theaikidad

Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

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.

Love and Hate

Dear Boys,

We talk a lot about love and hate, and it seems like ‘hate’ is always getting a bad rap for all the negativeness and people tend to hate the ‘hate’.

While love is certainly a good thing to have and the more love the better. We tend to forget the value of hate, how it can be a fuel for change and an impetus for us to become a better person.

What is hate?

It is easy to talk about love, everyone wants a piece of that, the more the better. But not a lot of people want to talk about hate, and yet, hate is one of the most powerful emotions, and when it is least understood, it can be the most destructive force to be reckoned with.

Love and hate

There is no distinction, really. And they are not duality. love is not the opposite of hate, nor vice versa. Love is love and hate is hate. When you look at them individually, you’ll be able to see the actual value these emotions really have. Hate is not a bad thing, love is not necessarily a good thing either.

When we hate, we need to understand if that hatred is extrinsic in nature, something outwards, a person, a thing, a situation. If that is so, we have to look inwards and see how that externally directed hate, is affecting us, in the inside.

So we need maturity to know what hate is, and how we can deal with it, and turn it into a force for good. We may hate a person who is a liar, but we need to know why that person lied, and look deeper, we don’t really hate the person, but we hate the act of lying. Let that hate be a powerful emotion for change, and tell the liar, we hate lying, the act of lying and if that person continues to lie, then there is no way for anything constructive and open.

Personal hate

This is so much more powerful, when the hatred is internally directed. We always hold ourselves to a personal standard, we look at things and tells ourselves if that thing is on par, or sub-par. We hate it when we does sub-par things. There is nothing to love about a sub-standard outcome. We need to channel that hate, and let it drives us deeper into producing a level of quality we can be happy about.

Let that hate, become masochistic.

That doesn’t mean self-mutilation. We need to push ourselves to become better, and sometimes, Tender Loving Care is the least we need. We need focus, we need effort, we need to push ourselves further than we can, and the best way to do it, is to hate ourselves for delivering anything less than our own personal best.

Love the hate

So don’t turn away from hate. when it happens, don’t let that turn destructive.  Let that be a force for good. Channel the hate into an action, a positive action which will allows us to strive above and beyond our comfort zone. Love will give us that warm cushy feeling, that is good, to know that there is love. But when there is hate, you will be propelled to rise above mediocrity and do even better than you ever did in the past. And when that happened, that is even a greater reason to love yourself.

Your first Aikido sensei

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Christmas 2014

Who is your first Aikido sensei? Who is my first Aikido sensei? The fellow teaching you how to turn, roll and wears a funny black pleated skirt-looking pants?

You first Aikido sensei is your parents.

Your mother showed you love, and affection, your father protects and nurtures you. They are the foundations of love and harmony that Aikido is all about.

I watch last evening as Harry sensei taught this young Aikidoka how to roll properly. As I watched, I came to this realization that he is like a father teaching his son. I can feel that because I am a father myself, and I would use the same energy, attitude, of unconditional effort, openness, hands on to teach my sons, whatever they are learning. I saw that in Harry sensei last evening, the effort, and unconditional love is the same.

It was a very profound experience as the whole relationship paradigm in my Aikido training was radically shifted. I left the class with a feeling of total awe, and more importantly a renewed sense of humility.

It was more than that.

Training with NUS students has opened another level of understanding for me. These young boys and girls, is easily 20 years my junior. And I had almost 20 years of training in Aikido. That said, what about Harry sensei, he has close to 50 years of training! He has been training long before anyone one in class was born!

So when I look at the faces of my young fellow Aikidokas, the youth is still there, the innocence are still present. I can sense that because, given another 10 years, my elder son, Ian, will be 19 years old, about that age of a NUS student.

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With Ian in Hong Kong 2011

They still carry the dreams and aspirations their parents have for them. Edna, Jia Hwee, Tri, Glenn, Jade, Darius, Cathryn, Rachel, just to name a few names, their parents gave them the names, very much like how I bestowed upon my sons, theirs. They came to class, to NUS with their parents, in spirit and in faith. Hence, you are not simply training with that person, you are training with a person who has been exposed to love and affection, with understanding and attention long before they stepped into an Aikido class. So they are an expert in their 18- 19 years of living, and me? I’m just a beginner in their lives!

That can be said for Harry sensei himself! He has parents, his parents has aspirations for him, perhaps they’d wanted him to become someone of stature, or they had other expectations, I wondered, had his parents came back and look at him now, taking a class, 6th Dan in Aikido, would that had been what they wanted from him? Certainly my parents didn’t expect me to embark in Aikido training.

More often than not, we did not choose to embark on our Aikido journey, but somehow stumbled into it, and continued because of certain circumstances that compels us to continue, it was probably one of the last thing our parents expects of us.

We need to give back, our parents has been our first Aikido sensei, and now when we learn how to love and live in harmony from someone else, we need to give this back to them, perhaps now that we’ve grown up and our parents might have thought that their kids no longer need so much love and care, but they still do care and love us, just as much, or perhaps more. Now that we are adults training in Aikido, we need to love them back. Things we learned in the dojo, we need to practise it with our parents, let them know that their love and efforts has manifested, their kids has not wasted their love and effort, well we may not be everything our parents wants us to be, but we can let them know that their love and efforts hadn’t gone to waste, their children has done fine and is now learning how to love on the foundations that they have given us.

First Published: Nov 26, 2014 6:32 AM

As of current: Harry sensei is now 7th Dan Shihan.

Reputation

Reputation

Reputation takes a lifetime to build and moments to destroy.

Dear Boys,

There is this fearsome thing that keeps me, me.

Reputation

I’ve learned this from a long time back, Steven told me about it. He said something like whatever we want, we can get, money, material stuffs, education, but there is one thing that is the most valuable, and yet most intangible. Our reputation.

What is a reputation?

I think it goes like something people regard you to be.  Strictly speaking, it is difficult to put in words, but I think it has something to do with exactly that; word. The word we give, and the action that follows the word. In short, keeping promises.

Keep Promises

We live in a life filled with turmoil, and unexpected twist and turn, well, that is what life is all about, there are no straight line in life. So more often than not, we will end up making well intended promises, but ended up not able to fulfill them, perhaps we over-promised, we are not grounded, or sometimes, the situation might change so much so we are no longer able to keep to our promise. Life’s like that, no choice.

But those promises we can make, and keep, is what makes us, people will know us for the promises we make, and keep, and of course, those we couldn’t. By and large, as long as we conduct our lives with earnest and grace, without resorting to manipulation or cheating, we ought to end up with a healthy social psyche.

Making Promises

As we all grow up, we will make promises, the most important deal we make, are those we make to ourselves. We have our own namesake in it. As long as we can do what we promise ourselves to do, and do it to our best ability, we shouldn’t care how the world judge us. Deep down inside of you, there will be a strong sense of right, and you wouldn’t care much about what other people think of you. The irony is that, when you start doing that, people’s opinion of you will change and you will begin to build your own reputation.

Making and breaking a Reputation

While part of what Steven said is true. Reputation by and large is formed by what other people thinks of you, it is also about what you do to yourself. Like I mentioned earlier, you keep the promises to yourself, you hold yourself accountable. There will be people who value that in you, there will be people who don’t. As long as you stick close to universally upright values and dogma, most of the time, people will have no bone to grind with you, and those who do, tends to have some problems themselves, it is not your fault. Work on bettering yourself, not bettering them so that they will have a better opinion about you. Trust me, I’ve tried that, it usually doesn’t work.

So find time to understand yourself better, when you fail, it is a promise broken, of some sort, use that as a learning lesson to make a better, more grounded promise to yourself. Reputation takes a lifetime to build and moments to destroy.

Marriage and My Dark Side

That said, I told Steven, that I honestly do not know how I will behave and become when I earn my first million, when I become affluent, in mind, in material. Or will I become corrupted, starts to womanise, become a bad father? Gamble? Get into vices? I told you boys I have that dark side, it is not the most pleasant part of ‘Randy’ I dared to delve in. I don’t usually go ‘there’ in my mind,as it is a scary place to be. So I really don’t know.

So one way I try at my best is to do what I can to keep to the promise I’ve made, to your mum and her father. Many, many things have happened in our marriage, and so far nothing has come close to undermining this union. I’m entirely sure about it in the future, many other things could happen. But it is all about making sure the word I say, correspond with the action. It is in the action, what we do that defines us. So when you get into a marriage, always remember, you must read those marriage vows, and make them actionable. Never fool yourself into twisting those words, manipulating them, to suit your own self centred agenda, when that happens, the whole world will look and knows the truth, you will be the only one deluding yourself.

Dating and companionship

Dating and companionship

Dear Boys,

It was on the news lately that Singaporeans between the age of 21 to 35 years of age are not actively dating, or have not seriously been in a relationship before. I felt a little sad, but there is a lot of truth on the ground. I know of many good friends in that age group who are wonderful people, and would make a great life partner. They are single, most likely not dating.

One and only

I think had I not met your mum, I would have fallen into that category as well. I’m a ‘metrovert’, (I invent this term now), since I was neither introverted nor extroverted. And because I have my natural quirks, it makes me a little bit of an oddball. Besides, when I met your mum, I was a secondary 2 drop-out. Her parents voiced concerns about my background, but since then I’ve gotten my due in education (which is no big deal). In short, I’m odd, and given the current socio-eco climate, people has become so ego-centric, they have no time for others, other than themselves. And I don’t think I’ll stand out that great, there are other younger, taller, richer more suave guys out there, I don’t stand a chance getting a mate, right now; so thank you, Wife.

Your mum was my first girlfriend and that’s that, I hadn’t dated anyone, called anyone else ‘girlfriend’ other than her. I went out briefly with a girl called ‘Chris’, she was a tad older than me, practised Tae Kwon Do (not that well, too be honest), a staunch vegetarian, for a fanatical religious reasons. I went out with her a couple of times, and by and large we came to a conclusion we are better off as friends, toasted on it, and moved on. It wasn’t a relationship per se, since we never got pass the ‘testing’ and ‘feeling’ phase. It was a good call.

I’m quite an unromantic, given that I lay down my ‘terms and conditions’ in my 5 year plan and my then girlfriend, your mum, loved it. In that sense, I was lucky.

Love in 2017

It bothered me a little, as I think about the people around me, when I take the train, eat in foodcourt, and the colleagues I worked with, there are a lot of good people out there, and they deserved to be in a relationship with other good people. What complicates the matter is all about ‘ego’. Men are too proud, women are too beautiful. And both men and women are too smart.

It takes us away from the crux of relationship, being together, for the better or worse of things. But if everyone puts the outcome in front and wants certain, certain criteria, then the bond between human will not happen. Women wants to be the proverbial ‘tai tai’, the men wants trophy wife. Then nothing happens from there.

Relationship is about getting together. It was never about marriage, even though it will end up as such. I met your mum, not looking for a wife, I think she is a great person to be with, she cares about me, and allows me to care about her. She is a smart person and is often sensitive to the needs of others. She is still, after all a woman, and is terribly afraid of cockroaches and other creepies. I hate them too, and would get a restraining order against them if I can; but I am often tasked to catch them, and kill them. A Man’s Job.

I wouldn’t want to go that far as to tell you boys, what she sees in me, that will borders bragging, but I think as a man, her lifelong companion, I’m doing okay. Perhaps I am someone she can bear with for the rest of her life. That is good enough for me.

No Time.

This is the number one excuse, people are busy, busy, busy, these days, trying to pay bills, meet KPIs, and other work stuffs. Even where there are free time, we busy ourselves with Facebook, phone games, Korean dramas, and other self indulging activities. Even when we go on a social event, we are still so stuck on trying to find a person for ‘me’ instead of thinking the other way around, trying to figure out how ‘me’ can be suitable for the someone else out there.

The ironic thing about Facebook and other social media, is the pun., ‘Social Media’, it is supposed to bring people together, and it did, virtually. Now people no longer have that need to be social, on a physical, face to face, sit down and dine, get-to-know-you-in-person kind of social. Everything we need to know about a person, we go into Facebook, twitter, Instagram to find and learn about them. There is no need for us to go out and meet people anymore. And while we are on a social media CSI, we quickly turn to our Candy Crush and make sure we hit a new personal level. With so much to do in social media, it is no wonder we cannot find time to get to know other people better!

So all the time we have, the equivocal 24 hours, is mostly spent on ‘me’. There is no time of other, so how can we be in a seriously dating others, when we are so deep in dating ourselves?

The Remedy?

There is no quick remedy. People always lament that the life in Singapore is always so fast paced, its work, work, and work. The competition is intense. There are always this excuse of foreigners taking away our jobs. We have parents to feed, bills to pay, and ooh, I have dragon boat training, and then there are medicure, and pedicure appointments. The list goes on.

The only way through that hubbub is to listen to your deep needs, pick these pointers and listen to them:

  • There are friends out there who is in need of a company.
  • Pick up the phone and call someone, instead of just sending a text, or worse, an emoticon.
  • Be sincere, be funny, be vulnerable.
  • Let people know how you feel, instead of what you think.
  • Stay away from religion, politics, gender and racial issues until you both are very  much comfortable.
  • Don’t think of a date as a date, think of it as meeting a good friend and getting to know that person over and over again.
  • Learn to accept others as they are.
  • Don’t be intimidated if your partner is holding a more senior post professionally, earns more than you, smarter than you, or prettier than you (This is for the men!)
  • Always be there for the person, make you the go-to person for this friend’s needs, whatever it may be.
  • Drop whatever you are doing, especially that damned smart phone, and pay attention to your friend. 100% in-person attention is so rare nowadays, that when you do that, you immediately rise above the crowded crowd.
  • Don’t attempt a bullshit on your partner, no sweet talk, no cheeky remarks, no wise-ass jokes, that might come off as corny, lame or roll-eyes, unless you are really a genuine sweet talker, cheeky wise-ass, corny kind of person.
  • It doesn’t always have to be the guys first. Your mum, made the first move. She took the bait. LOL

The Good News

The news article says that Singleton Singaporeans are thinking of marriage, which is good, but that is too much of an outcome. A lot of things can happen, and marriages can end up in the dreaded ‘D’, divorce. So while we thinking wedding bells, we need to get out more, find a life companion, regardless if it ends up in marriage. While I was prepared to get married, the back of my head, I was prepared more for companionship, and marriage is just a formality. Without a good companion, there is no marriage. So go out there and find a good companion, get to know people, love life, and what it brings, and please, get the damn smart-phone out of the way. It is a human to human thing.

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Link: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/more-young-singles-do-not-intend-to-marry-and-more-have-not-dated-seriously-marriage-and

I bought flowers

I bought flowers

Dear boys,

I seldom buy flowers for your mum. I don’t buy flowers for her any of our wedding, ROM, her birthday, anniversaries. Valentine’s Day is absolutely out, those bloody thirsty florists, making a killing out of poor blokes buying perishables for dames.

The last time I checked, I bought your mum this bouquet, back in Dec 2014, thanks to google photo, I managed to have this picture in my file.

She likes sunflower for the bright, big cheery colours, who wouldn’t agree with that?

As much as she likes sunflowers, she wouldn’t want me to spend money on such frivolous things. I wouldn’t too.

But there is a reason why I buy flowers.

Simply because I love your mum.

And she is the only woman I allow myself to buy flowers for; my Wife, your Mother. I cannot see myself spending, or wasting money buying flowers for other members of the opposite gender, no matter how close we get. Not even for female relatives. This deed, I only reserve solely for your mum.

I think it is nice to buy your mum a bouquet or two every now and then, although flowers have no pragmatic purpose whatsoever, it does, helps make her feel appreciated, makes her know that the flower is for her, and her only.

Having a relationship is not just about pragmatic, purposeful bonding. when things between spouse gets too functional, the love is diminished. We must not stop doing silly little things for each other, to make each other feel appreciated, and delighted.

Bright, Glorious Sunflowers!

So recently, recently I bought another stalk of Sunflower, three long years after the last one. I bought this from an ‘auntie’ florist near my office. There were 4 stalks of these beautiful glorious flowers that caught my attention across the road. I had to get one for your mum.DSC_0134

Flowers have their own psychic powers to make a person feel good. It is not only for my wife to feel good receiving it, it is also for The Husband, to feel good, giving her nice wonderful, albeit slightly non-practical gifts. These kind of spontaneous gesture helps as smooth out a life long relationship, so always remember never hesitate to get nice things for people you love, as and when you feel like, not necessarily, nor out of schedule. Never hold back, never reserve your feelings of expression. Life is short.

$6!

The girls in my office saw this stalk, and overcame with curiosity Siew Ting couldn’t help but ask me, what is the occasion. To which I told her, there is none. And to Dorothy’s shock, the single, poorly wrapped stalk costs me S$6, while she didn’t say it was freaking expensive, her expression, is like a MasterCard’s advertisement, priceless. $6 is probably a good decent lunch for any hungry person. For Liting, she’d say if she gets flowers from her boyfriend, she’d take the bouquet and beat her beau with it. Well, if her beau gets beaten by her with the flower, then I guess the flower’s sacrifice is well worth it. Die flowers! Die for love!

Let’s be frank, to which I asked them back, which of them would mind it, if their partners, buy them flowers? Would any of the girls say no? Would any girl mind, random expression of love using flowers? That is the power of flowers, notwithstanding that Liting would use the flower as a bludgeon. Well, as the Chinese saying goes “打是疼,骂是爱”. The demise of the flower will be worth it, well worth it.

When your time is up…

A few evenings back, we had our class in a small room, which is long and narrow. It wasn’t the best place to train, but it was the best place to listen to Harry sensei, because in the enclosed confines, we can finally hear our soft-speaking sensei clearly!

He is 78 years old this year, and he spoke about a lot of things, many of which was memorable, one specific thing that stayed with me was the existence of our lives.

Sensei is 78 years old.

He mentioned something like, ‘When someone reaches 80, and asks god if it is time, and sometimes god will decide, well if this person is still useful to others, let this person stay for another year or two.’

That is not in his exact words, but it was enlightening.

What Harry sensei said forces us to think above and beyond ourselves. Specific to training in martial arts, we tend to get caught up in ‘my’ movement, and how ‘I’ throw the opponent, and ‘I’ control the situation. Everything we made up to be, it is all ‘we’.

Although the lives we lived are often a very egocentric, we are born, live a life, and die in the most personal way, no one else can die for us, except ourselves, and no one else can live our lives except us. But the irony is, our existence will not have happened the way it did, had it not been for other people. We cannot be who we are today, without the help and assistance of other people.

So we fear death, and try to hold it at a distance, hoping to live a few more years, doing the things we love. What Harry sensei say urges us to be above and beyond that, we need to live our lives helping other people, make ourselves useful- to other people. Let us become a tool for other to become better people, we extend our lives and longevity as long as we continue to be useful to other people and the world and society at large.

At his ripe old age, Harry sensei is a far more optimistic person than I am. Prior to the class, I was caught in my own familiar self-depreciating mood, questioning my own existence, and the seemingly ‘groundhog day’ mentality. Everyday seems to be the same to me. Even Aikido training feels the same… perhaps it was a plateau…until you hear an old Aikidoka says that. At that age, and pretty much sees whatever he has seen in life, he is still learning, still thinking of how to contribute to others.

While we think of the ‘I” in an egocentric circle, we want people to need us, so we try to build ourselves to a level of importance that makes us feels as if we are the centre of activity. Contrary to that, we need other people too, and these people are as fragile as us. As much as I like to dwell in my own finite existence, Harry sensei said something that tells me, we have to be nice to other people, because as much as we will not be around for our next breath, others are also having the same existential crisis. They might not be around for the next breath, and we might lose that opportunity to show kindness and love to these folks who, we need, and needed us.