Yesterday is always better/worse

Your future and my past is very different

Dear Boys,

In your lifetime, you will certainly hear this from other people, and it usually goes something like:

“Back in those days…” or “In my time, things were a lot tougher! easier! better! worse!” Or “compare to our times…”You youngsters had it easy!”

Well, your dad, will probably pull the same script on you from time to time and I have been told umpteenth times by folks from all walks of life, young and old, the same thing.

Our concerns back in 1993

People will always try to compare things. And when they compare, there will only be 2 outcomes that will influence their decision making;

1- things were better in the past, so if currently things are worse off I’d better do something.

2- if things were worse in the past, and we have it better now, we’d better do something.

We all have to do something, irrespective of how well or bad things were in the past. You job, as the future, is to make things the best you can, with your resources at your given specific time and space. Sure people like to reminiscence things, tell you things of their good ‘ol days, don’t be fooled into thinking that you had it better, you will not. Neither did you had it worse, you didn’t.

Newspaper clipping from 1993

‘In my days’, when I was in national service, I wore helmets dating back to the Vietnam War, Kevlar helmets was considered a luxury, and our instructors used that as a motivation for us to do well in our obstacle course, saying we get to wear ‘Air-con’ helmets, owing to its more cooling design. Nowadays, all helmets in the Armed forces are Kevlar, and the newer ones are even better than the ones I had. I’m telling you boys this, is not to tell you that you are going to have it better. Well that is a given, but the task at hand is still very much a challenging one. It never has been any better.

My School’s Assessment Report

So the point is, don’t envy, if someone had it better in their heydays, don’t gloat if someone’s worse off than you. That was that, this is now. Your future and my past is very different, I will tell you boys stories, my experiences, do some of these ‘in my days things’ but please understand it from your context, not mine. Use my experiences as lessons, understand that problems then were different, solutions to those problems are different too. You will have your own set of problems and requires the solutions that is only appropriate at your time.

Take away one thing though, the spirit, attitude to problem solving is the same, you must apply the same tenacity, dedication and focus to solving them, the problems you have now and the problems you will have in future. And when you tell you children and the newer generation your ‘In my days’ story, please remember, that was in your days, not theirs! So give them a break!

First Publish June 15, 2015

Profanities

Dear Boys,

profanity 2

We will have to deal with this sooner than later. Perhaps a couple of years down the road, when you both are matured enough, the use of profanities will eventually enter your vernacular. Until then…

Of late, Ian, you’ve told me that you have a classmate who uses the ‘F’ word in a liberal manner in school and even in the presence of a teacher. And you think that he is a brave kid in doing so. Let me tell you what I told you that evening, it is not a brave thing, neither is it a cool thing.

Sure, you hear about it in the movies, in TV shows and perhaps even me using it. We cannot avoid it, I do use it, and more liberally when I am in Army fatigues. I have a linguistic degree and for that fact, I am minimally qualified to tell you that, in any language, cursing and swearing is very normal. It helps us, to a certain degree, manage our emotions, it serves as a kind of outlet for our negativity. Sometimes it is useful, sometimes it is counterproductive.

profanity 1

But don’t you dare utter this, kids, as personally, for me, it is a big no, no. I cannot stop you boys from hearing it, but I sure as hell (that’s cussing too!) do not want to hear you boys using it, not at this age.

Ian, your classmates used it, that is his problem, like I said, he has a dirty mouth, it is his parents’ responsibilities to clean it. If his parents doesn’t clean his dirty mouth, chances are, someone, a member of society will take matters into their own hands and do some cleaning themselves.

Personally, I do not use it, as linguistically, I have far more useful words in my repertoire to serve my anger in a message without the use of profanity.  As mentioned earlier, my usage only increased when I am in military service.

There is something about the military that is closely linked to the use of profanities and other derogatory words. Its the culture, and when I used it in the military, it serves a functional purpose, not for an angry outburst, not to piss other people off. to me profanities is not ‘angry’ words for the use in an outburst of anger. it allows me to enmesh into a particular culture, a specific conformity. And yes, I do as the Romans do, when it comes to military service.

So when will be a good time for you boys to cuss? That is a judgement call, there is no specific date, time, turn of the century, we all have to see if you boys knows and are mature enough to understand why you want to say what you said. Right now, it is not a brave thing to say it, it is not a cool thing to say it. You boys are not matured enough to know the purpose and function of profanities. It is a ‘play by the ear’ scenario.

I glad that so far, you 2 have a strong repulsion from such words. That is good. There is no need for its use at your age, and we shall have this discussion again from time to time, and see if we are ready to hear the 2 of your cuss like men, or boys.

First Publish June 3, 2015

Your Grands- The Awesomes

April 2013 @ RWS Sea Aquarium
April 2013 @ RWS Sea Aquarium

Dear Boys,

You have awesome grand parents. Period.

For your dad, he never knew his grand parents, both maternal and paternal. They died before I knew about them. You mum knew her grand parents and when I had the both of you, I knew I want the both of you to have wonderful memories about your ‘Grands’.

I can’t say the same for my parents side, as my parents and my history with them is mired in a messy controversy. Well, story of my life, at least that was until I got married and the 2 of you came along. Your mum’s parents, The Grands, as we fondly refer them as, are the Awesomes.

At Bird Park with Ian 2007
At Bird Park with Ian 2007

Your Gong Gong is awesome and so is your Ah Ma, they both doted on you like their own, even though in the strictest Chinese sense, you both are the ‘Lims’ grand children and carry my lineage. They have none of that, and loved you both tremendously, without conditions.

They would buy the best toys for you both for your birthdays and Christmas (although we do not celebrate it on a religious sense, but it was still an opportunity to get together for fun, joy and laughter.) Whatever you want, they will get for you, so much so that we were concerned about them spoiling you both.

There is always tensions in the way we want to bring you up and the way the Grands think we should bring you up. But that is what The Grands does, which many times run into conflict with The Parents. When I was a younger dad with a penchant to use the ‘rod’, I got into a rather heated argument with your Gong Gong. When I wanted to discipline you your Gong Gong physically carried you away from harm, me. Your Ah Ma cried, from the traumatic intensity of the quarrel. From then on I never want to discipline you both in their presence. We’ve all learned our limits and our boundaries from that incident.

Feb 2013, on a ferry to Kusu Island
Feb 2013, on a ferry to Kusu Island

It is important that you boys get to hang out with the Grands as often as possible, because I feel that their inputs into your lives are important in your building blocks to become responsible adults. You boys need to handle old folks, and the Grands are your hands on training. When you grow up, never get angry or impatient with old folks. When you are in your thirties, a busy executive, in a hurry to run errands, please don’t run over older folks that happen to road hog your way, think of them as your Grands. They are not in your way, without, you will not even have a way.

SONY DSC
June 2013 @ River Safari

Your Grands are the ultimate liberals, in their abode you boys can pretty much do whatever you want and rule with impunity. There is no curfew, you boys sleep as early as 2am. You boys watched TV, ate all sorts of sweets and chocolates. Ice cream was a regular affair. Even when the Grands brought you boys out, you two had it good, ate at restaurants, Swensen’s is a common affair.

Tell your children stories and tales you had with your Grands, and when my time comes, I will have my share of legacy with you children.

Wayne with Ah gong
Wayne with Ah gong

You boys need to love your Grands as much as possible. Display affection, hug them, kiss them, and hold their hands. Let them know you appreciate them, let them know that you both, while taking them for granted, do reciprocate. They have pretty much seen it through their life, they do not need much now, they do not need to strive for a good job, they do not need to please their boss, climb the corporate ladder, all they need to to have their lives filled with the din both of you made, do things that makes them worry, mess things up so that they can clean it up after you. Let them feed you boys with yummy junks.

Ah Ma with Ian, handling microscopes

So go ahead, have fun with your Grands fill their lives with all your nonsense. do things with them that you cannot do with your parents. Let them have wonderful memories of you both, and please grow up with wonderful reminiscence of them. Tell your children stories and tales you had with your Grands, and when my time comes, I will have my share of legacy with you children.

First posted June 26, 2015

Collective Idiocy-Army story

bus buttons
picture sourced from google

Dear Boys,

I want to share a story about ‘collective idiocy’ that involved your father.

When I was an Army recruit, my training camp was back in Pulau Tekong and when it was time for us to book in, we have to find our own way back to Commando Jetty. So when it was time for us to book in, it is no surprise that you will see many botak (bald-headed) recruits on the same bus, since we are all booking in at the same time.

So this fateful night, we were on the bus, and heading towards a common destination, we all have to alight at the same bus-stop and of course we need to press the bell so that the bus driver will know there are passengers who were alighting.

What happened was a matter of group-think towards collective stupidity.

We all, the recruits in the bus, knew we are all alighting at the same stop, and we all waited for one of us to press the bell, and anyone of us can, but no one did!

So we looked wide eyed as the bus zipped past our stop and everyone started pressing the bell in frantic. Too late, the bus driver simply ignored us, and take it that the bell we pressed was for the next stop.

So the bus alighted at the next stop and the whole group of us has to dumb, dumb walk back to the earlier bus stop and towards Commando Jetty. No one said a thing about the incident, we didn’t have to, we all made a fool out of ourselves, and now thinking back more than 21 years later, the whole incident seems petty hilarious.

First posted June 18, 2015

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 

The Reality of Fitness

Well we have seen men and women in their peak physical form, they seem to have boundless energy and are able to perform magnificent feats of superhuman ability.

Photo by Yogendra Singh on Pexels.com

Well, here’s my take on fitness. Really really fit people, are not really fit. In fact there is no such thing as a really really fit person. Any athlete will tell you, in my context, any martial artist will tell you, all dramatic demonstration of their skills and abilities are achieved through a huge level of SUFFERING.

No one knows about the injuries, the fatigue, the exhaustion, the weariness and still have to continue. the bitching and whining we all experience. Yes, these bouts do happen to really, really fit people.

The answer is that they are able to take in all these suffering AND perform. Not a single one of them hadn’t been injured badly before, suffered a cramp, dealt with fractures and bruises. After all these, they still execute amazing feats. This makes them inspirational.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

No, they are not flawless, Their excellence is a summation of their injuries and their ability to continue despite of all that, that makes them worth watching.

So the next time you see a really fit person, don’t think about the glory, think about the person’s untold dark days and long lonely periods of doldrums.

First posted March 1, 2014

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

Take a bow

Take a bow

We bow in Aikido, towards the front of the dojo, where a photograph of O’sensei is usually hung or placed. Some other dojos hung scrolls instead of O’sensei’s photo. In our old Bukit Merah Dojo, we hung O’sensei’s photograph and that of the 2nd doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and a huge scroll.

O’sensei’s and the 2nd Doshu photo with Aikido scroll in our old Bukit Merah dojo

Right now in NUS, Harry sensei replaced O’sensei’s photograph with a scroll, as he doesn’t want the students to mishandle O’sensei’s photograph.

“Bowing before class starts is like a recharge for me”

Anyway, we bowed to the front, and that for me starts my session in class, long before Harry sensei officially starts class. The first bow in class, for me is the most important bow. It is not religiously motivated, no I do not pray towards O’sensei. I bow because there is a deep reverence I have in me, and for me to practice Aikido well, I need to be mindful of that reverence.

As I bow, I think of many things that has happened. I extend my thought towards people I cared about, matters I cared about, sometimes, I bow to surrender to the day, I bow to get ‘turned on’ and mentally psych myself for the Aikido class ahead. It is no longer as simple as a bodily bow. when I bow my body, I let my mind settle on mindfulness of a couple of things, matters, situation people I care about or have came into my awareness.

I’ve long learned that the ‘beginner’s mind’ for me is to constantly return to the basic human fundamentals, my humility, my connection to the earth, my connection to people, to myself. Nowadays we are so connected to external devices that we no longer connect inside of us. and we continue to chase what is outside, using our precious energy in us to do that senseless chasing.

Bowing before class starts is like a recharge for me. I divorced myself of all those things that bothers me, and reconnects with the inside of me which is the more sustainable part, the more silent and deep part, where my wisdom resides. With a deep and long bow, I can connect and find the energy and calmness to handle class, the patience to deal with things.

First posted: September 23, 2015