Noguchi Sensei Surprised Us With Gikan Ryu

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael

Noguchi Sensei Shares 40+ year old Gikan Ryu notes. photo by Michael Glenn

They love to crank up the heat in the Bujinkan Honbu. I find it too hot on most days. But today I had been doing photography out in the cold pouring rain, so I found myself ready to embrace the warmth of the dojo.

Noguchi Sensei greeted me when he arrived. He normally shares a few jokes with me, but today he seemed very focused.

Less than 20 students were waiting for him to bow in. He did so promptly as is his custom. Then he announced we were doing Gikan Ryu kata.

I was surprised. In more than 30 years I have not been shown these from any teacher. In between kata, Noguchi Sensei showed me a tattered notebook with the kata handwritten in a numbered sequence. He told me these were his actual notes from more than 40 years ago when Hatsumi Sensei taught these only to him.

if you are interested, I recorded a video of my experiences for 特訓 Tokkun members of Rojodojo: Bujinkan Kuden: Gikan Ryu with Noguchi Sensei

The class was quick and painful. This is koppojutsu after all. But Noguchi Sensei was precise and true to his notes with each initial demonstration of the kata. He even reread them and made corrections if he forgot something.

The heaters in the dojo were blowing strong. I was dripping sweat from the punishing attacks. But I did not care at all.

A feature of Gikan Ryu is lateral strikes. They hit the opponent in multiples. And the rhythm creates a new fist with each kyusho. Most of my body is marked or swollen right now reminding me of the targets.

There were taijutsu, daisho sabaki, and muto dori forms included in the text. And Noguchi Sensei even contributed some tessen henka.

After class, Sensei seemed very relaxed. I asked him what his plans were for that evening. He said he was going out drinking. He laughed and added that he did this on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays… etc.

I watched him pack up the blue 40 year old notebook and I waved goodnight. I toweled off the sweat because I had class with Soke in less than an hour.

Here’s What is Happening at Bujinkan 冬修業 Fuyu Shūgyō 2020

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael

Leandro Erlich's "Port of Reflections" at 森美術館, photo by Michael Glenn
In my dojo, we set a theme for each season of training. In the upcoming seminar on January 19th we will explore this theme with a sincere and direct effort. The winter season hints at 平常心是道 heijō-shin kore dō, a calm heart is the way.

I encourage any teachers who want this extra dimension for their teaching to train with me when the season is right. If you have passed the Godan, you should be able to know the right season for these things. If you don’t yet have that skill, train with the right teacher!

The topics we cover come from my own training in Japan last month. You will be surprised by some rarely taught techniques. And we will take a cue from Wumen Huikai’s (1183-1260) expression of how to have a peaceful mind or a calm heart during every season:

春有百花秋有月,夏有凉风冬有雪,若无闲事挂心头,便是人间好时节

“Hundreds of flowers in spring,
And in autumn, the moon.
A cool breeze in summer,
And in winter, the snow.
When useless things do not hang in one’s mind,
It is [always] a good season for [any] man.”

Don’t hang useless things in your mind! If you are a martial artist you must train. Don’t just think about it uselessly. For me, I don’t think about going to the dojo, I just go!

And you may have heard me say, "I never regret going to training. But I always regret the training I missed!" So we will be clear minded about this and train sincerely all year.

Here are a few dates for 2020 if you’d like to train with me during this season

冬修業 Fuyu Shūgyō Jan 19
春修業 Haru Shugyo April 19
夏修業 Natsu Shūgyō July 26
秋修業 Aki Shūgyō Oct 18


text me if you are ready to go: (424) 272-6307

Don’t let the trivialities of life get in the way. Push aside any delusions that cloud the mind. Cut through the invisible barrier with the sword of 平常心 heijō-shin!

Omnia Causa Flunt

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

 

Omnia causa flunt, “Everything happens for a reason.”

I like this Latin expression. This is precisely the same in Budō. We don’t do movements to look good, but to stay alive. If being elegant was the goal, we would be dead. At war, the only goal is to stay alive, to carry out the mission. In life, awareness will do the same. If you want to live a successful life, you have to accept the law of causality. Because whether you want it or not, “Everything happens for a reason.”

During the warring period of feudal Japan, the Samurai might have followed the same rule. Marshal Bugeaud, a French officer from the 19th century, said, “at war there are principles, but they are few.” It is the same in Budō and in life.

Hereunder are six basic principles that each practitioner should train and apply. Let’s review them together. They are suitable for Budō and for life.

Don’t fight!

That is the best principle of all. Often, speaking and communicating will get you out of a bad situation. But it will not work every time, and you will not be able to avoid the attacks. Then accept it, stay relaxed and let your training do it for you. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Don’t get hit

Don’t dream! In a fight, you will get hit, and it will be painful. Abandon any romantic vision displayed by the movies. You are not an actor in Hollywood, this is the real world. Wake up! Focus on the situation you are facing, and limit as much as you can, the efficiency of your opponent. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Keep a proper and correct distance.

This is the first thing to do. If you are out of reach, UUke will not touch you. Now don’t overestimate your chances. When you have a gun in a holster and him a knife in his hand, you cannot draw fast enough if he is at less than 8 meters. So instead of trying, move away from his line of attack. It is always better to avoid direct confrontation. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Move out of the line of attack.

To do so, you have to react by the lines of cutting, punching or kicking. Against a sword, visualise the plane of cutting and stay out of it. Training your distance and understanding the angles will keep you safe. Move where your attacker will not be expecting you. Every attack generates dead corners preventing the opponent from getting you. Learn these. Usually it is by putting the attacking fist or weapon between you and Uke’s body. His body will serve as a shield. Look at how Sensei is always well positioned. Don’t be a target. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Expect the moves

Expect Uke’s moves, understand the loss of balance consecutive to his actions. When you move at the right moment, the attacker is unable to change his direction and to adjust his actions in time. If he does, it will be detrimental to his balance. He will crash faster. The momentum of his movements will make him fail. Your ability to expect what is coming next is the key to your success. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Send false signals

Begin one thing and do something else. A deception is a vital tool in your arsenal. The body reacts before the brain has time to analyse what is happening. Thus any move out of the logic forces Uke to change his attack, but this is useless. The momentum of the initial steps will forbid him to change his movements. The same applies to Budō and in life.

When you look at this list, you have, more or less, the exact definition of the Mutō Dori we learn these days in Japan. What Hatsumi Sensei teaches is not mechanical anymore. It is a holistic understanding of life and Budō. This allows us to get the intelligence of the moment. His Mutō Dori is not limited to Budō, it is something that you can use in your everyday actions. Every move we learn was not created by chance. The waza are there because they are useful. When it comes to applying these techniques, everything is always “undecided.” This is how Sensei’s movements look so natural.

The reason why he moves the way he does is that his body has ingrained all movements. He expresses them now without thinking. He is Mutōsei, uncontrolled (1), and because of that, he can control the attackers.

Omnia Causa Flunt, “Everything happens for a reason.”

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1 無統制, Mutōsei. Uncontrolled

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omnia

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Put The Bar High, But Not Too High

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

When you want to improve your skills, you have to define your objectives. How you choose them will make you successful or not.

Success is not only about reaching your goal, but it is also how you passed the obstacles on your way to getting to it. Saint Exupery wrote, “what matters is not to reach your destination, but to walk towards it.” (1) That is why you have to find goals that will force you to overcome some difficulties. But as in the Indiana Jones movie, I would say “Choose wisely!”

If your goals are too easy to get, you will not improve. When you have low standards, you get low abilities. I see many people on the mats with small objectives, they reach them, but do not get anything in exchange. Then it is better not to define any goal at all! Everything you gain without hard work in this life is not suitable for your development. It is a loss of what you could get by having higher standards. When your standards are poor, you don’t evolve, you regress.

A real goal has to be challenging to reach, but it has to be reachable. If your goals are too high, you will never get to them. And as a consequence, you might lose faith in yourself and quit. Quitting is never the right solution. The “keep going” principle given by Sensei at the start of the Bujinkan adventure is our strength. More than a quote, it is a credo.

Never give up. Fail and try again. As the Japanese saying says “Fall 7 times, get up 8 times.” (2) Failure is always your best teacher.

In defining those goals, you have to get a chance to be successful. Success is a state of mind. If you become successful in the dōjō by improving your skills, you will find the same success in any endeavour you do.

Success is also a habit that you build every day through failure. The late Arthur Ashe said, “Success is a journey, not a destination.” (3) The doing is often more important than the outcome. That is where Budō becomes a school of life. Your evolution on the mats will reflect in your daily life, and lead to happier living. Everything is connected.

I hope it is now clear how important it is to set achievable goals for your practice. This will have a positive effect on your life and bring you happiness. Isn’t being happy what Hatsumi Sensei teaches at every class?

We will never be perfect, as perfection is divine, but our commitment to Budō brings us every day closer to it. The more we train, the better we get. Our techniques get more straightforward and efficient.

Here is another quote by Saint Exupery. “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” (4)

Get rid of your self-imposed limits, aim high (but not too high) and be the happiest Budōka you can be.

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1 “Ce qui importe, ce n’est pas d’arriver, mais d’aller vers.” Antoine de Saint Exupéry in “Citadelle”
2 七転び八起き, Nana korobi ya oki. Fall 7 times, get up 8 times
3 Arthur Ashe was a great American tennis player in the seventies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Ashe
4 “La perfection est atteinte, non pas lorsqu’il n’y a plus rien à ajouter, mais lorsqu’il n’y a plus rien à retirer.” Antoine de Saint Exupéry

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Make Mistakes By Doing New things

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

IMG_20171125_104614This week should have been Senō sensei’s birthday. And thinking about his classes at the honbu, it reminded me of the soft precision he used in his teachings. He was also the only Dai Shihan asking to be hit, to show the perfect timing. His Taijutsu was impressive, and he was never afraid of making mistakes. We should be doing the same.

Somehow it resonates with my recent article on failure. You must make mistakes to improve our Taijutsu. (1) I spoke about Shippai, failure. But Shippai also means a mistake. (2) As often in Japanese, an action (mistake) can be a result (failure).

The moment you decide to change, you make errors. And as a consequence, you improve your skills. Albert Einstein said, “anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” We have to stop being afraid of change, and always try new things. This is the path Sensei is showing us to develop our Taijutsu. Accept it today, even if I know how hard it is to turn a decision into action.

Humans are reluctant to leave their comfort zone, they avoid trying new things. Humans love routine and hate changes. Even though we know that in life (or in a fight) everything is about accepting change. Did you know that “Henka” that we translate by “variation” also means “the beginning and the end of change?” (3)

Because we make mistakes, we can correct them and get better at our Taijutsu. Any new learning, or any further action we take, will see us fail. Accepting our errors is the best way to excel one day. With each try, we change the form until we reach the correct way to do it. What is wrong becomes good. But this way to train demands to be relaxed. This is why stiffness in the body or in the mind while training cannot be. Hatsumi Sensei often tells us to relax. Only when you release all tensions, that change is possible. 

In an ancient interview, Sensei explained that “what is not natural is not in harmony with life. Life changes constantly, everything is naturally evolutive, because nothing is static. In this perspective, everything that tends to remain static is not natural. And thereby, because it goes against nature, is doomed to disappear for it is fruitless.” The nine schools survived all these centuries because they didn’t remain static.

Humans learn new things because they make mistakes. The late Senō sensei used to tell us that when learning a new form, we make big mistakes at first. And then, through repetition, we make smaller ones, until they nearly disappear. Step by step, we get the correct movement and get it right.

“Machigai” also means a mistake. (4) So please accept “Machigai” and don’t “Machigae,” “wait to change.” Do it now! (5)

To accept change is the key to adaptation, and to natural movement
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1 https://kumablog.org/2019/12/05/are-you-a-failure/
2 失敗, Shippai: Failure; mistake; blunder
3 変化, Henka. change; variation; alteration; mutation; transition; transformation; transfiguration; metamorphosis
4 間違い, Machigai: mistake; error; blunder​. Accident; mishap; trouble​. Improper conduct; indiscretion
5 待ち替え, Machigae: Machi, waiting; waiting time. Gae, change; alteration; substitute.

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