After the heat of the day, the evening class with Noguchi sensei was refreshing.
His enthusiasm and creativity are always incredible, and each Noguchi sensei’s classes is like a discovery for me. Last night doing these Kotō ryû techniques with Noguchi sensei for, maybe, the twentieth time, it was like doing them for the first time.
I felt, like always, like a short memory goldfish while training, even though I have been training with him extensively for more than 20 years.
Let me explain. At the first Paris Taikai in July 1993, Sensei promoted me to Jūdan, and a few months later I went to Japan for Daikomyōsai. One afternoon, in his house, Sensei said: “Aruno San, from now on, you will train only with me and Noguchi San.”
Being a good soldier, I didn’t question him and did as told.
In my early “Padawan” years, my natural inclination pushed me towards the more powerful taijutsu approach of Nagato sensei. Noguchi sensei’s taijutsu didn’t incorporate hits, nor blows, only footwork. The only pain felt during class was mental. But as I said, I obeyed the boss.
In these times there was no honbu dōjō, so I spent a lot of time with Sensei in his house, watching videos, scrolls or pictures, and speaking with him.
When the first Honbu opened in October 1997, Sensei allowed me to train with the Shi Tennō teaching at honbu. This was when I discovered the taijutsu of Senō sensei, Nagato sensei, and Oguri sensei. But my taijutsu had already been singly influenced by Noguchi sensei. In a way, I can say that I’m a Noguchi student.
I came to Japan about fifty times since November 1993. With Noguchi sensei, we did all the schools including the Kotō ryû many times. And yesterday I was lost like always with him.
We all know about Shuhari. (1)
Yesterday’s class was definitely “Ri” as Noguchi was recreating a new technique by destroying the original one. The essence of each waza was there, but the initial form was not.
Excellence is not about memorizing mechanical techniques; it is about developing the ability to create something new out of techniques you already know.
Yesterday night he impressed me again. We did: Katamaki, Batsugi, Settō, Tenchi, and many other. But the “Ri” way he was doing them, got me lost after five minutes. My excellent friend and last night partner, Mundo from Mexico, can confirm.
I learned many things during this training, but I honestly can’t explain the movements because it was learning with the body and not by memory. When you come training to Japan, even if you are a Dai Shihan, you have to be humble and be able to become a student again.
The Bujinkan is an art, not a sport, and our art is about feeling and connection, not about waza and power. The waza are there to be destroyed in the Shuhari process.
Sidenote: I loved the updated Kotō Ryû version 20.7!
1. 守破離/しゅはり/Shuhari; three stages of learning mastery: the fundamentals, breaking with tradition, parting with traditional wisdom