Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

Kotegaishi Story

There’s a time, when I was a brown belt working in as a retail shop assistant. My colleagues didn’t know about my martial arts background.

One of my colleague was a funny, peppy fella who knew what Steven Seagal and his martial arts flicks. He was impressed with how Steven Seagal took out people using his fighting skills and I asked him to show me one of his moves.

He promptly went to show a kotegaishi and I asked him to try it on me. He took my hand and deftly did what he has seen on TV and I helped myself with a break fall, which looked pretty dramatic.

Until now I can still remember the look on his face, when he saw me flipped and landed as he did his kotegaishi. It is just one of those crazy things you did when you were younger.

First published on: Jun 25, 2015

The Versus Quandary

While I am predominantly trained in Aikido, I have had some fundamentals in other martial arts, and this helps me ‘forget’ Aikido, and recognizes other arts in terms of their merits and limitations.

Personally to me, Aikido is a kind of a brand name for me. It helps me identify with a movement I am part of and proud of. By no means, I look upon Aikido as a be all and end all. In fact, Aikido is like a marriage to me, you marry the person best suited for you, you do not marry the best person. Of course the other sweeping statement is: “One man’s meat, is the other man’s you-know-what.”

Meat or poison, each has its own merits, and when I come across videos in YouTube  with a TKD vs MMA, or other genres vs genres kind of scenario, I always take a huge pinch of salt.

There are also people out there who tries to demonstrate how ineffective Aikido is, in MMA, I too take that with a pinch of salt. I have tried and effectively applied Aikido locks in MMA practice, and my opponent has no idea what he is in for, other than a broken wrist had I continue applying ruthless pressure. There is no need for that.

So while I abhorred those videos, I still do watch them for entertainment purposes, more than education. A lot of times, these people want to prove a point, and the point like all points, narrow and focused on a specific issues. Martial arts is a subject far and wide, deep and often dark, and cannot be fully, completely represented in any video.

It takes years to know an art, much more than a 10 minute clip. Martial arts is experiential and  highly existential, as no two moments are the same. There is little hypothesis in martial arts, much less, ‘what ifs‘, there is a lot of ‘it depends‘ in any martial arts, and any good martial artist will be know enough to shy away from a ‘us versus them‘ discussion, which will often leads nowhere but a clash of ego, to prove which art is better. There is no point in that kind of contest, which will only hurt relationship and turn friends into non-friends. That is not the spirit of Aikido, not the spirit of martial arts.

My brief exposure to other arts helps me discern the technicalities when I look at some of the video clips. Some will professed proficiency in Aikido, but in movement, apply more Systema-style of techniques, while both Aikido and Systema looked the same, they are not. My exposure also helped me spot the similarities. Other arts may apply ‘kote gaishi‘ style of throw, I wouldn’t be so quick to point out Aikido!

There are only so many ways to mechanically and geometrically twist a hand, while a kote-gaishi is quite signature for Aikido, Karatekas also uses that, certainly Jiujitsu practitioners. To me, in an applied Martial Arts sense, it doesn’t matter what it is called, as long as it is effective in employment.



I Love my Job!

I Love my Job!

Many years back, I recalled that the doshu (can’t remember if it was the 2nd or 3rd) mentioned that the translation got it wrong. Aikido’s kanji is 合気道, which literally means ‘The Way of Harmony”. The Doshu says that the ‘Ai’ in Aikido is actually Love, not Harmony. So Aikido is The Way of Love.

Things kind of happen to me in a serendipitous manner. I had a friend who recently mentioned that she has been in the same company for 40 years, and she didn’t love her job, but grew to love her job. I’ve just finished watching, in admiration (again) how Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer(, does his things. and in one of the episodes, he said, “That is why I love my job!” coupled with a million dollar smile on his face. He does what he does because he is good at it? Or is it because he love what he does so well, he became good at it. Chicken or Egg, huh. He has his bad times, and he certainly shine bright in his best moments.

‘O’ sensei made it very simple for us

You go to work because you have to make a living. Most of the time we do what we have to do because we have to do it. This is a problem, the pragmatic, objective, Cause and Effect attitude. We do what we do, not because we love what we do, that is usually further down the list.

So what about Aikido? Do you do Aikido because you love Aikido? Do you really fell in love with Aikido the moment you saw it? Even if you do there, will be times you feel less lovey dovey about Aikido. And frankly for me, I did Aikido, because Steven Seagal made it look so cool. No, I didn’t fell in love with Aikido, I grew to love it.

That is the antidote!

‘O’sensei, never sold Aikido, people bought it, and he never forced anyone to stay in Aikido, you stay because you stayed, and of course, you are very much empowered to leave, if you so deem fit. That is why Aikido is so paradoxically addictive. You don’t get addicted to Aikido so that you can win medal. Aikido is like a bad lover, damn it if you love, and damn it if you don’t. and frankly dear, nobody gives a damn.

Aikido give us that space to feel frustrated, and let us, let it out, through a quiet discipline.

So you have to learn to love, or rather, let the love you have in you flower. The love is always there, Aikido gives you the pace and time and space for your love to flower. There is no rush, no pushing of agenda. No competition to push you to the limit, no time limit; when the class ends, you can always come back another day. Aikido does not end in a win, nor in a defeat. you are only defeated when you give up. And when you decide to come back again, you can simply pick up where you left off and continue the journey, no one will scrutinize you, no one will criticize you, it is a very mature, automatic and accepting art, you call the shots to your own development.

So it gives you time to love, to feel, to affect people, and to feel the effect of people on you. Things that makes love, love.

Not the mushy kind of love, as it requires discipline, sometime, we turn up at the dojo, not feeling the training, and the love, and yet we have to do it. It sometimes feels like an empty shell, you are not your best, love is the furthest thing you are feeling. Frustration creep in, and anger and all that. Aikido give us that space to feel frustrated, and let us, let it out, through a quiet discipline.

Love is only love when you are disciplined, Love, lacking discipline, becomes lust, becomes desire, becomes attraction, all these will lead to the loss of your centre, and unbalance you. Then urgency sets in, anxiety creeps in, anger and impatience set in, love gets edged out. Slowly, with quiet discipline, you have to win your love back from all those belligerents.

Aikido teaches us love, and love, in the most difficult times. Even when we do not love our jobs, our partners, but with discipline, we have to continue to love, and let the love grows on us. Only then can we excel, do our best, in our own way, dominate our lives and not let the opinion of others dominate us.

Love is universal, the expression is universal, the feeling is universal, but the interpretations and judgments and the opinions is what clouds us. Dive into our Aikido training.

First published : Oct 15, 2014 10:44 PM