How to Cheat at Soccer

How to Cheat at Soccer

Dear Boys,

This was an interesting story since your dad is not a ‘ball’ guy, and has little or no interest whatsoever in anything ballsy. This happened back in 2006 when I was with the bank.

For cohesion, banks usually will have ‘Recreational Clubs’ to organize activities for the staffs to have fun and bond over non-work related activities. So there was this ‘7-a-side’ soccer tournament and my friends in the department wanted to join. The rule was to form a team of 10, 7 playing, 3 reserves. The guys got a team of 9, and chided me to join as the tenth guy, I was thinking, well, I’m gonna chip in a name to make up the numbers, and probably sit out the whole thing; just a warm body on the bench. No sweat right? I honestly do not plan to see any action, soccer’s not my thing.

The other part was, I mistakenly thought this was Futsal, which is played in a very small area, and with that in mind, I don’t think I’d be expecting a lot of running, even if I played. No sweat.

I Actually Played Soccer!

The tournament was held at St Wilfred Soccer field, which was actually a full size soccer pitch, with a nice artificial turf. The other teams from the bank came much better prepared, they even have their own jerseys, which we found out why, at the end of the tournament.

Despite of just being a bench warmer, I ended up having to play, because some of my friends needed to catch their wind and asked for a time out. So I played, and played terribly, since it was my first time, playing ‘competitively’, my opponents was certainly much, much better. While I tried the best I could, I was completely out-dribbled and out classed by my opponents. On top of that, running around chasing the ball in a full size soccer pitch really takes the wind out of you, and I almost died out there, the fitness necessary to play soccer was really no joke, and the professionals have to do it for a full 90 minute.

Aikido to the Rescue (or not!)

Not knowing how to be a soccer player. I turn to the other physical activity I knew and was very good at: Aikido. The only good as an Aikidoka, was I can take contact sports and give as good as I get, but this is not martial arts, it’s soccer,. My brain was processing, ‘ball’ or ‘guy’. ball’ or ‘guy’ and my instinct was to attack the guy, not the ball, so I charged and dived the only way I knew (the artificial turf was such a luxury to dive in!), and of course my opponent, easily run circles around your dad, the clumsy soccer noob. Obviously I also don’t have the technical skills to dribble nor pass the ball to my team-mates properly, and likely end up more of a liability than part of a team.

It was all for the sake of fun and we all did enjoyed ourselves. We didn’t do shabby either, and managed to score some goals and climbed the small leader board.

4th place and the Commotion

Eventually we ended up 4th place, and was not bad, not last at the very least. While everyone gathered at the rest point, to have the medals presented, we heard a commotion. Apparently the runner up team complained to the judges.

The Champions cheated.

The winning team had more than 10 players, and the reason why they wore jerseys, was so that they can switch out their players and people can’t really tell the difference between the players, wearing the same jersey. We played against them, and we didn’t notice any change in their players. Maybe my friends did, but I sure as hell didn’t. Well, the other teams found out and protested the fraud.

They got disqualified, weren’t too happy about it, and even kick up a temper. They say a lot of their friends wanted to join and the 10 person limit meant that some of them would not be able to play, which was why they swop jersey so that their friends can have a change to play, which would also meant fielding fresh players as well. What an excuse!

Being in the 4th place, we got pushed up and became the 2nd runner-ups, thanks to the turn of events in our favor!

The 7 Wonders.

No Gain=No Pain

No Gain=No Pain

The old adage of ‘No Pain, No Gain’ centres a lot on our masochistic nature to push ourselves above and beyond. This sheer bravado is dangerous as it teases the ego to carry out whatever the pain threshold, just to get a little gain. And reinforces the concept that pain is good, as much as gain is.

The thing is what can we gain out of pain, really? What have we got to prove? We are tougher? We are tougher than the other guy?

We all have our breaking point, all of us, we will break at our given level. So sometimes, we can go beyond the pain, to gain, but what we really potentially can gain is irreparable damage.

So what we gain instead is pain, long term suffering.

Aikido, as with most spiritual endeavours, is about abandonment. The relinquishing of our hold that binds us to our suffering. Hence, the opposite is true, what we gain in value, causes us no pain.

Photo by Andres Ayrton from Pexels

Think of the fats we gain, and our attempts to go to the gym to work it out and get that perfect abs. In order for us to ‘gain’ that six-pack; we ‘pain’ ourselves with 1000 sit ups, brain washing ourselves with every rep, ‘No pain, no gain!’ Who are we kidding?

We need to put the cart in front, and be mindful of what we gain, we will still gain something and we cannot help it. And those that we have gain, causes us pain, we have to shed them, before these gains turn into real pain.

So had we prevent our mouths from gaining access to that delicious donut, we will have saved our entire body the pain of losing it later.

Photo by Tim Samuel from Pexels

So the more mindful we are about what we gain, the better we get at reducing our pain.

Posted on June 13, 2012

Stop writing!

Stop writing!

I’ve had a chat with Sensei again about writing up Aikido stuffs last evening and he, this time around dissuaded me from doing so. He is not keen to have his legacy written down and does not believe in having a legacy.

Personally, he feels that that is nothing much to be written about that which is already confusing enough. He has always been saying ‘Ask me no questions and I will tell you no lies.’ In the same spirit with that phrase, he is asking me not to write about him. ‘Stop wasting your time,’ he says, and continues to digress about the current state of affairs. All writings can never tell the whole truth, so why bother?

According to him, he sees the current trend of logic and science as bringing about the messy state of affairs we are in. not so much for the economic rather the climate. Sensei is very much like ‘O’ sensei, and other people who have great affinity and sensitivity with mother nature, he sees the current generation of the human race as too materialistic and even if I were to write something about him, and about Aikido, it will not be of much use and understanding.

To him, there is only one Aikido founder, O’sensei and the rest is not much to write about (including himself). He is not keen to explain or discuss Aikido matters, and prefers that we practice and train diligently.

The current generation of people are misguided and has too much ego in them, what he wants for us to do is not to be the best, or strive for the best, simply to live and enjoy what we are doing.

The chat was very profound and I am indeed very grateful for having this chat with him. He’d freed me from the burden I created for myself. If I have to undertake writing about him and his Aikido, the onus is on me to reproduce his words and teachings in full fidelity. He remarked that I cannot even do my technique right, how am I supposed to understand him? and what he has come to understood? As much as I would like to argue on that, he is quite firm on it.

He has his reasons, and I can understand why. He is not a person who sees a big ‘ME’ in the ‘Harry sensei’. He is not overly attached to himself, and sees himself merely as a medium for Aikido to flourish. He sees himself very much like a messenger, simply carrying a message, irrespective and carefree about the immense ‘value’ that is attached to that message. Its like delivering a diamond, knowing that it is immensely precious, and yet not caught up by the preciousness of the item.

He also frees me from his teachings and encourages me to look at the far larger picture. and the best part is he is asking me to see the world with my own eyes, not with his.

Posted on August 4, 2011

Who’s your Guardian Angel?

Who’s your Guardian Angel?
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad from Pexels

O Sensei has a guardian spirit, ‘Sarutahiko O-Kami’, also known as the Guardian Deity of Aikido.


Makes me wonder, who is my guardian angel, deity, facilitating my sixth sense, third eye?

So who’s your guardian angel, do you have one, know one to begin with? And how does having one or not having helped/ impeded you in your life and spiritual growth?

Posted on July 28, 2010

The Path Leading to the Summit

The Path Leading to the Summit

We often use mountains as metaphors as our quest for human excellence and the pursuit of    self actualization. Maslow’s theory of needs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs)  already presents our needs in a pyramid, pitching the highest ideal as ‘self actualization’. As the triangle looked like a mountain, we can symbolically determine it as a kind of a challenge, a climb.

Similarly, in martial arts, we often diplomatically says, ‘there are many ways to reach the summit.’ which loosely means, we can train hard in Aikido, Karate, Kendo, and the ultimate aim is ‘satori’ (悟り), or enlightenment.

Surely it is an ideal pursuit, worthy of our effort. there is a caveat, i realised recently.

Are we climbing the metaphorical mountain, or are we building our own tower of knowledge instead?

One is the land, the other is the map to the land.

We are all living in a world full of information and knowledge, and yet, wisdom, is still lacking. We all study so hard, to earn our degrees, learned so much to know all that we can know, and yet, we get pissed off by the slightest provocation.

I’m not discounting that building a tower of knowledge. It take arduous effort, and one can professed an in-depth knowing of the hows and whys of a discipline, we become the proverbial expert, but that does not lead us up the mountain. We become experts, but we fail to become a master. More so, we are becoming more isolated by all our knowing, we know this we know that, so that is no more for us to venture for, since we already know what we know, if we don’t know something, we know where to go and find the answers. And hence, we build another layer on our tower of knowledge.

Knowledge does not lead us to the summit. Knowledge tells us, we can look out of our tower window, and gaze at the summit. No matter how high we build our tower, we cannot reach the highs of the summit, on the contrary, the high we build our tower, the more precarious it become, and it will topple in eventuality.

Photo by Courtney Clayton on Unsplash

So in our modern world, all of us is in a tower. I can see that in the trains, in my work. Everyone knows a little about what they know, and makes a big deal out of it. People gaze into their iPhone and computer screens and tippity tap on their keyboards (like what i am doing now) and think we know all there is to know about the summit. But all we know about the summit, is not the summit. It is the map, not the land. We think we know about people, we learn about people, and yet we suck at socialising. We are virtually losing our ability to connect with each other, since we are more interested in connecting with the net, with the system, with the apps.

We need to come down from our ivory tower, walk the land. Walk with one another, and head for the summit, know the terrain, the soil, the animals, touch and feel them. Allow them to touch and feel us back. Because true knowledge is not in the knowing, it is in the doing.

Posted on December 28, 2011

Winning and losing is not competition

Winning and losing is not competition

We have a competitive nature, it forms the basis of our existence, we see competition in all aspects of life. Even in the animal kingdom, some animals have to compete for the alpha male position, and mate with the best female member of the tribe.

Competition helps us not only survive but thrive. When we compete in with a constructive spirit, we develop ourselves, we make things better for others. When we challenge status quo, and succeed, we inspire others to make the impossible, possible. We set a higher standards for ourselves so that others can emulate. Well, that isn’t so bad, when we look at the spirit of competitiveness in a positive manner.

When we add in an element of winning, that changes the entire equation, and puts the ego in charge. You see, life is about competition, winning, and the other poor impostor, losing, isn’t. In life there is no losing, nor winning. There is only the strive to exist, for some to be the best they can be. Which is still fine.

When you pit one human being against another, and determine, who wins and loses. Then that violates the spirit of competitiveness. All human beings are equal, like no other, and because each of us is unique, we can never be better than anyone else other than us. We can only be better than ourselves.

“No one wins, no one loses. We all compete and we all become better.”

To say that there are no competition in Aikido, would have taken things a little bit out of context, there are still some level of competition, but there are also a lot of compassion. We see each of us in Aikido as strugglers. I see my junior belt students struggle, I can understand that and will try to help them the best I can, so that they can be a better person tomorrow, so that they can compete against themselves, and become a better person. The junior belts are not competing against me to win something, and when they get the better of me, I didn’t lose anything, we are all humans and we have slip ups, and to put a win/lose duality into competition, that would have skewed the reality.

This is compassionate competition. We push ourselves to be a person better tomorrow, than the person today. I help them, and they help me, we all help each other compete, and sometimes, we offer an external level of competition, just to help our fellow Aikidoka get out of their own shell, out of their own comfort zone. No one wins, no one loses. We all compete and we all become better.

This is the true meaning and strive of competition, not to win, not to gain medals and look good being a champion. We become our own champion, and held our strife as the ultimate trophy. We struggle, fall down, get up and fall down, this is life’s journey, not to win any thing, just to compete and make ourselves proud of who we are, a race of competitors, striving to make sure we become the best human being ever.

Posted on September 23, 2015

Class Chit Chat

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 practice 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!

Posted on September 14, 2015