Harry sensei at the 5th All Aikido Shinju-Kai Demonstration and Seminar-June 2017

Harry sensei at the 5th All Aikido Shinju-Kai Demonstration and Seminar-June 2017

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Harry sensei was a guest instructor for Shiju-kai’s 5th All Aikido Demonstration and Seminar. Typically, when Harry sensei is present to teach a class, I will always make a point to turn up.

Aikidokas are always in awe, as to how Harry sensei move. He moves in such a way there it is difficult for a person to resist him, as I’ve said before, the harder you catch him or resist him, the easier you make it for him to displace you.

He can do this with literally anyone. He has a keen sense of feeling and touch that he knows how to get to your centre, without you knowing. That means he is very connected and open to receive his partner.

“I have no ego! I am already so old!”

He said something to that effect recently in class, and it shows in the way he practice Aikido. There is no need for him to defend himself in any way against an ‘attack’, he is so well practiced in aikido, that he is perceptive understanding how people work. He disarms the attacker, by being disarming.

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There is a certain poise and grace in the way he moves, the circle is so small that it is difficult to counter. When he pivot, he does it so subtly that you cannot possibly expects that. Recently, I held him in a Gyakyu Hanmi, Katate tori grasp, hard, he flipped his wrist down, and swing his hands up, I went down, up and down again. All done so fast I barely had time to do anything else than to follow and take a ukemi.

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While all this seems very simple, you cannot understand his thinking and philosophy, until you follow him for a long period of time. Even with so many years of training under him, there is still much to learn, so much more that I can learn from him.

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During a seminar, it is only for a hour, at most. With that limited time, that is only so much anyone can absorb from him, in fact, it is almost nil. You will need to hold his hands for long, long time to really feel him, and understand how he moves. While he is earnest in teaching, there is only so much he can verbalize; Aikido is a physical movement, and you need to train WITH your sensei to understand Aikido from his perspective. That kind of transmission from sensei to student is one of the most difficult challenges in any martial arts.

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Fingers and Hands

The chief mistake any students make in watching him was to miss out his hands, he moves his fingers in a very subtle way and he can displace even the largest uke. His fingers are centrally connected to his one point and when he moves his one point, his fingers and hands becomes an extension of that one point, if you hold him, his one point will extend into you, and you too, will become an extension of his one point.

People see how smooth he move people, but most fail to notice that subtle twist of his wrist.

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Demonstration

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His demonstration is a very simple affair, and it is nothing dramatic actually. He doesn’t make any effort to move in a dynamic way, and this is sometimes very deceiving, people always seem to that it is staged in a certain manner. It is not. His throw is for real and you will fall.

aikido12I always enjoy seeing Harry sensei in action, in seminar, as he carries more than 40 years of Aikido practice. There is a hush of aura, when he takes a class, and that twinkle of joy in his eyes when he displaced a surprised uke. People knows him by his reputation, but not many understands how he moves.

There is a sense of joy in him taking a class, and he is spreading bliss and peace through Aikido, in the most disarming manner.

Credibility

 There is a recent growth in Aikido practitioners marketing their skills as teachers here in Singapore.

Well, as a potential student, one perennial issue is, the qualification. Certainly when a reader read my blog, the reader is also looking for certain qualities that suggests I know what I am writing about. What about an Aikidoka selling his/her ability to teach?

I don’t know, I don’t have the slightest idea on how to set up a dojo or becoming an Aikido Teacher. Perhaps that statement alone will not qualify me to make these comments, but hey, this is my blog, I will comment what I feel it is right to comment.

Basically, in Singapore, until recently, there are only a few Aikikai-style senseis in Singapore who has been teaching for a long time, namely, my sensei, Harry Ng, of Shoshin Aikido, Freddy Khong sensei, of Singapore Aikido Federation, Philip Lee sensei, of Shinjukai, and George Chang sensei, of Ueshiba Aikido. These senseis has been the mainstay of the Aikido fraternity in Singapore. And most of them were students of the late Teddy Lee, and Teddy Lee himself was a student of Nagazono sensei. Nagazono can be credited for planting the seed of Aikido in Singapore. Well that is how the lineage should be, accordingly to my memory.

Hence, if I was given a choice and opportunity to start Aikido, I would credit my linage and teachings to Harry sensei, and from Harry sensei to Teddy Lee sensei and Teddy Lee to Nagazono sensei. Which would in effect make me the 4th generation sensei, in accordance to this lineage.

However, there are some Aikido teachers here, who also share the same teachers as I do, and through these teachers, attained their high ranking, decided for their own reasons, branch out and start their own school. In their website, they not only did not pay homage to their sensei, instead they orientate themselves to another high ranking shihan as their ‘technical adviser’. Some even decided to lurk in the murky depths of the past to align themselves as distant relatives to certain dead sensei. Of course there is no way to dispute nor verify that casually, but why go that extent to gain credibility?

We practice a traditional martial arts, and these arts have a culture of lineage, typically, or at least personally for me, I do not ‘sensei-hop’ and Harry sensei has been my sensei, the only sensei. He is not perfect, and I am not his favourite student. But the skills I got, I got it from him, and I cannot ignore that fact. I can kind of guess why these new Aikido teachers ignore acknowledging their sensei, perhaps it is due to some differences or disagreements, which is probably the very first reason why they decided to open their own school and be their own Aikido boss. If that is the reason for doing so, then it is the excessive works of the ego. I told myself, I would only open a dojo, with my sensei’s blessing, there is no other way to do so. We simply cannot go about opening a dojo and not give credit when credit’s due, this is against the spirit of Aikido as a martial arts.

It is also a general rule of life, we cannot ‘disown’ our parents, our spouse, just because of some differences. It simply cannot work this way. When we sever ourselves from our source, we will only be creating more problem for us, because the students we groom, will in due time, ‘disown’ the teachers, the same way the teacher, disowned the teacher who taught the teacher. In fact, this perpetuation has already started.

First published : May 8, 2013