The Guy who became a Sensei

The Guy who became a Sensei

Following my recent post, The Way Forward: Shoshin Aikikai Singapore, I officially took class, as sensei, since Harry sensei’s passing, he will no longer be around.

Heavy Heart

It looked like any typical Monday class and I wanted it to be as such, so on the facade, there is little or no difference, I’m taking the class, 8pm, my fellow Aikidokas will take their respective places and we will start class, like we have done so for many years.

Internally, there was a huge inertia, a massive reluctance to assume the position in front of the class, as sensei. I wish Harry sensei is still alive and hoping that I can continue being the facilitator, wishful thinking I was entertaining.

I looked long at Harry sensei’s photograph which I put up on the shelf, quietly asking him for divine guidance and still wanting that affirmation from him that I will be doing fine. He is no longer around to do that, so I have to take all that he has taught me, taught us, and carry on from there. With that thought, I walked up to the front and become sensei, for the first time in my life.

The Imposter Syndrome

This is a feeling for sure, and yet it still feels strangely familiar, very ready, and I think I have Harry sensei to thank, he has been grooming me all along for this position. While he was alive, he would be the earliest one, turning up to vacuum, dust and mop the place all by himself while he was still fit. The few of us made a point to come early and help him with all the chores. As long as I am coming to class I will make sure I do all this with him until a point in time I was doing them by myself, for him, as he watches, smoking his cigarettes.

Now that he is gone, I am the one turning up earliest, doing all the vacuuming, mopping and dusting, laying the mats, getting the place ready for class, all by myself. So I know the dojo very intimately, every dirt, spot and dust is very familiar to me, working on it after so many years.

Harry sensei vacuuming the dojo
Mopping the floor

Being consistently his uke perhaps is also another way he was grooming me. While he never said that I was to become a sensei after his death, by being his uke umpteenth times has made me understand his moves, his nuances, and his unspoken expectations. Maybe by being thrown around by him the most, I’m considered remotely good enough to continue. After all, why would he continue to call me to be his uke, even for demonstrations if I am not ‘good’ enough? Perhaps there is no one else.

Harry sensei is with us

It had to be me

Strangely familiar as I know this is real, I didn’t voluntarily put myself there, I didn’t fake this, make this up myself, my fellow Aikidokas trust me and look upon me to keep the class going, giving me good faith that while I am still not good enough, somehow I can lah. Showing them the techniques, and sometimes the wrong ones, they will correct me, we discussed, how Harry sensei did it, and of course how we perceived the way he did what he did. We call can agree that his technical perfection to the Aikido techniques are second to none, owing to his many decades of training and dedication.

Being an Aikido sensei is not something of my choosing, there is no career path, this is just the way it is. It is terribly lonely taking that position up front, the weight of the entire class, or even school rests on me. I can’t take it lightly, somehow, sensei’s spirit and reputation lies with Shoshin Aikikai, and right now when people think about who is the sensei in Shoshin Aikikai, the guy who took over when Harry sensei passed away, that guy turns out to be me.

The Way Forward: Shoshin Aikikai Singapore

The Way Forward: Shoshin Aikikai Singapore

Every time I take a class, I position myself, not where the sensei would sit, but along the line with my fellow Aikidoka practitioners. As I have principled, I am the most ranking student in class, and therefore I am not the sensei, but a facilitator, or ‘class monitor’.

Officially, I have told James, my senpai, and maintained that I would prefer to have Harry sensei give me a blessing, best in writing, that I am given the responsibility of instructorship. Well, this is a ‘me‘ thing as I do not want to assume things and make myself ‘sensei’ while Harry sensei is still in effect, The Sensei of Shoshin Aikikai Singapore. There is no ifs and buts about it.

These will change now that he has passed away, and without his verbal, explicit expression as to how the dojo should continue, we are left to our own devices to decide.

His son, Lionel did express that it was perhaps his father’s wish to make sure his Aikido legacy should continue, which means Shoshin, the dojo he founded should carry on, and I will need to take the initiative to continue.

Change Management

It is never easy with changes, and we have a few ‘closed door’ discussions with the dan grade members of Shoshin and many favoured closing the dojo, which we did, for the later part of 2021, and then James told me that it will be reopened, and he would want me to take a class, on Monday. I obliged. While I never officially heard it from Harry sensei that he consented, I’d trust James that he is carrying out sensei’s interpretations the best he could.

Harry sensei did turned up a few times and witness me taking class; he didn’t objected in anyway of sorts, so I’ll take it that my instructorship is okay. It’s surely a hot seat with him sitting there looking at me taking class, I don’t want to fumble and look bad, making him look bad or regret his decision in anyway!

Also there was a new infusion of interest from David, an Aikido instructor who is keen to take Shoshin forward. So together, we will run the class and continue practicing Aikido at the present dojo.

Initially for me, I wasn’t sure about this path. I told myself that I’ll decide again after Sensei’s passing, honestly, I’m not that keen to continue Aikido in any form or function if Harry sensei is no longer around. I am also really not keen to be a sensei of any form or function.

The feedback is that my involvement is wanted, and Shoshin Aikidokas past and present prefers to have someone who have trained under Harry sensei to continue. Many would argue that what is Shoshin unless it is passed down to someone who has trained with Harry sensei and knows his style.

While there are many students who have trained with Harry sensei, none has stepped up to take custodian of the dojo.

Shoshin is 初心

初心 in Japanese Kanji means the ‘Beginners’ Mind’, Harry sensei choose the logo to be that of 2 open hands. He has said many times that we need a beginners mind to see things properly, and not let the ego get the better of us. Practice with a Beginner’s Mind.

While it appeals to me that Harry sensei’s style should continue in Shoshin, we must also regenerate the dojo with a beginner’s mind and see Aikido new again. Not disrespecting Harry sensei’s legacy, but to really honour him by starting things fresh, taking it to greater heights.

No one can match Harry sensei’s greatness and commitment to Aikido in Singapore, and it would be ridiculous for me to even try. His style is unflinching precision, come what may, he dispatches his uke large and small with ease. All I can do is perhaps interpret his style with my own limited understanding and render it in spirit and principles.

Life is a Curve Ball

As always, you will never know how things will turn out. All I wanted to do was to follow Harry sensei and until his death, I’ll be free to decide my path. I would never expect myself to be thrusted and entrusted into this very privileged role of taking Shoshin to the next level.

I’m not sure what I will do, but with what my sensei has taught and guided me in the past, I’m sure things will turn out fine.

Hello Grief, Nice to Meet You

Hello Grief, Nice to Meet You

Dear Boy

The past 2 weeks was rough, I have to bear witness to the death of 2 persons very dear to me. The first one was kind of a shocker, and yet not, Harry sensei died on 25 April and your 四姨婆 died 2 May.

Harry sensei’s death hit me particularly hard, and I struggle to contain my emotions, and barely having time to manage my grief, your 四姨婆 died. It is a kind of double whammy and I think these back to back deaths matured me quite a bit, and I can fully absorb the emotions of grief and mourning.

It is a very reflective, deep thoughts and moody process, and often cast a dark pall over me, I think everyone can see it, especially the both of you and your mum as well. Having to still go to work, and interact with people, I have to compartmentalize my emotions and continue with my profession. My colleagues asked me: “How’s you weekend?” I can’t get myself to say: “Yeah, my sensei just died, and guess what? My wife’s aunt died as well!” It’s just not something you go around telling people so I simply replied: “Great!” (Please don’t dig any further, I’m barely holding it together.)

Please Excuse Me While I Grief

Of all the deaths in my life, I felt the heaviest when it comes to Harry sensei’s passing, and this sensation is particularly painful at the ‘heart’ area, it’s not a sharp pain, but that deep throbbing ache which threatens to reduce me into a heap of tears. I sigh a lot, there is really no mood for anything else, and apart from the necessary interactions, I kept to myself, and I looked at the floor more as I walked around, probably to avoid eye contact, for fear that people can see that sadness in my eyes. Emotionally I am running on empty.

This was the first time I became truly acquainted with grief.

There is no obvious logic or rationale to grief, it cannot be articulated, it is just pure raw emotions and your mood can swing from kindness to selfishness, almost with a kind of, ‘DO NOT DISTURB‘ sign hanging around your neck, not wanting to give a ‘F’ about the world for the time being. Thank you very much.

While death is a closure to many, it introspectively opens up a kind of sensitivity I am learning to live with.

We are all vulnerable

There is no escaping Death, I long felt it when I was young, and I wrote about it “Death“, an experience I felt when I was merely 19 years old. I was younger then, and youth, are often associated with a lack of perspective and a crude pragmatism, I take my ‘Death experience’ naively as a privileged to me or perhaps it was a ‘shield’, protecting me from actually feeling grief.

That is until someone I really treasure and love dies, and these 2 deaths really pried me open to the full vulnerability of grief. You feel helpless, hopeful, heaviness, all in one.

Yet the vulnerability I felt cannot be fully worded, with Harry sensei’s and 四姨 passing, and all the good I have seen them do, and now that they no longer can continue doing, appeals to me that I must carry on, be nicer to people, be more caring, be sensitive to others, be humble, be everything Harry sensei and 四姨 has taught me, by showing me. I want to be nicer to people, so that if they’d asked, I can tell them, I learned it from my sensei, I learned it because my 四姨, who is no longer with me, was one of the nicest person alive. Wanting to make this world a nicer place is perhaps my own private way of honoring their memory.

Vulnerability is very powerful

Everyone is vulnerable, period. No matter how strong, tough or successful a person is, there is a quiet silent part where we all feel somewhat lacking, inadequate and falling short of. Having gone through 2 funerals in 2 weeks exposes me to this part of humanity which connects all of us. While we all celebrates big dramatic wins in life, nobody really wants to be with us when we are hurt, down, beaten and vulnerable. The irony is that at our most weakest, we are most connected to the raw spirit which fuels our existence. Death binds us all.

I found myself back in the warm, dark embrace of Death again, thinking about my own mortality, what to do with my life. There is a certain limitedness of our lives, and yet, those who have passed, came, did great things, show love, wisdom and kindness, challenged Death by fully living, and when they die, leave behind a huge momentum of good, for us to continue living.

What do you learn in an ‘Advanced’ class

For long time Aikido practitioners, it is can be difficult to discern what is a ‘beginner’s class’ and an ‘advanced’ class. Since most of the techniques we do, looks pretty much the same from the day we started training. Unlike other martial arts, where there are advanced katas, or even a special ‘elite’ group within a school that trains more intensively or exclusively for competition.

As far as I know, I haven’t heard of something like this in Aikido, as Aikido predominantly doesn’t encourage competition.

What is prevalent is this ‘advanced’ class segment, and what do we learn?

Same same, but Different

I’m not sure about other schools but for us, we are still looking at doing the same thing, irimi nage, shiho nage, the 5 Principles/ Teachings (一教 to 五教), and the usual stuffs.

The only difference is the movement, our tai sabaki is different, at different levels of proficiency, and years of practice, it will be smoother, more familiar and we are more confident with our positioning and placement. As with conditioning and muscle memory, it gets easier doing these moves day in, day out.

Herein lies the difficulty, when a beginner join us, we are not too particular with the specifics, as long as a shiho nage, looks vaguely like a shiho nage, it will be passable, and beginners are not conscious about ma-ai, stiff and uncomfortable with the movement, proximity and all that. So we would not want to overload a beginner’s sensory experience during the formative years in Aikido.

A similar example will be one of sword forging, a swordsmith will hammer a block of iron, and form the basic shape of the sword, constantly banging and banging until a crude shape of sword starts to emerge. Also removing any excess parts, constantly shaping and shaping.

Good Habits, Bad Habits

As we progress, habits are formed, some bad, some good, but without being too critical, we know what a good clean technique looks like and we work towards a high standards to executing a shiho-nage.

So in an ‘advanced’ class, we are looking to fine tune our technique, get rid of anything extra. like a small steps we take, or an extra back step, the hands might not be optimally rotated. Hips not squared nor centred.

Personally, I don’t prefer the word ‘advanced; Aikidoka, as it robs us of our focus on the beginner’s mind. Advance can distracts us from the reality that we are simply just beginning to discover our own body in relation to the waza. Advance might be a lie that we are closer to perfection, where we are much further from the truth. ‘Long time practicing Aikidoka’ sounds like a mouthful but it works for me.

‘Advanced’ Techniques

Of course you’ll see on social media, dynamic and dramatic high falls, and hip throws, fast and fluid movements in Aikido demonstrations. The reality is these folks trained very long and hard on the basic techniques, there is nothing additional in these techniques. There is no secret to how it is done. These techniques look amazing because these Aikidoka continuously polish themselves, ruthlessly removing any extra steps, deleting self doubts, cancelling out unnecessary movements and filtered down to the pure essence of body movement. They don’t move for the sake of moving, nothing is extra, everything is necessary.

Back to the swordsmith example, once the basic shape is hammered out, the sharpening and polishing begins, and the swordsmith might put the blade through many many rounds of fine grinding and minute sanding to get that shine and sharpness.

Also once the sword is made, and sharpen, it will need a regular level of attention to re-sharpen, for continuous use, fine minute adjustment here and there, regular maintenance of the entire sword, but essentially the structure is already made, it’s just the daily fine tuning here and there.

Aikido in the advance years of learning is the same, in the formative years you build the rough cut of a waza, then as you progress, you’ll make micro adjustments here and there, as you become dissatisfied with your movement, and realised that certain position is not optimal, or your uke exposes a critical flaw in your technique.

Self correct

Similarly, I implore our long time aikidokas to look at themselves to reflect, self correct, and check themselves. An honest and sincere uke is an external instrument to help us keeping ourselves grounded, ensure that we are constantly practicing, polishing and never settles for the fallacy of expert, nor perfection. There is always room for improvements, we just need to clear our clutter.

The Old Rain Tree

The Old Rain Tree

An Old Rain Tree felled in a forest on Monday.   

There was a great sense of sadness and loss that echoed through the forest, especially amongst the animals that has lived with the Old Rain Tree for a long time. While there are also many great trees in the forest, this one was special, its branches grew long and wide, and has offered many squirrels’ refuges; birds a nest for them to roost, shade for a tired bear to rest, and it’s roots run deep into the ground, and it’s firm standing even helped saved a few bunnies from being swept away in a bout of bad thunderstorm not too long ago.              

The felling of this magnificent Tree sent a vibration through the forest floor, and all creatures large and small came, and gathered by the fallen Great Tree. Some cranes from faraway, flew back, upon hearing that the Great Old Tree has fallen. Storks gathered, some of them hadn’t seen the Old Tree for a long time, but came as quickly as their wings can take them.

Everyone gathered, has something good to say about the Old Tree

“The Old Tree has given me a nest to raise my 5 chicks.” One of the Stork said.

“There this time, the Old Tree gave part of this branches to this farmer for him to use as firewood and warm his family!” A Chipmunk mentioned.

“He’s my favorite scratching spot!” An old brown bear growled.

Everyone in the forest, near and far has benefitted from the wisdom, protection, care and love from the Old Rain Tree. They will all miss the Old Tree, and wondered what the future will hold for them. 

“Where are we going to build our nests? Now that our dear old friend is no longer there?” Chirped one of the mama birds, distressed about the tree.

“How about us? Where can we stash our nuts?” a family of Squirrels pondered in earnest. “Our old friend helps us keep our nuts for the winter!”

“The forest will never be the same anymore.” the bunnies whined, vividly remembering, how the Old Tree reached down and let the terrified bunnies held onto his branch as the torrential rain threaten to sweep the creatures to a certain death.

But the Old Tree has a plan.

Long before this fateful day, the Old Rain Tree has already set in motion and make the forest a place the animals can continue to thrive long after he is gone.

You see, there was never a forest, it was nothing but a barren land, and the little young sapling of a Rain Tree decided to grow there. This small Rain Tree grew against the weather, the sun, the bad soil, he grew and grew and got so big, that some woodsmen even came to try and chop it down. They were close, but the little band of animals in the forest stood with the tree and protected the Rain Tree from further harm. This tree is precious and sacred to the animals and they turned the woodsmen away.

From then on, the land around the Rain Tree grew, and thrive, it dropped seeds on the forest floor, and while many seeds didn’t grow, some did; as the Great Old Rain Tree grow in stature and magnificence, small little rain trees started sprouting around it, adding to the shade, and adding to the magnificence of the forest.

So the animals in the forest don’t need to worry, because while the Great Old Rain Tree has fallen, there are also many trees around it, all grown from the same seed, providing the shade protection and nourishment the Great Old Rain Tree provided. While he is gone, he has given his seeds and raised many more young trees to help the forest flourish. These young trees will stand their own, and this is their time to stand against the elements, and join the ranks of the other Great Trees in the forest.

This is the legacy of the Old Rain Tree.

Peace is Hard

Why is Aikido commonly known as the Art of Peace and Harmony?

First of all, we need to come to a level benchmark of what ‘Peace’ and ‘Harmony’ looks like, which shouldn’t be hard. Peace is the lack of violence in any form, period.

How difficult can that be?

Well, wait till you try it on the mat, on the dojo, with an unwilling partner, against orchestrated resistance, then all of our concept and romanticism of peace falls apart, we get disillusion, struggle and then take the very easy way out, resort to violence, anger and hate. ‘It’s his/her fault he didn’t cooperate!!!”

Now that I am taking a class regularly, I begin to see a deeper struggle, as teaching fellow Aikidokas becomes a challenge for my mindset. How do I teach, the waza that leads to a conflict resolution? It can lead to something deadly as well, I can show ‘killer’ moves, or one strike moves that will ‘neutralize’ the attacker. But all this means nothing if I cannot demonstrate peace, or I ‘kill’ my attacker.

So what is peace to me?

Being flexible, empathetic and see things from a variety of angle. We cannot be fixated with one way of doing things, that will lead to ‘your’ way and ‘my’ way which will cause a gap in opinions. and everyone will think ‘my’ way is better than ‘your’ way, and fight it out to find out who is left standing.

Of course as beginners, we only learn to do things in one specific way; ‘Aikido rolls like this.’ ‘We don’t do kicks in Aikido.’ We indoctrinate the new joiners with the dogmas of Aikido. because as a school, there is a style, curriculum and pedagogy. That is fine as we build the structure and form for our new Aikido students to learn, and become proficient in. It is a start, but it cannot be that way as we advance into the years or decades of Aikido practice, we must become more open to other forms, accept our limitations and humbly learn that we are not perfect, no matter how suave our moves are.

Also begin to adopt other forms, and use other styles, so that we become formless, and therefore, disenfranchise someone to attack our ‘form’. When we become formless, we are able to take on our attackers’ form and therefore we become our attacker, and our attacker will no longer have a form which they can attack.

This is the ultimate definition of peace.

So as I start to teach, the deeper lesson I learn is to make sure I impart the movements that gives us options, to not fight, and to be flexible so that we have a way out, and our partner have a way out. We need to really treasure peace, love and non-violence deeply. While we have enjoyed decades of peace, that deep dark thoughts of violence is just skin deep under our placid surface. We must do more to understand the evil in us, so that we can choose not to use them.

For peace to prevail, we must have options, choice and alternative. It is a blatant lie when one decides on a violent path and say ‘I have no choice.’ ‘You leave me no options.’ ‘I’m forced into this!’ There is always a choice, and we need to have that courage, and clarity to choose, bravely decide not to take physical harm as an accept course of actions.

Dialogue

That dialogue needs to happen in us, there is plenty of violence happening around us, and we cannot talk ourselves into thinking it is ok. We cannot resort to violence to stop violence. The hardest part for us to do is to talk and negotiate away from violence, discuss, and see the other person’s point of view, while keeping ours. We don’t lay down and die, nor do we fight to the death, we have to choose that fine middle path to make sure both prevail, especially in violent situations.

We can do it, as long as we continue our training in earnest, without malice or willfulness. Every time we train, we must always give our partners an option, by having options in our own movement. That choice allows us to resolve a difficult situation with both belligerents’ integrity, pride and ego intact. Peace is about no one having to lose, or win, big; life is a matter of compromise, that is no win/win, it is all about give and take.

Who do you bring to the dojo?

It’s not about your girlfriend, your friend, or anyone else out there.

It is about you. who do you bring to the dojo? do you bring a martial artist to the dojo? Do you bring a dancer to the dojo? or do you bring a meek mouse?

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

We may have different hats to wear in our daily lives, but there is certainly a dominant one, or a couple. It could be a role where we are most emotionally attached to, or a role we pay the most emotional dividend to. The more emotive the cause, the more dominant the emotional attachment.

If you are a cop, going to take Aikido, chances are you are looking at the art with a value of self defense, through a cop-eye. If you are a victim of a bully, you will either think of the art as a form of salvation. or it also can be a form of justification for your role as a victim; you go to the dojo to get bullied, just like how you are bullied outside of the dojo.

These are very powerful subconscious. it governs everything we do. If you have a militant psyche. even if you jog, you will think of the activity as a form of fitness to help you get away from trouble. It is not merely a form of fitness. If you are a cyclist, you will go to the gym in hopes of improving your cycling fitness.

Photo by Kevin Bidwell on Pexels.com

Therefore, we will always come up against weakness, against limitations. because we do not see thing as it is, but we see thing as it should be. Of course if we see Aikido from the eyes of a triathlete, it looks like valueless. If we approach a piano, learning to play a guitar, the results can be predictable, certainly both are musical instruments, but we cannot full milk the instrument in question by making another impression fit onto it. A piano is a piano, period. Your understanding of a guitar helps, but please put it down when you are going to play a piano.

Photo by Max Mishin on Pexels.com

Of course the curriculum of Aikido is pretty much ‘dead’, it is up to us as students to bring it to life, and in order for that to happen, we need to let Aikido embody us first, instead of us trying to embody Aikido. Put down our soldier, policeman, nurse, pickpocket, teacher, student, man, woman outside, come in and experience Aikido, as it is.

First posted September 17, 2012

おねがいします!!!

おねがいします!!!

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.

おねがいします!

Fist posted September 11, 2014 

Dojo Conflict Management

This is the current trending news for 2022…Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at the Oscars…

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.

chris-sabor-unsplash
Source: Chris Sabor-Unsplash

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.

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Source: Charl Folscher-Unsplash

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.

Safe Space

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.

Andre Mouton, Pexel
Source: Andre Mouton, Pexel

Harry sensei is now a Shihan 師範

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.

First posted in February 20, 2014