Notes to keep us going

Notes to keep us going

Dear boys,

We write notes to one another, well, not so much these days, but I think in the early days of our family lives, it is a good way to tell and encourage each other that we have love, care and concern for every one in our family.

It of course started with me writing and putting these little notes in your mum’s purse, dress, crockeries and other places where she will use, go to or touch. the whole idea was to give her some kind of a pleasant surprises that her husband loves her and is constantly think of her.

While of course, it was a romantic gestures, more importantly, I want to put these nice loving thoughts so that we constant remind each other to be nice to one another, even in a quarrel or unhappy episode, we still need to think of each other in a nice way.

Of course your mum reciprocated in kind, and we learned to put little notes in your bags and wallets, in no time Ian you’re also writing stuffs for your brother and vice versa.

Try to keep this up as there are times where words can’t be spoken enough, or we did a lousy action and hurt our loved ones, but serendipitously come across one of these notes, will help soothes any ruffle feathers.

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My sensei teaches more than Aikido

My sensei teaches more than Aikido

This is the view for me for the past 20-odd years. The irony of my life is that I know my Aikido sensei more than I know my father.

My parents divorced when I was 15. I started Aikido when I was nineteen-ish, and just like that, I’ve spent more than 20 years in Aikido, even longer than I know my wife.

I was never Harry sensei’s ‘favorite’ student. When you trained long enough with him, you know the kind of students he like; and by the virtue of my physique, I’m not his uke by choice. I got to where I am, because I hung around long enough, longer than those ‘better’ students. I got here by attrition, you can say that.

Along the way, I learned quite a few things from my sensei, and without him, I have no Aikido, and no such blog. My mind will not be open, the way he did, gently and patiently. Without his quiet guidance, I won’t be the person I am today.

Loyalty and commitment

It is Harry sensei’s bragging rights. He trained incessantly, 50 years, Mondays to Fridays; these days. Back in those days, he trained 7 days a week, 4 hours. These days who can say they did what he has done, 50 years and counting? He mentioned in his soft voice, he only stopped Aikido twice, once for his mother’s death, for a month, the other time he did, I didn’t catch what he said.

While many people can and like to mention lineage, to soup up their own dojo’s marketing prowess, mentioning that they trained under who and who and which and which Japanese Shihan, Harry sensei simply mentioned that his sensei is the late Teddy Lee sensei, He took the helm from his sensei, and continue to practice Aikido, the way his sensei taught him.

I’ve never heard him trained under anyone else, perhaps with Nakazono sensei, who first brought Aikido to Singapore. More importantly he has never failed to mention his sensei, he has never forgotten his sensei and the teachings. That is his loyalty, and he don’t give a f**k about winning the popularity contest.

He is committed to Aikido, and still comes to class, rain, shine, good health or otherwise. He just mentioned today he had a bout of shingles. Had he not mentioned, we wouldn’t have known, he is still as fit and ki still flows from his fingers. He is committed to teaching and it doesn’t matter if one student turns up or none. Of course he will berate us for being absent, but he knows our commitments and he never asks more from us, but he continuously gives us his commitment, more than we can ever accept.

Family and Sacrifice

The world is fair, there is only 24 hours, Harry sensei is no exception. While he devoted his time to Aikido, his wife has to suffer, his children has to suffer. He will miss their important dates, significant milestones. All for Aikido. He was never there for them in the evening, by the time he got home after training, his kids would have been asleep, the next day, he would have to go to work.

After 50 years, there is no way to reclaim them back. he has to choose, and he sacrificed his family time.

Harry sensei got to become Harry sensei, because he did what he did. His success showed me how not to be a whole person. My family needs me, just as much as I need my Aikido. It is never an easy decision, and I learned to follow my heart.

Sometimes I have to sacrifice Aikido for my family, and Harry sensei would understand where my priorities are.

Regret and Fate

Time has been spent, it cannot be recovered. We spoke briefly, and Harry sensei agreed he was very ‘lucky’, his children and wife stuck by him, although he did mention that his wife is getting even with him these days, after so many years of neglect.

Call it fate or luck his wife didn’t leave him and took his children along. His children are still filial to him. His grandchildren still buys things for him, when they travel overseas. Things could have gone awry for him, his children could have rebelled, as technically speaking, he wasn’t really clocking his time as a dad. As a dad myself, I know had I done what Harry sensei did, my wife would have to pick things up in my absence, and double hat my role.

As a dad myself, I have my moments of regrets, when I missed some of my children’s significant moments. As a sensei, he would have missed more, much, much more.

Photo courtesy of Vincent Asjenwi, Kiryokukai Indonesia

Aikido is good Karma

Let’s not get superstitious here, I’m using ‘karma’ as a generic term. Loosely speaking, Harry sensei did good. While he hadn’t been much of a dad in the evenings, his practice and commitment to Aikido, showed his family and loved ones, that he is truly and purely a good person, doing good stuff with Aikido. His only flaw is; his undying love for Aikido.

 

No Idols

Taken during one of Steven’s Birthday celebration

Dear boys,

I was having a chat with Steve and him being him, there are people who commonly pass comments like ‘I want to be like you!’ or things like ‘You’re my inspiration!’ People always look up to him and somehow, a lot of people want to ‘be like Steven’.

Not me.

I told him that.

Sure he is an inspiration to a lot of people, me included, but I never want to be him. Granted that he has done a lot of cool things, he is relatively successful, goes places, and live the life he wants to live, but I am not going ga ga over his life and his lifestyle. He has a nice house, flashy car(s) and other cool stuffs, but the fact is, no many people knows the sacrifices he makes to have all these, more importantly, while many ‘idolise’ him, not make are prepared to put in the hours, effort and sacrifices to get what he got.

No two same lives

His life and mine are different. No two lives on Earth are the same, not even twins. We live our own lives. We may know of powerful, inspiring people, who gives us a glimpse of a life lived better, but that is only a glimpse. We still have to put in our hours, we still have to make our own mistakes. We will still achieve what we set out to conquer, and that will be our victory, not Steve’s. Steven’s victory is his victory, not mine. While we can celebrate with him, we need to remember; victories is a very personal, selfish affair. Your victory, other people can admire, or gloat, but ultimately, they are yours. Same goes for your defeats and set backs.

No Uchi Deshi

It is very easy to hero worship in the kind of martial arts I am in. We are conditioned to look up, at our sempai, seniors and Sensei. In Aikido, there is a culture of ‘uchi-deshi‘, these are the ‘lived-in students’, sort of an internship, but at a very personal level. The student literally stayed with the sensei and take care of his needs, in exchange, the sensei will teach the student his craft at a very personal level. In Singapore, no such culture exists, so people tries to be an ‘uchi-deshi‘ of sort, but more often than not, it gets misconstrued into some kind of boot licking or sucking up.

We do not have this practice with Harry sensei. While we still folds his hakama, and wait on him, he do not want anyone to ‘suck up’ to him in any way. He knows Aikido-economics 101′; we are all paid students and at no point in time, he expects ‘service’ from us.

So in that spirit, Harry sensei does not asks, nor imply that he wants such a culture. So I treat him with respect because I want to, and I do not aspire to be him. He is not my Aikido Idol.

Steven, my friend

Collectively, I look at my life, I’ve always been on my own, since my parent’s divorce, there is no one else taking care of me, other than me, and after marriage, your mother. I don’t have a mentor, no father figure, no person whom I look up to. Anyone who comes close to that, would be someone like Steven; but even for him, I considers him a friend, simple, no complications. He is someone who makes it in life his way. I want to make it in life too, my way. He serves as a guide, nothing more. He has his ways of doing things, that differs from mine, and I have no aspirations to change mine just to be ‘like him.’ He is his own man, I am mine. In that way, both of us can enjoy a equitable relationship, we are not above, nor beneath each other.

It is perhaps, because of my relationship with Steven, that shaped how I deal with people. Between us, there is an age gap that qualifies him to be my father, but we treat each other equal, or when he met me, more than 20 years ago, I was a young punk, just starting out in Aikido( Where I met him) and he has never put himself above me. He has never judged me, or present himself as superior. For me, being young and impressionable then, he could have dominated, be an alpha, which he is, but he didn’t acted that way.

Treat people fairly

So I have never looked at anyone, senior or junior with a slant of bias, well at least I try not to. Usually, I can carry a conversation with anyone, with ease, and non-discretion. I don’t look up to very successful people, because I know the quiet struggles they went through to become who they are. I don’t look down on people, because I know the quiet struggles they are going through. Everyone goes through shit, so don’t worship successful people, nor look down on people.

Let them be who they are, and you just be yourself, really successful people are the most down to earth folks, and will treat you with decorum, when you treat yourself with truthfulness. ‘Fake’ successful people will have a bubble with them, an air of ‘exclusiveness’, so when you come across such people, be thankful you are excluded, because you may have to pay through your nose just to be ‘in the club’ and at the end of the day, you might find all of that, a bubble, waiting to be burst.

Perhaps, how I walk my walk, excludes me from such ‘exclusive clubs’, which is fine by me. I like wealth and money, but I like them at my own terms, if I have to get them by sucking up, hero-worship then perhaps, I am no longer the father you boys can look up to.

Everyone goes through shit, so don’t worship successful people, nor look down on people. 

 

Rat Glue

Dear boys,

During my NS, there were some gnarly things we did, and when I saw this on the shelf of our local supermarket, it reminded me of some of the things we did during our National Service dealing with rodents.

There are plenty of rats in any decent military camps, food is good, free lodging. Most of the time, soldiers will usually leave the rats alone. Well, too bad this time around, since we were in the Guradroom, bore out of our wits. The mundane guard duty will get to us, and the Rats are getting to us too, as they decided to raid our food supplies.

Your dad has no idea how to catch rats, or deal with them. Your dad’s friend, Jerome, has a couple of idea up his sleeve. They were sinister.

Rat Cage

This is in my opinion, the best way to catch them, it works, like a charm, all the time. The only issue is, you will have a live, scurry rat to deal with in the cage. Oh, there are plenty of ways to deal with a caged, live scurry rat, so I learned from Jerome.

Concussion

One way was to take the cage at both ends, shake and rattle it, HARD. The whole idea was to give the rat inside a concussion, stun it immobile, open the cage, take out the Rat, hold it by its long tail, and swing the rat, WHAP! Onto the ground, dead rat. This is by far, Jerome’s most ‘humane’ method.

Watering

The other way, by your dad’s deviousness, was drowning. With the rat in cage, you dunk it into a pail of water, completely submerge it, until, you know… die.

So I got this rat, and dunk it into the pail, you see the little fella trying to find air, but getting none, little bubbles coming out from it’s nose, as it struggles underwater. I’ll lift the cage up and then it can catch a little breath, then I dunk it again. I repeated this a couple of time, and was actually thinking of not killing the poor thing but, keeping it as a kind of pet.

All this was happening while I was on gate duty, a vehicle drove towards me, and I remembered my job, opened the gate for my camp’s officer, saluted, took down the plate number and time. I walked back to the guardroom and chatted with my friend, and suddenly, I remembered.

So I ran back to my rat in the water, but it was too late. Poor Mickey had drowned.

Rat Glue

That is one messy way to get rid of a rat. We put this sticky gooey stuff on a cardboard, not unlike how we spread peanut butter on a bread, but this was much worse. Right in the middle, we put a small bait. then set it on the place our rat of a friend will patronise. They never failed to turn up.

So there was a day we catch a big one, stuck to the rat glue board, no where to go. The rodent must have exhausted itself trying to unstuck itself. There is no unstuck, once a rat is on a rat glue. Since it is not going anywhere, we went out to do our chores, and leave the thing there as it is.

That’s Bee Bee with her cubs.

Big bad mistake

Bee Bee, our yellow mongrel bitch, somehow got a wind of that little rodent on a gooey platter, decided to make a meal out of it. Of course with that rat stuck, it is not going to be any good, clean meal, and Bee Bee being a dog, will, well, trash, swing and bite that meal free? It did, and she wasn’t successful, and left behind a messed up room, a very dead rat (it was still alive when we left it). So lesson learned, no rat glue.

Rats!

So there you have it, your dad’s  dastardly experience with rat in camp. It is not of the most pleasant experience but it is part and parcel of my life’s story, now they are yours!

Life is communication

Life is communication

One flawed parenting script was to say “I never want my kids to go through the same hardship I did.”

Dear Boys,

I was wondering why are Hollywood actors paid so much? I mean, there is no such thing a Batman, and yet, Christian Bale are making tonnes of money playing a fictitious character. Why is George Lucas earning like crazy having created Star Wars from nothing. It is insane to earn that kind of money doing something that is essentially non-existent!

So are actors liars? They basically fake it to make it. So much props and effects to make something imaginative look real. Everything that is take as fake, people flocked to watch it. This can extends to business people, politicians, religious leaders, cult leaders, motivational speakers.

The I realised. It all boils down to one word: COMMUNICATION.

Nothing, absolutely nothing works, without communication. There will be no team work, no collaboration, no celebrations, no creation, no life, no nothing. everything; DEAD.

These talented people are not liars, they didn’t create nothing out of nothing. Everything that happens, brought into the world, are work. Work that people communicated with others, to get them to do the work in a way, one single person cannot do. Communication is the key to life.

It is not only our human dimension, communication on a broader sense, works in ways can cannot be seen. A flower, communicates with the bees, through their vibrant colours. All mediums possible are used for communication, sound, light, magnets, weather, radio waves, cosmic energy.

Interaction happens all the time, like it or not. It is only in our capacity as a human being to facilitate the interactions through meaningful communication.

That boils down to another important point, “SELF-Communication.”

If you boys has been brought up from birth, being told that you have been disadvantaged, bullied, the world is unfair, unkind, unwavering, all the messages you both will get is that, you need to be self centered, cruel, manipulative to survive. If the message is that of grace, gratitude and greatness, then you boys will be empowered, decisive and resourceful. The self communication starts with communication within the family. Sure; as your dad, I am also a human adult with my own limits, fears, flaws and pain. My own self communication is also a work in progress, but of course, I need to make my communication to the both of you a different matter. I try as much as I can, tell you boys stories, inspire you, motivate you, and keep my own demons away from your child’s purity. Sometimes I succeed, more often I fail. My dad’s communication with me wasn’t the most ideal, and most of  the things I’ve learned, I was glad I learned it from the good friends I had with me since young.

One flawed parenting script was to say “I never want my kids to go through the same hardship I did.” In fact, as a parent, your dad, I cannot fully protect you from all the pain and suffering in the world, that’s not a dad’s job. My job is to arm you boys with the right resources to deal with all the cruelties and unfairness the world is going to duke it out with you. You both is most likely going to walk the same path I did, faced with the same kind of shit I went through, I can’t stop that, but I can given you guys a better message in your head, than what my dad gave me. I want you boys to be armed with a superior mode of communication, a better way you talk to yourself, to get yourself out of limbo. You can walk the same difficult path as you parents did, with the limited resources, but you will know the path better, more prepared, we will help you along, but you, and you alone have to walk that path, with your own skill, your own level of self communication. If all your self communication is a constant berating, self depreciating, own-self  blame own-self type of mind script, then your journey will be difficult, no matter how much resources you have.

So there you have it, the fundamental difference between a Hollywood star and a Prison convict is that constant self talk in their head. One is able to skillfully communicate the emotions and roles so much so that the people watching it shed tears, paid millions, adored by all. Or one who is able to manipulate his/her victims for their own self centred gains, to succeed criminal goals, damage society, and hurt those people who loved them so much. More importantly, I hope I am able to arm you boys with good, quality self talk so that you boys grow up to become strong independent men, capable of inspiring people with your ability to communicate your goals and aspirations. That all starts from within.

10 cents plus 10 cents = Bun

10 cents plus 10 cents = Bun

Dear Boys,

Your dad isn’t lucky, he is just extremely observant.

I will not hesitate to pick up any coins I see on the floor, and I have picked up quite a fair bit of them. Irrespective of denominations, I will pick them up, primarily because these coins are the lowest, smallest member of a million dollars, and to ignore them, you ignore your destiny to be wealthy. More importantly, you need to treasure and value whatever small fortune that comes your way, it is an attitude of gratitude.

During a chit chat in the office with my colleagues, we strayed into this conversation, and one of my colleague remarked that she didn’t used to pick up coins, but learned how to appreciate them when she was a 10-cent short,buying coffee. She only had $1.10 and the coffee cost $1.20.

Tough life.

I shared with them my 20-cents worth of this perspective.

20-cents is because that was all we got to buy a bun.

Many years back, I had to walk back from from Jalan Eunos to my home in Bedok, with my mum. We didn’t have enough money to take a bus back, and walked a 6km journey. Thanks to google map, I can approximately retrace those steps and come this is estimate; I was probably 14 years old then.Picture1It was in the evening, and thankfully, it wasn’t too hot. We didn’t feel poor, despite of not having even enough coins to take a bus back! My Mum and I took it as a kind of stroll back, from my dad’s warehouse, in Eunos, back home.

DSC_1092
this cost 70-cents now!

As we strolled through the Kembangan district, admiring all the landed properties there, we came across a small attap kampung house, where a mama shop is. We wanted to get something to munch and we dig for what little money we had with us. My Mum dished out a 10-cent from her purse, I dug into my pockets, and lo and behold! Another 10-cents! Together we pooled together and bought ourselves a cream bun. By the way, I bought one just for nostalgic reasons, it costs 70-cents now.

Of course I didn’t tell my colleagues the whole story, I told them the 10-cents plus 10-cents part. I also shared with them, at no point in time, my Mum and I felt poor, lousy or sad. We were quite spirited as we share the bun, and continued our journey. My colleagues were, naturally, silent like vegetables. This side of Randy, they never knew and I don’t think they have ever heard stories of such ‘poverty’ in Singapore!

My past made me who I am, I know with a 10-cent, I can still survive and be happy about life. It makes me appreciate every little thing I have. Poverty is really a state of mind, and I’m thankful, I don’t reside in that state. I’m always grateful for all the small serendipitous gifts I get along the way, little kindness means a mountain to me. And major nastiness in my life, I hunker down and weather the storm, knowing it will pass. To me it is all the small things that matters, because when the time comes, it will be the small things that makes or breaks you. After all we are all made up of small things!

 

Your Dad’s Lunch

Your Dad’s Lunch

Dear Boys,

I’m lucky to have your mum cook for me for most of my lunch. I do not need to jostle with the lunch time crowds, I can eat something that is to my palate. I know that what I put in my mouth is cooked by someone who loves me, and it is done with love.

This also allows me to lunch at places people normally wouldn’t lunch at, I am pretty much a walker and I walk to many places to have my lunch, in the outdoors, and away from Air-Conditioned places, a little breath of fresh air is always good, after being cooped up in the office, for hours on end!

When I was working in Raffles Place, I would, on a whim take a MRT train all the way to Marina South Pier MRT to get some view and have some sea and sun view. It is also a good way to get away from the maddening crowds.

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View of Marina South Pier

It is always good to eat out, alone; I like that, although it may seem anti-social. I find eating in solitude a very happy thing to do. I don’t really have to watch my table manners, I can also dwell in my own thoughts, think about things other than things in the office, gossips, work, sales, clients and other mundane stuffs.It is my own personal bubble for at least 45 minutes.

Sometimes, you need to hurry up to eat, because if your friends eat faster than you, you’ll be compelled to eat up your stuff and go. Then the whole gang will go wandering around the malls, like office zombies, waiting for time to pass and we can go back to the office, and continue tippy typing away, with our work.

Collage_Fotor1

I think going out is good because I get to rest my eye, and see something else other than my colleagues, friends, office table and computer. I don’t want to delve on the scientific effects of this but it feels good. After a good lunch, I can go back to work, energized.

Collage_FotorIt is not really a big inconvenience, as I have been doing this for many years, your mum will cook an extra portion for dinner, so that she can pack my next day’s lunch, so technically speaking, my lunch is actually last evening’s dinner. Which was fine, I’d heat it up with a microwave oven (despite of all the health hazards associated with using one, I’m still alive and I’ll take my chances!), wrap it in the cloth bag I put my lunch box (aka bento) in and out I go!

These pockets of solitude isn’t hard to find, you’ll just need to head outdoors, Singaporeans are terribly afraid of the sun and will lunch in places that meets one criteria, air-con. So anywhere out, non air-con, chances are you’ll have a decent spot and space.

I like this kind of lifestyle as your mum will cook delicious stuffs everyday and I’ll always have something unique and sumptuous to eat. This sure beats the heck out of grazing the food court!