Nagato Sensei: Henka Your Basics!

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Nagato_Sensei_O_Soto_Gake
Nagato sensei was in a good mood today. And even if we finished the class fifteen minutes earlier than usual -he had an appointment- his class was dynamic and full of insights.
“When you make natural Henka on basics, it turns into an art form,” said Nagato sensei on the first set of movements he did today. And in fact, the natural flow of his movements during the whole class was simple and efficient.
Each technique he would do was repeated in many forms. “don’t do the same technique twice, change them permanently. As you know, the word “Henka” in Japanese means “change” (1), and he did change the original forms a lot. “It is like the Kihon Happō in the Gyokko Ryū, each one of them has “8” variations, and each variation has another “8” changes, and so forth”.
What I understood is that if you stop at the basic form, you will never be able to adapt to the many attacks launched by your opponent. For example, we did many variations around Harai Goshi. One particularly interested me, I will call it Uchi Mata Oshi. (2) In this Henka of Uchi Mata you stay away of Uke, you push him to his outside, and, using crossed legs, you throw him with the inner leg.
We also did many variations on Ō Soto Gake turning around the attacking fist and applying different foot movements such as Ko Soto Gake, Ko Uchi Gake. We also passed in front of Uke, and used the technique on the opposite arm, using a natural Te Hodoki turning into a “super Hon Gyaku” as he put it.
That was interesting to see the variety of Nagato sensei’s Henka. Each time he would do like Senō and flood us with three or four different movements. “Don’t copy what I’m doing, grab the feeling.”
On Uchi Mata, please remember that it is called Uchi Mata / Uchi Gake. Strangely Uchi Gake is rarely taught, and that is a shame. It can be Ko Uchi Gake (on the inner leg) or Ō Uchi Gake (on the outer leg). The same also goes with Ō Soto Gake that can turn into Ko Soto Gake. The Kaname (3) is how you manage the distance and the body angle between Uke and you.
We then applied all these Taijutsu moves (Uchi Mata, Ō Soto Gake, and their many Henka) with the Hanbō. Uke would attack with the hand, or grab a wrist with one hand and attack simultaneously with a Tsuki, grab both wrists, or the stick. Nagato sensei insisted on the core aspect of all these techniques. Each time he would end his technique saying with the now familiar “Kantan Desu!” (4) and smile at our inability to reproduce his free flowing movements.
Another great class by a Japanese Dai Shihan.
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1. Henka: 変化, change; variation; alteration; mutation; transition; transformation; transfiguration; metamorphosis . Interestingly, the Kanji 変 means to change (at the beginning), and the Kanji 化, to metamorphose (the end of change)
2. Oshi: 押し, push; pressure
3. Kaname: 要, vital point, keystone, key point
4. Kantan: 簡単, simple; easy; uncomplicated

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