What is Aikido?

This conversation will never cease, and probably I’m just adding to the fray.

I’ve asked myself such questions from time to time to make sure that my knowledge and understanding stays relevant. It is important for me to do that so I don;t begin to assume things, and become dogmatic in thinking, at the same time I need to see how the art can evolve or become ‘bastardized’ into something else, not Aikido, yet called Aikido.

So what is Aikido?

There are plenty of explanation out there, for me I prefer the more traditional one. As long as you practice a style with a specific lineage, and belongs to some major school of Aikido style then, yes, you are practicing Aikido.

Most of the Aikido practitioners have a sensei and their sensei has a sensei, so on and so forth. You can basically trace a source back a couple of down lines to where your Aikido style comes from.

It is getting more difficult these days, when dojos are sprouting out faster than a 7-Eleven can, so tracing a linage can be a problem.

What is NOT Aikido

This is a huge grey area, as Aikido is such an open art with a very open interpretations. There are many variations of the art, as many of the masters tends to explain the mysterious ‘ki’ in their own way according to their own experience and interpretations. Many of these so called masters trained narrowly and the only training partners they faced are those limited in their dojo.

Some others might like to hijack ‘Aikido’ as a brand name and use it to define their own arts, there could be some vague resemblance to the traditional mainstream Aikido style, but these folks try to differentiate themselves by wearing an all black Gi, or have some fancy, aggressive, and dynamic looking logo, of a skull, fist or something else.

Since there is no copyright doe ‘Aikido’ as a brand, there is no way to control it. what I’m saying isn’t about control, it is about the ability to discern ‘not Aikido’ style from ‘Aikido’ style. And it is not a problem unique to Aikido. As of today, there are many Shaolin schools that teaches ‘authentic’ Shaolin kungfu, where there is actually only one place to learn Shaolin Kungfu, which is the one and only Shaolin Temple.

Me-Too Marital Arts

This points to the popularity of these martial arts so much so people what to copy it, so that they can get something out of it, be it money, or fame. These me-too martial arts while cashing in by attaching themselves to these arts, can mislead students and the general public about what these arts are.

While I welcome the evolution of Aikido, with newer understandings and emerging variations, hijacking the name Aikido, just because someone knows an Ikkyo or two, or have taken a brief class in Aikido, mixed in with Systema, and some other arts, and for a lack of a better name, decides to call it ‘Aikido’. That is something not so welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

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二教 nikyō in MMA

二教 nikyō in MMA

I did MMA many years back with a very good school Fight G. I think it was for 3 months, once or twice a week.

It was in one of those training sessions that I realised Aikido has a value in MMA, although more often than not, using Aikido specifically to win an MMA bout would be next to impossible, well that is my opinion.

I was on the ground with this guy, or rather, he was on the ground and I was up. In terms of MMA, we were both kind of a novice. In terms of martial arts, I can tell, he has little or no prior martial arts experience.

He was a fit guy, but while we sparred, I got the better part of it, and started my ‘ground and pound’, and out of instinct, he grabbed my wrist. It was more like a ‘Gyaku Hanmi’, opposite hand grab.

That sets it up nicely for a nikyō, The MMA gloves was thick, but I knew I got the lock, and began to apply pressure. The poor guy, probably pumped up with adrenaline, has no idea what is his predicament, with his free hand, he tried to make something out of it, but it was in vain.

I applied pressure, the lock was there, but I decided to let it go. I would have severely injure him, had I continue.

That incident never left my mind.

The martial arts world is wide, there are many many moves out there that we have never heard of, or even think was possible.

Catching that guy in a nikyō, in an MMA training taught me that anything can happen in a fight. Aikido locks are almost never taught in MMA, and when someone in MMA encounters such a lock, or pin, they usually have no response or reaction to it. Which is a dangerous indication that the training has gone past the learning stage, right into dogmatism.

Letting it go

I let the lock go partly also because we are all kind of a recreational MMA students, we are not fighting for keeps. The guy was like me, just going there for ‘fun’, imagine, going home with a broken wrist, or worse, a wrist that is permanently  broken. That would have been on my conscience for the rest of my life. It was just practice, so let’s not injure each other with malice.

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Observe, Observe and Observe

The greatest thing you can do in a dojo, any dojo, is to observe, observe and observe.

It is not just observing the sensei, which is the obvious thing to do, we, as students have to observe one another, and if your dojo happens to have a full length, and breath worth of mirrors, good for you. But you cannot be looking at the mirror, while you do your waza, right?

So the next best thing is to observe each other, other than the sensei.

There are many good and not so good things we can learn from observing one another. After all, we are all humans and are endowed with the same bunch of tools, hands, legs, hips, spine and all, so geometrically most of us move in the same way, most of us do irimi nage the same way, and if we observe carefully, we will notice we all makes the same mistakes, the same way.

Same same but different

Well, other than observing the similarities, right and wrong way of doing things, we have to look out for some of the different ways we do things. Some of us while trying to follow sensei faithfully, but we always have our own interpretation of what we see and our actions is never 100% accurate. We are not machines.

So we need to see with our own eyes, how our training partners move, and why they move the way they move.

Recently, I’ve been kind of obsessed with observing my fellow Aikidokas in the dojo, I will stare and stare at how my partners move, and try to understand their physical interpretation of sensei’s techniques.

I want to observe until the observer melts away and while that is not always successful as there is a critical part of me remains while I looked at my partner’s techniques. Why is he/she moving like that? And why is he not able to see his own mistakes? Why is his/her circle smaller than necessary, so much so the uke can stop him/her?

Call it nit-picking but that is what we need to do for each other when we are on the mat. We have to help each other be our own worst or best critic, depends on how you look at it, and in doing so, helps us correct what we cannot see.

Unlearn

It is also perhaps my own personal way of getting back to basics. Remember when we were all white belts and coming to the dojo is a matter of monkey see, monkey do? We as beginners, will not be able to understand the intricate whys, hows, or the rights and the wrongs.

By observing intensely how my fellow Aikidokas work, I am trying to deplete myself of the self, and understand Aikido at a fundamental level. While we all want to critic, and point out what is wrong with who’s technique, it really takes an open mind and heart to drop all that opinion and just observe.

Sometimes I succeed in that, often I don’t. It’s a habit of mind, to make distinction so as to justify our ‘self’. It is a wonderful feeling in those rare times where my monkey mind can silence itself and just move with what I’ve observed.

A List of Aikido Dojos in Singapore

Aikido in Singapore has evolved since the first day I joined more than 20 years ago.

For the most part, it has made the Aikido ecosystem very vibrant and multi-faceted. As there is no one fixed way to climb the Aikido mountain, these schools gives Aikido students a plethora of ways to experience the art and find the teacher that most suit their personality and timing.

The list is in no way exhaustive as there are Aikidokas giving lessons on a free-lance basis. These listed organisations has their own stable dojo, training facilities and followed a structured martial arts curriculum.

Disclaimer: These information was complied off a Google, a public domain; based on the information on the school’s respective website. Please inform me of any errors and clarifications, and I’ll correct them soonest.

Shoshin Aikikai Singapore

Aikido Shinju-Kai            

Ueishiba Aikido              

Aikido Kenshinkai          

Aikido Shudokan            

Singapore Aikido Federation    

Mumei Shudan

Makoto Aikido 

Zhen-Qi Shu Aikido       

Aikikai Singapore           

Club Aikido       

Impact Aikido   

Hitoshinkan

Living Impact Aikido      

Aikido Taishinkai            

Tendoryu Aikido (Singapore)    

Kidou Academy               

Ki-Aikido            

Renshin Budokai Singapore       

 

SuperPark-An Expansive Been-There-Done-That

SuperPark-An Expansive Been-There-Done-That

Dear Boys,

I promised you guys a visit to the fabled SuperPark since late last year when it first opened November 2018, so we decided to visit it for the March holidays.

First of all, the park has an EXPANSIVE array of activities all in one roof, which is great because we can get to try out many types of sports, all in air-con comforts. And this come at an EXPENSIVE price tag.

superpark prices

As we could only make it on a Sunday afternoon about 1-nish, we were deciding on the Middle Session which was priced at S$40 or should we go for a S$48 still, despite of only being able to enjoy the later half of the day. Your mother, the better economist, argued that the One Day Ticket is still a better deal, because if we were to purchase the Middle Session Tickets; we have to exit the park by 5.30pm , and for another S$8 more, we can use all the way to 9pm, park closure.

That comes up to $195 in total for the 4 of us, inclusive of a Grip socks for Wayne.

Ouch.

Yeah talking about the Grip Socks, Super Park only allows a specific type of grip socks.

 

Both Grip sock was from a Tramopline park we went to before and we got these socks, Wayne’s sock was the one on the left, and this wasn’t allowed, perhaps the grip surface wasn’t big enough. So we have to get one pair for Wayne, that’s S$3.

Then off we go!

We were thankful for your mum’s foresight. We played from 2pm all the way to closure, and it was worth the S$48, in a specific way, as we really make sure we played all the stuff within Superpark. And there was more than enough time for us to go through everything twice or 3 times over.

And the spoiler alert was for us One Day Ticket folks, we get to enjoy a lull, between 5pm to 6pm, as there was a ‘shift change’ for those Middle Session Tickets players leaving at 5.30pm, and those After 6pm crowds coming in only at 6pm.

So if you pay a One Day Ticket and goes in the morning when the park opens at 9am, you’ll enjoy 2 lull time one when the Morning Mayhem crowd leaves at 1pm and the Middle Session Tickets crowds comes in at 1.30pm, and the afternoon lull.

Making a fool of ourselves

Personally I enjoyed SuperPark, as it was a place for me to make a fool of myself, without being self-critical or self-judgmental. I confessed I’m not a good ball guy, but I played basketball, soccer and ‘dodgeball’ just for the sake of having fun. Oh, not forgetting baseball and I managed to hit 2 out of 5 balls.

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It’s basically a big activity buffet place. There is a skate park where you boys tried skateboarding ( you boys didn’t liked it) then there was skate scootering, which was good fun. You can also try rock wall climbing just round the corner, after you are bored being a skater, and then you can head off to play the slides!

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So technically you can have never-ending fun, running crazy all over the place, from balls to carts to slides to more balls, trampolines, rock walls, and more balls.

Injuries

With activities like these, there is bound to be injuries, as one girl had her nose broken when a baseball hit her. Thankfully nothing major of that sorts happened, but Wayne was hit by the ball a few times on the lips, and it caused some slight bleeding. I was hit in the face by a ball, and thankfully my glasses didn’t break.

But what the heck, if you want to play sports, injuries are bound to happen, just hope it wasn’t a serious one.

Little or no wait

One thing they did right was to time the activities, and most activities have a one-minute timer which the anyone playing must exit when time is up. There was a few times some folks playing ahead of us didn’t activate the timer, and continued to play (of course the system isn’t counting the points, since the timer didn’t start.) but people are usually civil and they realised that and promptly exited after their pressed the timer, and played till their time is up.

The long wait

The long wait was for the rock wall, at the Super-Climb, this one no choice as it is really up to the climber’s finesse and climbing skills. The walls are relatively easy to climb, but it still takes different people different amount of time to climb it.

Besides, the safety aspect of it cannot be speed up; everyone has to be harnessed well and hooked up properly.

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safety, safety, safety

Overall verdict is…Been there, done that. 

Your mum and I thought through the whole thing and it was a park that we came, saw, did, and we can move on. While the park was a good mix of activities, each of these individual activities alone isn’t novel to us. We have been to a trampoline park, we have climbed rock walls before, skate scooted, played soccer (downstairs, on the field), basketball at our HDB court. Baseball? Well, yeah, hadn’t done that before. Go-cart? Not really a novelty, since the circuit was a tad too small.

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Robo Keeper

But I can understand where the Finns’ argument for such a park. I guess it is cold most of the days there in Finland, and there are times it’s too cold to play basketball outside, heck it’s too cold to play anything, so you need an indoor park like such to have everything under one roof.

Here in sunny Singapore, we don’t face such cold weather, and whenever we want it, we can take our basketballs out, play to our heart’s content, changed to roller-blades and go skate till the cow come home. If there’s a sport we would like to try out, we can always go to shop at Decathlon for these games and their products are cheap and good.

Call me a stingy Singaporean, pinching every penny, I had to agree with your mum’s
Cost Benefit Analysis, comparing a SuperPark day with an Adventure Cove  day, with an adult tickets costing S$38 and kiddo price at S$30, the latter would have been a better day spent. We would get the sun, sand and sea, as well as the thrills and spills too.

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No-it isn’t that scary. Really.

We have a problem

 

Two days back, there’s the annual Inter-University Aikido training at NUS and you will get to train with a lot of new folks from other universities, as well as bumping up with a lot of old pals, chronologically these pals are still significantly younger than me, so the ‘old’ in the pals here, refers to them as familiar faces from other university dojo.

Anyway…

For an Ikkyo-omote waza, I paired up with this petite girl from Singapore Management University. Harry sensei was showing a kind of a leading hand technique which will be quite technically difficult if there is no blending.

With this girl, there is no blending.

She was asking me if she was doing it correctly, and I replied. ‘Wait, there’s a problem I need to sort out.’

One of us is too hard and one of us has to soften.

No prize for getting the right answer.

Anyway it is not a matter of ‘seniority’ or ‘superior’ skills. She’s quite hard, and there’s no way that I can make her follow my leading hand, it’s a slippery fish analogy, the hard I try, the worse it becomes and eventually, both of us will walk away unable to execute the technique nicely.

So I soften, and try to blend; it was still awkward for a few cycles, then I caught her vibe and rhythm, and the technique begins to work. As a nage, she was quite hard and linear which is not what Harry sensei wanted us to do, nonetheless, I followed and let her leading hand, lead.

When it was her turn to be uke, she couldn’t follow, too hard.

So I soften some more and things begin to work, I could lead and she could follow.

And eventually we managed to get along with the technique, and enjoyed the session.

It was a problem

After class she came to me and we chatted a bit, and I found out her name was ‘Shuling’, so I asked her if she’d figured out the problem, she admitted that she’s too hard.

To make a fair argument, that’s life. She is not ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ being hard, neither am I  the ‘better’ one being soft, I just want the technique to work, and the technique not working is a problem I need to fix with her. It is not a competition to see who is better than who. Which is why there is no element of competition in Aikido. We want to work with people, and make the situation work, so in order to work with people and get the best out of a situation, we open up, soften our stances and try to understand the other party, and help the other party open up as well.

We try to understand how our partner works, and help them help us. In a myopic spirit of competitiveness, we try to understand our partners, so that we can exploit them, and their weakness, so that we can win, the competition, the medal, the glory. What and who did we end up destroying, for us to become a champion?

Sync problem 

Every time we partner someone, we have to calibrate our synchronicity, no two person is the same at any given time. Every touch point is unique and very much one in a gazillion event of a lifetime. It is a very precious connection and it is also a problem, because even with familiarity, it doesn’t always works. Even those Aikido friends’ I’ve been training with for years, I mentally prepare to meet them for the first time, every time. That’s beginner’s mind for me.

We can never fully understand our partner. In an Aikido context, how Shuling worked is only one part of the equation. Of course, I being more senior to her allows me the luxury of choice; to slow things down, soften and go along for the ride. I could have bumped into a chap more senior than me who is oblivious to how skillful he or she is, in that aspect, I as the uke/nage, too have to blend, in a soft way in a hard way, depends on the partner you got.

So we have to solve that working problem, and the technique can be the killer breaking up the work, or the technique can be one that brings two differing people together. One has to back down so that another one can step up, and once that person has stepped up, he or she can help the other one who backed down in the first place. So this is Aikido in a back and forth movement, nobody wins, but everyone one wins big. If you compete, there can be one winner, with a bigger problem. Isn’t it a better idea if everyone comes together, forget about the competition, solve the problem and win bigger?

You can’t choose your partner

Well, actually you can, but you have to wait your turn. I told Shuling that the dojo mimics life. How many of us has friends who became not friends, and our ‘enemies’ coming to our aid? Sometimes, as much as we mentally choose our partner, it is also a kind of cosmic fate that chooses our partner for us, and who we end up with is who we need to blend with, hard or soft, it all boils down to how hard and how much you treasure that brief fart of a connection you have with your training partner.

It might not be much, but that’s all we’ve got to give.

No Diamonds

Dear Boys,

I didn’t get your mum a diamond ring for our wedding. She didn’t wanted one as well.

We’re not big fan of The Rock, Dwayne Johnson; yes, but not the Diamond. We are not fans of buying diamonds.

This Rock?
Or this Rock?

Phew! That is a relief for me, since I was going to make your mum my wife, had she asked for one, it’d been a bummer for me.

Anyway, diamonds are overrated. Seriously.

Personally to me, I’d rather keep gold than diamond, as diamonds is basically like most of the material items are value added by humans via marketing and salesmanship. And the market is very much monopolized by one company De Beers, who is one of the market leaders in the Diamond trade, and in the 1950s, they came up with a creative campaign which helps propelled this rock into mainstream consumer demands. Now most men can’t get married unless they have one of these rock on a ring to be able to confidently propose to a girl of his dream (nightmare). Putting much grief in a man’s pocket, and much joy on a woman’s face.

All that glitter isn’t gold

Well, let’s be frank, there are crystals and there are diamonds, both glitters, perhaps one better than the other. There are also glass cuts shaped to look like diamonds, and if you drop both on the ground, will you be able to tell one from the other?

There’s so many times I find one of these glass looking diamond cuts and I wondered if they are the real thing or not. To a layperson, it is really difficult to tell one from the other.

Diamond is forever

Basically this is a marketing campaign by Frances Gerety, a copywriter who came out with this 3-worded phrase that has endeared long after she has died.

It is a catchy phrase that let’s people think that in a tumultuous and uncertain world, having a diamond to seal the union of a couple, would helps provide some longevity in the relationship. Let’s get real, it doesn’t.

It is the magic of marketing that let’s us think narrowly, and spend stupidly. While there is some truth as to diamonds being forever, relationships certainly doesn’t. And certainly diamonds have no power whatsoever as a good luck charm or romantic talismans that glue a marriage together.  It is all about hard work and the willingness of a couple to work with each other to make the union work, and stay together, till death.

(Blood) Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend

While I knew long before I watch Leonardo DiCaprio‘s 2006 thriller Blood Diamond, which basically tells a story about the suffering and pain brought about by our demands for this glittery stones.

While the story was fictitious, the background of the story is real. The demand for diamonds is fueling conflicts in Africa. People are going to war and killing each other for diamonds, and these diamonds sometimes makes it to the consumer markets. so much so that the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was implemented in 2003 to ensure that diamonds brought to the market are not harvested through illegal means, or gotten through conflict, fighting and other less than humane means.

The bottom line is, there is a lot of people hurt or being made used of just to bring this piece of rock into the market for a man to make a woman happy. All thanks to Hollywood for the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend“, the rock is certainly a man’s pocket’s worst enemy!