Word And Object


With Noguchi sensei tonight we covered the second level of Kukishin Daken Taijutsu. Each Waza was enriched (twisted) to meet his own interpretation and the depth of his taijutsu.

At some point during class, he positioned his right leg between Uke’s legs to do a basic Koshinage. While placing his leg, he said “kick,” but he didn’t do a kick, he put his thigh there. (1)
Later, he trapped his Uke was kneeling to the ground, and he captured Uke’s head between his knees, saying “happa.” (2) At another moment, he did a half Oni Kudaki and called it “Musha Dori.” (3)

In these three occurrences, the words he used didn’t seem correct. But they are. It is just that we limit their definition. The Japanese language, like Chinese or Korean processes the information by images. A word in Asia is not “definite,” it is a concept, a general idea evolving with the situation. In the West, our words have a precise definition, limiting their power. Not in the East. These languages do not see the world in the same we do.

Let’s review now what Noguchi sensei said during class.

Kick: This is our definition of Keri. But in fact, it means an “action of the leg.” The kick is one possibility amongst many. In the Chi Ryaku no Maki, there is a set of techniques called “Happō Keri Henka.” There are no kicks in these techniques, but the legs are used a lot to manage the distance to the opponent.

Happa Ken: This is one of the Hōken Jūroppō. Happa is slapping Uke with a flat hand. Here he was using the knees, hitting the head of Uke. Note that in the Takagi Yōshin Ryū, the Kyūsho for the ears is also called Happa. Happa for him is the action of hitting with the sides of the head, with the hands, the knees, or anything else. It is the function that is important.

Musha Dori / Oni Kudaki: It was not a mistake either. At the beginning of the Bujinkan, Musha Dori was the Omote form we know, and the Oni Kudaki was Musha Dori Ura. Both terminologies exist in different Ryū. Also, if you think about it, grabbing the elbow from inside or outside, are two ways to “grab a warrior.”

The Japanese language is not based on Latin, Saxon, or other Alphabet based languages. It is an image. And this image is a concept with blurred borders. If you take the word “Omote” for example and ask anyone to tell you what it is, they will all tell you that it means “outside.” And they will be right, but Omote is more than that. (5)

That is why it is vital to learn your Bujinkan vocabulary. The Japanese use their words not to define an object but because of their function.

In the train to Kashiwa, I remembered reading a book many years ago called “Word and object” by Quine. (6) You should read it. It changed my understanding of languages. In the book, Quine exposes the idea of what he calls “conceptual scheme.” From one language to another, à word doesn’t carry the same concepts. À word is cultural. It explains why a translation is often betraying the author’s initial idea.

Noguchi sensei’s class was as great as always. But if you understand what is above, it will be an essential step on your path to excellence.


1 蹴り, Keri: Kick (dictionary)
2 葉っぱ, Happa: leaf; blade (of grass); (pine) needle​ (dictionary)
3 武者取り, Musha dori: Grab the warrior
4 宝剣十六法, Hōken Jūroppō: The 16 treasures
5 表, Omote: Outside; above; in front of; exterior; on top; obvious; easy.

  • But also:
  • surface
  • face (i.e., the visible side of an object)​
  • front (of a building, etc.); obverse side (i.e., “head”) of a coin​
  • outside; exterior​
  • appearance​
  • public​
  • first half (of an inning); top (of an inning)​ Baseball term,
  • cover (for tatami mats, etc.)​
  • foreground​ Computer terminology

6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_and_Object

PARIS TAIKAI 2019

I Love The Noguchi Ryū!


Only 24 people joined Noguchi sensei’s class tonight, so we had a lot of space to train.

I love the “Noguchi Ryū” because I find his interpretation of the Waza disturbing and brilliant. It always seems that we are studying another fighting system. (1)

Tonight we covered a “twisted version” of the second level of Koto Ryū and of the Kukishin Bō. Noguchi sensei has this superior ability to transform the known into the unknown. And I am not the only one to feel that way. Yesterday, next to me, was training Elias from Norway. He is also a Bujinkan old-timer, Dai Shihan, and he often comes to train in Japan. After one “revisited” technique, we looked at each other saying, “did he change the technique again?”

We have been training the Koto Ryū with him since the 90s’. That is almost 30 years, and we are lost. We know each technique, and still, each time we feel like beginners. It is amazing!

Like always, the pace was fast, dynamic, with many henka and full of laughter. But how does Noguchi sensei do it?
Hereafter is three points that might shed some light on what is happening.

  • First: Noguchi sensei was teaching the second level from the bottom up. I mean that he began with the last technique and went back to the first. To train these Waza in a different order is perturbs our logical brain, it doesn’t help. But, would an attacker launch a predictable hit?
  • Second: He reads the same Densho he has been studying for years but gives it a twist. It is like he is reading the essence of the technique and not the step by step process. Or to put it better, the Ura instead of the Omote. Every aspect of the Waza is there, but it doesn’t feel the same. It is like a smell of a croissant instead of the croissant itself.
  • Third: He has been training longer than us, and his sensibility is beyond us. Hatsumi sensei explained that Nagato sensei and Noguchi are now evolving at the Ku level. That would explain the change in the forms.

When we think about the concept of Shuhari, Noguchi sensei is definitely at the “ri.” He destructures the techniques so much that they look different. This is pure genius and excellence. I hope that what day I will be able to reach that understanding. (2)

Sensei said we “shouldn’t do precise things because we become predictable. On the battlefield, being readable kills you as the opponent would counter you with ease.
Being unpredictable is the secret of survival. Last week SEnsei repeated again to have no preconceived thoughts. We have to be zero with no emission and no intent. And added that “often, people who studied at the university are those thinking they understand. But in reality, they don’t. Don’t think! Kankaku is important.” (3)

The Bujinkan Budō is fantastic, and I wish that more practitioners can discover how great it is. And the “Noguchi Ryū” like the “Nagato Ryū” are two advanced versions of this greatness. Come to Japan and get enlightened by these two lighthouses. Because at a certain level, it is not anymore a question of Waza, it is a question of feeling.

Follow the example of Shuhari, destroy the form, so only the essence remains: Kankaku.


____________________________________
1 Noguchi Ryū: Twenty years ago, I went to sensei’s house after class. I didn’t know what to think because each sensei was different. Actually, I was mad. I asked him, “Sensei, is it normal that I feel that I am learning the Bujinkan with you. The Noguchi Ryū with Noguchi sensei. The Nagato Ryū with Nagato sensei. The Oguri Ryū with Oguri sensei. The Senō Ryū with Senō sensei?”
Then with a smile on his face, he looked my eyes and said, “Yes.” Then he laughed.
2 守破離, Shuhari: Shuhari; three stages of learning mastery: the fundamentals, breaking with tradition, parting with traditional wisdom
3 感覚, Kankaku: sense; sensation; feeling; intuition​.

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