theaikidad

Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

Supernormal Stimulation-When real is no longer real

I just learned about this ‘super-normal stimulus’ recently and instantly connect to hows and the whys and the contemporary challenges in learning an art like Aikido.

I will no delve on the subject of Supernormal Stimulus, you can read it up at:

“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernormal_stimulus”

or you can refer to the excellent comics drawn by Stuart McMillen.

“http://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comics_en/supernormal-stimuli/”

Why do I specifically say contemporary challenges?

And when we talk about contemporary, how do I define that?

I guess it all begins with the word ‘super’. And of course the proverbial evil dollar.

I guess, humans, like all biological creatures are endowed with ‘supernormal stimulus’, it is closely linked to our fight/flight response. When we are still not so intellectual to analyse a specific threat, on hindsight, we simply respond.

But when we start to develop language, and start to analyse things, we get recounts like ‘The Sabre tooth tiger’s teeth is BIGGER than my HEAD!” or “the artillery round was BIGGER than my car!” When things gets exaggerated, you know there is something being ‘surprised’ in there.

Why? We need that attention, we need that drama, we need to be captivated by something. Normal mundane life, well, seem like normal mundane life. And when one captivates, one sells more! In our capitalistic world, the more you sell, the rest is history.
Success in life is now very much ‘surprised’. Everything is, and the advertising industry is not helping, in fact they are perpetuating it! Why? It boils down to a marketing term call ‘a share of mind.’ Or a share of whatever you want to call it. This ‘share of Whatchamacallit’ is perceived as a limitation of a human’s ability to absorb the larger picture of things.

So when a stimulus gets ‘surprised’, it hypes us up, and that is exactly what the perpetrators wants, a hyped up sense of being so that they can capture our attention and holds our reality hostage. And a hype gives us a sense of high, and that sense of high gives us a feel good feeling. But that feel good feeling, never feels good for a long period of time. It will become mundane once again, and when that happens, we look for a new high. And another and another, until we become saturated with highs, and we avoid the lows. The higher we gets hyped, the less grounded we become. The less detached we are from reality.

Aikido is as close to reality as you can get. Why is it unique from other arts, is precisely due to its non-competitive nature. When you compete, you stimulate a fight/flight response, things gets suprised. Opponents becomes bigger, we get fixated at finding out their weak moves. We get fixated on winning. Everything else does not mater anymore.

Aikido allows you to be, just be. Attacks are not really attacks but it is mean to give you a reasonable amount of stimulus. But not overly. It is calibrated according to skill levels. And all Aikido moves looked the same, generally a beginner’s irimi nage looks the same as an advanced practitioner’s irimi nage. The only difference is the level of speed and the ‘smoothness’ of the technique. I wouldn’t really consider an Aikido practice as ‘intense’ unless you are in the practice yourself. Anyone observing Aikidokas in practice will seldom describe Aikido as ‘intense’.

There is a reason for Aikido’s design. It is to help us regain our balance. bring our supernormal stimulus back to a manageable manner. Bring attention back to reality. Bring reality back to our lives. The contemporary challenge is that an Aikido class will last, at best, 2 hours. we have another 22 more hours to be super-stimulated. and right now with the world going 24/7 to 24/365, there is no more room in us to find that equilibrium. We perpetuate from one highs to another, and keep on finding issues to relate our identity to. At what costs? To what end?

Aikido is telling us, life. That is all to it. And life is much larger than the supernormal stimulated self, settle down and go to an Aikido class.

First Published on: Feb 18, 2014

Your Dad, The Dog Whisperer II

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Your dad is that scrawny boy in the middle

Dear boys,

During my National Service, there were plenty of time for me to come into contact with dogs. While as a Regimental Policeman, I have to duty to ensure the integrity of the camp I’m guarding are robust. Dogs on the other hand, will always have their ways to get around chain linked fence. If all else fails, they simply stroll into my camp via the very main gates we were guarding.

I’m quite lucky to have served National Service in days where there is no Al Quaeda, no Daesh(ISIS), and security in camps isn’t as tight as it is now. I was posted to the guard room, and technically served as a security guard. I got Mondays to Fridays 8.30am to 5.30am. which was great, the night shifts was covered by the guys in the camp. Life was easy, the only ‘security threat’ was not properly registering the visitors.

Bibi

So there was this brown mongrel. My friend Jerome, called her ‘BiBi’ as she kind of looked like one of the Chief Clerks in the camp. Actually she don’t, but the name stuck. Bibi came and went, like all free roaming dogs do, we feed her when we can and the relationship was very laissez faire. She came into the guard room, we feed her; she leaves, she leaves.

But she was pregnant. we knew that and didn’t think too much of it. Well, we were eighteen then, what do we know about doggie parenting?

Bibi does.

We came to camp one day and the guys who manned to night guard duty told us that Bibi did something in our cell.

You see, back then our guardroom has about 12  holding cells for prisoners, but most of them were unused, and became makeshift storerooms. although a couple of them were clean and unoccupied. Other than the stacks of newspapers we put there.

So Bibi went into that cell, made herself cozy, by spreading the newspapers out. Promptly gave birth to her offspring there.

It was the most b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l thing to me. The experience is not anything I could have had. Bibi was there, there was 11 of them, but 3 died at birth. the rest of the 7 scurried to Bibi’s nipples for their suckle of life. They all scrambled like hungry little rodents, and despite of their eyes has yet to open, they know where the nipples are, and homed in on it. There were one or 2 weaker ones, who couldn’t get to the nipples for refuel, I helped moved them a little and positioned these weaker ones for their nourishment.

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Bibi with her brood

Bibi trusts me.

I didn’t know maternal instincts until I met Bibi. Of course her giving birth wasn’t a total secret in camp, many of the camp guys camp to see and yeah, that’s all they get, a look, they couldn’t touch the pups, they could try and all they got was a low warning growl from Bibi. These guys were strangers; for me and my RP friends, we held her, we could hold her children. There was no issue. For me, to have a dog trust me instinctively and intrinsically is one of the greatest honour I could have as a human being. It is a big deal as an 18 year old then.

The pups were small, I can hold one in my hand, and as pups, they grew fast and grew so full of energy. And so playful too.

Unfortunately, sometimes, ignorance and playfulness can cost them their lives.

Puppy vs 3 Tonner

I came to camp one day and learned the unfortunate demise of one of the pups. The night duty guys told me that one of the puppies, a lovely little brown patch of furry energy, decided to take a nap on the road, just outside my guardroom, the wee hours of the morning.

A 3 tonner came and went, unfortunately didn’t see the puppy, well it was night and dark, the little mutt was barely visible. The result was predictable, road kill.

Blackie

I think the most fortunate of all the pups was this little black thing called ‘Blackie’. He was picked up by a Commando Major, and the soldier took it in ever since. Even when the Major retired and joined the Police Force, Blackie followed him. I’m sure the Major would have given the mutt a good life, all the way to the end.

I’m still in touch with the Major every now and then, and he does tells me Blackie’s still with him, but that has been a couple of years since I last caught up with the old soldier, I wonder if Blackie’s still alive, or old age has finally caught up with the mutt.

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Jerome is that big guy.

 

Your Dad, The Dog Whisperer

Dear Boys,

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Nancy, my Pug

Back when I was still staying at Bedok South, I cam across a little dog that was left at my block’s provision shop. The auntie at the shop say someone left the dog there and she was feeding the dog water.

It was an affable creature, totally lovable. I was probably 16 years old? There was only one response, bring it home!

It was a pug. True pedigree Pug. not a mongrel, not any street dog.

Fat little bitch. My mum and I named her ‘Nancy’, well for a good reason, my mum thought she looked kind of like the recent First Lady of US, Nancy Reagan. So we called her that ever since.

And it didn’t occurred to me why would anyone want to throw such a lovely dog away. It didn’t occurred to us to bring her for a medical check up. We just took her in and she became part of us ever since.

I’ve always been a dog person. Before Nancy came along, I was kind of frolicking with dogs and mutts. Back then they served a more utilitarian purpose, more like guard dogs. Those dogs I came across and played with are all mongrels, average size, hardy creatures, totally lovable.

Lucky

There was a ‘Lucky‘, a mongrel who actually belonged to my dad’s neighbour. He had a shop/warehouse in Eunos, and the next door guys makes roller shutter doors, the company was called ‘Standard roller shutter’. I think they are no longer around.

Lucky was a great dog, he know his way around Eunos and live, came and went as he pleases. He eats whatever we feed him and I will always remember, cycling to the Eunos wet market to buy $2 worth of slop; scraps of food from the mixed vegetable stall and bring the big bag of rice+whatever the hawker have left, mostly meat. Lucky will eat them all up. Oh, yes, he eats ice cream too, but with a brain freeze look after that. Lucky also chases cars, trucks and anything that has 4 wheels on.

He was as loyal a dog as it can be, even though the mutt don’t technically belong to us, he followed me everywhere; he often followed me and my mum to the bus stop at the main road, which will need him to climb and cross an overhead bridge. He would wait with us at the stop, watched us board the bus and went his way. The very next day, we will always find him back at the shop.

As a mongrel, he’s not the cleanest mutt, and has his fair share of dog’s breath, stink, fleas and ticks. I would pluck them off him, take a hammer from my dad’s tool box, and put that flea out of its misery, between concrete and hammer. blood would splatter on some of these big fat, juicy blood sucking fleas. The fleas couldn’t flee fast enough from me. Ha ha.

Back to Nancy

So Nancy came to stay with us. and by then she was already a fully gown dog, so our attempts to house train her failed utterly. She pee and poop almost all over the house. We would get angry and beat her after she she mess up doing her business; she would give us the most sorrowfully sweetest look. We cannot be angry with her for long.

While she was with us, she is just the sweetest dog. My parents were going through a divorce and she was our constant source of comfort. Pugs are generally mild tempered, and Nancy was just that. Not the sharpest tool in the dog world, but she is certainly the sweetest. Sometimes, she do earn her keeps as a ‘guard dog’, as she would know the presence of a person before we hear them. And if it was me coming home, she would wag her small curly tail, happy like only a dog can be.

On quiet days, she’d be happy just to sit with you, while you rub her tummy, message her face, play with her fats. You can rub her chest, that little cluster of pointy fur that bunched up there.

It was only good for a year.

One day, Nancy wasn’t her usual self one day and we couldn’t figure out why. She lost her appetite and drank a lot of water. I was working then and I just couldn’t get my mind off her. She was not the jumping cheery self. Just tired and lethargic.

I bought her to the vet, and they checked on her. They pinch her and the skin sort of clumped together, a sign of dehydration, which could goes to show some kidney problems. They would have to keep her there overnight to observe her.

So I left.

She never came home.

The next day, the vet called my mum at home (those were the days mobile phone isn’t that mobile yet) and told her that Nancy’s condition has deteriorated overnight, and they will have to put her down.

That was that.

I never get to see Nancy, never got to say good bye.

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Nancy, basking in sunlight, I often laugh at her doing this, it is as if, she is solar powered, recharging, her leash is like a power cord. LOL.

I have very little pictures of Nancy, these were the days digital imagery wasn’t prevalent. But my memory of her is deep and still is. Having a dog changes a person. You cannot be a complete human being if you have no relationship with an animal.

I finally can understand why she was left abandoned at the void deck by her previous owner(s). They’d probably knew about her condition, and couldn’t afford the maintenance. Or she has grown up, and they have grown tired of her. But even though she was only with us for 1 year, I’m sure we gave her the best possible life all the way to the end.