…Masamichi Noro Shihan: O’Sensei and the Jo…

As for myself, I am more a man of the jo than a man of the sword. This is not by my own choosing:  one day, while I was still in Japan, and Ueshiba Sensei’s uchideshi, he asked me to go fetch my bokken. I took up a kamae in front of him, my bokken horizontal. He struck with a great blow that shook my whole body – and I let go of the bokken. “This will never do,” was all he said. “Go get your jo,” he added. I said to myself: “he’s going to do the same thing again,” and this time, I ‘organised’ my body, and then I waited for the blow.  He struck again, very hard, and I think that this time it was he who felt that “electric shock”. He didn’t say anything, but looked at me and left. From that day on he asked me to practise with the jo.  I believed that he thought I would be good at the jo, and so I practised hard. There were almost no jo techniques. From time to time, Ueshiba Sensei would give a public demonstration, and I would record it, and afterwards learn to embody his movements. When he was working alone [with the jo], at least from what I understood, he was trying – using the jo and sounds – to actualize or manifest the life of the universe. Actualizing or manifesting life, and love, with those movements.

I will tell you in this connection an anecdote that still moves me when I think of it: one day, Ueshiba Sensei said to me, “Come, I’m going to show you real aikido: the truth of aikido.” I sat and watched, hoping that he would reveal to me some secret technique. He had his jo, and he started to spin, spinning and chanting at the same time; or rather: he was uttering sounds, the sounds of the Japanese syllabary. His face was serious, and he was turning, turning. I was – way back then – disappointed, and I started to laugh. He didn’t get angry: he just stopped, looked at me, and said: “You don’t understand anything!” And he left.

Since that time, I’ve never stopped thinking about what it was he was trying to show me that day. I have been able to imitate his movements with the jo. And I’m still working on it: that’s also what I did at that demonstration at the Paris Opéra, onstage. Of all the things I could have shown that evening, I chose the jo. I am deeply persuaded that jo-work can take me a long way.

– – – Masamichi Noro Shihan, Le Kinomichi – Du mouvement à la création – Rencontre avec Masamichi Noro by Raymond Murcia,  pp. 37-38

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