One on One-An Interview

I still keep this little black magazine commemorating the 15th Anniversary of Aikikai(Singapore) dated 18th September 1995, which i guess was about the time i started Aikido. This is an interview with Harry Sensei, typed out word for word, in true fidelity. … Continue reading

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Pros and Cons

I was training with this young chap last evening and when we settled down to do our kokyu-ho. he was self reflecting about his disadvantages in height. You see, he’s on a tall side. (On the other hand, I’m short, so most people are taller than me.)

I corrected him saying that is his height. HIS height, he has to work with it, and accept it. It cannot be changed.

“Pros and cons.” he said.

I advised him to think more than. I told this young man. ‘Your cons will by my pro. So when you pro, it will be the other person con. And ironically, when you think of your pro, you’ll somehow attract more pros into your life!

It is all about mindset. While it is alright to be humble, it is not so alright if you sell yourself short. Pros and cons are fine,  but it is not so fine when you think more cons than pros. then the balance is lost.

Physically, we cannot change who we are, we are tall, short, fat, skinny, missing and arm or leg. most of the physicality of who we are cannot be changed. BUT we can change our thinking, which in turn help the body cope with our physical limitations and maximise our physics.

Aikido is all that, using our best attributes to help us handle the worst the world throw at us. If we use our cons to deal with the troubles of the world, then we are in really deep quandary.

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A Mirror with No Reflections

I was hit with an epiphany 2 days back.

What if you can take a picture of a mirror, standing right in front of it, and; there is no reflection of yourself?

We have all heard about this popular metaphor.

When you disturb the surface of a pond, you will not be able to see a clear reflection of yourself. But when the water is still, you can see your own reflection.

Hence, the inference to a ‘still mind’.

We need to delve deeper than that, agree that though a still mind reflects, it takes more than that to project.

If you are an angry person, a still mind will reflect that anger, yes. that reflection might bring about an awareness to the realization of anger, but it does not necessarily bring about the cessation of that anger. It might not attend to the cause of the anger. See the reflection of an angry face, might even exacerbate the anger. All you need to do is to YouTube the phrase “animals looking in mirror” and you can see a variety of animal reactions to mirrors. Of course you can argue that humans behave otherwise, but do we really?

A still mind, might not be a peaceful mind. A robber, sitting still, is no peaceful mind. There is no action of a robbery, but the intent is there. The stillness cannot be misinterpreted as a solace refuge.

Therefore, we need to be more than a still pond, simply reflecting off whatever that comes along. We have to be a pond of peace. We have to project the inner-ness of the pond, the fishes swimming serenely in the pond. the peaceful sway of the seaweeds, the entire ecology of the pond, giving life, giving peace. When an angry person look at the pond, the angry person can see beyond the reflection, they can see the peace within the pond, and that perhaps calm the anger. Perhaps, the angry person lost something valuable, something the person might have dropped into the pond, a precious gold ring. So the clarity of the pond can allow the person to look into the pond and see the ring lying in the bottom of the pond, and reach out into the pond to retrieve the lost ring, and reunite what is lost with the one finding.

Similarly, we must see past our angry partners. Sometimes, we are the source of their anger, we are angry first, and when we are not conscious, we think that others are angry first, when truth to the matter, we are ‘patient zero’. But when that happens, we need all of our training and wisdom to see past that reflection of anger. To see that our partners have good, have value, and we can find our lost gold ring in them. And they also have lost gold rings in our ponds.

So it is pointless, to have a surface calm, to be still, and reflect. A still and calm pond is pretty much useless, if, the waters are murky and muddy and hides the contents in it. If you cannot see into the water, a reflection is, merely a reflection.

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No shadows

How can one really improve in Aikido?

Usually I don’t blog about the ‘how to’ of things. But I’m trying to look at this from another angle.

So how can one tell that one’s Aikido has improved?

It is the degree of hate one has in us. You see, with hate, we cannot progress. It is also not a matter of duality. love/hate, good/bad. It is not either, or; neither, nor; this or that.

Life and Aikido is all about ‘this’ about the ‘is’.

As big as our human heart is, it can be quickly filled up by the wrong substance. like hate. Once there is hate in your heart, there is no more love, not even a single bit. It is that extreme. Either you have it or you don’t There is no “40% love 60% hate”. it is 100% of everything. and sometimes when we are doing ‘good’ out of ‘goodwill’, but truth to the matter is, when we search deeper, it is borne out of something lurking in the shadows. The act. manifested is good. the deeper movements is dark, and shadowy.

Most of us dwell there, which is normal, because we have all been hurt before. We are all no angels, none of us are born pure. All of us are born out of ignorance, and almost all of us will die, in ignorance. So the shadows is fine.

But every now and then, our true nature breaks free, and shine, shine so brightly, shadows disappear. Only the bravest can stand such light. Because such light illuminates everything about us. Surely most of us wants the light to fall on the good. But the true light source with shine, on everything. There is no place for shadows. And it will be uncomfortable.

Only the brave can stand being uncomfortable in the light of things (pun intended). Because only the brave, is brave enough to allow the light to fall on the shadow.

We all know where our shadows are. But instead of bringing light to the shadow, we allow our light to be consumed by the shadow. Cool dark places is nice and comfortable. But in order for us to growth, in fact for anything to grow decently, is a good healthy amount of light.

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Hurt or Happy?

Nobody writes a ‘self-hurt’ book and becomes a worldwide best seller. Everyone is cashing in on ‘self-help’, ways to find happiness, bliss, pleasure, and all the good stuff. It even appears that happiness is so hard to attain that you have to read a book to ‘learn’ happiness!

What about pain, hurt, hatred and all those unpleasant things?

We don’t need to learn them as it appears that we get hurt easily, we get hurt all the time, we experience pain frequently. Pain is easy, pain is commodity. Happiness is gold.

But the funny paradox is sometimes, we are driven by pain, hurt, and all those unpleasant stuff. We became masochistic, we derive pleasure out of pain! and suddenly, pain and pleasure seems all the same!

But it is not.

The other funny thing is, we delve a majority of our time justifying our hurt. We focus an inordinate amount of time getting over the hurt. When we get hurt so easily, we seem to have a problem letting go of the hurt, just as easily as we gotten them. It should be a case of ‘easy come, easy go.’ but it is not the case. We focus on the easy things, and forget to spend our time cultivating the happiness of things!

Happiness on the other hand, gets left out because we spend so much time commoditising hurt, and pain, we get so comfortable dealing with the quantitative effects of pain and hurt, we begin to think that we do not deserve the realm of happiness. we get so comfortable with pain, we are no longer comfortable with pleasure. So it become painful to be in pain, and even more painful to be happy.

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Open hand, Open heart

I think some years back, Harry sensei shared with us a physicality of extension.

He says as we walk, we should extend out our fingers, be conscious about your palms when you walk. More often than not, the fingers are slightly curled inwards, at best. Perhaps, balled up in a fist, at ‘worst’?

So I began that habit, so when I walk, my palms are straightened, as much and as often as I can remember. My palms are slightly open, extended. not overly extended.

It was a small habit, and I can tell right now after years of doing that, the fingers are much more relaxed and when I move, I can mentally imagine the direction of move from the tip of my fingers.

It is likened a paint brush, my fingers, you cannot paint a good, decent painting when the pain brush bristles are curled. Bristles are straight, soaking up the colours and putting them on the canvas.

Our fingers are like paint brush, and they cannot paint a beautiful picture if they are curled. Only when we open our hands, exposes out heart, exposes our vulnerability then there is a chance for our lives to improve.

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Boy’s Weakness

A 10-year-old boy decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.

The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move. “Sensei,”the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?” “This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sensei replied.

Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training. Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.

This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened. “No,” the sensei insisted, “Let him continue.” Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament.

He was the champion. On the way home, the boy and sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind.
“Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”
“You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”

The boy’s biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.

Moral: Sometimes we feel that we have certain weaknesses and we blame our creator, the circumstances or ourselves for it but we never know that our weaknesses can become our strengths one day. Each of us is special and important, so never think you have any weakness, never think of pride or pain, just live your life to its fullest and extract the best out of it!

(source: https://www.facebook.com/yellowribbonproj)

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Tying my belt

I cannot remember how to tie my black belt last Tuesday for class.

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