Norikae: Change Your Mindset


Do you think Hatsumi sensei is reading my blog? we can think so because in today’s class he gave us the next level to understand the Henka article.

I was asked to begin the class with some taijutsu technique. Uke attacks with a fist at short distance and by moving up and down, left and right you pull him down softly at your feet once uke’s balance is broken. Quoting Noguchi sensei in class today I would say it was a juppô sesshô technique. Hatsumi sensei did many henka around that, not using force at all, grabbing the fingers, crushing the nails having uke dance like a fool with pain. At one point he turned to me and said: “Norikae!”. Totally taken by surprised I said the only logical thing: “nani?” (what?). Sensei explained that the new taijutsu he is developing these days the key was to understand the possible changes that could be done and not to be lost in the way.
Softly he did many “henka” taking uke’s balance only by holding a finger and controlling him seamlessly. As my friend Sven would say the technique “is not about power it is about control”. Sensei added “this is moving like a butterfly”, it was soft and light at the same time but very powerful. To keep the control with these soft movements was the spirit of woman self defense which we will study during the taikai.
乗り換え norikae or 乗り換える, norikaeru is a verb used when transferring trains or changing buses. If you take the wrong track you never reach your final destination. Norikae is the keypoint to develop proper control of the opponent. Once again there is no strength at all (he repeated many times again 力じゃない, chikara janai, don’t use strength). Having no preconceived plan of action you move like a butterfly from one control to the other, never stopping until uke is defeated. But if you make one mistake, i.e. miss a connection, you end up dead. To reach this ability one must have developed a powerful taijutsu and, he added, this is the most difficult expression of taijutsu, .
Let me illustrate this 乗り換え “transfer, change” concept with an example. Mistakes are always possible and the results can be dramatic. If during your meal you use tabasco instead of ketchup you might get quite surprised after the first bite. On a side note and speaking of tabasco, sensei said that you could put some chili on your nose to peek into the eye of the opponent. This way of thinking is also ninjutsu.
Full awareness leads to instantaneous changes and adaptation to uke’s reactions. Then strength is not necessary. Whatever move you are doing it can be wrong but if you don’t dwell on your mistakes, learn from them, and regain advantage over uke, it is good. In any situation you have to decide fast and often there is no time to think. You have to become so good that you surf on the best possible wave of action.
Ninpô taijutsu is a tool and your choice of action will determine your fate. But as it is the case with any tool there are always several options. A tool does not have 識 shiki, consciousness; you do. A lighter for example is a simple tool: it can be used for the fireplace, cook your food, or burn your house. Because you have shiki you don’t destroy everything. This is norikaeru.
If we dig deeper, 乗り換える norikaeru has also the meaning of “changing one’s mind”. You must be capable of changing your course of action at any moment. The quality of your listening to uke’s reactions makes the correct norikae.
This is why Hatsumi sensei’s techniques are so difficult to get. But the difficulty does not lie in the movements per se. It is based upon the awareness to adjust, in a blink, to uke’s reactions without thinking or using any strength. What sensei has been teaching today is indeed for me a new paradigm. I understand now why he was saying last year that this “goshin jutsu” was the hardest way to learn how to fight.
This is linked with 縁の切身ない, en no kirinai (don’t sever the connection) that we studied a few years ago*. By keeping the control and the contact with uke we are able to move freely and to defeat him. By understanding what sensei was teaching today we become able to 乗り代える, nori kaeru, “ride on the change”; and to 忍びの理科得る, shinobi no rika eru: “obtain the science of ninjutsu”.
*search for it on this blog, several entries