The lost teaching

noro_manieresNoro Masamichi sensei in the early 60’s presenting techniques in his mannners.

We are dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants.

Master Albert or Maubert

Aikido has is lights and shadows. In the shadows, in some place of our dojo, within our techniques, we can find traces of them. Among them, Tohei Koichi sensei, Saito Morihiro sensei and of course my sensei, Noro Masamichi sensei.

These 3 senseis have in common their ability to create a comprehensive path to Aikido techniques, along which one may discover a logical which flows through all Aikido mouvements, opening our body and mind to the outer and inner aspects of Ueshiba sensei’s art.

Stanley Pranin sensei has documented on Tohei sensei and Saito sensei’s guidelines to learning Aikido. For Noro sensei who was Otomo to Ueshiba Morihei sensei, otomo meaning attending disciple, there is his son Noro Takeharu’s Kinomichi which he inherited and Ringenkai Aikido which I created after 30 years of daily study.

In the beginning, I had no wish to create a new style of Aikido. There are already so many schools and styles. I only had the wish to study and understand. But then, on the 3rd anniversary of my master’s passing away, I realized that without a name of it’s own, my vision of my master’s art will soon fade away within my own mind and even more disappear to the eyes of my students and the general public. I have studied Noro sensei’s vision of his own master, Ueshiba Morihei sensei.  I see now clearly that something unites the 30 years of teaching I have witnessed. That is my study: to unite Noro’s last 30 years circum a few principles.

As a boy, I used to spend Saturday afternoons between the library and the dojo. I have weaved and un-weaved ever since the lessons of each study place, entangling the wisdom of books and katas. Ringenkai Aikido is the fruit of a boy’s dreams. As I am now in my 50’s, I see it as the accomplishment of my duty to my master, to my students and to myself.

ringenkai_aikido_tab2Manners to be seen as fundamental research and forms as their application.

ringenkai_aikido_tab433 Kata: level 3. These are the mother and father techniques.

ringenkai_aikido_tab5111 kata: level 4. The multiple descendants.

Ringenkai Aikido has developed its own insights into the curriculum of Noro sensei. We work from the outer aspects to the inner motions. Then we go back to the outer dimension. Each technique is a door to all others, each one being itself a door to the opponent. Rin is in Japanese the wheel and gen the eye, Ringen is the vision of the wheel as a door to all wheels, a teaching as a door to all teachings.

I did present Noro sensei’s art for the first time in the US, in 2008 at the Boulder Aikikai at the invitation of Ikeda Hiroshi sensei. When I returned to Paris, Noro sensei told me he had never had the opportunity to present his Aikido in the US. He had been appointed leader for Europe and Africa as he set west from the Hombu dojo in 1961. I was happy to honour his work. It was Christian Tissier sensei (I teach near his dojo in the same town) who presented me to Ikeda sensei. At that workshop, Ikeda sensei and I got to practise 1 hour together. We did Kokyu nage, Koshi Nage and Shiho Nage. It is one of my best Aikido memories. Later in Boulder, I presented a few of Noro sensei’s Aikido mouvements, Ikkyo and Shiho Nage in all manners and 1st and 2nd forms. This is one beauty of Aikido that we share our differences and richness enhancing the study of each one.

Ringenkai Aikido is a door to Ueshiba sensei’s Aikido, through my vision and Noro sensei’s.

To deepen my understanding, I have also studied sword art within Miyamoto Musashi’s Two Heaven as One School. My master is Iwami Toshio Harukatsu soke, 11th successor.


Embrace it or fight it

DSC_9611Nguyen Thanh Thien at Unjo An, Corrèze, photography by Nguyen Thanh Khiet © 2016

I remember when I was a child and I came to Great Britain from Vietnam, it was May or June 1970. They had left me in the car to sleep as the journey from Vietnam had been very tiring. So I woke up in a foreign country in a strange car in a garden I could not remember. I was nearly 8 years old. I walked out and went into the house nearby not sure of what I would meet.

When I pick up the sword today, I am half as brave as the boy I was at that moment.

We must face what ever comes and stand to it, walk towards it and embrace it or fight it.