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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Three Worded Hokkien (A-Z guide)

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Dear Boys,

I hope by the time you boys grow up, you can learn a thing or two about speaking in hokkien. It is a dialect from China and the way Singaporeans says it is so different from the way Taiwanese says it.

To start off, let’s look at some simple three worded Hokkien (TWH).

Ang Moh Lang
Chinese simplified: 红毛人 ( hóng máo rén)

  • Caucasian, or loosely speaking, in colloquial sense, ‘red hair people’, when the Chinese first bumped into Caucasian, with their red hair, the term got stuck. The more common form will drop the ‘Lang’ and simply regard Caucasians as ‘ang mohs’

Boh Kiam Lui
Chinese simplified: 不欠钱 (Bù qiàn qián)

  • It means, doesn’t owe money

Boh Lui Lang
Chinese simplified: 没钱人 (méi qián rén)

  • Poor People

Char Bor Lang
Chinese simplified: 女人 ( nǚ rén)

  • Woman. in some context, it can means The Wife

Huan Kiah Lang
Chinese simplified: 马来人 ( mǎ lái rén)

  • Malays. In the movie ‘Black Hawk Down’ the American General mispronounced them as ‘May Lay’

Inn Dor Lang
Chinese simplified: 印度人 ( yìn duó rén)

  • Indian, more specifically, people from the country of India

Jiak Liao Bee
Chinese simplified: no chinese equivalent

  • It usually means that person is good for nothing. loosely means ‘eating wasted rice’. We all eat to do something, so the rice will not be waste when eaten

Jing Kek Sim
Chinese simplified: no chinese equivalent

  • It is a ‘heart pain’ feeling. Like when you see your favourite team losing very badly, you feel that desolation. It is a feeling only express in Hokkien. ‘Kek Sim!’

Jiak Jiu Jwee
Chinese simplified: 喝醉酒 ( hē zuì jiǔ)

  • Drunk. ‘Jiak’ usually means ‘to eat’ but sometimes when you are that drunk, you wouldn’t know if you are drinking or eating your beer! ‘Lim’ should be the correct hokkien verb for ‘drink’

Keeh Si Lah
Chinese simplified: 去死拉 ( qù sǐ lā)

  • Go and die!

Kuah Si Mee
Chinese simplified: 看什么 ( kàn shén me)

  • Again, this is under a more provocative tone. An English equivalent will be ‘See what see?!’ It is usually used in a staring incident and a challenge of a stare-down

Luan Gong Way
Chinese simplified: 乱讲话 (luàn jiǎng huà)

  • It usually means that the person is talking nonsense, or trash

Mai Tu Liao
Chinese simplified 别耽误/不要等 (bié dān wù/ bù yào děng)

  • Do not delay/wait. It usually implies a sense of urgency, after a period of impatience

Mai Luan Gong
Chinese simplified: 别乱讲 ( bié luàn jiǎng )

  • Do not talk rubbish, or in Singlish term, ‘Don’t talk cock.’

Pui Chao Nuah
Chinese simplified: 吐口水 ( tǔ kǒu shuǐ)

  • Spit. This is done with a feeling of disdain, or disgust

See Beh Song
Chinese simplified: 非常爽 ( fēi cháng shuǎng)

  • Usually, it is crudely used to imply a very good sensation and feeling. Say after a hard day’s work, to kick back and enjoy an ice cool beer. ‘See Beh Song Ah!’

See Mee Sai
Chinese simplified: No Chinese Equivalent

  • It usually means crudely, ‘What the hell do you want?’ Or you can reply in annoyance “See Mee Sai???’ meaning, ‘What?! What?!’

Ta Bor Lang
Chinese simplified: 男人 ( nán rén)

  • Male, Man. in some context, it can means The Husband

Tiah Tian Way/ Gong Tian Way
Chinese simplified: 听电话/讲电话 (tīng diàn huà/ jiǎng diàn huà)

  • Answering or talking on the phone. Loosely speaking it means ‘listen to the phone’ Contextually, it means pick up the phone!

Tio Beh Pio
Chinese simplified: 中马票 ( zhòng mǎ piào )

  • Struck lottery!!!

Tau Kar Chiu
Chinese simplified: 装手脚 (zhuāng shǒu jiǎo)

  • Being helpful, offering assistance to your fellow human beings in fixing things and solving problems

Uu Lui Lang
Chinese simplified: 有钱人 ( yǒu qián rén)

  • Rich People

Helpful links

http://www.singlishdictionary.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singlish_vocabulary

Posted: Nov 18, 2015

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.

Body protection-wearing head protection

Body protection-wearing head protection

my helmet

Dear Boys,

Back in my days, when I was mountain biking, I never gotten the rationale of wearing a helmet. But as I read magazines about the sport, I realised the importance, and yet still bike without one, as the price of helmets back then was too expensive for a youngster like me to get.

These days, you can get cheap helmets, that offers good protection. Always try to wear head protection, no matter how stupid you look.

True story

I never forget that day when I went to fetch Ian and I had your bike with me, and helmet of course. You’re off your training wheels but still having some trouble balancing it. You strapped on your helmet and got on your bike.

But you fell, losing balance moving off. You didn’t know it, but I saw it, your head glanced off the kerb, and it was your helmet that absorbed the impact. Well, it could have been your head.

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biking on Coney Island

Why a helmet?

Its elementary, stupid.

You have a head, the head have an organic helmet called a skull, and it is always good to have another helmet for the organic helmet, because if you crack your external helmet, you buy a new one, and if you crack your organic helmet, good luck.

When I was in military service, of course we also have helmets to wear. Back in those days, I wore a steel pot type, with a inner liner, it was heavy, clunky and hot. Kevlar helmets was slowly phasing in, and when I was in Reservist, I had Kevlar types.

I used to ride a motorcycle and needless to say, helmets is a must.

And now, when I got mountain biking, I always wear a helmet, and I cringe every time I rode past a cyclist, e-biker, skater, or roller-blader without a helmet. Sure you look cool, until you crash, crack a skull and then we’ll see if that’s cool. I cringe more when I see parents with their kids, not getting their kids to wear head protection.

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wind in your hair, brain spilled on the road

You speed, you need a helmet 

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senselessly risking his own life

We tend to bike a lot these days, and as much as possible, please wear a helmet.

As long as you are on anything that travels faster than 10km/h, please wear a helmet.

If you go rock climbing, please wear a helmet.

Don’t let your friends tell you helmets are stupid looking, or it is hot wearing one. Look at it this way, even the most elite special forces soldiers wear head protection because they know it saves lives. So if it looks stupid, but it works, then it is not stupid.

Every kind of high risk sport will have their own kind of head protection. Use them, find a good fit and make sure the helmet is strapped on. Even a big helmet is better than no helmet, so try to get one that fits, and tighten it till it doesn’t wobble on your head. Shake your head side to side and front to back, the movement should be minimal.

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Even our pioneer soldiers wear helmets. photo courtesy of Steven Lim