. He abhors us talking among ourselves trying to figure out the wrongs and rights by discussion. There is an apparent reason for that. Because whatever we say, is wrong.
This goes back to my old adage of ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’. As this few sessions of conducting classes has taught me, as the guy standing there, telling people about the techniques, not matter what I say, with all the good in mind, is wrong. Well, sure the argument is what I say might be fitting, and if that is the case, then there will not be a case at all to begin with, right?
And the teacher’s role is very heavy, the students listens, and during class they will usually not retort, but after the class ends, they will take what you say and go home to digest it, break it down, and over-analyze your sayings, and if what you say is too narrowly defined, you will open yourself to your own bag of skeletons. More often than not, what’re we say is usable to a certain context. And if you want to play it safe and use a sweeping statement, and generalize, you’ll end up not giving anything useful to your audience. The ‘it depends’ really depends on what the depending is depending on.
Then again you still have to say something, so you have to become really careful and wise up about what you say, because people will take your saying as their doctrine, and if what you say is not empirically robust, then the blood is on your hands when they use what you said would work, but end up not working as well as you said it would.
I have this at the onset of my blog, and let’s revisit the word a little, there is no disclaimer in class, just as I learned that there are no disclaimer in life. Perhaps it is due to a force of habit, I have a disclaimer of sorts for my blog. You see, as a former banker, we will have disclaimer clauses to protect the bank from any thing that the standard terms don’t cover. It’s bureaucracy by the way.
But the disclaimer exists for a reason, because well meaning individuals do get trapped by anything and everything that falls out of the contextual domain of the terms. People do hijack your good intentions for their own narrow and sometimes self-centered desires. Being the guy saying a lot of things, means those things I’ve said may one day come back to haunt me. That is the risk of a teacher.
Do as I do
So in class, in the old days, the sensei don’t really talk much, you really do as the sensei do as close to his movement as possible. But this type of teaching will no longer sit well with the new generations of human beings who will go into YouTube and other portals to find out for themselves and learn for themselves, never mind what they learned is right or not, hence we have the rise of ‘self radicalized’ individuals.
That is the teacher’s peril. And I’m not sure if there will be other opportunities for me to take another class, but if I do, I’ll always bear in mind to tell my younger broods what Harry sensei likes to say ‘do also cannot do properly, still want to talk among yourselves?’
It is a very good feeling to be training amongst friends. Perhaps this is what makes our small dojo slightly different from others, Harry sensei doesn’t really ‘advertise‘ Shoshin Aikikai to attract new students, hence we do not have a regular intake of fresh blood. What we end up with a tightly knitted bunch of students who only wants to train under Harry sensei’s tutelage, perhaps also enjoy each other’s friendship on the mat, There is a genuine care we have for each other, that trust built over the years training together.
Harry sensei has provided a very strong leadership and presence as the head honcho, and there is nothing else to worry about. All we need to do is to turn up, he leads the class, scolds us when we gets it wrong, offer a small wry smile when we fumble, often comically. He is really like the stern father of the dojo, looking over his kids while they train.
He scolds us because he really cares about us. and my sensei is very particular about his technique, movement and application of Ki, some of which are often beyond linguistic expression and this frustrates him when we cannot grasp the true fidelity of his style. His teaching has always been uncompromising, straight, pure and true, he does not accepts our weak attempt to do the minimum, we must do exactly the way he does in the highest standards, and often chides us when we cannot do what he can. He runs a tight ship and expects nothing less than our best; we liked it the way it is.
So right now as we grow and evolve as a club, the dojo has become a very comfortable space to share and discuss Aikido techniques that Harry sensei has taught us. Under his watchful (often intimidating!) presence, I try to best honour his teachings, and techniques on the mat; at the same time bring in my own discussion, interpretation and corroborate what I personally know, feel and learned about Aikido.
Everything that I know about Aikido, I learned from Harry sensei, he has given so much over these decades that it will take my lifetime to share what I learned from him, and with this strong foundation I will have to find my own way to chart ahead bring new ideas onto the mat. This is a new level of learning I am beginning to embrace and appreciate.
While he didn’t openly say so, I feel very empowered to independently explore how to best carry on Harry sensei’s legacy in my own ways. While there are many flaws in my delivery of the class, my friends gave me that room to learn and grow, it is such a feeling of humility and honour at the same time that my fellow Aikidoka trust me, listen to my often one-sided explanation and let me correct them while I might be wrong myself. As we journey on, it will take all of us to slowly unravel what our sensei have left for us. This is very sacred and precious, so we must do what we can to make sure we keep this spirit going.
I casually asked Ian one day that if we leave the entire household to him, will he be able to handle it?
‘No’ came the reply.
Well I am not surprised at all because it will take a lot of effort and time to run a household smoothly, it is not something that is written in a ‘how-to’ book or instructions manual, that’s what parents are for.
Well, this is an entire package, and it comes with vacuuming first. Since it makes more sense to suck up any dust and debris before you actually put the wet work in to clean up any stains and give the floor a good wipe.
That’s just the mop part, we are not talking about filling the pail, putting the cleaning solvents, wringing the mop, mapping the mopped area in the house. So there is some thought to be put into mopping, its not just swinging a wet mop around and call it done.
This is another bummer, I know you boys know who does the laundry, but the entire thing is a regular chore. It must be done, unless we are going around naked!
It starts from buying the apparels, wearing them, putting them to wash, getting the right amount of detergent in, getting the right machine settings, hanging it up, folding it when it is dry, ironing it, putting them in the right place. Occasionally we will need to wash bags, shoes, and other what-nots.
From time to time you will need to fix, replace, repair, and clean some of the fixtures at home. and recently I replaced our leaking taps in both bathrooms
It is not actually rocket science and if you want to, just pay a Plumber and this can also be done, or you can go to a hardware shop and get it yourself. Most of the sizing and dimensions are the same, so you just have to put some muscle into removing the old one and putting the new one in.
Similarly, cleaning the bathroom means giving these fixtures a good scrub, toilet bowls included.
The Bottom Line
There is a lot of things to do at home, and as boys, men, you need to know these skills. It is a hands-on fixing, repairing and replacing things at home that makes your house a home. No one is going to teach you all these skills and you will have to learn them yourself.
It is not difficult, you just have to do it, and trust yourself that things will turn out okay. If it doesn’t then you can call in the professionals, watch and learn how they do it, and correct yourself from there.