theaikidad

Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

Class Chit Chat

Before I start any class, I made a point to gather the students and did some pep talk. Well, you can call it a chit chat, a nag, or telling tales and stories. Perhaps it is public speaking practise for me.

I think as an ‘evergreen’ class, NUS Aikido will constantly face a challenge of a doctrine bleed. Which means certain practices and culture in the class will leave when the NUS student graduate and start their new life as working professionals. Very few will return to NUS to continue training and uphold the tradition, it is a fact. They will take away the experiences and practices, replaced with another batch of freshmen. So the reality it someone has to constantly remind them of Aikido etiquette and culture. Why we do this and that, and the dos and don’ts in the dojo.

So those newbies come with no idea how the Japanese conducts a martial arts class, so I pep talked them, doing some Corporate Communications perhaps, some Public Relations, making sure that Aikido’s brand values and propositions is constantly being upheld. That’s business jargon anyway.

More importantly, some of them have never met and only beginning to know Harry sensei, whereas I’ve been training with him for 2 decades. Like all human beings, he has his idiosyncrasies and there will be potential misunderstanding. It’s no secret that I am immensely proud to train under him and I constantly remind the student the privilege to receive Harry sensei’s teaching. And we must never take the class for granted, and do sloppy techniques, in doing so patronize him and pissing him off. I’ve said our class is ‘limited edition’, only a small group in Ceylon Sports Club and then there is NUS Aikido. Harry sensei is very well respected regionally and when I tell other people I train with Harry sensei, I always get a certain level of response as if there is an expectation on me to perform and conduct myself in a level reflecting that I’m Harry sensei’s student. I make sure that the new student knows that. Well, that is a heck of a lot of salesmanship there!

Also I explained to the newbies what Aikido is and is not, in my personal opinion, and this is to manage their expectations. I share with them why I joined, I was drawn into it by the Steven Seagal hype, many of the boys and girls don’t even know who Steven Seagal is anymore. I guide them into preparing them what to expect in class, not so much talking more doing, and certain unspoken rules and cultures.

Honestly, I’m not sure if my chit chat is appreciated or not, frankly I’m more bothered that if no one does it, the Aikido in NUS will lose the Aikido spirit, I can see that many of the students take Aikido class as another ‘class’ and other ‘lecture’ Yes, NUS Aikido is conducted in a University campus but in no way Aikido is another ‘lecture’. There are certain practices I hope to see discontinued when the opportunity arises. We need make sure that when an NUS Aikidoka visit other Aikido dojos, they carry with them basic courtesy and etiquette to help them forge ties and build friendship and most importantly, not bring disgrace to Harry sensei!

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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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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.

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

Competitive Aikido

Competitive Aikido

If you have to hurt a person to win, then it is better to lose.

The spirit and core of Aikido is non-competition.

That’s it simple, easy.

The bottom line is, that has been taken out of context. Nowadays people say it without knowing why O sensei decides against ‘competition’.

O sensei, is being specific. He is against having competition in his art, He does not want Aikidoka to practice Aikido for the sake of competition. and he does not want a competitive element to be imbued into the art of Aikido.

But that doesn’t mean that Aikidokas cannot be competitive.

A marathoner’s competition

What O sensei wants us to learn from the practice of Aikido is the universal spirit of harmony and love. There was a story about the Spaniard Ivan Fernandez Anaya, who didn’t want to win his cross country race by capitalizing on his competitor’s mistake. That is the spirit of harmony and love, which is manifested though the practice of Aikido. It is a competitive sport, but Ivan didn’t lose his humanity to gain a piece of metal.

So what O sensei implied is, go ahead, we have to compete, sometimes, because we have that competitive nature. In every organism, there is a pecking order, we have to climb and fight, and race, and compete, that is fine. We must not, however, lose our humanity. If you have to hurt a person to win, then it is better to lose. We will make ourselves smaller through plots, schemes, rules and regulations. These limits imposed makes competition ‘fair’, but it limits our human capacity to fully function.

Eventually we want to win the human race. That is the race, and competition Aikido is preparing us for. We are not aiming to be a champion Karateka, top salesman, best entertainer, at the neglect of our loved ones, our health, our spirit. Aikido aims for the higher order of becoming a better human being, a better person, a better Earthling.

Yes, it is a tall order, I can imagine that during the time when O sensei is bringing his art to the public, what kind of stir he would have created in the martial arts fraternity in Japan. Karatekas, Judokas, Jiujitsu practitioners, would have look upon O sensei and says some not so constructive things. Had O sensei bent on competing with these folks, he might win the fight but lose the entire spirit of Aikido. He can do it, he competed against no one else but himself, to be a better human being, to be the best, and so inspire and continues to inspire millions of people globally.

So keep the big picture, look at what Aikido is making us become, a Champion Human Being.

Do the difficult things first

Dear boys,

We are human beings, and as an organic instruments of nature, we need to make sure we master the more difficult humanistic skills first. Simply put it, be a decent person of character and values.

But humans are lazy creatures, we often take short cut and find the easiest thing to do. We resisted that, and this shows in our digital policy. We are not introducing mobile phones, tablets and all those addictive things, because they are easy to pick up.

Mobile devices are easy to use.

This is the boon of the digital landscape, the diffusion of innovation is leaking into younger humans. Technology is getting easier and easier for us to adopt at an every younger age. It is in fact a bane for parenting.

This is so prevalent everywhere, we see last evening, at Manhatten Fish Market, a family eating dinner, 2 kids, each of them ate their meals, fed by a maid, both with a tablet in front of them, watching a cartoon while they eat.
Child as young as the age of 3 are able to use a mobile device, swipe left, to unlock it, find their favourite program on YouTube. It makes them sound and appear so smart, but it is the easiest things to do. The software tech guys made these devices so easy to use, simply because they want to make a lot of money out of their products, and they are winning, by a tonne loads of money.

Everyone is on it!

Pick up tech later, hit the beach first

It is never too late for the both of you to pick up tech at the later age, since it is so easy to use, we can leave this easy things to do till a later age. We want you to focus on ethics, values and treating people right. There is a lot of work to do in this department, and it is a constant never-ending struggle. But this is the challenge of parenting, making sure we raise good people.

Besides, we want you boys to be children, that means doing children things, play sand, enjoy the beach.

Do the tactile things, enjoy nature, understand the more humanistic problems. Understand that while we are at the beach, it rains, while we are in the water, there are temperature changes. (As we get deeper into the water, the water gets colder!)

It is an inconvenient thing to do, going to the beach, there will be grimy sand, salty water, dirt, germs and all. It is a heck a lot easier to play with a mobile phone, get on an online game, whatsapp your friends, chit chat on nothing. But who would we have raised?

Mini-mes

You see, as adult, your dad and mum, used mobile devices a lot, and Singapore has one of the highest numbers of smartphone users, do we want to see the both of you adopting our tech so at your youth? Why would we want to make you mini-me? Tech can wait, your childhood comes first.

Why would I want to turn the both of you into mini adults, and get you to adopt what adults use way before you boys need to?

Raising good adults

Being on the mobile phone, isolates you from human to human interaction. While you can make a conversation through messaging apps, nothing beats talking, person to person. Laughing and the usual banter. This is the best way to learn how to be a good person.

It also helps the both of you read body language, and develop effective emotional skills and relate to people. But one thing I can tell the both of you, the people you will be relating to in future, will not be a bunch of people friendly people, because everyone will be on their mobile phones!