“The culprit that toys with our emotions”

Since I can remember, I have always had expectations; and I’m sure you do too. It is an integral part of our self, and perhaps what spurs some, if not all of our actions as a human being whose existence is only meaningful through interaction. Even if we were extreme introverts devoid of the desire for external interaction with the outside world, we will never be able to escape the clutches of “expectations” and its proliferations. From the moment we open our eyes, we start our endless flurry of expectations. Incarcerated by its sheer reach. Whether of ourselves or of others and every other facet of our lives that we come in contact with, we “expect” something. It seems like one of those words in the English vocabulary that is there to describe our psychological inner beings. Defining our existence. I believe that our expectations thus, are the sums of our life experiences that are intrinsically chiseled into how and who we are today.

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The word “Expectation” is perhaps one of the most fundamental English words known to describe our feelings and sensations. But at the same time being one of, maybe even arguably the most insidious of our descriptive mind. So how is this word a necessity? Well, its difficult not to acknowledge that it gives meaning and makes our emotional ups and downs somewhat tangible to us. There is hardly anything we do, of a cause and effect nature, which is not accompanied by expectations. It seems true that expectations are what drive our thoughts and eventually our actions.

Writing this, I would first expect someone to read it, and I would expect certain views to be formulated in your mind. And the moment you decided to click and open this link, you had already inadvertently set about your own expectations, whether or not you’re conscious of what they are. You see…. without expectations, you would not have opted to click open and read this post. And even now, expectations are raging through you and me. At this very moment, I would expect you to be making a decision on whether to continue reading or not and you would be making that decision based on whether this article is or is not what you “expected”. You and me, we are all reactors to expectations. And this is why expectations can sometimes seem insidious.

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Set your expectations too high and you may end up having to deal with disappointments. Set them too low and you might not ever have started a venture, whether it be a business or personal one. But being an integral part of the human psychology and our decision-making process, there will always be expectations. Without which, why would you even have started anything in the first place?

Did you not choose a job because you expected that it would pay more than the last or the others? Or perhaps make you happier?

Or that you were simply looking forward to the unexpected?

Did you not go for an interview because you expected that you stood a chance? Or to validate yourself that you did not stand a chance?

Or go on a blind date not knowing what “to expect”? Did you not switch the shower on expecting clear water to come running down on you?…

You get where I’m going…. So when and how does something this integral [part of our psychology] also be something, that if gone unchecked, slowly erodes at our sanity and wellness? And what puts it in check? Should it always get checked and when does it go unchecked? This is where emotions come into the picture. Emotions, it seem, are the bedrock that determines our degree of expectations. Or do we have it wrong? Can it be that it is actually the other way around…..?

What causes emotions? What makes our heart flutter, our head spin, our solar plexus feel weak or implode, our face turn red, or our body get hot? Is it just our body’s biochemical reactions to the signals firing between our neurons? Is it really just chemistry? And if so, what started this cascade of reactions? What was the cause of these reactions? What is the “big bang” that gives us feelings? What is the catalyst that evolves admiration into adoration? When we feel love, what exactly is it that we are feeling? How do we know that it is love that we are feeling and not hate or anger? How is it measured? Most probably, this is determined by how we feel. What our body feels internally. Is it butterflies in my stomach or a wrenching feeling in my gut? And what determines this state of biochemical reactions? Was it the tone used by whoever that said something to us? Was it the words used? Was it the actions of the person or the reciprocation of a device’s functions?

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When we approach someone we admire to say hello, we more or less have already determined our expectations based on various assumptions. Given, sometimes things do not “go as expected” but still, we would already have determined an expectation or a series of expectations. If we view ourselves as socially acceptable people or socially categorised as successful and good looking, we might expect a good outcome from walking over and saying hi. But on the other side of this simple spectrum, if we feel that we are socially inadequate or insecure, we would have expected a much different outcome and not make the first move altogether. Movie previews give us glimpses of the correct scenes and send our expectations through the roof, only to sometimes slam our bodies hard, back into the ground with a crappy storyline. When we purchase a new device, we would have already drawn our expectations around its functions and capability to cope with our army of apps that we already plan to download, expecting the new phone to be “up to task”. When it doesn’t quite work to our expectations, frustration sets in; and if we fail to resolve it and cannot find good support to resolve our issues with that device, frustration turns into anger. When someone walks into us rendering us off balance, we expect an apology only to sometimes receive a barrage of abusive aural effects which in turn pushes us to act in a way that would otherwise be completely anomalous. What did he “expect”?

When we come home after a long slogging day at work, we expect a welcoming sanctuary. We expect that because we want that. And times when we come home bearing bad news, whether it be as drastic as getting fired or simply losing out on a promotion or a project, we expect sympathy and acknowledgement from our partners. Apathy towards our news results in slight disappointment. Why is that? What causes anger? What causes disappointment?  What makes us feel happy? What triggers sadness? What makes us feel that we lead a meaningful life? These are just a few of the most important questions that affect our well being greatly.

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Through my personal experiences, it seems empirical that expectations are the direct contributing factors that affect and influence our emotions. An insidious spark that fires up emotions. Quietly, but undoubtedly, influencing and sometimes even overwhelming our inherent predispositions.

So…if we want to be in control of our emotions, that would mean we should consciously practice the control and management of our expectations. Often being the case, our astute deduction of outcomes stem from our expectations, which are embedded deep in our subconscious, powerfully although often imperceptibly hiding its decision and action-influencing prowess from our conscious self. And since emotions are what governs our actions, it seems a safe bet to make that if we want to lead a happier and more fulfilling life, the first and most logical step we should take, is the management and control of our expectations. And that is the true test that will enable you to transcend.

Desires –> Expectations –> Emotions

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Teacher, Instructor & Coach in Martial Arts. What is the difference?

One would think that this is a straight-forward and simple question. But I know a lot, both students and teachers/instructors/coaches, whom themselves do not use these words correctly.

To begin, let us look at the dictionary.

Instructor – a person who teaches something.

Coach – an instructor or trainer in sport.

Teacher – a person who teaches.

That’s all good but where’s the Quality for these words? What IS the Quality of these 3 words? What do they mean to you? In my opinion, these 3 words/titles mean very different things although they sometimes overlap and seem synonymous to one another.

The Quality lies in the usage of these words. So what IS the Quality that I am talking about? I would say that it is the essence, the underlying principle, the prestige, thoughts and responsibilities that come with each of these words. Let us take a look at these 3 titles closer and this time with Quality. 

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INSTRUCTOR – Someone who is qualified and trained to instruct you on techniques required in your level. On how to be able to execute moves and what to look out for in order to do certain things/movements correctly. This will be someone who should be able to give you as much instructions as possible for you to be able to do what you need to get done.

COACH – Apart from being able to instruct you on how to execute techniques or how to get certain moves down, the Coach will and should be someone who gets to know you more personally than an Instructor and who is able to bring the best out of you. Whether it being physically or mentally, the Coach should be able to advise and understand your strong points as well as your weak points so that he/she can work out a plan to help get you from point A to point B. This person usually has a plan or comes out with a plan for your growth.

TEACHER – Now this is the most important person. In Martial Arts, this title/rank means quite a lot. Apart from instructing and coaching, the ‘Teacher’ in Martial Arts also carry with it additional responsibilities and respect. In Martial Arts, the Teacher is usually also addressed as ‘Master’ or ‘Sifu’ (师父) which comprises of the word ‘teach’ and ‘father’. This goes to show the seriousness and responsibility that one bears with this title. There is a Chinese saying “一日为师,终身为父” (Yi shen wei shi, zhong shen wei fu), that literally translates to “a day as a teacher, a lifetime as a father”. In Japanese Martial Arts, the teacher is usually addressed as ‘Sensei’ (先生) which pretty much has the same value as ‘Sifu’ (师父).

There is another title that is usually associated with an honorary rank that is given or associated due to a Master’s contribution to the Martial Art and it’s growth. This rank would be ‘Shihan’ (師範) in Japanese Martial Arts and ‘Ajarhn’ in Thai Martial Arts. 

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Now let us look at these and relate them to correct use in terms of Muay Thai (since Muay Thai is my main art). When someone reaches a level of knowledge and practice to be called ‘Khru’, he/she is a Teacher. A Khru is not just a coach or an Instructor, so don’t use it lightly. When someone is addressed as an ‘Ajarhn’, he/she would be more than just a Teacher. He/She would be a Master-Teacher or Master-Instructor and would have been given that title because of his/her contributions to the Art. And yes! These are NOT titles that you give yourself! So the next time you are addressing yourself or someone who is teaching you Martial Arts, think carefully about the meaning of the word of address and if the “Quality” fits the use.

Was Bruce Lee wrong?

Styles vs Freestyle or not having a style

Are styles wrong? Or are styles just misunderstood?
When we say freestyle, what exactly do we mean? How and where does freestyle branch out from? Where is the beginning? Is it possible to be of freestyle if you didn’t have a style to begin with? And is it possible to NOT have a style? Contemplate…
This is where some make the wrong assumptions.
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If Bruce Lee faced Popeye, who will win?

Traditionalist disagree with Bruce Lee and some outrightly try to prove him wrong by their blatant showcase and display of their styles. Sort of in a “it’s my way or the highway” kind of attitude. The “freestylist” on the other hand ever too quickly and easily agrees with Bruce Lee often without much thought and/or insight. Evident in how MMA practitioners identify Bruce Lee as the father of Mixed Martial Arts. In my view, he was a great martial artist whose identity and contributions to Martial Arts have been usurped in a shamelessly commercial way to promote Mixed Martial Arts as a commercial sport which in turn helps with promotions like the UFC, OneFC and the ever growing number of smaller MMA events. But this is another argument by itself.

Are styles wrong? Or just misunderstood?

I would say in the wrong minds, styles become wrong, and to some others, styles are just misunderstood. I suppose that this understanding or misunderstanding stems from where you are, in your journey as a martial artist. What do I mean? Take for instance that the only form of combat style you have been exposed to is a certain style of Kungfu (Kungfu itself has an enormous library of forms and styles). To you this style may be the be all and end all. As they say, ignorance is bliss. To others who have had the opportunity to have been touched by several styles or other forms, may then to a fault, often try to determine their own usage of the styles they have been trained in. It is that deterministic outlook that holds them down. Making them favor a certain style. This is usually seen as having a simplistic view of what Martial Arts should really mean. Martial Arts has no distinctive form. It has applications. Martial Arts should not be objective because it is subjective. Its form is limited only by its application and purpose. Its “style” derived from its application and purpose.

So what exactly does having no style or being freestyle mean?

Let’s look at it from the perspective of what it looks like. The objectivity of styles. Here, styles don’t mean a different stroke or a kind of stroke but rather it is its sets of rules which determine the flow of strokes, the connectivity of strokes and techniques. When you see Muaythai you know its Muaythai, when you see Western Boxing or Tae Kwon Do, you know it’s Western Boxing or TKD. This is what I mean by the objectivity of styles. You know it as a set of patterns or the favoritism in the usage of certain parts of the body as a weapon or weapons.
But what about the subjectivity of styles then? Is there such a thing as a style if it is subjective? Take Muaythai for instance, Muaythai is Muaythai. It means Thai boxing. However, subjective to the different geographical parts of Thailand, they have certain differences in styles. The differences in the styles are subjective to how the art can be effectively employed. In parts where rain is prominent and the land is wet, the stance is much lower and wider so you don’t slip and fall too easily. So does that mean that they are of different styles or that they are the same styles applied differently? This is also why it kills me when people think Muay Boran and MuayThai are 2 separate and different forms or styles. The only differences are the results expected from their applications.
Being freestlye or having no style, should simply mean not being anchored by the egos of any particular way but instead understanding and using what is useful for you, based on unique factors like your body frame, your temperament during that period of learning, your strengths and weaknesses, your environment etc… Take the good stuff (what’s good for you might not be good for me) and throw away the noise (parts or theories that don’t benefit me or not realistic for my case or time). It should not be misunderstood as NOT having a style at all! You need to grow out of a seed. You need a seed. And that’s where the different styles or schools come in. They give you a start. Good or bad (there is really no bad Martial Arts. Just bad practitioners), they sow a seed in you, a seed from which you will grow into your tree of knowledge and branch out to gain even more knowledge and skill to enhance your growth. Similar to plants, how you grow and what you become is usually determined by your characteristics, state of mind and geographical environment. Much like how mangroves and cedar trees are different in their own right but began as a seed.

So is it possible to NOT have a style?

So to sum it up, I would say it is NOT possible NOT to have a style. We need and will have a style. A seed to begin our journey in Martial Arts. What we strive is to not being tied down by any rules and the applications of the styles. Through our constant learning and evolving of our knowledge, techniques and weapons, we soon develop something of OUR own “style” based on OUR needs and abilities (a little about this below). So don’t be sucked in into your own little world of your style or art that you are training in and think that being the best in your little coral environment automatically makes you the biggest bad ass of the ocean. Continue learning and ALWAYS keep an open mind.
(Sorry but I still struggle to have an open mind towards the Ki energy Masters floating on the internet who can down a man simply with a slight touch or gesture. Someone please slap them).

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Everyone wants to be Bruce Lee. Some even think they ARE.
Well Bruce lee was a lean mean fighting machine who trained up to 8 hours a day and had a side kick that was faster than my jab.
I am a man in my 40s who trains up to 2 hours a day anything between 2 to 5 days a week depending on my life’s schedule. What about you? And the thing is, given your circumstances and environment you might not need to have moves that are faster than the eye can see. So chill out and practice Martial Arts to help nurture your attributes to be the best human being you can be. Certainly DO NOT do Martial Arts just to feed your ego.
Please don’t.
Just don’t.