Senpai and Sensei- My Opinion

Senpai and Sensei- My Opinion
Back in Bukit Merah SAFRA days

To put things in context, being a sensei means nothing if we do not acknowledge our senpai, that is my perspective anyway.

Jason, is my senpai. James is also my senpai, and although I’m sensei, they outrank me in Dan, in age and in years of training, particularly with Jason. Yet in class, I teach and they learn, they bow to me as they would to any sensei. I make sure the reverence is reciprocated.

It doesn’t matter that in future if I rise and outrank them in grade, in age and in years of training they outrank me. When I was a white belt, Jason is already holding a coloured belt, he contributed in ways big and small to me becoming who I am today. I cannot forget that and write off his goodwill.

Senpai ( 先辈 )

Loosely speaking, it means senior, elder or predecessor. To me I cannot erase the memories of those senpais that taught me, Soh, Uncle Tong, Alvin, Loh Tuck Yean (hope I got his name right!) and many others, who has showed me Aikido. Many of them has left training for good and might no longer be as proficient on the mat as they were some 20 years ago. Still they are senior to me in age, and every time I train or teach, part of what they taught me come alive in the moves.

While Harry sensei and many other Aikido teachers, taught me Aikido, sometimes it is our senpais who quietly egged us on, encouraged us, and helped us when we don’t get the technique right and yet still too timid to ask the sensei; our senpai will help us makes sense of the nitty gritty stuff. Without their care and contributions, we simply cannot get to our level of skill as quickly as we have done on our own. I have many, many big brothers and sisters in Aikido to thank and be eternally grateful for.

Not all Senpais are created equal

This is the spirit of hierarchy, we naturally align and bestowed respect and seniority to those seated to our right. Sometimes, our senpais might not have conducted themselves in best faith, others might push their weight around (pun intended) and strut their stuff on the mat simply because they literally outrank almost everyone on the mat, sans the sensei. They might also suck up to the sensei and put everyone more junior down, and treat peers like competitors for the sensei’s attention.

We scoff in contempt such outlandish and belligerent senpais, but think deeper, senpais are also human, and they have their own fallacy. I’ve long learned that anyone’s ‘supremacy’ on the mat, does not necessarily translate to a supremacy in life. People often make one part of their lives, such as being an Aikidoka fantastically awesome to make up for some shortfall in other areas of their lives. The best is we try to live a balances holistic lives. Bumping into these overbearing senpais, I did, of course, and I’ve long learned to give them a wide berth, akin oil and water.

With Harry sensei in Taiwan

Sensei (先生)

This is just an honorific term, while there is usually one sensei, the sensei cannot become effective without a cadre of senpais. While the sensei might teach and pass down techniques and knowledge, the senpais are the one who help distill these to the more junior ones. Senpais help spread the culture and excellence further and wider.

So the relationship between a sensei and senpai is very much symbiotic. A sensei can only do so much alone, but along with a group of senpais, the sensei can do much more, and show that the school can be more than just one person.

My message to my fellow students and Aikidokas is, never forget your senpais as you progress, and advance in rank senior than them. Sometimes, our senpais might no longer be as fluid and skilled as us, but we still need to show them the due respect. Rank aside, please remember that they were here before us, and without their guidance and support, we will not get where we are, the school will not exist, no Aikido will continue.

So if you want to show that you have now become better than your senpai, all you did was limit yourself from becoming better than you are.

The Guy who became a Sensei

The Guy who became a Sensei

Following my recent post, The Way Forward: Shoshin Aikikai Singapore, I officially took class, as sensei, since Harry sensei’s passing, he will no longer be around.

Heavy Heart

It looked like any typical Monday class and I wanted it to be as such, so on the facade, there is little or no difference, I’m taking the class, 8pm, my fellow Aikidokas will take their respective places and we will start class, like we have done so for many years.

Internally, there was a huge inertia, a massive reluctance to assume the position in front of the class, as sensei. I wish Harry sensei is still alive and hoping that I can continue being the facilitator, wishful thinking I was entertaining.

I looked long at Harry sensei’s photograph which I put up on the shelf, quietly asking him for divine guidance and still wanting that affirmation from him that I will be doing fine. He is no longer around to do that, so I have to take all that he has taught me, taught us, and carry on from there. With that thought, I walked up to the front and become sensei, for the first time in my life.

The Imposter Syndrome

This is a feeling for sure, and yet it still feels strangely familiar, very ready, and I think I have Harry sensei to thank, he has been grooming me all along for this position. While he was alive, he would be the earliest one, turning up to vacuum, dust and mop the place all by himself while he was still fit. The few of us made a point to come early and help him with all the chores. As long as I am coming to class I will make sure I do all this with him until a point in time I was doing them by myself, for him, as he watches, smoking his cigarettes.

Now that he is gone, I am the one turning up earliest, doing all the vacuuming, mopping and dusting, laying the mats, getting the place ready for class, all by myself. So I know the dojo very intimately, every dirt, spot and dust is very familiar to me, working on it after so many years.

Harry sensei vacuuming the dojo
Mopping the floor

Being consistently his uke perhaps is also another way he was grooming me. While he never said that I was to become a sensei after his death, by being his uke umpteenth times has made me understand his moves, his nuances, and his unspoken expectations. Maybe by being thrown around by him the most, I’m considered remotely good enough to continue. After all, why would he continue to call me to be his uke, even for demonstrations if I am not ‘good’ enough? Perhaps there is no one else.

Harry sensei is with us

It had to be me

Strangely familiar as I know this is real, I didn’t voluntarily put myself there, I didn’t fake this, make this up myself, my fellow Aikidokas trust me and look upon me to keep the class going, giving me good faith that while I am still not good enough, somehow I can lah. Showing them the techniques, and sometimes the wrong ones, they will correct me, we discussed, how Harry sensei did it, and of course how we perceived the way he did what he did. We call can agree that his technical perfection to the Aikido techniques are second to none, owing to his many decades of training and dedication.

Being an Aikido sensei is not something of my choosing, there is no career path, this is just the way it is. It is terribly lonely taking that position up front, the weight of the entire class, or even school rests on me. I can’t take it lightly, somehow, sensei’s spirit and reputation lies with Shoshin Aikikai, and right now when people think about who is the sensei in Shoshin Aikikai, the guy who took over when Harry sensei passed away, that guy turns out to be me.

The Way Forward: Shoshin Aikikai Singapore

The Way Forward: Shoshin Aikikai Singapore

Every time I take a class, I position myself, not where the sensei would sit, but along the line with my fellow Aikidoka practitioners. As I have principled, I am the most ranking student in class, and therefore I am not the sensei, but a facilitator, or ‘class monitor’.

Officially, I have told James, my senpai, and maintained that I would prefer to have Harry sensei give me a blessing, best in writing, that I am given the responsibility of instructorship. Well, this is a ‘me‘ thing as I do not want to assume things and make myself ‘sensei’ while Harry sensei is still in effect, The Sensei of Shoshin Aikikai Singapore. There is no ifs and buts about it.

These will change now that he has passed away, and without his verbal, explicit expression as to how the dojo should continue, we are left to our own devices to decide.

His son, Lionel did express that it was perhaps his father’s wish to make sure his Aikido legacy should continue, which means Shoshin, the dojo he founded should carry on, and I will need to take the initiative to continue.

Change Management

It is never easy with changes, and we have a few ‘closed door’ discussions with the dan grade members of Shoshin and many favoured closing the dojo, which we did, for the later part of 2021, and then James told me that it will be reopened, and he would want me to take a class, on Monday. I obliged. While I never officially heard it from Harry sensei that he consented, I’d trust James that he is carrying out sensei’s interpretations the best he could.

Harry sensei did turned up a few times and witness me taking class; he didn’t objected in anyway of sorts, so I’ll take it that my instructorship is okay. It’s surely a hot seat with him sitting there looking at me taking class, I don’t want to fumble and look bad, making him look bad or regret his decision in anyway!

Also there was a new infusion of interest from David, an Aikido instructor who is keen to take Shoshin forward. So together, we will run the class and continue practicing Aikido at the present dojo.

Initially for me, I wasn’t sure about this path. I told myself that I’ll decide again after Sensei’s passing, honestly, I’m not that keen to continue Aikido in any form or function if Harry sensei is no longer around. I am also really not keen to be a sensei of any form or function.

The feedback is that my involvement is wanted, and Shoshin Aikidokas past and present prefers to have someone who have trained under Harry sensei to continue. Many would argue that what is Shoshin unless it is passed down to someone who has trained with Harry sensei and knows his style.

While there are many students who have trained with Harry sensei, none has stepped up to take custodian of the dojo.

Shoshin is 初心

初心 in Japanese Kanji means the ‘Beginners’ Mind’, Harry sensei choose the logo to be that of 2 open hands. He has said many times that we need a beginners mind to see things properly, and not let the ego get the better of us. Practice with a Beginner’s Mind.

While it appeals to me that Harry sensei’s style should continue in Shoshin, we must also regenerate the dojo with a beginner’s mind and see Aikido new again. Not disrespecting Harry sensei’s legacy, but to really honour him by starting things fresh, taking it to greater heights.

No one can match Harry sensei’s greatness and commitment to Aikido in Singapore, and it would be ridiculous for me to even try. His style is unflinching precision, come what may, he dispatches his uke large and small with ease. All I can do is perhaps interpret his style with my own limited understanding and render it in spirit and principles.

Life is a Curve Ball

As always, you will never know how things will turn out. All I wanted to do was to follow Harry sensei and until his death, I’ll be free to decide my path. I would never expect myself to be thrusted and entrusted into this very privileged role of taking Shoshin to the next level.

I’m not sure what I will do, but with what my sensei has taught and guided me in the past, I’m sure things will turn out fine.

Harry sensei is now a Shihan 師範

Sensei recently got his ‘Shihan‘ accreditation from Aikikai Hombu dojo.

It seem to be a big deal, as he is now certified, a ‘Master Instructor’ and according to him, there is 2 in Singapore, one has died, he is the only other one. In South East Asia, there is only 2, one is in Thailand, and the other is, yours truly.

So I asked him what was that all about?

He was quite surprised, albeit a pleasant one, that Nasheer told him one day he got an email that they needed his particulars and details of his instructor-ship for his application for a Shihan. And he sent it in, and his application was approved and he got the Shihan certification.

Well, from the way it is perceived, being given the title Shihan is a recognition of one’s ability as an instructor and the person’s ability to propagate Aikido. Which means you and be 7 dan, 8 or more, but with be bestowed Master Instructor by Hombu, it really just means a rank you hold.

But having a Shihan didn’t change Harry sensei a bit. Well perhaps it did, a little. He obviously is proud of being bestowed the title. And he didn’t asked for it, just like he didn’t asked for a promotion to 7th dan. Or rather, politely declined one.

Other than a little swelling with pride, he is still him. He has gone through his ups and downs in Singapore’s Aikido fraternity to be attached to a simple title and a piece of paper saying who you are.

First posted in February 20, 2014

Practice

Photo by Anton Belitskiy from Pexels

24 hours, that’s all we have in a day. Let’s not break it down any more than that, being day and night. Given this fact, how much practice can we humanly squeeze into a 24 hour? When I was younger, I tried that for about 2 weeks, continuous, 6 days a week. Well, it didn’t quite work out for me, my body couldn’t be stimulated any more, and was rather jaded by the entire experience.

Realistically, there is only so much training we can put into a day’s work. I have to be a father, husband, colleague, son-in-law, sometimes a son, a nephew, a friend, a BFF at times. the list goes on. In all these roles that we have to play, I have to be an aikidoka. as if I hadn’t had my plate full. Then again without Aikido, I don’t think I can synthesize all these sometimes conflicting roles effectively. These role can scream, ‘Me!” ‘No! Me first!”, and they often still do. I used to get frustrated that I cannot train as schedule because I have to attend to my husbandry function.

Over these years, I’ve come to accept that futility, I can never ‘be enough’ of anything, neither can I be everything. I just ‘be’. It sounds so cliché again, but that is the fact. it’s the part where I can’t pen down more that what I already had. Because time is always scarce, I really have to make the best of every minute and second of my existence and not waste it on trivial whining or bickering. I used to panic when my ‘me’ time gets robbed from me by other seemingly trivial matters, now I simply move it around the slot, on a modular approach. and really, I’m already doing what I can, at any point in the day and time of my life, what else can i ask for? I’m already fortunate enough to receive Aikido training, lucky enough to have a supportive wife (even though she understands little about Aikido), and I have peace in this country for me to be free.

Free is who I am in my spirit. I may not practice Aikido physically 24hrs a day, I never stop thinking about Aikido, how it works, and how I didn’t make it work. What could have been done better. What lessons I can learn out of it. Although admittedly this is no replacement for hard physical training and conditioning, but that is what I can give at this point in time, I am appreciative of my mental faculties for being discerning about Aikido. of course when i do get the opportunity for hard physical training, all this thinking does helps as these wisdom do help me sort out my ego.  Who I think I am, and who I am, never mixing fact and fiction.

So I seldom lament about the lack of physical training, because the training has left the dojo and got ‘downloaded’ into my head. and when the time comes for physical training, I say ‘BRING IT ON!’

Posted August 17, 2010 

It’s ’bout damn time

It’s about damn time.

I can’t say I have arrived as it is always work in progress.

Ee siang asked me to take a Class on last evening, and this time, I decided to do something different.

I decided to teach, I mean really teach.

WHAT???

Yeah, I realised that my previous class was kind of a mixed, because of my attitude.

I still want to learn while I teach. “Learn” as to continue attending the class as an Aikidoka, and not as an Aikido teacher. That subtle difference in the mindset made my session messy, as I still want to roll and practice, but at the same time I had to share the  teaching.

I’m not sure where I got my epiphany from, but I told Tri a couple of days back, that this time, I will choose to teach. I’ll own the class, and not just go there for the practice; as it just dawned to me, if I am going there to practice, that makes me the student, so, who is going to be my teacher?

It may sound kind of duh to many, but it is an identity I struggle with as I clock more years in Aikido. I want to continue practicing and be the ‘hands-on’ guy, and at the same time, my expertise is called upon, as there is a need for me to share my experience and skill.

More importantly, I want to continue to develop my skills and keep my edge sharp, I don’t know if teaching is going to help that, as in the process you sharing and teaching Aikido, you will not really be practicing, and perhaps lose your edge.

Last evening’s class was different as I decided to pick only one role, and keep the identity clear. And it helps to have this decision as it gives my energy clarity. I focused on sharing and teaching and not just hurriedly share a technique and then join the class as practicing that technique. I am able to focus on making sure the class really receives my teaching properly. I didn’t train with the class, and spend time walking the mat, giving pointers to the finer details of the technique I’m teaching. I was also able to pace the class properly as I have oversight of the timing, and flow.

As a matter of fact, I was able to be myself and let my personality show, when I decided to just choose a role. Choosing to teach makes me more aware of my long held fear, that I am not good in teaching, but my owning the role of the teacher, I become good enough, while I will never be perfect (there is no such thing anyway).

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

How many times have we heard that before?

Perhaps there was never a proper ‘train the trainer’ kind of indoctrination and I was the student and tasked to teach, before I can teach properly, I need to be a student to teaching. So I need to teach myself how to teach others Aikido. At the end of the day, perhaps I am just making a mountain out of molehill. There are teachers out there everywhere to takes to teaching like fish to water.

It is not as second nature as it seems, because I’m still attached to an identity, and I am still a student to my teacher, and being his student, there is a strong desire for me to do well passing on the skills he taught me. While I want to regard myself as skilled enough, I still don’t think I am skilled enough to teach, and that’s a problem.

At the end of the day, everything has to be done in good faith, just as I practiced diligently as a student, now I must apply the same diligence when it comes to teaching. The learning I guess never stops, you learn as a learner, and you still learn while you are teaching the learner, perhaps the learning experience is different and I really need to discern that part, so that I can further my learning in Aikido.

Aikido Plateau

Aikido Plateau

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

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

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

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

Or you are just simply jaded.

Welcome to the Aikido Plateau

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

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

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

It happened to me too.

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

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

Look at the mirror

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

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

The same circle is not the same

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

What you can do

1-Train harder, think lesser.

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

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

2-Take a break

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

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

3- Talk to someone

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

There is a higher calling

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

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

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

plateau0001

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?

Your first Aikido sensei

IMG_1013
Christmas 2014

Who is your first Aikido sensei? Who is my first Aikido sensei? The fellow teaching you how to turn, roll and wears a funny black pleated skirt-looking pants?

You first Aikido sensei is your parents.

Your mother showed you love, and affection, your father protects and nurtures you. They are the foundations of love and harmony that Aikido is all about.

I watch last evening as Harry sensei taught this young Aikidoka how to roll properly. As I watched, I came to this realization that he is like a father teaching his son. I can feel that because I am a father myself, and I would use the same energy, attitude, of unconditional effort, openness, hands on to teach my sons, whatever they are learning. I saw that in Harry sensei last evening, the effort, and unconditional love is the same.

It was a very profound experience as the whole relationship paradigm in my Aikido training was radically shifted. I left the class with a feeling of total awe, and more importantly a renewed sense of humility.

It was more than that.

Training with NUS students has opened another level of understanding for me. These young boys and girls, is easily 20 years my junior. And I had almost 20 years of training in Aikido. That said, what about Harry sensei, he has close to 50 years of training! He has been training long before anyone one in class was born!

So when I look at the faces of my young fellow Aikidokas, the youth is still there, the innocence are still present. I can sense that because, given another 10 years, my elder son, Ian, will be 19 years old, about that age of a NUS student.

IMG_3746
With Ian in Hong Kong 2011

They still carry the dreams and aspirations their parents have for them. Edna, Jia Hwee, Tri, Glenn, Jade, Darius, Cathryn, Rachel, just to name a few names, their parents gave them the names, very much like how I bestowed upon my sons, theirs. They came to class, to NUS with their parents, in spirit and in faith. Hence, you are not simply training with that person, you are training with a person who has been exposed to love and affection, with understanding and attention long before they stepped into an Aikido class. So they are an expert in their 18- 19 years of living, and me? I’m just a beginner in their lives!

That can be said for Harry sensei himself! He has parents, his parents has aspirations for him, perhaps they’d wanted him to become someone of stature, or they had other expectations, I wondered, had his parents came back and look at him now, taking a class, 6th Dan in Aikido, would that had been what they wanted from him? Certainly my parents didn’t expect me to embark in Aikido training.

More often than not, we did not choose to embark on our Aikido journey, but somehow stumbled into it, and continued because of certain circumstances that compels us to continue, it was probably one of the last thing our parents expects of us.

We need to give back, our parents has been our first Aikido sensei, and now when we learn how to love and live in harmony from someone else, we need to give this back to them, perhaps now that we’ve grown up and our parents might have thought that their kids no longer need so much love and care, but they still do care and love us, just as much, or perhaps more. Now that we are adults training in Aikido, we need to love them back. Things we learned in the dojo, we need to practise it with our parents, let them know that their love and efforts has manifested, their kids has not wasted their love and effort, well we may not be everything our parents wants us to be, but we can let them know that their love and efforts hadn’t gone to waste, their children has done fine and is now learning how to love on the foundations that they have given us.

First Published: Nov 26, 2014 6:32 AM

As of current: Harry sensei is now 7th Dan Shihan.

Becoming an Aikido Teacher

Becoming an Aikido Teacher

I think I can see my role slowly evolving. Usually, I repel at the thought of me being a ‘sensei’, an Aikido teacher. I am usually the ‘relief’ teacher, and rarely do I take classes.

Every class I take, it is about sharing. not about me imparting my skills, because I choose to see everyone as peer, and everyone has just as much to contribute to the class as I do, there is not student, there is no teacher.

I held on to this view and I think this view is obstructing my vision. I came to this realisation when I took last Friday’s class, and shared a lot of Aikido knowledge that is quite unique to me, as I’ve yet to see another Aikdioka do what I do. Just three to four small little details I shared with the class.

…it is about Applied Aikido

These are things I do as an Aikidoka, and for those who practiced with me will know; that I am quite hard to throw when I am a uke for irimi nage. Simply because my nage doesn’t hold and control me properly, I will always see that opening and escape the throw. Not a lot of nage knows why and how I did it. I share that with my nage and hopefully the nage can understand and learn. (usually they don’t!) This time for Friday, I shared that with a class of about 20 odd students.

Arrest the commander. (My other Martial Arts friend, Steven Lim will remember this!)

I learned this move from a shihan many many years back, and its was the single most effective move in irimi nage, because the move makes a lot of sense, and it is practical. I share this with the class, and showed them that, when effectively done, there is no opening, you can skillfully bring down anyone larger than you. And I’ve not seen anyone used this move anywhere else.

Ikkyo pin.Elbow facing up.

I never knew I know this finer details of the lock, until I brought the whole class closer for a macro examination. More often than not, as a uke, I can escape quite a few pins, it is also because the nage’s movement does not keep a constant pressure on the lock and there are gaps and lapse. I will always escape, even when the pressure is being applied.

So I showed the entire class how I get out of a lock and how to effective pin so that even I, cannot escape. It was a good learning lesson, even for me.

Rolling your uncooperative partner aka ‘flipping the fish’

This one, tried and tested. I called this ‘flipping the fish’. Sometimes in Ikkyo, the person will end up facing up, and with the lock, you have to rotate the person to a face down position. I can be notorious in being uncooperative, and many of my nages cannot roll me from face up to face down.

Again, I managed to show the class the finer details of the shoulder rotation and many of them got it, and some got interested to delve into the finer details.

After class, I realised that these  are all my ‘trade secrets’ actually. And these tricks makes me unique and gave me an upper hand as an uke. But I realised that there is a lot of my tricks and techniques that I can share with people.

Not I’m not formally trained to take an Aikido class, I sort of grew into the role. Strictly speaking, I’m not a person who knows the Aikido pedagogy by heart. I have mistaken many moves and tried some other more adventurous ones. For me, it is about Applied Aikido, things that works. And I realised I know a lot of things in Aikido that works, and worked well against other Aikidokas. If the students I impart my experiences to can learn them quickly, they will be able to get out of many locks and when they apply their locks, not many people will be able to escape them!