Everything has changed

Everything has changed

The whole world is no longer the same. We all heard of the cliche ‘The only constant is change.’ Heraclitus said that, a long time ago. Human beings are stubborn creatures embracing homeostasis long after being stoic means to be dead.

Aikido along with all other marital arts, or contact sports, are forced to change, there is no more choosing or delaying. Change is unceremoniously gate crashing onto us. COVID-19 has made all physical contact near impossible, and as human beings it is near impossible to refrain from physical contact.

What is the new norm?

Honestly I’m not sure. Many Aikidoka suggests we do weapons training, which naturally gives us social distancing, but what about kote gaishi? What about irimi nage? From where I am in Singapore, the authorities has banned groups of more than 5 people. For an Aikido class, that means, the instructor, and 4 other students. Yay…soooo exciting. Other instructors has gone hi-tech, and holds virtual classes, and yet, these are still contactless.

  • So what happens to the rest of us who are left out?
  • What happens if we have no access to Zoom, or hates Aikido E-learning?
  • Or if we are the 6th person?…oops… too bad, next class then!

Does that means that with all my 20 odd years in Aikido is all for nothing?

I’ve been out for Aikido for the past 4 months (or more, lost count!) and many of us has more pressing bread and butter issues to deal with than to think about Aikido training. Many lost their jobs, me included, or worse, lost their loved ones to COVID19, and are constantly fighting a day to day battle to keep themselves upbeat. or just simply pay the bills. The last thing on our mind is training.

So put it plainly, Aikido, is in fact, pretty much useless in this pandemic, Ki cannot fight the corona virus, only our brave healthcare workers can help us with our fight. Honestly, even if O’sensei is alive, I bet he would be at a loss as how to handle this situation. There is simply nothing a martial art system is capable of dealing with this. It is almost like bringing a pen knife to a gun fight. so we all have to heed the advise of medical professionals, be good boys and girls, stay away from physical contact as much as possible, wear a mask, sanitize and keep good personal hygiene. Even O’sensei have to do that, if he is still alive; he is, after all, only human.

The irony is Aikido never left our psyche even when we have other pressing issues to deal with, it is a necessary luxury that keeps us going mad in this crazy time. O’sensei might not have any answer to a COVID19, but he left us with something more valuable, our humanity, in a form known as Aikido.

Practice, practice and practice

While we cannot physically practice, we can still practice the precepts and virtues of Aikido, which is peace, love and harmony. while we cannot enter a physical dojo, we have to enter the dojo in our mind, Aikido is simply an end, we have to find other means to get there.

Practice Peace

Similarly in a dojo, where we do not want to wish our uke harm, we have to engage the people around us with peaceful intent. If harm comes our way, we have to engage it constructively, tenkan (転換)-turn away to neutralise the harm, physical or verbal. Or irimi-tenkan-enter and turn, agree to disagree, allow the person to enter and then turn him or her towards a more peaceful and constructive resolution. We must try to change and convert an incendiary situation to something less destructive.

This is difficult for me to do, as I have a critically cynical mind, which I am learning to self-disarm. So I try to practice peace, even more so now when we are faced with Covidiots- who refused to wear a mask in public, and will continue to refuse, no matter what. Remember, it is the virus that’s trying to kill us, not our fellow human beings.

Practice Love

The good ol’ days back in 2016

This one is really tough, even in the dojo, when our uke attacks us, do we want to ‘love’ our uke? Not really, our constantly combative mind will want to turn even the most harmonious Aikido waza in to a man-killing, harm neutralizing technique. We constantly think that our uke is the ‘attacker’ and we need to ‘protect’ ourselves from ‘harm’ at all cost, or at least, more harm to the uke than to me? That’s what self defense is, isn’t it?

So the concept of Love in Aikido levels the playing field, the nage and uke are just elements in contact and play, and now that we cannot have contact, we can still play. Love means we need to be less spiteful to someone who do not understand, refuse to understand the seriousness of the matter. Some might even think it is fake news, and some government cockamimi to control us.

Practicing Love in Aikido mean that we look at what matters to us most. Skeptics are skeptics because they fear change, and like to keep to a constant ‘known’ where they can feel safe and secure. In some sense, as Aikidokas, we are also susceptible to becoming a skeptic, so we have to learn to love ourselves, allay that frightened little skeptic in us and find the right answers to help us learn and become more knowledgeable.

more Kokyu-Ho in future?


We all try to maintain a harmonious aura in the dojo, which is quite easy due to the tight culture in a dojo, there is a sensei, there are senpai(先輩), there are kōhai (後輩), and there is the uniform and the martial arts curriculum, it’s a school afterall and it helps keeps us sane with a structure where we can follow.

The world right now is in a tumultuous stage, and we need all the harmony we can get, and it starts with us. We need to bring our dojo out to the world and understand that, while we learn the Way of Aiki in the dojo, we need to learn the Way of the Virus, Covido, to put a pun in it. The virus is virtually invisible, like ki, if ki is the ‘life-force’; the virus is the ‘death-force’, we can only defeat it by learning more about it. The senseis and senpais are the good people in the medical profession, saving lives while trying to find out more about the virus, and the possible cure. Our kōhai are the people less educated about COVID19, our job is to keep them safe, help them learn about COVID19, like how we are helping them learn Aikido, many of us turn up in the dojo skeptics and it is our senseis and senpais that helped changed us. We as Aikidokas, or martial arts practitioners let’s bring the harmony we practice in the dojo, out and spread it to the world, which needs it more than ever.

Three Worded Hokkien (A-Z guide)


Dear Boys,

I hope by the time you boys grow up, you can learn a thing or two about speaking in hokkien. It is a dialect from China and the way Singaporeans says it is so different from the way Taiwanese says it.

To start off, let’s look at some simple three worded Hokkien (TWH).

Ang Moh Lang
Chinese simplified: 红毛人 ( hóng máo rén)

  • Caucasian, or loosely speaking, in colloquial sense, ‘red hair people’, when the Chinese first bumped into Caucasian, with their red hair, the term got stuck. The more common form will drop the ‘Lang’ and simply regard Caucasians as ‘ang mohs’

Boh Kiam Lui
Chinese simplified: 不欠钱 (Bù qiàn qián)

  • It means, doesn’t owe money

Boh Lui Lang
Chinese simplified: 没钱人 (méi qián rén)

  • Poor People

Char Bor Lang
Chinese simplified: 女人 ( nǚ rén)

  • Woman. in some context, it can means The Wife

Huan Kiah Lang
Chinese simplified: 马来人 ( mǎ lái rén)

  • Malays. In the movie ‘Black Hawk Down’ the American General mispronounced them as ‘May Lay’

Inn Dor Lang
Chinese simplified: 印度人 ( yìn duó rén)

  • Indian, more specifically, people from the country of India

Jiak Liao Bee
Chinese simplified: no chinese equivalent

  • It usually means that person is good for nothing. loosely means ‘eating wasted rice’. We all eat to do something, so the rice will not be waste when eaten

Jing Kek Sim
Chinese simplified: no chinese equivalent

  • It is a ‘heart pain’ feeling. Like when you see your favourite team losing very badly, you feel that desolation. It is a feeling only express in Hokkien. ‘Kek Sim!’

Jiak Jiu Jwee
Chinese simplified: 喝醉酒 ( hē zuì jiǔ)

  • Drunk. ‘Jiak’ usually means ‘to eat’ but sometimes when you are that drunk, you wouldn’t know if you are drinking or eating your beer! ‘Lim’ should be the correct hokkien verb for ‘drink’

Keeh Si Lah
Chinese simplified: 去死拉 ( qù sǐ lā)

  • Go and die!

Kuah Si Mee
Chinese simplified: 看什么 ( kàn shén me)

  • Again, this is under a more provocative tone. An English equivalent will be ‘See what see?!’ It is usually used in a staring incident and a challenge of a stare-down

Luan Gong Way
Chinese simplified: 乱讲话 (luàn jiǎng huà)

  • It usually means that the person is talking nonsense, or trash

Mai Tu Liao
Chinese simplified 别耽误/不要等 (bié dān wù/ bù yào děng)

  • Do not delay/wait. It usually implies a sense of urgency, after a period of impatience

Mai Luan Gong
Chinese simplified: 别乱讲 ( bié luàn jiǎng )

  • Do not talk rubbish, or in Singlish term, ‘Don’t talk cock.’

Pui Chao Nuah
Chinese simplified: 吐口水 ( tǔ kǒu shuǐ)

  • Spit. This is done with a feeling of disdain, or disgust

See Beh Song
Chinese simplified: 非常爽 ( fēi cháng shuǎng)

  • Usually, it is crudely used to imply a very good sensation and feeling. Say after a hard day’s work, to kick back and enjoy an ice cool beer. ‘See Beh Song Ah!’

See Mee Sai
Chinese simplified: No Chinese Equivalent

  • It usually means crudely, ‘What the hell do you want?’ Or you can reply in annoyance “See Mee Sai???’ meaning, ‘What?! What?!’

Ta Bor Lang
Chinese simplified: 男人 ( nán rén)

  • Male, Man. in some context, it can means The Husband

Tiah Tian Way/ Gong Tian Way
Chinese simplified: 听电话/讲电话 (tīng diàn huà/ jiǎng diàn huà)

  • Answering or talking on the phone. Loosely speaking it means ‘listen to the phone’ Contextually, it means pick up the phone!

Tio Beh Pio
Chinese simplified: 中马票 ( zhòng mǎ piào )

  • Struck lottery!!!

Tau Kar Chiu
Chinese simplified: 装手脚 (zhuāng shǒu jiǎo)

  • Being helpful, offering assistance to your fellow human beings in fixing things and solving problems

Uu Lui Lang
Chinese simplified: 有钱人 ( yǒu qián rén)

  • Rich People

Helpful links


Posted: Nov 18, 2015

What it means to be Singapore(an)

What it means to be Singapore(an)

Singapore is not PAP

Dear Boys,

Our nation’s 53rd birthday is upon us again.

The same ol’ National Day, same ol’ song, same ol’ nationalistic fever…

We Singaporeans aren’t a very patriotic lot, or it is very hard for the authorities to make us Singaporeans love our country.

Many of us feels that it is a government propaganda to sing song, does the National Day Parade to a great fanfare, put out spectacular fireworks (a.k.a burning taxpayers’ monies) and fly noisy planes, fly a really delicate and fragile giant Singapore flag.

Many of us has a misplaced association that the country is the political party. Or some of us like to hijack our nation’s birthday and politicize 9th August, every year.

Well, granted that Singapore has a kind of unique history as the ruling party, is singular to Singapore. So much so that, you cannot mention Singapore, without mentioning the ruling party, People’s Action Party (PAP). Certainly, one can say that without the PAP, there can never be modern Singapore. We can never be where we are without the invention and intervention of PAP.

For our country to mature, we need to move away from this mindset.

Yes, Singapore, as a country, and Singaporeans as people of this country thank the PAP for good governance and giving us what we have today.

But the National Day is not about the PAP.

Singing Majulah Singapura isn’t pledging allegiance to the PAP. Serving in the Singapore Armed Forces isn’t protecting PAP. We say our pledge, isn’t sucking up to PAP. PAP is PAP, PAP isn’t Singapore, and Singapore, for its whole is larger than PAP. Remember, Singapore was here first, long before there is a PAP.

Of course, key founding members of the PAP was involved in creating the National Anthem, the pledge, and lay the foundations of nation building. The PAP pioneers created the countless of civil service and government infrastructure we enjoy (and cuss) till today, and for the near future.

But saying these is not the same as being a PAP-centric person.

So boys, I say my pledge with pride.

I sing my National Anthem with pride

I hold my flag with pride.

That doesn’t mean I love the politics of the land. I love the land.

I served in the Singapore Armed Forces knowing that when the time comes, I will point the rifle at the enemy of my land. I’ll protect Singapore, and the PAP will happen to ‘enjoy’ that protection by default, the other political parties will also enjoy that same protection. The SAF protects Singapore, and whoever and whatever is on this land.

Because when the enemy wants to invade us, they wouldn’t care if it’s the PAP in charge or someone else, they want our land, our people and all that we love. Our enemies want our destruction and end. Those out there who wants Singapore dead and gone, wants everyone dead and gone, ruling party and all.

So learn to sing our Singapore songs with pride, I know we Singaporeans have a sense of quiet modest, confidence, we don’t thump our chest a lot, nor brag about our achievements. So it is alright that on one day, every year, 9th August, let’s celebrate our nation building. Put all petty politics aside, and like the Hard Rock slogan says, “Love all, Serve all”. And true to our Pledge “…regardless of race, language or religion (and politics too)”.

Singapore is Singapore

Singapore and Sarajevo

Dear Boys,

I bumped into Steven and Kat a couple of days back, and we talked about some current affairs, and somehow the conversation drifted to the current state of Qatar, the small Arab country that is under a kind of siege from the bigger neighbours, such as Saudi Arabia. We agreed that Singapore cannot afford to be under any form of siege, even though, our tiny country is already surround by a water body, a fortress or a natural siege, you decide.

I mentioned to him about this book I read about Siege of Sarajevo, how neighbours turned on each other, just because one was Christian and the other was Muslim. I read in that book, that everything was so scarce, everything and anything that can be eaten, is eaten. The Siege was so protracted that when it was lifted, the children there didn’t believe that beef come from cows, they thought beef comes in a can. Sarajevo is also a lot like Singapore in many ways, they have a diverse culture, good mix of ethnicity and a modern infrastructure. The long story short of it was; it was a terrible time for the people in Sarajevo, and we need to learn from that lesson.

Bringing this topic up reminded Steven about the Racial Riots in 1964 and 1969 that Singapore went through.


The Racial Riots

Steven saw action in the first racial riots, when he was only 13 years of age, he was part of a gang who fought the Malays; at that age, he was pulled into the melee and wasn’t old enough to make sense of the violence and fighting. When the second racial riots happened in 1969, he was eighteen and he was in the School Of Basic Military Training (SBMT), while every one was still in their uniforms, and were confined to camps, being only Recruits. But word spread and soon the camps were also filled with stories about the riots happening outside of camp.

In no time, the Malays in camp were targeted for beating.

Right now, he would have none of it. Being the Steven that he is, he was somewhat the Alpha in his section and in that section there was a Malay guy. Being older now, he would have none of that senseless violence, he told whoever came along, that no one is to touch that Malay. The Malay guy stuck to Steve where ever he went.

Steven left, with his Malay buddy

Reflecting back to those days, he couldn’t understand the how the mob mentality can turn logic into tragic, and lines were drawn in such a manner that when a Malay police officer arrests a Chinese man, and vice versa, all hell breaks loose.

It is difficult to really make sense of things, but when the time comes, every single one of us must be really brave and upright to see the right of things, above and beyond the colours and race, to do the right thing. Even then, it might not be enough, when the massive societal upheaval happens, we will all be collectively swept under its waves of violence and fighting. While we have peace and stability, we must continue to uphold this peace, so that none of those small cracks happen, and when left unchecked, we will spirally down a slippery slope of darkness and uncertainty. I do not want to see that happen.

Racial Harmony isn’t a privilege

Thankfully, we didn’t have to live through those dark days. Being your dad, I always think of the lessons to learn, learn them quickly so that we never make the mistakes others have made and those I read about from the book. Of course the folks living in Sarajevo back then had it tougher, their enemies rained artillery shells on them all the time, Sniper Alley was a term coined in that dark days. They have no water, electricity or heat.

So we really need to take our pledge seriously, and look at Singaporeans as Singaporeans, above and beyond colour and race. It is a dicey affair, which is why I am glad our Government has a very firm hand in anyone who is willing to threaten that.

Being racially harmonious isn’t a government thing, day to day, we need to understand the kind of cultural gaps we have between races, and respect those gaps. We must be united at the ground level to fight ignorance, with good, honest, healthy communication. I call my Malay neighbour ‘Bro’ and Ian you asked me why, to which I replied “He is my brother from another mother.”

That is true because in this little island, we cannot have differences that tears us at the seams of our societal fabric. We are all here, and right outside, there is water, there is really no one else out there to save us, if we are not going to look above our differences and save ourselves.

The Patriot. Are you?


When I think about the word ‘Patriot’, I can see it as more of an American thing, or in a more generic sense, a ‘western’ ideal. After-all, it was Mel Gibson who starred in a Hollywood film ‘The Patriot‘ about 16 years ago.

I think Singaporeans will shy from such an ‘outlandish‘ word, we wouldn’t wear our love for our five stars and a moon (Crescent actually) on our chest. We are, after all, Asians. A bit shy and conservative lah.

But why not?

We are a small country, that was forged from rejection. We have nowhere to go, surrounded by water. With the rock we stand on, we build up and dug deep. We are famous for a lot of things we shouldn’t even be known for. We are number 1 in many, many  good things, and bad!

But being a patriot, counts more than the number ones we have, it is almost like a marriage. You love your spouse, warts and all, missing arm, missing leg. There is no perfection to seek, in a couple-hood, nor in nationhood, you simply make do with what the land has for you. After-all, the land was here first.

There is a Singapore identity we can look for in the spirit of patriotism. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a loud, proud patriot thing. But when the time comes, we need to stand up and sing our anthem a little louder, we must.

We need to be Patriots of Singapore, and build this patriotism into our psyche. We know we are not perfect, but when we are threatened, we need to stand and band together, trust that our people will do the right thing. Against all others out there that threatened our small state.

Patriotism is not about chest banging, its not about making ourselves larger than who we really are. It is about that quiet love and conviction that this is the place we call home, despite of all its imperfections. We might gripe about it, complain within ourselves, but when the occasion calls for it, we need to have the spontaneity is our display of patriotism. When that happens, we will know that we have build something we can call a ‘Singapore Identity’. When are are comfortable calling ourselves ‘patriots’ then we know we will have arrive at the most fundamental levels of nation building, and from that solid foundations, we can start writing our legacy, and our future for our children.

So are you a patriot today?

For God, For Country, For Family

For God, For Country, For Family


Dear boys,

After reading the book American Sniper, I realised that this is not your typical war novel. Sure it is about a SEAL taking on 4 tours in Iraq, chalked up the most number of kills for an American sniper. They called him The Legend. But this is not really about him making the kills, what I learned from this book, is the soldier’s tremendous pride in their country.

They have a strong sense of identity to their country, land and flag. They know that politics are dirty, and most of their US military policies are strategically flawed. This book is not about how much the SEALs hated the policy, this is about a solider who stills goes to fight a flawed war. He believes in his country and going to fight in Iraq meant that he will be able to protect his fellow Americans, and brothers-in-arms.

Chris Kyle, the SEAL, The American, The Father, The Husband

I think the beautiful thing about this book was comments and insights from Taya, Chris’ wife. Her inputs help align the story in perspective, he wasn’t just a SEAL, he was a husband, a father a soulmate. She sees that in him, but he don’t see that in himself. Like what Taya said it, Chris puts God, Country, Family in that order. It hurts her to think that family, her and her kids, Chris’ kids are lowest in that order. But this is who he is and to change that, he would not have been the man Taya loved.

For Country, For Family

But I think he argued his point well. In his perspective, without God, there will be no America, without America, there will be no place for a family, and he took to his job seriously, to kill, to protect his fellow Americans, and to do his duty, proud and patriotic.

Not a pro-American nationalist, just loving his country

This is something very important about the story behind this sniper, he is not out to promote US interests, he doesn’t sell US policies, he is just an elite solider in his country’s military. He served with pride, holds his country’s flag in honour and does what he can to protect his fellow country men. He would rather the other fellow dead than one of his fellow American die. He fights with this simplistic ideal that everyone with the Stars and Stripes on his arm deserves his protection.

In short he is fiercely patriotic, but not nationalistic. He loves his country and will defend the way they live, but he does not want to impose the way they lived on others. He is not interested in telling and selling how great America is, he is an operator, and executioner, he wants to bring as many Americans home as possible, and he will risk his life to do so.

Are you a Patriot?

I think Singapore and Singaporean hadn’t reach that stage of identity. We are only slightly more than 50 years old, the American history is more than 500. But I think to be patriotic, we don’t need to take such a long time for the history and legacy to build. We have what they have, we have our land, our flag, our Pledge, out National anthem, we have constructed a long of Singapore-centric identity, we have went through some tumultuous times. We went through highs and lows together. We have a story to tell, we must tell it proudly.

For us as a small nation, we need to push for patriotism. Plain and simple, we work DSC_0775hard, for God, for Country, for Family, not in any particular order. For me, I have this in front of me, in my office. I’m agnostic by choice so God for me is out. I work and strive, For Country, For Family. We must be proud to do our work as a Singaporean, for Singapore. We must be proud to hear our national anthem, and stand straight and proud. That is the identity our forefathers gave us, and we must carry that with pride. It was a gift from Singaporeans that came and went before us. They fought for the land we stand on and died so that we can continue standing on it.

I will probably die in the process too, fighting and striving so that you and your children and continue to stand on this land, free and proud that we own every single stalk of grass and grain. Every part of Singapore, is Singapore and it belongs to us, Singaporeans, it is time for us to stand, as individual Singaporean, and tell the whole world we love our land, we are proud of who we are, and we are willing to fight tooth and nail to keep Singapore, Singapore.