One midsummer afternoon

“(When I was 12 years old), I saw Kote Gaeshi. I knew immediately it was something different. I said to myself : This is what I want to do later.”

I always listen to what others say with extreme attention. They really mean what they say or they really need to conceal what they think. The path to their mind winds through their words and silences.

There is often a lack of consideration for what a child sees and says, sometimes even to the child one was. Yet when I recall my own words and dreams, I wonder at the amount I have achieved. I am a martial art teacher. I have been the student of great masters. I have entered an ancient sword school, sleeping at the Grand Master’s house. I have had hundreds of students. And what is more, I am still studying!

All these deeds have their root in a child’s dreams, insights and questions. I had to dispel greed, growing interest for new objects, immersion into social life, friendships that last the time of a sight. I had to stick to those questions as to how does a weak boy become a strong man, how does a man use his strength going by his intelligence, how does a kid grow to stand up to what he believes in, how does a woman look into a man’s eyes saying “No” with calm and composure. All this has grown into a dojo, a life dedicated to studying and, after, to teaching.

It has been done with the trust of my masters, of my friends, of my students. It has been done with my own trust that what worked for my masters would work for me.

Then, sitting in my dojo, I go back to the hour I witnessed Kote Gaeshi for the first time.

 

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Echoing the master’s days when he was young

In the movements of my master, I saw his eyes set onto his own master, Noro Masamichi sensei looking onto Ueshiba Morihei sensei. When I was examining his moves, I could perceive an echo of what he had felt in the hands of his master. When I practice today, I follow that humming sound that flows through all Aikido which speaks of Ueshiba Morihei sensei.

My master, Noro Masamichi sensei, advocated himself to become the most faithful means to convey the art of his master. I believe his lessons to be the best recording I could reach of those classes in the late 50’s when Ueshiba sensei was teaching young Noro Masamichi.

When I practice, it is with my eyes set upon the heart of my master, at the time when he decided to contradict his father’s plans as he devoted his life to Aikido, to the teaching of Ueshiba sensei. It is simple, I just have to open myself to the echo which resides within me, now.

What of our limits?

Noro Masamichi sensei was famed for his efficiency. It was through his efficiency that he brought public interest to Aikido in the 60’s and 70’s. Yet he taught me not to seek efficiency. He told us how relieved he was when he didn’t have to fight every day for Aikido’s efficiency. What is the meaning of this contradiction?

My opinion is that efficiency is a means to catch the public eye. It is a skin to Aikido. It is something easily understood. For the student, for the one who truly commits himself to the teaching of the master, there is what waits beyond first sight. As taught by masters of old, what truly is operational is unseen, unfelt, in the realm of seeds and vows.

Noro Masamichi sensei, after catching the public eye, had to quit the world of fame and skin. He had to invite his students to dig deep into the flesh and onto the bones, right to the marrow. This is a layer of teaching beyond efficiency, beyond public attention, into the shadow of our consciousness, be it body, mind or heart consciousness.

Asking Noro Masamichi sensei to teach efficiency again and again was asking him to halt on the path of Aikido at a time when he invited his students to walk further and farther. Of course, when well directed, the student is efficient, relatively efficient. I do not know of anyone who is absolutely efficient. This is a dream for men who deny limits to their own power. This is entering a land of dreams, phantasm and self-deception.

Noro Masamichi sensei wished his students to be strong enough to accept their limited power and unleash unlimited efforts to improve their skills and understanding. This is how I understand his teaching:

Within limited abilities, aim at an unlimited study.

 

The balance of power


I do appreciate the art of Hirano Tokio sensei. He has a wonderful foot and leg work. It looks simple at first, then one senses details which open us to new study directions. Hirano Tokio sensei has inspired me considerably. I study his choices. Of course, this is Judo, but for me, it is martial arts first, an art of employing the balance of power. This has much to do with blending with the opponent, the partner, the adversary.

It is elegant and needs not destroy the other. It uses only necessary force, no more and sometimes even less.

My work comes below:

The lost teaching

People talk about le lost teaching meaning a loss of efficiency. “People” meaning those who have time to discuss practice outside practice.

I question the need to question efficiency when those who go on and on about efficiency are the same who promote a solution for the lack of efficiency, meaning their own teaching. I can hear them:

“Come to me and I will give you the patch to update your martial art.”

To be earnest, I have to say that efficiency comes from true dedication to the study. In martial arts, we study with the body, sweating out the exercise and considering our defeats. When I was in Judo, I liked fighting. I understood that success was only due to my efforts and to the support of my elders and my teacher. Growing adult, I carefully chose my teacher. I advise this to those who doubt of their lesson:

“Choose carefully from whom you intend to learn and then stick to learning, whatever injuries you will inflict to your ego.”

If you are still not satisfied with your level at martial arts, do not blame others. It only depends on yourself.

Uke no Kata

This kata is my first creation in Ringenkai Aikido.

In the 80’s, I saw Noro Masamichi sensei create Kinomichi, which was at the time very close to Aikido in its most dynamic form.  In those days, his most advanced students very very strong, physically and technically. Noro sensei was himself a true martial artist. Among his best friends was Kaze Taiji sensei from Shotokan Karate. His vigorous style owned him a frightful reputation. Yet he decided to turn to a softer practice in order to balance the energetic expression of his art. His goal was to be faithful to the teaching he had received from Ueshiba Morihei sensei and to his understanding of it. Unfortunately, his most advanced students left, being unable to adapt to a new surrounding, a new balance in their energy. So his teaching went down a path without the sempai of old, those who bore the memory of what was to be balanced. It ended in a full soft practice, as unbalanced as before but in an opposite manner.

Today, I wish to walk the balanced path, the manner which goes beyond boundaries without ever leaving the center. This Uke no Kata is a mile stone in the in (yin in Chinese) lane. Soon will come the Koshi no Kata which will balance it on the yo (yang in Chinese) lane.