I Do

I Do

Dear Boys,

This is not about a wedding vow.

It is about something just as important and just as life changing, perhaps even more.

It is about suicide.

Let me be honest here.

Your dad has thought about it.

And is sometimes thinking about it still.

What is suicide?

I’ll not be clinical here, as you boys can read about it in the many, many journals out there. I’m also not trained or studied (in a serious academic way) in psychology or psychiatry. I know suicide in my own personal, macabre, deep dark way.

It’s not a sad thing, nor happy thing.

It is mostly an existential thing. Like what is the purpose of struggle? The purpose of life? Those big profound ‘cheem, cheem’ (deep, deep) stuff. These thoughts keeps me up, and they still do.

Sometimes it can be very mundane things like annoying colleagues, the day to day struggles, and why we do it. It can be as easy as lazy to live. Yes, it can be a chore to get up, get dressed, get up the next day and groundhog day, over and over and over and over and over again, and again, and again…monotony kills.

Just writing about it puts me in that train of thought…

Anyway…

Why I hadn’t kill myself yet.

Contrary to many out there who thinks that suicide is a form of escaping reality, it is in fact a very courageous thing to do, under some circumstances of suicide. It takes a tremendous amount of energy and will power to set up a rope to hang yourself, or to cut yourself to bleed dry, or hurl yourself off a building. It is not an easy thing to do. In fact it is one of the hardest thoughts any living being can entertain.

It is a powerful thought to have in your mind about killing yourself, and it is not necessarily a good or bad thing. It is a thing.

So use that thing, that powerful thing purposefully. Of course if your purpose is kill yourself, then perhaps its your thing then.

What is more salient here is the powerful thing you have. I learned about this when I heard one Mediacorp Actress/Host, I think it was Irene Ang who said that you need a tremendous amount of will power to kill yourself ( I think she was speaking from experience) and why not use that willpower to kill yourself, to do good and live? And that made sense to me

The other reason why I hadn’t kill myself

Your mother, she will not let me die. If I’d kill myself, she’d revive me and kill me herself. Joking lah. On a serious note, she is the meaning of my life. Sorry boys, you both comes in second. Really, without her, I’d have no meaning.

But with suicide tendency, it is an ironic twist. It took me a while to look outside of my own selfishness to see her. In the past, I’d still think of killing myself, despite of what she has done for me, and after all the love and affection we have shown each other.

But as it grows, and me talking to her about my suicide tendencies, she somehow has opened a part of my feelings that allow me to depend on her, and see my importance to her. I wouldn’t want to leave her alone in this world and change her title from ‘wife’ to ‘widow’.

In short, I see her life and well being as more important to mine, in a very intimate, and interconnected way. Sometimes, you might think that killing yourself is a way of setting your loved ones free from the burden of being with you, the other side of the argument is just as true. When I die, the world will be robbed of an unique individual, well not that I am that great an individual, but the bigger truth is, I am robbing my wife, her companionship, her someone to hold her hands, and make meaning in her life.

We all contribute to the world in our own small way and killing ourselves rob the world of a life, no matter how small, or insignificant it can be. Think of it this way, Wayne, if you kill yourself, your friend, Angel (pun unintended) will never have a chance of bumping into you on the streets. Neither will you ever find out how stupid or smart you can be.

Death robs

I attended 2 funerals this year. Both my friends died of ailments and a genetic disease. Its not the death that matters, it is the fact that, when I walk the streets, I can never bump into Grace or Peter anymore, because they are dead. There will never be another Peter, someone who looks liker Peter, but not Peter.  While death robs, suicide is almost like grand theft arson of life. You deliberately choose to eject yourself of life, and robs  everyone around you a friend, brother, son, sister, mother, father, cousin, student, child, singer, driver, chef and so on.

I Do

Recently the lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester committed suicide. The band wrote a song One More Light for one their friend who died of cancer. Somehow, my association of the song was more related to Chester Bennington’s suicide than anything else. I think it is the context of the song that matters. Sometimes, we take signs of suicide too lightly and wrote them off as some wild thoughts, our loved ones shrugged our thoughts of self-death as non-sense, out of fear or the lacking in understanding and openness to talk about suicide.

Well, boys, I do. I do want to talk to you both if you wants someone to talk to about killing yourself. About suicide, about gays and lesbians. I’m your dad, and somehow have I am gifted this unique exposure towards suicide.

Getting over it

There is, unfortunately, no getting over it. It is part and parcel of life, and just like flu, you will ‘get it’ again and again. The thoughts of suicide continues to linger around me, and if I slipped into the darker character of Randy Lim, yes, death is always there. But unlike flu, there is no visible symptoms. Suicidal thoughts, depressions and other mental conditions cannot be seen outwardly. Which is why Chester’s death is so haunting for me. He was okay and laughing and having family time 36 hours before he killed himself. He was happy, or so it appears to be.

So it will come and it will go, and let it go (of course!) when it leaves and if it stays longer than you are comfortable, your mum and dad are here for you to talk to.

Telling it like it is.

There is no sugar coating, no code word or whatsoever. Boys, if you have a feeling of wanting to kill yourself, just come to us and say: ‘Mum/ Papa, I feel like killing myself.’ We will not judge you, nor will be shrug you off like it was nothing. If you have suicide thoughts, we are here, we will drop everything and talk. Thanks to your mum’s chat, he voice and presences grew larger than the suicidal thought and when I think about suicide, I think of her, and everything is okay.

Suicide is the ultimate leveler

Suicide, if properly done, leads to death. There is no turning back from death. No saves, no close call, nothing, once you’re dead, you stay dead. And death has no age limit, gender or political orientation, you kill yourself you die. Period. And you can die at any age, time and space.

I don’t care if you are nine, or ninety, if you want to kill yourself, you can talk to me, boys.

thoughts taken off an eight year old’s school journal

 

 

Save the earth-the cognitive dissonance

Save the earth-the cognitive dissonance

Dear Boys,

The human race has been trying to save the earth for the longest time. And I was reminded again last evening by my friend, Siew Chin, that we can only save ourselves, the Earth will continue with or without us.

An we are doing such a piss poor job trying to save ourselves.

We have all sort of data, statistics and experts telling us the scarcity of our resources. How much fuel we are consuming and we are not sustainable at the rate we are sucking up the earth’s limited resources. Species are going extinct, forests are wiped out, greenery are gone, chemicals and harm are everywhere and we need to take care of the environment, and all that yadah yadah yadah, motherhood statements.

Single use plastics 

In recent years, there are more talk about trying to reduce single use plastics as these are very harmful to the environment, and we need to reduce the usage. It is spreading all over the world and there are plastic wastes in the ocean the size of dunno which country.

In the depths of the ocean there re plastics, where ever we go, we see plastics being branded the poster child of an environment killer. We need to stop using plastics to save the environment. And we have limited time left to do so.

Well, take a look at this picture.

 Cheap, cheap plastics, as far as your eyes can see.

Another picture

food shortage? what food shortage?

How do we get the message across to people to tell them to treasure our limited resources, when the fact is all they see in supermarkets are unlimited resources of food, consumables, plastics and other supposedly Earth harming produce?

You cannot educate people on the scarcity of resources when all they need to do is to head to the nearest minimart to prove that they are right, nevermind you are wrong or not.

The bottom line is, people don’t care, or they care little for the world they live in. And as long as they care about their little world, there will be a massive faceless company providing that care, offering that care. While people care about their little world, and get that gratification doing so, they will not care about the world at large.

We can’t extend that care to those Elephants going extinct in the African Savannah, Giraffes are dying off, but who cares? We can still see them in a zoo. Polar bears are an important part of the arctic ecosystem, so in order to spread awareness, let’s make more soft cuddly Polar Bear plushes in PLASTIC, so that we can tell people how poor thing these polar bears is.

Meanwhile, let’s head to our supermarket…

brush and floss till your teeth drop, and still brush and floss some more.

Plastics, as far as your eyes can see, and mind you, one of these bottles might float and find their way to the ice caps, our dear polar bear friends might pick one of these up and eat it, killing them in the process, but who cares? We’ve got a softtoy to remember that we need to save these big white bears. Such is the hypocrisy of humans.

Who to do next?

Don’t ask me, I only have ideals for extreme, extremely unpopular methods. Being a realist, I don’t quite care about the individual needs, for us to really save ourselves, we need to ban plastic, and make people bring their own containers, make them understand the long tail of cause and effect. The entire value chain. No one seem to understand, especially the manufacturers, that once you make something, that something has an end date.

Typical of human nearsightedness, we only care about growth, and produce more and more, but no one thought about how to end the product’s life cycle nicely. Everyone wants to build and sell nice cars, but no a lot of people wants to take back old, used cars. So used stuffs will accumulate and build up to such a degree no one wants to look at them.

There is no end

Unfortunately, because of humans’ resourcefulness, there will be no end to this production and consumer led consumption of resources, organic or otherwise. People will find ways to continue this type of lifestyle, and it will be too late to realise that the abundance we see everyday is nothing but a veil of an impending destruction.

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Notes to keep us going

Notes to keep us going

Dear boys,

We write notes to one another, well, not so much these days, but I think in the early days of our family lives, it is a good way to tell and encourage each other that we have love, care and concern for every one in our family.

It of course started with me writing and putting these little notes in your mum’s purse, dress, crockeries and other places where she will use, go to or touch. the whole idea was to give her some kind of a pleasant surprises that her husband loves her and is constantly think of her.

While of course, it was a romantic gestures, more importantly, I want to put these nice loving thoughts so that we constant remind each other to be nice to one another, even in a quarrel or unhappy episode, we still need to think of each other in a nice way.

Of course your mum reciprocated in kind, and we learned to put little notes in your bags and wallets, in no time Ian you’re also writing stuffs for your brother and vice versa.

Try to keep this up as there are times where words can’t be spoken enough, or we did a lousy action and hurt our loved ones, but serendipitously come across one of these notes, will help soothes any ruffle feathers.

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My sensei teaches more than Aikido

My sensei teaches more than Aikido

This is the view for me for the past 20-odd years. The irony of my life is that I know my Aikido sensei more than I know my father.

My parents divorced when I was 15. I started Aikido when I was nineteen-ish, and just like that, I’ve spent more than 20 years in Aikido, even longer than I know my wife.

I was never Harry sensei’s ‘favorite’ student. When you trained long enough with him, you know the kind of students he like; and by the virtue of my physique, I’m not his uke by choice. I got to where I am, because I hung around long enough, longer than those ‘better’ students. I got here by attrition, you can say that.

Along the way, I learned quite a few things from my sensei, and without him, I have no Aikido, and no such blog. My mind will not be open, the way he did, gently and patiently. Without his quiet guidance, I won’t be the person I am today.

Loyalty and commitment

It is Harry sensei’s bragging rights. He trained incessantly, 50 years, Mondays to Fridays; these days. Back in those days, he trained 7 days a week, 4 hours. These days who can say they did what he has done, 50 years and counting? He mentioned in his soft voice, he only stopped Aikido twice, once for his mother’s death, for a month, the other time he did, I didn’t catch what he said.

While many people can and like to mention lineage, to soup up their own dojo’s marketing prowess, mentioning that they trained under who and who and which and which Japanese Shihan, Harry sensei simply mentioned that his sensei is the late Teddy Lee sensei, He took the helm from his sensei, and continue to practice Aikido, the way his sensei taught him.

I’ve never heard him trained under anyone else, perhaps with Nakazono sensei, who first brought Aikido to Singapore. More importantly he has never failed to mention his sensei, he has never forgotten his sensei and the teachings. That is his loyalty, and he don’t give a f**k about winning the popularity contest.

He is committed to Aikido, and still comes to class, rain, shine, good health or otherwise. He just mentioned today he had a bout of shingles. Had he not mentioned, we wouldn’t have known, he is still as fit and ki still flows from his fingers. He is committed to teaching and it doesn’t matter if one student turns up or none. Of course he will berate us for being absent, but he knows our commitments and he never asks more from us, but he continuously gives us his commitment, more than we can ever accept.

Family and Sacrifice

The world is fair, there is only 24 hours, Harry sensei is no exception. While he devoted his time to Aikido, his wife has to suffer, his children has to suffer. He will miss their important dates, significant milestones. All for Aikido. He was never there for them in the evening, by the time he got home after training, his kids would have been asleep, the next day, he would have to go to work.

After 50 years, there is no way to reclaim them back. he has to choose, and he sacrificed his family time.

Harry sensei got to become Harry sensei, because he did what he did. His success showed me how not to be a whole person. My family needs me, just as much as I need my Aikido. It is never an easy decision, and I learned to follow my heart.

Sometimes I have to sacrifice Aikido for my family, and Harry sensei would understand where my priorities are.

Regret and Fate

Time has been spent, it cannot be recovered. We spoke briefly, and Harry sensei agreed he was very ‘lucky’, his children and wife stuck by him, although he did mention that his wife is getting even with him these days, after so many years of neglect.

Call it fate or luck his wife didn’t leave him and took his children along. His children are still filial to him. His grandchildren still buys things for him, when they travel overseas. Things could have gone awry for him, his children could have rebelled, as technically speaking, he wasn’t really clocking his time as a dad. As a dad myself, I know had I done what Harry sensei did, my wife would have to pick things up in my absence, and double hat my role.

As a dad myself, I have my moments of regrets, when I missed some of my children’s significant moments. As a sensei, he would have missed more, much, much more.

Photo courtesy of Vincent Asjenwi, Kiryokukai Indonesia

Aikido is good Karma

Let’s not get superstitious here, I’m using ‘karma’ as a generic term. Loosely speaking, Harry sensei did good. While he hadn’t been much of a dad in the evenings, his practice and commitment to Aikido, showed his family and loved ones, that he is truly and purely a good person, doing good stuff with Aikido. His only flaw is; his undying love for Aikido.

 

More about Kokyu-ho

I ended class with Siew Chin on Thursday evening. And she always finds it a challenge exercising kokyu-ho with me. So I shared with her a few pointers.

Be Ready.
It is not about ‘getting ready’, which to me means a state of transition from ‘not-ready’ to ready. There is a stage of preparation that mean there was a stage of un-preparation. This is not acceptable in life as we must always be prepared. Taking time to get ready for something is a waste of time because you can never be fully ready for something. Aikido has taught me that no amount of training and preparation will prepare one for whatever that person is preparing for. There will always be something not done ‘right’, something fall ‘short’ on hindsight.

The attitude in Kokyu-ho is about being ready. Be ready. To be ready will cease the stage of not-ready. and hence minimize weakness. Be ready is also a state of relaxed awareness, not too sure of what to expect, but at the same time confident in oneself to handle whatever may come.

One habit she has is that she clenched her fists, repetitively open and close, in a pumping motion, which I personally would discourage, as it doesn’t really ‘relaxes’ the hands, by playing with contraction and expansion. In fact, it transfers more tension downwards and makes the fingers loses its sensitivity, something that is very important in Aikido, kokyu-ho.

Handshake
Kokyu-ho is like a mutual, opposite handshake. You cannot shake a person’s hands, stiff. Palms open, fingers hyper-stretched is not a handshake. A ‘handshake’ hand is relaxed, open for the contact, not anticipating anything else other than a candid friendly open contact. No one anticipates a handshake, it either happens or it doesn’t. The contact, the distance put into a handshake is important.

Similarly, think of Kokyu-ho as a handshake, nothing more, open your palms, wrists relaxed not ‘cocked’ or ‘locked’ in any direction. just let the person wrap his hands around your wrists, not worried about moving him/her now or later. Your uke moves when the movement comes.

You, not me.
It is not about geometry, where you tilt a person off angle and then easily topple your partner, of course geometry plays a part in kokyu-ho, but if you meet a centred person, you cannot simply, tilt, leverage, angle the person off balance. Whatever. tilt, leverage, angle you hope to achieve will be absorbed into the person’s centre.

Project your energy to achieve what you want and you will stall. The funny thing about Aikido or kokyu-ho in specificity, is that the more ‘you’ want to do it, the more difficult you face in doing it. The stronger the ‘I’ the weaker you become. If in your mind you think ‘I’ want to do kokyu-ho. I want to off balance him/her. Or he/she has to be tilted, off balance so that I can execute kokyu-ho.’ I’m sorry, all you will get is all the ‘I’ you wanted. You will tilted. You will be off balance, it’s never about you. If all you get self absorbed in kokyu-ho, you will be absorbed by the self. That is not the point of Aikido.

0-100km/h
If there is a start, there will be a stop. If you can start it, someone can stop you. In Kokyu-ho, power can be felt, commencement can be detected. It all starts with a jerk, a muscular tension that happens suddenly. My reaction is simply that a reaction to an action. As long as you jerk, the acceleration can be felt, I can stop it. Tension begets tension.

So try to small start if you can, in your kokyu-ho. make the acceleration as small as possible. so small that your partner cannot detect it, and by the time your partner detects it, it is too late for your partner to do anything, other than to succumb to your directions. It is not the big movement that kills, it is the accumulation of small moves that leads a to often dramatic ending. People sees the dramatic ending, but not everyone sees all the small movements leading up to the climax.

So in Kokyu-ho, think small, the slight move of the wrist, down to the finger nail tip, not even the finger tip. your muscle twitch must be so imperceptible that you can move at ease. It is stealth in movement.

So that is my thought for Kokyu-ho.

First Published on: May 27, 2012

How long have you been training?

I’ve often been asked, ‘How long have you been training in Aikido?’ Sometimes I would reveal the actual chronological investment I’ve made. More often than not, my response was ‘Long enough.’ The period of time often does not accurately indicate the amount of skill a person has. Especially in martial arts.

I understand that now with the ubiquitous ranking system, being a Kyu or Dan actually meant something to some folks. Generally it should indicate a level of proficiency, But its a nice concept for the more logical mind to grasp. as it gives people a sense of progress. In our go getter, result oriented world, visual progress is important. in businesses, we always have metrics and indexes to measure result against the goals we set. KPIs, or Key Performance Index is one of them. Many folks migrate this kind of quantitative measurements over when they take up martial arts. How many medals taken. For boxing, how many wins, KOs, loss. So in Aikido, do you set a goal to attain a dan grade by…?

For modern Aikido, we have our own KPIs too, ‘Ki’ Performance Index? Upon getting a dan grade, you’ll get this Yudansha booklet, a passport size book where you can get Shihan to stamp and endorse your participation in his training. So theoretically speaking the more stamps and ‘autographs’ you got, the better you are? So does it helps to measure a Aikidoka ‘KPI’ when you have the entire book filled? Pardon my ignorance as I’m still figuring out how does having the whole book filled measures a practitioner’s competency. I mothballed by Yudansha the moment I got it, and it will stay that way for as long as I live.

I’ve followed Harry sensei from the time I started until now, and I probably would do so until one of us dies first. There is so much that he has to teach that I cannot absorb fully for me to learn from another sensei. My learning from him is never complete, neither his teaching. It’s always work in progress. Sometimes he still finds difficulty transmitting his idea and experience to us, because at our level we do not comprehend what he sees at his level. So what does that says about him as a 6th dan? And what does it says about us? Does it mean that being a more senior belt, we display more competency to absorb his transmission? So what if I’ve practised for such a long time and yet I’m still as ignorant and clumsy as ever?

Mistakes and falling

Mistakes and falling

Dear Boys,

You both have very different ways of learning.

This is very evident as I watch the both of you get the hang of in-line skating or rollerblading. Your mum took the both of you to a very quick course and over the holidays, your grand-parents bought a pair for you both.

I’d wish we had more time to skate, we only managed to squeeze in some blade time here and there. and from the last one, I can see a different approach you boys use to learn something.

Wayne: Fall, break, smash, fail until you get it. Fall, get up. Fall, get up. Fall, get up.

Ian: Try to get the technique right, fall and fail less, it matters when you fall less, never mind, you clock less in mileage.

We went to the playground downstairs; the one we call ‘Aunty Genevieve Playground’, no she don’t own the playground, it’s just that her apartment, faces the playground.

So there was a small running track, 260m in all, and it was just nice for the both of you to skate, or get the hang of skating.

By and large, the both of you already got it, it is just getting more road time, mileage, more practice.

Wayne, you clocked more road time, and he felled a lot more as well, sometimes, in an overly dramatic manner.

Ian, you on the other hand, felled less, focused on getting it right, and in the process, you skated slower, lesser distance covered.

Fortune favours the bold

There are always some smart quotes about everything and boys, don’t get caught up by it. Like what I told you, Ian, there is nothing wrong either way, it is just the way you boys learn, different.

Compliment or Clash

You both decide, if such differing style will tear the both of you or stitch you closer, there is no right or wrong answer to that, if you focus on the small stuff. The bigger stuff is your brotherhood, there will be clashes if you allow your own personality and how you do things to get the between the both of you. Don’t let that happen.

Cover for each other, know who is the more meticulous one, and who is the daredevil. Some situations favours the bold, others, could be a time for prudence, always consult each other, and have a healthy respect for the way you brothers do things. Talk through things, and always remember that being brother supersedes everything.

Martial Arts for Kids

Martial arts is not for kiddos, I am not a big believer in teaching kids martial arts.

Being in Aikido for such a long time, I do get friends with kids asking me if this and his art is suitable for his/her children. If Aikido is recommended. To which I only ask one question.

“Does your daughter/son wants it?”

More often than not, the parents don’t know if their kids wants to do martial arts or not. They as parents observed that their kids are kind of active, so it might be a good outlet for them to learn a punch, roll, or two, and learning martial arts is good for ‘self defence’. Learning martial arts is always a ‘good thing’.

So unless your children specifically wants to take martial arts, and shows, at a very young age, some talent and affinity for martial arts, don’t waste time and money on a martial arts school, just because your children is active. Well most kids are active, and there are other activities for active kids to participate in instead of marital arts. The motivation must come from the child to learn a martial arts, and not driven (pun intended) by the parents to go to a martial arts school.

Outcome driven approach

Martial arts is a learning journey, and there is very little reward getting into one. It is not like you will get a certificate at the end of it and ‘graduate’. Martial arts is a serious journey that needs a lot of commitment and time. If you are not sure your children is able to walk this journey that will last their life time, don’t commit wasted time. Martial arts for kids is not a very rewarding journey, there is no definite outcome. Even as an adult, it is difficult for me sometimes to understand this journey I am in, since there is little outcome to say that you have ‘learned’ something in martial arts, which is sufficient to satisfy an outcome driven style of parenting. In short, you give a lot to martial arts, and often you don’t get a lot back.

The Karate Kid hype

More often than not, martial arts is about doing the same thing over and over again, and it will be boring for kids, some kids are not up to it, as it is not novelty. Martial arts is not a cool thing to do, and parents should not be watching too much Karate Kid thinking that their kids can be one. Those who romanticizes The Karate Kid movie, they need to watch the first part where the protagonist got beaten up. Get your kids beaten up first, then you’ll see if there is any ounce of martial artist in the child.

And, no, learning martial arts does not prevent your child from being bullied. Sorry to break that piece of news. There are so many kids who learned martial arts, and still gets bullied. Learning martial arts does not automatically instills that kind of confidence in children, it is a sales pitch. Confidence comes from overcoming a difficult situation, despite of being afraid. You do not need to go to a martial arts school to learn grit, confidence.

Kids do not understand martial arts

Are children able to learn the philosophy behind martial arts? Will they understand Aiki(合気)? Can they understand what is Bunkai (分解)? What is the spirit of Kumite(組手)? What is Budo(武道)?

They also do not understand that in martial arts, you are expected to get hurt, being hurt and getting injured is part of the hard gritty journey of being a martial artist. If parents send their kids to martial arts school, not expecting them to get hurt, well, then they better find a more staid activity.

Teaching

In Singapore, the martial arts culture is well, not so ‘martial’. We do not have a strong martial arts identity, and many of us, takes it like it is a part-time, interest group level commitment. That said, not many teachers out there, teaches martial arts for the spirit of the martial arts. While this comments might seem scathing, we need to search deep in our psyche, if we are really attempt to embody martial arts as a way of life, a way of living.

While I have 2 kids, I don’t teach them ‘martial arts’ I teach them fighting, and they need to learn the basic punches, kicks, and take downs, of course the tactical reality of being beaten up, and the ability to beat back. If there is any ‘Budo’ (武道) it will be in the spirit I want them to embody, if they ever gets into a fight, never back down, and be the last person standing, we will talk more about that later.

Martial arts for kids= child-care centre

The true reality is, martial arts for kids in Singapore, is more like another avenue for parents to throw money into kids’ ‘enrichment’ courses, and of course help them get away from their children. It is a perfect excuse/ reasons for parents to bring their children to a martial arts class, for an hour or two, while the parents themselves trot off to have some ‘me’ time. At the end of the day, the children do not learn much martial arts, because they are simply just wearing a gi, prancing and jumping around, with no clue as to why they are doing what they are doing.

Too serious about it

Well, pardon me if this seem too serious; as martial arts is a serious matter to me. I don’t harbour hopes that my children will be able to pick up martial arts like I did, just simply sending them to an Aikido school, or me teaching them Aikido. If they are keen, I will always be there for them to show them the way, if they are not, it is like bringing the proverbial horse to the water, and you know the rest.

 

Regardless of Race, Language or Religion

Dear boys,

We are going to have an unprecedented Presidential Election this year, and without going into too much details on the politics, we will have only Malay candidates for presidency.

Why it matters to us as Singaporeans

It never mattered to me in the past who becomes President, since the level is so far detached from where I stand. Now that I am older, and I’ve seen how the President discharges the duty to represent Singapore, I realised that who we pick, is important.

This is more significant, as in the last President Election, we have 4 Tans and all but one, comes with their own level of stupidity. It is ridiculous to have anyone else but Mr Tony Tan as our president.

The ‘reserved’ election

So when this time around, the government has decided that the election will only be open to the Malays; as it has been a long time since we have a Malay as the President of Singapore. The last Malay president was also Singapore’s first President, Yusof Ishak. More than 50 years ago!

Without going into too much details, I wasn’t comfortable with this concept, I mean, if our Head of State has to be democratically elected, why must it be only reserved for one specific race?

It is not about being racist here, the topic might become to sensitive when we don’t think through carefully. I was toying with ‘meritocracy’, and this usually means “may the best person get the seat, irrespective of race, language or religion.” This is in line with our pledge, and I thought what the government did, contravene the Singapore Pledge we say and hold so dear.

I was wrong

I voice this out with my friends and they argued the realities of the ‘reserved President Election’. It is a necessary evil, and despite of being ‘undemocratic’ in appearance, it is most equitable in practice.

We need to understand, boys, that Singapore, while being touted as a multi-racial society, living in peace and harmony, is not always like this and will not continue to be like this, if we are not careful in making our executive decision, today.

Yes, we are multi-racial, BUT, the population is predominantly Chinese. It will always be the case in any society; there will be a major group, and other minor sub group(s). While we want to practice democracy, and meritocracy; statistics is against those who are in the minor group. It is the same, when we compare our talent pool to that of China, we have a population of 6 million, at best, they have 1.3 BILLION, who will have more genius? No prize for guessing the right answer!

So statistically, we have to acknowledge that it might probably be a long time coming before we have a  Malay, or Indian Presidential candidate who will come forward and put in his/her best foot to become a President of Singapore. It is a big hat to wear and it must not only be given to those who have a statistical advantage.

That said, being race specific for this presidential election is important. The role of our President, must be above all, one that unites the country. That goes beyond meritocracy as a mere lip service. Every race has to have a chance to become a President, and since the past few Presidents has been non-Malays, this time around, we need to make sure someone from our Malay community, gets a chance. This is being fair, in our Singapore context.

Regardless of Race, Language or Religion

Like many, I hijacked this phrase from our Singapore pledge, and argued that this reserved election is not ‘right”. Actually it is, in its true spirit, acted in the best interest of the Singapore, regardless of race, language and religion.

How shall I argue this?

It is a profound and deep thought process. We have this Malay-only Election precisely for the fact that we are deeply embedded in this ethos. We cannot let the Presidency becomes dictated by only one race. We need to look at the presidency as a position to give all race a fair chance of representation and voice. If we look at the now, of course, this election appears to run against the grain of our pledge. If we look at the future, in a longitudinal sense, we are walking the talk, of being a multi-racial society, and my boys, nation building is not just about talking, it is about a very, very long walk.

So as a member of the dominant race here in Singapore, it is easy for me to promote meritocracy, without taking into consideration the hopes and aspirations of our Malay, Indian and Eurasian countrymen, they have been waiting in line patiently for their turn to be represented, and when the system works against them, due to a statistical disadvantage,  we need to tweak the system, so that we can be fair to everyone, that is the true spirit of our Singapore Pledge.

Shared Presidency

So let’s not look at it like it is only reserved for the Malays, granted that for what ever freak results, that we end up not having a Chinese president, for the next 50 years, the presidential election will then be reserved, for the Chinese. Well, I don’t think I’d be around to see that happens, so remember this writing, long after I am gone. Everything in Singapore is not an entitlement, especially those of State property and position, while there is meritocracy in the way the government works, the policy has to consider a criteria of ‘internal equity’, for Singapore to prosper. Therefore, think of our presidency as a ‘Shared Presidency’, no one race will dominate that position forever, every race will get a share in taking that seat, and become the President of Singapore, a figure all Singaporeans look up to and endear.

Links:

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/pe-2017-three-potential-candidates-what-happens-next-9102626

http://www.straitstimes.com/politics/giving-back-to-society-seasoned-business-owner-no-stranger-to-failure

http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/nomination-day-presidential-election-sept-13-polls-be-held-10-days-later

Getting Educated on Education

Getting Educated on Education
Your dad’s Bachelor of Arts in English with Psychology

Dear Boys,

Studying is hard. Education is hard. Sometimes what we study is seemingly irrelevant to what we do in daily our daily lives. We study math, we study algebra, we study history, some of these subjects we take, or are forced to take; keeps us up all night, all day. And if we don’t do well, we will encounter the dreaded ‘F’ word. F-A-I-L.

And things gets worse when we step into the working world only to realise that much of what we have learned are practically useless! So we learn, painfully by hindsight that, there is something call the academia and there is something call the ‘applied‘. Sometimes they mix well, more often they don’t.

Take my experience in Aikido, being in it for such a long time, there must be a good reason why I do it. Much of it can be considered ‘academia’, as there is a discourse, there is a curriculum, even a pedagogy. Is it applicable to real life? The verdict is out there.

 You will become educated by education, only to hate the very education you were educated in.

Much of what I learned in Aikido, is ‘irrelevant’. The movement, the technique, those moves, I can get that through exercise, through jogging, or other sports and activity. And yet there is something in Aikido that keeps me going back. That is for me to know, for you boys to, find out.

You will come to this eventuality, what you learned in school is practically useless.

So when you come to that realisation, I hope you realise something else as well.

You can only get where you are through education.

That is the cruel irony. You get educated by education, only to detest the very education you were educated in.

You can let that the bitterness of realization waste more of your life away.

Go back to the books that you hated so much, those thick, thick textbooks.

  • They were written by people.
  • They were printed by someone.
  • Your parents bought them, paid your school fees.

Someone out there thought that education is a good idea, that it is one of the best ways to make our lives better.

It is.

Education is not perfect, it never was. But it gave us knowledge, and hopefully turns into wisdom.

Change the world, save the world

With education, knowledge and wisdom, can one hope to change the world. You parents and countless of people went through the strive of study, because we all harbour a secret hope that with knowledge we can change the world, make the world a better place, for you, for our children.

So we make you boys go through the same thing. Knowing that more often than not, you cannot see the ends, to justify the terrible means; the mundane, boring, words after words, exams upon exams means. And it all apparently come to nought.

People who studied more than your parents came out with those thick, thick textbooks, also secretly harboured the same hope that those books they written can change the world, through the hands of those students holding it. They wrote those books with the best intention of arming their readers a learned mind.

Transfer of knowledge is never easy

While learning, as the both of you already knows, is not easy. Being a teacher is many times harder, as the teacher tries the very best to impart knowledge to the student. I can understand this because I can see many times, the frustration Harry sensei has trying to make us understand what being ‘relaxed’ is. His best intention is often not best delivered, and of course, not best received.

And yet the teacher strives

So before you complain the irrelevance of knowledge, and justify that life can be pretty much lived without having to be put through lectures, classes, assessments, exams, homework, project, assignments and other dreaded torture tools they use in school; please see that everyone strives to put what you have, on your hands. The books and knowledge you held, is not perfect, and probably cannot put three meals on your table. You cannot buy things by ranting off a string of mathematical formula. You have to go out and work, and earn a living.

Schools and schooling are only as dead as you want them to die.

Or you can change the world

You can write a better textbook, you can be a teacher better than the ones who tried their best. Strive harder, strive better than your teachers, because, as your parents, we do want you to be better, smarter than me, richer than me, save the world better than your parents could, build a better world for yourself, and your children.

So with what you have learned, go out there, bring knowledge to life. Schools and schooling are only as dead as you want them to die. Lessons are only as relevant as their students deem them to be. Knowledge can become a bias, it can become a dogma, it can make you stupid, if you only see knowledge as relevant as the grades you get from answering the correct questions.

Disclaimer

I hope book makers, writers, authors, sribes and wordsmiths can put a disclaimer in their publications.

“Please be forewarned that the contents in these pages are meant to be taken in by a competent, open and receptive learner. Anyone who decides to read it and become a bitter person, the author(s), while is sadden by such an unfortunate turn of events, cannot be held responsible for the wanton stupidity, any irresponsible individual can potentially make. Long story short, Books does not make one clever, but it can potentially makes many, stupid.”