6 Lessons Learned from Brewing Tea

(Image source: http://www.itoen.com/preparing-tea)
(Image source: http://www.itoen.com/preparing-tea)

For someone who loves tea, I have to admit I know little of the proper way to brew it. All I know is that I am not supposed to let the loose tea or a tea bag steep for 5 minutes or more as this will leave a bitter aftertaste. Last night’s attempt to prepare a drink from the Mountain Tea Leaves my sister brought home from Sagada made me realize why I have always been fascinated by the Japanese tea ceremony. There is so much to learn and enjoy from the process of preparing tea.

Sagada Mountain Tea Leaves
Sagada Mountain Tea Leaves

I have tried preparing loose leaf tea before. But it was the first time for me to brew one using full leaves so I had no idea what to do. I made the mistake of adding the leaves into the boiling water and letting it simmer for a few minutes. Once done, I somehow forgot to quickly remove the leaves. I got busy doing something else that by the time I remembered, the tea was already too bitter for me to enjoy. This later prompted the overthinker in me to ponder about the things I learned from my failed tea brewing experience.

1) The quality of work and effort you put into doing something is directly proportional to the quality of the results you get.

2) There are things you have to do slowly.

3) Paying attention and being present in every task increases the chances of success. And it creates a sense of fulfillment.

4) You do not always get it right the first time.

5) There is nothing much to be gained in dwelling on certain things for too long. Imagine life events like tea leaves that could produce bitter drinks if left to steep longer than they should. It is best to enjoy things or ponder on them for as long as you can then let go.

6) Take time to slow down. The best things in life, like a cup of tea, are best created or prepared slowly. So be mindful and give it all you’ve got.

Advertisements

Keiko in Semi-Darkness and the Joy Found in Not Giving Up

Kendo practice is always a challenge even on the best days. But yesterday’s keiko stretched me past my limits more than I could count. It was my first practice after two weeks of resting and recovering from the recurring pains from an old knee injury and sore Achilles heels. I would have to say that it was also one of the best training I had in a long while. Not because I felt good and did things right. But because I came across the toughest walls I had to scale to survive the almost three hours of keiko.

Keiko in Semi-Darkness

The twice daily rotating 3-hour long power outages have been a source of suffering for many of us here in Mindanao. And things are expected to get worse as the country enters its “summer” months. The scheduled blackouts though have only affected us briefly before during keiko. And I think it was towards the end of practice. Yesterday was the first time that we started training in semi-darkness. There was only one source of light. I was told that the rest of the fluorescent light bulbs were not connected to the facility’s generator. It was also somewhat suffocating since we could not use the electric fans that usually offer some relief from the heat and humidity. Even at 6:00PM, it was still hot. While there were windows in the dojo, almost all of them were blocked by tree trunks, shrubs, and many other things that keep the fresh air from flowing in.

We trained in these conditions for about two hours before power came back. And we somehow ended up continuing practice without plugging in the electric fans. I think this was one of the reasons why it was tougher for me yesterday. There were times that I found it hard to breathe. I just kept repeating this mantra in my head that I could do it. That I must never give up no matter what even if my body is telling me otherwise.

Getting Assigned to Take the Lead

Before keiko started, one of my kouhais told me that he was asked by our club manager/president to take the lead. Both our club manager/president and the vice-president were in Hong Kong to take the 1Dan exam (which they both passed) last Friday.

So I was surprised when during mawari geiko our sensei approached my kouhai when he started giving instructions. He told him that I will be taking the lead on the motodachi side. I was not supposed to move from my spot during the rotation. I had to quickly prepare myself mentally and physically for the responsibility. Even as one of the senior members of the group, it is rare for me to be assigned responsibility at anything in training. I was not used to it. It added to the things that I had to deal with during the grueling session. For me, it meant that I really should not stop at any point or take a rest even if I feel like I could no longer carry on since I had to set an example.

Emptying My Mind During Jigeiko with Sensei

If there is one thing many of us in bogu class shares, it would probably be that feeling of dread before jigeiko with Lim-sensei. I even noticed that some members opt to line up for jigeiko with Kazu-senpai – our other 3Dan instructor. I used to do it myself before I go to Lim sensei. But last month I started to challenge myself to do jigeiko with sensei right off the bat. I figured that it was the only way to overcome the dread and improve myself no matter how little each time.

All of us were already tired by the time we have to do jigeiko. Kazu senpai was not around so everyone had no choice but to do it with sensei. I was not expecting much from myself at this point. I just did my usual mental self-talk telling myself that I can do it. I also decided to empty my mind going in. I just wanted to do whatever I have to do without thinking much about it. I do not know what happened, but it was one of the best jigeiko I had with sensei in a long while.

Yesterday’s keiko made me think about what Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee, said about Olympism:

Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of a good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.

I would have to agree once again that indeed there is joy found in effort regardless of how much pain and suffering you have to put up with in the process.

[Kendo Musings] Finding the lost drive and the serendipity of letting go

(Photo credit: @verywellnoel)
(Photo credit: @verywellnoel)

My kendo journey hit a wall in 2015. I lost my commitment and drive. And I even went on a long hiatus twice. I only came back a month before a scheduled kyu evaluation last November. I of course failed the grading given my lack of training and progress.

I am still struggling to rekindle my motivation. But at least I have been able to drag myself to the dojo to continue training.

There are several external and internal factors at play that pushed me to the brink of quitting. I have tried to do something to address both early last year. But I quickly realized that I am powerless in dealing with the external stuff. I figured it is best to leave them alone. It is a tall order for me because I am wired to observe, analyze, and act. Unfortunately, I seem to operate differently than what others are used to. Given the lessons I have learned, I decided to focus more on myself. I need to learn how to accept the nature of my current kendo environment without compromising the things I stand for.

I am still working on completely letting things go. It is not easy to let things slide when they have a direct or indirect effect on my progress. But taking baby steps leaves me empowered. Kendo is teaching me a lot about humility. It is teaching me to endure the unpleasant and irritating things even if they impact or derail my training. Above all, it made me realize that taking the higher ground is easier said than done. But taking a small step towards that direction feels like a major achievement.

But my need to learn and improve is so strong. I am desperate to understand more of what I am doing because I learn better that way. I have yet to find a mentor to help me with that.

Today though, I am just happy with these discoveries I had while reading some kendo resources:

Yakusoku geiko

Yakusoku in general means “promise”. So the targets to be struck are already decided (prearranged). Therefore, if you have the targets to be struck in certain order, i.e. “onaji no waza uchikomi geiko”, it is a yakusoku geiko.

Now if we apply the definition of yakusoku geiko, all the training for techniques such as debana kote, men kaeshi men and so on are all yakusoku geiko, because both motodachi (receiver) and kakarite (striker) know what target and how they should strike.

So yakusoku geiko is a general term for training in which the practitioners know what targets should be struck.(Source: Kendo-Guide.Com)

Butsukarigeiko

…continued practice of men and taitari followed by hiki waza (Source: kendoinfo.net)

Hikitate-geiko

In jigeiko, the higher ranks will make openings to the lower ranks so that the lower ranks can learn good opportunities to strike. (Source: Kendo-Guide.Com)

Knowing these terms and understanding their purpose is a big deal for me. We have been doing them during practice but I did not know that there are specific terms for them. I feel that now I can optimize their benefits more. It also made me understand a bit better why the senseis and senpais I have done jigeiko with use them. Hopefully, I could use this newfound knowledge to be a better kakarite. It may even help me become a better motodachi to my kouhais.

Learning all the Japanese terms is not an easy feat given that it is rare for us to use them in the dojo. But I find that knowing the term and the rationale for each drill or technique helps me execute it more properly. At least as properly as a newbie like me can.

How will your 2016 be?

So a friend took this quiz and it got me curious. I thought I might as well give it a try for fun. I’m loving the results  although I’m curious about number 1. I haven’t really thought of owning a car. I even flatly refused my dad’s attempts to convince me and my sisters to let him buy a new one. This was about two years after he wrecked his car in an accident that traumatized us.  Still, I don’t mind it being there. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that nothing’s absolute. Who knows, I might develop a liking for driving and owning my own car. For now, I’d be happy with the rest.

2016 for me

[How will your 2016 be? quiz]

Kids Playing Amazing Dodgeball

The winning team kept it simple. They were strategic, synchronized, focused, efficient, and effective. And I love how they have girls on their team! Cute and impressive! It may seem like they took the game way too seriously than their opponents. But I don’t think so. People of all ages just play differently. Some could be a bit intense, but that doesn’t mean they’re not having fun. It could be that for them seriously going at it and giving their best may be their idea of fun.

Well-played, both teams!

 

5 Things To Be Thankful For After Failing My 1st Kyu Assessment

Any lingering doubt that November has been a particularly challenging one for me has been blown to bits this morning. Failing my kendo 1st kyu assessment earlier today, the last day of the month, was like a fitting farewell to the grueling four weeks behind me.

I welcomed this month with one goal in mind — to prepare as much as I can for the kyu assessment. After all, that was what made me decide to give kendo another try. I initially thought the increased pressure at work that called for longer hours and learning new stuff were the only hurdles I have to overcome. But I was wrong. The challenges just kept piling up that I felt like I was drowning. The worst part came when my dad had to stay at the hospital for several days. I was able to breathe normally again only after he came home a few days back.

Failing is a bitter pill to swallow. But as soon as the initial disappointment and sadness faded, I could actually think of some reasons to be thankful for.

1. A confirmation of what I already knew all along – I almost gave up on the assessment knowing that there’s no way I can perform well. Today’s disastrous results proved what I already knew after my second day back in training:

kendo today

2. Supportive kendoka – Ma’am Ruby, who is one of my first batch co-members, not only managed to make me come back. She also taught me Kata 1-3 every time we practiced beginning a few weeks back. Then there’s Paul and Alain who taught us Bokuto 1-9 last Wednesday and Thursday.

3. A good reminder to myself on the importance of trying despite the odds being stacked against me – The day before the kyu assessment, our club manager who was supposed to be taking the 1st kyu evaluation with us, said that according to the Manila Kendo Club (MKC) senseis we can only take up to the 2nd kyu. I was happy to hear this because I thought that I’m really not qualified for 1st kyu. So I went home thinking that I’ll be trying to pass 2 kyu the next day. I even spent some time reviewing the Bokuto 1-9 before I slept and as soon as I woke up this morning. So I was completely shocked when we were told that we’ll be taking the 1st kyu assessment instead. I didn’t even had time to practice Kata 1-3 before the assessment. I used up the spare time I had before the start of the evaluations practicing bokuto 1-9 which I was expecting to perform for 2nd kyu. In hindsight, I should have stuck it out with 2nd kyu or went for 3rd kyu instead of going for 1st kyu. But something good still came out of it because I learned thatI can rise to the challenge and give it a try no matter how all the odds are stacked against me.

4. A testament to the importance of just showing up regardless of how many hurdles I have to overcome – This quote I shared on day 1 of pre-kyu assessment training with the MKC senseis and senpais together with Ono Masahiro sensei from Hong Kong inspired me to just show up despite the toll of the hellish weeks I’ve had.

kendo today 2
5. The lessons learned – I learned so many things in the three days of training with the visiting senseis and senpais. I wish we could train like that more. But I’ll take whatever I can get as a gift. And our gracious guests have generously taught us a lot. For that I’m extremely grateful.

 

[Photos] One Fine Night at the The City of Light

The early evening rain did not last long. It trickled down to a drizzle after the initial downpour. In less than an hour, it stopped. The fierce wind that gripped La Ville Lumière that day seemed to have blown it away. It was a good night for a walk. Chilly but romantic — the sort of romance that makes you fall in love with life again. Walking the streets of Paris made me realize again that true beauty is the sum of all the good and bad. The City of Light lives up to its reputation. And in many ways, it exceeds it.

Eiffel Tower mesmerizes at night.
Eiffel Tower mesmerizes at night.
Near the fountain
Near the fountain
Pyramide du Louvre (Louvre Pyramid) at the Palais du Louvre (Louvre Palace) courtyard.
Pyramide du Louvre (Louvre Pyramid) at the Palais du Louvre (Louvre Palace) courtyard.
Facade of a section of the Louvre Palace.
Facade of a section of the Louvre Palace.
One of the smaller pyramids around the Louvre Pyramid.
One of the smaller pyramids around the Louvre Pyramid.
The lights dazzle. A lovely night for a walk. Autumn seemed to have come early in Paris.
The lights dazzle. A lovely night for a walk. Autumn seemed to have come early in Paris.
At a street near the Louvre. With my Paris-based friend and former teammate.
At a street near the Louvre. With my Paris-based friend and former teammate.

 

Belgium delights

Two cities and not many photos to show for it. It was a hectic time in Belgium. All I could do was soak up every moment and try to remember what I have seen and experienced in Antwerp and Brussels. It was a lot like that trip to The Netherlands where not a single image on the old-school camera film survived the airport’s x-ray machine.

The bed which I did not get to use much while in Antwerp. While quite tiring, the Belgium leg of the trip was fun, fulfilling, and memorable in many ways.
The bed which I did not get to use much while in Antwerp. While quite tiring, the Belgium leg of the trip was fun, fulfilling, and memorable in many ways.
Walked for an hour or so looking for a grocery store a few hours after I arrived in Antwerp. I could not find any so I ended up in a store at a gasoline station next to the hotel.
Walked for an hour or so looking for a grocery store a few hours after I arrived in Antwerp. I could not find any so I ended up in a store at a gasoline station next to the hotel.
Something sweet to perk me up while reviewing for the next day's jury assignments.
Something sweet to perk me up while reviewing for the next day’s jury assignments.
Out and about. Taken while looking for a place to eat dinner.
Out and about. Taken while looking for a place to eat dinner.
Colleagues from Finland, Denmark, Norway, France, Canada, and Hong Kong checking the menu outside Colmar's in Antwerp.
Colleagues from Finland, Denmark, Norway, France, Canada, and Hong Kong checking the menu outside Colmar’s in Antwerp.
Dinner at Colmar's. Unlimited wine, sodas, and beer. I so love the latter!
Dinner at Colmar’s. Unlimited wines, sodas, and beer. I so love the latter!
Not enough days to sample some of the extensive selections of the finest Belgian chocolates.
Not enough days to sample some of the extensive selections of Belgian chocolates.

[PhotoJournal] 2015 World Rowing Masters Regatta

2015 World Rowing Masters Regatta
Hazewinkel, Belgium
10 to 13 September 2015

Wednesday, 9 September

One of the pontoons at the venue. Taken at dusk after the umpiring seminar on September 9th.
One of the pontoons at the venue. Taken at dusk after the umpiring seminar.
Finish Tower and exhibit area from a distance.
Finish Tower and exhibit area from a distance.
Umpire boats
Umpire boats
Training boat on display at the exhibit area.
Training boat on display at the exhibit area.
Official programs distributed during the seminar.
Official programs distributed during the seminar. There were over 3,000 rowers who participated in the event. Jury members had to work in shifts. It was the busiest race I have been to with only 3 minutes intervals between races. Day 2 & 3 of races started at 8:00AM and finished just before 7:00PM.
Read about the Masters Fund for the Youth Rowing Programme.
Read about the Masters Fund for the Youth Rowing Programme.

 

Thursday, 10 September

Photo taken at the restaurant after the continuation of the umpiring seminar. Rowers are getting ready for the start of the first day of races at 1:00PM.
Photo taken at the restaurant after the continuation of the umpiring seminar. Rowers are getting ready for the start of the first day of races at 1:00PM.
View from the container van equipment office where we get hand-held radios before the start of jury duties.
View from the container van equipment office where we get hand-held radios before the start of jury duties.
Photo taken after my 1st shift duty at Lane Control ended.
Photo taken after my 1st shift duty at Lane Control ended.
Spent the free time after my shift at the "Checkpoint Charlie" post near the Aligner's Hut.
Spent the free time after my shift at the “Checkpoint Charlie” post near the Aligner’s Hut.
Crews at the Pre-Start area.
Crews at the Pre-Start area.
8+'s at the Start.
8+’s at the Start.
FISA President Jean-Christophe Rolland awarding medals and pins to octogenarians – rowers over the age of 80 during the opening ceremony.
FISA President Jean-Christophe Rolland awarding medals and pins to octogenarians (rowers over the age of 80) during the opening ceremony.

 

Friday, 11 September

It was still dark when we arrived at the venue. I was on the 1st and 3rd shift as Judge at the Start and Umpire at 100 (50m to 350m zone) respectively.
It was still dark when we arrived at the venue. I was on the 1st and 3rd shift as Judge at the Start and Umpire at 100 (50m to 350m zone) respectively.
The only other photo I managed to take that day. Taken after my shift.
The only other photo I managed to take that day. Taken after my shift.

 

Saturday, 12 September
2nd Shift: Control Commission – Out Pontoon 4
4th Shift: Umpire at 500 (350m to 750 zone)

Sunday, 13 September

Beautiful foggy morning on the last day of races.
Beautiful foggy morning on the last day of races. Out Pontoon 5 where I was assigned for my last duty for the 2015 WRMR.
Very Special Race - Umpires vs Organizers vs Volunteers
Very Special Race – (L-R: Volunteers vs Organizers vs Umpires)

 

(September 8-13, 2015)

[PhotoJournal] 2015 World Rowing Championships and WhatsNext2Rowing Conference

2015 World Rowing Championships
Lac d’Aiguebelette
30 August to 6 September 2015

Info board at the lobby in our hotel.
Info boards at the lobby in our hotel.
At the designated venue shuttle bus stop in Aix-les-Bains. A block away from our hotel.
At the designated venue shuttle bus stop in Aix-les-Bains. A block away from our hotel.
View from outside the bus window while traveling to Lac d'Aiguebelette.
View from outside the bus window while traveling to Lac d’Aiguebelette.
One of the properties overlooking a section of the lake. Imagine waking up every morning to a great view.
One of the properties overlooking a section of the lake. Imagine waking up every morning to a great view.
It was a first for my colleague from Myanmar and I to just enjoy hanging out at the competition venue and not working as umpires. This was taken at the spectators' area teeming with people. There were also several stalls selling merchandises as well as food and beverages. (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
It was a first for my colleague from Myanmar and I to just enjoy hanging out at the competition venue and not working as umpires. This was taken at the spectators’ area teeming with people. There were also several stalls selling merchandises as well as food and beverages. (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
At the spectators' area. (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
At the spectators’ area. (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Near the Finish area.
Near the Finish area.
Crews approaching the finish line with the umpire and media boats following. The two swans gliding on the water seemed unperturbed by all the excitement around them.
Crews approaching the finish line with the umpire and media boats following. The two swans gliding on the water seemed unperturbed by all the excitement around them.
This photo failed to capture the beauty of this lake.
This photo failed to capture the beauty of this lake.
One of the pontoons at the venue.
One of the pontoons at the venue.
Waiting for the shuttle at the parking lot. Buses have designated routes picking up participants from bus stops near their respective hotels in various towns near the venue.
Waiting for the shuttle at the parking lot. Buses have designated routes picking up participants from bus stops near their respective hotels in various towns near the venue.
Watching the A Finals for W4-, M2+, LM2-, LM1x, LW1x, LM4x, LW4x at the grandstand.
Watching the A Finals for W4-, M2+, LM2-, LM1x, LW1x, LM4x, LW4x at the grandstand.

What’s Next to Rowing Conference
Lac d’Aiguebelette
4 September 2015

Tricia Smith (FISA Vice President), Matt Smith (FISA Executive Director), and Jacomine Ravensbergen (FISA Women´s Cross Commission Chair) (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Tricia Smith (FISA Vice President), Matt Smith (FISA Executive Director), and Jacomine Ravensbergen (FISA Women´s Cross Commission Chair)
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Anita DeFrantz, Executive Board member, International Olympic Committee (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Anita DeFrantz, Executive Board member, International Olympic Committee
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Nicole Girard-Savoy, IOC Manager, Olympic Solidarity International Olympic Committee (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Nicole Girard-Savoy, IOC Manager, Olympic Solidarity International Olympic Committee
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Sevara Ganiyeva, Uzbekistan Rowing International Specialist; FISA Youth Commission member (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Sevara Ganiyeva, Uzbekistan Rowing International Specialist; FISA Youth Commission member
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Oluode Olubunmi Ola, Nigerian NF Secretary General; Nigerian NOC Women and Sport Commission (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Oluode Olubunmi Ola, Nigerian NF Secretary General; Nigerian NOC Women and Sport Commission
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Chantal Buchser, IOC Sports Department, Commissions and Projects - Project Manager The IOC Athlete Career Programme and Lenka Wech, FISA Executive Committee Member (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Chantal Buchser, IOC Sports Department, Commissions and Projects – Project Manager
The IOC Athlete Career Programme and Lenka Wech, FISA Executive Committee Member
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Sheila Stephens Desbans, FISA Development Department Manager (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Sheila Stephens Desbans, FISA Development Department Manager
(Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)
Jean-Christophe Rolland, FISA President
Jean-Christophe Rolland, FISA President (Photo credit: Mon Mon Khaing)