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.
Studying is hard. Education is hard. Sometimes what we study is seemingly irrelevant to what we do in daily our daily lives. We study math, we study algebra, we study history, some of these subjects we take, or are forced to take; keeps us up all night, all day. And if we don’t do well, we will encounter the dreaded ‘F’ word. F-A-I-L.
And things gets worse when we step into the working world only to realise that much of what we have learned are practically useless! So we learn, painfully by hindsight that, there is something call the academia and there is something call the ‘applied‘. Sometimes they mix well, more often they don’t.
Take my experience in Aikido, being in it for such a long time, there must be a good reason why I do it. Much of it can be considered ‘academia’, as there is a discourse, there is a curriculum, even a pedagogy. Is it applicable to real life? The verdict is out there.
You will become educated by education, only to hate the very education you were educated in.
Much of what I learned in Aikido, is ‘irrelevant’. The movement, the technique, those moves, I can get that through exercise, through jogging, or other sports and activity. And yet there is something in Aikido that keeps me going back. That is for me to know, for you boys to, find out.
You will come to this eventuality, what you learned in school is practically useless.
So when you come to that realisation, I hope you realise something else as well.
You can only get where you are through education.
That is the cruel irony. You get educated by education, only to detest the very education you were educated in.
You can let that the bitterness of realization waste more of your life away.
Go back to the books that you hated so much, those thick, thick textbooks.
They were written by people.
They were printed by someone.
Your parents bought them, paid your school fees.
Someone out there thought that education is a good idea, that it is one of the best ways to make our lives better.
Education is not perfect, it never was. But it gave us knowledge, and hopefully turns into wisdom.
Change the world, save the world
With education, knowledge and wisdom, can one hope to change the world. You parents and countless of people went through the strive of study, because we all harbour a secret hope that with knowledge we can change the world, make the world a better place, for you, for our children.
So we make you boys go through the same thing. Knowing that more often than not, you cannot see the ends, to justify the terrible means; the mundane, boring, words after words, exams upon exams means. And it all apparently come to nought.
People who studied more than your parents came out with those thick, thick textbooks, also secretly harboured the same hope that those books they written can change the world, through the hands of those students holding it. They wrote those books with the best intention of arming their readers a learned mind.
Transfer of knowledge is never easy
While learning, as the both of you already knows, is not easy. Being a teacher is many times harder, as the teacher tries the very best to impart knowledge to the student. I can understand this because I can see many times, the frustration Harry sensei has trying to make us understand what being ‘relaxed’ is. His best intention is often not best delivered, and of course, not best received.
And yet the teacher strives
So before you complain the irrelevance of knowledge, and justify that life can be pretty much lived without having to be put through lectures, classes, assessments, exams, homework, project, assignments and other dreaded torture tools they use in school; please see that everyone strives to put what you have, on your hands. The books and knowledge you held, is not perfect, and probably cannot put three meals on your table. You cannot buy things by ranting off a string of mathematical formula. You have to go out and work, and earn a living.
Schools and schooling are only as dead as you want them to die.
Or you can change the world
You can write a better textbook, you can be a teacher better than the ones who tried their best. Strive harder, strive better than your teachers, because, as your parents, we do want you to be better, smarter than me, richer than me, save the world better than your parents could, build a better world for yourself, and your children.
So with what you have learned, go out there, bring knowledge to life. Schools and schooling are only as dead as you want them to die. Lessons are only as relevant as their students deem them to be. Knowledge can become a bias, it can become a dogma, it can make you stupid, if you only see knowledge as relevant as the grades you get from answering the correct questions.
I hope book makers, writers, authors, sribes and wordsmiths can put a disclaimer in their publications.
“Please be forewarned that the contents in these pages are meant to be taken in by a competent, open and receptive learner. Anyone who decides to read it and become a bitter person, the author(s), while is sadden by such an unfortunate turn of events, cannot be held responsible for the wanton stupidity, any irresponsible individual can potentially make. Long story short, Books does not make one clever, but it can potentially makes many, stupid.”
I shall use Ship Designing as a metaphor to describe what I realised recently.
You see, Steven, your dad’s friend, design ships. He design those ship that goes out to oceans, and he has to design them to survive the proverbial Murphy’s Law. It goes something like this: “What ever will go wrong, will go wrong at the most inopportune time.” It is a FUBAR situation “F**ked Up Beyond All Repair.”
He design ships to survive the worst the seven seas can throw dish out, because lives of men on board these ships count on him.
We make decisions in peacetime, to make sure that peace continues.
That is besides the point.
The point is, he started out like everyone, learning the ropes from ground up, and sometimes wonder why was things designed in a ship to be that way? He was so self smart that he thinks there must be a better way to work around some of the stupid designs he see.
He was like the 3 blind men, who held the tail of an elephant, and thinks that the elephant is a snake. He couldn’t see the big picture, until he was tasked to design the big picture, the entire vessel.
Well, that is still beside the point.
What I want to say is, as much as Steven loves the sea (he really does), he is not the sailor he designs his ships for. He will never experience the kind of sea conditions the sailors sail in the ships he design. In short he is not the end user of the product he designs, but he needs to think with the survival of the ‘end users’ in mind.
He design and drew those ships in the comforts of his office, send it out to have what was drawn turned into an actual sea faring ship. It didn’t mattered to him if he had designed a lesser ship, since even if the ship sinks or gets into trouble because of a shoddy design, he wouldn’t die as the consequence of it.
At the same time, he didn’t have to go through the baptism of the sea to know how those sailors feel, yes he did went for some sea trials, but that is it. And yet, he took on the heavy responsibilities of making sure the ships he designed can stand up to the worse, Mother Ocean could throw out, so that men can survive.
Here is my point
Boys, we are living in a very peaceful and comfortable country, where everything is safe and systematic. There is law in the land. And often we take it for granted and make decisions in peace time, that will eventually jeopardize the very peace we upkeep.
Just as Steven can design a ship that reflects his cozy, cushy office, but when he sends it out to sea, it will fail and men will die. Of course, he can still walk away from it all, alive and well.
This cannot be the case
We make decisions in peacetime, to make sure that peace continues. It is a dicey affair, and there is really no crystal ball. So while we enjoy the creature comforts of our society, we need to be constantly aware that the decisions we make now, has the gravity to affect the peace we treasure, in the not so distant future.
It has always been like this, so we cannot look at things simplistically. There are pros and cons, and these affects real people, even though you may not see them. This is the real deal of responsibilities, the long tail of cause and effect that will affect us all in ways we cannot imagine.
As I grow older
The whole point of life is such that we see all of us grow up and grow old. I see the both of you walk the path before me. As your dad, I provide that guidance, I do not have my dad to provide that guidance for me, so I have to do that path finding myself, and for the both of you.
So while I was younger, I could be idealistic, and critic things when they are not done right (I still do that sometimes), but as I grow older, I become more critical about my criticism. Being critical is more important than being a critic. Being critical, you take your personality out of the picture, divorce your feelings and personal interest in the matter, and look at the situation, as it is. Nothing more, nothing less. Be fair in giving voice to both the good and bad, adding no personal weight to it.
Being a leader
While that is already quite hard to do, a leader has to take it further. The decisions we make now will affect people, we already went through that, and yet, we still have to make decisions; because our lives are not lived in a void. While we can dupe ourselves into thinking that the peace we enjoy now is a nice little bubble for which we can make shitty decisions and live to try again.
If you are a leader, sometimes, there is only one chance to get it right, when you screw up, it starts a downward spiral, and then there are consequences, then you make another decision to correct that, screws up, and it spirals again; never mind, still got chance, try again, and realised that things has really gone FUBAR, by then it is too late. It is one of the most difficult thing to do, but a leader has to do it, because there is no choice, there is no little bubble to test things out. We cannot take our peace for granted and thinks of a grandiose ship that will be so luxurious to sail in the nicest beach, only to break apart in the smallest storm. In doing so, we have thrown caution into the wind and ends the very peace we all seek to preserve.
We talk a lot about love and hate, and it seems like ‘hate’ is always getting a bad rap for all the negativeness and people tend to hate the ‘hate’.
While love is certainly a good thing to have and the more love the better. We tend to forget the value of hate, how it can be a fuel for change and an impetus for us to become a better person.
What is hate?
It is easy to talk about love, everyone wants a piece of that, the more the better. But not a lot of people want to talk about hate, and yet, hate is one of the most powerful emotions, and when it is least understood, it can be the most destructive force to be reckoned with.
Love and hate
There is no distinction, really. And they are not duality. love is not the opposite of hate, nor vice versa. Love is love and hate is hate. When you look at them individually, you’ll be able to see the actual value these emotions really have. Hate is not a bad thing, love is not necessarily a good thing either.
When we hate, we need to understand if that hatred is extrinsic in nature, something outwards, a person, a thing, a situation. If that is so, we have to look inwards and see how that externally directed hate, is affecting us, in the inside.
So we need maturity to know what hate is, and how we can deal with it, and turn it into a force for good. We may hate a person who is a liar, but we need to know why that person lied, and look deeper, we don’t really hate the person, but we hate the act of lying. Let that hate be a powerful emotion for change, and tell the liar, we hate lying, the act of lying and if that person continues to lie, then there is no way for anything constructive and open.
This is so much more powerful, when the hatred is internally directed. We always hold ourselves to a personal standard, we look at things and tells ourselves if that thing is on par, or sub-par. We hate it when we does sub-par things. There is nothing to love about a sub-standard outcome. We need to channel that hate, and let it drives us deeper into producing a level of quality we can be happy about.
Let that hate, become masochistic.
That doesn’t mean self-mutilation. We need to push ourselves to become better, and sometimes, Tender Loving Care is the least we need. We need focus, we need effort, we need to push ourselves further than we can, and the best way to do it, is to hate ourselves for delivering anything less than our own personal best.
Love the hate
So don’t turn away from hate. when it happens, don’t let that turn destructive. Let that be a force for good. Channel the hate into an action, a positive action which will allows us to strive above and beyond our comfort zone. Love will give us that warm cushy feeling, that is good, to know that there is love. But when there is hate, you will be propelled to rise above mediocrity and do even better than you ever did in the past. And when that happened, that is even a greater reason to love yourself.
I was having a chat with Steve and him being him, there are people who commonly pass comments like ‘I want to be like you!’ or things like ‘You’re my inspiration!’ People always look up to him and somehow, a lot of people want to ‘be like Steven’.
I told him that.
Sure he is an inspiration to a lot of people, me included, but I never want to be him. Granted that he has done a lot of cool things, he is relatively successful, goes places, and live the life he wants to live, but I am not going ga ga over his life and his lifestyle. He has a nice house, flashy car(s) and other cool stuffs, but the fact is, no many people knows the sacrifices he makes to have all these, more importantly, while many ‘idolise’ him, not make are prepared to put in the hours, effort and sacrifices to get what he got.
No two same lives
His life and mine are different. No two lives on Earth are the same, not even twins. We live our own lives. We may know of powerful, inspiring people, who gives us a glimpse of a life lived better, but that is only a glimpse. We still have to put in our hours, we still have to make our own mistakes. We will still achieve what we set out to conquer, and that will be our victory, not Steve’s. Steven’s victory is his victory, not mine. While we can celebrate with him, we need to remember; victories is a very personal, selfish affair. Your victory, other people can admire, or gloat, but ultimately, they are yours. Same goes for your defeats and set backs.
No Uchi Deshi
It is very easy to hero worship in the kind of martial arts I am in. We are conditioned to look up, at our sempai, seniors and Sensei. In Aikido, there is a culture of ‘uchi-deshi‘, these are the ‘lived-in students’, sort of an internship, but at a very personal level. The student literally stayed with the sensei and take care of his needs, in exchange, the sensei will teach the student his craft at a very personal level. In Singapore, no such culture exists, so people tries to be an ‘uchi-deshi‘ of sort, but more often than not, it gets misconstrued into some kind of boot licking or sucking up.
We do not have this practice with Harry sensei. While we still folds his hakama, and wait on him, he do not want anyone to ‘suck up’ to him in any way. He knows Aikido-economics 101′; we are all paid students and at no point in time, he expects ‘service’ from us.
So in that spirit, Harry sensei does not asks, nor imply that he wants such a culture. So I treat him with respect because I want to, and I do not aspire to be him. He is not my Aikido Idol.
Steven, my friend
Collectively, I look at my life, I’ve always been on my own, since my parent’s divorce, there is no one else taking care of me, other than me, and after marriage, your mother. I don’t have a mentor, no father figure, no person whom I look up to. Anyone who comes close to that, would be someone like Steven; but even for him, I considers him a friend, simple, no complications. He is someone who makes it in life his way. I want to make it in life too, my way. He serves as a guide, nothing more. He has his ways of doing things, that differs from mine, and I have no aspirations to change mine just to be ‘like him.’ He is his own man, I am mine. In that way, both of us can enjoy a equitable relationship, we are not above, nor beneath each other.
It is perhaps, because of my relationship with Steven, that shaped how I deal with people. Between us, there is an age gap that qualifies him to be my father, but we treat each other equal, or when he met me, more than 20 years ago, I was a young punk, just starting out in Aikido( Where I met him) and he has never put himself above me. He has never judged me, or present himself as superior. For me, being young and impressionable then, he could have dominated, be an alpha, which he is, but he didn’t acted that way.
Treat people fairly
So I have never looked at anyone, senior or junior with a slant of bias, well at least I try not to. Usually, I can carry a conversation with anyone, with ease, and non-discretion. I don’t look up to very successful people, because I know the quiet struggles they went through to become who they are. I don’t look down on people, because I know the quiet struggles they are going through. Everyone goes through shit, so don’t worship successful people, nor look down on people.
Let them be who they are, and you just be yourself, really successful people are the most down to earth folks, and will treat you with decorum, when you treat yourself with truthfulness. ‘Fake’ successful people will have a bubble with them, an air of ‘exclusiveness’, so when you come across such people, be thankful you are excluded, because you may have to pay through your nose just to be ‘in the club’ and at the end of the day, you might find all of that, a bubble, waiting to be burst.
Perhaps, how I walk my walk, excludes me from such ‘exclusive clubs’, which is fine by me. I like wealth and money, but I like them at my own terms, if I have to get them by sucking up, hero-worship then perhaps, I am no longer the father you boys can look up to.
Everyone goes through shit, so don’t worship successful people, nor look down on people.
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!
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
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.
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!’