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The first day of training is in the books, and this trip started with a class by Noguchi Sensei followed by Soke’s class. The first day, and especially the first class, of a trip feels like shaking off the rust; it is a reminder of how much you need to pay attention and how much the small details matter. This time though, I feel like I warmed up more quickly to the training than in previous trips.
Class was about Shinden Fudo Ryu, Shizen Shigoku no Kata. As usual, Noguchi began by showing the base technique before picking out pieces to illustrate concepts within and related to the technique. While still extremely fast paced, he seemed to slow down a little bit compared to usual.
The two bits of wisdom that stuck out in class were to use kamae within the technique, and to relax – if you are relaxed you will move naturally. This really was apparent in throwing counters where the kamae naturally happen, and how relaxing allows you to move much more in time with your opponent.
Noguchi is quite challenging; although many of his movements seem very nonchalant, there is quite a bit of detail that is important. For example, a technique where he pressed on the opponents hip to lock their spine would only work if you blocked the outer foot to maintain tension. Also, moving around the opponent in a fluid manner was necessary to create that tension in the spine.
I received quite a compliment from Pablo who is one of my students. He said that I gave a good representation of Noguchi in class, so when taking his class it looked/felt familiar. I was honored by this, although I’m not sure if it was deserved. Taking Noguchi’s class reminded me more of just how much I need to work on, and the subtle details between good technique and mediocre movement. Still it was nice thing to say and makes me feel that I am at least going in the right direction.
Pablo and I trained for Soke’s class, and I have to say I was surprised in how much I got out of it. Soke continued to talk about the concepts of allowing things to happen naturally, not to attempt to perform a technique specifically, and of course using the whole body not just the limbs to perform a technique.
I noticed his movements were very Noguchi-like, and how much Noguchi Sensei’s class helped understand Soke’s movements. Soke emphasized using just the fingers to control, and having the opponent “stayed glue to you”. It’s about maintaining just enough contact to both feel what the opponent is doing, and to be able to manipulated the tension in their body while floating to different contact points.
He then taught muto dori, and spoke about how you shouldn’t attempt to “dodge the sword”. “You must not be afraid to be cut.” This tip helped, since when we are afraid our reaction is to panic. When we panic we tend to over-react. And when we over-react the subtlety is lost. I found this a struggle, since it such a narrow window in the moment to get the feeling right. Soke’s uke all said something similar, in that they felt he is moving in time with the sword, and they all believed they “got him” when they go to strike – yet always miss. They also felt that Soke was pulling them in to strike, rather then reacting to their strike.
He closed the class with an explanation of how thoughts “drop down into the body.” He spoke of the connection between the mind and the body as a cycle. I was immediately reminded about research into neurology about the link between the mind and the body. Research has shown when you force yourself to smile, you think happy thoughts, and when you think happy thoughts, you involuntarily smile. What’s surprising about this is that a thought or emotion doesn’t necessarily originate strictly in the brain, but is heavily influenced by the rest of the body. This demonstrates that the mind does not simply “talk to the body” but that the connection is rather a “two-way street”. The mind and the body cycle information to and from each other. It’s an interesting concept that I hope will help with understanding his movement in future classes.
Also, I am very impressed with Pablo’s movement – as well as his ability to grasp certain ideas. There were moments where I felt he not only grasped the feeling of what Soke did better than me, but executed movement that was on pair with much higher degree practitioners. I’m very fortunate to have him as a student, and as training partner on this trip.
On to day 2!