Why do masters tell stories?

2017.03.15.007.WebThis picture tells me of Irimi Nage. We are earthly bound, yet we are promised to higher dwellings. Though it is rooted on one island, Notre-Dame shifts its light to the darkest corners of the human heart. Photography by Nguyen Thanh Thien © 2016

Noro Masamichi sensei’s relation to his master’s technique was quite unique. Many tried to stick to the model or on the opposite quit the model as quickly as they can. Noro sensei did this differently. In appearance his movements are distinctively Noro sensei’s. They have this way of shifting the weight to the back leg or emphasizing on the stance. Yet more deeply, Noro sensei was moving forward, ever, towards his counterpart. In the form, I see difference. In depth, I see a meeting with his master at each move. He would stop a movement, saying: “This I do not understand but my master did it this way, so I do it this way.” His techniques were a means of meeting Ueshiba Morihei sensei. For my master, they were a step “through the looking glass”, a step beyond, in French an “outrepas”.

They had to be in time and in space. In time, I mean in the rhythm of the counterpart. In space, I mean gathering the space from one horizon to the other, the finger pointing at the far horizon, not as a limit of one’s arm’s reach.

I remember meeting with Eliane Boulongne sensei, who brought Sogetsu Ikebana to France. She said many were feeding on Ikebana to do sculpture or painting or else but what she really wanted to stick to was balance, equilibrium. In Noro sensei’s art, there is a constant return to this equilibrium, this unique quality which is the sign of long lasting construction.

I remember Noro sensei one day came to me and did Irimi Nage. The way he did it, slowly and gently lifting me, pointing at the horizon, through my spine, catching my heels, this way was his teaching, his memory of his master’s Irimi nage, his study of it. Ever flowing and never leaving the spring.

I now understand Orpheus as his beloved was walking out of darkness. He did not have to turn back, to turn his back to light. It is darkness which is to ride the way to light. Noro sensei’s art was centred on his master’s art, calling it to light, not stepping back to darkness.

This is what went through my mind as I was sitting in the dojo when Noro sensei was teaching. This is what I do in the dojo. I hear Noro sensei talking again and again of Ueshiba Morihei’s Irimi Nage. I listen to him as I practise.

The questions are “Why do masters tell stories?” and “Why do we listen to them?”


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