What is Aikido?

This conversation will never cease, and probably I’m just adding to the fray.

I’ve asked myself such questions from time to time to make sure that my knowledge and understanding stays relevant. It is important for me to do that so I don;t begin to assume things, and become dogmatic in thinking, at the same time I need to see how the art can evolve or become ‘bastardized’ into something else, not Aikido, yet called Aikido.

So what is Aikido?

There are plenty of explanation out there, for me I prefer the more traditional one. As long as you practice a style with a specific lineage, and belongs to some major school of Aikido style then, yes, you are practicing Aikido.

Most of the Aikido practitioners have a sensei and their sensei has a sensei, so on and so forth. You can basically trace a source back a couple of down lines to where your Aikido style comes from.

It is getting more difficult these days, when dojos are sprouting out faster than a 7-Eleven can, so tracing a linage can be a problem.

What is NOT Aikido

This is a huge grey area, as Aikido is such an open art with a very open interpretations. There are many variations of the art, as many of the masters tends to explain the mysterious ‘ki’ in their own way according to their own experience and interpretations. Many of these so called masters trained narrowly and the only training partners they faced are those limited in their dojo.

Some others might like to hijack ‘Aikido’ as a brand name and use it to define their own arts, there could be some vague resemblance to the traditional mainstream Aikido style, but these folks try to differentiate themselves by wearing an all black Gi, or have some fancy, aggressive, and dynamic looking logo, of a skull, fist or something else.

Since there is no copyright doe ‘Aikido’ as a brand, there is no way to control it. what I’m saying isn’t about control, it is about the ability to discern ‘not Aikido’ style from ‘Aikido’ style. And it is not a problem unique to Aikido. As of today, there are many Shaolin schools that teaches ‘authentic’ Shaolin kungfu, where there is actually only one place to learn Shaolin Kungfu, which is the one and only Shaolin Temple.

Me-Too Marital Arts

This points to the popularity of these martial arts so much so people what to copy it, so that they can get something out of it, be it money, or fame. These me-too martial arts while cashing in by attaching themselves to these arts, can mislead students and the general public about what these arts are.

While I welcome the evolution of Aikido, with newer understandings and emerging variations, hijacking the name Aikido, just because someone knows an Ikkyo or two, or have taken a brief class in Aikido, mixed in with Systema, and some other arts, and for a lack of a better name, decides to call it ‘Aikido’. That is something not so welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

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二教 nikyō in MMA

二教 nikyō in MMA

I did MMA many years back with a very good school Fight G. I think it was for 3 months, once or twice a week.

It was in one of those training sessions that I realised Aikido has a value in MMA, although more often than not, using Aikido specifically to win an MMA bout would be next to impossible, well that is my opinion.

I was on the ground with this guy, or rather, he was on the ground and I was up. In terms of MMA, we were both kind of a novice. In terms of martial arts, I can tell, he has little or no prior martial arts experience.

He was a fit guy, but while we sparred, I got the better part of it, and started my ‘ground and pound’, and out of instinct, he grabbed my wrist. It was more like a ‘Gyaku Hanmi’, opposite hand grab.

That sets it up nicely for a nikyō, The MMA gloves was thick, but I knew I got the lock, and began to apply pressure. The poor guy, probably pumped up with adrenaline, has no idea what is his predicament, with his free hand, he tried to make something out of it, but it was in vain.

I applied pressure, the lock was there, but I decided to let it go. I would have severely injure him, had I continue.

That incident never left my mind.

The martial arts world is wide, there are many many moves out there that we have never heard of, or even think was possible.

Catching that guy in a nikyō, in an MMA training taught me that anything can happen in a fight. Aikido locks are almost never taught in MMA, and when someone in MMA encounters such a lock, or pin, they usually have no response or reaction to it. Which is a dangerous indication that the training has gone past the learning stage, right into dogmatism.

Letting it go

I let the lock go partly also because we are all kind of a recreational MMA students, we are not fighting for keeps. The guy was like me, just going there for ‘fun’, imagine, going home with a broken wrist, or worse, a wrist that is permanently  broken. That would have been on my conscience for the rest of my life. It was just practice, so let’s not injure each other with malice.

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Observe, Observe and Observe

The greatest thing you can do in a dojo, any dojo, is to observe, observe and observe.

It is not just observing the sensei, which is the obvious thing to do, we, as students have to observe one another, and if your dojo happens to have a full length, and breath worth of mirrors, good for you. But you cannot be looking at the mirror, while you do your waza, right?

So the next best thing is to observe each other, other than the sensei.

There are many good and not so good things we can learn from observing one another. After all, we are all humans and are endowed with the same bunch of tools, hands, legs, hips, spine and all, so geometrically most of us move in the same way, most of us do irimi nage the same way, and if we observe carefully, we will notice we all makes the same mistakes, the same way.

Same same but different

Well, other than observing the similarities, right and wrong way of doing things, we have to look out for some of the different ways we do things. Some of us while trying to follow sensei faithfully, but we always have our own interpretation of what we see and our actions is never 100% accurate. We are not machines.

So we need to see with our own eyes, how our training partners move, and why they move the way they move.

Recently, I’ve been kind of obsessed with observing my fellow Aikidokas in the dojo, I will stare and stare at how my partners move, and try to understand their physical interpretation of sensei’s techniques.

I want to observe until the observer melts away and while that is not always successful as there is a critical part of me remains while I looked at my partner’s techniques. Why is he/she moving like that? And why is he not able to see his own mistakes? Why is his/her circle smaller than necessary, so much so the uke can stop him/her?

Call it nit-picking but that is what we need to do for each other when we are on the mat. We have to help each other be our own worst or best critic, depends on how you look at it, and in doing so, helps us correct what we cannot see.

Unlearn

It is also perhaps my own personal way of getting back to basics. Remember when we were all white belts and coming to the dojo is a matter of monkey see, monkey do? We as beginners, will not be able to understand the intricate whys, hows, or the rights and the wrongs.

By observing intensely how my fellow Aikidokas work, I am trying to deplete myself of the self, and understand Aikido at a fundamental level. While we all want to critic, and point out what is wrong with who’s technique, it really takes an open mind and heart to drop all that opinion and just observe.

Sometimes I succeed in that, often I don’t. It’s a habit of mind, to make distinction so as to justify our ‘self’. It is a wonderful feeling in those rare times where my monkey mind can silence itself and just move with what I’ve observed.

Life lessons: Soya Bean Milk and Milk

Dear Ian,

I bought 2 cartons of Soya Bean milk back one day and you handled the groceries for me, and I realised later in the day, that there only 1 of the 2 carton is in the fridge. To my suprise, you put the unopened carton with the milk carton at the shelf, which is not in the fridge, obviously.

There’s an opportunity for a life lesson.

You came over and explained to me that all cartons are to be place on the kitchen shelf, together with the milk.

Then I showed you the difference.

The soya bean milk is pasteurised, which means it was not treated with UHT (Ultra High Temperature) like the Milk carton on the right. Pasteurised products need refrigeration constantly and has to be treated differently from the UHT Milk, which can be kept in room temperature, and only needs refrigeration after opening.

It’s not your fault you didn’t know, but had you paid closer attention, you would have noticed the soya bean carton was kept at the refrigerated area at the supermarket, and the UHT milk isn’t.

Anyway, the life lesson is that you really cannot judge a book by its cover, or in this case, judge the carton all the same. The cartons might look the same, but the produce inside is different and has to be treated differently. You need to read and understand the content and of course know where it came from and give it a different treatment.

This is of course the same for people, never assume that when people came from the same place, country, religion, race and/or education, they are the same. Always read the ‘labels’, understand where they are from, and treat them the way they need to be treated. Of course, if people are so easy to read like they have instructions printed and labelled, the the world will be a much better place.

 

 

 

 

New Year Resolution…Again?!

Dear Boys,

Happy New Year! We hear this every last day of December, and first day of January.

People always tend to take stock of what was done for the entire calendar year, based on the worldwide approved Julian Calendar. Unless you live in an island on your own, where you are the king, prime minister, president and citizen all rolled into one, everybody else uses the Julian Calendar.

it is always a human fallacy to know the things that are good for us that we don’t do enough…

After taking stock, comes this ‘resolution’ thingy, which usually means trying to do some things as a goal, aim, or target to hit for the new year, and then take stock again, end of the year. It never gets old, because every January is a Happy New Year!

I’m not a resolution person. I can tell you boys why on a blog, but it will take an entire  blog to tell you why I am not a resolution person. I’m just not.

But I was reading this self-help book, at random, 101 Tiny Changes to Brighten Your Day by Ailbhe Malone, and she was talking about well… small things, tiny things we can take notice of that can either brighten our day or darken it.

It’s something like don’t sweat the small stuff, except that you do, because when you take care of the small stuff, the big stuff will take care of itself.

Well, it’s not as if I don’t know about the small stuff and we need to focus on it, it is always a human fallacy to know the things that are good for us that we don’t do enough. So reading that book is a good reminder for me to look into the minute details of things, my daily actions, and let the rest worry itself. Of course there will be consequences of our actions, but sometimes, our consequences is beyond our control, what else can we do? Micro-adjust our next steps, and the next and the next, until we get what we want.

Aikido, it is all about the small things.

I ought to know this since I’m in Aikido, as Aikido is all about the small things. Heck, life is about it, and Aikido as a martial art, is only a fraction of what we succeed or fail in life. In Aikido, we work from a large circle as a novice to a small and barely perceptible circle of a long-time Aikidoka. From small circular movement, you can displace a larger momentum. Our aim is to make our circle smaller and smaller, and the only way to achieve that is to focus on our small movements, a little muscle twitch here, or even a fleeting thought there, that might delay our decision to move a fraction of a second, or too soon.

All the small things

This is not a resolution still, but for 2019- I want to go back to basics, and focus on the minute, nano-scopic details of my actions, and how these little small actions can affect me in a large way, positively or negatively.

That means I need to work on being a more sensitive, delicate and considerate person. Not for a better world, but for a better me, which in turns helps to better the world.

I am 3rd Dan

Just got my 3rd Dan earlier this year. Sensei told us to go for a grading earlier this year and I think mine was long overdue.

I’ve typically shy away from grading and when Sensei told me I need to grade, I took out my faded Yudansha booklet indicated my last grading for 2nd Dan was more than 5 years ago.

My junior belts are mostly 2nd Dan already, and if I don’t move up, they’d probably be stuck, or they will move up and become my senior.

Although this is not a problem for me, and it has happened before, but I think my Sensei wants to maintain a kind of equilibrium and healthy camaraderie in the dojo, where the senpais gets graded and move up the ranks, before the juniors can take their grades.

The Actual Grading

Like all gradings, one can never say that he/she is fully prepared. It is just not possible, you can train all you want and at the day of the exam, you will still realise that there are some things you fell short of, that’s what grading does anyway.

But having spent more than 2 decades in Aikido, I don’t see grading as grading anymore, and the sense of trepidation is on a manageable scale. Just don’t screw up too badly, and by now most of the fundamental building blocks of Aikido’s pedagogy is already very much second nature to me. Sensei can basically flip a variation to a basic move anyway and anyhow, and I’ll still kind of get it right.

Going through the motion?

It’s not like that. I still take the entire grading seriously, except that it’s just kind of not like a usual grading anymore. I’ve always been serious and earnest in class, and I apply the same attitude in grading.

Besides, Sensei sees my skills every time I train, and if I’m not up to par, he wouldn’t have asked me to grade. On that note, I have never asked my Sensei for a grading, as I have never assumed that I am up to par.

While I have been earnest in my training as well as in my grading, my Ukes for my grading, didn’t make it too easy for me. Especially when it comes to the last part, free practice; 2 attackers.

2nd Dan vs 3rd Dan

How much more different can I get in Aikido? I end up asking myself one day. I mean it is pretty much the same thing, over and over and over again. So what if I get a 3rd, 4th or 5th Dan? What is that differentiating qualities that can tell me apart from one 3rd Dan to another?

In a qualitative and somewhat abstract art like Aikido, it can be difficult. Of course, Aikikai ha some definition about what a 3rd Dan can do that a 2nd Dan cannot, but in practice, it always differs.

My Sensei don’t really teaches weapons, so while some schools needs 3rd Dan to be proficient in handling weapons, it is simply not the case in my dojo.

Back to my question, I don’t have the answer until I got my grade. It is the proverbial, cross the bridge when we get there. And now I’m here, holding a 3rd Dan, I perhaps do feel the difference, or maybe it is placebo.

 My Assessment on my Own Grading 

Well, Siew Chin was nice enough to turn up and help take a video of all those who graded. When I look at the videos, I realised that I am too combative and still too rigid in my movement.

Stiff and mechanical

There is a level of objective threat assessment, and handling mindset, and it shows in the rigid way I move to neutralise the Uke. There is too much engage and disengage dichotomy, and it doesn’t flow well.

That means I am unable to fully appreciate my Uke, and absorb him/her into my circle. So I am still dealing with an ‘outside’ item. I am not able to fully open up myself to receive the attack. That means I still have my insecurities which I am afraid that my Uke will find out and I will not be able to handle that findings.

In short, I am still guarded.

Free practice; 2 Attackers

Sensei was kind enough to dispatch Shin Woei and Mingjie to be my Ukes for my last part. They are bigger than me. And Size Does Matters.

It started ‘well’ when I dodged Mingjie’s Shomen strike, and then everything just went reactive from there. I couldn’t find my sweet spot, and while Shin Woei was kind of helping, his bulk and size is still an organic mass that I have to deal with. Mingjie was more aggressive and harder-hitting.

We all know it wasn’t anything personal, as we have been training with each other for years, they are like brothers to me, and we have massive respect for each other. That doesn’t mean they will cooperate fully and play ‘possum Uke’ for me to look good on my grading.

It was moderate to high resistance, and it helped me understand and earn my 3rd Dan.

While I move from 2nd to 3rd, I walked away from the grading with more desire to explore the ‘non-physical’ part of Aikido. Perhaps that is where my next journey lies. There is only so much I can do facing larger (maybe faster) opponents, and I realised that I am still facing these belligerents head-on, in a linear confrontational, attrition style engagements, I will lose.

 Lacking Flow

There’s a lack of flow in my movement, and despite of improvements, I still move in a piecemeal manner, transiting from one attacker to another, often unable to finish the first one completely, moving to the second one; only leaving the first one to recover faster than I am ready, and me ending up dealing with too much on hand. My mind is not able to take in both as one, and manage them with my centre. Tough shit, but it wasn;t made to be easy, nor pretty.

Sensei’s feedback

Too aggressive. Need to relax.

Enough said.

LGBT- Your dad’s opinion

LGBT- Your dad’s opinion

Dear boys,

This is going to be a sensitive topic.

Well, actually it isn’t.

Maybe your dad is looking at it from a simplistic point of view.

Anyway here it goes.

I have no idea what LGBT was during my early years. All I can remember was, I was a Sales Assistant in AA Fashion, selling women’s clothing. It was just a sales job and I was 17 years old, waiting for my national service enlistment.

So it was retail sales, and this young boy, sells clothes, women clothes. What a place to be in. Anyway it was just a job, and I was doing it to kill time, waiting for my call to the Army.

My Thai ‘Female’ customer

One of our regulars was a bunch of Thais, who likes to buy our clothing in bulk. My supervisor at that time, Jessie and another senior, Sharon, knows them and usually serves them. I don’t know these Thais well, but I know them enough to see that they are transvestites. And having not understanding of them, I don’t want to have anything to do with them.

They somehow knew that, and at times can be quite cheeky about trying to get me to ‘serve’ them, or help them with packing their bulk purchases. Jessie, and Sharon will always try to be firm with them, and in a way, protect me from their ‘harassment.’

That was that, I don’t really have any opinion about it.

Well, the LGBT issues.

I don’t really care about this recent ‘repeal 377A‘ thingy, and I guess they want to sort of legalise gay marriage of sorts. Personally I think it is somewhat politicized, so let’s not go there. It is a deep dark slippery road with no end in sight.

Here’s what a Dad can says to you boys.

LGBT exists, like it or not.

You cannot hate it away, nor pretend it is not there, nor uses the law against it. It simply exists.

So what do we do about such individuals in society?

Well, I am obviously not LGBT in the truest sense, and I don’t think you boys will end up gays. But it is a conversation your mum and I still have and holds true to. Even if you boys turn out to be, we will still love you the same.

Look beyond sexual orientation and see love

I’m not interested in the men screw men part, or women beds women part, which to some can be repulsive. As long as all these sexual acts are done in the privacy of a 4 walls, with mutual consent, it is not my business to interfere, just as much as a man and a woman makes love in public, which is just as lewd and immoral.

Keep sex personal. If a couple wants to show Public Display of Affection, I have no qualms about it. Men can kiss men, women can kiss women, that’s fine. Just as much as a man can kiss his dog and a woman can kiss her pet cat. but again, if you would like to copulate your pet dog or cat, please stay indoors.

It is about relationship, and love

Perhaps it is too simplistic for me, but it is a choice I make. As long as a man loves a man, and cares for each other, for better or for worse, in sickness and good health, till death do us part, I’m fine with that commitment.

How many heterosexual couples have we seen stuck to a dead-end and sometimes abusive relationship. Men beaten by wives, and wive abused by their husbands, isn’t that more worthy of persecution than see two men in love and taking care of each other?

Maybe there is something deeper I am missing out, but now that I am older, I do see some lesbians holding hands, one woman being woman, and the other woman trying to be masculine. I’ve grown old enough to accept that. they have their lives to live, and to choose the lesser road traveled, they are already living with a tremendous identity crisis, and burden. LGBTs has been long ostracized by societies, and they get what they got, just because they are who they are. I don’t think that is quite fair. It is not easy living our ordinary lives, and to have the label LGBT hanging over LGBT doubles that difficulties.

Why we still hangs on to criminalizing LGBT 

Honestly, I don’t have a good answer, I’m not a lawyer, historian or any sort of extremely educated aristocrat, or academic, or politician. All I can think of is to protect the larger population’s equilibrium. Most of us are not LGBTs, and we are the majority, and the majority likes a constant, and flux are seen with apprehension and trepidation. LGBTs are odd, they appear to go against nature. (I’m not going to touch on the religiousness of the matter!), men simply do not have a sexual relationship with men. So people become influential and uses their influence to fight for and against such issues.

We need law to protect the general population, in the event that LGBT spreads like a plague and infect our children!

So just as much as 377A exists, so does LGBT. we cannot hate these 2 existentialistic issues away, they will be there, and we will still need to live with our lives.

Love is love

Personally I see love as universal. Irrespective of race, language, religion nor gender orientation. You just need to love a person, an animal enough to care for that being, and to a certain degree, die for that being. Love is always fair and we need to leave people alone to love themselves and the people the love.

My Thai Transvestites Customers

Thinking back sometimes, I wish I had the maturity to handle those Thai customers. I mean, they went the whole nine yards, and did the boob job and cut certain organs away to make themselves more womanly. Thailand are full of such people and they must have lived an amazing life.

Back then I was too young to make friends with them, learn from them and absorb their humanity. I’m sure just by being their friends and making them a little more accepted by me, will not turn me into a gay. Love is love, and it doesn’t turn men into gays, not women into lesbians.

I hope you boys can look at these LGBT issues with maturity and let them be in your lives, these are ordinary people living an extraordinary lives, who are always constantly under the threat of prosecution for being them. I’d let them live, just as much as they’d allowed me to be me.

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