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.