Naruto, Kenshin, Jules and George Sensei Have Inspired My Journey
Inspiration — the melding of reality and the imagination; to be prompted into fantasising about the outcome you are working towards and be spurred into taking action.
Growing up in Singapore, Chinese martial arts movies and shows were the staple of weekend television. And from a young age, I was enamoured by the agile stunts and martial arts moves performed by Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Jet Li. Back then there was no internet and parkour wasn’t well-known (heck, did the term ‘parkour’ even exist outside of France in the late 1990’s?), so there was really no avenues to train in the stunts I saw – so that took a backseat.
While inspired to begin, my first steps into martial arts, at the age of seven, was initiated by my parents who thought it best for me to develop my self-defense abilities and confidence. The opposite happened instead, which gave me a recurring issue with performance anxiety in sports and martial arts. Soon after, I quit due to the terrible experiences at the dojang.
Steven Seagal & Aikido
What got me back into martial arts a few years later was the son of my father’s friend, who was training in Aikido. What was it about? I wondered. That prompted a period of time when I became obsessed with Steven Seagal, while training at the Aikido dojo nearby. I can only thank Kelly Tan Sensei (Assistant Instructor at that time) for being patient with my ten year old self, who was suffering from performance-anxiety resulting from the experiences at the first dojang. In any case, due to personal reasons I had to stop training.
Naruto & Return to Martial Arts
Close to ten years passed and it wasn’t until year 2008 that I got back to Aikido at my current dojo. This time it was an anime, Naruto, that inspired me to get back into martial arts and become obsessed with ninjas (the traditional ones). Why not go for Ninjutsu instead then? I considered it. But Aikido still had its appeal. Plus, I’ve decided I would eventually supplement the art with other martial arts and movement disciplines that I was interested in.
With Naruto, it was the underlying theme of not giving up, packaged into awesome visuals, that inspired me. Before, I was adamant about not wasting my time if I had no natural ability – I believed I had none because of my bad first experience with martial arts kata. Naruto gave me a moment of insight – most people are not born with natural talent and yet they go on to become awesome martial artist and traceurs. How is that possible? Through hard work, passion, perseverance and dedication. Yes, it may take damn long to get there. But you will get there.
George Chang Sensei
My head instructor, George Chang Sensei, has inspired my way of the martial artist. His demeanour and attitude reminds me of a samurai – no-nonsense discipline during training, constant awareness of his surroundings (with long-practiced use of peripheral vision and hearing) tempered by patience and empathy.
Perhaps he realised it before I did, but Sensei knew about me being a slow learner and having anxiety. It was an unspoken understanding, which I came to realise upon noticing his body language and tone when he corrected me. And he always gave words of encouragement on days where I felt particularly defeated. He has never once babied me because of my slow learning ability and anxiety, which I am grateful for. By treating it as nonexistent, while adjusting his way of instructing me, he was unknowingly taking away the power the anxiety had over me. The sense of having someone sincerely believe in me and not giving up on me kept me committed to Aikido. Even after being away due to military obligations, Sensei was happy to see me back and it really felt like I was returning home.
Alvin, Training Partner & Close Friend
Before attending to my military obligations, I partnered up regularly with Alvin, who at the time was the same rank as I was. The mutual appeal in training together was our similar standards on realistic attacks to defend against, and mixing it up with slowly executed training to mold the technique into muscle memory. Some times, we’d go on close to full contact and speed sparring outside of the dojo, just to test out theories and our ability to respond to spontaneous attacks. Other times, it was discussions on Aikido and life in general. Having a friendly rivalry helped me progress faster.
People I’ve Connected with Through Way Of Ninja
I am inspired by the people I have connected with on Way Of Ninja and feel privileged to be able to have insight on the many different paths up the same “mountain”. Here are some of them.
David (aka. Dee Xiao Long)
David was a fitness enthusiast who was very active on Way Of Ninja, offering advice on callisthenics, which happened to be my interest. He eventually became the moderator of the Way Of Ninja Google+ community. His photos and videos on his workouts were inspiring as at that time, he was using purely callisthenics and was able to do crowstands (a progression standard to doing the handstand). This inspired me to push on.
Note to David: Wishing you all the best in your new job at CrossFit. Thanks for your efforts in managing Way Of Ninja’s community and let’s remain connected.
I first connected with Jules when she replied to one of my tweets. We soon went into mildly philosophical ramblings on Twitter regularly. What inspired me was her courage to begin her journey at her age and that positive attitude to try out new experiences in physical activity. Because of her, I became much more open to new experiences despite performance anxiety.
The Burpees Buddies
The Burpees Buddies were formed after I decided to take up Spartan Race’s thirty day challenge for burpees (as preparation for an obstacle race) and tweeted it out. Andrea, Ando, Jules and KarmaJujitsu responded. There were unexpected ups and downs in this seemingly easy challenge but the perseverance, bond and encouragement made me realise the power of being spontaneous and being open to new friends on the internet. Eventually, this is the group of martial artists who unknowingly pressured me to speed up the processing to get back into Aikido.
Both Charles and I have goals to build and improve our respective online communities, and his openness with sharing his setbacks have inspired me to get back on my feet and continue. Our regular correspondence keeps me on track for the tasks I have to do for my personal goals and Way Of Ninja community goals.
Ruroni Kenshin: Wandering Warrior & Aikiken and Aikijo
So, watching the live action movie, Ruroni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno (better known as Samurai X in western countries), this year has given me renewed motivation to do better in Aikijo and Aikiken. I have been training in Aikido weapons classes since attaining my Blue belt years ago, but still find it difficult to process. As Joelle suggested, I may actually have a mild form of directional dyslexia.
In addition, the romanticism of being a wandering warrior in this story has prompted me to deal with my anxiety issue by exposing myself to different dojo environments (i.e. to visit other dojos and train as a guest). I have thusfar been to the dojo in Bangkok where my Sensei’s Sensei is located back in November. I hope to go to more in the future.
Traceur Kai’s Inspiration Submission
With this year’s Day Of Ninja, I was ready to try out Parkour and other forms of movement discipline in the next year. What made me more at ease with starting out was reading Traceur Kai’s journey when he began. From the perspective of a person who has yet to begin, seeing Traceur Kai’s GIFs of his tricks were impressive. But it was really good to know that he had struggles when he began too.
This sums up the list of inspiring people on my warrior journey but I can’t help feeling that I have missed a few important ones. I will leave that for next time if I do remember.