Japan Effect

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I left Japan for India a week ago, and I gave my first class here after the trip. 
When you are in Japan training with Sensei and the Shihan you are not aware of how much your taijutsu evolves. But when you begin to teach again, you can appreciate the number of new things you have acquired. That was the case in class. Needless to say that the students were lost.

When in Japan I behave like a regular student. I try not to teach my partners as I want to get the most of each class I’m attending to. After a few days at the honbu my brain is totally fried and I feel completely lost.

When you’re in Japan, do not try to do “your taijutsu” simply copy what Sensei and the Shihan are giving you. When you are back to your dōjō, train what you learn there.

Sensei told me once “Arnaud train what you have to train, and teach what you have to teach”. When in Japan don’t teach, train!

Teaching is easier than being taught which is why so many are not doing what the teachers are doing in class. If you trained properly then the teaching will come easily as long as you have good basics.

When I opened the class, I had no clue about what I was going to teach.  So I asked Eugenio to begin the class.

But then the “magic” happened. Suddenly every new feeling I had experienced, and didn’t get while at the honbu, everything was there in my taijutsu. The tsunagari, the awaseru, the mutō dori.

It was amazing to watch my body unfold naturally the same movements I was unable to do before at the honbu.

This is what I call the “Japan effect”. The benefits of training in Japan need a few days to emerge in your taijutsu. It is not about trying to do what you learned in Japan, but to let this new knowledge sink into your body.

You have to appropriate it naturally, and this is only possible with strong foundations. Without a deep training in the tenchijin, what you do is fake. You have to have trained your basics so much, that your body moves by itself. Thinking is not at play. This is the taihen kuden Shinden of learning.

When you get to this level then you can copy Sensei’s movements. What Sensei teaches is beyond the form. It is so subtle that your brain cannot understand it. A long experience, kuden, is needed.

Often people ask me why, as a Dai Shihan, do I need to travel to Japan three times a year? 
I’m going there to get the “Japan effect”.

Fix And Softly Turn Around


Today at Senō sensei’s class more people were attending, and we had two hours of taijutsu. It was pure delight.

We trained the F. A. S. T. principle in slow motion.

F. A. S. T. is my acronym for “Fix And Softly Turn around”.

Uke launched a left Tsuki, and you wait until his fist is nearly touching you. At the last moment possible, you pivot to your left, living his fist with your left shoulder. It creates a sort of arm lock as you lock his elbow with your other shoulder. Your body is in line with his arm.
Replace your right shoulder by your hand and bring him down with a step forward.

The body moves softly and then around the fixed Tsuki. If it doesn’t work, grab the left hand and rotate the body around the arm, creating some omote. Lift the arm; hit the throat, the face, and then the neck with sunken.

From there either you apply:

A) a Ganseki Nage like movement bend the torso forward to bring him to the ground. If Uke’s left arm gets out of the lock and slides out, your left arm is there to outstretch him and continue.

B) a Ganseki Oshi like movement by stepping over with your right leg to off balance uke. Uke’s right arm is pulled horizontally and outside while your left arm lifts his left arm up in Ganseki.

Everything is very soft, only done with body footwork. Uke’s body reaction decides on your choice between the two movements.
The principle here is the usual concept from the kukishin ryû known as “teko shiten”. (1)(2)

梃 teko is the lever and 支点 shiten, the fulcrum.

What I found remarkable is that the same concept is applied in two distinct ways.

In movement A, the teko and the shiten are applied on the same point, here the arm. It is the usual application of the concept.

But in movement B, Senō sensei dissociated the two. The lever is still on the arm, but the fulcrum is done by Tori’s right foot, placed on the ground next to the right foot of uke to hinder his movements.

I have been playing a lot with this principle, but I never thought of using them in a double location. The applications for it are endless.

These small discoveries are why it is always refreshing to come and train in Japan with the best. (3)
1. 梃/teko/lever
2. 支点/shiten/fulcrum
3. The “refreshing” part does not concern the heat that was too much.

Ignore The Opponent


Hatsumi sensei was in a superb mood yesterday, and he gave us a high-level training. He often says that he is teaching for the Jûgodan, but yesterday night I think his teachings were advice that rank.

I opened the class with some taijutsu but rapidly he put the level so high that we were all lost in a minute. And that includes my partner Kenji and I. The more the class advanced, and the more I had the impression that my brain and body were stuck as I was trying to swim in water full of seaweed. Each movement being hindered by hundred invisible hands.

We did many applications with taijutsu and ninja biken, but I was so lost that I can only remember one kaname for this class: “ignore the opponent”.

It seems to be for me the next step of my Budō evolution.

As in every class, Sensei moves in a very simple but strange way. There is no thinking, no intention, no force, only natural body motions. Until yesterday, we kept watching uke. Not that time. Even that has been taken from us!

Ignoring uke is easy to understand, but prices to be quite difficult to achieve.

Sensei said that we have to move as if not at all concerned by the attacker. Not paying attention to uke, not trying to avoid the attack, you just move forward in the attack and deflect the weapon or the fist, only because you don’t focus on it. I’m sorry, I know that it is hard to get it with words, but this is the best I can do to explain what it feels during the class. I went to him a few times to “feel it”, but there was nothing to feel until he dug his nails into my face or my finger joints.

Sensei is teaching a higher level of Mutō dori this year. Each class he insisted on it. But sometimes words are not enough to grasp it. Our senses are limited and their inability to feel the invisible creates a permanent fog in which we get killed. When you are uke, there is nothing. When you watch him do the technique on somebody else, there is nothing to see.

It is like there are nothing and all of a sudden there is too much pain. His uke Nagase, Shiraishi, Paul, Yabunaka, were destroyed by his non-actions. It looked like there was no pattern, no form, no movement. It is not magic, Sensei did things, but as he was impersonating the mutō dori it was like some kami (divine power) was doing it instead of him.

Once again the “tsunagari” (connection) and awaseru (matching) where the key of this class.

Mutō dori is the next big thing to master, and I begin to consider it to be the ultimate level of taijutsu. Mutō dori when completed with “ignore the opponent” is so powerful that fighting is useless. In fact, there cannot be any fight. Uke attacks and die, and he doesn’t know why.

After the class, I went to his house, and he gave me a 桃 momo, an enormous peach (1) coming from Togakushi.

So, trying to find some logic there, I can say that he wants us to be 藻も, momo, “moving like some seaweed”. That means to have no intention, no strength, and only following naturally the water flow and the tide.

Seaweed ignores the water; it follows the flow.

1. Momo: 桃/momo/peach; prunus persica (tree)
2. Mo: 藻/mo/algae; waterweed; seaweed; duckweed
3. Mo: mo/also; too; words of similar weight|about (emphasizing an upper limit); as much as; even|more; further; other; again

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