theaikidad

Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

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.

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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!

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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.

Hanging out with Friends

Hanging out with Friends

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Dear Boys,

I have a chance of taking a break recently and used that time to meet up with my friends. In Singapore we are usually so busy with work, we seldom have time to do a decent catch up, the best we can do was a quick meet up over lunch and everyone has to run back to work.

So when there is an opportunity as such, I grabbed the chance and called these friends up for a chit chat.

Some have really tight schedule so I didn’t managed to meet everyone on my list, but some things cannot be forced, I’m still a good believer in fate, and until a better time, I will have to put a rain check on a couple of them.

My friends, are a mixed bunch, but that is what makes life interesting, we need to good dose of diversity in the people we meet, and learn from. Some are from my Aikido practice, some from my banking, and others from my recruitment work, and there are some, I can’t really ‘compartmentalize’ properly.

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Anyway, having a good mix helps me break away from my mindset. The dangerous thing about a mindset, is that you don’t know what you don’t know; catching up with these friends gives me a different perspective, and challenge my current thinking. Many of them have since moved on and joined other industry and gained some other life experience. In such exchange, we learn a little about each other, catch up with our lives, and also renew a friendship, making it stronger.

Eating at different places

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These friends brought me to different place to dine, and I ate some stuff I don’t usually eat. I learned that there is a yummy vegan joint called nomVnom at Central, Clark Quay, all thanks to Edna. She is a cheery, spirited young lady who is making a name for herself in a very challenging industry. While she is the youngest friend I met, I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting and we talked a lot about other things, other than Aikido.

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Some of my friends brought me to very nice Japanese food, Yew Wah brought me to eat at Hifumi, selling very affordable Japanese food. I ate ramen at Santouka with Cherie and Karen. These are places I usually won’t go to, if I am out alone, or with you boys. It’s just not our usual go-to places.

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Catching up is good

Nowadays, people think of a catch up as a status over Social Media, It is not just about sending each other a text message or two, which we are all so inclined to do. We can all just pick up our friends’ number from the phone list and call. These people are friends, and they will also cherish a catch up. There are many trials and tribunals in life and they are best tackled when they are shared.

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Please call them

Don’t sit around waiting for friends to call you. Don’t wait to link up with people. Life is scarce and time even more scarce. In our fragile life, we need to call people and tell them we are around and we care for them. Don’t hold back, show people you love them for who they are and let them know they have a friend here.

In the past, I have this persona of waiting for people to call me. It is simply an ego-play, and no one win from such a “high-crass act”. Always reach out to people first, and if you do matter to them, they will make time for you. Then such people are best to catch up with again and again. They will enrich your life, and you, in turn, enrich theirs. In this exchange, everyone becomes a better person, and we become more connected than just a Facebook friend.

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Are you able to let go?

Does Aikido defines you? Gives you a sense of meaning? Purpose? Responsibility? Makes you a nicer person? Give you character? And all the other nice things? Does Aikido also provides you front and side air bags? If Aikido is really that good to you, like a cuddly teddy bear, then can you let it go?

I’ve not been attending class lately, perhaps it is simply a matter to reaching that ‘plateau’ again, where I don’t see myself ‘progressing’. The sense of plateauing has happened to me before, I’m not sure if it had happened to you, the last time I felt it was when I was in my 3rd kyu? Or later.

Right now I can look back and understand, again, the sensation of plateauing. It is a play of the ego, where the ego is not getting that adrenaline kick anymore. There is a sense of mental fatigue and no matter how hard I try, an irimi nage will always still be an irimi nage.

This time, it is not a sensation of the plateau. It is a sense of the self is telling me to give it a rest. Too much time and energy is spent on Aikido that other parts of your life is lacking. My presence in Aikido dojo, would means an absence at home as a father. It is a zero-sum game no matter how I look at it. I can only be at one place at a time, and sometimes I need to pull myself away from my regime to spend more time doing my other duties.

And this clinging, even to something as good as Aikido, is bad.

This is happening naturally, I don’t really miss Aikido, and frankly, when I’m in dojo, I don’t miss being a dad. There is sense of ease in the role and when there is an over-balance, the body, mind and spirit will automatically redress that, without any sense of angst or reluctance. Even though I said it is a zero sum game, I don’t feel a sense of scarcity, I just do more of this and less of that, and later time, more of that and less of this.

That gave me an epiphany, because we so often hear people say, that when they don’t get to train, they’ll feel uncomfortable. If they don’t go to the dojo and sweat it out, something don’t feel quite right. That means that deep in you, you hadn’t been able to let go. And this clinging, even to something as good as Aikido, is bad.

Nothing last forever, not even Aikido training. We must be able to let things go without attachment, only when we are able to do that, then we can take our skills, our life skills to the next level. Our Aikido existence is not a be all, and end all. Well if Aikido really matters that much to you, then you have to look somewhere else and see what other good stuff in your life you have been missing, doing your Aikido thing.