Noguchi has developed his taijutsu like every Japanese Dai Shihan. He has been my “teacher” since 1993. He is impressive and can turn any known Waza into something so different from the original technique.
Attending a class with one of the Japanese Dai Shihan is like training another martial art. I spoke about it with Hatsumi Sensei. I said “Sensei, is it normal that I’m training Bujinkan only with you. And train the Noguchi Ryū, Oguri Ryū, Nagato Ryū, Senō Ryū with the Japanese Shihan?” He looked at me for a moment and said: “yes, each one has to develop his taijutsu”. Some Japanese Shihan, like Someya sensei and others, respects the original forms. But it is well accepted that each one of them has developed a personal body movement. That is why it is crucial to train with each Japanese Shihan to get a deeper understanding of Sensei’s Budō. Diversity is the key to unlock your taijutsu.
Yesterday we were studying the first level of Koto Ryū. From the start, Noguchi sensei modified the form, to put into play his particular body movement. We did Yokuto with a Gyokko Ryū approach. He replaced the linear footwork typical of the first level of the Koto Ryū. Instead, he used the circular motion of the Gyokko Ryū Kosshi Jutsu. You can find videos on YouTube of Sensei using the same Kosshi jutsu approach. (1)
Sensei taught the difference between Yoko Aruki (Koto Ryū) and Jūji Aruki (Gyokko Ryū) in 2015. In Yoko Aruki your toes are heading towards the same direction. In Jūji Aruki your toes are perpendicular. Check this video on my YouTube channel.
Noguchi sensei has his interpretation of the Waza. He makes so many variations that what remains is his fantastic body flow. This multi-approach allows each one to find what move suits him the best. The Waza is not a dead form anymore. That is the magic of Kankaku! (2)
Senō sensei explained that Budō has two legs: Waza and Kankaku. To walk you need both. But to get the feeling, you first have to learn the basics and the Waza. Too many practitioners make the trip to Japan without proper training in the basics. It is a loss of time and money.
When I came here for the first time, the Japanese were still teaching the basic Waza. That is not the case anymore. When you come to Japan, do not expect to learn the basics as they don’t show them anymore. You come here to get the correct feeling that will allow you to develop your own taijutsu. This implies that you have learned the original forms in your dōjō before coming.
We had a great class yesterday full of “Noguchism”. I trained with Harry Mitrou (Dai Shihan Greece), who used to be training with me in the Paris dōjō many years ago. It added to my pleasure.
It was a good night.
2. 感覚, feeling
Thank you Sensei for the gift of happiness!
What I like about this period of the year here at the Honbu, is the happiness emitting from Sensei. His classes resemble more a family gathering than a Budō training. In fact, we don’t train that much, and we have long breaks.
Everyone has now reached the highest Bujinkan ranks. So those travelling to Japan come only to pay their respects to Sensei. The group has been the same since I attended my first DKMS in 1990. And I know that many other friends are on their way to be here for the second of December. (1)
Sensei teaches a Way of Life. Our presence for his birthday is our way to thank him for a gift he has been giving for 50 years. (2)
What we receive in Japan is not only about technique, it is about learning to live a happy life. “Be Happy!” he keeps repeating. Happiness reveals itself when duality disappears. It is a simple process, even if many don’t see it (or don’t understand it). The Bujinkan is teaching us “inner freedom”.
By inner freedom one attains happiness.
By inner freedom, one reaches the Supreme.
By inner freedom one comes to the absence of thought.
By inner freedom to the Ultimate State.॥50॥ (3)
Sensei said that “beyond philosophies and religions lies the Mutō Dori no Sekai, the world of Mutō Dori.” (4) That is a level that transcends Waza and Kankaku (feeling), thinking and analysis. That leads to inner freedom, a no man’s land where everything happens naturally. Natural movement generates happiness and happiness generates natural movement.
That is why during the week before his birthday, Hatsumi Sensei looks so happy. There is no more agenda or expectations, it is about living in the “Nakaima”, the middle of now. (5)
When you look at him seated on the mats with us, you feel his pure joy of being in the middle of many of his “kids”. We are what he helped us to become.
For me, to see him so happy is the best present we can give him. He gave us so much. This particular time of the year is our way to pay him back for what he has given. Our presence around him expresses this inner freedom of Mutō Dori that he is teaching.
Thank you Sensei for these 50 years,
Thank you for giving us the Mutō Dori no Sekai to find happiness.
1- Dai Komyō Sai aka DKMS is Hatsumi sensei’s birthday party. He was born on December 2nd, 1931 in Noda.
2- The Bujinkan celebrates 50 years this year. I have been in the Bujinkan since 1984. That is more than 33 years ago.
4- Mutō Dori no Sekai: 無刀取りの世界, the world of Mutō Dori
5- Nakaima: 中今, Shinto concept of the present (esp. as a privileged moment in eternity)
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A class with Senō sensei is always a pleasure. First he is a gentleman; second, you get out of it more confused than when you entered. His last two classes were no exception!
If we began with the Kunai, the beauty of his taijutsu was not about the weapon. The Kunai was an excuse to show his perfect sense of distance and control. Hatsumi Sensei speaks about controlling at every class, Senō sensei showed it. From his classes, I got a few interesting points that I want to share with you. They are four and should be done together.
1- Absorb with the legs, don’t put any strength in your arms and hands.
When you are in contact with Uke, don’t let your upper body do the technique. Instead, use your knees and legs to get the balance. Too often, when we are close to the opponent, we tend to use the upper body. Taijutsu is about using the body, and this is why we call it TAI-jutsu or “techniques with the body.”
2- The Kunai makes contact and defines a Shiten. (1)
With a Kunai, a Tantō, or your fingers, the point of contact with the opponent becomes your new vertical axis. From this fulcrum, you turn around it and get Uke’s balance. I asked Senō sensei to show it to me several times and each time I was feeling nothing. That was a weird sensation. It was like fighting the wind. When he is in contact with you, his legs turn around the Shiten, and you lose your balance by the lack of power applied to it. You do this Mawari movement (2) only with the legs. Uke sees the contact on the upper body. But as he cannot feel anything, his balance disappears when he walks around.
3- Get rid of any support.
The moment Uke leans onto you, and you feel his weigh is when you drop your support. That is “Jokyo”, or “to get rid of the support”. It was a fantastic sensation. There is no Chikara at all. (4)
Because of the lack of presence of Tori, Uke is alone, suspended in the air. He falls as a result. This concept of Jokyo is the evolution of Fuyū (5) used by Senō sensei until now. Jokyo comes after Fuyū. It is its evolution. After you become able to put Uke in suspension, you let him fall by removing any support he is using. Let gravity play its role.
4- Listen to Uke’s tension with your body.
Do not analyse. Feel the tensions in Uke’s body. And react by adjusting your body position with your legs.
When you can do these four things together:
- absorb with your legs,
- create a Shiten,
- apply Jokyo,
- listen with your whole body,
you are always protected.
During the last class, I was training with my friend Juan Manuel Guttierez from Argentina. We were unable to unify those four aspects of Senō sensei’s taijutsu. We did our best to get the four concepts together, but there was always one or two missing. It felt like trying to keep water in your hands. It feels impossible to do it.
Because of training like this one, you see the importance of studying in Japan several times a year. How are the others teachers able to teach without coming here? I don’t know.
When you know the Waza from the schools, and the weapons, then the real study can begin. And this is only about feeling. And this is the level of Mutō Dori that they teach these days here in Japan.
1- Shiten: 支点, fulcrum; support
2- Mawari: 周り, circumference, turning around a point (different from pivoting which is mawashi)
3- Jokyo: 除去, removal; getting rid of
4- Chikara: 力, force; strength; might; vigour (vigor); energy
5- Fuyū: 浮遊, floating; wandering; suspension
It’s been a long time since I got angry. Today I am.
Hatsumi Sensei has announced a few modifications to the way we deal with the Honbu Dōjō. These changes concern the Dai Shihan in the first place, and their followers. They will the ones putting into place this new organisation. I have read a few comments criticising the number of newly promoted Dai Shihan.
Strangely, the critics come from those who don’t have the promotion yet. That is wrong! Whatever Sensei does, he has a reason for it. If you don’t know it, it is because you don’t see the big picture.
He also insisted that we DO NOT use the internet to communicate about it but to do it face to face. I wrote about it and still, I get personal messages on the internet from people asking to know more. What is wrong with them? Sensei said NO internet!
Next Sunday, there will be a Bujinkan gathering in Atago. We will celebrate the 50 years of the creation of the Bujinkan. Sensei might (or might not) explain his new vision at this occasion. Until then, be patient.
I see all that I described above as a lack of respect for Sensei’s decisions. The Bujinkan is not a democracy, it belongs to Hatsumi Sōke and follows the Japanese ways. Hatsumi Sensei is our leader. He is your boss, and his decisions you have to respect them, even if you do not understand them.
Hatsumi Sensei is the Bujinkan. If you don’t agree with how he deals with his Bujinkan, then shut up and leave. There is nothing to argue. His words define what the Bujinkan is, and how it evolves. No one should discuss his choices.
You can exchange in private, but questioning his authority is not the way to go. We have a boss, we have chosen him, and your rank is not an excuse to rant about his actions.
Please remember that, accept it, or leave the Bujinkan.
No one is forcing you to stay if you don’t like it.
Who is the Boss? Hatsumi Sōke.
Kashiwa November 28th, 2017
From an angry Polar Bear