Stop Copying Sensei!


Noguchi sensei was very enthusiast yesterday. We covered the Tonsō no kata; the first level of Kukishin; a few sword techniques, and some hanbō jutsu. That was intense!

Noguchi sensei’s taijutsu is getting more destructured every time I train with him. As often, it is difficult to see the basics from the variations. I have attended his classes for 28 years now, and I am still amazed by his creativity.

Each time I train the Ryū with him, I have the feeling that I am studying new techniques. That is impressive and shows me the distance between his level and mine.

In the Mutō Dori part of the Tonsō no kata (waza 4, 5, and 6), we control the Uke’s sword. Noguchi sensei made a fascinating point. Uke attacks with Tsuki and Tori dodges the attack from the right. Dodging is Gomakasu. (1)

He said that holding the blade the way Hatsumi Sensei does, is not of our level. First, we have to learn how to avoid the stab. Catching and controlling the blade will come later

Sōke’s level is way above ours. He shows what is happening when you reach his degree of mastership. He does that so that we know where we are heading. But if we try to mimic his movements, we are dead.

For the last few days here, I have been exchanging a lot with my friend Daniel about this. We have to train at our level. Copying Sensei is not what we need, we need to better our sabaki first.

Too often, young black belts try to reproduce Hatsumi Sensei’s movements. They cannot do it because they don’t have acquired the basics. Footwork is key to our survival, and as long as we don’t have a perfect sabaki, and perfect timing, we cannot do what Sōke does.

Many visitors in Japan try to teach what they train here when they come back to their students. This is wrong in many aspects.

They “play Grandmaster” without the proper knowledge.
They do not teach their students.
They put their students’ lives at risk.

As teachers, we have a responsibility of transmitting what we see in Japan. But we have to do it in a way so that our students can develop their skills. If we keep imitating Sōke, we don’t pass on any new knowledge. This is not teaching, this is cheating (the other meaning of gomakasu). (1)

Teaching is Shugyō in Japanese. (2) And the essence of education is to instruct. You don’t need to look good, you have to be. It is not about showing off, some teachers should reflect on that.

If you lure your students into a fake sense of efficiency, you deceive them. You are Shūgyotō, attracting fish using lights. (3)

A fake teacher can cause the death of his students.
Be a true shugyōsha, not a shūgyotōsha!

1 誤魔化す, gomakasu: to dodge; to deceive; to falsify; to misrepresent; to cheat; to swindle. It is interesting to see that to dodge also has the meaning of misleading.
2 授業, shugyō: lesson; class work; teaching; instruction
3 集魚灯, shūgyotō: fish-luring lights


Author: kumablog

I share here on a regular basis my thoughts about the Bujinkan martial arts, training in Japan and all over the world, and

3 thoughts on “Stop Copying Sensei!”

  1. Beautifully stated. The wise will listen, the fool will fall. Like Arnaud, I have been studying with these masters for more than 31 years… I’ve learned to know my place in the process and how to deal with my weak points. The first step in winning any battle.


  2. This is getting very interesting and important.
    And yes I do believe that we should teach what we know so no student will get hurt badly!

    And yes we should houn our own techniques so it won’t look that we are just the sake of copying our teachers;)


  3. Very good epic revealation..that is the real meaning of martial arts..”you dont have to look good,you have to be”



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