Hello Illness #1

Interview of Régis Soavi about Katsugen Undo (or Regenerating Movement), a practice made by Haruchika Noguchi and spread in Europe by Itsuo Tsuda: article by  Monica Rossi  « Arti d’Oriente » (#4 / may 2000).

« After reading the books of Itsuo Tsuda ( 1914-1984 ), I was fascinated by his arguments, which range freely from the subject of Aïkido to that of children and the way they are born, illness, or his memories of Ueshiba Morihei and Noguchi Haruchika, and I wanted to know more. I continued to have a sensation of something beyond my understanding.

So I began to ask, what exactly is this Regenerating Movement (Katsugen Undo ) that Tsuda spoke of, a spontaneous movement of the body that seemed able to rebalance it without needing to intoxicate it with medication ; an ancient concept but still revolutionary, above all in our society. I was unable to get any satisfactory answers to my questions : those who have practiced the Regenerating Movement couldn’t describe it or explain ; the answer was always : « You should try it yourself in order to understand ; the first time, it will probably unsettle you a bit. »
So I decided to try it. In Milan, the school that refers to the teachings of Itsuo Tsuda is the « Scuola della Respirazione ». There, one can practice Aïkido and the Regenerating Movement ( in separate sessions ). But, in order to go to the sessions of Movement, one must first participate in a week-end course conducted by Régis Soavi, who has continued the work of Tsuda in Europe.

Regis Soavi en conférence

Soavi, using large sheets of white paper on an easel, begins the session speaking, in a mixture of French and Italian, on different themes concerning the Regenerating Movement, health, illness or simply daily life. Then the practice begins, with three exercises that allow the Movement to be activated. The first of the three exercises is done three times, an « exhalation through the solar plexus ». Afterwards all the participants hold hands to create the « chain of activation » (each person takes the wrist of the person on his right). Next, one does « yuki » with a partner, concentrating on breathing. Then the two other exercises : a rotation of the spine, to the left and to the right, seven times, lifting up on one’s knees a bit ; then one raises one’s arms with thumbs tucked inside closed fists, one exhales with a contraction and one exhales again, relaxing.
From then on, one waits for a spontaneous movement of the body to be activated, with one’s eyes « imperatively » closed : to observe the movement of others can be distracting, and perturbing. But, although the eyes are closed, one’s ears are still open: some people move rhythmically, others very forcibly, or sigh ; one girl cries desperately, another laughs happily. Inhibitions fall by the wayside, and some emit sounds often considered « impolite » in a normal situation.
As for me, at first nothing happens at all. Soavi, who goes from one person to another, comes up behind me and lays his hands on my back, doing « yuki ». I give a light start, and begin to move slowly.
I don’t know if the Regenerating Movement has been activated or not, but at least, I can now interview Régis Soavi from an informed standpoint. »

MR: : In Katsugen Undo, one speaks of the extrapyramidal motor system. What is it ??

RS: In the human being, the pyramidal and the extrapyramidal systems are separate. The extrapyramidal system is in charge of all that is involuntary, the heartbeat, for example. When we eat, the stomach begins to work ; it’s the extrapyramidal system that takes care of it. The pyramidal system is the voluntary system that permits us to go from one point to another, but when we walk, there are all sorts of muscles that work together to maintain our balance, and there again, it’s the extrapyramidal system that takes charge, that re-establishes our postural balance. It’s the extrapyramidal system that takes care of activating our immune defenses.

– And how is it that the movement that is activated during the course of Katsugen Undo can activate the extrapyramidal motor system so strongly as to make the body come back to health, to respond (more naturally)??

– The movement that we do, during the week-end course but also in our regular practice sessions, is an exercise of the extrapyramidal motor system, a sort of gymnastic for the involuntary system. It’s like going jogging every morning : this exercise lets us keep our involuntary system in condition..

– So it’s possible to train the involuntary system ?

– There is the paradox : the three exercises Master Noguchi perfected allow the voluntary system to step back, in a sense, to give free rein to the involuntary system. There is no special movement to be done : the movement cannot be executed. It is activated naturally, during the night, for example : that’s when our voluntary system has a rest, so it’s the involuntary system that is activated. One can say that dreams also are part of the involuntary system, as are, of course, our movements and agitation during sleep.

mouvement régénérateur

– In that case, it is the unconscious that comes into play?

– It’s a bit difficult to say if the conscious and the unconscious are the same thing as the voluntary and involuntary systems. One mustn’t simplify things too much. Effectively, in the domain of the involuntary system, many things do occur in an unconscious manner, but there are things of which we are conscious, that are involuntary : when we scratch an itch, we are aware that we scratch that spot, aren’t we? And yet it is an involuntary act.

– Are there other means of activating the involuntary movement, other than Katsugen Undo?

– Not really, to my knowledge. In terms of Regenerating Movement as a « training », I only know of Katsugen Undo; yet, one can say that the Movement is activated at many other moments : when we are tired, we yawn; if we’re hungry, we yawn as well.
When we are fighting off an illness, we run a fever. The movement is activated naturally. That’s why it is problematic to stop the fever, when in fact, it’s a natural process that regulates our organism, that fights off the microbes ; in that case, we prevent the natural movement of our bodies. By the same token, when we cough or our noses run, those are natural reactions of the organism, which evacuates everything that bothers it. If we eat a spoiled yogurt, we vomit. Babies spit up milk when they have had too much ; as soon as even a tiny thing is not good for them, they vomit it up, or spit it out. Adults, however, want to keep everything inside, but then that damages the organism. It’s the same for diarrhea : it’s a clean-out. The body needs to empty itself of elements that are not good for it.Noguchi haruchika seitai katsugen undo

– But some of these phenomena pushed to extremes, can lead to death ? For example, a diarrhea that lasts too long.

– That happens when the organism doesn’t react well. That is to say that it’s a matter of an organism that has become too weak, too rigid. That’s why the basic principle is not « to intervene » in relation to illness, but to allow all the ordinary little illnesses to work inside us. If they work well in us, then there won’t be any major damage.

– And to intervene only in the case of very serious illness ?

-We don’t need to have very serious illnesses, because our organism has reacted earlier

– But you are not against curing illnesses, a priori ?

– Personally, I’m not against anything. There exists an incredible quantity of medical practices : allopathic medicine, homeopathic medicine, Chinese medicine, etc. And in each variety of medicine there are specialists for the hair, feet, hands, eyes, ears, etc. I say simply that I don’t need them, I let my body work. In fact, there are a certain number of doctors, physical therapists, psychiatrists and psychoanalysts who come to my courses. If I was against them they wouldn’t come, but on the contrary we get on very well.

– And what are their reactions ?

-As a general rule, they find it interesting ; some even approve of my approach and adopt it for themselves ; but they are part of a system where the patients ask for assistance, so that they can’t refuse to give it. Ideally, a coherent doctor who practices the Regenerating Movement, would change jobs. At the same time, I completely understand that he feel the need to help people and to share with them his knowledge of the human body.
But today’s medicine has changed a lot. Today, as soon as one has the slightest sneeze, one is bombarded with all sorts of medicine and all kind of interventions. Even death is no longer natural. As soon as we are near death, we are taken to the hospital, treated … For birth, it’s the same. We live in a society where we are medicalized even before birth! We are medicalized during pregnancy and then up till death.

– In Italy there are other places where Katsugen Undo is practiced : Karate and Aïkido schools. What is the connection between martial arts and the Regenerating Movement ?

– I can really only speak of our school. Master Noguchi died in 1976, so of the connections that have been made since, I don’t know them all. The Seitai Institute in Japan had many clients of all sorts : politicians, people who practiced martial arts, workers. Master Tsuda practiced Seitai and the Regenerating Movement in Japan for 25 years, and he also practiced Aïkido with Master Morihei Ueshiba. The first « Katsugen Kai », that is to say, « Regenerating Movement Groups », were organized by Master Tsuda, with the authorization of Noguchi.

– I’d also like to know the difference between Seitai and Katsugen Undo.

-Seitai is a technique developed by Master Noguchi, based on many years’ experience, which has yuki and sensitivity as a starting point, but which is, all the same, a precise technique. It takes about 20 years to train a Seitai technician.

– Does Seitai use pressure points ?

– Exactly. In fact, Noguchi tested practically all of the acupuncture points on himself, or on his students. It’s a technique that allows us to readjust the body by stimulating certain zones. Noguchi said, “What makes a top spin ? What lets it stay up on its axis ? It’s the speed of its’ rotation. If the speed diminishes, the top begins to have a different axis of rotation, and at a given moment, it will fall, and stop.” For the human body, it’s about the same thing : it uses up quite a lot of energy just in order to come back to a state of stability, and to maintain it.

Noguchi would give just one slight correction to the human body, that would allow it to re-center itself. With a spinning top, sometimes it suffices to touch it very slightly at one spot, for it to go off again, centered. That’s the sense of Seitai technique : what makes the top spin, is life ! One can’t really intervene at the level of the life force , but one can correct the human body. Still, the Seitai technique doesn’t straighten people out. For example, with a person who is bent to one side because he always puts his weight on that side, the modern idea is to intervene with all sorts of exercises to force him to straighten up. But, since the person still has a tendency to put his weight on the same side, he returns to his original posture. Noguchi’s technique, on the other hand, incites an instinctive bodily reaction which lets the person come back to the right balance all by himself. That’s how the idea of the Regenerating Movement was born : our body has a tendency to return to a normal posture, and the difference with the Seitai technique is that we don’t need the help of a technician : the body can straighten out on its’ own..
Its’ our body’s own sensation of equilibrium that brings us back to a correct posture, with no need for intervention. It means independence ; it makes us autonomous. We don’t need to put ourselves in the hands of someone else, no matter how powerful, or no matter how precise his technique is.

– Is there any relation between Seitai and Reiki or other similar methods ?

-To my knowledge, the difference is that in the practise of Regenerating Movement, we don’t have the notion of therapy ; we trust in our natural capacities. If one has a blockage of the solar plexus, with the practise of Movement, the diaphragm will have a tendency to move, to return to the state of flexibility that it had lost. Its’ suppleness had been lost for different reasons, whether because of family problems, work or whatever… We reach a point where we can no longer breathe naturally. If we look for outside intervention, each time, we will have to go see the “diaphragm unblocker” of the X or Y technique.
With the practise of Movement, the diaphragm unblocks all by itself, because that is its’ natural function, to be supple. It can take time, but once the diaphragm begins to recover its’ natural state, it will last. Otherwise, one will be stuck in a process of continual intervention. There is no therapeutic principle in the Regenerating Movement.

" Why did Noguchi give up therapy ?"
by Itsuo Tsuda
"When he was still a child, Noguchi was interested in animal magnetism. He amused himself doing experiments with his brothers. He was, in fact, very surprised by the results. One day, he saw a wound on one of his brothers change color as he applied his magnetism. That was an impressive experience. But it was later on that an important event provided the occasion for what had been child's play, to become the beginning of a vocation. In 1923 an earthquake. of extraordinary intensity devastated the entire region of Tokyo and Yokohama, destroying all constructions at a blow : houses, public buildings, hospitals, etc. as far as one could see. People wandered about in the desolation, without food or shelter. Dysentery quickly spread in Noguchi's neighborhood. A cataclysm of that amplitude was beyond any possible remedy. He saw a neighbor cramped with pain. He laid his hand on her, with no technical knowledge, simply motivated by a spontaneous desire to help her. The woman got up, and thanked him with a big smile. It was that smile that decided him to make that his career, in spite of his parents' strong opposition, especially that of his father, who considered the practice to be something shameful and indecent. From the next day, he found himself surrounded by a crowd of people, come to ask for his Care. In this way, a 12-year-old boy began to follow a certain path, without really intending to, always led on by the memory of that smile. At first he thought he had a certain power, a sort of gift that was particular to him . He soon realised his error. Everyone has the same capacity, but we don't know it. So, at that epoch, Noguchi exercised as a therapist, but even as he cured a large number of portents, he felt the seeds of doubt beginning to germinate. Why do we need to cure illnesses ?
"To cure or not to cure, that is the question", said Noguchi to himself. The disappearance of a minor trouble often precipitates people into a new sort of life with a risk of taking them toward a more serious catastrophe. Stomach pain, while it persists, deeps the patient from "overdoing it", in a state of euphoria. Can one safely take off the brakes when the car is on a slope leading to a precipice ? It can even be dangerous to simply cure an illness, if people know what to do with their lives afterwards.
A body which never falls ill is a lazy body. Illness is a natural thing, it's an effort of our organism to recover a balance that has been lost. But the fear of illness is something artificial, a creation of human intelligence, which is unable to see the larger view. The more we try to cure illness, the more we maintain it because our impatience blocK the natural evolution of the process of recuperation. To be ill is one thing, but to be a prisoner of our illness is another. Once a prisoner, one cannot easely be freed from one's bonds. The illness is cured, without freeing the prisoner. He becomes weaker each time he falls ill. In the meantime he learns to exploit the prerogatives that come with his ilness, to attract the attention of others. He speaks of his illness as if he possesses the most beautiful diamond in the world. It is good that illness exists, but it is neccessary for men to free themselves from its bonds, from its slavery. That is how Noguchi came to conceive the notion of Seitai, the return to a natural condition, so to speak. There is no need to occupy ourselves with illness, it is useless to cure it. If we return to a normal condition, illness disapear of themselves. What's more, we become more vigorous than before. Goodbye, therapy. The combat against illness is finished. "

– In Japan, is the Seitai method wide-spread ?

– Yes, you can say so..

– And Katsugen Undo has developed as a method on its own?

– It has developed in parallel with the Seitai ; often,that has happened with the participation of a Seitai technician. In fact, that is what Master Tsuda began in Japan : he set up groups of people who would get together to practice Katsugen Undo in the presence of a Seitai technician, or else with Movement assistants- people who were not technicians, but had been trained by master Noguchi. They had a minimum of technical knowledge and were capable of conducting a session of Movement so that it would go well, avoiding excesses, misdirection or incomprehension… That’s a bit what we do here as well.


– Why hasn’t Seitai had a big success here in Europe ?

– First of all because it is, all the same, quite recent ; Master Tsuda arrived here at the beginning of the 1970’s, and at the time, no-one had heard of either Seitai or Regenerating Movement in Europe. We live in a society that requires fast results ! That is the principle of illness now : if we are ill, we absolutely must recover right away, our nose must stop running within 24 hours. It doesn’t make sense. We need time. And the Regenerating Movement also needs time to develop. What’s more, Master Tsuda was alone in Europe. When he died in 1984, there were a few dojos already, but there were few people capable of conducting a Movement group. And then, many people wanted to add in some “attractive ingredients”. That is how we come across people who propose Tai Chi and Regenerating Movement, Acupuncture and Regenerating Movement, and who knows what else… all sorts of techniques, often with a therapeutic orientation. It’s difficult to say to people, “You are totally responsible for yourselves.” It’s easier to go see someone who says to you, “I’ll take care of you, I’ll take care of everything.” Even in Noguchi’s time, there were deformations of this type : people who said that it was God who sent the Ki down to Earth… There are people in France who came to see Master Tsuda with “diplomas” of Regenerating Movement, but there don’t exist any diplomas of Movement, and there never have ! There are those who say they are Seitai technicians… It’s absolutely false. The last time I saw a son of Noguchi was in 1983, and even then there were people arriving in Europe from Japan, saying “I’m a Seitai technician, I’m opening a school of Seitai and Movement.” But Noguchi’s son told me then that there were no authorized Occidentals. His answer was clear.
So, if we count : 1983…1993… until the year 2003, logically and to my knowledge, there can be no occidental Seitai technicians, because it takes 20 years to become one ! !

– There are cases of people who are fragile. Does it sometimes happen that they have excessive reactions during a session of Movement ? What sort ?

– Yes, for example, people who have become too rigid. When they feel Yuki, or when the Movement is activated, they can have an excessive movement, which can be frightening to them. There are also those who have an over-developed imagination, which we often see during the courses ; people who have done a course of this, a course of that : they have a whole package full ! They come along, and they listen vaguely to the conference, they already have a predefined idea about the question, and when they do the three exercises, extraordinary things happen right away. Some would almost start dancing if I wasn’t there to calm them down a bit, or screaming. It happens less and less now, as the atmosphere of the dojo doesn’t lend itself to that sort of thing. I remember an anecdote that always made me laugh : during a course with Master Tsuda, there was an English woman ; apparently, the Movement had been activated, although today I would say that it was much more a matter of imagination… in any case there she was, saying, “Oh ! my God, my God, my God, ooh, my God,” and it went up and up… “My God !” At a certain moment, we still had our eyes closed, but I heard Tsuda say, “Yes ?” She stopped right away. That was Tsuda’s finesse…
People who are weak, yes, there are ; for example, those born by Caesarean section…
Obviously, it’s not their fault, but they haven’t had a natural childbirth, which creates a certain pressure and the elan vital , the vital energy of birth. They have been taken out asleep, like a package. These people do have weaknesses, and during a certain period, Master Noguchi refused them for the Seitai technique or the practice of Movement.

– Could it be dangerous for them ?

-No ! But he considered that due to their lack of vital energy, nothing would ever come of it. It was a rather harsh position, I agree. He did change his mind later, admitting them to the practice of Movement, because he considered that it could benefit them after all. Master Noguchi considered that, if a pot is broken initially, you can repair it all you like, it will always be fragile, always have weaknesses. That’s why Master Noguchi and Master Tsuda gave so much importance to childbirth, to pregnancy and to babyhood. Psychologically as well as physically, childbirth is a moment of colossal importance.

-Do you ask the people who come to the courses for information about themselves?

– Normally, no. We refuse people who have transplants, because they take medication to inhibit the body’s reactions ; in that case, it’s as if you wanted to open the door and close it at the same time. When the Regenerating Movement is activated, it will intensify the internal movements to reject an organ transplant. We can’t take that kind of risk, either for us or for them. There are people who are psychologically weak. For some, it’s not too serious, and little by little, they are able to find greater stability. Others come to be taken in hand : when they see that we don’t take charge of them, they go off, they go look elsewhere for pity and a solution to their problems..

To be continued