Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

JK Rowling Commencement Speech @ Harvard- The Importance of Failure & Imagination

JK Rowling gives a commencement speech to Harvard Graduates
She talks about the importance of failure and the power of imagination
(Thanks to Amos for the heads-up)

This is what education is all about.

Friday, April 16, 2010

National Inter-school Wushu Championships: Group Finals

So the day of reckoning has arrived.
Our first event was the C-Div Group Quan:

The C-Boys have always been a bit lacking in this event compared to their seniors in B-Div. Essentially, the routine is the same but the C-boys lack the tightness and 'ooomph' the seniors deliver.
But today, we can see from their performance that they have worked hard to tighten their act and movements are crisp and tight now. Many eyes were on VS definitely.
I'm sure our improvement was such a big surprise even to the judges that for the first time participating in the National Inter-school Wushu Championships, I was hauled off to the Head Judges table immediately after our C-Boys performed to explain our choice of music to them.

Yup. They wanted me to explain why our music violated competition rules of not having any lyrics in the music- for which there would be a penalty deduction of points. By then our C-Boys were waiting nervously for their scores to come out but I told them be steady. My years teaching Literature and helping to launch the VS Debate team in 2004 must have paid off because I explained that the definition of 'lyrics' must be in a recognisable language. The evocative female hum in our opening sequence (0.00 to 0.16) can hardly be constituted as lyrics right?
I mean, if you can subtitle that section for me and tell me which language it is sung in, I would gladly concede that point.
The judges took awhile to deliberate the merits of my thought provoking thesis and finally agreed- the C-Div boys only had to wait for about 10mins standing still before I was informed that there would be no penalty for us.
Incidentally, the fact that the immediate previous school before us had, by sheer coincidence used the EXACT SAME piece of music and immediately been given their score without protest or query seemed to slip the judges minds.
It is perfectly understandable that in the long arduous competition, you might have a temporary episode of short-term memory and in our tropical climate, it might be contagious and infect people around you.
When I mentioned it to the advisors and convening authuourity, they agreed that spontaneous memory loss was an issue that I could legitimately lodge a protest against. I declined cos I believe that I made my point, the C-Boy's didn't get deduction of their points and also by that time I was seriously confused whether I was teacher-in-charge at a Inter-school Wushu Championships or teacher-in-charge at Inter-school Debating Championships.
For their efforts, the C-Boys managed to get a 3rd place in this event.

Having seen their juniors go through the judging fiasco, the B-Div knew that they would be severely scrutinised. To their credit, they pulled-off their Group Quan with aplomb. In the clip, you can see that many of their slaps and strikes were able to echo with just one single sound. While our other competitor teams strove for mastery over technical and acrobatic movements, we strove for unity and togetherness:

Nevertheless, B-Div were not able to place as there were 3 ties in 2nd position at 8.11. VS just happened to get 8.1 and was relegated to 5th place, so we were unable to garner any points for B-Div in that event.

In the C-Div Group Weapon, our C-Boys were the first ever group in the Inter-School Championships (and as far as I know, in National Championships) to do a Group E-mei Needle routine. It was a challenging routine to choreograph because prior to this I myself never learnt that weapon; but we discussed it and agreed as a team to try something new and challenge ourselves.
The main problem with this weapon is getting it to spin consistently and we knew that it would present opportunities for multiple point deductions; but heck, it's a damn fun weapon to practice with and despite small mistakes today, the boys did manage to pull off most of their spins successfully:

Our Sec 1s are just so adorable-- when they reach Sec 4 and still run around like that spinning needles, then I'm going to get worried :P
After the event, we were tied in 4th place- however after moderation of scores, we were relegated out to 5th and C-Div did not place in this event.

Having not placed in the previous Group Quan, the B-Div boys needed to secure at least a 2nd place in this event in order to earn enough points to contend for Top 4 Divisional placing. We were the last to go in this event and from the moment our boys went up, we definitely caught the attention of the crowd. Friends, fellow supporters and even our competitors were cheering us on. We delivered a tight routine and I felt my hopes soar....

I don't know whether the audience members close to me were more shocked by the fall or my loud groan while filming.
Understandbly, the boys were feeling down and I rushed over to them. My main concern was if anybody had been injured because I overhead some audience member say they saw one of our guys limping. Thankfully, no sprains were evident.
While I vehemently questioned the motivation behind certain procedures invoked against us today, this mistake me and the B-boys gotta take it on the chin.
Because in this instance, it was through our own mistakes that we let our chances slip away. Any major fall in an event is a deduction of 0.5point. Given our final score of 7.66, if we had not made that unforced error, we would be tied for second in the event with 8.16 points.
With that , VS B-Div stayed at 22points and was relegated out of Divional Top 4 placing.

Now, before we all go pointing fingers in the team. Boys, it is a Group Event so there are NO such thing as individual mistakes.
Would I scold you guys if it happened in training? You bet your life!
But I know you've been training hard and in this event you all gave your best- How can I bear to reprimand you all when I feel the pain and disappointment for each of you too?
For the boys who have not done as well as they have expected in the Individual events, especially when they end up getting getting 2nd or 3rd place after a close fight; I've been telling you all
"Don't turn your minor victories, into major disappointments"

Look at us receiving our C-Div Group Quan 3rd place today:

We got a chance to go on stage and bring the Victorian flag with us- only the top 4 schools out of the 17 schools in that event get a chance to do so.
Isn't that in itself something for the entire team to celebrate?

Look at our total number of Individual medals this year:

Isn't that cause to still celebrate?

Whatever our results today, we went in knowing that at the very least, C-Division had cemented itself for C-Division 3rd Place.
Isn't that cause to still celebrate?

So although I felt the pain in each one of you, I wanted you all to pick yourself up and celebrate with pride what you all have accomplished as a team and still sing the Victorian Anthem at the end of the day

In one of our classic cheers, we say:
"We walk from the game with pride and fame; we feel no fear and we feel no pain"
Where does that pride come from? In doing our best!
Where does the fame go to? The fame goes to Victoria- the school that watched us grow!

Grow into Gentlemen, Professional and Sportsmen!

So I saved the best video for last.
So this morning, while you all were warming-up before going off to competition grounds. I sat quietly in the corner, sipping tea, just watchin you all. To be honest, I myself totally shack out liao.
But watching you all take ownership of your own training- peers leading peers, seniors guiding juniors, that made me feel that the seeds I planted back in 2005 have not only taken root but are bearing fruit.

As always, I am proud of what you have become.
And yes, I will still scold you and be hard on you so that YOU will be proud of yourself in what you will become in the future.

VS Wushu, Jia you!

National Inter-school Wushu Championships- Behind the scenes

Finally, after an agonising 2 weeks- we have reached the Group Finals.
At this stage each of our divisions has 2 events: Group Quan and Group Weapon.
The C-Div boys were currently ranked 3rd in Division standings- We were secure in it as 4th place was about 30pts behind; but Chung Cheng and Anderson were leading at 65 and 61 points respectively, so it would also be hard to catch up.

For B-Div, we were 5th with 22 points currently but 1st ranking school, Beatty only lead by 6 points with total of 28- so there was a real chance for B-Div to contest for Top 3 placing. With so much at stake, it was an intense 2 weeks for all of us.

How intense? First of, let me show you the HARD CORE training that the boys went through. M18 audience only pls.

We were actually inspired by the hardcore training the Floorball team undergoes from Mr Amir during the afternoons- so on a hot sat afternoon after morning training and then lunch, the boys decided go 'commando' and do it bare-bodied! That's the Victorian Spirit for you!

Then last night, the senior boys stayed back to work with me to refurbish and 'upgrade' their halbreds. The weapons they had been using were rusted through constant contact with skin and sweat so they looked really bad-

but we couldn't do anything to them earlier cos then the rust would set in again, so can only work on it the night before:

Check out the finished product, man!

Check our next blog post for coverage of the final days events.
Stay tuned- video files uploading, will be done by 10.45pm

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

National Inter-school Wushu Championships- Day 6

Today is the last day of our Individual events, in both C and B Divisions, VS and our fellow competing schools are neck to neck in the divisional standings- thus every point garnered today is a crucial one.

Today we had Samuel Tam from Sec 2B taking part in the C-Div 5-Duan Spear event:

Samuel managed to hold on to a 4th position till the middle of the pack but was edged out when the later athletes delivered their well-polished performances. Nevertheless, Samuel proved that he was not a one-trick pony and that apart from his Taiji, he was equally competent in other wushu disciplines. His hard work has definitely made him a versatile athlete able to be deployed in many ways for the benefit of the team

Where Samuel failed to placed in his spear event, fellow team-mate Lee Jingwei from 2H took part in the C-Div Spear 1st International Routine.

Jing came back from the set-back he faced in the Changquan routine the previous week and gave us a much needed Gold medal to boost our divisional standings.

The 'dark horse' of the C-Division was Chee Jay Sian from 1A. Jay had set his sights on Victoria School since Pri 6 and made it an effort to work hard both in wushu and his studies to make it here. Ever since he has stepped into the school, he has pushed himself hard and worked quietly to improve himself.
In the heavily contested C-Boys 4-Duan Cudgel event with 30 plus participants, Jay would have to really distinguish himself just to make it into the top 4:

With his never-say-die attitude, Jay proved that even the underdog has it's day. Jay managed to clinch a Bronze in 3rd place and added some more points to our C-Div for our divisional standings.

The C-Division overall standing is tight this year, with VS and many other teams running head to head with 40 plus points. So not to be out done, our pioneer 'recruit' Fung Jin Jie made it a fantastic swansong in his graduation year. Jingo competeted in the B-Div Cudgel 2nd International Routine and despite a costly deduction of 0.2 for an extra step, he achieved a personal best by bagging his hat trick of 3 Gold Medals in one competition.

Do ignore my sudden outburst- when I heard the cudgel hit Jingo from the extra rotation, I feared that another similar situation like 2008 would happen again where a single error cost him dearly. Maybe it's my scolding, maybe it's my nagging or maybe Jingo finally grew up- he ignored the error and we could see him pushing himself harder to ensure that he impressed the judges and make up for it. The crucial moment was the butterfly jump but when Jingo nailed it flawlessly, I knew he had not given up and was still in the game.

Boys, (and parents- whom I'm sure are reading) and fellow Victorians, that is the purpose of learning martial arts and wushu- it is to make a resounding comeback when we are faced with defeat. I'm sure everyone will be talking tonight of the number of medals VS and our various competitors have and that is only to be expected. After all, it is a competition and we all want to strive to be the champion.

But Victorians, always remember it is who you are, what you do that gives value to the medal that you wear round your neck and not the medal that defines who your are.

We are going to battle against some very strong teams on Friday for the Group Events. My goal and instructions for you is not to go out there and win me a medal.
My goal and desire for the team is to go out there and share your hardwork this last years with your friends and fellow competitors from other schools, win their recognition and respect by showing them the results of your hardwork in our own Group Events.

If you do that, win or lose; medal or no medal, you will walk away from the carpet with pride and satisfaction that no one can take away.
Believe in that.

Monday, April 12, 2010

National Inter-school Wushu Championships- Day 5

After an intensive week of competition, the boys still met up with me on Sat for practice from 10am to 3.30pm. They've been working hard and the efforts are paying off.

Jeconiah Tan How Ruan from Sec 1F scored first-blood for VS today and achieved his hat-trick in this Championship by getting his third individual medal for VS in the C-Div Nan Gun.

With his vigourous performance, Jec mangaged to achieve a Bronze in 3rd place-- just narrowly losing out to the second place athlete by 0.01 point.

In B-Div, Fung Jin Jie from Sec 4B dominated his event, the B-Div Broadsword 2nd International Routine with a score of 8.66, 0.5pts higher than his closest competitor, to come in first with his second Gold medal for VS:

However, it was the Taiji duo of Samuel Tan and Ho Mun Yong, both from 2B that continued to establish our strong hold in the Taiji events. In the C-Div 42-step Taiji Sword, Ho Mun Yong took a Gold in first place with Samuel Tan coming in a close second for the Silver:

Our B-Div boys also competed in the same event, the 42-step Taiji. Ang Kang Jie from Sec 3C showed his progress in taiji compared to his performance in Sec 2. With his score, he was able to hold on to 4th position for a moment, however the seasoned veterans in this event soon over took him.

However, Kangjie remained undaunted and was the first student to return back to school to join his school mates back in training. A fitting example of how our incoming Vice-Captain should behave- Kangjie leads by example. Well done!

The intense competition was enlightened by John Png from Sec 3B. Participating in the same event as Kang Jie, John stunned all of us with his marked improvement- especially since he had just completed his routine.
What stunned the entire crowd of audience, judges and fellow competitors was John's total immersion in his routine until he stepped right out of the performing area.
(You can hear my scream of anguish at 2.19 kekeke)

It was obviously mix up in direction and confusion in routine; but wait... there's more!
This is where John showed the true Victorian spirit of 'Never Say Die'
Despite an error in direction and stepping out of the performance carpet entirely (an incident I have never ever seen before in any Taiji event-- and something which I doubt any of the judges have too!), John kept his cool composure and continued his routine calmly and managed to finish his routine and reface the correct direction!
(See clip at 3.01)
I couldn't help but smile as I watched this episode :P and indeed, while 2 wrongs don't make a right, in John's case negative x negative got him a positive.

And I guess that is the lesson worth learning for all of our boys training wushu- in life, we are bound to make mistakes and step out of line. Some of our mistakes may even be unthinkable and unexpected; but it is the ability to find your way back that makes a man out of you.
So if I may wax philosophical here, let us realise that often in life,"the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong... but time and chance happeneth to them all."

So In Other Words..... none of you athletes control the score that you get on the carpet; but for that brief minute or so, you control the time, the space and the attention of everyone there. It is how your use that time, that space and the attention that everyone has on you that gives your wushu training purpose and value.

The medals, well... they are just (im)material.

Friday, April 9, 2010

National Inter-school Wushu Championships- Day 4

After a long week of competition we reach the end of the week. Today we have Lloyd Teo from Sec 2A competiting in the C-Div 5-Duan Nanquan Routine:

Despite showing improvement, Llody missed out some movements in his routine and was penalised 0.2 points.

Next up were our Taiji boys. When the taiji events were first introduced into the wushu competition, there were relatively few competitors. Now, the level of competition in the taiji events has gone up tremendously and the 24-step Taiji Quan, 42-step Taiji Quan, 42-step Taiji Sword are all hotly contested events:

Here we see our B-Div boys Tan Yu Da from Sec 4I and John Png from Sec 3E competeting in the 42-Step Taiji:

Although our B-Boys were not able to place in top 4 in the Taiji events, our C-Boys did us proud and achieved 2 more medals for the C-Div

First up, we had Samuel Tan from 2B representing the C-Boys in the 24-Step Taiji:

Samuel has been training intensively since last year and his hard work really paid off. His improvement in his flexibility and strength comes from his willingness to listen to the advice the coaches and I give him. Samuel gave the C-Div it's first Gold medal of the season.

Next up, we had Ho Mun Yong, also from 2B. Munyong represented the C-Boys in the 42-Step Taiji.

Munyong's smooth delivery of his polished routine gave the C-Div its second Gold Medal.

It has been a tough week and it's still not over yet. We can see the boys competition getting closer each year and the hard work put in by our competitors.
Tomorrow, will be an intensive practice session again in school and we must push through and perservere through to the end.

Push on boys!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

So Cute...

While updating the blog on the current Wushu Competition, I was trawling the net and guess what I saw...

Guess who the cute boy in glasses is... (the one in the centre)

Wah, so cute...

National Inter-school Wushu Championships- Day 3

In Day 3 of the National Inter-school Wushu Championships, we saw our B-Boys taking part in the Nan Dao event.

Here we have Darren Tan from 3I:

Darren had a good opening segment and maintained his poise, however a shortage of one advancing step caused a penalty of 0.1 and that proved to be a costly deduction for him.

Next up, was Kong Wei Chung from 4D:

Wei Chung's earth shattering roars reverberated around the entire hall and managed to garner him an 8.05. It allow him to maintain 4th position for a brief moment. However, with several veteran athletes still to take this place on the carpet, Wei Chung was eventually relegated beyond the top 4.

In the B-Boys Broadsword 1st International Routine, we had Bernie Ang from 3G:

Last year, Bernie competed in the Formulated Events in C-Div. This year, moving up to B-Div, the challenge of learning 2 new International Routines indeed made it clear that the stakes were much higher in B-Div. After reviewing the footage and assessing the shortfalls, I was impressed with maturity when Bernie was able to analyse how he needed to step up his training to make up for the time lost last year while recuperating from an injury. In fact, the set back in this event seems to have allowed him to have the determination to push for full participation in the 3 Individual events next year. Bernie told me, "Don't worry, Sir- I still got next year!"
The way Bernie said it, I could hear that it wasn't to console me and the team; but rather it was his determination to overcome his personal barriers.
Bernie, for that, I am proud of you and proud of your amazing come-back to the team.
That is the champion spirit that I wish for all of you.

Despite our various set-backs, we didn't leave empty-handed- our gentle giant, Jeconiah from Sec 1F blazed his way through the C-Boys Nan Quan 1st Intl routine to emerge with a 2nd place Silver for VS

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

National Inter-school Wushu Championships- Day 2

Today, is Day 2 of the Inter-school Wushu Championships.

First up, we had Ryan Goh (Sec 4A) and Darren Tan (Sec 3I)in the B-Div Nan Gun event:

It was great to see our out-going Sec 4 Team Captain, Ryan Goh, competeting side-by-side with our incoming Sec 3 Team Captain, Darren Tan. It was a tough event with many season competitors and to be honest, the boys and I knew that our hopes were not high in this event. Nevertheless, they gave it their best and sometime after the event we received clarification from the officials that Darren Tan had actually managed to achieve a tie for Bronze in 4th place after all the moderation of scores!

Next for the B-Boys, we had Bernie Ang from Sec 3G in the B-Div Broadsword 1st International Routine:

With 40 over competitors, it was a tough fight for Bernie. He gave it his best but was unable to place in the event.

Next we had the C-Div Boys Changquan 1st International Routine.
First up, we had Leonard Tan from 1F:

Despite a few fumbles, Leonard was in high spirits and is looking forward to pushing himself in next year's competition.

In this even, we also had Lee Jingwei from 2H:

Jingwei gave a good and stable performance- however, the competition for this event was overwhelming and Jingwei was not able to place within the top 4.

As I shared with the boys and their parents, in life there will be people whom you surpass and they will also be others who surpass you.
Do not be arrogant when you have triumphed over your opponent- for only a worthy opponent can bring out the best in you.
Also, do not be dismayed when the efforts of others surpass your own- it does not diminish your own capabilities; rather it gives you a target for your future endeavours.
It may seem to be a profound concept, but when I looked into the faces of the 2 boys I spoke to, I was confident that they understood my expectations and philosophy in training.

The highlight of the day came from Fung Jin Jie from Sec 4E in the B-Div Changquan
2nd International Routine:

'Jingo' as he is affectionately known, put on a stella performance and delivered VS with our first Gold of the season. It was a tough and close fight as all the competitors were seasoned veterans and Jingo narrowly edged his way into first place with a lead of 0.03 pts to get a total of 8.66.

Tomorrow is a new day! Rest well boys, for a new day brings us a new challenge!

National Inter-school Wushu Championships- Day 1

Tue 6th Apr was the first day of the Inter-school Wushu Championships held at Chung Cheng High School.

Our C-Div boys were first up in the Sword 1st Intl Routine.
Here we have Leonard Tan from 1F:

In the same category, we also have Lee Jing Wei from 2H:

Jingwei put in a great performance to achieve a 3rd Place Bronze Medal- our first triumph of the day!

Later, we had our B Boys taking part in the Nanquan routine. First up, we had Darren Tan from 3I, our incoming Team Captain. Darren has matured greatly in the last year to become a pillar of the team:

Next we had Kong Wei Chung from 4D- Wei Chung is an ASEAN Scholar and although he just joined the team in Sec 3 last year, he has shown tremendous spirit and determination to contribute to VS:

Despite their best efforts and solid performance, luck was not on our side and together with several other crowd favourites, our boys fell short of the top 4 placing in the event. Nevertheless, they remain undaunted and will strive to work hard for their subsequent events

Our final competitor for the day, was Jeconiah Tan from 1F. Jec gave us a solid performance in the C-Div Boys Nanquan:

For his solid performance, Jec won for VS our second medal and garnered a 2nd place Silver in his event.

Well done boys! Let us not let the minor disappointments eclipse our triumphs in our first day and work hard to push ourselves onwards!

Monday, April 5, 2010

National InterSchool Wushu Competition: Day 0- The Eve of Battle

Tomorrow, the VS Wushu Team will be competing in the National Inter-School Wushu Competitions.

For the boys in the team and myself, this is what we live and breathe for- the passion for martial arts that allows us to push ourselves to achieve mastery and perfection in mind, body and spirit.

This year, we have a mature team and are fielding a full turn-out of competitors in both divisions for Individual and Group events. Every year, the competition gets tougher and tougher because teams get more proficient, more experienced and more creative (especially in the Group Events).
To make sure that we do ourselves proud and prove worthy of the challenge, our VS Wushu Team has been working hard and the boys have sacrificed their long weekend on Good Fri to give an awesome 3 day intensive workout.

We had regular training on Thur 1st April, then on Fri 2nd Apr and Sat 3rd Apr, the boys had a full day training session with me starting at 10am and ending at 4pm.
(with lunch break and nap time as well :P)

The boys took turns to work on their individual events:

It was good to see the senior boys cheering their juniors on and giving them pointers and tips.

We also took time to work on the crucial Group Events to tighten up on our timing, transitions and poses:

Apart from that, we also got the boys to do some relays and fitness training to raise their spirits and enhance their endurance:

Tomorrow is the big day! Jia you! VS Wushu- power, PoWeR, POWER!