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.

 

 

 

 

 

I have only One Aikido Sensei

I have only One Aikido Sensei

This is quite a common phenomena, students becoming teachers. It happens everywhere, and it is most likely a good thing.

So why is this an issue then?

It is when a student assumed the role of a teacher.

Harry sensei is a very nice teacher, and he love all his students. You will become a very competent Aikidoka under his tutelage, many people can vouch for that. You can get very senior, 3rd Dan, 4th Dan, and sometimes, part of the package is a huge ego, and Harry sensei isn’t the greatest in managing egos.

While Harry sensei is a very competent Aikido sensei,  he is not so great when it comes to administrative things, and without my sempai, Nasheer and James helping out in the day to day fee collection, administration, paperwork, it will be quite a challenge for Harry sensei to run the school properly.

Over the years, there has been many sempais that has done the administration for him. Some even went as far as thinking that they can run the school adminstratively, they can be an Aikido teacher, and seize control of the dojo, booting out Harry sensei out of the school he took over from. I won’t go into that dark murky details of Singapore Aikido history.

Like I said it, Harry sensei is very nice to everyone, so much so, some will take advantage of his kindness and starts instructing even in his presence. It is an ego thing, just because when some student got a Dan grade, that doesn’t mean you can teach. It sometimes does annoys me, when Harry sensei is walking the mat during class, like any sensei would in a dojo, there is another person in hakama doing the same. I know Harry sensei enough to understand when he does nothing to stop such behaviour, he is him, this will be his life problem, I cannot solve his life problem. By letting another of his senior student walk the mat during class like he does, creates confusion, and it will undermine his authority.

I can only be clear about one thing myself, there is only ONE Shoshin Aikikai Singapore sensei, Harry Ng. He did not and has never appointed assistant instructor(s), instructor(s) or allow anyone to instruct under his school, that is as far as I know. We are a small Aikido school, and Harry sensei is a hands-on kind of teacher. There is no confusion, we all learn from him, and him only.

Maybe there is something else I don’t know.

That doesn’t matter.

What matters is; I know I have only one Aikido sensei. Not anyone else, and nobody else.

It will be this way for as long as Harry sensei breaths and as long as I breath. That will not change even if he pass the baton of the school to another person, he will still be my sensei, period.

As students, we have to remember, while we become very competent in Aikido, that doesn’t mean we can teach. Get Harry sensei’s blessing, before teaching, and teach in a new Aikido premises, not in his dojo, not in his presence, he is still The Sensei, not me. There is a pecking order, and often Harry sensei don’t quite care about the pecking order, we must, as this is very much a how we conduct ourselves and respect our teachers, even when we become teachers.

Unless one decides to open a dojo without his knowledge, because there is the money to do so, then that will be another interesting story to tell altogether, wouldn’t it?

The Big Day of your PSLE results

The Big Day of your PSLE results

Dear Ian,

You have finally move on and upwards, from Primary School to Secondary.

In our life here in Singapore, it is a big deal, the private education industry is a large one and it ‘preys’ mostly on the parents’ insecurities and aspirations for their children to get good grades. Of course, hopefully that leads to a better future, riches and wealth. It is all done in the best intention, albeit the intense stress and pressure.

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You did well for your PSLE. “Well” as a matter of context, as you are not one of the 25 students who scored above the magic ‘250’. In fact you’re not even close, but you set a target and you achieved that. Which is more important than being one of the smartest lots in your school.

In fact, you did even better than your dad, who failed his maths, score “A” for English and Science, and a “C” I think, for my Chinese. You have a better score, I went to a normal stream and you are going to the express.

What’s the big deal?

Personally I am not a big believer in the PSLE score, My bottom line is either you pass or fail, you pass, how well? Well enough for express stream, okay, fine. Good for the normal stream? That’s fine as well. Life goes on, the sun will still rise and set.

But of course, that’s just your dad ranting, it is a big deal. Children went home crying, because they were 5 points shy from their target. There were some who thought they could get like 240, but end up with an odd-210. There are those who did well in prelims, only to falter in the actual exams. Well, there are some outlier even, they failed, and have to retake.

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All the credit goes to your mother

Really, she did all the work, your dad really didn’t cared much about your academic grades. She was thrilled that you made your mark, and achieved what you said you set out to achieve.

She helped you, drives you, work with you, bear all the pain and angst of your studies. When you did badly, she was affected the most, and when you did well, she’s the happiest. She worked the hardest and rightfully deserves to shed those tears of joy today.

After PSLE

So right now, after this first big hurdle in your life, your life will have to go on. You can reward, and cheer and after all the jubilation, you will have to hunker down and work hard, once again, as Secondary School education is another new environment that puts you to the challenge.

You friends in Horizon Primary, will become your old friends. You will make new friends in your new environment, and your might be pleasantly surprised that some of your Horizon friends might end up in the same Secondary School as you, and that friendship will continue; or it might not.

Some of your old ‘nemesis’ in Horizon, will no longer be relevant, once everyone moves to their respective secondary School. Those quarrels and grudges in your primary school, will cease in relevance. Suddenly with so much to look forward to in your new environment, you’ll lose track of what happened in the Primary school. You’ll have so much new things to do, learn and friends to make, there is no time to relish on nostalgic past. Stay present and look into the future.

Your future

Your future will be a heck a lot different from mine, and it will be a very asymmetrically challenging future, no one will be sure about anything in. So now that your Primary School education has come to an end, charge ahead and learn new things in your Secondary School.

Your dad is excited about your prospective new environment, and it heartens me to see you gain independence in character and confidence in personality.

Life changing events-end of PSLE

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Dear Wayne

Your big brother’s Primary School Leaving Examination(PSLE) is over, that means that he will be going over to a new environment, a secondary school.

You will no longer have a big brother in your school.

While we can reminiscence over the ‘good ‘ol days’ a few years from now, the immediate impact is you both will be lonelier in school. But that is life, we all have our own paths to walk.

As your dad, walking you both to school, I will miss the banter as well, some of the nonsense stuffs you both had, while walking to school. Now it will be just me and you. Your brother will have to go to school on his own, he will learn to become a big boy soon.

I will certain miss the crisp morning walking that 8 minutes, holding your hands, and sometimes you both will quarrel a quick quarrel, and I have to explain why and mediate. Bonds are made during times like these and while your big brother no longer walks with you to school, the bond building cannot stop.

As for school, I think you will feel it that somehow, there is no more ‘kor kor’ in school, where you can go to if you need help. Your big brother sometimes finds you during recess so that he can munch a meal with you. you both have each other when your friends decides to be otherwise.

While it had been only 2 years for the both of you to bond as school mates- I hope it has been memorable. School is a whole new ecosystem with its own fun and peril, your big brother paves the way going into your primary school first, then you, he helped you fend off the bigger boys trying to push their weight around you. He has been there for you when you needed help, or company. Now you have to be on your own.

While I have often preached that you can’t count on friends much, in the new school term, you have to learn to socialise more.  Take the new year positively and challenge yourself to be independent, while there is no more kor kor in school, you still have friend’s whom have been with you for the past 2 years, it is time to deepen your relationship with them so that you can have an opportunity to build new bonds.

I hope you don’t feel lonely, and look at 2018 with new stride and a spring in your step. While your big brother moves into a new environment, he has left you in an environment where you can grow and make new friends confidently.

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

Responsibility: Yours and mine

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A friend of mine in his 30’s recounted to me how he used to call home from school when he was in Primary school, just to ask his mother to send his workbook, exercise book and sometimes pencil case almost every day. And I thought to myself, how spoilt and irresponsible, I would never have done that and I will never allow my kiddos to do that.

Of course, once or twice is fine. But it shouldn’t be too frequent, otherwise how do we teach our children to become responsible for their own belongings?

Then came this TNP article about a school discouraging parents from dropping off their children’s forgotten items.

So signs are put up at Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary School’s entry points that says: “Let Your Child Grow Up…Please turn around and leave…”. A bit hard-core, I know. But I think you need to see where the school is coming from here.

The Principal told the reporter that “taking responsibility for their own learning and belongings is an important life skill we require our pupils to learn as part of our values education…”

I think one reason for this is if a handful of parents come to the general office with items to pass to their children, then the general office will definitely have to spend time getting the items to the students. It’s definitely not productive.

Then of course there’s the main reason of the children not learning how to be responsible for themselves. Many of the comments for this post on Facebook, agree that spoon-feeding and pampering the kids won’t do them any good.

Honestly, teaching children responsibility should start at home. After all, our homes are the first school for our children. Children should be taught to be responsible for their mistakes or actions and learn to be accountable for their belongings.

In other words, the responsibility of teaching our children these values should lie on parents, and shouldn’t be left to the school instead.

Just to quote a psychologist interviewed by TNP, “if parents are constantly solving problems for their children, it will affect their ability to be alert.”

Are we being irresponsible parents?

Think about it, back in the good old days, parents used punishment to teach kids how to behave properly and be responsible for their actions. But these days, parents are busy working and making a mark for themselves in society that somehow the role of educating their children values fall on teachers. Are we expecting too much of our teachers then? Besides planning for their lessons, teaching and taking charge of CCAs, they have now got to be responsible for teaching students basic values? No wonder we have a shortage of teachers as a result of the high attrition rate.

Are we being fair to our teachers or not?

I do hope that more parents can begin to be more aware of the need to be more present in their children’s lives and be their kids’ first teacher.

Maybe the next time if your child calls you about forgetting to bring something to school, remind him or her that it’s your responsibility AND his or her’s to remember to bring it to school.

Written and Contributed by: Nicholas Lee

Link: http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/dont-deliver-kids-forgotten-items-school-tells-parents

Stress? Where Got?

Stress? Where Got?

Dear Boys,

I asked Ian a straight question:”Are you stressed?”

“No” Came a straight answer.

I asked that when I read 2 articles from The Straits Times and it is all about children being stressed out. Recently there are some cases of children committing suicide due to ‘stress’. While I am a parent and father, I do not want to critic those incidents, other than to share my grief, I do not want to see either one of you die before me, by means of taking your own life. There are better ways to get things done, and solve life problems.

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screen grab from The Straits Times
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Screen grab from The Straits Times

Committing suicide is a stupid, stupid thing to do and it solves no problem other than to bring grief to those who are left behind. Please don’t kill yourself.

So what is this ‘stress’ all about?

It starts with the parents.

I’m stressed out at work sometimes, when my boss gets to anal about my performance (He is a great boss, and I have great colleagues, but shit do happen at work!), so I do come home with a dour face. Bad mood, foul, quick temper, yes your dad has it, you both has seen it.

Which is why I am forever thankful to your mum. She knows how good or bad things are with me in the office, and she always tries her best to soften things up before The Papa comes home. She’ll give you both ‘advance’ warning to stay clear from me, put toys back in the right place, things neat and tidy, well as much as the both of you can help it. Live firing in progress.

More importantly, she soften things, by explaining what happens at work to the both of you. We try to be as open about the trials and tribunals of life. When we are cash strapped and we need to tighten a bit, she explained it to the both of you.  When I have a shitty day, she explained it to the both of you. She also explains and tell me about the days for the both of you, and that helps me ‘adult-speak’ with her.

You both are kiddos, what do you understand about stress, if we do not explain it to you both? We as parents have long learned that you both learn fastest and best through example, good, bad, and the ugly. So we explain everything, the best we can. We do not want you both to pick up the sullen, dour, foul, depressive mood, without ever knowing why, or sorting out your feelings about it. So we do our best, not to shield the both of you from our sullen, dour, foul, depressive mood, we don’t try to pretend that everything is fine and dandy. We explain that life can be shitty at times, and you parents are doing our best to roll with the punches.

大人的事小孩子不要管!!!

I think this is all where it went south for us as parents, now raising the new generation called cotton candies. I was brought up that way too. As a kid, my parents didn’t really tell me adult things, and they would rather hide these issues from my elder brother and me. These issues, were of course, complex decision making that was top down. We as kids, did our kids thing, while the ‘higher management’ deal with high level matters, such as finance, relationships, and other ‘adult’ things. We as kids, were not privy to such matters, nor were we guided in anyway.

Whenever we ask, they will tell us that it is adult stuffs they are handling and children won’t understand, and shoo us away. In fact we do, because when an ‘Adult’ says, “children should be seen not heard”, we as children, incidentally, sees everything and hears a heck a lot more. Shielded, protected, cocooned. For our own good these ‘adults’ often say! So we as children back then, learned these ‘best practice’ from our parents, and now as adults and parents ourselves, we do these to our kids since this is the best way to parent children. We have made a very conscious choice not to bring the both of you up like that. We want to provide guidance, to make sure you boys hear things as it is, and sees that life is highly complex and it is not a bed of roses. It never is and it never will be.

As your dad, the head of the family, I make the decisions, often dictatorial of course. You both, many a times bear the consequences of those decisions, good or bad. I always try my best to explain. In my lexicon, there is no ‘adult’ thing to shield from the both of you. Your parents also do not paint a rosy picture of happiness, materialism or good life to the both of you. We want to be grounded, pragmatic and transparent. There is nothing we don’t tell the both of you, and we expect the same in reciprocation. Thankfully, you both do, tell us, things that is happening in your life.

We here your pain

This is no typo error, we want to be present for your pain and suffering, physically, mentally, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. I never profess that I can wish them away, nor can I buy a upscale Nerf gun to soothe your suffering. We want to be there for your growing pains. We know you feel them, just as we felt them when we were younger. We cannot take away your pain, we do not want to shield you from your suffering, but if we can do something to lessen that, you boys know we will. Not just lip service, superficial rub on the head.

We are here for you, both, deep, long conversations, to help the both of your become stronger after you both are broken. We don’t have a sweep under the carpet mentality. You as our boys, sees life, our life, your life full on, in all glory.

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There is no calm in life

Sorry, that is the cold, hard truth. Tell you both something, at my age and maturity, I (still) have a monkey mind, and the irony now is that they want to teach you kids how to be mindful so as to find ‘inner calm‘.They REALLY expect a kid to find ‘inner peace’??? First and foremost, I feel, if anyone needs that piece of mind(fulness), it is the parents, they are the ones transferring all the stress to the children. Even with so many years of martial arts training, your dad is ever so mindful, not to let the mind fool me, with mindfulness.

There you have it, reality sucks, really. I don’t want my kids to be raised with some esoteric, hippy mumbo jumbo mind tricks(Pardon my French), but I want the both of you to know life as it is, there is no calm. There is ups and downs, there are highs and lows. I want the both of you to be resilient. resourceful and responsible. If you boys do find inner peace along the way, then that’s good, but right now it is not needed to get through your childhood, what you both need is your parents to parent the both of you a little lesser, and let you kids, be kids.

Links:

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/kids-find-inner-calm-through-mindful-breathing?xtor=CS1-10

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/more-children-and-teens-are-stressed-out?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&xtor=CS1-10#link_time=1489462100