Making Mistakes and Recovery

Dear Boys,

It is a given, we will make mistakes. What matters more is how we recover from them, that will define who we are.

There are a few kinds of mistakes we will in life.

1-People gets hurt as a direct consequence of our mistakes

2-Things/tasks are not done timely, resulting in miss opportunities, failure to achieve goals/ deadlines

3-Errors as a result of poor performance due to lacking in training, skillset or knowledge

Generally these are the few, there may be more, out there, but the feeling arises from such incidents is one of embarrassment, regret, anger, disappointment, and you will be compelled to take certain actions to remedy these ‘mistakes’ or ‘failures’.

Apologise

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If your mistakes or failure resulted in people getting hurt. The impact is direct and you can see it, like you spilled hot liquid onto a person (never mind you like or dislike that individual!), you should say ‘Sorry!’ without hesitation.

Our goal in life is not to hurt people, unless it was purely pre-meditated or there is a specific purpose in doing so. Otherwise, if our actions unwittingly brought about pain and suffering on people, we must respond with remorse. Apologize first, then we can follow up to make things right.

For missed goals/deadlines

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This one is a bit tricky, as there will be a rolling, long-term impact with unintended consequences for a missed schedule. Sometimes there is nothing else you can do; the boat has sailed. You can sulk and look stupid, or you can scour around to try and remedy it.

Look for solutions, and negotiate to minimize the loss. Communicate and acknowledge your lapse if possible, demonstrating your willingness to take responsibility for the misjudgment and desire to make things right.

Lacking that skills, knowledge or training

Well, it happens, we are no rocket scientists, and when we are forced to build a rocket, our ignorance will show. What you made might look amateurish and you’ll get negative publicity and opinions about it. In this case, there is nothing else you can do but to know that you are pitted against a very steep learning curve.

Own the difficult tasks and set out to learn as much as you possibly can so that you can do as good a job as you possibly can with what little you know. It will be nowhere near good, but you must try.

Sitting around moping that you don’t know what you don’t know will not help, get up and ask for help. Start asking questions, be the noob, the newbie, and people will come to your aid. When they do collaborate with them, and learn as much as you can.

Sometimes the knowledge you get, might be incomplete, that is where you will need to take a gut check and fill in the blanks yourself, and connect the dots, hoping that it works. Doing things the first time can be stressful and the outcome might be less that satisfactory, what will make it worse is you dragging your sorry butt telling the world how unfair that you are given such a insurmountable task and lament about it.

Learning point is everywhere

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You learn the most when you fail, but people will not teach you about your attitude towards failure. Instinctively we will start to look for excuses as to why it didn’t work out, our ego will come to our protection, so that we can still retain some level of pride and save ourselves some embarrassment.

Be reasonable, instead of excusable, if you find reasons for your failures, you will be able to find ways to make yourself better. Reasons are fact based, and people can see you making efforts to correct your mistakes, and learn from it. Excuses are story based, and similarly, people can see how you try to weasel your way out of your own failures.

Reasons makes you work hard to better yourself, and learn from your mistakes. Excuses strengthen your own denial and you’ll learn how to cover up your mistakes.

Who would you hurt?

Imagine, you are the most skilled martial artist in the world, you have mastered Karate, MMA, Judo, Boxing, Muay Thai, and other lethal martial arts. You certain can kill someone with your moves!

Who is the first person you’ll end up hurting first, other than yourself?

Chances are, you will end up hitting and hurting your loved ones. People you care about, your wife, your husband, you kid, your training partner, your sparring partner, your colleague, your drinking friends. Almost towards the last of your list, are strangers, criminals, mafia, Jason Bourne, James Bond, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise and the neighborhood cat.

“We need to be the centre of calm in a very volatile situation.”

It happened to me and I will never forget it. My elder brother and I got in to a very heat argument when we were very young then. If I remembered correctly I was in my early twenties. I was so pissed that I wanted to leave home, the anger was simmering and I wasn’t really out to hurt anyone, I just want to get away, for good.

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My elder brother, another extremely hot headed and irrational guy, held me back as I reached for the gates. He restrained me from getting away, and I snapped; turned around and punched him, once, hard, on his chest. I will never forget the sound he made, when his brother, me, hit him. The sound of the hurt I inflicted on him, made me very very reluctant to hit another person like that.

Okay, call me a softie, that’s fine. I really didn’t like him, much less love him. I still don’t. But that served a reminder to me, that I will hurt the people closest to me. It is a statistically given fact, we interact more and on a higher level with people we know than with people we don’t know. well, duh. So people close to us will see us, good, bad and the ugly, warts and all. they will rub us the wrong way and we might end up fighting them.

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Isn’t that ironic? We always know our loved ones deeply, we often use that intimate knowledge to hurt them, instead of using it to love them more. Or they might have unwittingly done something that hurt us, and we instinctively want to hurt them back.

Take another hypothetical example. Your very very drunk and emotionally unstable friend, who got aggressive, and take a swing towards anything, anyone close enough. You are that person, will you block the punch and snap a front kick to take him out, or will you enter (irimi) to his side, control him with an Ikkyo, and assert authority over him, and make sure he do not embarrass himself further? Use a circular motion to diffuse the tension, to dissipate the anger. We need to be the centre of calm in a very volatile situation.

Aikido gives us that skill to end a very violent situation peacefully. More important, it cultivates the wisdom in us to help us see beyond violence, the violent person has a very good nature, and when he or she has sufficiently calmed down, the person is actually a very reasonable person.  Well, under duress, we are all dumbassess. But in a stressful situation, we only need one dumbass, the other person has to have some good sense to stop the dumbass from becoming a bigger dumbass.

First Published: October 1, 2015

Your first Aikido sensei

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Christmas 2014

Who is your first Aikido sensei? Who is my first Aikido sensei? The fellow teaching you how to turn, roll and wears a funny black pleated skirt-looking pants?

You first Aikido sensei is your parents.

Your mother showed you love, and affection, your father protects and nurtures you. They are the foundations of love and harmony that Aikido is all about.

I watch last evening as Harry sensei taught this young Aikidoka how to roll properly. As I watched, I came to this realization that he is like a father teaching his son. I can feel that because I am a father myself, and I would use the same energy, attitude, of unconditional effort, openness, hands on to teach my sons, whatever they are learning. I saw that in Harry sensei last evening, the effort, and unconditional love is the same.

It was a very profound experience as the whole relationship paradigm in my Aikido training was radically shifted. I left the class with a feeling of total awe, and more importantly a renewed sense of humility.

It was more than that.

Training with NUS students has opened another level of understanding for me. These young boys and girls, is easily 20 years my junior. And I had almost 20 years of training in Aikido. That said, what about Harry sensei, he has close to 50 years of training! He has been training long before anyone one in class was born!

So when I look at the faces of my young fellow Aikidokas, the youth is still there, the innocence are still present. I can sense that because, given another 10 years, my elder son, Ian, will be 19 years old, about that age of a NUS student.

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With Ian in Hong Kong 2011

They still carry the dreams and aspirations their parents have for them. Edna, Jia Hwee, Tri, Glenn, Jade, Darius, Cathryn, Rachel, just to name a few names, their parents gave them the names, very much like how I bestowed upon my sons, theirs. They came to class, to NUS with their parents, in spirit and in faith. Hence, you are not simply training with that person, you are training with a person who has been exposed to love and affection, with understanding and attention long before they stepped into an Aikido class. So they are an expert in their 18- 19 years of living, and me? I’m just a beginner in their lives!

That can be said for Harry sensei himself! He has parents, his parents has aspirations for him, perhaps they’d wanted him to become someone of stature, or they had other expectations, I wondered, had his parents came back and look at him now, taking a class, 6th Dan in Aikido, would that had been what they wanted from him? Certainly my parents didn’t expect me to embark in Aikido training.

More often than not, we did not choose to embark on our Aikido journey, but somehow stumbled into it, and continued because of certain circumstances that compels us to continue, it was probably one of the last thing our parents expects of us.

We need to give back, our parents has been our first Aikido sensei, and now when we learn how to love and live in harmony from someone else, we need to give this back to them, perhaps now that we’ve grown up and our parents might have thought that their kids no longer need so much love and care, but they still do care and love us, just as much, or perhaps more. Now that we are adults training in Aikido, we need to love them back. Things we learned in the dojo, we need to practise it with our parents, let them know that their love and efforts has manifested, their kids has not wasted their love and effort, well we may not be everything our parents wants us to be, but we can let them know that their love and efforts hadn’t gone to waste, their children has done fine and is now learning how to love on the foundations that they have given us.

First Published: Nov 26, 2014 6:32 AM

As of current: Harry sensei is now 7th Dan Shihan.

Shikko and Ukemi

I was sharing this with Gabriel and Zarine one evening, about the attire we wear. I realised that my foundation years in Aikido, I did a lot of suwari waza, or knee walk.

Knowing how to fall properly is all about protecting ourselves from greater harm.

Extensive practice in knee walks, can be a boon or bane for Aikdiokas. I know some Aikido Shihans who have their knees destroyed by suwari waza. Personally for me, during my peaks, i can knee walk until there are holes on the pants where the knees comes into contact with the mat. Yes, blisters are also quite common.

It certainly helps in the stability department. practice on the suwari waza will strengthens the legs and hips, all vital structures for stability in movement or otherwise.

Another very important practice is ukemi. Well what are the chances of us using irimi nage in real life? or applying a nikkyo lock? But when is comes to falling, the chances are plenty.

Knowing how to fall properly is all about protecting ourselves from greater harm. When I was a motorcyclist, it had saved me from being seriously injured in a accident. Even in reality, falls are never picture perfect like in Aikido, but knowing how to and being experienced in rolling helps us prepare for the unexpected.

Published on: Feb 27, 2011