When small is the key to big

lambstail_2017.02.23Lamb’s tail in a Pyrenese field in July. Photography by Nguyen Thanh Thien © 2016

Ringenkaï reflects my vision, my way of walking through Aikido, through the years I spent studying the art of my master. In those days, when Noro Masamichi sensei was among us, I would marvel at a detail that went unnoticed by others. It would be his hand hanging by his side, relaxed yet ready to respond. It would be the same stories he would tell again and again. When Noro sensei was boring his public with the same story told for the 10th time in the week, I would wonder at what in the situation brought the need of telling this perculiar story. What was his intent. As a teacher, I know we have a limited capital of stories our students have to endure. Repetition is the path of the artist in my oriental culture. It is not a simple clone of a past action. It is a moment in which everything has been set quiet and where only the spirit is changing when posture, move, strength are maintained stable.

At first the body needs to become strong and flexible to answer the master’s model. Then the answer needs to enter the heart and the mind’s field. I did not like to repeat long and difficult sequences of movements. I use to pick up a simple gesture, a basic one and did it on and on. Strangely, these small things that caught my attention revealed themselves as keys to the more complicated techniques. Each little flower would in time ripen and yield its gift of seeds. Each gesture entering my body, heart and mind through repeated exercise would flower new fields to explore. I had only to lower myself to the level of small details and a new world would unveil itself to my study.

When I go walking my dogs, I set them free in a little wood near my home and would then take out an old camera. I look around, up and last I squat down. I do this while my dogs are off to the rabbits (don’t tell them they are long gone in this wood). In Aikido, I do likewise. I look around, then up and last down. We need to change points of view, angles, focus. This is why I named my school Ringen, the Eye of the Wheel.

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