Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

Competitive Aikido

Competitive Aikido

If you have to hurt a person to win, then it is better to lose.

The spirit and core of Aikido is non-competition.

That’s it simple, easy.

The bottom line is, that has been taken out of context. Nowadays people say it without knowing why O sensei decides against ‘competition’.

O sensei, is being specific. He is against having competition in his art, He does not want Aikidoka to practice Aikido for the sake of competition. and he does not want a competitive element to be imbued into the art of Aikido.

But that doesn’t mean that Aikidokas cannot be competitive.

A marathoner’s competition

What O sensei wants us to learn from the practice of Aikido is the universal spirit of harmony and love. There was a story about the Spaniard Ivan Fernandez Anaya, who didn’t want to win his cross country race by capitalizing on his competitor’s mistake. That is the spirit of harmony and love, which is manifested though the practice of Aikido. It is a competitive sport, but Ivan didn’t lose his humanity to gain a piece of metal.

So what O sensei implied is, go ahead, we have to compete, sometimes, because we have that competitive nature. In every organism, there is a pecking order, we have to climb and fight, and race, and compete, that is fine. We must not, however, lose our humanity. If you have to hurt a person to win, then it is better to lose. We will make ourselves smaller through plots, schemes, rules and regulations. These limits imposed makes competition ‘fair’, but it limits our human capacity to fully function.

Eventually we want to win the human race. That is the race, and competition Aikido is preparing us for. We are not aiming to be a champion Karateka, top salesman, best entertainer, at the neglect of our loved ones, our health, our spirit. Aikido aims for the higher order of becoming a better human being, a better person, a better Earthling.

Yes, it is a tall order, I can imagine that during the time when O sensei is bringing his art to the public, what kind of stir he would have created in the martial arts fraternity in Japan. Karatekas, Judokas, Jiujitsu practitioners, would have look upon O sensei and says some not so constructive things. Had O sensei bent on competing with these folks, he might win the fight but lose the entire spirit of Aikido. He can do it, he competed against no one else but himself, to be a better human being, to be the best, and so inspire and continues to inspire millions of people globally.

So keep the big picture, look at what Aikido is making us become, a Champion Human Being.

The Uncomfortable Truth

I had a chance to share a session with my NUS mates, and I took the opportunity to share with them what we need to do. The Martial part of Martial Arts.

What we do isn’t play play, at the end of the day we must be willing to use what we have learn to take lives. Martial arts has evolved from a very dark history, it was meant to take life, kill people. It is not for fun, exercise, or for other lifestyle benefits.

I wanted to bring this heavy, dark topic in and bring people back to why Aikido is Aikido. We do not have a competition system, where you do things to earn a point, you get a medal or win a championship. Yes we have rules, we have safety, but beyond that you can take what you learn over the edge.

Aikido, as an art of peace and harmony, I feel, is an overused cliché. At the present moment we live in a world filled with random violence. Incidences such as the Paris attack, Belgium bombings, Mumbai attack are real, and it can happen where we live. The authorities are still trying to come to terms with terrorists who are not keen to take hostages for negotiation. These terrorists are not keen to negotiate, they are keen to extract maximum damage and loss of innocent lives along with theirs.

It is not a matter of bravado, or being a ‘hero’, I told the class, but if I am in the unlikely event of having to face one of these terrorists, and I am able to stop them before they could do more harm, I would, kill the person, even at the expense of my own life. Perhaps, I might piss my pants, shit my pants, but I told myself, I must act, despite of fear. I must use all that I know, in Aikido, or other means necessary to kill the attacker. The terrorist must die, before many more people die.

The logic for me, is simple, if I let the attacker go, I know and did nothing, the person will talk towards the designated target, be it a shopping mall, or subway station, and detonate himself or herself, or shoot people there. My kids might be there, my family might be at the MRT station where the attacker is going to launch the attack, my friends, loved ones will die. The terrorists will kill indiscriminately.

So I think at this juncture, given our current climate and that the ISIS has proven that they are willing to attack anywhere and everywhere, anyone and everyone, we need to rethink what we can do as citizens, and as martial artists. I don’t think we can persuade them out of pressing the detonator, irimi tenkan, or kote gaishi, will be very much useless, when the bomb fragments starts flying, but we need to fight them at an ideological level. Aikido is budo, what we learned is skilled, applied violence, we need to use that skill to stand in the way of random violence. If we have once chance to do something to stop these people, we must act. Budo is the preservation of life, sometimes, we need to sacrifice our life so that we can preserve the life of others, including those of our loved ones.

Let’s roll!

This brings to mind that guy who brought down the plane in Sept 11 terrorist attack, Todd Beamer. Long story short, he knew that the plane will probably slam into some other area causing more deaths on the ground, so he rally up his fellow passengers and fought the terrorists and successfully brought the plane down on a field Pennsylvania, killing everyone on board, but causing losing no more lives on the ground.

It is not a perfect ending, as in life there isn’t, but when we have the courage to act, and stop bad things from happening, we can still do good in a world of bad. The irony is we need to do bad things to bad people, so that these bad people do not harm other good people. It is very simple writing it out, but I hope the NUS class that evening, understood the gravity of my uncomfortable truth.



Harry Sensei’s Hakama

Harry Sensei’s Hakama

DSC_0381_Fotor“He can forget that he is our sensei, we cannot forget that we are his students.”

One evening, Harry sensei, at the end of the class, gestured the NUS Chairperson over and passed the students’ grading card to her, and the promptly turned his back and walked off.

We thought nothing of it, until one of the students came to me and told me that Harry sensei didn’t pass his hakama over for the students to fold. Apparently he forgotten to let us fold his hakama.

Without hesitation I put on my shoes and took off for the toilet where Harry sensei will usually change. He was there and was about to unceremoniously chuck his crumpled hakama into his bag. I took it from him, and muttered, ‘You hakama must be folds, cannot don’t fold.’

I brought it back to the mat and quickly fold it so that Harry sensei do not have to wait too long.

He didn’t have to.

While I was waiting for Harry sensei to come out of the toilet, the NUS committee chairperson, vice chair, and the treasurer(I think), was with me, I told them not to forget to fold Harry sensei’s hakama again.

“He can forget that he is our sensei, we cannot forget that we are his students.” that was my parting shot.

At the very baseline, Harry sensei, is after all just another Aikidoka, who happened to be the one conducting the class. He is after all human. He is after all, just a number, a gender, a demographic, a something, someone, anyone. When the class ends, he reverts back to a normal person, no longer taking an Aikido class, no longer Aikido sensei.

But I still considers myself his student, long after I stepped off the mat. And all these years, when he ends his class, someone will fold his hakama, and when no one does, I try to make sure I do it. It really don’t have to be me, it can be any of his students, but someone has to take that initiative. There was about 30-odd number of students and one Harry sensei, but no one folded his hakama, or went after him when he forgot to let us fold.

Its a small thing, perhaps, I’m making a big fuss out of nothing. I’m duty bound to do what is right. Think about how we treat our parents. Sometimes, they might have some kind of mental illness that might rob them of their ability to remember that we are their kids. their memory might fail, but our duty as their children doesn’t. I will always be my parents’ children, whether they remember me or not, even if they disown me, I am still their son. How they treat me, cannot affect how we treat them, because we know who we are, to them and to ourselves.

That’s the fundamental issue I have that evening. Its not about sucking up to Harry sensei, rather, just accord the minimum requirement he asked of us. Folding a hakama is nothing, he could have brought it home and unfold it to wash, and his maid would probably fold it for him, or he would have fold it himself. Fact is, after class, we, the students have to fold it for him, it is a ritual, part of being an Aikidoka. We need to uphold that practice, a small chore that tests us of our discipline.

And it is always the small things that mattered.