Interview with Bruno Gonzalez from Cercle Tissier
Bruno Gonzalez Sensei is a 6 Dan Aikido Aikikai teacher based in Paris, France. He’s a part of the Cercle Tissier Martial Arts School and the same is his teacher’s name. Bruno Gonzalez is known for his organic, dynamic Aikido instructions and unique weapon application. Sensei is one of the few community loves for developing new techniques and styles that fit a modern Aikido world as they were always there.
First of all where and when you were born?
I was born in 1972 in Bordeaux.
A day when Aikido crossed your road. How was it?
I met aikido at the age of 15.
At that time I was a solitary teenager scented with nostalgia. I knew I belonged to this world while I felt quite separated from It …
One day, a school friend told me succinctly about Aikido. I went to observe the first class. Students in Hakama were practicing in Suwari Waza … what strangeness! The exotic side of the discipline certainly intrigued me but what reasoned me mostly was this atmosphere of study mixed with rigor, sobriety and tradition.
I have always preferred a study over simple amusements.
Who was your first teacher? When Christian Tissier appeared in your life?
My first teacher was Alain Guillabert. He is now 6 Dan and does me the honor to invite me for a seminar once a year in my first Dojo. Back to the origins!
When I started, I only saw Christian through a few internships. But from the first moments, the intensity of his presence impressed me. My beginner’s eyes saw intuitively the relevance of his know-how. A form of accuracy that a beginner can not explain but only notice.
France has a very rich Aikido history. Tissier Sensei, of course, made a huge contribution. He was also a big reason for Seigo Yamaguchi Shihan to come often. Chronographically you had a chance to meet the last one, did you?
Yes indeed, France has a high-quality martial heritage rather consistent. At 18, I chose to leave Bordeaux to devote myself to the study of Aikido with Christian Tissier. The door I opened at Vincennes offered me a rich and demanding world which in my opinion, required a total implication. The choice of your teacher and the confidence that you decide to grant him is a primordial stage in a process of commitment.
Of course, I took, over time, many courses of Japanese Sensei…
I saw Yamaguchi Sensei just one time with young eyes so…
Have you been doing any other martial arts and how deep were you?
I experimented various practices in addition to my Aikido training such as
Muay Thai, Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, Systema … I spent the necessary time to feel, literally and figuratively speaking, the specificities of each discipline and taste their principles.
Becoming a teacher
What do you think was standing behind a will to become a professional Aikido teacher?
I never really anticipate becoming a professional Aikidoka. The only evidence was this desire to practice a lot. Spending my days at the Dojo, I quickly abandoned my studies in biology, then the amount of work naturally provided some opportunities for courses, internships.
In the end, professionalization was a second effect much more than a planned objective of the first hours.
Speaking about the Aikido in the space of options – what was your biggest sacrifice?
I never felt like sacrificing anything. From the moment I decided to commit myself fully to the study of Aikido, and through my qualities, my limitations and my inspirations a path took form. I consider that everything that could have happened, the “good as the bad” was finally perfectly appropriate. Any event or “none event” was, sooner or later, the opportunity to clarify my vision.
Finally the passion you feel for a study, softened the difficulties, even, make you love them.
Becoming a professional Aikido teacher at one point kicks away a standard life scenario because it’s very demanding from a self-progress point of view. At the same time, fruits are coming later but we eat every day which brings back one to a standard job for example. How was that for you?
First, when I arrived in Paris my parents helped me to rent a flat. Then in parallel to the university, I found some “food jobs” to also pay the Aikido courses (like working in mc Donald from 9 pm to 2 am for 2 years…)
Christian was also very generous. We often left by car on weekends for various demonstrations, internships in France and abroad.
Then I started giving classes at the circle Tissier and in different Dojos in Paris. Little by little, the activity has grown …
What were your Aikido inspirational destinations?
As I mentioned above, Vincennes was the main place of my study and my inspirations.
Nowadays, everything and everywhere can become a source of inspiration for me. It can range from the banality of a gesture to the subtlest sophistication of a skill, a reading … Even the inaccuracy or the lack of maturity of a movement in others can inspire me to search for personal improvement and also give me an idea to explore a new topic.
In the end, and according to your possibility, it is your responsibility to sharpen your sight in order to reveal the essence of everything and get the knowledge.
“In fact, the experience is raining on everyone, all are equally wet but not equally educated.”Alain
How would you describe your relationship with Tissier Shihan now?
It is difficult to describe with the words. The concepts that words convey and their interpretations are always infinitely reductive. However, I would say that it is, of course, a very rich relation of transmissions (in the broad sense of the term), imprinted with a lot of respect, attachments and infinite gratitude.
Some form of independence plays that too. In general, I often find more relevance, depth, and answers in the inhabited silences than in the agitation of the discussions. And what Christian taught me is: “A word from time to time…”.
Seen some Yoga on your Instagram. What is that you bring to Aikido from Yoga and vice versa?
I started yoga Iyengar about 6 years ago because I felt my body lacking openness. Spending time stretching at the dojo was pretty boring. So I, therefore, oriented myself towards a very meticulous yoga, of a rare subtility concerning the alignments, the symmetry, the proprioceptive sensations…
Very quickly, these two practices turned out to be parallels that come together. Indeed, yoga is about to develop an ability to listen, a better sense for the current moment, to access a found comfort, a quality of openness in these situations (postures or attacks) that can be perfectly uncomfortable at first.
Aikido and Yoga: parallels who merge.
As an artistic practice, the discomfort is the occasion for a new effort, contraction, the field conducive to expansion, the restriction, the opportunity of future ease … the breeding ground of inspired intuitions.
The limitation appears, then, as the mirror of a latent freedom.
“Art is born of constraints, lives of struggles and dies of freedom”Andre Gide
Where do more of the efforts go: yourself or your students and how do you keep the balance between?
One does not go without the other. Just as the sculptor needs his marble block, the teacher and the student need each other. Students are mirrors reflecting your understanding of the practice, inviting us to orient and refine it over and over again. To a certain extent, the teacher becomes the student when the student unwittingly becomes the one who teaches. As a teacher, I often feel like a student.
The challenge of transmission is to make accessible your know-how in the process without perverting it for the same reason of accessibility. Sometimes by surgically explaining the gears of the technique, sometimes letting the image dig its trace (often deeper than long speeches.)
In summary, sometimes student, sometimes master … according to the points of view, the function makes sense.
“For anyone with common sense, a sign is enough. For the inattentive thousand presentations are not enough.“Haji Bektash ( 1209-1271)
What’s negative about becoming older as an Aikido teacher and what is positive from your point of view?
In general, and whatever the age, we qualify events positively or negatively moving from one psychological tension to another. If this tension is excessive, it becomes agonizing and deleterious. The pendulum of the mind oscillates alternately from happiness to suffering and vice versa. When it moves to one end it is only gaining momentum to go to the other. Most of the time, we always want something else than what it is. We think in terms of gain and loss.
It seems to me that we must reconcile ourselves with the present moment. I do not speak of resignation or abdication. I speak of dancing with the movement of life, finding peace even with the most “tragic” one. This does not prevent the action. On the contrary, it gives back its spontaneity and its efficiency.
To come back to your question, at each time its circumstances, they are our partners whether we like it or not. So let’s relax and dance.
“The definite perspective of death could melt life into a delicious and scented drop of carelessness – but, weird souls of apothecaries, you’ve made this drop poisonous, making the whole life disgusting.“Nietzsche
You teach all over the world now, Sensei. What will 100% make you reject a destination?
I never rejected a destination.
How do you see a future of the Aikido as a teacher?
The aikido of tomorrow will depend on what we do with it today …
It is indeed everyone’s responsibility to ask themselves why and how to practice?
The challenge will, nevertheless, be to remain faithful to the tradition in the broad sense of the word, while updating it moment after moment.
… Let’s chisel our stone in coherence with all the principles that govern our art. The history books will tell us the rest.
Thank you for the honest answers, Sensei, and have the best of luck on your way!