Martial, Tactical and Philosophical Muse : Fundamentals and basics, starting over again

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“The more advanced you are, the more fundamental you get”

Those words are written on the wall of the gym where one of my friends train, Paul Ingram (I have to give you credit Paul, those words are divine).

There’re no words more truer than that.

The thing is that I should be sleeping right now, being that it’s so late in the AM when I have work to do in a few hours.
But like Tyrese Gibson says, sometimes something compelling comes to mind and you have to act upon it.
You sometimes have sleepless hours because you are so driven to get these visions or thoughts out and manifest them.

I had these thoughts come to me suddenly and these images that open my inner eye.
And compelled me to put these words down and share it with those who wish to read and get some insights.

Fundamental, foundation, the base, the root of it all.

In the martial path, everything has to begin at the basics. The foundation is the very building block, the very platform that all skillsets and knowledge are built upon. You can progress as far as the eye can see, and reach to the stars and grab them, but if your foundation is weak, it will crumble under your feet and you will come falling down again.

Everything has a beginning. The starting point where all journeys and paths spread out from.

In the context of the fighter; when one is in a state of immense stress and chaos, a flurry of threats assaulting one’s senses, more often than not one resorts to the basics and fundamentals because it is the simplest of forms that one can easily revert to. It is the most straightforward and efficient. No flare, no flash, straight to the point.

Ugly to look, but effective to use.
From it stems the flow, where one basic concept chains to another, and another, and another, and so on.

As it was once said:

“There is no advance. Advance is just a combination of basics put together.”

I shall not mention who this quote was from as I am not sure of the true source, I just heard it from my instructor. So my apologies to the original person who said this. I mean no disrespect.

The one thing that always astounds me about the martial path is how it is the physical manifestation of the human condition, a reflection of the human action and thought processes. What you learn when walking this path transfers itself to one’s everyday life.

As of late, I realised that I have been in a state of turmoil. Things have gone rather topsy turvy. A victim of circumstances, just like so many others around me, I fall and tumble into a spiral of confusion.

But as sudden as it was lost, it came back again. A revelation and an awakening. It was an eye opening experience. I guess I awoke from a stupor and slumber, arising from a dream long running.

It is time to regain the flow again, the flow that has once kept me centered before. It is time to go back to basics.

Because at many points in our lives, when we embark on a new journey, we choose a new path. Some paths allow us to reach our destinations while some lead us to dead ends. It’s not all doom and gloom, although the emotions and thoughts tend to portray so. We fall, we get hurt but once the pain subsides we slowly pick ourselves up again.

So what do you do when you reach the dead end?
Once you’ve stopped your nose from bleeding caused by hitting the wall, you turn around and go back to the start.
Go back to the beginning, go back to the source, go back to where it all started, go back to basics.

It is no easy feat though.
Frustration sets in, fatigue screams at us to give up and compel us to just sit there and mope.

But if there’s one thing I learnt is that once you’ve gone so deep, you’ve hit rock bottom, you’ve reached an end, and you get tired of lying there in pain. Once you’ve had enough, had enough time to breath and recover. Once you make that decision, to try again, and get back up again. You turn around. You walk away.
And you go back to the start. Start all over again.

This time though, you choose a different approach, a different path.
If fate and destiny allows it, you can still head towards the same destination with a new route instead.
Or perhaps, if it was not meant to be, you find another route. You might be surprised to see that the new destination has greener pastures than the previous one.

It seems frustrating to go back to where one started.
The thought of making the journey again when one has travelled so far seems daunting.
But if one looks past all the frustration and anger, one realises something.

The starting point where you began your journey now looks different.
It’s a different feeling, a surreal feeling. It’s no longer exactly the same as before. Something has changed.
The irony and paradox is that it’s not the starting point that has changed.

It’s you.
You now look at where you started with a new perspective. Your experiences and knowledge has now given you a new bearing in your compass. You embark again with new confidence and vigour.

As T.S. Elliot once said:

“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

So why the suffering? Why do we have to go through pain?
Because it teaches us humility and gratitude. It forces you to fall to your knees and build the strength and courage to get back up again. It also opens your eyes.

I just had a good session talking and sharing philosophy with a friend. She quoted me, said to me a sentence that I had said before to her.

“Pain is good”

I used that term before in a martial sense because as a Kali person, pain is a good teacher to tell you what not to do.
But now that I recall and ponder, that martial concept is brought to my everyday life as well.

The pain of falling serves to open the eyes.
When one is asleep, and in a deep dream, pain allows one to awaken and jolt upright.
The eyes are wide open and one is snapped back to reality again.

I guess that’s why we always hear the term “never give up”.
Because once you do, you will never give yourself and your inner potential a chance to develop to newer heights.
Giving up results in stagnation.

As my instructor said on many occassions:

“People come and go when they visit our class. They don’t realise that they cannot learn anything by just coming for a month or two. Many people give up and try to find something much more interesting. But stick around long enough and you will realise a lot more. Don’t give up and just keep training.”

As I finish typing this I recall the many images that went through my mind prior to this moment.
In retrospect and looking back, I realised this journey of wild waves and turmoil was a lesson in life for me, one of many other important ones that I have gone through before.

The pain has taught me many things.
And it has also brought me closer to those who matter to me. Made me realise with better clarity of those who are important to me.
It has been a valuable lesson above everything else.

I cannot guarantee I will not hit a rut again. But hey, Rome was not built in one day. Everyday is a progress to be better even if I have to keep going back to the start.

But the most important thing is that I’m evolving. My lenses are changing everytime and I look at life with a different hue with every new encounter.

Philosophical Muse : The Night Time Jigsaw Puzzle Appreciation

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Things in life happen for a reason. We are all but pieces of a big divine plan, gears and parts of an intricate whole.

So normal is the flow of interaction between beings that we often times live life on auto mode, not realising the exchanges we make on a higher level of consciousness.

There are times when the world (or most of it) is a-slumber that some of us lie awake, thinking and pondering and start to question what life is all about.

We ask the questions why – why did this or that happen. Some of us fall back to the teachings indoctrinated upon us from religious faith or traditions and the mouldings of culture. Some through logical reasoning and deductions.
We ask the many questions on why our life is the way it is. On why events manifest itself the way they do.

As far as I have understood and observed, more often than not, the reasons for things happening is far beyond our immediate understanding.
It’s things whereby the answers to why they happen come later when the pieces of the whole jigsaw come together down the road.

The question though lies in that when that puzzle is complete, do we actually take time to look at it?
Or are we too preoccupied with the next new puzzle piece that drops in our mailbox of life?

When we observe each completed puzzle as a whole, recalling the process of how it was put together unconsciously, do we see how everything is connected and that everything that has happened, has to happen the way they did for things to end the way they are.

Reflection upon this must be done not just from the perspective of the self, but with those who interacted with our existence put into the equation as well.
For as everyone is an independent thinking soul, capable of being a spanner that jams the works of a calculated certainty, one will realise just how amazing the cogs and wheels turn in the whole mechanism of existance that makes our life move forward.

Perhaps I’m just the odd drunk banthering about in the wee hours of the morning when most have retired from the living world and entered another realm in slumberland to live their second lives manifested by mind instead of physical existance.

But once in a while, there are those of us who will take a swig from the drink of life and stay stone cold sober thinking.

I guess I do treasure contemplative moments like these. Sometimes we seek answers and assurances to the questions in life. And we, most of the time, don’t realise that it’s within us. The answers are there.

It’s about faith and understanding – that we are all on a mission to impact or influence those who come and go in our lives. That we are placed in the lives of others as others are in our lives to set things in motion.

There’s a Tibetan saying that states that there are no coincidences in life. Everything happens for a reason.
I used to wonder why in the past. Now, I just try to look in wonder.

Oh I do get caught up in the maelstrom of chaos ever so often and it becomes a damper for the mood.

But when the time comes for time-off and the mind is chilling in lounge of contemplation, does it arrive in a tray.
That euphoric cocktail in a cup waiting to be experienced. That texture of realisation and wonderful taste of wonder.

How intricate the workings behind every connection in our lives.

Call it faith for those embracing divinity. Or statistical probability and odds for those embracing a logical and scientific outlook. Or perhaps the result of a well executed move born from the stratagem of a divine one for those embracing the logical and the divine.
Regardless of one’s direction in philosophy and thought processes, it’s a time to sit back and marvel at the wonders of one of many secret inner works unfolding.

And as the satisfaction fills your entire being as you consume the knowledge and realisation, you can then be lulled into peaceful slumber.
For in the morning, a letter awaits in the mailbox, with a new puzzle piece of a new mystery awaiting to be discovered and realised.

Philosophical Muse : Hall of Mirrors

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I was inspired to write this post by the Wordpress Weekly Challenge titled “Worlds Colliding”.

The challenge was to share a story when we switched personas in the face of a situation or event. We wear different masks under different circumstances.

I had participated in the challenge but then it got me thinking. Instead of an anecdote, another thought came to mind – a mental musing about this subject matter told from a philosophical angle.

There are many facets / facades / masks / fronts that we put up depending on the situation that comes our way.

Take me for example.

I usually tend to be contemplative by my lonesome, toying with questions that come to mind about a lot of subject matters. But this is a sight usually shown to the person who has the most intimate connection with me. The closest person. Or those within my circle of trust.

Ironically, most people see me as a gangster due to my serious look. A couple of friends who know me a little more see my crazy, ridiculous and bombastic side. And those who know me all too well and very deeply – knows how deep the rabbit hole goes and finds the rabbit at the bottom of that hole with a broken foot trying to recover from its injuries.

When I contemplated about the many sides of me, I thought about a hall of mirrors.

You know those hall mirrors in funfairs / theme parks / circus that distort your image as you walk pass em?

The thing is, we are sort of like that hall. Our personas that are perceived by the world outside of our own are the images on those mirrors.
We have many appearances of us depending on which situation we face, which mirror we stand in front of.

People tend to only see the reflection on that mirror. Very few actually see the real person, the real you, that is standing before that mirror. Most do not bother looking past the illusion. They point and laugh and jeer at the image. They make judgements about you before realising that what they see isn’t the real you.

But then comes a beautiful part of the story.

It’s when someone opens their eyes. They step forward to touch the illusion. And they realise that it isn’t real. They turn to look around. Surrounded by a world of mirrors with varying images, they keep searching, reaching out and touching to verify.

Until their hand comes upon you, comes into contact with you.

They feel the warmth of your soul, not the cold exterior of glass. They start to reach up to your face and then look you deep in the eyes. They look within to connect to your soul, to you.
They know you, the real you. And am happy to have found you.

Every person is a mystery with a story to tell. The older the person gets, with more experiences in below their belt, the more mirrors they tend to put up.

In the end of the day, it’s about the person who is able to reach out and touch the real you amongst all the mirror images. The ones who make the effort to get to know you deeper, looking past the surface, past the illusion, at the real you.

They are the ones we should treasure.

Philosophical Muse : Travel Muse Part 2 – A Return To A New Familiarity

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And thus I return back to my home, having finished attending a training course.

It has been quite a journey, however short it may have been.
Every journey changes you, moulds you and transforms you to be the person that you will ultimately be to date.

It isn’t about going to distant foreign grounds (which in itself has its own charm of the thrill of the unknown) but rather, meeting with new people and seeing things that are different.

And once you return home, the journey has transformed you in such a way that home isn’t the same home that you left upon the embarkation of the journey.
It feels different, and somewhat foreign (not as foreign of course as the stranger land from which you’ve returned from but different).
And yet melded into this mix is the sense of familiarity and tinges of nostalgia as well.

Because home was where you planted yourself. The roots of connection stem from your soul into the very floor you walk upon under your roof. And over time your soul sprout leaves and branches of comfort.
But when you’ve gone to distance places and return, you bring back with you new seeds to be planted to add on to your little forest world, making it all the more vibrant.

There was a saying in one of the Hong Kong Ip Man films that mentioned something along the lines of “men should venture out to foreign lands during their lives”.

It’s kind of true. To open one’s mind and see the world from a different perspective.

Just like knowledge, your perception of the world around you is only as good as the amount of input you put into yourself. You read ABC books as a child, and as you grew older, you supplement that with different varieties of reading material. Every new knowledge paints a new colour to your world and occasionally, dot it with questions and curiosities that may further push you to explore for more answers.

I guess that’s how our forefathers progressed the human race. Exploration to the unknown, breaking pass the barriers that held them.

If it weren’t for new experiences, we might be living in a world today that we deem as flat instead of round. We might not realise that there are many other humans out there of different colour, race, creed, beliefs and practices.

But not only is it a teacher in the ways of mind expansion. But it is also a humbler of the soul and controller of the ego.
It becomes a humbling experience when you think you’ve been a master of your homelands, only to find out that out there are those with greater talents and skills than yourself.

The magic isn’t to be intimidated by these strangers but to learn from them. And share your knowledge and experiences with them as well. Make the world filled with variety.

I think humans were made to reunite after being separated. We scatter throughout the face of this earth to explore and later reunite and share and expand humanity’s knowledge base.

I used to live in a small shell of a world. But the more I was given a chance to explore out, the more I saw and realised and opened so many more doors. Dead-ends got broken down and new paths revealed. What seemed a hopeless turn turned out to be an avenue and path to more possibilites.

Exploration changes the world you perceive. Yes, it’s a cliche notion that has been said time and again probably not just on my blog alone, but in many other blogs as well mediums of information sharing.

But it is regardless always a good reminder to any readers passing by. That the world is indeed an oyster of experiences waiting to be discovered. And that the world we all know is just a tip of the iceberg.

And once you travel out, explore, and return you always feel the place you once knew has changed somewhat.

Oh, the world you once knew is not gone…just all the more colourful and vibrant.

As always I quote T.S Eliot :

” We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. “

Philosophical Muse : Travel Muse Part 1 – Entering The Unknown, Wheel In Hand

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And so I’ve just spent the weekend in another country and have returned back to my homeland.

I entered via land, in my own vehicle this time, behind the wheel of my car. Normally for the many season travellers out there, they would deem my news as mere ramblings of a kid.

But somehow this trip was a little life changing. It was something personal, almost spiritual. It probably also had to do with the fact that my car to me is more than just a vehicle or a metallic box with wheels.

I love my car. It is an integral part of my life. I gave it a name, defended it against the criticisms from my dad, ocassionally kiss it good night and talk to it. I’ve spent much of my earnings maintaining it as best I could. Call me deranged perhaps, but it’s that feeling you get when you go to a petstore and choose a dog that you really love. You didn’t choose a mutt or an animal. You chose a best friend. Something you can pour your heart out to.

My car has served me well and even protected me from an accident where I went sideways at 90 km/h and slammed into the curb.

My car is something personal, a piece of me, an extension of my self. Like a limb that grows from me. It and I form a symbiotic relationship when we traverse the plane of roads and passing vehicles.

It was with this type of relationship, that driving into a foreign country aboard my own car gave me a new feeling.

It isn’t so much the thrill of adventure (which I did have quite a lot of), as it was entering the unknown with a best friend. I’ve entered this new land via plane and bus in the past.
But when you’re in a personalised moving space, a companion container, there grows a special bond towards the land upon which you and your car connects to. It gets into your system, this profound feeling of discovery and growing courage as one by one, the uncertainties that you had before entering start to dissipate as you familiarise yourself with the lay of the land.

And having a partner with you, one that you care so much, a companion who you are close with, having spent so much time together; that creates a beautiful atmosphere in the journey of exploration.

I think at the end of the day, wherever the journey of discovery to new lands may be, having a companion changes the feel. It gets personal, connected.

Perhaps my story is just the plain story of a man and his car, or more like the inner boy and his best friend.
But that could perhaps also explain why real drivers, and I repeat, real drivers or motorheads, develop this sort of love and relationship towards their machine.

It isn’t about the thrill of the drive, nor is it about the power under the hood. It’s more than that.
It’s the experience and feeling you get when sitting behind that wheel. It makes you feel different.

When you’re in a foreign land, in the unknown, traversing with a close mate that holds a special place in your heart, it reignites that spark of curiosity and wonder once again. That excitement. That little excited child within comes out, as though entering a theme park for the first time.

And you’re entering with your best friend by your side.

Philosophical Muse : Decency For The Honest Worker

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Yesterday on my way back home I saw an ex-colleague of mine walking back from work at 1 a.m. in the morning.

I was shocked, but above that felt so sorry for him.

He was tired looking, exhausted. It reminded me of how I was when I was in the same hell hole that I escaped from just several months back. My dad who was with me told me not to comment.

“Life is like that,” he says.

That is one of the major flaws of the Asian mentality that I could never understand. Is suffering and pain such a part of our culture that we embrace it so much?

“It builds character,”

Yes it does. But there’s a difference between suffering as you fight your way out of circumstances and suffering that shouldn’t even happen in the first place.

In the case of my colleague, and me as well when I was working in the same place, it was the latter. The complications and dire situation the company finds itself in now is the result of piss poor management. Of taking on more than they can chew. Of trying to cut corners and stretch people thin in the hopes of making as much profit as possible.

It doesn’t help that the man wielding the whip himself has tantrums and anger fits and takes it out on his workers. A slave driver would be the best way to describe such a person. But even then when I think about it, it would give a bad name to slave drivers.

I’m very glad I was out of there before crap really hit the fan as it has now. Everyone is drowning in the proverbial cesspool and many have no way out of it.

The scary thing is that many companies in my country practice this sort of nasty thing. Yes it happens everywhere in the world, but such horrid working practices shouldn’t even be the subject of comparison of which is worse.

It’s sad to imagine that even at this day and age, we still don’t have the normal human decency to treat our workers fairly and properly. The people upstairs seek power and profit at the cost of blood of those below them.

Those in power take advantage of those who have no leverage to fight back. These people – mostly fresh grads, new additions to the workforce, or those that don’t have any other options – do not speak or fight back for fear of losing their opportunities. Their resumes are important. They tolerate such barbarous acts upon their persons just to have those all important words in their CV’s. To gain ‘experience’.

But is it really worth it? Is there any meaning to such mindless suffering that reaches a point where people start going into depressions and mental breakdowns. They start falling sick due to poor diets and a body overloaded with hormones imbalanced from all the stress. All for peanuts – pay that isn’t even enough to satisfy basic needs at times.

We’ve heard news of people working to death. Of people pulling all-nighters and collapsing.

It really got me thinking, what has the world come to?

I myself have been through some crap, and at a point, even nearly lost my own life. I was in the ICU from a complication that was the result of being overworked. From that moment on, I told myself that I would never allow myself to be in this situation again. My life was more important than any job could possibly pay me. When you face Death in the face, you tend to look at Life differently once you’re given another chance.

I’m not saying that such experiences makes me a natural born badass or whatnot.

I’m saying that we shouldn’t even be in this situation in the first place. More than anything I don’t want anything of this sort happening to anybody. Nobody should have to live in suffering from the malpractices of those they entrust.

The human body isn’t designed to be worked to such limits, especially not under such conditions continuously.

The thing is, most people who start off as workers are idealistic people, seeking to pursue a dream or meaning to their lives. People fresh out of school or studies who have a positive vibe and energy to want to make a difference. Who want to make a mark of their own. And that is a beautiful thing. Such enthusiasm is needed for change, to evolve our society for the better.

But when power creeps into the veins of those entrenched in their seats on top, the greed and selfishness overwhelms them and blinds them from the vision of humanity as a whole. They want to keep that power, want to control others to follow in their vision, however flawed it may be.

In a company or organisation, the management / boss / CEO / man or woman on top is the person we as workers look up to. We work on our tasks to ensure the gears of the business move. The company / organisation is like the body, the person on top the brain, and the workers the individual organs and cells that keep the body alive. If the top messes up everything goes down the drain. The brain has the power to command and control.

As we have to care for our bodies, so does the boss have to care for his / her workers.

I believe there has to be a line where we can’t cross where human decency is concerned. The blood and time of any individual on this earth isn’t worth a bunch of printed papers that has supposed value on them.

Money was meant to be a tool for trade, not a dagger that is driven into the souls of honest hardworking people.

Veterans of the workforce usually tend to go either two ways. Fight for the rights and justice of their fellow kin or just grow numb and not care at all. I’m glad to see that these days, judging by the voices everywhere, many are choosing the former instead of the latter.

It’s scary when you see some grow numb and indifferent to all the malpractices that happen. How can one allow such a thing to happen? To have someone lose their soul and humanity? To grow numb and turn their back on the quintessential concept of being a human and having care and compassion for others?

What we need I feel are not bosses, but leaders. We’ve seen it many times in social media. Those posts of comparisons between leaders and bosses. Or of videos of ridiculous bosses badgering the innocent honest workers who are so bewildered at the absurdity of the boss’s demands. There’s a reason why such media posts are so prevalent these days.

The workers have a disease plaguing them and social media serves as their voice to speak out where real voices can’t. And it’s a voice calling out for help or demanding justice.

I come from the creative industry, having been involved with studios doing animation and VFX. So I’m used to working in teams. I’ve never been a team leader but I’ve seen real leaders, and I mean real proper leaders, in action. These are the people that, even with all the pressures from their higher ups, still try to maintain the balance between duty and love for their team members.

They understand the craft and what it takes to do such a job. They not only fight for deadlines, but also for their team members when the higher ups are being very unreasonable. They teach their juniors and guide them while at the same time, juggling their own duties.

These are the qualities that are needed for leaders of an organisation or company. The dedication to the task and job at hand, the integrity and sense of responsibility, the compassion and care towards their team members.

It’s a good reference point and benchmark, an education that I will never get in school.

I saw an organisation gone wrong and how it was collapsing like sand to dust, greed of the higher ups resulting in a very heavy price to pay. Mass exodus of its resigning workers when the situation of the project is at its most critical. Too much to handle with too little hands on deck. Hatred and frustration from workers who were idealistic, hardworking and honest are thrown at the company. Word of mouth spread, telling outsiders and potential staff to avoid the company like the plague that it is. Those who haven’t left the company did their tasks half-hearted with no care anymore.

In contrast to it, I have also seen an organisation done right but had went bankrupt due to economic forces. Despite its collapse, many who worked there were still loyal to its cause. The workers were sad and some until today, still feel it, including me. Most of us are hoping for a return of such a company or another that adopts the same humane values.

But you can see the difference. You can’t win a person’s heart by force and sheer power. You can only inspire them with care, compassion, respect and example. Loyalty comes to the one who practices righteous deeds and values.

The day the good company went bankrupt was a sad day for me. When you’ve tasted heaven, most of anything else seem rather dull. My father has told me that life goes on, and that I can’t dwell in the past. I have to change my mindset and keep adapting to any new environment. If the new environment is worse that before, I have to sink down to that level and deal with it.

It’s true. But I look at things in another way.

I’ve seen what a organisation / company built upon beautiful pillars of good humanistic principals and philosophies could offer. That environment and atmosphere that makes you want to get up and not feel terrible going to work. Workers were happy and they were willing to give their all for the vision and mission of the company.

It sets a standard, a bar we have to work towards. It’s about decency towards honest hardworking people, the ones who work with ideals in their heart to be their best and pursue their goals and dreams. We can’t allow those in power who abuse others for the sake of profits to continue.

Every new generation comes with it a promise of change. And that change must be a change for the better. We have to strive for improvements. Evolution works that way. Take what is useful and necessary and discard that which is not.

The thing is life is a struggle of improvement. We struggle to better ourselves day by day. If not for you, then do it for the next generation. Cause really, at the end of the day, we leave a legacy behind when we leave this world.

We are in an age where information is flowing freely. We have an abundance of great inventions and innovations that mankind has produced. We have freedoms and peace. All thanks to our forefathers who have sacrificed so much in their fight to give us what we have today.

The question is, what kind of legacy do we leave for the next generation?

Philosophical Muse : The Deeper Need

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This was actually an entry for the Weekly Writing Challenge : Great Expectations. And my entries for the challenges go to the other blog.

But I kind of felt that it’s philosophical nature deserved to be here as well in Haven MindMuses.

So I shall post the link to it here.

http://haventales.wordpress.com/2014/04/23/weekly-writing-challenge-great-expectations-the-deeper-need/