Noro Masamichi sensei


Noro portrait Freund pt
Noro Masamichi sensei in the 80’s at the time he created his own path. Photography by Christian Freund ©

Masamichi Noro (野呂 昌道 Noro Masamichi, January 21, 1935 – March 15, 2013) is the founder of Kinomichi and was an uchi-deshi of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. More to read on Wikipedia. Most of the article on Noro Masamichi sensei has been written by me under the login “Grattepierre” until the passing away of my master. After that date, it has been regularly checked by his son and successor, Noro Takeharu sensei.

What I have to say now is from another dimension. I speak from the dojo point of view, as his student. I asked Noro Takeharu sensei why he informed me so quickly of the death of his father. He answered that I was a close student of his father. I was surprised.

This tells of my relationship with Noro Masamichi sensei. I was close enough to write about his life and achievements. He once told me it was a great thing. I looked at him blankly and went on practising. My partner then told me: “Do you realise the compliment he just made you?” I looked at him blankly and went on practising. Noro Masamichi sensei did not like self satisfaction to overcome practice. Of course, there are times when our ego rejoices at hearing how good we are.

One should never let our ego run loose and upset our practice.

I stopped practising with Noro Masamichi sensei for several years to join the dojo of one of his best students ever. He said about my former teacher: “In 5 years, he became better than anyone of you.” He was quite forthright when in the dojo. So one day I came back to him. There was one open door event. All students were asked to join if they wished. I put on my Gi, stepped on the mat and sat among the students. He stood up and, taking my hand, brought me to the place where the public was seated. I was puzzled. I had never ever entered a dojo with a Gi not to practise. So I stood up and went back to where I sat first. Noro Masamichi sensei said nothing until the near end of the demonstration. Then he told me to join his most advanced sempai and we did embu together. That was my sensei.

We did not always get on well. He had a strong character. But on the mat, in the dojo, he was sensei and I deshi. That was always clear. Slowly we came to understanding one another.

Noro Masamichi sensei had to establish Aikido as a strong martial art. He was a young man proud of his strength. He had to prove to people advanced in Judo, Boxing or Wrestling how strong Aikido techniques coud be. Robert Boudot, one of my oldest students, turning 72 years old, was one of the first Judo black belts in France. He told me:

Noro sensei was fearsome!

Once, a team of Aikido senseis visited his Korindo Dojo in Paris. Among them I remember Isoyama sensei and others Japanese senior senseis I forgot their names. Noro Masamichi sensei presented me as his student. I did not notice the honour he was doing me. I was just so thrilled as I could feel the love of Budo in their presence. I went berserk. I went on moving from one technique to another, from one area of the dojo to another, walking on the feeling of intense Budo love entering the dojo. Noro sensei looked at me quite puzzled, wondering what was happening to me. I was quite out of control, exulted. The week after, he said in the dojo that at the dinner after this visit, the Japanese senseis told him:

We have never witnessed such joy in practice.

Noro Masamichi sensei was happy.

After twelve years, I left his dojo. I wrote him a letter thanking him and telling of my intentions. He answered through his office that he wished me success.

Noro Masamichi sensei had a will made of steel. His faith in Ueshiba Morihei sensei never withered. He was a demanding master and his technique was unique. The path he set for his students was uncompromising. Still, there was room for the student to grow and even leave. There was always a form to respect, a way to approach, a manner to follow. His style was very personal.

His portrait is now best witnessed while studying the martial art he left us, for he lives on inside, inside the dojo.

Nguyen Thanh Thien