Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

In the year 2065

Dear boys,

Our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong talked about the next 50 years of Singapore lately. And I sat that afternoon at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre having my packed lunch, and I wondered how much will remain 50 years from now.

Singapore as a country that is constantly changing. The Singapore in the 90s will be very different from the Singapore, now, and it will be different again 10 years from now. We, as a country is the best example of the evolutionary principle. We got strong, remain strong through constant self imposed change. Long before things need to be replaced, we’ve already replaced them.

Anyway, while I sat down to have my lunch, I looked at the Esplanade Bridge, it was build in 1997. That means the bridge is 18 years old. And will it still stands 50 years from now? Will the building, One Raffles Place still stands? Will the CBD still looks like the CBD 50 years down the road?

I will be 89 then, your mum 87, Ian will be 60? And Wayne, a ripe young, 57! So many things will happen that has yet to happen.

During my time, my generation of Singaporeans grow up listening to rather staid stories about how we were founded by Sir Stamford Raffles, and the fable of how a prince lost his way in a storm and saw a Lion (there was never a record of that magnificent beast in Singapore!) and named our island ‘Singapura’, we also hear a lot of our pioneering generations’ struggles, racial riots, world war 2, and other stories that will probably become tales and fables 50 years from now.

More importantly, boys, tell stories of your own, there will be many more challenges ahead, many more social events, there might be another world war, there might be other calamities, there may be other social political unrest, revolutions, and other events, these are stories that will make up your life. Tell these stories to your kiddos, tell them like how I tell you, because our heritage will be passed on from mouth to mouth, stories we tell our kids are the stories of our nation.

First Published on: Jul 16, 2015

Why have Children?


Dear Boys,

In case you are wondering, why should you be having children in the future, please read this.

In Singapore, you don’t need to have kids.

the boys with the toys
The boys with their toys

Kids adds no value to our society, regardless of what the government says.

Farmers needs kids, Cosmopolitans do not

It has been my long held beliefs, that in our urban, concrete society, there is no need to have kids. What do you need the extra ‘headcount’ for? You need to spend a long amount of time, energy to raise little humans, and despite of all that, as parents you might not get to reap the benefits. There is no economic benefits having kids.

But in an agricultural landscape, farmers, need kids, that additional manpower, when properly invested can help to till the fields, feed the livestock, and do other farming stuff. it will be ‘cheaper’ to have 6 to 8 kids and these additional hands will help around the household.

In modern Singapore, apartments are getting smaller, and it is made for couples in mind. Despite of what the government says to encourage making babies after marriage, houses these days are simply not big enough to have more people living together. Kitchen is getting smaller, because people are cooking less now. Everyone is out working, husbands and wives, who has time for cooking, much less taking care of babies???

Gender equality

Speaking of which, I am not a chauvinist. Women and men has equal rights, but vastly different biological responsibilities. Everyone has earning power these days, and some women earns more than men, why would these women give up their monetary superiority to become a mother? What’s the cost benefits analysis for that? Women these days spend better days getting branded bags, going for Pilates, and yoga, than to stay at home, nursing unreasonable babies, sucking off their sore nipples, looking all unglam and so uncool.

Again, I would like to say I am not a chauvinist. To have kids, sacrifices has to be made, men are not reliable, so women has to earn for themselves, and make themselves independent. That’s fine, but becoming a full -time mum doesn’t mean that you are not independent. In fact I see your mum, not earning, living off my salary, a very independent and strong willed woman in her own right.

We have biologically different responsibilities

Feminism is good, but when feminism goes Amazonian way, then it is bad. For child bearing, it takes 2, male and female. Until science comes along to change that, it will be like that, most animals are like that.

Humans want to be different. Women wants to think that they can be equal to men, better than men. When women starts to think like that, then that is the end of our race. Women can never be equal or superior to men, because women are different from men. Men need women to be women so that there can be a balance.

Things loses equilibrium when women fights for a zero sum game of gender equality. We are never made to be gender equal nor neutral. But our society and workplace demands that we do, for the sake of equal employment, and avoiding politically sensitive gender discrimination. We refrain from calling female ‘manageress’ and stick with manager, to represent both genders, because we do not want to discriminate the sex.

But we have to.

Because both men and women are different. until we can learn to accept that difference and let women be women, then there is a chance that there will be balance in a marriage.

Money talks

It is all not that bad. Like I said it, a society like Singapore, you don’t need kids. You just need money. You have money, you can buy things that makes you comfortable. Your mum and I agreed all the money we spend raising the both of you, could have helped us traveled the world. We could have car(s) and nice houses.

When we are old, can we depend on the both of you to take care of us? Not quite, but as childless couples,  we can employ maids, or check ourselves into retirement homes. Or if we keep ourselves fit enough, we might live a longer healthier lives. Anyway, our demise, if we do not have the both of you, will be the State’s problem. The government will make sure we die properly and our bodies disposed off. Who needs kids? Our personal effects? That’s the government’s problem.

Just have enough money to pay for that to be settled, even when our heart stops beating.

So why?

Since there is much more pros to not having children why did we end up having not one but two?

The Kiss

One recent afternoon, I was lazying, half slumber on the couch, my eldest son, came over and gave me a peck on the cheek. I’m one satisfied dad.

Wayne on my chest
Wayne on my chest, 9 years ago

Mistakes and falling

Mistakes and falling

Dear Boys,

You both have very different ways of learning.

This is very evident as I watch the both of you get the hang of in-line skating or rollerblading. Your mum took the both of you to a very quick course and over the holidays, your grand-parents bought a pair for you both.

I’d wish we had more time to skate, we only managed to squeeze in some blade time here and there. and from the last one, I can see a different approach you boys use to learn something.

Wayne: Fall, break, smash, fail until you get it. Fall, get up. Fall, get up. Fall, get up.

Ian: Try to get the technique right, fall and fail less, it matters when you fall less, never mind, you clock less in mileage.

We went to the playground downstairs; the one we call ‘Aunty Genevieve Playground’, no she don’t own the playground, it’s just that her apartment, faces the playground.

So there was a small running track, 260m in all, and it was just nice for the both of you to skate, or get the hang of skating.

By and large, the both of you already got it, it is just getting more road time, mileage, more practice.

Wayne, you clocked more road time, and he felled a lot more as well, sometimes, in an overly dramatic manner.

Ian, you on the other hand, felled less, focused on getting it right, and in the process, you skated slower, lesser distance covered.

Fortune favours the bold

There are always some smart quotes about everything and boys, don’t get caught up by it. Like what I told you, Ian, there is nothing wrong either way, it is just the way you boys learn, different.

Compliment or Clash

You both decide, if such differing style will tear the both of you or stitch you closer, there is no right or wrong answer to that, if you focus on the small stuff. The bigger stuff is your brotherhood, there will be clashes if you allow your own personality and how you do things to get the between the both of you. Don’t let that happen.

Cover for each other, know who is the more meticulous one, and who is the daredevil. Some situations favours the bold, others, could be a time for prudence, always consult each other, and have a healthy respect for the way you brothers do things. Talk through things, and always remember that being brother supersedes everything.


Your Aeronautical Aspirations

Your Aeronautical Aspirations

Dear Ian,

I’m glad that you are excited about your first day in Secondary School. It has been a good PSLE experience for you; firstly, you got the grades you wanted, which proves that you stayed grounded and realistic. You did aim well, and hit your mark. This is more important than that lame motivational saying “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” You aimed well, and didn’t miss, it’s not the moon, its not the stars, its much better, it’s where you want to be, and it will lead you to where you want go, screw the moon and stars and all that crap.


Now you’re in the school of your choice, Compassvale Secondary, you got there because you wanted to go there. They teach Aeronautics there, and it is something you wanted to learn. We as your parents were basically guiding you along, you made the decisions and your choices.

That’s how we wanted it.

I talked to your mum about choices, and right now at my age, I’m still kind of reeling from the choices I made when I was a 14-year old. You see, I left school at 14 so that I can have the aspirations of travelling the world as a tour guide. Look at where I am now.

When I was 14, no one told me about the consequences of my choices, no one walked with me down my future. My parents didn’t smacked me in the head and asked, “So what happened when you’re done travelling the world, say 3 years down the road?” Without a proper education, where can I go? Oh, yeah, I wanted to take up Japanese language classes, so that it will help me be a better tour guide. Nope, didn’t get to be that proficient in Japanese.

No one guided me as to what I can become, had I continue with my education. Yes, eventually I got my degree and all those keeping up with the Jones thing, it was a bad call to leave school at Secondary 2 without any plan whatsoever. Well, to be frank, I had plans, and look where my plans lead me? Without vision, and proper task and action, plans are like building sandcastles with bare hands, no tools, no skills, no structure.

We all look like an expert on hindsight, and of course on hindsight, had I not gone the way I went, I’d not met your mum, I’d not had this wonderful family life, I’d not be who I am right now.

On hindsight, I would have been a lot better, a lot more purposeful, and more prepared for my life, had I gotten that guidance.

I have no plans to make that mistake with you and your little brother.


You choose Compassvale for their Aeronautics, you might have the interest, only to falter later. Maybe aeronautics isn’t your thing. Or maybe it is?

We don’t know, but if at this age of twelve, you have set your sights on aeronautics, and if you proved to be quite good at it, it is my job to push you to do better, so that you get a proper education in this field, a diploma, a degree later, and become who you want to be. You see, one thing I’d wish I had done differently, is to stay the course, and become a deep, knowledgeable expert in a specific discipline. I see this in my more than 20 years of practice in Aikido. I am good at it, and people recognised me for my skills. (although I’d also wanted to devote more time to become a more pronounced Aikidoka)

So now you have set your sights on Aeronautics, and you got into a school that does that, it is a worthy effort to go all out, become an aeronautical professional, and be recognized as one, spend all you time, devoting yourself to become one, don’t falter, or lose sight. Achieve that goal, and be so good at it, people recognize you as a Aeronautical expert, then you can see success, and more importantly, satisfaction.

Chasing Dreams

One thing I can tell you, chasing dreams are fine, but if you give up half-way then that is a problem. If you chase a dream, but you have nothing much of an action plan, then that is a problem. To chase a dream, you need to be relentless, have a plan, grab the dream by the neck, hammer away until the dream becomes a reality. This takes grit, commitment and support.


It looks like you might have some grit, and commitment, support is where I try to offer. When you falter, I have to perk you up. When you lose sight, I have to give you that compass. And when you want to give up, my job is to remind you how far you have come and achieved so much, and not to give up. My parents didn’t do that for me, I didn’t do that for myself, as I didn’t know how to then.

So don’t worry about the future, part of my job as your dad is to give you that resources to face the future. You have some inkling of who you want to become, so go chase it down, and never settle until you have achieve the success and satisfaction you wanted. Then you’ll be a man, my son!





Dear Ian,

We were having a meal at McDonald’s today, and you started to write something on a piece of paper. Your 弟弟 naturally wanted to know what you wrote and you decided not to share it with him. That, of course created a knee jerk response from your 弟弟 and he also retorted by not wanting to share a hypothetical secret with you.

It was a time for a discussion.

This family works on a transparent basis, we don’t keep secrets from one another. Sometimes we do, that is usually to surprise our loved ones. Between your mum and I, we mostly tell each other what is going on, you see this in our family day to day. There is a lot of things we don’t know in life and we learn by sharing our experiences with each other.

Growing up, personal spaces.

While I am aware that you are growing up and you need your own space and identity, I am still interested in your secrets. you can have every right to keep you secrets, secret. But by you writing them in front of us, and saying it is a secrets, simply don’t work well for our social setting. It is like telling the whole world you have a secret, and this, invites people to pry you open like a can of sardines.

Well, we all have our secrets, people don’t just go around telling people they have them, that is the irony of life.

So you can have your space to keep secrets, but don’t do it in front of a bunch of people, your family and then say that we are not privy to it. It is not a very nice thing to do, as secrets can hurt people, and secrets can hurt you.

Inner circle

Honestly, your little brother is very bad at keeping secrets; from us. We are very bad in keeping secrets from you boys too, this is because we are a very close knitted family and we are very transparent in our feelings. When you tell you 弟弟 a ‘secret, you can be sure that your mum and dad will learn about it, this is because for your 弟弟, we are part of his inner circle and we can be trusted with your secrets. He won’t be so kind and so open with his friends. You can be sure about that. Your 弟弟 loves and respects you, for you to tell him it is a secret, he will keep it with his life, but he will not keep your secret from us, this is because we have a high level of trust in this family. This might change in future, dependent on the ebb and flow of your brotherhood, but as of now, you are his big brother, and for a little brother, keeping secrets for a big brother is a big deal.

Your secrets reflects your confidence

The conversations and probing leads me to discover that you have a certain apprehension towards people’s reaction towards your ‘secret’ once they know about it. that tells me that you are not prepared for the eventual consequences of people coming to know about your secret.  There is a lack of confidences in dealing with the response, once people found out your secret.

I always tells people I am an ‘open’ book, and I behave like one. My friends knows me as a very transparent fellow, and I harbour no secrets. I do, in fact, keep secrets; we all do. I just do it in a manner like I don’t, so that I don’t invite curiosity, I hide my secrets, other people’s secrets in plain sight. That is the best way to hide secrets. that is the way you instill confidence in people to decide that you are trustworthy. The worst kept secrets are some of the best place to keep secrets, since your secrets are no secret.

Secret hurts

And the most important thing is, at your age, you still lack that maturity to decide what is ‘secret’ and what is not. You might be compelled by other stronger opinion leaders to keep secrets on their behalf, and those secrets can be criminal and illegal. You might want to impress upon others that you are trustworthy and helped these people keep their secrets, which will eventually hurts you and land you in trouble.

Right now as your Dad,, it is my job to discern those secrets with you. It can be quite a burden to hold custody to secrets, other people’s secrets. So I have to know them, help you carry them, and also give you resources to help you.

I cannot allow a secret to hurt you, and until I can see a maturity in you learning to keep the ‘right secrets’, please let us in and be there to know you and the secrets you keep.


The Big Day of your PSLE results

The Big Day of your PSLE results

Dear Ian,

You have finally move on and upwards, from Primary School to Secondary.

In our life here in Singapore, it is a big deal, the private education industry is a large one and it ‘preys’ mostly on the parents’ insecurities and aspirations for their children to get good grades. Of course, hopefully that leads to a better future, riches and wealth. It is all done in the best intention, albeit the intense stress and pressure.


You did well for your PSLE. “Well” as a matter of context, as you are not one of the 25 students who scored above the magic ‘250’. In fact you’re not even close, but you set a target and you achieved that. Which is more important than being one of the smartest lots in your school.

In fact, you did even better than your dad, who failed his maths, score “A” for English and Science, and a “C” I think, for my Chinese. You have a better score, I went to a normal stream and you are going to the express.

What’s the big deal?

Personally I am not a big believer in the PSLE score, My bottom line is either you pass or fail, you pass, how well? Well enough for express stream, okay, fine. Good for the normal stream? That’s fine as well. Life goes on, the sun will still rise and set.

But of course, that’s just your dad ranting, it is a big deal. Children went home crying, because they were 5 points shy from their target. There were some who thought they could get like 240, but end up with an odd-210. There are those who did well in prelims, only to falter in the actual exams. Well, there are some outlier even, they failed, and have to retake.


All the credit goes to your mother

Really, she did all the work, your dad really didn’t cared much about your academic grades. She was thrilled that you made your mark, and achieved what you said you set out to achieve.

She helped you, drives you, work with you, bear all the pain and angst of your studies. When you did badly, she was affected the most, and when you did well, she’s the happiest. She worked the hardest and rightfully deserves to shed those tears of joy today.

After PSLE

So right now, after this first big hurdle in your life, your life will have to go on. You can reward, and cheer and after all the jubilation, you will have to hunker down and work hard, once again, as Secondary School education is another new environment that puts you to the challenge.

You friends in Horizon Primary, will become your old friends. You will make new friends in your new environment, and your might be pleasantly surprised that some of your Horizon friends might end up in the same Secondary School as you, and that friendship will continue; or it might not.

Some of your old ‘nemesis’ in Horizon, will no longer be relevant, once everyone moves to their respective secondary School. Those quarrels and grudges in your primary school, will cease in relevance. Suddenly with so much to look forward to in your new environment, you’ll lose track of what happened in the Primary school. You’ll have so much new things to do, learn and friends to make, there is no time to relish on nostalgic past. Stay present and look into the future.

Your future

Your future will be a heck a lot different from mine, and it will be a very asymmetrically challenging future, no one will be sure about anything in. So now that your Primary School education has come to an end, charge ahead and learn new things in your Secondary School.

Your dad is excited about your prospective new environment, and it heartens me to see you gain independence in character and confidence in personality.


Martial Arts for Kids

Martial arts is not for kiddos, I am not a big believer in teaching kids martial arts.

Being in Aikido for such a long time, I do get friends with kids asking me if this and his art is suitable for his/her children. If Aikido is recommended. To which I only ask one question.

“Does your daughter/son wants it?”

More often than not, the parents don’t know if their kids wants to do martial arts or not. They as parents observed that their kids are kind of active, so it might be a good outlet for them to learn a punch, roll, or two, and learning martial arts is good for ‘self defence’. Learning martial arts is always a ‘good thing’.

So unless your children specifically wants to take martial arts, and shows, at a very young age, some talent and affinity for martial arts, don’t waste time and money on a martial arts school, just because your children is active. Well most kids are active, and there are other activities for active kids to participate in instead of marital arts. The motivation must come from the child to learn a martial arts, and not driven (pun intended) by the parents to go to a martial arts school.

Outcome driven approach

Martial arts is a learning journey, and there is very little reward getting into one. It is not like you will get a certificate at the end of it and ‘graduate’. Martial arts is a serious journey that needs a lot of commitment and time. If you are not sure your children is able to walk this journey that will last their life time, don’t commit wasted time. Martial arts for kids is not a very rewarding journey, there is no definite outcome. Even as an adult, it is difficult for me sometimes to understand this journey I am in, since there is little outcome to say that you have ‘learned’ something in martial arts, which is sufficient to satisfy an outcome driven style of parenting. In short, you give a lot to martial arts, and often you don’t get a lot back.

The Karate Kid hype

More often than not, martial arts is about doing the same thing over and over again, and it will be boring for kids, some kids are not up to it, as it is not novelty. Martial arts is not a cool thing to do, and parents should not be watching too much Karate Kid thinking that their kids can be one. Those who romanticizes The Karate Kid movie, they need to watch the first part where the protagonist got beaten up. Get your kids beaten up first, then you’ll see if there is any ounce of martial artist in the child.

And, no, learning martial arts does not prevent your child from being bullied. Sorry to break that piece of news. There are so many kids who learned martial arts, and still gets bullied. Learning martial arts does not automatically instills that kind of confidence in children, it is a sales pitch. Confidence comes from overcoming a difficult situation, despite of being afraid. You do not need to go to a martial arts school to learn grit, confidence.

Kids do not understand martial arts

Are children able to learn the philosophy behind martial arts? Will they understand Aiki(合気)? Can they understand what is Bunkai (分解)? What is the spirit of Kumite(組手)? What is Budo(武道)?

They also do not understand that in martial arts, you are expected to get hurt, being hurt and getting injured is part of the hard gritty journey of being a martial artist. If parents send their kids to martial arts school, not expecting them to get hurt, well, then they better find a more staid activity.


In Singapore, the martial arts culture is well, not so ‘martial’. We do not have a strong martial arts identity, and many of us, takes it like it is a part-time, interest group level commitment. That said, not many teachers out there, teaches martial arts for the spirit of the martial arts. While this comments might seem scathing, we need to search deep in our psyche, if we are really attempt to embody martial arts as a way of life, a way of living.

While I have 2 kids, I don’t teach them ‘martial arts’ I teach them fighting, and they need to learn the basic punches, kicks, and take downs, of course the tactical reality of being beaten up, and the ability to beat back. If there is any ‘Budo’ (武道) it will be in the spirit I want them to embody, if they ever gets into a fight, never back down, and be the last person standing, we will talk more about that later.

Martial arts for kids= child-care centre

The true reality is, martial arts for kids in Singapore, is more like another avenue for parents to throw money into kids’ ‘enrichment’ courses, and of course help them get away from their children. It is a perfect excuse/ reasons for parents to bring their children to a martial arts class, for an hour or two, while the parents themselves trot off to have some ‘me’ time. At the end of the day, the children do not learn much martial arts, because they are simply just wearing a gi, prancing and jumping around, with no clue as to why they are doing what they are doing.

Too serious about it

Well, pardon me if this seem too serious; as martial arts is a serious matter to me. I don’t harbour hopes that my children will be able to pick up martial arts like I did, just simply sending them to an Aikido school, or me teaching them Aikido. If they are keen, I will always be there for them to show them the way, if they are not, it is like bringing the proverbial horse to the water, and you know the rest.