theaikidad

Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

What is Aikido?

It is always good to revisit this question, no matter how long you’ve been in practise. As a matter of fact, the long you practice, the more relevant this question is.

Is Aikido peaceful? No.

Is Aikido harmonious? Nope, sorry.

Is Aikido effective? Might as well ask, how ineffective is Aikido?

Aikido, is nothing more than 6 letters in the English alphabet put together, to sound like something.

Aikido is nothing more than putting up the white attire, and for some black pleated flare pants.

Aikido is what you find on YouTube, and the videos on ‘How cast’.

Aikido is what our mind try to make sense of.

Aikido is none of that.

All that man, try to make sense of Aikido, fails, utterly fails because Aikido is way beyond that, that is to say Aikido is like the universe, is like an insult, as a matter of choice the former or the latter.

So the next time you try to ask what Aikido is, please do not forget to give yourself one tight slap, or two for good measure!

It is always good to revisit this question, no matter how long you’ve been in practise. As a matter of fact, the long you practice, the more relevant this question is.

Is Aikido peaceful? No.

Is Aikido harmonious? Nope, sorry.

Is Aikido effective? Might as well ask, how ineffective is Aikido?

Aikido, is nothing more than 6 letters in the English alphabet put together, to sound like something.

Aikido is nothing more than putting up the white attire, and for some black pleated flare pants.

Aikido is what you find on YouTube, and the videos on ‘How cast’.

Aikido is what our mind try to make sense of.

Aikido is none of that.

All that man, try to make sense of Aikido, fails, utterly fails because Aikido is way beyond that, that is to say Aikido is like the universe, is like an insult, as a matter of choice the former or the latter.

So the next time you try to ask what Aikido is, please do not forget to give yourself one tight slap, or two for good measure!

Last posted: Mar 24, 2014

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Aikido and longevity

Aikido and longevity

Last Tuesday evening Harry sensei said, (practising) Aikido does not make you live longer, you just die healthier. And he pointed up, implying when you go is entirely decided ‘up there’. While I am not a God kind of person, it kind of rang true.

It ties in lately that I had a brief thought on why O sensei died of cance? Of course it is not fair for me to say that if he is so in sync with the universe, he ought to be able to live longer, well, maybe become immortal! That kind of thought qualifies me to be a Hindsight Expert.

Harry sensei was right, He asked the class of young NUS student, who has gone to a funeral? And looked into the coffin? Did the person who died, has a smile on the face? Or the person died plagues with ill health and misery? If you die of ill health and misery, then that is not a very nice way to die. It is better to die when you are healthy, and with a smile on your face.

That is an opinion you cannot argue with.

Last Tuesday evening Harry sensei said, (practising) Aikido does not make you live longer, you just die healthier. And he pointed up, implying when you go is entirely decided ‘up there’. While I am not a God kind of person, it kind of rang true.

It ties in lately that I had a brief thought on why O sensei died of cancer? Of course it is not fair for me to say that if he is so in sync with the universe, he ought to be able to live longer, well, maybe become immortal! That kind of thought qualifies me to be a Hindsight Expert.

Harry sensei was right, He asked the class of young NUS student, who has gone to a funeral? And looked into the coffin? Did the person who died, has a smile on the face? Or the person died plagues with ill health and misery? If you die of ill health and misery, then that is not a very nice way to die. It is better to die when you are healthy, and with a smile on your face.

That is an opinion you cannot argue with.

Last posted on  Nov 27, 2014

Competitive Aikido

Competitive Aikido

If you have to hurt a person to win, then it is better to lose.

The spirit and core of Aikido is non-competition.

That’s it simple, easy.

The bottom line is, that has been taken out of context. Nowadays people say it without knowing why O sensei decides against ‘competition’.

O sensei, is being specific. He is against having competition in his art, He does not want Aikidoka to practice Aikido for the sake of competition. and he does not want a competitive element to be imbued into the art of Aikido.

But that doesn’t mean that Aikidokas cannot be competitive.

A marathoner’s competition

What O sensei wants us to learn from the practice of Aikido is the universal spirit of harmony and love. There was a story about the Spaniard Ivan Fernandez Anaya, who didn’t want to win his cross country race by capitalizing on his competitor’s mistake. That is the spirit of harmony and love, which is manifested though the practice of Aikido. It is a competitive sport, but Ivan didn’t lose his humanity to gain a piece of metal.

So what O sensei implied is, go ahead, we have to compete, sometimes, because we have that competitive nature. In every organism, there is a pecking order, we have to climb and fight, and race, and compete, that is fine. We must not, however, lose our humanity. If you have to hurt a person to win, then it is better to lose. We will make ourselves smaller through plots, schemes, rules and regulations. These limits imposed makes competition ‘fair’, but it limits our human capacity to fully function.

Eventually we want to win the human race. That is the race, and competition Aikido is preparing us for. We are not aiming to be a champion Karateka, top salesman, best entertainer, at the neglect of our loved ones, our health, our spirit. Aikido aims for the higher order of becoming a better human being, a better person, a better Earthling.

Yes, it is a tall order, I can imagine that during the time when O sensei is bringing his art to the public, what kind of stir he would have created in the martial arts fraternity in Japan. Karatekas, Judokas, Jiujitsu practitioners, would have look upon O sensei and says some not so constructive things. Had O sensei bent on competing with these folks, he might win the fight but lose the entire spirit of Aikido. He can do it, he competed against no one else but himself, to be a better human being, to be the best, and so inspire and continues to inspire millions of people globally.

So keep the big picture, look at what Aikido is making us become, a Champion Human Being.

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

Your first Aikido sensei

IMG_1013
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.