Budo no Nayami

Tamura Nobuyoshi: The Sharp Blade - It Had To Be Felt #31

1 Février 2013 , Rédigé par Léo Tamaki Publié dans #Budo - Bujutsu

En août de l'an dernier, j'ai été contacté par Ellis Amdur, qui m'a propose de participer à son projet "It Had To Be Felt" (IHTBF), pour parler de Tamura senseï. IHTBF consiste à exposer son expérience de la pratique avec un maître. Il y a évidemment eu les contributions d'Ellis qui ont lancé le projet, mais d'autres s'y sont ajoutées à son invitation. Parmi elles je tiens à mentionner celle de Guillaume sur Allan Ruddock, qui était à la fois touchante et intéressante.


J'ai longtemps repoussé l'écriture du texte. Dès que je me mettais derrière mon écran pour rassembler mes souvenirs, de mes premières impressions à mes dernières, essayant de repasser tous les moments passés à ses côtés, j'étais submergé par l'émotion.


Traduction française?

Finalement, arriva le moment où je ne pouvais plus reculer l'échéance, au risque de paraître grossier. Le résultat est le texte ci-dessous. Je le traduirai sans doute en français plus tard. Mais je crains que le résultat ne me plaise pas. J'ai eu la chance d'entendre parler en plusieurs langues dès ma naissance. Si malgré cela je n'ai pas atteint un niveau élevé dans les langues étrangères, ça m'a par contre permis de pouvoir penser en différentes langues sans passer par une traduction mentale. De fait j'ai écrit le texte directement en anglais, et Ellis m'a aidé à l'éditer. Lorsque je fais une brève traduction mentale en français du texte, il ne me plaît pas. Je crois que les choses s'expriment différemment d'une langue à l'autre, et paradoxalement je ne me retrouve pas lorsque j'essaie de me traduire ;-)


Grincements de dents

J'ai eu récemment plusieurs retours sur le texte. Des gens qui m'ont écrit pour me remercier, mais aussi plusieurs qui m'ont fait part des commentaires peu amènes qu'ils ont entendus à son sujet. Ce type de réactions ayant sans doute eu lieu pour d'autres colonnes, cela a amené Ellis à s'exprimer publiquement sur le sujet et à inviter ceux qui avaient d'autres expériences à les partager. J'ai beaucoup aimé son texte.


MON expérience

Dans les quelques lignes qui suivent, le ressenti n'est que mon expérience et est c'évidemment quelque chose de subjectif. En revanche les faits, qu'ils plaisent ou pas, sont tous avérés.



Tamura Nobuyoshi 03 avec Léo Tamaki (Marc Le Tissier)

Photo Marc Le Tissier



It Had To Be Felt #31 - Tamura Nobuyoshi: The Sharp Blade


First encounter


The first time I met Tamura Nobuyoshi sensei was when I was 21. I had been training less than a week of aikido. My instructor was going to a seminar of Tamura sensei, his teacher, and he suggested that I join him. I wasn't an absolute beginner. I had started martial arts when I was 6, training in both karate and full-contact kickboxing.


I must confess that my reasons for starting aikido were not good. I was considering a career as a professional karate teacher. But at the time, I considered that techniques were for the purpose of expressing our physical capabilities.  Therefore, as far as I was concerned, the effectiveness of a martial artist – and therefore, their value – was mostly due to their athletic abilities. Of course, I thereby dismissed all the "old" people (more than 40 years of age), and women and children as well. (Yes, I know, this is pathetic, even for a twenty-one years old).  At any rate, I was looking for an art that could suit this population, and I considered tai chi, yoga and aikido. At the end I choose aikido, thinking that at least I could learn some joint locks along the way. Yes - bad reasons.


The seminar was 110 miles away, Paris to Le Havre, and I wasn't expecting much. Therefore, the huge number of practitioners surprised me. There were maybe 300 students, all eager to practice. Then a very old small man walked slowly to the shinden, (He was only 62, but remember, I was 21), and I was thinking, "This will be a very very long weekend.". The preparation didn't change my mind. We practiced a long series of movements in seiza. My knees were in agony, used only to a brief mokuso at the beginning and the end of training.


Then he made a sign to a young student who attacked him. And I was stunned. For the rest of my life, I will never forget the feeling of awe that I had during the whole weekend. I had read about martial artists practicing with something beyond ordinary athletic abilities, I had read about old masters easily handling young men. But I have never witnessed nor felt it until that moment.


I saw Tamura sensei simply toying with a member of my new dojo, a man who was both an elite policeman and a boxer. When he worked with me, I felt absolutely controlled.  I was repeatedly thrown and pinned to the ground. As I had no experience in aikido, I couldn't be compliant, even if I wanted to. This weekend changed my life forever. Within a few months I stopped practicing karate and kickboxing, and devoted myself to aikido practice.



Tamura Nobuyoshi 035



What was it like to receive a technique from Tamura sensei?


I practiced with Tamura sensei during 15 years, starting in 1995, and his technique changed over this period of time. In earlier years, his technique was very precise, even sharp.  It was also painful.  He did not inflict pain gratuitously, but if one didn’t follow the movement, it hurt, not in excess, but it was always present if you resisted or deviated from the "line".  Remarkably, it was a pain you seemed to inflict on yourself, because when you actually followed the movement, the pain disappeared.


In 1998, I went to live in Japan for a few years, living close to the Aikikai Hombu dojo. Tamura sensei would visit regularly, and I always managed to be present when he did. He would never miss the Saturday morning practice at eight.  It was one of the classes he used to give when he was an uchi-deshi. When he went on honeymoon with his wife in 1964, he asked Sasaki Masando sensei to replace him for a few months. He ended up living in France, and never gave the class again!


Although Tamura sensei would teach some classes when he was back in Japan, he never did so on Saturday morning; instead, he would simply practice, just like anybody else. Many people were dying to practice with him on these days, and usually, he worked with two or three training partners. I was fortunate to be one of them.


Tamura sensei’s way of executing technique was, of course, suited to his body. Taller than Osensei, he still was small compared to the majority of westerners. He developed a way of unbalancing aite towards him. As he was smaller, it felt as if you were falling into a void. It was very effective, although it is not something easily done to somebody of one’s own stature or smaller.


Another thing that characterized Tamura sensei's work was the constant pressure he put on you. He never let you breathe, always closing the space, leaving you only one way to attack him, the one that was perfect for him to control. His kiai was unforgettable, a very strong roar coming from the deepest of his body. Its power was very surprising considering his small build.



Tamura Nobuyoshi 051



A Transformation: The influence of Kuroda sensei


Sometime between 1998 and 2001, his technique changed dramatically. There was no more pain! I was amazed, and at the end of one lesson, I was bold enough to tell him so, saying, "Sensei, it's incredible, I don't feel pain anymore when you're applying techniques.". He smiled, winked at me and said, "Because it's not necessary.".


Tamura sensei not only changed how he applied techniques, his overall form  - his operating system, if you will - also changed. When he was a young uchi-deshi, he was mocked as being a carbon copy of Osensei. At the end of his life, however, one could not help but notice that his techniques were very different from the ones he learned from his master.


Tamura sensei was both a passionate practitioner and a researcher. I suspect that he was always looking for a way to make things better. Not everything he came up with was worthwhile. He made some changes that he abandoned later, going back to the previous method. Sometimes, he changed to something new yet again. His greatest influence in recent years was, undoubtedly, his discovery of Kuroda Tetsuzan sensei, of the Shinbukan Dojo. It had an incredible impact on his work.


The influence of Kuroda sensei on Tamura sensei's work is a subject that I've avoided talking about. It wasn't something that Tamura sensei tried to hide and, in fact, he talked about it on many occasions, on film or recordings. I chose, however, to publish only some excerpts of his conversations about Kuroda sensei, because I had the feeling that it might be used to attack Tamura sensei, were it widely discussed. There have been critics of Tamura sensei's work, some going so far as saying that he was a fraud, not really even doing aikido, and I didn't want to give them any more pretext to attack him. The harshest critics were in France, where there are two big federations and a number of small groups, all fighting each other. (Yes I know, they should put aikido in practice, live and let live but hey, they're humans I suppose).






At any rate, for those familiar with Kuroda sensei’s methodology, it was right in front of everyone’s eyes when Tamura sensei started to move.  Here are some examples of things that inspired Tamura sensei, that you could see in his own practice. Kuroda sensei’s:

- sword grip, with the little finger not holding, but hiding the tsuka gashira

- first suburi,  called wa no tachi

- ukemi, front and back,

- breathing exercises that he used to end his lessons

- methodology of walking

- principles of movement, such as tōsokudo (constant speed), etc…

- iaijutsu, which Tamura sensei practiced privately, as far as I know only demonstrating twice in public (once in a seminar in Thailand, once during a seminar that I was giving at his dojo)


Tamura sensei has always had very sharp techniques, something one can see in the oldest films of him. As the years passed, Tamura sensei’s touch became softer and softer, although he never lost that sharpness that is, perhaps, his trademark. When he discovered the Shinbukan, his empty- handed practice became more and more an expression of the sword. In fact, at the end of his life, his movements would sometimes make little sense, if you didn't consider them literally as a tegatana (sword-hand).  What inspires me the most is what I felt in Tamura sensei’s last years. His touch was so light and his technique so pure, completely rid of any unnecessary movements. Once you understood the frame of his research, his teaching reached another depth.



Tamura Nobuyoshi 12 (Christoph Stoebich)



Two Kinds of Adepts

I had encountered two kinds of adepts during my own career within martial arts. The first type is the heir of a tradition. He learns the tradition scrupulously and, even if he has his eyes open to what happens elsewhere, he rarely "borrows" things. People like Kuroda Tetsuzan personify this. Such people can make their art evolve, they can even add their own discoveries, but they don't incorporate things from other ryu.  They would consider that to be a form of stealing. On the other hand, you have people taking whatever they like, anywhere they find it. I suspect Takeda Sokaku and Ueshiba Morihei to both be this kind of man. Their inspirations can come from many different sources, but they make all of it their own. Tamura sensei was also this kind of man. In this sense, I believe that he shares the genius of his master.


So consider Tamura sensei in the 1990’s, eager, as always, to improve his aikido. He heard of Kuroda sensei, and discovered his practice through books and films. Given his position, he could not become a student of the school, although he stated in a published interview I did with him that he would have liked to do so. Still he contacted Kuroda sensei and went to meet him. Through this, he found enough to feed his research, and deeply transform his practice.


I have been a student of Kuroda sensei since 2004, all the while continuing to train with Tamura sensei.  As best as I can tell, he managed to understand and adapt some of the finest principles of the Kuroda system. Furthermore, he did this without any of my help because, like any students of the Shinbukan, I gave my word to never teach or show anything from the school. I didn't hide the fact that I had joined the school to Tamura sensei, but, a perfect gentleman and knowing its rules, he never asked me anything on the subject.



Tamura Nobuyoshi 065



An inspiration to thousands

Tamura Nobuyoshi died peacefully, with beautiful dignity. He had cancer, and was very weak.   At one point, he decided he had enough. He took out all the tubes from his body, got up from his bed and stood within his wife’s embrace. He died, standing. 


He told me once that he was too stupid to have ever invented anything new, but that he may have managed to do a few improvements. He truly did that. But more important, he has been an inspiration to thousand around the world… and to me. Thank you sensei.



Tamura Nobuyoshi 178


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<br /> Alors que l'on est déjà reconnu de tous dans son art, parvenir à modifier certains pans de sa technique à presque 70 ans en s'inspirant de la technique d'un maître d'une autre école, de surcroît<br /> son cadet, montre la largesse d'esprit de Tamura Sensei.<br /> <br /> <br /> Dans le monde des Budo (ailleurs aussi, certainement) cette largesse d'esprit fait malheureusement défaut à trop de disciples aujourd'hui, y compris à certains qui se réclament de l'enseignement<br /> de O'Sensei... Toutes fédérations confondues...<br /> <br /> <br /> N'ayant pas connu Maître Tamura je ne peux que te remercier pour tes articles qui contribuent à leur façon à éclairer la vision et la pratique du néophyte que je suis.<br /> <br /> <br /> C'était assurément un grand Homme.<br /> <br /> <br />  <br />
<br /> <br /> Oui, il y avait cette grandeur et cette humilité chez Tamura senseï. Une sincérité dont nous devons nous inspirer.<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> Merci pour la lecture,<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> Léo<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> <br />
<br /> Merci pour le partage,<br /> <br /> Au plus j'en lis sur Mr Tamura, au plus je suis triste des générations qui me séparent de lui, du fait que je n'ai jamais eu la chance de le connaitre ni de pratiquer avec lui. Je ne perds pas<br /> espoir, peut être sa réincarnation sera-t-elle humaine et à nouveau présente sur les tatamis dans quelques dizaines d'années, en tout cas j'aime a le penser peut être trop égoïstement.<br /> <br /> D'ici là, bon courrage pour la version francophone.<br />
<br /> <br /> Merci ;-)<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> Léo<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> <br />
<br /> Beau témoignage, je ne comprends vraiment pas ce que l'on peut vous reprocher dans les propos écris ici. En tout cas lire ceci me fait regretter de n'avoir pas saisi l'occasion de voir Tamura<br /> sensi pratiquer, et surtout de n'avoir pu sentir ce fameux toucher qui semble t'il lui était bien spécifique. Merci pour vos articles ;)<br />
<br /> J'ai décidé de faire le stage international de Saint-Mandrier dès que j'ai commencé l'aïkido alors que je ne savais même pas chuter. Je savais que peu de temps après je n'aurais plus les moyens<br /> de me payer un tel stage et puis je me disais que Maître Tamura était agé et qu'il y avait toujours un risque qu'il ne soit pas là l'année suivante. Si je me trompais tant mieux pour moi mais si<br /> j'avais raison...<br /> Bien m'en a pris parce que ça a été son derniers stage à Saint-Mandrier. <br /> Il ne s'agissait pas pour moi d'acquerir en une semaine 20 ans d'aïkido mais juste de le voir évoluer pour mieux comprendre ce que je lirais par la suite à son sujet.<br /> Il est venu me corriger à un moment. Je me suis dit que s'il pensait que comme la très grande majorité des participants j'avais déjà au moins 5 ans de pratique, je devais être un cas<br /> particulièrement débile. Ca m'a juste faite rire. Oui j'aime rire à mon sujet.<br /> Ce qui m'a "frappée" (je sais je suis drôle) quand il m'a corrigé a été le touché de sa main. En dehors du fait que ce soit un sensei et que certaines personnes (pardon mais j'en ai rencontré)<br /> lui vouait une sorte de culte pathétique je crois que ce contacte plus qu'autre chose a été pour moi une vision concrète de ce que je veix atteindre en aïkido et dans ma vie en général.<br />
<br /> <br /> Je crois que tu as fait un bon choix. Les occasions perdues ne se retrouvent jamais, et ce type de rencontre peut inspirer des années de pratique...<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> Bon cheminement,<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> Léo<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> <br />
<br /> Vivement la traduction même si je comprend que ce qu'on exprime en anglais n'est pas forcément simple à retranscrire enn français...<br />
<br /> <br /> Je m'en occuperais prochainement, promis ;-)<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> Léo<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> <br />
<br /> En depit de ce que les detracteurs peuvent dire, j'ai trouve ce texte particulierement interessant et meme touchant. Je n'ai jamais eu l'occasion de rencontrer Tamura sensei et j'avoue que ce<br /> texte me le fait regretter<br />
<br /> <br /> Merci Xavier.<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> Léo<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> <br />
<br /> Very touching. Thank you for sharing this experience and for writting in english, a better language i think to express feelings... and easier to share with my english friends!<br />
<br /> <br /> Thank you for reading.<br /> <br /> <br /> Better to express feelings? Well I'm not so sure about that. Something to think about anyway ;-)<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> Léo<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> <br />
<br /> Personnellement, j'ai adoré cet article ! On y retrouve des points que tu as déjà évoqué, mais aussi de nouvelles perspectives. Félicitations pour l'anglais en tout cas ; on te sens à l'aise et<br /> on retrouve parfaitement ton caractère.<br /> <br /> <br /> A bientôt.<br /> Paul<br />
<br /> <br /> Merci pour la lecture ;-)<br /> <br /> <br /> Avec ton nom je me doutais que l'anglais ne te poserait pas de problèmes :D<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> A bientôt,<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> Léo<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> <br />
<br /> Bonjour Léo,<br /> <br /> <br /> Merci d' apporter le témoignage de ton expérience auprès de Tamura Sensei. Ce qui m' a intéressé le plus c' est l' influence de Kuroda Sensei dans l' évolution de Tamura Sensei! Bien que je n' ai<br /> pas tout compris et qu' il me tarde d' avoir la version française de ton témoignage, je trouve remarquable le fait qu' un maître comme Tamura Sensei pour progresser dans sa voie n' ait pas hésité<br /> à se tourner vers l' enseignement d' une autre maître.<br /> <br /> <br /> Un exemple fort à méditer!<br /> <br /> <br /> Amicalement.<br /> <br /> <br /> Dureisseix Jean Luc<br />
<br /> <br /> Bonjour Jean-Luc,<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> Merci pour ton message.<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> En effet, c'est une démonstration de force de caractère, et de passion pour la pratique, que peu ont. Alors que cela le rabaisse aux yeux de certains, il n'en a été que grandi à mes yeux.<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> Amicalement,<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> Léo<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> <br />
<br /> Article très intéressant. Je pourrais peut être essayer de le traduire à l'occasion, mais je ne promets rien ;).<br /> <br /> <br /> Merci encore.<br />
<br /> <br /> Merci pour la lecture.<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> Pour la traduction, je vais le faire au final, trop de demandes et propositions ;-)<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> Léo<br /> <br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> <br /> <br />