Choice and duty

Nguyen Thanh Thien at John Luijten sensei’s dojo, Limburg, Netherland.

What we choose to study is what we pass on to the next generation. What we choose not to study is what we will not pass on.

What we study is what the generation before us chose to study. What they did not study was not passed on to us.

What we study is the sum of the choices made by former generations. What we do not study is what former generations rejected.

It is easy to say I prefer and I reject. This way, we go by our sole purpose and we weaken the help we provide to next generations.

One reason why I study martial arts and why I push on the teachings of Ueshiba Morihei sensei and Noro Masamichi sensei, is that I have a strong sense of my duty toward former and next generations.

I recognise that wars, I know of the Vietnam War, compromise the survival of books, libraries and readers. They also compromise the survival of katas, techniques, dojos and senseis.

I study and I pass on the teachings I have studied and deepened in the dojos of Noro Masamichi sensei in Aikido and of Iwami Toshio soke in Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu kenjutsu.

If you wish, we may join our efforts for our own generation and the next. In this way, we answer to the study of our predecessors.

My masters are within my efforts

DSCF7495To the left, Noro Masamichi sensei and to the right Ueshiba Moriheï sensei

This morning, a student asked me: “Are you the second generation after Ueshiba Morihei sensei?”

I looked at him surprised, not knowing what to answer. Yes, my master was Noro Masamichi sensei and, yes, he was otomo (serving disciple) to Ueshiba Morihei sensei. I do practice every day and, every day, I do not look onto the close relation to my master and to my master’s master. I just look at the techniques and I practice.

In these mouvements, I dig hard and sometimes, I do find marks of old times, when my master was a student at Ueshiba Morihei sensei’s dojo. My feeling of these senseis is found within my efforts. There accomplishments are still living inside what my body realizes in the dojo.

I am a second generation indeed but in these words I understand “generation” as renewal of the art. This is the meaning of teaching as I see it.

Noro sensei’s last lesson

Visite Noro sensei Stage Niten-10 200521rst Intenational Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu workshop with Iwami soke. Saint-Brice, France, 2004.

Noro Masamichi sensei supports me as I invite my kenjutsu sensei from Japan, Iwami Toshio soke to his first European workshop as 11th successor to Miyamoto Musashi. It reminded him of his early days when he started to teach Aikido as Leader to Europe and Africa. In hard times, I remember the generosity of Noro sensei and I move on, with a smile.

When Aikido started in France, in the 1960’s, it was a new martial art in a country which did not even understand martial arts. Judo was still in its beginning. Noro Masamichi sensei was then Delegate for Europe and Africa, in today’s words the leader. He had been Otomo to Ueshiba Morihei sensei. Otomo means serving disciple, the one who cares closely for the master.

Noro sensei came to Judo classes and said to the teacher:

I have taught you 3 techniques, it is enough for you to start an Aikido class with your students.

The teacher was now an Aikido teacher who knew 3 Aikido techniques after a 2 hours lesson taught by Noro Masamichi sensei. His dojo was from then an Aikido dojo. By this way, Noro sensei answered the wish of his master, Ueshiba Morihei sensei, that France would become a land for Aikido. Through many trials and years of ceaseless efforts, Noro Masamichi sensei taught to thousands of students some of which would become one day high level students throughout Europe. He had the pioneer spirit and overcame many hardships, some due to the misunderstanding of those who had stayed at home in the motherland of Aikido. Such mis-happenings are normal for the sensei who sets to start a new dojo in a foreign land.

At the end of his life, Noro sensei was great enough to forgive the offences. This was his last teaching to me:

In the end, forgive and forgive as soon as possible as grudge burdens your heart.

I keep these memories and I share them with my students in our Ringenkai Aikido.

Shiho Nage after tea

noro-4s

I am back on track with Shiho Nage. I like to be happy of the teaching I have received; I feel I have had my full of teaching. Some complain that the teaching passed on to my generation by former teachers has weakened. They feel we do not have the magic of our elders, we lack of the efficiency of our formidable predecessors. To these criticism, I answer by practising. I am back on track with Shiho Nage.

Yesterday, I did Shiho Nage, morning and afternoon. Today, same program. Next week too. What can be said of Shiho Nage to those who are not practising? That they are 3 main ways of doing it:

  • Horizontal-vertical cut
  • Thrust forward and back
  • 1 diagonal cut

noro-4s

On the photographs above, Noro Masamichi sensei does his 60’s manner and it quite different from what he did later. I do believe he would do it differently today. He used to say:

I practise because I do not understand. If I did understand Aikido, I would not need to practise it any more .

Aikido is a Way, tao, which means it is a constantly moving manner. Dogen said that practise and understanding are one. I understand that if one stops practising, one stops understanding.

One cannot sit down by the riverside and say “I understand river deep.”

This is why I will practise in 5mn, once I have finished this article after some tea. Back to Shiho Nage!