Taking classes

I think it is a matter of time I have to start conducting classes. My Sempai, Han Tiong has ‘retired’ from teaching NUS’s Friday Aikido class, and the job now falls on the next in line, primarily Foo, Luke then me.

Harry sensei made it very public on an evening sometime back, that only Foo and Luke was to take class, and when clarified, Harry sensei specifically mentioned that there will be on exceptions. Frankly I was a tad disappointed, admittedly, taking a class bodes well for my ego, which mean I have more work to be done, before I evolved to overcome my egotistical persona.

The reality is that sometimes, both Foo and Luke will get held up with work, and occasionally, I will have to stand in and take a Friday class, now and then. Of course this was done with full consent and knowledge from my sensei, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. He has to know and give his blessings then I will take the class. Its the way order is held and preserved, I have to respect my sensei’s decision, even when his decision is not in my favour.

Primarily I want to break the myth of Aikido, as a martial art. because, it is really not about fighting, opposing will. Imposing your victory over your opponent. I want to look at it from a relational view, because Aikido is a PhD in Applied Social Science. If you get into a fight, there is very little in an Aikido curriculum that can help you ‘win’ the fight. but there is plenty in an Aikido curriculum for you to stay centered in an explosive, emotionally charged situation and come out of that preserving the peace.

My obsession is the Uke. Other than Harry sensei, the next most senior belt in NUS is me, it’s not a brag, usually it is a fact, and I trained and learned the most being Harry sensei’s Uke. And for any Aikido technique to be performed safely, the Uke has to be trained to receive, and to receive well. The junior belts as Ukes are usually too soft with the grip or they do a ‘death grip’. either way compromises the movement and the relationship between the Uke and Nage. So I take pains to explain that an ‘attack’ from an Uke is not really an ‘attack’ in the strictest sense. If the Uke give too much as to hold on too tightly, then the uke has given away too much. And if the uke doesn’t hold tight and chooses a loose grip, the Uke will not be able to receive what the Nage has to offer. The relationship between the Uke and Nage, changes constantly and I’m quite drawn to making sure the Uke catches the Nage with the right amount of grip, with a proper distance, and appropriate spirit, so that everyone can enjoy the exercise.

My other focus is on the core muscles, the back and abs. the torso down to the hips, where both power and stability resides. Once you are physically comfortable and centered, you can think straight, get into a superior position, all without provoking a fight. Once you lean too much forward, you can be read as being aggressive. and leaning to much back, will invite people to attack you as a sign of weakness. the posture has to be centered and balanced, so the core muscles is paramount to delivering that body language.

There are also some funny things I do that is not the actual sanctioned Aikido moves, this is in hopes to keep the class interesting and also allows me to inject some creativity into the class. I think the feedback I get from some hearsay is that Foo does the class in a typical Aikido sense, following structure and form, Luke adds a bit more realism to the class, and me? I heard that I’m non-typical and my technique ain’t the cleanest, book perfect type. Heck, I’m having fun, and I certainly hope the students in my class have fun too!

First Published: September 4, 2015 

Who would you hurt?

Imagine, you are the most skilled martial artist in the world, you have mastered Karate, MMA, Judo, Boxing, Muay Thai, and other lethal martial arts. You certain can kill someone with your moves!

Who is the first person you’ll end up hurting first, other than yourself?

Chances are, you will end up hitting and hurting your loved ones. People you care about, your wife, your husband, you kid, your training partner, your sparring partner, your colleague, your drinking friends. Almost towards the last of your list, are strangers, criminals, mafia, Jason Bourne, James Bond, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise and the neighborhood cat.

“We need to be the centre of calm in a very volatile situation.”

It happened to me and I will never forget it. My elder brother and I got in to a very heat argument when we were very young then. If I remembered correctly I was in my early twenties. I was so pissed that I wanted to leave home, the anger was simmering and I wasn’t really out to hurt anyone, I just want to get away, for good.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My elder brother, another extremely hot headed and irrational guy, held me back as I reached for the gates. He restrained me from getting away, and I snapped; turned around and punched him, once, hard, on his chest. I will never forget the sound he made, when his brother, me, hit him. The sound of the hurt I inflicted on him, made me very very reluctant to hit another person like that.

Okay, call me a softie, that’s fine. I really didn’t like him, much less love him. I still don’t. But that served a reminder to me, that I will hurt the people closest to me. It is a statistically given fact, we interact more and on a higher level with people we know than with people we don’t know. well, duh. So people close to us will see us, good, bad and the ugly, warts and all. they will rub us the wrong way and we might end up fighting them.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Isn’t that ironic? We always know our loved ones deeply, we often use that intimate knowledge to hurt them, instead of using it to love them more. Or they might have unwittingly done something that hurt us, and we instinctively want to hurt them back.

Take another hypothetical example. Your very very drunk and emotionally unstable friend, who got aggressive, and take a swing towards anything, anyone close enough. You are that person, will you block the punch and snap a front kick to take him out, or will you enter (irimi) to his side, control him with an Ikkyo, and assert authority over him, and make sure he do not embarrass himself further? Use a circular motion to diffuse the tension, to dissipate the anger. We need to be the centre of calm in a very volatile situation.

Aikido gives us that skill to end a very violent situation peacefully. More important, it cultivates the wisdom in us to help us see beyond violence, the violent person has a very good nature, and when he or she has sufficiently calmed down, the person is actually a very reasonable person.  Well, under duress, we are all dumbassess. But in a stressful situation, we only need one dumbass, the other person has to have some good sense to stop the dumbass from becoming a bigger dumbass.

First Published: October 1, 2015

Wayne’s little insecurity

Wayne’s little insecurity
Wayne trying to cycle
Wayne trying to cycle

Dear Wayne,

Watching you develop as our youngest family member can be very endearing and frustrating at the same time. You have a very light frame, very much like you dad. Small and punch size, you naturally have to fight harder for your fair share of existence.

Of late, I noticed that you have a certain disdain for bicycling. We went for a night supper a couple of weeks back, and we all agreed that, mum and dad will jog, you and your big brother will cycle. You refused to, using all sorts of excuse. Saying that you will be slow and you’ll be left behind. We constantly assured you that we will not, to no avail, you refused to budge from your stand.

I know how you feel, son, you have your smallish kiddy bike, with training wheels on, you don’t look very cool when your big brother’s bike is bigger and he is already riding on 2 wheels. You look inferior compared to him. Riding bike has somehow become your weakness, and you didn’t want the world to know.

Your weakness is not a weakness to us.

You see, son, there is no weakness to show in this family. We are one, your brother loves you and so does your dad and mum. We will not leave you behind no matter what. Your weakness is not a weakness to us.

Wayne on his bike
Wayne on his bike

This will something that you have to deal with when you grow older, handling your insecurity, your weakness. Always bear in mind, you have a family, we are family. We will help you, and even if you are struggling and stubbornly decline help, we will still help you. We will help you even if you don’t ask for our help, because that is what family is all about. You don’t have to fight your insecurities alone.

We tried to teach you to ride on 2 wheels some time back but it was tough, you made it tougher for us to teach you as you constantly self sabotage yourself, by purposely falling, pretending that it is harder than it really is. We didn’t push it, but I think the hardship has been etched already, you associate bicycle as your weakness.

You are a kid that cannot be rushed. you will do it, and you will do it well, when you want to. So I am not pushing you to learn to ride a bicycle on 2 wheels. You take your time, there are people who goes through life not knowing how to ride a bike, which is fine, so I’m not going to rush you.

your bicycles
You and your brother’s bicycles

More importantly, please don’t make your challenges your weakness. I hope by the time you are old enough to read this, you can find enough in you to face your obstacles and overcome them. We are humans, and we are born to overcome challenges. You possesses enough will and tenacity, we have seen it in you, but you’ve choose to use these values as inertia instead of a source of motivation. We need to correct this in time to come.

First published: June 26, 2015

Sparing the rod

Source from Google
Source from Google

Dear boys,

I’ve spared the rod, a few months back, did I spoil the child?

Frankly, I don’t think so, to begin with, looking back, it was not the wisest thing to do, caning you boys for the mistakes you both made, and of course the mischief you boys do.

The use of the rod has long outlived its purpose, and the reason I continued to use it is that I hadn’t found another method to replace it. Admittedly, it is somewhat like an addiction. And since it worked so well before, it will continue to work well now and into the future, when in reality it has long outlived its usefulness.

To be honest, your dad then was too immature to handle the 2 of you. It was a dark learning process for all of us. When I wield the cane, the rage compliments the pain it dispense, unfortunately you both bear much of the brunt. And now looking back, much of the caning was quite unnecessary, uncalled for. I just didn’t have enough patience wisdom and good in between my ears to handle your misdeeds appropriately.

Everything that should happen the way it should happen, on hindsight, that is where regret resides. But I justified it shallowly by saying, my parents cane me and I turned out alright! I fell victim to the ‘spare the rod, and spoil the child!’ Argument, and defended using the rod, since i was part of its indoctrination, so I’d indoctrinate my kiddos the same why, it didn’t hurt me that much, and it sure as hell will not hurt my kiddos more that it hurt me, but the truth is, it hurts me having to resort to caning.

There is a better way than this.

Using the cane, honestly limits me. Limits my options to educate and teach you decently. In defense of using the rod, every problem becomes a nail because the only tool I got was a hammer. Any misbehavior will almost always result in the cane being deployed. And I justified it with shallow reasons every time, while that little voice in me tells me otherwise. ‘There is a better way than this.

There is indeed a better way to do this, but it requires a lot more patience, love, understanding, time and more patience, love, understanding and time. I have to find ways to educate the both of you on what was done wrong, what needs to be done right, and how the punishment needs to be met. There is a lot more reasoning involved, and while I do lose my temper due to the insolence of you both, I screamed and threatened, but never spanked again.

So did the earlier days of spanking helped made the both of you the way you are today? I do think so, as I’d like to see things in a positive perspective, no matter how dark it was before. I just feel that the spanking was a little too much, too overdue.

The beauty of you boys are your innocence, right now as we walked forward, and putting those caning days further and further in the past, I can see that you both are just as sensible and mischievous as before, I honestly do not expect the both of you to forget those emotionally heavy and intense days of being caned. I hope I hadn’t cane you both so badly to become emotionally scarred by the experience. And from the looks of it, no, you boys remembered the caning but no in a horrified ways. For that I’m thankful that both of you are resilient in such manner.

When you boys have kiddos of your own, I hope I’ll still be around to tell you how unnecessary it is to cane them. I hope I’ll live long enough not to protect them from your caning, but to protect you from your children’s mischief. And when you have to punish them for their misdeeds, let’s do it together, in a much more mature and novel way, sans the cane.

First Published: July 25, 2015

A Pair of Foam Dinosaurs

A Pair of Foam Dinosaurs
Foam Dinosaurs
T-Rex belonged to Ian, and the Diplodocus belonged to Wayne

Dear Boys,

As kids you will be able to make the most in-animated items as fun as any toys. Having siblings helped I guess. When you bounce of the most ridiculous ideas off each other, anything can come alive.

We got you these pair of foam dinosaurs from the Science Centre (www.science.edu.sg), when we went for the Titans of the Past Exhibition. I mean, as your dad, and as an adult, it is simply a foam cut outline of a Dinosaur. Not to the both of you.

Wayne with his Diplodocus

Throughout the journey back from Jurong home, we’d expect Wayne to fall asleep on the train, since you 2 looked beat from the whole day of fun. But no, you boys were playing and playing with your foam Dinos all the way back! There was so much things a T-Rex can tell a Diplodocus! Well, Seeing how friendly T-Rex was to  the Diplodocus was interesting, because in the Dinosaur time, one would be predator and the other, prey.

Working on the colours

This fun and play continued noisily when we boarded the bus home. You 2 took a single seat and was busily playing, there was another boy perhaps a little younger than Ian, looked on at the both of you, pensively. I observed him for a while and shared with your mum, either he was looking with a sense of envy that you boys had foam Dinos, or he was looking at the kind of fun 2 two have. From my observation, he, who appeared to be the only kid (He was with his parents, with no evidence of him having another sibling, but I could be wrong) in the family and it looked like he would like to have the same kind of fun. Having a brother, or sibling to play with certainly helps!

Finding ‘fossils’ in the sand

Anything, and everything comes alive when your 2 boys put your imagination together, otherwise, a foam dinosaur, will remain a foam dinosaur.

First Publish January 12, 2014

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