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.

charl-folscher-unsplash
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

A Teacher’s Peril

A Teacher’s Peril

  “Because whatever we say, is wrong.”

Of late, I was given the privilege of conducting a couple of classes with my NUS Aikidokas. Although it was a refreshing change from being attending the class to someone conducting the class, the more salient point is the new learning experience for me being in a teacher role. Yes, you still learn while you teach.

For the sake of clarification, and for as a matter of technicality, I am not a teacher in Aikido. Those times when I was tasked to take the class, I happened to be the next most senior student in the class, so I guess by that fact, not virtue, I will have to chaperone the class in the teacher’s absence. I’m not officially delegated, nor in some strict sense, holds a teacher’s license. And for the records, I’m neither officially assigned by Harry sensei to teach, or conduct class. So I happen to do what I did as a matter of circumstance.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

No talking in class

Anyway, given that I’m tasked into the limelight, standing in front of a class of 20-plus Aikidokas, some of them, a good 20 years my junior, I realized again why Harry sensei do not want us to talk amongst ourselves during training, he does not want us to correct the techniques amongst ourselves in training. If our partner is wrong in executing the techniques and what we can do as their training partners, and if we happen to be the senior member of the class, we can correct by action, not by telling. He abhors us talking among ourselves trying to figure out the wrongs and rights by discussion. There is an apparent reason for that. Because whatever we say, is wrong.

This goes back to my old adage of ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’. As this few sessions of conducting classes has taught me, as the guy standing there, telling people about the techniques, not matter what I say, with all the good in mind, is wrong. Well, sure the argument is what I say might be fitting, and if that is the case, then there will not be a case at all to begin with, right? 

And the teacher’s role is very heavy, the students listens, and during class they will usually not retort, but after the class ends, they will take what you say and go home to digest it, break it down, and over-analyze your sayings, and if what you say is too narrowly defined, you will open yourself to your own bag of skeletons. More often than not, what’re we say is usable to a certain context. And if you want to play it safe and use a sweeping statement, and generalize, you’ll end up not giving anything useful to your audience. The ‘it depends’ really depends on what the depending is depending on. 

Then again you still have to say something, so you have to become really careful and wise up about what you say, because people will take your saying as their doctrine, and if what you say is not empirically robust, then the blood is on your hands when they use what you said would work, but end up not working as well as you said it would.

Caveat Emptor

I have this at the onset of my blog, and let’s revisit the word a little, there is no disclaimer in class, just as I learned that there are no disclaimer in life. Perhaps it is due to a force of habit, I have a disclaimer of sorts for my blog. You see, as a former banker, we will have disclaimer clauses to protect the bank from any thing that the standard terms don’t cover. It’s bureaucracy by the way. 

But the disclaimer exists for a reason, because well meaning individuals do get trapped by anything and everything that falls out of the contextual domain of the terms. People do hijack your good intentions for their own narrow and sometimes self-centered desires. Being the guy saying a lot of things, means those things I’ve said may one day come back to haunt me. That is the risk of a teacher. 

Do as I do

So in class, in the old days, the sensei don’t really talk much, you really do as the sensei do as close to his movement as possible. But this type of teaching will no longer sit well with the new generations of human beings who will go into YouTube and other portals to find out for themselves and learn for themselves, never mind what they learned is right or not, hence we have the rise of ‘self radicalized’ individuals. 

That is the teacher’s peril. And I’m not sure if there will be other opportunities for me to take another class, but if I do, I’ll always bear in mind to tell my younger broods what Harry sensei likes to say ‘do also cannot do properly, still want to talk among yourselves?’

First posted May 29, 2015

Taking Care of Each Other

Taking Care of Each Other

It is a very good feeling to be training amongst friends. Perhaps this is what makes our small dojo slightly different from others, Harry sensei doesn’t really ‘advertise‘ Shoshin Aikikai to attract new students, hence we do not have a regular intake of fresh blood. What we end up with a tightly knitted bunch of students who only wants to train under Harry sensei’s tutelage, perhaps also enjoy each other’s friendship on the mat, There is a genuine care we have for each other, that trust built over the years training together.

Harry sensei has provided a very strong leadership and presence as the head honcho, and there is nothing else to worry about. All we need to do is to turn up, he leads the class, scolds us when we gets it wrong, offer a small wry smile when we fumble, often comically. He is really like the stern father of the dojo, looking over his kids while they train.

He scolds us because he really cares about us. and my sensei is very particular about his technique, movement and application of Ki, some of which are often beyond linguistic expression and this frustrates him when we cannot grasp the true fidelity of his style. His teaching has always been uncompromising, straight, pure and true, he does not accepts our weak attempt to do the minimum, we must do exactly the way he does in the highest standards, and often chides us when we cannot do what he can. He runs a tight ship and expects nothing less than our best; we liked it the way it is.

So right now as we grow and evolve as a club, the dojo has become a very comfortable space to share and discuss Aikido techniques that Harry sensei has taught us. Under his watchful (often intimidating!) presence, I try to best honour his teachings, and techniques on the mat; at the same time bring in my own discussion, interpretation and corroborate what I personally know, feel and learned about Aikido.

Everything that I know about Aikido, I learned from Harry sensei, he has given so much over these decades that it will take my lifetime to share what I learned from him, and with this strong foundation I will have to find my own way to chart ahead bring new ideas onto the mat. This is a new level of learning I am beginning to embrace and appreciate.

While he didn’t openly say so, I feel very empowered to independently explore how to best carry on Harry sensei’s legacy in my own ways. While there are many flaws in my delivery of the class, my friends gave me that room to learn and grow, it is such a feeling of humility and honour at the same time that my fellow Aikidoka trust me, listen to my often one-sided explanation and let me correct them while I might be wrong myself. As we journey on, it will take all of us to slowly unravel what our sensei have left for us. This is very sacred and precious, so we must do what we can to make sure we keep this spirit going.

Waiting, waiting

Waiting, waiting

If there is anything anyone can learn from Aikido or any martial arts, it will be the virtue of patience. It can be an on the mat patience, or it can be a lifetime of waiting. Holding on, acting on the right moment takes practice, discipline and a knack of getting the groove of things.

Patience determines Punctuality

While we would like to be punctual all the time as a form of respect to those who waited for us. Important events requires us to turn up on time as it is considered rude in most cultures to be late. The famed Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi displayed excellent tactical use and abuse of patience to win duels. He would frequently turn up late to irritate his opponents and disrupt their psyche. There are also times he would turn up very early just to surprise his enemies, cutting them down before they have time to settle down and prepare for the fight.

So while in our peaceful time, most people respects being punctual and we try often to do that, on a very transactional sense, we need to have a good sense to hold our tongue and not speak too soon. Or sometimes, we need to jump the conversation and seize the topic so that we can get an edge over the negotiation.

Outwaiting the belligerent

This happened to my friend who was a part-time lecture with one of the universities, during his tenure, there was a change in Head of Department (HOD), and unfortunately this new HOD was a kind of loggerhead with my friend, and of course, the new HOD made parts of my friend’s life difficult in the campus, and he got his classes cut down by more than half.

There was nothing my friend could do, but to ’embrace the suck’, and carry on. This goes on for a few years before the HOD was left, and the current faculty members welcomed by friend back to teaching. It turned out that the HOD was also making things difficult for many of faculty members.

We both agreed on hindsight that we owe partly to our martial arts training to wait out the unbearable. He was a old school bare-knuckles type of karateka and he has suffered fair share of injuries and indignity of collapse, so enduring this overbearing HOD was something that has to be done with stoicism.

Patience is Timing

On the mat, Harry sensei has always emphasized on making complete turns, go the full circle. He really took his time to show us, properly how a technique is done. When he does his technique, I find it difficult to resist him, and you will go along with his arc and trajectory.

Going the full circle on the mat, means that his technique are very clean and often graceful. He is able to properly displace a larger, stronger and younger uke by taking his time to do the technique properly. There is no rush, nor short-cuts. He hates short-cuts.

Our younger selves can’t help it, as we lack the temper of age to understand timing properly. We are not able to arrest our fears and trepidation when we face our opponents, we fast forward to execute our techniques quickly and go for the ‘kill shot’.

We often forgot that the entire waza () is a journey, it is a means to an end. Our impatient selves put the cart before the horse and see it as an end to a means. So we rush through the whole technique to come to the throw. Without being patient, and properly draw the uke out in a full arc, without making sure our turns are circular, we turn a very graceful Aikido technique into a shallow movement, filled with linear and weak positioning. Of course the throw will be spectacular, but who are we kidding?