Saturday, February 28, 2009

Just Show Up

Just as I was trying to find the source of my recent energy drain, along comes Tym with a wonderful video that reaffirms an epiphany I had while I was in California and trying to put into practice.

Lately, I've been feeling de-energized and unmotivated. I had initially thought that my energy drain was due to having to help friends deal with difficult issues in life, but I realise now it's deeper than that - it's creativity fatigue.

To those who do not believe that counselling friends with wisdom and restraint is a creative process, I challenge you to do so. It's just as much effort to frame your ideas, experiences and wisdom in a way that will be understood clearly as it is to teach a class, write poetry or perform on stage.

Elizabeth Gilbert is an amazing speaker, but more importantly, she frames the issue in an interesting manner. Since I've gone through my life-changing experiences, I've been an advocate of taking responsibility only for yourself, and to leave the rest to...well...the rest. I've written about human love and stubborness in the past, as an ingredient for living life after a great tragedy. However, the pieces fall into place so well in this speech that I feel almost...breathless.

Externalize your creativity. Just show up and do your job - let the rest take care of itself.


One of the issues I've been having with swordsmanship isn't lack of practice - it's lack of intent and understanding. The practice we have are merely gates (pardon the small pun here guys!).

Lately I've been unable to synthesize what the practices into something useful. My wheels are spinning but I'm going nowhere. After watching Ms Gilbert's speech, I think I understand what's going on. Sometimes, the process of learning (itself a creative process) involves spinning wheels because synthesis of learning is just as capricious a creature as creativity.

That doesn't mean that I should not make the effort to learn. It just means I don't beat myself up everytime I don't quite learn something as well as I should.

Just show up. Let the rest take care of itself.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Sunday's training pretty much reflects how ragged my form has become.

I don't think my form is horrible. I managed to execute First Drill properly (despite some initial hiccups with the second step). I managed to get through the variations fairly well. I even survived the (comparatively brisk) warm up on Sunday, along with a fair execution of Syllabus Form.

The problem here is the lack of "stressed" training.

It showed a lot during the mock tournament we held. Kenneth and Yu Sarn have been able to truly integrate their training into a useable martial art. I have not. They can execute sword forms while thinking tactically. I cannot. They can step off the line as a natural response. My feet feel glued to the floor.

The strange part is - all of these problems only appear when I am in a stressful situation - i.e freeplay.

I know what this means - it means I don't have enough reps under my belt to really integrate this into a proper martial art. I've been doing a lot of armchair martial arts - critiquing styles, forms but not really training.


The other problem now (which is related) is that I'm at an incredibly low in energy. I think I know why it's so low, and I know from experience that it tends to be self-correcting after a while. I just need to refill my energy reserves that I've spent on creative endeavours of late - i.e helping friends through their love problems, writing out scenarios for the games that I run etc.

Perhaps what I really need to do is to get some way of getting healthy without my reliance on swordsmanship as a head fake. I think I've relied on that for too long, and I really should move on based on that foundational activity.

More later. Head is hurting again.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why You Should Wear Gloves When Practising Swordsmanship

AKA, "The Doofus that Got Himself Cut"

How it Happened:

We were practising crossing of swords from Dente di Chingale. (Translation: It's a parry from a low guard held to the left of the body against a blow coming in from the attackers high right, cutting down towards the lower left.)

Some mistiming was probably going on. My best guess was that the cover either came up too late against an improperly formed attack (and I was the attacker) or I was leading with my hands.

Long story short - the blow grazed my fourth knuckle, deflected off my fifth and gouged a chunk of skin off the edge of my hand.

Lesson learnt, wear gloves, do your best to cover your hands on the attack, and don't stand so close.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Malaysian Conumdrum

I've been following the discussion thread here at Mr Wang's. It's a discussion about why a Singapore PR/Malaysian citizen would not want to take up Singapore citizenship in order to enjoy the privileges here, and is instead asking for the Singapore Government to instead extend privileges to PR's.

Let me start with a couple of points - I don't think it's possible to generalise on whether a PR is here just to reap the economic benefits or whether they are here to stay. A lot depends on factors such as whether they own property back in Malaysia, and how badly they are being treated in Malaysia.

I just thought I'd share some of my experiences and hearsay that I've experienced. Hopefully it will give a new perspective on the situation.


Some Malaysian PR's are here because they want to earn in SGD and spend in Ringgit. I don't think this is in itself bad. If Singaporeans themselves are complaining what a low wage they are earning, I certainly cannot blame Malaysians for wanting to optimise their earnings. If they are depressing the local wage by being present here, it must be that they aren't earning all that much either.

I've heard some stories from Malaysian colleagues that Singapore employers automatically propose lower salaries on seeing that they are from Malaysia. In some senses this is a double edged sword - yes they do have a competitive advantage in wages, but the wages they make are lower overall as compared to a Singaporean in a comparable job scope and industry.


Some Malaysian PR's are here (or in other countries for that matter) because they are being victimised in their own countries. I've heard over the last year that the 30% ownership of companies by Bumiputra's have caused the Chinese business community to go into an uproar, to the extent of asking their children overseas to stay overseas, and slowly initiating a transfer of property over. Singapore, UK, America, Canada all feature heavily in places to "run to".

Apparently the Keris-waving incident has caused some problems among the Chinese community in Malaysia as well. The extent of that, I'm not sure.

What I do get a sense of in Malaysia is that minorities (i.e not Malay) are very skittish of their own homeland. Given a choice they would certainly not want to run to another country. However, the writing's on the wall, and they are certainly getting less and less welcome as Malaysia becomes increasingly unstable.


I wish to touch on the issue of owning property in Malaysia too. A couple of months back a friend developer asked me if I was interested in purchasing some property. I humoured him of course, but I had no intention of buying the property. What I found out surprised me. I, too, received the same advice - that I should put the ownership under a Malaysian's name where possible. I also noticed the difference in mortgage rates offered to Malaysians and Singaporeans. It was a 5% differential, which amounts to quite a bit of money.

I am also told that there are certain bank accounts and investments in Malaysia that pay preferential interest rates, but only to Malaysians. From what I've gathered the differential is a couple of percentage points higher than what bank accounts usually pay. I guess this must be Malaysia's version of pork barrel politics but I'm not entirely sure.


The long and short of these anecdotes is that I don't think the situation is as clear cut as what most netizens make it out to be. Sure, a lot of the reasons I've cited are economic and political, but I think these form a network of interacting wants, needs and emotions that make it the decision not to take Singapore citizenship very hard to untangle.

What really fascinates me is the fact that this PR, Adrian Gopal, would appeal to the Singapore Government on a public forum to make his life as a PR easier. What I do not understand is this - essentially, each person's problem is individual. What Mr Gopal is asking for is essentially a sweetener to make the decision to stay in Singapore easier.

I can only draw two possible conclusions from this (1) that Mr Gopal thinks he has a reasonable chance of success in his appeal and (2) that Mr Gopal is desperate, so even if he thinks he has no reasonable chance of success, he has to try to make this appeal.

If the first is true, then it exposes once and for all how vulnerable and dependent Singapore is on skilled labour, and the inadequacies of our own labour force in providing for Singapore's needs (for whatever reasons). If Mr Gopal thinks he has a reasonable chance of success, it must be because foreign labour has collectively got sufficient bargaining power to make the Singapore Government listen.

If this is the case, then there must be a failure of Singapore Government policy somewhere. If the issue is wage competitiveness, then the issue must be that the Singapore Government's policies in either education, labour or NS (or all three) does not make up for the differential in value offered by Singaporean labourers, as opposed to foreign labour.

If the second option is true, then this speaks a lot about the invisible plight of foreign labour in Singapore, and it behooves us, if we are to become a nation, to understand their plight and not dismiss them offhand.

Either way, there's more of a story to be told I'm sure.

Friday, February 13, 2009

NS Part III - Responsibility

Here's the last instalment of my thoughts on NS. The last instalment turned out to be harder to write than the previous two, mostly because I've been distracted thinking of other breaking news about the Job Credits Scheme (which I think is a good idea, but not for the reasons the ministers give) and various ministers putting their collective feet in their mouths.

Anyways, here it is.


The final aspect to consider about NS is the amount of personal benefit an NSMen derives from service. Here is where things get most complicated. The Powers that Be would like us to think that NS is an opportunity to grow up, a rite of passage etc. We who serve likely think the opposite, and that we pick up bad habits along the way, i.e cursing in colourful Hokkien, smoking, drinking cheap tiger beer, etc.

I think couching NS in terms of personal benefits is completely misconceived. NS is a circumstance of Singapore life, much like PSLE, applying for a HDB flat and CPF. It's very difficult to judge the effect of a set of circumstances on a person, because people react to circumstances differently.

Simply put, you and I can go through the exact same NS training and come out different people.

With this in mind, how is it that MINDEF can spout the same drivel about making our youngsters more mature year-in, year-out? Why is it our female counterparts can become mature in university without the need for NS? What about the generation of uncles that came before us? Are they any less mature for not having gone through NS?

This cannot be correct.


If what I have written above is true, then the flip side must also be true. Insofar as NS is a dangerous, shitty, time-wasting circumstance, it is still the individual's responsibility to ensure that they get some personal benefit from it.

It must be up to us to get gold from the shit, so to speak.

Of course NS has it's share of keng-sters who will dump their work on you because they can get away with it. Who's to say that you won't get this in future when you are working? Learn to deal with it, ESPECIALLY if it's a superior officer doing this to you.

Of course NS has it's share of mindnumbing admin to do. Who's to say that you won't get this in future when you are working? Learn to deal with it, ESPECIALLY because mind-numbing admin happens everywhere and your future expense claims, leave and performance reviews may be linked to these.

Of course NS has it's share of dangerous circumstances. Who's to say that you won't get this in future? Learn to deal with it, because if there's one thing NS taught it, it's that nothing in life can be taken for granted.

And there you go. Personal benefit, personal responsibility. It can't work any other way.