The Aikido Show

There is a lot of debate over what is Aikido. It will never end, as everyone who is practicing the art, will try to find a meaning for themselves.

Of course with social media, like my blog, we will try to define Aikido our way and influence other people in our journey, wittingly or not. Opinionated ones will say what Aikido is, or isn’t. Not so opinionated ones will have their own quiet resolve, and watches while the world argues over which of the waves in the ocean is perfect, and which one isn’t a wave.

YouTube is a sea, it is quite crowded with people there to swim, or debate over the waves. A lot of Aikidokas are there as well, trying to put in their pail’s worth of saltwater.

What you see in YouTube isn’t the true representation of Aikido. People who don’t understand martial arts thinks in their own way, and wonder about how effective those moves are on the streets. Some will ridicule that those techniques in YouTube will not work on the streets.

So will Aikido work?

No.

It will only work if you put real work into your Aikido, until you become skillful, and not watch YouTube Aikido and wonder, debate and deliberate over if these moves are legit or not.

They are legit.

As legit as they are for YouTube.

An Aikido Show

You see, anything you put in front of a camera, is there for a reason. You want to show the world something, it will be scripted and planned to a certain degree, there will be some spontaneity, some changes here and there. But more often than not, it will be practiced and rehearsed, to make sure there is a flow in the movement to fit the agenda of the person producing the video.

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No matter how real Aikido looks in YouTube, it will never be as real as the Aikido you take years to practice and train. YouTube Aikido is like looking at Aikido through a toilet roll tube, and you expects to see Aikido in it’s entire entity? So the pun is intended, YOU watch through a toilet roll TUBE.

 

Embukai

People don’t understand Embukai, and for me I didn’t question it when I first joined Aikido, and to me it is a form of demonstration specific to the art. It is also, strictly speaking not Aikido, in full glory. It is a snippet of Aikido; it’s a show of cooperation, collaboration and hours of hard work and sweat to achieve the level of harmony and, to attain the flow as prescribed for the demonstration. Failure is minimized, resistance limited and struggles omitted. The uke will yield, slam, roll, fall and get thrown. It has to look good right?

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Just as you go to watch Ballet, you expects the Ballerina to dance properly and not to watch him/her fumble during practice. You are there to watch a performance, not practice; for a ballerina to dance to a level of performance, he/she has to put into practice unspeakable amount of hours and commitment. But you don’t question ballet, just because you think it don’t fit hip hop.

So an Embukai is very much like a Ballet dance, you want to see what you expects them to do; and not the training to meet your level of expectations. It is a show and a show seldom reflects real life in full fidelity.

Disclaimer is always needed

There ought to be a kind of buyer beware, Caveat Emptor thing for those people who put up Aikido videos in YouTube, something like what I just grabbed off, where else? YouTube.

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Victor Marx

Anyone who posts martial arts videos on the internet cannot expect anyone who watches it to do exactly the same. Just as much as anyone who watches these videos cannot expects the people in the video to do what you expects them to do.  That is a video, a completed script with a specific message and delivery. So if anyone is so well trained that they wish to post on YouTube for showing and/or bragging, please don’t expect your well intentions to be taken well. Remember the road to hell is always paved with good intentions.

The point is…

If you watch YouTube and comes up with your decision on why it don’t work and why it does, then that’s good for you. Because you just missed the ocean view, looking at the sea.

Body protection-wearing head protection

Body protection-wearing head protection

my helmet

Dear Boys,

Back in my days, when I was mountain biking, I never gotten the rationale of wearing a helmet. But as I read magazines about the sport, I realised the importance, and yet still bike without one, as the price of helmets back then was too expensive for a youngster like me to get.

These days, you can get cheap helmets, that offers good protection. Always try to wear head protection, no matter how stupid you look.

True story

I never forget that day when I went to fetch Ian and I had your bike with me, and helmet of course. You’re off your training wheels but still having some trouble balancing it. You strapped on your helmet and got on your bike.

But you fell, losing balance moving off. You didn’t know it, but I saw it, your head glanced off the kerb, and it was your helmet that absorbed the impact. Well, it could have been your head.

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biking on Coney Island

Why a helmet?

Its elementary, stupid.

You have a head, the head have an organic helmet called a skull, and it is always good to have another helmet for the organic helmet, because if you crack your external helmet, you buy a new one, and if you crack your organic helmet, good luck.

When I was in military service, of course we also have helmets to wear. Back in those days, I wore a steel pot type, with a inner liner, it was heavy, clunky and hot. Kevlar helmets was slowly phasing in, and when I was in Reservist, I had Kevlar types.

I used to ride a motorcycle and needless to say, helmets is a must.

And now, when I got mountain biking, I always wear a helmet, and I cringe every time I rode past a cyclist, e-biker, skater, or roller-blader without a helmet. Sure you look cool, until you crash, crack a skull and then we’ll see if that’s cool. I cringe more when I see parents with their kids, not getting their kids to wear head protection.

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wind in your hair, brain spilled on the road

You speed, you need a helmet 

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senselessly risking his own life

We tend to bike a lot these days, and as much as possible, please wear a helmet.

As long as you are on anything that travels faster than 10km/h, please wear a helmet.

If you go rock climbing, please wear a helmet.

Don’t let your friends tell you helmets are stupid looking, or it is hot wearing one. Look at it this way, even the most elite special forces soldiers wear head protection because they know it saves lives. So if it looks stupid, but it works, then it is not stupid.

Every kind of high risk sport will have their own kind of head protection. Use them, find a good fit and make sure the helmet is strapped on. Even a big helmet is better than no helmet, so try to get one that fits, and tighten it till it doesn’t wobble on your head. Shake your head side to side and front to back, the movement should be minimal.

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Even our pioneer soldiers wear helmets. photo courtesy of Steven Lim

Adultery, Affairs, and Infidelity

Adultery, Affairs, and Infidelity

Dear boys,

In your lifetime, you will hear about people getting into affairs and other kinds of unfaithful relationships, husband cheating on wife, and wife cheating on husband.

It’s not so much a bragging (depends on which angle you are bragging from, more about it later), your mother is my only female relationship I have (and  I don’t have any male sexual relationships, at all, just so we are clear on that!). I don’t have any girlfriends before her, when I’m with her. Without her, I think I’d probably be single. I’m not a fantastically marketable guy.

Why do people have affairs?

I’m not subject matter expert for obvious reasons, but here is my take on relationships.

One at a time. please.

This applies when I was dating your mum. There is no need for me to get into multiple ones during courtship, and there is no need for me to get into multiple relationships after marriage.

Well some marriage does go south for some personal reason, and if it is because of a third party, nothing good will come out of it. But if whatever it is, annul the marriage properly before getting in bed with another partner, and good luck with that one.

Nothing good can come out of an affair

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Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston

The most memorable one was the marriage between Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston (circa 2000-2005). It was a typical glitzy Hollywood marriage, and then came Angelina Jolie. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (circa 2006-2016) met during their movie Mr and Mrs Smith and not long after that, Brad Pitt divorced Jennifer Aniston, and then eventually married Angelina Jolie, only to divorce in 2016. Well, everyone’s an expert on hindsight, but this was a union built on deceit, and without making sure that the new relationship is build on trust and openness, it will be doomed for divorce just like the first one.

Mr & Mrs Smith

“If you are having an affair, you will be telling her lies so that she can sleep with you, and she will be telling you lies so that she can sleep with you.”

It is built on lies

Getting married and saying that vow is a big thing. Making that vow works day in and day out is a bigger thing. It is much bigger than anything you can accomplish in your lifetime, staying faithful to only one partner, till death.

Once you have said the vow and all, the marriage is legal and official. Don’t screw around after that, and if you want to screw around, don’t settle down. This was the mantra I have when I was with your mum. I was very clear I will only date one, at a time, full and 110% attention and effort to make it work, and if it doesn’t for whatever reasons, call it quits, before we look out for other options. That’s how I told your mum. And she was just as committed to me as well.

The commitment doesn’t change even after we tied the knot.

There is no love in an affair

Come on, don’t kid yourself when your lover tells you there is love. There is no love in an affair, there is lust.

Lust is something you have to manage and control. Biologically, we men wants to propagate the planet with our seeds, but once you have settled down with one partner, stay faithful to that partner. You may let your eyes stray and get attracted to pretty girls and sweet young things (SYT), but always keep your dick in your pants, the moment you are married.

Well, unless you think its a bragging rights to say you are able to have multiple sexual partners to prove your attractiveness and manhood. That is not wrong in anyway, but it will lead you to a different life and consequence.

Sexually Transmitted Disease

I’m a realist. I told your mum, I am 110% against illicit sexual affairs, precisely because of STD. It is not AIDS, or HIV I’m particularly afraid of, it is those venereal disease, which spreads if you have multiple sexual partners. It is just about my love for her, I do not want to get infected sleeping around, then come back and infect her and then both of us are literally screwed, and you boys end up picking up the pieces.

Let’s be frank, your lover will tell you that you are her one and only, and I’m sure to get into her skirt, you’ll probably say she’s the only other one, besides the wife.

Sure.

If you are having an affair, you will be telling her lies so that she can sleep with you, and she will be telling you lies so that she can sleep with you.

At the end of the day, you will come home after sleeping around outside, contract some weird STD,  and when you have sexual intercourse with your wife, you are going to pass whatever rotten disease to her. And as luck, or the lack of it, would have it, both of you will get into a tonne of problem, all because of a loose dick.

It is a zero sum game

It is not exciting, and it is not a very mature thing to do. I don’t know why they called it ‘Adultery’ but it is certainly not one of the most adult thing you can do. Be a good and faithful spouse, to me is an Adult thing. So don’t ever try adultery. This is my parting shot. Like I said it, if things don’t work out in your marriage, that’s fine, shit happens. So end it nicely, legally, before you get into another one. There is no winning sleeping around when you are married, everyone in it stands to lose. And if you have kids, the ultimate losers will be your children.

Karma is a bitch

While I am not a firm believer in Karma, I believe in consequences. Sometimes, the bad shit I do, has consequences on my children, the both of you. As an adult, I am always ready and willing to bear the consequences of any of my wrongdoings. But sometimes, things isn’t so clean cut. Shit flows down, and the last thing I want is for the both of you to clear up my shit, like what I have to eventually do for my parents.

So getting into a sexual relationships other than with your mum, is a big no, no for me. There is too much at stake for me to f**k around. Literally.

Our Neighbour- The Kwoks

Mr and Mrs Kwok

Dear Boys,

People often say that ‘Friends are the family we choose.’ There’s nothing much said about the neigbours living next door to us.

While we have many good neighbours, which is another topic that’s too long to write about, I just want to tell you both about the ‘Kwoks’ well, that’s what we call them.

Hit off at first sight

I remembered when we first got our house keys, we were of course excited about it, and from what I can recalled, The Kwoks was here first, they moved in slightly earlier than us, and has pretty much settled down.

It was quite an occasion, and we did made some noise, and left our front door open, which is typical, then The Kwoks, kind of peeped in, when they got home and we welcomed them in, that’s where we hit off.

They were genuinely very nice and we could click, just like that. It was really a rare thing that both of our families got off so well. They brought a kind of comfort and warmth into our new home that very day and both your mum and I liked them, for their down to earth, unpretentious personality. They weren’t proud or trying to act like they were superior in anyway.

Both Mrs

As both were stay at home mum, your mum and Mrs Kwok hit off. Although Mrs Kwok was a good many years older, she could communicate with your mum, and there is no generation gap whatsoever. Over the decades, both families has shared many things, and none of us kept a score. It was pure goodwill where we lend each other stuffs, cooked and shared food, and even shared purchases in this age of online shopping.

We got so close that your mum even taught Esther, their eldest daughter tuition during her primary school days and right now as I typed she has completed her ‘O’ levels, how time flies!

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Mr Kwok and Esther during Wayne’s 5th birthday

Looking out for each other

It was kind of unspoken, we were neighbours and we shared things. We even share the shoe rack outside our house. The shoe rack’s ours but we straddled it between our door and theirs so they also put their shoes on our rack. It wasn’t overbearing on both side thankfully. They didn’t hoard the rack, and they knew not to put too many shoes on it.

When we go for our respective family holidays, we will lookout for each other and help to clear any flyers stuck to our doors. Sometimes, they’d tell us when they will be away and even if they didn’t, we would know they are gone for a short trip and just clear their flyers.

When you boys were younger and your mum needed to rush off to get somethings done, and leave the both of you at home, Mrs Kwok would gladly babysit the both of you until your mum is back, and sometimes, we would tell her that you both are at home and she’d keep her door open in case you boys needed to shout out to her for help.

And of course, we do, trust her with our house keys, when we need to.

Shared values

It helps we bind at first sight and it is pure goodwill on both sides. Like everything in life, there are good and bad stuffs, even with neighbors, we are thankful there is more good stuff to share with them than the bad. We are both constantly and unconditionally helping each other, and looking out for each other, which is more than we can look for in a neighbour as awesome as The Kwoks

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Window for Everything

Window for Everything

Dear Wayne,

I remembered vividly, you were the runt in the family, and as your parents, we were always so concerned about getting enough food into you. But you ate so little when you were a baby.

So one of the afternoon, we were giving you milk, and half expecting you to not finish the bottle. But to our surprise, you managed to finished the whole bottle! That was a moment of celebration.

Well, our happiness was short-lived.

 The next moment, you gave it all back to us, milk vomit.

I never forget that cheeky look you have on you face, almost like telling us, “Hey dad, I finished the entire bottle, and then I didn’t!”

That was an epiphany, I used till this day as a parenting story.

You cannot force things.

Now that you boys are old enough, you are developing the maturity to choose you actions, and hopefully the favorable consequences that follows. It is not always the case, as some things can’t be forced.

Just as much as we tried the best we could to make Wayne drink his milk, when he is not ready to take the full bottle, he will not be able to take a full bottle, period. No amount of forcing can help us better the situation, we can either try our darnest, and just get upset over the failure of the reality to meet our expectations, or we can release ourselves from expectations and let the reality show us how things really are.

This is pretty much the story of the Human Race, sum up in a Dad’s attempt to feed his child one full bottle of milk when the child isn’t ready for it. We are always trying to push our luck, and despite of our best effort, it often don’t go our way. Sometimes is does, more often than not, it doesn’t.

Letting go.

So learn to let go, do what you can, and sometimes, when you are not ready, you simply cannot do it. You can try, put in effort, learn and explain it, it will not happen the way you wanted it to happen.

It is a judgment call, I guess, and there is really no correct answer to it, sometimes, you might be over-doing it, trying too hard; sometimes, you are not trying hard enough. Whatever it is, use your experience and see for yourself, if too much is just nice, and too little is overbearing.

Handling and Training with Weapons

Handling and Training with Weapons
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My collection of SOGs

We live in a very safe world, and generally we have not seen violence and conflict on a global scale.

That’s not such a bad thing, for obvious reasons, but safe has made people staid.

Violence are still aplenty but living in constant peace has lulled the most of us into thinking that we no longer need to fight, and we can refrain from violence, or leave violence to the hands of ‘specialist’ such as soldiers and law enforcement folks, to take care of and deter violence.

That is how a civil society ought to be no doubt, but as martial artists, we must constantly acquaint ourselves with violence and the tools of violence.

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An Oriental Scimitar

Tools of Violence

Anything can be used as a tool in the application of violence, a hammer, fork, newspaper, mobile phone, keys; anything can be improvised as a weapons. More specialised ones such as firearms, knives, nunchakus, batons and others, are of course dedicated to the sole purpose of maiming and killing.

Aikido is primarily an empty hand art, we do train with bokken, tanto, and jo. These are mostly wooden training aid that helps us understand how Aikido moves in relation to the weapon’s design and integration to our body, and geometry of movement.

It does bring about an awareness of extension of striking range, the cutting edge of a blade, the design of a sword; it cuts, of course, but the hilt can be used as a striking surface, in the hands of a skilled and innovative swordsman.

Remington 870 shotgun used by SAF

Familiarity breeds respect

Peace has brought about a more aloof approach to weapons. People these days are alien towards what a weapon can be, and no one sees a gun, except in a Hollywood action film, or in Singapore’s context, handle an actual one (unloaded of course!) an Army Open house, or in a typical adult-age Singaporean taking national service with the military or the police. So we are very limited in our exposure to how firearm or weapons work, we are not sure nor will we be confident about how to handle them when we actually need to use one.

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A Sniper rifle used by SAF

It doesn’t mean we need to own a firearm to know how to deal with one, we just need to be constantly aware that we will one day be at the receiving end of a firearm, no matter how remote that possibility with be. We might be dealing with a knife welding crazy person (with a higher probability!!!), someone might charge at us, at random, with an ice pick, a hammer, a chair, a beer bottle, a brolly, you are free to imagine what improvised weapons one can use to inflict harm on you. What do you do?! WHAT DO YOU DO???!

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H&K 416 used by SAF

See one, know one

I happen to have an aligned interest in knives, and collect a few of them. This also helps me understand what a blade is capable of, while I cannot say that I am very trained in using one, nor disarming a knife assailant. Owning one, (in my case a few), helps me build confidence and respect for it.

Knives obviously have blades, and are build for a purpose of cutting. A kitchen knife has its obvious place, but it can still be used as a fighting knife. A purpose build fighting knife, on the other hand, is designed not for the kitchen but to withstand the rigours of penetrating a moving living meat which is very unwilling to die or get injured. In short, it is less likely to break under duress.

  • Ice pick, sharp in front, so we need to know what to avoid.
  • Hammer, well, that is something else.

Of course we cannot specifically train against each and every known weapon out there, it is not the reason for our training, or weapons training. We have weapons training to ensure that we orientate our mind towards a weapon when we see one, and apply the appropriate measures against it. We are also training ourselves to handle one, so that we can be advantageous in our fighting.

Knowledge is insurance

Statistically, we most likely will never encounter an armed attacker, so why train with knives? As martial artist, we must always ask ourselves is the art we are in limiting our dimension in fighting? Sure, there is no perfect art out there, but we must seek to perfect our art, and always be open to the potentials of other kinds of attack. Aikido as an art, is limited in its repertoire of locks, throws, and pins. There are some limited application in weapons training, and as an Aikidoka, we must use what little we know about fighting and combat, and expand that experience and knowledge so that when the time comes for us to count on our martial arts for combat and survival, we will not be caught in an ‘Oh Shit!’ ala Deer in a Headlight moment.

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blunt ornamental blades, still deadly in trained hands

Biking, driving, trucking and walking

Biking, driving, trucking and walking
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My second MTB

Dear boys,

There is a lot of controversies these days about the use of road space. Some say share, some say they pay road tax, and well others, simply pirate the roads. E-scooters are a boon or bane?

The biggest machine your father has operated was a truck, 10 foot-truck to be exact, which I rented when we needed to move house, a long time ago. I was also a motorcyclist, I love mountain biking, I’m very much a wheel guy, not so much a ‘ ball’ guy, both being round in their own way.

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My first motorcycle

I’ve stopped riding my motorcycle many years back, as it was no longer the safest thing to do. I remembered back in the days, after finishing my night class, I would ride the CTE back home, around 10-ish and the traffic being light, I can just cruise, it was a good feeling. These days there are so many factors that can get a motorcyclist maimed and killed. There is no luxury of a cruise, you have to be on the defensive all the time. Recent news and stats says motorist finds the road no longer safe.

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Bandung Traffic

My earlier trip to Bandung Indonesia opened my eye to how congested their roads are and how lucky we have it here. We have well organised roads, 2-3 and even 4-5 lanes roads, for Bandung, as an old town, at best, traffic around the city make do with a 2 lane road, 2 for each directions.

The amazing thing is that, they can make do with that limited shared space, as I wrote in my last blog. It was an amazing concoction of cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, motorcycles, and even an occasional bullock cart.

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Driving a rented car in Gold Coast

Back to Singapore

I don’t drive so often, we don’t own a car. But I bike a lot, and I have a pecking order in terms of giving way. The largest will always give way to the smallest. And the smallest denominator being a pedestrian, the largest, well it can go as large as an aircraft carrier. You get the idea. So when I am on a bicycle, I have to give way to a person walking, and if I am driving, I have to give way to a cyclist, and the pedestrian and if I am operating a big ass truck, I have to give way to the smaller folks.

It’s a logic that the larger the machine you operate, the more responsibilities you have towards others, and no one operate in silo or vacuum, we will always have a impact on other people, in good or bad way. So when we have a larger machine, we need to exercise greater care and responsibilities.

Passenger jet vs fighter jet

Of course that is just being generalising, a passenger jet needs to give way to a fighter jet, in the case of my logic, but a fighter jet can shoot down a passenger jet. Sometimes, my rule of thumb doesn’t work but it does gives a gist of the kind of responsibility one has relative to the machines they operate.

The point is…

We cannot clamor for space. Space is always shared. Cyclist have to understand that road kills. And even in large numbers, there is no safety. One wayward car can careen into a group of cyclist, kill and maim a good part of the group. A speeding E-scooter can crash into a family, injuring the elderly, bruising the kid. Who is going to bay for blood, when the unfortunate event has already occurred?

Give way and prepare to stop

More specifically, give way if you can, get out of the way of those who can’t give way. Sometimes, as much as a larger vehicle wants to stop and give way, there are inertia and it can take a while for the large lorry to come to a complete stop, by then it would have mowed down whoever and whatever in its path. So be alert and get out of the way of large vehicles if possible. Those who are driving a large truck, give way where possible.

One thing my driving instructor taught me, which stayed till now, when in doubt, stop.

It is a good mantra, especially when I’m cycling. I’ve seen cyclists and motorbikers trying not to stop, as they will lose their momentum and balance, so they want to keep a minimal level of motion. I get that, I bike too, but when in doubt, stop, and push.

Its not a cool factor, if there is an old man walling in front and just for me to preserve my motion, bang into the poor guy, stop, get of if necessary and push. It’s just biking, and the road space is shared, whosoever wants to walk and travel at whatever speed, it’s their wish. Everyone goes through life in their own pace and speed, and try not to be in such a hurry to get from point A to point B, you end up in hell, and killing other people in the process.

Last but not least

We cannot wish away the e-biking trend. I do not like these battery powered wheel-chairs. They are fast, convenient and extremely lazy. If you are on a bicycle, you still get a reasonable bit of exercise, even on a motorcycle, you have to be generally fit to operate one. An e-scooter? It’s the laziest form of transport. It’s so convenient it is bad for health.

Nonetheless, it is here to stay, and since there is so much brickbat about it, I have a couple of rules, simple rules.

  • Anyone operating an e-bike above the weight of 7 kg, needs a license, they need to take a damn course to get some general feel and understanding of sharing the road.
  • Any e-bikes which can travel faster than 10km/h, capped at 15 km/h, needs to have a helmet, front and rear lights, helmets on, light on at all times. (this is a rule of motorcyclist, by the way)

Singapore is going to become car-lite soon and these things going around isn’t going to stop growing in numbers, so we just need to be mindful, the pecking order, and the road space is shared, no one owns them, well, I guess the only one who really own the road is the Grim Reaper, anyone wants to challenge that?

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