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?

Harmony

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.

COVID19 -An Aikidoka’s Opinion

COVID19is a seemingly invincible and invisible killer putting the entire world in fear.

Aikido, like many other martial arts and sports, requires close contact, and a lot of dojos out there are closed, to avoid unwittingly infecting other people and of course, honour Social, Safe Distancing in a bid to slow the spread of this deadly virus.

Here’s my take.

STAY AT HOME, DO NOT GO TO THE DOJO

PERIOD

YOU WILL NOT DIE NOT PRACTICING AIKIDO,

BUT YOU WILL KILL SOMEONE WITH COVID19 GOING TO THE DOJO

Bullshitdo- not Aikido

There are some Aikido practitioners out there thinking that they can be brave, not fear the COVID19, and continue to practice Aikido, when in reality they are practicing a true form of Bullshitdo, the fallacy of invincibility.

These folks think that they are somehow immune to the virus, a delusional ‘not me!’ thinking. It’s similar to sexually promiscuous men thinking that they won’t get STD from unprotected sexual intercourse and when they do, they feigned surprise and suddenly feels vulnerable; and stupid.

Dear Aikidokas out there, please don’t be stupid, because if you do and you get the COVID19, you can become a silent carrier, as many of the COVID19 patients do not develop symptoms, and you can bring the virus back home and spread it to others who are more vulnerable, loved ones like your elderly grandpa, or your dad, or your baby sister.

As long as you have the COVID19- and you touch someone, someone will die, do you want to live with that your entire life?

It is a VIRUS

Please don’t think that some mysterious ‘ki’ can protect you from it. It is a VIRUS, it kills, as long as it is able to, and it has shown to be a very competent killer. Your knowledge of Aikido, ki or other martial arts is virtually useless protecting you from it, you get it, you get it, you die, that’s it. It’s non-negotiable, end of the story.

There is no known vaccine against it so the only defense is, defense. You cannot go out there, continue to socialise and thinking that having a kind of ‘herd immunity’ can help protect you from it. There is no Herd Immunity, only mass deaths, please don’t become another statistics.

COVID19 has no agenda, no plan other than to continue surviving. It will kill any highly skilled Aikidoka, as much as any Special Forces soldier, it will kill as long as it can have a host to kill. It will kill as long as there is contact, close proximity between a COVID19 carrier and another victim. No amount of love, peace and harmony of Aikido can stop this spread, if you continue to go to the dojo and hold people’s hands.

DOJO- the perfect breeding place

Earlier on this year while the virus was still developing, I too, was one of those stubborn ones, thinking that ‘hey, I was still training when SARS hit.’I was still training when H1N1 hits.’ I was in the thinking that ‘It won’t happen to me.’

In Aikido and in many other contact sports, we all continue to train when we have some minor colds, fever and all, sniffy noses where we will wipe the mucus off our sleeves and continue training. Personal hygiene was never top of the agenda, blood, sweat, mucus, body fluids of all sorts are freely exchanged, and everyone went home okay.

This time, it is different as the situation is highly unpredictable and COVID19 is a cunning killer, as mentioned, you can be a silent carrier, and bring death to your fellow Aikidoka, without you even knowing it, until it is too late.

Some Aikidokas continue to practice using surgical masks, and thinking that a policy of using hand sanitizers will help mitigate the risk of infections in the dojo. It doesn’t. You can wear a mask to cover your mouth, your noses. You’ll rub you eye, you sweat, our skin have pores, we human beings are a bunch of badly designed, porous, poorly ventilated organism. Unless you can train in a HAZMAT suit, don’t bother turning up.

hakama hazmat
Hazmat-Hakama

Our Dojo is close for the entire month of April 2020.

It’s quite a bummer not able to train, but we know the situation is much bigger than all of us. We are a close knitted group of Aikidokas and we are all a bunch socially responsible folks, one of my Aikidoka friend decided to self impose her own distancing for 2 weeks as she was nursing a cold.

But fact of the matter is, COVID19 still don’t care, it is capable of staying in the shadows, and strike when least expected. Our sensei is into his eighties and to continue training will put him as well as others at risk, we love our sensei and granted the current situation, let distance makes our Aikido-heart grows fonder, instead of coming together and risk killing our fellow Aikidokas.

By the way, if you think you are still so invincible, go visit your nearest hospital, get yourself infect with COVID19 and see if your Aikido skills is any good getting you cured. If not, you’ll become another burden to the already stretched medical services, so do everyone a favour, stay at home or stay in a hospital, and then stay in a photo frame!

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