Please add Suffering

bushido

Its not about the Cotton Candy Generation, which I had already written about. Rather is is our value of suffering. With reference to the Cotton Candy Generation, these softies are actually toughening themselves up. In Singapore, we have all year round full of activities of all sorts, you name it, we have it, well except the snow part, and the big waves sports. We have triathlons, Dragon Boat Regattas, vertical marathons, Sundown marathons, cycling, golfing, all sorts of means and ways for you to get fit, for a lifestyle. Well, i almost forgot, martial arts too, Sports Karate, MMA, Jiujitsu, Aikido, Muay Thai, BJJ…all sorts of s**t people can do to get fitness.

Please add suffering! All physical activities entails a level of suffering. It is the meaning we give to our suffering, that defines our salvation! You see, I already mention, we Singaporeans are a whole population of comfortable, pleasing bunch. We are so affluent in our lives we can choose to suffer, we pay to experience suffering. This choice is the worrisome thing, as it feeds on our ego, the masochistic part, to think that we suffer in our gym training to prepare for an upcoming swim, cycle, run event, which incidentally, we are not in it to win it, its just an interest we have. So suffer for the sake of an interest? Well, of course, we learn something from our experiences of suffering, but we become very narrow. We think that just because we can swim, cycle, run well, makes us good people. We are tough because we can gym it out! Who are we kidding? Since when has suffering, becomes a lifestyle experience?

Get a perspective! Get a good look at a kid living in a slum in India, a drug addict living in the shadows of mega cities like Los Angeles. People who farm for a living, day in day our manual labour, Fishermen, rubbish collectors! These people ‘suffer’ as their lives requires them to and they all did it with a smile! A wry grin, facing the grim facts of life everyday. And they does it not to justify their glorious efforts to get a piece of medal, a ‘Finisher’ medal. So think about them farmers, fishermen, and slum kids when you think you are ‘suffering’ in an air con gym.

First Published: Aug 20, 2012 @ 17:01

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cotton candy generation

cotton-candy

Are we getting ‘soft?’

My predecessors always reminiscent the good ‘ol days where training was tough and how nowadays, we are so much more fortunate compared to them. Prior to Singapore’s independence the armed forces used the British made L1Al SLR(Self Loading Rifle), which is a very tough ‘battle’ rifle, Nowadays, we have a modern bull-pup SAR-21 replacing the M-16, which replaced the L1A1. The SAR-21 is the most evolved design, made for the 21st century soldier, comfortable to use, hi-tech and cool. But the L1A1 chambers a 7.62mm, with effective range more than 3 times that of the 5.56mm rounds which the SAR-21 chambers. The L1A1 is battle proven in the Falklands, and is still in active service, a testament of its durability.  Is the SAR-21 as tough as the old L1A1? Who knows?

Can the same be said for martial arts? if you pit a modern day Karateka against a old school Karateka, chances are the old school Karateka might severely injure the new version. Why? Old School train for real. Many of their techniques are deadly and students die from accidents and mistakes. In order to minimise fatality, lethal techniques are left out as the syllables evolve. Modern day martial arts are much safer, which make training easier, which makes the art popular and popularity is never a bad thing. So modern day focuses on winning a few medals and tournaments.

Many martial arts tournaments uses protection and guards. The use of these physical protectors, while claim to save lives, minimize injuries, dull the reality of a full punch, after all its just a sport. Only through body conditioning and actual bare knuckle sparring can one learn the true essence of pain, and learn to learn beyond that. Steven, during his time, doing sanchin was a daily affair, through intense body conditioning and breathing, he could take punches and he still can, coming to 60 years of age. Steven’s martial arts experience was the tough old SLR, mine was the M-16, the new generation is the SAR 21, bull pup design. People back then, like the L1A1 rifle, were much hardier than the folks of the 21st century.

Sure there is always a danger of permanent injury or death during training, but what doesn’t? Well, then, why join martial arts then? Face it, we are martial artist, and martial arts is hard, tough training. How do you think exponents do those ‘soft’ harmonious moves? Exponents are able to execute those seemingly effortless’ moves because of their intense and hard training. they suffer, everyday at training, so that they do not have to suffer when the time comes. Go to a dojo, expect suffering, do not avoid pain. do not tap at the slightest tinge of pain, tap only when the pain has become reasonable unreasonable. train every time to be reasonably unreasonable, but never tread  beyond the realm of unreasonable. If you go to a dojo and minimise and avoid suffering, don’t go, just stay at home and watch Jackie Chan’s Karate Kid.

First published: Aug 21, 2010 @ 18:00

Not so sure

Not so sure

‘Are you sure it works?

There are things which we can be very certain about, the sun will rise and it will set, water will evaporate and life will end and death will always comes for the living. What keeps me going back to Aikido is a feeling of uncertainty. I’m never too sure about the effectiveness of the technique, what works on one might not work on the other.

More importantly, this feeling keeps me grounded and coming back for more. There is never an apex of an Aikido journey. Perhaps this is why there is no championship to talk about in Aikido. a medal is an excellent way for you to focus on your goals, but the practice of Aikido is more than that, it is life. And in life, there is no reward nor punishment, no gold, silver or bronze. Competition is made by man, with rules and a single goal, winning. And when you win, you surely didn’t lose; or did you?

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The Champ

When a winner held onto the medal, there is a level of surety, he or she is good at something, so much so the person has beaten others and gotten the gold. If you get silver, you’re pretty sure that there is one guy on top, and many, many more below!

That is a fallacy.

You can never be sure, that the guy on top stays on top, and those below will never be superior to you. If you are a champ in Karate, that doesn’t mean you’re a champ in everything. But winning helps creates that illusion of suety. Truth to be told, in order for one to win, many others have to be sacrificed, our loved ones, parents, events, birthdays, just to name a few. All for a medal? Are you sure that is what life is for you? To miss out on all those important people and event just for a medal?

And just because one becomes a Karate champ, doesn’t surely means one will win in EVERY fight, alley fight, fist fight, bar fight. You can never be too sure, but with a medal, and most likely an inflated ego, you might risk a chance of a fight, thinking that you’re sure to win.

I’m reasonably trained in Aikido, but never too cock sure about what I can do. There is really nothing to win in a fight, that uncertainty, in my personal opinion keeps me focused on not getting into a fight. I leave the class every time, feeling a little inadequate, as if I have not learned enough, and I need to come back, and back and back, to check myself. ‘Are you sure it works?’ I ask that question again and again.

Problem I see in many martial arts school is they train people ‘so well’, they endowed them a false sense of security, feeling that the student can fend themselves off, in a real right, and walk away unscathed. Hollywood are full of those fight scenes. In any UFC fight, we always aim to be the last man standing, look carefully, the last man standing was as badly beaten up as the man on the floor. No one walks away from a  real fight without a scratch, Fighting is about attrition, and in a real fight, we can never be too sure we can come out tops, no matter how well we train.

I can never be too sure, so I come to class never take every moment for granted. I never take a white belt for granted, granted that the white belt might have a lucky shot and break my nose in a flimsy shomen strike. Shit happens.