An introduction to Ringenkai Aikido


Ringenkai is the Little Big School

DSC_2520Nguyen Thanh Thien before the example of his masters. Photography by Nguyen Thanh Khiet ©2017

There are many schools, each setting forth one principle or one aspect of Aikido. Ringenkai is the school I decided to create to give a home to the teaching of my master, an aim to my research, a direction to my inspiration. It is one among many. It is like one of those schools coming out of the past, one among hundreds and yet one of them answering the needs of one time in the succession of times, each one waiting to answer in time to the question one day may be the One among the needs of men.

Some may ask “Why practice?” as others may ask “Why walk?” while setting one’s feet on the Way. My school answers to “Why practice?” by practice. The knowledge waiting within martial arts and especially Aikido is of the sort that requires experiment, involvement of body intelligence. I have learnt from my masters through their example which is restrictively practice. Practice is the place of study. It is knowledge on the move. It is the operation that unveils understanding as zazen opens to meditation. It is the operation by which masters communicate with us, from the past to this minute.

Among all the Buddhist schools in the past, those which are great today where small then, minute. Among all the martial art schools from the past,  those great today were born in the moment of one vision, that of its creator. Each in the beginning was a Little Big School. Ours questions through practice, setting its eyes on the example of our masters.

Practicising amidst the mountains

20170715_092458Pineta Canyon, Alta Aragon, Spain. Photography by Siegfried L. © 2017

Next year, we will do the first Rignekai Aikido Yama Keiko, yama keiko meaning mountain training. Martial arts elevate our mind while it sharpens our body. I cultivate the same spirit when I look onto the peaks and search my way up. I feel I answer the expectations of my master as I set my foot in the steps of former wanderers, as I cross the border into lands beyond, welcoming at the edge of the pass a new view.

Rignenkai means the vision of the wheel, the sight at the origin of a teaching. Exercising myself through the mouvements given to us by my master is like questionning his sight again and again, seeing through his eyes his own master exercising himself. When I do Ikkyo or Shiho Nage, I see Noro Masamichi sensei looking onto Ueshiba Morihei sensei himself. The effort is one that opens to a sight as when I walk up the mountains.

Next year, lets meet for the 1rst Ringenkai Aikido Yama Keiko.



Even thin air

When one studies, one must not be disturbed by comments, criticism, misunderstanding. One walks the path of the masters of old, the forgotten lane which goes unoticed, that road among the heath which was given to the next generation with hope and trust.

I like to do Aïkido as a study of the example of my masters. I focus on what was, which was set as an example to reproduce, not only in a formal way but as a commitment to put ahead one’s heart, one’s earnestness, one’s trust in the improvement to come. Many try to find a better way of studying, a faster means to efficiency, a proficient drill to satisfy oneself. I like to set my efforts in the footprints of my master, confident that he gave me what would be of the greatest help to me.

Ringenkaï means in Japanese the eye of the wheel. One way of understanding this choice is to hear the whisper telling us that the more we move ahead, the more we see what was laid down for us way behind, waiting for our ability to reach the understanding of our masters. As I move smoothly on the mat, in a manner not to harm even the thin air around me, I come closer to my masters and they in turn come closer to me.

The like when there is an alike opens to a link

Voigtlander-Vitomatic-II.Web.051When there is a liking, there is a linking. Photography by Nguyen Thanh Thien © 2017

Last week-end, I was in Brunssum, Netherlands, sharing Ringenkai Aikido with John Luijten’s students and friends.

We went through many techniques, got to the principles which organise movements with a logical access. We explored Jo extensions of technique. I stressed the importance of strong stances and how it allows the upper body to concentrate on its most vital function, breathing.

We shared understanding of how Ikkyo, Nikyo and Sankyo are one within different distances, how Shiho Nage bears Kote Gaeshi and how Kote Gaeshi delivers Irimi Nage. In the approach which is mine, learning One opens to Two and Two leads to Three. The like when there is an alike opens to a link. I like to see this manner of studying as searching for a path. There is a link between the elements of our study. It is as important to look out for the elements as it is to walk the path from one to his neighbour.

Within each elements there is a liking for the follower, an invitation for each of us to the next step, an urge to move ahead. This linking sews Aihanmi to Men Uchi, Katate Dori to Yokomen.

It is a linking which binds us to the dojo. It is a linking which brought us together this year and hopefully will bring us to meet again next year in Brussum and … maybe in France.

I wish you all a fruitful study.

Eyes wide open

contax.167MT.Web.024Photography by Nguyen Thanh Thien © 2017

Practising is opening the eye of the body. Shiho Nage or Ikkyo are movements, steps, journeys along a road, a way, a manner. In the manner of our masters, we put our steps in their own steps, unveiling new landscapes. This is how I understand that Aikido techniques lead to a vision of Aiki.

Lets journey eyes wide open, with the eyes of our body. Lets journey within our body, within the link to our counterpart, within the dojo.

See tomorrow at John Luijten’s dojo in Brunssum for a 2 days workshop. I will teach there once a year, should we share the road together.