Handling with Weapons

Handling with Weapons

In this safe island city of Singapore, when will be weapons be used in a violent confrontation? And when we do, do we know how to use them?

In Aikido, we handle ‘classical’ weapons like Bokken, Jo and Tanto. These are made of wood to minimize injuries, but we still need to handle them like the real thing. I ‘cut’ Sunny’s left eyebrow when my Bokken slipped during after class training many years ago. Bokken, although blunt, but when used applicably, it is still a weapon.

Rules are rules, always use common sense when handling anything labeled as a ‘weapon’ or anything seemingly dangerous.

1- Always be alert, and never take it for granted, be it a training weapon, an M-16 rifle, or a rubber knife. When in training, always practice due diligence. Training time is not playtime. Weapon, any weapon, is not a toy.

2- Know the weapon parts well. We all know the ‘bladed’ part of the Bokken is actually not the real blade. Duh. Train with an attitude that the ‘bladed’ part is the REAL THING. If you are not careful, you WILL lose fingers.

3- Practice safety distance. know your ma-ai well. Empty hand ma-ai and weapon ma-ai is very different. Footwork, body movement changes as well.

4- Never fear the weapon. Practice point 1,2,3 well, apprehension should go away. A weapon is simply a manifestation of the user’s intention.

5- Train long and hard with your weapon. Time invested in conditioning will help us become more familiar we become with it.

To sum it up, weapons training extend our reach and improve our understanding on how it works, so that we can be skillful when we use it, and when it is used against us, we have some understanding on how to deal with it.

Its not much to take away, but then again its never, ever enough.

First published: Jul 28, 2010

Aikido as an art of self defense

Many, many people sell Aikido as a self defense martial art. Even Harry sensei likes to use this cliche. That Aikido is an art that you can use to defend yourself in the unfortunate event of a combat. Or if you get mugged, or raped, or life and death situation.

Let’s be frank, in that kind of situation, anything, and I mean anything works. Beer bottles, claw, nails, wedding rings, scratch, kick, scream. In a real situation, in a fight, it is Applied Martial Arts, and anything goes to preserve life, mainly yours.

“Aikido is an art of self protection.”

I was struck with this epiphany. Aikido is a self protection art. You strive to ‘protect’ the self, which is a very different wordplay from ‘defense’. Protection is active, defense is reactive. You defend against something. You protect something. Defense is implied as a win/lose, attack/defend duality. something has to happen to justify a defense. When you protect, you simply protect, you can extend that range of protection, or you can protect others so that you protect self. You can collaborate with others to form a collective act of protect.

You do not have to wait for an attack to happen, before you protect. If you know the attack will be coming, you will protect your assailant, by preventing the attack from happening, because once the act of attack is initiated, it will only result in a consequence of attrition, everyone will get hurt.

Protection ironically is not about the self, but the world at large. We want to protect the ecosystem, we want to protect mother nature, we want to protect our loved ones, because in protecting these ‘extrinsic’ elements, it justifies our existence. If we fail to protect our loved ones and the person’s life is lost, what good is an art of ‘self defense’? When those people who validates our lives gets wiped out, what can a self defense system do? You need to protect them from harm, sometimes even at the expense of your own life.

This is the true meaning of Aikido, and I’d dare say, martial arts. You are willing to go the extra to protect what matters, sometimes you give up your resources to allow others to be protected. When you understand the concept of protection in a martial arts, you will readily give up your life to protect others, so that others may live. It is not an act of courage, but simply acting in the true spirit of Budo. Understanding why we must protect others to protect self, will bring you down to the most humble and harmless level, you will totally disarm yourself, and no one will be able to muster the ability to hurt you, because you can protect them from harm, and protect them from harming themselves.

If we think that the person can hurt us, then they can hurt us, and in order for us to prevent that, we will revert to self defense, in an attempt to protect us, but by then it is too late as we would have fallen into the duality of attack and defense. There is no opposite in the true spirit of protection. With our capability as human beings we can protect a lot of things without having to defend them from attack.

“self protection is about equilibrium”

Always remember, self protection is about equilibrium, we can protect ourselves and others, we do not need to worry about the various, immeasurable varieties of attacks, you simply protect. Attack and defense will swing, protection does not. You can offer protection longer than you can defend or attack. But protection needs the development of courage, having no fear or favour to attacks and defense, you come up with a quiet confidence to just protect, giving up attacking and defending for something more sophisticated and superior

Many, many people sell Aikido as a self defense martial art. Even Harry sensei likes to use this cliche. That Aikido is an art that you can use to defend yourself in the unfortunate event of a combat. Or if you get mugged, or raped, or life and death situation.

Let’s be frank, in that kind of situation, anything, and I mean anything works. Beer bottles, claw, nails, wedding rings, scratch, kick, scream. In a real situation, in a fight, it is Applied Martial Arts, and anything goes to preserve life, mainly yours.

“Aikido is an art of self protection.”

I was struck with this epiphany. Aikido is a self protection art. You strive to ‘protect’ the self, which is a very different wordplay from ‘defense’. Protection is active, defense is reactive. You defend against something. You protect something. Defense is implied as a win/lose, attack/defend duality. something has to happen to justify a defense. When you protect, you simply protect, you can extend that range of protection, or you can protect others so that you protect self. You can collaborate with others to form a collective act of protect.

You do not have to wait for an attack to happen, before you protect. If you know the attack will be coming, you will protect your assailant, by preventing the attack from happening, because once the act of attack is initiated, it will only result in a consequence of attrition, everyone will get hurt.

Protection ironically is not about the self, but the world at large. We want to protect the ecosystem, we want to protect mother nature, we want to protect our loved ones, because in protecting these ‘extrinsic’ elements, it justifies our existence. If we fail to protect our loved ones and the person’s life is lost, what good is an art of ‘self defense’? When those people who validates our lives gets wiped out, what can a self defense system do? You need to protect them from harm, sometimes even at the expense of your own life.

This is the true meaning of Aikido, and I’d dare say, martial arts. You are willing to go the extra to protect what matters, sometimes you give up your resources to allow others to be protected. When you understand the concept of protection in a martial arts, you will readily give up your life to protect others, so that others may live. It is not an act of courage, but simply acting in the true spirit of Budo. Understanding why we must protect others to protect self, will bring you down to the most humble and harmless level, you will totally disarm yourself, and no one will be able to muster the ability to hurt you, because you can protect them from harm, and protect them from harming themselves.

If we think that the person can hurt us, then they can hurt us, and in order for us to prevent that, we will revert to self defense, in an attempt to protect us, but by then it is too late as we would have fallen into the duality of attack and defense. There is no opposite in the true spirit of protection. With our capability as human beings we can protect a lot of things without having to defend them from attack.
“self protection is about equilibrium”

Always remember, self protection is about equilibrium, we can protect ourselves and others, we do not need to worry about the various, immeasurable varieties of attacks, you simply protect. Attack and defense will swing, protection does not. You can offer protection longer than you can defend or attack. But protection needs the development of courage, having no fear or favour to attacks and defense, you come up with a quiet confidence to just protect, giving up attacking and defending for something more sophisticated and superior

First published: Nov 9, 2015

The Aikido ecosystem

The Aikido ecosystem

When you come to class, and train with your fellow Aikidokas, you are not training only with that person. Like I mentioned earlier, you are training with the person’s parents, carrying their aspirations, dreams and ideals.

If you kill your partner, you literally destroy a universe, wipe out an entire ecosystem.

You are also training with your partner’s friends, siblings, relatives, cousins, uncles, the nurses and doctors that brought your partner to this world, the bus driver who sent your partner to Aikido, the hawker who sold delicious food, the cleaner who cleaned your block, your colleagues, the retail sales guy whom you bought your latest sandals from. You are training with a partner, who is a sum of a whole ecosystem.

Had there been a hiccup in that ecosystem, that partner would not have appeared in class. the bus driver fell ill, the bus wouldn’t have came. The cleaner failed to clean your block, you stepped on something filthy. fell and got hurt. Well, if that ecosystem collapse, your partner cease to exist.

So you are also part of your partner’s ecosystem too, if you hurt your partner, your partner will not be able to turn up somewhere else he or she is supposed to be.

If you kill your partner, you literally destroy a universe, wipe out an entire ecosystem. So that is why we have to protect and nurture life, it is so vital that we see that inter-connectedness. Everything is linked to everything. You are linked to the doctors who brought you out from your mum’s womb. You are linked to the production worker who works in a factory making milk for your mum to buy, to feed you. You are linked to the cows, who gave you its milk for your ‘calcium needs’. You are also linked to the future people you are going to meet.

So it is rather easy to look at an angry person and launch ourselves into an angry assault and quarrel, insult and belittle our belligerent. When we do that, their entire ecosystem shakes, and rattles, you literally insult that many nameless faces that has brought that person having that angry conversation with you. Sure, his or her anger would have shaken your ecosystem and insulted that many countless nameless faces too. But remember, those people in our ecosystem brought us into existence to be a decent human being, and being decent means not to anger, insult and belittle others! And certainly not to respond in kind!

We need to understand that, contrary to many success stories, where a person’s success is perched on the shoulder of giants, a more down to earth version would be that we are all standing, simply because we are held up by the countless of people in our lives, but to hold our head up, in pride and love, that is entirely us.

So never face hurt, anger, pain and suffering with ignorance, fear and delusion, those are closed loops. Open your heart, and in it you’ll find boundless love, energy, light, understanding, patience, and understanding, which are all timeless. Anger is timed, you have to be directed at a specific event, a person, a single something. but when you open up your heart, you can accommodate that. What we have in our heart is light that is so bright, hate, ignorance and delusion will vanish. Jodi Picoult says light triumphs darkness, that is why we need to face the world with our open heart, because we carry our eternal light in our heart, to close it, cannot hide the light, light will always escape, so why not fully open it, and let your light shine?

Your open heart may look vulnerable, weak and nubile. But it is far more superior to hate. Aikido opens me to that, love is eternal, it will always triumph over hate, which is limited in energy. Love soothes, hate comes in bumps. Once you have experienced love, you will not want to hate, or response to hate, with hate, because, once you’ve known and used a far more superior approach, why revert to plain, reactive hate and hurt? You cannot be hurt any further if you embrace love. Love will protects you, when you fully open your heart.

Shikko and Ukemi

I was sharing this with Gabriel and Zarine one evening, about the attire we wear. I realised that my foundation years in Aikido, I did a lot of suwari waza, or knee walk.

Knowing how to fall properly is all about protecting ourselves from greater harm.

Extensive practice in knee walks, can be a boon or bane for Aikdiokas. I know some Aikido Shihans who have their knees destroyed by suwari waza. Personally for me, during my peaks, i can knee walk until there are holes on the pants where the knees comes into contact with the mat. Yes, blisters are also quite common.

It certainly helps in the stability department. practice on the suwari waza will strengthens the legs and hips, all vital structures for stability in movement or otherwise.

Another very important practice is ukemi. Well what are the chances of us using irimi nage in real life? or applying a nikkyo lock? But when is comes to falling, the chances are plenty.

Knowing how to fall properly is all about protecting ourselves from greater harm. When I was a motorcyclist, it had saved me from being seriously injured in a accident. Even in reality, falls are never picture perfect like in Aikido, but knowing how to and being experienced in rolling helps us prepare for the unexpected.

Published on: Feb 27, 2011

What you see is what you get

I used to have a very existentialist opinion; ‘Until I see it, hold it, touch it, it does not exist’. Something to that effect…what I was thinking back then, I will not belief in things that is not tangible. Things change, sometimes this adage holds true, sometime, the rules have to be bent a little.

So in Aikido, in the strictest, and narrowest in sense, you have someone coming up as an ‘attacker’, and you ‘defend’ with one technique or another. Of course, what you see is what you get. Or really?

Our situation outcome is dependent on our cognitive.

Look at things on a larger field of things, it is no longer ‘what you see is what you get’ What we think we see, gets us.’ If we think we see an ‘attack’ we get and ‘attack’. fundamentally, we join martial arts, for me; Aikido, is to fundamentally change how we think, so that when we see, we think differently, and then what we get is different. Our situation outcome is dependent on our cognitive.

On that note, that is fundamentally how people think and process information, and present them in action. Our actions helps us relates to the world at large, our actions brings our thoughts to life, our actions can bring about consequences that we cannot have thought of.

So when you partner ‘attacks’ you, it is an action. In plain non-judgmental perspective, that is an action, which warrants a defense, in response. So there it ends in a duality, which swings back and forth until it ends with one standing.

We need to see action as a representation of our thoughts.

Many people have funny ways of doing things, sometimes our thoughts gets better of us, sometimes our thought overwhelms us. Sometimes, our physicality is so limited, it frustrates us. Basically our thoughts are free, mind wanders, imagination runs amok, but in strict reality, the physical body cannot do many things the mind wants to, so it causes this conflict, and it can explode internally in violence, anger and hurt.

People want to hurt us, not because they want to hurt us, they want us to get their message. In some sense, the perpetrator does not even knows what he/she is doing, we are often so ego-centric we don’t know our actions are hurting other people. Everybody wants to do good, but the expression of doing that good is acted out in many different way, sometimes destructive ways.

If we are the target of their intended message, and if the delivery methodologies could be better, we have to intervene. We have to say, ‘Hey, wait, there is a better way.’ And redirect that energy towards a more peaceful and sophisticated way. So look at things differently, because what we learned in Aikido, we will apply everyday.

If you lived with a drunkard, you need to understand that that is the person’s way of expression, until the person learned a new way, drinking to a drunkard is the best, and probably the only way to express his cognition.

It is not our job to save the world, we cannot save a drunkard if the drunkard does not want to be saved. In the event that we are caught in that drunkard’s web of bad habits, we can do something, firstly for ourselves, to protect us from becoming the unwitting victim of the drunkard’s poor choice of lifestyle. Secondly, we intervene to show that there is a better way to get our thinking to action. If the drunkard picks that up, and appreciates it, he/she might change, and if that doesn’t happens, don’t leave the drunkard any worse than when it first started out.

In another manner, a person swings a bat at you, in anger, or even premeditated. We disarm him, either breaking the person’s arm or some other more horrific violent ways. Or we can disarm him, leave him with minimal damage, so that he can preserve his thoughts, cool down and perhaps think things through. Always leave people a back door for them to live.

Of course this is hypothetical, in many situations, to think so rationally is not the norm, under stress, we ‘fight or flee’. Either way is fine, the line to draw is, we can choose. Aikido gave me that choice, when we choose to fight, we think and choose the best method to end the violence, without begetting more violence. Ending violence with our own brand of violence, does not end violence, it propagates violence. Violence can only end with a peaceful action. If you punch better than that guy who threw you a punch, he will learn to better his punch and return with a better punch to punch you.

Lead your attacker away from anger, violence and destruction. Spiral his negative energy out, away from his own hurt. Dissipate the terror. Absorb it, not repel it. Don’t fight the fight with more fighting. we can do better than that!