Noro Masamichi was Otomo to Ueshiba Morihei sensei, Otomo meaning serving disciple, the closest one. It was not an easy task. He had to care at all time, night and day. In the beginning, he lacked sleep as Ueshiba sensei would burst into his room in the middle of the night yelling. It was his way to train young Noro to react and even foresee his attack. One night, he opened quietly the sliding panel to find Noro ready for his master. From then on, he stopped this training, being sure Noro Masamichi was ready to care for his safety at any time.
He also asked Noro Masamichi to massage his back. There was no explanation nor theory prior to this request. Noro san was to move up and down his back tirelesly. The morning following this first experience, Noro san had swollen thumbs. Yet, in the evening, Ueshiba sensei call onto him to massage him. Little by little, Noro san was able to massage his master correctly, understanding the needs of his master without explanation.
He also had to accompany his master along trips throughout Japan, carrying his luggage and caring for his safety. He did not really appreciate the experiment as Ueshiba sensei was all the time talking to other travellers, lecturing them on Aikido. Young Noro felt embarrassed. Later when he was to promote Aikido in Europe and Africa, he would reconsider his master’s attitude.
Sometimes, Noro san was unhappy with his master. Those days, he would add garlic to the food. His master had a dislike for garlic. Ueshiba sensei would enter the room, smell the food and with a frown of discontent, leave and get back to his room. Yet, Noro san learnt much from him as he did not let the situation in a poor state. One day, Noro san was very unhappy and to mark his position, lit a cigarette in front of a distinguished visitor. The visitor then asked the master who was this person in the room. Ueshiba sensei replied: “He is my son.” Noro san was abashed at such an honour, such recognition in the words of his master that he stopped smoking and changed his attitude in gratitude for the public acknowledgement his master had bestowed upon him.
One day, Ueshiba sensei called Noro san to his room and told him to come with a bokken. Noro san rushed to fetch a bokken and run back hoping to learn the sword directly from Ueshiba Morihei sensei. Ueshiba sensei told him to take a stance. In a split of a second, he hit the wooden sword of his student, thrusting it out of his grip. With a frown of surprise at the weakness of his student, he left the room without a word. This did leave a wound in the heart of Noro san. Later, he would tell us to beware of our words and our attitude for, with a little frown, we can deeply hurt our students.
Since this event, Noro san concentrated on the wooden staff, the jo. He would train and train. One day, he had travelled to Iwama with his master. Ueshiba sensei, sitting by the keiko area, told him to do some exercise with the jo. Noro san took up the exercise. Some time after, he was sweating and in pain but there was no sign from his master to tell him to stop. So he went on. He could now barely lift his arms. Still no sign. When he could no longer move his arms, in great pain, he crawled to him only to discover he had fallen asleep. At that moment, Ueshiba sensei woke up and, a bit embarrassed at having fallen asleep, said: “Good, good, now you may stop.” Noro sensei would later tell us that the master says when to begin an exercise and only the master says when to stop.
These lessons have lead me to this day. I have since become the student of two soke, in the school of Miyamoto Musashi. These lessons among many others have guided my path through great trials. They are our guidelines in Ringenkai Aikido.