Today Nagato sensei taught a new approach to Mutō Dori. Somehow his Taijutsu has evolved since I was there a few months ago. I shared this feeling with my friend Oliver Piskurek, who agreed. It amazes me that teachers like Nagato sensei can still improve their movements.
Nagato sensei is still moving in the same way, but it looks lighter and more powerful at the same time. In today’s training, I noticed two things. First, there is a new quality in his dynamic distancing. And second, he has increased the angling of his body in the footwork.
This is the new approach to Mutō Dori I was referring to.
Concerning the dynamic distancing. Nagato sensei receives the attacks with tiny backward steps. That keeps him out of reach but still able to get Uke’s balance at any moment. He will move backward to receive a Tsuki with a series of three or four small steps. This allowed him to stay at the limit of extension of Uke’s arm. Controlling the hand/forearm, he can then place his elbow to wrap Uke and throw him with a Ganseki nage or Ō Soto Gake. His typical style (changing hands, using the angles, hitting hard between the moves) remains. The only change is this more dynamic footwork keeping him off distance at all times.
Combined with this distancing is the angling of his body. He is often turning or pivoting his whole body at a 90-degree angle to receive the first attack. This angle forces Uke to twist his upper body. Because a double fist attack is fast, Uke has to launch his second fist at the same time he is turning the torso. The result is an off balancing of the body. This opens many Suki in Uke’s posture that Nagato sensei uses to destroy him. (1)
He said many times is that we have to learn to move like him step by step, and slow. Learning a complex sequence one move at a time is the best way to get it right.
We often train too fast. As a result, our brain and body cannot memorize the moves. Fast Taijutsu is the enemy of good Budō.
During class, Nagato sensei was always referring to his movements as being “Mutō Dori.” And I must say that it showed another facet of it. Each video by Hatsumi Sensei has “martial arts of distance” as a subtitle. That is what we trained today, a perfect illustration of how to master correct distance.
Copy that and keep your distance with Nagato!
1/ 隙, Suki: chink (in one’s armor); chance; opportunity; weak spot