Session 2 – Conflict Modulation Techniques

Unit 3 – Noguchi Taiso: Movement as a Reaction

Noguchi Taiso is a movement practice based on fluidity, relaxation, and efficiency. It provides a strong foundational basis for bodywork and many of its tenets serve as useful metaphors in other realms, especially in relation to the study of conflict dynamics.

Noguchi Taiso was developed in the middle of the 20th century by Michizo Noguchi, who used to be a gymnastics teacher at a school in Japan. Faced with complete devastation in the aftermath of the Second World War, Noguchi was confronted with a realization that when everything that is around is gone there is still human body that is left, alive, subject to gravity. He started to work using the body as the primary source and tool for developing a new kind of movement practice based on the principles that are derived from nature: the way matter behaves in space and time. Later Noguchi Taiso was adopted by many dance and theater practitioners in Japan especially for its ability to empty the body from various learned, superficial and culturally defined patterns of behavior, making it more transparent, aligning it with the natural universal forces that are at play.

The two main elements of Noguchi Taiso is the matter and gravity. Human body consists 70% out of water and the rest are the materials of this Earth, so Noguchi inferred that all movement that is natural should resemble the movement of matter, especially that of the water. The movement that is unnatural still exists within nature, but it deviates from the natural principles of organization, therefore requiring more effort and energy to be performed. Water and other matter are subject to gravity. Noguchi Taiso proposes that natural, effort-free movement does not fight gravity but embraces it, using its force to help body move, not working against it. Therefore, every movement in Noguchi Taiso is based on fluidity, like water, following  the already existing gravitational streams and the ones that are dynamically created. In this way it resonates with the main tenets of Systema, which also seeks to work with the already existing forces, rather than opposing them.

Another important aspect of Noguchi Taiso is that it gradually frees the body from compensatory dynamics that was developed over the years. In Noguchi there is a “natural” alignment of the body, where every part responds to gravity that it is subjected to, not more or less. Most of the time, however, humans are compensating for something and over the long term such compensations lead to spine deformations, pain and other symptoms (a similar view exists in osteopathy). For example, it can often be seen that some people put their chest forward in their desire to appear more powerful and assertive. But as any desire originates from a lack, such posture communicates not only tension but also the insecurity beneath.

Noguchi Taiso teaches practitioners to become aware of compensatory dynamics within and gradually leave only what’s necessary and get rid of everything that is unnecessary: past traumas, insecurities, tensions, etc. In that regard, Noguchi can serve as a very important foundation in the practice of peaceful conflict as it teaches to neutralize tension before it arises.

One of the main principles in Noguchi Taiso is movement as a reaction. Instead of attempting to make a movement intentionally the practitioner creates the conditions for the movement to arise as a natural response. This makes it much more energy-efficient, relaxed, smooth, and fluid. For example, when one moves an arm in Noguchi Taiso, the impulse starts from the ground, traveling through the leg, hips, torso, into the shoulder where the movement itself starts to happen as a reaction to that initial impulse. 

As a conclusion we will put a quote from Michizo Noguchi that can be found on the website of Imre Thormann, an expert Noguchi Taiso practitioner and butoh dancer, who also talks about suffering as a productive force in the interview below.

“The materials that constitute our body are undoubtedly of this Earth and have participated in and experienced the creation process of the Earth. Therefore our body, living here and now, includes the entirety of history of the Earth. What is called “live”, “body” and “mind” is precisely a phase of change and flow of the Earth. There is no absolute standard for all things. 
Every standard comes into being within ourselves, freshly here and now, each time, relatively through relationships. Becoming aware of these relationships allows you to truly become one with original nature itself and you develop a clearer understanding of how your mind/body operates and a greater appreciation of the involvement of your thought process in all your physical acts.”