theaikidad

Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

Are you able to let go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aikido as an art of self defense

Many, many people sell Aikido as a self defense martial art. Even Harry sensei likes to use this cliche. That Aikido is an art that you can use to defend yourself in the unfortunate event of a combat. Or if you get mugged, or raped, or life and death situation.

Let’s be frank, in that kind of situation, anything, and I mean anything works. Beer bottles, claw, nails, wedding rings, scratch, kick, scream. In a real situation, in a fight, it is Applied Martial Arts, and anything goes to preserve life, mainly yours.

“Aikido is an art of self protection.”

I was struck with this epiphany. Aikido is a self protection art. You strive to ‘protect’ the self, which is a very different wordplay from ‘defense’. Protection is active, defense is reactive. You defend against something. You protect something. Defense is implied as a win/lose, attack/defend duality. something has to happen to justify a defense. When you protect, you simply protect, you can extend that range of protection, or you can protect others so that you protect self. You can collaborate with others to form a collective act of protect.

You do not have to wait for an attack to happen, before you protect. If you know the attack will be coming, you will protect your assailant, by preventing the attack from happening, because once the act of attack is initiated, it will only result in a consequence of attrition, everyone will get hurt.

Protection ironically is not about the self, but the world at large. We want to protect the ecosystem, we want to protect mother nature, we want to protect our loved ones, because in protecting these ‘extrinsic’ elements, it justifies our existence. If we fail to protect our loved ones and the person’s life is lost, what good is an art of ‘self defense’? When those people who validates our lives gets wiped out, what can a self defense system do? You need to protect them from harm, sometimes even at the expense of your own life.

This is the true meaning of Aikido, and I’d dare say, martial arts. You are willing to go the extra to protect what matters, sometimes you give up your resources to allow others to be protected. When you understand the concept of protection in a martial arts, you will readily give up your life to protect others, so that others may live. It is not an act of courage, but simply acting in the true spirit of Budo. Understanding why we must protect others to protect self, will bring you down to the most humble and harmless level, you will totally disarm yourself, and no one will be able to muster the ability to hurt you, because you can protect them from harm, and protect them from harming themselves.

If we think that the person can hurt us, then they can hurt us, and in order for us to prevent that, we will revert to self defense, in an attempt to protect us, but by then it is too late as we would have fallen into the duality of attack and defense. There is no opposite in the true spirit of protection. With our capability as human beings we can protect a lot of things without having to defend them from attack.

“self protection is about equilibrium”

Always remember, self protection is about equilibrium, we can protect ourselves and others, we do not need to worry about the various, immeasurable varieties of attacks, you simply protect. Attack and defense will swing, protection does not. You can offer protection longer than you can defend or attack. But protection needs the development of courage, having no fear or favour to attacks and defense, you come up with a quiet confidence to just protect, giving up attacking and defending for something more sophisticated and superior

Many, many people sell Aikido as a self defense martial art. Even Harry sensei likes to use this cliche. That Aikido is an art that you can use to defend yourself in the unfortunate event of a combat. Or if you get mugged, or raped, or life and death situation.

Let’s be frank, in that kind of situation, anything, and I mean anything works. Beer bottles, claw, nails, wedding rings, scratch, kick, scream. In a real situation, in a fight, it is Applied Martial Arts, and anything goes to preserve life, mainly yours.

“Aikido is an art of self protection.”

I was struck with this epiphany. Aikido is a self protection art. You strive to ‘protect’ the self, which is a very different wordplay from ‘defense’. Protection is active, defense is reactive. You defend against something. You protect something. Defense is implied as a win/lose, attack/defend duality. something has to happen to justify a defense. When you protect, you simply protect, you can extend that range of protection, or you can protect others so that you protect self. You can collaborate with others to form a collective act of protect.

You do not have to wait for an attack to happen, before you protect. If you know the attack will be coming, you will protect your assailant, by preventing the attack from happening, because once the act of attack is initiated, it will only result in a consequence of attrition, everyone will get hurt.

Protection ironically is not about the self, but the world at large. We want to protect the ecosystem, we want to protect mother nature, we want to protect our loved ones, because in protecting these ‘extrinsic’ elements, it justifies our existence. If we fail to protect our loved ones and the person’s life is lost, what good is an art of ‘self defense’? When those people who validates our lives gets wiped out, what can a self defense system do? You need to protect them from harm, sometimes even at the expense of your own life.

This is the true meaning of Aikido, and I’d dare say, martial arts. You are willing to go the extra to protect what matters, sometimes you give up your resources to allow others to be protected. When you understand the concept of protection in a martial arts, you will readily give up your life to protect others, so that others may live. It is not an act of courage, but simply acting in the true spirit of Budo. Understanding why we must protect others to protect self, will bring you down to the most humble and harmless level, you will totally disarm yourself, and no one will be able to muster the ability to hurt you, because you can protect them from harm, and protect them from harming themselves.

If we think that the person can hurt us, then they can hurt us, and in order for us to prevent that, we will revert to self defense, in an attempt to protect us, but by then it is too late as we would have fallen into the duality of attack and defense. There is no opposite in the true spirit of protection. With our capability as human beings we can protect a lot of things without having to defend them from attack.
“self protection is about equilibrium”

Always remember, self protection is about equilibrium, we can protect ourselves and others, we do not need to worry about the various, immeasurable varieties of attacks, you simply protect. Attack and defense will swing, protection does not. You can offer protection longer than you can defend or attack. But protection needs the development of courage, having no fear or favour to attacks and defense, you come up with a quiet confidence to just protect, giving up attacking and defending for something more sophisticated and superior

First published: Nov 9, 2015

Writing carefully, writing slowly

pen.jpg

Dear boys,

I hope you pick up your dad’s interest in writing. Long before there is such convenience as iPads, and other forms of ‘writing’, it is a pen and paper world, for your dad, it still is, no this is not about penmanship, this is about writing, and writing carefully.

This is important because when we say something, wrong, we can quickly say another thing to correct the error, and in a conversation, which is usually fluid, and interactive, micro corrections and errors are made all the time, perceptions and opinions tested, exchanged and argued. White lies and jokes and shared, which is the staple of an open, casual, cordial banter.

Whereas for words, written, is another story altogether. When written down, what a person say can last a long time, and used over and over again, for different context and for different agenda. Sometimes the original reason for what was written, is no longer applicable, the written phrase has long outlived its purpose, it will still be used for other context and conversation.

I’m not so concerned with what is written ‘right’, I’m more concerned with what is written wrongly, it can be costly, it can come back and bite you in the near future.
I think I picked up this habit of writing carefully when I was working in the banking side. Inter-department feud happens all the time and emails are basically e-missiles you send to your fellow colleagues from the offending department to defend your stand. So you have to write your emails carefully and word it in such a manner that you don’t get the blame, and your butt is covered.

Sometimes is can be a complain case from customers and the relevant department would want to find out what went wrong, more often than not, they could be trying to find an un-noticing victim to shift the blame to. Well, that’s some of the realities of your dad’ s work. It is a chair-borne commando’s life.

So the gist of it is, I sometimes will drop whatever I’m doing to write an email, taking up to the entire morning, word them carefully, cover all grounds, all possible arguments, loop holes are covered. At the same time shifting the problem back, making sure that my department gets out of any potential melee relatively unscathed. There are things in the email conversations that are not consistent and that is where your dad zoom in bite that poor bloke and pin him/her to the fault. It is a bureaucratic minefield and while you lay your mines and others lay theirs, the last thing you want is to be killed by your own mines!

It perhaps trained me to think and write, in a responsible manner, a readable manner, avoiding blind side bias, and sometimes plain sighted ones! Things that I’m not so sure about, I’ll try to avoid putting them in word, things that I have a certain authority in, I’ll still have my disclaimer, simply because you can never know enough to know everything. And everyone’s perspective and experience is unique and different, so we can never be so sure.

In a conversation, that’s pretty much fine, in a friendly banter, our mutually unique experiences rubs off one another, be very careful, writing things down, it may seem innocent now, but may turn out to hurt other very much later.
Remember, what is written is recorded, you may write a secret dirty little journal that you think may never see the light of day, and think that others may never know about, can be leaked. When it does, you better be prepared for the consequences!

this is about writing, and writing carefully.

5 things a man look for in a wife

Dear Boys

We will almost never know who we are going to have as our spouse. It is difficult because it is as much a ‘software’ issue as it is a ‘hardware’ issue.

We are talking about endowment, mental, psychological, spiritual endowment, the ‘software’ aspect, and the boobs, height, looks, appearance, the beauty, the ‘drool’ factor-the hardware aspect.

We are visual creatures,a and admittedly, we will be attracted to physically beautiful people, that’s how the superstars of Hollywood earn their dollars. In short, we like beautiful people.

Herein lies the problem, they may look beautiful, but we want the whole package, we also want them to be beautiful people, a software issue, simply because we can never know who a person is inside.

But, we still need to settle down with a spouse. so here are some simple criteria for you boys, when you look for a wife, when you become men.

1-She takes care of her parents/elders

Well, at your average age of courtship, perhaps you will still be needing a a lot of TLC from your parents, it’s a given, but if this girl can dish out as much love as her parents give her, then you might have found yourself a gem.

If she shows respect and consideration to her elders, this is a girl with a good heart.

2- She can cook

Again, she might be too young to actually cook something of a dinner, but she is comfortable in the kitchen, she helps her mum, her aunts with the chores, she should be able to pick up the fundamentals later. In short, she is exposed to the domestic affairs in the house.

Remember, the best way to a man’s heart is his stomach, and the best girl will know the quickest fastest way there to her man’s heart.

3- She saves

My wife doing nails on her own, with one of her girls

As the saying goes, ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’, well what does that makes the husband/boyfriend then? It is alright to spend, but if she scrimps and save to buy a Michael Kors bag, buys Prada, does nice nails, and make every attempt to make herself beautiful with material things, then you might want to be vigilant. She cares more about herself than about you, or the relationship. Besides, a well manicured nails hints that the girl cannot do housework, simply because she would risk damaging her well groomed keratin. She spends too much to look too beautifully groomed to get to the housework.

If she saves for her school fees, if she saves for her own expenses, chances are she can save for the family the next time you are going to start one. How she spends her money will tell you how she saves her money.

Wife on the Treadmill

4-She has physically active lifestyle

No, I’m not talking about super athletes, well if you are one, or you found one, good for you, but please read my point 5. Being physically active doesn’t mean her gym, or yoga membership, that only shows you what she spends on. More importantly, she keeps fit, jogs, cycles, swim, the usual basic exercise. Nothing fancy, because sometime you simply have no time for fancy Zumba classes in a posh gym. And you still need to exercise, so? She is not afraid to pick up a good ‘ol trainers and go for a simple jog.

Not only that, being interested in sports and exercise helps anyone thinks better, builds better health. Heck, just don’t look for a woman who is sedentary, looks pretty, but smokes, drinks and party all night. I can live with a woman who drinks and party in her life, but smoking? It crosses my line. Period. If you got a girl who smokes, chance are you smoke too, and your dad find out your girl smoke, I’ll know you do too.

5-She treats men as her peer

Yes, many women don’t understand men, as much as men do not understand women. As much as there are Male Chauvinist Pigs, there’s the female version, The Feminist. Stay away from The Feminist as they will treat men like they are of a different breed. They are not difficult to spot. For matters about men they don’t understand, they have an expression of exasperation, roll her eyes, and exclaim with a sigh ‘Men!‘. Oh yes, men does that and simply replace it with ‘Women!’

If they don’t understand men, instead competes with men, it makes gender harmony difficult. Men are inherently competitive, we love to compete, that’s right, with other men. It is not that we cannot compete with women or vice versa, but we are looking for a spouse, not a competitor. If we compete all the time as spouse, with our spouse, then the marriage has gaps to close up.

This point is important, because if your wife treats you like peer, she will be a valuable team player. She will help you as much as she can, because if you win, the team wins. If she has a ‘that’s not my department’ attitude, then she cannot learn, she cannot cross train to take over your role if you are down. She thinks big picture, not just herself, but herself in a larger context. As your team player, she will not be afraid to speak up against you, for the betterment of the team. She will not allow her bias to get better of her, and simply write you off as ‘Men!’

First published: Nov 9, 2015 @ 07:04

Your first Aikido sensei

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Christmas 2014

Who is your first Aikido sensei? Who is my first Aikido sensei? The fellow teaching you how to turn, roll and wears a funny black pleated skirt-looking pants?

You first Aikido sensei is your parents.

Your mother showed you love, and affection, your father protects and nurtures you. They are the foundations of love and harmony that Aikido is all about.

I watch last evening as Harry sensei taught this young Aikidoka how to roll properly. As I watched, I came to this realization that he is like a father teaching his son. I can feel that because I am a father myself, and I would use the same energy, attitude, of unconditional effort, openness, hands on to teach my sons, whatever they are learning. I saw that in Harry sensei last evening, the effort, and unconditional love is the same.

It was a very profound experience as the whole relationship paradigm in my Aikido training was radically shifted. I left the class with a feeling of total awe, and more importantly a renewed sense of humility.

It was more than that.

Training with NUS students has opened another level of understanding for me. These young boys and girls, is easily 20 years my junior. And I had almost 20 years of training in Aikido. That said, what about Harry sensei, he has close to 50 years of training! He has been training long before anyone one in class was born!

So when I look at the faces of my young fellow Aikidokas, the youth is still there, the innocence are still present. I can sense that because, given another 10 years, my elder son, Ian, will be 19 years old, about that age of a NUS student.

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With Ian in Hong Kong 2011

They still carry the dreams and aspirations their parents have for them. Edna, Jia Hwee, Tri, Glenn, Jade, Darius, Cathryn, Rachel, just to name a few names, their parents gave them the names, very much like how I bestowed upon my sons, theirs. They came to class, to NUS with their parents, in spirit and in faith. Hence, you are not simply training with that person, you are training with a person who has been exposed to love and affection, with understanding and attention long before they stepped into an Aikido class. So they are an expert in their 18- 19 years of living, and me? I’m just a beginner in their lives!

That can be said for Harry sensei himself! He has parents, his parents has aspirations for him, perhaps they’d wanted him to become someone of stature, or they had other expectations, I wondered, had his parents came back and look at him now, taking a class, 6th Dan in Aikido, would that had been what they wanted from him? Certainly my parents didn’t expect me to embark in Aikido training.

More often than not, we did not choose to embark on our Aikido journey, but somehow stumbled into it, and continued because of certain circumstances that compels us to continue, it was probably one of the last thing our parents expects of us.

We need to give back, our parents has been our first Aikido sensei, and now when we learn how to love and live in harmony from someone else, we need to give this back to them, perhaps now that we’ve grown up and our parents might have thought that their kids no longer need so much love and care, but they still do care and love us, just as much, or perhaps more. Now that we are adults training in Aikido, we need to love them back. Things we learned in the dojo, we need to practise it with our parents, let them know that their love and efforts has manifested, their kids has not wasted their love and effort, well we may not be everything our parents wants us to be, but we can let them know that their love and efforts hadn’t gone to waste, their children has done fine and is now learning how to love on the foundations that they have given us.

First Published: Nov 26, 2014 6:32 AM

As of current: Harry sensei is now 7th Dan Shihan.

Over Correcting

White Belt

A couple of lessons back, a chirpy white belter, Mary asked me if what she was doing was correct, as I partnered her. I told her that just enjoy the moves, as it will be too much to correct as almost everything she is doing is ‘wrong’.

We need to understand that getting from ‘wrong’ to ‘right’ in martial arts, takes a heck of a long time, and sometimes, you will go from wrong to right and back to wrong. Personally for me, as long as the Aikidoka enjoys the moves, and stay relaxed, avoids injury, that is a decent session of Aikido.

One thing we must be careful as beginners is the penchant to over correct, we analyze over the nitty and the gritty, until we think that everything we do needs improvement! Well, duh, that is precisely why we come to the dojo right? To day by day, unlearn our habits, and learn something that is closely resembling Aikido.

…is very un-instant gratification

Nobody gets it right at the onset, so why even bother to try? It is a long arduous process that is very un-instant gratification. The more you try to get it right, the more wrong it will get, for beginners, there is only a general sense of body movement, positioning and effectively use of our strengths. the other stuffs we learn along the way.

So everytime I go to class, I will look forward to enjoying the movement, enjoying the company. Right movement will come from right attitude, and when you enjoy your movement, you will be cultivating the right attitude.

untitled.png

A couple of lessons back, a chirpy white belter, Mary asked me if what she was doing was correct, as I partnered her. I told her that just enjoy the moves, as it will be too much to correct as almost everything she is doing is ‘wrong’.
We need to understand that getting from ‘wrong’ to ‘right’ in martial arts, takes a heck of a long time, and sometimes, you will go from wrong to right and back to wrong. Personally for me, as long as the Aikidoka enjoys the moves, and stay relaxed, avoids injury, that is a decent session of Aikido.
One thing we must be careful as beginners is the penchant to over-correct, we analyze over the nitty and the gritty, until we think that everything we do needs improvement! Well, duh, that is precisely why we come to the dojo right? To day by day, unlearn our habits, and learn something that is closely resembling Aikido.

…is very un-instant gratification

Nobody gets it right at the onset, so why even bother to try? It is a long arduous process that is very un-instant gratification. The more you try to get it right, the more wrong it will get, for beginners, there is only a general sense of body movement, positioning and effectively use of our strengths. the other stuffs we learn along the way.
So every time I go to class, I will look forward to enjoying the movement, enjoying the company. Right movement will come from right attitude, and when you enjoy your movement, you will be cultivating the right attitude.

First published:  Jul 15, 2015 10:33 PM

White Belt

A couple of lessons back, a chirpy white belter, Mary asked me if what she was doing was correct, as I partnered her. I told her that just enjoy the moves, as it will be too much to correct as almost everything she is doing is ‘wrong’.

We need to understand that getting from ‘wrong’ to ‘right’ in martial arts, takes a heck of a long time, and sometimes, you will go from wrong to right and back to wrong. Personally for me, as long as the Aikidoka enjoys the moves, and stay relaxed, avoids injury, that is a decent session of Aikido.

One thing we must be careful as beginners is the penchant to over correct, we analyze over the nitty and the gritty, until we think that everything we do needs improvement! Well, duh, that is precisely why we come to the dojo right? To day by day, unlearn our habits, and learn something that is closely resembling Aikido.

…is very un-instant gratification

Nobody gets it right at the onset, so why even bother to try? It is a long arduous process that is very un-instant gratification. The more you try to get it right, the more wrong it will get, for beginners, there is only a general sense of body movement, positioning and effectively use of our strengths. the other stuffs we learn along the way.

So everytime I go to class, I will look forward to enjoying the movement, enjoying the company. Right movement will come from right attitude, and when you enjoy your movement, you will be cultivating the right attitude.