Because I was in the UN, I was absent from Japan for eight months. Eight months is very long by Japanese standard and many things are changing.
This trip is my 50th and since 1999 I have stayed at the Kashiwa hotel. Even though I’m always amazed by the Japanese ability to change their processes I am sometimes wondering if a change is always a good thing.
In the Bujinkan we use to say that “the only thing that never change is change itself”. Because change is permanent. But is this change always an improvement? I don’t know.When I arrived at the hotel changes can be seen everywhere. The ulala cafe which has been our major meeting point for years has reduced its smoking zone. We (the evil smokers) are now parked in a kind of “aquarium”.
Many of the old and nice ladies have been replaced by young ones. They don’t speak English either but it is ok.
But the strangest change is that you now have to use and pay an automat (see picture) to get the drinks or food you want (the names are only in Japanese).
So is change always positive?
I just witnessed two Japanese men ordering their food at the machine. The get their order it took them at least 5 minutes. When they finally sit they push the call button and 5 minutes later a waitress came. They gave the various tickets to the waitress but she had to come back twice to understand exactly what they wanted. And the second time she changed their order because they didn’t do it correctly. And they were Japanese adults in their 30s! Meaning that the written language was not a problem for them…
So is change always good?
Sensei teaches us to adapt our techniques to these permanent changes surrounding us in order not to be surprised. But when change make things more complex thenit is time to get out of the system. I always appreciated the Japanese for their efficiency. Things were evolving towards more simplification, but today they are changing towards complexification and this is not a good sign.After thinking a lot about this “change thing” I went to the Honbu to attend Noguchi sensei’s class. We did the first level of Koto Ryû and I felt a little awkward as it seemed that these techniques that I have been taught during so many years here in Japan were different. Noguchi sensei’s taijutsu has become so refined that it is difficult to find the 1, 2, 3 steps composing the initial techniques.
That was a big change.
He changed his taijutsu but unlike the hotel this change is heading towards a flow making every move like being simple. And as always, I couldn’t do half of what he was doing.
Changing, to have some value, must be conducted in order to benefit the result. If you make a change in a waza but didn’t master it, then this is not changing this is betraying. To change something you have to know it perfectly. Often people when training do not even try to repeat what is being taught. In fact they think they understand and make things more violent, more inefficient, and totally useless.
Noguchi sensei’s movements are becoming so subtle that beauty and elegance are emanating from them. Elegance or art said Sensei once is “to render the invisible visible”. This ability cannot be decided it has to bloom naturally from years of mechanical practice and training. If you want to make a stone shine you will have to polish it, again and again.
The word change 異 means “strange or curious” but the verb “to change” 移 is “to drift or to pass into”. The verb “to change” gives an idea of evolution whereas the word “change” is static and only takes into account something unusual (positive or negative).
So is change positive?
Yes if you want “to change” 移
but No if you want “a change” 異
Ninpô Ikkan! (keep going!)
Ps: 15 minutes ago I went to the automatic vending machine to order another coffee and a sandwich … I’m still waiting for my order to arrive.
Ps2: Next March I want “to change” too and I will drift to another hotel for my trips to Japan.