During my studies in Japan I meet with students from around the world. We get a chance to train together as partners. It is a great opportunity to get to know each other personally and study different movements, attitudes to studying, maturity, understanding and feelings of the attacker. This way we get an opportunity to have a personal training and to realize what a person is really like inside. If you watch well some students, you will find out that the movements of some of them look beautiful, defiant, strong, visually compelling. But once you have a chance to train with them and look inside of them, often you get surprised by how what looks strong from the outside is so weak inside. At such moments, not that I would like to belittle the students’ personality, quite the contrary, I respect the students for what they are and I appreciate the experience and knowledge it offers me.
Then, there are students who are unobtrusive, but inside you feel their strong fighting spirit, devotion, strength, and understanding, which are hard to see because of their modest and good hearts. Often I feel ashamed of myself for thinking something judging just from what I see. Of course, if I did not realize this, I would probably remain blind and stupid. And then I feel grateful for everything, grateful for being shown that I still have a long way to go.
I have always tried to train with senior students, with the better, stronger, weak, old, young, with a woman or with a hulk. Whenever I was afraid or felt great respect to someone, I tried to contact them, to get to know them personally so as to be able to understand or learn from them. Everyone gave me something, and from everyone I learnt and learn. As for me, these days when I not only study, but also teach, I often change uke (the one on who the technique is performed, the person who receives). All people are unique and react differently. The technique and movements turn out different with each particular student. If I feel that a student is strong or in some way exceptional – I mean a good fighter, a good student, talented – I use them as uke so I can demonstrate the technique. This way I can read inside of them and learn from them at the same time. I suck out of them what is good for me, and get to know what is wrong. At the same time it is also an opportunity for the uke, on who you pass experience personally, to study. I feel their personality, and they receive mine (Kuden – personal transfer). With this experience you can also read information from what you see. Everyone speaks through their movements, through their behavior, and the way they use words. And that stays in their subconscious and their hearts. This is Ninpo.
I have often been asked by soke to choose people for a demonstration of a technique. Sometimes I would be advised to pick certain people. It was to check what was in them and at what level they were. It shows only when they are thrown unprepared into space and time. Then, very often, you cannot believe your eyes.
Soke (grandmaster) often gives students weapons and leaves them high and dry to see how they can cope with the situation. If you want to know students’ taijutsu, give them weapons.
Once, Soke spoke of dancers, who paid so that they could watch the best dancers of the world dancing. Through their eyes they sucked in their perfect movements, through their experience they could understand the feelings. And it remained in their hearts. This is study as well.
Once, in Japan, I was training with a student who, although he tried very hard, was really weak. He was influencing me, and even though I was trying to keep calm, I felt my body movements adapt to his. This is dangerous! At that point I remembered what Soke had often reminded us: “Be and search for good people.”
What we see, who we meet with, what society and environment we are in makes us who we are. Therefore, it is important to be and search for good people: a good partner for training, for life, a good society and environment. A good teacher!