Credibility

 There is a recent growth in Aikido practitioners marketing their skills as teachers here in Singapore.

Well, as a potential student, one perennial issue is, the qualification. Certainly when a reader read my blog, the reader is also looking for certain qualities that suggests I know what I am writing about. What about an Aikidoka selling his/her ability to teach?

I don’t know, I don’t have the slightest idea on how to set up a dojo or becoming an Aikido Teacher. Perhaps that statement alone will not qualify me to make these comments, but hey, this is my blog, I will comment what I feel it is right to comment.

Basically, in Singapore, until recently, there are only a few Aikikai-style senseis in Singapore who has been teaching for a long time, namely, my sensei, Harry Ng, of Shoshin Aikido, Freddy Khong sensei, of Singapore Aikido Federation, Philip Lee sensei, of Shinjukai, and George Chang sensei, of Ueshiba Aikido. These senseis has been the mainstay of the Aikido fraternity in Singapore. And most of them were students of the late Teddy Lee, and Teddy Lee himself was a student of Nagazono sensei. Nagazono can be credited for planting the seed of Aikido in Singapore. Well that is how the lineage should be, accordingly to my memory.

Hence, if I was given a choice and opportunity to start Aikido, I would credit my linage and teachings to Harry sensei, and from Harry sensei to Teddy Lee sensei and Teddy Lee to Nagazono sensei. Which would in effect make me the 4th generation sensei, in accordance to this lineage.

However, there are some Aikido teachers here, who also share the same teachers as I do, and through these teachers, attained their high ranking, decided for their own reasons, branch out and start their own school. In their website, they not only did not pay homage to their sensei, instead they orientate themselves to another high ranking shihan as their ‘technical adviser’. Some even decided to lurk in the murky depths of the past to align themselves as distant relatives to certain dead sensei. Of course there is no way to dispute nor verify that casually, but why go that extent to gain credibility?

We practice a traditional martial arts, and these arts have a culture of lineage, typically, or at least personally for me, I do not ‘sensei-hop’ and Harry sensei has been my sensei, the only sensei. He is not perfect, and I am not his favourite student. But the skills I got, I got it from him, and I cannot ignore that fact. I can kind of guess why these new Aikido teachers ignore acknowledging their sensei, perhaps it is due to some differences or disagreements, which is probably the very first reason why they decided to open their own school and be their own Aikido boss. If that is the reason for doing so, then it is the excessive works of the ego. I told myself, I would only open a dojo, with my sensei’s blessing, there is no other way to do so. We simply cannot go about opening a dojo and not give credit when credit’s due, this is against the spirit of Aikido as a martial arts.

It is also a general rule of life, we cannot ‘disown’ our parents, our spouse, just because of some differences. It simply cannot work this way. When we sever ourselves from our source, we will only be creating more problem for us, because the students we groom, will in due time, ‘disown’ the teachers, the same way the teacher, disowned the teacher who taught the teacher. In fact, this perpetuation has already started.

First published : May 8, 2013

I Love my Job!

I Love my Job!

Many years back, I recalled that the doshu (can’t remember if it was the 2nd or 3rd) mentioned that the translation got it wrong. Aikido’s kanji is 合気道, which literally means ‘The Way of Harmony”. The Doshu says that the ‘Ai’ in Aikido is actually Love, not Harmony. So Aikido is The Way of Love.

Things kind of happen to me in a serendipitous manner. I had a friend who recently mentioned that she has been in the same company for 40 years, and she didn’t love her job, but grew to love her job. I’ve just finished watching, in admiration (again) how Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesar_Millan), does his things. and in one of the episodes, he said, “That is why I love my job!” coupled with a million dollar smile on his face. He does what he does because he is good at it? Or is it because he love what he does so well, he became good at it. Chicken or Egg, huh. He has his bad times, and he certainly shine bright in his best moments.

‘O’ sensei made it very simple for us

You go to work because you have to make a living. Most of the time we do what we have to do because we have to do it. This is a problem, the pragmatic, objective, Cause and Effect attitude. We do what we do, not because we love what we do, that is usually further down the list.

So what about Aikido? Do you do Aikido because you love Aikido? Do you really fell in love with Aikido the moment you saw it? Even if you do there, will be times you feel less lovey dovey about Aikido. And frankly for me, I did Aikido, because Steven Seagal made it look so cool. No, I didn’t fell in love with Aikido, I grew to love it.

That is the antidote!

‘O’sensei, never sold Aikido, people bought it, and he never forced anyone to stay in Aikido, you stay because you stayed, and of course, you are very much empowered to leave, if you so deem fit. That is why Aikido is so paradoxically addictive. You don’t get addicted to Aikido so that you can win medal. Aikido is like a bad lover, damn it if you love, and damn it if you don’t. and frankly dear, nobody gives a damn.

Aikido give us that space to feel frustrated, and let us, let it out, through a quiet discipline.

So you have to learn to love, or rather, let the love you have in you flower. The love is always there, Aikido gives you the pace and time and space for your love to flower. There is no rush, no pushing of agenda. No competition to push you to the limit, no time limit; when the class ends, you can always come back another day. Aikido does not end in a win, nor in a defeat. you are only defeated when you give up. And when you decide to come back again, you can simply pick up where you left off and continue the journey, no one will scrutinize you, no one will criticize you, it is a very mature, automatic and accepting art, you call the shots to your own development.

So it gives you time to love, to feel, to affect people, and to feel the effect of people on you. Things that makes love, love.

Not the mushy kind of love, as it requires discipline, sometime, we turn up at the dojo, not feeling the training, and the love, and yet we have to do it. It sometimes feels like an empty shell, you are not your best, love is the furthest thing you are feeling. Frustration creep in, and anger and all that. Aikido give us that space to feel frustrated, and let us, let it out, through a quiet discipline.

Love is only love when you are disciplined, Love, lacking discipline, becomes lust, becomes desire, becomes attraction, all these will lead to the loss of your centre, and unbalance you. Then urgency sets in, anxiety creeps in, anger and impatience set in, love gets edged out. Slowly, with quiet discipline, you have to win your love back from all those belligerents.

Aikido teaches us love, and love, in the most difficult times. Even when we do not love our jobs, our partners, but with discipline, we have to continue to love, and let the love grows on us. Only then can we excel, do our best, in our own way, dominate our lives and not let the opinion of others dominate us.

Love is universal, the expression is universal, the feeling is universal, but the interpretations and judgments and the opinions is what clouds us. Dive into our Aikido training.

First published : Oct 15, 2014 10:44 PM

Please add Suffering

bushido

Its not about the Cotton Candy Generation, which I had already written about. Rather is is our value of suffering. With reference to the Cotton Candy Generation, these softies are actually toughening themselves up. In Singapore, we have all year round full of activities of all sorts, you name it, we have it, well except the snow part, and the big waves sports. We have triathlons, Dragon Boat Regattas, vertical marathons, Sundown marathons, cycling, golfing, all sorts of means and ways for you to get fit, for a lifestyle. Well, i almost forgot, martial arts too, Sports Karate, MMA, Jiujitsu, Aikido, Muay Thai, BJJ…all sorts of s**t people can do to get fitness.

Please add suffering! All physical activities entails a level of suffering. It is the meaning we give to our suffering, that defines our salvation! You see, I already mention, we Singaporeans are a whole population of comfortable, pleasing bunch. We are so affluent in our lives we can choose to suffer, we pay to experience suffering. This choice is the worrisome thing, as it feeds on our ego, the masochistic part, to think that we suffer in our gym training to prepare for an upcoming swim, cycle, run event, which incidentally, we are not in it to win it, its just an interest we have. So suffer for the sake of an interest? Well, of course, we learn something from our experiences of suffering, but we become very narrow. We think that just because we can swim, cycle, run well, makes us good people. We are tough because we can gym it out! Who are we kidding? Since when has suffering, becomes a lifestyle experience?

Get a perspective! Get a good look at a kid living in a slum in India, a drug addict living in the shadows of mega cities like Los Angeles. People who farm for a living, day in day our manual labour, Fishermen, rubbish collectors! These people ‘suffer’ as their lives requires them to and they all did it with a smile! A wry grin, facing the grim facts of life everyday. And they does it not to justify their glorious efforts to get a piece of medal, a ‘Finisher’ medal. So think about them farmers, fishermen, and slum kids when you think you are ‘suffering’ in an air con gym.

First Published: Aug 20, 2012 @ 17:01

cotton candy generation

cotton-candy

Are we getting ‘soft?’

My predecessors always reminiscent the good ‘ol days where training was tough and how nowadays, we are so much more fortunate compared to them. Prior to Singapore’s independence the armed forces used the British made L1Al SLR(Self Loading Rifle), which is a very tough ‘battle’ rifle, Nowadays, we have a modern bull-pup SAR-21 replacing the M-16, which replaced the L1A1. The SAR-21 is the most evolved design, made for the 21st century soldier, comfortable to use, hi-tech and cool. But the L1A1 chambers a 7.62mm, with effective range more than 3 times that of the 5.56mm rounds which the SAR-21 chambers. The L1A1 is battle proven in the Falklands, and is still in active service, a testament of its durability.  Is the SAR-21 as tough as the old L1A1? Who knows?

Can the same be said for martial arts? if you pit a modern day Karateka against a old school Karateka, chances are the old school Karateka might severely injure the new version. Why? Old School train for real. Many of their techniques are deadly and students die from accidents and mistakes. In order to minimise fatality, lethal techniques are left out as the syllables evolve. Modern day martial arts are much safer, which make training easier, which makes the art popular and popularity is never a bad thing. So modern day focuses on winning a few medals and tournaments.

Many martial arts tournaments uses protection and guards. The use of these physical protectors, while claim to save lives, minimize injuries, dull the reality of a full punch, after all its just a sport. Only through body conditioning and actual bare knuckle sparring can one learn the true essence of pain, and learn to learn beyond that. Steven, during his time, doing sanchin was a daily affair, through intense body conditioning and breathing, he could take punches and he still can, coming to 60 years of age. Steven’s martial arts experience was the tough old SLR, mine was the M-16, the new generation is the SAR 21, bull pup design. People back then, like the L1A1 rifle, were much hardier than the folks of the 21st century.

Sure there is always a danger of permanent injury or death during training, but what doesn’t? Well, then, why join martial arts then? Face it, we are martial artist, and martial arts is hard, tough training. How do you think exponents do those ‘soft’ harmonious moves? Exponents are able to execute those seemingly effortless’ moves because of their intense and hard training. they suffer, everyday at training, so that they do not have to suffer when the time comes. Go to a dojo, expect suffering, do not avoid pain. do not tap at the slightest tinge of pain, tap only when the pain has become reasonable unreasonable. train every time to be reasonably unreasonable, but never tread  beyond the realm of unreasonable. If you go to a dojo and minimise and avoid suffering, don’t go, just stay at home and watch Jackie Chan’s Karate Kid.

First published: Aug 21, 2010 @ 18:00