The Aikido Show

There is a lot of debate over what is Aikido. It will never end, as everyone who is practicing the art, will try to find a meaning for themselves.

Of course with social media, like my blog, we will try to define Aikido our way and influence other people in our journey, wittingly or not. Opinionated ones will say what Aikido is, or isn’t. Not so opinionated ones will have their own quiet resolve, and watches while the world argues over which of the waves in the ocean is perfect, and which one isn’t a wave.

YouTube is a sea, it is quite crowded with people there to swim, or debate over the waves. A lot of Aikidokas are there as well, trying to put in their pail’s worth of saltwater.

What you see in YouTube isn’t the true representation of Aikido. People who don’t understand martial arts thinks in their own way, and wonder about how effective those moves are on the streets. Some will ridicule that those techniques in YouTube will not work on the streets.

So will Aikido work?

No.

It will only work if you put real work into your Aikido, until you become skillful, and not watch YouTube Aikido and wonder, debate and deliberate over if these moves are legit or not.

They are legit.

As legit as they are for YouTube.

An Aikido Show

You see, anything you put in front of a camera, is there for a reason. You want to show the world something, it will be scripted and planned to a certain degree, there will be some spontaneity, some changes here and there. But more often than not, it will be practiced and rehearsed, to make sure there is a flow in the movement to fit the agenda of the person producing the video.

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No matter how real Aikido looks in YouTube, it will never be as real as the Aikido you take years to practice and train. YouTube Aikido is like looking at Aikido through a toilet roll tube, and you expects to see Aikido in it’s entire entity? So the pun is intended, YOU watch through a toilet roll TUBE.

 

Embukai

People don’t understand Embukai, and for me I didn’t question it when I first joined Aikido, and to me it is a form of demonstration specific to the art. It is also, strictly speaking not Aikido, in full glory. It is a snippet of Aikido; it’s a show of cooperation, collaboration and hours of hard work and sweat to achieve the level of harmony and, to attain the flow as prescribed for the demonstration. Failure is minimized, resistance limited and struggles omitted. The uke will yield, slam, roll, fall and get thrown. It has to look good right?

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Just as you go to watch Ballet, you expects the Ballerina to dance properly and not to watch him/her fumble during practice. You are there to watch a performance, not practice; for a ballerina to dance to a level of performance, he/she has to put into practice unspeakable amount of hours and commitment. But you don’t question ballet, just because you think it don’t fit hip hop.

So an Embukai is very much like a Ballet dance, you want to see what you expects them to do; and not the training to meet your level of expectations. It is a show and a show seldom reflects real life in full fidelity.

Disclaimer is always needed

There ought to be a kind of buyer beware, Caveat Emptor thing for those people who put up Aikido videos in YouTube, something like what I just grabbed off, where else? YouTube.

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Victor Marx

Anyone who posts martial arts videos on the internet cannot expect anyone who watches it to do exactly the same. Just as much as anyone who watches these videos cannot expects the people in the video to do what you expects them to do.  That is a video, a completed script with a specific message and delivery. So if anyone is so well trained that they wish to post on YouTube for showing and/or bragging, please don’t expect your well intentions to be taken well. Remember the road to hell is always paved with good intentions.

The point is…

If you watch YouTube and comes up with your decision on why it don’t work and why it does, then that’s good for you. Because you just missed the ocean view, looking at the sea.

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New Year Resolution…Again?!

Dear Boys,

Happy New Year! We hear this every last day of December, and first day of January.

People always tend to take stock of what was done for the entire calendar year, based on the worldwide approved Julian Calendar. Unless you live in an island on your own, where you are the king, prime minister, president and citizen all rolled into one, everybody else uses the Julian Calendar.

it is always a human fallacy to know the things that are good for us that we don’t do enough…

After taking stock, comes this ‘resolution’ thingy, which usually means trying to do some things as a goal, aim, or target to hit for the new year, and then take stock again, end of the year. It never gets old, because every January is a Happy New Year!

I’m not a resolution person. I can tell you boys why on a blog, but it will take an entire  blog to tell you why I am not a resolution person. I’m just not.

But I was reading this self-help book, at random, 101 Tiny Changes to Brighten Your Day by Ailbhe Malone, and she was talking about well… small things, tiny things we can take notice of that can either brighten our day or darken it.

It’s something like don’t sweat the small stuff, except that you do, because when you take care of the small stuff, the big stuff will take care of itself.

Well, it’s not as if I don’t know about the small stuff and we need to focus on it, it is always a human fallacy to know the things that are good for us that we don’t do enough. So reading that book is a good reminder for me to look into the minute details of things, my daily actions, and let the rest worry itself. Of course there will be consequences of our actions, but sometimes, our consequences is beyond our control, what else can we do? Micro-adjust our next steps, and the next and the next, until we get what we want.

Aikido, it is all about the small things.

I ought to know this since I’m in Aikido, as Aikido is all about the small things. Heck, life is about it, and Aikido as a martial art, is only a fraction of what we succeed or fail in life. In Aikido, we work from a large circle as a novice to a small and barely perceptible circle of a long-time Aikidoka. From small circular movement, you can displace a larger momentum. Our aim is to make our circle smaller and smaller, and the only way to achieve that is to focus on our small movements, a little muscle twitch here, or even a fleeting thought there, that might delay our decision to move a fraction of a second, or too soon.

All the small things

This is not a resolution still, but for 2019- I want to go back to basics, and focus on the minute, nano-scopic details of my actions, and how these little small actions can affect me in a large way, positively or negatively.

That means I need to work on being a more sensitive, delicate and considerate person. Not for a better world, but for a better me, which in turns helps to better the world.

Body protection-wearing head protection

Body protection-wearing head protection

my helmet

Dear Boys,

Back in my days, when I was mountain biking, I never gotten the rationale of wearing a helmet. But as I read magazines about the sport, I realised the importance, and yet still bike without one, as the price of helmets back then was too expensive for a youngster like me to get.

These days, you can get cheap helmets, that offers good protection. Always try to wear head protection, no matter how stupid you look.

True story

I never forget that day when I went to fetch Ian and I had your bike with me, and helmet of course. You’re off your training wheels but still having some trouble balancing it. You strapped on your helmet and got on your bike.

But you fell, losing balance moving off. You didn’t know it, but I saw it, your head glanced off the kerb, and it was your helmet that absorbed the impact. Well, it could have been your head.

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biking on Coney Island

Why a helmet?

Its elementary, stupid.

You have a head, the head have an organic helmet called a skull, and it is always good to have another helmet for the organic helmet, because if you crack your external helmet, you buy a new one, and if you crack your organic helmet, good luck.

When I was in military service, of course we also have helmets to wear. Back in those days, I wore a steel pot type, with a inner liner, it was heavy, clunky and hot. Kevlar helmets was slowly phasing in, and when I was in Reservist, I had Kevlar types.

I used to ride a motorcycle and needless to say, helmets is a must.

And now, when I got mountain biking, I always wear a helmet, and I cringe every time I rode past a cyclist, e-biker, skater, or roller-blader without a helmet. Sure you look cool, until you crash, crack a skull and then we’ll see if that’s cool. I cringe more when I see parents with their kids, not getting their kids to wear head protection.

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wind in your hair, brain spilled on the road

You speed, you need a helmet 

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senselessly risking his own life

We tend to bike a lot these days, and as much as possible, please wear a helmet.

As long as you are on anything that travels faster than 10km/h, please wear a helmet.

If you go rock climbing, please wear a helmet.

Don’t let your friends tell you helmets are stupid looking, or it is hot wearing one. Look at it this way, even the most elite special forces soldiers wear head protection because they know it saves lives. So if it looks stupid, but it works, then it is not stupid.

Every kind of high risk sport will have their own kind of head protection. Use them, find a good fit and make sure the helmet is strapped on. Even a big helmet is better than no helmet, so try to get one that fits, and tighten it till it doesn’t wobble on your head. Shake your head side to side and front to back, the movement should be minimal.

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Even our pioneer soldiers wear helmets. photo courtesy of Steven Lim

Heard about these parenting taboos?

Dear Boys,

The world we live in is full of myths, taboos and other old wives’ tales on how things should be or should not be done. For me, I asked a group of friends over Facebook, and they came up with some really original ones.

Erena

  • “Don’t consume mutton if preggers . Like the baby might get epilepsy or fits in future.”
  • “They kept saying to drink Soya milk and bird nest so that the baby will become really fair .”
  • ” Like if u take chicken feet , your feet will become really strong . Does it work that way ?”

Agnes

  • “Also k not consume too much bird nest, or else the baby would prone to asthma or coughing.”

Flo

  • “Avoid colas too during lactation…it will affect the infant. Real story not mine tho!”

Jason

  • “Leaving bits of rice in your rice bowl after a meal will cause your future spouse to have lots of acne and pockmarks.”
  • “bad luck to open an umbrella indoors.”
  • “Shaving a baby’s head and eyebrows will ensure that the hair will grow back thick and luscious.”

Yvonne

  • “One old myth: During pregnancy, don’t sweep the bed floor right underneath the bed… Baby will have lots of hair… Seriously I worry about those who believed this… Hygiene and cleanliness are more important…”

Gracia

  • “Never look at ugly people or monkeys and dogs during pregnancy. Heard from old folks”

Dawn

  • “Always comment n say how you like your baby’s facial features to be during pregnancy period n the truth will happen.”

Matthew

  • “Never paint or Knock your wall during pregnancy? Don’t try ya..”
  • “Never use scissor on the bed during pregnancy “
  • “Never fix wiring , ( I did ), then seriously Elias had his umbilical cord haywired. “

Samantha
“Don’t tickle the baby’s feet or he/she will be afraid to walk”
“Don’t say “wah baby you are getting heavy”. Will induce jealousy from the evil spirits”

Melody

  • “When baby suck his/her toe, u r he/she is going to have a bro/sis soon.. lol”

Olivia

  • “Don’t use anything sharp to cut on the bed when pregnant….. If not, the child will have cleft lips”
  • “Never wash hair and have the fan blowing on oneself within the first month after one has given birth, or you will have wind in your body (Tao Hong…lol)”

Kwee Huat Wee

  • “Do not let the young eat fish roe, otherwise they would grow up poor in their calculation.”

So there you have it, I’m sure the list is not exhaustive and in your time, you might have heard of new new ones, or some of these might stay to your time! Do add your own to this list and everyone can have a good time learning from it!
( Thanks to all contributors from #1303, you know who you are!)

Posted Dec 20, 2015

Class Chit Chat

Before I start any class, I made a point to gather the students and did some pep talk. Well, you can call it a chit chat, a nag, or telling tales and stories. Perhaps it is public speaking practise for me.

I think as an ‘evergreen’ class, NUS Aikido will constantly face a challenge of a doctrine bleed. Which means certain practices and culture in the class will leave when the NUS student graduate and start their new life as working professionals. Very few will return to NUS to continue training and uphold the tradition, it is a fact. They will take away the experiences and practices, replaced with another batch of freshmen. So the reality it someone has to constantly remind them of Aikido etiquette and culture. Why we do this and that, and the dos and don’ts in the dojo.

So those newbies come with no idea how the Japanese conducts a martial arts class, so I pep talked them, doing some Corporate Communications perhaps, some Public Relations, making sure that Aikido’s brand values and propositions is constantly being upheld. That’s business jargon anyway.

More importantly, some of them have never met and only beginning to know Harry sensei, whereas I’ve been training with him for 2 decades. Like all human beings, he has his idiosyncrasies and there will be potential misunderstanding. It’s no secret that I am immensely proud to train under him and I constantly remind the student the privilege to receive Harry sensei’s teaching. And we must never take the class for granted, and do sloppy techniques, in doing so patronize him and pissing him off. I’ve said our class is ‘limited edition’, only a small group in Ceylon Sports Club and then there is NUS Aikido. Harry sensei is very well respected regionally and when I tell other people I train with Harry sensei, I always get a certain level of response as if there is an expectation on me to perform and conduct myself in a level reflecting that I’m Harry sensei’s student. I make sure that the new student knows that. Well, that is a heck of a lot of salesmanship there!

Also I explained to the newbies what Aikido is and is not, in my personal opinion, and this is to manage their expectations. I share with them why I joined, I was drawn into it by the Steven Seagal hype, many of the boys and girls don’t even know who Steven Seagal is anymore. I guide them into preparing them what to expect in class, not so much talking more doing, and certain unspoken rules and cultures.

Honestly, I’m not sure if my chit chat is appreciated or not, frankly I’m more bothered that if no one does it, the Aikido in NUS will lose the Aikido spirit, I can see that many of the students take Aikido class as another ‘class’ and other ‘lecture’ Yes, NUS Aikido is conducted in a University campus but in no way Aikido is another ‘lecture’. There are certain practices I hope to see discontinued when the opportunity arises. We need make sure that when an NUS Aikidoka visit other Aikido dojos, they carry with them basic courtesy and etiquette to help them forge ties and build friendship and most importantly, not bring disgrace to Harry sensei!

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Take a bow

We bow in Aikido, towards the front of the dojo, where a photograph of O’sensei is usually hung or placed. Some other dojos hung scrolls instead of O’sensei’s photo. In our old Bukit Merah Dojo, we hung O’sensei’s photograph and that of the 1st doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and a huge scroll.

Right now in NUS, Harry sensei replaced O’sensei’s photograph with a scroll, as he doesn’t want the students to mishandle O’sensei’s photograph.

“Bowing before class starts is like a recharge for me”

Anyway, we bowed to the front, and that for me starts my session in class, long before Harry sensei officially starts class. The first bow in class, for me is the most important bow. It is not religiously motivated, no I do not pray towards O’sensei. I bow because there is a deep reverence I have in me, and for me to practice Aikido well, I need to be mindful of that reverence.

As I bow, I think of many things that has happened. I extend my thought towards people I cared about, matters I cared about, sometimes, I bow to surrender to the day, I bow to get ‘turned on’ and mentally psych myself for the Aikido class ahead. It is no longer as simple as a bodily bow. when I bow my body, I let my mind settle on mindfulness of a couple of things, matters, situation people I care about or have came into my awareness.

I’ve long learned that the ‘beginner’s mind’ for me is to constantly return to the basic human fundamentals, my humility, my connection to the earth, my connection to people, to myself. Nowadays we are so connected to external devices that we no longer connect inside of us. And we continue to chase what is outside, using our precious energy in us to do that senseless chasing.

Bowing before class starts is like a recharge for me. I divorced myself of all those things that bothers me, and reconnects with the inside of me which is the more sustainable part, the more silent and deep part, where my wisdom resides. With a deep and long bow, I can connect and find the energy and calmness to handle class, the patience to deal with things.8545039169_eb9b76642f_n2.jpg

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Fake news is real

Fake news is real

Dear Boys,

We are bombarded with information all the time and more often than not, these inputs comes with a dash of ‘white lies’ or in a sense twisted perspective of the truth. You see, in my opinion, Truth is Relative.

People see things in a different dimension from us, just as we from them, and as much as I try to share and teach you boys things, you both will grow up with your own perspective and learning experience, no two person in this world thinks exactly alike.

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This?
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Or this?

Individualism

It is more prevalent in this era where individuals are glorified. Of course every single human life is precious and every single person’s opinion matters. This forms the basis of democracy where politicians tries to ‘talk’ to every single one of us and make us vote in favour of them. Every single vote counts in their favour (or not).

While being an individual these days empowers us to have our own voice, let’s not forget every single individual coming together makes a collective, societal movement, which can change the tides in a real world environment.

What is Fake news?

Fake news has existed long before the internet, in my times, they are known as tabloids. They always kind of juice up news like “My Husband was a UFO Alien in Disguise.

In fact, the first Men In Black, Tommy Lee Jones taught Will Smith to check the ‘hot sheets’ which Will Smith called them ‘newspaper tabloids’.

You don’t see tabloids nowadays as they have evolved into the virtual realm.

Fake news are not just mundane crap like. “Zoe Tay is a man!” (she isn’t!) Michael Jackson is white! (He isn’t either!) but more insidious things like, “Teen gang attacks Indian construction workers in broad daylight.” Or “Airline pilots used simulators to train for their new aircraft”

You see, those 2 ‘news’, sounds plausibly true, perhaps. But the way it was presented hints that public safety is at risk, ‘broad daylight‘, is the streets safe anymore? ‘used simulators‘- implied the pilots are not well trained to fly the actual planes.

It is not just about the headlines.

Well, it is more than that, these spin doctors can create an entirely fictitious story and sell it as the truth. There will be plots, characters and twists that mimics real life and people will lap it up as the stories are created to look like the real life. #wagthedog

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Wag the Dog

Trolls, what are they?

These are not the cuddly cute cartoon trolls. We are talking about internet trolls, these are very smart computer people, who came together to create news, propaganda and disseminate them through various information channels. Their aim is to sway the mass of people for or against their agenda, and sow discord. They are the new generation of spin doctors.

Information are spread through various decentralised platforms, a person can film a controversial incident and put in on their own personal blog, very much like mine, and it is somehow picked up by news agencies, and the it can spread. That is the somewhat old school way.

These days with Artificial Intelligence, controversial news can be twisted and sent out via bots, and within seconds, becomes viral, generating thousands of ‘likes’ topping internet traffic. And people who are not careful about reading deeper, will get caught up in this news, and start getting lead on. I’m not a tech geek but that’s the gist of it.

It is all about the emotions

The whole point is to stir the public emotions. While I mention that individualism is prized these days, Trolls are using viral news to move the masses, one by one, targeting individuals and their values. Before you know it, everyone will be caught in the movement which can bring about an uncontrolled consequences. You may be an individual, but when a collective societal emotional wave comes, you will be caught up in that movement and get swept away by it.

Singapore’s context

We are small, and fake news, if  not kept in check can have a devastating social consequences. I just read an article about how Fake News started a war in Ukraine, we can never be too complacent about what we read and disseminate.

At the rate people are reading news via social media these days, it is very easy to plant a sensational news and stir the public sentiments. Especially in Singapore, you can target what is said in out Singapore Pledge. Race, Language or Religion.

But Trolls are smarter than that, they target daily affairs, such as our love for Durians- indicating that Durians from Malaysia has high levels of insecticides, and if people buy into this, business can be hurt, both in Singapore and Malaysia.

Individual Opinions

You might say that well, you are educated and surely be smart enough to spot fake news and not fall prey to such scams. ( “4 in 5 Singaporeans confident in spotting fake news but 90 per cent wrong when put to the test-The Straits Times-SEP 27, 2018)

These are the kind of people the trolls target, educated, literate people who knows social media, and are affluent to help them spread and brag how smart (and right) they are. So they plant these seemingly real, but fake news in your head. As long as you think it is plausible, it will become possible, if you think hard enough. And sometimes, you really cannot tell apart fact from fiction.

S.U.R.E

No I’m not promoting National Library Board in anyway, but they have launched a campaign to combat fake news and they used a simple but catchy phrase. ‘S.U.R.E’

S.U.R.E. distills key Information Literacy (IL) concepts into 4 simple ways:

Source: Look as its origins. Is it trustworthy?

Understand: Know what you’re reading. Search for clarity.

Research: Dig deeper. Go beyond the initial source.

Evaluate: Find the balance. Exercise fair judgement.

So make SURE you are going through that thought process when you read about something, always cross reference your findings since google is always so readily available. Then again what you read in google might not always be the truth. Like what is said on the last part: ” Exercise fair judgement.”

Links:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/how-fake-news-sparked-war-ukraine-russia-crimea-select-committee-11055154?cid=fbcna&fbclid=IwAR3Kawxtg39s1DIP4gPYCbQv84_l20xyv30Ad7jHtvChGXQqBZx2HYXrJs4

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/4-in-5-singaporeans-confident-in-spotting-fake-news-but-90-per-cent-wrong-when-put-to-the

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/select-committee-fake-news-online-falsehoods-recommendations-10739834

http://www.nlb.gov.sg/sure/category/fake-news/

https://www.betterinternet.sg/