Gyokko Ryû vs Noguchi Ryû


Noguchi sensei is good with many ryû, but his understanding of the Gyokko ryû is the best. If I’m not mistaking, I think that his whole taijutsu is largely influenced by the depth of the Gyokko ryû.

During his last class, we covered (again) the first level of the Gyokko ryû: Kokû, Renyō, Gyaku Nagare, Dan Shu, Dan Shi,  etc. Once again, it required a lot of attention from my part to read his movements. His taijutsu is so far from the forms of the densho that, often, I am incapable of recognizing the original waza.

Every basic waza is “exploded” into something different. Only the Kaname (1) remains. The form is gone.

Nothing is “finished” and uke cannot rely on his sensations. Uke is defeated by his illusions. In a way, it was the follow-up of the last class we had with Hatsumi sensei for his birthday. The way Noguchi sensei is moving is a double-bind. When he announces the name of the technique, we expect a given form. When he does it, something different pops out, that is so far from the basic form, that we are captured by what we are expecting. This is a pure manipulation,  similar to what magicians do when they are doing their tricks.

Funnily, things would be easier for us, if we didn’t know what he was doing next. I guess that beginners,  thanks to their lack of knowledge, have less problems than us.

And this is why I really love his classes, because they question my understanding of the art. I’m lost and happy at the same time. What Noguchi sensei is showing is the famous “next step” that Hatsumi sensei was telling us again during the last class. Being able to see novelty in techniques we have been repeating for years is the reason why I’m training three times a year in Japan.

During the second part of the class,  we moved to Bō jutsu. We covered the chûden level of the Kukishin ryû. At least this is what he wanted us to believe. But his interpretation was definitely Gyokko ryû oriented. The young Bujinkan members might not be aware of it, but in 2005, we studied the Bō jutsu of the Gyokko ryû, using the Kukishin techniques to illustrate it. (2) (3)

As I said in the introduction, Noguchi sensei is the man of Gyokko ryû and this lightens his whole taijutsu in a very particular way.

It makes sense. As sensei wrote in “unarmed fighting techniques of the samurai”,  the Gyokko ryû is the origin of all Japanese Budō. Therefore, mastering this specific ryûha, gives access to the understanding of all Budō.

I really enjoy the Noguchi ryû. (4)

1.  要/kaname/pivot|vital point; cornerstone; keystone
2. In 2005, we studied Kasumi no hō and Gyokko no bō. This was the third year of the Juppō Sesshō series. The main difference in the use of the long staff is that the hands are often positive at the mid section instead of the last inch of the weapon. There is no densho of bō jutsu in the Gyokko ryû. 
3. Please note that, my friend Marcelo Ferraro on his way back to Argentina, will be giving a seminar on stick fighting in Dubai, next weekend. Marcelo has been used by Noguchi sensei a lot during this class and I’m sure that everyone attending this seminar will learn of lot from him. The seminar is organized by Juan Pablo Napoli, from the Bujinkan UAE. More information at
4. One day,  I asked Hatsumi sensei the following question: “when I come to Japan,  I have feeling that I learn the bujinkan with you,  but also the Noguchi ryû,  the Nagato ryû, the Senō ryû, and the Oguri ryû. Am I correct?” His answer was: “yes!”

Kansoku To Kankaku


The human observer constitute the final link in the chain of observational processes, and the properties of any atomic object can be understood only in terms of the object’s interaction with the observer.” ― Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics

Even though I’m not a scientist, I see more and more connections between our Budō and the world of Quantum physics. During Nagato sensei’s class this was obvious, once again, as every movement is a natural reaction to uke’s intention. The way you “observe” the situation, influences the outcome of the fight.

We can rewrite the previous sentence as follow: “Tori is the observer, that constitutes the final link in the chain of observational processes, and the properties of any  movement, can be understood only in terms of the movement’s interaction with the observer.

Rachel, a new Shidōshi from the USA, opened the class with Sōke kind of Omote Gyaku and Nagato sensei broke it down in numerous henka. When he used her as uke, each attack she gave was slightly different from the previous one. But each time,  Nagato sensei, sensing the subtle changes, was able to turn it into some kind of Omote Gyaku.

Clearly, he was observing without any intent, and therefore was able to react according to the new situation. Hatsumi sensei often says that he “never repeat twice the same technique.” we witnessed it yesterday.

In the fight, Tori is “kansokusha”, the observer, meaning that he is passive and has no intention. (1) Tori moves slowly and unfolds the possibilities offered by uke. Nagato sensei spoke again about the importance of not using strength (2), and to move slowly. 
This is why, if Tori’s movements are Kansoku (観測) a simple observation; they are also Kansoku (緩速), slow speed (3)

The technique we use doesn’t matter. It is determined by uke’s attacks. There cannot be any preconceived choice. Slow motions paired with proper distancing will unfold our possibilities.

To illustrate further this,  Nagato sensei applied the same body flow with a Hanbō. The original Omote turned at time into Oni Kudaki,  and at other times into Musha Dori. But he kept calling it Omote Gyaku.

“There are no waza” did Hatsumi sensei recently, “only a natural movement adapted to the situation. ”

These days, I see “Waza” as the worst weakness of the Bujinkan practitioners. Because we want to do, we stop observing and cannot interpret the subtle changes happening before our eyes. Willing to do a waza, we cannot observe anymore. Not observing, there is no awareness. And without awareness, we cannot adapt freely to the situation.

Hatsumi sensei’s Budō is not about techniques, it is about life. Only when we become 観測者 (kansokusha), an observer; we can turn into 感覚者 (kankakusha), a man of feeling. 
1.  観測者/kansokusha/observer
2. 力/chikara/force; strength; might; vigour (vigor); energy
3. 緩速/kansoku/slow speed
4. 感覚/kankaku/sense; sensation; feeling; intuition