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. 

 

The Purpose

The Purpose

…the world feeds us and we need to give back to the world.

Dear Boys,

We all wonder what is the purpose of our existence. This is the ultimate rocket science, and not many has figured this out, but those who do, live their lives in the greatest of wonder and splendor.

My Dark Side

Of late, I am mired in a cesspool of dark thoughts that surrounded me, slowly but surely, I get stronger from this constant battle, inside of me, and through my own doubts, critical thinking and understanding of my own vulnerability, I begin to understand why I am like this, and what it is to be done with me.

A lot of good meaning people tried to help, Steve told me it is a mid life crisis thing, your mum told me it is a certain insecurity. She has her point, we will talk about that in a while. But I realized that I am mildly, depressive.

Depression

The thing about me is, I will always find an answer to my woes. There are incessant questions, issues and problems that I tussle with everyday, in my head. Somehow, I always have the intuition to come out of it, with an answer.

To that day, I was browsing through Facebook, and I came across this article ‘The Mental Health Issue Men Never Talk About‘; while I don’t believe at that time of reading, that I am ‘depressed’, I decided to try an online Depression Test, and lo and behold! The test results showed that I am ‘mildly depressive’.

It was one of those casual test, 16 questions, I did it on my phone and I wondered at the results. At this point, I need to be critical and careful about ‘branding’ myself, but I let that reality sink in a bit. Being ‘mildly depressive’ didn’t hit home, it was something else, but while I am at it, depression does feels like something I am feeling now. so I am going to deliberate on that a bit, my mind will always comes to an answer.

Sniffer Dog Mind

My brain is like that, a kind of sniffer dog, and when I let the mind wander, I will pick up vibes and nuances that resonates strongly. Sometimes, my mind will pick up a fake scent, lose a scent, or a very faint scent. Whatever it is, my sniffer dog mind will wander, and relentlessly seek out and find, whatever that is out there.

It is a process, and the mind needs to wander, you will need time for the dog to go around up and down in the most non-linear way. So I don’t stand in the dog’s way, and whenever I can, and have the luxury of time, I let the dog wander, and bring back the quarry, whatever it may be, and I think my dog is on to something.

What we are here for

The journey in my mind of late, has been perilous, and dangerous. There is a chance that I might go crazy, turn into someone completely different, and I think that is the message I am getting, I need to be someone completely different, as right now who I am, is not serving the greater purpose.

Society will challenge us, people will doubt us, so we become a fraction of ourselves so that we can fit society, and the expectations of those around us. We do all that to become accepted, but the irony, and boys, this comes from experience, the more we try to get that acceptance, and fit in, the more we get rejected. It is a lesson I learned again and again, to fit in, we need to stand out. Nobody ever fits in to anything, anywhere. When we try to do that, all we do is become a shadow, it dims the world.

Action!!!

While I am at it, one word keeps ringing out, act. Put out action. Time for deliberation is over, the time to act on things is here. As a Piscean, I over-think and over analyze things, a lot, which is good for a critical mind, and bad, when it comes to action. The first 40 years of my life has been dedicated to thought; I need to know what I know is absolutely true, robust and resolute. I need to know my intrinsic value.

Once the thinking is cleared, it is time for action, acting on life always guarantee an outcome. While the outcome might not suit what you expected, the next action you must take, is to either work harder to get the desired outcome, or adjust your expectations of the outcome. To get all these done, needs action, not thought.

Action that benefits others

The world has turned too much into a ‘Me’ world. while that is fine, to better that; the ‘me’ has to give back to the world, so that the ‘me’ can continue to be ‘me’. When what we do, does not benefit the world, and make the world a better place, the world we are in will destroy us eventually. So don’t lie to yourself to think that the ‘me’ will continue, irrespective of what the world becomes. It doesn’t, the world feeds us and we need to give back to the world.

And we can only do that in our own unique way. So boys, as your dad, you need to find you own way. I can guide, provide resources, but you have to use your own guile and cunning to make sure that you can benefit the world, and not just benefit from the world.

 

I bought flowers

I bought flowers

Dear boys,

I seldom buy flowers for your mum. I don’t buy flowers for her any of our wedding, ROM, her birthday, anniversaries. Valentine’s Day is absolutely out, those bloody thirsty florists, making a killing out of poor blokes buying perishables for dames.

The last time I checked, I bought your mum this bouquet, back in Dec 2014, thanks to google photo, I managed to have this picture in my file.

She likes sunflower for the bright, big cheery colours, who wouldn’t agree with that?

As much as she likes sunflowers, she wouldn’t want me to spend money on such frivolous things. I wouldn’t too.

But there is a reason why I buy flowers.

Simply because I love your mum.

And she is the only woman I allow myself to buy flowers for; my Wife, your Mother. I cannot see myself spending, or wasting money buying flowers for other members of the opposite gender, no matter how close we get. Not even for female relatives. This deed, I only reserve solely for your mum.

I think it is nice to buy your mum a bouquet or two every now and then, although flowers have no pragmatic purpose whatsoever, it does, helps make her feel appreciated, makes her know that the flower is for her, and her only.

Having a relationship is not just about pragmatic, purposeful bonding. when things between spouse gets too functional, the love is diminished. We must not stop doing silly little things for each other, to make each other feel appreciated, and delighted.

Bright, Glorious Sunflowers!

So recently, recently I bought another stalk of Sunflower, three long years after the last one. I bought this from an ‘auntie’ florist near my office. There were 4 stalks of these beautiful glorious flowers that caught my attention across the road. I had to get one for your mum.DSC_0134

Flowers have their own psychic powers to make a person feel good. It is not only for my wife to feel good receiving it, it is also for The Husband, to feel good, giving her nice wonderful, albeit slightly non-practical gifts. These kind of spontaneous gesture helps as smooth out a life long relationship, so always remember never hesitate to get nice things for people you love, as and when you feel like, not necessarily, nor out of schedule. Never hold back, never reserve your feelings of expression. Life is short.

$6!

The girls in my office saw this stalk, and overcame with curiosity Siew Ting couldn’t help but ask me, what is the occasion. To which I told her, there is none. And to Dorothy’s shock, the single, poorly wrapped stalk costs me S$6, while she didn’t say it was freaking expensive, her expression, is like a MasterCard’s advertisement, priceless. $6 is probably a good decent lunch for any hungry person. For Liting, she’d say if she gets flowers from her boyfriend, she’d take the bouquet and beat her beau with it. Well, if her beau gets beaten by her with the flower, then I guess the flower’s sacrifice is well worth it. Die flowers! Die for love!

Let’s be frank, to which I asked them back, which of them would mind it, if their partners, buy them flowers? Would any of the girls say no? Would any girl mind, random expression of love using flowers? That is the power of flowers, notwithstanding that Liting would use the flower as a bludgeon. Well, as the Chinese saying goes “打是疼,骂是爱”. The demise of the flower will be worth it, well worth it.

初学者…The one who begins to learn

Our school printed a tee shirt with our school logo in front and the word ‘初学者’ printed boldly behind the shirt. We had a discussion over what that word actually means.

Our school’s name is ‘Shoshin’ or ‘初心’ in kanji,  which Google translate loosely puts it as ‘Beginner’, ‘Innocent’, ‘Basics’. Well you get the meaning.

So what does 初学者 means then?

Loosely speaking, it also means the same thing, but in a Singapore, or Chinese context, to have ‘初心者’ instead of ‘初学者 ‘ will potentially give people the wrong impression that  初心者 means ‘the one who is careless’ as common as the Chinese saying of ‘粗心大意 (Cūxīn dàyì)’, as you might observe the ‘粗’ (Cū) sounds very much like  ‘初'(Chū). but the meaning is can lead one to a totally different conclusion.  ‘粗’ (Cū) loosely means careless, rough, or unpolished, and ‘初'(Chū)  on the other hand, loosely means early, begin.

Surely then intent was to have a beginner’s mind, a beginner’s heart, 初心(Chūxīn) instead of a careless heart, 粗心 (Cūxīn), surely a novice can be considered ‘careless”, unpolished, unrefined. Beginners can be careless, well, ‘experts’ can be just as careless; the point is that bearing the word 初心 in mind instead of 粗心, brings to the point that we must always take our learning at the beginning, conscientiously, and not carelessly.

Begin a word player, I’m quite happy to be called a ‘初心者’, and let people juxtapose between the concept of ‘The one with a beginner’s heart’ or 粗心者 ‘The one with the careless heart.’ Or call me a 初学者, as ‘The one who is at the beginning of the learning’, or  粗学者 as ‘The one who learns carelessly’. Either way, these are ‘labels’ for people to sort out, as for me i’m pretty much sort out as to how I orient myself towards Aikido towards life. and frankly speaking, ‘carelessness’ might not be such a bad thing in life, as it might bring about serendipitous and spontaneous results that might totally bring about a new discovery!

first published Apr 1, 2012 1:56 AM

How your parents bond

How your parents bond
image2
we are currently at level 203

Dear boys,

There are many ways couples can bond, and make their relationship interesting. Some do yoga together, some have similar interests, others have their own ways to weave interesting activities into the fabric of their relationship.

For your mum and dad, we are no strangers to online games (at our age and time, who is?) Personally, I do not like playing with them other than to kill time. But of late we have found an interesting ways to use these games to bond.

Play Farm Heroes Saga together.

Strictly speaking, these games are ‘single’ player games. One player, goes through the stages and these are often tied to a Facebook account. you get certain networkability, when you buzz you Facebook friends for ‘lives’ and other stuffs.

Your mum and I played the game the same way, but we played it together. We will tackle the puzzle together and find all those matching fruits and vegetables and tackling them stage by stage usually after our dinner or before bed.

We have our own terms, when we see ‘four-in-a-row’-we called it a ‘fourble’ or a ‘fiveble’ for obvious reasons. We get upset when the rabbit came up and eat the carrots. We get upset when the chicken flew and eat up some of the vegetables. sometimes the water will splash onto some of our vegetables and we get upset. We also get upset when some of the vegetables turn rotten.

Rabbit
Bad rabbit!!!

farm hero carrot

But when we clear a stage together, we celebrate and give each other hi-fives. We do ‘compete’ to see who gets to the ‘fourbles’ or ‘fivebles’ first and brag to each other when your mum, or me did the last move that helps to complete the game and move us to the next stage. I’ll usually tell her ‘You’re welcome!’ much to a scoff on her face.

Overall, she is a much better player than me, having experience in playing Candy Crush Saga. I just play along so that we can do something as a couple together, in a easy, no stress manner. We win, we celebrate and go to the next stage. We lose? we blame each other for making stupid moves, and also blame the game for getting too ‘personal’ with us. Hey, we just want to win and get on to the next stage!

 

image3
It’s your mum’s fault!

 

First published on: Dec 14, 2015

Fighting to teach you fighting

Dear Boys,

You know your dad is into martial arts, specifically, Aikido. And for any martial arts dad, I naturally would like to impart some of that to you boys. No, I try to resist that. I want to resist putting my opinions on you boys, and instead I would like you guys to develop your own interest. If it happens to be martial arts, then okay, that’s great, if it is not, then that’s okay too.

Yes, I bought a junior kiddo gi for Ian many years back, so much so that you have outgrown it and handed it down to your little brother. It was more of a ‘costume’ thingy than it was a proper martial arts regime.

Life sometimes is a matter of Jekyll and Hyde.

I did try to teach you fundamentals of karate kata, but you didn’t catch on. And now with your little brother coming of age, I think it is time for me try and start something like this again. more on the fighting part, less of the martial arts part.

Martial arts is one thing, but fighting is another thing altogether. I would like to teach you boys how to fight. And I’ve been slowly putting that thought in motion.

At 11 years old, Ian, I think you are robust and mature suffice to reason and keep a focus. You will need to know, with a bit more depth on basic striking, kicking and more importantly, taking punches and kicks and learn to get injured, and fight back.

At your age, learning how to fight properly, is like teaching you how to use a rifle properly, so that you are not tempted to use it out of bravado, but out of an educated, skilled mind. If you need to use your skills to fight, to get out of a fight, in a better condition than your assailant(s), then I have achieved my aim. The Martial Arts part can come later.

Of course, there are simple rules of engagements (ROE), you boys, do not go out there to start a fight, but if you got yourself into one, you get out of it, all means necessary. Sometimes in fighting, you have no time for ethics, you just have to protect yourself and your loved ones, if you have to pummel the belligerent to dust, then do it. If it comes down to you or your attacker(s), I’d rather your attacker(s) grounded and pounded, than you. We can wax lyrical about right and wrong later. But of course, do not start the fight.

And now that your little brother is in the same school as you, he will come to you for help if he gets bullied, and you might need to stand up for him. So you might get into a fight because of him, and I want you to win the fight.

The world is a nice place, I want my boys to be confident in their abilities to see the good in the world, but it is also my duty as your dad to make sure you boys are reality-ready. If things takes a turn for the nasty, you boys can get out of nasty with your own nasty dosage of nasty. We must always be ready to be nice, and the only way to be genuine in our niceties, and pleasantries, is to be fully trained and capable in our ability to be nasty and unpleasant. Life sometimes is a matter of Jekyll and Hyde.