The expanding sphere

The expanding sphere

Aikido is a close combat art. It works best when you are closest to your partner. And the paradox is that in order for you to get close to your partner, you need to expand.

What is ‘expand’? Some calls it ‘extension’, or using your ‘ki’. Simply put it, it is putting your thought in a sphere which is rotating round and round, out and out. When you expand, your energy is perpetual, when you contracts, your energy will diminish.

Expanding energy is not a linear propulsion. Nothing works in a straight line, everything as a rotational and spherical phenomenon. You need to see beyond the lines to see the circular energy in action. And all positive circular energy radiates outwards.

An attacking energy can be loosely classified as ‘negative’. There is an intent and once that intent is fixed, it is closed, and concentrated. To effectively deal with a fixed, closed and concentrated intent is a long, open and dissipated trajectory.

You bring your attacker out and round and round, ever expanding. The more you expand, the harder your attacker will try to hold onto the fixed, closed and concentrated intent. But as long as you are travelling and expanding, your attacker’s original intent will be lost. Plainly speaking, he is point A, attacking your point B, but you bring him to ‘C’, ‘D’ ‘E’ and ‘F’ then back to ‘B’. By then the point of origin will no longer hold relevance in the attack or the energy of the attack will be exhausted by the round, long circular movement. It will capitulate at its own peril.

Expanding will also allow you to see a bigger picture than the attacker. It allows you to check your blind spot, check your back, check for other attackers. Expansion also allows you to dissipate your own anger, your own doubt and your own closed perception. Expanding is opening a massive gate in which both you and your attacker can enter with ease. When you close, you will struggle in a phenomenon of scarcity only which one will prevail. Aikido is an art for all to prevail. The best way to do so is to expand your energy.

Published: February 4, 2014

Aikido teaches us to be nice

I was hit by an epiphany.

All I really learned from Aikido was to be nice to myself and to be nice to other people. That means you do not take advantage of people when they are down, or injured.

It is probably the only martial arts that does that. You really have to treat your partner with respect and preserve your partner’s well being so as to make sure he or she turns up for training the next time!

Those who are movie buffs would have remembered the climax scene from both the original as well as the latest version of The Karate Kid. In both movies, we have the bad guys fighting Ralph Macchio or Jaden Smith. Both of them were severely injured no thanks to the bad guys and, the bad guys capitalised on the injuries.

Well, that is life, you can put it that way, survival of the fittest.

If you are in a Kumite and it is the championship round, you know your opponent is probably nursing a cracked rib from his previous bout, would you have decide to not to attack his cracked rib, or you would go specifically for the wounded area, so as to incapacitate him and win the bout?

As far as where I am practicing, when my partner is injured, or I have knowledge that there are some injuries, I’d be mindful not to further aggravate that injury. It is not me being noble, it is something I see happening in Aikido; your partner will take care of you, if you need to train when you are injured. There is a genuine level of care, we want our partners to be well.

I think we all go to our dojo, ‘wounded’ one way or another, and if we are conditioned to compete for a win, foresaking our opponent’s vulnerability, we are also foresaking our own vulnerabilities. If we cannot help our partners heal their wound, we cannot open ourselves to help from others, to help us heal our wound.

I’d like to go to a dojo, knowing that I can be myself, that my fellow students will take care of me. instead of going to a dojo with a brave front, hiding my injuries, so that I will not be taken advantage of. It is a lot harder for me to learn in such an environment.

Published: January 26, 2015

Finders, Keeper

Finders, Keeper

“Mummy! Papa found a two dollar!”

“Mummy! Papa found a two dollar!”

Ian bellowed across the supermarket aisle at the frozen section.

Dear Ian,

Sometimes it is not the best way to tell people about your serendipitous wealth.

The Law of Finder’s Keepers.

Your mum told me about something like this when she was about 5, your little brother’s age. She was with her mum, on a Sunday going to the market, her mum was walking in front, when your mum was blocked by a $50 note lying on the ground in front of her.

She too shouted for her mum. This time she said: “There’s a $50 on the ground!” repeatedly, whilst her mum was gesturing repeatedly at her to pick it up and shut her gap.

She did, pick up the wet note and her mum took it away from her.

That was her.

For us, I saw the lonely $2 on the floor, unbelievably, no one saw it, and it is not as if the aisle is vacated. I walked a pick it up and kept it, of course. But not without Ian telling the whole world your dad’s keeps.

Well, boys, it isn’t the easiest thing to do as to explain the law of such finds. I mean, what is someone walks up and say, hey that is my $2! What can I say? What can you say?

This is one of life’s grey area, there is no right no wrong to it, but you cannot simply just leave the $2 buck on the floor! If you don’t pick it up, someone else would and guess what, finders, keepers!

Published: October 7, 2014

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

Dear Ian,

One thing we learned in our planning is that we need a lot of communication, constant talk, and making sure that we communicate our expectations, goals, obstacles, challenges, adversaries and friends. This kind of communication is important all round, because it helps you keep close, tactical, on the ground tab on what is happening and if you would be able to meet your goals as planned.

This communication is starts with yourself!

Self talk has a lot of taboo. People thinks that people who talks to themselves, sometimes a bit too loudly, are crazy people. Well, your dad is one of those crazy people. When I was younger, I would break out into a crazy dance when I’m in the mood with a song.

Then again, I learned that self talk can bring out a different creature in you!

I used to scold myself, and belittle myself, with a lot of profanities and vulgarities. Constantly playing the role of a ‘Drill Sergeant’ to myself, nothing I did for myself was good enough, and everything I did was bad enough for a string of profanities, all aimed at myself.

Then as I grew older, I learned to love myself more, accept me for who I am and the things I can do and cannot do. Well you call that maturity, I call that meeting reality once too many times!

The bottom line is this, you have to have constant objective feedback to yourself, is your plans working, is your goals achievable and is what you are currently doing helping you work your ways towards your goals? you have a chance to learn and get exposed to many things I only learned in my twenties. You have a head start, and you need to tell yourself that you have an advantage over your dad’s generation and you need to work hard to make sure that you use that edge!

Please talk to yourself more, make yourself your own best friend, and learn to negotiate with your own expectations. And make sure that you talk to yourself in the best possible language.

Published: December 30, 2014

Easy being difficult

Dear Boys,

You will come to a point in time, where you have to decide, with discipline on proceeding to do something worthwhile on a long consistent basis.

The difficulty in such an endeavor is how deceptively easy it will look, and you will be lulled into thinking at easily said, easily done. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

It is the easy things that will trick you into the difficult.

Nothing is really hard to do, if we put our mind to it, we can break hard things down into easy parts and do them. But sometimes, doing exactly that is the most counter productive thing.

When things seem easy to do, ironically, we have lesser motivations to do them. Simply because they are easy to do!

There is, (pun intended) no easy way out of this. You have to remain ever vigilant for the easy stuffs. and do them, condition your mind to do them, do things, accomplish things, irrespective if they are easy or not. Try not to brand things, as ‘easy’ or ‘hard’. Things are never ‘easy’ and never very ‘hard’. you just need to stay focused and get them done.

First posted February 26, 2014

National Service

Dear Boys.

I’ve completed my national service!

In case you do not have National Service in the not-so-distant future, it is basically a mandatory service all young men have to perform, in one of the few uniformed service, such as the Police Force, Civil Defence, or the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) branch like, Navy, Air Force or the Army.

I was in the Army, and since I was enlisted at the age of 18, more than 21 years ago, my vocation has always been a Regimental Policeman (RP), and right now, the SAF called it ‘Security Trooper’ just another name for military security guard.

In total, looking back, I spent more than 2 decades on this, 2 years as a full time NSF, and 7 years in hiatus, before being called up at the age of 27 to serve in this battalion for the next 12 years.

Since then a couple of things has changed.

The camouflaged uniform as went from ‘patches’ to ‘pixels

image.img
P_20150315_230054

The weapons went from M-16 to SAR-21

M-16
SAR 21

The Trucks went from a 3 tonner to a 5 tonner

3 tonner
5 tonner

My Camp went from Portsdown Camp to the modern Kranji Camp 3.

There is a lot more military ranks other than the usual Officers, specialists, and Warrant Officers. The SAF introduced something call ‘ME’- better known as ‘Military Experts’ rank.

The food at the cookhouse was also different. In my NSF time, there were actually cooks as a military vocations, now, the eating part of it has been totally outsourced, first to Singapore Food Industries (SFI) and now the later part SATS Food, the food used to be nutritionally bland, now at least there are occasional Ice-Creams and other yummy desserts.

But one thing didn’t change.

The attitude towards National Service, since it is a kind of mandatory duty, many people, including myself, sees it as a waste of time. It does not really add value to our civilian life, and more often than not, it is more of an inconvenience. Well to me, being some kind of a military bluff, I don’t mind it, but more importantly, I went with the flow and was discharging my duties in the least best way. well, I did the minimum, there are others, who did less than the minimum, bordering malingering.

After 21 years dabbling in civilian soldiering, one thing finally changed in me.

I begin to realise that you can still do good in a very bad situation. I can either choose to see it as a waste of time, and waste time, hence fulfilling a prophecy, or begin to do something good. Since this was my last ICT, I decide to do something different.

Network

I’ve been in the battalion for the past 12 years, I literally grew up with it. There are people I know that the newer NSmen wouldn’t know, processes and screw ups I’ve seen that gives me the confidence and maturity to handle a complicated situation. I also have a well established network of strangers turned friends. I know storemen, officers, Regimental Sergeant Majors (RSM), trainers, specialists and other new players to make my ICT experience better than those who just joined the battalion. Since I am leaving, I told my chums to take care of the new batches of RPs.

Doing more

Nobody, I mean absolutely nobody would want to ‘volunteer’ in the military, more often than not you get ‘volunteered’ to do something. This time, when my RSM tasked me to delegate a duty to one of my fellow RPs, I took on the task myself, and called upon a few other friends. I didn’t have a habit of volunteering people, so I volunteered myself, and it was a good experience, I learned a couple of more things through my willingness to take on a little more duties.

Can do attitude in a can’t do place

Admittedly, I do not have that. I wasn’t can do, but I just want things to be done, and been in there for so long, I know how things should be done, and I did it, my way, how it should be done. I realised that given all the rigidity in the military, as long as you prove that you can do it, you’d be left to do it on your own, with resources at your disposal. Of course, if you choose to cannot do it, then it cannot be done, with certainty!

On a high note

I’m quite thankful that I ended my last ICT on a high note, There was a Change of Command (CoC) for my battalion RSM, and the good got better, the outgoing Master Warrant Officer Chia was replaced by an Afghan-deployed 1st Warrant Officer Ang, he is a solid, albeit funny professional soldier, very approachable, very people-soldier. I left the unit with Major Sim at the helm, a fantastic Commanding Officer, the best out of the three that commanded the unit. I got a best soldier award on my last in camp, what else can I ask for?

(Pictures are sourced from Google. Picture of pixelised uniform belongs to me)

First posted March 16, 2015

Leftovers

Leftovers
bento

Dear Ian,

This evening, we ordered a salmon/ chicken bento set for your dinner. You ate your fill and you wanted me to finish off the rest. There was a piece of chicken left and you wanted to eat that up first before passing your rice to me.

And I asked you, ‘You want your father to eat plain rice?’

To which you rationalized, ‘No’, you are going to leave the soup for me as well. In fact you are going to put some soup into the rice so that I can have the soup and the rice.

I was a little sad and disappointed.

Technically you are going to leave me with a porridge, while you eat up all the salmon and chicken, albeit the last piece, after you said that you are too full to finish everything. So you finished the best of everything and leave your dad soup and rice. Have we ever only given you soup and rice?

I raised to you the issues of morals. We do not want to raise kids that has the best of everything and leave the least of everything for other people. More importantly, I do not want you and your brother to pick this habit up and do it to your grandparents. They will eat everything you boys cannot finish and they will not say a word about it, this is because they both love you in their own special way.

So I have to put a foot to it. While I certainly do not mind eating only rice and soup, but I need you to understand, you cannot treat people like this, this is plain selfish, me, me, me, mentality. You cannot take the best and give others the least. We do not do that to you, please don’t do it to us, please don;t do this to others.

You are going to get the best the world can ever provide, but what are you going to give back in return? You will always get the best resources. we will never give you leftovers, if we can help it. We will always think in your best interests, any decent parents would do that for their children, we just need you to understand that you have to, give back, a decent level of respect to your elders. to your grandparents, to those around you. you cannot take all that is good for yourself and leave whatever is left for others. This is not how we want to bring you up.

First posted Mar 29, 2015

5 Advantages of Being Married

5 Advantages of Being Married

Dear Boys,

I’m married, of course I ‘sell’ and advocate marriage. We are all our own product ambassadors, if I’m not happily married, I won’t sell it. If I like being single, then I’ll find every damn reason there is to justify my single-ness.

Anyway here is my 5 advantages of being married.

1-You build a bigger network of extended relatives.

Humans like all organisms, are network-centric. We need to continue to grow and develop our high trust network. The easiest quickest way is to get married, suddenly all your spouse’s relatives becomes your in-laws, and obligated by the by-laws to help you, and make your aspirations successful.Think medieval times, why kings and warlords marry off their children to secure lands and power.

Who knows, your spouse might have a rich multi-billionaire uncle with a couple of million to spare for you to do business get rich?

2- You can be safe with members of the opposite gender.

Sometimes you need to work with really smart people and really beautiful people to do really smart and beautiful things, and in order to avoid mixing pleasure with business; your wedding band, spouse photo in your wallet, are ideal shields against such unwanted solicitation, attractions and distractions.

Sure some singles out there consider married individuals as fair game or even premium, then you need to hold true to your marriage oath ‘forsaking all others’. If you don’t, then you are just another two timing scum.

3- You get economies of scale

Sometimes, produce and products are better consumed in large quantities. A quart of ice-cream, shared, are calories halved. You can also go into restaurants and order 2 different items off the menu and then share, so that both gets a varied taste of the eatery.

Or if you’re too full to eat, you can always get your significant other to finish off the meal.

4-You can do crazy stupid things, without the fear of being seen as crazy and stupid

Who says only singles do crazy stupid things? Married folks can also do crazier, stupider things, all without having to seek attention. You’re married, you no longer have to seek attention, you do crazy stupid things, because you simply love doing crazy stupid things, without having to get anyone’s acceptance, other than that of your spouse.

5- You get instant maturity.

This is not funny. Choosing to spend the rest of your life with just one person, when there are more than 6 billion other alternative human beings; that takes courage or sheer idiocy (or both). And living with another human being by choice, warts and all takes a certain level of perspective, personal growth and growing up.

Taking care of another person for life, and having another person taking care of you for life is not a joke. There are responsibilities beyond that of an individual in the single-hood realm. When you tell people you are married, you get instantly upgraded up the social ladder, people will think that you have the maturity to be some kind of marriage expert and elevate you to be one. Your opinions will carry weight and what you say as a married person will be generally considered to be worth something.

First posted Dec 13 2015

Loss and love on the journey to parenthood

Mum and dad were a long time waiting before this baby girl finally arrived last week

PUBLISHED ON MAR 15, 2015 3:45 PM

https://static1.straitstimes.com.sg/s3fs-public/styles/large30x20/public/articles/2015/03/15/ST_20150315_BABY15_1141852e_2x.jpg?VersionId=EQubjjdkQCrsZmP2Nq8.13F9JINbcIZr&itok=rLt6Ce8_

BY LI XUEYING HONG KONG CORRESPONDENT

As a young reporter 11 years ago, I wrote about an alarming trend: The number of miscarriages in Singapore was going up, up and up.

I got the statistics, spoke to a woman who had experienced a miscarriage, interviewed five doctors and probed a politician on possible ways to address the problem.

It was an assignment to me, a story to be done before I moved on to the next.

A decade on, the issue became personal. Within six months, I had not one, but two miscarriages.

In May 2013, I found out that I was pregnant. It was unplanned but my husband and I, after some initial adjustment, were thrilled.

After all, we had been married for four years but somehow life had got in the way of making space for children: I went overseas to do a master’s degree, then waited for a posting as a foreign correspondent. I was then 34, just a year from being defined as a geriatric mother – or what doctors call a woman of advanced maternal age.

We saw a doctor in Hong Kong where we were now based. He did a scan.

Congratulations, he said. There was a gestational sac – the first sign of pregnancy but no yolk or heartbeat. But that’s normal, he declared. It’s early days yet.

We returned to Singapore for a break and as a surprise to our best friends who had just had a baby. We popped champagne and I had an illicit sip, a toast to the new addition to our group as well as the embryo growing – I thought – inside me.

Back in Hong Kong, we went back to the clinic. The news was not good this time. The sac had not expanded, which meant the pregnancy was not progressing as it should. I’m sorry, said the doctor.

We were upset, of course.

But I sought comfort in research and statistics, including the ones I had cited in my own article from years before. One in five known pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Some of us, I told my husband and myself philosophically, just have to make up the numbers.

We decided I would have the procedure “to clean up” at the public hospital. Like many others who had miscarriages, we told few people. I explained to my office that I had to take a few days off work for a “medical procedure” and left it at that. In hospital, I finished Salman Rushdie’s new memoir Joseph Anton and kept tabs on the Edward Snowden saga then unfolding in Hong Kong.

But my husband and I had changed. Within just two short weeks of being pregnant, our world had shifted. We had begun to plan and dream, to think of what it would be like to be parents, from how we would dress the child to what values we would impart.

Two months later, I conceived again. This time, we were not so innocent in our joy. We waited till we saw the heartbeat on the ultrasound screen twice – a red dot pulsating amid a mass of variegated greys and blacks – before we told our parents.

On our third visit, when I was about 11 weeks along, I complained of slight abdominal cramps. Probably just ligament pains as the uterus stretches, the doctor – a different one – reassured me as she moved a transducer over my belly.

My husband, reaching out for his camera to take a photo of the screen, stilled. It was all darkness. The heartbeat had stopped.

This time, there was little bravado left in us. We opted for a private hospital where I would have a dilation and curettage operation that night.

We shared a room with a Hong Kong couple in their early 20s, who we gathered were there for an abortion and were placed in the awkward situation of having to listen to me tearfully break the news to my mum over the phone.

They went first. As they left, the young man whispered: “We’re sorry.”

Our turn came. In the operating room, my doctor, her pearl necklace shimmering from her surgical scrubs, loomed over me. Later, as I emerged from the haze of general anaesthesia, I blearily asked her: “Did you see if it was a boy or a girl?” She shook her head gently at me.

Silly me. It was all scraped up and sucked out.

Medically, recurrent pregnancy loss is defined as more than two miscarriages in a row. We were two strikes down, one more to go. But as anyone who has gone through miscarriage will know – and without meaning to diminish the pain for those who suffered even more loss – one is one too many.

So we went through test after test searching for causes. Nothing stood out. The only certainty, said the doctor, was my age. Fact is, old eggs are old, which means a higher risk that embryos with genetic abnormalities are incubated.

That there was all this uncertainty made it harder.

It was an invisible grief. We returned to work, looking the same on the outside but bereft within.

There had been no wake, no funeral, no body to be buried. We did not even know what to call our losses – technically they were not babies; the first was “just” an embryo while the second was “old enough” to be a foetus.

I grappled with my feelings. Somehow, society speaks of miscarriages in hushed tones – the word itself seems to suggest some kind of responsibility on the part of women who “mis-carry” their children. See how we use the word when we describe legal travesties as a “miscarriage of justice”.

The fact is, why miscarriages happen is often shrouded in mystery, and most times, say doctors, they are beyond one’s control. Yet, the secrecy surrounding it leaves much ignorance about the issue.

For many, what we know of miscarriages is what we have seen on television – a woman falling down and ending up with blood on her thighs.

Is it any wonder that many who have gone through it choose to keep silent?

I was fortunate to have family and close friends who gave us enormous support.

My husband and I certainly were not ashamed of what had happened. But we were in pain and we were not sure talking incessantly about it would help.

Furthermore, what could we expect people to say except an awkward “I’m sorry”? Unlike for other bereavement, there is no social ritual for coping with this particular kind of death.

Yet, I did feel an irrational resentment that not more people knew of our losses. It was not exactly sympathy I wanted. It was recognition, I think, that a loss from a miscarriage was felt as keenly as any other.

And, I wonder, if more speak more openly of their experiences, would those who have experienced the same pain feel less alone?

It is a personal issue, and different people will feel differently.

In all honesty, I began writing this only as my husband and I were waiting to welcome our daughter.

Kei An, weighing 3.25kg, measuring 49cm and boasting a nose like her father’s, finally arrived last Tuesday, six days past her due date.

Without the hope she represents, I am not sure I could write about our past losses.

But what I do know is that as my husband and I get to know this little one, we will also remember our other babies gone before her.

xueying@sph.com.sg

– See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/opinion/more-opinion-stories/story/loss-and-love-the-journey-parenthood-20150315#xtor=CS1-10

(Published with kind permission from Xue Ying; Thank you!)