My last time visiting Nogami Sensei he said there was another dojo nearby, within walking distance. I was curious. I had LZ look it up. Yes it is in walking range. So on last Sunday I took a walk over there. It was a fairly pleasant walk it took about 25-30 . I was not quite sure where it was, so when I saw a few kids I asked where was the Dojo? I first they looked at me like I was from the moon. Then pointed to the gateway they were standing in front of and said in here. Thanks I said smiled and bowed.
The place was not I expected. It was large, and old styled. I went in and to the office and asked if I could just see the Kyudo Dojo. I was expecting just an ok and a point, since i had heard they were not that friendly there. A lady said ok and came around out of the office and had me follow her. She then took me on a tour of the building. It was a full Budo center.
Judo, Kendo, Karate and Kyudo. She took me to each room, then said I could hang out and look around on my own and left. I was impressed. I had a drink from the vending machine and sat in the lounge chilling in the a/c for a bit, before heading back upstairs to the office. There I asked for a phone number. I figured since the next day was my birthday I would come here and shoot for a while to practice on my own before going over to Sensei’s Dojo on Tues. that was the plan.
LZ called on Monday and was told I could not just come in. I had to be checked out by a sensei in front of a Makiwara then registered before I could come in on my own. None of which could be done until Weds and I needed to make an appointment. So much for that plan.
Plan B , which could still be classed as a birthday plan was to go on Tues to Sensei’s Dojo. Tues here is Monday in the States which was my birthday. Ok, I could still get in a birthday practice . However now I would have most of the day to practice instead of just 3 hours at the new Dojo. I figured I could go in early and get some solo time in with the new Yumi before Sensei showed up.
The flaw on this plan I was told was it is Obon and the Dojo may not be open. LZ called Monday , she called late and got no answer :-(. She called again on Tues morning the line was busy she said, she tried several times. I figured if it was busy someone was there. So I made ready to go. She said what if it is closed, my reply, then I will know how to get there on my own, without you. So off I went.
I walked, I read signs, I got the monorail , read more signs, changed trains and made it to the Dojo. from the street through the fence I could see people shooting! It was worth the trip. I went for the first part of the challenge. How to sign in.
No one was at the office, which seemed to be normal for this place. I looked at the papers , and saw what I thought was a sample form to fill out. Hmmm. Ok. There was a guy doing some string work on his Yumi. So I asked him, to confirm my thought. He did and helped me a bit. Bam I was “In Like Flint.” ( some may or may not know this reference, no matter).
Now over to the changing room . I was greeted by a couple of people and helped to get orientated. I was told this was open practice week since it was Obon, and some other misc info. Some of which I understood mostly 🙂
I changed went out and got settled. I went over to the Makiwara section to get some practice in my loaner Yumi. Whoa, it was stronger than I thought besides being large. However I was able to handle it. It made me really shot with my Bones and Tan Tien. I also notice my tenouchi was better and therefore the spin with the larger bow. I shot, I took a break , then shot more, then another break. I wandered over to the 28 meter section to watch.
There was a Sensei making some adjustments to a few of the shooters. I made note of what he was telling them. Not so much the words which I could not get, but were he did adjustments while they shot. I was invited several time to join in a shoot by several shooters. However I did not feel ready. I could work the Yumi but I was not comfortable yet with shooting or joining in the group. So more Makiwara then lunch. After I had some lunch and a couple more shots at the Makiwara I decided to go for it and join the group. I was nervous, I could see the overseeing Sensei watching…closely.
My first shots were low and hit the ground just in front of the target. If higher though would have been centered. The first two shots were done I walked off . I grabbed another two arrows and went back. Still fairly nervous with the eyes on the Sensei on me. I was focused on my movements. So much that I did not notice the red flag out until I was about to raise the bow.. Then I notice the flag and paused at that same time another shooter, an another Sensei came up and said I am supposed to stop when the flag is out, and gently had me unready myself. This is the lady who also teaches Tai Chi. I like her. I watched her shoot earlier. She is smooth. Not as strong as the queen, but very smooth. I will get her name and ask a few questions next time. I was too nervous about the newness of it all today and she had already corrected two of my “dohs” today. One about removing my neck chain, the other stopping with the red flag. Oh well. I’m new and a Gaijing, I get some slack by default at least in the beginning. There are some advantages to being a round eyed foreigner .
Ok, so after the red flag incident and having another upper rank give me a gentle lecture, while I was removing my glove. I figured I should be more alert. This woman then went out to watch for a break to get the arrows from the targets. I watched just as I was stepping into slippers to go help, she waved me over. There I was shown the right way to retrieve the arrows and the way to group them and carry. Exactly what I was about to go see when she called me over.
So another couple of rounds of me shooting without incident and I took a short break. After the break I was going for one more round as it now was getting on in the day. The first two shots still were off. I had not gotten my aim down with the Yumi, I was still a little low. The second group first arrow shot was weak. I felt my power going fast from the exertion of the the bow draw. On the second arrow my draw collapsed before I could shoot. I tried again , this time forcing myself I barely got the shot off, the aim was high enough but off to the right. it was time to stop.
I gathered my stuff to make ready to leave. I went into the rest area and meditated a bit to recover my strength, cool down form the heat and build up chi. After finishing putting my equipment together , I went into change. There I got into a conversation with a couple of the guys also changing. One spoke a little English, the other did not, but between my poor Japanese and the other guys English we had a fair conversation. Mostly about, where I was from, where did I live now, where we are moving to, and why I got involved with Kyudo. Normal questions one would wonder from a stranger. One of the guys i found out after he gave me his card. The English speaker is test in a couple of weeks for Renshi. He is a Godan, his wife is a Renshi. He wants to test but he feels his shooting is not there yet.
It was a good day at the Dojo. I am glad I went. Everyone was nice , polite and helpful when needed. Most were about my age that added to the comfort factor. Some of the people there today I think were there when Nogami Sensei introduced me, since they spoke strongly when they saw me. Some I know were not there before. All were nice I did not get any weird vibes. I will feel much more comfortable going back later this week. I will go two times a week until we move at the end of the month…yosh
The only bad side to the day was on the way home after leaving my right hand did a major cramp up. Itai!, sugoi ittai!