The Gentleman Magician

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A class with Senō sensei is always a great moment. As he was in and out a lot recently, I was glad to learn he was teaching at the honbu. For me, Senō sensei is a gentleman and a magician. His elegant taijutsu mixed with his magic precision don’t stop to amaze me. And he is resilient like a real Shinobi. Respect!

As it is often the case when he teaches, I am lost after a few minutes. In fact, this is why I cherish his classes, they are a challenge. Being lost and unable to redo what he shows is a lesson of humility and the best way to improve my knowledge. Going to Japan is about training and learning always more.

Today’s movement was about surfing the wave created by Uke’s movements. It was a simple double Tsuki. But simplicity is hard to get. Uke was attacking left then right. On the first attack, you dodged sideways, controlling with the body and the right hand. On the second one, you pivoted like a door on the outside of the fist, control the arm and boshi/fudō ken to butsumetsu. Then Uke goes down in a kind of Katame Dori leaving him lying on his belly. From there, we did many variations using Yubi kudaki, changing sides, using Te Dama Dori, etc.

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I will not explain everything we did, but want to detail a few points here:

1. Osaeru more than “control”:

In my previous blog entry, I stressed the difference bat ween “Osaeru” and “control.” Rob told me that Senō sensei was using the Japanese word instead of the English one used by Sensei. After this class with Senō, I understood the difference. Hatsumi Sensei uses the whole body and mind. Senō sensei emphasizes the biomechanical aspect of the movement. Without an excellent knowledge of the body, the “control” remains at the physical level. Once you have the knowledge, then the next step is to control the whole.

2. Elbow stuck to the body:

One interesting tip was to move, intercept the Tsuki by using the whole body keeping the elbow attached to the body. When you do that, strength is not needed as the mass of your body makes the block with the body weight behind. The footwork though is quite technical. If you do it wrong, then you release too much force and destroy the benefits of the block. You must do that with a perfect transfer of your body weight: not too much, and not too little.

3. Yubi kudaki wrapping:

Once you did the block, your hand stays glued to the opponent’s forearm. You can do this inside or outside. Then by extending your fingers, one finger gets in contact with Uke’s wrist. The footwork allows you then to rotate your hand, using this finger as a Shiten to redirect uke’s strength. (1)

4. Te Dama Dori to control the opponent:

When outside Uke you can apply Te Dama Dori to off balance the opponent quickly. You can find this in the book published by Sensei in 1983 “Togakure Ryū Ninpō Taijutsu. This is one beneficial way to get Uke’s balance without using strength. (2)

5. Use your footwork through the hips, use no strength: (3)

All these tips are possible only because you are not using any strength. As Sensei puts it “you control the attacker with your hips.” Your body moves because your body as a whole is moving.

All these points are add-ons to your movements. They are not specific to this one technique. These are the little gems you get when you come here to train in Japan.
Use them, and become a Gentleman magician too.

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1. Shiten 支点; fulcrum, support

2. 手玉に取る; (leading) someone by the nose. Here it means to redirect uke’s attention to take his balance. Sensei and the Japanese Shihan use it a lot. Don’t apply force or pain that could make Uke change his steps.

3. footwork 足さばき; Ashi sabaki

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