Over Correcting

White Belt

A couple of lessons back, a chirpy white belter, Mary asked me if what she was doing was correct, as I partnered her. I told her that just enjoy the moves, as it will be too much to correct as almost everything she is doing is ‘wrong’.

We need to understand that getting from ‘wrong’ to ‘right’ in martial arts, takes a heck of a long time, and sometimes, you will go from wrong to right and back to wrong. Personally for me, as long as the Aikidoka enjoys the moves, and stay relaxed, avoids injury, that is a decent session of Aikido.

One thing we must be careful as beginners is the penchant to over correct, we analyze over the nitty and the gritty, until we think that everything we do needs improvement! Well, duh, that is precisely why we come to the dojo right? To day by day, unlearn our habits, and learn something that is closely resembling Aikido.

…is very un-instant gratification

Nobody gets it right at the onset, so why even bother to try? It is a long arduous process that is very un-instant gratification. The more you try to get it right, the more wrong it will get, for beginners, there is only a general sense of body movement, positioning and effectively use of our strengths. the other stuffs we learn along the way.

So everytime I go to class, I will look forward to enjoying the movement, enjoying the company. Right movement will come from right attitude, and when you enjoy your movement, you will be cultivating the right attitude.

untitled.png

A couple of lessons back, a chirpy white belter, Mary asked me if what she was doing was correct, as I partnered her. I told her that just enjoy the moves, as it will be too much to correct as almost everything she is doing is ‘wrong’.
We need to understand that getting from ‘wrong’ to ‘right’ in martial arts, takes a heck of a long time, and sometimes, you will go from wrong to right and back to wrong. Personally for me, as long as the Aikidoka enjoys the moves, and stay relaxed, avoids injury, that is a decent session of Aikido.
One thing we must be careful as beginners is the penchant to over-correct, we analyze over the nitty and the gritty, until we think that everything we do needs improvement! Well, duh, that is precisely why we come to the dojo right? To day by day, unlearn our habits, and learn something that is closely resembling Aikido.

…is very un-instant gratification

Nobody gets it right at the onset, so why even bother to try? It is a long arduous process that is very un-instant gratification. The more you try to get it right, the more wrong it will get, for beginners, there is only a general sense of body movement, positioning and effectively use of our strengths. the other stuffs we learn along the way.
So every time I go to class, I will look forward to enjoying the movement, enjoying the company. Right movement will come from right attitude, and when you enjoy your movement, you will be cultivating the right attitude.

First published:  Jul 15, 2015 10:33 PM

White Belt

A couple of lessons back, a chirpy white belter, Mary asked me if what she was doing was correct, as I partnered her. I told her that just enjoy the moves, as it will be too much to correct as almost everything she is doing is ‘wrong’.

We need to understand that getting from ‘wrong’ to ‘right’ in martial arts, takes a heck of a long time, and sometimes, you will go from wrong to right and back to wrong. Personally for me, as long as the Aikidoka enjoys the moves, and stay relaxed, avoids injury, that is a decent session of Aikido.

One thing we must be careful as beginners is the penchant to over correct, we analyze over the nitty and the gritty, until we think that everything we do needs improvement! Well, duh, that is precisely why we come to the dojo right? To day by day, unlearn our habits, and learn something that is closely resembling Aikido.

…is very un-instant gratification

Nobody gets it right at the onset, so why even bother to try? It is a long arduous process that is very un-instant gratification. The more you try to get it right, the more wrong it will get, for beginners, there is only a general sense of body movement, positioning and effectively use of our strengths. the other stuffs we learn along the way.

So everytime I go to class, I will look forward to enjoying the movement, enjoying the company. Right movement will come from right attitude, and when you enjoy your movement, you will be cultivating the right attitude.

Real Aikido in NUS

DSC_0271.JPG

I enjoyed my Aikido class this evening.

Firstly, I partnered Teck Lim for Katate-dori Gyaku Hanmi-Shihonage Ura waza. The flow between the both of us is good, and although Teck Lim is holding a junior grade, he does hold his technique well, sans a few mistakes here and there, he is technically robust, at least robust to develop a rhythm in our exercise. We can go on non-stop, and this gave us both a good work out. More importantly, we get to work at a pace that is faster and more intense.

Aikido as a more developed level, goes beyond the physical, and technical, it also goes beyond the breath, with Teck Lim, I can push this, as he is already fundamentally sound in the movement, tempo and awareness. Of course, I tire him out and from that fatigue, we can explore another level of training, which is to push on, and through the experience of fatigue, you draw the energy deep within you to continue, then the technique will improve, marginally. It is not unlike weights exercise, where you train to failure.

Train to failure

In Aikido sense, you don’t develop large muscles when you ‘train to failure’, instead your partner, with the incessant attack, compels you to move, force you to hold true to the technique and not lose focus and form. Sometimes, you train until your hands are jelly, and you can barely catch your breath, that is the ‘sometimes’ where you have nowhere else to go, except to keep going on. It is not easy, but this evening I think I managed to achieve that with Teck Lim.

It is important, but often lacking in a beginners class; the intensity of training. For beginners, there are is technical crutches, speed at slow, moving and getting the hang of thing, the principles and basics of Aikido. To add speed into a technically unstable environment is a recipe for disaster, and in our case, Injury.

“Aikido can be practiced by all age and gender.”

This evening, I can trust Teck Lim to take care of himself, while I take care of me, and when it comes to my turn to be a nage, I am able to execute the technique with him already sufficiently proficient in taking an ukemi, so I can be relatively hard with my move, knowing that he can take it. For a technique in Aikido to work flawlessly, both the nage and uke needs to trust each other, and trust themselves. Teck Lim and I have that trust and proficiency, that makes things work really well for the both of us.

It was a wonderful feeling, since there is little to talk about except action. It is the doing that makes Aikido comes alive, and that happens this evening.

Katate-dori Ai Hanmi-Shihonage omote waza

The other person that brings so much joy to my training this evening was Karen, who has always been a  quiet and shy girl. The thing about Aikido is, you can be anyone, and Aikido as an art, a community will accept you. Karen is a girl who comes to class and goes home, she seldom mixes around, but personally, I appreciate her quiet presence. In Aikido, I’ve learned over the years, anyone and everyone in class is there to teach all of us in class something, never mind if you are introverted or not. As long as you turn up in class, there is a beautiful opportunity to learn something from each other.

So Karen came late, and I decided to partner her. She is still white colour in belt, so I go extra slow. She did her technique like a beginner, but she did it without a pause or stoppage, which is unlike a white belt. She didn’t check herself, check her move. when I held her hand, she moved, slowly, smoothly, from beginning to finish. There is no speed, but there is technique.

It goes without saying that, Karen as a junior belt, will expect little or no resistance from me ( ask the more senior belts, they’ll tell you a different story!). I am usually very cooperative with white colour belts. That said, she does not need coaching, perhaps once or twice at the beginning, then she is on her own.

It was a very beautiful feeling as she is naturally shy, so she don’t talk much, so we are only left with action and relation. That’s great, as it is what Aikido is all about, irrespective if my partner is a junior belt or not.

This is the very reason why they always use the well worn cliche “Aikido can be practiced by all age and gender.” This evening, this cliche came true, as Karen showed me that she knows Aikido, when she own the movement and both of us gets lost in the technique. We both come into the technique and allow the technique to happen, naturally and harmoniously.

You see it don’t take a senior belt to really master and enjoy Aikido. This evening, both Teck Lim and Karen has shown me, and I think more importantly themselves that Aikido is real, and when you are proficient to a certain basic fundamental level, there is harmony in the spirit of Aikido.

I was told quite recently that I should go ‘back’ for training, since in NUS, I only learn the basics, and the students come and go. Well, this evening, my decision to train with a bunch of boys and girls half my age is proven to be a good one, not to mention, totally enjoyable and wonderful.

Slow-mo Aikido

Slow-mo Aikido

Last night, I gave a class, and as a warm up, I asked the class to do a basic Aikido technique “Taino Tenkan“, or more colloquially known as “Tenkan“.

This is the basic block of Aikido. Every beginner knows this. So let’s make it a little different.

It’s not something new that I’m doing, so I told them to slow down, while they do their tenkan. Instead of the normal speed, slow down, slow down, S-L-O-W D-O-W-N…

Apparently, it seems to be a tall order.

The students cannot slow down. Those who did, did it more in counting a cadence… 1-2-3-4, 2-2-3-4… That’s not what I meant.

SSSSSSSLLLLLLLOOOOOOOWWWWWW DDDDDDDOOOOOOWWWWWWNNNN….

It wouldn’t take more than a second to do a tenkan. Faster still 0.8 seconds, it can go faster than that. But that is not the point. I want the tenkan to be dragged, longer, perhaps 5 seconds, but that is not my point either. I want to slowness to bring about awareness…

Anyone can go fast, it is always a trade off, you go fast, technique will be compromised. While it needs skills to go fast, you need just as much skills to go slow. It is not easy, when you want it done, slowly, smoothly, with full awareness.

When you tenkan slowly, you will need to bring attention to your muscular contractions, movement and direction. The position of your legs, hips, shoulders and tension will become obvious. When things become static, there is no momentum for you to capitalise and use to your advantage.

Slow Tenkan is full tai sabaki

All Aikido movement is tai sabaki, there is no ‘part 1- leads to part 2 leads to part 3’. In any Aikido movement, everything moves, there is no body parts to isolate. when you slow down the tenkan, your uke has more advantage than you, he is simply holding your wrist, while you try to tenkan slowly. you have to move in such a slow deliberate manner while he has every advantage to shift his body weight to counter-act you.

So when you move slowly, you need to use your entire body to respond to a wrist grab. You need to become more aware than just that grab, and in order for you to neutralise the grab, you need to learn to shift the body, and become aware of how shifting the body changes your partner’s centre of gravity in such a manner that you are able to gain a superior position.

Centre and rhythm

The focus for most novice is the legs, as they often mistake the movement originating from the legs. While it is true to a certain sense, to really master a martial art, the movement comes from the hips, the legs, is simply an apparatus to  transports the body to a more advantageous place desired.

So when a tenkan happens, the centre shifts and moves to accommodate the uke, the leg simply carry out an ‘instruction’ to move, and the pivot point, again, comes from the hips, the leg cannot pivot, the hips can. The turn of tenkan comes from a concentrated focus on the hips, which is why when a tenkan is done properly, it is very difficult to counter. And tenkan is very difficult to master, simply because most people are unable to connect at the hips.

I want the class to slow down, so that there is rhythm. If the uke is static, the nage respond appropriately. If the uke is skilled and fluid, the nage respond appropriately. What usually happens is a dead kind of Aikido, where the nage will do what the nage does in a fixed, consistent tempo, irrespective of who the uke is and what the uke brings to the table. When you slow down, and pay attention to rhythm, the technique comes alive, because rhythm is existential. If you are stuck in your own tempo, you will be defeated, because when your opponent can catch your tempo, they can exploit it. Rhythm, on the other hand, relies on what your partner brings to the table and your movement, speed, tempo, will be an appropriate response, then the relationship comes alive.

 

Degrees, Diplomas and Dreams

randys-cert-postgrad-dip-in-mktgDear Boys,

This is how it goes:

The Route

Infant Care to N2 to N1 to K2 to K1 to Primary School to Secondary School to Junior College/ Polytechnic to University to Work.

There.

The End.

Your dad didn’t went through The Route, he was off the beaten path. Way off.

He left school when he was in Secondary 2, a Fourteen year old boy who wanted to have his own smart-ass idea to take up a language course (日本語 seems like a good idea then.) and then become a tour guide and travel the world. The reality of course, is way off course. Your dad end up starting work as a retail sales guy (more like a boy at 15 years of age!) at Changi Airport.

I only started taking a Diploma course around 1997, after I finished my National Service. It was a part-time course in Marketing, and then from there, with your mum’s encouragement and support, I went on to take a Bachelor’s degree, and finally got is around 2009. It was also a part-time degree course from the Open University. I had to work and study at the same time.

Your mum, had it a little better off, she got her Accounting diploma with her parents’ support, full time course. And then she took a part-time degree.

Long story short, both your mum and I worked while we get our education. The Route, however, is a straight academic one, you probably do a couple of holiday jobs, internship, which is great, but that is it.

Who knows?

You boys might end up with The Route. That’s fine.

Even if you don’t, that is fine as well.

Your parents are not suckers for grades (Well, your mum does, a little more than your dad)

As long as you tried your best, as long as you aspire to meet the targets you set for yourself. As long as you boys grow up as decent young gentlemen, that is fine with me. Because this is your life, your education, your life’s work.

So make your education your work, don’t just go through The Route like it is The Route, have some fun, make some mistakes, work for some money, real, full time work. A lot of young folks went through The Route, like going through motion. There is little or no thinking, perhaps other than choosing JC vs Polytechnic. NUS vs NTU vs SMU vs SIT vs SUTD vs Private vs Overseas. That’s the easy part.

The thinking which is so dire and so missing is, what to do after that.

As your parents, we do not want to push the both of your through The Route. Even if it is going to happen that way, we want you both to make good, sound, sensible choices.

Don’t know is a good place to start

Even if you are not sure of your destiny, not sure what you can do after your degree. We are here to help. We will guide you to where you will find your answers, but we will not give you the answers. Heck, we might even throw in a few more questions.

The ‘don’t know’ is a natural thing. We didn’t know as much when we were younger. Problem is, more often then not, youngsters starts with a ‘don’t know’ and pretty much went through their lives ‘don’t know’ much as well, and what is worse is they end up with a ‘don’t know’ at the end of their journey. It is a sad life to live.

So go The Route, the education system in Singapore is world-class. But use the system, not let the system use you. It was never meant to be that way. Singapore’s education system gives all the young folks many, many alternatives. Even if you can take The Route, you don’t necessarily have to. You don’t have to be sheep, when you can become something greater.

So go for the value you are going to get out of an education, not forgetting that formal, academic education is great, but that is not the means to justify the end.

sim-bachelor-of-arts-_0001
Your dad’s Bachelor’s Degree

 

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

A beginner’s class for Aikido, looks like an art gallery.

And the new school term for NUS starts, which means more newbies, which means more friends to make, which means we are back to basics, the whole cycle starts again.

Aikido classes are typically quieter, compared to our fellow neighbours using MPSH 2, such as Muay Thai, Silat, Capoeira folks. There are more shouting, music, banging, punching, which easily drowned Harry sensei’s talking. Watching it, is like watching a TV program with the volume muted. What is more interesting is to watch the students looking intensely at Harry sensei talking, as if they can hear what he is saying.

They can’t. I can’t.

More importantly, Harry sensei as a meticulous teacher, will take pains to explain to the most minute details. And there was ukemi to be explained, how to tuck your chin in, leg’s in a position where you won’t trip yourself going down. There are a lot of instructions to make one movement right. But all those lessons are lost in the din of the large, noisy hall.

Unlike a Muay Thai class, everyone ‘knows’ how to punch, kick or at the very least yell like hell.

There is little or no yelling in an Aikido class, lessons are patiently taught, actions are learned repetitively, in a deliberate and quiet effort. There is no burst of energy, no ego-stroking war cry, no punching the punching bag to your heart’s content. A beginner’s class for Aikido, looks like an art gallery.

So it may appear staid to a beginner, doing ‘boring’ rolls, turning and twisting, which more often, looks and feel unnatural to a newbie. A lot of effort, a lot of work, but you seldom get that sense of achieving something .

I can sense a “Can we get to the sexy dramatic part?” “Are we there yet?” “Where’s the high throws? The dynamic movements? The drama? The cool stuffs?”

It will be long before anyone gets to that proficiency. At best, the first FEW years are spent, on the basics, knowing them, doing them well enough. the speed and skill comes with the understanding on how to apply Aikido techniques and ethics properly. That will take another few MORE years.

There are no short cuts. No easier, faster, life-hack way to learn Aikido. You cannot download an App,or E-learn to become proficient in Aikido. It is a long, hard, quiet, lonely, discouraging, difficult way, and sometimes, you don’t even get a sense that you ‘know’ Aikido.

Unfortunately, in Aikido, particularly, there is never a ‘there’. Where you often get a satisfaction of got ‘there’, then you realize that, the ‘there’ you got to, is not the ‘there’ you think you wanted. Aikido is like a car trip that never ends, if you are that kid in the car, keep asking “Are we there yet?” “Are we there yet?” “Are we there yet?” “Are we there yet?” every 5 minutes, you’ll be very disappointed, and discouraged in your Aikido journey, because you will never get ‘there’. You just have to keep going, and while you are at it, you’ll get better, you learn more skills, and you’ll find that ‘there’ is no longer important, it is the journey that makes the experience satisfying, not the ‘there’.

14067614_10206020348222391_3032777260982702063_n_fotor

Aikido is total movement

Aikido is total movement

There is much to learn in a beginner’s class and one very common way to help beginners to learn Aikido is to break down one single waza into steps. This will help with the absorption of movement, the positioning and physicality of the waza, in relation to the uke.

Well, this is not rocket science. Almost everyone learn and master skills this way, so even with the most complex task, can be learned one step at a time. This methodology also helps to build confidence and taking things one step at a time, allows troubleshooting, guidance and corrections in timely interventions.

We need to understand that this is not the ‘Beginner’s Mind’, this is in fact, a fixation to the ‘Beginner’s Mind’ which defeats the principles of the ‘Beginner’s Mind’ in the first place.

As we begin to gain proficiency in our movement, we begin to move in a seemingly skillful manner. Things becomes easier to do, we can do them without much thought. This is the departure from a junior belt and the journey into a more senior grade.

I still see a lot of senior belt, taking the whole waza step by step, despite of them already familiar with the moves, and has done it many, many times.

As we move into senior grade, stoppages needs to become shorter, until the entire movement becomes one seamless stream of energy from beginning to the end.

So we need to progress from a step by step waza to one that smoothly transfer motion from one end to another. Being a more senior grade requires the understanding of this transfer, in our physical body.

Our arms and legs can only stretch so much, and at my height, any given men, or women taller than me will have better reach and range of motion than me. Yet, in Aikido, we are able to move bigger opponents, this is not only through the use of leveraging, but more importantly, our understanding in the transition of power, motion and continuity, and leverage is only a small part of that equation.

simply move, and everything will fall in place.

When our opponent catches us, we need to move so that we hyper-extends our opponent, in such a manner that it displaces the balance. But our range of movement will get exhausted, and stop, before that happens, we need to move something else to keep keep our motion, and initiative. Keep the tension, so that our opponent remains engaged, until we finish our moves.

It is not only just having the energy move from left hand to the right, but it is also in simultaneous motion, left leg and hand, synchronous with the hips. The hands and legs will move together. A junior belt will move the hand, then the leg, then the hand…any and all stoppages is an opening for your uke to become the nage.

There is this habit of a junior belt ‘ownself checking ownself’, but stopping every now and then in the movement. This stops the flow and makes the whole waza static, and the uke difficult to follow. More often than not, it is a habit, albeit a bad one, to stop every now and then to check. There is no need to check, simply move, and everything will fall in place.