When Noro Masamichi entered the dojo of Ueshiba Morihei sensei, he was a medical student. His first encounter with his master redirected his life to a new horizon which would be the study of Aikido. He became Uchideshi, live-in student. They were few of them in the dojo of Ueshiba Morihei sensei. Noro sensei used to say: “The 5 of us were to spread Aikido throughout the world.” Tamura Nobuyoshi who had entered the dojo a year or two before him, was to become his brother in the dojo. Tamura san was then the assistant of Ueshiba Morihei sensei, receiving his techniques and caring for the master. The goal of the student Noro was to do his best and eventually become the number one student, the assistant of his master. After only a few months, Ueshiba turned to him in the morning class and from that morning, Noro Masamichi became his assistant. His heart filled with joy, it took him some time to notice a change in the attitude of his best friend, Tamura Nobuyoshi who had grown more silent, who kept to himself when before he was soo happy to encourage his kohai, Noro Masamichi. Wondering about such change in the spirit of Tamura san, Noro san came to understand his friend felt much sorrow at loosing his privileged position close to his master. So, one day while on an exhibition trip in the Tokyo area, he made a fool of himself, on purpose. When he acted strangely as his uke, Ueshiba Morihei sensei looked at him with great surprise and discomfort, dismissed him and turned to Tamura san to display his techniques before the public. Noro san immediatley saw the change in Tamura san’s spirit as he jumped up and rushed to his master, bursting with joy as he recovered his lost position. This was most important to Noro san who did not wish to be “Ichiban”, number one, at the cost of losing his best friend. Ueshiba sensei understood the attitude of his close disciple. This is why from that day onward, Tamura san was to be assistant in the Tokyo area while Noro san was his assistant in the other parts of Japan.
Noro san talked about this story very often. I constantly wondered at why he came again and again back to this part of his relation with Tamura sensei.
I believe the position of Ichiban brings joy and despair to people, wether they are the chosen one or not. There is a cost to this position. There is also a teaching.
To be the assistant to a master implies one has to become the glove to the hand of the master. There is always a glove which fits one’s hand better than another. There is an art of the glove as there is an art of the hand. Noro sensei was the glove to the hand of his master. This fact recognised by Ueshiba sensei pushed him ahead of his friends and his comrades.
As the student becomes closer to the master, close to the point he shares his views and his insights, he journeys to a land unknown to his companions who are working their way far behind. If the master is less lonely when he finds a close student, this student looses in return the brotherhood of his former companions. This is the price one has to pay to become the close disciple.
This is one explanation of what happened later to Noro sensei when he was rejected from the world of Aikido, some 20 years later.
There is a price one has to pay for the treasures of understanding one’s master. Such is the price Noro sensei paid to become the Otomo, the serving disciple of Ueshiba Morihei sensei.