No Waza, No Henka


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With Nagato sensei covering the Takagi Yoshin Ryû and Noguchi sensei the Koto Ryû, the Wednesday classes were intense.

But each time they teach a (supposedly known) waza from any ryûha, I feel lost like a beginner, as the form they are teaching is often quite different from the forms I learned (with them) over the years. As pointed out by Duncan today,  Noguchi and Nagato sensei are “Dai Shihan” and this is to be expected at their level.

Yesterday after Noguchi sensei’s class, I went to speak with him about these differentials in his interpretations of the same technique. He said that once you know the waza, it is easy to change its form while keeping the same Kankaku (feeling). But he added that many teachers in the Bujinkan only do variations even though they don’t know the original waza. “This is strange”, he added, “how can they make a variation on something they never studied or understood?”.

And this is the main problem we see in today’s Bujinkan. Many visitors in Japan copy what they see Hatsumi sensei or the shihan doing. But having never studied personally at home the fundamental forms, they are only mimicking these movements. It is empty.

I had an uncle that was not a painter but he was copying masterpieces by Dali, reproducing every square centimeter and the result was amazing. But he wasn’t thinking that he knew how to paint like him! (I hope). By copying the omote you are not able to grasp the essence of a waza. Waza were designed to be simple so that kids would be able to copy them. But “if you use them as they are in a real fight you die” (cf. Hatsumi sensei). This is why there is always a kuden explaining the deeper meaning of the technique.

Each waza is in fact a result not a step by step process. Your training then consist in recreating the conditions that will make these waza possible. As long as you reproduce the steps you don’t have it.
Jissen has nothing to do with Embu (martial art demonstration).

So next time you are teaching or training, please spend some time trying to understand the basic form of the waza and you will see that your taijutsu will improve greatly. Excellence is not about collecting techniques, excellence comes from “being” the technique. And once you are the technique, simply forget it.

This year we train Shingin Budō but not so many can reach this level because they lack the basic knowledge. Learn the basics in order to be able to create variations, not before.

Did you ever wonder why the Shihan when they teach, read the techniques they have been training and teaching for nearly 50 years?

2 thoughts on “No Waza, No Henka

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