theaikidad

Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

Martial Arts for Kids

Martial arts is not for kiddos, I am not a big believer in teaching kids martial arts.

Being in Aikido for such a long time, I do get friends with kids asking me if this and his art is suitable for his/her children. If Aikido is recommended. To which I only ask one question.

“Does your daughter/son wants it?”

More often than not, the parents don’t know if their kids wants to do martial arts or not. They as parents observed that their kids are kind of active, so it might be a good outlet for them to learn a punch, roll, or two, and learning martial arts is good for ‘self defence’. Learning martial arts is always a ‘good thing’.

So unless your children specifically wants to take martial arts, and shows, at a very young age, some talent and affinity for martial arts, don’t waste time and money on a martial arts school, just because your children is active. Well most kids are active, and there are other activities for active kids to participate in instead of marital arts. The motivation must come from the child to learn a martial arts, and not driven (pun intended) by the parents to go to a martial arts school.

Outcome driven approach

Martial arts is a learning journey, and there is very little reward getting into one. It is not like you will get a certificate at the end of it and ‘graduate’. Martial arts is a serious journey that needs a lot of commitment and time. If you are not sure your children is able to walk this journey that will last their life time, don’t commit wasted time. Martial arts for kids is not a very rewarding journey, there is no definite outcome. Even as an adult, it is difficult for me sometimes to understand this journey I am in, since there is little outcome to say that you have ‘learned’ something in martial arts, which is sufficient to satisfy an outcome driven style of parenting. In short, you give a lot to martial arts, and often you don’t get a lot back.

The Karate Kid hype

More often than not, martial arts is about doing the same thing over and over again, and it will be boring for kids, some kids are not up to it, as it is not novelty. Martial arts is not a cool thing to do, and parents should not be watching too much Karate Kid thinking that their kids can be one. Those who romanticizes The Karate Kid movie, they need to watch the first part where the protagonist got beaten up. Get your kids beaten up first, then you’ll see if there is any ounce of martial artist in the child.

And, no, learning martial arts does not prevent your child from being bullied. Sorry to break that piece of news. There are so many kids who learned martial arts, and still gets bullied. Learning martial arts does not automatically instills that kind of confidence in children, it is a sales pitch. Confidence comes from overcoming a difficult situation, despite of being afraid. You do not need to go to a martial arts school to learn grit, confidence.

Kids do not understand martial arts

Are children able to learn the philosophy behind martial arts? Will they understand Aiki(合気)? Can they understand what is Bunkai (分解)? What is the spirit of Kumite(組手)? What is Budo(武道)?

They also do not understand that in martial arts, you are expected to get hurt, being hurt and getting injured is part of the hard gritty journey of being a martial artist. If parents send their kids to martial arts school, not expecting them to get hurt, well, then they better find a more staid activity.

Teaching

In Singapore, the martial arts culture is well, not so ‘martial’. We do not have a strong martial arts identity, and many of us, takes it like it is a part-time, interest group level commitment. That said, not many teachers out there, teaches martial arts for the spirit of the martial arts. While this comments might seem scathing, we need to search deep in our psyche, if we are really attempt to embody martial arts as a way of life, a way of living.

While I have 2 kids, I don’t teach them ‘martial arts’ I teach them fighting, and they need to learn the basic punches, kicks, and take downs, of course the tactical reality of being beaten up, and the ability to beat back. If there is any ‘Budo’ (武道) it will be in the spirit I want them to embody, if they ever gets into a fight, never back down, and be the last person standing, we will talk more about that later.

Martial arts for kids= child-care centre

The true reality is, martial arts for kids in Singapore, is more like another avenue for parents to throw money into kids’ ‘enrichment’ courses, and of course help them get away from their children. It is a perfect excuse/ reasons for parents to bring their children to a martial arts class, for an hour or two, while the parents themselves trot off to have some ‘me’ time. At the end of the day, the children do not learn much martial arts, because they are simply just wearing a gi, prancing and jumping around, with no clue as to why they are doing what they are doing.

Too serious about it

Well, pardon me if this seem too serious; as martial arts is a serious matter to me. I don’t harbour hopes that my children will be able to pick up martial arts like I did, just simply sending them to an Aikido school, or me teaching them Aikido. If they are keen, I will always be there for them to show them the way, if they are not, it is like bringing the proverbial horse to the water, and you know the rest.

 

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My very first aikido demo

Scan0005

This is the photograph of my first Aikido demonstration. We were lucky we managed to get a group shot.

Guess which one is me? One of them was my elder brother.

Obviously, none of these folks in the photograph practices anymore, except me. This demonstration was done when we were a couple of months(?) into our Aikido and we were tasked to do a demo at Ngee Ann City’s fountain area, I forgot what the event was for, but we did the basic stuffs, like rolls and other things, which I am very sure Tenkan is one of them.

After the demo, we went around giving out some pamphlets, and I vividly remember a guys asking me: “What if someone kicks you?”

At that time my instinctive response was “Block.”

Never would I have guessed that I’d still be in this after all these years.

 

Aikido can save your life

Dear Boys,

Your dad’s Aikido skills wasn’t meant for fighting, like what Harry sensei said recently, how often are we expected to get into a fight and actually use our skills?

And by the way, martial arts, is not fighting and fighting is certainly not martial arts.

So what is it good for?

Life saver scene one.

This happen when I was still quite new into Aikido, because I can remember it happened during my younger years riding mountain bikes. Back then I was still staying at Woodlands, and too poor to buy a helmet, and yet I want to go mountain biking.

picture taken off google, this is the exact Marin I had, same colour even!

I’m not sure what was the occasion, but it I was riding my Marin Bobcat Trail, and I was daring myself to ride as close to the pillars around the Woodlands MRT area. So as I pass each pillar, I try to go closer and closer, and true enough, I struck the second last pillar.

My right handle bar went too close to the pillar, and knock into it, knocking me off my bike.

Obviously I fell and thanks to my Aikido, I did a backward roll and got up immediately. There wasn’t any thought process made, it was instinctive and the body just took over. I rolled and got up, unscathed. I picked up the bike hopped on it and continue riding.

Life saver scene two.

Yamaha-RZ_125LC-1986.jpg
I rode a bike like this in my younger days the plate as Y7339X!

This was a little more serious, than the first, as I was on my motorcycle. I remembered riding down down Stamford Road one evening and the right lane, for whatever reason, was clear, I wasn’t travelling fast, as it was city riding, there is no way to go fast.

So one car, seeing that the right lane is free, decided to turn, perhaps he checked his blind spot or he didn’t, he hit me, from the left.

Things happened so fast, all I did when I saw was to beep my feeble horn, and it was already too late. Since the impact came from the left, I was thrown to the right. I did a roll, not one of those forward Aikido rolls, it was a sausage roll, and I got up.

The driver, a Japanese man got out, he was stunned, shocked beyond words. His face was drained white, hands shaking, speechless. Instead of him asking me, I asked him: “Are you alright?” Twice.

The lady in the car, was more composed. Seeing that there is nothing with me, except for my broken clutch handle, there was really no need for any police to be involve, I was unscathed (so I thought) I took a S$50 (can’t remembered if I asked for it or he gave to me) so that I can repair the little damage he did to my bike.

We parted ways, he drove off. I had a hard time operating my bike as the clutch handle was broken, but I could still manage.

Applied aikido

So every time I go to class, I am qualified to say that the best technique in Aikido to learn is rolling. Learn to roll properly, and protect the most important jewel of the human anatomy, the head, not that head but the one that sits between your shoulders!

What is Aikido?

It is always good to revisit this question, no matter how long you’ve been in practise. As a matter of fact, the long you practice, the more relevant this question is.

Is Aikido peaceful? No.

Is Aikido harmonious? Nope, sorry.

Is Aikido effective? Might as well ask, how ineffective is Aikido?

Aikido, is nothing more than 6 letters in the English alphabet put together, to sound like something.

Aikido is nothing more than putting up the white attire, and for some black pleated flare pants.

Aikido is what you find on YouTube, and the videos on ‘How cast’.

Aikido is what our mind try to make sense of.

Aikido is none of that.

All that man, try to make sense of Aikido, fails, utterly fails because Aikido is way beyond that, that is to say Aikido is like the universe, is like an insult, as a matter of choice the former or the latter.

So the next time you try to ask what Aikido is, please do not forget to give yourself one tight slap, or two for good measure!

It is always good to revisit this question, no matter how long you’ve been in practise. As a matter of fact, the long you practice, the more relevant this question is.

Is Aikido peaceful? No.

Is Aikido harmonious? Nope, sorry.

Is Aikido effective? Might as well ask, how ineffective is Aikido?

Aikido, is nothing more than 6 letters in the English alphabet put together, to sound like something.

Aikido is nothing more than putting up the white attire, and for some black pleated flare pants.

Aikido is what you find on YouTube, and the videos on ‘How cast’.

Aikido is what our mind try to make sense of.

Aikido is none of that.

All that man, try to make sense of Aikido, fails, utterly fails because Aikido is way beyond that, that is to say Aikido is like the universe, is like an insult, as a matter of choice the former or the latter.

So the next time you try to ask what Aikido is, please do not forget to give yourself one tight slap, or two for good measure!

Last posted: Mar 24, 2014

Aikido and longevity

Aikido and longevity

Last Tuesday evening Harry sensei said, (practising) Aikido does not make you live longer, you just die healthier. And he pointed up, implying when you go is entirely decided ‘up there’. While I am not a God kind of person, it kind of rang true.

It ties in lately that I had a brief thought on why O sensei died of cance? Of course it is not fair for me to say that if he is so in sync with the universe, he ought to be able to live longer, well, maybe become immortal! That kind of thought qualifies me to be a Hindsight Expert.

Harry sensei was right, He asked the class of young NUS student, who has gone to a funeral? And looked into the coffin? Did the person who died, has a smile on the face? Or the person died plagues with ill health and misery? If you die of ill health and misery, then that is not a very nice way to die. It is better to die when you are healthy, and with a smile on your face.

That is an opinion you cannot argue with.

Last Tuesday evening Harry sensei said, (practising) Aikido does not make you live longer, you just die healthier. And he pointed up, implying when you go is entirely decided ‘up there’. While I am not a God kind of person, it kind of rang true.

It ties in lately that I had a brief thought on why O sensei died of cancer? Of course it is not fair for me to say that if he is so in sync with the universe, he ought to be able to live longer, well, maybe become immortal! That kind of thought qualifies me to be a Hindsight Expert.

Harry sensei was right, He asked the class of young NUS student, who has gone to a funeral? And looked into the coffin? Did the person who died, has a smile on the face? Or the person died plagues with ill health and misery? If you die of ill health and misery, then that is not a very nice way to die. It is better to die when you are healthy, and with a smile on your face.

That is an opinion you cannot argue with.

Last posted on  Nov 27, 2014

Are you the “I” or “爱” in Aikido?

ai for IWe bring a lot of emotional baggage to the dojo, as much as we want to practise the ‘beginner’s mind’, more often than not we bring a lot of our mental stuff in. We are not able to fully let go, we are all practising.

One beauty of Aikido and other marital arts, is when you do it long enough, hard enough and frequent enough, you will eventually become very proficient in it. We have to put in countless of hours to make ourselves skillful.

How do we know when we are skillful?

Don’t get me wrong, it is not a ‘I have arrived‘ kind of epiphany. In Aikido, I’ve long learned that we will never ‘arrive’. And when we think we have arrived, it is only because we are lying to ourselves, about how ‘good’ we have become. We will never be good enough.

aikido43When the ‘I’ become ‘The I’

We will reach a level of skill when we can forget ourselves. When we lose the ‘us’ in practise. We no longer bring our ‘banker persona’, we forgotten that we are ‘children of parents.’, we are no longer students, we are no longer trying, we are just there, we no longer think of the ‘I’ in us. In fact the ‘I’ transforms, the ‘I’ becomes ‘The I’, The Instrument.

The impersonal ‘I’ is very important for us to really learn and absorb, it is essential for the death of the ego. Where we keep telling ourselves that ‘we can’t’, and this is ‘too difficult’; the learning stops. you no longer try, you no longer strive. You accept your level of skill for who you are. Being impersonal is to have that equanimity, that acceptance opens all possibilities to learn and move in ways that you can never do, when you are fixated to your persona.

There is really no trying.

The problem is, this state of mind is very elusive, and you sometimes cannot distinguish the conscious from this level of hyper conscious. You cannot try to attain it, the more conscious effort to put in, the further it drifts away. It is a mental state that cannot be grasped by the attainment mind.

You can only do, and keep doing.

Truth to be told, I am not practising enough, my hours does not allow me to clock more time in Aikido. That is where it is important for us to practice hard and with intensity of a dying cockroach. Our time on the mat is very, very limited, so when we are there, we need to work very hard. Keep doing it.

Another window for us to reach this level of hyper conscious is through combined training, those that runs for the whole day, or two, doing Aikido, nothing but Aikido.

That means you are putting in 4-5 session of training in a day, from morning to the evening, and by the time you’re done, you’re literally aching to the bones, from too many falls, kneeling and rolling. Too many irimi nage; too many shino nage.

aikido13The Transformation

What happens when you go for such an immersive session?

You literally becomes expeditious, and efficient in your technique.

You lose that ‘I’ very quickly and you no longer see your uke as ‘uke’. And you no longer think, or process your movement critically. There is a level of muscle memory you attain through conditioning, which will allows you to bring your uke down with surprising ease.

You don’t think so much, nor you move so much, you move with necessity and economy. Your uke no longer have a name, and it is not longer personal. You no longer try to be nice, or try too hard. You lose that ego and that identity, you are not even an Aikidoka anymore, that movement becomes you and you are movement. You begin to let go.

The cruelty of such an epiphany is that you will lose it at the moment of A-ha! The moment you think you ‘got it’ is the moment you actually don’t and lose it. You can never get ‘it’, you just have to keep doing it, not aiming for anything, just keep coming back, training hard, until one day, you are free from you.

Competitive Aikido

Competitive Aikido

If you have to hurt a person to win, then it is better to lose.

The spirit and core of Aikido is non-competition.

That’s it simple, easy.

The bottom line is, that has been taken out of context. Nowadays people say it without knowing why O sensei decides against ‘competition’.

O sensei, is being specific. He is against having competition in his art, He does not want Aikidoka to practice Aikido for the sake of competition. and he does not want a competitive element to be imbued into the art of Aikido.

But that doesn’t mean that Aikidokas cannot be competitive.

A marathoner’s competition

What O sensei wants us to learn from the practice of Aikido is the universal spirit of harmony and love. There was a story about the Spaniard Ivan Fernandez Anaya, who didn’t want to win his cross country race by capitalizing on his competitor’s mistake. That is the spirit of harmony and love, which is manifested though the practice of Aikido. It is a competitive sport, but Ivan didn’t lose his humanity to gain a piece of metal.

So what O sensei implied is, go ahead, we have to compete, sometimes, because we have that competitive nature. In every organism, there is a pecking order, we have to climb and fight, and race, and compete, that is fine. We must not, however, lose our humanity. If you have to hurt a person to win, then it is better to lose. We will make ourselves smaller through plots, schemes, rules and regulations. These limits imposed makes competition ‘fair’, but it limits our human capacity to fully function.

Eventually we want to win the human race. That is the race, and competition Aikido is preparing us for. We are not aiming to be a champion Karateka, top salesman, best entertainer, at the neglect of our loved ones, our health, our spirit. Aikido aims for the higher order of becoming a better human being, a better person, a better Earthling.

Yes, it is a tall order, I can imagine that during the time when O sensei is bringing his art to the public, what kind of stir he would have created in the martial arts fraternity in Japan. Karatekas, Judokas, Jiujitsu practitioners, would have look upon O sensei and says some not so constructive things. Had O sensei bent on competing with these folks, he might win the fight but lose the entire spirit of Aikido. He can do it, he competed against no one else but himself, to be a better human being, to be the best, and so inspire and continues to inspire millions of people globally.

So keep the big picture, look at what Aikido is making us become, a Champion Human Being.