Punctuality

Punctuality

Dear Boys,

This is one virtue that will never go out of style, it will always be trending and you can never be wrong with it.

Being on time is something we all need to strive, and I am certainly not the prime example, your mum would forever say that I was late for our first date! What an impression I made huh.

On Time, Every Time

This is your report book, Ian, if there’s anything you can be proud of, that will be the ‘0’ you have for the records. You 弟弟 is also a stickler for punctuality, constantly hustling me to get out of the house on time so that he will be on time. In fact he would like to be very early.

Remember this habit, and always practice is.

Long Tail Effect of Being Late

We engaged a Math tutor and she is brilliant in her work, but we can never trust her to be on time. She is so consistent in being late for your lessons, we wouldn’t bet that she will be punctual. There is always some kind of excuse, and it got so bad one time; she was more than 45mins late! So we have to push bac our dinner appointment because she was so darn late. While you can be an ace performer, brilliant in your work, and perhaps an expert in your field. but if you cannot turn up on time, it will affect the way people depend on you to get things done. You may not see the effect. but having the entire village wait for you to turn up also shows your lack of respect for other people’s time. It also distracts people from your real talent and cause people to doubt your abilities.

Tip of the ice berg

Never mind why you are late, honestly people don’t care about the reason why you are late. You. Are. Late. If you consistent bend time, the effects will show, once people casts an image of your tardiness in time, that reputation will be difficult to shake off, and it will precedes everything else you do. When you can’t plan your personal time well, people will come to a conclusion you are not good at planning anything at all.

Of course that is a sweeping statement, and you are your best agent to make sure people don’t come to that wrong conclusion. So that is the first battle to fight and win, be on time.

Being Early is Being On Time, and Being on Time is Being Late

This is a mantra I try to practice every time, granted that the vicissitudes of life is a constant curve ball, you cannot expect the unexpected and you will be late for this or that, now and then.

So always add some buffer into your time; if you need one hour to complete a task then turn up some place else, add another 30 minutes extra wouldn’t hurt. If you are cutting it too close, and you might be late, let people know in advance, and still endeavor to be on time.

End on Time

Being punctual is not only about being there on time, it is also about ending on time, so that you can let people go about with whatever other tasks they have after your time with them. Ending on time also tells people you can deliver within that stipulated window and speak concisely in a tight package, focused and undistracted.

There are some unforeseen issues that will crop up, make sure you don’t get drawn away from the main point. Keep the main point the main point and take other matters that might come up later when you have settled the main point.

Much more than punctuality

Being on time builds credibility and trust, people can count on you to show up, on time, and things can get done. This is a virtue that will never be out of fashion and you boys must continue to keep to this best practice wherever you go and in whatever you do.

Camping June 2022

Camping June 2022

Dear Boys,

We decided to spice up our lives for the June 2022 holidays by going camping. On our own. Woohoo.

With the limited space campsite available, we picked an offshore one, at Pulau Ubin, Jelutong Campsite, and one of the challenges will be getting ourselves cleaned. Unlike the campsites on Singapore, we are very much on our own at Pulau Ubin, and we have to lug our own drinking water there. So yeah, no bathing for the night.

Enter the Beast

So with the enhanced logistics, encumbered by water, we decided to buy The Beast, which is essentially a 4 wheeled cart that allows me to load the camping stuff and pull it there.

This is certainly very helpful as we don’t need to walk our supplies there on our back, and it helped us bring more stuff that which gives us greater comforts. This trip do gives us feedback on how to improve our next camping trip.

Setting up

We got there early and found a hut where we can use as a additional shelter and we got to work. Now that you boys are older, it is certainly more helpful with 2 extra pair of hands.

For our ‘bed’ we tried to use airmocks, and it looked something like this, we brought 2 along and unfortunately it didn’t work out as it was hot to sleep on, and we cannot hold the air in it and it deflates itself.

Our dinner, barbeque!

Setting up the fire isn’t a big deal and we learned to us a portable battery operated fan to help speed things up. This is also another learning point for us which we will talk about later.

Played with fire, knives and sticks

It was after all the great outdoors and I brought along my SOG Seal Pup and SOG Force knives for play, and thankfully you boys handled the sharp items well and got to have fun shaping branches into ‘spears’ and other sticks for fun and play.

Jeluntong Campsite has a designated spot for us to start campfires, but we didn’t have anything large enough to burn and it was harder than it looks trying to start a fire on our own.

Things we learned

Bring a fan, a big one.

The small little USB fan was really heaven, but it had to be held by hand, and the wind wasn’t strong enough to bring enough ventilation for our hot, humid night there, we barely catch any sleep, and you mum certainly didn’t as she held the fan up throughout the night.

So now we got this bad boy which has it’s own internal battery to last a lot longer, it has it’s own legs, or we can hang it, it also come with LED lights so it is the perfect tool for our next camping trip!

Inflatable mattress

Yoga mats won’t cut it, ground sheet is a no, no. we are going to sleep with some comfort, and we are definitely getting one of these. It will be softer and keeps us off the ground, so the next time we do this, we are all going to get some sleep!

Make sure you have camping permits

Our expereince in ubin showed us how safe Singapore is, the Police still did their rounds, twice checking in on us and our permits. They were friendly enough to warned us on some of the wildlife we might encounter, such as pythons and monkeys. We did come across some hogs which are residents to Pulau Ubin.

Great fun

This was certainly a very different experience from the one we had back in 2017, as back then we camping in a larger group, and had activities set up for us to enjoy, there was also food provided, but this one we really lived on our own, having our own freedom to just enjoy the wilderness and being responsible for our own stuffs.

Camping 2017

Camping 2017

Dear Boys,

Taking us back to memory lane where we did not just one, but 2 camping trips back in 2017

Camping #1

It was also at this camping event that we got our outdoor tent and also Wayne’s very first abseiling experience, (Ian chickened out, fear of heights)

I can never forget how for day one, the weather came out to play and it poured. Thankfully this also puts our new tents to the test and it held up, our contents was dry, even though everywhere was wet.

Despite of all that, we still had fun and after the rain receded, we managed to do a few rounds of abseiling which Wayne love and Ian didn’t. For that camp, Wayne had the honor of being the youngest to try to abseiling course.

We also had good fun knowing that a few of our neighbors/ classmates went along, and that build on the familiarity and bonding we have.

December 2017 Camping #2

Coincidentally we also had a camping event in December with another group from the community club, and the campsite brought us to another part of Singapore we seldom get a chance to explore, PAssion WaVe @ Sembawang.

This puts us in a very out of the way spot but it does give us a very rustic feel, and unlike the one in Pasir Ris, where we get to pitch on grass, we had to pitch our tents on concrete floor, not the best place to sleep on but we have to make do.

Stand-up Paddling, Star Gazing and Morning Tidal walk

It was at this place where I get to experience Stand-up Paddling, didn’t like it. The rest of the campsite staff also brought us out to do a bit of star-gazing but it was a valiant effort, since the Singapore night sky is usually brightly lite and polluted with artificial light. Not to mention the amount of clouds covering the night sky, we didn’t see much stars but we did appreciate the effort as well as the night walk.

We went out at low tide to look at some of the sea creatures and fishes that is trapped in some of the shallows.

Overall I think it was good fun back then and we were glad to have this experience, it certainly made our highlights and helps cement the reality that Wayne is adventurous go-getter!

A Good Class

A Good Class

It rained heavily these days, well, the year end monsoon is here. The particular thing about our Dojo is, the shelter holds out the rain, but if it gets windy, rain will blow into and onto the mat, wet to an extent where we cannot train.

I wanted to end Monday’s class due to inclement weather, but Ming Jie texted me to ‘push on’, well, let’s do it then. Thankfully, the rain subsided and we can have class, a small one though, since there is only Ming Jie, Melvin, Radek and myself.

It turned out to be a very enjoyable evening and I had a very deep and powerful epiphany, which I will attempt to pen down.

Who am I again?

I consider myself an Aikidoka, a practitioner, not an instructor, I’ve said that before, it will not change how I conduct myself on the mat. I’m far from perfect, nor I consider myself at a reasonable level of techincal competency to dispense Aikido lessons or wisdom.

The imposter syndrome is like an uncomfortable shadow. Harry didn’t even hand the baton to me, I pick it up from where he dropped it, and it is a darn heavy one.

Who will I become

Being thrust into the front, and having to take on the ‘instructor’ role, I got embroiled into who will I become. I can’t help it, it’s a big shoes Harry sensei left behind for me to fill, there is a genuine pressure to not let him down. While I am still struggling with a definition, the only thing I could do, was to turn up for class, as often as I can, and honour the commitment Harry sensei had to Aikido when he was teaching. Just turn up at the dojo, never mind good, bad or ugly.

There is a light in my struggle. You see, it is not about who I will become, it is about who my fellow Aikidokas will become, now that I’ve taken over, through Harry sensei’s legacy and our continued practice, my friends on the mat are becoming better, more peaceful and harmonious.

What did I see?

All this time I’ve been saying that we need to treat each other on the mat with respect, decorum and honour. While we might get frustrated with each other, we still need to know we are there for each other. Train hard, train safe, and train in harmony.

There was harmony on the mat that evening, and it was a beautiful feeling.

Harmony to see that Melvin can correct himself, and relax when I pointed out that there are some technical points he can improve upon, and he did change. Radek, stiff as usual, was amazing, instead of forcing his way through a technique, he stopped himself, corrected the mistake, relaxed and redid the waza. Ming Jie’s technique has also evolved to become less belligerent and more disarming, his commitment to class is certainly a source of motivations for me to keep the class going. That Monday evening, we are learning and reflecting.

As the person offering instructions, when I say move the hips and the hands move, they did it and it worked. There was a genuine change on the mat and my fellow Aikidoka are breaking away from their usual self limiting mindset and embraced something different. Along with my fellow Aikidoka, we have made the mat a safe space for all of us to make mistake, experiment and learn.

The four of us was truly enjoying Aikido and we helped each other explore our techniques, struggles through a spirit of non-judgmental, openness and total vulnerability. It was a very special and precious Monday night to feel that, and it makes me want to go back and relive it again.

Harry sensei would be happy

It’s a thought I shared with my wife when I got home, if for some miracle, Harry sensei was alive that Monday evening and he see where Radek is right now, he would be happy to know what all his teachings and lessons is bearing fruit. He never gave up on Radek, despite of constantly chiding him being stiff and mechanical, Radek was far from mechanical on Monday, I can see a more natural fluid expression of Aikido on the mat. Harry sensei’s tough love paid off.

Harry sensei would also be happy that the tiny little group of us are still training together, growing together and learning from each other. I hope we have done enough for him to know that he left the dojo in a good place. We are not fighting bitterly for egotistical gains, nor critically tearing at each other throat, challenging each other for authority.

Sustainable

There is really not that many of us left, who was with Harry sensei until the end. I’m somehow not concerned with this scarcity, but relish on the fact that this little group of us, is enough to bring a lot of good, love, peace and harmony in our own way. For sure we are not going to change the world in a big bang, but that’s not the aim, we just want to be happy, peaceful human being and the people who interacts with us can feel that. If we can achieve that, I’m sure Harry sensei will be quietly elated, his style of Aikido has cleaned up the world a little bit.

Explore more on the Ground

Explore more on the Ground

Dear Boys,

Sometimes, everyday chore can expose us to a better way of doing things, even when we have been doing the same thing everyday.

This happens to me when I was cycling to work. Yes, since your dad’s office is a scant 11km away, I will try to cycle to work, as much as practicable and the weather allows.

The Beauty of Google Maps

Of course, there is a plethora of mapping technologies on the web these days, we can plot till we foam in the mouth before we embark on our journey. While this level of planning is great, this is also why we have an entire generation of armchair critics. Knowledge you get from mapping helps you plan, knowing if your plan will work or not, depends on the people who have actually been there, and walked the ground.

Nothing beats putting your foot on the ground

In my context, put the pedal to the ground.

Looking at these 2 maps, they look discernably indifferent, with only a 30m between the 2, while on the ground, the experience is another story altogether. If you look between the 5km and 7km part between the 2 maps, lies the difference.

My default route is the 11.246km one, and while I have used it many many times, there is more complexities to overcome, not a big deal, but more.

There is 2 T-junctions (uncontrolled) I have to look out for, many bus stops with pedestrian traffic as Hougang Ave 3 is a major road with many bus plying this route. As this is the official park connector route, there are also more cyclists, like me, using it. Oh not to mention a petrol station along this road, which vehicles I have to be careful of.

My new route the 11.213km, however, is a unused gem. Defu Ave 1 is not as crowded, there are 2 T Junctions, one which has a traffic light. Less pedestrian traffic, since less bus ply this road. It has a clean gentle uphill (towards work) and the ride is generally more pleasant. the incline is reversed when I head home and it does help makes the ride faster, and I don’t have a petrol station to contend with.

It is even more defined when I am using the left side of the pavement, and not the right side, which will put you in the path of 6 T junctions, one of them is the main gate of SBST Hougang Bus depot, with buses turning in and out. Gnarly.

Not many people can tell you the difference in using these few choices and pick the best one out any given day.

Walk the walk, the talk the walk

You really need to walk the ground in whatever you do, this level of knowledge and detail beats any kind of hypothesis hands down. So while you boys go on to attain knowledge in your respective field, nothing beats hands-on, hard work. This level of experience cannot be attained the easy way.

No Augmented Reality, simulation, reading up, map plotting can get you there by actually walking, and for my case, pedaling. The Direct Feedback you get being there gives you the first hand knowledge which you can rely on, and others can count on, instead of just depending on Google map.

The expanding sphere

The expanding sphere

Aikido is a close combat art. It works best when you are closest to your partner. And the paradox is that in order for you to get close to your partner, you need to expand.

What is ‘expand’? Some calls it ‘extension’, or using your ‘ki’. Simply put it, it is putting your thought in a sphere which is rotating round and round, out and out. When you expand, your energy is perpetual, when you contracts, your energy will diminish.

Expanding energy is not a linear propulsion. Nothing works in a straight line, everything as a rotational and spherical phenomenon. You need to see beyond the lines to see the circular energy in action. And all positive circular energy radiates outwards.

An attacking energy can be loosely classified as ‘negative’. There is an intent and once that intent is fixed, it is closed, and concentrated. To effectively deal with a fixed, closed and concentrated intent is a long, open and dissipated trajectory.

You bring your attacker out and round and round, ever expanding. The more you expand, the harder your attacker will try to hold onto the fixed, closed and concentrated intent. But as long as you are travelling and expanding, your attacker’s original intent will be lost. Plainly speaking, he is point A, attacking your point B, but you bring him to ‘C’, ‘D’ ‘E’ and ‘F’ then back to ‘B’. By then the point of origin will no longer hold relevance in the attack or the energy of the attack will be exhausted by the round, long circular movement. It will capitulate at its own peril.

Expanding will also allow you to see a bigger picture than the attacker. It allows you to check your blind spot, check your back, check for other attackers. Expansion also allows you to dissipate your own anger, your own doubt and your own closed perception. Expanding is opening a massive gate in which both you and your attacker can enter with ease. When you close, you will struggle in a phenomenon of scarcity only which one will prevail. Aikido is an art for all to prevail. The best way to do so is to expand your energy.

Published: February 4, 2014

The Ongoing Journey

The Ongoing Journey

Getting COVID earlier this month puts me out of action for a fortnight and being away from Aikido gives me the space to think about what we are going to do and where we are going. This is a reflection on my earlier post “Where do we go from here?

Clarity as we go along

There are many factors I was mulling and in the due process, all the issues, players, external forces, internal inertia all came together and the result is overthinking. Where do we go from here implies a point A to point B, and outcome, destination and endgame; this is the wrong mindset; putting the cart before the horse. You don’t get to go anywhere in this mode.

This is a ‘here’, we can only get to the where when we have the horse pulling the cart, and that in itself is the journey, not a destination. I was fixated on a destination and therefore completely missed the whole spirit of training. We need to focus on the now, and the where will take care of itself- this is the message Harry sensei keep telling us and this is his legacy. He never cared about the future, he cared about is the now.

Let the Jones be the Jones

Comparing myself with social media Aikido only helped to prey on my fears and played on my insecurities, of course I can never be as good as those guys showing off their Aikido skills on Tik Tok, Facebook, and/or Instagram. Damn, those guys are skillfully slick and so well trained. Me? Nowhere near that level! Ha!

So time away nursing a recovery from COVID gave me time to think. Keeping up with the Jones is a zero sum game; looking outwards too much weakened my resolve.

Aikido and Shoshin Aikikai

So does the world has a place for a flowy, almost fakery martial arts like Aikido? Or shall we all go and learn MMA? Until now I still feel that for fighting; MMA would definitely be a better form of applied violence which will work in a violent situation.

Pulling back my lenses a little closer and I look at Shoshin Aikikai, the style Harry sensei left us, and is it a form of Aikido that is on par with other styles of Aikido? Is it an effective form of Aikido? Should we all go and learn anther style of Aikido?

The Answer is on the Mat

While I work on my answer, purpose and existence on the mat and off the mat, I could sense that we do have a distinct existence and contribution to the world. I started Monday’s class looking at my fellow Aikidoka, we bring a certain proposition to the world, one of peace, harmony and love.

When I think about our time on the mat, and how each and everyone of us off the mat, we bring a bit of Harry sensei’s Shoshin Aikikai into our lives, and because Harry sensei left us a style of Aikido that is peaceful, non-violent, and focus on not resisting, everyone brings this spirit into the greater sphere of life. We apply what we learned on the mat, on our everyday lives, and it touches the people we meet off the mat. We treat people with decorum, dignity and respect, well, I try to as much as I can.

Keep trying, never quit, never give up

This is perhaps my own small way of honoring Harry sensei’s style of Aikido, this small band of us are really not interested in the pecking order, not interested in belt chasing, our sensei told us to DROP OUR EGO! We made it our life purpose to keep trying, we come to the dojo to continue the practice, because our sensei inspires us to keep training when he was alive. He never quit, come to training come hell or high water. As long as we keep training on the mat, we embody his commitment, and doggedness, we never give up trying to make our Aikido a little better, not perfect, but better.

It humbled me when I look at my fellow Aikidokas and see beyond their tiny sliver of time on mat, and how our practice and camaraderie influence the bigger world out there, and the people who they come across off the mat. So while there is only that little of us left who is keep Harry sensei’s style on the mat, this little band of us continues to bring good into the world and in every little thing we do, we strive to bring peace, love and harmony to all we meet, I know, at least I try to.

The Einstellung effect

The Einstellung effect

I recently learned a new word call ‘Einstellung’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstellung_effect) Generally it means how we will use the most efficient method solution to problem solving, even when it appears that there is another more efficient methods available.

I think we can understand it as ‘ When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem will look like a nail to you.‘ cliché. This is very true to Aikido practitioners, because we train so hard in a specific discipline that we get confined by what we define. How many of us can see the inter-connectedness between sentient beings when we train? All we want to do is to neutralize the ‘attack’. Not every ‘attack’ looks like an ‘attack’ and not every ‘attack’ is an ‘attack’. We need to be aware of The Einstellung effect every time we train.

Which is why we train in the first place! so that we can consciously discern the minutiae of life! No one single moment in life is the same! Once it has pass, it is passed! As valuable as The Einstellung effect is in helping us mechanized our life, so that we can deal with the larger issues on hand, we need to know not to over rely on The Einstellung effect. It will happen and it happens all the time, we just have to be mindful to exercise discretion if what we are doing is actually the best way or is there a less best way, but a more efficient way? Not all best ways are the best ways, some less best ways are sometimes just as good as the best ways. This is what it means to be human, and this is why we go to an Aikido dojo for training.

Published: July 13, 2013 

Aikido teaches us to be nice

I was hit by an epiphany.

All I really learned from Aikido was to be nice to myself and to be nice to other people. That means you do not take advantage of people when they are down, or injured.

It is probably the only martial arts that does that. You really have to treat your partner with respect and preserve your partner’s well being so as to make sure he or she turns up for training the next time!

Those who are movie buffs would have remembered the climax scene from both the original as well as the latest version of The Karate Kid. In both movies, we have the bad guys fighting Ralph Macchio or Jaden Smith. Both of them were severely injured no thanks to the bad guys and, the bad guys capitalised on the injuries.

Well, that is life, you can put it that way, survival of the fittest.

If you are in a Kumite and it is the championship round, you know your opponent is probably nursing a cracked rib from his previous bout, would you have decide to not to attack his cracked rib, or you would go specifically for the wounded area, so as to incapacitate him and win the bout?

As far as where I am practicing, when my partner is injured, or I have knowledge that there are some injuries, I’d be mindful not to further aggravate that injury. It is not me being noble, it is something I see happening in Aikido; your partner will take care of you, if you need to train when you are injured. There is a genuine level of care, we want our partners to be well.

I think we all go to our dojo, ‘wounded’ one way or another, and if we are conditioned to compete for a win, foresaking our opponent’s vulnerability, we are also foresaking our own vulnerabilities. If we cannot help our partners heal their wound, we cannot open ourselves to help from others, to help us heal our wound.

I’d like to go to a dojo, knowing that I can be myself, that my fellow students will take care of me. instead of going to a dojo with a brave front, hiding my injuries, so that I will not be taken advantage of. It is a lot harder for me to learn in such an environment.

Published: January 26, 2015