Kimono day


Kimono day
On Tuesdays we have Kimono dress day at the dojo. We practice taihai in Kimonos, at least those with the rank. Sandan and above. I went today it was a good day. I usually always learn something some small detail I had skipped before or I not know. Even if I am not shooting well my TaiHai is improving, by the time I test again I will at least have that part pretty down. 
Besides the learning it is a good time to connect with my dojo mates.
We split into groups, one group shoots the others watches and tells what they notice in error afterwards. Everyone gets a chance at speaking. That is it self is a learning experience. It is usually a challenge for me to understand what I am being corrected on, but it works out, surprisingly. Sometimes it takes a bit of extra effort for someone to explain. Sometimes I do not get the words, so it is shown what I am doing in error. Actually most times I do not get the words, but I catch a few and along with some motions I figure out what it being said.

In the down time or breaks in between there is other talk. Today a couple of ladies and I worked out who is age wise older, senpai and when our birthdays are. Nothing to do with anything just chatting.

Another topic today was earthquakes since I showed them a picture of me practicing Shakuhachi yesterday with a helmet on as a Face book picture joke. and what is the English word for it. It was cute hearing them try to say it. They would say earthquick. No no I said, and wrote it down. Quake Like cake not quick. We laughed at it all but they got it in the end.
One main tip I got today was when a sensei was watching me shoot, which is slowly improving. He said I am still dropping my arms, I said that is a big issue for me. he watched, then said keep the image in your mind of arms staying parallel to the floor. That helped. I will work on that more.My hit average when up again today. I am starting to feel I may have a chance in Sept. Although chance or not I will give it a shot for learning purposes, unless I start doing really bad again. Amitoufo
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Kyudo , rainy day musing


Musings on a rainy day

 
I am off today, due to the rain, nice my back needs some more down time. There was a big earthquake this morning, so not a run of the mill start. My plan was and still is to settle down in my studio with tea and catch up on some writings…
Yesterday I went to Kyudo practice. I had planned on doing some Komuso practice afterwards, but that did not work out. Which I wrote about on the Komuso blog. As for Kyudo, I have been working more t home with the Makiwara to cement things into my “bones” . I had a revelation last week at the Kimono class about my shooting. Actually my stance not my shooting, if I was to knit pick. Posture, jumongi. I was noticing I was not turning fully perpendicular to the mato, with my upper body. I did not have a chance to fully test the thought, but I did have a chance yesterday. 
 
I had originally planned for a two-hour practice, then go out for my Buddhist Komuso practice, but I cut it down to an hour o as not to tart too late. Which tuned out to be pointless. So yeah, I got in some practice , it did make a difference. I got on the first shot, and just missed on the second. 
I still need some adjustment and other work , because I missed a lot after that. I think I slacked off on other points. Because towards the end when I really focus on every detail I improved. The Kaicho gave me a quick check over on his way out , on my last shot. It hit he said I need to keep my head back more and raise my chest. Other wise good. 
 
The week before at Kimono practice. I was corrected on some Tai Hai points. Not lifting heels off the floor when walking backward to Honza from Shai, placing my Yumi on the outside on my knee cap not the inside, leaning the yumi slightly outward when turning out of the Kimono disrobe part. “Hadanugi “. Plus some other small points, nothing to do with shooting but having to do with proper form. So still getting bit by bit instructions. Taking them in, logging, implementing, the process continues. 
 
When starting back to for the summer, I should be able to return to going to the dojo twice a week now, without hearing static from the minister of finance. I am pretty certain I will attend the next Shinsa in September at my home dojo. Feeling ready or not, taking it as part of practice. Like one is supposed to approach doing meditation, the goal is doing it, not the result.

弓道 – Reset to Zero

Back to Zero

 
Sigh, as has been the case time after time I am back to Zero with Kyudo. ok, so maybe not “zero” but it feels like it. I thought I was making some improvement, in the big picture I am. It is said something like one can not cure and illness until the cause is known. I may have at least a clue what my current issues are. 
 
I went into practice the other day, and my new adopted Sensei was there. I say adopted, because the week before when asked who was my sensei by a sempai he spoke up. He does always come and help me when he and I are there together. I like him he is kind. I have always felt like my Sensei is Watase Sensei the lead sensei. Even though I rarely see him, and also Yamashita Sensei, as he was my intro from Nogami Sensei who passed away. I feel closer to Yamashita Sensei, but he is not always there and only comes certain times which are not set. Watase Sensei can be found on a certain day and time…mostly. He is also the one who signs for me to take Shinsa. I suppose it does not matter, so moving on…
 
So I had thought part of my problem, a big part was that I was not understanding everything. Which may still be, some of the case . However I am now leaning toward it is a physical issue. My shoulders are not loose enough. I keep getting told to drop my shoulders. In Daisan do not raise my shoulders, when in ready position move my elbow forward but not my shoulder. Try as I may I can not comply enough. I am trying but not succeeding. ( There is not try , do or do not. I am doing not!!) I watch the Sensei and his shoulders are much looser he has a greater range of motion. I do not know if I need more stretching or it is just a physical body structure issue. I recall when I was young my mother use to tell me a lot, pull your shoulders back! Maybe I was physically unable to do any more than it was. Not deformed, just different. Perhaps if I had worked at it then it would be better now. I am I believe now too old to reshape my bone structure. Pretty certain. I will continue to attempt to succeed but I may have to make compensation somewhere else.
 
Yesterday The Kaicho came over to me whilst I was shooting and I told him my ya always go just to the right of the target. Sometime they go correct, but when it happens it because I am doing something with my right arm they tell me not to do. Which is to pull my elbow back to far. As in to my rear, not to my side out away fm me opposite the target. Kaicho watched me shoot and said my left shoulder is to far forward when in Kai. He had me shoot again and corrected me as I held position and released. It went straight. However I did aim more to the left than I had been. 
 
What I am saying is I read about the aiming point, half-moon , whole moon thing. I pretty much line my ya tip up with the target, not the whole or half-moon thing. When I asked m from the tip, my hit count goes up. However sometimes the ya goes too far to the left of the Target. 
 
Maybe I should stick with the way that gets the most hits and not listen to when the tell me to do something different, however I feel if I do that I am just being a “target who’re” is the term used.
 
Sigh.
 
I head reports from the recent big Shinsa in Tokyo. There are people who shot for Yondan and only hit one, but still passed! Crap! That throws off the theory about testing in Japan is harder. Someone speculated that it was because there was a seminar just before the Shinsa and the judges got to see how the person shot regularly. 
 
Oh well, back to the drawing board, or this case the mato/ Makiwara

Sakai Blues Fest 2018

I wrote about the controversy, hmmm issue I had with this a few months back. Which was resolved so I attended the event this weekend. Sat., I was the with the Doc’s band. We had 1 rehearsal a couple of week ago. Two days before the event he wants to change a song and add a different one. This song has some complex breaks in it. However he wants to do it. Sigh. 
 
I arrive to the area pretty early so I can find the venue location. I stop by the main stage area and see a few people I know and get some light directions. I got to the general area but still was not at the right location. I ended up in front of the place we played last year. Someone saw me who kind of knew me from before or some place else. Anyway he and and guy took me to where I needed to go. Kind people, most Japanese. At the venue I saw the guitar player from my other band, the Sieki Band. He was not playing just watching.
 
After a while the rest of the doc’s band shows up. He decides what the order of the songs and what songs we are doing. Of course this should have been done before hand and not the day of, but I rolled with it, as common. We were set to do 5 songs, the sixth song held in reserve, for him to do. I was set to sing the opening song, with the Doc singing the rest. It worked for me. 
 
Our time came around and we got set to play. Following his lead we started, it went well. I was put off that he sat on the foot floor of the stage while we stood on stage proper. It looked tacky. but the band played on. The next four songs were sort of bad, especially the new song never rehearsed, him still sitting next on the stage floor when not singing.
We made it through the planned set, and find out there is time for one more song. The Doc’s girl friend and a couple of others call for me to do a song. I say no, the drummer asks me also, please we need to sound strong for closing. Ok I say. I had no plans of doing a song so I had to think fast. I chose a song we had done before with me singing, but the Doc had taken over. We start slowly finding the groove, the Doc complains about the tempo or something. I did not quite hear, which was good, or I might have told him to sing it then, I have had this issue with him before. Anyway we got it rolling and it was sounding ok, not great  but ok. When his guitar part came we thought he would not stop, I jumped in with Harmonica so we could put a close to the song. He tends to drag on and on, and on with his solos. We ended ok and it was done. 
 
We sat for a drink and some of them ate. The keyboard player took off. I did shortly afterwards. Later I told the drummer the Doc’s performance was sort of embarrassing. He said his girl-friend and him were joking around about it. He did not eat and had a drink, it was effecting him. Hahah. I just sad hmmmm. His playing was off a lot, but overall his stage presence was lame. I thought sitting on the edge of the stage was tacky, missing notes when playing was one thing, but image is another. Anyway his band, his name, not mine. Soooo, oh well. No one cares but me so, whatever.
 
 
The next day I was doing my first solo spot for the show event. I was loaded down with my equipment. I had put together one extra song the night before, just in case I needed it, I was not sure about the time needed for setup and take down. Therefore I brought my guitar just in case I needed a fourth song. I had my keyboard, wires, drum machine, guitar and Shakuhachi. This was to be my first public playing of Shakuhachi with a modern song, not a traditional Shakuhachi. 
 
I made it to the main stage area again to get my back stage pass. Again some hellos and I stare off for the venue. This time I had a better idea on getting there and had my google map set on the phone so I pull just followed it. I made it with no problem. It was not where I expected but I could tell it was the place because of the people standing there outside. It seemed I caused quite a stir when I arrived. I got a lot of questions and asked for pictures. Not because I was famous or anything just being the black gaijin.
As it turns out there was another guy there from Ca. I was scheduled to play after him. He was gotten or just happened to come out, we spoke for a short bit. He did not live in Japan just visiting for his third time. After things settled a bit, I sat a few people came at next to me, chatted a bit, toke a picture then left. Another guys sits next to me we talk some , then he goes inside and brings me a beer. I thank him but say I am not drinking. It seems more polite than saying I hate beer. He takes it back, and returns shortly. We chat he is the owner of the club. Ohhhhh. I gave him my card, he gives me his. My card says I am a Buddhist Priest, he tells me he is also, with a certain Buddhist sect and shows me some pictures. Then he shows me some hand signs they use, somewhat like Ninja power things. Then he moves on to take care of some things. I wait more…I hear the other guy from California playing. I am to follow him, I was not impressed, like a country singer playing the blues, no soul more hillbilly like. The Japanese must like him because had played at two other spots over the weekend, solo at each. It was sort of fitting in with the other players I had heard so far there. I was thinking. hmmm maybe they are not ready for what I will be doing. Oh well!
 
Showtime and a guy who knew me ( another one I did not know him, but he knew me), helped me move my stuff and another helped me setup. I was ready. My first song was a slow blues. I had pre-record my drum and bass tracks on a machine. The first song I would start with Shakuhachi , then switch to keyboard, vocals and harmonica. When the other guy was playing there were a few people in the room and a few more in the next room. After I was setup and ready to go, I looked up to speak and , wow the place was full. I said something about that they laughed, saying they wanted to check me out. Hahah
 
I started, when I finished the opening Shakuhachi, which I thought I did pretty well, I not embarrass myself a least, they clapped! I continued on into the song. It went well. I was satisfied with my performance. The audience enjoyed it. The next started well, however about just past halfway through it, I got a little lost. I could not hear my sound track , with the feedback from the Mic and the volume being controlled by the sound engineer. I rolled with it trying to hear and reset my timing to match. I tried to cover it by ending early and not fighting with it or just stopping to find my place. They crowd did not seem to mind or notice. I checked my time I was doing ok, but I would not do but just one more. This was a funky blues, funky, I was not sure if they could handle it. I started, with the beat and the bass only. I started to clap with the beat to set the groove, I asked them to join, I was surprised and pleased they did so. They got into it, head bobbing, feet patting and clapping, it went well. Bam it was done. 
 
I packed up and went outside to organize. The owner came out and congratulated me. He asked if I did not drink at all or what. I said yes I do, Sake, and Sochu is ok. He asked wine? I said yes. He said ok and went inside. I was thinking he will get me a glass of wine. He returned and gave me a whole bottle of fairly high-grade wine. I was shocked!
I thanked him, a lot Japanese style, and headed off to chat with friend and his family who had shown up to see me. 
 
I did not think there were any pictures as I did not set up my camera, but later some came to me. Some from the event photographer posting and my friend. It was a good day. Now I know the music combo in my head will work, yatta! I had gotten some good feedback on using the Shakuhachi with the blues from some samples I sent to a couple of people, I will build on that from now! There will be two path with the Shakuhachi. It will be an interesting journey. Yosh! It is good to make some headway. Now If I could just do that with my Kyudo…
 

弓道 – One step back


One step back…

 
The weather was finally spring like together, great. I went to the flea market at the temple I played at recently. It was the most crowded I have seen. I also the most gaijin I have ever seen at these. I was hoping to see a acquaintance of mine. I a local monk who is usually there begging. I wanted to ask him some advice on where I could play without stepping on some other monk’s toes there. Alas he was not there. Oh well. I went through the markers anyway as I needed a couple of things and wanted to check out for a couple of others. I did not buy much, a couple of beads and a cord to make a cleaning cloth for some shakuhachi, some nuts, and some wooden prayer beads.

Afterward I went to Kyudo. There is all the testing coming up in Kyoto soon, so there were several sensei there, including my favorite, Yamashita sensei. I had planned on just practicing, but of course with the sensei there that went out the window. Still it was good, I got a lesson. It threw all that I thought I was finally getting out the window. Sort of.

 
I got my right arm draw and placement corrected. It totally changed my hitting from ok, to it sucks! However sensei was pleased with the adjustment. I guess that I more important. So when I finally get to Shinsa again I will do well, and the next step will be easier. He also told me O was knocking my ya wrong. Bring the ya to the sting, not the other way around. As fo my draw, I think I finally got it , at least I understand what I am supposed to be doing.
 
I wonder does anyone understand how difficult it is to follow things in a language you do not fully understand. Sensei is good at explaining, and he ok’d what I was doing afterwards, even though I was not hitting. So I have to adjust my sighting again to off set the new positioning of my right arm and shoulder. It is surprising how much of a big difference it makes with a small change how the arrow travels.
 
I will be putting off the upcoming Shinsa in June, until Sept. oh well. Like I have been saying. It really only matters to me. Before Yondan there is practice, after Yondan there is practice.
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尺八 – Wind blowing in the rain

 

Wind blowing in the rain

 
I need to sort out now what is going here and what is going to the Komuso blog site. I have that blog up and surprisingly a couple of people have started following it. 
 
So back to just regular Shakuhachi before I publish the next segment on the Komuso blog.
 
I went to the monthly meeting of the”Koten-shakuhachi-kenkyuu-kai” (Society for the Study of Classical Shakuhachi) club yesterday. I have been to the “header’s dojo a couple of times already. Still I got seriously lost. I had a map with me a good thing. I stopped and asked for help a couple of times. People were very helpful!! I was way off track. I started out ok, but took my first turn way too early. After almost a restart, I got where somethings looked familiar and following the last set of help directions. I got to a place I knew where I was. Whewww.
I marked the location this time on my Smartphone map. Although I am fairly certain I know how to get there next time I found where I made my mistake.
 
Not a big deal being late there was only three others there when I arrive. Another member came later than me he had a performance to do before hand. 
 
We went through a few pieces.then I was asked to play what I am working on. I receive some helpful corrections on my technique. I need to focus again on doing some drills not just learning a song. Now that I have my goal somewhat done, I can focus on just improving my skill and not worrying about a performance. 
 
Oota sensei , the header had finished a 2.0 Shakuhachi he had been working on for me. I was surprised. I thought it would take a lot longer, as he is busy. However he comes over and says here try this. The sound was warm and deep but not overly deep. I liked it. It is a solid flute not the light feeling kind, and a big curve. This has some weight to it. It was fairly easy to play and nice looking . Cool ! He had me pick a carry bag from two that his wife had made. She does nice work! I was a happy camper. I did not play it much at the time as we were working with the 2.5 flutes. I also wanted to play with it at home where I would not be self conscience about it.
 
Another sensei there played the new flute and gave his approval.
 
The Sempai who gave me the Komuso application came in later. I thanked him for his help and showed him my new card. He said he just got his renewed as well and showed it to me. I told him I did not get a set of rules. He said nor did he this time. I guess we are just not suppose to do anything to embarrass the group.
 
After our practice sessions , Oota sensei, took us to his workshop to see some bamboo in the pre-flute stage. I was surprised how many he had ! Some of a really curved nature. Most of them big, not the smaller 1.8 version. It was quite interesting!
 
After that we closed up shop and headed out in the rain to an izakaya for our after practice social hour. I do not understand all that is aid , but we still all communicate and have fun. This was a different place from before as the old one closed down. To bad, I thought their select n was better. This place had “kompai” special that worked out well. Even for me with my picky eatingness. I had two small bottles of Sake the others had beers! I like these guys , nice folks. It is hard to make friends it is said in Japan, can understand that. I was lucky to be introduced to these guys and feel comfortable with them. Sharing the same musical connection is a good bonding medium. Of course the people themselves make the difference. As with a certain sailor who shares sailing and Zen practice with me, but is a jerk!
All in all I think my musical connections are stronger than my Kyudo connections, for the most part.
 
In the evening when I returned home, a sat an played with my new flute. I really like it. I played some traditional songs and a modern song. I also did some free style. I enjoy this flute. It will be my main multi-purpose flute. I like the low tone and the highs which are not too high. The second register as well I liked not too tinny sounding.
 
Some players I have seen on-line have a huge selection of flute. I will be basically keeping just the ones I have. 1- 2.5, 1- 2.0, 2- 1.8s. That pretty much covers my needs. I do have one more 2.5 , however I am planing on gifting it to a friend who has always been helpful to me, with Kyudo, and Music instruments I have needed. No need to have things I will not use, when it can be use and appreciated by someone else.
 
Oh one last note on the Kyudo Shakuhachi connection. I last time spoke of a Kyudo sensei who was also a shakuhachi player and a Shorinryu sensei. The one who rarely speaks, but has helped me with Kyudo points. I asked him if he was still playing Shakuhachi. He gave me a small half smile and said, he was on “break” from playing right now. He had played for 20 yrs. I asked what style, Tozen he said. Fairly common and popular style in Osaka.
 
I am glad I did not fall in with a Tozen teacher in my quest for a sensei. The Tozen style is a somewhat newer style and their focus is more about western style pieces seems like. Tozen is what my other sempai from Kyudo plays. My style is call Kinko an it goes back a long way and also linked with the Komuso and Zen practice
 
 

Komuso; a step on the path


Small steps are still steps… the path

 
I went Shakuhachi class tonight. It is now monthly, Not bi-weekly. Cutting back on expenses…
I took along a couple of the Komuso items I have recieved from the Myoanji Temple. One was my Begging permit. The other was a prayer/poem, charm sort of thing. my wife did not know what it was. My Komuso sempai said it was the SuiZen “vows” An “oath”…of sorts is a better word.
 
I showed it to my Sensei. He said, well… to me, as I am not a Buddhist, or at least a full Buddhist, I am half, to me it is just decoration. However to someone who is Buddhist, and like you as a Komuso it has meaning to the core of being a Komuso.
He then went through and explained everything in struggling English. The main “text” is this: 
 
One blow to remove evil
One blow to bring the good
One blow for all to come together in Buddhism 
 
 
There are variations on interpretations of this, but the same sort of meaning.
It came down to mostly this…hearing his talk.
 
“A Komuso does not play for himself, he plays for others first, himself last”. 
 
That was the thing that stuck with me out of all that he tried to explain, on the philosophy and code of the Komuso from the writing. One can think of the playing as a healing, a prayer, an offering. Sensei often speaks of sound offering, meditation, purity of the note and peacefulness of spirit. He said tonight when speaking of some players that if they can not blow the Shakuhachi and make a pure sound, a real note, not just mostly wind noise, this person should not being playing Shakuhachi, their spirit is not calm, they should just sit ZaZen. Give up Shakuhachi, just sit Zazen. What is funny hearing him speak of these things, he will say, or add that he is not a Buddhist, or Komuso, but blah blah blah.
 
He told me it is more important to play than to receive donations. Also hear that from my wife. Playing as a Komuso is not about taking, or receiving, but giving. He also told me I could play another song beside, “Cho Shi”. But a modern songs, NO no no! The Honkyoku I am currently working on, San Ya, is ok, he said. In Japanese songs such as this it is not about playing the whole song, for it to be a whole song. I could play the number of Lines I had learned and it could be used as a Komuso. He then showed me an example of how to play it. It is really feeling and interpretation of any part, yet each part is still part of the whole and still the whole. Like as drop of the ocean is still ocean water, an ocean, just smaller. As we as it is Ch’an are just a small part of all that is …
My friend and Kung Fu Sihing, liken this to the golden spiral of life. Wherever you cut this spiral it is the same angle, small as it’s larger or smaller piece. He based a workout stick/wand, on this idea.
Hmmm maybe I digress or something there… oh well, it is my blog, of sorts. It is my story for sure
! …or is it?
 
Sensei had said he was or held a membership at a temple in Fukuoka, but he had not done begging. But understood it. He knows a lot of stuff around Shakuhachi, even if he does not follow, the stuff. He as he has a lot of respect for those past masters who thought ( and those now) of the Shakuhachi as not a Musical instrument, but a Zen tool. Even though he does not follow that philosophy.
 
I hope to learning some interesting things as a Komuso if I keep my eyes and ears open. Learning Japanese would help a lot, but I will make do for now as I “take another step”.
IMG_20180403_163801
 
Another thing he said , from reading my card is I am number 2,380 (an about number) Komuso registered with the Myoanji HQ. I thought, Wow! There will be a new blog coming, dealing with just my life and times as a Komuso. “THe Komuso Khronicles”. This blog is getting full, and will just get the summary.

弓道 – An arrow in flight


 
I went to RaeKai today. A few days ago I went into practice. I had hope to just practice. I had not seen Watashe Sensei in a while there on Thursdays. That was his regular time but he had been out. I went in on Thus. Just hoping to practice. I was starting to get a fix on things, having Sensei watching and adjust is good, but really confuses me at times.
 
So yeah of course he was there this Thursday. He and another sensei who is very helpful to me, but always checking me, adjusting. It is great but at the same time frustrating! Sadness within Joy Zen, sort of thing. Yeah, good to get correction and that someone cares, but bad for my just want to practice mode. Oh well life is change, roll with it.
 
Sensei did not stay long, neither did. I got my adjusts and got to practice so it was all good. My score sucked of course, but it is not about that, right!
So I got in some just practice time which was nice. It also confirms that some of new things I have been doing are correct. So I am in the right path! Yatta!
Tenouchi is a problem, I am lacking spin. I am hitting in a good spot off the mato, that if I have some spin that would not happen. It would hit I believe. Anyway, yeah more practice…and more after that.
 
I went a Rae Kai today it was fun. I had not been in a while , seemed like longer but I know I was just at something or another recently. No matter. I was there for a practice session, not to try to win. Just a progress check of sorts.
It was to see good some people, a couple of my regular buds were not there. It happens, life is like that. It was a good checking platform for me. I did not do great, or even good, but, I did not suck … too bad. Hahaha.
 
I have been studying Shakuhachi seriously over the last 3 yrs, from time to time I wonder which is more difficult? At this point I would at Kyudo, with out a doubt. With shakuhachi there is breath, fingering, lip aperture . With Kyudo there is everything , body, breath, mind, although I could break it all down to the base for both Body, breath , mind. “The body”, in Kyudo is much more vast. Also If one thing, shoulder, elbow, waist, etc are wrong, they are all wrong!
 
So Kyudo today was, ok. I again got to see my faults, and weakness. Always a good thing, when one wants to progress, but not to good for the ego. So more much training, which is nothing I did not expect. The next Shinsa is in June, maybe maybe maybe, I will give it a shot, just because I can, for practice…Perhaps Sept at my home dojo is better. No matter right now. I will see how things unfold over the next month. Then I will know. At least I feel I am making some progress. I am seeing that the more I am in the aligned position with everything, not just yumi, ya, arms, back, shoulders, etc, the better the shot is. I figured out something with my back the other day, when carrying my bass, the arch, the shoulder compress that is needed when shooting. The weight was starting to get to my back, but if I realigned everything so the the bones structure is supporting itself, the weight of the Bass is taken up by the “Bones” not the muscles, like what it says the Kyudohon how a shot should be done. Breath and alignment, there is the same thing in Shakuhachi, and Kung Fu. More subtle in Shakuhachi, but there and important, especially the breath part.
 
In Aug we will have been in this area for five years. Our rent is being raised! Not good, but the point is , it just hit me I have been training at this Dojo for 5 yrs! I really should not judge or try to gauge my progress on a time table and just do it. On another note, yeah , no won’t I feel so comfortable with some of the people at the dojo and them with me.
 
I was going to get some where with all this , but the shouchu has kicked, and L Z was just here in my studio, talking about perhaps moving to another apt, instead of this house. Sigh, impermanence is life.
 
I have pretty much succeeded with my goals with the shakuhachi. At the least the main part of it and connecting with my Ch’an training. Next it is just a matter of continued practice and improving. Shakuhachi, has ranks “dans” like kyudo, judo, karate, etc. I am not interested in getting one. I have no desire to teach, my Sensei although well-known does’ not have a masters “rank” title, either. My goals for playing now, are just to play better.
 
I have to keep that in my head with Kyudo, it is not about the destination, the prize. It is about shooting well. Playing as A Komuso is not about collecting donations, but playing well for the people, making the connection Heart to heart. Shooting the ya with the “right” spirit. The “right” is a Buddhist term, “the right”, something is a board term. For Kyudo it would mean, mind, body, breath and heart aligned.
 
My blog has been quiet about Kyudo, for a while. Not because I have stopped, but because I am just working at it. Not talking about working at it, working at it. Putting the effort into the action not the words. What a world we would have if that was more common. It is the Ch’an, do, don’t talk, experience the moment (s).
 
 
This brings me to a brief side thought. I have heard about a Kyudoka in more Northern Japan, who is a Shakuhachi maker an ones Kyudo. It would be interesting in hearing him speak on his views of the two arts. I have my friend an sempai who does Kyudo and plays Shakuhachi, but have never gotten a sense that he had a spiritual thought with either. Once I asked him about a connection, he touched a bit on breath harmony. The is another Kyudo Sensei there who also plays Shakuhachi and is a Sensei in Shorinyu Karate. He is a very serious type. Sometime I do not think he likes me. However he has offered help and correction from out of nowhere. He does not speak English at all, still I may try to engage him about Kyudo an Shakuhachi. What are his philosophical thoughts about them. Maybe I could figure out some of what he had to say, if anything. With visiting the maker, player, my wife would be there to translate. At the Kyudojo, I am on my own. Most people there from the way they talk to me think my Japanese is better than it is. Hahaha. It is more helpful for me I think to try to figure out what is being said, than to stop the conversation and bog it down with me tying to understand.
 
 
 
 

…and the beat goes on. April


And the beat goes on…
The path of “music”
Springs forth, a babbling stream
as do buds of the Sakura.

A lot of music stuff has been happening. I think the last thing I wrote besides Shakuhachi music was about the Blues Festival, complex mixup. I was under the wrong impression about being required to buy a shirt. So that is back on the burner as a ToDo.

 

The Sieki Band, 

 
We had a good rehearsal am I am liking the way the band sounds, especially with the harmonic vocals. However they need work. Like most things worthwhile. ( Ch’an lesson for today) The keyboard guy, Lucky Joe, a real character, good for a group, is good, he fills a lot. The guitar is a good rhythm holder. We have a show coming up on April first. It is a small showcase venue, we are in a show with three other bands. I am fairly sure this is a no pay , just showcase kind of thing. Which is ok we are a totally new band. We have a Practice session this coming Sat. A band that has practice sessions before doing a show ! What a concept! Radical.
 

The Jazz Session


There is a monthly Jazz Jam session, nearby my house. I have been before, and posted stuff. Ozaki Jazz Society, I call it. The people are nice, the club manager also lets me know what there is I can eat from the spread that is put out as a free buffet. He knows I do not eat meat. Most of the players are very good. However I do not like just trying to play a Jazz song with no practice if I do not know it well. Most of the regular songs I know are not Jazz. So when I go to this I have to pick songs to do, that are Jazzy. It is kind of hassle. I go maybe once every three months. I went there last week. It was good. We came together and even though our first time together with these members, and me trying to explain what I wanted, always an adventure. We sounded good. If anyone is interested in hearing the 20 min sessions cuts can click HERE?
 

School of Rock,

 
There is a keyboard player who I have played with on several occasions. I like his style and he speaks a little English. Several months ago he asked me to play a show with him in March. It happened just this past weekend. I was to play bass with him on a few songs, then do a few songs on my own, guitar, or piano and/or with him if I wanted on keyboard.
This was our first gathering, with the other members he brought in. We had a percussionist, steel drum, keyboard and bass, with some vocals from whoever.
We got together before the set to practice. It went well, we fit and worked together as a group. Afterward we went next door to the live house and ate at the small local Izakaya. They were a bit surprised with me there, but were friendly. We ate, chatted, joked and bonded. I already knew the percussionist, she had done backup singing for me before. The only new person was the steel drum player. Still we all got along, no attitudes. This is a cool band. It would be interesting to do more with them, there could be some cool stuff development!
 
We went back to do the show. Not many people, which did not surprise me. Toward the end of the night a few people came in. Those that did seemed to enjoy one woman got up danced. The group sets went well. We sounded like we have played together before, have not, at least with this configuration. Click for a sample HERE
When it was my turn, I figured I would do a test run of the plan for my show at the Blues festival. I had prerecorded bass and drum tracks on to a new loop unit, I recently acquired. So Drum and bass recorded, I played keyboard and Harmonica, with my vocal. It went over well as I had hoped. It sounded good and I did not embarrass myself with a big mistake. 
So I am confident I can pull off the Blues festival and also with the right planning and effort I can do a full solo session at some club, or at least half. I am thinking a club where the docs band used to play. “Chicago Rock” is a pretty popular spot. It would be good to play “here even twice a year.
 

Snafkin

 
It has been quiet there since the owner passed away. Just recently I hear tha his wife will now open the cafe only on the weekends. I always like that place. It is where I met several players I became friends with. This Sat there is to be small session, I will attend. I am considering doing my first non traditional Shakuhachi song. I want my friend to play Shamisen with me, but I do think she is comfortable. I will write out here part just in case, otherwise I will prerecorded on the Looper the rum Shamisen and bass parts, and just play the Shakuhachi live.
Then do one other song with whoever is there, which will include my favorite sax player. I am not a big Sax sound fan, but I like her tone and playing. It should be a fun session and nice to see the Snafkin crowd again.
 

Sakai City Blues Festival

 
This is going down the last weekend in April. I am going to need to be there for both days. Day one I will be playing bass for the Matsuo Blues Band.
The next day, I will be doing a solo set, with me on Keyboard and me on digital backup. Having already did the set at the last club The Happy Rabbit, I am feeling comfortable with some more practice it should go smooth.
You can hear a sample HERE

 

Snafkin by the Sea

 
I kind of feel this is my home base club. It had been awhile since going, since the master’s passing. I had through the grapevine, the place was closing with just
The wife left to run it. However I received a notice it was going to be opening only on the weekends. It seems like a few of ladies have gotten together to help the widow run the place. My friend sends me posting on FB about a few things that have happened there, but I have been busy on those same time.
I had made a point of going last night. I was not sure just what the plan was, if it It an open session or there was a group playing or a mix. I had said to Iyo-san I would do a song with her.
 
 
I showed up about 1 hour after the show started. I was surprised at the turnout, but there was a seat for me. I saw there my two Kyudo sempai who first got me to Snafkin. I was pleased and surprised. I kept being asked by several if I was going to play, where was my bass or something? I said I did not know if I was playing or not. Since I did not how things were being handled. I just watched. It was enjoyable. After a while the owner comes over to me. I thought she was collecting entrance money but she was asking me if I wanted to play something, not pay something. There was a time limit on how long they could play until. I said ok, one song with the band. I liked all of the players so did not want to replace them, piano, Bass, guitar, Sax, and that drum box thing. I did not bring anything with me except my Shakuhachi and Harmonicas. I opted to play Harp and sing. I gave them the key to play a simple funky blues, and the bass line to work around. With the Jazz players it took on a nice nature. Too bad I was not recording for that, it was awesome! Always the best stuff when not planning for it.

 

Page One

 
This is a new to me club. The Sieki band was arranged to play there. It was one of those nights when there are several bands, and it is a mix of styles. Not a loose everyone play with whoever jam session, but each group got a chance to play.
There were five of us, bands. It was a broad mix, metal, punk, blues, big band.
The club is easy to find and not too far from home about an hours. Nice little place, small but not too small. We went on next to last. It was a very comfortable show and went well. A few mistakes but nothing that showed badly. . We must have did good, we were the only band asked to do an encore. Things were a bit loose but not overly. It was a fun night. I did an edited recording of the concert to 20 min if interested HERE
 
So those are the big things happening in my small music world outside of SuiZen Buddhism.
One thing for sure is I am doing far more musically here in Japan than I would in the States. A good path for a retirement. It is different playing when you are young to be rich and famous from when you are older and just play , because you can. I would love to have a steady, even somewhat steady “Gig” as a musician again. I can work toward that hope, goal, but it is Journey not the goal.

尺八 – Kard Karrying Komuso


A Card Carrying Komuso
It took some doing, and time, but it finally happened. I got my membership to the Myoanji temple and entrance into the ranks of the Komuso. Nice to have made a goal. it has been a while since that has happened. It is not really a big deal, yet it sort of is.
The Komuso order is not really an official Buddhist thing or is it? Still working on figuring that out. I was sent the Vow of Suizen with my membership papers. Maybe the 3 together now are the 3 treasures given to the new members to the ranks of the “Priests of Nothiness” back in the day. For sure only in Japan are there official Komuso Buddhist, I guess…
The Komuso are perhaps more Buddhist now…than back in the day. Back then most public records say they had little if any Buddhist practice. But there must have been something organized, formal. Of course they were just living, there was no need to record everything, like now. There was no Facebook back then! Other than the spies, they were mostly out for themselves, food, shelter, enlightenment. Ex-warriors, Samurai, ronin. Some did in fact work in some temples, admin sort of thing. The Buddhist part just gave them some freedom, some breathing space, a tax exempt status so to speak, and the “ok” to travel hassless as a “monk”. The Komuso would beg for alms by playing a honkyoku outside of a home or place of business. However, some practiced something near to extortion in order to receive alms by intimidating people and loitering. Komuso were also the subject of mysticism or superstitions.
I came across/heard something about it being lucky for a pregnant woman to see a Komuso. Some believed that the Komuso were surrounded by the dead and brought evil spirits or bad luck. Conversely, some believed that a Komuso could have a positive affect over such invisible forces. In many ways some Komuso could have been described as spiritual minstrels or priests.
Otherwise, zip.
On the other hand …there is still not much being done/heard of/by them. That I know of so far. Maybe at a Zen temple such as Kokokuji or Myoanji, there are Priest/Monks doing their Zen thing who happen to be part of a smaller/zen group that plays Shakuhachi, for whatever reason. Like there is a “warrior sub-sect” to the Shaolin Zen Temple. Martial Monks of Chan. The Komuso being something like that still today. Busy doing everyday Buddhist stuff at the temple, but part of their practice is playing Shakuhachi not chanting/or with chanting, does not have to be with or without, right…
“At present, Komuso practice with the shakuhachi exists only in a ceremonial way, although the Fukeshu remains as a Zen sect and has retained its traditional base in Kyoto’s Tofukuji Temple.”… Kouzan (Website)

Anyway moving on… Also they are not poor now, that is a for-sure thing. The outfits can be quite costly. Mine is not but it is also simple and from 2nd hand goods. Recycled, doing my part for the earth and humanity’s future.
Anyway, the full blown off the shelf Komuso-wear, can be costly! Which is one reason I ended up joining the Myoanji temple, not the Kokokuji temple in Wakayama. At Kokokuji, the Komuso are required to have a white and a black K-wear to be with that temple group. Also their Komuso-wear is special styled to/for them from what I understood.
The Kokokuji temple, from also what I understood, is not the first “Komuso” temple but the first to have the shakuhachi as part of their meditation or something like that. Yet this above says started wearing the basket. Maybe started here, but labeled elsewhere. Hard to tell. Myoanji is a much newer temple and “custody” holder of the Fuke Zen Komuso sect. Hmm is there still such a thing or is the”komuso” the only image memory of a somewhat colorful past.
Anyway, I digress, Myoanji is not so strict about their dress. Yet, it is ( Myoanji ) also supposed to be the “spiritual center” for the “SuiZen” practice.
 
So what are Modern Komuso? For the most part, a club/fraternity type group, carrying on a Japanese tradition. Maybe not a real “Zen” order, or rather, sub-order. I do not know if the “Fuke” are still considered a sect even though the ban was lifted. Although, who says what is a real Zen order. Although there are real ordained Priests in the group, not all are Zen. They, Komuso show up at events, and festivals. Still not doing much Buddhist type stuff…or maybe just “being” and playing there is Komuso ( Fuke) Buddhist stuff. There are just a few that still go out and beg, carrying on that tradition. I see a few in documentaries around Tokyo. I know of two in Nara, and they are active not just event Komuso. There are ” others ” within Japan that dress the dress but are, let’s say in training, or getting the experience. Like what I did.
I am still learning what Modern Komuso are and do. Now, I know two, no maybe three active ones. One has the philosophy Shakuhachi is not a Musical instrument but a Zen tool! Sadly no English, he is from the Kokokuji. By active I mean out playing in public not just gong to events. I think an interview is in order. An older veteran, My Sponser and a somewhat new guy, my Nara Sempai. That would be interesting, neh!? Yeah, I will have to put that on my “To Do ” List.
Make a pilgrimage to my Komuso Sponser’s temple. I have not done my official pilgrimage yet. That would be a great 3 year Shakuhachi anniversary pilgrimage. Also take along Sempai from Nara. I was going to go to Kyoto to take in my application, but we were told I could mail it. That was cheaper and simpler. So no anniversary pilgrimage yet.
 
For me…the newbie Komuso…hmmm, not sure… I will get out there. It is a good venue for me to develop a practice. I need my wife to make me a “Gebako”. Since my Kung Fu path here in Japan is pretty much nothing other than my own training health practice, not a way of spreading any dharma. Perhaps this mixture of Buddhism and Music will work for me, I can style, develop it pretty much as I please. My Sempai from the large size Shakuhachi group showed me a list of rules as a Komuso member. I will have to get a hold of the list and have it translated. Perhaps the temple will send it to me once all my paperwork gets settled in. I was surprised how fast my cards came. One week turn around from when I sent in the application, I was expecting just to get a membership invoice, but they sent the cards. For Japan, it was a shock to happen so fast.
 
So anyway, now I can officially start my own Zen Komuso Practice in my area. I am clear as a Komuso and a Renzai priest and not worry about the police hassling me over a begging license, or such as I am officially with a recognized temple, goal done, I am legit in Japan! Yatta ! I have not had a goal success in a while! What my practice will be is unknown. I will just let it happen. I figure even just going out and getting a few donations to pass on to charities is doing something, being engaged. Maybe that will be enough for me, with my other projects, expressions of the Dao in operation already. A sempai said being “engaged” is an everyday thing, yes, but other than that, this is a bit more specific purposeful. I do not want to be only an “Event Komuso”.
 
Anyway, maybe a new blog is in order, this one is getting full, hmmm, “tales from the tengai”, “the Rakan 羅漢 Komuso”, ohhh “Shorin Komuso” , or “Kamakiri Komuso”. Maybe not or maybe, just another chapter, e.g.: Kyudo, KungFu, Shakuhachi, Band…, boating seems to have pretty much died…how sad. Still who knows what plans the Tao has in store for me. As it is I never thought I would be a Chan Buddhist Priest in Japan as a Komuso when sailing away from the States,… besides losing the boat…did not plan or think of that either…but that is another story…now A Komuso is born.
Ametofu _/|\_