Footwork is essential

ueshibamoriheipiedUeshiba Morihei sensei, my master’s master, awaking his foot.

Noro Masamichi sensei told us one day that there was a book of drawings Ueshiba Morihei sensei had done to promote his art, Aikido. Noro sensei took a look at these drawings and said to his master: “They are useless. One cannot see the footwork!” Ueshiba sensei smiled to his student and answered: “That is the point!”

In martial arts, footwork is of great importance. The feet connect to the ground and provide stability as well as mobility. Footwork is a signature for each martial art, for each school and for each master.

To Noro sensei, it was the opportunity to remind his student that energy has to go from earth to sky. Yet his earlier movements did go low, very low; I remember in the beginning 80’s, his Kaeten Nage was very low. Tori did Shiho Nage from a standing position while Uke was seating on his heels. Noro sensei’s teaching has evolved and I now am gathering his 30 years research into one scope. In Ringenkai Aikido, we contact the earth as one holds a sword. The quality of connexion between earth and our body should be the same as between our body and the sword. Connexion is a two way road along which intent and information flow constantly.

The reason why Noro sensei used to massage his feet was because it is what his master did: awaking to the earth. I too point my attention to footwork. Once, after practising Musashi’s kenjutsu all day, I went in the evening to Noro sensei’s dojo and applied incidentally Musashi’s footwork to the movements of Aikido. The result was that Noro sensei spent 2 hours examining my foot work, ashi waza. He had until then promoted the heel high up, not touching the ground. Through my ashi waza that day, he was discovering another possibility of using the foot to bring energy from earth to sky. His essential question was how to orientate energy from earth to sky. One answer was lifting the heel. That day, I answered his question in a way new to him. He did not refuse new answers if they were a response to his essential question.

This is one of my differences with my master. I answer differently to his question. I am faithful to his questions and like him, I am never totally satisfied with the answer. He practised Aikido because he was not satisfied with his understanding. That was how he understood practice, keiko. To that lesson too, I remain faithful.

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