竹カマキリ隠れ巻藁弓道場 Bamboo Mantis Hidden Makiwara Kyudojo



Slowly, in small steps things that I wanted to do once settled in Japan are coming together. Not on a business level but at least on a spirit personal growth level. Small steps, small things. Better by far small steps going forward than sliding backward or no steps at all. The latest on my falling into place check list is almost done. I just need to fine tune now. There were three, er, four , hmmm, no five things I wanted to setup in house when we got a home on Japan. 1. My personal office/studio/mancave. Done. 2. A garden, to grow some herbs and veggies. A small one is fine, means less time with maintenance. I also wanted it to be a space could develop a small zen rock type garden as well. Done. 

My cool neighbor gave me two small bamboo plants for my garden and told me a location where I can get some by a local river. Very cool! Just what I wanted.


Perfect I really wanted those more than the flower plants she has been giving me. Not that I was not grateful, but I am glad I expressed what I really desired.
3. A place for a makiwara shooting area. I want to be able to shoot a few ya on a daily or almost daily base. Not so much concern about the mato shots with a makiwara dojo, but the form, the tenouchi, stance, nobei, jumongi, pushing two sides, that sort of thing. The foundation. Done! Well mostly. I have the basics in place, as said it needs tuning. The Bamboo Mantis hidden Makiwara Kyudojo.

4. Is a wooden training dummy. Think Wing Chun dummy like one see in pictures of Bruce Lee’s teacher Ip Man. However more a Shaolin/mantis version. Which means there are enlarged sections at the ends of the “arms”, like wrist or hands. I have a spot picked out for one in the yard, but it will be while before that happen$. Still again I could build something not as elegant as below that would work.
5. Workspace to do some ceramics. As it turns out there is a small room outside attached to the laundry room that will work for a small ceramic space and green house. It is very small so, a wheel is out of the question, but a small table and stool will work. I can do sculpture and coil building at least. I would love to have a wheel… Doubtful, but perhaps I could build a small custom workable one.
Well these things are more in the dream realm. However with most of the other dreams already returned like beach sand back to the sea, one needs some dream, some hope to rise with everyday and not just exist, but to lived!

Heat, gratitude and Thanksgiving

What a difference some heat makes.  It has been getting colder and colder here in Osaka. Not really bad if one goes by Hokkaido, New York, Canada, places like that standards, thankfully I am not in those places, so for me, it is Cold! True, even in Alameda, Ca it was around the 50 F. Degrees at times . On rare occasions high 40. Anyway, this is what I miss about CA right now. Well that and a good pizza, Cheeses, Indian food, Mexican Food, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, being able to buy in bulk and not having a fixed income. Maybe a few misc things I will not go into, but mostly the food, and the warmth. Otherwise I am enjoying Japan. More so everytime I hear about some of the weirdness and Crap that is happening in the states, like this and this and this, this and of course this. However I digress. The subject is warmth ! For the last few weeks temps have been dropping and I walked around the house, like I was dressed for outdoors. Funny thing is many times it was warmer outside than in the house, and not funny like smiley face haha but funny like how weird is that/ this.


I picked up an electric space heater before the weather changed a couple of months ago, when I first started thinking about winter creeping in. A good move, It saved us, and was helpful for some degree of comfort. However, we knew it would not be enough for the full face of winter, come Dec, Jan, Feb!


I was for picking up another larger space heater. LZ did research. We were close to settling on one. I mention that a kerosene heater was a better choice for heat, however they smelled and left a film in the house, also one needed to buy oil and fill it every so often. That is not really a big thing but it is something to consider. LZ went to work researching and found a newer model, which is fan powered for the distributing the heat and it has an ECO setting. which means that it does not just run all the time. it can be set at a temp and it will cycle on and off around that. Totally cool (warm in this case) She compared what the operational cost are next to the Electric and it was only a few pennies different. For the comfort no contest! The unit we picked up had high reviews from her research. It is a unit that will heat a wooden house twice the size of ours. We made the sacrifice and made the purchase from a company she found on line. The cost was cheaper than a smaller unit of the same brand purchased local. Awww yeah! 

Photo Nov 23, 7 33 44 AM


We used it over the weekend and are totally pleased and comfortable warm. We keep the settling low and still wear sweaters but now the a whole room is comfortable, not just a spot in front of the heater. The rest of the house we keep curtained off unless using to save heat. What a difference some heat makes on ones perspectiveve of life and having a home. We can even invite our limited amount of friends over once we get more settled. It is Thanksgiving season in the States. I have been grateful a lot even just surviving to this spot over the last year, even with our losses. Just thinking a few months ago we sat out on the ocean, surrounded by nothing but water, and cold wondering, when we would see land again.

Photo Nov 27, 4 09 46 AM

This living in a house again, with food, dry, warm, a comfortable bed, a small Christmas tree, and a nice view of the garden is a lot of everyday Gratitude, that does not need a special day named after it. Thanksgiving is daily   _/|\_


More Tweaks, Tai Hai, and Straw

Sooooo, last week, at Kyudo, more tweaks. It is an on going process, re-learning, changing, adapting, correcting. I am thinking my Tenouchi is improving I have not gotten any corrections on that in almost almost two weeks. More of the points I needed to correct are starting to feel less weird when doing them. So that must mean progress. I spent less time on the makiwara the last two visits to the Dojo, still not full focused on making a hit, but doing all the parts right up to the release then seeing how far my aim is off. One of the major things about studying in Japan vs the states is details here. This weeks corrections included. holding the Ya, so that when walking they are not only angled in line with the Yumi so that virtually they end at the same point, but also keeping the feathered ends together when holding. Also hands location on the waist and angle of the bow and string when holding and walking. Details, like in Kung Fu it is knowing the details that make one good. In watching someone perform at a demo or something one does not have to watch the whole form to know if the performer is any good. One ( with knowledge ) can tell from the few opening moves. I heard the same said about a kyudoka, how one enters the Dojo a Master can tell if he is worth watching…Details and Spirit. It is good my testing is a ways off with all this reshaping I am undergoing…no complaints, it is a good thing.

Yamashita Sensei is in charge of the Kyudo program at Osaka castle I believe. If not in charge he does teach and lecture there for sure. He is the Sensei that Nogami Sensei spoke with about me coming to Kishiwada Dojo. I had been unable to met him so far due to bad timing and his schedule. He called us the other day and spoke with LZ. Saying he has been very very busy, but usually comes to Kishiwada on the weekends. He said heard I had been coming in and just wanted to contact me. He told us there was a Tai Hai on this coming Sat. he would be there. If I was coming we could meet.
I made arrangements to attend on Sat. The weather was good and I had the day to spend. It was an all day event, so I could ride my Organic Powered Eco Friendly Human Transport Vehicle (OPEFHTV). After a mild breakfast I headed out. I noticed right off how the Ride was different without my equipment. I had gotten permission to leave my gear at the dojo the other day instead of carrying it every time to practice. So yeah I am officially in now at Kishiwada. Other than the ride home without it this was my first trip going. Having tires full of air and no equipment really makes a difference on the ride over. I did not check my travel time, since I had plenty of time to get there, I just cruised.
Once I arrived I headed up to the Dojo it was packed. I did not know where to start,as far as finding a place to watch. After a few minutes of just taking things in I asked. The person looked a little surprised by my question on where to sit to watch. She in turned asked someone else, who asked me to wait while she asked someone else. Before the answer came, another person saw me who knew me and said something to both of the other people and I was immediately asked to follow. Once I step inside right away I encounter Yamashita Sensei who introduced himself. I did the Hajime thing and then was lead to the judges box. I was surprised at that, I was expecting a spot in the corner over to the side.
Shortly after Yamashita Sensei came in and we chatted for a while. He seems like a very nice person I like him. I did not get all that he was saying but I did get most and we communicated and I felt relaxed. He pointed out a few people thought where good with their shooting and Tenouchi since I said I needed more Tenouchi work. He also gave me a few hints on my arm when going from to Kai. Straight but relaxed, no tension in the elbow, but straight.
He went about doing his thing after a while I watched and took pictures. I was surprised to see that he and the Kaicho also competed, and in the same group next to each other. Kaicho shot a little better. I also spoke some with some of the others I knew there. One sensei about cameras, and photography since he brought his equipment as well for photos. It was kind of interesting having visited three other dojos that i knew some people from four Dojos, attending. Including one girl from the Shrine dojo who was pleased to see me and waved from across the room. I went over and spoke to her and said ganbatte!
One thing I noticed about the tournament here was that it was much more relaxed than I had expected. I have only been to two really. One in Japan in Tokyo, the big one and one at a seminar in the states. I did not enter that but drove the visiting Hanshis there from their hotel and hung out while they watched and talked. Anyway I did not have a lot of experience with Tourny’s and thought things would be more formal like testing. Over all things were relaxed. I decided once I get to a comfortable place with re-training and can start hitting again. I will join some of the local Tourny’s just for the heck of it and mixing with folks. 
At lunch time I walked around the area, there was some event going on at the park across the street. I walked over to check it out. They were also on lunch break so not much to see, but some folks were hanging out enjoying the day. I wandered around and took some shots before heading back inside for the afternoon shooting.
After everyone had shot and were getting ready to make the awards, I said Osake ni and excused myself to head home.
I took my time on the trip home. I stopped at a local shrine, also stopped at the local Home Depot/hardware kind of place. I was so pleased to have found it, Yatta!
I found just the piece I needed for the shooting platform for my home Makiwara dojo. Good timing, the straw bale I order arrived also on Sat. It is not as firm, packed as I hope for, but I think still usable. I picked up some wire to re-wrap it some and make a bit of modification for my needs. I am hopful to be able to do some home practice soon. 
Also the ceremonial New Year 108 Ya event is up coming. Even if I can not do the whole 109 it would be good to participate in the spirit of unity.
For those you do not know what I am talking about on the 108 Ya. It is a Buddhist tradition to ring a bell at a shrine 108 times for the 108 sins. My sempai at RSD came up with the idea to shoot 108 arrows on New Year as our Kyudoka ceremony equivalent as practicing ZenHeads. It seems now our tradition has taken hold with at least one Zen priests who teaches Kyudo, Dojos, perhaps some other dojos as well.


Something completely different – Enlightenment

It started as a somewhat early day. I needed to go pick up a bike given to us., now located at a nearby marina. I was up a o-dark thirty anyway because I needed to call to CA to speak with my ex-employer about a boat part for one of our new friends. Well after I did a few morning things and re-crashed for a short nap I headed out.
The marina is only about three stops from our place so not a big deal. I wanted to check out the pawn shop that was at that station anyway. It was a small bummer it was closed. However I was able to memory mark it’s location for my bike rides home from the Kyudojo. The trek takes me just one block away. So made note to self to stop.

I had directions on how to get to the marina. The problem most times is, on the map it looks like a big street, in real life it is like a side street, at least when looking through stateside eyes. It was not a biggie because I knew the general direction, and headed towards it. The easy part about going to a marina is once you find the large body of water the rest is fairly simple.
I walked through some side/main streets and came across a little out of the main drag mall playing Christmas songs. That kind of threw me off as it is not even Thanksgiving. 
Later I recalled there is no Thanksgiving in Japan. I walked on. Finally came within almost seeing range of the marina. I asked a passing guy about which way to go, since I had to get to the other side of the expressway. He gave me directions back to the train station! After I corrected him on where I was going it was simple. Ok, so next stop was at the main gate of the marina/fishing complex. I looked, and looked figuring out which way to go. Looking for something familiar since I had been there before. Nothing clicked. A traffic guard was checking me out as I started in the complex, then felt it was wrong and went back, looking somewhat confused. The guard said he could help and did so after I showed him the name of the place I wanted. He got me on the right track.
I followed his direction and came across the first real yacht marina I had seen since arriving in Osaka. Big club house, locked gate$, slip$ with power, it looked like $an Diego. However it was not where I wanted to go. I figured out what I wanted was next door the fishing harbor.
I found my friend’s boat, then after a few phone calls found him down on our other friend’s boat. Once we met up, he took me aboard his boat. I had found out our first meeting he played Shakuhachi. He asked me did I bring mine. I said no, next time. I did not think about it since I thought he was planning on heading home once he gave me the bike our mutual friend gave to him for me. 
However he brought out his Sakuhachi and played a few short songs for me. He showed me the written music in Japan and how it corresponded to western notes. I also saw a finger chart for the note on the Sakuhachi. It was interesting. I can play but I am not trained. So I just play for me, made up songs unlike him who can play actual Japanese songs. However now armed with this info once home I did some research on keys, notes and the like for our next encounter when I have my gear. Even if I cannot play the song, I can Jam along. 

Once that was done, we got the bike ready for me to take home. While preparing to go I encountered another person I knew from Aoki Yacht school. I yelled a few words of greeting to him on his boat as I was leaving. The new bike, was not as I hoped for with shiftable gears, which would make my Kyudo Commute easier, but it would do for LZ to run her errands on and for us to ride together some places, or the hills in case of a Tsunami ( just saying). So I started the trip home. I took my time and went a few off the main track places to explore since the day was nice and I had time.

Once I arrived home LZ came in shortly afterwards from work. She said Onei-chan was going to give me a larger bowl for my water plants and some fish which would come later. There was someone in the hood moving and she was off to get a couple of bowls. After a small meal Onei-chan shows up and gives me a nice replacement bowl for my too small bowl. Now I am set and can add some small fish later. However I have told, I must put the fish indoors until spring because the cold would kill them. LZ was not pleased with that idea, but it was worked out how it would fit without disrupting her interior design plan. I did not really want to deal with an indoor tank either but it will only be for the winter so not so bad…I hope. Although, since our house is wood and gets no sun, some days it is warmer outside than inside. On top of that the heater that we will be getting will not be run all the time or even where the tank will be kept most of time. So I may need to be shuffling fish around or get a small electric tank heater and light for the plant. Hmmm. Money output, on the other hand, with the right placement Feng Shui speaking it could help bring in some money, so that is a consideration. A small tank heater and small lights can not cost that much to buy and run. I can stop at a on the way home from Kyudo shop and check. A nice little benefit from the biking ride is discovering these local shops.
So towards the end of the day I did some more garden work, whilst LZ took off on her bike.
I installed the new mini-pond. Added a couple of large accents stones, hunted and gathered from the hood, and pulled some weeds. Then headed off to a new spot I discovered and did some Tai Chi and three sectional staff practice. One of the reasons I started Kyudo was to better my Kung Fu skills. While practicing the 3-section it came to me I should follow the same philosophy when practicing this weapon as I work toward when doing Kyudo. Doing the same exact things as far as positioning in order to hit target each time. Here I needed to move these three chained together sticks around, swing them, have them wrap around my body at some location and catch the loose end section before it smashed painfully into me. What I had been doing was to swing /wrap them, then use my arm/hand to catch/stop them wherever they went once wrapped around me. The better way would be to wrap them in a spot each time so the end would land in my hand. I would not have to seek it out, by looking, or feel for it. It would just be there, because of the alignment, all the crosses were as they should be. All the basic points, lines, crosses, etc were in place, so instead of the target being some distance mato, the target is my hand. The body spot would change depending on the wrapping location arm, neck, waist, shoulder, but it would be the same spot at a different location each time. Like a flower, Enlightenment bloomed, I was blinded by the light and the sweet perfume.
One could say I became enlighten from Kyudo. I could take this another step while thinking of it, and expand that crossing all the “T’s” and dotting the “I’s” thing from Kyudo, even Kung Fu to another level and apply it to life and living. Maybe I could start a new Religion! Call it the Church of Holy Zen Kyu Do. , yes yes, that is the way. This is the true way readers, I just heard the voice from heaven. Join now and be saved. Send 25.00 via paypal to receive, your brochure, membership card, an official ceremonial duct tape Yumi, and a picture of the Right Rev. Master suitable for framing. Act now while supplies last.
About 1 hour after I finished receiving the blessing of enlightenment and returned home from practice. A major thunder storm rolled in ( a sign no doubt) . I could not believe the noise. I thought someone was moving something…something large! Shortly after I figured out it was a storm about to hit and started to be concerned about LZ getting back home from her trip to the mall on her new to her bike. A few minutes later she rolls up to the gate. Once she was inside in house the rain poured! Great timing all the way around. Sometimes things just work, more so no doubt when you are an enlightened Master of the Church of Holy Zen Kyu Do.
We settled in for a hot meal of fish, rice, salad from the garden, natto, and green tea. Listened to classical music on the ipod, and burned green tea incense. It was a day to be grateful for presents received.

Tweaks, rants and stuff

Another session on Kyudo this past Friday. There were only a few people there. I was expecting to finally just get to practice. “Man plans, Heaven ordains” a senior offered me assitance. I am starting to wonder if I am just so bad I cry out for help. 🙂 More pointers on my left hand Tenouchi. Helpful pointers. That may have gotten me over the hump of understanding and making it work. Keeping the thumb nail up. I had gotten the part about how to place the thumb but I was not rotating the thumb nail to an up position. I see that bit of change, changes the focus of power/push and the little cup one is suppose to keep in the palm. 

I also shot this Friday. Not really with the intent of working on hitting, just to see how all these changes and the new Yumi came together. I have shot with this current Yumi in the states, but now it is a whole new ball game, so I was curious about my power, and aim. I did not hit which was as I expected. Both were a little high and to either side of the mato, but at least they did not drop before the target.
I went on to one of the Facebook forums on Kyudo this week past ( two weeks now, but no matter), and posted a question for discussion.
Why do ( some )  Kyudoka seemingly by choice ( or not?) want to be set apart from the Martial art circles , yet at the same time want to be seen as part of it? What is Kyudo ( there is no wrong answer) to YOU
There was an explanation that went before this. It was a dissapointing experience. 
One post was particularly irksome: “This will not happen, but I wish you would come back with this question after some 25 years. Doing kyudo in the mean time, of course.”
Ok maybe it is me, but what the Fukushima does my practicing have to do with these questions? I do not get it. It could be me, I am slow sometimes.
Only a couple of beginners really made the attempt to answer the questions. Most of the others went into their own idea of what was being said ( not on topic) or, into the standard Kyudo Zen vs Kyudo Martial Art debate. Maybe because of my lead in, but that was not the question about Zen or not. Another went into how a certain magazine I used as a reference example was not worth caring about. There is a saying by someone that goes ” most people do not listen with the intent of understanding, but with the intent of replying.” Something like that. So bloody true!
The business about Zen Kyudo, Martial Kyudo and Sport Kyudo is petty. It starts getting into the my dog is bigger than your dog , my style of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam is better, purer, whatever, than yours BS mentality. If you think Kyudo has to do with Zen, is Zen, is a martial art, is not, Renmei style is better than Shibata, Heki-ryu rules, no matter, do not care. We are taught in Kung Fu there is something to learn from all styles, people, things. Be respectful to all. I chose my style of Chan, (Kyudo, Kung Fu) over Soto, Tibetan, etc, because it filled my need. When I speak of it, it is my view/opinion for me. (If I ever come across otherwise, let me know, bust me on it. I will correct myself or offer an apology) That should be the basis of choosing a Kyudo practice, a fighting style, a car, not a label. Better, right or wrong is defined by the user. …end rant
I had reason to go back over some of my old post on Kyudo when I was just starting in 2007. Interesting reading the beginners mind. Perhaps more so that my thoughts have not really changed much. Good or bad ? Perspective I guess. Techniques big change beside that of style, but philosophy is pretty much the same. I believe still I am in line with the philosophy of the Kyuhon. I still enjoy doing the meditation before shooting and think it is important, not critical, it can be done without it, of course, just like you can shoot, run, play ball etc, without warming up first, but it helps one’s performance. In my Chan practice we have warmup “Ki” drills before sitting. They help meditation performance by enhancing the Chi flow, which we use to activate Chakras for a better meditative experience. As does stretching before sitting or shooting. I think meditation helps to clear the mind for focus on the details of Kyudo and leave “outside” stuff, outside sooner. I am guessing some have their own way of doing this, even just shooting a few Makiwara shots. However, what do I know, I am just a ni-dan and should practice another 25 yrs before speaking, maybe, I guess.
This post like several are written over a few days, not often all at one sitting. Today is Tuesday I went to Kyudo. I am so grateful to be able to attend. It is the only thing that has really worked out of the original plan since moving here. Ok, one of three, we wanted to move into an older house, done. I wanted to practice /study Zen, being done via my friend and Kyudo. The rest, not so successful…as yet. All our money was tied up in the boat, and jobs are few here, especially for me, and even LZ due to the woman age ceiling in Japan. So money is an big issue. Anyway I am able to attend Kyudo I can go on the average two times a week, sometimes pushing for three. Only due to riding the bike. The train fare and class would cost about $40.00 a month. Riding the bike I can go twice a week for 24.00 that is my monthly fun allowance.
Anyway, I went to the Dojo, it was a chilly ride today and my strength felt low on the ride. I am however down from a 2 hour trip to 1 hour and 20 min. Sugoi! I am even surprised at that, more so since I am not pushing it. Ok, so the group was fairly small, the Kaicho was there and worked with me a bit on my Hikiwaki. Nothing was said today about my Tenouchi so it must be better. He said I could go shoot mato but I stayed on the Makiwara. However later I did venture to the Matos. I was told to relax more on my Hikiwaki and use my shoulder muscles not my arm, but mostly relax. So, how can I relax if I am drawing the bow apart doing the Nobei thing splitting the draw. Maybe do need a little lighter bow. Drawing is not a problem, but staying relaxed while doing it is a challenge that at this point, and does not seem logical. 
My sempai told me to twist my right more as I draw and be more centered, as my shots started drifting to the right. Do not be a sniper he said, stay centered. His English is not very good so I am still not quite sure about that other than I need to focus in the center, in the middle of my draw. Perhaps I am leaning into it. I did get off one shot that hit and it felt perfect when released. After that it went downhill as I grew tired. I really miss my other Yumi. I could shoot all day with that. I do not see hw I am going to be able to pull off thenNew Year’s 108 (109) shots this year.So sad it is lost at sea. Anyway that is another story.
Speaking of which. It seems like in hind sight our losing the boat when we did maybe have been for our own good. This has been heavy Typhoon season, we would have been trying to make our way to Japan as of Oct and would have been in the heavy stuff that been going on. On the other hand a couple we know, with way less experience than me is now in Okinawa from Mexico, and they dodged all of the storms. Sigh! I am still not sure if we are better off now without the boat or with it, that would have had other limitations. Japan marinas, and fishing ports are not setup for livaboard, so do not have laundry facilities and showers. Well, all things in life are a trade off. Anyway, I am grateful for what we have, especially health to make changes, now some job/ money luck would be great.  
One another front, topic. Whist I have been doing my gardening thing and pleased with the results, LZ has been doing her thing on the home design. An outstanding job with our limited funds to make the place more feel more homey. She found some real bargains with fabric and set about making curtains. An amazing difference in the feel of the house with the windows dressed. I will add some more functionality to that by covering them, the windows not the curtains, with plastic behind these curtain to help keep our little heat in and the a lot of cold out! 
man cave
I am already starting to suffer the early touch of winter. It will not be a pleasant winter for me living in a wooden house with no heating system. Japanese are tuff, I am a tropical baby. My DNA is warm weather programed. I am more a Okinawa kind of guy!

Japan Zen

This will most likely be my least read post. Most of the readers follow the Kyudo stuff, then a few the everyday life in Japan parts. No matter.

I had my first full in Japan Zen experience last night. My friend the Sailing Zen master held his monthly session at the temple where he studies. It is the location of a National heritage. A couple of the places on the grounds are hundreds of year old Zen temples/rooms. This was my second time visiting. The first was a couple of years ago, when LZ and I were taken by on a mini tour. The pictures in this post are from them except for the flower arrangement. It was dark when I arrived last night so no pictures possible.

We had the session in the main temple. I wisely dressed warm, having heard there is no heater… ever! Also the doors stay open when there is a session. There were no lights other than the soft lighting from the altar. On this night there were only four of us, including Sensei. I was unsure what to expect other than perhaps getting hit with the stick once I saw he had that. It was not something I looked forward to, at all. I was expecting, having been told it was a 30 min sit then a break and discussion. The website said it was a three hour sit. I was going by what I was told. I have sat up to 1 hour in my Chan sessions back in the states. So 30 min was no biggie.
I watched and followed. First the clapper , then the bell, and we started. It was not uncomfortable. I am glad I wore my hoodie, so I stayed warm. I did have some concern about that having had chills and sneezes the night before. I did well. My style of Zazen is different, but more so on what goes on internally rather than externally, other than my eye are fully closed not partway closed. In the dark they look the same. After about 30 min, one joss stick the session was over. I still followed the group. There was a bit of movement, stretching but no one got up. So I did not as well. Another clapper, then bells again and another session started. Ok, I see how this goes I thought. Small sittings, then breaks. Hmm three hours of this. Hmm ok if I have to. Now I am thinking, this will not be enjoyable, but perhaps that is the point. Can I deal with this for three hours? I tried to settle in. About this time I hear a buzzing, there is a mosquito hunting for blood, my blood! Crimanny! This is just what I do not need. I thought they would all be gone by now with this weather change. However no, just like at home there is one tough female on the hunt. I heard that it is the females that bite. Now it takes some real effort to quiet my mind. I am thinking, this bug is like a demon that harassed, Buddha and Jesus, not as bad I am sure but regardless, it is a demon, my demon to over come! I tuck my hands in my sleeves and am thankful I have on my hood. I go inward.
About this time I hear motion on my left. Sensei is moving. He is up walking…shortly I hear four sharp whacking sounds. Oh great! Now this. I hear his steps towards me, past me, behind me, I remain still , expecting the pain, that does not come. More thoughts, do I need this distraction to my practice, what is the point, unless sleeping. I am not, I am sitting straight, an aware. Perhaps it is some part of this sects ritual, I do not like it. I did not want to join a fraternity because I did not want to be hit with sticks. Kung Fu is different I can protect myself, but just to sit and be hit, how is that going to enlighten me? The mind is a monkey going from branch to branch. The strike never comes, the Sensei sits. Once again I settle, breath and go inward.
Soon the bell rings, the clapper sounds. More movement. This time everyone is standing, but I get the sense it is not over. Soon they walking starts around the room. I follow. So far this is very like the Soto sessions in Berkeley, and Sonoma mtn Zen center…well other than the stick. We walk for a while. A man slips off to the toilet, he returns I go, the walk continues. I return, the walk continues. Then it is over, a bit refreshed I sit again. I make myself more comfortable. The clapper, then the bell another session begins. I am resigned now to whatever will be will be and thoughts turn to my practice. 
It occurs to me, this is really a good chance to work on my Chan Ding ( meditation). I am unable to attend session with my Chan brethren, however this is a blessed place, I have the perfect chance to develop my Chan Ding ( inner zazen). I go inward and work on my Chakra focus, taking advantage on the perfectness of this time to do so. I recall the on-line lectures from my Chan Shifu and resolve to continue the monthly sessions here as an opportunity to improve my Chan while whilst in a holy spot. A blessed Holy spot is beyond the label of Chan, Zen, Christian, Buddhist, it is a positive place in the Tao. I am not required to change any part of my practice to fit in to the “wa” of this place. This is part of the beauty of the Chan practice, one can go to church and practice Chan, to a mosque, living and practicing Chan is not about the location, or external form. Some are just better than others for focus. As with doing Tai Chi it is stronger energy doing it with others, the same is for Chan/Zen. So this will be my Shangha here, away from home.
The bells rang, the clapper sounds. Everyone stretched. It was over. I really saw no difference from the Soto session in the states, other than no chanting and bowing like at Sonoma Mtn. We adjourned to another section of the temple. There we greeted the head monk and went into a room for tea, crackers and cake, were we chatted, for the most part about me since I was the new kid on the block.
As we were leaving I asked to take of picture of the Ikibana. I was told this was arranged just for us this evening.

Friends …part 2

We went out again today for lunch with friends. We are in the mist of a flurry of social activity two outings within a few days of each other. Wheeew ! 🙂

We met up with our oldest Yachting friends in Japan for lunch at a local organic bakery. They had spoken to us about it on several occasions, this was the first free time they had to get away. The place is just two stops from our train station and two stop from theirs in the other direction so half way for both of us. It was a good day for being out weather wise and the walk from the station was good. 
The place is a little hideaway. They bake their bread and cake items and serve a great lunch. All for the outrageous price of $10.00 . The place to me does not have the feel of being in Japan , more like being in Berkeley or some parts of Oakland. The background music was Boz Scaggs doing some vocal jazz standards. The food was a fusion of western and Japanese. Also in good portion!
We sat and chatted for a couple of hours, then purchased few bread items to go. It was a pleasant afternoon.


Other than an up coming visit to my friend’s Zen center this Sat, I think this/that will be the end of our social calendar for this month. Even though very cheap it stresses our limited budget. However we will see what the tide brings in as the colors of Autumn start to filter into the trees of Sennan

Kyudo roots…Growth conditioning

Today I biked over to class again. My time is down from 2 hours to just under 1.75 hr. that should improve down to 1.5 hr each way. Faces at the Dojo are becoming familiar now as is mine I suppose. There was another Sensei there today in addition to the Kaicho and others. He was the man who spoke to me the first time I attended class, he was only there briefly then took off. I am fairly sure he is the Sensei from the Shrine dojo, Kashita, where I was rejected. He spoke again today, a friendly attitude, more so than just someone who has only seen me once or twice. So I am guessing it is him, I had a good look at him this time since I was not being distracted by the newness of the Dojo and people at Kishiwada. No other meaning than that pretty much solves that mystery of who was that guy? Next time I see him I will ask him for clarification


Another change in shooting today and I guess more progress. I did not have my Tenouchi corrected, so I think I am getting it fairly correct now. That is at least the left hand. Today my right hand was worked on. I was told to hook my thumb more, let my two fingers just drop/hang over the thumb and twist as I pull. Do not grip, lock the Ya with my hand. Do not grip the string with my hand, let the glove and the twisting do the work. My arm and hand should be totally relaxed as I go into Hikiwake, elbow doing the pulling. Do not bring the arm/hand back across my shoulder, that is the way to get hit with the string. The old way is to grip the string and the ya, not done anymore. Lastly my arm should swing out, not over on Hanare. This is why I am having pain in my shoulder I am told. All that along with draw more with the body.
Wheww, a lot of info, but just what I wanted from study in Japan. I have not even thought about going to the targets. At this stage for me they have no importance. My roots structure is my big concern. As I tell my Kung Fu students, the better the roots, the stronger the tree, the prettier the flower, the sweeter the fruit.
The biking trips to class are worth the effort for train fare savings, re-invested in more class attendance.
On another note with the biking, they have taken on sort of a Zen practice feeling. No thought about how far I have gone, have to go, just where I am now, at that one moment, and I write this it is also the same mind when doing my Kyudo practice at this point. No thought about testing, hitting the mato, just what I am doing at that moment, and doing it with harmony of all parts. Kyudo is not Zen, but one can find Zen within Kyudo.


We did not go out or socialize much in the states. There was my regular Kung Fu family gatherings, and some Chan gatherings, and the occasional sailing activity gatherings. However as far as hanging out with people few and far in between.So of course being the new kids on the block we do so less here. We are however little by little making connections with folks here. Some who have been very helpful even though not met yet in person, like Karamatsu-san who if not for him I would not have been able to start Kyudo here when I did. Which is my main pleasure since coming here being boatless, broke and all. Recently there is “Sencho” we met him in Alameda and helped him with some issues he was having with his boat and all since he did not speak English. Recently he returned from his sea adventure and we have been in contact. He needs to return to Tahiti to pickup his boat and wants me to fly there in Feb to help prepare it for the trip back to Japan.

He and his Lady friend came by to pickup us the other night. It is unfortunate they live a fair distance away in another part of Osaka, because if not for that I could be making music with them on a regular bases. Anyway they came by and took us to meet a couple of their friends who live nearby us wh also have boats at a nearby marina. We were to have dinner on the boat. Our first boating meal since arriving. 
We met at the Marina, it was a cool somewhat rainy evening. Yet that did not stop some of the local fisher-persons from lining the dock and enjoying the moment. 
We meet up with Sencho’s friends at a sailboat boat called Tokimo. Nice 34 footer. 
We gathered below and had Yosenabe with drinks. It was a comfortable evening and enjoyable evening even with my limited Japanese. They said it was our welcome to Japan party.

All of us are around the same age and weirdness levels. It was mentioned from Tokimo-san, the owner of the boat also called Tokimo, ( like me called Zen and the ZenCat, Zen) that I could sail his boat, if I was not traumatized from our sea adventure. I said I was not but i need to get my Japanese license first. Still we have an invitation to sail with him. 
We also have the invite with Sencho when he returns from Tahiti. So one day my sailing life will return. In some deep part of my mind I would like to own another boat and explore the inland sea. For now though that seems like some fog in the distance as for now, my dreams are surviving living day to day with only Kyudo as my bright spot.
Another unexpected treat though from the dinner meeting is another of Sencho’s friends who was there plays Sakuhachi. He has been doing so for five years. We plan on playing together the next gathering. It seems like this group of buds has fairly regular meetings it seems like once a month , for dinner, drinks and tales. I have been playing my Sakuhachi for more than 10 years on and off, but not really knowing what I am doing, other than making sounds and improvising songs. It will be good to sit with someone who is trained/skilled. 
A side note; spoke of also on the boat was my getting stop by the police. It would seem that it is not just a case of BWF (Biking While Foreign) but an issue Japan is dealing with, bike thief in general. Yes, shocking even Japanese steal. Far far less than America but , there you go, people are people.
Another version of “friendship” would be under friendly acts. Our neighbor, not the Oba-chan who tried to push her way in just the other day and I checked her ! This is our other neighbor who I call One-chan, she gives us, fish when her son catches them also vegetables. She noticed that I like plats so has been given me several pots of flowering plants, including one called a Jade Plant which the Japanese consider a money bringer. Similar to the Lucky Bamboo in Chinese thought. Too bad neither of which work :-)Another kindness recently was from a shop owner, will two really. Both of which happened whilst biking my way home from Kyudo. First one, I stopped at a local produce stand. We have lots of little farms in the area. I stop at this stand to check out some veggies prices. I did not have much money but i though i would perhaps get some onions or tomatoes. I got a small basket of tomatoes, at a cost of $2.00 (2,000¥) for four. After paying the owner gave me another basket for free!. 
The second came also riding home on another day. I have noticed this shop where there are a lot of water plants out in front and on the side of the building. The two times I had been by the doors were closed. This time i saw them open and stopped. I went in an the owner was there with his wife and kid. I spoke and asked him about the plants and if I could buy a few. He said no, he would give me some for free! Wow ! I bow and thanked him. We went out to the front and he got out several and put them in a bag. I asked if they bloomed and the wife said purple flowers. Excellent my favorite. He also told be they do not like the cold. It did not occur to me to ask what he did when it turned cold here, because Osaka does get cold. I think he meant freezing cold if I was had planned on taking them somewhere else. I may stop in another time and ask about that. I will be putting them in a container which i can move inside if it turns too cold this winter. I will keep an eye out his to see what he does if I do not see his shop open again when I go by. For now I have a spot picked out in the yard for them. It will be in a temporary plastic tube which I will sink into the ground and surround with rocks until I can afford a nice ceramic pot.
Little by little my garden comes together. This is one of the nice things about house living rather than WaterWorld life. My recycled bottle tower garden is also doing well. I am looking forward to warm weather next year to get it really cranked up with herbs and veggies. Even the few I have growing now have been nice to add into the few meals I make. LZ is a great cook, but I do the stuff with the herbs and spices.
On the last note on friends, for now. I am off to a Zen meeting this coming Sat, with my friend the Sailing Zen Master. I have been to his practice temple before and met with the head priest. This will be my first time at one of their sessions that he does the lecture. He has a lecture once a month. It will be interesting to see the Japanese version of Rinzai which is from my Linji family of Chinese Chan. 
To be continued…


Training has started, the real deal, now that my stuff is here. The plan is Monday/Weds/Fri are Kung Fu at the local shrine. This Monday I started, not really started because I have been doing that before. However now I can add in a weapon per session. Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Shaolin/Mantis and a weapon. The getting up at 6:00 am is out, winter is creeping in and I hate it. More so in a house with no heat per se. So it is up at 7:00 am now, at least it is light, morning Meditation then out to the shrine. I am sure I will miss some days, like when it is raining, but that is ok. It is all for me anyway. One good thing about this season is I do not have to be feeding or repealing the mosquitoes much longer.

Tuesday I started my Kyudo routine. The plan for that is Tues/Thurs/Sat this will be a challenge. Not so much the training three times but the commute. In order to do this I need to ride the bike. I did so today, it is about a 2 hour ride one direction. Not too bad on my legs but my knees did hurt for a time. I am guessing it will get easier as I do it. Thurs was my second trip. One of the Sensei saw me, and asked about it, everyone was shocked I was bike riding that far. Yeah, I kind of am also, but since i can not afford the train fare and I want to train ( same spelling different meanings, this is why English is hard), one does what needs to be done…yosh.
The ride itself is not bad, there are only a few slight hills and some interesting areas to go through. I found a couple of recycle shops, I love theses kind of places. I also stopped at a nursery and got some info on a red maple for my garden. It looks kind of funky in this picture but pretty live.
Back to the biking to class, it will mean leaving at 8:00 am on Thursday to arrive in time for class. The other days I can arrive as I please. Tuesday I went, they were surprised to see me. Perhaps because I arrived almost an hour later than most or because it was not expected For me to be there. No matter. I went in greeted those there and set about to practice. The Kaisho came over and checked out my Yumi from the states and gave it the ok. I was surprised that he helped me with my Daisan and tenouchi as I was just planning on practicing. He gave me some pointers, then went to lunch. I stayed and went through those things.
There was another man there who watched me. When I practiced on Kiza he came over and gave me some corrections, how to kneel, how to stand, my neck position, also on my bow and breathing at various points. Also he told me when I draw I should not be using my hands or arms but my elbows. Interesting that he told me this after he asked my Dan, and where I received it. Maybe it was too much info for a Shodan.
I also asked his opinion about the draw weight of my Yumi. He thought it was good for my level at 15 or so Kg. He added that at San-dan /Yon-dan I should be using a heavier Yumi. I said I have a 18k, he said that would be right.
He also inquired how long I would be in Japan. I told him as far as I know I am here for good now. The last thing he asked before leaving was when are my practice days. He nodded and said he would see me then. I guess I have been taken under his wing.
(update) I found out later this person is a another Sensei. I heard someone say His name with Sensei behind it. It is always a good thing to listen and be respectful to everyone, you never know. At least until they show you otherwise 🙂
I went to class this week as I said, via bike I also went in on Sat. there were different people there. I was hoping to see Yamashita Sensei, but he was not there. Another Senpai was there, he was preparing to leave when I showed up. He was helping another beginner as he was leaving and noticed me watching. He came over and showed me some pointers. I had planned on just practicing that day, however he gave me some advice so I listened. This was a busy week on corrections. I feel like a beginner again and like when after I had been teaching Kung Fu on my own for a while started training with another “Uncle” on Tai Chi, Basicly I started again from the bottom up. Here again is the case, I have no problem with it, I feel it is important to have a firm grip on the basics. My Sempai after a few corrections to my Tenouchi, Hikiwaki and Kai and had given me the ok, said I should go to the Mato. I declined and stayed more on the Makiwara. I feel it was worth it, I think I finally got the hang of the correct form and performance. Tuesday will be the test when some of the Sensei are there and watch. Either way it was worthwhile to bike in for the extra training. Something that could not have been done at the Shrine Kyudojo.
Even if nothing else has gone to plan with coming to Japan, at least the Kyudo training part is on course. When testing times comes I will be prepared with more than just making hit…yosh!