theaikidad

Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

I Do

I Do

Dear Boys,

This is not about a wedding vow.

It is about something just as important and just as life changing, perhaps even more.

It is about suicide.

Let me be honest here.

Your dad has thought about it.

And is sometimes thinking about it still.

What is suicide?

I’ll not be clinical here, as you boys can read about it in the many, many journals out there. I’m also not trained or studied (in a serious academic way) in psychology or psychiatry. I know suicide in my own personal, macabre, deep dark way.

It’s not a sad thing, nor happy thing.

It is mostly an existential thing. Like what is the purpose of struggle? The purpose of life? Those big profound ‘cheem, cheem’ (deep, deep) stuff. These thoughts keeps me up, and they still do.

Sometimes it can be very mundane things like annoying colleagues, the day to day struggles, and why we do it. It can be as easy as lazy to live. Yes, it can be a chore to get up, get dressed, get up the next day and groundhog day, over and over and over and over and over again, and again, and again…monotony kills.

Just writing about it puts me in that train of thought…

Anyway…

Why I hadn’t kill myself yet.

Contrary to many out there who thinks that suicide is a form of escaping reality, it is in fact a very courageous thing to do, under some circumstances of suicide. It takes a tremendous amount of energy and will power to set up a rope to hang yourself, or to cut yourself to bleed dry, or hurl yourself off a building. It is not an easy thing to do. In fact it is one of the hardest thoughts any living being can entertain.

It is a powerful thought to have in your mind about killing yourself, and it is not necessarily a good or bad thing. It is a thing.

So use that thing, that powerful thing purposefully. Of course if your purpose is kill yourself, then perhaps its your thing then.

What is more salient here is the powerful thing you have. I learned about this when I heard one Mediacorp Actress/Host, I think it was Irene Ang who said that you need a tremendous amount of will power to kill yourself ( I think she was speaking from experience) and why not use that willpower to kill yourself, to do good and live? And that made sense to me

The other reason why I hadn’t kill myself

Your mother, she will not let me die. If I’d kill myself, she’d revive me and kill me herself. Joking lah. On a serious note, she is the meaning of my life. Sorry boys, you both comes in second. Really, without her, I’d have no meaning.

But with suicide tendency, it is an ironic twist. It took me a while to look outside of my own selfishness to see her. In the past, I’d still think of killing myself, despite of what she has done for me, and after all the love and affection we have shown each other.

But as it grows, and me talking to her about my suicide tendencies, she somehow has opened a part of my feelings that allow me to depend on her, and see my importance to her. I wouldn’t want to leave her alone in this world and change her title from ‘wife’ to ‘widow’.

In short, I see her life and well being as more important to mine, in a very intimate, and interconnected way. Sometimes, you might think that killing yourself is a way of setting your loved ones free from the burden of being with you, the other side of the argument is just as true. When I die, the world will be robbed of an unique individual, well not that I am that great an individual, but the bigger truth is, I am robbing my wife, her companionship, her someone to hold her hands, and make meaning in her life.

We all contribute to the world in our own small way and killing ourselves rob the world of a life, no matter how small, or insignificant it can be. Think of it this way, Wayne, if you kill yourself, your friend, Angel (pun unintended) will never have a chance of bumping into you on the streets. Neither will you ever find out how stupid or smart you can be.

Death robs

I attended 2 funerals this year. Both my friends died of ailments and a genetic disease. Its not the death that matters, it is the fact that, when I walk the streets, I can never bump into Grace or Peter anymore, because they are dead. There will never be another Peter, someone who looks liker Peter, but not Peter.  While death robs, suicide is almost like grand theft arson of life. You deliberately choose to eject yourself of life, and robs  everyone around you a friend, brother, son, sister, mother, father, cousin, student, child, singer, driver, chef and so on.

I Do

Recently the lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester committed suicide. The band wrote a song One More Light for one their friend who died of cancer. Somehow, my association of the song was more related to Chester Bennington’s suicide than anything else. I think it is the context of the song that matters. Sometimes, we take signs of suicide too lightly and wrote them off as some wild thoughts, our loved ones shrugged our thoughts of self-death as non-sense, out of fear or the lacking in understanding and openness to talk about suicide.

Well, boys, I do. I do want to talk to you both if you wants someone to talk to about killing yourself. About suicide, about gays and lesbians. I’m your dad, and somehow have I am gifted this unique exposure towards suicide.

Getting over it

There is, unfortunately, no getting over it. It is part and parcel of life, and just like flu, you will ‘get it’ again and again. The thoughts of suicide continues to linger around me, and if I slipped into the darker character of Randy Lim, yes, death is always there. But unlike flu, there is no visible symptoms. Suicidal thoughts, depressions and other mental conditions cannot be seen outwardly. Which is why Chester’s death is so haunting for me. He was okay and laughing and having family time 36 hours before he killed himself. He was happy, or so it appears to be.

So it will come and it will go, and let it go (of course!) when it leaves and if it stays longer than you are comfortable, your mum and dad are here for you to talk to.

Telling it like it is.

There is no sugar coating, no code word or whatsoever. Boys, if you have a feeling of wanting to kill yourself, just come to us and say: ‘Mum/ Papa, I feel like killing myself.’ We will not judge you, nor will be shrug you off like it was nothing. If you have suicide thoughts, we are here, we will drop everything and talk. Thanks to your mum’s chat, he voice and presences grew larger than the suicidal thought and when I think about suicide, I think of her, and everything is okay.

Suicide is the ultimate leveler

Suicide, if properly done, leads to death. There is no turning back from death. No saves, no close call, nothing, once you’re dead, you stay dead. And death has no age limit, gender or political orientation, you kill yourself you die. Period. And you can die at any age, time and space.

I don’t care if you are nine, or ninety, if you want to kill yourself, you can talk to me, boys.

thoughts taken off an eight year old’s school journal

 

 

A Mirror with No Reflections

A Mirror with No Reflections

I was hit with an epiphany 2 days back.

What if you can take a picture of a mirror, standing right in front of it, and; there is no reflection of yourself?

We have all heard about this popular metaphor.

When you disturb the surface of a pond, you will not be able to see a clear reflection of yourself. But when the water is still, you can see your own reflection.

Hence, the inference to a ‘still mind’.

We need to delve deeper than that, agree that though a still mind reflects, it takes more than that to project.

If you are an angry person, a still mind will reflect that anger, yes. that reflection might bring about an awareness to the realization of anger, but it does not necessarily bring about the cessation of that anger. It might not attend to the cause of the anger. See the reflection of an angry face, might even exacerbate the anger. All you need to do is to YouTube the phrase “animals looking in mirror” and you can see a variety of animal reactions to mirrors. Of course you can argue that humans behave otherwise, but do we really?

A still mind, might not be a peaceful mind. A robber, sitting still, is no peaceful mind. There is no action of a robbery, but the intent is there. The stillness cannot be misinterpreted as a solace refuge.

Therefore, we need to be more than a still pond, simply reflecting off whatever that comes along. We have to be a pond of peace. We have to project the inner-ness of the pond, the fishes swimming serenely in the pond. the peaceful sway of the seaweeds, the entire ecology of the pond, giving life, giving peace. When an angry person look at the pond, the angry person can see beyond the reflection, they can see the peace within the pond, and that perhaps calm the anger. Perhaps, the angry person lost something valuable, something the person might have dropped into the pond, a precious gold ring. So the clarity of the pond can allow the person to look into the pond and see the ring lying in the bottom of the pond, and reach out into the pond to retrieve the lost ring, and reunite what is lost with the one finding.

Similarly, we must see past our angry partners. Sometimes, we are the source of their anger, we are angry first, and when we are not conscious, we think that others are angry first, when truth to the matter, we are ‘patient zero’. But when that happens, we need all of our training and wisdom to see past that reflection of anger. To see that our partners have good, have value, and we can find our lost gold ring in them. And they also have lost gold rings in our ponds.

So it is pointless, to have a surface calm, to be still, and reflect. A still and calm pond is pretty much useless, if, the waters are murky and muddy and hides the contents in it. If you cannot see into the water, a reflection is, merely a reflection.

First Published on: Apr 21, 2014

Letting things play out

Dear boys,

I’ve learned of late that there are much in life that we cannot control. We spend a lot of time in our lives trying to do things, influence people, get people to like us and we try to be the all positive ‘proactive’, constantly taking initiative and trying our darnest to get sh*t done.

 Sometimes you just have to let things happen. As a Recruiter, my job is to match people with the right job. This Client of mine wasn’t going to pay a the Candidate, the salary he wanted, so the deal was lost, or so I thought. Candidate rejected the offer, and the Client wasn’t keen to raise the salary offered.

The Client came back 2 weeks later, and gave the salary as to what the Candidate wanted, and I closed a deal.

The lesson here I learned was not to get so upset over the lost deal. It wasn’t meant to be, it never will be. It is of course so much easier to have it said. When you are in the hot seat, and everyone is expected you to act, and you didn’t or you did the wrong thing, that kind of mounting pressure can be immense. And so it takes a lot of confidence to let things happen.

I learned to let that deal go, have it lost. It turned around and came back. On hindsight, of course I could have done this and that, influence the candidate to take the initial offer, or even persuade the Client to up it, Either way, I would have come across as hard selling, manipulative and burn both ends and lose the trust and the deal eventually.

In Aikido, we are also faced with the same judgement call.

Sometimes, when our partner, poised for attack, can be unnerving. You would like to take initiative and strike first, but sometime first strike would be disadvantageous, and you might be caught in a situation you could have avoided by not doing anything, or allowing your attacker to strike first.

Of late, I allow myself to open and face my partner, and let the attack comes, knowing that I have whatever I have in me to deal with it.

Allowing the attacker to come, you allow the energy to get played out, and fully expends. That is where you can use your energy and control the situation when your opponent is at its weakest.

Dealing with anger

It is easy to tell a pissed off person, ‘Don’t get angry lah!’ Easier said than done! An angry person would tell you!

Sometimes, let the person simmer and get over with the anger, let it all out, and when the anger has dissipated, then the mind is in a more calm and open mood to receive logic and reasoning.

Dealing with matters that way looks quite retrospective, and lacks a lot of drive. You basically sit back and somehow let things happen.

It is not what it is.

Letting things happen, when you can do something, is learned helplessness. When you can do something, do it, but when you have reached a stage where you can no longer do anything; allow yourself to sit back, and have a bit of faith. The world works in a very curveball way you seldom sees beyond your horizon so don’t worry so much when things don’t go your way, after all that you have done. Just do what you can and let things happen.

Allow!

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Photo credit to Steven Lim

My friend Steven, came to this  epiphany a long time back, he allowed life to happen. This is only apparent when things don;t go your way, despite of all that you have done, what else is there to do next? Sit back and allow things to play out. It will.

It’s chess, my dear children…

Chess is a back and forth game, played between 2 players, right now if there is you, the other side is life, we can only make one move at a time, that’s all. After we made our move, it is the other side’s to make the move, and beyond that we can think and visualise our strategy, but not forgetting our opponents can pull a surprise. And when we have planned enough, and we are rich with experience, we can deal with surprises. But we still need to sit back, after we have made our move and let the other side play out, then we come back into the game and make our next move, then let it play out again.

We cannot stop our opponent from moving, life will move on, and to disallow, we are only stopping ourselves, making lives miserable for us. When we do not let things play out, the situation gets pent up.

In Aikido, if you stop an attack, you allow that energy to return to the attacker, and that energy, stored can be reused against you. Once the energy is initiated, let it travel the entire way and just be at the end to meet and change the course in your favour. That is allowing the play to happen, and in doing so, you will be able to turn things to your advantage.

Learn that and you will not have to grief much in life!

Intellectual Vomit-Kokyu-ho

I’m running a fever, my wife last check 37.9 degrees, further more than that, I’m running an intellectual vomit. when I close my eyes, there’s so much about Aikido swimming inside that I have to put it in writing. The Chinese have this saying “三天热”, is this happening to me?

There’s this particular situation that caught me and I want to share it. I was down at NUS that specific evening, for the hell of things, (by the way, for the hell of it cost me $10 bucks). anyway what happen was probably a non event but it gave me such an impression that I cannot put it in words anymore than what i am doing now.

We ended the class with the usual kokyu-ho. My partner was a brown belt, young chap, stocky fella. When it was time for me to be the Uke and hold his hands, I held on and he did the technique. as he continued to complete his turn of four, by the time he reached the fourth turn, he cannot lift his hands anymore. I simply held his hands in place, what went through my head was a mixed feeling of puzzlement and curiosity. He simply cannot raise his hands and complete the kokyu-ho. I can feel the ‘physics’ of the movement, he tried his damnest to leverage with his shoulders, but the hands stayed. No amount of force and energy could make him move the hand.

There was no struggle. not for me and not for him either, he simply is moving something immovable. did I played a part in it? Sure. I did, but not my ego. I held his hands, that’s all, not tight, just hold. Its not a matter of one being superior over the other. If that has happened then, there will be a struggle, because the less advantaged will struggle against the advantaged and swing the entire situation around. In that event, we are equal. My level of understanding now is that the point where our hands held are neutral, the one who brings and intent or ego to the hand will struggle. The one with less intent struggle less. I know this for a fact because I still struggle against Harry sensei, the same way the brownie struggle against me. Harry sensei has a clearer intent, less ego. So he is more neutral, struggle less.

Its a feeling of amazement because I cannot comprehend the simplicity of the whole situation. There is really no struggle, no need to. simply do the technique of kokyu-ho with a good intent, appreciate the movement all the way to the end. It really doesn’t matter how it end, it will end eventually, so our job is to appreciate it at the end, with or without orchestration. It is my first true experience where physics stays in the realm of physics and could do no more, I’m a small fella, the brownie’s a big fella, he should be able to move me, no sweat.

The kinesthetic description is the sensitivity of the palm, all the way down to the very tip of our fingers. I placed my curiosity there, the touch I held the brownie with was one of learning. I want to know what he can do. not so much as to counter him with what I know. at that moment, what i know didn’t matter. I didn’t matter. he matters. It doesn’t matter if he can bring me down, it doesn’t matter if he cannot, what happens, happens. Nothing more nothing less. The ‘isness’ is so spontaneous and immediate none of us struggled. He tried his best, but I’m sure he is not uncomfortable. He got so caught up trying to bring the hand up he didn’t stop to think what has actually happened. So do I feel powerful over the whole thing? No, in fact, the more powerful I feel, the more he can feel me. I just feel very human. There was no power in my grasp, just a feeling I transmit, in that moment nothing else matter except the part where out hands meet.

It is like a satori, the Ah-ha! I knew it, I knew I got it, it cannot leave me anymore. that doesn’t mean that I can consistently harness that because partners change, mood swings, people learn. One thing for sure is that once I have it, it’s with me for me to harness it. Its a very personal thing and it gives me the kind of satisfaction to know that such skill and knowledge is achievable, I am no one special and yet i can learn it. The paradox is that its nothing special since someone as ordinary as me can learn it I’m sure anyone can, but this ‘ordinary’ skill is so unique to me, it will manifest itself in me in a manner that is different from anyone else.

First Published on: Jul 8, 2010

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.

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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.