Punctuality

Punctuality

Dear Boys,

This is one virtue that will never go out of style, it will always be trending and you can never be wrong with it.

Being on time is something we all need to strive, and I am certainly not the prime example, your mum would forever say that I was late for our first date! What an impression I made huh.

On Time, Every Time

This is your report book, Ian, if there’s anything you can be proud of, that will be the ‘0’ you have for the records. You 弟弟 is also a stickler for punctuality, constantly hustling me to get out of the house on time so that he will be on time. In fact he would like to be very early.

Remember this habit, and always practice is.

Long Tail Effect of Being Late

We engaged a Math tutor and she is brilliant in her work, but we can never trust her to be on time. She is so consistent in being late for your lessons, we wouldn’t bet that she will be punctual. There is always some kind of excuse, and it got so bad one time; she was more than 45mins late! So we have to push bac our dinner appointment because she was so darn late. While you can be an ace performer, brilliant in your work, and perhaps an expert in your field. but if you cannot turn up on time, it will affect the way people depend on you to get things done. You may not see the effect. but having the entire village wait for you to turn up also shows your lack of respect for other people’s time. It also distracts people from your real talent and cause people to doubt your abilities.

Tip of the ice berg

Never mind why you are late, honestly people don’t care about the reason why you are late. You. Are. Late. If you consistent bend time, the effects will show, once people casts an image of your tardiness in time, that reputation will be difficult to shake off, and it will precedes everything else you do. When you can’t plan your personal time well, people will come to a conclusion you are not good at planning anything at all.

Of course that is a sweeping statement, and you are your best agent to make sure people don’t come to that wrong conclusion. So that is the first battle to fight and win, be on time.

Being Early is Being On Time, and Being on Time is Being Late

This is a mantra I try to practice every time, granted that the vicissitudes of life is a constant curve ball, you cannot expect the unexpected and you will be late for this or that, now and then.

So always add some buffer into your time; if you need one hour to complete a task then turn up some place else, add another 30 minutes extra wouldn’t hurt. If you are cutting it too close, and you might be late, let people know in advance, and still endeavor to be on time.

End on Time

Being punctual is not only about being there on time, it is also about ending on time, so that you can let people go about with whatever other tasks they have after your time with them. Ending on time also tells people you can deliver within that stipulated window and speak concisely in a tight package, focused and undistracted.

There are some unforeseen issues that will crop up, make sure you don’t get drawn away from the main point. Keep the main point the main point and take other matters that might come up later when you have settled the main point.

Much more than punctuality

Being on time builds credibility and trust, people can count on you to show up, on time, and things can get done. This is a virtue that will never be out of fashion and you boys must continue to keep to this best practice wherever you go and in whatever you do.

A Good Class

A Good Class

It rained heavily these days, well, the year end monsoon is here. The particular thing about our Dojo is, the shelter holds out the rain, but if it gets windy, rain will blow into and onto the mat, wet to an extent where we cannot train.

I wanted to end Monday’s class due to inclement weather, but Ming Jie texted me to ‘push on’, well, let’s do it then. Thankfully, the rain subsided and we can have class, a small one though, since there is only Ming Jie, Melvin, Radek and myself.

It turned out to be a very enjoyable evening and I had a very deep and powerful epiphany, which I will attempt to pen down.

Who am I again?

I consider myself an Aikidoka, a practitioner, not an instructor, I’ve said that before, it will not change how I conduct myself on the mat. I’m far from perfect, nor I consider myself at a reasonable level of techincal competency to dispense Aikido lessons or wisdom.

The imposter syndrome is like an uncomfortable shadow. Harry didn’t even hand the baton to me, I pick it up from where he dropped it, and it is a darn heavy one.

Who will I become

Being thrust into the front, and having to take on the ‘instructor’ role, I got embroiled into who will I become. I can’t help it, it’s a big shoes Harry sensei left behind for me to fill, there is a genuine pressure to not let him down. While I am still struggling with a definition, the only thing I could do, was to turn up for class, as often as I can, and honour the commitment Harry sensei had to Aikido when he was teaching. Just turn up at the dojo, never mind good, bad or ugly.

There is a light in my struggle. You see, it is not about who I will become, it is about who my fellow Aikidokas will become, now that I’ve taken over, through Harry sensei’s legacy and our continued practice, my friends on the mat are becoming better, more peaceful and harmonious.

What did I see?

All this time I’ve been saying that we need to treat each other on the mat with respect, decorum and honour. While we might get frustrated with each other, we still need to know we are there for each other. Train hard, train safe, and train in harmony.

There was harmony on the mat that evening, and it was a beautiful feeling.

Harmony to see that Melvin can correct himself, and relax when I pointed out that there are some technical points he can improve upon, and he did change. Radek, stiff as usual, was amazing, instead of forcing his way through a technique, he stopped himself, corrected the mistake, relaxed and redid the waza. Ming Jie’s technique has also evolved to become less belligerent and more disarming, his commitment to class is certainly a source of motivations for me to keep the class going. That Monday evening, we are learning and reflecting.

As the person offering instructions, when I say move the hips and the hands move, they did it and it worked. There was a genuine change on the mat and my fellow Aikidoka are breaking away from their usual self limiting mindset and embraced something different. Along with my fellow Aikidoka, we have made the mat a safe space for all of us to make mistake, experiment and learn.

The four of us was truly enjoying Aikido and we helped each other explore our techniques, struggles through a spirit of non-judgmental, openness and total vulnerability. It was a very special and precious Monday night to feel that, and it makes me want to go back and relive it again.

Harry sensei would be happy

It’s a thought I shared with my wife when I got home, if for some miracle, Harry sensei was alive that Monday evening and he see where Radek is right now, he would be happy to know what all his teachings and lessons is bearing fruit. He never gave up on Radek, despite of constantly chiding him being stiff and mechanical, Radek was far from mechanical on Monday, I can see a more natural fluid expression of Aikido on the mat. Harry sensei’s tough love paid off.

Harry sensei would also be happy that the tiny little group of us are still training together, growing together and learning from each other. I hope we have done enough for him to know that he left the dojo in a good place. We are not fighting bitterly for egotistical gains, nor critically tearing at each other throat, challenging each other for authority.

Sustainable

There is really not that many of us left, who was with Harry sensei until the end. I’m somehow not concerned with this scarcity, but relish on the fact that this little group of us, is enough to bring a lot of good, love, peace and harmony in our own way. For sure we are not going to change the world in a big bang, but that’s not the aim, we just want to be happy, peaceful human being and the people who interacts with us can feel that. If we can achieve that, I’m sure Harry sensei will be quietly elated, his style of Aikido has cleaned up the world a little bit.

Explore more on the Ground

Explore more on the Ground

Dear Boys,

Sometimes, everyday chore can expose us to a better way of doing things, even when we have been doing the same thing everyday.

This happens to me when I was cycling to work. Yes, since your dad’s office is a scant 11km away, I will try to cycle to work, as much as practicable and the weather allows.

The Beauty of Google Maps

Of course, there is a plethora of mapping technologies on the web these days, we can plot till we foam in the mouth before we embark on our journey. While this level of planning is great, this is also why we have an entire generation of armchair critics. Knowledge you get from mapping helps you plan, knowing if your plan will work or not, depends on the people who have actually been there, and walked the ground.

Nothing beats putting your foot on the ground

In my context, put the pedal to the ground.

Looking at these 2 maps, they look discernably indifferent, with only a 30m between the 2, while on the ground, the experience is another story altogether. If you look between the 5km and 7km part between the 2 maps, lies the difference.

My default route is the 11.246km one, and while I have used it many many times, there is more complexities to overcome, not a big deal, but more.

There is 2 T-junctions (uncontrolled) I have to look out for, many bus stops with pedestrian traffic as Hougang Ave 3 is a major road with many bus plying this route. As this is the official park connector route, there are also more cyclists, like me, using it. Oh not to mention a petrol station along this road, which vehicles I have to be careful of.

My new route the 11.213km, however, is a unused gem. Defu Ave 1 is not as crowded, there are 2 T Junctions, one which has a traffic light. Less pedestrian traffic, since less bus ply this road. It has a clean gentle uphill (towards work) and the ride is generally more pleasant. the incline is reversed when I head home and it does help makes the ride faster, and I don’t have a petrol station to contend with.

It is even more defined when I am using the left side of the pavement, and not the right side, which will put you in the path of 6 T junctions, one of them is the main gate of SBST Hougang Bus depot, with buses turning in and out. Gnarly.

Not many people can tell you the difference in using these few choices and pick the best one out any given day.

Walk the walk, the talk the walk

You really need to walk the ground in whatever you do, this level of knowledge and detail beats any kind of hypothesis hands down. So while you boys go on to attain knowledge in your respective field, nothing beats hands-on, hard work. This level of experience cannot be attained the easy way.

No Augmented Reality, simulation, reading up, map plotting can get you there by actually walking, and for my case, pedaling. The Direct Feedback you get being there gives you the first hand knowledge which you can rely on, and others can count on, instead of just depending on Google map.

The Einstellung effect

The Einstellung effect

I recently learned a new word call ‘Einstellung’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstellung_effect) Generally it means how we will use the most efficient method solution to problem solving, even when it appears that there is another more efficient methods available.

I think we can understand it as ‘ When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem will look like a nail to you.‘ cliché. This is very true to Aikido practitioners, because we train so hard in a specific discipline that we get confined by what we define. How many of us can see the inter-connectedness between sentient beings when we train? All we want to do is to neutralize the ‘attack’. Not every ‘attack’ looks like an ‘attack’ and not every ‘attack’ is an ‘attack’. We need to be aware of The Einstellung effect every time we train.

Which is why we train in the first place! so that we can consciously discern the minutiae of life! No one single moment in life is the same! Once it has pass, it is passed! As valuable as The Einstellung effect is in helping us mechanized our life, so that we can deal with the larger issues on hand, we need to know not to over rely on The Einstellung effect. It will happen and it happens all the time, we just have to be mindful to exercise discretion if what we are doing is actually the best way or is there a less best way, but a more efficient way? Not all best ways are the best ways, some less best ways are sometimes just as good as the best ways. This is what it means to be human, and this is why we go to an Aikido dojo for training.

Published: July 13, 2013 

Aikido teaches us to be nice

I was hit by an epiphany.

All I really learned from Aikido was to be nice to myself and to be nice to other people. That means you do not take advantage of people when they are down, or injured.

It is probably the only martial arts that does that. You really have to treat your partner with respect and preserve your partner’s well being so as to make sure he or she turns up for training the next time!

Those who are movie buffs would have remembered the climax scene from both the original as well as the latest version of The Karate Kid. In both movies, we have the bad guys fighting Ralph Macchio or Jaden Smith. Both of them were severely injured no thanks to the bad guys and, the bad guys capitalised on the injuries.

Well, that is life, you can put it that way, survival of the fittest.

If you are in a Kumite and it is the championship round, you know your opponent is probably nursing a cracked rib from his previous bout, would you have decide to not to attack his cracked rib, or you would go specifically for the wounded area, so as to incapacitate him and win the bout?

As far as where I am practicing, when my partner is injured, or I have knowledge that there are some injuries, I’d be mindful not to further aggravate that injury. It is not me being noble, it is something I see happening in Aikido; your partner will take care of you, if you need to train when you are injured. There is a genuine level of care, we want our partners to be well.

I think we all go to our dojo, ‘wounded’ one way or another, and if we are conditioned to compete for a win, foresaking our opponent’s vulnerability, we are also foresaking our own vulnerabilities. If we cannot help our partners heal their wound, we cannot open ourselves to help from others, to help us heal our wound.

I’d like to go to a dojo, knowing that I can be myself, that my fellow students will take care of me. instead of going to a dojo with a brave front, hiding my injuries, so that I will not be taken advantage of. It is a lot harder for me to learn in such an environment.

Published: January 26, 2015

To Yield is to Heal

To Yield is to Heal

We all know Aikido as a harmonious, peace-promoting, and world loving art, people commonly sees Aikido as a kind of dance, and almost everyone who sees Aikido questions its efficacy in actual ‘combat’ situation. Is it an effective self-defense martial art, or is it a ‘martial’ art at all? It looks too soft, too wavy, and the attacker seems to be cooperating with the defender.

Or so it seems.

Does it work? Why does our attackers seemingly stupidly always falls? Will the movement stand up to a real attack? Does all the turning, twirling and circling around effective?

Everyone, including Aikido practitioners missed out the most important part of Aikido.

Yielding

We constantly handcuff harmony to Aikido, but we all know there is little harmony in practicing Aikido, there is a constant struggle, internal battle waging in us as we try to manhandle our partners in a feeble attempt to form a coherent looking Irimi-Nage.

Harmony can only happens when we learn to yield. We keep preaching to harmonise our attacker’s energy and neutralising it with circular motions and while that all sounds nice and dandy, you cannot do nuts until you yield.

Physically, to yield is to accept that the incoming force is greater than what we can handle, therefore, instead of the fighting option, we look at the flight option, and in Aikido context, flight means to brings our attacker along, and as long as they come with us for the flight, both of us sees little or no reason to fight.

Which is why learning Aikido is so simplistically tricky. We are taught ‘powerful’ technique, but when we apply them, it feels so useless. Other impact martial arts, such as Karate, MMA seems more effective, granted that we’ve seen how a simple punch, roundhouse kick can dramatically knock out a person.

While fighting art seems to look more effective, a fighter cannot win all the fights, no one can stay superior forever, there will always be another champion, and another contender to knock the champion out, this is the forever cycle of quest and desire which Aikido walks away from. We simply yield.

一山還有一山高

In English, it meant that there’s always one mountain taller than the other mountain, and we will eat ourselves empty if we continue on our chase for a higher glory, one medal after another, one conquest after another, we will fall eventually. when we become weaker and can no longer compete on sheer power, we will resort to guile or cunning, and when that fails too, what happens next?

Life isn’t a chase for glory or medal.

While we can pummel a lesser opponent to pulp, try that on your boss, or your wife, or the police officer giving you a parking ticket. We cannot keep fighting and winning, there will always be a greater force which you cannot overcome. Try fighting a volcano eruption.

So we have to yield eventually, and the sooner we realise that the better our lives become. Once we start to learn how to yield, victories become easier as we look for the most economical way to win our battles, and when we yield, we give, and will be given more than we gave out.

Yielding is peaceful

In Aikido, we don’t seek to beat up our attacker to pulp, our attackers do not behave like deranged killers out to inflict maximum hurt on us, when we practice Aikido, we are not looking at a duality of kill or be killed. We are looking for a singular outcome where both attackers and defenders can walk away safely and at best learning something about each other.

Therefore we yield, or try to. As we become more competent, we might want to use our skill and experience to gain an upper hand over some of our more junior Aikidokas, a lot of Instructors does that when they demonstrates their apparent superior techniques over their students, but of course that’ll be the case, but when a better trained student comes along, and shows superior skills, the sensei will be left an embarrassed and bruised ego, struggling to maintain his sensei status.

To yield is to accept that we do not know everything and we have to accept that there will be a better, more superior entity outside of us. When that happens, we have to flow and weave around instead of fighting a battle that is already lost.

An Instructor’s Failure

Last week, we did a technique, Ryo Katatedori Kokyunage. It started out as a simple technique and to add in some difficulty, I decided to apply the ‘unbendable’ arm as an uke so that the nage can have an increased level of challenge.

Mingjie, as the nage, couldn’t do it, so I switched role and be the nage, and he did what I did, using the ‘unbendable’ arm, and I couldn’t do it. No matter how hard I try, Turns out, that method of kokyunage, is ineffective.

It does bugs me a bit, but I have long said, I am not perfect, and some of techniques I do will fail, as it has many times, but this time it makes me think deeper. Perhaps the label as a ‘sensei’ comes with the expectations for me to be able to do every technique, or teach, overcome roadblock or barrier. I couldn’t.

That is a reality check for everyone, particularly myself, of course my ego was bruised.

More than that, this inability exposes my learning path, which I must overcome.

There is 2 ways to look at this inability.

1- I have not attain the level of proficiency to do this technique, hence this technique is more advanced and beyond my current abilities. Harry sensei can do it, and of course, he comes with many more decades of experience.

2- This technique is ineffective. Try as hard as I could, I cannot make it work, Mingjie couldn’t make it work, Choi tried and couldn’t make it work, and checking YouTube, nobody does it the way we did it on the mat that evening.

That is of course not a exhaustive list and perhaps Harry sensei could because this was within his technical ability, or we have been charitable as ukes. Or it is really not an effective way to do it.

Scrap it?

It bugs me because, I have seen this level of incompetence before, in me. There were some technique I couldn’t do in the past, I could now. There are things I didn’t understand in the past, I made an effort to learn and now I possess the knowledge to certain subject matter to hold a conversation.

While I was compelled to write this off as an ineffective technique, the stronger compulsion was to dig deeper and…

Investigate, Probe, Learn, Explore, Discover

It can be so disappointing to those on the mat to see me fail, well, I did. and I explained to the rest that hey, I do fail. and we need to learn from it. the Dojo is a place to learn, and we will fumble, and have our incompetency exposed. It is fine for me, as taking a class is not a performance, I do not expect myself to conduct a ‘perfect’ class. There is no such thing.

Every time we come for class, even as an ‘instructor’ I also learn and at a very different level. While I want to instruct, there are times I couldn’t. Of course the students pay money to have the best possible instructorship, I hope they can also lean something when this instructor fails. I have no intentions to hide my failures, using excuses or some lame justifications. I’m not competent about it, and I am not shy about it either, the only way to overcome it is to train harder, investigate into the whys.

The good thing is Mingjie is on the mat every Monday, and I have to opportunity to work this with him, until we both learn to overcome this, together.

Blk 49 Bedok South Ave 3…no more

Blk 49 Bedok South Ave 3…no more

Dear Boys,

In the constantly changing Singapore landscape, another one of your dad’s past has bitten the dust, literally.

I grew up at this address: Blk 49 Bedok South Ave 3, 11-220 Singapore 1646, until my parents divorced back in the early 1990s. This address holds a lot of fond (and not-so-fond) memories, nonetheless, it has nostalgic values to me.

This plot of land certainly holds no nostalgia to the Singapore government as they finally figured out what they want to do with the whole place. While I didn’t track the progress, Google map showed the place was in the process of being torn down back in Aug 2021.

Street view Aug 2021 from Google Maps

I’m not sure what is the grand scheme of things in the Government’s playbook for this place, but I’m glad I captured some memories back in 2009 and 2018.

Back in 2009, it was already a kind of laid back, old neighborhood feel, there is still a people staying there, and it felt like it will stay like this forever, albeit the place getting quite staid and stagnant.

There is certainly a deep sense of memory for me, lots of childhood experiences there, of course my friends and classmate were all around the neighborhood. I went to the nearby school Bedok View Secondary School for 2 years before I dropped out. By 15 years of age, I have to grow up real fast, that’s a story for another time.

There was however, a different fate planned for my Block 49, as the place was barricaded as if the end is near. I couldn’t go up the block, so I went to Block 47 instead to take some pictures. While Block 49 was completely vacant, and locked out. I could still go up Block 47 and took some pictures.

Of course such skyline picture no longer exists, as the whole estate is now nothing but a flat grass field.

2018

I chance upon a visit back in 2018, again for reasons I cannot remember, and the whole place seems to come to life again, as the government has rented the place out for foreigners to stay. Even my Block 49 was open for residency.

There’s some sense of life, and perhaps the place has found new uses.

The street Directory view 2001, 2007 and 2022

As you can see from the 3 copies of Street Directories, they whole estate Blk 45, 46, 47, 48, 49 and 50 was still around back in 2001, still there in 2007. Bedok View Primary School in 2011, which I attended from Primary 4 to Primary 6 was still around as well, but come 2007, my primary school disappeared, the blocks are still there. But come 2022, my former primary school has been repurposed to become APSN (Association for Persons with Special Needs) school; and all the blocks are gone.

2022

This is just and empty field.

Gone are any semblance or trace of my old estate, not a single shred of evidence that many families was raised there, people lived and died, grown up, or grown away. All the carparks, old rain trees, jogging tracks and shelters are gone.

All that remains is my fickle memories to hold on and tell stories about my life when there was still Blk 49, Bedok South Ave 3, #11-220 Singapore 1646

Perspective Taking

Perspective Taking

Dear boys,

You get what you focus on, period.

I wanted to write about this because one evening, we were talking, and Wayne said ‘Tomorrow is going to be a good day.’ Yet, knowing him, there is always a caveat.

Of course during the day, somethings might turn up, screw up our ‘good day’. We might meet an obnoxious person who piss us off, and mess up our ‘good day’. We might get our results back to find out that it is a ‘fail’, that is not going to be a good day.

It is all in the perspective, boys. What we focus on gets magnified. even things we ‘don’t want’. This is the classic law of attraction, and it has happened to me so many times. especially when I’m riding trails, the more you tell yourself, ‘don’t slam into that tree, don’t slam into that tree, don’t slam into that tree,’ what happens, you end up slamming into the tree!

don’t slam into that tree!

So I will train myself to look ahead and plan the route to take, usually it is quite a successful endeavor but being on a mountain biking trail is anything but predictable neither ‘successful’.

Law of attraction

Which is why we need to be very conscious about what we think about. It’s fine to say ‘Tomorrow is going to be a good day.’ and leave it as that. BUT, adding, ‘I hope nothing bad is going to happen!’, and you can be sure something ‘bad’ will happen and you will be fixated over it instead of what other good stuff that has happened.

It will happen especially when we don’t want something. The more we don’t want, the more we select reasons to justify our don’t want-ness, and we look around for more situations to put ourselves in, just to say: ‘You see lah, everytime like this one! I always get what I don’t want!” Just truly and earnestly think about what you want then, and let the magic happens!

Boxing yourself in thinking about dying.

Wayne, there was a period of time when the argument or scolding isn’t going your way, you will think of dying. or killing yourself.

So during one of those heated scolding, you brought this up again, as you sense that you are cornered, boxed in and everything is your fault. So you say that you might as well kill yourself. And I gladly entertained that thought, let go into killing ourselves. We imagined a few scenarios, how sad we will feel if you die, and how people needs tremendous amount of energy, focus and will power just to kill themselves, or throw themselves off a building. Why not, focus all that energy, on being good? Save yourself and not kill yourself?

We explored focusing on living, the wonderful gift of having a chance to better ourselves, despite of making mistakes, despite of losing, despite of looking stupid, we have life and another chance to try again. By focusing on death, once you are dead, you are dead, there is no more chance to try again, make a better day, or simply enjoy being loved by your brother, mom and dad. No more mummy tiger to hug, or smell patchie boy again.

The elephant in the room

It is a taboo, I want to address it with you boys, while we grow up, we need to be very careful what thoughts we bring into our mind. Some of these thoughts, we brought them in, some others, people planted it there. So by talking about death and suicide, we properly addressed the matter instead of treating it like a taboo, because the more we don’t want to talk about it, the more it will surface and the larger it will become, so much so that it will be too powerless for us to talk about it. So now we got such zero sum game out of our mind, we can focus on growth, focus on the good day, magnify the awesome, and build on the phenomenal.

Our negativities will not go away, being upbeat and cheery isn’t a façade, thinking and focusing on good stuffs means when we are hit with bad stuff, we know how go to a resourceful and open state to handle a rough patch well and emerge from such episodes no worse for wear.