For any Bujinkan practitioner (including me), Nagato sensei’s level is out of reach. With Noguchi sensei and Senō sensei, they are the best students of Hatsumi sensei. So, to say that he has “improved” would seem quite arrogant. That is honestly what I think.
As long as I can remember, Nagato sensei always did “his magic stuff”. He was never teaching a particular waza.
But when he was forced by Sensei to show the waza from the Denshō, he had to revisit his basics. By doing so, he unfolded another level of excellence, that anyone attending his classes can now see.
How is it possible? Only because he reconnected his vast knowledge to the past, train them in the present, to better his future. This interconnection is called “Kako, Genzai, Mirai” in Japanese, and was taught by Sensei in 2012. (1)
I invite you to read the excellent blog post by my friend Michael Glenn at the end of the text. (2)
The human learning process is based on repetitive cycles. Often, when we “know” something, we stop repeating it. With the years, some bad habits develop and we begin to drift away from the original form without being aware of it. Why do you think that Noguchi sensei always reads the techniques directly from the Denshō at every class? For the same reason.
Two years ago, I had to “re-study” the first Tenchijin thoroughly. I discovered that for some techniques, I had drifted away from the original text. My forms were not wrong, but they were not the ones that had to be trained. The same happened to Nagato sensei.
Now, nearly three years later, he is back to his own movements, and they are deeper, more meaningful, more powerful with less effort.
Life is about learning. And learning never stops because the past, the present and the future are One.
Next time that your teacher asks you do your basic ukemi, kamae, uke nagashi, try to remember this and enjoy this luxury instead of complaining that you already know them. To believe that you know something is an illusion. A pianist, or a dancer, do their basics every day without complaining because they know that the iterative process will allow them to show their best on stage.
1. Kako 過去, past; Genzai 現在, present; Mirai 未来, future
2. More on the subject by Michael Glenn from Santa Monica Dōjō Blog