Memories of Nitta sensei

From Ellis Amdur:

Nitta sensei was one of the most gracious human beings I ever met.  I only saw her irritated, much less angry on a couple of occasions.  One was particularly memorable.

Like most martial traditions, there are always personal issues.  It’s not surprising, really, given that we are people fascinated with power.  This sometimes devolves from the kind of power one wields with one’s arms to politics and personal issues.  Among my seniors in the ryu was a woman who had trained for a short time under Kobayashi sensei.  After she became ill, this woman trained with Nitta sensei, but  she decided that she was not truly Nitta sensei’s student.  Unfortunately, she made this attitude known, both in her words and her behavior.  Although this surely bothered sensei, she never made her feelings apparent.

We were invited to participate in an embu at the Sugino dojo.   Sugino Yoshio, of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu, was a close friend of Nitta Sensei, and someone whom she respected very much.  In such circumstances, sensei was even more than usually meticulous that every action we undertook would reflect well on the ryu.  A fellow student and I, who had accompanied sensei, were sitting on the side of the dojo area, along with various eminent practitioners from various ryu.  Sensei and my senior bowed, initiating the ai-naginata set of kata .  In the initial move, the partitioners clash their naginata together, blade-to-blade.  This awase move sets up the timing and spacing of the kata, as well as emphasizing a kind of “internal” training, using the core of the body to generate power.  They started the kata, and in the middle, my senior stopped dead, holding up a hand..  She had forgotten the next move!  Without a bow, she turned her back and returned to start the kata over again.  It is hard to describe, but the measure of sensei’s anger was the stillness of her expression.  She showed – – – – – – – nothing.

She lined up to reinitiate the form, and at the initial contact of the weapons, there was a loud crack.  A three inch piece of oak snapped off the end of the senior’s weapon, and hissed through the air, as horizontal as a bullet.  It went right past my face (I was about 20 feet away) and smashed into a wall behind me.  Sensei didn’t pause, simply continued the form, and the ones that followed.

She weighed perhaps one hundred ten pounds.  I have stood in a batting cage, trying to hit a baseball slung from one of those machines for practice batting.  Easily 80 miles an hour.  That piece of wood was going at the same speed.   Shortly after that, my senior discontinued practice.

Nitta Suzuyo – Tachi Awase Reishiki #1

Nitta Suzuyo – Tachi Awase Reishiki #2