Count down to San-Dan

am so tired! My legs are beat! I road the bike to Kyudo on Tues. Then I had a gardening job on Weds. It was a 50 min bike ride. Easier than going to Kyudo I thought. However it was up and down hills !! sugoi! Then today another ride to Kyudo. 1.5 hrs each way if you did not know! By the time I got to the Dojo I was already tired. Not having a full night sleep did not help. Bloody mosquito or something kept me awake. Grr it is the season of the mosquito. Anyway, my legs are worn out. Saturday I will take train to the dojo. I will just ride my bike to Japanese class. tomorrow then to the train station to go to the gardening job.

Ok, so I went to Kyudo. As. I arrived somewhat late I knew I would not get much undisturbed practice in. I really am grateful for all the help from the upper ranks Sempai, but sometime I just want to practice, polish what I know. Not possible when you are corrected on each mishap. I kind of dreaded going on the floor today as I knew I was being watched by at least four sets of Sempai eyes. Again it is really really helpful, but …
So I set myself mentally for whatever was to come…did not make it to my first round of shots before being corrected on my vision height and entrance timing. I have not been looking at four meters in front more like 2 meters. Also my timing and breath for the entrance and bow have been off. I was adjusted. I spent some time working on that, then the head Sensei says, don’t worry about it so much, do some shooting (0_o). 
Ok , next I went into Tai Hai,…adjust, adjust. 🙂 
I have been taking notes. I will process all this and implement. One day I will be good, it will pay off. So here is the advantage of training in Japan. In the states, at least with my Dojo. I was the highest ranking student since my Sensei was just starting his new school. So in class I got very little adjustment, attention. I was mostly helping teach. When there was a seminar near, then the other schools in the area held a group mini training seminar, and we (I ) got more advise and adjustments from elder Dans who were the instructors from other schools. Mostly as a group and it cost to attend. 
Now I am, surrounded by helpful by Sempai, most of who are Renshi who give freely individual advise. This is a true case of yin within Yang. I receive plenty of good help, but I can not polish what I know. However, I know now when to get to the dojo for undisturbed time. I have two weeks left to implement and polish. 
While speaking with another Sempai. He was telling me he will be there at the testing dojo taking pictures. I said I was nervous, he said you can do it! A vote of confidence. It was nice to hear as my hit rate was down today. 
Today’s low rate caused me to change my plan on a daily practice on the week before the test including the day before. I will not. I will put in four days of practice the week of, and take a day of rest the day before. I do not want to be burnt out, tired and weak on the Shinsa day. I will also not ride the bike much that week. 
I try not to make this into a big deal. Keeping in mind the poem about the archer and his skill when shooting for a prize. It is much easier said than done. This is where the Chan practice of non-attachment really is needed. I will put in some extra meditation time that final week, instead of over doing the physical part. However the Shinsa turns out, shortly after is another day of training at the dojo. Yosh!

Un-learning, re-learning and refinement

Back in the day when I was still a padawan with the Chuk Kai Tai Chi Praying Mantis Federation I had to start training again basically from the ground up. I had to re-learn forms (katas) from what my former Shifu taught and learn the Federation standard. A bit tricky but doable. One has to be able to empty your cup of old tea as is said in Zen circles. Unattached.

When I first came to Japan, I figured I needed some practice but for the most part I was on point. To pass for San-dan I really just needed to hit the mato once. The rest of my stuff was passable.
I also thought that testing in the states was at the same standard as testing in Japan. after all the Hanshi from Japan did the grading , not the American Sensei. We were told it is the same standard.
With the number of adjustments, corrections, and relearns I am receiving before going to this test, am have have serious doubts about the equalness of the Shinsa criteria here in Japan and in The States. The Kyohon states very basic items should be in order. That seems to be true however, the details leading to those basics are coming out different. This also makes sense with a statement I read about the dan pass rates are higher in the States than here in Japan.
It could be that some of these adjustments and correction have nothing to do with passing the Shinsa fro San-dan, perhaps to just make me a better Kyudoka and prepare me more for the next level. Making the transition to 3-4 dan and above much easier, simpler. 
All this to say. I worked with another Sempai Sensei today who gave me a number of adjustments. I am most grateful, even though it threw me into a bit of a tailspin for a moment having to dump some old learned lessons from the States and reprogram in new ones. A couple of old ones, I was told are wrong. I only see it as positive. The help, the willingness to help, the raising of my training. This Sensei Sempai watched me from entry to exit and corrected details. I took notes so I can remember. Arigatou gozaimasu!!
I am starting to feel more confident. I find that if I follow the Kaicho’s advise on going into Hikiwaki and Kai my probability of a hit increases two fold or more. Even thugh I feel like I am over doing the Hikiwaki motion and arch, when I do it I hit or am right on the edge of the Mato. There are still somethings I need to work on, like staying centered, not leaning into the target. Holding the large crosses, etc, still from the test I did today, I can tell when I am am on target.
This is a great improvement from just a week ago. I can see from here there is no way I would have passed if I had taken the test earlier than now. Even now I still need work, but… I am much much closer.

Back to training

Back to training. The musical break is done for now. Maybe maybe I may venture out this upcoming Sunday to see a couple of new friend’s band and sit in ( meaning play with them ) a bit. However no long practicing days or evening to get a few songs together. It is now mostly all about Kyudo.

I had said I went to practice last Thursday. It was a good day. Unexpectedly picked to do Tai hai with the group. Got hits with both shots…Yatta! I also got some pointers.
Yesterday I went to practice also. I am seeing a pattern. When there is an up coming Shinsa and it is known you are in it. You are called on to do Tai Hai at the dojo with a group of others. That day I was #2. Number 2 or 3 s my favorite position. Also one gets pointers on corrections more than your everyday stuff. 
I met a student I had not seen before. I went in to the Dojo later than usual. He was there in full Kimono. I thought he was a high rank, the Kimono thing. Turns out he is a San-san, and was just practicing with the kimono, later he changed. He is up for Yon-dan next month. We are doing the shinsa together. He also speaks English. That was the big shocker, fairly well. Unlike the one or two words, like some. We had a conversation in English. He studied in the States for a yr. in Arkansas! ( another shocker)
What was interesting he said he has to read the English version of the Kyohon, because there are foreigners who visit Kishiwada from time to time and he is asked to help. He is an English teacher. I found this interesting not only because there are that many foreigners who drop into Kishiwada, but I was just saying the other day to LZ, that I really should go for Renshi. Perhaps it is not so silly for me to go for Renshi even staying in Japan. I thought who wants to learn Kyudo in Japan from a Non-Japanese. However…
That way I can help explain things to students like myself who do not have a large command of Japanese. Maybe I can get there before 70 if I work hard. Who knows maybe even get some respect back in the States…or even Europe. Yeah I know that is reaching 🙂
Again I am surprised by the amount of details in the course of learning Kyudo. Yes there is just eight steps ( Shao-hassetsu) to the shooting, but…big BUT…there is all the stuff leading to and from those eight steps. I was shown, last week the proper way to judge my Toriyumi posture, how to go into Toriyumi. The San-dan I met the other day was also shown this when I was there along with myself again from another Sempai. My entrance bow timing was corrected. The angle of my Yumi being lowered from Zanzen was corrected. The height of my yumi tip when turning while kneeling (Hirakiashi). Sugoi.
Oh, I had a big surprise ( a day of surprises) after speaking with one of the Sempai about something I was kneeling to remove my glove. An older new student comes to me and kneels in front of me and says some things. I did not get it all but. the basic of it was a senior Sempai from the school came in and watched while I was shooting or doing Tai Hai and shooting. He said I was good. Now on it’s own that is not a big deal. However, I have no idea how I am doing other than the Shinsa to judge. It is not the Asian way to compliment students or praise them. Unlike a sailing school I worked at in the states where it was a given practice and understood that one needed to encourage the students with praise and compliments. That this senior Sempai (A Sensei) said something on his own to others is huge to me. So even though my hits for the day was low, I feel energized. Yosh!

A Musical Interlude

Blues for Bali 2″ took place this past Thursday. It is a long trip for me to make the run out to Kobe about 2 hours. I am kind of the The Traveller or maybe the I-ching calls it the Wanderer. Hmmm ok whatever. I went To Kobe to attend the Fund Raising event.

It made for a long day of sorts. But really no more so than is usual as a p/t musician. One works then goes to a gig for the evening. I went to Kyudo, it is my focus for the next few weeks so it is kind of like a job. It was a good shooting day even with several corrections on the dojo floor about things I managed to hit four in a row. One jut barely got the edge of the mato, but it was in the Mato. So I think that counts. Anyway all that is another story.
The ride ride to Kobe was long. Longer than planned since i missed my stop and ended up riding a loop twice. It was so crowded the first time I could not see from my seat and I could not understand the conductor, nor see any changing sign on the train. It was not a big deal, I was not going to play until later, I still arrived about the time I said I would. I just thought I would be earlier.

I am pretty sure got to see everyone that was there to play, play. I chatted with a few people before as well. There were a of fewer people there this time, which was a disappointment to me. Really the biggest of which was their was no keyboard player. Just a bunch of guitarist and harmonica players. One harmonica player kind joining in. Generally not in key! To me it got to be annoying the off-keyness. Sometimes painful at least to me. He was a fair player, but wrong key wrong key wrong key. Sigh.
Another thing I noticed is a least for this one guy. He is a pretty good guitar player and sings ok for the blues. But there were a couple of songs, which I knew the words for and what he was singing made no sense…at all! I am all like “huh”
I took a bunch of pictures with my Nikon this time. A few came out quite well, a lot just sucked. Not focused. Even though shooting with autofocus I need to slow down the shot and watch the focus point better. More should have been clear shots. Most of those shots, I shared with the players on Facebook who played. I handed over my camera a couple of times to friends who took a few shoots for me.
Ok, so I had been working on three songs for the night. I ended up doing one of them and did it almost completely different than was planned. I thought there was another Bass ( my host) and a keyboard player. Instead there were two guitars and me, with a drummer. So I had to come up with a new rhythm on the spot, since the other song (s) I needed to, wanted to do with other players than those with me currently on stage. The players rotate in a Jam setting as this was. Anyway it turned out ok. I only sang one song the night but played on three or four. Which was ok. I was not really feeling it that night. The bands were like too loud, even with my earplugs, turnout was low, no keyboards.
There was one really bad moment. No one knew about it but me. I was playing and my Bass started cutting out. As in sound would cut off for a few seconds then back on. Another friend just happened to catch me in a shot just as the first time it happened.
The guys who put the event on, was pleased about the turnout . He thought it turned out well. I guess overall it did. I was I guess caught up in what I was thinking it would be.
Just playing live on the spot, is at times fun, other times painful. Like when people are in different keys. The one song I sang, turned out ok, judging by a small bit of recording later I heard. Once I got past my what I was expecting and dealt what what I had. Mindful of the moment, those Zen things just keep coming up. Still I would love to put something together …tight Quality sounding.

no more complants…

I thought I was going to die. Ok, that is a bit strong and dramatic. I thought i was going to pass out. Hmmm ok, maybe still too much, I thought i would at least fall over from lost of balance. Either way i was seriously suffering. I will not complain again about being Omae. That is a piece of cake compared to Ochi ( last in the line). Pronounced as Oww chi!!

I went to Kyudo today thinking, ok, target practice. It was crowded. High school students, and newbies to Kyudo were there. It is kind of funny being treated like an elder. But yeah I am to them. I do not get to think of that often struggling as I do to make headway. Anyway I digress. I had only gotten one makiwara shot in and a Sensei is counting heads. I thought oh oh, this is not good! Yup, he says Fuu-san join us for Tai Hai, Sakai Style. That is where the test is being held and the entry is reversed. ok, sigh, I join. Where is Fuu-san going someone asks. The Sensei says last. Oh snap! Last is 5 times worse than first. Ok, I think, ok training yosh! 
One of my regular Sensei had adjusted my kneeing stance, Ikasu to have a lower left leg. I was practicing that, OMG! I was shaking, and suffering. I thought I would not be able to stand, it was taking so long when it was finally my turn to shoot. However I pulled it off. Also got a hit on my first shot! Yatta! I will need to practice this Ikasu more at home over the next few weeks , to be ready!
Second round Kiza was worse, it was hell waiting. Again I pulled it off, by pure will power and Shaolin training spirit. Just in time I was able to stand. once again surprising myself I made a hit. Sugoi! I thought! I could have put both knees down since I was in the back and no one could see me. That is one advantage of being last in line, but…sometimes, no pain no gain.
Ok, now to get out of here, I thought. Mostly I did ok. I did not have enough steps leaving so I was corrected on that. I also double checked my exit pattern. It was a good move. So now I am clear on both ways to leave the testing floor next month. No matter where I am in the line up.
I found out today that the Main Sempai that is always helpful to me is just a San-dan. I thought he was higher. Not that it matters but I was surprised. We may test for Yon-dan together at some point. I do not think he is testing just yet. I also found out another Semapi, who just passed San-dan last testing, I believe, she is testing for Ni-dan same day as me for San-dan. When we found out we said at the same time, ganbarimasho and did the Japanese fist/arm thing.


Back to Regular programing…Kyudo

These next few weeks is Intense Kyudo time for me. I have to put my distressed feelings about the unfairness of the boat issue aside. Since in my heart I feel I did no wrong, I can slept and train with a clear conscience. People suffer greater injustice at the hands of agents of the darkside. I need to focus on Kyudo. In a sense this part of all the trainings of Kyudo, Kung Fu, Zen, Tai Chi, put aside the distractions and be in the moment. Focus on the task at hand. My challenge at hand is the upcoming Shinsa.

Yesterday I replaced the Yumi grip and put on a new string. Today I went into practice. I needed to pay Watase Sensei my registration fee then I figure to just practice on my sighting of the mado. Find which line in the wrapping would put me on target.
When I arrived some of the group was looking at the new pictures on the website from the recent Tai Kai
I was invited to see on the computer. Hey, I am in there more than once was a surprise.
I changed and warmed up. I got in couple of shots on the Makiwara and one round of shots on the Mata. Hitting two of four. Sweet! Sensei returned and we took care of business. Next he asked me if I have been doing Tai Hai since he had not seen me. I said yes, almost daily. He smiled. Ok, good. Then he said a few things I did not quite get. I did part of it. He wanted me to do the entry to the floor. However he was explaining something different. It took me quite a while to figure out he was showing that the entry to the test place Sakai is done with the right foot starting, because of the dojo placement. Once I understood that it all clicked. I had learned that from a Sempai at one of the former Dojo’s, Suita. I asked my Sempai there since the doorway was different than what I was use to. Anyway. Ok it clicked what Sensei was saying he and everyone smiled in relief that I got it?
Next Sensei called a group of five together. He wanted me to do Tai Hai like I am at the other Dojo with the group. I was to be Omae! Ehhhh, ewwww, I said! Sigh, ok. Let’s do it, everyone laughed. For the most part I went through it without a hitch. Afterward I was shown a couple of things. My Ikasu was correct on the first arrow, Haya. However on the second arrow, Otoya, I was doing Ikasu to late. I was told to do it before lifting the Yumi, unlike on the Haya. He also told me my turn leaving the line was off. I was crossing my steps at the turn. A no no. 
He showed me how to step and leave if I was last in the line, Omar (sp?). Also to watch my foot does not angle when doing the half step back to go to kisa. Another Sempai gave me adjustment on my distance between my feet and how much to raise, not to raise my heel when walking.
Later shooting I received a few misc adjustments. Over all as much small things as it was I am thinking I did ok. I am feeling fairly confident about the Shinsa. My hit ratio is up. Still low, but I have located the spot to aim from and what adjustment I need when I get tired. Over all now I thik my hit will increase over the next few weeks to an acceptable ratio. When doing the practice Tai Hai for Sensei I hit with my first shot! Which is just what I need for the Shinsa. I was nice to get so much help today. I feel like I being cheered on for the Shinsa. Yosh!
Ganbaru Fuu-kun

more test

The Dark Side

darth  yachter
As there is the moon to the Sun, water to earth, there is Yin to Yang in all phases of life.
Same as with our experience with here in Japan. For the most part it has been good, and for the short time we have been relocated here it has been very good. Still for life with a mouth there is also an Arse.
There is a bit of ugliness that has shown itself. The guy who had me go to Tahiti to work on his boat is being a jerk. We spent many many hours and days helping him in America and charged him nothing, even though he offered to pay something. Then in Mexico he still needed help with his project back in the States, LZ made calls. 
So in Japan he pushes for me to go to Tahiti to help him with his boat, installing a auto pilot and some misc chores. Saying how it should be no trouble for me, he has the directions in English, if I have a problem I can ask someone at the yacht shop, etc etc. LZ is hesitant, we can not guarantee the operation if something goes wrong, it could be a problem. he still pushes, it will be fine. no problem he says. ok. I agree. There is a list of things he wants done. Sail repair, lights, auto-helm, some wiring, sail issues to fix, adjust. 
So I am in Tahiti and it is a struggle dealing with him as posted before. However I did everything he asked, plus more. He checked out and approved everything afterward.
6 days into his return trip to Japan the auto-helm stops working. This is not a unusual problem. The internet is full of people having issues with this unit. One guy wrote on his Japanese blog that he went through three of these units on his Pacific Ocean trip. He said he really made a bad choice. The company states this has to be chosen correctly for the boat, the sails have to be balanced when using, etc etc. still they have a large amount of warranty returns for this item and many people saying on the internet this unit is junk. However this guy is blaming me for the breakage. Saying I installed it wrong that is why it broke. He wants me to return ALL his money. 
He is trying to intimidate LZ with his temper into refunding the money. She is willing to pay in order to avoid the hassle and fight with him. I say no way! We have been told this guy has a reputation of being a hot-headed jerk around town. I saw his behavior in Tahiti when he does not have his way. Like a kid! I will not be bullied into this.
LZ says oh I thought you are a person of peace. Yes, I am but I will not be pushed around. I try to live without causing harm, but I will take no crap if it is not my fault. I will take this as far as he wants. I have a list of complaints from the internet on this item, I will get the police involved if needed for his trying to extort money from me. I will fight him in court and countersue, he has a business, and assets. I will make him work and pay for his rudeness and insults. I will expose his affair with a married woman, I will speak to friends with Yakuza connections if he wants to go that path. I have observed him he does not have big money or connections. Empty barrels make the most noise. LZ wants to try to work this out reasonably first. I say ok, I will be still, and quiet until he pushes. Then I will use Tai Chi principals when he attacks.
The latest is he is upset because I did not try to contact him while he was sailing to see how he was doing and he was having a hard time sailing. So I have to learn a lesson.
Sigh, in life there is always a dark side. When one embraces the light, you need to be prepared to defend against the dark. When you feed the mouth, there is always the Arse to wipe. This is the purpose of Shaolin Kung Fu, to defend the temple, the spirit, the family against the dung of life.
Am I wrong here? Seldom there are comments, but how about some feedback.

1st taikai @ Kaishiwada Kyudojo

I just returned from Okinawa a couple of days ago. I was on a working adventure. It is slowly being posted on the sailing site, if you are interested. If not, that is why it is separate. I made it back in time to attend the first Tai Kai at Kishiwada kyudojo for this year. I did not know what to expect, it was different and a long day. Interesting, educational, and fun.

I was told it would be only Kishiwada people there, but at the end I found out there were a few others. Ok so this is what went down.
I arrive at 8:00 am, because I figured I did not make the Sat meeting so I would get there early in case I needed to be of help or find out info, whatever. We were told to be there at 8:30. However the doors did not open until 9:45am. 
When I arrived the first of anyone. I waited off to the side. Slowly people arrived. I sat, I watched, I waited. Watase Sensei saw me over to the side and came over asking about my paperwork for the upcoming Sandan test. LZ had prepared it the night before and he was expecting it. It looked in order. He took it and went back to the group. After I made a toilet run I came over near to the group and stood. A woman saw me and came over, Konichwa, she said. We are waiting over here, please come join us. Having an invitation how could I refuse. I moved in closer. I went over to where my in-class helpful Sempai was and spoke with him. He gave me the run down on the Tai kai shooting order, and some misc info. Shortly afterward we went in to the dojo.
Everyone changes, gets numbers and prepares. I make my way through the process easy, not even having to say my name at the sign in table as I am recognized there by someone I did not know, who found my name and gave me my number, with out me saying a word.
Opening ceremony is gone through and I wait on the sidelines for the action to start. I hear some numbers of my group being called so I head up to the staging area. There I find out that my helpful Sempai is the number next to me. I also find out I am Omai for my group! ehhhhhhhhhh,Oh snap! Sempai gve me a quick run down. It is a standing shoot with four arrows, so not complex. Several groups of three. Ok, I can do this, I have to, no choice!
Sempai is behind me in the line up, giving me directions. Ok, wait, wait, now go. Big help he was! I missed hits on the first couple of rounds. Which is what I expected. I was not there to win, just to learn and be part of the group. We had three rounds of four arrows. After the first two sets, rounds, I noticed I was hitting in the center of the target area but just below it. I decided to reset my focus point on the last round. I encountered Yamashta Sensei at lunch he asked how it went. I told him my finding, results.. He said it is because your right arm is dropping to low still in Kai, as I told you yesterday. Also your left is dropping in Hanare.
So after lunch on the final round I make a point to adjust my aim a little higher and to keep my right arm a little higher. I am no longer nervous about the nature of the Tai Kai, I focused on my shooting. As my Sempai said. Only think of where YOU are, what you are doing. My next two shoots are hits. Bam! bam! My last two are just off the edge. If I had opened my chest and arms just a little bit more or adjusted just a hair to the left I would have gotten all four shots. Still I was pleased with the two. I feel more confident about the test next month with this info today. I will be focusing on hitting over the next month.
Now I am ready to go home. I am tired. I was up late and up early to get here. However things were not over as yet, far from it in fact. Next up was a bingo game, Kyudo style. It was a team shooting game. You, the group won with four in a row, hots on any direction. It was interesting and hard! However also kind of fun.
When I was not shooting or preparing to shoot. I watched from the sideline, there I found myself often sitting in lotus position dozing off. I was running low on stay awake power. It was kind of funny, everytime I thought things were over and I put away my glove there was another round of something.
The last event was shooting at small Mato. I was not there yet with my aim, so I just did my best and let it go at that. As I said I was not there to win. Finally things wrapped up and it was done.
I made a point of staying behind as a hosting member to help with the cleanup since I could not help with the setup because of my teaching kung fu on the setup night. It was good I did so and did not just leaving, although tired and sleepy. There was a Kishiwada group photo, there was fruit giving to the club members and also I know there were unspoken points made by me being there and helping clean up.
It was a good day, long, but good and worthwhile on several levels. I have a month to prepare for the test. I am feeling better about my shooting, draw, etc and my shoulder is not hurting. Yatta!