For Masamichi Noro, the most
essential elements of training are peace and its realization. Beginning from
and adhering to these two elements places Man, like a link, between Earth
and Sky. This union, holding in harmony the Way of the Sky, the Way of the
Earth and the Way of Man, releases an ascending energy (ki in Japanese, qi
in Chinese), from the ground upward, from the feet, through the grasp and
beyond. The generation of energy takes its source from the ground and the
intent, flows through the energy centers in the body, including the hara
located in the abdomen, and is modulated by the heart of the practitioner.
The techniques are practiced
barehanded, with a stick (Jō 杖), wooden sword (Bokken 木剣) and sword (Iaito
居合刀), upright or kneeling, with control or with throws, with one partner or
many, in a systematic manner or freely. The technical wealth of this art and
its profuse variations might make it seem complex. However, a thorough study
with the support provided by the presence of a master allows one to
understand its principles and, thus, glimpse its underlying simplicity. In
this way, each variation opens a door toward its sister variations.
Energy and Heart
Masamichi Noro's teaching focuses on ki and the heart (shin in Japanese).
From a physiological perspective, the body produces movement by activating
the muscles, whose efforts are sustained by the work of the cardiovascular
and respiratory systems. This understanding of the generation of energy
stems from the European Age of Enlightenment and does not take into account
the possibility of the Far Eastern conception based on ki. The Japanese budo
teachers developed methods for mobilizing ki and pedagogic methods to teach
it, and Noro's teaching is an adaptation of this to the western body and
mind. The technique consists of conducting ki: borrowing, directing and
restoring the ki. Thus, it is not so much a question of energy being
produced out of a center, but of its flowing from the Earth toward the Sky,
from the support of the earth toward the partner, along an arm, a stick or a
sword. If the orientation is vertical, the direction given has to be
ascending. To this end, Masamichi Noro turns to the heart (shin 心).
According to his perspective, the shin not only makes it possible to feel
the other but, moreover, to surpass the antagonism of oneself and others.
"If it is advantageous for me to rise, I must admit that it is then the same
for the other, and that the effect of the technique does not belong uniquely
to me but to both of us." The shin is the condition for an empathy, a
movement toward the other.If the ki sustains the gesture, the shin modulates
its palpitation. It harmonizes two cadences, which allows the partners to
veer toward aïki, the harmonization of breaths. For Masamichi Noro, the
couple ki - shin is of such fundamental importance that he requires it at
the highest level.
The Western concept of the world rests on a distinction between the physical
domain, which is tangible, and its complement, the metaphysical plane,
beyond the physical, a separation that corresponds to the books of Aristotle
(384 / 322 B.C.). The Chinese concept, and by extension the Japanese,
perceives the ki (or in Chinese qi) as "a breath, influx or vital energy
which animates the entire universe .Simultaneously spirit and matter, the
breath ensures the organic coherence of the living order at all levels".
Ki circulates, and humans are vessels, channels and conductors of ki.
Kinomichi creates a particular circulation that according to kinomichi
theory makes it possible for each individual to rise, from the earth toward
the sky, from chi towards ten through man. Masamichi Noro reclaims as his
own the vision of his master, Morihei Ueshiba, who used his techniques to
perfect the proper circulation of the ki within himself and toward his
partner, or uke in Japanese.
The shin, or heart/mind, cannot be separated from the ki.
Referring again to the work of Anne Cheng, "Man is not only animated [by qi]
in every aspect, he draws from it his criteria of value, whether of a moral
or artistic nature. The source of moral energy, the qi, far from
representing an abstract concept, is felt most profoundly in the being and
in his flesh." The shin as heart is simultaneously an organ and a space of
perception. As an organ, the shin invites us to feel the other, to
experience his ki, to contact the partner through his energy. The shin is
also a space through the continuity of experience one feels when confronted
with the emotion, effort and understanding in the other, in their body, and
in the breath revealing ki. The shin is a sign of our energy’s health: a
perverted shin indicates a weak ki; a generous shin is testimony of strong
ki. Kinomichi’s shin responds to the Confucian invitation to live the joy of
the practice, the pleasure of the encounter and the happiness of sharing
"with the friend who comes from afar." It continues the research of Morihei
Ueshiba to make of his art a bridge between men. Masamichi Noro has poured
into the heart of his technique the heart of his Master.