Sharer not Teacher

Sharer not Teacher

I always enjoy a good chat with Steven and I told him about my recent experience teaching Aikido. We both have very similar ideas towards teaching, or in his context, sharing.

As mentioned in my earlier blog post, I decided to ‘teach’ and not split my efforts trying to train. We explored in depth and agreed that teaching brings a practitioner’s journey to full circle, and teaching doesn’t mean that learning stops, there are other learning points as a teacher. If you don’t learn something while you’re teaching, then there is a valuable opportunity wasted!

So while I decided to teach, I also walk away with plenty of lessons for myself to become a better teacher, person and sharer of knowledge.

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Knowledge is knowledge shared

Steven is right to point out, we are all amassing our own nuggets of wisdom and knowledge and if they are not shared, they will be gone… just like that, when we die. I’ve been in Aikido for more than half of my life and that would count for something as a sharing. Aikido as an art is constantly evolving, as the people trained in this discipline are evolving through the various societal pressures and adjustments. I have to play my small part to help perpetuate Aikido into the future, and make sure the link to the past is not forgotten.

As a practitioner, I’m beginning to see the growing importance to make sure I impart Aikido to those who are keen to take it from me. (I almost wanted to type ‘younger’ guys, but I stopped myself, it would have a mindset, limiting myself to a stereotypical knowledge transfer from old to young.)

Not always so.

Not being a conceited teacher 

There is a reluctance to teach due to a competency issue, but we discussed rightfully that I never wanted to teach, but the students found the teacher in me. This is an important revelation for me, as I need to be very careful, do I want to teach, when I am not ready? Or would I fall into a trap where I am ready to teach and yet, turn away from becoming one?

It is a judgement call, and I’m glad I made the right call.

It is kind of the same in my perspective of getting your grade. Say if you got a black belt, there is a few scenarios:

  1. Your level of skills does not meet the requirements of a black belt (work harder!)
  2. Your level of skills exceed the requirements of a black belt (long overdue!)
  3. Your level of skills meet the requirements of a black belt (almost never happens!)

So similarly, taking on a role of a teacher, I am very acutely trying to avoid scenario 1, where I wear a hat too big for myself. Scenario 2 is where I think I am at, and at the same time, I need to play my own devil’s advocate and make sure I do not become scenario 3, which mean I would have a level of conceit seeping in. Which is not only not good for me, but worse for the people I’m trying to teach. (On hindsight, there is also a level of conceit in scenario 2, if we are not careful!!)

Share, Transfer, not Teach

Steven shared with me an experience he had with one of his art students, the student wanted Steven to teach him how to draw like way Steven does his drawing. To which Steven replied: “I cannot teach you, but I can show you, how this pencil is held in my hand, and how my arm move, and create the drawing as desired. But I cannot teach your hand and your arm how to move to create that drawing.” I think that student was very disappointed. He has to draw his own drawings the way his hands and arms move he pencil.

But Steven is right, there is no way for us to really ‘teach’.

At the end of the day…

…there is really nothing to teach that the student already not know. You cannot teach what the students are not ready or unwilling to learn. I’m very thankful that my fellow Aikidokas, juniors, seniors and peers alike sees a value in my perspective and is generally encouraging towards my effort in imparting my knowledge to them.

Please enjoy!

It is a phrase I use often when I am taking a class, and I am a firm believer in enjoyment. While there is a martial arts part of Aikido class, where you need decisiveness to defeat an opponent in a potential life and death situation, it doesn’t mean a dojo have to have that aura.

Training needs to be tough, in a way people enjoys it. My aim is to make it enjoyable for people to attend class.

Come on, let’s be realistic, Aikidokas are humans and have a life, they left their life and give 2 hours to you so that you can show them some Aikido stuffs. They need to learn something, enjoy the journey, it is not a Special Forces selection class. They came by choice and they can leave by choice. Let the students enjoy the lessons so that they can better absorb the experience.

Show and tell

Likewise, a valuable lesson I learned from Steven, which basically crystallizes my thought-process further. There is nothing to teach, I can only show and tell the class how I do what I do, and what is effective for me, which might not be effective for them, they need to take what I’ve shared, and do a little show and tell for themselves to see if it works for them. If it doesn’t, well, don’t take it. Take it but put it aside, you might find a need for that sometime down the road.

So all a teacher can do is show and tell. And thinking about a class like a sharing session, a laboratory, a test-bed for dialogue, not a monologue. Going in to teach risks a monologue, sharing helps me learn what my students can share with me in return and together, both the ‘teacher’ and student grow and mature together.

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Letting things play out

Dear boys,

I’ve learned of late that there are much in life that we cannot control. We spend a lot of time in our lives trying to do things, influence people, get people to like us and we try to be the all positive ‘proactive’, constantly taking initiative and trying our darnest to get sh*t done.

 Sometimes you just have to let things happen. As a Recruiter, my job is to match people with the right job. This Client of mine wasn’t going to pay a the Candidate, the salary he wanted, so the deal was lost, or so I thought. Candidate rejected the offer, and the Client wasn’t keen to raise the salary offered.

The Client came back 2 weeks later, and gave the salary as to what the Candidate wanted, and I closed a deal.

The lesson here I learned was not to get so upset over the lost deal. It wasn’t meant to be, it never will be. It is of course so much easier to have it said. When you are in the hot seat, and everyone is expected you to act, and you didn’t or you did the wrong thing, that kind of mounting pressure can be immense. And so it takes a lot of confidence to let things happen.

I learned to let that deal go, have it lost. It turned around and came back. On hindsight, of course I could have done this and that, influence the candidate to take the initial offer, or even persuade the Client to up it, Either way, I would have come across as hard selling, manipulative and burn both ends and lose the trust and the deal eventually.

In Aikido, we are also faced with the same judgement call.

Sometimes, when our partner, poised for attack, can be unnerving. You would like to take initiative and strike first, but sometime first strike would be disadvantageous, and you might be caught in a situation you could have avoided by not doing anything, or allowing your attacker to strike first.

Of late, I allow myself to open and face my partner, and let the attack comes, knowing that I have whatever I have in me to deal with it.

Allowing the attacker to come, you allow the energy to get played out, and fully expends. That is where you can use your energy and control the situation when your opponent is at its weakest.

Dealing with anger

It is easy to tell a pissed off person, ‘Don’t get angry lah!’ Easier said than done! An angry person would tell you!

Sometimes, let the person simmer and get over with the anger, let it all out, and when the anger has dissipated, then the mind is in a more calm and open mood to receive logic and reasoning.

Dealing with matters that way looks quite retrospective, and lacks a lot of drive. You basically sit back and somehow let things happen.

It is not what it is.

Letting things happen, when you can do something, is learned helplessness. When you can do something, do it, but when you have reached a stage where you can no longer do anything; allow yourself to sit back, and have a bit of faith. The world works in a very curveball way you seldom sees beyond your horizon so don’t worry so much when things don’t go your way, after all that you have done. Just do what you can and let things happen.

Allow!

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Photo credit to Steven Lim

My friend Steven, came to this  epiphany a long time back, he allowed life to happen. This is only apparent when things don;t go your way, despite of all that you have done, what else is there to do next? Sit back and allow things to play out. It will.

It’s chess, my dear children…

Chess is a back and forth game, played between 2 players, right now if there is you, the other side is life, we can only make one move at a time, that’s all. After we made our move, it is the other side’s to make the move, and beyond that we can think and visualise our strategy, but not forgetting our opponents can pull a surprise. And when we have planned enough, and we are rich with experience, we can deal with surprises. But we still need to sit back, after we have made our move and let the other side play out, then we come back into the game and make our next move, then let it play out again.

We cannot stop our opponent from moving, life will move on, and to disallow, we are only stopping ourselves, making lives miserable for us. When we do not let things play out, the situation gets pent up.

In Aikido, if you stop an attack, you allow that energy to return to the attacker, and that energy, stored can be reused against you. Once the energy is initiated, let it travel the entire way and just be at the end to meet and change the course in your favour. That is allowing the play to happen, and in doing so, you will be able to turn things to your advantage.

Learn that and you will not have to grief much in life!

Family Finance Manager

money

Dear Boys,

Call me gullible, but I learned from my friend Steven to let The Wife handle the finance. Back then I was just dating your mum, and very early during the relationship, I handed my bank account pass book to my then girlfriend, one evening at her parents’ place. She was surprised, I think pleasantly, it probably demonstrated to her that I am serious about the two of us getting together for the long haul.

Wife =  Finance Manager

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Steve let his wife, Kat handles all the money stuff. He said as long as there is $$$ in his wallet, he is okay. All his earnings, he hand to his wife, who does the numbers. From a very early age, I have never question that logic and took it wholeheartedly.

Perhaps it is because I don’t really have a template for family finances. I never understood how my parents does their finances, as my dad was a businessman and my mum, The Housewife. I suspect that my dad does everything, and to be honest, he is not the best person to handle money.

So when I see that Steve’s approach seem to keep him wealthy, in this case monetary sense, so it simply occur to me that perhaps letting the wife does the money is a really good idea.

Money = Trust

The logic for me back then, dating your mum, was also simple. I wasn’t earning that much, and she can see that she is really dating a poor bloke. There are 2 rationale;

  1. She will either see my pathetic bank account and leave for a richer boy.
  2. She will take all my money and leave for a richer boy

She didn’t, in fact trusting her with my finances serves as one of the bedrock for our relationship.

Your money = my money 

Back in those days where we were DINKies (Dual Income No Kids), there were never issues over who has who’s money, she gets her paycheck, I get mine, we all put it into a joint account and see all of our monies there.

We do not keep separate accounts as everything is put into one. I think it is a matter of the proverbial wife-husband joke “Your money is my money, my money is my money.”

But she has never put a limit on my spending, she has at times where finances were a little tight, told me to stinge, but this husband has never found himself short of cash.

Before I met your mum

My finances was basically hand to mouth, period. I have bills to pay, as well as school fees. So whatever I get, it will be used up pretty quickly. So it was certainly a good thing for me to hand my money over to your mum, as she has a better sense of things and that help me and of course the family, a lot.

The Guardian

Handling money is not something I would like to do, I can do I, but it is better to let the better person handle it; your mum.

Right now, as we are on a single income policy, I just focus on working to bring in the money, she focus on keeping and using the money I bring in.

There were some time in our past, where during my career transition, money was a bit short, and there was a deficit. I wasn’t earning enough to make ends meet. And over time, it eats into our savings and she kept all these from me. Part of our savings was a substantial severance package from her previous work, and most of that money, (her money to be specific) she put into the family. She kept all that from me, so that I don’t get stressed up and worried over the finances. I only learned about that recently, and I am forever indebted to her for keeping the family first. Using her money for the family.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

I’m not too sure how you boys will handle your family finances when you start your own family. There are many models out there. There is really no science to it. The most important thing to remember is that in a marriage, it is the ‘marriage first’, not longer Husband and/or Wife, and certainly not a case of my money/ your money.

Even if you have a spouse who earns more than you, don’t let your ego get in the way, in a marriage, it is a team thing, and always let the best person handle the task, if it happens to be you handling the finance the first order of the day is to make sure the family has some savings, make an ‘Us account’, be fully transparent. Try not to hide secret funds, from each other, unless you are saving some money to buy her a nice surprise.

 

 

Ship Designing

Ship Designing
Actual schematics courtesy of Steven

Dear boys,

I shall use Ship Designing as a metaphor to describe what I realised recently.

You see, Steven, your dad’s friend, design ships. He design those ship that goes out to oceans, and he has to design them to survive the proverbial Murphy’s Law. It goes something like this: “What ever will go wrong, will go wrong at the most inopportune time.” It is a FUBAR situation “F**ked Up Beyond All Repair.”

He design ships to survive the worst the seven seas can throw dish out, because lives of men on board these ships count on him.

We make decisions in peacetime, to make sure that peace continues.

That is besides the point.

The point is, he started out like everyone, learning the ropes from ground up, and sometimes wonder why was things designed in a ship to be that way? He was so self smart that he thinks there must be a better way to work around some of the stupid designs he see.

He was like the 3 blind men, who held the tail of an elephant, and thinks that the elephant is a snake. He couldn’t see the big picture, until he was tasked to design the big picture, the entire vessel.

Well, that is still beside the point.

What I want to say is, as much as Steven loves the sea (he really does), he is not the sailor he designs his ships for. He will never experience the kind of sea conditions the sailors sail in the ships he design. In short he is not the end user of the product he designs, but he needs to think with the survival of the ‘end users’ in mind.

Photos courtesy of Steven

He design and drew those ships in the comforts of his office, send it out to have what was drawn turned into an actual sea faring ship. It didn’t mattered to him if he had designed a lesser ship, since even if the ship sinks or gets into trouble because of a shoddy design, he wouldn’t die as the consequence of it.

At the same time, he didn’t have to go through the baptism of the sea to know how those sailors feel, yes he did went for some sea trials, but that is it. And yet, he took on the heavy responsibilities of making sure the ships he designed can stand up to the worse, Mother Ocean could throw out, so that men can survive.

Here is my point

Boys, we are living in a very peaceful and comfortable country, where everything is safe and systematic. There is law in the land. And often we take it for granted and make decisions in peace time, that will eventually jeopardize the very peace we upkeep.

Just as Steven can design a ship that reflects his cozy, cushy office, but when he sends it out to sea, it will fail and men will die. Of course, he can still walk away from it all, alive and well.

This cannot be the case

We make decisions in peacetime, to make sure that peace continues. It is a dicey affair, and there is really no crystal ball. So while we enjoy the creature comforts of our society, we need to be constantly aware that the decisions we make now, has the gravity to affect the peace we treasure, in the not so distant future.

It has always been like this, so we cannot look at things simplistically. There are pros and cons, and these affects real people, even though you may not see them. This is the real deal of responsibilities, the long tail of cause and effect that will affect us all in ways we cannot imagine.

As I grow older

The whole point of life is such that we see all of us grow up and grow old. I see the both of you walk the path before me. As your dad, I provide that guidance, I do not have my dad to provide that guidance for me, so I have to do that path finding myself, and for the both of you.

So while I was younger, I could be idealistic, and critic things when they are not done right (I still do that sometimes), but as I grow older, I become more critical about my criticism. Being critical is more important than being a critic. Being critical, you take your personality out of the picture, divorce your feelings and personal interest in the matter, and look at the situation, as it is. Nothing more, nothing less. Be fair in giving voice to both the good and bad, adding no personal weight to it.

Photos courtesy of Steven

Being a leader

While that is already quite hard to do, a leader has to take it further. The decisions we make now will affect people, we already went through that, and yet, we still have to make decisions; because our lives are not lived in a void. While we can dupe ourselves into thinking that the peace we enjoy now is a nice little bubble for which we can make shitty decisions and live to try again.

If you are a leader, sometimes, there is only one chance to get it right, when you screw up, it starts a downward spiral, and then there are consequences, then you make another decision to correct that, screws up, and it spirals again; never mind, still got chance, try again, and realised that things has really gone FUBAR, by then it is too late. It is one of the most difficult thing to do, but a leader has to do it, because there is no choice, there is no little bubble to test things out. We cannot take our peace for granted and thinks of a grandiose ship that will be so luxurious to sail in the nicest beach, only to break apart in the smallest storm. In doing so, we have thrown caution into the wind and ends the very peace we all seek to preserve.

Photo courtesy of Steven

No Idols

Taken during one of Steven’s Birthday celebration

Dear boys,

I was having a chat with Steve and him being him, there are people who commonly pass comments like ‘I want to be like you!’ or things like ‘You’re my inspiration!’ People always look up to him and somehow, a lot of people want to ‘be like Steven’.

Not me.

I told him that.

Sure he is an inspiration to a lot of people, me included, but I never want to be him. Granted that he has done a lot of cool things, he is relatively successful, goes places, and live the life he wants to live, but I am not going ga ga over his life and his lifestyle. He has a nice house, flashy car(s) and other cool stuffs, but the fact is, no many people knows the sacrifices he makes to have all these, more importantly, while many ‘idolise’ him, not make are prepared to put in the hours, effort and sacrifices to get what he got.

No two same lives

His life and mine are different. No two lives on Earth are the same, not even twins. We live our own lives. We may know of powerful, inspiring people, who gives us a glimpse of a life lived better, but that is only a glimpse. We still have to put in our hours, we still have to make our own mistakes. We will still achieve what we set out to conquer, and that will be our victory, not Steve’s. Steven’s victory is his victory, not mine. While we can celebrate with him, we need to remember; victories is a very personal, selfish affair. Your victory, other people can admire, or gloat, but ultimately, they are yours. Same goes for your defeats and set backs.

No Uchi Deshi

It is very easy to hero worship in the kind of martial arts I am in. We are conditioned to look up, at our sempai, seniors and Sensei. In Aikido, there is a culture of ‘uchi-deshi‘, these are the ‘lived-in students’, sort of an internship, but at a very personal level. The student literally stayed with the sensei and take care of his needs, in exchange, the sensei will teach the student his craft at a very personal level. In Singapore, no such culture exists, so people tries to be an ‘uchi-deshi‘ of sort, but more often than not, it gets misconstrued into some kind of boot licking or sucking up.

We do not have this practice with Harry sensei. While we still folds his hakama, and wait on him, he do not want anyone to ‘suck up’ to him in any way. He knows Aikido-economics 101′; we are all paid students and at no point in time, he expects ‘service’ from us.

So in that spirit, Harry sensei does not asks, nor imply that he wants such a culture. So I treat him with respect because I want to, and I do not aspire to be him. He is not my Aikido Idol.

Steven, my friend

Collectively, I look at my life, I’ve always been on my own, since my parent’s divorce, there is no one else taking care of me, other than me, and after marriage, your mother. I don’t have a mentor, no father figure, no person whom I look up to. Anyone who comes close to that, would be someone like Steven; but even for him, I considers him a friend, simple, no complications. He is someone who makes it in life his way. I want to make it in life too, my way. He serves as a guide, nothing more. He has his ways of doing things, that differs from mine, and I have no aspirations to change mine just to be ‘like him.’ He is his own man, I am mine. In that way, both of us can enjoy a equitable relationship, we are not above, nor beneath each other.

It is perhaps, because of my relationship with Steven, that shaped how I deal with people. Between us, there is an age gap that qualifies him to be my father, but we treat each other equal, or when he met me, more than 20 years ago, I was a young punk, just starting out in Aikido( Where I met him) and he has never put himself above me. He has never judged me, or present himself as superior. For me, being young and impressionable then, he could have dominated, be an alpha, which he is, but he didn’t acted that way.

Treat people fairly

So I have never looked at anyone, senior or junior with a slant of bias, well at least I try not to. Usually, I can carry a conversation with anyone, with ease, and non-discretion. I don’t look up to very successful people, because I know the quiet struggles they went through to become who they are. I don’t look down on people, because I know the quiet struggles they are going through. Everyone goes through shit, so don’t worship successful people, nor look down on people.

Let them be who they are, and you just be yourself, really successful people are the most down to earth folks, and will treat you with decorum, when you treat yourself with truthfulness. ‘Fake’ successful people will have a bubble with them, an air of ‘exclusiveness’, so when you come across such people, be thankful you are excluded, because you may have to pay through your nose just to be ‘in the club’ and at the end of the day, you might find all of that, a bubble, waiting to be burst.

Perhaps, how I walk my walk, excludes me from such ‘exclusive clubs’, which is fine by me. I like wealth and money, but I like them at my own terms, if I have to get them by sucking up, hero-worship then perhaps, I am no longer the father you boys can look up to.

Everyone goes through shit, so don’t worship successful people, nor look down on people. 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

My Black Belt

My Black Belt

I got my black belt status like everybody else, when I got my 2nd Kyu, that allows me to wear a black belt, but not a hakama, which will be one more grade away.

It was a bummer because I was wearing a Brown (obviously!); and I was young, who could see the need to spend money getting a black belt. In the spirit of being ‘eco-friendly’ ( truth is, I was quite poor then), I wanted to dye the brown belt black, and bought some colour dyes, it wasn’t very successful, due to my inexperience. I don’t know how the conversation came about, but I told Steven about it, and we promptly headed down to Liang Seng to get a Black Belt. Steven bought me my Black Belt.

Since it was a gift, I didn’t choose the thickest, most expensive one. I choose an Adidas brand, a thinner, cheaper one. I was thinking that I might get another one a better one, with my name stitched in gold or yellow, maybe sometime later.

There are many black belts worn by people who spend money getting their names and other fancy words stitched to their belts. I took out the Adidas logo and got my wife to hand stitch a simple ‘林’ on it, and because ‘林’ can be read from both sides, it saves us the trouble of hiding the stitches on the wrong side. And because 林 can be read from both sides, one side of it pays homage to the person who got me my belt, Steven Lim, and of course, the other side, is the surname of the owner, moi. Incidentally, Steven shares the same surname as me, and for his generosity, the ‘林’ will stay with my belt.

My belt is purely pragmatic in existence. The hand stitching is not so much to make this belt unique to me, it serves as a form of identification, as I’ve been to hombu dojo, and seen Gis, belts and hakamas placed all over the changing room. Without a name to your person item, someone might mistakenly take yours and that wouldn’t be a very gracious thing to have happen in Hombu. Hence there is a need for identification. Albeit a simple one for me.

I never got to buying another belt, as this one serves me really well. Although it is thinner, and sometimes, it doesn’t hold the hakama up as well as I’d wanted to, there is still no need for me to get another black belt. I rarely wash it, so it still looked almost the same as the day I bought it. The black is a little faded, the strings coming off in places here and there, but it still serves its purpose, hold the gi together, and let me wear my hakama.

Some people out there will put their belt to wash, not for the purpose of cleanliness, they want to age the belt, so that it look old and seasoned. I never see a need for that, and it has never occurred to me to have a belt that looked aged. It is all there for a practical reason, and I’ll wear it until it falls apart, and only then will there be a need to replace it, and that only after I’ve mend it until it cannot be mended.

I think I’ve been wearing this belt for almost ten years now, and I don’t think I’d be replacing it anytime soon. This is a gift to me and I am reminded of the kindness that was shown to me, every time I put it on.