The greatest thing you can do in a dojo, any dojo, is to observe, observe and observe.
It is not just observing the sensei, which is the obvious thing to do, we, as students have to observe one another, and if your dojo happens to have a full length, and breath worth of mirrors, good for you. But you cannot be looking at the mirror, while you do your waza, right?
So the next best thing is to observe each other, other than the sensei.
There are many good and not so good things we can learn from observing one another. After all, we are all humans and are endowed with the same bunch of tools, hands, legs, hips, spine and all, so geometrically most of us move in the same way, most of us do irimi nage the same way, and if we observe carefully, we will notice we all makes the same mistakes, the same way.
Same same but different
Well, other than observing the similarities, right and wrong way of doing things, we have to look out for some of the different ways we do things. Some of us while trying to follow sensei faithfully, but we always have our own interpretation of what we see and our actions is never 100% accurate. We are not machines.
So we need to see with our own eyes, how our training partners move, and why they move the way they move.
Recently, I’ve been kind of obsessed with observing my fellow Aikidokas in the dojo, I will stare and stare at how my partners move, and try to understand their physical interpretation of sensei’s techniques.
I want to observe until the observer melts away and while that is not always successful as there is a critical part of me remains while I looked at my partner’s techniques. Why is he/she moving like that? And why is he not able to see his own mistakes? Why is his/her circle smaller than necessary, so much so the uke can stop him/her?
Call it nit-picking but that is what we need to do for each other when we are on the mat. We have to help each other be our own worst or best critic, depends on how you look at it, and in doing so, helps us correct what we cannot see.
It is also perhaps my own personal way of getting back to basics. Remember when we were all white belts and coming to the dojo is a matter of monkey see, monkey do? We as beginners, will not be able to understand the intricate whys, hows, or the rights and the wrongs.
By observing intensely how my fellow Aikidokas work, I am trying to deplete myself of the self, and understand Aikido at a fundamental level. While we all want to critic, and point out what is wrong with who’s technique, it really takes an open mind and heart to drop all that opinion and just observe.
Sometimes I succeed in that, often I don’t. It’s a habit of mind, to make distinction so as to justify our ‘self’. It is a wonderful feeling in those rare times where my monkey mind can silence itself and just move with what I’ve observed.
Two days back, there’s the annual Inter-University Aikido training at NUS and you will get to train with a lot of new folks from other universities, as well as bumping up with a lot of old pals, chronologically these pals are still significantly younger than me, so the ‘old’ in the pals here, refers to them as familiar faces from other university dojo.
For an Ikkyo-omote waza, I paired up with this petite girl from Singapore Management University. Harry sensei was showing a kind of a leading hand technique which will be quite technically difficult if there is no blending.
With this girl, there is no blending.
She was asking me if she was doing it correctly, and I replied. ‘Wait, there’s a problem I need to sort out.’
One of us is too hard and one of us has to soften.
No prize for getting the right answer.
Anyway it is not a matter of ‘seniority’ or ‘superior’ skills. She’s quite hard, and there’s no way that I can make her follow my leading hand, it’s a slippery fish analogy, the hard I try, the worse it becomes and eventually, both of us will walk away unable to execute the technique nicely.
So I soften, and try to blend; it was still awkward for a few cycles, then I caught her vibe and rhythm, and the technique begins to work. As a nage, she was quite hard and linear which is not what Harry sensei wanted us to do, nonetheless, I followed and let her leading hand, lead.
When it was her turn to be uke, she couldn’t follow, too hard.
So I soften some more and things begin to work, I could lead and she could follow.
And eventually we managed to get along with the technique, and enjoyed the session.
It was a problem
After class she came to me and we chatted a bit, and I found out her name was ‘Shuling’, so I asked her if she’d figured out the problem, she admitted that she’s too hard.
To make a fair argument, that’s life. She is not ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ being hard, neither am I the ‘better’ one being soft, I just want the technique to work, and the technique not working is a problem I need to fix with her. It is not a competition to see who is better than who. Which is why there is no element of competition in Aikido. We want to work with people, and make the situation work, so in order to work with people and get the best out of a situation, we open up, soften our stances and try to understand the other party, and help the other party open up as well.
We try to understand how our partner works, and help them help us. In a myopic spirit of competitiveness, we try to understand our partners, so that we can exploit them, and their weakness, so that we can win, the competition, the medal, the glory. What and who did we end up destroying, for us to become a champion?
Every time we partner someone, we have to calibrate our synchronicity, no two person is the same at any given time. Every touch point is unique and very much one in a gazillion event of a lifetime. It is a very precious connection and it is also a problem, because even with familiarity, it doesn’t always works. Even those Aikido friends’ I’ve been training with for years, I mentally prepare to meet them for the first time, every time. That’s beginner’s mind for me.
We can never fully understand our partner. In an Aikido context, how Shuling worked is only one part of the equation. Of course, I being more senior to her allows me the luxury of choice; to slow things down, soften and go along for the ride. I could have bumped into a chap more senior than me who is oblivious to how skillful he or she is, in that aspect, I as the uke/nage, too have to blend, in a soft way in a hard way, depends on the partner you got.
So we have to solve that working problem, and the technique can be the killer breaking up the work, or the technique can be one that brings two differing people together. One has to back down so that another one can step up, and once that person has stepped up, he or she can help the other one who backed down in the first place. So this is Aikido in a back and forth movement, nobody wins, but everyone one wins big. If you compete, there can be one winner, with a bigger problem. Isn’t it a better idea if everyone comes together, forget about the competition, solve the problem and win bigger?
You can’t choose your partner
Well, actually you can, but you have to wait your turn. I told Shuling that the dojo mimics life. How many of us has friends who became not friends, and our ‘enemies’ coming to our aid? Sometimes, as much as we mentally choose our partner, it is also a kind of cosmic fate that chooses our partner for us, and who we end up with is who we need to blend with, hard or soft, it all boils down to how hard and how much you treasure that brief fart of a connection you have with your training partner.
It might not be much, but that’s all we’ve got to give.
I didn’t get your mum a diamond ring for our wedding. She didn’t wanted one as well.
We’re not big fan of The Rock, Dwayne Johnson; yes, but not the Diamond. We are not fans of buying diamonds.
Phew! That is a relief for me, since I was going to make your mum my wife, had she asked for one, it’d been a bummer for me.
Anyway, diamonds are overrated. Seriously.
Personally to me, I’d rather keep gold than diamond, as diamonds is basically like most of the material items are value added by humans via marketing and salesmanship. And the market is very much monopolized by one company De Beers, who is one of the market leaders in the Diamond trade, and in the 1950s, they came up with a creative campaign which helps propelled this rock into mainstream consumer demands. Now most men can’t get married unless they have one of these rock on a ring to be able to confidently propose to a girl of his dream (nightmare). Putting much grief in a man’s pocket, and much joy on a woman’s face.
All that glitter isn’t gold
Well, let’s be frank, there are crystals and there are diamonds, both glitters, perhaps one better than the other. There are also glass cuts shaped to look like diamonds, and if you drop both on the ground, will you be able to tell one from the other?
There’s so many times I find one of these glass looking diamond cuts and I wondered if they are the real thing or not. To a layperson, it is really difficult to tell one from the other.
Basically this is a marketing campaign by Frances Gerety, a copywriter who came out with this 3-worded phrase that has endeared long after she has died.
It is a catchy phrase that let’s people think that in a tumultuous and uncertain world, having a diamond to seal the union of a couple, would helps provide some longevity in the relationship. Let’s get real, it doesn’t.
It is the magic of marketing that let’s us think narrowly, and spend stupidly. While there is some truth as to diamonds being forever, relationships certainly doesn’t. And certainly diamonds have no power whatsoever as a good luck charm or romantic talismans that glue a marriage together. It is all about hard work and the willingness of a couple to work with each other to make the union work, and stay together, till death.
(Blood) Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend
While I knew long before I watch Leonardo DiCaprio‘s 2006 thriller Blood Diamond, which basically tells a story about the suffering and pain brought about by our demands for this glittery stones.
While the story was fictitious, the background of the story is real. The demand for diamonds is fueling conflicts in Africa. People are going to war and killing each other for diamonds, and these diamonds sometimes makes it to the consumer markets. so much so that the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was implemented in 2003 to ensure that diamonds brought to the market are not harvested through illegal means, or gotten through conflict, fighting and other less than humane means.
The bottom line is, there is a lot of people hurt or being made used of just to bring this piece of rock into the market for a man to make a woman happy. All thanks to Hollywood for the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend“, the rock is certainly a man’s pocket’s worst enemy!
I bought 2 cartons of Soya Bean milk back one day and you handled the groceries for me, and I realised later in the day, that there only 1 of the 2 carton is in the fridge. To my suprise, you put the unopened carton with the milk carton at the shelf, which is not in the fridge, obviously.
There’s an opportunity for a life lesson.
You came over and explained to me that all cartons are to be place on the kitchen shelf, together with the milk.
Then I showed you the difference.
The soya bean milk is pasteurised, which means it was not treated with UHT (Ultra High Temperature) like the Milk carton on the right. Pasteurised products need refrigeration constantly and has to be treated differently from the UHT Milk, which can be kept in room temperature, and only needs refrigeration after opening.
It’s not your fault you didn’t know, but had you paid closer attention, you would have noticed the soya bean carton was kept at the refrigerated area at the supermarket, and the UHT milk isn’t.
Anyway, the life lesson is that you really cannot judge a book by its cover, or in this case, judge the carton all the same. The cartons might look the same, but the produce inside is different and has to be treated differently. You need to read and understand the content and of course know where it came from and give it a different treatment.
This is of course the same for people, never assume that when people came from the same place, country, religion, race and/or education, they are the same. Always read the ‘labels’, understand where they are from, and treat them the way they need to be treated. Of course, if people are so easy to read like they have instructions printed and labelled, the the world will be a much better place.
I hope by the time you boys grow up, you can learn a thing or two about speaking in hokkien. It is a dialect from China and the way Singaporeans says it is so different from the way Taiwanese says it.
To start off, let’s look at some simple three worded Hokkien (TWH).
Ang Moh Lang
Chinese simplified: 红毛人 ( hóng máo rén)
Caucasian, or loosely speaking, in colloquial sense, ‘red hair people’, when the Chinese first bumped into Caucasian, with their red hair, the term got stuck. The more common form will drop the ‘Lang’ and simply regard Caucasians as ‘ang mohs’
Boh Kiam Lui
Chinese simplified: 不欠钱 (Bù qiàn qián)
It means, doesn’t owe money
Boh Lui Lang
Chinese simplified: 没钱人 (méi qián rén)
Char Bor Lang
Chinese simplified: 女人 ( nǚ rén)
Woman. in some context, it can means The Wife
Huan Kiah Lang
Chinese simplified: 马来人 ( mǎ lái rén)
Malays. In the movie ‘Black Hawk Down’ the American General mispronounced them as ‘May Lay’
Inn Dor Lang
Chinese simplified: 印度人 ( yìn duó rén)
Indian, more specifically, people from the country of India
Jiak Liao Bee
Chinese simplified: no chinese equivalent
It usually means that person is good for nothing. loosely means ‘eating wasted rice’. We all eat to do something, so the rice will not be waste when eaten
Jing Kek Sim
Chinese simplified: no chinese equivalent
It is a ‘heart pain’ feeling. Like when you see your favourite team losing very badly, you feel that desolation. It is a feeling only express in Hokkien. ‘Kek Sim!’
Jiak Jiu Jwee
Chinese simplified: 喝醉酒 ( hē zuì jiǔ)
Drunk. ‘Jiak’ usually means ‘to eat’ but sometimes when you are that drunk, you wouldn’t know if you are drinking or eating your beer! ‘Lim’ should be the correct hokkien verb for ‘drink’
Keeh Si Lah
Chinese simplified: 去死拉 ( qù sǐ lā)
Go and die!
Kuah Si Mee
Chinese simplified: 看什么 ( kàn shén me)
Again, this is under a more provocative tone. An English equivalent will be ‘See what see?!’ It is usually used in a staring incident and a challenge of a stare-down
Luan Gong Way
Chinese simplified: 乱讲话 (luàn jiǎng huà)
It usually means that the person is talking nonsense, or trash
Mai Tu Liao
Chinese simplified 别耽误/不要等 (bié dān wù/ bù yào děng)
Do not delay/wait. It usually implies a sense of urgency, after a period of impatience
Mai Luan Gong
Chinese simplified: 别乱讲 ( bié luàn jiǎng )
Do not talk rubbish, or in Singlish term, ‘Don’t talk cock.’
Pui Chao Nuah
Chinese simplified: 吐口水 ( tǔ kǒu shuǐ)
Spit. This is done with a feeling of disdain, or disgust
See Beh Song
Chinese simplified: 非常爽 ( fēi cháng shuǎng)
Usually, it is crudely used to imply a very good sensation and feeling. Say after a hard day’s work, to kick back and enjoy an ice cool beer. ‘See Beh Song Ah!’
See Mee Sai
Chinese simplified: No Chinese Equivalent
It usually means crudely, ‘What the hell do you want?’ Or you can reply in annoyance “See Mee Sai???’ meaning, ‘What?! What?!’
Ta Bor Lang
Chinese simplified: 男人 ( nán rén)
Male, Man. in some context, it can means The Husband
Tiah Tian Way/ Gong Tian Way
Chinese simplified: 听电话/讲电话 (tīng diàn huà/ jiǎng diàn huà)
Answering or talking on the phone. Loosely speaking it means ‘listen to the phone’ Contextually, it means pick up the phone!
Tio Beh Pio
Chinese simplified: 中马票 ( zhòng mǎ piào )
Tau Kar Chiu
Chinese simplified: 装手脚 (zhuāng shǒu jiǎo)
Being helpful, offering assistance to your fellow human beings in fixing things and solving problems
Uu Lui Lang
Chinese simplified: 有钱人 ( yǒu qián rén)
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 practise 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!
In your lifetime, you will hear about people getting into affairs and other kinds of unfaithful relationships, husband cheating on wife, and wife cheating on husband.
It’s not so much a bragging (depends on which angle you are bragging from, more about it later), your mother is my only female relationship I have (and I don’t have any male sexual relationships, at all, just so we are clear on that!). I don’t have any girlfriends before her, when I’m with her. Without her, I think I’d probably be single. I’m not a fantastically marketable guy.
Why do people have affairs?
I’m not subject matter expert for obvious reasons, but here is my take on relationships.
One at a time. please.
This applies when I was dating your mum. There is no need for me to get into multiple ones during courtship, and there is no need for me to get into multiple relationships after marriage.
Well some marriage does go south for some personal reason, and if it is because of a third party, nothing good will come out of it. But if whatever it is, annul the marriage properly before getting in bed with another partner, and good luck with that one.
Nothing good can come out of an affair
The most memorable one was the marriage between Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston (circa 2000-2005). It was a typical glitzy Hollywood marriage, and then came Angelina Jolie. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (circa 2006-2016) met during their movie Mr and Mrs Smith and not long after that, Brad Pitt divorced Jennifer Aniston, and then eventually married Angelina Jolie, only to divorce in 2016. Well, everyone’s an expert on hindsight, but this was a union built on deceit, and without making sure that the new relationship is build on trust and openness, it will be doomed for divorce just like the first one.
“If you are having an affair, you will be telling her lies so that she can sleep with you, and she will be telling you lies so that she can sleep with you.”
It is built on lies
Getting married and saying that vow is a big thing. Making that vow works day in and day out is a bigger thing. It is much bigger than anything you can accomplish in your lifetime, staying faithful to only one partner, till death.
Once you have said the vow and all, the marriage is legal and official. Don’t screw around after that, and if you want to screw around, don’t settle down. This was the mantra I have when I was with your mum. I was very clear I will only date one, at a time, full and 110% attention and effort to make it work, and if it doesn’t for whatever reasons, call it quits, before we look out for other options. That’s how I told your mum. And she was just as committed to me as well.
The commitment doesn’t change even after we tied the knot.
There is no love in an affair
Come on, don’t kid yourself when your lover tells you there is love. There is no love in an affair, there is lust.
Lust is something you have to manage and control. Biologically, we men wants to propagate the planet with our seeds, but once you have settled down with one partner, stay faithful to that partner. You may let your eyes stray and get attracted to pretty girls and sweet young things (SYT), but always keep your dick in your pants, the moment you are married.
Well, unless you think its a bragging rights to say you are able to have multiple sexual partners to prove your attractiveness and manhood. That is not wrong in anyway, but it will lead you to a different life and consequence.
Sexually Transmitted Disease
I’m a realist. I told your mum, I am 110% against illicit sexual affairs, precisely because of STD. It is not AIDS, or HIV I’m particularly afraid of, it is those venereal disease, which spreads if you have multiple sexual partners. It is just about my love for her, I do not want to get infected sleeping around, then come back and infect her and then both of us are literally screwed, and you boys end up picking up the pieces.
Let’s be frank, your lover will tell you that you are her one and only, and I’m sure to get into her skirt, you’ll probably say she’s the only other one, besides the wife.
If you are having an affair, you will be telling her lies so that she can sleep with you, and she will be telling you lies so that she can sleep with you.
At the end of the day, you will come home after sleeping around outside, contract some weird STD, and when you have sexual intercourse with your wife, you are going to pass whatever rotten disease to her. And as luck, or the lack of it, would have it, both of you will get into a tonne of problem, all because of a loose dick.
It is a zero sum game
It is not exciting, and it is not a very mature thing to do. I don’t know why they called it ‘Adultery’ but it is certainly not one of the most adult thing you can do. Be a good and faithful spouse, to me is an Adult thing. So don’t ever try adultery. This is my parting shot. Like I said it, if things don’t work out in your marriage, that’s fine, shit happens. So end it nicely, legally, before you get into another one. There is no winning sleeping around when you are married, everyone in it stands to lose. And if you have kids, the ultimate losers will be your children.
Karma is a bitch
While I am not a firm believer in Karma, I believe in consequences. Sometimes, the bad shit I do, has consequences on my children, the both of you. As an adult, I am always ready and willing to bear the consequences of any of my wrongdoings. But sometimes, things isn’t so clean cut. Shit flows down, and the last thing I want is for the both of you to clear up my shit, like what I have to eventually do for my parents.
So getting into a sexual relationships other than with your mum, is a big no, no for me. There is too much at stake for me to f**k around. Literally.