The Seitai principles, which could even be described as « Seitai philosophy » – a way of seeing and thinking about the world – were developed by Haruchika Noguchi (1911-1976) in the first half of the twentieth century. In brief (!), Seitai is a « method » or a « philosophy » that includes Seitai sōhō, Taisōs, Katsugen undō, Katsugen sōhō, and Yukihō. These are practices that complement, permeate each other, and form the breadth of Haruchika Noguchi’s Seitai thinking. We can also mention the study of Taihekis (postural tendencies), the use of the hot bath, the education of the subconscious, the importance of birth, illness and death…
An art of living from beginning to end.
Today, unfortunately, the term « Seitai » is overused and means anything and everything. Some manual therapy practitioners too easily lay claim to Seitai (Itsuo Tsuda would say it takes twenty years to train a Seitai sōhō technician!). As for the charlatans who offer to transform you in a few sessions…, let’s not talk about it! The magnitude of the art of living, the global understanding of the human being in Seitai seem far away. If all there is left is a technique to be applied to patients, the essence is lost. If all there is left of Katsugen undō is a moment to “recharge your batteries”, the essence is lost.
Haruchika Noguchi and Itsuo Tsuda both went much further than that in their understanding of the human being. And the seeds they sowed, the clues they left for humans to evolve are important. Can we then speak of a way, of Seitai-dō (道 dō / tao)? Because that is a radical change of perspective, an upheaval, a totally different horizon opening up.
Let’s go back in history…
The meeting with Haruchika Noguchi: the individual as a whole
Itsuo Tsuda met Haruchika Noguchi around 1950. The approach to the human being as proposed in Seitai interested him from the very beginning. The sharp observation of individuals taken in their indivisible entirety/complexity, which Itsuo Tsuda found in Noguchi, was an extension of what had already captured his interest during his studies in France with Marcel Mauss (anthropologist) and Marcel Granet (sinologist). Itsuo Tsuda then began to follow Noguchi’s teaching and continued for more than twenty years. He had the sixth dan of Seitai.
« Master Noguchi has allowed me to see things in a very concrete way. Through each person’s manifestations it is possible to see what is in action inside. This approach is completely different from an analytical one: the head, the heart, the digestive organs, a specialist for everything and then, of course, the body on the one hand, the psychic on the other. Well, he has allowed us to see the human being, that is to say, the concrete individual, in his entirety. » (1)
Illness as a balance factor
All the more as it was precisely in the 1950s that Haruchika Noguchi, who had very early discovered his capacity as a healer, decided to give up therapeutics. He then created the concept of Seitai, i.e. “normalized terrain”.
« The word ‘terrain’ meant as the whole of what makes up the individual, the psychic aspect as well as the physical one, whereas in the West there is always a division between what is psychic and what is physical. » (2)
The change of perspective with regard to illness was crucial in this reorientation of Noguchi.
« Illness is natural, the body’s effort to recover lost balance. […] It is good that illness exists, but people must avoid becoming enslaved to it. This is how Noguchi happened to conceive of the notion of Seitai, the normalisation of the terrain, if you will. Diseases are not to be treated; it is useless to cure them. If the terrain is normalised, illness disappears of its own accord. And moreover, one becomes more vigorous than before. Farewell to therapeutics. The fight against illness is over. » (3)
A path towards autonomy
Abandoning therapy also goes hand in hand with the desire to get out of the dependence relation that binds the patient to the therapist. Noguchi wanted to allow individuals to become aware of their ignored capacities, he wished to awaken them to the fulfillment of their own being.
During the twenty years they followed each other, the two men spent long moments talking about philosophy, art, etc., and Noguchi found in Tsuda’s vast intellectual culture the substance to nourish and expand his observations and personal reflections. Thus a relation which was enriching for both developed between them.
Itsuo Tsuda was the editor of the magazine Zensei, published by the Seitai Institute, and he actively participated in the studies led by Noguchi on Taihekis (postural tendencies). A text by Haruchika Noguchi published in the magazine Zensei of January 1978 reveals that it was Itsuo Tsuda who advanced the hypothesis – validated by Noguchi – that type nine (closed basin) would be the archetype of the primitive being. (4)
The development of Katsugen undō (Regenerating Movement) by Noguchi particularly interested Itsuo Tsuda, who immediately understood the importance of this tool, especially as regards to the possibility it gives to individuals to regain their autonomy, without needing to depend any more on any specialist. While recognizing and admiring the precision and the deep capacity of the Seitai technique, Tsuda considered that the spreading of Katsugen undō was more important than the teaching of the technique. He therefore initiated groups of Regenerating Movement (Katsugen Kai) in a great many places in Japan.
Itsuo Tsuda favored the spread of Katsugen undō in Europe as a gateway to Seitai.
Today, even in Japan, Seitai sōhō has taken an orientation that brings it closer to therapy. One problem: one technique to apply. Katsugen undō becomes a kind of “light” gymnastics for well-being and relaxation. This is far from the awakening of the living, of the autonomous capacity of the body to react that Haruchika Noguchi’s Seitai is meant to be.
The yuki exercise, which is the alpha and omega of Seitai, is practiced at every Katsugen undō session. Thus, although Tsuda did not teach the technique of Seitai sōhō, he transmitted its essence, the simplest act, this « non-technique » that yuki is. The one that serves us every day, the one that gradually sensitizes the hands, the body. This physical sensation, that is real, that can be experienced by all, is today too often considered a special technique, reserved for an elite. We forget that it is a human and instinctive act. The practice of mutual Katsugen undō (with a partner) is also getting lost, even in the groups that followed Tsuda’s teaching. What a pity! Because through yuki and mutual Katsugen undō, the body rediscovers sensations, those that do not go through mental analysis. This dialogue in silence, which makes us discover the other from the inside and which therefore brings us back to ourselves, to our inner being. Yuki and Katsugen undō are for us essential tools, recommended by Haruchika Noguchi, on the path towards “normal terrain”.
But time goes by and things get distorted, like words of wisdom of some people become religious oppressions… Little by little Katsugen undō is nothing more than a moment to « recharge », relax and above all not change anything in one’s life, in one’s stability. Seitai, a method to lose weight after childbirth… While it is a life orientation, a global thinking. The huge step Haruchika Noguchi took in moving away from the idea of therapeutics is a major advance in the history of mankind. His global understanding of the individual, the sensitivity to ki, sufficiently recovering sensitivity and a center in oneself from where to listen to one’s own body and act freely.
It’s not even about opposing methods, theories or civilizations. It is purely and simply about the evolution of humanity.
(1) Itsuo Tsuda, Interview on France Culture, Master Tsuda explaining the Regenerating Movement, issue N°3, early 1980s
(2) Itsuo Tsuda, Interview on France Culture, op. cit., issue N°4, early 1980s
(3) Itsuo Tsuda, The Dialogue of Silence, Paris, Yume Editions, 2018, p. 75-76 (1979)
(4) About Taihekis, consult Itsuo Tsuda, The Non-Doing, Paris, Yume Editions, 2014 (1973)