Aikido Plateau

Aikido Plateau

Have you ever trained until you feel as if you are no longer progressing?

Or seems like going to Aikido is kind of a sian (bothersome).

You feel like you are doing the same ol’ irimi nage with no sense of progress or improvement?

Appears to be making the same mistakes, or re-injuring the same injury point?

Or you are just simply jaded.

Welcome to the Aikido Plateau

plateau0004It happens to everyone, I guess not only just in Aikido but also in other endeavors, sometimes, you might feel like you have dropped from 85kg to 80kg and then it seems to stop at an odd 79.52kg… for a long time. Instead of losing weight, you lose interest in losing weight.

Then you feel disheartened, and tries something else, or tries harder, this time not with vigor, but a sense of feet dragging. You seem to have visited the same plateau many, many times going round in circles.

It is a feeling of same old place, same old pain, same old shit, same old same old.

It happened to me too.

That was when I was going from 2nd Kyu to 1st Kyu…I went to class like it was a drag. I’m kind of stuck in my head, not getting anywhere with training. Or I’m simply frustrated with something.

Back then I remembered I didn’t feel a sense of improvement, progress or refinement in my Aikido, or worse, I’m deteriorating! Or the Jones has caught up, or is getting better than me!

Look at the mirror

Back then I didn’t the wisdom or maturity. Right now, I don’t feel a sense of plateau anymore. Sometimes on my way to the dojo, I get a sense that I am going round in circles with the same technique, but the thought didn’t surface with anger, frustration or a sense of inadequacies within and without. It’s just a revisiting of the curriculum and it lead me to think about other techniques I can potentially do.

plateau0003More importantly, it is a sense of curiosity I bring to class, not a sense of familiarity. Every class is not the same, even the same partner you have been training with for years is not the same partner you have been training with for years. While life ebb and flow in a continuum of circle, the irony is we will never relive the same day again. In life there is no Groundhog Day.

The same circle is not the same

If you ever feel stuck like I did in the past, you need to ask yourself a very crucial question? Who’s turning up for class? Your current present self? Or your ego self? If you are bored, be careful, your ego is in play, in a bad way. You want something new, something flashy, something dynamic, you want to throw your uke in a flawless ‘Aikido style’, but you got frustrated by the reality of the struggle. Then you get upset, or to be more specific, your ego got upset. Then you fall into that same miserable feeling as if you are not improving.

What you can do

1-Train harder, think lesser.

There is a common understanding as to why potential Navy SEALs wannabes quit. Researchers found out that they usually don’t quit during their tough training, when they are swimming, or they are humping. Most SEALs student quit when they are taking a break, queuing for their meals, during downtime. They quit in expecting the tough time. The tough times didn’t make them quit, thinking or over-thinking the tough times made them ring the bell.

plateau0002Similarly Aikido training is nowhere near as tough as SEALs training. But thinking of the impending boredom can kill the zest of an aspiring Aikidoka. Don’t over-think, and especially on the mat, don’t think, don’t anal-yze your movements, your failures. Train harder, and be less critical when you screw up. Let your body, your physicality helps you shut the ego up. Just shut the bleep up and bloody train LIKE MAD.

2-Take a break

It is not something I deemed necessary now as I don’t have a sense of plateau anymore. In my younger days, it seems to help not turning up for training say, for a month. A slight hiatus will help refresh your mind, and let the body take a break from the usual tenkan and irimis. 

On hindsight, I felt that my hiatus back then was totally unnecessary and it reflects a kind of escapist attitude, and shows lack of commitment. But hey, if it works for you to take one step back and then two steps forward, why not?

3- Talk to someone

Your senpais 先輩, and fellow classmates will feel the same plateau as you, talk it out and it is a great morale booster. That is why we have a dojo, with a community to help each other. If your sensei isn’t too fierce, talk to your sensei and he/she can help you unstuck your technique and potentially get you out of your rut.

There is a higher calling

If you are bored, there is another voice in you calling for a higher standards of training, and skill. It is not a feeling of ‘plateau’ but a hint you are on a verge of getting deeper into your discipline. There is always a new discoveries to be made, even with the same ol’ Shihonage. Just two evenings back, I did a technique which was quite familiar to me, and Harry sensei came along and told me to take a bigger side-step. I did and the entire, seemingly familiar technique changed; I learned some finer, more elaborate details I previously missed in the technique.

Had I succumb to my plateau and took a break, I would have missed that potential chance of making that small minor improvements that helps deepen my understanding of a familiar and simple technique.

So plateau is a state of mind, you need to be careful why you feel like that and instead of getting frustrated, let your curiosity investigates the plateau. It is a time to dig deeper and train harder. Taking a break is not something I’d recommend now, but if you need to, and it does helps you overcome the boredom, why not? Who’s judging anyway? 🙂

plateau0001

Going to school, Primary One and PSLE

Going to school, Primary One and PSLE

Dear boys,

I don’t know what the fuss is all about. On hindsight, I think we were ‘lucky’ in a way, because when we enrolled your 大哥 into Horizon Primary School, the school was new and there were slots. We choose Horizon Primary School, not because it is well know, in fact it is a new school, it is unknown. There are ‘better known’ schools in the neighbourhood and they are all over subscribed, people are fighting tooth and nail just to get in. We chose Horizon, simply because it is nearer, in fact, nearest. 

Primary One

It was no frills affair for us, since the school is under subscribed, we do not have to ballot for anything. When it is time for the little brother to go to Primary One, he just have to follow the elder brother. Wayne, please thank your brother for getting you into a school without having to ballot. That’s the beauty of having siblings, okay? So stop, getting on your elder brother’s nerve!

Anyway, I’ve been telling you boys from day one; in any school work, test, whatever, you boys write? Your own name. You don’t write my name. Well our Indian friends do often have names like “ABC s/o CDF” the s/o typically means ‘Son of’ even that the Indian child still puts his name, not his parent’s name. The point is whatever results you get, they bear your effort, or the lack of it. I have nothing of it. You do well, it is your glory.

…as a stressed up parent will transfer the stress to the child. 

It is not the biggest milestone of your life

I’ve read in so many social media posts that going to primary one is the biggest milestone of so and so’s life. This is typically a comment made by the parent, children as far as I can see, couldn’t care less. Both you boys didn’t cry during your early days in Primary One, and adjusted to the changes like fish to water. How did we do it? We didn’t stress ourselves firstly, as a stressed up parent will transfer the stress to the child. We showed you the school, told you how exciting it will be, becoming a ‘big boy’. There was nothing to fear as we are always there for you, our confidence perhaps rubbed off some on the both of you.

We didn’t make a hyperbole out of it. It was an easy affair, we knew that school life need adjusting to, so we didn’t want to make it such an exaggeration, to further stress you boys. Primary one is to be spent adjusting, going to do things yourself and learning to be independent, and also adapt to a new social ecosystem as well. The school will usually the Primary One babies cruise, and this takes the entire year. Primary Two is where things picks up pace. Then again, it is still not a problem, yet.

PSLE

This year, the 大哥 is taking the PSLE, which seems to be so dreaded, children and parents kill themselves over it. I know there are stress we cannot avoid, the school has already started piling work since last year. But we still let you, Ian, take it all in, the best you can. 

There are time you got so bogged down with studies you barely have time to take a breather, that is normal. We let you be you, without us coming over to pester you on things. So far, you’ve been motivated on your own. Sure there are some slack, and you took it well, and responded when we urge you to keep pace. We can still see the Ian in you, come home, still find time to play with your 弟, and do all the silly things. That is great, life has to go on, PSLE or no PSLE. 

No Tuition

The both of you have no tuition, except for Chinese. Which is even a weak subject for your parents; but your mum is learning quickly, she is picking up the curriculum, the best she can, so that Wayne can be helped with in this subject. the rest of EMS (English, Maths, Science), no tuition. You boys go to your mum, when you need help, she’s great.

I think it helps that knowledge is just the next room or the kitchen, since going to tuition takes up a lot of time, and money. You need to get dressed, travel to the tuition centre, sit there, wait for teachers, while your classmates play. While we are willing to pay, tuition centres does not guarantee 100% absorption, they always promise results, but none of them promise learning. It depends also on the teacher’s chemistry with students, there are questions perhaps Ian would like to ask but couldn’t and hence didn’t ask, and miss an opportunity for learning. The pace of the tuition might not suit individual students as well, the teacher will not slow down for slower students. Having your mum at home, teaching the both of you, she can speed up and slow down. She can go deep into a specific subject so that the both of you can fully understand the topic. She knows the both of you and so she can adjust her method accordingly.

Having your mum as the teacher also helps to build the bond, I’d rather you bond with your mum than to bond with the tuition teacher. It has always been the case for our family, we are always internally resourceful.

Open to face the challenges

Personally, I wouldn’t consider the PSLE a major challenge or milestone as well. As always we want you boys to put in your best, the results, really don’t matter much. As long as the both of you tried, and fail, we can live with it, but what aches us is when we know that the both of you, being clever, could have done better, and didn’t.

So PSLE is just that, a “Primary School Leaving Examination”. The examination you take when you leave your primary school, it is not SAS selection, it is not the Navy SEALs BUD/S course. It is just a paper exam and where you go in your secondary school, is dependent on the marks. That said PSLE, good or bad results does not prohibits learning, you will learn something not getting the results you wanted, you will also learn something if you do well.  Whatever happens you boys will still go to a secondary school perhaps not of your choice, and continue your learning path. The Government encourages life long learning, it didn’t sanction focus on examinations, so we as your parents, hopefully gotten this right for the both of you.

Have fun

At the end of the day, I still want the both of you to have fun in school I know that Ian, in Primary Six, there is a whole new level of evolution in social norms and how students treat each other. While every one is feeling their way around building their identity, don’t let that distracts you, the ultimate goal is still to have fun, learn and tackle your PSLE as it comes, do your best, don’t let it stress you.

Links:

http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/psle-still-necessary-checkpoint-students-study

http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/arts/dont-let-test-scores-rule-your-life

http://www.seab.gov.sg/pages/nationalExaminations/PSLE/general_information.asp