Protect Your Holes!


IMG_20180308_145258What I like when training with Nagato sensei, is that he often has his way to convey his ideas. Today was no different when he said “protect your holes!” and laughed.

What he meant was about the fight. When you are fighting the opponent, make sure not to let any Suki, holes, in your movements. (1)

When you move closer to him, Uke tries to resist and to hit you. So, when you get close to him, check all the openings in your body and close them before doing any movement. And this is the same with or without the Yoroi. That is an essential point in Taijutsu. Protection and balance are the first things to do.

Too often I see practitioners not protecting their openings enough. Luckily for them, their attacker is friendly (they will be Tori soon), so the outcome is always positive. But this would be different in a real encounter.
In sword, we have a Kamae called “Tōtoku Hyōshi no Kamae.” (2)
In Taijutsu, “Toku” (shield) is like awareness (3), it is a permanent aspect of the fight. If you leave your body unprotected, Uke will take advantage of it.
In Nagato sensei’s movements, the action of his hands is always a consequence of his footwork. Only when your body is in a good position that you can apply the technique. By “having the body in a good position,” I mean that all your Suki are out of reach or closed.
When we watch a movement, we memorize the hand’s actions more or less. We don’t pay enough attention to the other aspects of the technique. That is a whole including footwork, body angle, relative angle, distance, and rhythm. These aspects are all linked together and play a significant role in the exchange between Uke and Tori. In a real fight, Uke and Tori will react to one another in attack or defence; this is why the footwork is vital.

Knowing how to apply the lock is a good start. But understanding how to place yourself well is better. So that Uke is never in a position to counter-attack. That is more important.

Today, Nagato sensei stressed this many times during the class. We did many variations around Musha Dori and Ō Soto Gake. We did them with grabs, reverse kicks, Tsuki, Taiken, Nage and Ashi Rau. Each time he insisted that we closed our weakness points.
As Hatsumi Sensei says, Mutō Dori is about controlling. But it is not enough to control the attacker or the Kūkan between and around us. No, the most important is to control ourselves.
If you control yourself, you control the universe. So, protect your holes!
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1. 隙, Suki: chink (in one’s armour, armour); chance; opportunity; a weak spot
2. 刀匿表紙, Tōtoku Hyōshi: sword + shield + cover or to “shield yourself under-covered by the sword.”
3. Ishiki, Awareness: see one of the last entries in this blog

PARIS TAIKAI REGISTRATION

Noguchi Ryū


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A class with Noguchi sensei is always a surprise. Last class, we covered the Shizen Chigoku Gata (the first level). As often with him, I am lost after ten minutes!
Noguchi sensei has this fantastic ability to make something new with old techniques. And for many of the techniques, his renewed interpretation is impressive.
Over the last thirty years, we have covered these techniques many times. But each time, he gives a new interpretation. I am amazed by his ability to do that, as it shows the technical distance he has with me. For example, his “new” Fū Batsu was nothing like I saw before, his Ryōte Gake Noguchi Ryū was even stranger.
Seeing that, I often paused during training, trying to decipher the pattern of the real Waza. That brought a few thoughts that I want to share with you.
Before going ANY Waza, he reads them from the Denshō. He doesn’t work from memory but interprets the technique as if it was the first time.
He follows a teaching pattern in five steps, like the five elements. The first variation is always a “Chi” like movement, the last one a “Kū” like movement. I mean that for the last change he is hardly touching the opponent.
Whatever the original movement, he continues it against fist attack. Then he changes whatever can be, still keeping the Kaname (key point) alive.
I also discovered yesterday that my understanding of Japanese names is limited. In the West a word is a thing, here it is an image. For example, Noguchi sensei was blocking Uke’s arm from the outside on the upper arm. He used the word “Jakkin” to define the point he was hitting. Until then, I thought that Jakkin was only on the inside of the arm.
Later he hooked Uke’s foot from the inside with his leg, like in Uchi Gake. He called it “Ashi Dome.” Until then, I thought of Ashi Dome as a set technique from the Chi Ryaku no Maki. It is not what I thought it was.
In the new edition of the Tenchijin (1), Hatsumi Sensei writes about Ganseki Nage. He lists the “official variations”: Ganseki Otoshi, and Ganseki Oshi. But there is a third one: Ganseki Ori (2), and we did it. It was a kind of Ganseki turning into a robust Ō Gyaku (you end up facing Uke).
After the Shizen Chigoku Gata, we did some Hanbō Jutsu. Noguchi Sensei reminded us that neither the Hanbō nor the Jō, belong to any one of the Ryūha. We do the techniques with the “feeling of the Kukishin Ryū,” but they are not Waza from the Kukishin. As a joke, he added, “tonight we do Noguchi Ryū Hanbō Jutsu.”
The class lasted only ninety minutes, and still, I learned more than I could ever imagine. The points above might look like details. But once incorporated into your Taijutsu, they will change it profoundly. That is why we have to come and train here often. If you already have been practising in Japan, it is good. But if you can afford to travel every year, I can assure you that you will get a much better Taijutsu.
See you here on the mats soon!
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  1. http://shinden-ediciones.com/es/14-bujinkan-ninjutsu
  2. 折る, Ori(oru): o break; to fracture; to break off; to snap off; to fold; to bend
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